More than two years after plans for a Mardi Gras party in North Miami were first discussed, city leaders discussed a new proposal for the event at Tuesday’s meeting.
The idea did not receive any official support and the City Council directed staff to meet with Rulx “Ringo” Cayard, who asked the city to reconsider the event. They expect to make a decision by the Nov. 27 council meeting.
Cayard first proposed the idea in March 2013 and it had nearly unanimous support from the council and then-Mayor Andre Pierre. But following the election of former mayor Lucie Tondreau, and a new council, the idea stalled due to concerns over the city’s investment.
“We had spent money for several months and not gotten reports back from you as was agreed would happen, there was no location that was nailed down,” said Councilman Scott Galvin, who has been supportive of the idea.
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“We can’t afford to say, ‘Sounds good, make it so.’ ”
The city paid $92,000 to MAJ Investment Group, Cayard’s consulting group, in 2013. The council eventually terminated their contract with the group in November of that year. State records indicate Cayard’s business is currently inactive and has not filed any documents with the state since September 2014.
Cayard, who is also a lobbyist, said the event could be a signature event for the city and blamed the stagnation on a lack of political support.
“This event will not be successful without the city’s full support,” Cayard said. “We learned last time that there must be a commitment from the city to set realistic goals and milestones.”
Resident Richard Annese said the city should not consider the idea at all given the lack of progress on the first attempt.
“We gave him 90 thousand dollars before and I can’t believe that you let him get away with that rhetoric that the reason that this thing failed last time was a political issue,” Annese said.
Cayard said he is not asking the city for money this time but, when pressed to give potential costs for using city staff and North Miami police, Cayard gave an estimated cost of about $150,000. The 2013 estimate for the event was about $385,000.
The city is expected to benefit from major sponsors supporting the event and a previous contract would have given the city about 30 percent commission from the sponsorships.
Cayard also proposed a route along Northeast 125th Street with the event culminating around Griffing Park, 12220 Griffing Blvd. Previously his group proposed a route going south on Biscayne Boulevard from NE 160th Street to NE 151st Street.
During his presentation Tuesday, Cayard showed video of the Annual Greater Mardi Gras events he organized in the past for Miami-Dade County, which drew 300,000 people from 20 countries. The county financially supported the event from 2002 until 2005 but stopped after allegations that Cayard misused county grants intended for a former nonprofit and the Mardi Gras event.
Cayard faced multiple counts of grand theft and money laundering but all of them were later dropped and three of them required him to enter a diversion program for first-time offenders.
“I finished the program. I was victimized by the powers that be of the system. There was nothing, that’s why they’re going to have to drop the charges,” Cayard told the Herald at the time the case was settled in 2013.