Best Political Miscalculation (2014)

Tomás Regalado and Marc Sarnoff Versus Ultra

When New Times broke the story of a security guard nearly trampled to death on Ultra's opening night, public officials lined up to express outrage. After all, it wasn't the first calamity at the 16-year-old electronic music festival. For the second straight year, a young Ultragoer had died of a suspected drug overdose. Dozens more each year are hospitalized. Police-involved beatings and lawsuits are legion. But two politicians in particular tried to turn the trampling into a turning point for relocating the festival. "I think they have overstayed their welcome," said City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, citing the trampling as well as "serious and well-documented" drug abuse. Mayor Tomás Regalado echoed Sarnoff's anger. "I think we should not have Ultra next year here," he said. "We don't want to be showcased as the city of chaos." The two put together a resolution — based mostly on New Times clips — calling for Ultra to be booted from Bayfront Park. Sarnoff presented his own survey of downtown business owners that showed they were overwhelmingly against Ultra. And during a commission debate on the resolution, he went so far as to present a Twitter photo depicting a scantily clad woman snorting cocaine off another chick's snooch. But the resolution failed miserably, with no other commissioners supporting it. Their argument was simple and insuperable: Ultra makes Miami a shit-ton of money. "It really does put Miami on the map," Commissioner Francis Suarez said, noting that nearly 200,000 people attended and comparing the event to Art Basel. But there was another reason Regalado and Sarnoff's resolution was booed off the stage. They were outmaneuvered by Ultra organizers, who, just days before the vote, hired Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez to oversee security for future festivals. The commission's vote insured that Ultra is here to stay. Meanwhile, the standoff cost the two politicians, Sarnoff in particular. "He lost a lot of clout on that one," says one local business owner. "What was he thinking?"


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >