Coral Gables voters will decide on charter changes during the same election when they’ll pick a new president.
The City Commission voted Wednesday and chose the Nov. 8 general election to place seven charter amendments and additions on the ballot.
The decision was based primarily on the history of higher voter turnout during the general election and on the much cheaper price tag. Combining the charter items with the existing election will cost the city about $40,000. A separate special election would set them back about $120,000.
“I think it’s a big expense for picking up people that might not be interested anyway,” Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick said.
Mayor Jim Cason, who initially supported a mail-out ballot, said the costs and the high number of absentee ballot voters in the Gables changed his opinion.
“Roughly 50 percent of the people in Coral Gables vote through absentee so it’s essentially a mail ballot,” Cason said.
The proposed amendments include:
▪ A change to the process of removing commissioners for misconduct. A commissioner’s removal will be tied to the same standards the governor follows for suspending an elected official who is charged with a crime.
▪ Creation of a runoff election process where a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to win the race. If no candidate gets a majority, there is a runoff election.
▪ A change that takes away the commission’s ability to direct or require the city manager to appoint someone to a position but still gives commissioners the ability to direct or request that the city manager remove someone from a post.
▪ Adding a process that allows the City Commission to fill a vacancy if a commissioner dies while in office or cannot serve due to a serious injury or ailment. The substitute would complete the remainder of that official’s term.
▪ A formal designation of an external financial auditor for the city. A yearly financial audit is already required by state law.
▪ A proposal to remove the city’s trial board after years of inactivity. The board was created to hear from employees who asked for a written justification for their firing or suspension.
▪ A more direct requirement for the mayor to appoint a vice mayor and a replacement for the vice mayor.
The city plans to have another public meeting June 14 to discuss the charter changes.
Neighborhood parks: A crop of new neighborhood parks are coming to Coral Gables after commissioners approved the purchase of five pieces of land in various pockets of the city.
The properties are at: 807 Catalonia Ave., 241 Santo Ave., 6540 Marlin Dr., 1047 Venetia Ave. and 937-939 Majorca Ave.
The plan for the parks comes through the city’s 2011 Neighborhood Renaissance Program and after public meetings with neighbors in 2014. Residents in the various neighborhoods will also be able to offer input on the plans for each park as they are designed.
Green building standards: New buildings in Coral Gables that are more than 20,000 square feet will now have to be at least LEED Silver certified.
Builders can also obtain certification from another recognized certification program and are required to pay a green building bond before receiving a building permit. Once the builder receives the certification, the city will refund the bond payment.
THE NEXT MEETING
When: 9 a.m. May 3.
Where: Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables.