Baños is the Editor of Gables Insider
On October 24, 2023, the Coral Gables City Commission convened, inaugurating the session with a palpable show of unity with Israel. Representatives from the Coral Gables Jewish Community, inclusive of numerous religious leaders, graced City Hall, extending their gratitude for the Commission’s robust display of support. This support wasn’t merely symbolic; City Hall shimmered with the white and blue of the Israeli flag. The Coral Gables Police Department and Fire Department, spurred by antisemitic threats, maintained a significant presence at Jewish venues, schools, and temples. This proactive stance was further cemented by City Manager Iglesias and other officials attending temple services. A unanimous resolution, championed by Mayor Lago, reaffirmed the city’s allegiance to Zionist ideals and underscored an unwavering backing for Israel’s development and safeguarding.
Expressions of sorrow emanated from religious leaders concerning the loss of civilian lives in both Israel and Gaza, along with concerns for hostages in the region. The community voiced a unanimous resolve against the terrorist Hamas militants, and the resolution of this tragic moment for those involved with such great a struggle for their right to exist.
Following this, the Commission ploughed through a hefty 6.5-hour session. They discussed potential building height allowances in exchange for relatively small green space, resulting in a unanimous agreement that would morph these areas into city-owned parks. There was also collaborative modification of proposed public art, aiming to elevate its visual appeal. The agenda spanned topics such as legislative priorities to Tallahassee, the development of Ponce Circle Park, and repatriating historic streetlights from Broward County. Commissioner Fernandez urged an unanimously approved resolution for the State to preserve historical properties such as the Parker house that seem destined to demolition due to a Tallahassee endorsed law that prevents local action. In a lighter vein, the best pumpkin at a local patch was chosen. The discussions were civil, productive, and even humorous, with Commissioners working with staff for the improvement of their work product.
However, the final half-hour witnessed a shift in dynamics. The Commission turned its attention to competing resolutions on the City’s Civility Code. Commissioner Castro, advocating for a straightforward approach, proposed initial warnings followed by potential letters of reprimand for any breach of the Civility Code. More severe penalties would be deliberated upon repeated violations based on the collective determination of the Commission. Contrarily, Vice Mayor Anderson, wielding her legal expertise, proposed a more intricate, legalistic method, to what is typically a political expression of disapproval. During the deliberations, both Mayor Lago and Vice Mayor Anderson articulated their grievances concerning various communications they deemed inappropriate or misleading, allegedly originating from Commissioner Castro and Commissioner Fernandez.
The underlying sentiment was that Mayor Lago and Anderson felt unjustly targeted by a slew of criticisms from employee unions, this and other publications, and residents as proxy actions of both Castro and Fernandez. Their remarks hinted at a sentiment of being unduly besieged. Yet, critiques argue that Mayor Lago’s own actions may have catalyzed much of the contention he now decries. Lago’s personal confrontations seemed to overshadow the Commission’s collective efforts.
The meeting culminated with Castro’s resolution prevailing in a narrow 3-2 vote, while Anderson’s faced defeat by an identical margin. Mayor Lago took a moment to share a contemplative reflection, addressing the recent censure he encountered. Yet, his introspection seemed to fall short of self-accountability.
The concluding segment of the meeting might have served as a cathartic release. Candid expressions were shared, perhaps marking a turning point in moving past existing differences, as Commissioner Castro suggested to Mayor Lago. The Coral Gables community, along with its constituents, is undoubtedly hoping for a harmonious path forward.