Last month, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber had a private meeting with developers and business and city leaders. At this meeting, during which audio was recorded and released on Monday, he promised his political support as he presented ideas for the redevelopment of the city’s entertainment district. Gelber previously pitched the redesigned South Beach as a way to curb crime and disorder.
“I commit to you this: If you want something on the ballot because it needs to be on the ballot, I’ll put it on the ballot,” Gelber commented during the video meeting, which was recorded by one of the attendees. “I’m prepared to do whatever we need to do and support any idea, even if it’s not particularly popular.” Miami Beach faces an election on November 2 with a referendum on the ballot that seeks to support rolling back drinking at bars in the area to 2 a.m.
Critics and political opponents of Gelber, who is seeking re-election, are using the leaked audio as evidence that the effort to stifle South Beach’s nightlife is about money rather than crime. Jean Marie Echemendia is Gelber’s most well-funded opponent, and she published the nine minute recording on a website she set up to showcase Gelber’s donors. “You don’t get rid of crime through over-development,” said Echemendia.
However, Gelber commented in a recent interview that the idea that the referendum is intended to benefit developers is “almost a moronic claim.” He additionally noted that he did not say anything in the meeting that he has not said publicly.
Fabian Basabe, a former Miami Beach Commission candidate, recorded and circulated the audio, and he sent an edited clip to Gelber’s mayoral opponents. Basabe, who was disqualified from running in the Group 2 commission race because he did not meet the residency requirement, said he waited a month to release the audio as he was trying to “give Gelber the benefit of the doubt.” Now, he believes the public deserves to know what is happening behind closed doors. “I feel like the public’s voice is less and less heard,” said Basabe.