Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber talks about rebuilding Ocean Drive with private developers

Some call month-long Zoom meeting between Miami Beach mayor Dan Gelber, the former mayor Philippe levine and dozens of developers on the redevelopment of the South Beach entertainment district, an example of a paid policy.

Gelber said it was not, calling up the conversation – which briefly turned to talk about raising and spending money to elect Miami Beach commissioners in favor of turning the notoriously difficult party zone into a more family environment – just another discussion on a plan there made public more than six months ago.

The meeting in question took place on September 13 and brought together around thirty developers. Audio extracts former Miami Beach Commission candidate and former reality TV personality Fabien Basabé escape to Miami New Times are primarily Gelber and Levine, whose private work includes real estate investing, sales and development. City manager Alina hudak was also on call.

Basabe called the Zoom call a “private meeting.” Gelber disputed this claim.

“There were 60 people on the Zoom,” he said. “I guess this is not a secret meeting.”

At the start of the recording, Levine came up with the idea of ​​financially supporting campaign offers from open Commission candidates at the late-night volume drop on South Beach, where more than 1,000 people have been arrested during this year’s spring break, prompting the city to impose a rare 8 p.m. curfew.

“The idea is that we would set up a PAC – this organization, this group – that would raise money, and we would use that money to elect people who would move the city forward in a positive and safe direction,” Levine said, later adding: “There are six commissioners, and two will be new (after November 2 elections). We have to use all the influence we have, (but) nothing can happen if we (developers) do not exercise our power with these elected officials. “

Gelber, who is seeking re-election for a final two-year term in November, said he hoped to “contact” the developer group on the call, but wanted to keep the relationship informal to avoid Hudak having “to send. staff members to you all the time.

florida law requires government advisory committees, including those of developers proposing redevelopment ideas, to make their meetings and documents public. They should also notify the public in advance of meetings and allow public comment.

Gelber encouraged developers, including some behind big Miami Beach projects like Española Way and Sunset Harbor, to tell him and city staff what they wanted to do.

“What I would like you to do is tell us what you need to reinvent the areas that we know need to be reimagined. I urge you to this: our staff will be available, ”he said. “If you want something on the ballot because it needs to be on the ballot, I’ll put it on the ballot, (and) I’m willing to do whatever we need to do to support n ‘ any idea, even if it’s not particularly popular. “

However, Gelber also made it clear that it was not appropriate to discuss a PAC “or things like that”.

“We cannot talk about a CAP,” he said. “That’s not what Alina (Hudak) is allowed to talk about, and I really shouldn’t be here to talk to the city staff about it.”

Miami Beach Campaign Finance Laws prohibit candidates for the office of mayor or city commissioner, as well as their campaign committees, from soliciting, accepting or depositing directly or indirectly into their accounts any contribution from a seller, a real estate developer and / or their lobbyist.

But while the outlook isn’t great, talking about the possibility of others forming a group to financially support certain candidates in an election in which you are also a candidate is “perfectly legitimate,” said Gelber, a former federal prosecutor, State representative and current lawyer in private practice.

“I only said (we couldn’t talk about a PAC) because Alina (Hudak) was there,” he told Florida Politics. “In meetings all the time, people bring up things they are doing that we are not doing. You can’t tell people what they can and can’t say. But obviously if we meet a bunch of people and say, “Hey, we’d like you to get involved in brainstorming for ideas to reinvent this area,” if someone says, “Okay, but we “Will do a PAC to make sure the commissioners are on board”, well, it wouldn’t be appropriate for the city manager to say, “Yes, that’s a good idea”, because it’s not his up, and obviously that wasn’t what we were really talking about. It was just what one or two people at the meeting wanted to say.

Gelber announced a 12 point plan in March to reform and improve safety in the South Beach entertainment district, which he wants to rename “Art Deco Cultural District”. A link to the plan is integrated into its biography page on the city’s website.

Among the changes he proposed: a final call at 2 a.m. for alcohol sales, elimination of noise exemptions, updating of land regulations to encourage a “live-work-play” environment. », A reinforced police force, a unit dedicated to the enforcement of the South Beach code, the pedestrianization of Ocean Drive and a crackdown on« transient tenant abuse »by users of short-term vacation rental apps like Airbnb .

In May, the Miami Beach Commission tightly approved canceling the last booze call from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., Gelber won the deciding vote in decision 4-3, which the commissioner David Richardson argued it was “the wrong way” to tackle crime, unruly behavior and a spate of shootings and deaths in the previous months.

The change, which would not have been permanent unless voters agreed to it in November, was cut short less than a month later when the circuit judge Beatrice Butchko deemed it illegal, calling it “arbitrary” and “violation of local ordinances”.

The decision came after the popular Clevelander Hotel on Ocean Drive chased the city.

Since then, the owners of some of Miami Beach’s biggest hotspots, including the Clevelander, Mango’s Tropical Café, and the Twist, have donated $ 275,000 to a political committee called Citizens for a Safe Miami Beach aimed at getting voters to side with a referendum on the city’s November ballot.

The referendum is non-binding, a so-called ‘straw poll’ asking voters if they support changing the district’s closing time from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. “with specific locations and restrictions and related exceptions, to be determined ”by the municipal commission.

Such a move would lose Miami Beach $ 14 million in annual tax revenue and businesses would lose $ 227 million in alcohol sales over three years, economist says Hank fishkind concluded in a Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce-Funded study published last week.

Fishkind came to a similar conclusion in 2017 before 65% of Miami Beach voters rejected a similar measure. Levine was the outgoing mayor at the time.

Since October 1, a pro-2 a.m. political committee has called YES for a safer Miami beach raised $ 25,000. Everything comes from one source: New leadership for Florida, a democratic consulting political committee Christian Ulvert running for Florida House candidate Maureen Porras, an immigration lawyer who comes to replace Ana Maria Rodriguez to represent the District of House 105.

HD 105, which covers the western parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, does not cover any part of Miami Beach.

Some, including the political blogger Elaine de valle, said the issue was not with safety or noise.

“(It’s) really a question of real estate” she wrote on October 9. “If businesses along Ocean Drive fail, developers can buy properties cheaply and build condos, as they do with North Beach Ocean Terrace. They will transform South Beach from an entertainment district to a luxury high-rise district.

“Why do you think former mayor Philip Levine – who was the first to try this – came out of the hole he’s been hiding in from his loss of governorship to promote a vote yes? The millionaire mayor knows a deal when he sees one.

It’s “a stupid claim,” Gelber said.

“The place is filled with clutter, chaos and the worst pictures our city has ever had. What do you think I’m responding to? ” he said. “It’s an area that every person who has run for office in the past decade or more has said, ‘We have to clean it up. You have to get rid of this stuff. You have to change it. Well, I’m not ready to spend six years in power without really trying to change it. This idea that I’m trying to shut down three bars – if you listen to the guys at Ocean Drive they’ll tell you you’re only talking about three or four bars – is a kinky theory. I go through there so that I can put three or four bars out of business and then some unnamed developer can develop them into what, bars that close at 2am? I have no idea what this theory is, but I do know that the Ocean Drive operators say absolutely anything and spend any amount of money to protect their business model. It’s that simple. “

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