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El Portal councilwoman upset by new rule

A new rule means council members’ discretionary funds can only be used within El Portal — to the chagrin of one member who wants to use her funds for international aid.

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
The Miami Herald
El Portal’s village council recently passed an ordinance prohibiting council members from using discretionary funds outside village limits — including sending aid to international relief efforts.

Councilwoman Daisy Black, the sole no vote on the dais, said she felt the new rule was a “personal attack” which came after she requested to use her funds to pay for school supplies for Jamaican children last year.

“I’d rather use my money for humanitarian things, not parties and picnics,” Black said at the the Jan. 25 meeting.

The ordinance means council members can only spend discretionary funds on village-related activities such as El Portal events and special projects.

While the commission’s vote comes on the heels of the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in January, the new rule was proposed in November by Mayor Joyce Davis.

Council members are given $1,000 annually in discretionary funds.

The council members also get a $2,000 “council fee” each year, which is not affected by the ordinance.

The discretionary funds available to each council member are “for the betterment and benefit of the residents of El Portal,” Davis said.

In October, Black asked to use $790 in discretionary funds to purchase book bags for poor school children in Jamaica. The request was denied.

Black said council members should be allowed to decide how the money is spent.

“This ordinance ties the hands of El Portal village council members who have in the past helped Haiti and Jamaica after disasters that wrecked their countries,” she said.

The ordinance does not preclude El Portal from participating in relief efforts, however.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t come up to the council and make a request,” Davis said in a phone interview.

“We can vote on it and get what you ask for if we can afford it.”

El Portal recently joined with many other Miami-Dade municipalities in contributing money to Haiti.

At the same meeting, the council approved $2,500 from the village’s general fund for Haitian relief efforts.

El Portal has also been collecting monetary donations and supplies. So far, the village has raised roughly $600.

Later in the meeting, Davis, wearing a bandana with the Haitian colors around her neck, said El Portal will also wrap blue ribbons on village trees to honor earthquake victims.

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