By Vania Andre
North Miami Mayor Smith Joseph is opposing a proposed amendment pushing back scheduled elections from May 2015 to August 2016 after initially voting yes during a Jan. 27 City Council meeting.
Although legal under Florida state law to make the change without a referendum, city residents argue their opinions, largely ones of dissent, should be taken into account considering they were able to vote against a similar move back in 2008.
“I realize there is nothing illegal about the proposed ordinance,” Joseph said. However, after a “week of listening to residents and going door to door, seeking input from residents” I have to vote against the amendment.
It’s in the best interest of the city and residents to keep the scheduled elections for May 2015, Joseph said.
North Miami’s City Council however, argues otherwise.
On Jan. 27 the City Council voted, including Joseph, to move forward on the proposed ordinance in a 3-2 vote.
“I don’t make my judgment based on who comes here and talks about the subject,” Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime, who sponsored the proposal, said. “I make the judgment based on what I think will be in the best interest of the city of North Miami.”
City officials claim moving the election to August 2016 will save the city $180,000 and increase voter turnout. The elections were originally proposed to be pushed back until November 2016, however, Joseph suggested August 2016 to coincide with county primaries.
I do agree that a November election will have a better representation of our voters, however after listening and reading emails from constituents, “I don’t see how I could support this,” Vice Mayor Carol Keys said.
“Council can only postpone elections in the event of a disaster or impending disaster,” Carline Paul a North Miami resident said. Even in that case, elections can only be postponed for 14 days.
“There are no valid reasons presented for this change,” she said. The city claims it will cost $180,000 to hold election, but the budget was voted on in September with the assumption there would be an election.
“The budget always and currently includes money needed to hold an election,” Paul said. “There is no legal cause shown to postpone this election.”
Critics of the proposal speculate the move is a way for council members to extend their terms in office. If passed, 18 months will be added to the balance of their terms.
This should not be your decision, Karen Mills Francis, another North Miami resident said. “If you vote to pass this ordinance, each and every one of you will have 18 months added to your terms.
“There’s something fundamentally wrong with you voting to extend your own time in office.”
The ordinance will be discussed again during the Feb. 10 City Council meeting.