Home Rule: Fifty Years Protecting Local Independence

Doral Officials Attended Florida League of Cities Conference

 
By: María Alejandra Pulgar
@marialepulgar – NAHJ #37172

 

Para leer en español 

City of Doral elected officials and staff attended the Florida League of Cities Conference on August 16thto the 18th.  The Florida League of Cities is the organization that serves the needs and provides a united voice to municipal governments in Florida. It was founded, according to its mission statement “on the belief that local self-government is the keystone of American democracy.”

During the conference, they discussed a group of resolutions regarding issues that impact local governments in Florida including water conservation, flood and Stormwater management, short-term rentals, smart cities, and affordable housing.

Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez has been an active participant of these conferences since his first term in office and this time around he explains that, out of all the resolutions passed by the municipal authorities reunited at the conference, the most important discussion of the session was the importance of local governments to protect Home Rule.

Legally, Home Rule is defined as “the power of a local city or county to set up its own system of self-government without receiving a charter from the state”. The incorporation of a municipality, as a decision of its citizens, is the embodiment of Home Rule. It allows communities to ensure the quality of services such as police, parks and recreation, Stormwater management, emergency management, etc. is paired with their hopes and demands.

“Fifty years ago the State of Florida placed on the Constitution language that gave Home Rule to municipalities,” says Bermudez. “That made it clear that the decisions to be made for cities and towns and villages in Florida are best made by local government. These are decisions such as public work, parks, zoning, etc. We have seen over the last number of sessions in Tallahassee an effort to impose rules on us and dictate rules on us that violate that Home Rule of the portion of the Constitution.”

Representatives of the cities reunited at the conference came together to express that they are “committed to protecting what is in the Florida Constitution which is let those closer to the people making the decisions that the Constitution of Florida says is their right, which is Municipal Home Rule.”

Partisanship, upcoming elections and the interaction with other municipal governments

Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez with Mayor Jeff Porter

Local governments in Florida are nonpartisan by law because decisions and services made and provided by the government that is closer to the people should not be influenced by the party where the elected official participates.

Bermúdez talked about how local officials at the conference share the concern that at National and State level they are “seeing such a divisive attitude between individuals from both parties” a situation that “is not happening at a local level”.

“Nobody cares if you are Democrat or Republican if you are a Mayor, Commissioner or Councilmember, because your role is to provide services for everybody. We do not run as Democrats or Republicans and I am very happy it is like that in the rest of Florida. That will tell you there are some people in South Florida in particular that try to make partisanship an issue in local elections, and it is not only wrong but is also bad for local government” said Bermudez.

“Does not matter what party any of us belongs to, the League does not belong to a party. Our role is to be the local elected officials that provide for our citizens.”

Bermudez’s opinion regarding local elected officials in Florida and partisan interests is that “any local elected official that is running on a partisan base […] or makes decisions based on partisanship as opposed to what is best for their community or their local government, I think is doing a tremendous disservice to their residents and is not doing their job”.

“Everybody here [at the Conference] is clear that local government is nonpartisan, it is the one closer to the people. Many years ago a Mayor of NYC, La Guardia, said that:“The potholes in the middle of the road, when you need to get them fixed, it does not matter if you are Republican or Democrat, your mayor, your local elected official, is supposed to do the job that is for the best interest of their community” and that stands out today.”

“We are back to a Council where we are pretty consistent in our vision” expresses Bermudez, who is confident that come November whoever is elected will also share the vision and continue working together as a team. It also applies for the County Commissioner.

“Whoever wins, we will have to work with that person”, says Bermudez. “Commissioner Diaz has had a great relationship with our city. Our role as Council is to work with whoever is there; I hope that we can continue to work well, not only with the Commissioner, but the County Mayor and all the commissioners […] We are back to having a lot of respect from other elected officials at the County, the State, Federal governments. Doral is back on track, to the place where we are respected by other elected officials.

Within the resolution passed at the Conference, local governments were encouraged to make educational outreach efforts to inform their citizenry about the importance of Home Rule. After 50 years it is a right that should not be taken for granted and younger generations need to learn about its importance and truly appreciate it to defend it.

 

 

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