Doral

Doral

Big changes proposed for for Doral council

 

jflechas@MiamiHerald.com

The election of Doral’s City Council, known recently for its marathon meetings and frequent bickering, could get a complete overhaul under a proposal from the city’s Charter Review Commission.

Christian Mazzola, a business executive and one of the five commission members tasked with reviewing the city’s charter and proposing amendments, presented a concept Tuesday that calls for six-year terms with the council choosing a mayor and vice mayor every two years.

A council member would have to serve at least one year before being eligible to be vice mayor, and at least one year as vice mayor before he or she could be mayor.

Council members would be limited to one term, and they would be transitioned in during the next three election cycles so that voters would never elect more than two council members at a time. Candidates would all run in one pool.

“It ensures stability and continuity, and it prevents takeover of the council by a well-funded slate of candidates,” Mazzola said.

Mazzola, who was appointed by Councilwoman Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera, said he developed the idea after reconsidering an earlier proposal he’d made to the commission that had the mayor’s seat rotating among the whole council.

Doral has a weak-mayor form of government, where a city manager directs the city’s day-to-day operations and the mayor is chairman of the City Council, where he is one of five votes. During the past year, Mayor Luigi Boria and City Manager Joe Carollo have butted heads over who’s in charge, but Boria has recently tried to take a conciliatory tone with his colleagues on the dais.

On Tuesday, commission member Raymond Bush expressed concerns about the length of the terms.

“The one thing that stands out to me is that six years,” he said. “That’s an awful long time to put — I hate to say it — a politician in office.”

Review Commission chairman Jesse Jones liked the idea and proposed changing the the mayor and vice mayor selections from every year, Mazzola’s initial suggestion, to every two years.

“I particularly like the idea that at no time are we ever voting on more than two of the five positions,” he said.

Commissioner Jerome Reisman said he liked one-term limit, saying he favors “eliminating the professional politician.”

Eduardo Gómez, a commission member appointed by Boria, could only attend the morning portion of daylong meeting because of work. He was not present for Mazzola’s presentation.

In the end, the remaining commission members instructed their attorney to draft language for the group to consider at its next meeting on March 13.

The Charter Review Commission has begun meeting weekly at City Hall so it can finalize its recommendations before its April 1 deadline, when it has to submit its proposed amendments to the City Council. The council would then select a date for a special election later this year where Doral voters would ultimately decide whether or not they want to amend the city’s charter.

The review commission, made up of local business and community leaders appointed by the mayor and council, also recently proposed to spread the mayor’s power to nominate the city manager and city attorney to the other council members.

Some of the commission members’ have expressed displeasure with the current council.

Jones, who also serves as president of a local nonprofit activist group called the Doral Community Coalition, sent a letter on behalf of that organization to Gov. Rick Scott in October to voice concerns about the atmosphere in City Hall. Mazzola is secretary of the coalition.

In the letter, Jones asked Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate claims of wrongdoing that were hurled across the dais during a series of heated and well-publicized meetings in the fall. On Wednesday, Jones said Scott’s office told the coalition it could not do anything unless there was concrete evidence and instructed it to contact local the FBI office.

The Charter Review Commission will meet again at 9 a.m. March 13 at City Hall, 8401 NW 53rd Terr.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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