Each and every day I am reminded of the beauty of our City – but one with many challenges. My priority is to improve the quality of life of all our residents and elevate our standard of living from public safety to cleaner streets. I am listening carefully to your concerns, and I am frustrated when I hear residents consistently tell me they do not feel as safe as they used to in Miami Beach. While crime and disorder have increased throughout much of the United States, I do not accept that as an excuse.
Government’s number one priority is the safety of its residents and it is our moral obligation as elected officials to provide it. My goal - my mission - is to make Miami Beach the safest coastal City in America. Some may say that such a lofty law and order goal is not achievable, but I am determined to make it a reality.
Policing and Law and Order
From day one since I took office I have been advocating for and proposing legislation for high visibility police patrols and strict enforcement of our quality of life ordinances. Misdemeanor violations such as sale and use of narcotics in public, open alcohol usage, blasting music and noise pollution, car donuts, lewd public behavior, speeding and reckless driving must be strictly enforced day in and day out, not just during high impact weekends. Zero tolerance works. Our residents should never live in fear of leaving their homes any time of day.
Solutions to Take Back Control
So how do we reduce crime and, just as importantly, the fear of crime? I am proposing and advocating for a multilayered approach as described below that if implemented would dramatically reduce crime.
• Expand Foot Patrols: A visible and active police presence - intimately engaged and talking with the community while on the beat - reduces and prevents disorder and crime.
• Proactive Enforcement: Consistent and proactive enforcement of our misdemeanor laws will improve our quality of life and prevent a significant number of more serious crimes from occurring.
• Utilizing Data: Full utilization of available data we already collect to maximize officer performance and expand positional accountability.
• Invest in Technology: Continue to invest in the use of cutting-edge technology, such as security cameras and license plate readers.
• Additional Police: Our Commission recently approved adding 15 police officers and two Sergeants to the South Beach Entertainment District (MXE). I fully supported this measure after I insisted and received a commitment during a Commission meeting that the officers will be assigned to high visibility patrols, on foot or on bike patrols. Additional patrols will include Miami-Dade officers to improve public safety in the MXE and ensure that officers are not pulled out of other areas of our City to compensate for lack of coverage.
• Criminal Justice System Accountability: Once an arrest is made, the criminal process is mostly outside Miami Beach jurisdictional control as the Miami-Dade County criminal justice system handles post-arrest adjudication. We must demand and hold accountable our State Attorney, prosecutors, and judges to take our arrests seriously. There is little transparency once we make an arrest as Miami Beach has no database as to what happens to those individuals post-arrest.
In an effort to improve transparency and accountability, I proposed an initiative, unanimously passed by our Commission in December 2020, directing our Police Department to develop a comprehensive plan to collect post-arrest data. This data is vital to pressure the criminal justice system to prosecute those arrested for violating our laws, especially repeat offenders.
• Mobile Units: Maximize officer efficiency such as utilizing mobile arrest-processing centers.
• Officer Safety: Our Miami Beach police officers who protect us deserve our support and protection. This is why last month I brought legislation that would make it illegal to harass or interfere with a Miami Beach officer engaged in the lawful performance of their duties. Officers under attack unfortunately has become too common as we saw during Spring Break. I fully expect our Commission to support and pass my proposed legislation on second reading at the June 23 Commission meeting.
Improving our quality of life and becoming the safest coastal City in America will allow us to prosper. It is an obligation we owe our residents. It will bring tremendous economic benefit. Small businesses will thrive, companies will compete for high-end office space, and tourists from all over the United States and the world will come here to spend their hard-earned money and safely enjoy our slice of paradise.
Miami Beach Resident Re-Entry Plan
During Spring Break many of our residents were unable to access their residences when our causeways were essentially closed off. This also happened during other high-impact or emergency periods. To ensure this does not happen again, I proposed an initiative for a Miami Beach resident re-entry plan during emergency and high-impact periods. The plan is to provide a dedicated resident only lane to provide easy access to the mainland during causeway closures. I am working closely with our Emergency Management Department to utilize either license plate reader technology or resident issued decals. Whether our causeways are closed for public safety reasons or after a hurricane, anyone living on Miami Beach should never be shut out or wait hours to access their residence.
