Editorials

Herald picks for Miami Beach

Levine
Levine

It’s an open secret on Miami Beach that some candidates are running as a loosely connected slate tied to Mayor Philip Levine and political consultant and lobbyist David Custin. Both men had ties to the Relentless for Progress PAC that aroused a political stink on the Beach and was recently dismantled.

It’s important for voters to know this, and to know which candidates are on which side of the Beach’s political divide.

That does not disqualify anyone on the ballot, however, nor should it be the only consideration for voters picking a candidate.

What matters is ensuring that independent voices remain an effective force in the Beach’s governance structure.

MAYOR

Millionaire businessman Philip Levine, 53, is running for his second term as mayor. Despite his unpopularity in some Beach circles, only one courageous soul, first-time candidate David Wieder, 64, a long-time resident and head of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, decided to challenge Mr. Levine.

There’s no doubt that, during his term, Mr. Levine has made some friends — and enemies.

The expensive city-funded pumps that didn’t work everywhere as well as expected, and whether the pumped water is contaminating the bay; a serious misstep with his ethically questionable decision to get involved with the RFP PAC that collected thousands from city vendors; and a brash attitude from the dais all have chipped away at his credibility. The public’s perception that he wants to control the dais with a slate of friends running for the commission doesn’t help.

We think that Mr. Levine should adopt Mr. Wieder’s campaign promise. The challenger told the Editorial Board: “I want to restore trust, integrity and responsiveness to our city government. I will not allow cronyism, backroom dealings, sole-source contracts. … Pay-to-play politics will have no place in my administration.”

Still, Mr. Levine’s passion for the city is authentic. We believe him when he says that he eats and breathes the city’s challenges, from its climate-change struggles to traffic gridlock. If reelected, Mr. Levine should make it a point to mature as a politician, to serve all of Miami Beach. We hope that these troubled times have been a learning experience for the mayor. We’re willing to give him a second chance to prove he’s not “Mayor Ego.”

There is little doubt that Mr. Wieder is drawn to the race by good intentions, but his lack of experience in such a rough-and-tumble city puts him at a disadvantage against the mayor’s deep pockets and flashy TV ads. Plus, Mr. Levine has deftly addressed many quality-of-life issues that matter most to residents.

For Miami Beach mayor, The Herald recommends PHILIP LEVINE.

GROUP 4

The most crowded race in Miami Beach is the one to fill the seat of Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, who is term limited.

The candidates are: Michael DeFilippi, 30, a real-estate agent; Scott Diffenderfer, 47, a Realtor; Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, 42, a professor at Miami Dade College; Isaiah Mosley, 33, an scientist with an expertise in water-resources management; Jonathan Parker, 53, an attorney; and Betsy Perez, 52, executive director of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Most of the candidates are well-versed in the city’s critical issues: sea-level rise, Convention Center redevelopment, traffic, development and crime. Ms. Rosen Gonzalez and Mr. DeFilippi, in particular, bring thoughtful and progressive ideas to the race.

Another candidate, Ms. Perez, who is seen by her opponents as a recruit to an unofficial slate of the mayor’s supporters — which she says is not the case — brings a bracing optimism to the table, but not a lot of depth on the issues the city must confront.

We give the edge to Scott Diffenderfer, a Miami native who has lived on Miami Beach since 1997, with a two-year stint from 1992-’94.

He has a solid record of civic engagement as a member of several city committees, including its charter-review, traffic engineering consulting service RFQ, and parking and bicycle facilities committees.

Like the other candidates, he understands the most obvious challenges facing the Beach, but he also has looked a little deeper, for instance, praising how the city has handled its finances, but still concerned about its continued ability to fund pensions. He says the police department is understaffed and suggests that the city appoint a “mobility coordinator.”

Mr. Diffenderfer applauds the mayor for his push to install pumps to handle flooding. At the same time, it seems that Mr. Diffenderfer can be a well-grounded independent voice on the dais.

For Miami Beach commissioner, Group 4, The Herald recommends SCOTT DIFFENDERFER.

Tomorrow: Why we recommend Ricky Arriola in Group 5 and Mark Samuelian in Group 6.

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