On The Issues: Candidates For Mayor

What is your stance on development in Coral Gables?

It is well regulated by the provisions in the zoning code and will be even better regulated with the code amendments just passed by the commission.
We are fortunate to live in this beautiful city where residents strive to preserve the historic heritage of our community. It should be our role as elected officials, to preserve the historic nature of our city and the essence of what makes it so special. Development proposals that request an increase in height and density are not necessarily the solution, as they can deduct from the City’s appealing features and impact our residents’ quality of life. Instead, there are many options and alternatives that can be explored which can result in a win-win scenario for both the residents and developers. As Mayor, I will focus on thoughtful planning, not out of scale planning.
I oppose RUNAWAY DEVELOPMENT embodied in the ZONING CODE REWRITE.

If you had a vote, how would you vote on the upcoming Zoning changes on Miracle Mile?

I voted for 4 stories/50 feet and the provisions that went with this.
I had a vote and I already voted no.
No.

If you had a vote, how would you vote on the upcoming Zoning changes on the Crafts section?

I voted for the proposed changes.
Considering the historic nature of the adjacent university building, I voted ‘yes’ on this item to ensure a tapered effect from south of Lejeune to north of Lejeune.
No.

What is your vision for Miracle Mile?

A thriving retail main street with first floor retail. Many of the buildings need to be renovated as they were built in the 50's. Hopefully the new overlay will encourage that renovation.
As we consider proposals to make changes to the Coral Gables Zoning Code, it is important to strategically plan for the long-term development of the downtown area, especially Miracle Mile.

What makes the City of Coral Gables special is its small town feel and charming streets like Miracle Mile. Although it is important to incorporate thoughtful planning measures to ensure economic longevity, I do not believe that we should compromise the controlled height that makes Miracle Mile so iconic. For this reason, I strongly believe that we should preserve the historic integrity of this downtown area and not allow developers with the ability to build projects of massive scale with higher density and intensity.
H & M department store at 345 Andalusia redeveloped parking garage across from Publix. This ANCHORS low-rise Miracle Mile retail, increasing both property owners income and the City's tax base.

Traffic is a large issue in the City. What would you do to address the gridlock?

The more residential that is build in the downtown near jobs and other opportunities connected by the trolley and Free Bee should get people out of cars and on these other transportation alternatives.
The traffic coming west to east through the city increases as growth continues to the west of us. There are no viable public transportation alternatives other than cars. We can try to manage speed of traffic but until we have other transportation alternatives or job opportunities develop west of us people will continue to go through us to get to downtown Miami and Brickell.
Residents reach out to me about traffic concerns every week. Based on 2015 estimates from the Transportation Planning Organization, over 325,000 vehicle trips start or stop in the City of Coral Gables each day. As South Florida continues to grow in population, we cannot stop cars from entering our city, but we can alleviate traffic with the installation of traffic calming devices. We can also encourage people to use public transportation or ride sharing options.

During my tenure as an elected official, I have worked very hard with city staff to develop a series of initiatives that focus on making public transportation more accessible and convenient. I have sponsored legislation that allocated funds to urban trails such as the Underline and the Commodore Trail. We are also in the process of enhancing sidewalks and adding traffic-calming devices in our neighborhoods to lessen the impact of cut-through traffic.

Public transportation is an important component of any successful community. It encourages a stronger economy, conserves energy, reduces congestion and improves mobility for small urban communities - all of which contribute to a better quality of life. I pledge that during my first 100 days in office, I will work with the administration to expand our very successful trolley program to provide service during the weekends. Finally, I will announce a Coral Gables Transportation Task Force to work with Miami-Dade County on transportation issues, and to identify funding strategies to help our city address this pressing issues.
The County raided the $32 million Penny Tax funds paid by taxpayers and arguably embezzled $28 million for non mass transit costs. I would urge the City to join Vince Lago's lawsuit to force the County to put this money back, more than enough to pay for mass transit to cut our traffic woes by more than half.

How would you address cut-through traffic on residential streets?

Through traffic calming.
As Commissioner, I have sponsored legislation that has allocated funds to urban trails such as the Underline and the Commodore Trail, Sidewalk Enhancement Program, and we are in the process of adding traffic-calming devices in our neighborhoods to lessen the impact of cut-through traffic.

I will ensure that residential streets with cut-through traffic are thoroughly evaluated by staff and traffic calming is implemented. I will work on reducing the need to go through the County’s process and expedite the installation of traffic devices wherever needed, with input from our traffic engineers.

In May 2017, I sponsored Ordinance 2017-14 to lower speed limits to 25 miles per hour on residential local roads maintained by the City of Coral Gables. The reason why I passed this legislation is to make our streets safer for children as many cars race down our residential streets. Reducing the speed limit, along with the installation of traffic calming devices, would divert cut-through traffic.
The traffic circles, soft road humps.

