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Racism impacts battle for mayors seat

caines | 5/9/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Seven candidates slug it out in Citys east-west tensions Voters in the City of North Miami will head to the polls if they havent already cast their ballot for two council seats [Districts 2 and 3] and for mayor. But making a decision may be tough, given the fact that there are nine candidates collectively seeking the two council seats and seven candidates hoping to becoming the Citys next mayor. Whats more, North Miami, according to its current mayor, Andre Pierre, and many others, faces a situation where the racial tension between Haitian and white residents has reached a boiling point. That said, one has to wonder if race will dominate the election and whether citizens can come together to resolve their differences for the good of the City.

Demographic challenges

As the fifth-largest city in Miami-Dade County, North Miami has experienced a recent shift in its population. Based on the 1990 U.S. Census, whites made up 63 percent of the City Blacks represented 32 percent. Twenty years later, the numbers have reversed. Blacks now account for 59 percent of the population versus 32 percent for whites. North Miami has become a haven for upwardly mobile Haitian families, many of whom wanted to leave areas like Little Haiti where crime was rapidly escalating. Crime is at its lowest rate in North Miami since 1983 and weve also put significant dollars into public education so that our children can be better prepared for college, Pierre said. But yes, there is a problem between the East Side [the more affluent section east of Biscayne Boulevard where more whites reside] and the West Side [an area that has the largest concentration of Haitians], he said. Blacks have given me respect and shown me great love. But its been just the opposite for many whites. And its interesting that the only time you hear talk about a secession movement is when theres a Black mayor in power. We are way overdue for having a serious conversation about race. But to do that we need both sides to be willing to compromise.

Mayoral candidates address the issues

Those running for mayor include the following: Dr. Gwendolyn V. Boyd; Kevin Burns; Modira Escarment; Dr. Smith Joseph; Jean Rodrigue Marcellus; Anna L. Pierre; and Lucie M. Tondreau. The Miami Times sent a list of questions to all of the candidates. The answers that follow are from those who replied to our request. Lucie Tondreau, who has garnered the endorsement of Pierre, has been a community advocate for the past 28 years, has volunteered with a number of grassroots organizations, is the recipient of the Claire-Heureuse Award and is a mother of three. I believe that in order for the City to grow we need to attract businesses by giving them tax incentives and making the building and zoning department more friendly and give preference first to our residents. We need to implement a policy of first preference for North Miami residents. As mayor, I would continue to focus on development, open a satellite police station on the west side and expand the after school program for our youth. Its encouraging that North Miami Senior High has gone from being an F school to a B school. As for the racial tension, every election has its own tensions and this one is no different. People play the race card for their own gain instead of focusing on their platform. Ive had doors slammed in my face and have been told, I am not voting for any nigger. Dr. Gwendolyn V. Boyd is a former police chief for the City of North Miami and reduced crime to one of its all-time lows during her tenure. She established the still-running FACT [Families Against Crime Together] Festival which focused on crime prevention and education and has managed large staffs and budgets, particularly in her stead as the former vice-president for student services at Florida International University. I would restore the publics trust and confidence by having integrity and transparency in all operations and business dealings. We also need to assist families with finding employment and help with new skills development for youth. I have 37 years of serving, protecting and educating diversified communities with tremendous success. What is occurring in North Miami reminds me of what occurred in the city of Miami with its huge influx of Hispanics. Upon their arrival, adjustments had to be made by all. Tensions were high but we eventually adapted. The same happened when Haitians came to the city of Miami. I hosted several workshops and we managed to address our fears and concerns. It was a huge challenge but we did it. North Miami will be just fine. Sometimes we need to just put ourselves in the others shoes. It goes both ways. Dr. Smith Joseph was born in Saint-Louis-du-Nord, Haiti, where he completed his elementary and preparatory studies. In 1979, he and his family left Haiti to settle in Miami. He earned doctorates in pharmacy from FAMU and osteopathic medicine from Nova Southeastern. He is active in his community, has received a host of awards and is married with three children. My platform focuses on job creation by promoting a business-friendly environment to attract and encourage major businesses to invest in our community with a priority of employing city residents, enhancing youth programs to fight juvenile delinquency, creating companionship and mental health assistance programs for the elderly and providing foreclosure assistance and home repair programs. Ive been managing my own successful medical clinic in North Miami for the past 13 years, have negotiated various major contracts and have been active in on several boards and committees for the North Miami government. I plan to create a platform where community leaders and residents of all ethnic and racial backgrounds may voice their opinions and concerns about all issues regarding government actions. My motto is Together, we all win. Racial issues divide a community we need to focus on our strengths. We can capitalize on our ethnic diversity which is a tremendous resource that can be instrumental to the overall success of our City. Kevin Burns graduated from Miami Edison High School and Miami Dade College. He is a former North Miami mayor and the former chairman of the Greater North Miami Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Keystone Point Home Owners Association and a founding member of the Community Policing Commission. He lives in North Miami with his partner, Rob, of 25 years and their seven year-old daughter. The main issues I will address are job creation and the perception that North Miami is a pay-to-play city. I will revamp the building department to make it easier for new or existing businesses to invest in North Miami which in turn will create new jobs. I was twice elected mayor [2005-2009] with 55 percent of the vote. I was the mayor for everyone. During my two terms I built four new schools, reduced taxes, lowered crime, and reorganized many departments with city government. There was never a hint of corruption during that time. Many of the tensions are being created by a few in power. The more they claim of discourse, the more influence they believe they have. There is some simmering of resentment toward the Haitian leadership from the white, Hispanic and Black communities as to the way they addressed non-Haitian issues. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com