Staff’s Alleged “Eye-Opening Presentation” For Today’s Sunshine Meeting, Falls Short On Facts While Pushing For Curbside Bins

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
[email protected]


On Thursday, October 27th at 5:00PM, the Coral Gables City Commission will hold a Sunshine Meeting to discuss the City’s Solid Waste.

The meeting has been rescheduled several times with residents holding their breath on what the future of their trash pickup will look like.

Coral Gables residents pay an added tax for garbage, trash and recycling pickup in the form of an annual fee. The cost has been increasing annually for several years and was only maintained the same this year due to the Commission’s desire to address the issue at a Sunshine Meeting.

May 31st Commission Meeting

The meeting was requested by the Commission at the May 31st Commission meeting.

At the time, staff was seeking to increase the annual fee by $24 per household, even though they explained that there had been an 8% reduction in bulk waste from bulk waste pickups.

City Manager, Peter Iglesias, who recently gave raises in the five figure range to himself and numerous members of the City’s upper management, told the Commission that he was seeking an increase in the fees, in order to hire more temporary staff and reduce costs.

Mission To Remove Trash Pickup

At the Friday, October 21st Sunshine Meeting regarding sidewalks on Venetia Terrace, Mayor Vince Lago led off the meeting discussing his desire to remove bulk trash pickup, remove trash pits and have residents pay their landscapers to remove their waste. Lago went as far as arguing with a resident who wanted to shift the discussion back to the purpose for the meeting, sidewalks, and Lago told her “I can walk and chew gum at the same time.” The resident replied that she believed his comment was “the most condescending thing you could have said, I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but we are here to talk about sidewalks, not trash pits.”

For months, Lago has been touting his removal of his own trash pit in an attempt to entice residents to give up on this service. He has offered the possibility of a financial incentive for those who do so.

However, the removal would not come at a major discount. In fact, staff has stated that the reduction of the garbage fees would only be in the $50 to $70 range.

According to a memo presented by staff at Lago’s 2020 Sunshine Meeting on Solid Waste the fee had risen by 18.2% since 2011.

Chart from June 29, 2020 memo

“Eye-Opening Presentation”

At the Venetia meeting, Lago mentioned that staff had prepared a presentation for the solid waste meeting, which would be eye-opening.

Gables Insider made the request for said presentation immediately following his comment.

As previously reported, the initial response from staff was that no such presentation existed. After days of attempting to secure staff’s presentation, Gables Insider was able to secure a copy on Wednesday afternoon, after it was released by the City Manager.

Earlier this year, the Commission had changed the Code to remove the requirement that presentations be available in advance of meetings. Now, presentations can be shown to residents for the first time at the meetings, allowing them no time to review and prepare for the meeting.

The Presentation

Unlike our investigation into staff raises and executive benefits and the City Manager’s comments that the City has “numerous financial issues,” which have gone unaddressed by the Commission, this presentation seems to fall short on the Mayor’s promise of being eye-opening.

Its explanation of “what is allowed” does not cover the basics of size and location of pits, and contrary to the repeated City spin of uncontrolled costs due to tonnage, it shows a fairly stable annual tonnage with a downward trend. In fact, the peak was in 2016 and 2022 is projected to fall in line with the second lowest year since 2016.

As for the “current trash collection,” it shows an annual cost of $5.88 million with $200,000 in assessed excess fees. However, as with the budget, there is no baseline or comparison to prior years.

The presentation displays the services offered by seven other municipalities and the county, but it does not show their total costs or the taxes assessed by each on their residents.

The Issues

It displays images of “issues,” which include a person crossing the street with a wheelbarrow as “illegal dumping,” “unidentifiable waste/bagged in pits” and “garbage/pet waste in pits.”

Illegal dumping is often used as a “reason” for needing to remove the services from residents by staff and the Mayor.

