Candidate Response: SEAN McGROVER

Group IV Candidates:
Ivette Arango O’Doski | Melissa Castro | Jackson ‘Rip’ Holmes | Sean McGrover


    • Why are you running? What is the most important issue you would address or advocate for if elected?

McGrover: I am running because I believe we need more diversity on our board. Presently, all seats are held by attorneys, and I feel most, if not all attorneys look at issues the same way. My background is in building businesses and investing, and I believe I can look at issues differently that will add value to decisions. The most important issue I see for our city is the oncoming recession that is going to heavily impact the community if we are not proactive in cutting costs, lowering our debts, and putting together a plan to increase revenues through attracting large businesses to our community. Continue reading “Candidate Response: SEAN McGROVER”

Candidate Response: ALEX BUCELO

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. Continue reading “Candidate Response: ALEX BUCELO”

Candidate Response: ARIEL FERNANDEZ

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?

Fernandez: I am running with the goal of making residents the priority in Coral Gables, not an afterthought. For many years our focus has been shifted away from those the Commission and staff should serve. My goal as Commissioner is to ensure we make the needs of residents the priority. Continue reading “Candidate Response: ARIEL FERNANDEZ”

Obituary: Coral Gables ‘ambassador,’ attorney Richard DeWitt dies at 69 (Miami Herald)

By Howard Cohen

APRIL 07, 2017 12:52 PM, UPDATED APRIL 07, 2017 12:13 PM



Richard DeWitt’s brother-in-law Jeff Kindler marveled at DeWitt’s adaptability.

“You could drop Richard into the middle of a Manhattan cocktail party, a Catskills coffee shop, a St. Louis Rotary Club meeting, a Southern California boys’ weekend in tents, a Polish town square, a village in Kenya, a rainforest in Peru. Put him in any situation, with any type of people, in any place on the planet. And, in an hour, he would know his way around as well as the locals and have at least 10 new best friends for life,” Kindler said at DeWitt’s recent funeral.

DeWitt, a former Miami police sergeant turned Coral Gables attorney who served on numerous city boards, died on March 29 after a heart attack. He was 69.

DeWitt, an arts lover, cigar and spirits connoisseur, who also loved fishing in Key Largo, met his wife, Luba, 34 years ago while visiting Slovakia. “He was a dashing American, full of energy and an incredible curiosity,” she said at his funeral. When they met her command of English was elementary, she said, and she’d never been to America. But 10 days after they met he proposed.

“There was not one dull moment with Richard,” Luba DeWitt said. He taught her to walk through the Everglades muck and enjoy it and how to camp in the swamps without fear. She taught him to ski and appreciate foreign films with subtitles. Together, they traveled and opened their home in the Gables to visiting dignitaries and fellow arts lovers.

. . .

He served as a trustee for the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg and as the director of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. DeWitt was also a board member of the Coral Gables Community Foundation and vice president of the Coral Gables Good Government Committee.

“Richard was a caring and concerned resident of his beloved Coral Gables,” said former mayor, Don Slesnick. “When needed to work for his fellow citizens, he was ready, willing and able to serve in whichever capacity he was needed. Over the years, he served on four different city boards demonstrating his effective leadership style in each instance. When we needed a person to guide the Economic Development Board through the fiscal trials and tribulations of the early 21st Century it was Richard who was the chairman for six consecutive years.”

More recently, DeWitt was an appointee to the city’s Code Enforcement Board and Charter Review Committee. Said Slesnick, “He and his wife, Luba, were active participants in the Sister City program and traveled — at their own expense — with our delegations to Pisa, Granada, Aix-en-Provence and La Antiqua. They were superb ambassadors for the City Beautiful.”

DeWitt’s survivors also include his children Tina Krablin, Rick and Sasha DeWitt, and grandchildren Ethan, Delaney, Liam and Sidney. Services were held. Donations in his name may be made to the 200 Club of Greater Miami.

Read the full article online at The Miami Herald.

