Sunday, November 22, 2015

Running for Mayor of Miami Beach, or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the People




Malefactors of great wealth

“. . . [these men] combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing. . . I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.”

Theodore Roosevelt 1907

The  Miami Beach campaign is over. 11,000 of 48,000 registered voters have spoken, and Mayor Levine got over 6000 of those votes, and we got under 4000.  Encouraged by activists into the lions den, I emerged chastened, more humble, yet unbowed.  I realized some crucial mistakes, sorely needed debate preparation, and a media coach.  The debate coaching should have included being able to meet Philip Levine's spiffy song and dance routine, because I emerged with the knowledge that the political debate in this election, consisted of dumbed-down discourse, platitudes, non-existent "accomplishments," and a non-stop retinue of mailers, pamphlets, banners, advertisements and slick videos of Mayor Levine descending from the heavens, with a voice over Hollywood, echo-chamber narrator, his deep tones preparing the Mayor for the next Papal beautification.  "Mayor Philip Levine," it droned.

So the Mayor won, his great fortune deployed against me to protect his vested interest in the financial or political reward to be gained by the continued unfettered redevelopment of Miami Beach.  Along the way, I had the good fortune to meet many interesting, dedicated people, who sincerely had the city's best interests at the center of their idealism.  I wish to personally thank Daniel Ciraldo, Peter Erlich, Alex Fernandez, Randall Hilliard, Charles Urstadt, Clare McCord, Tonya Bhatt and last but not least, my faithful, loving wife Catherine who supported me throughout this entire speed-dating effort.

The editorial board of the Miami Herald, fecklessly endorsed Mayor Levine's candidacy as one that would, through "flashy TV ads” carve a more paradisiacal Miami Beach, a city that would inevitably succumb to his consolidation of power, his "vision" for its betterment.  They hoped for his ethical rehabilitation as well as less arrogance during his second term.  They confided to a colleague that I was "flat" in my presentation to them, the crux of which they affirmed in an intellectually dishonest editorial, praising me, questioning my experience (despite my twelve years of service) and toughness and endorsed the Mayor.  There followed in succeeding days, simply a printed list of "names only" endorsements   preceding the election.  People carried that list into the booth.  They did not think.  They did not read. Ten percent of the vote probably gone in a puff of editorial smoke, cavalierly brushing aside the PAC, the shakedowns and the ethical issues that should have mattered to good journalists.  Let's not even mention the early blackmail attempt reported to the MBPD, which later took only perfunctory steps to identify the perpetrator, despite a video identification by my campaign worker and a clear bank security photo of the messenger who dropped it off.

The mayor even attempted to have elected a intellectual dwarf who, sitting on the commission would have ensured an even more bullet-proof majority (he probably has one anyway). 
It might, however, be despoiled by a hard working candidate who was elected, despite the late endorsements of her opponents expressing fealty to the Mayor's slate.

The city charter is now effectively abrogated.  Miami Beach will be here for "hundreds of years," Mayor Levine has said.  After all, he sold his business for $300 million, so it must be true.  And he is even featured in an article in this month's "Vanity Fair."

Perhaps Mayor Levine is correct.  The city needs a Napoleon.  Too many pesky gadflies, tree-huggers, preservationists, sea level rise believers, self-appointed retired lawyers who appear at city commission meetings and "scream," the Mayor said, ever magnanimous, in victory.  Churchill needn't worry. The government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich--a true plutocracy backed by deep pocketed Russian oligarchs, constructing towers for hedge fund managers and ejecting the middle class. A town perhaps doomed to suffer the fate of looking like another gleaming, skyscrapered, hedge-fund Xanadu, a characterless zombie-like towered, Sunny Isles Beach-like entity where people believe that the sine qua non of status  involves an elevator ride to one's apartment in your Porsche 911 turbo.

Stay tuned for more demolitions of historic homes on places like Star Island, the Venetian causeway,
and on North Bay Road.  Keep watching the other parts of our city as big block white houses replace the buildings of mid-century Miami Beach as bulldozers roam with impunity carrying demolition orders.

December is my last month after 12 years of service on two city boards and my last month as chairman of the Historic Preservation Board following six years of service there. I hope against hope that the city commission appoints people of the same quality with whom I had the privilege to serve.  Insightful and aesthetically sensitive, we monitored almost 700 projects, most of which helped Miami Beach maintain its status as a predominant world destination.

I felt that I had an obligation to the dedicated community activists who so ardently supported me and who engaged an army of volunteers to fight a gigantically funded city political machine, headed by a twenty-first century Boss Tweed, despite whom, we defeated a major thrust into the treasured Ocean Terrace historic district.  Keep fighting folks, be on guard, be vigilant and protect our precious city, our young city, only a 100-years-old fragile lady, now more vulnerable than ever.

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We'll always have Paris.

I apologize for the absence of this blog since May.  Running for office has its constraints, and some of them include not offending anyone.  Those fetters are now removed. 

Our local problems seem minuscule compared to the debate now surfacing in the wake of the Paris attacks by bloodthirsty, mayhem-spreading Islamist terrorists, their twisted version of a religious ethos compromising the normally safe feelings we feel in major Western cities.  This climate where the practitioners of Islam refuse to speak out against the atrocities, is underwritten by a Saudi Arabia that practices the same brand of violence, subjugation of women, and religious intolerance, subsidizing a plethora of Mosques and radical Imams who preach hatred of the west.  Our values are perverse, our women are prostitutes and for this, we deserve to die grisly deaths while sitting in Restaurants or attending a rock concert.

Here politicians scramble to sound tough, prescribing remedies, such as limiting war-torn refugees from entering the states, and recommending (Donald Trump) that all Muslims be "registered."
Talk of this is reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Police patrol the center of New York City, Paris, and London, armed to the teeth with submachine guns and riot gear, a Gestapo look and security panic mode in tow.  And even here in Miami Beach, going to the movies even seems a bit risky, because targets here are softer than most places.  Metal detectors in theaters cannot be too distant from now.

Since I last wrote about the Republican candidates, they seem to have entered a new level of craziness.
Dr. Carson thinks that women should bear children of rape and incest, and that Jews would have shut down the Whermacht if they had been packing heat.  Never mind that the mighty German Army shunted aside the armies of France and Belgium and almost destroyed the British army at Dunkirque, except for the miraculous evacuation.  But Jews in the small villages, armed with handguns could have stopped it all.  Only Christians should be President, he says.  Really?  Does the Constitution mention that?

The Donald would build a "beautiful" wall on the Mexican boarder and deport 11 million aliens and their children, whether born here or not, violating the constitution.  He does not mention that immigration from Mexico is negative now, so the wall would keep them in, not out.

I could go on with this nonsense.  But I will stop for now.

Great to be back!