Doral residents, businessmen, police officers, city officials, council members and members of the media on Tuesday filled the city’s council chambers to witness Mayor Luigi Boria give the annual State of the City address.
“The past year has brought challenges, successes and new opportunities,” read a statement printed on the evening program — signed by Boria.
The event featured the usual pomp and circumstance: a presentation of colors led by members of the Doral Police Department’s honor guard. Doral Police Chief Donald De Lucca led the pledge of allegiance. Alberto Castro, a student from Ronald Reagan-Doral High who appeared on Telemundo’s singing competition La Voz Kids, sang the national anthem.
Pastor Steve Alessi of Metro Life Church in Doral gave the invocation. He called for faith, at a time when, he said, there are “so many events that bring fear to our hearts and our lives.”
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City Manager Edward Rojas’ introductory remarks highlighted Doral’s attempts to address three primary issues he made the subject of his own annual report earlier in the year: roads, parks and public safety. He referenced a quote by Andrew Carnegie on “teamwork” and “achieving uncommon results.”
“The city has the highest reserves, and the lowest [property tax] rate in its history,” Rojas said. “Doral is better than it’s ever been, and it’s getting better.”
Boria made his way through the crowd, kissing cheeks and shaking hands with those in the audience. The podium was lit by two large spotlights. Before starting his speech, Boria spent a couple of minutes publicly recognizing the several federal, state, county, and local representatives who were in attendance.
When Boria began his address, he alluded to the state of the country when he first became the city’s mayor in 2012.
“At that time, our nation was emerging from one of the greatest economic downturns the world had ever seen,” Boria said. “We were tasked with planning for the future of our community. We entered office facing countywide traffic, development projects — dormant for years — suddenly starting construction, and the demands of our fast-growing community.”
The first issue Boria tackled in his 20-minute speech was traffic. He outlined several road projects taken up by the city’s public works department. The focus of these projects involved “completing the traffic grid” and “creating new roadway connections” to ease the pressure placed on the city’s clogged major roadways.
Some of these include opening up Northwest 97th Avenue and connecting Northwest 109th Avenue to Northwest 41st Street. Boria said the latter would give almost 900 households an alternative to taking Northwest 112th and 107th avenues. The city is also urging the county to open the area of Northwest 82nd Avenue that runs under State Road 836. This would give Doral residents an additional road in and out of the city, possibly alleviating traffic along Northwest 87th Avenue.
“Traffic is a regional issue and we are working tirelessly with Miami-Dade County and the state in finding solutions to ease traffic congestion in our city,” Boria said. “But our plan cannot be only about cars.”
As part of the council’s plan to make Doral “smart and sustainable,” Boria said, the city has invested in its sidewalks, bike paths and trolley system.
Boria then turned his attention to Doral’s newly accredited police force.
In the past year, the city approved plans to expand the city’s main police station and the construction of a new police substation along 97th Avenue near the U.S. Southern Command building.
“This year our police force grew by 10 percent,” Boria said. “The quality of life in Doral depends so much on having a safe environment. We have that thanks to our police force.”
Boria also acknowledged Chief De Lucca, who Boria says will become the next president of the International Chiefs of Police Association.
In regard to business development, Boria said that 1,200 new businesses opened in Doral last year, and more than 4,000 businesses have opened in the three years since he took office, producing 20,000 new jobs.
“Doral is recognized as an economic engine and a welcoming environment for business,” said Boria.
Boria also referenced plans with Miami-Dade Public Schools to add two new K-8 centers and turn Doral Middle School into a second high school for the city. Currently, Ronald Reagan-Doral is the only high school in the city.
The last portion of the address focused on the city’s parks and recreation projects, including Doral Legacy Park. The 36,000-square-foot, 18-acre facility began construction earlier this year and will be located on Northwest 114th Avenue and 82nd Street. Doral Glades Park, a 25-acre project, will begin construction next year, according to Boria.
Boria ended the speech with a line that is a nod to the city’s largely Hispanic population.
“We ask; is Doral better today than three years ago?,” Boria said. “Claro que si.” (Of course it is.)