Founder & Editor
The question of who City staff answers to following the departure of Assistant City Manager Ed Santamaria has been cleared up over the last few weeks, its City Manager Peter Iglesias. An entrenched City Manager who is seeking to run the City on his own personal agenda with complete disregard to the interests of residents or their representatives on the City Commission.
From the forceful push for the controversial Mobility Hub, to the dismissive behavior towards members of the Commission during Commission meetings, to his backroom deal for Burger Bob’s without Commission knowledge, City Manager has been testing the resolve of his bosses on the City Commission every step of the way.
As the saying goes, “the City Manager just needs to be able to count to three,” the number of votes required by the Commission to save his job.
Following the April 12th City Commission meeting, Gables Insider reported about Iglesias and staff dragging their feet on Burger Bob’s renovations and the Commission’s desire to build a dog park at Salvadore Park. The park was proposed by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, who had been seeking a quick solution to the growing need for a dog park in the City Beautiful, which has never had one.
At that meeting, Iglesias and his team informed the Commission that the estimated cost of a simple dog park in open space at Salvadore Park, without any special features or water connection for dog drinking fountains would come at a cost of $275,000 to the City.
Iglesias and company said the high price was due to the need to place aluminum fencing around the site and the potential move of storm drains and sidewalks.
However, Iglesias’ numbers were quickly called to question by members of the Commission.
As Anderson pointed out, a chain-link fence provides a higher security for keeping children away from the dogs, an issue that was highlighted at the meeting by residents using Catalonia Park. Mayor Vince Lago also pointed out that the storm drains did not need to be removed, rather they needed to find a cover that would not harm the dogs. Staff was adamant and even tried to shame the Commission for not trying to do the park the right way.
The Miami Reality
The Bayfront Park Management Trust was created in the 1980s to operate the City of Miami’s largest park, Bayfront Park, along with neighboring Maurice A. Ferré Park (formerly known as Museum Park). The trust has worked on numerous projects over the last few years to make improvements to the park and meet the growing needs of the surrounding community. The construction of new residential buildings in the area have led to the need for dog parks. The trust began working on this issue and is in the process of completing two new dog parks, one at Bayfront Park and one at Ferré Park.
Construction of Maurice A. Ferré Dog Park is almost complete.
When complete, the park will feature several play features, tunnels, benches for owners and a dog drinking fountain. Water connection for the drinking fountain is required.
Gables Insider has learned that Trust is paying under $125,000 for the entire build of Ferré Park, tunnels, features, benches, as well as the water connection and drinking fountain. The price also includes the aluminum fencing that City staff claims would make the cost of this park astronomical.
Additionally, a comparison of the size of the parks shows that Ferré Park will be about three times the size of Salvadore Park.
Images of Maurice A. Ferré Park
As previously reported, Iglesias took the same measures when it came to the interior renovations of the former location of Burger Bob’s.
In that case, the Manager quoted a $900,000 basic interior renovation of a space that is just over 2,500 square feet. Even with today’s high construction prices, $900,000 would be more than enough to build a high end 2,500 square foot home in the City of Coral Gables.
On this item, Mayor Lago also stepped in and informed staff that he would work on pricing out the build, something that irritated Iglesias.
The question on why Iglesias is dragging his feet is a simple one. Iglesias sees the writing on the wall. Numerous staff mistakes and his own inability to effectively do his job have placed him in hot water. Sources at City Hall inform Gables Insider that Iglesias has had several yelling matches with members of the Commission.
Defying Commission Requests
He has also defied requests from members of the Commission.
Just two weeks ago, this publication’s editor, Ariel Fernandez, asked for a meeting with the Chief of Police, Edward J. Hudak, Jr., to discuss safety concerns at Salvadore Park as well as in his North Gables neighborhood.
Following months of Fernandez’s requests being ignored by the Chief, Mayor Lago intervened and asked the Chief and Fernandez to meet with him in order to find a resolution to the issues being raised by Fernandez. The Chief reached out to Iglesias to have Iglesias intervene. He did. He informed the Mayor and Fernandez that no meeting would take place, setting his authority as City Manager over the safety and well-being of children and residents.
The safety concerns, still remain unaddressed.
There should be no question as to who the Manager answers to, however, as the City’s Charter makes that very clear, “the City Manager shall be responsible to the Commission for the proper administration of all affairs of the City placed in his or her charge.” (Article II, Section 12).
Sources inform Gables Insider that City staff has become uncomfortable with Iglesias’ management style and the safety of their jobs if they question the City Manager.
At the last Mayor’s Council Meeting, the Council invited the City’s Chief Innovation Officer, Raimundo Rodulfo, to speak. Rodulfo was visibly uncomfortable answering questions where he might differ with Iglesias’ opinion. The Council eventually passed the initiative, which the Commission unanimously added to the Mayor’s Strategic Plan on Tuesday.
Gables Insider has invited staff to participate in its Coffee with Leaders program, to discuss permit department changes, the passport office and other programs. Each time, Iglesias has vetoed their participation. A City that claims to be doing so much to improve customer service for residents, seems to be uninterested in letting anyone know.
Iglesias who is entering his fourth year on the job is entering the general replacement time-frame of a City of Coral Gables City Manager. His last two predecessors, Pat Salerno and Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, were on the job for five years and four years respectively. The Commission might soon need to consider its options, with Iglesias’ record of actively working against them and residents. The Charter places the responsibility on the Commission to take action in cases where the Manager is not doing their job, stating that “it is the intention of this Charter to vest in the Commission all authority and fix all responsibility for the suspension or removal of the Manager.” (Article II, Section 11).
Iglesias can probably also see the writing on the wall, with a Coral Gables Municipal election just a year away that could change the makeup of the Commission.