What is your view on the role of residents in the Legislative process in the City?

Municipal Government is supposed to work with people coming together to discuss with elected officials the issues of the day knowing the public has the right to be served. To be effective there must be respect and civility on both sides.
Resident engagement and involvement allow us to improve services and tailor to the needs of our citizens. I believe in the power of community engagement because together, we can accomplish great things. During my first 100 days in office, I will embark on a “100 Days of Listening” tour across the city. I plan on meeting with businesses, residents, neighborhood associations, the Chamber of Commerce, Business Improvement District and all stakeholders of our city, to better understand their needs.

Also, over the last eight years, I have remained committed to addressing the concerns of residents and have tried to provide opportunities for public engagement. I have hosted biannual town hall meetings, open door office hours, launched a financial transparency portal on the city website, posted an archives section on my city webpage, and have circulated monthly newsletters and special bulletins to keep residents informed on city updates and legislative initiatives.

More recently, I have sponsored legislation to include a public comment section at the beginning of every commission meeting. I will continue to move forward with these well-received traditions and take any necessary extra steps to engage residents in meaningful dialogue. Lastly, with the support of my colleagues, I would like to incorporate a general community input forum once a month where staff would be present to listen to the concerns of the residents and the business community.
Out with developers, in with citizens.

How often have you participated in City Commission meetings?

Every meeting.
Since 2013, I have never been absent to a City Commission meeting. I take a great amount of pride in being on time and prepared. My office is responsible for much of the legislation that is produced and approved in the city. To view some of my archived memos and legislation click here: https://www.coralgables.com/vicemayor
I have attended some 2/3 of all Commission Meetings over the past 22 years.

What will your top 5 priorities be if elected Mayor?

Keep city fiscally strong, fully staffed and well trained police and fire depts and public safety, managing development to maintain high quality residential neighborhoods, increase intra city public and shared transportation to reduce traffic, renovate a deteriorating City Hall.
If elected as mayor, I am committed to implementing an agenda that aims to not only preserve our city’s quality of life but enhance it. During my first 100 days, I am pledging to focus on five categories: transparency, public service, finance, transportation and the environment.
1. UNDO THE ZONING CODE CHANGES TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE.
2. Pass an Ordinance similar to Miami Beach's, prohibiting developer donations to City Commission Elections.
3. Encourage citizen participation. Try to stop the WaWa project.
4. Invite the Netherlands to visit us and help us prepare for sea level rise.
5. HIRE MORE FIREFIGHTERS.

Do you believe City staff is doing a good job?

Yes. I think we have a very solid administration.
I believe staff and our city administration do a great job, however there is always room for improvement.
NOT on development. Otherwise yes.

The Commission will need to make tough decisions on the City’s financials in the 2021-2022 budget, what changes would you make to address shortfalls?

The finance dept. has already addressed the projected reduction in revenue in the 2021-22 budget. Thankfully we are seeing an increase in property values, parking revenue and gas tax revenue.
If elected as mayor, I will request an independent financial audit of the city immediately after taking office. I would assess areas in which we can reduce spending and put the savings back into the reserves and projects that would enhance the quality of life for residents. It is always important to remain financially prudent, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted our revenue significantly.
Preserve police, fire, and trash pickup, then look for tax savings everywhere else.

We live in Tree City USA, what is your stance on our tree canopy and its preservation?

I sponsored legislation to protect specimen trees and require that they be shown on all drawings when permits are being issued and require proper protection barriers around trees during construction.
The City of Coral Gables has been named a Tree City USA for the past 35 consecutive years and we take our responsibility of managing our urban forest canopy very seriously. For this reason, city staff conducts an ongoing maintenance program for the more than 38,000 trees by pruning healthy trees, removing hazardous ones and replacing them with appropriate species that are just right for neighborhoods. With feedback from the community, the city strives to keep a balance between preserving aging trees and planting new ones that continue Coral Gables’ legacy. During the March 9th Commission Meeting, I sponsored legislation for trees requiring removal to be evaluated by the City Commission.
Perhaps our greatest accomplishment as a City. Miami Beach has the ocean. We have trees.

What is your stance on climate change and what role do you believe the City can play in curbing it?

Climate change is a global problem that we have to manage locally through affective storm drainage systems, plan the conversion from septic to sewer and move away from the use of fossil fuels as much as possible.
As stewards of the environment, I believe it is our duty to be proactive and care for the world we live in. As a father to two young girls, I am concerned about the future of our environment for the generations ahead. It is very important to teach our children and educate the public about environmental issues, the importance of conservation, and reducing our carbon footprint. I believe that we need to work together with local, state and federal governments to develop policies and long-term planning initiatives that will help ensure the future of our environment. If we all work together, I am hopeful that we can flatten the curve as to the harm being done to our environment.

