After bruising election, Miami Beach Mayor calls for civility

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

After bruising election, Miami Beach Mayor calls for civility:

"We can do better"

Following a particularly nasty campaign season, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber called for civility this week. Gelber, who did not have an opponent, and three City Commissioners were sworn in on Monday after an extended election in which the three commission races all went to a runoff.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola was re-elected while new Commissioners Steven Meiner and David Richardson replaced retiring Commissioners Joy Malakoff and John Elizabeth Alemán.
After the new Commission was seated, Gelber spoke about civility, urging the City to lead by example. Acknowledging there is generally good discourse on the Commission dais, he said the lack of civility that’s “been really bugging me lately” surfaced during the campaign season and he blamed the internet.
“I understand in campaign season, people can get very upset with one another and it can become very negative,” he said. “That’s not a new thing but, I think, what’s happened that’s really begun to bother me is that there seems to be a negativity always.”
“I think the internet provides a lot of forums for people to say things from their homes without having to confront somebody that can be very mean and, frankly, nasty and abusive,” he said. “And because the keyboard doesn’t have a truth key, it doesn’t really matter if it even resembles the truth. So, you see disagreement online be described as corruption. You see people accused of terrible things with little proof without any kind of concern for objective truth.”
Online groups, he said, “become an echo chamber for where thoughtful voices are going to be as unimportant compared to outrageous, exaggerated or other voices. Shame just doesn’t seem to exist there.”
He acknowledged many members of the community do not participate and others “just watch it the way you might slow down to look at [an] accident and rubber neck,” he continued. “But it is there and it is toxic and it has deconstructed civil dialogue.”
Gelber noted the issue is not just local. “It’s obviously a national phenomenon that has been happening for some time, but it is in our city and I don’t understand why it’s here. I have no idea. In this city. People save money for years to spend a vacation in our city. People come here to take selfies of themselves to send to their friends and relatives to make them jealous that they’re not here. We live in a paradise. It’s really amazing how grateful we should be for what we have.”
“I just feel like it’s important for us as a community to elevate our public discourse about issues even when we disagree. I know we can do better especially if we expect better,” he said.

Gelber described a recent meeting in his office with “someone who had been particularly vitriolic online… to discuss some of the issues that obviously were weighing on him. And it was like I was meeting somebody who had an evil twin brother, okay. It was just like a nice thoughtful thing. We shook hands. We talked about it just like two people.”
“I think there’s got to be a better way,” he said urging the community to step up. “We are a city that leads. We lead in resiliency. We lead in inclusivity. We lead in governance practices. We lead in police practices. We are a city that tries to set a standard. As I always say when it comes to LGBTQ issues, we don’t check the boxes like other cities. We create the boxes that other cities check and I think that’s, to a great extent, how we do so many different things.”
“Let’s show that there is a better way. Let’s just lead in civility. Let’s just lead in that area. Let’s try to govern ourselves in a way that any other community would say, ‘God, I wish I lived there because the people get along even when they disagree.’ Let’s try to be an example and show that you can disagree agreeably, that facts matter, and that adversaries can get along if they just simply remind themselves that they’re all simply trying to elevate their community. They’re all trying to simply leave the city a little bit better than when we found it.”
“So, for me, this is very simple,” Gelber concluded. “This is something we must do. So, everybody should smile because you get to wake up in Miami Beach every day. Thank you for the privilege of this office.”
Remarks on civility by Mayor Dan Gelber. Thanks to Seth Feuer for pulling the video clip!


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