The names are familiar. They want to do the same thing: Assure Coral Gables has a secure and prosperous future. And they both agree that the Miracle Mile streetscape project has been a disaster.
That’s where mayoral opponents Jeannett Slesnick and Raúl Valdés-Fauli part ways.
Slesnick, 69 and a real-estate broker elected to the commission in 2011, is worried about development — and overdevelopment. She says she voted against the controversial Paseo project on South Dixie Highway, now delayed by litigation, and several others that she describes as massive. The Herald Editorial Board supported the Paseo mixed-use project.
Valdés-Fauli, 73, was Gables mayor from 1993-2001. When he left office — defeated by Slesnick’s husband, Don — Coral Gables was on solid ground fiscally. He can take credit for that. He is proud of projects under his tenure, including Merrick Park and the youth center, and says that responsible development will help enhance the Gables’ future.
He’s on the right track when he envisions providing more affordable housing to continue to attract corporations, saying their staffers should be able to live near the job, and to keep empty nesters who are downsizing. The city has to “renew” its population, he says. Indeed, it’s a model other local cities are following to bring new life — and revenue.
Coral Gables is, to residents’ despair, a pass-through community. Drivers use its residential streets to get from here to there to avoid traffic jams. Valdés-Fauli says lower speed limits will help. Slesnick says nothing will help if the speed limits aren’t enforced. Score one for her.
The tone of the campaign is getting ugly. And in their meeting with the Editorial Board, Slesnick denied allegations of being anti-Cuban lodged by her opponent. For all his accomplishment on behalf of the city, Valdés-Fauli appeared too entitled for our taste. Still, we give him the edge over his one-term opponent because of his past leadership and his proven fiscal dexterity. We suggest, however, that he develop a more-human touch. People want to be heard.
For Coral Gables mayor, the Herald recommends RAÚL VALDÉS-FAULI.
Incumbent Commissioner Patricia Keon also faces an opponent seeking to return to the dais, Wayne “Chip” Withers. He says that the city has strayed and is in the pocket of developers.
However, Keon, 68, has done a good job in looking out for the city’s best interests. For instance, she led the way in ensuring that abandoned properties did not become the city’s burden and damage the value of surrounding homes. Keon brings a realistic “let’s negotiate” sensibility to securing what she calls well-planned development. She’s rightly concerned that, “What’s approved is not what’s built.” But she adds that the city’s zoning laws are outdated — “written in the 1950s, when cars were king.”
Withers, 65, is disgruntled about Paseo, the project scheduled to be built near his neighborhood, and also laments, like other candidates, there are too many open positions in the police department. Though he touts his historical smarts from his time on the commission, Keon has a real-time depth of knowledge and background that continue serve the city well.
For Coral Gables Commission, Group III, the Herald recommends PATRICIA KEON.
Selecting a candidate to recommend in this crowded race for the Coral Gables commission seat left vacant by Jeannett Slesnick run for mayor was not an easy call.
The Editorial Board met a group of impressive candidates, and like one, Randy Hoff, 52, told the Board: “I would be comfortable with anyone one of us being elected.”
We agree with his assessment of each candidate’s heft. They all care deeply about Coral Gables.
From attorney Mike Mena, 36, earnest and knowledgeable about how to deal with aggressive developers, the bane of many a Gables resident’s existence; to Hoff’s knowledge of the city as a retired 30-year police officer; to 55-year-old civil engineer Serafin Sousa Jr.’s clear eye on the mistakes made by city officials in policing the Miracle Mile makeover project, all are thoughtful, knowledgeable residents.
We give our support to Marlin Ebbert, 69, a retired teacher and community activist, who, because of her time on city boards, seems to understand how City Hall works and would have a gentler learning curve. This is her second attempt for a seat, and she is committed to sustainability, a fully staffed police department and balancing residents’ and developers’ needs.
Ebbert says she would make being commissioner her full-time job and promises to never forget for whom she’s working: the residents of Coral Gables.
For Coral Gables Commission, Group V, the Herald recommends MARLIN EBBERT.