Doral to vote on making Spanish a second official language

Doral officials are hoping to attract more foreign business owners by officially declaring themselves a bilingual city.

The council will vote Wednesday on a resolution that will make Spanish the official second language of Doral and designate the city as multicultural.

"The idea is to bring more businesses to the city,” said Mayor Luigi Boria, who came to the United States from Venezuela 23 years ago with limited English skills.

“I am trying to encourage people to invest and feel comfortable — even though they don’t speak English.”

The resolution, if it passes, will not impact the way business is conducted in Doral, and business owners will not be required to change their practices. The council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at city hall, 8401 NW 53rd Ter.

Doral is home to several Latin American companies.

Hispanics accounted for 62.7 percent of all businesses owners in the city, according to a 2007 Census report.

The city currently has 8,258 firms with active business tax receipts, said chief licensing officer Ingrid P. Balza via email.

But it’s also a place where several businesses from countries outside of South America are based.

“We are a multilingual and multicultural community,” said former Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez, adding that businesses and residents from around the world thrive in Doral.

Boria said he drew upon his own experiences while creating the resolution. Boria opened his business The Wise Computer shortly after he moved to the United States.

“A long time ago, I was ashamed because I didn’t use English very good,” Boria said. “I know many people who feel the same way, because they feel that if they don’t speak very good English they won’t be accepted.”

What role Spanish should play in government has been an ongoing issue in Miami-Dade County, according to Sean Foreman, an assistant professor of political science at Barry University.

He said that Miami-Dade County passed an ordinance in 1973 establishing the county as bilingual and bicultural. That ordinance was overturned in 1980 by voters through a referendum, thus making the county English-only.

Then that ordinance was overturned in 1993 by the Dade County Commission.

That overturning came after “there was a drastic change to the racial and ethic composition of the commission,” Foreman said.

Furthermore, in 1988, roughly 84 percent of Florida voters chose to make English the official language of the state — a law that remains on the books, according to Foreman.

“It’s one of these things when there has been informal use of Spanish throughout the county, and now there is pressure to make it formal,” Foreman said.

No matter how the vote goes Wednesday, Foreman said that one thing is sure: The outcome will be a talker. “We might see a backlash or a counter-movement and someone bring a lawsuit against it,” he said.

Boria said he expects the resolution to pass.