‘I have the plan’: Philippe Bien-Aime envisions District 2 turnaround ahead of Miami-Dade Commission runoff
Philippe Bien-Aime is the man with a plan. Image via Twitter.

Philippe Bien-Aime
‘I have the plan, experience, leadership and temperament to deal with others and get things done for the district.’

North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime is running for the Miami-Dade Commission as a man with a plan. According to him, District 2, which he hopes to represent in County Hall after the Nov. 8 election, is in dire need of one.

“It’s one of the poorest districts with the highest crime rates — no real investments, especially the unincorporated area,” he said. “You need someone to start working on Day 1.”

Bien-Aime promises he’ll be able to do just that. His campaign prioritizes an array of issues, from boosting local businesses, attracting investors to the community, and addressing housing unaffordability to improving infrastructure sustainability and creating “forward-thinking” services to help residents in need.

It’s a platform built on insights he’s gained from nearly a decade in public service and decades more in business. Born in Port-au-Prince, Bien-Aime has held many jobs in his lifetime. He worked as a journalist in Haiti and Canada before relocating to the United States in the 1990s.

“There, I found my way from the bottom to the top,” he said. “I was in the car business for about 20 years, from selling cars, being a finance manager, a used car manager, a new car manager and the owner of a dealership until I moved to another department. Then I was in the insurance industry and the tax industry until I found my way to politics.”

He won a seat on the North Miami Council in 2013. A year later, he served a short stint as acting Mayor, a role he later earned in full following a 2019 city election.

Since then, he said, the city has flourished.

“I feel like we moved North Miami to the next level,” he said. “We reduced crime by 22%, lowered property taxes by half, added over $6 million in assets and brought 14 quality developments to the city.”

Today, he said, North Miami has the best community redevelopment agency in the county. Accordingly, the city’s finances have undergone a full turnaround, including a 15% reduction in expenditures and moving from a $14 million deficit to a $3.8 million budget surplus.

“The city is better off today than yesterday, and I have a feeling it will be better tomorrow than today,” he said. “Now I’ve decided to run for District 2 on the Miami-Dade Commission so I can continue to serve the people.”

Bien-Aime emerged as the top vote-earner among six District 2 candidates in an Aug. 23 Primary Election to determine who will succeed term-limited Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime in District 2. The district includes portions of Miami, North Miami, Opa-locka, Hialeah and the unincorporated neighborhoods of Liberty City, North Dade Central and Biscayne Gardens.

He is now competing in a runoff against nonprofit founder and director Marleine Bastien, who received the second-most votes in the Primary. Neither secured more than half the votes cast, which would have earned them the District 2 seat outright.

“I have the plan, experience, leadership and temperament to deal with others and get things done for the district,” he said.

Bien-Aime sat down with Florida Politics to discuss the runoff and his plans, if elected, for Miami-Dade County at large and District 2 specifically. The transcribed conversation below has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Florida Politics: We’re more than a month and a half removed from the Primary Election. How do you feel about your performance, and in what ways — if any — have you adjusted your campaign to clinch this runoff race on Nov. 8?

Bien-Aime: It’s a nonpartisan election. You had two African Americans and four Haitian Americans. We were six in the race, and I finished on the top. I made allies, and now I’m very confident of the outcome of the Nov. 8 election.

I received some top endorsements I feel are very important in this race. For example, I have the endorsement of Congresswomen Frederica Wilson and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. I received the endorsements of state Sen. Shevrin Jones and at least three Miami-Dade Commissioners.

I’m working on multiple others moving forward, a lot from the cities of North Miami, Miami Shores and Miami Gardens, and I feel very confident in the outcome.

What is your opinion of your opponent, Marleine Bastien?

She endorsed me in my past four campaigns, and she raised money for me in all four of my past elections.

What about her as a person? If she worked on behalf of your campaign, I imagine you met her at least once or twice. What do you think of her?

This campaign is not about personality. It’s about who will get the job done, and I’m the best person with the vision and experience to move District 2 forward.

When District 2 voters go to the polls on Nov. 8, what do you think they should know about you and your plans for the district and Miami-Dade County as a whole?

They need to understand that Bien-Aime will address infrastructure improvement, flood situations in the district, water and sewer infrastructure improvements and bring opportunity, good-paying jobs and work to clean up the district and address public safety.

