If I Were Mayor: Fixing Miami Beach's Four Biggest Problems
Although the position of Miami Beach mayor pays only $10,000 a year and carries no veto power -- or any executive power, really -- the race is one of the few competitive elections in South Florida. It's been an active battle among candidates Steve Berke, Michael Gongora and Philip Levine, even garnering unofficial endorsements from national influencers.
Former president Bill Clinton, Virgin CEO Richard Branson, billionaire Norman Braman and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson have weighed in on who they think should win.
Why all the attention?
“Miami Beach has this outsized hold on the American imagination,” says Miami New Times' Michael Miller.
But despite its reputation for glitzy hotels and lavish parties, the city is grappling with issues such as the redesign of its convention center, government corruption and police misconduct. This race has been about candidates “fighting to define the character of the city,” adds the Miami Herald's Christina Veiga.
So, Steve, Michael and Philip: here are six ideas for fixing Miami Beach.
1. POLICE MISCONDUCT
The Miami Beach Police Department has been the subject of several investigations, most recently for the taser-gun death of teen Israel Hernandez. With the recent lawsuit by Hernandez's family, mayoral candidate Michael Gongora, a city commissioner, may face some flack for voting in current police chief Raymond Martinez.
Miami Beach police have also been accused of attacking people unprovoked, opening fire into crowds and drunkenly running over beachgoers with their ATVs.
Here are some of ideas from Miami Beach residents for improving policing in the city:
John Ermer proposes: “Take police officers out of their cars, and put their boots on the ground to patrol the neighborhoods of Miami Beach.”
It is important for police officers to interact on a more personal basis with the residents of the city, to see what we see, to hear what we hear and, quite frankly, to smell what we smell.
Elizabeth says, “I would loosen the grip that law enforcement unions have over Miami Beach politicians.”
This issue has a routine effect on my life. I am a white, middle-aged female married to an African-American, middle-aged man … our experiences differ on an almost-daily basis … [Still] I would not dream of speaking to an officer here. It doesn't even occur to them that the community is part of the solution and could one day potentially save their lives.
Candidate Steve Berke proposes building Skylink, a cable-car system between downtown Miami and Miami Beach he says would cost $200 million. The proposal faces some hurdles such as tall cruise ships and PortMiami, but Virgin CEO Richard Branson has said he’s interested.
Currently, the county is reviewing a plan to construct a light-rail train to connect Miami to the beach. In the meantime, how about this more modest plan?
Miami Beach is a tourist destination for its beautiful landscape, but more attention should be devoted to keeping it clean, some locals say.
Here’s an idea from one resident who kayaks through Miami Beach’s canals every week, picking up debris.
Dave would be picking up less trash if Anne Posschelle’s idea were implemented:
If I were mayor of Miami Beach, I would impose a no-plastic-straws and no-plastic-bags policy in shops, restaurants and bars. Bars and restaurants could only offer stirring straws made out of biodegradable material and shops and restaurants offering takeout would receive, from the city, low-cost, reusable bags that the clients could purchase for less than $1 each (to offset the cost to the shop or restaurant).
But the biggest environmental issue confronting Miami Beach is flooding.
This was a priority echoed by others, like resident Susan Sonson. An ad by mayoral candidate Philip Levine says he’ll fix the problem, though it doesn't mention how. The city is implementing a $206 million overhaul of the drainage system, mainly along Alton Road.
Steve, Michael and Philip: If you were mayor, what would you do?