You may wonder why I would choose to ignore the fun-filled North Miami Beach city council elections where two-term Haitian-American incumbent and school teacher Frantz Pierre went so far as getting a restraining order against his challenger, Haitian-American and financial coach Ketley Joachim – not to mention the fact that three interesting, additional Haitian-American candidates, McKenzie Fleurimond, Mario Appolon and Hans Mardy, are trying to maintain a seat on the North Miami Beach city council (Mr. Fleurimond) or unseat two non-Haitian incumbents ( Messrs. Apollon and Mardy). On the other hand, veteran Haitian-American politician Philippe Derose has been reelected to the same council due to lack of an opponent. Meanwhile, Mr. Pierre, with his strange legal move, may have really shored up his campaign by effectively painting Ms. Joachim as a crazy woman not worthy of a look by the North Miami Beach voters. We will know on the night of May 3 if Frantz Pierre’s weird tactic backfires or not.
Be that as it may, it’s really the North Miami mayoral race that has gotten, for different reasons, the most attention within the Haitian community. It’s a 3- person race: incumbent Haitian American candidate and practicing lawyer Andre Pierre, former 4-term North Miami councilman and Immigration consultant Jacques Despinosse and Carol Keys a Jewish real estate agent. Most probably, this election is headed in a run-off that will pit Carol Keys and Andre Pierre. However, a low voter turnout within the Haitian community coupled with a heavy one in the non-Haitian enclaves may spell trouble for incumbent Andre Pierre. Indeed, the mayor’s countless judgment lapses (the Porsche fiasco, his former campaign manager’s legal trouble with the mayor seemingly at the center of it all and his reckless issuance of look-alike police badges to close to 40 members of his entourage) may have greatly dimmed his prospect for a sure reelection. Will the community, instead, remember his myriad outreach efforts to ensure improved access to services to the community – the home foreclosure issue being one of them?
I am not one who would have encouraged Mr. Despinosse, or anyone else in the Haitian community, to run. I believe he stands no chance to win, but he is only exercising his hard-earned right (for which he has greatly contributed) to throw his hat into any electoral ring whenever and wherever he chooses to. However, in a debate on the Phanord show about three weeks ago, one of this community’s pillars Ringo Cayard (who also did a lot for this community) went ballistic against Jacques Despinosse, even accusing the latter of selling out. This is wrong, unfortunate – and intolerable.
I understand that Ringo Cayard and Jacques Despinosse haven’t seen eye to eye for some time. Furthermore, Ringo’s mischaracterization of Despinosse’s electoral move reeks of hypocrisy. Indeed, Ringo certainly has a long track record of going against well-qualified Haitian-American candidates in favor of someone of different ethnic background. To his credit, Ringo reminded the audience of this aspect in his political past. Former state representative Phillip Brutus and current Miami-Dade County councilman Jean Monestime have a few scars to show and can readily testify against Ringo’s past efforts to deny the Haitian community a chance or opportunity to be at the table. May we need to remind Mr. Cayard that no one then raised their voice to attack him as a traitor? Why: Ringo, as well, had surely earned the right to support any candidate to his liking. Further: there may be another substantive rationale for supporting Ringo’s, or anyone else, right to favor a candidate of their choice – it may be wrong to assume that a Haitian-American candidate will do a better job than any other hyphenated American just because of a similar ethnic background. Equally important to note: a seat at the table doesn’t guarantee anything. A room full of Haitians voicing their interests at the monthly council meetings may really be the great difference.
Jacques Despinosse may be one of the rare Haitian politicians who may to a fault believe in American politics, not just ethnic-based politics. So when, to the surprise of many, he entered the North Miami mayoral race, I guess Despinosse was being himself. He may have murmured to himself: May the best politician win – and with that, the challenge to improve the living conditions of the whole community.
Last, I am tired of the lame excuse, conveyed again by Ringo, that we need to always support a corrupt politician (I am not saying that Andre Pierre is corrupt) or mistake-prone elected official (a general statement, again) hailing from our community just because other communities do the same. I hope Mr. Andre Pierre doesn’t adhere to this line of thinking. Or to the equally false idea that a Haitian-American challenger opposing the Haitian-American incumbent (regardless of who else is in that race) has to be a traitor just because he/she feels the community, rightly or not, deserves better leadership.
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