The Headache of Doral Governance.

| February 10, 2014

By: Ettore Sabatella

It seems as if there are some “technicalities” that still need to be ironed out at Doral.  I’m referring to the length of their Council Meetings.  I still remember the crowded space at the old building, where sometimes people had to stand along the corridor because there were not enough chairs.  Even with such crowds, the temperature in the room was frigid. Maybe the people in charge of the A/C probably thought the discussions were literally sucking out the oxygen from the room.  Maybe the meetings were shorter because the then Mayor didn’t allow people to go over the allotted time on the clock, or because it was too cold.

After a year and a half at the new chambers, they still cannot make up their minds about the meetings.  A second meeting was added in 2012 to handle just the zoning issues.  Presumably, that move would allow two short meetings, twice a month, as opposed to a long and tedious meeting, once a month, from 6pm to potentially midnight.  In 2013, since the regular meeting that started at 6pm was lasting over 7-hours average, they decided to divide the Regular Council Meeting in two halves. One in the morning with mainly housekeeping issues that do not need input from the public.  (After all, most of the residents and business owners work during the day).  And then later in the evening, a second meeting dealing with agenda items that might be more controversial and/or require public input.

The first time they tried the new “system” the morning meetings went for so long, council members hardly had time to get something to eat before the evening meeting started, making the 2014 first Regular Council Meeting a 14-hour Olympic marathon. Talking about the law of unintended consequences!  Two reasons led to this insanity: lawyers and police cars.

I have a suggestion for whoever takes care of the A/C… crank it up!

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imagen doralThough the move by Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz not to renew the city attorney’s contract caught everyone by surprise, it is true that technically it does belong to housekeeping issues. What is obvious is that for some mysterious reason Ruiz decided not to include it in the agenda.  As we all know, pocket items are usually tricky.  A week after the Council decided in a 3-2 vote not to renew attorney John Herin’s contract, another controversial episode occurred between Councilwoman Ruiz and Jesse Jones, president of the committee reviewing the city charter.  The confrontation resulted over her decision to propose not renewing Mr. Herin’s contract.  It seems lack of civility is the new normal in Doral.

The 14-hour marathon also dealt with new police cars and their new design, whereby Chief Richard Bloom would like to save the city about $275,000 dollars.  But nobody seemed too happy with changing the branding.  Imagine, the first time Doral politicians finally agreed on the cars’ colors and design for their first Police Department it took them months!  All that effort down the drain!  They need to learn one or two things from Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board.  This huge public entity has one meeting a month that starts at 11am, breaks for lunch, and hardly ever goes beyond 9pm.  Their budget is $5.2 billion and has over 50,000 employees.

So what does Doral decide to do to deal with the police cars and the long Council Meetings? Have another Special meeting.  That’s right.  Remember, each of these special meetings costs us, the taxpayers, thousands of dollars.  The lessons from 2013 have been forgotten already.  And the resolutions for 2014 parallel those who want to drop weight or quit smoking.  No wonder people are frustrated with government.

The special meeting on January 29th finally addressed the police cars after another grueling hour regarding rules and procedures, including those concerning the invocations prior to regular and zoning council meetings.  A string of members of the general public came up to the podium and shared their concerns.  They were under the impression that Doral would get rid of the invocations all together.   After passionate requests to continue asking God to guide the city before the Council deliberates and make decisions, council members clarified that was not their original intention.  How the public got this wrong?  That’s another mystery that probably will never be solved.

Surprisingly, the going back and forth on the different police car paint-striping options took less than half four. Four simple choices were eventually mixed and matched until the Council finally hatched up a final version. The Mayor looked like the husband who goes to the shopping mall with the wife and starts panicking.  How long would she take to shop?

Thankfully, the city decided to save money, our money.  Don’t be surprised if you see different looks in our police cars.  It’s normal, and it does happen in many other municipalities because budget limitations don’t allow all police cars be replaced at the same time.

Let’s face it.  At the end of the day, it’s not about cars, nor about rules and regulations.  It is about leadership. I would not be surprised if the meetings continue to run into the wee hours of the morning.  Let’s just hope that now that the Council decided not to name public venues after living people, we won’t start seeing dead people along city hall corridors after midnight, begging the Council to name new parks after them.  Trust me, if I see dead people, I will start any invocation, no matter what denomination may be, regardless of what any government says.  Let us pray!!!

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