Moving Gables elections has nothing to do with efficiency. It’s about silencing our voices | Opinion

In April, the residents of Coral Gables voted me into office to represent them and the best interests of the city. After serving five short months, I’m clear that their concerns about the trajectory of the City Beautiful are valid. In addition to the various issues that put into the question the integrity of our leadership, there proposals that seek solely to disenfranchise residents.

Most recently, there is a proposal to change the timing of Coral Gables elections. The truth is, what is being disguised as an opportunity for greater participation actually is a tactic to silence those who do not have the backing of the large, loud political machines that suck the oxygen out the room during November election cycles.

Residents have the power to choose the leaders who will shape the destiny of Coral Gables, our home. These leaders make vital decisions about parks, schools, development and safety. But here’s the twist — running for these roles requires a substantial amount of money, more than most can imagine. Why? Because to stand out in the November elections, candidates and propositions must compete on a national level for funding — and that’s where the problem arises.

We cannot underestimate the influence of outside money. In 2014, it was estimated that $200 million poured into Florida elections from outside interests. In 2020, Florida saw the most money of any state with $350 million total in presidential campaign general spending, according to AdImpact, a data analytics firm.

The effect? We get elections where developers, lobbyists and special interests create an uneven playing field and where the issues and candidates that are well-funded stand to establish legitimacy while those who are not struggle to cut through the noise, depriving voters of a deeper understanding of the people and proposals presented to them.

Gables voters are being told that switching the election date will lead to cost savings and higher voter turnout. But here’s the reality: Some elected officials have already started their political campaigns and are playing these political games well in advance. One elected official, in particular, has amassed more than $700,000 in a political action committee (PAC) and is serving their own advantage and not that of the residents.

I won’t stand by as my constituents are misled. My commitment remains unwavering: Residents come first, regardless of whether or not it’s the popular stance to take. Remember, the proposed election date changes were not made to encourage residents’ participation; they were designed to drown out their voice.

This isn’t just about dates on a calendar; it’s about our city’s future. Keeping our tradition and history of April elections better serves our Coral Gables community. Don’t let the appeal of convenience lead you to surrender your voice. Let’s ensure that our city truly represents our interests.

The battle for Coral Gables is a fight for our voices and, together, we can make sure it’s heard.

Melissa Castro is Coral Gables commissioner.