Election Update ‐ VOTE! on Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Below is information about each candidate taken from their campaign websites. We encourage you to visit their websites for more detailed information about their backgrounds and issues.

Editor’s note: editing done for brevity. Please see candidates’ websites for full details.


Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick:

Jeannett seeks to preserve the essential features of Coral Gables, and to protect the legacy of George Merrick’s vision for future generations. As a 40‐year resident and current City Commissioner, Jeannett wants to serve a more significant role in preserving the “City Beautiful”. Her efforts will focus on the issues that come in front of the City Government, and she will be especially passionate about the following issues: Open Government, Traffic, Smart Development, Public Safety.

Former Mayor Raul Valdes‐Fauli:

Raul understands that dozens of issues will arise in a campaign for Mayor, but believes that a focused candidate must prioritize a handful of the most critical issues for our community: Safety, Fiscal Stability, Traffic, Development, Quality of Life.

“Coral Gables has been home to the Valdes‐Fauli family for more than five decades. It’s where our children grew up and grandchildren are raised. I have once again felt a strong sense of obligation to serve, give back and contribute to our collective future.”

GROUP III (Commissioner)

Commissioner Pat Keon:

Our Neighborhood Schools initiative also took hold in 2016. Now parents know in advance which schools their children can attend. By working with the Miami‐ Dade Public Schools, we have also maintained a 25% preference for admission to the International Studies Program at Sunset Elementary and continue to work to have more seats available for our residents at West Lab. I’ve been fortunate to live in Coral Gables over 40 years, and I believe our quality of life continues to be among the highest anywhere. I am committed to keeping it that way. I’m proud to have served as your City Commissioner the past four years and, with your support, I would be honored to continue to do so.

Former Commissioner Wayne “Chip” Withers:

Over the course of my career, I’ve proudly dedicated more than one‐third of my life to improving The City Beautiful. I’ve had the privilege of serving on your City Commission and City Boards for 20‐plus years, working closely with leaders and residents to make important decisions that improve Gables’ quality of life.

We live in one of the greatest cities in the world, and one that’s reached a pivotal point in its history. It’s now vital to proactively map out the next 10 to 15 years – not only to ensure that future growth and decisions are forward thinking, but to protect the core values for which our City is known.

Group V (Commissioner)

Marlin Ebbert:

As your commissioner, I will hold developers accountable to the same rules we all follow, prioritize calming traffic and public safety, be available and accessible to you, in person and by phone (305) 778‐4928

Randi Hoff:

It’s important to me that you know where I stand on issues that are imperative to our community’s well being. don’t hesitate to contact me at randyhoffcampaign@ if you want to ask me where I stand on any other specific issues.

Michael “Mike” Mena:

I will implement an aggressive traffic reduction plan, continue to lower property taxes and fees, prioritize smart development – protect our residential neighborhoods, Improve our city parks and promote green spaces, continue to evaluate and implement various sea level rise adaptation policy options at the City’s disposal, work with our Police Department to keep our streets safe.

Serafin Sosa, Jr.:
Interview by Community Newspapers

Top 3 issues include: Congestion due to population growth; overcrowding, which strains our infrastructure; these will inevitably result in more crime; the ongoing Streetscape projects need to be addressed to restore normality to the affected areas, combined with global warming, sea water level rising and aging infrastructure.

No public funds were used to publish this document. It may contain errors and omissions.


GGG News Blast: Ponce Homeowner Association



As predicted, developers have returned and are once again trying to change the zoning in our neighborhood. (See attached flyer). Last year, a petition was circulated and signed with over 200 signatures in our neighborhood NOT to allow a zoning change to occur anywhere along Ponce de Leon between Camilo Avenue and Bird Road. If we allow even one developer to change the current zoning, we will open‐the‐door and set a precedent for other developers to follow suit. We cannot allow this to happen.

