Miami Beach

Mayor Levine: Miami Beach is ‘just warming up’

FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced Thursday that he wants to bring an “international university” campus to North Beach and the long-awaited senior center in that neighborhood is slated to open in December.

Levine shared this with a crowd of several hundred during his State of the City address. In an hour-long ceremony that has always been held in the City Commission chambers at City Hall, the first-time mayor had no problem filling Hall B at the convention center, where he was cheered on loudly by young and old supporters throughout his speech.

“I ran for mayor to make this city work again for its residents and its businesses, and I will do whatever I can to make that a reality,” he said during an address given Thursday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. “You and I have come a long way to doing just that in year one. And we want the world to know, we’re just warming up.”

Levine said the city is in talks with in “certain international universities” to bring a major campus to North Beach. He later said he couldn’t share which institutions he was referring to.

“An internationally-branded university here would create jobs to boost our economy and classrooms to boost our minds,” he told the crowd.

The senior center, on 72nd Street, is scheduled to open in December and will include a new outdoor domino park.

He also touched on a few highlights from the last year:

▪ The Normandy Fountain was restored.

▪ O Cinema moved into the Byron Carlyle Theater, with a grand opening of its third location Friday, Nov. 7.

▪ Trolleys were launched in the Alton Road-West Avenue area and in North Beach.

▪ Pumps were installed along some of the most flood-prone areas in South Beach before this year’s king tides. Streets were kept fairly dry during the high tides, with a small amount of flooding occurring during a rainstorm.

▪ The construction along Alton Road was expedited after Levine and City Manager Jimmy Morales went to Tallahassee. Now the work is scheduled to be done in December, which is six months ahead of schedule.

▪ The long-discussed renovation of the convention center is on track in the design phase. Officials aim to start construction after Art Basel in December 2015.

Levine reiterated that the city has made dealing with sea-level rise a priority. Earlier this year, he pushed for increased storm water fees to pay for large infrastructure improvements in an effort to combat sea-level rise.

He has said in the past he isn’t as interested in debating climate change as he is in preparing the Beach for rising waters. On Thursday, added onto that.

“Anyone using climate change to score political points should be ashamed,” he said. “This is serious stuff, and it’s going to take serious people backed by verifiable science, to chart a course we can follow.

Interestingly, during the peak of king tides, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, spoke with Levine at a press event in the Beach. Later that same day, Nelson’s camp sent out an email to raise money for Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign.

Levine also announced that international home-furnishings trade fair Maison and Objet will make its new annual home in Miami Beach starting in May.

The mayor shared that the city has recently been praised the country by the nation’s largest LGBT-rights group. On the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, Miami Beach scored 118 — the highest rating in the country.

Where he’s been critical of previous city leadership in the past on other issues, he thanked previous Beach administrations for establishing Miami Beach as a community that supports the LGBT community.

“We’re standing on their shoulders,” he said after the afterward. “You have to give credit where credit is due. It’s been the history of this city, and other administrations, to build that score the way it is.”

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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