Coral Gables candidate Richard Lara campaigns in public comments — againPolitical Cortadito

Attorney Richard Lara, who announced his candidacy for Coral Gables commissioner in February during public comments at a commission meeting, used another commission meeting Tuesday to attack Commissioner Kirk Menendez, who he is presumably challenging next year at the behest of the mayor’s cadre of establishment supporters.

Is this going to be a habit? This free advertising?

Commissioners allowed Lara to speak for almost nine minutes, which is way beyond the allowed three minutes, and on an item that was not even on the agenda, because it was approved earlier this month to reimburse the Actor’s Playhouse $41,900 for a ramp that would accommodate larger, electric wheelchairs at the Miracle Theater, a historic landmark that is owned by the city of Coral Gables and on a long-term lease to the non-profit. The item was sponsored by Menendez and Lara called it an “abuse of elected office” and a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

“ADA issues are the responsibility of the tenant,” Lara said, referring to the American with Disabilities Act and adding that the 24-foot ramp — which the theater also wants for people with walkers — was the worst option and that the city didn’t do its due diligence on seeking other alternatives, including the replacement of the current chair lift, which doesn’t accommodate larger chairs. I guess he missed the part at the May 7 meeting where the city staff said it could not be replaced or retrofitted.

Read related: Coral Gables Commissioner Kirk Menendez draws an opponent for 2025

Lara, who is executive VP and general counsel for Spanish Broadcasting System, said it was not a true emergency and there was no information on whether grants or donations had been sought and, basically, echoed the same reservations Mayor Vince Lago and Vice Mayor Rhonda Anderson had at the meeting earlier this month before voting against it, 3-2.

Lago warned against “a slippery slope,” and creating a precedent. “Every other tenant is going to come and say, ‘I have an issue. I can’t afford it. You have to cover the cost,’” he said. “Today it’s $50,000 but tomorrow it can be $400,000.” He also said that at a time when the commission is trying to stop corruption, this move had the wrong optics.

Anderson added that the ramp was “horrifically overpriced” and suggested temporary ramps which she, an attorney who handles lots of ADA cases, has used multiple times.

That was earlier this month. On Tuesday, Lara spoke for eight minutes and 51 seconds, according to City Clerk Billy Urquia, who stopped recording the time when Lara asked if commissioners had any questions Melissa Castro said she had one. But Lara, whose fundraising has been less than luster, kept talking after that. His answers were long and combative. But he never gave his name and address.

An extension of more than three minutes in public comments is up to the mayor’s discretion, Urquia told Political Cortadito. “If I can be indulged in a very important matter,” Lara said when his three minutes were up.

Read related: Coral Gables resident calls Vince Lago ‘Mayor Suarez’ of Miami at meeting

The candidate, who had not attended any city meetings before he was recruited to run by the Lago establishment, seemed to have really prepared for his little stump speech, even reading from notes. He said it was untrue that the chairlift could not be modified and that the ramp would be disruptive to the floor plan and present safety issues.

But Commissioner Castro said he had gotten some things wrong. And she asked Lara if he had spoken to Actor’s Playhouse Co-Founder and Executive Producing Director Barbara Stein. He had not, he said. She suggested he should. Lara snapped back at her like a child: “Did you have a chance to speak to Barbara?” Yes, actually, she did. At one point he cut her off and told her to let him speak.

“I really hope you didn’t take this opportunity during the public comments to attack one of my colleagues, because that’s what it sounds like,” Castro told him.

Because that’s what it was. That’s why Lara went on and on about how he was a “champion” of the taxpayer. He spoke for several minutes after. No questions or answers needed. Simply pontificating.

Will Lara support the mayor’s $5 million forensic audit? Or the $500,000 requested by the Coral Gables museum to match a state grant? This was nothing more than a campaign speech — just like the announcement he made during public comments in February.

Strangely enough, Nicholas Cabrera, who seems to have been appointed Lara’s handler, wasn’t there to prop the candidate up, as he has been at most of the events. The self-proclaimed Prince of Coral Gables, son of former Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, has shadowed Lara everywhere lately — a museum thing, the city’s literary festival on Saturday (more on that later), the event at the Actor’s Playhouse where Lara said he had personally seen people in wheelchairs use the existing lift to get upstairs. With his own eyes!

Read related: Cast of losers, Vince Lago lackeys host event for Gables commission candidate

So, to summarize, this puppet candidate spoke for more than 10 minutes during public comments on a non-agenda item about $41,900 for a ramp for disabled children to get to the second floor of the Actor’s Playhouse, blew off the beloved Barbara Stein, snarled at Castro and generally made an egotistic, self-righteous as… er, fool of himself.

No wonder Menendez was smiling the whole time and didn’t speak up about Lara passing the time limit. Let the man talk as long as he wants.

Lara didn’t just look like the opportunist he is, he looked like a foolish opportunist, making a molehill out of nada because he has nothing else to campaign on. It’s likely that some of the old guard establishment supporting him were shaking their heads and wishing they had maybe found someone else.

Las malas lenguas say they are also looking for someone to run against Lago (more on that later).

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