Dr. Gillis is vice president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables (HPACG)
The City Commission of Coral Gables could make a decision at its Tuesday, September 13, 2022 meeting with long-term effects on public safety in Coral Gables. Item K-1 is a resolution that calls for sunsetting our City-Wide Anti-Crime Committee with no clear plan for the future.
A communication from City staff describes the rationale for the resolution: “The City of Coral Gables City-Wide Anti-Crime Committee was reinstated in 2014 after being dissolved in 2005. The Anti-Crime Committee has provided a great service to the City, however, the Committee is currently having issues meeting quorum requirements and conducting any business. The City wishes to thank the current and previous members of the Committee for their service and sunset the Committee as of the adoption of this resolution. City staff will look for opportunities for the City to work more closely with the Coral Gables Crime Watch Committee going forward” (Cover Memo from City Staff, City of Coral Gables City Commission Meeting, September 13, 2022, City Hall). The reason why it was dissolved in 2005 and reinstated in 2014 are for another day… the important thing is that we need an anti-crime or kindred committee as a line of communication between residents and our wonderful police officers and personnel.
From a practical point of view, the solution proposed does not even solve the problem since the problem identified is attendance (not the importance of this committee). This committee is one of the primary, official means of communication between the public safety forces and residents of Coral Gables. In fact, staff states that this committee has provided great service to the City, and, from my communications with other residents, I believe residents would agree that this committee is an important one to continue, albeit with a few adjustments.
Some considerations: if attendance is the only issue, then dates/times of meetings should be reconsidered. If members do not attend regardless of the dates and times, then the reasoning for the lack of attendance should be assessed. If current members feel that they have contributed what they can and would like to move on, then appointing some new people with new ideas could be considered. Collaboration with Coral Gables Crime Watch could be increased. Just as the Coral Gables Police and Fire Station has been rebranded as the Public Safety Building at its new site, perhaps the committee could be rebranded as the Public Safety Committee with a slightly different profile, purpose, and/or function. These are just some ideas.
Bottom line: public safety is one of the most important functions of government, so the Anti-Crime Committee is one of our most important boards or committees. As Coral Gables continues to grow in population (and potentially in size due to annexations), now is the time to strengthen our Anti-Crime Committee, not dissolve it. Furthermore, decreasing public safety measures, such as stopping an anti-crime committee, should not occur without a clear plan as to how the function and purpose of the committee will be provided in its absence.