Civics 101: Today’s Lesson

civics-election-yearIn a previous column, I discussed the possibility of the North Miami City Council voting to move the May, 2015 city election to the next Miami-Dade County election on November 8, 2016.  As reported by Miami Herald reporter Lance Dixon in North Miami moving forward on changing election date, the council voted 3-2 on the first reading of a proposed Ordinance to do just that.

Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime sponsored the Ordinance and was quoted as stating, “I don’t make my judgment based on who comes here and talks about the subject.  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.”

Mayor Smith Joseph, whose vote broke the tie, was not interviewed for the article.  When I contacted him, he told me that the reason he voted in favor of the Ordinance was to give the residents of North Miami who were not able to attend the meeting an additional opportunity to voice their opinion before a second reading, which will most likely be scheduled for the next council meeting on February 10, 2014.  He said after he hears from members of the community, he will be in a better position to decide whether or not to vote for it the next time the Ordinance is placed on the Agenda.

North Miami residents need to be aware that, unlike council Resolutions, which only require a one-time simple majority vote to pass or fail, Ordinances require two readings and must be passed by two separate majority votes in order to become law.

Personally, I am in favor of this Ordinance.  But, since I don’t live or vote in North Miami, my opinion doesn’t count.  Nevertheless, I’ve already spelled out the reasons why I believe this Ordinance should be passed.

I also feel that by allowing this Ordinance to stay alive for two more weeks, it will give all the residents of North Miami a chance to weigh in before the council votes after the second reading.

The “more than a dozen residents and former elected officials,” who voiced their opposition to this Ordinance, are the same twelve or thirteen individuals who show up at North Miami’s council meetings every two weeks.  Their opinions are important, but equally important are the opinions of the remaining 59,988 people who don’t or can’t attend the meetings.  The Mayor and Council should not base their decisions on the opinions of the few, but rather what is in the best interest of all their constituents.

Since North Miami council members represent individual districts of the city, it is their responsibility to speak to as many residents in their respective districts in order to ascertain a general idea of how those residents want their representatives to vote.

Mayor Smith Joseph, however, represents North Miami at large.  As such, every single person who resides within the boundaries of the city are his constituents.  He needs to reach out to a much larger group in order to adequately represent all of them.  His is not an easy job.

Based on the Miami Herald article, however, I found it quite interesting that most of the residents quoted live in the same area of North Miami, also known as “The East Side.”  These are the same voters who supported mayoral candidate Kevin Burns in his run against the eventual winner, Dr. Smith Joseph.

Burns was also quoted as saying, “I wholeheartedly believe you should put this on the May ballot.”

Of course, since he most likely intends to put his own name “on the May ballot,” if there is no election in May, he’ll have nothing to do for the next eighteen months.

He might even have to get a real job.

Oh, the horror!

Resident Carol Preger, who was also interviewed by the Herald, indicated that she wanted the election question to be put on the ballot on May, as did residents Karen Mills-Francis and Kenny Each.  All of them were ardent supporters of Kevin Burns.

Their motives were so transparent they might as well have been wearing “Burns for Mayor” buttons and riding shotgun on his Campaign Fire Truck to the meeting.

It would not surprise me one bit that these folks would be all for moving the election if their candidate had won.

Just saying.

In a classic case of Pot Calling Kettle Black, “Teacher” Carline Paul, who had a starring role in The Art of the Scam, swears she will “let the community know how crooked this council is.”

Like Kevin, Carline Paul has a vested interest in not moving the election as she has filed to run against Councilwoman Marie Steril.

(Note to North Miami residents:  You do NOT want to vote for Carline Paul!  As ethically challenged as Marie may be, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!)

There is nothing new or unique about this particular City Council Controversy.  Just as they do in North Miami Beach, the “Same Ten Peeps” (or STPs) will enthusiastically support candidates throughout their campaigns, after which the winners become “The Most Corrupt City Council in History.”

Count on it.

The ones claiming that the current North Miami City Council is corrupt have obviously forgotten all about the Andre Years.

Or the Lucie Years.

Or, especially, the Kevin Burns Years.

Whose abuse of power and alleged  back room deals were often overlooked because “he got shit done.”

slaveryWell, so did slavery, but that doesn’t make it right, either.

This Ordinance has not yet been codified.  North Miami residents have plenty of time before the second reading of the proposed Ordinance to let their representatives know where they stand about moving the election from May to November of 2016.  The Mayor and Council need to hear from you so they can make an educated decision.

The Mayor and Council also need to make sure they listen to as many residents as possible and vote in accordance with the wishes of the majority of their constituents.  They need to keep in mind that in a representative form of government, it’s not about them, but about the people who put them in office.

That concludes our Civics lesson of the day.  Class dismissed.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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  1. Neal Starkey says:

    Well said! 🙂


    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thanks. I kinda liked this one, too. ☺️


  2. jay says:

    the voters have already spoken…elections and voting matter…going against what has already been decided smells of self=interest and should not be allowed to occur!! If, say the president only got a certain percentage of the vote, we don’t go back and say “let’s hear from the others that didn’t vote and see if maybe they feel differently so let’s have another election”. Just sayin’


    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      The voters decided that issue when it was a charter referendum during Kevin Burns’ administration. He vigorously campaigned for it. The voters said no. Had Kevin known about the Florida Statute that allows a council to move the election, I bet he would have advanced that agenda. And, like you, his supporters would have been all for it regardless of the wishes of the electorate or his colleagues.

