Your Vote, Your City: The City Beautiful

“Smear campaign.”

The 2019 Candidate Forum made for a night of jokes, accusations, and potential politicians pleading for your vote in the upcoming election.

On March 7th, the University of Miami hosted the 2019 Candidate Forum on campus. This forum was meant to get to know the candidates for city commissioner as well as mayor in time for this year’s election.

Moderated by Dr. Jennifer M. Connolly, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami, candidates were guided in discussion by questions submitted by both students and audience members.

Mayoral candidates Jeannett Slesnick and incumbent Mayor Raul J. Valdes-Fauli were center stage in the hot seats before the crowd. Questions ranged from annexation and zoning, to sustainability and scooters.

“We are in serious, serious trouble”, claimed Valdes when asked his thoughts on rising sea levels. He elaborated in claiming that Coral Gables aims to be environmentally conscious. The plastic bag ban and recent phasing out of plastic straws comes to mind in recent memory. Slesnick followed up with the claim that “every building should be green”.

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 10.00.20 PM.png

Concern was also raised over new developments in our City Beautiful which seemingly attempt to urbanize the Spanish inspired, historic town. Slesnick argued for integration of more contemporary structures with consultation from architects as well as homeowners. Valdes additionally supported the new additions, but called for “tasteful modern structures”.

Regards were additionally made over the Coral Gables Police Department’s MRAP, a heavily armored tank-like vehicle typically used by the military. Citizens argued over the necessity, or perhaps potential waste of tax dollars, in owning such a vehicle-which also includes a roof mounted sniper’s nest. Valdes made the case that it’s never too early to plan for the worst and that we don’t need it until we need it. The public may argue otherwise.

Prior to the mayoral forum, potential city commissioners were on stage taking questions. Ralph Cabrera, Jorge L. Fors, Jr., Jackson Rip Holmes, and Carmen Olazabal spoke with responses to the environment, policy, and personal experience. Holmes responded to rising sea level concerns claiming we should evolve to grow gills in response to our impending underwater doom. Notably, looking for a laugh, he claimed this answer was a mere joke.

Throughout the night, candidates subtly and slyly made backhanded remarks and bickered with regards to claims against them. Slesnick spoke out asking the audience to vote for the candidate who responds with “action, not words”. Valdes-Fauli took this as an attack and snapped back arguing this is a “civilized debate, not personal”.

Commissioner candidates threw around the term “smear campaign”, again, alluding to the fact that candidates talk ill of one another. This forum aimed to avoid lude behavior and constantly kept candidates in check.  

Voter registration closes March 11th, 2019. The election takes place April 9th.

Be sure to cast your vote for the City Beautiful, and remember, every vote counts.

Colin Ruzella