Doral residents to vote on changes to city’s ‘constitution’

06/19/2014 3:06 PM

06/19/2014 3:07 PM

Everyone knows the United States has a set of rules it has to follow called the Constitution, the supreme law of the land that outlines the structure and the powers of our government, as well as our rights as citizens.

City governments have similar documents called charters. The city charter sets out basic rules like how your local elected officials get elected, how long they serve, and what powers the government has.

Like the U.S. Constitution, a city charter can be amended. In Doral, the City Council appoints a five-person citizen commission every five years to review the charter and suggest changes. These proposed amendments have to go to the city’s voters, who have the final say.

For the second time in the city’s 10-year history, Doral will consider changing its governing document this summer. This year’s Charter Review Commission has proposed 10 amendments. Voters will be able to vote yes or no on each amendment during the Aug. 26 primary.

To cast a vote in this election, you must register by July 28.

We’ll review five of the amendments here and the other five in July.

•  “Create independent city office of charter enforcement.” This would create a new, city-funded watchdog office to keep Doral’s elected officials and employees honest. This office would receive complaints, hold investigations and hearings and issue findings on possible violations of federal, state, county and city laws and report any misconduct to other agencies. The office could impose fines, too.
•  “Revised process for hiring and removing charter officials. There are three important jobs at the city that are designated charter officials: city manager, city attorney and city clerk. Currently, the mayor has the power to nominate each of these positions for approval by the whole City Council.

If this amendment is approved, a search committee made up of residents would be required to recommend two to four names for any charter official vacancy. The amendment also sets minimum education and experience requirements for each position.

For the city manager job — Doral is on its fourth manager in two years — the candidate would have to be 30 years old or older, have a minimum of a combination of a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business administration or other related fields and three years’ public administration experience or 10 years’ experience as a city manager or assistant city manager.

A new procedure would also be established for removing a charter official. In order for a council member to propose removing a charter official, he or she would have to put the proposal on a meeting agenda and provide documents with reasons for the proposal that would help the rest of the council make their decision.

Recently, the Doral City Council has suddenly fired a few charter officials during meetings without clearly stating it on the agenda, including a city manager and city attorney.

•  “Allowing group of council member candidates on ballot for multiple seats; eliminate runoff elections; setting terms.” This amendment changes the election process for the Doral City Council.

If approved, the city would no longer hold runoff elections. All candidates would be placed on one group on the ballot. In Doral, two council seats are up for election every two years. Voters would be able to pick any two candidates for City Council. The candidates with the highest number of votes and the second-highest number of votes would be elected. A random drawing would break any ties.

In a year with a mayoral race, the mayoral candidate with the most votes wins.

•  “Individuals limited to two terms in any office; terms defined as time served.” Right now, the charter limits people to serving two consecutive terms as a council member and two consecutive terms as mayor. This amendment would limit any individual to two four-year terms in any elected office.
•  “Vice Mayor position to rotate amongst council members in certain order.” In Doral’s weak-mayor form of government, the city manager runs the city’s day-to-day operations and the mayor has one vote on the City Council and acts as chairperson during meetings. The vice mayor takes on this responsibility in the absence of the mayor.

Currently, the City Council has to elect a vice mayor at the first council meeting after each regular election. If this amendment is approved, the vice mayor title would rotate among council members.

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