By the rumblings out of South Pointe, you’d think the Beirut Green Line had been dragged 3000 miles west to become a line of demarcation between warring factions south of Fifth. Only this confusing crossfire is more between business, resident, and high school-kids instead of religious fundamentalists.
Frank Del Vecchio, activist and unofficial “mayor” of South Pointe, has been tearing up the emails with the mayhem and woe inflicting his part of the Beach. Man’s got a point. Frank—who never speaks before the commission without a bulging brief and tersely-turned presentation—has also aired his case via the SunPost and even by YouTube (“Beach Bottle Slum”)! To buttress his case this full-court press even displays, like a long-sought trophy, an out-of-town t-shirt emblazoned Spring Break, South Beach – Sleep All Day Party All Night – Party Till You Puke!
We can relate, having long since bolted the Boogie Till You Puke brigade for the Chardonnay & Brie crowd.
Like any good salesman, Frank’s also posted testimonials (or are they “anti-monials”?) condemning the goings on, which are apparently warning the world at large via sites like Travelocity and Orbitz on the perils of visiting our boggy slum. The epicenter of trouble appears located near Nikki Beach, where tales of drunkenness and cruelty emanate far into surrounding environs as gangs of kids lay waste to the beach and beyond with public disturbance, rowdy behavior, mass littering and worse, far into the night.
Frank judiciously gives the police a pass, saying they already have a full plate what with special events and dangerous crime, and neither they nor the city can handle the crazies. Which makes the acknowledgement by acting Chief of Police Raymond Martinez that police policy is NOT to enforce the open drinking laws even less palatable.
But these events are only the latest in a skirmish pitting businesses against residents in that unhappy place. This perhaps intractable problem stems from trying to reconcile the disparate ideas of maintaining a “normal” neighborhood in a setting designed to attract crowds through glitz, noise and drama. As an observer to it over the years we’d have to acknowledge that business is gaining the upper hand. After all, their business is business, and to offer patrons a place to party hard and make tons of noise, and never mind those pesky regulations. They’re practicing the twin pillars of American capitalism, melding noisy fun with the ka-ching! of the cash register. Residents, of course, want only the space to enjoy their investment minus the harassment and walls of noise.
Most commissioners appear content with turning a blind eye and hoping that things simply resolve themselves… but, they won’t. Why take a stand and lead the way when you can dodge the issue? (They are tackling this vexed problem at the April 14 commission meeting. You can go speak; see http://web.miamibeachfl.gov/cityclerk/scroll.aspx?id=1808 for details.
So with City Hall in silence and the police defaulting, the great unwashed from the mainland feels free—no, entitled—to come and drag their coolers and bodies and nonsense over our dunes and onto our streets. Redneck Riviera, indeed.
And, Frank states, the lack of policing means there’s good reason to curtail special events south of Fifth. But a better solution (don’t we always have one?) would be to establish market rates for parking, which will allow hiring more cops—besides suddenly opening up parking for residents and well-heeled tourists.
One of the chief reasons the Kendallistas and Hialeah hooligans come over is because of the cheap parking. If you were 18 and it only cost a buck twenty-five an hour to park (or is it $6 a day?) wouldn’t you come too? So even tho’ the term “parking” is sacrosanct in the land of autocentricity, let’s charge a market rate of, say, $15 an hour, or $12 an hour, or even ten; do you think the riff-raff will spring for that? It’s already apparent that most of ‘em don’t spend money but only their time and, uh, effervescence, here so what’s the net loss? And with that money we could hire more police officers who could (had better?) enforce the underlying cause of these kinds of disturbances, namely, quality of life issues like ticketing open containers, cracking down on public intoxication and urination and, generally, stopping the mayhem at the source instead of responding to some impromptu out-of-control. “block party”.
Look how fast New York City got safer once Giuliani rid it of subway toll jumpers, graffiti “artists” and squeegee bums. Heck, we could make a major dent in our mess inside of a weekend!
Let’s also consider the swarms of clubbers who pour from discoland at unimaginable hours with no place to go. (It can’t be the beach, which is unsafe, pitch black, and besides, what’s there at that hour?) We can’t have so many people, with so little to do, milling about the streets.
Why not entice ‘em to the brand-new Lincoln Park? Expand that into a major venue holding five instead of one thousand people, and have something on that giant DVD screen to keep ‘em happy, gathered and safe. Of course, you’d need more wide-open space, less trees, and a few more restrooms than are there already, but look: our very own Town Square to draw the noise away north and put it where it belongs.
That’s all we need. That and a city commission with the drive and focus to make it happen and a police department willing to enforce the law.