It’s time for Miami Beach to drive a stake through Spring Break’s heart. But how? | Opinion
It’s long past time for the Spring Break party to end on Miami Beach.
But how to roll up the welcome mat?
Spring Break blew up again on Miami Beach this weekend, in the most tragic of ways. Two young people lost their lives. They were shot and killed in separate incidents during two nights of massive street partying on Ocean Drive, which the city, this year, as in years past, tried but could not completely control.
The city leaders, from Mayor Dan Gelber, to City Manager Alina Hudak and the commissioners, have tried everything they can think of with minimal success, mainly controlling the day partying but not the nighttime events. We get their frustration.
But there are just too many people, too much liquor, too many guns — at least 70 have been confiscated so far. Every night, Ocean Drive turns into a tinder box no matter how many police officers are on the ground. Some would add that late-night liquor sales are to blame; others say all the unruly behavior happens on the streets.
Thank goodness there were not more victims, given the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and their stampede after shots were fired. Gelber called a special meeting of the City Commission for Monday to discuss how to stem the violence for the remaining days, with emergency orders.
A curfew was issued and was to start Sunday night. No liquor will be sold on the streets after 6 p.m., and everyone must be indoors by midnight on South Beach. That, it is hoped, will eliminate the crowds, clear the streets and quell the violence, at least violence that endangers the public.
No one should forget the tragedy that brought the Beach to this decision. Two young men have died; their loved ones are left to pick up the pieces caused by reckless partying, short fuses and the presence of weapons.
Gelber, for years, has tried to end Spring Break on Miami Beach, much like Fort Lauderdale did successfully years ago. The mayor has a different vision for the city, one in which people can work, live and entertain themselves. Ocean Drive would be the cultural center that would anchor South Beach, but he has met opposition along the way.
Are two dead the final straw for him? We asked. ”My “final straw” was four years ago,” the mayor told the Editorial Board on Sunday. “We’ve never wanted Spring Break; who wants thousands of young people to visit your city to act lawless for some rite of passage?” Complicating matters is that many of the Spring Breakers are Black, and accusations of racist treatment have dogged the city for years.
The city must tread cautiously in rolling up its welcome mat. No doubt, the cry to end Spring Break on Miami Beach will start in full on Monday, and with good reason.
Miami Beach Commissioner Vice Mayor Steven Meiner has also had it. “Two people dead. Enough is enough,” he wrote on Facebook. Commissioners meet again Monday to plan for next weekend.
How did the tragedies play out, and could the police have done something differently? Gelber says units arrived at both scenes within minutes. “We have police from every department all over the city,” he said.
Gelber says many residents, sick and tired of the mayhem, have urged him to just pull up the drawbridges on Miami Beach at the start of Spring Break. “We can’t do that,” Gelber said.
But it would be nice if they could.