What's more, to balance this year's $127 million budget, the city commission increased the number of hours for metered parking and upped the fire inspection fees for commercial properties to $75 — from $25. In other cost-cutting moves, Coral Gables slashed $300,000 in street resurfacing funds and $30,000 to replace trees.

Cason says he is appalled by the city's financial mess. "The mayor and the city commission have been asleep at the wheel for the past decade," he grouses. Then there is the scandal that tarnished the city's image in 2009. George Volsky, a columnist for Coral Gables Gazette, exposed how former City Manager David Brown was blowing taxpayer money on extravagant lunches and then backdating the receipts to cover himself. Brown eventually resigned.

Volsky contends the Brown scandal and the city's skyrocketing pension costs happened under the watch of current mayor Donald Slesnick, so he is ultimately responsible. Cason agrees. "The more I researched and spoke to people about the city's problems, I started thinking about a run for office," Cason says. "As mayor, I would bring a new management perspective culled from 40 years of diplomatic experience."

When he graduated from Virginia's Fairfax High School in 1962, Cason (center) was voted "Most Likely to Be Ambassador to Uganda."
Courtesy of James Cason
When he graduated from Virginia's Fairfax High School in 1962, Cason (center) was voted "Most Likely to Be Ambassador to Uganda."
Cason became involved in Coral Gables civic affairs after the remodeling of his house introduced him to the city's draconian building permit process.
Michael McElroy
Cason became involved in Coral Gables civic affairs after the remodeling of his house introduced him to the city's draconian building permit process.

On July 10, Cason filed to run for mayor, six months after Coral Gables attorney Thomas Korge, former chairman of the city's pension board, put his name on the ballot. On October 18, Slesnick announced he would seek a fifth and final term, surprising city hall gadflies who expected him to step aside.

Volsky, a Polish-born journalist who spent part of his career covering Cuba for the New York Times, believes the City Beautiful's voters want new blood. "I think Slesnick should have stuck to his public assertions that he wasn't going to run again," Volsky says. "We are fortunate to have two good candidates to challenge him."


It's mid-June during Cason's last assignment for Uncle Sam. A small bus carrying the diplomat and a half-dozen other State Department officials cruises through Baghdad's Green Zone, the heavily guarded area in Iraq's capital where U.S. government officials and American citizens live and work. Even with its barriers of coiled barbed wire, high concrete walls, and security checkpoints, the Green Zone is not impervious to attack.

The bus navigates the streets toward the U.S. Embassy compound, located on a sprawling campus along the Tigris River that includes Saddam Hussein's former presidential palace. It shares the road with taxis, M1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and Humvees equipped with .50-caliber machine guns.

"Incoming! Incoming!" someone screams.

The bus driver stomps on the brakes, bringing the ride to an abrupt halt. The driver opens the front door and runs out. The chauffeur ducks into an alley and scurries into a concrete bunker. Cason and his companions follow into the cramped space. "First we heard the kaboom," Cason recalls. "Then came the emergency siren. We had seven mortar and rocket attacks during the 12 days I was there."

One of those other attacks was a missile that hit an apartment two floors below Cason's living quarters. "The insurgents put a rocket on the back of a pickup truck, light it, and then run," Cason says. "They just aim for the Green Zone, so you really have to know where all the bunkers are because you never know where it is going to hit."

Cason was on a team of auditors sent in 2010 by the State Department's inspector general to evaluate the transition from military to civilian security for Baghdad's U.S. Embassy, the largest American overseas diplomatic post. The embassy has about $125 million in government property and 1,700 people assigned to the mission. It spends more than $1.5 billion a year on operations and security. "The plan was to establish three branch offices and two consulates in Baghdad," Cason says. "That is going to be very expensive and difficult to do. As the military pulls out, our civilian personnel will have to provide for their own security with private contractors. We had the task of assessing how that transition is going."

The report, titled "Compliance Follow-Up Review of Embassy Baghdad, Iraq," was released in October. Among the findings were that the U.S. Government would need to provide anywhere from 15 to 60 security and life support personnel for each of the 59 full-time embassy administrators expected to work in Baghdad this year. In other embassies in Beijing, Cairo, and New Delhi, the ratio is four security/life support people for every three full-time high-ranking officials.

"Security concerns loom large," the report concludes about the transition from military to civilian control. "Resources, structures, and the approaches could hardly be more difficult."

Cason says the report is an "unvarnished opinion that had nothing to do with political correctness." After that assignment, he returned to Coral Gables, where his strategy has shifted from ensuring the United States's future in Iraq to trying to convince voters that he is the fresh-faced candidate. "I have run very large embassies with budgets that are similar in ways to Coral Gables," Cason says. "I'm bringing a new set of eyes and ears. And typically mayors are a city's ambassador, so why not get a real one?"


