Government, News, Politics, Village Life

Rumble at the Commission

Toward the end of the Jan. 11 City Commission meeting, Commissioners Carollo and Gabela nearly came to blows. A city staffer intervened. View the City video by clicking at the link at the end of the article.

Grovites hoping for a resolution to a variety of pressing issues at yesterday’s meeting of the Miami City Commission will have to wait. The meeting began at 9 a.m. and ended, after a lunch break, at 8 p.m. The last few minutes, following a heated exchange about the proposed termination of City Attorney Victoria Méndez, culminated in a loud confrontation between Commissioners Joe Carollo and Miguel Gabela that might have led to physical combat if city staff had not intervened. Méndez wasn’t terminated immediately, as Gabela had proposed in a resolution, but her employment will end after five months.

Public comment took up most of the morning, and a small army of speakers were in favor of building a new recreational facility in Biscayne Park north of Downtown Miami. The facility, across the street from the Centner Academy Middle and High School, would be funded by David and Leila Centner, who have been closely associated with disgraced former commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla. The item was deferred—Gabela had placed a resolution on the agenda opposing it—and the fate of the proposed facility, for which the Centers have pledged $10 million, is still unknown.

Several items related to the ongoing redistricting debate were on the agenda. One, which passed, proposed redrawing the District 1 boundary to include Gabela’s house. Gabela argued that the Feb. 2022 redistricting map “surgically” removed his house from District 1 to thwart his campaign against the incumbent Diaz de la Portilla. Gabela moved into another property he owned in District 1 and defeated his opponent handily. Other items, including a resolution to redraw the boundaries of the part of District 3 that includes Carollo’s house and a large part of the North Grove, were deferred. The redistricting issue has loomed large since the February 2022 adoption of the new and hotly disputed redistricting map, which split Coconut Grove between Districts 2 and 3. The ACLU case against the new map will be heard in court later this month. For the time being, due in part to the aggressiveness of the City of Miami staff and a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Grove remains divided.

The move toward more transparency and accountability in Miami’s city government made some headway yesterday. Thanks to a proposal by Commissioner Reyes, Miami’s voters will have an opportunity to vote on a new and independent Inspector General in the August election. Starting immediately, the City will begin independent audits of all its boards and trusts. Commissioner Carollo’s resolution calling for additional financial disclosures from candidates for elected office in the City of Miami also passed. Items sponsored by Commissioner Pardo regarding elected officials’ outside employment, establishment of a city charter committee, and campaign finance reform were deferred.

One especially bright spot: During the ceremonial activities at the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Francis Suarez honored the Coconut Grove Cowboys football team (age 9 and under) for winning the national championship for their Pop Warner League cohort in Orlando in December 2023. The Cowboys are part of an active sports league that includes hundreds of youth and their families and meets regularly to practice and play in Coconut Grove’s Armbrister Park.

 To watch the last few minutes of yesterday’s meeting, in which Gabela rose in anger and lunged toward a seated Carollo as a burly staffer pulled him back, click here.

Above: During the Jan. 11 meeting, Mayor Suarez honored the national championship Coconut Grove Cowboys Under-9 team.

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