The memo from the 2020 meeting, actually states that the Commission would need to have “a discussion on how we can address the growing concern of private landscapers illegally dumping landscape debris in the City of Coral Gables which are a contributing factor in the solid waste fee.” A discussion was had and it pointed at a need for further enforcement, but seemingly Code Enforcement, under the tutelage of the Development Services Director, has been unable to address the issue.

The Commission has also been discussing the possibility of forcing residents to use clear bags for trash placed in the pits, something residents believe to be a violation of privacy.

Other Collection Methods

The presentation considers three options for solutions. 1) a 96-gallon trash can picked up from the same location as garbage and recycling behind the home, 2) scheduled bulk waste pickup twice or four times per year and 3) a 96-gallon trash can picked up at the curbside. This last option, it claims, is “Not being considered – Included for Comparative Purposes Only.” But it is displayed as the most cost effective option with the backyard pickup raising the cost from the current system.

The trash can options would require an investment of nearly $5 million in new equipment.

As previously reported, the department has purchased new equipment in recent years, which has never been used due to the impracticality. Of five trucks with with a built in claw, one has been sold and two are still parked in the lot. The issue being it requires the driver to move the truck from pit to pit and change from the driver cab to the claw operation cab, consuming many additional hours.

Cardboard Recycling

The final page focuses on their successes in recycling cardboard boxes, which require residents cut, fold or crush or risk them not being picked up.

Poll

Gables Insider wants to know your opinion on this issue. Please click here to take a quick two-minute poll!

Meeting

The Sunshine Meeting will take place at 5:00PM on Thursday, October 27th at the City Commission Chambers. To participate or watch the meeting via zoom, visit: https://zoom.us/j/3054466800.

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29 thoughts on “Staff’s Alleged “Eye-Opening Presentation” For Today’s Sunshine Meeting, Falls Short On Facts While Pushing For Curbside Bins

  1. Impose a $1,000.00 fine for leaving any type of litter on any City property. That will stop it. That will also keep the City clean. That will reduce maintenance equipment and employees. That may also lower taxes. Imagine, a truly City beautiful.

  2. The median on Alhambra in Downtown has become a trash pit full of bags, papers, old food, cups and bottles. Can we expand the services of the hard working cleaning crew downtown to cover that median?

  3. Hello sir, is this the trash/misinformation Blog Vince Lago referred to multiple times during his misinformation sunshine meeting? I can see why. Something negative was exposed about his inability to keep all his lies straight. Keep up the good reporting.

  4. Governor Ron DeSantis’ salary is $130,000.00 per year.

    Yet, city manager Peter Iglesias’ salary is over $230,000.00 per year. City attorney Miriam Ramos’ salary is also over $230,000.00. Both get $100,000.00 more than Governor DeSantis!

    Are they doing a better job than Governor DeSantis?

  5. Tried & True, is absolutely right about FINING being the solution. Last time I took the Metro in Spain, noticed painted near the rails “5000 euro fine” for getting down from platform & walking on the tracks. With this type of punishment/ warning I’ve never, ever seen even a looney on those tracks. The politicians & police condone bad behavior, because they, or their relatives & friends misbehave. Why were the red light cameras removed at Alhambra & Lejeune Road? Per the Miami Herald, Mayor Suárez ticketed there often. Suarez then says he got rid of Miami cameras to help his poor constituents. The same happens in the Gables. Bad neighbors sometimes drag their trash/ cardboard to other people’s pits. Sometimes code enforcement warns or fines the innocent. CAMERAS focused on the trash pits & on our busy streets the SOLUTION! Maybe the politicians & police like the status quo, the anarchy. It’s good for business; traffic lawyers, body shops, cell phone providers profit from the lax or non enforcement of traffic rules. Lobbyists are the puppet masters and the políticos enjoy having the citizenry divided. They can blame the group that’s not aligned with them instead of FIXING PROBLEMS.

  6. Wrong items are put in the trash pits. It’s done because people can get away with it. Big fines ($3,000.00), strongly and quickly enforced, will stop it. It has in the past; now is no different.