Cason's childhood and adolescence resemble a Norman Rockwell portrait of a classic American military family. His father, Arthur, was a Naval captain who flew dive bombers in World War II and manned patrol planes scanning the Mediterranean and the Atlantic for Russian subs during the '50s. The Casons lived in 19 different locations, including Jacksonville and Miami Beach, where James's brother Bill was born. James is the oldest of five siblings.

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23 comments
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Oceanview15
Oceanview15

I agree, the County needs a man like Cason! Coral Gables will benefit greatly WHEN he is elected! The County will just have to wait.

Biteme_06
Biteme_06

the cubans and their problems can go to hell

Milspec390
Milspec390

Type your comment here.==-]'

]

Can you think of a better recommendation for James Cason than castro shill parrot, Saul Landau's condemnation by which he accuses Ambassador Cason of 'trying to bring down the Cuban government'? Neither can I. Saul Landau believes that giving shortwave radios, pads and pencils to Cubans constitutes 'trying to bring down the Cuban government'? Wouldn't it be great if all oned needed to bring down castro's blood soaked regime were citizens armed with radios, pencils, and notepads? Doesn't it say that for all the media's gushing praise of castro and his gangster regime, in reality it's a house of cards awaiting a swift toppling by truth's balmy trade winds?

Doesn't Saul Landau clearly show us the sadistic reality of the Left which lurks behind its saccharine altruistic veneer? The ugly reality is that the Left loves sadistic totalitarian regimes such as that of castro and will say and do anything to protect them, and cares not one whit about the eleven million Cubans who daily experience living death beneath it?

Kudos to Ambassador Cason for bravely showing Cuba's citizens that truth, as does murder, outs - always, and that gutless bullies and their mendacious propagandists will never suppress it.

James Cason is a true American hero for standing up to the fifty year old Cancer of the Caribbean known as the castro regime, and its stateside cheerleaders.

To show just how long the misery has continued, consider that as James Cason was graduating colllege in 1966, castro was celebrating seven years of power by organizing his Tri-Continental Conference. Though the marxstream media knows of it, it surely won't tell us about it. But Dr. Mario Lazo, among others, in his book, "Dagger in the Heart" surely did. Castro's Tri-Continental Summit was held in 1966 for the purpose of convening communist termites from Latin America, Europe especially including the soviet union and East Bloc nations, as well as North America for the purpose of exploring the best methods by which to poison, demoralize, and destroy the West. Conferees agreed that illicit drugs would be a particularly effective method to accomplish the task. Shortly, and surely by pure coincidence, illicit drug use in America soared. For all his overblown railings against drugs, castro is well known to allow narco-traffickers use of his island in return for compensation.

Were one to use the Medical Model to explain communism's baffling staying power, one might portray castro and his fellow tyrants as the bacteria which thrives and endures in a Petri dish generously nourished by communism's many supporters in business, media, and academia, none of whom ironically would survive a day beneath its miserable yoke.

Paul Vincent Zecchino Manasota Key, Florida 23 January, 2011

The Left is an evil, sleazy, relic, a crime syndicate which masquerades as the welcome wagon in your neighborhood and as a legitimate government above, yet which behaves as an avaricious predator, destroying liberty, property, posessions, and life itself whereever its cloven-hooves take it

Sgarcia5990
Sgarcia5990

I would love to see him more as a county mayor than mayor of Coral Gables

305pride
305pride

Coral Gables needs to get over the BS and revitalize the area around Ponce de Leon, between Alhambra and 8 st. I refer to this area as 'the avenue where restaurants go to die.' This area needs new life...open a few bars and night clubs (high-end of course.)

I live in the Gables...I just don't drink here (stole this line from a bar tender at John Martins)!

Let the business people go for happy hour and spend their money. The Gables needs a few more clubs like Uva to attract more people. Why not have people want to stay after they go to diner? Also, Gables city gov. needs to take a look at Miracle Mile. So many empty stores. Empty stores are becoming common all over the Gables. Some streets look like they belong in a ghost town.

In short, Gables need to change it's old women attitude about everything. The residential sections are completely away (almost) from where the crowds and the load music would be.

Cowboy_cuban
Cowboy_cuban

hey 305, you got places where you can party and raise hell till the sun comes up. hialeah, s. dade, and little havana, amongst other places. i used to live in hialeah, i think i was the only one with in a 4 block area that actually worked. my neighbors played salsa, bachata, and boleros 24 hours aday and could care a less about the others that lived around them, that had to work. now i live in the gables, you see people walking, jogging, families outside, etc. its quiet here, and i dont have people trying to break into my vehicle, steal my gas, and its quiet and calm. so, those of us who live here... please keep your ghetto dreams to yourself.

