August 7, 2014

Doral council proposes its own changes to city charter

With mayor Luigi Boria voting against them, the Doral City Council approved five new charter amendments to be submitted to a vote in November elections.

With mayor Luigi Boria voting against them, the Doral City Council approved five new charter amendments to be submitted to a vote in November elections.

The five new amendments are in addition to another 10 amendments the city’s Charter Review Commission presented in April, which will go to a vote on Aug. 26.

In a special council meeting on Monday, Boria voted against the amendments because, he said, one of them would diminish the powers of the mayor by giving the council the authority to set a deadline for the mayor to nominate a city manager.

If the mayor failed to meet the council’s deadline, individual council members could make their own nominations.

“This creates instability because, if that amendment is approved, each of the five council members could nominate their own candidates,” Boria said on Tuesday. “This will result in an environment in which each council member will vote for his own candidate.”

Council member Christi Fraga said the proposal would get the council members involved in the nomination process for a city manager. Fraga said the amendment did not seek to diminish the powers of the mayor but to establish a “reasonable deadline” in the search of a city manager.

“If days go by and the mayor has not chosen a city manager, then the council members can participate in the nomination,” Fraga said. “The only thing we did not decide is the number of days the mayor has to search for a city manager. The council will make that decision at the time the city manager needs to be replaced.”

A second amendment would give council members the authority to hire and fire their assistants, which is now the prerogative of the city manager.

The third amendment proposes changing the date of run-off elections to the first Tuesday in December, instead of the fourth Tuesday in November, due to the proximity of Thanksgiving, which takes place the fourth Thursday in November.

The fourth amendment would allow charter amendments proposed by the Charter Review Commission to be considered either in August or November. It also proposes that the meetings of the Charter Review Commission be held after office hours.

The fifth amendment, which was proposed by council member Bettina Rodríguez Aguilera, would require council members who have served two terms to wait four years before running again for that office.

However, that waiting period would not apply to persons who, after serving two terms as council members, decide to run for mayor, or for a mayor running for council member after serving two terms as mayor.

City Attorney Dan Espino said the amendments would not be retroactive, which leaves open the possibility for current council members to run for reelection.

After the session, Christian Mazzola, a member of the Charter Review Commission, said the five amendments reflected more the interests of the council members in their own political careers than in protecting the interests of the citizens.

Another member of the review commission, Raymond Bush, said the package of amendments “will end up confusing voters.”

In April the Charter Review Commission approved 10 amendments that will be submitted to a vote in August, which Boria also opposes publicly. Among other changes to the Doral Charter, these amendments propose the elimination of run-off elections and would allow a recall referendum with only 3 percent of voters’ signature instead of 10 percent.

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