If you want to read what the candidates had to say at last night’s North Miami Mayoral Candidates Forum…
Go directly to Miami Herald reporter Lance Dixon’s article, North Miami candidates’ debate called “civil.”
Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.00.
He did a fabulous job reporting what the the candidates said and why they want your vote.
You don’t need me to recap a reporter’s article about Things Politicians Say in Public. (Unless I’m quoting Phyllis, of course.)
I’m pretty sure you come here for snark, irreverent humor and the unvarnished truth from the peanut gallery. So, here goes.
What I saw at the debate last night were two seasoned politicians and a regular Joe, sitting up on the dais answering questions penned by members of various North Miami homeowners’ associations and moderated by Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo.
What I also saw was a sneak preview of the cat fight scheduled for next year’s race between Councilwoman Marie Steril and her challenger, Carline Paul.
I got a kick out of the snide, not-so-thinly veiled, backbiting session between Kevin “I Want My Seat Back” Burns and Jean “Not If I Can Help It” Marcellus, as they shot darts and arrows at each other, while Smith “You’re Both Crazy” Joseph got caught in the crossfire.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The candidates were each allowed a brief opening statement.
Right out of the box Burns tooted his own horn, claiming that he was proud of his accomplishments, that the city was at a critical juncture, and that this was not the time for a mayor to have “on the job training.”
In fact, Burns mentioned “on the job training” quite a few times during the debate, obviously referring to the only non-politician in the bunch, Dr. Smith Joseph, who had never run for public office in his life before last year’s election. If Burns was trying to get a rise out of his opponent, it didn’t work. Dr. Joseph didn’t so much as flinch at the jabs, seemingly unperturbed by the accusation that he wasn’t up to the task. He appeared to be above the fray.
The first question of the debate was whether or not a forensic audit of the city was needed.
Channeling John Kerry, Jean Marcellus now says he’s for it, even though he was against it.
Smith Joseph is for it because the residents want it.
Kevin Burns is all for it, and wants the audit to “go back ten years.”
That last remark reminded me of the old adage “Be careful what you wish for.”
It was Kevin’s turn to be slapped next when the candidates were asked about the usefulness of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and whether or not it should be extended.
Burns said that the intention of the CRA was good but that it was implemented poorly. He claimed that too much money was spent on salaries and not enough on programs.
Jean Marcellus piped in by reminding the audience that it was Burns himself who ran the CRA and hired a director to the tune of $200,000.00 a year.
Then Jean shot himself in the foot by bringing up the fact that under his administration, the CRA director was fired and replaced by a CRA coordinator in the form of one Lesly Prudent – a job that was created especially for Prudent as a “thank you” for helping get Andre Pierre re-elected.
Um, yeah, like we needed to be reminded of that fiasco!
Aside from proving that he’s no match for a politician well schooled in the fine art of bitch slapping, Jean’s attempt at sharpening his claws on Kevin’s face was thwarted by Kev’s remark that his administration paid a “very capable director” his high salary, and also that there were five of them up there making that decision, not just him.
Marcellus did manage to scold Kevin for his comment that the CRA should be downsized by exclaiming that Burns is critical of the substantial size of the very government that he himself put into place.
Then Marcellus shot himself in the foot again by bragging on the “track record” of his own administration.
You know. The Very Special Andre Years of Magical Porsches, Hidden Cameras, Fake Police Badges and Free Soccer Games.
Yeah, that administration.
The very administration that Jean would have done well not to trumpet so loudly.
Then there was a whole round of discussion about the infamous Biscayne Landings debacle, which I’m not even gonna comment on since it was the usual Biscayne Landings … blah, blah, blah … Biscayne Landings … blah, blah, blah. Biscayne Landings ad nauseam.
The much more interesting subject of code compliance and enforcement was then brought up. This is a problem with which I am extremely familiar having had a Former-Before-He-Was-Arrested Mayor report me to North Miami Beach’s code department for crime of having an opinion. No, it was not Myron’s brightest decision.
So, yeah, I am intensely interested in code compliance and enforcement.
Smith Joseph, proving that he knows more about local government than most sitting officials, correctly indicated that code enforcement is entirely under the purview of the City Manager, and that the Mayor and Council have no business telling the Manager how to do his job.
Kevin Burns, forgetting his promise of five minutes ago to downsize the government, lamented that there was at one time “fifteen code enforcement officers and now there are three or four.”
I’m not sure how the idea of “fifteen code enforcement officers” will sit with three of Kevin’s $500.00 donors, Beachway Apartments, Inc., North King Apartments, Inc., and Royal King Apartments, Inc., which are all owned by North Miami’s very own King of Code Violations, Shlomo Chelminsky.
Jean Marcellus, reading his palm card, announced that code enforcement is in his platform.
Moving right along.
When asked about the police department, all three candidates agreed that North Miami’s Finest are exactly that.
Of course, Kevin took credit for the good work done by the PD that he “put in place,” and then announced that he just received the endorsement of the Police Benevolent Association.
Smith Joseph agreed that the police department does a wonderful job and needs all available resources.
Jean Marcellus wants police officers to open their car windows and wave to residents as they drive by.
Goldilocks then asked the Three Bears about the city’s millage rate.
Papa Bear said it was too high.
Mama Bear said it was too low.
Baby Bear said it was just right, then curled up and went to sleep.
Yeah, I just made that up to see if you were paying attention.
There was also a lot of talk about city finances and how other people’s Monopoly money should be spent. I am not going to bore you with the details because they are all predictable. Every politician will tell you how fiscally responsible they will be and that they’ll cut spending.
Don’t believe them. It’s a trick. Politicians love spending money. Especially when it’s someone else’s. Just look at their Campaign Treasurer’s Reports!
By the time the forum was coming to a close I was already thinking about the episodes of Law & Order reruns I could have been watching instead of squirming in my seat and pretending to be a real reporter so I could write this column for you today.
When asked for closing remarks, the candidates responded as follows:
Smith Joseph said he came to this country 35 years ago with nothing and worked hard to realize the Haitian American dream. He has a thriving and successful business with ten employees, and that he has never bounced a check. Smith claims that he represents honesty, integrity and tested leadership. He wants to take city to new heights. “Vote pride, vote hope. I hope I earned your trust.” Dr. Joseph then gave out his personal cell phone number, which I am not going to publish or his wife will kill me. I totally get that.
Kevin Burns boasted that no one has ever questioned his residency. He then said for the tenth time or so that “we do not have time for on the job training” and that “the mayor is the face of the city.” Kevin then borrowed the imaginary gun that Marcellus used to shoot himself in the foot by saying that “you will see changes” and that this is “no time to play with part timers or novices.” Undaunted by the fact that the Mayor and Council are supposed to be “part timers,” and that their only role is to legislate policy while letting the City Manager run the city, Kevin appears to have visions of being crowned King of North Miami.
Jean Marcellus’ closing remark was, “Red light cameras are bad.”
So, there you have it, folks.
These three people want your vote.
They told you who they are.
They told you why they want to be Mayor.
Now it’s up to you.
Which of these three candidates do you trust the most to play with your Monopoly money, er, I mean, your tax dollars?
Seriously, people. Vote responsibly!
“Spreading the Wealth”