Seven candidates vying to be mayor of North Miami

04/23/2013 5:13 PM

04/24/2013 12:29 PM

Seven candidates are running for mayor in North Miami.

The current mayor, Andre Pierre, is term-limited and cannot seek reelection. Whoever is elected as mayor will come into office at a time when the city will be approving the final plans of what will eventually be built on the Biscayne Landing site, the biggest development project the city has seen in years.

The candidates say they want to address the perennial issues of crime, unemployment and economic development.

Some also seek to set themselves apart from what they describe as the perception of corruption in the city.

• Gwendolyn Boyd , 58, said that if she is elected as mayor, she will bring integrity to the dais.

“We have a black eye,” she said. “There is corruption. People are always talking bad about North Miami.”

A former Miami major and Miramar police chief, she said her law-enforcement background sets her apart from her opponents.

Before she was fired in 2008, Boyd served as North Miami’s police chief and she said that experience gave her a first-hand look at the inner workings of city hall.

“Under my leadership, we will not have corruption. If there’s anyone who is corrupt, they will be dealt with,” she said.

Boyd said the city has to continue pushing public safety as a priority.

“You can’t overemphasize that — people want to feel secure,” she said.

She said the city also has to do a better job at following its own rules, and rules laid out by the county and the state.

“Ethics and due process is very important,” she said. “We have to make sure we do the right thing.”

• Kevin Burns , 54, said he is ready to take a seat at city hall again.

The former mayor served two terms from 2005 to 2009.

“When I was a mayor, there was never a hint of corruption scandals,” Burns said. “We have a lot of issues facing us.”

Burns said that when the new council takes office in May, Biscayne Landing will be at the forefront as the developers seek approval for their plans.

“One of the biggest issues is whatever is proposed for the Biscayne Landing development, that the developer complies with what it intends to build,” Burns said.

Also of concern, he said, is the city’s financial state. Burns said he is worried that of the $17.5 million paid to the city by Biscayne Landing, much of it has already been earmarked for spending. The one-time payment covers five years in rent payments to the city.

“We have this one-time sum of money that has to last five years, yet they’ve already allocated $14 million away,” he said.

The former mayor said he dismisses his opponents’ claims that his time has passed as an elected leader.

“That’s like saying, ‘Don’t hire someone because they already have experience at something,’ ” he said. “I am always seeking to see what other cities are doing that works and bringing new ideas into the city.”

• Modira Escarment , 50, a political newcomer, said his passion for helping others is why he is running for office.

“I’m a businessman. I’m not in this to get rich; I have money already,” he said. “I want to help the people in North Miami.”

Escarment said he wants to see the city treat all of its residents with respect.

“We live in a community with a lot of minorities,” he said. “They are the ones going out to vote, and they benefit less from any programs in North Miami.”

If elected, Escarment said he would be watchful of taxpayers’ dollars.

“We need to stop wasting money on unnecessary things. Money for carnivals and stuff like that — that is money the city can use to help people in the city,” he said.

He said what is most important is that residents feel that they have a voice and that their leaders are receptive to them.

“I spoke to a lot of people,” he said. “They say the city is not thinking about them.

• Dr. Smith Joseph , 51, said he believes in empowering youths and creating more programs for the elderly.

“I’ve always been there for the community,” he said.

Smith said he would create a multicultural community board that would help bridge and address division in the city.

“This program will call on residents from all walks of life to create a community liaison group. And that will address the concerns of the community,” he said.

He said that as mayor he would work on growing the city’s business communities.

“My main priority right now is job creation. It’s a national issue and a big concern,” Joseph said. “I intend to sit down with many businesspeople to see how we can get them to come to North Miami. For them to come, we have to make it palatable.”

Joseph, a physician, who has come under fire over whether he actually lives in the city, said he met all requirements to run for office.

“There is no one more in touch with the city of North Miami than Dr. Smith Joseph,” he said. “I’ve lived in Little Haiti, North Miami, North Miami Beach and Opa-locka. I established my practice 12 years ago in North Miami. I know what the issues are.”

• Jean Marcellus , 53, council member for District 3, said he wants to build on the progress the city has made in recent years.

“For the past four years, we’ve made a lot of progress, and I contributed largely to that progress. We need to continue with the progress to keep this movement going,” he said.

Marcellus said that voters should trust him as their mayor because he has proven himself as a council member.

“My record is clean, and I will continue with that record,” he said.

Marcellus said that as mayor, he would unify the city.

“We have one city — the east, the central and the west need to work together,” he said.

North Miami has the opportunity become a city that is competitive in South Florida’s economic market, Marcellus said. With an award-winning museum and the city’s diversity, he said North Miami is a destination.

• Anna Pierre , 54, said that if she is elected to office, she will unite the city.

“They’re trying to divide North Miami. North Miami is not only for Haitians. It’s for the Anglos, the Hispanics, other people from the Caribbean, African Americans, it’s for everybody,” she said.

A registered nurse, among her priorities, Pierre said she wants to address health issues and unemployment.

“I’m running because I am qualified to be the mayor of this city,” she said. “North Miami gets a lot of negative press. I feel that North Miami deserves better. I’ve never been involved in any scandals.”

Pierre, who said she moved into North Miami two years ago, said she’s faced criticism over her short time as a resident.

““People might think I have lived in the city for a little while, but the interest I have in the community is larger than some of the people who have been here for more than 14 years.”

• Lucie Tondreau, 52, said her years of activism in the community and her love for the city of North Miami are reasons why voters should choose her as mayor.

“I have been active in the community for almost thirty years now. People know I have been involved in the community from day one,” she said. “The community knows they can trust me. I’m always with them in the good times and bad times.”

Tondreau said she has seen firsthand the improvements needed in the city.

She said that when it comes to public safety, the city’s police department needs to set up a satellite office on the West side of North Miami.

She said the satellite office would quicken response times in that part of the city and also create a sense of safety for the businesses along Northwest Seventh Avenue.

“Being an activist for so many years, sometimes you see things that need to be changed,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not until you do it yourself that those changes can happen.

Election day is May 14. Early voting starts April 29.

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