By Sylvia Gurinsky
What do you do when you're a city whose biggest profit-maker can also become one of your worst nightmares?
While the city of Miami Beach is asking itself that question after the early-morning shootings - resulting in one death - on the last day of Urban Beach Weekend, the city of Fort Lauderdale answered that question during the mid-1980s, when it regularly hosted spring break.
Immortalized by the 1960 film "Where the Boys Are," spring break, which takes place in mid-March, became Fort Lauderdale's most popular moneymaker. But by the 1980s, it had become a weeklong haze of booze, drugs, vandalism and arrests. The sight of thousands of partying college students scared off other vacationers.
City leaders finally decided enough was enough and stopped trying to lure the thousands to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. College students still come to the city, but in smaller - and far quieter - numbers.
The decision might be somewhat different for Miami Beach. While spring break was a moneymaker for Fort Lauderdale, that city's economy didn't depend as much on bars as South Beach's does on the hotels and nightclubs that attract the famous and the glitzy. And any attempt to end Urban Beach Weekend, which started as a Hip-Hop weekend a decade ago, may be seen as veiled racism.
Still, local businesses are among the complainers. The Clevelander on Ocean Drive was among those deciding to close early during the weekend. Plenty of tourists and numerous residents are also upset. (And never mind the appropriateness of having this event on a weekend that's supposed to honor this country's war dead.)
It's one thing to have a fun weekend. But shootings, vandalism and crimes that affect Miami Beach's quality of life, even for just a few days, are too much to ask. Beach government must get promoters, business owners and anyone involved at a high level in Urban Beach Weekend to cooperate in ensuring it's a safe weekend - right down to chipping in on the cost.
Otherwise, Beach leaaders should make the decision Fort Lauderdale's leaders did.