Miami Beach bid farewell to its outgoing elected officials on Monday when the city’s new mayor and commission officially took office.
Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioners Michael Grieco, Joy Malakoff and Micky Steinberg were sworn in by local judges. Hundreds of people watched from a standing-room-only crowd that packed both the upper and lower levels of the city commission chambers, as well as an overflow room that had to be opened to comply with the fire code.
All of the new city officials will be holding elected office for the first time. Most of them beat out sitting city officials to win their post.
Levine told the crowd gathered to watch the swearing in: “You didn’t whisper about change. You shouted. And I promise to listen to that voice.”
Of the new commission, he added: “We’re ready to follow your mandate.”
Levine promised to get to work by creating a committee to study the city’s flooding problems, and announced he would donate his $10,000 mayoral salary and additional benefits to the city’s food programs for seniors.
At one point, the crowd broke out in cheers of Levine’s first name, pronounced by his supporters with a Spanish accent.
The Beach’s new commission includes no Hispanics, while that ethnicity makes up the majority of the city’s population. The new commissioners and mayor went to great lengths to emphasize on Monday that they will represent all of Miami Beach.
Levine has learned to speak Spanish in order to communicate with a core Beach constituency, and Grieco vowed at his swearing-in that he would learn the language.
“No matter what language you speak, regardless of what sexual orientation you are, it’s time to come together,” Grieco said.
The outgoing mayor and commission were all recognized at Monday’s meeting, which was their last. After serving 14 years in elected office, outgoing Mayor Matti Herrera Bower lost a bid for commissioner, which she ran for after bumping against the mayoral term-limit. Outgoing Commissioner Jerry Libbin was also term-limited from his seat. Outgoing Commissioners Jorge Exposito and Michael Góngora lost their elections to remain on the dais.
Bower remarked at her age — 74 — and years of service on the commission.
“Every day, I try to do the best that I can,” she said. “Consequently I always sleep well, and the tension apparently keeps me young.”
She joked: “So I’m going to have to apparently keep doing something that really makes me nervous.”
Góngora touted his work creating a sustainability committee examine environmental issues in the city, and Libbin reminded everyone that Miami Beach was able to provide nurses to the city’s schools under the leadership of the outgoing commission.
Other outgoing officials offered advice, like this bit from Exposito: “Learn to respect differences.”
The first meeting of the new commission has been scheduled for Dec. 11.
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