We know this because we spent over an hour and a half watching the four mayoral candidates slug it out during the KPHA Candidate Forum held on Thursday night. (In case you missed it, you can watch the video on Facebook, courtesy of the Arch Creek East Neighborhood Association.)
Fourteen minutes into the video, the mayoral candidates got the opportunity to introduce themselves to the audience and speak about their platforms.
First up was Danielle “Website Hacker” Beauvais, who claimed to “know the issues” because she’s a Tai Chi instructor and will “bring health to the city.”
North Miami Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime, who is vacating his seat to run for Mayor, wasted no time to let the audience know he is the current Vice Mayor and served as Acting Mayor in 2014.
What he neglected to mention is that the position of “vice-mayor” is “elected from among the councilmembers” on a rotating basis. In fact, the only reason Bien-Aime became the acting mayor in 2014 is because he happened to be wearing the Vice Mayor Hat when former Mayor Lucie Tondreau was indicted on mortgage fraud and removed from office by the Governor.
But, meh. Semantics.
Mr. Bien-Aime also proudly announced that his first endorsement was that of his colleague on the dais, Councilwoman Carol Keys, who we’re told previously said she wasn’t going to endorse anyone for office.
Mr. Bien-Aime told the audience that, if elected, his primary goal would be to address climate change and sea level rise.
Because North Miami has absolutely no other pressing problems at the moment.
Next up was candidate Mac-kinley Lauriston, a 16 year veteran as the Financial Analyst and Senior Accountant for Ryder System, Inc., a Fortune 500 corporation (and recipient of the coveted VotersOpinion endorsement).
Mr. Lauriston promised to bring transparency, accountability, integrity and “leadership we can trust” to a local government sorely lacking in everyone single one of those areas.
And after getting to know Mac-kinley during the past six months, we believe him!
The fourth candidate, Hector Medina, had his chance to tell his story.
Medina also also claimed that he single-handedly brought down Spotmasters, a dry cleaning business illegally operating in his neighborhood by going “all the way to Washington and 42 times to court” … even though the only lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County against Spotmasters was one by the City of North Miami.
And finally, Hector Medina claimed to be the “first one to stop” the city’s boondoggle of a General Obligation Bond from passing … even though that honor belonged to Laura Hill, Judy Brown, John Porter, Jim Garrett and Jessica Alston, the five-member political committee, NoGoBond.com, who worked tirelessly for its defeat. Hector was not one of them.
The moderator of the forum, North Miami resident and activist Bob Pechon, then asked a series of 11 questions to the candidates on many issues, including the “crisis of trust” at City Hall, the causes of the problems in the city, and how to find the money to fix them.
Questions were also posed to the candidates about the city’s budget, short-term rentals, the CRA, and of course, responsible development.
In response to almost all of them, Danielle Beauvais said she was the most qualified candidate because she’s a Tai Chi instructor, proving yet again why no one takes her seriously. As such, we won’t waste too much ink commenting on this totally irrelevant candidate.
Mac-kinley Lauriston, stated the obvious – that there is a lack of trust in the city administrators and some elected officials, as proven by the abject failure of the GO Bond vote. Furthermore, Mr. Lauriston queried, “If [residents] don’t trust their elected officials with the money that they have now, how can they trust them with more?”
Philippe Bien-Aime immediately attacked Mac-kinley Lauriston on his residency by saying, “Talking about fiscal responsibility, one of the candidates just happened to move into the city just in time to qualify.”
While we have no no idea what “fiscal responsibility” has to do with residency, we do recognize the irony of an accusation made by the very same candidate who filed to run for office on July 11, 2012 for the 2013 City Council election … while actually still living at, and claiming a homestead exemption on, his home located in Broward County.
Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e?
Yeah, we just did.
Bien-Aime embarrassed himself even further by accusing former Mayor Joe Celestin of shopping for candidates to run against him out of “revenge” for his voting to terminate Celestin’s contract with the city in 2015.
He continued with, “I just don’t understand how a candidate running on someone’s platform can bring fiscal responsibility to the city.”
Mr. Bien-Aime went on to tout his record of “fiscal responsibility” as “Acting Mayor” and as “Vice Mayor for the City of North Miami” over the last six years.
The age-old political promise of “fiscal responsibility,” which most likely gained traction in 600 BC during Ancient Greece’s first democratically held elections, was the topic du jour at Thursday night’s candidate forum.
Which is actually quite ironic since two of the four candidates have already declared bankruptcy and lost homes in foreclosure actions.
In 1992, Hector Medina filed for Chapter 7 in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Oklahoma. In 2004, he was sued for foreclosure by Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, which held the mortgage on his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On December 3, 2004, the Judge issued an Order Confirming Sheriff’s Sale of his house. There were also six Judgments and Liens filed against Hector Medina in Florida, Oklahoma and New York.
But financial woes are the least of Hector Medina’s problems.