Some of the reasons for NOT supporting any zoning changes are below:

Traffic: The Agave project, just down the street has already begun construction. The bulldozers are underway and this project is massive (see photo attached). The Agave project alone will change the landscape along Ponce de Leon and the traffic is expected to become much more congested. Traffic will become even more congested if we allow developers to change the zoning on Ponce, between Camilo and Bird Road‐ (just down the street from Agave). Like it or not, our neighborhood is about to be majorly impacted by the Mediterranean Village (Agave) Project.


Green‐space: Coral Gables is known for its green‐spaces. The duplexes and single‐family homes along this sacred eight‐block stretch of Ponce de Leon Blvd. possess what’s left of the green‐space along Ponce de Leon. WE MUST PRESERVE IT. Town‐homes that are built in Coral Gables extend nearly all the way to the sidewalks in the front, all the way to the sidewalks on the sides, and all the way to the back alleyways. The grass, shrubbery, and so many trees will be lost to concrete block and mortar. Ponce will begin to look more like LeJeune Road.

ALSO, let’s not forget the “concrete canyon” that’s gone up (and continues to escalate) along Bird Road as you turn off of US1. These towering buildings on Bird are horrendous and have only added to the density in our neighborhood. The transition from Bird Road onto Ponce de Leon (headed north) remains elegant and green. Again, green‐ space is the signature of our City Beautiful; we must keep it that way. IF we allow town‐ home construction along Ponce, we will be forfeiting our green spaces and a multitude of trees.

Merrick’s Vision and historical perspective: The duplexes and single family homes along Ponce de Leon don’t resemble any other street in Coral Gables. This entry‐way to downtown Coral Gables reveals lush landscaping, trees and green spaces that will be gone if the town‐homes are allowed. George Merrick envisioned a green environment throughout the scope of our City, ‐ which is slowly but surely disappearing. Merrick’s vision will once again be blurred away if townhomes are built that have little or no set‐back restrictions.


Please join the Developer, Architect,General Contractor and Representatives to discuss:

A change of zoning and land use map designation to allow 4 single family residential townhouses.

Property:             3400 Ponce de Leon Blvd

When:               Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Time:                 6 pm – 7 pm

Location:              Bulla Restaurant, 2500. Ponce de Leon Blvd .2nd Floor Coral Gables, Florida 33134

Letter to the Editor: Coral Gables must hire officers

Coral Gables Must Hire Officers

MAY 30, 2016, 4:00 PM

Re the May 20 article City’s critics demand urgency to fill vacant police force positions: The article regarding sworn officer shortages within the Coral Gables Police Department expressed many of the concerns that residents have with the slow and seemingly inadequate process being utilized to recruit and hire the police officers.

The Gables Good Government Committee (GGG), a nonpartisan organization that focuses on quality-of-life issues in Coral Gables, sent a letter to its city manager on April 29 stating: “We urge you to take whatever action is necessary to fill these vacancies as soon as possible so that our city’s residents are provided the superior quality of public safety for which our community has historically been known.”

The negative impact of short-staffing raises red flags: (1) Patrol officers have been asked to work extremely long overtime days, causing fatigue; (2) The department exceeded its yearly overtime budget in May and now must draw overtime pay from new-hire funds; (3) The need to maintain minimum patrol staffing means that motor units, detectives, youth services and marine patrol are understaffed; and (4) Part-time officers may need to be hired for traffic enforcement.

These red flags could be lowered with a one-time, extraordinary effort by the city to recruit, hire and train new police officers.

The police budget has 193 positions, of which 21 officer positions are currently unfilled. Additionally, there are nine open positions due to military service, disability and light duty, as well as seven retiring officers. This means that there will be 37 possible vacant positions, nearly 20 percent of the force, by year’s end. The GGG strongly urges the city administration to listen to its concerned citizens and fill the officer vacancies now.

