- Faith & Family
As an employee for close to 30 years, Stephen Johnson, 51, has seen both the high and low moments in the City of North Miami’s recent
history. He rose up the ranks within the City’s police department, even serving for a 1 1/2-year stint as the chief before his current assignment as city manager. One thing that he says he’s witnessed first hand is the change in demographics and the expected growing pains that accompanied that shift.
“Whenever you undergo a change demographically like we have, there’s going be some level of contention especially in our case where the majority became the minority and when that new minority comprises a strong tax base like here in North Miami,” he said. “One of the challenges I have faced as city manager is to provide equal services for both the gated communities and those areas that were in a deplorable state. In the past, not all areas were given equal service and attention – at least that was the perception. That has required us to look first to those blighted areas that had been previously ignored and bring about positive change. Other communities within the City may disagree but the truth is we allowed certain areas to suffer with some
people’s needs not met. It may appear that when you’re being preventive that some communities that are in better shape don’t get the same resources but that’s missing the big picture. When you work to improve housing conditions and eliminate criminal elements from those same communities, everyone benefits.”
Mayor proud of Blacks’ rise in power
Andre Pierre, 43, the Haitian-American mayor now on his
second and final two-year term, has faced what he calls “numerous distractions” including accusations of campaign financial misconduct that allegedly occurred during his 2011 race and a family member that recently
got themselves in hot water with the law. Both issues are pending legal adjudication so he declined official comment but said he is confident that “officials will do their job and find no fault with me or my decisions.”
In terms of how he leads in a city that continues to see greater Haitian-American dominance, he says, “I hope that we will see less noise made as our City continues to do better by all of our residents.”
Pierre, along with Johnson and City Council Member Scott Galvin, 43, all agree on one thing — that crime has dipped to lows not seen since the 1980s and that City services have improved across the board. But Pierre says that there’s still room — a lot of room — for improvement.
“Blacks still face injustice in North Miami — no question about it,” he said. But it’s not as bad as it once was. I think some folks may be a little jealous of the job my administration has done, like privatizing our garbage collection, putting a few more dollars in families’ pockets and the coup we made when we got a developer for Biscayne Landing. That put over $17M in our account. That’s some really awesome reserves.”
Johnson says it was right after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 that the City began to see significant change in its racial makeup. The latest U.S. Census shows that North Miami has 65,000 residents: 60 percent Black, one-third of those being of Haitian descent; 16 percent white; and 20 percent Hispanic.
Galvin notes that it’s been tough on some of the “old-timers.”
“I grew up in North Miami and have been in Miami-Dade County my entire life,” said the 13-year member of the city council. “Schools were all-white when I was a student. The people who stayed welcomed diversity. But there was a major exodus during the 90s. We are still dealing with the fallout from the change from majority Anglo to majority Haitian-American. Some of the old-timers that have stayed don’t like it and that’s where we tend to have some strife. But for most of us, that’s old news.”
By D. Kevin McNeir