Melissa Castro is a City of Coral Gables commissioner and a Specialist in Behavior Analysis and Industrial Organizational Psychology.
This Opinion Item from Commissioner Castro has been previously published in the Miami Herald and Community News Papers.
In April 2023, the residents of Coral Gables voted me into office to represent them and the best interests of the City. After serving five short months, I can say that their concerns about the trajectory of the City Beautiful are valid. In addition to the various issues that put into the question the integrity of our leadership, there are items being proposed which solely seek to disenfranchise residents.
Most recently, it is the proposal to change the timing of Coral Gables elections. The truth is, what is being disguised as an opportunity for greater participation is actually a strategy to silence those who do not have the backing of the large and loud political machines that suck the oxygen out the room during November election cycles.
Imagine this scenario: You have the power to choose the leaders who will shape the destiny of Coral Gables, our home. These leaders make vital decisions about our parks, schools, development and safety. But here’s the twist – running for these roles requires a substantial amount of money, more than you can imagine. Why? Because to stand out in the November elections, candidates and propositions must compete on a national scale of funding, and that’s where the problem arises.
The influence of outside money cannot be underestimated. In 2014, it was estimated that $200M was poured into Florida elections from outside interests. By 2020, that number had ballooned to $83B, making Florida “one of the biggest and most expensive laboratories in this new era of loosely regulated money raised and spent beyond candidate campaigns.”
The effect? We get elections where developers, lobbyists, and special interests create an unequal playing field and where the issues and candidates that are well-funded stand to establish legitimacy while those who are not struggle to cut through the noise, depriving voters of a deeper understanding of the people and proposals presented to them.
You’re being told that switching the election date will lead to cost savings and higher voter turnout. But here’s the reality: Some elected officials have already started their political campaigns and are playing these political games well in advance. One elected official, in particular, has amassed over $700,000 in a Political Action Committee (PAC) and is strategizing to their personal advantage and not for the residents. I’ve never considered myself a politician, and I won’t stand by as my constituents are misled. My commitment remains unwavering: Residents come first, regardless of whether it’s the popular stance to take or not. Remember, the proposed election date changes were not made to encourage your participation; they were designed to drown out your voice.
As you can see this isn’t just about dates on a calendar; it’s about our city’s future, and it’s about your voice being heard. Opinions may differ, but I firmly believe that keeping our tradition and history of April elections better serves our Coral Gables community. Don’t let the appeal of convenience lead you to surrender your voice. Let’s ensure that our city truly represents our interests.
The battle for Coral Gables is a fight for our voice, and together, we can make sure it’s heard.
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