Those are the major things I’m going to focus on within the next four years. When I talk about opportunity, I’m talking about bringing private investments to create jobs, and that will also address the affordable housing shortage and affordable public housing we need for the district.

Addressing affordable housing is one thing, but we also need to bring public housing for those people in need. When you talk about affordable housing, it’s not for those making $12 to $18 an hour. Those people need public housing within those communities so they can have a better life.

In your opinion, what are Miami-Dade County’s greatest needs?

First, they need to find a way to accomplish the budget. Every year, they have a budget. But at the end of the day, they always have rollover from the previous budget.

Another important thing the county needs is procurement process reform so the money allocated for various projects can move forward. When you say you have $18 billion for infrastructure improvements and we know it’s going to take years before they can start spending that money, it’s not acceptable.

How about District 2 specifically? What are its greatest assets?

We have a beautiful community. The district, I consider it a gold mine, and you need the right person to bring the right miners — the right group — together to dig that gold up.

If you drive around the district, you’ll realize there is no real investment that will create jobs for the people. And we need to clean up the streets. Illegal dumping is a major problem.

We need to bring a sewer line to every commercial and residential corridor within the district. Infrastructure improvements need to be addressed, especially in the unincorporated area of Biscayne Garden and North Dade Central.

Speaking of illegal dumping, the Miami-Dade Commission Chair, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, has pushed for years to address the issue, raising penalties across the board and increasing enforcement. Beyond that, what more needs to be done to crack down on it?

There’s a lot more that needs to happen. First, we need to increase the fines (more). Second, those people illegally dumping things around the community even though they don’t live in the community; they shouldn’t just spend one or two days in jail and pay a few dollars. Those people should be held accountable.

If we have to put cameras on the street, we have to do it. Or if we need to reward residents or constituents or neighbors in catching those people, we need to have a community meeting or a county emergency about addressing that illegal dumping industry.

It’s very bad, and it affects the quality of life of people living in this area. We need lights on the streets, a citizens’ watch. We have to come up with a plan to address illegal dumping in District 2, especially in those unincorporated areas.

You’ve campaigned on having a plan or plans to carry out once elected to address issues facing the district and county. Can you discuss some of them?

First of all, we have to analyze the community development agencies within the district and extend the zoning boundaries to allow a bigger scale of development.

Secondly, my plan is to bring water and sewer lines. Within the commercial corridor of the district now, a lot of investment cannot happen because people need $2 million to $3 million for that sewer connection.

My plan is to bring a sewer line to every commercial and residential corridor. That’s extremely important.

We also have to bring infrastructure to those commercial corridors. The infrastructure is not there for them to invest.

After that, we need a comprehensive plan on what we can put in those areas. Housing, like I said, is extremely important. But the way we need to address that is to not only build affordable housing but to also bring public housing to the people.

I’m not in favor of building projects within the community, but when someone is building something with government incentives on government land, we need to have a percentage of units dedicated to addressing public housing.

Public safety — when we reduced crime by 22% in North Miami, we did it by hiring people in the community and providing the police department with training. At the same time, we created a citizen investigation board to oversee police behavior.

I’m going to propose to my fellow Commissioners to make sure its citizen investigation board has subpoena power while addressing community policy and that the police working in each area looks like the community they’re serving.

You’ve received ample support from the real estate development sector and have drawn criticism from opponents concerned about overdevelopment in District 2. What do you say to residents worried that the character of the district — and potentially affordability — will change for the worse?

Those developers are the same ones who give money to all the county Commissioners. Everybody receives that. The Mayor of the county received donations from the same group of people. The cities — all those people find us every campaign. It’s not unique to me.

The difference between me and my opponent is that I receive donations from them while I’m running for office, while she receives money from them through her organization.

You’re saying she received money from developers through her nonprofit?

Mystery donors give her money. They’re pretty much the same developers that give me money, and she just added fundraising and was endorsed by Commissioner Monestime, who raised a lot of money for her.

Everything’s about trust and who they think is going to win the election. It’s not about favoritism. It’s not because they’re in love with me or like me. All they’re looking at is who they think will be the winner — the polling, all those things — and that’s what they’re trying to do.

It’s nothing new (specific to) me. It’s been the same since the existence of the Miami-Dade Commission.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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