Since 2013, I have developed numerous environmental initiatives such as: procuring electric vehicles as fleet vehicles, sponsored a ban on plastic bags (even though we lost, many businesses and residents have adopted green practices), recently added 11 solar powered charging benches to City parks, the Green Building Ordinance that requires any new City facility and/or private development that is 20,000 square feet and above to be built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification or equivalent, waive all city permit fees for solar installations, and streamlined the permitting process making it more affordable for residential and commercial properties to utilize renewable energy. Recently, I have sponsored legislation to impose fines on contractors who illegally dispose of construction materials in our waterways. These are some of the policies I have sponsored related to sustainability.

As mayor, I will assemble a Coral Gables Water Quality Task Force within my first 100 days in office to work in conjunction with Miami-Dade County on water quality and issues affecting Biscayne Bay. I will also identify funding strategies that will help address these pressing issues which impact the quality of life of residents and our city’s long-term sustainability efforts.
The City has been doing a good job for the past 6 plus years, after doing a poor job previously. The State government thwarts us continually.

What is your vision for the City’s historic preservation?

To promote the historic heritage of the City through the local historic designation and design review process and manage City-owned historic properties to maintain the archives and collections related to the original development.
Historic preservation provides a link to the roots of our community and our founder, George Merrick. Overall, historic preservation adds to the quality of life making for a more livable community. As such, I consider myself a staunch advocate on preserving the historic integrity of our city. The City should work toward identifying and designating properties that merit a historic designation. This would help us preserve the essence of what makes our city so special.

We are so fortunate to live in a historic city where residents, including myself, strive to preserve the historic heritage of our community.

During my tenure as Commissioner, I have advocated on behalf of several historic preservation efforts. With the assistance of the Historic Preservation Society President, I sponsored the acquisition of two original historic white way lights for the Coral Gables Country Club to return to its original location. In addition, with the assistance and leadership of former County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, the city acquired funding in the amount of $600,000 to renovate historic homes in the MacFarlane community. Lastly, through the City Manager, I instructed staff to allocate funding for the restoration of the original coral rock wall at the Merrick House.
We need to listen to and respect our historic preservation staff and Board.

What do you believe makes you best qualified for this job?

I have the education, experience and temperament to lead the city.
I am running for office because I want to give back to this community that has given my family and I so much. I am running because we need to protect and enhance the quality of life of our residents. I am running because I want our city to continue serving as a global destination for businesses and visitors, while we continue to rank as one of the best cities to live in.

I intend to thoughtfully plan for the future of Coral Gables and transform the city into a magnet of opportunity where residents can live, work, and play.
Finally, I want to highlight an issue that separates me from my opponents: transparency. As commissioner, I have made transparency one of the cornerstones of my service to the community. Since 2013, I have remained committed to listening and addressing residents. I have hosted biannual town hall meetings, open door office hours every Friday, advocated for transparency tools on the city website and have circulated monthly newsletters to keep residents informed on city updates and legislative initiatives. As mayor, I will continue following through with these well-received traditions.

My commitment to transparency extends to my campaign as well. Unlike my opponent, I am the chairperson of my political committee and I will not use third party political committees ran by out-of-town political operatives to campaign in Coral Gables. I am also making all my donor’s information public, something that my opponent has refused to do, concealing her donors behind more than 30 political committees headquartered in Broward County.

As mayor, I pledge to lead with integrity and will always remain transparent, consistent, accessible and proactive while placing the needs of Coral Gables residents first.
Honesty. Unwillingness to surrender Coral Gables residential SOUL and future to usurping developers. I recognize the need to hire more firefighters, considering there has been no increase for 30 years, during which some 50 large buildings have been built. We need MISTING MACHINES in our downtown to keep shoppers cool during the blistering summer heat. Restaurants and stores need our support during excessive Covid 19 restrictions.

What can be done to improve the state of our City’s pension system?

Stay the course that has been set by the Retirement Bd, City Finance Dept. and Commission.
To improve the City’s pension system, we must continue to work collaboratively with the labor unions and find a middle ground when it comes to negotiations. We must also continue to pay additional funds that will reduce the balance of our unfunded liability as quickly as possible.
I oppose "defined" pensions immune from The Great Recession and the Coronavirus Recession. Most of our residents and taxpayers have no defined pensions.

How can residents learn more about you?

My voting record is on line at the city web site, coralgables.com.
My campaign page is patkeonforcoralgables.com
To learn more about me and my legislative accomplishments since 2013, please visit www.VinceLagoForMayor.com
www.ripholmes.com
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