Coral Gables Commission Addresses City Manager Appointment and Annexation Issues

In a turn of events at the Coral Gables Commission meeting, the commission voted to appoint Amos Ras Jr as the new city manager. This decision followed a lengthy and debate about the hiring process, with some commissioners advocating for a national search and public input, while others felt that the circumstances warranted a swift appointment. The resolution to direct the City Attorney to negotiate an agreement with Ras brought forth discussions on the effective date and terms of employment.

The meeting also tackled the potential annexation of Little Gables, a topic that generated concerns regarding the estimated cost of $23.6 million and the impact on residents. A resident expressed opposition to the annexation, citing the burden on taxpayers and potential adverse effects on the community. Although the straw ballot question on annexation is non-binding, the commission would have the final say in the process, which would include a public hearing and require approval by the County Commission.

Another newsworthy item from the session was the discussion about the poor conditions of certain areas in the city, particularly regarding litter and cleanliness. The commission discussed the responsibility of property owners to maintain the area in front of their properties and considered proposals for regular checks and pressure cleaning of sidewalks. Additionally, the conversation extended to the issue of homelessness in the city, with a focus on the challenges of addressing the needs of homeless individuals, including mental health issues, and the need for a call to action to address homelessness.

During the meeting, the commission also delved into infrastructure concerns, such as the condition of the Blue Road Bridge, the need for a sidewalk for pedestrian safety, and the poor state of curbs posing safety risks. The commission acknowledged the recent maintenance work on the bridge by the county commissioner and discussed the importance of proactive measures to address cleanliness and maintenance issues in the city.

Another topic that garnered attention was the proposed ordinance for a text amendment to the zoning regulations for Snapper Creek Lakes. The amendment sought to align site-specific zoning regulations with the neighborhood’s protective covenants. The zoning director provided an overview of the key changes, and the representative of the Snapper Creek Lakes homeowners association emphasized the need for the amendment to address discrepancies in setbacks and accessory uses and structures. The commission deliberated on the implications of the amendment and its impact on the neighborhood, seeking clarity on the changes and their alignment with the protective covenants.

Public comments at the meeting were diverse and sometimes contentious. Concerns were raised about the decline in due process, transparency, and professionalism in the commission. One individual announced their intention to run for commissioner with the aim of restoring order and civility. Another speaker brought up issues involving employee trust, misconduct, and financial impropriety within the city’s departments.

The commission also recognized the outstanding service of local law enforcement officers. Sergeant Bo Williams was awarded the officer of the month award for December 2023 for his role in apprehending three individuals during a burglary in progress. Additionally, Sergeant Risa Martis was recognized as the officer of the year for 2023, commended for her work in breaking up an organized crime group and her dedication to her role.

In terms of community engagement, the commission heard a proposal to convert a city-owned building’s window into a “ventanita” to offer free coffee and tea to residents. The meeting also featured discussions about the city’s peafowl mitigation program, which aims to address the nuisance caused by the peafowl population, including their impact on local wildlife and efforts to restore native habitats.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Vince C. Lago
City Council Officials:
Rhonda Anderson, Kirk R. Menendez, Melissa Castro, Ariel Fernandez

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