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MEMORIAL DAY UPDATE: City and Citizens Finding Solutions

September 08, 2011 By Matt Meltzer in Miami: Local News  | 6 Comments

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I’m starting to think maybe the City Commission is reading my articles.

After last month’s community meeting at the Loews Hotel – where residents’ comments were limited to small index cards – I criticized the City for not allowing more civic input.

Perhaps they were listening.

Last Thursday the City held a joint meeting of the Neighborhoods/Community Affairs and Finance and Citywide Project committees. Every seat in the room – about 150 – was taken. On the agenda were such captivating topics as granting FPL an electricity franchise in Miami Beach and issuing stormwater revenue bonds.

But nobody was there to talk about stormwater bonds.

RESIDENTS GET A VOICE, AND RANTS ARE CONTROLLED

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The top item on the list – left for third on the agenda - was “A Discussion on Ways to Prevent Future Problems on Memorial Day.” And this time, the City was there to listen to what all the locals had to say. Structure was still maintained, as a free-for-all of complaints would have not accomplished much. Commissioner Deede Weithorn sent around a signup sheet to speak, announcing several times that “If you’re not on the list for Memorial Day, you don’t get to talk.”

And while people’s comments were limited to two and a half minutes, a lot got said.

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“This plan here,” said David Wallack, owner of Mango’s as he waved the list of proposed changes at commissioners, “would shut down Ocean Drive. Our plan oughta be about inclusion, not exclusion.”

CODE CHANGES IMMINENT

The plan Wallack was referring to was a 53-item chart distributed at the meeting which listed every suggestion the commission was considering. It included everything from ending alcohol sales at 2 a.m. to closing the MacArthur Causeway once traffic got too heavy to enforcing jaywalking violations. The majority of the items would call for changes to the city code, changes commissioner Ed Tobin said he’d like to have done by the December Commissioners Meeting.

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“Think of this list as a menu,” Weithorn told the crowd. “If you order everything on the menu you get sick.”

With that she asked the commissioners to circle the items they liked, and instructed City Manager Jorge Gonzales to tally up which ones were the most popular.

No tally was solicited from the public.

FIX THE FOUNDATION BEFORE YOU BUILD A NEW HOUSE

The idea of a competing event still seems to be the next most popular suggestion, after the stricter code enforcement. But while this idea has gained some momentum, a structured idea has yet to be vetted.

“I’ve had people come to me with proposed events, but nobody has given me any sort of real plan,” Mayor Matti Bower told the commission. And though one group, which proposed its “Miami Fest” idea at the Loewe’s meeting, has put forth at least an outline of what to do, the consensus seemed that it was too late to get something going this year.

“If we’re going to do it, it needs to be done right” Weithorn said. “So maybe that means we do an event next year.”

From the fourth row, David Wallack threw up an ok sign.

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CITIZENS BELIEVE ENFORCEMENT IS THE KEY

As the meeting drew to a close, more people stressed that the immediate solution was code enforcement, and that the competing event needed to wait.

One resident suggested enforcing noise violations, which in doing so would force a lot of would-be criminals to produce identification.

“Criminals don’t carry ID,” she said, “so if they say they might have to show ID, they would just leave.”

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“Atlanta ended Freaknick in a year by enforcing lesser offenses,” mayoral candidate Dave Crystal announced to the room in what seemed more like a stump speech than a meeting contribution. “That’s what this administration has failed to do.”

And while Commissioner Jerry Libbin corrected Crystal, informing him Freaknick took several years to end, the point was well taken.

This year, clean up the streets. Then next year, once word gets out that Miami is cracking down, put something else in Urban Beach Week’s place. And maybe, just maybe, once that takes off Memorial Day in Miami can mean something else than hiding in fear.

Related Categories: Miami: Local News,

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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6 Comments on

"MEMORIAL DAY UPDATE: City and Citizens Finding Solutions"

r-k says:

Thanks for the update. The citizens understand this much better than the officials, it would seem. There is no need for elaborate plans, new laws, more meetings etc. Just enforce the present laws! (which will also go a long way towards fixing many problems other than Memorial Day).

Posted on 09/09/2011 at 11:57 AM

Matt Meltzer says:

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, rk. If you start arresting everyone who violates a law during MDW, you’d end up with massive temporary holding pens and/or miserably overcrowded jails. And that would just lead to more problems. And giving out citations is useless because most of these folks aren’t going to bother paying them, especially if they’re from out of town.

A competing event is really the permanent solution, it’s just not something that can be hastily put together. So enforce this year, then take this year and next to design something big to draw a different and better crowd. A Jazz festival was mentioned, which I think would serve both the purpose of replacing Memorial Day without being called “racist” (Jazz, a primarily Black music form) and give Miami a little more culture and class than we typically have.

Posted on 09/09/2011 at 12:49 PM

r-k says:

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest from the trees.

Posted on 09/09/2011 at 6:35 PM

Christy says:

So they want to switch jazz fest from New Orleans to Miami? I think the event should still be allowed to happen, but people should behave or just run the risk of being arrested. But with the cops in Miami, if I were black I would not come for UBW.

Posted on 09/10/2011 at 2:28 PM

Doug says:

I don’t think New Orleans is in any danger of losing its jazz fest! New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, while Miami is the birthplace of…the Miami Sound Machine.  I do agree though that bringing in other types of festivals that weekend would help dilute the focus on UBW.  Of course, if they’re also closing off the MacArthur Causeway and micro-enforcing every regulation possible, no event will want to take place that weekend.

Posted on 09/10/2011 at 3:34 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

No, not moving Jazz fest. Just having our own Miami Jazz Festival, or whatever they’d call it. There’s a lot of ideas floating around out there. I just liked that one since you couldn’t scream “racism” if you replace UBW with Jazz.

Posted on 09/11/2011 at 3:36 PM

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