Reflections on Election Season and the past and future of our city.
By: María Alejandra Pulgar
In January 2021, it will be 20 years that I have been living in Doral. Once established here, I made a point to understand the system, to meet who was who in the area, and find out how decisions were been made that impacted the community. In my country of origin, the blatant lack of active civic participation of the people had led to the rise of a government with a bad prospect, so I wanted to be aware in case something here were to be a threat to the stability of my family; I wanted to really feel I belonged here, so I started to get involved.
In my effort to get informed about my surroundings I found community chronicles in the only local newspaper distributed back then. In those articles, I learned the reasons why there were no parks in the area and many roads were not built yet, or why there was no public transportation or a local police department. That was way before improvised aspiring politicians created inane newspapers just for election season, and used them to spread inconsequential information about candidates to mislead naive people.
Back then, West Dade Federation of Homeowners Associations and One Doral were the two organizations working towards the common goal of incorporation. Those people eventually became founders of the City of Doral and created the framework of the community we enjoy today. Some of them are still active nowadays and have over the years served in office.
As a resident, I celebrated with them the incorporation vote in 2003 and the election of the first City Council. Understanding the culture allowed me to see the importance of the fact that I was being part of history, witnessing the birth of a Utopia, with strong values of honesty and mutual respect, where families could thrive and businesses flourish. Getting involved, I understood the system to become a true citizen of Doral and of this country.
Fast forward to 2020, this past election season showed me that a growing portion of Doral residents is in dire need of education about the origin and basics of the government in the city. Being knowledgeable on that information is fundamental to foster the future generation of aspiring community leaders, one that is prepared for the job; people who will not make empty promises that evidence their ignorance and undermine the trust of the community in the leadership that created it.
Home Rule and the Government in Doral
The Florida League of Cities describes Home Rule as “the most precious power a city in Florida has.” It allows a community “to establish its form of government through its charter and to then enact ordinances, codes, plans and resolutions without prior state approval”. Local government is non-partisan by definition, to guarantee it serves the needs of the people, not the desires of a party.
Such a level of local decision-making and self-government requires that those elected to lead in community exhibit strong values, like honesty, responsibility, commitment, and hard work; if they also have previous public service experience even better, as experience and network supports their performance in office. Asking for certain qualifications or education for someone to run for office would be illegal, but the good citizens in the community ought to exhibit common sense when choosing who to support in an election.
The City of Doral Charter defined the local government as Mayor- Council-Manager government, where an elected council, composed by a Mayor and four Councilmembers, is the legislative body that selects and appoints a City Manager who oversees the day-to-day operation of the municipality. The Mayor has the same voting and legal privileges of the rest of the council and represents the City on the state, national and international levels. He or she is the official voice of the City in front of the community. The Mayor is not a dictator but a team player along with the rest of the Council.
Educating “Good Doral Citizens” for Future Leadership
Doral City Council elected officials serve one four-year term, with the option of reelection. After being termed-out they can run again after a complete period out of office. If a person is reelected, the responsibility of the amount of time the person serves falls on the electors. The Doral charter does not establish limits on how many times the same person can run for office within the term rules.
This past November, the results and experience of the incumbents convinced the majority of electors that status quo is the best path at the moment for the city. However, the amount of votes obtained by the challenging candidates is in no way negligible and must be a call to action for the Council to take their points into consideration and address them.
Good, effective leaders have motivation, bold temperament, and exercise dominance with their self-confidence and knowledge. Fortunately, the team that composes the City of Doral Council for the next four years exhibits those characteristics and has the experience to continue leading the community on the path of progress and consolidation as a model city for the whole country.
The moment for emerging leaders to begin preparing to run for office in the future is now. The utopic “Good Doral Citizen” can become ready to lead, through education in government, active participation, attendance to meetings, vocal opinions, and effective service to the community. The rest of the community needs to get involved as well to know how to choose wisely and not fall for empty promises.