      It is now seven or eight years later. There are new voters in North Miami, who might vote differently this time around.

      My point is that if the council receives overwhelmingly positive support for this Ordinance from their constituents, and it is LEGALLY allowable by the State of Florida, why wouldn’t they go for it?

      By the same token, if their constituents speak out against the Ordinance, the mayor and council should vote it down.

      If it hadn’t passed in the first reading, the issue would have been closed forever. At least now, the community has a chance to weigh in before it goes to a second reading. The mayor and council need to pay attention to everyone, not just “The East Siders.”

      Delaying the election until it coincides with a countywide election will save the city approximately $180,000.00 (according to one Herald account). That factor alone is worth considering its passage.

      My guess is that if Burns had won the election and was sitting up there right now, his supporters would be all for delaying the election and screaming about the money.

      How ironic that none of the STPs are mentioning that now.

      Just sayin’.


      1. jay says:

        We all know how you feel about Kevin Burns, so let’s keep him out of this and focus on what is happening here. First, in terms of saving money being used as a rationale by at least one of the council is laughable given that $150,000 was spent on legal fees, etc due to one current council person having connived to have her mother given free and upgraded HUD housing; Also, how about the $80,000 spent on an ill conceived Mardi Gras type parade?
        Not to mention the $25,000 per month to a previous mayor to supervise work at Biscayne Landing, free trips to Haiti on the taxpayer’s dime and a severance package as hush money to the previous incompetent city manager/chief of police…where were the concerns about saving money?? As for the “East Siders” who pay at least 75% of the taxes and receive 0 of any CRA funds that go solely to the “West Siders” I think it extending the terms to all who sit on the council and the mayor is not what most voters had in mind. People voted for the mayor to finish out the crook’s term…nothing more. As for some of the council who will benefit if this reversal of the voters’ choice goes through, some of them have caused more problems than solved, but what’s good for them. Just sayin


        1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

          So let me get this straight. It’s wrong for the city council to blow taxpayer money on outside legal fees, “free” housing for friends and family, trips to Haiti, outrageous severance packages and Mardi Gras parades. I agree.

          So because the city blew all that money in the past, that now justifies spending even more money on something the city doesn’t have to shell out?

          Oh, and are you insinuating that because the “East Siders” allegedly pay 75% of the taxes, their opinions are more important than the rest of the city?

          Gee, nothing like a little class warfare!

          Are you aware of all the money Kevin Burns spent on travel and police “escorts” when he was the mayor? I heard he set the standard for his successors. But, I assume that’s okay with you because he’s one of the Seventy Five Percenters.

          I’m betting the “East Siders” would be all for passing this Resolution if their candidate of choice had won the election.

          From what I can see, the only council member up there right now who’s been more trouble than she’s worth is Marie Steril. None of the others are even remotely responsible for all the outrageous spending you mentioned. In case you haven’t noticed, Andre, Lucie and even Jean Marcellus are no longer in office. Yet you would disparage this entire council because of the misdeeds and misappropriations of previous administrations.

          That makes about as much sense as your Seventy Five Percent Theory. As long as your candidate is “your kind of corrupt,” the one who pays the most taxes wins.


  3. I don’t live there either so my opinion doesn’t matter. But for Civics Lesson 102, I’m interested in knowing how the council reaches out to the constituents who don’t show at the meeting. I think every city has this problem. The same handful show at the meetings and the same perspectives are shown on different subjects. I have been urging my own commission to start reaching out through social media, Facebook, theme based Town Halls, but have met a stone wall. Any thoughts on how they might reach out better?


    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      On both his Facebook pages, the Mayor painstakingly explained why he voted in the affirmative.

      Click here:

      Or here:

      I didn’t see his post before I wrote my blog, but I’m glad to see that he wrote the same message that he gave me. He also asked his constituents who follow him on Facebook for their input. Most, if not all, have already posted that they would like the election to be moved.

      The Mayor of North Miami Beach also has a Facebook page, as do most of the council members. As far as I’m aware, at least two (or more) other council members in North Miami have pages as well.

      The North Miami City Council members also have email addresses and phone numbers. Their constituents can AND SHOULD contact their representatives to let them know how they feel. Since North Miami is districted, town hall meetings for each district should be held between now and the next city council meeting. Those are fairly easy to arrange. I will be more than happy to publicize them if the council wishes.


      1. barbix says:

        Thank you for the link to the Mayor’s message. Smith Joseph seems to be leading with integrity and open communication. I personally think it would be a shame to waste all that money with a May election and take time away from governing with all that campaigning takes time for. But I believe in democracy so let that be the way things are measured, by majority wishes, but I think a phone call to an office should have same value as someone who shows up to speak at a meeting. (And the democratic process should not also require you to expose yourself or speak in public if you are not comfortable with that, voicing your concern on the phone should be just as important.) I do think however this ends up it will be seen as a conflict of interests, though.


  4. Gwen Boyd says:

    We have already elected the Mayor we wanted. We need to keep the Mayor we elected!!!! Mayor Smith Joseph has been reaching out to residents and businesses to ensure that their concerns are heard. He has been very accessible to “all” the people. Let’s continue to help him move our city forward….not backwards! We have a Mayor who has integrity and we won’t have to worry about him misappropriating our hard earned money for personal use. Let me repeat that, “we have a Mayor who has integrity and we won’t have to worry abut him misappropriating our hard earned money for personal use!” If you don’t remember anything else, please remember this!


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