With 2020 now in full swing, it’s a good time to look back on the many successes Coral Gables achieved in the past year, and those we are looking forward to this year.
The City Beautiful witnessed a great deal of progress in 2019, and our residents and businesses are starting to reap the benefits. As Vice Mayor, I have always viewed public safety as one of my top priorities, and I am pleased to report we continued to see a downward trend in crime statistics. Working with the City of Miami, the Coral Gables Police Department has taken part in special operations that have resulted in 65 prostitution and solicitation arrests along the Eighth Street corridor. Later in the year, as we prepared for the holiday season, our Neighborhood Team Policing Unit launched its successful Porch Pirate Initiative to lower the number of residential package delivery thefts.
Public safety took another giant leap last year when the City and Miami-Dade County came to an agreement to allow traffic calming devices, such as traffic circles, speed tables and raised intersections, to be installed on local municipal streets without additional county approval. This is a goal that the Commission and I have been working hard to achieve, because these measures, combined with the lower 25 mph speed limit, will help reduce the risks for walkers, runners and cyclists.
Also in 2019, I sponsored a plan to invest $15 million in the Underline project to develop the land below the Metrorail into a 10-mile linear park, urban trail and canvas for artistic expression. This ambitious project will use revenues from impact fees and will not raise taxes for Coral Gables residents. The goal of this project is to create a safer, healthier, more connected and engaged community, and I am looking forward to seeing it become a reality.
With traffic a critical issue facing our city, it’s essential to encourage the use of alternate forms of transportation. During my tenure, I have worked with city staff on initiatives such as the free trolley service and Freebee electric vehicle that make public transportation more accessible and convenient. With a grant of over $200,000 from the Miami-Dade County, Freebee service was recently expanded beyond downtown to the Coral Gables Library, Youth Center, Metrorail and other destinations. This year, my goal is to expand the free trolley even further to address the needs of underserved areas.
In regards to other plans for 2020, I am very excited about our proposal for the undergrounding of utility lines throughout the city. In 2019, the City Attorney and City Manager presented nonbinding ballpark estimates to the Commission, and we are actively engaging the community in discussions about a potential ballot question in August. The undergrounding of power and cable lines will help make these services more resilient during severe weather events.
In the fall of this year, we will also see the completion of the new Public Safety building at 2151 Salzedo Street. The five-story, 190,000 sq. ft. building will be home to the Coral Gables Police Department headquarters and administration, Fire Department administration, 911 call center and first responders dispatch center, Fire Station 1 and more. This much-needed state-of-the-art facility will provide the systems we need to keep providing the highest level of emergency services.
We are fortunate to be part of a city that strives to preserve its special quality of life, and as Vice Mayor, I am honored to play a role in this process. Let’s celebrate all that we have accomplished together, and resolve to make even more strides in the year ahead.