In 2005, Medina was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma on criminal misdemeanor charges of “obtaining merchandise by bogus check.” During the course of the trial, the Judge ordered him to pay several hundreds of dollars in costs and fees, and even issued a bench warrant for Medina when he failed to pay.
A year later, Hector Medina did it again. And once again, he was arrested and tried on criminal misdemeanor charges of “obtaining merchandise by bogus check.”
But, hey. Medina claims that he “worked hard to be fiscally responsible,” and that as Mayor he’s gonna fix the “crisis of trust” at City Hall.
Candidate Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime, who’s also running on “fiscal responsibility,” has had more than his share of apparently self-inflicted money problems.
On December 4, 2012, he filed for Chapter 13 in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Florida, and six months later, he lost the Broward County home he bought ten years earlier in a foreclosure action filed against him by his mortgagor, US Bank, NA.
Of course, nothing says “fiscal responsibility” like being evicted twice, racking up $60,141.41 in Default Final Judgments, having your wages garnished, and being slapped with $46,121.67 in Federal Tax Liens.
Look, we totally understand that anyone can run into financial problems. No one is immune.
But, if you have $100,000-plus in judgments and liens hanging over your head, don’t run on a platform of “fiscal responsibility.”
More importantly, if you don’t want your dirty laundry hung out in the sunshine, don’t run for public office at all.
At the end of the forum, the four mayoral candidates were given the chance to tell the audience why they are the right person to be Mayor of North Miami.
As predicted, Philippe Bien-Aime rested on his laurels by repeating once again that he is the Vice Mayor and that he was the Acting Mayor in 2014. He closed by telling the audience that they have seen what he’s “brought to the table for the past 6 years,” and wants to be judged based on his record.
Let us remind you that this “record” includes:
- A multitude of scandals in the police department under former Chief Lenny Burgess, including the loss of its state accreditation.
- The very public – and costly – battle between the City of North Miami and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Followed by …
- The firing of former MOCA director Babacar M’bow, a once highly respected curator in the international art world, amid accusations of sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and explicit sexual language.
- The outrageous quarter million dollar “redneck” settlement paid to then-Assistant Chief of Police Larry Juriga.
- The internationally infamous shooting of a black man with his hands up at a time when police shootings were facing severe scrutiny. Not to mention …
- The framing of an innocent Police Commander for the screw-up by none other than Larry “Redneck” Juriga and his corrupt cronies, who are now inexplicably in charge of the North Miami Police Department.
- The retention of the thoroughly incompetent City Manager Larry Spring and then voting for Spring’s fraudulent budget.
Then there are the highly publicized lawsuits pending against Philippe Bien-Aime and the City of North Miami by a city employee alleging sexual harassment.
Here’s the thing.
We have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not the employee’s allegations are true. Only Mr. Bien-Aime and his accuser know what may or may not have happened.
We do know, however, that United States District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro found that “Plaintiff has adequately indicated what facts support her causes of actions.” Accordingly, the Judge issued an Order denying the city’s Motion to Dismiss. The case will now go to trial and, hopefully, the truth will be revealed when it’s all over.
And speaking of trials, under Councilman Bien-Aime’s watch the City of North Miami has been defending so many lawsuits filed by aggrieved employees that we’ve seriously lost count.
Even more worrisome are Philippe Bien-Aime’s “fiscally responsible” spending habits.
You will recall that the Mayor and Council each have a Discretionary Fund of $7,000.00 to spend during each fiscal year. During the three most recent fiscal years, between October 1, 2016 and February 27, 2019, Mayor Smith “Lame Duck” Joseph, overspent his fund by $112,750.
Not to be outdone by his colleague on the dais, Councilman Bien-Aime overspent his fund by a whopping $178,168!
So, yeah. As Councilman Bien-Aime suggested, let’s judge him on his record over the last 6 years.
Including his “fiscal responsibility.”
Next up, Hector Medina implored the crowd to vote for him because he has “no angle” and he has “enough money.”
Medina, boasted that they already call him “Mayor” at Home Depot, Costco and Publix. The new “Brian Williams” of North Miami also bragged that he single-handedly cleaned up the city after Hurricane Irma because – in addition to being a “medical doctor,” running Spotmasters out of town all by himself, bravely stopping the GO Bond from passing, and faithfully attending the “most meetings of anyone here,” Hector Medina wants you to know that he’s a “disaster specialist” as well.
In her closing remarks, Danielle Beauvais reiterated that she’s the best candidate because she’s a Tai Chi instructor and that she’s for “equal representation” because she went to an all-white Catholic school.
Mac-kinley Lauriston, who is clearly the most qualified candidate for Mayor of North Miami for a multitude of reasons, told the audience that he is running “not for the power of the office but to empower the people.”
We here at VotersOpinion believe that this candidate is the Real Deal.
If anyone can turn the City of North Miami around and get the city going in the right direction, it’s “Big Mac!”
We urge you to consider voting for Mac-kinley Lauriston on May 14, 2019.
Because North Miami residents deserve the very best!