With its lush vegetation and a world-class golf course, the 15-square-mile area in Northwest Miami-Dade known as Doral incorporated as a new city in June 2003.
Yet it wasn’t until this past month that Doral incorporated into Miami-Dade’s political folklore.
Quarrels, insults, vendettas, accusations, job dismissals, resignations, alleged financial irregularities now make the long list of à la carte melodrama since the millionaire entrepreneur Luigi Boria became the city’s mayor. Boria had run for office promising residents a stable transition from the previous administration.
The political blow-by-blow, revealed in minute detail by my El Nuevo Herald colleagues Enrique Flor and Melissa Sánchez, have left the normally peaceful town and its residents coated with the type of mudslinging normally seen in more dysfunctional municipalities.
In little more than a month, Doral has had three city managers, a police chief fired, personal attacks, ethnic slur, political meddling and created an air of instability that threatens to ruin its reputation as one of the best cities in Florida to establish businesses and enjoy a quality suburban life with an excellent infrastructure.
At a moment in which a new wave of Venezuelans — frightened away from their homeland due to the most appalling authoritarian whims of the Bolivarian government — are arriving in South Florida, they should be looking to “Doralzuela” as safe haven, more so after Boria made history as the first Venezuelan mayor in Florida.
Venezuelans have options, and “Westonzuela” in Broward County, is also on the top of the list of places to live. Usually, anywhere these often professional and sometimes deep-pocketed immigrants plant roots, a host city benefits.
Along the Florida peninsula, cities have declared bankruptcy and scandals have surfaced: Miami, Hialeah and Miami Beach present the most accurate examples, though several cities in Broward have made efforts to take away their supremacy in these infamous categories.
Doral, however, with a seasoned budget of $58 million to serve fewer than 50,000 residents, was able to avoid the negative effects of the crisis and to observe government transparency.
Now it is staggering, shaken and beaten up by an unnecessary political hammering.
Like the rest of the mayoral candidates, Boria gave his word to convince voters that the change of guard would not have less class than the one at Buckingham Palace. However, the incoming group has marched to the rhythm of an off-tune and dissonant band.
The new government started with the resignation of the city manager, Yvonne Soler, because the new deputy mayor, Sandra Ruiz, back in the city’s political arena, has had irreconcilable conflicts with her and other city employees.
Next, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, Boria’s friend and advisor, comes up with the idea that the mayor should hire the former Miami-Dade county manager, Merrett Stierheim, as interim city manager to make sure (what a euphemism!) that the transition is smooth. Not notifying the mayor or council members, Stierheim fires, for suspected irregularities, Police Chief Ricardo Gómez, who claims it’s a political vendetta.
Suddenly, Stierheim quits feeling marginalized from the evaluating process to hire his replacement. Carollo takes his place, prompting a fervent public confrontation between both of them tainted by a trace of racism.
Then, the controversial Miami’s former chief of police, Miguel Exposito, a Carollo ally in a previous combined effort to end the plague of illegal gambling in the city of Miami, decides to run to become Doral’s chief of police.
After some speculation about his appointment, he withdraws his candidacy.
This is the bumpy path taken by the most important Venezuelan enclave in the United States.
Boria — and Doral — have catapulted to the international political scene precisely because he is the first Venezuelan mayor in Florida, sealing the presence of the Venezuelan exile that has recently been clearing its way to politics and civic issues in South Florida.
In the face of the most tragic fate that, painfully for many, seems to be forming in Venezuela’s horizon, it is indispensable that “Doralzuela” rise to the moment and become the ideal model of what we yearn for in the country of our roots.