A proposal that would change the Doral’s mayor office into a yearly rotating position, under which every elected council member would automatically become mayor during the last year of his or her term, was presented on Thursday to the commission reviewing the city charter.
In a session that lasted a little more than three hours, Christian Mazzola, one of the five commission members, said the proposal would establish that future mayors would serve in that public office with proven experience after being a council member for three years and one more year as vice mayor.
“Experience is always important to lead or for whatever responsibility a person may have,” said Mazzola, who was recommended to the commission by councilwoman Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera.
Mazzola, a high-ranking executive in the private sector who has also been a member of city boards in Doral, said his proposal had no political motivation and only responds to the challenge the city faces since Luigi Boria took office as mayor in November 2012.
In a little more than a year as mayor, Boria lost the support of the other four council members and embarked in a political confrontation with City Manager Joe Carollo, drawing media attention to the repeated political scandals in the city.
Boria attended the session held on Thursday morning at a boardroom on the third floor of City Hall but left a few minutes later. In the afternoon, the mayor’s office did not respond to calls from El Nuevo Herald for comments on the proposal.
Eduardo Gómez, a charter commission member appointed by Boria, said the proposal was “crazy” and “absurd,” adding that it would bring instability to the city.
“Electing the mayor every year creates instability, Gómez said. “What is being proposed is practically to have no mayor, that the position would take turns every year.”
Mazzola’s proposal also considers expanding the terms of the council members from four to five years without reelection. It also contemplates that council members be elected every year, not as it is currently done: three council member one year and the other two the following year. That arrangement would give every council member the opportunity to become mayor.
“Why do we have to change to something so crazy?” Gómez said. “It’s crazy to have elections every year. To me it’s an absurd idea.”
Besides Mazzola and Gómez, the other three members of the commission who attended the meeting were Jesse Jones, Raymond Bush and Jerome Reisman. Councilwomen Rodríguez-Aguilera and Sandra Ruiz also attended.
Pete Cabrera, a former Doral vice mayor, said that he understood the essence of Mazzola’s proposal, but he was also concerned over the instability it could bring to the city.
“It doesn’t seem a bad idea. I understand the intentions behind it, but I worry about its consequences,” Cabrera said. “I am talking about the instability of the government and I also have doubts about how to make the transition from one model to another if the measure is approved.”
Darío Moreno, a professor at Florida International University’s School of International Policy, said the current model of government in Doral, a city of about 50,000 residents, is similar to most small cities in the United States.
The theory of that model of government, Moreno said, is that in small cities elected officials receive a low salary because they generally do not have professional experience in public administration. Thus, the power is delegated and resides in the city manager, he said.
“In Doral, for example, the mayor is a figure who gives keys to the city ... and represents a city before the world, while in reality has no more power than another council member,” Moreno said. “Having already a weak mayor, as is the case of Doral, such a proposal [the one presented by the commission] would weaken even more the office of mayor.”
Boria’s crisis peaked in the middle of last year when El Nuevo Herald revealed that the mayor was one of the primary investors in a real estate project that his children were carrying out with another Doral entrepreneur. During the 2012 electoral campaign Boria had denied any relation to the project.
City Clerk Bárbara Herrera said the commission reviewing the charter would have until April to continue the process, which takes place every five years.
She added that the commission’s recommendations will then be presented to the City Council and, after approval, will be submitted to a vote by Doral residents.