Group V Candidates: Alex Bucelo | Ariel Fernandez
- Why are you running? What is the most important issue you would address or advocate for if elected?
Bucelo: I am running because I want to make sure that the character and charm of our community is maintained, our community remains safe, and taxes remain low without reducing city services. I want Coral Gables to be more environmentally resilient and I will always side with my neighbors in opposition to large-scale developments. As a matter of fact, while others talk, I am the only candidate running for City Commission who has actually voted against large-scale developments.
- In what ways do you think the current City administration could better serve the citizens of Coral Gables, and how should the incoming administration put those ideas into action?
Bucelo: If elected, I would like to have a conversation at the city commission during my first 100 days to ensure we can leverage the power of technology to help our staff and our residents navigate the challenge that permitting can be. For example, if elected, I will propose that the Planning Department sets up dedicated Zoom appointments – say 10/15 minutes long – twice a week, first thing in the morning, to address simple remarks or comments without having to go to the building. If we are all working and connecting via Zoom, why can’t we use the platform to expedite this process?
Another idea is to have the Department implement QR codes for each permit so that residents can look up the status of their plans by simply using their phone and scanning the QR code. No more complicated websites and searching for plans. Technology makes our life easy – from checking our homes to setting the temperature in our house – we should use it to make our city better as well.
The top three contributors to climate change are the use of fossil fuels for electricity, motorized transportation, and construction and manufacturing. Another contributor in the top ten includes methane from waste in landfills.
- What actions would you propose that the City of Coral Gables take to control and reduce these and other climate change contributors?
Bucelo: First, I have to commend Mayor Lago and the City Commission for leading the way over the past few years in making sure our city fleet starts making the transformation from fossil fuels to electric. As a matter of fact, the City of Coral Gables has the largest electric vehicle fleet of any municipality in the state of Florida. Recently, I saw the Mayor introduce legislation asking the city’s police department to purchase an electric police vehicle this year. If elected, I would support this effort and work with the Mayor to find ways to expedite it.
Depending on who you ask, Coral Gables is either over-developed or ripe for development.
- Where do you stand on future development and the concerns that residents have raised in opposition? Do you think the city needs more development or more restrictions on development? Explain why.
Bucelo: I am the only candidate running for commission across both groups that has served on the city’s planning and zoning board. My position on the city’s overall development is quite straightforward: I want developers to adhere to the zoning code. If anyone wants to deviate from the code, then we need significant public input and public benefits. While other candidates talk, I am the only person running for city commission who has voted against the most controversial project in Coral Gables recent history – the project on Ponce and University that was looking for a massive up zoning from 90 feet (allowed by code) to 170 feet. I listened to the residents and stood strong against it. Again, while others talked, I actually voted.
- The Coral Gables Commission voted in favor of an updated zoning code in 2021 after several years of discussion among the residents, the City administration and the City Commission. What reasons would cause you to consider supporting a zoning code exemption or amendment to alter the code for a developer’s site proposal?
Bucelo: As I mentioned in my response to the previous questions, my position on the city’s overall development is quite straightforward: I want developers to adhere to the zoning code. If anyone wants to deviate from the code, then we need significant public input and public benefits.
Traffic in Coral Gables is a constant source of debate and concern for residents, and as development in the City and across Miami-Dade County increases, it will only become more of a problem.
- What initiatives are included in your strategy to improve traffic in and through the City?
Bucelo: Traffic is at the top of the issues on voter’s minds. Our city is a pass through for thousands of vehicles every morning and afternoon during rush hour. Unfortunately, most of the major arteries traversing out city are either county or state roads, therefore, one of my main initiatives is going to be engaging the county and FDOT much more actively to work together to find ways to alleviate congestion, but also to protect residential streets from serving as overflow when traffic is backed up.
- Do you support improving safe infrastructure on roadways and rights-of-way to encourage active modes of transportation? Specifically, do you support bicycle and micromobility (scooters) lanes or paths, expansion of the sidewalk system?
Bucelo: Yes, I support micromobility. As a matter of fact, I am in support of all forms of micromobility and bicycles that will help get people out of cars and reduce greenhouse gases. But I have a concern as it pertains to residential neighborhoods. I want to make sure that residents have a say when it comes to dedicated bike lanes. If elected, I will support micromobility and ensure the residents can express their opinions on any type of dedicated lanes in their neighborhoods.
- Do you believe that such safe infrastructure should depend on approval of contiguous property owners, or do you recognize that these improvements benefit all because they increase safety and therefore will increase alternate transportation and reduce automobile traffic?
Bucelo: As I mentioned above, I want to make sure that residents have a say when it comes to dedicated bike lanes. If elected, I will support micromobility and ensure the residents can express their opinions on any type of dedicated lanes in their neighborhoods.
Civility, Ethics and Campaign Finance:
One of the few things people seem to agree upon today is that, when it comes to political and policy discussions, there is little agreement and even less civility. In addition, negative advertising by outside PACs is a big concern.
- When we look at your campaign finance reports after the election, what percentage will be found to have been contributed from PACs and parties outside of Miami-Dade County? Do you believe that there should be voluntary limitations on contributions outside of Miami-Dade County to candidates for Coral Gables City Commission and Mayor?
Bucelo: The majority of my contributions are from individuals or corporations who live or do business in Coral Gables and the greater Miami-Dade metropolitan area in general. I am hesitant to support any idea trying to limit political contributions based on a definition of “outside Miami-Dade” that has not been discussed or presented yet.
- Have you pledged to run a positive campaign and to avoid any negative or defamatory attacks on the character or reputation of your opponent(s)? Will you publicly repudiate any third-party individuals or PACs who engage in negative attacks against your opponent(s) on behalf of your campaign?
Bucelo: I have signed the city and the chamber’s pledge.
- What do you think can be done to improve trust and participation in local government? Do you have ideas on how to improve civil discourse in our community regarding interactions between City Hall and the public?
Bucelo: I believe Mayor Lago’s leadership on openness and transparency is commendable and I think that, if elected, I would like to work to implement a system similar to the Mayor’s to interact and listen to residents regularly.