July 24, 2014

Doral council steps back from taking power from Charter Review Commission

The Doral City Council has backed off its attempt to snatch the power from a citizen board tasked with reviewing the city’s charter every five years.

The Doral City Council has backed off its attempt to snatch the power from a citizen board tasked with reviewing the city’s charter every five years.

The council met Wednesday to refine three concepts that could become amendments to the city charter, or its constitution. One of the initial ideas would have stripped the power away from the council-appointed Charter Review Commission, which is responsible for suggesting changes to the city’s highest-governing document and send those suggestions to the voters to decide.

The change would give the City Council the power to approve, modify and/or deny amendments proposed by the review commission, which is made up of five citizens appointed by each of the five council members. Before instructing City Attorney Dan Espino to draft language to be approved at a future meeting, residents like Claudia Mariaca spoke out against the idea.

“Allowing that committee to do its job independently every five years, without interference from council members, is precisely the balance of power that our country was built upon,” she said.

After initial support from three of the five council members — Mayor Luigi Boria, Vice Mayor Christi Fraga and Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz — Fraga shifted the majority when she changed her mind after hearing community members speak.

“We’ve got to trust the people we appointed,” she told the Miami Herald afterward.

This year the review commission developed 10 amendments that will go to a public vote in the Aug. 26 primary. Some of them include imposing term limits on the council members and the setting new salaries for them.

Ruiz, who also supported the change at first, followed suit after Fraga’s comments.

“I personally believe that I’m not here to decide whether the committee or charter recommendations are good or bad,” she said. “As a council member I’m not going use the dais to critique their recommendations.”

Mayor Luigi Boria, a vocal critic of the review commission’s recommendations this year, did the same. The proposal was changed to have the charter amendment election held during a November general election and hold charter review commission meeting after hours, so more of the public can attend.

Three more ideas passed and will now be developed into ballot language that, pending future approval, would go to the voters in the fall. One moves run-off elections to the first Tuesday in December, which prevents a run-off from being held on the week of Thanksgiving. Another allows each council member to individually hire, supervise and fire their legislative aides, with some oversight and disciplining powers reserved for the city manager.

The last concept calls for the council to determine a reasonable time frame for the mayor to nominate a new city manager when needed. Should the mayor not make a nomination, council members would get to bring their own nominations forward.

These idea will come back to the council as formal ballot language at a future meeting. If approved by the City Council, Doral’s voters would have the final say.

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