Doral charter changes will be on August ballot

Doral voters will have the chance to go to the polls in August to vote on proposed changes to the city charter after the City Council decided to change the election from a mail-in ballot.

The City Council, some of whose members have questioned the proposals, voted last week to add the amendments to the ballot for the Aug. 26 primary instead of conducting a mail-in vote in July.

Mayor Luigi Boria, a critic of some of the changes, said he believed more people would respond to a regular election than a mail-in ballot.

“I believe the people should have the right to go to the precincts and vote for this amendment,” he said at a council meeting last week.

Vice Mayor Christi Fraga added that the change would give voters more time to learn about the proposed amendments.

“We were working in the best interests of the city and for maximum participation of our residents,” she said.

Every five years, the council appoints a charter review commission to comb through the city charter — basically, the city’s constitution — and make recommendations for changes. This year’s commission completed its work in April when it proposed 10 amendments.

Some of the recommendations include term limits for council members, the elimination of runoff elections and establishing a formal process for hiring and firing charter officials like the city attorney and city manager.

Since April, the review commission and the City Council have debated whether to hold a mail-in ballot election, where ballots are mailed to all voters, or to add the amendments to the Aug. 26 primary ballot so voters could either vote in person or request absentee ballots. The charter calls for a referendum on the proposals 60 to 120 days after April 1.

After the city proposed to amend the charter in order to have the election coincide with the primary, four members of the charter review commission sued the city, asking the court to force the city to use mail ballots since Aug. 26 falls outside the referendum window. Eduardo Gómez, the charter commissioner appointed by Boria, did not join his colleagues in the suit.

The charter commission’s request was denied by a Circuit Court judge, and an appellate judge refused to hear it.

“We’re kind of dead in the water as far as the lawsuit,” said Jesse Jones, chairman of the charter commission.

He said Monday that the commission’s idea was to have all of Doral’s voters receive a ballot with only the charter amendments on it so they could review it at home, discuss the issues with neighbors and learn more about the proposals.

Now, Jones fears the importance of the amendments will get lost in the shuffle during the primary.

“Items as important as charter changes should be the only thing in front of the voters,” he said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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