There are eight candidates running for seats on the City of Coral Gables Commission in the Apr. 14 elections. All were contacted by the Coral Gables News and asked for their bios and to answer the question, “What would you do in the first 100 days after taking office?”
In Group Five there are six candidates, listed in alphabetical order:
Fernandez graduated from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in 1999, obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in International Relations from Florida International University. He worked for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s office for more than 11 years. He was appointed by Vice Mayor William Kerdyk Jr. and served on the Coral Gables Emergency Management Division Board. He currently is the communications director of the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD). He also is the vice chair of the of RAMZ Academy Board of Directors.
“During my first 100 days in office, I will focus on setting a course for our city. We have had a very successful first 90 years, but we must set goals for where we want to be in 5, 10 and even 20 years. “I will work to address the two largest issues affecting residents — safety and development.
I will work with our police chief and our traffic director to bring about improvements to our safety, and with our city manager to review our budget and find how we can ensure long term sustainability. Together, let’s keep Coral Gables beautiful!”
His campaign website is www.arielfernandez.com.
JACKSON RIP HOLMES
Holmes was born and raised in Coral Gables. He has a law degree from the University of Florida, owns property on Miracle Mile and works as a real estate agent.
“If I am elected city commissioner, in the first 100 days I will move as swiftly as possible to bring about smart, not deficient, renewal of the downtown area, as follows:
1. The Streetscape Project must be rewritten as to parking, to remove the plan to cut on-street parking on Miracle Mile by one third.
2. To rework any redevelopment of city parking garages on Andalusia to include a department store, to prevent such redevelopment from using the only land available to anchor low-rise Miracle Mile, Coral Gables’ main street, with a department store, to other purposes, which would set off the necessity of Mom and Pop owners, unable to pay rising taxes and insurance, selling to developers of 15-story buildings, making Coral Gables’ main street a ‘concrete canyon.’
3. This would prevent the urbanization and crime planned by the present city manager, who almost succeeded with this in 2001 with Starwood Urban. Such urbanization and crime would cause Coral Gables’ most important treasure, its affluent residents, to move to genuine suburbs — Pinecrest, Kendale Lakes, etc.”
His campaign website is www.ripholmes.com/.
Mitchell is a partner, shareholder and cofounder of the law firm of Mitchell & West LLC, a member of the Miami Dade Justice Association, American Bar Association, Justice Association and the Injury Board. He earned his BS in Psychology from Northwestern State University (1995) and his Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law (2000).
“For the first 100 days we need to strengthen public safety, improve efficiency, and invest more in maintaining our historic landmarks and basic infrastructure. As your commissioner, I will focus on these issues — and your concerns.
However, the future encompasses much more than 100 days. Major development projects could result in an increase in traffic and affect our overall quality of life. We must preserve our rich history and tradition. Otherwise, we risk losing our identity. We are very fortunate to live in one of the finest cities in the nation and we must keep it that way. We need to remain vigilant of any major development projects coming to our city. We are standing at the metaphoric fork in the road with tough choices to make. We must choose leaders with a vision that will preserve our community for the next generation.”
His business website is www.mitchellandwest.com/.
Murado has been a Coral Gables resident for 12 years. She is an attorney and mother of two who lives, works and raises her family in Coral Gables. She graduated cum laude from Florida International University’s Faculty Scholars Program (Honors College) where she double-majored in Political Science and International Relations, and is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee. Her legal practice in Coral Gables includes immigration, nationality and consular matters.
“What do I plan to do during the first 100 days after taking office?
1. Study and discuss the 2015-16 proposed budget during the Commission meetings.
2. Study financial options to commence mitigating the unsustainable pension liability.
3. Study plan to evaluate a city-wide street lighting plan to replace existing lighting with LED lighting so less electricity is consumed and better lighting is provided.
4. Review capital projects in the planning and development stages.
5. Begin studying plan to make the Building Department more user-friendly to residents.
6. Work with city management to determine how to improve the safety of the residents.
Her campaign website is www.votesandramurado.com.