Preserving Heritage Palm Trees
I am concerned about our City’s current policy and laws that would change our current tree population from 57% palm trees to only 25% by the year 2050. This drastic change would occur in three ways:
- 1. Over 1,000 healthy palm trees throughout Miami Beach are slated to be removed and another 400 “relocated” through 22 active City construction projects.
- An additional 23 projects are currently in the development phase that will call for the removal of scores of additional palm trees, although the exact number has not yet been determined.
- Under our current laws, palm trees no longer count toward the required number of trees on a street or neighborhood.
As new homes or projects are built, or a palm tree dies, planting a new palm tree will not count towards the City’s strict tree count guidelines. While the City does plan to plant palm trees in certain locations, mostly in a few parks, these will not replace the removed palms in our residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors. Under current City law, only non-palm tree species will be given credit to meeting the City’s code. Essentially, our City is by law forcing the phase-out of palm trees.
I am supportive of the City’s plan to significantly increase our tree canopy with shade trees. Adding thousands of shade trees throughout our neighborhoods and parks will bring much needed relief from the heat. While I am supportive of shade trees, they carry their own environmental and sanitation risks that require consideration. The nutrients produced from falling leaves that make their way into our stormwater drains can cause algal blooms similar to those that recently impacted Biscayne Bay.
The City’s current palm tree removal and phase-out of palm trees is expensive and a one size fits all policy that does not account for the historic landscaping in many of our neighborhoods. The removal of so many iconic beautiful palm trees, including royal palms, will have a negative impact on our historic, cultural and economic brand. In addition to their natural awe-inspiring beauty, the sway of palm trees are well suited to withstand hurricanes, are salt and drought resistant, have small roots and don’t cause allergies.
As I seek to preserve many of our historic, cultural and iconic palm trees, I am proposing a legislative amendment that seeks preservation of legacy palm trees in certain neighborhoods. My legislative initiative, if our Commission approves, would allow residents in specific neighborhoods an opportunity for preservation of their palm trees or other landscaping by designating them as historic. Our Commission will discuss and vote on my legacy landscaping initiative at an upcoming Commission meeting.
Civilian Volunteer Patrol Training Has Begun
Last week our City held the inaugural training session for one of my legislative initiatives, the Civilian Volunteer Patrol (CVP), which our Commission passed unanimously. Volunteers will be issued CVP-specific uniforms, attend mandatory classroom training and police ride-alongs, and report directly to the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD). Volunteers will undergo extensive background checks, and will not carry weapons or have arrest powers.
Once they complete several months of training, their visible presence on foot patrol, along with direct radio communication with MBPD to report suspicious or illegal activity, will be an important cost-effective crime prevention tool and act as a strong deterrent to criminal behavior.
The program is initially starting with a limited patrol of six volunteers. I am excited to see our CVP on the streets in the coming months and for the program to grow over time. If you have an interest in volunteering for community patrols, please look out for future application notices from MBPD. In the meantime, please contact me or my aide Amadeus Huff for more information or to express an interest in volunteering.
Please join me tonight, June 22, for my monthly Virtual Town Hall
Our Commission meets monthly for an all day meeting to set policy and pass legislation. The night before each monthly Commission meeting I conduct a virtual Town Hall to discuss important items on the next day’s Commission agenda and issues of importance happening in our City.
Please click the image above to be directed to Zoom.
I am fortunate to work closely with my Commission aide Amadeus Huff who shares my commitment to improve the quality of life for residents each and every day. Please reach out to me any time - my cell phone is 786-810-8728 and my direct City email is StevenMeiner@MiamiBeachFL.gov. Alternatively, you can contact my aide Amadeus Huff at 786-697-7763 or by email at AmadeusHuff@MiamiBeachFL.gov.
Posted on 13 Jun 2021, 01:48 - Category: 2020