Doral to stop naming things after live people

01/16/2014 12:29 PM

01/16/2014 1:19 PM

In what could be the longest regular City Council meeting in Doral’s short history, city leaders voted unanimously Wednesday to prohibit the naming of public places and streets after living individuals.

The ordinance, proposed by Vice Mayor Christi Fraga, passed in a 5-0 vote near the end of a 13-hour day. She clarified during discussion that the move isn’t retroactive and doesn’t erase the names of two of Doral’s parks.

Juan Carlos Bermudez Park, 5300 NW 102nd Ave., is named after the city’s first mayor, while Morgan Levy Park, 3000 NW 87th Ave., bears the name of one of Doral’s founders who remains a noted figure in the community.

Fraga said posthumous naming would shield the city from a situation where a living person can do wrong or create controversy that would give the council reason to strip the name.

“I’m not here to change what’s happened in the past,” she said. “I think this is more of a housekeeping item going forward.”

The proposal comes on the heels of a similar ordinance in Hialeah that passed in November. That City Council took the idea a step further this week and voted to strip all current public facilities of names of living people, including taking former longtime mayor Raul Martinez’s name off Hialeah City Hall.

Wednesday marked the Council’s first attempt to conduct its monthly regular meetings more efficiently by splitting it into a morning and evening sessions. The meeting began at 9 a.m. and ended just after 11 p.m., with only two hours worth of breaks around lunch and dinner.

Early in the morning session, Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz unexpectedly proposed to fire City Attorney John Herin, who works for the city through a contract with law firm Gray Robinson. She said he has taken too long to deliver opinions, has been unavailable, and might be too busy with his other work.

Herin also serves as city attorney in Marthon and Palmetto Bay.

“He’s a professional,” Ruiz said. “We’re all professionals, but he’s a busy man. I know he works for other municipalities.”

The move surprised everyone else on the dais, including Herin himself, who said he was hearing some of these criticisms for the first time.

“If you ask the mayor, I’m here no less than two days a week,” he said, later adding that he wanted to meet with all council members to discuss any issues with his performance.

The council took up the item again later in the evening and eventually decided in a 3-2 vote to put the city attorney contract out for bid during the next 60 days. Ruiz, Fraga and Mayor Luigi Boria voted in favor while echoing some of Ruiz’s concerns and saying the decision wasn’t personal.

Councilwomen Ana Maria Rodriguez and Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera dissented in the vote, with Rodriguez commending Herin for his work and decrying the unexpected proposal by Ruiz.

Rodriguez added that putting the job out to bid will hurt the working environment at City Hall.

“It creates tremendous instability,” she said.

In the meantime, Herin will meet with each council member individually to address their concerns.

Other highlights from the meeting:

• The council also approved a contract with architecture and engineering firm Wolfberg, Alvarez and Partners to work on the expansion of Doral’s police headquarters at 6100 NW 99th Ave. The Miami-based firm will receive no more than $310,460 to design the expansion, which will include expanding the second floor of the current facility, renovating current storage space and creating additional parking.

The whole project, which could be finished by the end of the year, is expected to cost about $3 million.

• Police impact fees, paid by developers per residential unit and per square foot of non-residential space, will go up, from $101.29 to $464.62 for residential developments and from $0.147 to $0.174 for non-residential developments. The fee had remained the same for 10 years – for as long as the city’s been incorporated. The change is a response to Doral’s steady growth and increased police needs.

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