NORMAN ANTHONY “TONY” NEWELL
Newell is vice president of Hammer Construction Corp., a construction restoration business. He has served on the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board. “I would pursue a city-sponsored Crime Watch application, making grass-roots crime prevention a more potent force.
I would also encourage the city — especially as larger public projects inch closer to fruition — to utilize public-engagement platforms such as MetroQuest.com. On a broader time horizon, I would endeavor to utilize city governance to preserve the vision of George Merrick without infringing on the needs and growth of the community. I would strive for a palpable reduction in both crime and traffic congestion, and I would work to protect our quality of life while enhancing the efficiency and efficacy of the city’s government.” His campaign website is www.tonynewell.com.
Slesnick has been a Coral Gables resident since 1972. She earned a BA from the University of Florida in 1972, is a broker with Slesnick and Jochem LLP. She has served on the Historic Preservation Board, Economic Development, Cultural Affairs Board, Junior Orange Bowl Committee as president, and as a Junior League of Miami board member.
“My Top 10 things to do in my first 100 days in office:
1. Reach out to voters to thank them for their support and assure them that I am always available for their input.
2. Prepare for installation ceremony.
3. Ask city manager for briefings by department directors on the operations of their functional areas — to include budgets, on-going projects and foreseeable challenges.
4. Visit every department to view operations and greet city employees.
5. Re-visit the various organizations with which I interacted during the campaign to now allow them to address their concerns to the newest commissioner.
6. Attend first six commission meetings — listen and learn more than talk.
7. Constantly remind myself of my cam-paign promises and insure that they are kept.
8. Compile a proposed list of appointees to city boards.
9. Be responsive to citizen input.
10. Always be a “servant leader” — and ask God for guidance!”
Her campaign website is www.voteslesnick.com.
In Group Four there are two candidates, listed in alphabetical order:
Lopez is a 29-year resident of Coral Gables, and has served on numerous city boards. He attended the University of Miami, earning bachelor and master’s degrees in electrical engineering.
An international business and information technology consultant for 40 years, he managed Miami-Dade County’s computerized traffic control system, technical and management positions within AT&T and BellSouth, worked for Deloitte Haskins and Sells (now Deloitte Consulting), founded AKL Group Inc. and founded Gables Business Solutions Advisors, where he presently serves as its president.
“During my first 100 days in office, I will:
1. Immerse myself in my duties as a city commissioner and study the facts surrounding upcoming commission meeting issues and votes.
2. Have initial meetings with our city manager, department heads and randomly selected city staff to hear their vision and ideas they believe will improve their job and department to better serve our residents, businesses and visitors.
3. Continue reaching out and meeting with fellow residents and businesses and continue listening to their issues and concerns.
4. Utilize my years of active involvement in city-related issues to facilitate my transition from active resident to commissioner with an ear for all who love our city and its quality of life.” His campaign website is www.votelopez2015.com.
FRANK C. QUESADA
Quesada is the incumbent city commissioner in Group Four, serving since 2011. A South Florida native, he graduated from Belen Jesuit Preparatory High School, attended V i l l a n o v a University, receiving a bachelor’s degree, attended St. Thomas University College of Law and clerked for the former Chief Judge of the Third District Court of Appeal, the Honorable Juan Ramirez, and Judge Ronald Dresnick of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida. He is a member of numerous legal organizations and has worked as a volunteer and board member for La Liga Contra el Cancer (The League Against Cancer).
“If honored to be re-elected in April, I will continue to focus on improving and protecting our community. There are many city initiatives that are underway and it’s important that the city’s focus remain on improving residents’ quality of life when we address each one of these initiatives.
“I will continue to work on ensuring our residential neighborhoods are protected; that our police department is working hard to prevent crime; that real estate development is kept in control, and that our public education system is second to none.”
His campaign website is www.frankcquesada.com/.