- Website: www.VoteMelissa4Gables.com
- Email: Info@VoteMelissa4Gables.com
- Phone: (786) 567-2614
- Why are you running? What is the most important issue you would address or advocate for if elected?
Castro: I am running to serve the residents of Coral Gables due to the passion I have to make our community the best in the nation and the desire to make a difference. I also possess unique skills and experiences that could help improve the lives of many residents here in the Gables. My presence on the Coral Gables Commission will help bring new perspectives and ideas to the table. As someone who is actively involved in my community, I know that residents are eager to see a bigger change. The most important issue I would advocate for is improving the Permitting Department, in which I know I can put into effect. If elected, I can be a fresh voice with experience to advocate and make the changes all residents urge to see.
- 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?
Castro: Communication: The City administration can improve communication with residents by providing more timely and transparent information. This can include regular updates on city projects, new developments, and initiatives, as well as holding various public meetings to gather resident input.
Community Engagement and Involvement: Encouraging residents to participate in decision-making processes. I would also support opportunities for residents to volunteer and participate in local events.
User-friendly technology: Provide applications that are user-friendly and explore the idea of extended hours on an as-needed basis.
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?
Castro: I would like to explore the possibilities of electric trolleys and/or Freebees. As I’ve stated many times before, implementing the 3 R’s (Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle) in schools is very important. Overall, the City of Coral Gables can take multiple approaches to reducing climate change contributors by implementing policies that encourage energy efficiency, public transportation, tree canopy coverage, recycling, water conservation, and renewable energy.
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.
Castro: As a longtime resident, I agree with the valid concerns that many residents have raised regarding the impact of new development, such as increased traffic congestion, strain on infrastructure, and changes to the city’s aesthetic and historic character. In my opinion, the City of Coral Gables should strive for healthy development that meets the needs of both residents and small businesses while preserving the city’s unique character. This requires a thoughtful and balanced approach that carefully considers the impacts of new development on the community and the environment. The most important thing to me is that the City should listen to residents’ concerns, involve them in the decision-making process, and that it does not come at the community’s expense. This means holding public hearings, engaging with residents and community groups, and incorporating feedback into development plans. The City should carefully evaluate each proposed development project on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the potential benefits and drawbacks.
- 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?
Castro: I believe that there should not be zoning code exemptions — especially for developers. The code is the code and the developer knew that before purchasing the property. The city of Coral Gables should solely focus on the residents’ quality of life. However, in some cases, unforeseen circumstances may arise that necessitate a zoning code exemption or amendment, such as changes in consequence to environmental issues on the property.
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?
Castro: Expand transportation demand management programs by expanding the Freebee and Trolley to residential areas. Invest in a Smart Traffic System that uses real-time data to facilitate traffic flow, help congestion, and improve safety. Improve parking management by implementing smart parking systems that help residents find open parking spaces and help cut the time spent looking for a spot.
- 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?
Castro: Improving safe infrastructure on roadways and rights-of-way is crucial to encouraging active modes of transportation such as cycling, walking, and micromobility. Investing in safer infrastructure can help reduce congestion, improve air quality, and promote physical activity.
- 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?
Castro: When it comes to the development of safe infrastructure, such as bike lanes/scooters or sidewalks, the primary concern should be the safety of all residents, then the approval of contiguous property owners. These improvements should benefit the entire community (not just a small percentage of the population) and property owner’s input should always be considered.
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?
Castro: When looking at my campaign finance reports, you will find that I have not received any PAC funds.
- 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?
Castro: I have pledged to run a positive campaign and will not be negative towards any other candidate. I do not condone or support negative campaigning and I am committed to solely running a positive campaign that focuses on the issues and the vision that the residents share. Addressing topics in a constructive and respectful manner is important to me because it builds trust and credibility with the residents and portrays my character.
- 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?
Castro: Improve transparency and enhance communication with residents, making information about City operations, budgets, and decisions easily understandable to residents (no acronyms). This can include regularly publishing reports, holding public meetings, and sharing information on the new digital kiosk installed in downtown Coral Gables. Newsletters and online forums could also help spread useful information and gather feedback from the public. The City can promote civil discourse by establishing clear guidelines for respectful communication during public meetings that have to be acknowledged and signed prior to entering the meeting, by agreeing that if guidelines are not followed the offender would be removed from the environment. We can also provide training for City staff and elected officials on how to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue with the public.