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Coral Gables Mayor Taking Active Approach Against Threat Of Rising Sea Levels

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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – The city of Coral Gables has some of the most expensive real estate in South Florida. Yet it's also property that could one day be under water, literally. That's why the mayor there is taking matters in to his own hands.

Mayor Jim Cason met with CBS4 Anchor Rick Folbaum at Matheson Hammock Park, a popular spot that overlooks some of the most expensive real estate in South Florida.

"Homes up to $20 million. In fact, that's three billion worth of property values," Mayor Cason said.

The real estate taxes collected on those properties help keep Coral Gables afloat. But Mayor Cason says those homes are sitting on ground zero when it comes to the threat of flooding from sea level rise.

And while most his fellow Republicans are not prepared to blame climate change for our flooded streets and rising sea levels, Cason is leading the charge.

"You would think the Republican Party would look at this as a terrific business opportunity. There's going to be billions and billions spent trying to hold back the seas and maintain the quality of life here," he said.  "So to say 'I don't want to talk about it' or 'It doesn't exist' is irresponsible."

He's especially critical of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both climate change skeptics.

"They live right here. They live within a mile," he said.

Cason and his city commissioners have spent $400,000 dollars on studies and maps – identifying the lowest lying and most threatened areas of the gables. They then spread the word to everyone of what it all means.

"Listen to what you're saying here. You're, as mayor of Coral Gables, saying we need to warn potential investors in our community what threats lie ahead," Folbaum said.

"Realtors don't want to talk about it," Cason said. "But those of us who are elected officials, we have to 1. Educate the public and 2. Prepare our building codes for the future. We have to manage risk. We can't just leave it for the next generation of leaders."

Gov. Rick Scott says his administration is committed to tackling the sea level rise, though he won't blame climate change.

"There's a big debate on that. But we have focused on solutions," Gov. Scott said.

"How would you grade Gov. Scott on this?" Folbaum asked Cason.

"I would give him an 'F.' I haven't' seen any support whatsoever out of the state. I'm not even sure people are able to talk about it."

So Cason is talking loudly, making speeches, holding hearings and setting sustainability goals. He even drives an electric car.

He praises Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who's invested millions in pumps to help his flood prone city in the short term, while a longer term solution is figured out.

"He's doing what the rest of South Florida will be doing at some point, which is mitigation, to gain time before the inevitable," Cason said.

Mayor Cason says one advantage Coral Gables has is that there's no more room for development. The city is maxed out.

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