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North Miami considers election date change to 2016

Despite many residents speaking in favor of keeping city elections in May, North Miami’s City Council voted Tuesday night to proceed with an ordinance that would potentially move the election to November instead.

The agenda item was sponsored by Vice Mayor Carol Keys, who said she wanted to hear opinions from residents and the council. Keys noted that moving the election to November 2016 would save the city about $180,000 and increase voter turnout. Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime agreed and sponsored the proposed ordinance.

“It’s going to create instability in the city,” Bien-Aime said. “If we have an election [in May], things will change because nobody knows who’s coming in.” The May election would be for mayor and two City Council seats.

Residents and other elected officials said they liked the idea of North Miami having its stand-alone election because voters don’t have to deal with a long ballot.

“I don’t want the North Miami leadership to be an afterthought. I want it be the forethought in people’s minds when they go to the polls,” Councilman Scott Galvin said.

Others argued that the potential change should be put to voters in a referendum and noted that a similar proposal to move the election date failed in the 2008 election, along with four other charter amendments.

Florida Statute 101.75 states that a municipal election date can be changed by just a majority vote of the City Council if it coincides with a county or statewide election and nothing in the local charter prevents the change.

Some residents also expressed concern over the perception of the council if the election date changes. The proposed change to November 2016 would give the current council members about 18 more months in office.

The City Council also delayed voting on extending North Miami’s contract with American Traffic Solutions, the vendor that handles the city’s red-light camera program. The item passed 4-1, with Keys voting against it.

Residents and council members were divided on the issue, arguing that other municipalities operate without the cameras and don’t have traffic issues and that the city didn’t need to depend on the income.

Because of the delay, the city will allow the current contract to end and pay for additional service on a month-by-month basis. Because the monthly renewal will exceed the city manager’s $100,000 cap on spending, the council will have to approve that spending as well.

In other action at Tuesday’s meeting:

▪ City Manager Aleem Ghany announced that Retrosource, the developer of a planned Walmart Neighborhood Market store, removed its application for the project. The city’s planning commission voted against the plan — which many residents had been voicing their opposition to for a month — at the Jan. 6 commission meeting.

▪ The city announced that it officially signed and completed its settlement agreement with the former board members of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Director Babacar M’Bow thanked the council for its support and gave a presentation showing the museum’s two exhibits under his leadership.

▪ City staff said that the pony stables at Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park, 1725 NE 135th St., have been renovated and that the request for proposals to provide pony ride services at the park is open and will be closed within the next few weeks. Staff also showed a video giving an update on the city’s public library renovations and said the project should be completed in April.

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