2017 Miami Election Results: Ocean Drive Liquor Rollback Fails
JERRY IANNELLI | NOVEMBER 7, 2017 | 8:08PM
Miami Beach residents want Ocean Drive to remain Ocean Drive, cocaine-addled, neon-painted warts and all. City residents this month were tasked with voting on one of the most drastic changes to Miami Beach life pitched in decades: rolling back last call on Miami’s most infamous party street from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., in a move that would have kneecapped the party scene at some of the city’s most famous bars, including Mango’s Tropical Café and the Clevelander.
With 23 of 24 precincts reporting, “no” votes were winning by a nearly two-to-one margin, roughly 7,000 to 4,000. The failure is a blow to mayor and gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, who almost single-handedly pushed the measure onto the ballot. But bar owners and residents immediately questioned the move. Levine pitched the rollback as a solution to the city’s “crime problem,” which Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates later disputed with actual crime statistics.
Moreover, bars such as the Clevelander complained the rollback would do little but harm their business and make Miami Beach tamer and no longer unique. Ocean Drive’s bar community staged protests outside the city’s last commission meeting in late October.
Elsewhere, there were no real surprises: Miami Beach’s new mayor is Dan Gelber, a solid-if-unexciting candidate and former Democratic state legislator who pledged to continue fighting sea-level rise and corruption. He mostly won by lying low. His high-flying opponent, Commissioner Michael Grieco, was forced to drop out after he was linked to an illegal political action committee. He pleaded no contest to charges that he instructed an illegal Norwegian straw donor to contribute money illegally through a third party.
Unsurprisingly, city commission candidate Rafael Velasquez got trounced following a sexual-harassment scandal. Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez says Velasquez whipped out his penis while he was sitting in the passenger seat of her car, and another woman later accused him of groping her. (Velasquez also admitted to New Times that he was involved in a third, verbal incident at a birthday party for someone tied to local politics earlier this year.)
But Velasquez maintains he did nothing wrong and remained in the race despite virtually everyone begging him to drop out. The refusal to quit led observers to speculate that perhaps he had done well among early voters who’d selected him before the scandal broke. The rumors turned out to be false. Competitor Mark Samuelian cruised to victory, and now Velasquez looks like twice the asshole. (He was apparently so confident that earlier today, he posted on his campaign page a photo of himself surrounded by women at a bar.)
Former Commissioner Michael Góngora won his race and will return to the dais. But most people likely forgot that race was even happening thanks to all the shenanigans elsewhere.
Back on the mainland, the City of Miami’s elections were unsurprising. Francis Suarez, the only major candidate with name recognition, won the mayoral race in a landslide. (He received almost 90 percent of the vote.) He becomes the second Suarez to run the city, after his father, current Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, served as mayor in the 1980s and 1990s. He was later removed because of a voting-fraud scandal, but the Suarez political dynasty has clearly survived.
Right-leaning commission candidate Manolo Reyes handily won Francis Suarez’s vacated seat. (Latinas for Trump cofounder Denise Galvez Turros didn’t come close). But the city’s other open commission seat is still up for grabs: Veteran politician and former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo (brother of Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo) is leading the race to take over the seat his sibling occupies. But the race could be headed to a recount.
But perhaps most important for the city’s long-term future, Mayor Tomás Regalado’s $400 million “Miami Forever” bond initiative — which allocated $200 million to fight sea-level-rise and millions of dollars elsewhere for affordable housing and other projects — won. Downtown Miami and Brickell residents are likely pleased after Hurricane Irma, tropical storms, and even regularly scheduled tidal flooding have turned their streets into rivers this year.
As for Hialeah politics, well, they remain Hialeah politics. Hialeah Police media spokesperson Carl Zogby quietly won a race for city commission. Scandal-ridden Mayor Carlos Hernandez — who paid an ethics fine in pennies last year and was caught earlier this year both misappropriating money meant to feed poor children and disappearing for a week and lying about his whereabouts — cruised to an easy victory. Someone has to keep things entertaining.