By: María Alejandra Pulgar
@marialepulgar – NAHJ #37172
As is the tradition at the end of the year in Doral, Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez delivered the State of the City Address for 2018 on Wednesday, December 5th. Under the title “ Back on Track: A culture of effectiveness, efficiency, and unity,” the mayor highlighted the achievements of his administration this year and made a point to show accountability of the improvements since taking office.
The Council Chamber was a full house audience that included the councilmembers, city charter officials, advisory board members, longtime residents and County, State and Federal elected officials or their representatives.
“A lot of longtime residents came today, as well as new ones” said Bermudez at an exclusive interview after delivering the address. “What is important is that people understand that we have fulfilled the commitment we made in 2016, to come back to the three main things we promised when we were running, which are open and transparent government, go back to planned and controlled growth and the third thing is make sure that we work as a community.”
“Today was reflective of that. We saw elected officials, Doral residents, individuals, and families here, and that is important moving forward. As we look at today, we are not where we want to be yet, but certainly, in the last two years, there have been a lot of progress at getting back to where we should be. Getting the Money Magazine recognition as the 22nd best city to live in is an example of that.”
“We have a great relationship with the State, the Federal government, the county that makes it a lot easy that maybe solve some of the issues that occurred on the years prior to us coming back.”
Highlights of 2018 results
The presentation of results was divided in five main areas: efficient services; accountability and transparency in governance; responsible and controlled growth; public safety and enforcement, and sense of community, public outreach, involvement, and enhanced facilities.
The highlights presented on each of the areas were:
– Efficient services: fiscal responsibility, a lean operating budget with increased reserves; maintained S&P AA credit rating; substantial reduction on council meeting duration times (146 hours in 2014-2016 vs. 71 hours 2016-2018).
– Accountability: performance dashboard online for enhanced interaction with residents and businesses. World Council on City Data ISO 37210 Platinum certification, the only city in Florida. Streamlined building process to improve permit processing. Implementation of Doral Q application for waiting times on Building, Public Works, Code, Planning and Parks departments. Unified council vision towards residents’ quality of life.
– Controlled growth: focus on well planned and thought out community; growth on commercial sector maintained to bring better services and businesses to the city.
– Public Safety: new chief of police and reorganization of the department. Increased police visibility. A decrease of 20% on Total Crime Rate. Launched body worn camera program. Opened Doral Police training facility. Increased collaboration with MDCPS for school safety. Active shooter training. Establishment of full-time Emergency Operation Center.
In addition, Code Compliance and Police citations increased substantially since 2016, mainly regarding illegal rentals and traffic violations. A commitment was made to bring back order to our city, where rules and regulations are followed and enforced.
– A sense of Community, Outreach, involvement, and new facilities: Doral named #22 best place to live in the US by Money Magazine. Community education and involvement programs: “We don’t do that here”, “Step up your health”, Mayor on the Move, Citizens’ etc. Doral anniversary and Doral Police Anniversary celebrations.
In addition: Completion of new facilities by Public Works Department, Stormwater improvements; roads completion and maintenance; traffic signals agreement with the County; trolley service enhancements; Air, water, and soil quality study ongoing as part of the odor control efforts.
Existing recreation programs were expanded and Smart City initiatives, such as license-plate cameras have been successfully implemented.
Special mention was made on the speech to the approval of the Parks for Tomorrow bond, which represents a “significant marker in trust” in the administration to start making the planned constructions with those funds in 2019.
More involvement from the youth
During the interview, Mayor Bermudez shared a new program recently approved to expand recreation programs to increase the involvement of young residents in city activities.
“We approved on our last council meeting to expand our youth program in the parks geared towards including teenagers, for civics involvement and activities with the city. There is a lot of participation of our young people, more interest. It is important they are participating and confident our city is going in the right direction. The older ones are participating and voting, […] the fact that we have such an active volunteer program shows that there is a lot of participation of our youth in our community. Hopefully, with our new program, we would reemphasize that interest.”
Teamwork to row in the right direction
Bermudez concluded the speech emphasizing the importance for the council to working as a team, rowing in the same direction.
When questioned about his expectations once the new councilmember is elected, the Mayor answered: “Our residents want our city to work together, our elected officials to work together. It is clear who I support, but whomever wins I would expect them to row on the same direction.”
“I have talked not hundreds, but almost a thousand residents since I got elected. I am so happy that the council is working together in the right direction. The myth that exist that because we all work hard, study our information, debate it and then vote similarly like the first council did, the myth that it is not good for the city is not true. The people who create that myth is the people who want to get into a position of power and create division.”
“I have always done the right thing, at the right time, the right way; all the time. That is my commitment as a Mayor” concluded Bermudez.
The Swearing-in Ceremony for the newly elected members of the council for the period 2018-2020 will take place at City Hall on December 18th.