Audio leak: Miami Beach mayor Dan Gelber and others privately meet with developers
On September 13, 2021, Fabian Basabe, then candidate for the Miami Beach Commission, tells New times, he joined a Zoom call with more than 30 people, including the city’s current mayor, Dan Gelber, city manager Alina Hudak and former mayor Phillip Levine.
According to Basabe, the hour-long meeting was called with a group of developers associated with large-scale projects on Miami Beach – including Sunset Harbor and Española Way – to ask for their contributions to reinvent the South Beach Entertainment District.
Basabe recorded the audio of the meeting and edited it up to about nine minutes during which Gelber and Levine were speaking. He said he did not want to involve other members in the appeal. (Basabe was a candidate for the Group 2 seat in the November 2 ballot against candidate Mark Samuelian, but was disqualified at the end of September due to his voter registration address. He intends to run again in 2023 .)
“In the end, many financial backers for the current mayor have made it very clear the importance of supporting the right candidate commissioners to move a program forward, their entertainment district redevelopment program,” Basabe said. New times. “They were literally discussing how to use the current chaos and turn it into an opportunity.”
New times got a copy of the audio, which is embedded at the end of this article.
“What bothered me the most about this call is that the mayor is so adamant at committee meetings to remind everyone sitting there, including the city manager, that there are things that should only be discussed when there is public access, ”Basabe said. “And it was a private meeting.”
Gelber has publicly stated that he wants to see Ocean Drive transform into an art deco cultural district – a point he reiterated during a special session of the city commission convened in late August to discuss the future of the district of entertainment following the broad daylight murder of a 21-year-old tourist, who was apparently shot at random. The murder was the latest of several South Beach murders over the past year, including that of Christine Englehardt, 24, and Suwaye Amadou, 27, which rocked residents and business owners alike.
“I appreciate being the mayor of a hotel town. But I won’t pretend all is well in South Beach, ”said Gelber, according to RE Miami Beach, a real estate blog. “We have a problem in what is called our entertainment district and unless we recognize it, there can be no will or way to resolve it properly.”
On the recording, Levine encouraged contributions to a PAC that would support future commission candidates who pledge to give the green light to Ocean Drive projects backed by Gelber and his administration.
“We need to use all the influence we have to push these six commissioners to follow the vision and the agenda of the mayor and the director to make the city a safer place,” Levine said on the recording. “In other words, nothing can happen if we don’t exercise our power with these elected officials to move them forward.”
On the recording, Gelber also explicitly offered institutional support from his office to bypass his own commission in order to advance projects that do not have their backing.
“I’m ready to do whatever we need to do and support any idea even if it’s not particularly popular,” Gelber says on the recording. “I’m going to push to put it on the ballot or you can put it on the ballot… you know, forcefully without the approval of the commission.”
New times contacted Miami Beach spokesperson Melissa Berthier, Mayor Dan Gelber, City Manager Alina Hudak and former Mayor Philip Levine. We will update this message as and when the events occur.