The first City of Doral Council meeting for 2014 was held on January 15th in what turned out to be a marathon meeting. This meeting was divided into two sessions in order to alleviate late night meetings, however, the attempt to cut back on the long hours of the meetings seemed to have failed and the meeting ended 14 hours after it had begun at 9:00 AM.
Some of the basic highlights of the meeting are as follows:
Separation of Church and Government
A resident voiced her concerns as to the current invocation process before the council meetings. Currently the same Pastor from the same church who appears to preach and voice his personal religious beliefs is saying invocations. She reminded the council that they should respect the religious beliefs of all residents and not impose one person’s particular religious beliefs on all pointing out the importance of separation of church and government. The City Attorney gave his legal opinion and explained the meaning of separation of church and government according the United States Constitution and also reiterated the importance of not giving preference to one religion over another.
Councilwoman Ruiz Motions to Fire City Attorney
The first matter of interest is a motion by Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz to fire the City Attorney, John Hernin. Councilwoman Ruiz’ expressed her frustration with the current City Attorney’s lack of accessibility and ability to respond on a timely basis to council on legal issues which are of extreme importance. The sentiments were echoed by Vice Mayor Fraga and after a brief discussion in the morning session and at the request of the remaining council, the discussion was tabled for the afternoon session since this was an unexpected request that no one on the council including the City Attorney, Mr. Herin was aware of.
After a long discussion as to performance, hours billed, and lack of availability to the council a vote was taken and the council voted 3-2 to not renew his contract and put it out for bid. The current contract with the current City Attorney ends in May of 2014. Vice Mayor Fraga voiced her concerns, as did Councilwoman Rodriguez Aguilera regarding the current growth of the city and the workload. Vice Mayor Fraga suggested that perhaps it would be a good option to look into having an in house attorney rather than contracting one out.
Councilwoman Rodriguez Aguilera and Councilwoman Rodriguez were the two votes against the motion and felt more comfortable with giving an opportunity to Mr. Herin and to address the issues one on one. “I’m concerned with the instability that this may create”, stated Councilwoman Rodriguez.
The City Attorney was taken back by the motion and the vote and offered to sit with each of the council members to review and discuss the issues at hand.
Naming of City of Doral Public Places
Ordinance proposed by Vice Mayor Fraga passed with a 5-0 vote preventing naming places and city buildings, streets, etc, after a living person. The concern by many had been that the current names could be removed to which Vice Mayor clarified that that would not be the case. The current names of JC Bermudez Park and Morgan Park would remain, however, going forward the ordinance would apply. The spirit of the ordinance is to prevent the naming of public places after individuals that one may not know what they do in the future.
Vice Mayor Fraga said that there were many ways to honor individuals other than naming public places. It was just a “housekeeping” item moving forward to allow the city to move in a new direction for the future and allow the city to get more name recognition.
Red Light Cameras
When you think everything has been discussed on the red light cameras, it isn’t. Hearings on site for the City of Doral will start on January 16, 2014. They will be held at the Government Center.
Police Chief Blom addressed the council regarding the process of the hearing. He also addressed the council on their request for further reports on the safety and prevention of accidents by having these cameras. Councilwoman Rodriguez Aguilera requested a workshop to further discuss the issue of the red light cameras. Talk about beating a dead horse to death.
New Police Vehicles for the City
The Police Department will be purchasing new police vehicles and a new design for the vehicles was presented by the Police Department. The new design would save the city approximately $275,000 but it would mean a “new” look for the police vehicle. The design was discussed among the council members but approval was tabled because their is concerns about branding. “Old” vehicles will be phased in to the new design. The Police Department will present, at the request of council, will present variations of the design and different options so that council make a decision.
The next council meeting will be held on February 19, 2014, at 9:00 AM at the City of Doral Government Center.
Please note that all of the City of Doral council meetings are televised on Channel 77 for public viewing, are recorded, and available at any time for the public.