Attack crime, not Urban Beach Weekend revelers

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Students from Miami Beach and Liberty City got to know each other through discussion and dinner at the Betsy Hotel.
Students from Miami Beach and Liberty City got to know each other through discussion and dinner at the Betsy Hotel.

So, though one elected leader in Miami Beach was making clear that he wants Urban Beach Weekend, which brings a large African-American contingent, to just go away already, future leaders in Miami Beach, mostly white and Hispanic, were getting to know their African-American peers over dinner.

Another elected leader, Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, wrote to the city manager — after a fatal shooting during Urban Beach Weekend — an email insulting the very capable Police Chief Dan Oates’ and urging the city to “give cops their bullets back” and, incredibly, scrap the police body-camera program, those same future leaders, high school students from both sides of Biscayne Bay, moved past stereotypes and preconceived notions about each other and realized that their lives had just become richer. The huge hamburgers helped.

The kids were part of a Connect Miami initiative, jump-started by Valencia Gunder, an accomplished organizer with The New Florida Majority and founder of Making Homeless Smile. She was stunned that so many young people in Liberty City had never crossed the bay. She teamed up with Leslie Miller Saiontz, of Achieve Miami, who assembled young Beach residents. They all broke bread together at the most accommodating Betsy Hotel, leaving with plans for everyone to attend a barbecue in Liberty City.

Both events offered lessons in leadership, some worth emulating, others not. Rosen Gonzalez, running for Congress, apologized in a letter to the editor today for words that she now calls “inarticulate.” To say the least.

After fatal shootings the Sunday before Memorial Day — the ridiculous result of an argument over a parking space — Urban Beach Weekend, again, became the convenient scapegoat.

Crime did not originate with Urban Beach Weekend, but too many officials use it as an excuse to address the legitimate complaints of residents and business owners who have complained about noise levels, overdrinking and crime for years. It’s unfortunate, too, that the actions of some who attend UBW exacerbate the challenges.

Mayor Philip Levine wants clubs to stop serving liquor at 2 a.m. He says it will cut down on drunkenness and crime. Club owners believe that the only thing it will cut down on is profits and the resort taxes the city reaps from their businesses.

But if club owners don’t like Levine’s proposal, they likely will downright loathe commissioner and mayoral candidate Michael Grieco’s suggestion. He would have the them stop serving alcohol as early as 10 p.m. during the last weeks in May, making his targets crystal clear. After all, he vowed that Urban Beach Weekend would become “a thing of the past.” At least Levine would have a blanket policy that affects most every consumer equally, and year-round.

Both items should get a fair and thorough hearing at today’s commission meeting. It’s a chance for these elected officials to show some true leadership.