Doral

Doral

Doral residents to vote on changes to city charter

 

jflechas@MiamiHerald.com

A series of proposed changes to the city charter including raises for the City Council, term limits and changes to the election process will go to Doral voters this summer.

Over the course of several meetings during the last few months, the Charter Review Commission finalized 10 proposed amendments to the charter, which is the city’s constitution. The review process occurs every five years, when a five-person commission appointed by the council combs through the city’s governing document and develops amendments that voters consider during a special election.

The process ended Tuesday as the commission submitted the amendments to the City Council, which cannot make any changes before Doral voters have the finally say during a June 30 election by mail ballot.

Jesse Jones, the commission’s chairman, said the commission worked diligently and objectively on the proposals through months of research and meetings.

“We’ve absolutely put every effort we have, all of our our talents and skills,” he said. “We think we tried develop changes to the charter that will affect this city for many, many years to come.”

Jones, Jerome Reisman, Christian Mazzola, Raymond Bush and Eduardo Gómez served on this year’s Charter Review Commission.

This commission’s proposals are:

• Salary changes for the mayor and council members. The mayor’s current salary, with cost of living adjustments, is currently $63,000, and council members earn $15,000. If the amendment is approved, the mayor would get $60,000 and council members would earn half of that (these figures that do not include cost of living increases).

• Term limits for the City Council. Currently, officials cannot serve more than two consecutive four-year terms. Under the proposed change, elected officials would be limited to two four-year terms total.

• Shorter residency requirement for candidacy. In order to qualify for candidacy in Doral under the current charter, an individual must have lived in the city for at least two years. The amendment would reduce this requirement to six months.

• Different elections process. Runoff elections would be eliminated, and all candidates would be placed in one group on the ballot. The candidates with the most votes in each race would win the office.

• Rotating Vice Mayor. The position will rotate annually among four regular council seats.

• Changing process for hiring and firing charter officers (city manager, city attorney and city clerk). The mayor now has the authority to nominate the city manager and city attorney. Removal of any of the three charter officers now requires a majority vote of the council. But if the amendment is approved, council members would appoint members to a search committee to find and nominate two to four candidates. To remove a charter officer, the council would have to include the action on a meeting agenda with backup material to support the move and a majority vote would be needed for approval. The amendment also outlines minimum education and experience requirements for these positions.

• Rules for setting meeting agendas. If approved, council members would have to submit agenda items one week before each meeting, and any new items introduced at the beginning of the meeting would have to be to due to an emergency that “relates to the public’s health, safety and welfare” and would require approval from four of the five council members.

• Appointments to city boards and committees. The mayor currently has authority to appoint people to the city’s many advisory boards and committees. This amendment spreads that authority across the dais.

• Creation of the office of charter enforcement. A circuit judge or the director of the Miami-Dade County ethics commission would appoint a three-person committee to find a charter enforcement official. This person would investigate violations of the city charter by anyone working for the city.

• Fewer signatures required for initiatives and referendums. The charter now requires signatures from at least 10 percent of registered voters in Doral to submit an initiative of referendum. This amendment lowers that requirement to 3 percent, which equals about 500 signatures out Doral’s 17,500 registered voters.

Gómez, a mathematician in the private sector who was appointed by Mayor Luigi Boria, opposed many of the amendments.

“I’ve had many great experiences in my life,” he said. “This is not one of them.”

The City Council received the amendments Tuesday afternoon before a special meeting called to address opinions from the city attorney on whether they can modify the amendments in any way or propose their own amendments.

City Attorney Dan Espino said the council could not touch the commission’s proposals, and a majority of the council would have to pass a resolution at a regular meeting to put a charter amendment on the ballot for the next general election.

Councilwoman Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera said the review process was positive and the amendments address important aspects of the charter.

“They reflect the times we live in right now,” she said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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