Deborah Swain,

Gables Good
Government Committee,
Coral Gables

Originally published at The Miami Herald, Copyright Miami Herald Media Company

October 20, 2015 News Flash

RSVP Now for a Reception on October 26, 2015, 
Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez‐Cantera

Join us Oct. 26, 2015, at Bacardi USA, 2701 S. LeJeune Rd.,
5:30‐7:00 pm, for a members’ reception
and program with Lt. Governor Lopez‐Cantera .
RSVPs are required:

Special Meeting of the City Commission on Thursday, October 22, 2015, at 9am

First Reading of the Ordinances Pertaining to the Paseo de Riviera Project Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, 2nd Floor

This is a public hearing and the first reading of the following ordinances:

15‐4358 An Ordinance of the City Commission of Coral Gables, Florida requesting an amendment to the Future Land Use Map of the City of Coral Gables Comprehensive Plan pursuant to Zoning Code Article 3, “Development Review,” Division 15, “Comprehensive Plan Text and Map Amendments,” and Small Scale amendment procedures (ss. 163.3187, Florida Statutes), from “Commercial Low‐Rise Intensity” to “Commercial High‐Rise Intensity” for the property legally described as a Portion of Tract A, Riviera Section Part 8 (1350 South Dixie Highway), Coral Gables, Florida; including required conditions; providing for a repealer provision, providing for a severability clause, and providing for an effective date. (PZB made no recommendation; Vote: 3‐3)

15‐4359 An Ordinance of the City Commission of Coral Gables, Florida providing for text amendments to the City of Coral Gables Official Zoning Code, by amending Appendix A, “Site Specific Zoning Regulations,” Section A‐83, “Riviera Section Part 8,” by removing provisions restricting FAR, height and setbacks for the property legally described as Tract A, Riviera Section Part 8; including required conditions; providing for a repealer provision, providing for a severability clause, codification, and providing for an effective date. (PZB made no recommendation; Vote: 3‐3)

15‐4360 An Ordinance of the City Commission of Coral Gables, Florida requesting review of a Planned Area Development (PAD) pursuant to Zoning Code Article 3, “Development Review,” Division 5, “Planned Area Development (PAD),” for the proposed project referred to as “Paseo de la Riviera” on the property legally described as a Portion of Tract A, Riviera Section Part 8 (1350 South Dixie Highway), Coral Gables, Florida; including required conditions; providing for a repealer provision, providing for a severability clause, and providing for an effective date. (PZB recommended approval with various conditions; Vote: 4‐2).

15‐4361 A Resolution of the City Commission of Coral Gables, Florida requesting Mixed‐Use Site Plan Review pursuant to Zoning Code Article 4, “Zoning Districts,” Division 2, “Overlay and Special Purpose Districts,” Section 4‐201, “Mixed Use District (MXD),” for the proposed project referred to as the “Paseo de la Riviera” on the property legally described as a Portion of Tract A, Riviera Section Part 8 (1350 South Dixie Highway), Coral Gables, Florida; including required conditions; providing for a repealer provision, providing for a severability clause, and providing for an effective date. (PZB recommended approval with various conditions; Vote: 4‐2).

Please Attend Meeting on “Paseo de la Riviera” Project for Coral Gables

Coral Gables Residents and Friends:

On August 12 at the City of Coral Gables Planning and Zoning meeting there was a significant turnout of people who came to listen and to speak about the “Paseo de la Riviera” project (where the Holiday Inn is located on US#1).

Most residents never had an opportunity to speak, so the item was continued to September 16, 6 – 9 pm, at City Hall. We urge you to attend this public hearing to provide input on this project which could increase the allowed height from 77 feet up to 190.5 feet on a site just across from low-rise apartments and only one block from single-family residential homes.

The “Paseo de la Riviera” is proposed on the site of the Holiday Inn on US1 across from the University of Miami. It includes two 14-story towers, a 250 room hotel and a massive 234 unit rental apartment building with 860 plus garage spaces. There is understandable concern by the surrounding neighbors about the inevitability of traffic overflow into the residential neighborhood, particularly since there is no traffic light on US 1 and Caballero Blvd.

Please attend this September 16 meeting, from 6-9 pm, at Coral Gables City Hall. Your input is valuable
– Debbie Durrell Swain, president, 

Gables Good Government Committee