Miami Beach Mayoral Race Is a Joke

Something is rotten in Miami Beach. Construction is soaring in Sunset Harbour. Lincoln Road is log-jammed with tourists. And Art Basel once again approaches like a billion-dollar beast ready to take a platinum piss all over SoBe. But underneath all of this commerce is the cloying odor of corruption and incompetence.

"I don't need to know wonkish detail. That's what staffers are for."

It's not difficult to figure out from where the smell originates: city hall. In 2008, cops nabbed three city employees for taking bribes. Just last year, the FBI arrested five code inspectors and two firefighters for the same thing. Six months later, police caught Miami Beach procurement director Gus Lopez on camera accepting envelopes of cash.

Meanwhile, island cops are unsupervised. Careening around the city, they drunkenly slam their ATVs into civilians, open fire on crowds of tourists, and Taser teenagers for tagging. Traffic is tighter than ever and flood waters rise ever higher, ruining residents' homes and cars. Like an aging supermodel, Miami Beach might look good at a distance, but the city is splitting at the seams.

The good news is that on November 5, the animatronic koala of a mayor, Matti Bower, will finally step down. After six years, she is leaving her quilted, grandmotherly throne. The bad news is that she's running for city commission, a job she already held for eight years.

But the Miami Beach city circus will go on with or without Bower. That's because the four candidates competing to replace her are a drunk-driving party boy, a power-hungry millionaire, a tennis pro turned comedian, and a man who truly believes he's in telepathic communication with JFK.

Michael Góngora

Góngora overcame a 2002 DUI — and a teenage appearance in a Subway commercial — to win a commission seat in 2006. He has voted to increase the extortionary rates that towing companies can charge and to award a developer $600 million to renovate the convention center without a public vote. Worst of all, his mother, father, and chief political operative are all linked to an anonymous smear campaign against other candidates.

Raphael Herman

Herman has no chance of winning the election, unless it's for mayor of Crazy Town. He claims to have been buddies with John F. Kennedy and says he once battled Osama bin Laden in a knife fight. "Ladies and gentlemen," Herman said during a debate at Temple Emanu-El, "I am a product of the Israel Mossad. I can find anything about anyone — better than the CIA." But like one of Shakespeare's fools, Herman spews rants that also hint at the ridiculousness of the election. This isn't his first time running, after all. His ever-presence is a reminder that whoever gets elected, the joke is still on us.

Philip Levine

It was a coup last week when Bill Clinton endorsed Levine, but it was no surprise. From the looks of him — biting his lower lip and doing that creepy thumb thing — Levine has been studying Slick Willy. Unfortunately, he has the charisma of one of Clinton's used condoms. Levine is a self-made millionaire with salt-and-pepper hair but little else going for him. How else to explain the ads in which his dog and 102-year-old grandma come across as more likable than he? Or his attempt to buy votes by busing elderly voters to the convention center for punch and pie?

Steve Berke

It's a sign of how laughable this election is that the most serious candidate is a comedian — well, an ex-comedian. Since his loss to Bower three years ago, Berke has tried to reinvent himself as a straight man. Some of his ideas are on point, such as decriminalizing marijuana and establishing a review board to punish bad police officers. Then there are his outlandish designs for a $500 million gondola system. (Berke says that amount includes a light-rail system called DecoTram and could be paid for by sponsors such as Richard Branson's Virgin Group.) The real problem with Berke, however, is that he has begun to sound like Bower. He recently teamed up with her to picket one of Levine's lavish events. And during a debate, he uttered this classic Matti-ism: "I don't need to know wonkish detail. That's what staffers are for."

 
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6 comments
mikekatz40
mikekatz40

Steve Burke is winning the election.  That's obvious.  The better question is whether any of his compelling proposals will come to fruition.  

exnorwegian
exnorwegian

Whoever gets elected, the joke is still on us.

gumsandals
gumsandals

Not only is Miami Beach politics a joke, the punch line is below the belt, bringing us all down to our knees with each election.  As for the Grandma Mayor, she should be banned from entering any race on the island for the rest of her natural life. She alone has done more to hold the city back from becoming something more than it is. Unfortunately, convincing her constituency of Cuban supporters who continuously reelect her to rethink their vote has been elusive for everyone running against her.

SwampyNoMore
SwampyNoMore

Wow. Ford Banister's chutzpah knows no bounds. First, we have to consider the source. Mr. Banister is a very vocal supporter of both Commissioner Jonah Wolfson (who recently called Mr. Berke an a-hole at a public event with children present) and of mayoral candidate Philip Levine, who is clearly Mr. Berke's main political opponent at the moment. So, that aside, and if we are to accept Mr. Banister's incredibly selective and politically bias memory as plausible, then are we to truly accept the following statement? "Steve Berke doesn't care about legalizing marijuana."  Steve Berke has a YouTube channel with more than 25 Million views. Some 15 million views come from his pro-marijuana parody videos. Is Mr. Banister seriously saying that the close to 13 Million viewers who have heard Steve's skillful, intellectually solid, emotionally engaging and entertaining video, Pot Shop are being fooled into believing that Mr. Berke care's about legalizing marijuana? The very idea is preposterous. The teller of this tall tale up there with the likes of Phil Levine's good buddy, Bill "BJ? Not me" Clinton... 

clown
clown

that is the reason we are a banana republic, just like Venezuela where the president receive messages from a little bird. I disagree about incompetence, there are lot of competent city employees in upper management positions the thing is that they take the monies for themselves not for the city....

lfordbanister
lfordbanister

Steve Berke is totally disingenous, in general and in running on a platform that includes marijuana decriminalization as its primary point. In the Summer of 2011, thousands of petitions were stacked on the table before the Miami Beach commission by the local canvassing director and treasurer of the campaign that was trying to decriminalize marijuana in Miami Beach in front of a crowd that included Berke. All that was lacking was about $1000 to have the petitions validated by the Supervisor of Elections. Berke seemed a natural ally as he had just ran a citywide campaign based in large part on his support for decriminalization. Sadly, although he boasted of his resources and contacts, Berke's only contact with the campaign was to complain that his name had not been mentioned in a press release and that he had not been endorsed. Neither he or anyone associated with his campaign ever gave a dollar or gathered a signature. Berke did make an offer: He would pay the final fee for validation if he could take over the campaign. At first I said no because his communications showed him to be really unstable. Finally, I agreed because there seemed no other option but when it came time to put up or shut up Berke promptly shut up. After the expenditure of thousands of dollars and the hours in the hot sun gathering petitions in a city whose laws make ballot initiatives more difficult than perhaps any other place in the country, defeat was clenched from the jaws of victory. The losers were the donors who supported it up until that point, the city's citizens who might have saved a great deal of money and anyone who might have benefited from more reasonable penalties, including medical marijuana patients who visit or reside in Miami Beach.

    Steve Berke doesn't care about legailizing marijuana. He cares about promoting Steve Berke. As Commissioner Jonah Wolfson recently pointed out, Berke is using the electoral process, esssentially using Miami Beach, to promote himself. It is apparent to anyone with any bit of wit about them. 

 
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