The social media winds, they are a blowin’ on Miami Beach.
The impact local resident and environmental activist Michael DeFilippi has had through his Clean Up Miami Beach Facebook group got him invited to Facebook’s first Communities Summit with Mark Zuckerberg in Chicago this week. And he got a shout out from CNN Tech:
A local Facebook Group in Miami called "Clean Up Miami Beach" has gone from coordinating litter cleanups of 10 people to a political force with more than 4,500 members. Administrator Michael DeFilippi has the ears of local politicians -- Miami's mayor and city manager are members -- and successfully pushed for new legislation to outlaw Styrofoam. [Second time this week we’re pulling out the “Miami isn’t Miami Beach, folks” line for a major media organization.]
When the City’s Finance and Citywide Projects Committee voted to demolish the log cabin on the City-owned West Lot proposed for the North Beach Yard pop-up food concept due to serious termite and vermin infestations and wood rot, local residents took to Facebook to urge the City to save it. North Beach resident Kirk Paskal wrote, “There is no other building like it in Miami Beach, and with its proposed destruction, a revered part of North Beach's identity will be lost. This is a big disappointment and sends a terrible message. Just sad. What can we do to stop this before it is too late?” A lively discussion ensued with Commissioners Joy Malakoff and John Alemán, both members of the Finance Committee, explaining the level of damage cited in a report requested by the City to assess the condition of the cabin. In a difficult budget year with many unfunded projects, Alemán tried to make the case for prioritization but the Facebook commenters weren’t having it.
The impromptu campaign certainly had an impact. Committee Chair, Commissioner Ricky Arriola, told RE:MiamiBeach “It’s a tiny bit premature in some ways to say what’s going to happen but I would very confidently say it will be saved and restored.” How much and what type of restoration is TBD. “The question,” he said, “is what do we want to do with the log cabin as far as restoration goes. Do we want to do a replica or do we want to do enhancements” including air conditioning, hurricane windows, etc. “or do you want to leave it as a kind of rustic structure.” The cabin, he said, “has evolved over the last hundred years or so. So to bring it back to a state in which it is habitable will require quite a bit of money.” Next steps? “We need to sort out where the money comes from, what we want to restore, and its ultimate location. Is it the North Beach Yard or somewhere else in North Beach?”
Arriola is also involved in another social media driven story, the potential reduction in operating hours for the Purdy Lounge in Sunset Harbour. Earlier this month, after a shooting outside the bar, he put an item on the City Commission agenda to remove the grandfather provision allowing the lounge to operate until 5 am. New establishments in Sunset Harbour are required to close at 2 am. After a Facebook campaign which one local resident asserted included the voices of many people who live outside the area, Arriola agreed to meet with Purdy Lounge owners to try to forge a solution. Since then, he said, “We had a community meeting with the Police, Code Enforcement, the ownership of Purdy, and neighbors, and we worked out preliminary deal points but it’s still a work in progress. If the Purdy operators can live up to their commitment, Purdy will remain a 5 am establishment and if they don’t, everything is on the table.”
Among the outcomes, Purdy Lounge has hired an additional security guard, more security cameras have been ordered, larger signs regarding noise levels are on their way, a dress code has been implemented, and employees now clean the sidewalks at the close of business. Another meeting is scheduled in the next couple of weeks.
Lastly, Arriola and several of his fellow Commissioners found themselves the target of more social media criticism over medical marijuana, in particular, a couple of items on the Commission agenda next week: one to ban medical marijuana dispensaries on the Beach (sponsored by Commissioner Joy Malakoff) and another to extend the moratorium on dispensaries for another six months (co-sponsored by Commissioners John Alemán and Malakoff).
After first reading of the City’s proposed regulations and allowable operating locations for four dispensaries, the State legislature finally broke an impasse on State regulations. That bill according to Arriola “made our regulations ineffective and obsolete… if we don’t do the moratorium, people can start filing for business tax receipts to operate in any neighborhood, right next to residential neighborhoods with no limits on where they can open and how many they can open.” He believes the City’s proposal can be fixed within 30-60 days but he’s concerned the social media pressure may be too much for some of his colleagues. “The question is do commissioners have sufficient fortitude to pass a moratorium or give in to the social media warriors who very savagely criticize us and unfairly too.”
“Just as we don’t want a massage parlor on every block or a bar on every block we want to try to have some common sense about where these will open,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what people voted for when they voted for medical marijuana. They want convenient access but I don’t think they want 300 pot stores all over the Beach.”
And those social media winds? They don’t show any sign of dying down any time soon.