  7. Does anyone know where I can view the city’s presentation besides You-Tube? Was there a powerpoint or something similar that is saved somewhere? Thanks.

  8. The spectacle of giant trash bins in front of every house waiting for pickup by an automated truck which sometimes leave the empty bins crooked, misaligned and on the actual street, and then the continuation of the spectacle of the empty bins waiting for the home dwellers to hide them back out of sight when they return from work is not why I live in the Gables.
    I live in the Gables so that my trash is picked up on the side of the house. In addition, the weekly trash pick-up from the pits which is an integral part of Coral Gables services and when not abused, is sensible and convenient. The remedy for the abuse is warnings, fines and education.
    I oppose any and all changes to the current services.

  9. Lourdes- Mayor owns commercial property. He recused himself from a vote at the last commission meeting because it involved “one of the buildings he owns downtown”.

  10. So the City’s proposal is to cut the lawn debris removal by 1/2 (the can holds 1/2 of what is allowed at curbside) and INCREASE its collection cost by almost 20%. Everyone – please click through to the presentation. And another can to add to your collection of bins – it will be there every day all the time whether you have anything of which to dispose or not.

    Really. Pay more for less and have to store another large receptacle.

  11. Most Gables residents UNAWARE how much business owners pay for Waste removal & the constant rate hikes/ contract disputes others go through with Waste Management, Waste Connections et al. We have BARGAIN service including the yard debris removal! I guess the Mayor doesn’t own commercial property

  12. The sidewalks on Venetia Terrace with the required improvements to get sidewalks are very much a go. The City Staff was to have a detailed email sent to Lago within days of the sunshine meeting summarizing the meeting. An official status update is due in January 2023 – to allow the city to get the work with the county underway. Lago and Anderson were 100% on board. Lago simply wished yo manage resident expectations that while this project would not be a costly road safety improvement, it would take upwards of a year to get all the parts in place – City and County to break ground. We should see ground breaking this time next year – though it will require a dedicated few residents to keep on top of it.

  13. Does this mean no sidewalks on Venetia now? Residents have told me Lago has told them he will oppose anything I support. I figured the sidewalks were a go because of Ariel’s connection to Lago. Hopefully Anderson will stand by her word and Baffled will have some sway.

    Fors really should have taken the opportunity to champion the sidewalks since he spearheaded “Youth Zones”. Maybe he has moved on.

  14. Mr. Fernandez, what happened? Did you have a falling out with your old client? Do you now regret stumping, writing, and voting for him? I think you might and I know L’Ego is seething. I’ll tell this – you just gave yourself a much better chance at getting on the city commission.

  15. I will admit that Ariel does a great job in laying out information.

    The knock on Ariel is that he has an agenda and that agenda is aimed at serving himself and his cronies. Will be fun to see now that stinky Vinny is no longer his crony. I assure you Ariel has enough dirt to bring Vinny to his knees. It will be interesting. Stinky Vinny is about as corrupt a local official as you will find in any town in America. Only a matter of time before he implodes.

    How poetic would it be if Ariel were the one to bring him down. Storybook ending!

  16. Someone stated that Ariel Fernandez is unfairly critical of Vince Lago, because Vince Lago is supporting a candidate, to oppose Ariel Fernandez as a commissioner.

    Yet, if Ariel Fernandez is unfair and under-handed, he would not print a criticism of himself. The record shows the opposite. Ariel Fernandez printed the criticism of himself. Doesn’t that fact say something?

    Speaking of the facts, they are bad about Vince Lago, and Ariel Fernandez prints the facts.

  17. Leave the curbside refuse alone. We each have a choice in how we maintain our yards. We have a choice of debris removal. In an urban setting such Debris removal is required lest we want to deal with pest/rodent problems. There’s simply nowhere on preppy to safely and efficiently compost all lawn debris.

