Despite nearly unanimous opposition from more than a dozen residents and former elected officials, North Miami’s City Council has approved the first step in changing the city’s election date.
By a 3-2 vote, the council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would move the May 2015 election to August 2016. Vice Mayor Carol Keys and Councilman Scott Galvin voted against the item, which will be discussed and voted on again, possibly on Feb. 10.
Residents said their main concern was having their voice taken out of the process and the perception the council’s decision might create.
“It looks like the corruption that North Miami is known for,” said resident Karen Mills-Francis.
The change would give the mayor, two council members and the city clerk another 15 months in office without an election.
The change is allowed via Florida Statute 101.75, which says that a municipal election date can be changed by a majority vote of an elected body if it coincides with a county or statewide election and nothing in the local charter prevents the change.
A similar proposal was considered in 2008, along with four other charter amendments, but was defeated by voters with 57 percent of the vote.
Resident Carol Preger said that if this plan is being considered, residents should have the chance to make the decision again.
“If you think we have changed our minds, please ask us again and put that question on the ballot come May,” Preger said.
Former Mayor Kevin Burns, who served on the council when that change was proposed, pointed out that the referendum came from the charter review board not the council.
“I wholeheartedly believe you should put this on the May ballot,” Burns said.
Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime, who sponsored the ordinance, was unwavering in his support of the change despite the disapproval from residents.
“I don’t make my judgment based on who comes here and talks about the subject,” Bien-Aime said. “I make the judgment based on what I think will be in the best interest of the city of North Miami.
“I’m ready to take the blame or the credit.”
Carline Paul, the political consultant better known as “Teacher Carline,” is currently registered to run against Councilwoman Marie Steril for her seat in May. Paul said she will discuss the plan on Haitian radio, and reach out to the non-Haitian community, before the council’s second vote.
“I am a candidate and I will go into this election and I will let the community know how crooked this council is,” Paul said.
Later in the meeting, Bien-Aime offered an apology for the frustration the decision has caused residents.
Resident Kenny Each said he hopes the council’s decision doesn’t create more division in the community.
“Please think about what you’re doing,” Each said. “This was beaten down by the voters before, I really urge you to look at this again sincerely.”