Town Hall Meeting Shows City Is Trying to Fix Memorial Day
Lucille Acocella is not a fan of being flashed.
The longtime Miami Beach resident and Eden Roc concierge said that when women in her hotel began flashing children and families this past Memorial Day weekend, it was the last straw for her. Something needed to be done.
“I’ve been planning my vacations around this meeting,” she said as she sat at the Loews Hotel Wednesday afternoon. “They need to do something about this.”
And so Acocella along with about 200 other residents of Miami Beach packed a ballroom at the Loews to talk to the City Commissioners about Memorial Day, and suggest solutions to a decade-old problem.
Unfortunately, few would get the chance.
SHUT UP AND LET THE CITY DO ITS JOB
While many had expected a traditional town-hall style meeting – with residents invited to share their ideas with the leaders of the city – Wednesday’s meeting was dominated by speeches from officials and offered little opportunity for residents to say much of anything.
The meeting was the brainchild of City Commissioner Jerry Libbin, who spent the majority of the meeting discussing what the history of Memorial Day in Miami Beach had been, and what he and a group of citizens had brainstormed to help make Memorial Day tolerable for Beach residents.
“We have to do better,” he told the room. “We will do better. Your options for Memorial Day shouldn’t be to hide in your house or get out of town.”
WE CAN’T JUST END IT
During the initial presentations, from both City Manager Jorge Gonzalez and Hilda Fernandez, who represented the Manager’s Office, we learned that there was in fact no correlation between the number of arrests made on Memorial Day Weekend and the hotel occupancy. We also learned that 60 percent of the arrests made were of people from South Florida. But most of all, we learned that despite residents’ cries to “end” Memorial Day Weekend, it’s not really that simple.
“We can’t just ‘end’ it,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not something we sanction, promote or fund. We don’t approve permits for any events Memorial Day Weekend, so there’s no event for us not to approve.”
“We’re just a city” he said, “We don’t have the power to end a national holiday.”
SOME ENCOURAGING SUGGESTIONS
The City did, however, meet with leaders from all areas of Miami Beach life, from nightclub owners to restaurateurs to the heads of takebacksobe.com. And in lieu of soliciting comments from the room, Libbin instead opted to share the suggestions that these meetings had produced. Among the more promising:
The City did its part to keep the meeting short, giving only the two presentations then yielding the floor to a group that wants to put on a large scale Memorial Day concert and family-friendly festival next year. That presentation drew a lukewarm response from the residents in attendance, but at least seemed like a viable solution to many.
Libbin then read from a large stack of emails he’d received, hoisting the five-inch thick stack over his head assuring the room that he had read every one.
This gesture may have been meant to appease an agitated crowd that was relegated to question cards to voice its grievances.
KEEPING THE RANTS TO A 3X5 CARD
At the end of his email reading, Libbin accepted cards collected from the audience that included questions and comments directed his way. None of the suggestions from the audience offered much past “Enforce the laws better,” or “lets do something to honor the veterans.” Which, Libbin said after the meeting, was why he limited the questions to written ones.
“We could have been here for hours,” he said.
While Wednesday’s meeting was called to give citizens of our small island a chance to voice their suggestions, what it was in reality was an opportunity to see what the City was, in fact, planning to do. Not terribly satisfying for those who wanted to vent, but at the very least educational.
The meeting boiled down to two solutions: Enforce the laws and create a better event that will attract a better crowd. Clearly, Miami Beach has reached its tipping point, and another year of Memorial Day madness will not be tolerated. The City seems to be putting itself on the right track, but only time will tell if residents will ever be able to enjoy this holiday like the rest of the country.
COMMISSIONER LIBBIN ANSWERS QUESTIONS AS TO WHY THE AUDIENCE WAS LIMITED TO COMMENT CARDS
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"Town Hall Meeting Shows City Is Trying to Fix Memorial Day"