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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

District 2 Candidates meet Grove residents

The District 2 candidates forum at the Coconut Grove Woman's Club was pretty nice as a community event on Tuesday night. A full room of neighbors came out in the rain to hear the candidates. I was pleased that all nine candidates were there. It's not the same when one or two are absent. This shows me that they are all making an effort and they want the job. Don't they say that 90% of success is just showing up? The historic Woman's Club is beautiful and Marlene Erven, president of the club, with all the ladies, did an excellent job hosting the event. It was all very professional and it all went off without a hitch.

From left are candidates Javier Gonzalez, Rosa Palomino, Ken Russell, Mike Simpson, Teresa Sarnoff, Williams Armbrister, Grace Solares, Lorry Woods and Seth Sklarey; in red at the end is emcee for the evening, Jackie Nespral from NBC6.

While I thought there were certain front runners yesterday, each has their own fans, at least that's what I got from the audience, so front runners are shifting. Friends in the audience would come up to me throughout the night and tell me who they liked or asked me the name of the person speaking at the moment. Mike Simpson had quite a few fans at the forum as well as Williams Armbrister. People also favored Grace Solares, Javier Gonzalez and Ken Russell.

The debate was soft though and many of the questions really did not relate to the Grove, they were too general and not specific to the audience that was present. Minimum wage hikes, housing for the poor, transit and traffic are all important subjects but they seem like more universal or global issues and not many of these problems can be solved by a local city commissioner. Getting people to avoid Coconut Grove streets as they make their way from the south end of the county to downtown during rush hour was talked about, which is really a non-issue because in the scheme of things, who cares?

For the audience present, the questions should have been more localized. Two friends who were present last night sent me their questions that they submitted ahead of time, which were not used at the forum, they were things like: Did you support the recent initiative to replace Scotty's Landing and the boatyard behind it with the Grove Bay development? and Do you support removing the locks and allowing the public to have total access to the basketball and soccer courts in Peacock Park?

And also these: By a show of hands… Who has voted in the last two City of Miami elections? How many Commission Meeting and P&Z Meeting have you attended in the past 4 years? Please list some of the issues that you chose to champion for our community (i.e. Home Depot, Rezoning of Mercy Hospital, Fire Fee Settlement, Marlin Stadium, no Bid Contract, etc.). Please list some of the committees, boards or organizations you have been actively involved with over the past 4 years that have benefited our community? Do you think a candidate should be elected because they are the most qualified, have worked for many years to benefit our community are able to raise the most amount of money to purchase the most amount of advertisement?

One odd question by a friend was: 
Do you support getting rid of the colorful information booths that sit on the Grove's downtown sidewalks? This question I don't understand. Is there a problem with the info booths?

Look at Grace Solares who is all smiles, she can take the tough questions.
I would have asked harder hitting questions about development and the rapid changes in the Grove, which is changing the flavor of the village. They did ask about zoning changes in the Center Grove to allow for high rises (over the current five story limit), but the answers were not specific. I would have asked Teresa Sarnoff - "If Terra Group and The Related Group requested zoning changes to allow for higher and denser development and the residents are against it, whose side would you take, knowing that the developers have funded most of your campaign?" That's what people would like to know. Also, I would have asked, "What could or would you do to help promote new business in the Center Grove. Rents are out of sight, how would you confront the landlords about this?"

I learned a lot and I met some of the candidates for the first time. Some comments I wrote
down are:

"Condo developers should be required to build low income housing with each expensive condo that they are allowed to build," said Grace Solares. She went on to say that she will always be the same and people know here record, she cannot be bought.

Rosa is against zoning changes for the Center Grove, "I will not take money from developers, that is my promise to you. The moment you touch blood money, you are beholden the minute you take your seat," she said.

Lorry is a newcomer, she is only in Miami five years, she did not commit to the question of whether the Center Grove should be rezoned for high rises. She said that each neighborhood should decide its fate. The problem is, we never do decide our fate in Coconut Grove. 

Ken said, "The Grove has a soul and a character that we don't want to lose."

Javier said that, "I am truly one of the non-politicians here." He says he will only be in office for four years, and will not seek re-election. "I'm not a political pro," he said, meaning he won't make a career of it.

Mr. Armbrister said this about Village West: "Every lot needs a homeowner - there are too many empty lots." He received a lot of applause for that.

Teresa had her fans in the audience; the usual Center Grove crew. She never addressed over-development and talked a lot about charitable work which she has done. People liked that.

Mike Simpson said the trick is to get people out to vote and he's right. That is the trick, especially with so many candidates.

Seth Sklarey at left, Jackie Nespral at right.

Al Crespo has the whole event on video here.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yours was a good question for Mrs. Sarnoff. Not only Related and Terra Groups have backed her campaign, but CocoWalk's new owners to Everyone's looking for that seat to be filled with their candidate. People need to vote. they need to come out and meet these 9 candidates, and get informed.

September 30, 2015 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ufffff, the stench of Politics, glad to have been far from that place..

"Javier said that, "I am truly one of the non-politicians here." He says he will only be in office for four years, and will not seek re-election. "I'm not a political pro," he said, meaning he won't make a career of it."

He's got my vote right there.

September 30, 2015 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't trust the guy who says he's not a politician or the guy who says their ethical. -That guy

September 30, 2015 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Javier also said "he drives a Maserati and wears a Rolex" so he probably wants to get his term over with and get back to the lifestyle that he is accustomed to living.
He lost my vote there.

September 30, 2015 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much is the pension for a single term?

September 30, 2015 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think voting and attending meetings is really important. Items had been lost because commissioners didn't "show up" at the meetings. Rubio holds the record this year for missing the most votes in the Senate. If they didn't show up at the polls and at the meetings, why would anyone thing that they would show up for us now?

October 01, 2015 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, you're probably all correct. Even nice 'ole lady Solares is probably looking for her retirement benefits, power and glory, more than anything else.

Who will steal the least and work more for the Grove? I'd say Ken and Javier have more Energy to give, but too many temptations and thin bank accounts.. the Sarnoffs are already rich, but low energy and corroded by the system, so who knows.. freaking politics.

October 01, 2015 8:27 AM  

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