Miami Beach

Bill Clinton takes a jab at partisan politics in Miami Beach speech

Former President Bill Clinton speaks during the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Saturday, June 24, 2017, at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Saturday, June 24, 2017, at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. For the Miami Herald

In a roughly hourlong speech given to dozens of mayors gathered in Miami Beach, former President Bill Clinton lauded the city leaders’ commitment to the Paris climate accord in the face of federal dismissal, while also calling for an end to “tribal” politics.

Clinton, addressing a crowd inside the Fontainebleau on Saturday afternoon, didn’t mention President Donald Trump by name. But he criticized Trump’s decision to pull out of the climate-change deal, in which nearly 200 other countries agreed to reduce their emissions and prod other countries to do the same.

“You can get out of it or in it, but the water’s gonna keep rising,” Clinton said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a four-day gathering. “Politics has almost no influence on science, in case you haven’t noticed.”

He said that combating climate change and converting to renewable energy makes environmental and economic sense, and that he received a tour from Beach Mayor Philip Levine demonstrating firsthand how the city is affected by rising seas.

“In a very profound way, the cities have become the laboratories of democracy,” he said.

Directly following the speech, a group of about a dozen mayors — including Levine, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — signed a climate oath vowing to “intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals” and “create a 21st century clean energy economy.”

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Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado signs a climate oath during the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Saturday, June 24, 2017, at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. MATIAS J. OCNER For the Miami Herald

During his remarks, Levine took a jab at Trump, arguing that the president should be concerned about rising tides around his Palm Beach country club, Mar-a-Lago.

“I don’t know if he wants to turn it into a water park,” Levine said, to laughter from the mayors on either side of him. “I don’t know what he wants to do.”

Levine, a Democrat, said the “sun-and-fun” city has become “the sea-level capital of the world,” and that he has overseen adaptive measures to adapt to rising tides.

“We’ve been raising roads, we’ve been putting pumps, we’ve been changing our building codes,” he said. “The ocean is not Republican; it’s not Democrat. It just knows how to rise.”

For the skeptical, he said he’d love to “invite every body to come on down during one of our King tides — I’ll bring you to a road that hasn’t been lifted yet — and when you see that water come around your ankles, you’ll be like ‘I am converted. I believe that we do have a problem.’ 

Garcetti, a Democrat, said the number of mayors who have vowed to comply with the Paris deal’s stipulations rose to 331 on Saturday, up from 323 on Thursday. The mayors hail from 44 states and Puerto Rico.

“This is the power of cities exercising their power collectively and thinking big,” he said.

Regalado, a Republican in a nonpartisan position, railed against the politicizing of climate change.

“It’s disturbing that we keep hearing and reading that climate change and civil rights is a partisan issue, that Democrats think one way and Republicans think another way,” he said. “We’re looking to Washington, but we’re not hopeful.”

Clinton said the mayors would need to follow through on their commitment, which could prove a challenge with budgetary constraints.

“If you sign, you’ve got to seal and deliver,” he said.

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