  18. Jessica, the reason you’ve never seen negative commentary here about Lago is because Ariel Fernandez was on Lago’s campaign payroll. He made roughly $40,000 on Lago’s last campaign through his “firm” The American Strategies Group. Ariel Fernandez was getting paid, so Lago was getting only positive coverage here. This is the same reason Rhonda Anderson gets only positive coverage here. Now Lago is supporting Alex Bucelo’s campaign against Ariel and Ariel is not getting paid. So now the coverage will be negative. That is what this blog is all about. Propaganda. For the Residents? No. For the money.

  19. Trash pits are ugly and make Coral Gables look ugly! I walk through the streets of my neighborhood and see a lot of trash that does not belong in trash pits. A solution that can work for everyone would be wonderful!

  20. Eliminate holiday pick-up! There’s a quick way to save a couple of $$$ and residents won’t mind the change. Labor Day, MLK Day, Memorial Day, and the list goes on … there’s no need to pay overtime.

  21. I have only lived in Coral Gables for just under a decade, but the pits are a huge help, our Neighbors abide by the rule to put out bulk on Thursday night, the backyard trash pick up is extremely convenient and better for the neighborhood aesthetics and I do not mind paying extra for that service, and I have NEVER seen a landscape company ever dump their waste in our pits. Please do not change a thing and let’s tackle far greater issues than this in our beautiful town.

  22. Thank you Mr. Banos. For those of us who maintain our own lawns or who have family members help with lawn service the pits are a necessity. I noticed there was no option to keep the pits in the list of three options presented. Picking up a fallen branch or palm frond because of wind or storms is a weekly occurrence during some times of the year, therefore having the “pits” close by keeps lawns maintained and yards free of Mother Nature’s shedding. My family has been here since 1969, the City used to mow the swales in front of the homes in those days and directions were given to make sure we knew where the “pits” were when we moved in. We were expected to share with a neighbor on a property line so that each family didn’t have one in front of their home. That convenience is one of the wonderful perks to living here. Everyone has differing views, if you don’t want to use the swale pits-don’t. Your neighbor still might want to, let them.

  23. LEAVE MY TRASH PIT ALONE !!! Someone does not like it, then get rid of yours as your needs may be different than ours. You want to get rid of trash pits? Then start with the corrupt self-serving City Manager & Attorney. We have asked and asked you to rid this City of this trash, and they are still there.

  24. This is AMAZING reading. Ariel and Lago must have had a falling out. I don’t recall ever reading negative commentary about Lago on this forum. And by negative, I mean shedding light on reality.

  25. One member of the Commission is the force behind this.

    These pits are a useful necessity and a valued service that many in our city enjoy. For those that find them unsightly, which is understandable, ask the city to remove them. Everyone else should be able to keep their pits as they have for the past 50 years.

    Our democracy is broad enough not to be a zero sum game.

    Allow choice and let’s keep the service. That is the American way.

  26. Do what every other city does
    – thrash pit
    – rolling garbage bin pickup rolled in front of houses twice a week pickup up by garbage truck with automated or semi-automated system

    The current garbage pickup is just dangerous when I see in my area the trash truck driving like maniac trying to catch up the whee barrel staff it is scary !

    Not even talking about people dumping small item in my thrash which I have to clean myself each month because only bags are picked up … that’s nasty!

  27. The mayor’s and commissioners’ track record for making the right decision shows one failure after another. Remember the mobility hub. More recently, remember the city attorney Miriam Ramos and the city manager Peter Iglesias, both fully corrupt, are still on the payroll, getting excess salaries, that taxpayers pay with their hard earned dollars.

    So, today the mayor and the commissioners have another opportunity to make the right decision. It is to leave the trash pits alone. They have been here before the mayor and commissioners were born. The trash pits have a long track record of a useful purpose. They are tried and true.

    The problem now with them is incompetent enforcement. Enforcement people are not doing their jobs. Instead of spending a lot of time issuing parking tickets, they should cite and enforce fines against the violators of the trash pits. Make the trash pits work the way they were intended to work.

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