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Coral Gables official: Ex-mayor continues to mislead community


How to sound off

To submit your letter, email or write Soapbox, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Fax: 305-376-5287. Letters must address a specific LOCAL issue and must be signed with a name, city or neighborhood, as well as a telephone number for verification purposes. Letters more than 350 words will not be accepted, and writers are limited to one letter every four weeks. Letters will run as space allows and may be edited for length, style and clarity. The deadline for letters is noon Wednesday.

Other past letters on this topic:

Letter: No ‘wild parties’ coming to downtown Coral Gables

Letter: Downtown Coral Gables doesn’t need young people, coffee shops or wild parties

City official: Coral Gables is on the right track

As a former mayor of Coral Gables, Don Slesnick knows that the Business Improvement District and the City of Coral Gables are two separate and independent organizations. We are not “partners” in policymaking in any way as he asserts in his Sept. 29 letter ( Coral Gables officials attack messenger, but mostly ignore message).

Yet, in his letter, Slesnick uses a quote by Business Improvement District Executive Director Mari Gallet to bolster his continued misrepresentation of the city’s position on nightclubs and late-night bars. Gallet is not a city employee. While the input that Gallet and her organization offer is valued, as is their work on behalf of our downtown merchants, the BID does not speak for the city of Coral Gables. The agency is funded entirely through voluntary assessments from downtown property owners who elect a private board to formulate and express the organization’s positions.

The BID is essentially a special-interest group whose positions have been known to differ from the policies of the city. Unlike the BID, which advocates from a primarily downtown business perspective, the city must weigh the input of all of its stakeholders. As a result, the opinions of that organization’s representatives do not in any way reflect those of the city.

By knowingly failing to make those distinctions, Slesnick has done a seemingly intentional disservice to the community and continues to fan the flames of misinformation he fueled with his first letter, published on Aug. 25. Once again, Slesnick is incorrect. The city has no plans to allow “early morning drinking clubs.”

Jane Tompkins, Development Services Director, City of Coral Gables

City Commission should discipline city manager

Every time that members of the Coral Gables City Commission allow City Manager Pat Salerno to publicly belittle city residents, they reinforce his bad behavior. A classic example of Salerno’s world-class ability to indirectly demean people occurred during the commission meeting of Sept. 14.

Two residents spoke, respectfully, in opposition to Salerno’s proposed 40 percent increase in the fire-service fee. It increased the residential fee from $50 to

$70 per year. It also increased a Tier 10 commercial building fee from $2,879 to $4,035 per year. The latter is a cost of doing business that is passed on to consumers, so if you own a home and shop in Coral Gables, you are actually paying both fees.

Salerno didn’t like the harsh-truth sound of a 40 percent increase so he reframed it. He pointed out that the increase in the residential fee was $1.66 per month. But that alone did not satisfy him. He further trivialized the issue by noting that this was the cost of a "medium McFlurry at McDonalds". In doing so he intentionally made the increase, and, by extension those who opposed it, seem small and insignificant. Mayor Jim Cason enjoyed that so much that he repeated it.

Salerno is not content to win. His words, tone, and countenance ooze condescension toward those who dare oppose him publicly. Properly punished, they will be less likely to do so again.

The more serious problem is with the City Commission. By accepting Salerno’s bad behavior commissioners fail to uphold a cherished tradition of encouraging public involvement in Coral Gables government. Salerno sees public opposition to his agenda as interference that must be crushed.

He prefers that the public shut up and be content to admire all the big new palm trees. The commission needs to take corrective action with Salerno.

Diane Vecchio, Coral Gables

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