“Committed to smart growth and high quality of life”
By: María Alejandra Pulgar
After the virtual speech of 2020, this was a joyous occasion for the City of Doral to hold the State of the City Address 2021 in person at City Hall.
Marco Girón, Assistant Communications Director, served as MC of the event, attended by the Councilmembers and their aides; representatives from State and County elected officials; City Charter Officers, Directors, and employees, and residents and business owners.
It was an exceptional opportunity to remember the achievements of this “period of recovery for the entire community, following unprecedented challenges”, as expressed by Girón on his opening remarks.
Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez was introduced and presented his speech titled “Committed to smart growth and quality of life” where he detailed the many accomplishments of the different departments that have allowed Doral to “shine as a model city this year” in spite of the challenges of the COVID crisis.
Highlights of accomplishments
“Honest, transparent, effective, efficient public service” has been the constant focus, to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the services to the community and support Doral businesses to bounce back of the crisis. All departments of the City had important accomplishments and the ongoing projects have continued in progress.
“Long term financial sustainability” was the focus on the administration. The fiscal millage rate was kept the second-lowest in Miami-Dade County (1.9%); services were provided without cuts and the budget balanced for the 5th consecutive year. The biggest investment this year (43%) was in public safety.
The S&P Rating for the City this year was AA+, which is very positive. The City has issued $86 million in the General Obligation Bonds to finance the construction costs for Doral Central Park, the Cultural Center, and other projects approved in November 2018. In addition, a 5-year financial plan was developed to “assist the administration in managing the City’s future growth.” And the City reserves are $72 Million, which represent more than the percentage recommended for a municipality.
Human Resources dedicated to talent acquisition and retention to continue providing good services for residents and businesses. Providing on-site COVID testing and vaccines to City employees and the staff was important to ensure minimal interruption of services to the community.
The response to the COVID crisis and assistance to residents included the distribution of food to those who needed it, especially Silver Club Members who could not leave their houses. Mayor Bermudez praised the great job the Economic Development Office did with the administration of the Doral Cares Grants, which awarded $1.3 Million to small businesses for recovery and rentals, as well as other financial support programs such as the Façade improvement, CBO, and PTSA grants.
The review of metrics to ensure accountability and transparency are fundamental for good governance; this year all Department Directors in the City have worked with employees on keeping the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on the Performance Dashboard updated and current.
The Building Department improved the process going online; fee schedules were reviewed and updated and their processed are being streamlined to optimize the customer experience for residents and businesses.
The Doral Police Department has great support from the Council and residents. The Department implemented a Real-Time Operations Center to expand the range of technologies for more efficient and effective policing to respond on crime in progress, natural or man-made disasters, special events or critical incidents.
The slight increase in crime for the fiscal year 2020-21 (2.55%) was expected due to lockdowns during the same period last year. However, there was a significant reduction in residential and vehicle burglaries. The Department works on developing initiatives to be proactive, not reactive on addressing safety problems. Increased police visibility, presence, and training; maintaining partnerships with the community, and recruitment and promotion of members are part of those efforts. The new Shooting Simulator recently inaugurated provides the officers with reality-based scenarios to improve their training.
Code Compliance assisted with the development and enforcement of ordinances on Mobile Food Trucks and others. They need the support of businesses and residents to keep the city safe and clean by following rules and avoiding violations.
One of the main issues that impact residents is the odor from the Waste Management and Medley Landfill facilities. This year the City worked to enforce the settlement agreement with Waste Management that required them to implement measures to limit odors. Doral also proceeded to send letters to Miami-Dade County urging them to not extend the lease agreement for the Waste Management facility after the expiration date. The City leadership continues committed to being on top of the issue to work towards a solution.
Plan for 2022 and message for the next election season
Before concluding his speech, Bermudez commented on the key projects he wants to tackle on 2022 including a timeline to continue pushing for the improvements on the truck traffic and odor issues in the city; implementation of performance indicators for projects and programs to continue ensuring transparency and effectiveness; guidelines to purchase the land for a passive park in the north of the city, and the protection of the history of the City of Doral.
Given that next year will be an election year, he also sent a message for prospective candidates: “I ask that we go into this election in a positive way, to be sure to represent the best of our city. Don’t run for the wrong reasons.”