A small, yet vocal crowd corralled Cutler Bay council members and town staff Wednesday, April 27, for an Open Mic Night.
The semi-annual event was implemented by Town Manager Ralf Casals in 2015 to give residents a chance to speak to the town council and manager in a more relaxed atmosphere than a regular council meeting.
“Although the crowd was a little smaller, I think it was a very successful,” Casals said. “Residents had an open forum to voice their concerns, issues, compliments, in which we provide a nice relaxed atmosphere. No certain structure. Everybody gets the mic. We hand the mic over to the folks and they provide their comments concerns or gratitudes. I try as a facilitator, as a manager, to answer and provide the most effective response that we can.”
Residents brought up increasing town activities, law enforcement, communication, and more, speaking for more than two hours.
“Some of what we learned included their desire to expand town events to include those that would appeal more to teens and adults,” Mayor Peggy Bell said. “Residents wanted activities that they could attend on a regular basis, such as those we intend to offer at our community center, currently in its planning stage.”
The town is currently finalizing a mobile app, where residents can report issues anytime day or night. The app will allow residents to take photos and send issues or concerns to the town.
“I know we are in the process of finalizing the designs for the new community center on one of the floors at town hall,” Casals said. “We certainly take that into account. We want to make sure that we have programs from adults to teenagers. And we want to make sure we use our Cutler Ridge Park for activities for youth programs.”
Casals is currently working on researching the status of 259 vacant properties throughout the town. The council authorized Casals to start the investigation at its April 20 meeting. Casals has 120 days to present status reports on the properties.
“I know that from my standpoint, we are sending out the letters,” Casals said. “There are 259 vacant lots we have identified throughout the town. This week my goal is to send out all of the letters by the end of this week so that we can start making initial contact with all the vacant property owners.”
Residents were assured of the town’s improved communication effort through its revamped website.
“One of the issues that was brought up at the open mic, call this constructive criticism from the residents, is us the town trying to improve the way we get our messages out,” Casals said. “Advanced notifications is something that I’ve briefed the public that we are working closely with our web provider. My goal is anytime we update our webpage for our calendar, a special event, news alert, a press release, instantly it goes to the folks who have signed up for our email opt-in list.”
The opt-in list has more than 650 residents subscribed.
“My goal is to double or triple that by the end of the year,” Casals said. “And make sure that everybody goes back to the website. We spent a lot of time and effort updating our website and I just want to make sure we are more proactive than reactive, in which as soon as we update the website, boom the resident gets an alert saying hey there has been a change on the schedule, the calendar, special events, or a press release.”
Bell said she is thankful for the feedback.
“The council and I really appreciate this valuable feedback from Cutler Bay residents,” Bell said. “Though our staff does an extraordinary job in providing the very best service, as evidenced by their many awards and resident satisfaction, we know we can always improve. The Open Mic Night gives us the opportunity to hear what residents care most about and how we can do an even better job at serving them. I applaud our town manager for continuing to provide this forum to our residents, staff, and council to communicate and find solutions to items of interest in our community.”