Doral lets Donald Trump keep key to city; also gives initial OK to four new developments

Community members and activists hold up signs denouncing Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants to Doral City Council on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015.
Community members and activists hold up signs denouncing Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants to Doral City Council on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Five months after handing Donald Trump the key to the city, Doral council members on Wednesday debated whether to demand it back.

At the meeting, Mexican-born Vice-Mayor Sandra Ruiz proposed a motion to publicly denounce Trump for remarks he made at his June presidential campaign kickoff that Mexican immigrants brought “crime, drugs and rape” to the United States.

From the dais, Ruiz cited pride in her Mexican heritage as a motivating factor behind the motion. Her voice cracked and eyes watered as she spoke of her father and his role as a farmworker. She called for the council to make a “symbolic statement to support our community.”

“I value investment,” Ruiz said, “but I also value respect.”

Ultimately, the council voted against Ruiz’s proposal. Mayor Luigi Boria, Councilman Pete Cabrera and Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez voted no; Ruiz and Councilwoman Christi Fraga voted yes.

The proposal was pushed by a coalition of Latino labor unions, business interests, student and political organizations, as well as residents living in Doral, who also wanted to take back the key to the city that was awarded to Trump in January.

“We want to show that, as a community, Latinos have financial and political power. We are entitled to rights not just as citizens, but as human beings. We are entitled to respect,” said Roberto Benavides, 26, a representative from Students Working for Equal Rights.

The Trump item turned a usually routine zoning meeting into a standing room-only event. The back walls lined with protestors and media members, with many of the attendees coming from outside of Doral. Public comments, which centered almost exclusively on the Trump item, went on for over an hour.

Many of the speakers told their own stories of struggle and perseverance that brought them to this country.

Julio Calderon recounted his story of being separated from his mother, who left his native country of Honduras, and later having to make the same trek with his little brothers when he was 16 years old. Calderon said they walked for about a month and went days without eating before making it across the border. He is currently a student at Florida International University and will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree next year.

Calderon is still undocumented. “In the eyes of Donald Trump, I’m a criminal,” said Calderon. “You’re supporting someone who does not want me here.”

Multiple residents, however, told the council it should not be giving Trump so much importance. Some questioned Ruiz’s motivations for presenting the proposal now, as opposed to when the comments were originally made. Ruiz cited scheduling conflicts – the council does not schedule meetings in July – as a reason for the delay and that the zoning meeting was the first opportunity to bring this item forward.

Doral awarded Trump -- owner of the Trump National Doral -- the key in January on a 4-1 vote.

“I feel so proud,” Boria said at the time. “On behalf of the residents of the city of Doral, and on behalf of our city council, to give you the keys of the city of Doral because I think you deserve it. Thank you for what you’ve done.”

Wednesday night, the mayor downplayed Trump’s importance in Doral.

“At this point we have a city to move forward,” said Boria. “For me, this looks like political theater.”

Other business

Initial property approvals: The council moved quickly through initial approvals for four separate developments. Landmark at Doral would be a large-scale residential area with more than 400 apartments and single-family townhouses located along Northwest 102nd Avenue between 62nd and 68th streets. Grand Bay Commons South is a nearly five acre mixed-use development that would be located on the southeast corner of Northwest 107th Avenue and 78th Street. Midtown at Doral, a massive complex that would encompass 509 residential units and 72,000 square feet of commercial space, would be located on the east side of Northwest 107th Avenue and 78th Street. Our Lady of Guadalupe would be a church located 11411 NW 25th St. These projects still require multiple round of approvals before any development could begin.

Water and Sewer: Lester Sola, Director of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, gave a quick presentation regarding new investments that the department is making to improving service. Sola said the department in planning to invest more than $13 billion in infrastructure and would create 16,470 jobs as a result.

They said it

“I did get a call from Donald Trump on the Thursday after he made the statements. He did say that he loved Mexicans, and we had a cordial conversation, but at no point did he apologize. I don’t think he’s done that to date.” – Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz

You said it

“Sadly, this is a politically motivated situation, and it is happening simply because Donald Trump is the Republican frontrunner. He’s going to be able to collect a political windfall without spending a dime.” – Felipe E. Madrigal

The next meeting

When: Regular council meeting on 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11.

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