News: Three Former Miami Beach Mayors Call for Change

By Gregg Tremain

 A call for a strong mayor form of government in the City of Miami Beach highlighted the February meeting of the Miami Beach Taxpayers Association.

Three former Beach mayors advocated a switch from the city manager system before some 150 residents and taxpayers during a lively panel at the Shelborne Hotel.

Neisen Kasdin, Norman Ciment and Alex Daoud agreed that the city manager system is not suitable for a world class city such as Miami Beach.

The former mayors also sharply differed from the current city commission decision to oppose the extension of casino gambling to Greater Miami.

Daoud said the gaming mater is “too important an issue not to go the people. A vote by the public is necessary.” Ciment said “the gaming issue if the most important matter to face the city in the next 10 to 15 years, and  the people shoud decide.” Kasdn, who represents one of the proponents of casino gambling in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, said “We have gambling all over the place in South Florida already. In the dog and horse tracks, at the Indian reservation casino and at jai alai frontons.”

Ciment said “If we don’t accept establishing a casino as a major destination attraction, other cities will get it.” Kasdin noted that gambling would not make Miami Beach into either a Las Vegas or an Atlantic City. We have much mofre than they do to offer both visitors and residents.”

Kasdin said Miami Beach has no effective transportation link to the mainland, and “the city should focus on connecting Miami Beach to Miami.”

Ciment said Miami has outstripped Miami recently through its completion of major sports facilities, new centers for the arts and up-to-the-minute hotels and restaurants. “Miami Beach need to expand our convention center, install the latest technological features and provide adequate parking and transportation links to the rest of South Florida.”

Asked what single act they most regretted, the former mayors had quite different replies. Daoud said, ” I would have started writing books earlier. I took a lot of wrong turns after being elected in four straight elections. And I yielded to greed.”

Kasdin said he made a serious error in failing to insure the purchase of the so-called Alaska parcel in South Beach. And Ciment said “Miami Beach is a great place to grow a family and run for office. I gave out fliers for candidates for commission when I was young, and I hope to so again for one of our sons.”

Daoud noted that “I don’t know of a single city manager who still lives in Miami Beach and pays taxes here. And how many of you make the $400,000 a year salary we pay the city manager.”

The three pointed to the success of cities such as Chicago and New York with the strong mayor form of government.

Miami Beach Taxpayers Association program chairman Russell W. Galbut, one of the world’s foremost condominium developers, moderated the panel.

President Jared Galbut announced the association will hold a meeting of officers and members of its board of directors Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 8:30 a.m., also at the Shelborne Hotel, 1801 Collins Ave. Miami Beach.

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