Doral residents voice concern over proposed amendments, council tables them

The Doral city council met Tuesday, June 9 and discussed proposed amendments the the city’s ordinance on boards, committees and commissions.

The main item

Several members of the community voiced concerns that proposed amendments to Doral’s ordinance on “Boards, Committees, and Commissions” would block participation from the community in city government and put advisory boards under the purview of city staff.

“With all due respect to the city manager and staff, we don’t want to give the reports or the ideas to them, we want to present them to the council on behalf of the community,” Mary Diaz said. “People from the community will not participate willingly, like I think they should, and you need more people to get involved to help this city.

The amendments include provisions that would govern conduct at the advisory board meetings themselves. New rules regarding the decorum of general debate and disruption of a meeting could result in members of the public — or advisory board members themselves — being removed from a meeting by security personnel and subject to arrest under a Florida statute titled “Distrubing Schools and Religious and Other Assemblies.”

The amendments would also require programs proposed by advisory boards — run by volunteers from the community — to be vetted by city staff before the proposal would reach the city council for consideration. One significant concern among residents was that the amendment would give city staff the ability to block proposals by advisory boards.

Members of the council acknowledged citizens’ concerns, but stated that the bill’s purpose is to ensure that these bodies run in the most efficient way possible. Councilman Pete Cabrera ensured that the ordinance would not block participation or proposals by advisory boards.

City Attorney Daniel Espino indicated that the provisions in the proposed amendment give the chairs of advisory boards the same authority that the mayor would have in running a city council meeting. He went on to say that the city has received a series of complaints from almost all of the advisory boards with regard to interference in their meetings.

“These meetings of advisory boards are meetings of the advisory board. The intent is to foster public participation, but it is not a meeting in which the public can simply engage the board as often as it wants,” Espino said. “This is the same process that we take with staff items and with items that we get in advance.”

The council discussed possible changes to the motion, or possibly passing the item and revisiting it after a couple of months, in the end the council passed a motion to table the item and postpone consideration of the amendments indefinitely.

Other business

▪ Northwest114th Avenue Park: The council approved a $19.3 million payment to Biltmore Construction in order to begin Phase II construction of the proposed Northwest 114th Avenue Park. Mayor Luigi Boria says that if the project had been approved when it was proposed years earlier, it would have cost the city about $3 million less.

▪ Site planning: A discussion item sponsored by Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz addressed concerns regarding the review and approval process for development site plans. Ruiz and Councilman Pete Cabrera argued in favor of bringing larger site plans in front of the city council for final approval. Planning and Zoning Director Julian Perez agreed that he would like “fresh eyes” looking at the site plans that come through his office. Councilwomen Christi Fraga and Ana Maria Rodriguez voiced concerns that bringing site plans before the council would result in additional bureaucracy, but ultimately a motion was passed to direct the city attorney to come back with a set of guidelines for what kinds of properties the council would review.

▪ Professional services: A discussion item on the council’s agenda regarding the hiring of a budget consultant, Hector Mirabile, caused debate among council members as to whether proper procedure was followed. Requests for proposal (RFPs) and requests for qualifications (RFQs) are usually put out in advance and open to the public in the event of solicited services. Ruiz and Cabrera indicated need for a budget consultant to ensure that city resources are allocated appropriately, but the other members of the council expressed concern that proper procedure was being circumvented. The motion was voted down 3-2.

They said it

“A board member might be presenting a great idea, but I don’t have any information on it. I don’t have any idea if it’s legal or not legal. The purpose of this council is to take action and to take action I need information.” — Councilman Pete Cabrera

You said it

“Democracy is a very messy from of government. It’s supposed to be that way. It’s not supposed to be all streamlined and sanitized and packaged and cleaned up and not have any texture or feeling to it. If you want a government like that, this is the wrong place for you to live, because that’s not what this country is about.” — Richard Glickstead, one of four Doral residents who used public comments to speak against the amendments to the city’s ordinance that governs procedures of boards and committees.

The next meeting

▪ When: Zoning Board Meeting, 6 p.m., Monday

▪ Where: City Hall, 8401 NW 53rd Terr.