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North Miami candidates field questions at forum

Candidates competing for North Miami City Council Seat 4 answered questions from residents and discussed their platforms at a candidate forum last Thursday.

The forum was hosted at the Sunkist Grove Community Center, 12500 NW 13th Ave., and four of the five candidates talked about their plans for improving the district, bringing new business to the Northwest Seventh Avenue corridor and fielded questions about their personal history.

The candidates are Alix Desulme, a former city clerk; Jessica Alston, a retired guidance counselor; Carline Paul, a political consultant; Roseline Philippe, an education professor and consultant; and Beverly Hilton, a private school administrator who briefly attended the forum but left after a few minutes because she had a previous commitment.

A resident asked if Desulme plans to vacate his seat if elected, referring to when Desulme left the city clerk position to unsuccessfully run for Florida House District 108 in 2010. Desulme said he is committed to the position and only left the clerk job because of suggestions he received at the time.

“I didn’t look at it as quitting.” Desulme said. “A group of community leaders, including elected officials in North Miami at that time, thought it would be a good idea for me to run.”

Paul was questioned about her connection to Noucelie Josna, the self-professed “queen of absentee ballots,” and accusations that she also gave herself that title. The two were part of a civil complaint filed by the late John Patrick Julien in 2012 after he lost the race for House District 107 to Rep. Barbara Watson.

“There’s a series of lies going into the community. There’s no article that calls Carline Paul an absentee ballot queen,” Paul said.

Beyond those direct questions, the candidates were asked to discuss issues in the district and across the city — including code compliance and how they would address blighted areas and non-compliant homes across North Miami.

The four candidates agreed that the city needed to increase education about the city code and step up enforcement across the city and particularly in District 4.

“Educating the homeowners to understand the responsibility of being a homeowner is one part, but the second part is working along with code compliance,” Philippe said.

Alston said she wants to develop a hotline and an application for residents to report violations or issues online while Paul suggested working with the city manager to hire more code compliance officers.

Desulme suggested bringing back a “Clean City Week” and encouraging homeowners on the west side of the city to participate in North Miami’s home beautification award competition.

“Having homeowners taking pride in their property is something all of us are going to benefit from,” Desulme said.

The candidates also discussed the possible elimination of the city’s red light camera program. The City Council was set to extend the contract with American Traffic Solutions in January, but delayed that vote.

Removing the program would lead to a loss of about $500,000 from May through the end of the fiscal year, according to City Manager Aleem Ghany. Despite that potential shortfall, the candidates mostly agreed that the program should be removed and the city should carefully consider other revenue options if they decide to eliminate the program.

“If we can develop our area, then we can replace the lost revenue from the red light camera program by attracting tourists and thereby generating more funds,” Alston said.

Judy Brown, president of the Sunkist Grove Homeowners Association, said she appreciated that the forum remained civil and thought the residents asked important questions.

“I thought the questions were on point, because they addressed the issues we have with things like code enforcement and crime,” Brown said. “I thought it went very well.”

Early voting begins Monday and lasts until May 10. Election day is May 12 and a runoff election, if necessary, would take place June 2.

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