The Year Ahead
I am optimistic about 2022 and the future of Miami Beach. Miami Beach faced many challenges in 2021 and our residents and Commission worked together to overcome them. I am listening carefully to the concerns and suggestions of our residents who will help navigate our City and Commission in the right direction.
My priority is to improve the quality of life of all our residents and to bring a strong independent voice to government. There is no greater satisfaction for me in public service than the ability to elevate the standard of living for all residents.
Policing and Public Safety: Taking Back Control
I remain focused on strong law enforcement and increased police visibility. I continue to advocate for a more visible police presence throughout our City as police visibility is the biggest deterrent to crime.
A fully functioning criminal justice system is another major deterrent to crime and requires the prosecution of those who choose to violate our laws. My extensive review this past year of the criminal justice system revealed some serious flaws that needed to be corrected.
In 2018, Miami Beach created a Municipal Prosecution position to handle criminal municipal violations. All other misdemeanor offenses are handled by the State Attorney’s office (SAO). All felonies are handled by the SAO as required by State law.
For the first few years, our prosecution team was a huge success, prosecuting offenses that had long been dismissed. However, after I asked for data from our City Prosecutor for 2021 I learned that 383 of the 418 (92%) City ordinance arrests made by our police in the past year were dismissed either by our City prosecutor or the Court. In response to this information, I proposed a legislative initiative passed by our Commission in October directing our City Prosecutor to prosecute any case and appeal any court dismissal where the defendant has a prior arrest record anywhere in the U.S. We were not previously appealing dismissals.
A successful prosecution can lead to various results, including jail time, a fine, probation or a pre-trial diversionary program (training or rehabilitation). My legislation approved by our Commission also created the pre-trial diversionary program through a non-profit at no cost to Miami Beach so we can help those in need, including the homeless. A prosecution though means something more than arrest and immediate dismissal which had become the norm.
My legislation will go a long way to change this anything goes lawlessness in Miami Beach. At last month’s Commission meeting I brought eight legislative initiatives for Commission approval relating to public safety. One initiative that passed requires our City to hire a second prosecutor to handle the prosecution of criminal misdemeanors.
Another item I will bring back during our Thursday, January 20 meeting for Commission approval directs our City Prosecutors to assume responsibility from the State Attorney’s Office of several misdemeanor offenses, including battery, indecent exposure and criminal mischief (i.e., property damage). My research has revealed that these misdemeanor offenses are overwhelmingly being dismissed without prosecution and I will be going public with the results shortly. Bringing these misdemeanors under our City Prosecutors, which is our right under Florida law, will allow our City to vigorously prosecute these criminal offenses, particularly habitual offenders.
With proper policing and prosecution we are on our way to taking back control of our City streets, especially in South Beach.
Quality of Life Initiatives
I am also actively working on a number of quality of life initiatives that carry over into 2022. Here are some examples:
🔵 Civilian Volunteer Patrol (more on this below)
🔵 Lighting initiatives (more on this below)
🔵 Traffic safety initiatives
🔵 Marinas and Waterways enforcement
🔵 Increased police patrols
🔵 Noise ordinances
🔵 Requiring a police officer to attend and advocate during criminal hearings
🔵 Special magistrate hearings
Undoubtedly, additional initiatives will be born as new challenges arise and the year progresses.
I am committed to expanding lighting initiatives to more areas of Miami Beach. Based on the success of other lighting initiatives I have brought, including 41st Street, I am proud to have sponsored the recent installation of year-round LED "holiday" lighting on the palm trees along 71st Street by the Normandy Fountain. Better street lighting has a direct correlation to crime reduction, looks beautiful, increases pedestrian walkability and helps our local businesses. I am already working on additional areas of our City that need better lighting.
Civilian Volunteer Patrol
Last month saw the official rollout for one of my legislative initiatives, the Civilian Volunteer Patrol (CVP), which our Commission passed unanimously in 2020. Our first group of pioneer volunteers wear CVP uniforms, receive extensive training from our Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) and report directly to MBPD. The CVP’s 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. Volunteers will undergo extensive background checks, and will not carry weapons or have arrest powers. Thank you to our brave volunteers Leon Borenstein, Rhea D’Souza, Joel Kruger, Valerie Navarrete, and Cindy Pitroff, for making the CVP a reality. Training of the next group of volunteers starts soon. New volunteers are welcome and you can apply here:
Quality Business Initiatives
While we work to attract quality businesses to Miami Beach, I am also focused on prohibiting and restricting business models detrimental to our quality of life. A potential impact to our quality of life are retail fulfillment centers (warehouses) on Miami Beach where alcohol and other party products can be delivered 24/7 throughout our City, with delivery trucks and delivery drivers clogging our roads day and night. To counter this impending business model expansion, I brought multiple legislative items that our Commission approved (click here) namely to (1) prohibit and/or strictly regulate zoning of retail fulfillment centers/warehouses (2) enact stricter alcohol delivery hours from the prior 24/7, and (3) enact legislative protections so that a “convenience” store must have 70% store frontage. Our Code did not previously require a minimum store frontage which allowed a “warehouse” to pull a bait and switch on our residents and City by claiming to be a convenience store but act as a warehouse. This loophole is now closed.
Transient Short Term Rentals
Short term rental (STR) apartments in many parts of our City have negatively impacted our quality of life, especially South of Fifth. In October, our Commission adopted legislation which prohibits new apartment hotels in certain zoning districts South of Fifth. Our City also issued stop work orders for two properties already under construction for violating our code provisions. We are reviewing other areas of our City where transient uses of short term rentals could be detrimental to our quality of life and are not already preempted by State law.
We are fortunate to call the paradise of Miami Beach home but each day brings new challenges to protect and improve our quality of life. I am committed to meeting these challenges with creative solutions. Public safety remains my number one priority and I am committed to making Miami Beach the safest coastal city in America.
Please join me on Wednesday, January 19, for my monthly Virtual Town Hall
If I can help in any way, please reach out to me.
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.
We are here to help.
Posted on 14 Jan 2022, 01:22 - Category: 2022