Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24: Don't Want Urban Beach Weekend, Miami Beach? Then Say So

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Roadblocks. Photos of license plates. Proof of residency. Welcome to the police state of Miami Beach - at least for this weekend.

All this cost to taxpayers and inconvenience for everyone will be because of Urban Beach Weekend, which inexplicably takes place a  a time that should honor those who have served this country in uniform. (That's only one of the ironies about this event; the other one is that this seems to be the one weekend in the year that the city opens up to African-Americans, who have never seemed to have a strong welcome otherwise.)

What started with various concert and nighclub promoters more than a decade ago has expanded into a logistical nightmare similar to the Spring Break that visited Fort Lauderdale from the 1960s through the early 1980s - but with violence such as the shooting that killed a driver early last Memorial Day.

Some have mentioned a $1 million profit for this weekend in the past, according to a Miami Herald article. But $1 million doesn't mean much when a city spends almost $2 million in security. Little like this has been seen since the city hosted the two presidential nominating conventions in 1972. Somewhere in heaven, legendary beach Police Chief Rocky Pomerance, who knew how to deal with those 1972 crowds, is probably shaking his head.

Meanwhile, the roadblocks and checkpoints will inconvenience others who would come to the beach for other purposes not connected to Urban Beach Weekend. Many city residents are heading for the hills.

Participants in the musical events say the police procedures make them feel unwelcome. That may be the idea.

But city leaders should at least be honest about it.

If they want Urban Beach Weekend to remain, they should make visitors feel at home (and perhaps suggest a more appropriate weekend than Memorial Weekend).

If Miami Beach doesn't want the event to remain, its leaders should say so. Spending almost $2 million is a costly method of saying, "Go away."

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