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A new era for Miami Beach politics: Meiner in, Gelber out as mayor

A new chapter in Miami Beach politics began Tuesday as Steven Meiner was sworn in as the city’s 39th mayor during a ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

“I have a clear vision for Miami Beach, and I’m not going to stop until it’s achieved,” Meiner, a city commissioner since 2019, said from the dais after he took the oath of office. “I think we’re going to accomplish incredible things.”

Three new commissioners were also sworn in: Tanya Bhatt, Joe Magazine and David Suarez.

City officials bid farewell to outgoing Mayor Dan Gelber — who was term-limited after three two-year terms — as well as Ricky Arriola, who faced term limits after eight years as a commissioner, and David Richardson, who resigned his commission seat to run for Miami-Dade County tax collector.

Four of the city’s seven elected positions changed hands Tuesday as a result of elections earlier this month.

Newly sworn Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner, left, takes the gavel from outgoing Mayor Dan Gelber during a ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.
Newly sworn Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner, left, takes the gavel from outgoing Mayor Dan Gelber during a ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

The new officials, along with incumbents Laura Dominguez, Alex Fernandez and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, will seek to address concerns about public safety, traffic, flooding and development in a city that has for years confronted tension between its status as a tourist and party hub and residents’ desire for a quieter, toned-down lifestyle.

Meiner pledged Tuesday, as he did during his campaign, to achieve the city’s goals through proactive policing and a tough-on-crime approach, expanding on work he did as a commissioner.

“Law and order is priority number one,” he said. “I am going to be relentless with a sense of urgency to improve our quality of life.”

Meiner said he would continue to support a municipal prosecutor program under which the city prosecutes various misdemeanor crimes, seek to open a drug testing lab in Miami Beach and crack down on spring break crowds in March with secured perimeters and other measures.

New Miami Beach Commissioner Joseph Magazine hugs his daughter Capri during a swearing-in ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.
New Miami Beach Commissioner Joseph Magazine hugs his daughter Capri during a swearing-in ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

Meiner, an enforcement attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, also announced the creation of a new role in the mayor’s office: a “public safety enforcement adviser.”

“It’s not just reducing crime, it’s reducing the fear of crime,” Meiner said. “Perception is reality.”

As power changed hands Tuesday, city officials acknowledged Gelber’s run as mayor since 2017.

Gelber — whose father, Seymour, was mayor of Miami Beach in the 1990s — helped lead the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and then an economic boom that brought rising housing costs and record resort taxes. He spearheaded two major general obligation bonds for capital projects, first in 2018 for $439 million for dozens of projects related to public safety, infrastructure and parks, and last year for $159 million for arts and culture facilities.

“They represent the greatest effort in city history to repair and reimagine Miami Beach,” Gelber said of the bonds.

Gelber presided over a series of contentious issues during his tenure as mayor, including a debate about whether to move last call for alcohol sales from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. in the South Beach entertainment district and several referendums on development projects.

Miami Beach Commissioner Tanya Bhatt raises her right hand as she is sworn in during a ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.
Miami Beach Commissioner Tanya Bhatt raises her right hand as she is sworn in during a ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

His colleagues praised him Tuesday for approaching his role with civility and a sense of humor.

“The one thing that I always, 100%, unequivocally felt is that I trust this man,” Meiner said. “I never had to look over my shoulder with you. I knew you had my back.”

Meiner will lead his first City Commission meeting as mayor on Dec. 13.

He defeated former City Commissioner Michael Gongora in a Nov. 21 runoff, winning despite being significantly outspent by his opponents and foregoing negative campaign tactics.

Commissioner David Suarez, left, is sworn into office with his family by his side during a swearing-in ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center on November 28, 2023.
Commissioner David Suarez, left, is sworn into office with his family by his side during a swearing-in ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center on November 28, 2023.
Outgoing Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber speaks during a swearing-in ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Mayor-elect Steven Meiner was sworn in during the ceremony, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.
Outgoing Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber speaks during a swearing-in ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Mayor-elect Steven Meiner was sworn in during the ceremony, Tuesday, November 28, 2023.