Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco publicly launched his mayoral campaign Tuesday with a public question-and-answer session in Mid-Beach. On Tuesday, a local restaurant owner filed to run for a commission seat in the November election.
During a breakfast held at Cafe Avanti on 41st Street, Grieco addressed about 200 people in his first public comments since he filed to run for mayor Jan. 13. So far, Grieco is the only person to file since Mayor Philip Levine announced he would not seek a third term.
He opened the session with a message about “getting back to basics” and improving basic city services like sanitation, parks and policing.
“I want to dedicate my campaign, and hopefully my time in the mayor’s office, to perfecting city services,” said Grieco, 41, who is a former state prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.
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Taking questions from the residents, Grieco reiterated his opposition to a light-rail train running through South Beach, a project he initially supported but changed positions on last year amid growing public outcry. That project has been put on hold indefinitely.
Michael Grieco is the first person to file candidacy papers for mayor of Miami Beach since the incumbent, Philip Levine, announced he would not seek a third term.
The commissioner also said he favors a balanced approach to development, a hot topic in a city with a strong preservation community and constant concerns about traffic congestion. Paula King, a North Beach resident, questioned Grieco about his vote in favor of a height increase on 71st Street, in favor of upzoning Ocean Terrace and against designating nearby waterfront properties as historic.
Grieco said Ocean Terrace was a special case due to a lack of investment, and a taller 71st Street was included as part of a master plan devised for the future of North Beach. He also said he wants to see the waterfront properties turned into a conservation district, where the current size and scale of buildings are maintained even if new structures are built.
“I’m not anti-development. I’m not pro-development,” he said. “I believe in a balance.”
On the issue of policing, which has been part of the ongoing conversation about revamping Ocean Drive, Grieco said he wants to see more police out of their cars and walking the beat, getting to know the community.
Several South Beach businesses, including Ocean Drive restaurants and hotels, have donated to Grieco’s campaign. He told the Miami Herald that he’s happy to have their support, but that he has made fair policy decisions regardless.
“There are plenty of people who have contributed to my campaign where I voted against their interests,” he said, citing a 2015 vote for a ban on alcohol sales at sidewalk cafes on Ocean Drive after 2 a.m.
According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Grieco has raised about $233,950.
He launched his bid after Levine announced on Jan. 12 that he would not seek a third term. Even though Grieco’s the only mayoral candidate to file paperwork at City Hall, former state legislator and federal prosecutor Dan Gelber is considering a run. In a statement, he said he plans on making a decision in the next few weeks.
“It’s been humbling to receive a number of calls from Miami Beach residents encouraging me to run for mayor,” said Gelber, who is the son of former Beach mayor Seymour Gelber. “Miami Beach isn’t just a city to me, it’s been home to three generations of my family. I’ve spent decades fighting for better schools, LGBT rights and a more livable community and intend to make an announcement before the end of this month on my decision to continue public service.”
Besides the mayoral race, three seats are up for election in November. Grieco leaves behind an open seat, and incumbent Commissioner Joy Malakoff recently announced she would not seek a second term.
Adrian Gonzalez, owner of Cuban eatery David’s Cafe, filed to run for Malakoff’s seat on Wednesday.
The seat being vacated by Grieco has two candidates in the running so far: attorney Joshua Levy and real-estate investor Robert Lansburgh. Lansburgh was the most visible resident opponent of the now-stalled light-rail project.
Commissioner Micky Steinberg is running to keep her seat. She is currently unopposed.
At Wednesday’s commission meeting, Malakoff thanked her colleagues, city staff and residents for support during her term, and she noted some of the initiatives she successfully backed. They include limiting the size of large homes, creating more green space on lots, supporting an expansion of the city’s tree canopy and backing the city’s first accessible, adaptive beach access for people with physical disabilities.
Malakoff’s term will end after city elections in November.
“I shall be forever grateful for this opportunity,” she said. “Thank you for bringing joy to Miami Beach.”