Robert Hub
Robert Hub

People in Coral Gables do not vote on Cuban issues alone, they are too smart and sophisticated. They do not want anything to do with the City of Miami shenanigans and corruption to take over the "City Beautiful". Jorge De Cardenas has a right to work too, his past should not be judged to affect the future of someone nobody knows yet. The Candidate has to earn the trust of the Gables people who have worked hard to have the best run city in the world

Tigger
Tigger

I simply love the logic of Sual Landau. It's remarkably vapid and shallow.

"Cason was poking Havana in the eye with the expectation he would get kicked out or Bush would find a reason to close the Interests Section," Landau told New Times. "He was stirring up trouble without realizing what the consequences would be. He got 75 people arrested."

So, giving people the tools to be free journalists gets them arrested. And Saul has the problem with the guy giving them the tools, not the dictator who jailed them after one day trials for 20+ years. So much so that he blames Cason for their arrest! As though he cuffed them, shoved them into the show trial, and then dragged them off to the gulag for the next couple of decades.

That is an amazingly revealing response to the situation at hand and shows just how much respect Saul Landau has for a free press and free speech in general. Especially for people unfortunately enough to reside in Cuba.

Jose Gonzalez
Jose Gonzalez

I read the entire story and it sounds like he helped the double agent el comandante weed out some trouble makers,

xio bobadilla
xio bobadilla

THERE ARE ONLY 2 COUNTRIES IN THIS WORLD USA AND CUBA, WHY DON'T YOU STOP IT, THE WORLD IS COMING DOWN TO PIECES BUT NO, ONLY CUBA AND CASTRO, I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF THE SAME SHIT OVER AND OVER, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT, TAKE A LOOK AT THE REST OF THE WORLD, INCLUDING OUR COUNTRY USA. GOD BLESS AMERICA, BECAUSE THINGS ARE BAD HERE AND THIS IS WHAT MATTERS MOST OF ALL.

Gmjarquin
Gmjarquin

Totally agree with you XIO, I'm one more who's sick and tire of the same bullshit this bunch of Cubans refugees keep talking about during the last 50+ years. Unfortunately we keep hearing such BS only in Miami, nowhere else in the whole USA. They have taken the Miami Herald to keep airing their yieling and lies.

ROLANDO
ROLANDO

And what lies would these be exactly? Go ahead and explain yourself. For someone who says they are tired of such discussions, You sure have a disrespectful manner of expressing it. At least the above post expressed a legitimate priority in the comment. Yours however expresses ignorance and intolerance to the community. If you are so deeply troubled about all this, You always have the option of living elsewhere. You said so yourself that this gets mentioned only in Miami and nowhere else. But I'm afraid that what you have been hearing is due to the right of freedom of speech. And if you are at odds with such a right, Then sadly you are living in the wrong country. I, myself am not fond of everything I hear and read about on media outlets. But at least I respect different point of views and acknowledge and uphold the rights granted to me and everyone else in the country. My advise to the both of you is that you gather your news from sources outside of miami.

Yokolee359
Yokolee359

u can always go to Arizona and take xio with you...........they are running out of Indians

Anyone But Sleaznick
Anyone But Sleaznick

So, I'm curious as to what international experience and diplomacy have to do with running a financially stressed municipality. How long has Mr. Cason lived in the Gables anyway?

J D Rumi
J D Rumi

This low level diplomat is a dinosaur and a republican to boot.Let Coral Gables deal with him, I don't live there anyway."Give the people what they want", I always say * just don't complain and bitch later.Now there trying to recall Mayor Alvarez but after the fact, they are always getting it wrong,learn how to vote (aprendan a elegir) bunch of dummies! * paranoid,ignorant,racist idiots!

Pingon
Pingon

Everybody has the right to be stupid. But you're abusing the priviledge!

Curt9954
Curt9954

Cason is a disgusting piece of shit for the trouble he caused in Cuba. He was directly responsible for the arrests of 75 dissidents in March 2003. Cason was only there to build his ego, rather than help Cuba toward democracy. Kudos to the Cuban govern ment for foiling his plans.

305pride
305pride

Those 75 arrested have helped advance Cuba further than any Cuban dinosaur from Miami could ever. Get your facts right. The women in white have become a huge international problem from Castro.

nooraj
nooraj

I agree with yoyu he full of shit

P_Nis
P_Nis

Enough with Slesnick, has everyone forgotten how much he cost the city when he stopped construction of the new city hall complex? Cason sounds alright to me, it's time for new blood.

On another note, Frank, have you forgotten who the other candidates brother is?!

Jdrumi
Jdrumi

" Cason sounds alright to you " really???????? Ok, vote for him then

P_Nis
P_Nis

I will, thanks for your approval.

 
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