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Key Biscayne's video against Ultra's move is filled with many mistruths.
Key Biscayne's video against Ultra's move is filled with many mistruths.
Photo by George Martinez

Key Biscayne Mounts a Smear Campaign Against Ultra Ahead of Today's Hearing

Over the weekend, the Village of Key Biscayne released a video concerning Ultra Music Festival's possible move to Virginia Key. In it, Mayor-elect Mike Davey resorted to scaremongering to warn that Ultra was "evicted" from Bayfront Park because of "environmental destruction, noise, and increase in alcohol- and drug-related violence."

But those claims are false, and Davey should be ashamed. Ultra was not "evicted" for those reasons. In fact, except for the noise, not one of those concerns was brought up during the September 27 City of Miami Commission meeting. The festival lost its longtime home because negotiations — and political infighting between commissioners Joe Carollo and Ken Russell — failed to produce an agreement that satisfied everyone.

The video includes an image of a needle poking out of a sandy beach, as if to drive home the point that kids are shooting up at Ultra. Never mind the image is clearly not from Ultra — Bayfront Park doesn't have a sandy beach. In the 20 yearsNew Times has been covering the festival, reporters have never described seeing anyone shoot up or found a needle on the ground. (Even the thumbnail for the video is not of Ultra.)

Ultra is, understandably, none too pleased with the smear campaign Key Biscayne is pushing. The festival fired back with a lengthy statement, saying, "It is deeply regrettable that Mayor-Elect Mike Davey and the Village of Key Biscayne have elected to publish statements that are knowingly false and misleading rather than to first seek to collaborate with either Ultra representatives or its City of Miami partners... The offending publication(s) by Mayor-Elect Mike Davey and the Village of Key Biscayne is patently false and inaccurate, and was made with reckless disregard of the truth."

Ultra goes on to call Davey and Key Biscayne's statements "defamatory" and "irresponsible" and says the "images were published in an effort to purportedly inflame and scare residents and stakeholders."

The video was released ahead of today's City of Miami Commission hearing on Ultra's potential move to Virginia Key.

There are many valid concerns about Ultra's move to Virginia Key Beach Park and Miami Marine Stadium: What's the festival's cleanup plan? How will it manage the inevitable congestion on the Rickenbacker Causeway? Will Steve Aoki throw cake into the crowd for the millionth time? OK, maybe not the last one.

Ultra spokespeople contend the festival has been looking into several initiatives, including eliminating single-use plastics such as straws, Styrofoam, and balloons. There has also been consideration of recycling options and restriction of beach access for festivalgoers, meaning Ultra attendees might not be able to swim while jamming to their favorite EDM acts.

Also joining in opposition to Ultra's move are the Brickell Homeowners Association (BHA) and Rapture Music Festival. BHA on November 8 adopted a resolution against the festival, claiming it will be disruptive to everyone along Biscayne Bay, from Miami's Upper Eastside to Coconut Grove. (Until my recent move to the Upper Eastside, I lived in Edgewater right along the bay for more than ten years; I don't think I ever heard noise coming from Bayfront Park, so I'm not sure what BHA is talking about.)

However, Rapture Music Festival has a much more valid argument. For the past two years, Rapture has taken place in Virginia Key Beach Park during Miami Music Week. Since October 17, it's been selling tickets for its expanded third edition, scheduled to take place at the park March 29 and 30, 2019. It's also the first year Rapture will go head-to-head with Ultra. The past two editions occurred the Thursday before Ultra, but Rapture seems confident it's offering a vastly different experience — and it's certainly more "underground" than Ultra.

If Ultra is allowed to move to Virginia Key, though, it would displace Rapture. Founders Youssef Khamis and Misha Varum say they intend to keep Rapture at Virginia Key at least through 2020, and their track record is proof they've been able to hold their festival on the shores of Biscayne Bay while respecting the environment.

"We launched Rapture at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park with a goal to bring an environmentally conscious festival to Miami that combined a world-class music lineup while also educating attendees about ocean conservation, sustainability, as well as health and wellness," Rapture says in a news release. "We’ve been an environmentally friendly festival from day one, and because of this, we’ve attracted mature fans with a passion for the environment, quality music, and art."

Rapture claims it has already signed a contract with the park. If that's true, there's certainly an argument that the contract should be considered during today's meeting.

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