Steven Meiner on Economic Development and Public Safety in Miami Beach
What is an urbanist? Simply put, we believe an urbanist is a person who deeply loves where they live and believes in using their work to make their neighborhood, their city, better. Through our Ask an Urbanist series, we’ll get to know the people who make our cities special. From diverse disciplines and backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: they make their communities better places to live.
Steven Meiner is a Miami Beach commissioner and the city’s current vice mayor, working alongside Mayor Dan Gelber and his colleagues on the commission. He moved from New York City in 2007 after many years vacationing on Miami Beach. In addition to being a Miami Beach commissioner, Steven is a civil law enforcement attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Prior to the SEC, Steven practiced law in New York City handling complex financial litigation cases for prestigious international law firms Dewey Ballantine and Mayer Brown.
Since being elected in November 2019, Steven has been at the forefront of implementing initiatives relating to urban design, economic development, and public safety.
Q. What is your hands-down favorite city or town and why?
Miami Beach is my favorite destination, hands down. It’s a stunning and vibrant city that my wife, young children, parents, and I have the privilege of calling home. As a commissioner, it is a unique honor to serve the residents of Miami Beach and to enhance our overall quality of life.
Q. How would you describe the state of your city right now?
Despite a challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami Beach remains strong and resilient in continuing to offer our residents and visitors a safe and clean place to visit and live. The biggest challenge in adapting to the new norm is to find new opportunities to reinvent ourselves. I am 100 percent dedicated to ensuring that Miami Beach is safe, resilient, clean, a cultural hub, and an economically vibrant destination for all our residents and tourists.
Q. What is the biggest challenge facing our society today?
The biggest challenge is finding ways to be resourceful with less. As any city in the world right now, the pandemic has caused some economic pain. Nonetheless, it has given us the opportunity to reinvent how we see our city and find ways to be innovative and cost-effective. In the long-run, I am optimistic that the lessons learned from today will allow us to be a more transparent and open government.
Q. What’s the biggest opportunity we have in rebuilding our communities in light of recent crises?
Rebuilding our communities won’t happen overnight. However, this crisis allows us to step back and re-examine our lifestyles—our wants and needs. I have taken this time to build better connections with our residents in order to better understand their concerns and suggestions, so we can help elevate the standard of living for all residents.
Q. What period of time do you find the most inspiring?
The here and now will always be the most inspiring moment. I get to shape the future of my community, and that is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. The residents of Miami Beach inspire me with their ideas and passions. It is truly an honor to be able to be the voice of the people and implement quality-of-life-enhancing legislation such as a new Citizens Volunteer Patrol program, family-friendly activations, and lighting initiatives to make Miami Beach a prime location to work, live, and play.
Q. What’s the innovation you find the most useful, personally? Why?
In light of the pandemic, I have gained an appreciation for video conferencing technology. It is amazing how quickly I can connect with residents and business owners regardless of where we are in the world. For example, I conduct a virtual town hall the night before each monthly commission meeting to discuss important items on the next day’s commission agenda and issues of importance happening in our city. Hundreds of residents tune into my town hall through Zoom or on social media, an exponentially larger audience than would be possible with an in-person town hall.
Q. What innovation do you find the most detrimental, societally? Why?
Some of the negativity on social media has been detrimental, but there are many positives as well. A negative event happening in our city can and has been streamed all over the world. I have seen firsthand how this immediate negativity has forced us as elected officials to respond quickly to enact positive change.
Q. What’s the most urgent issue to solve in our communities, post-COVID? Why is this the top priority for you?
My priority is to improve the quality of life of all our residents, particularly public safety. I am fortunate for the opportunity to have initiated and passed legislation to significantly improve our street lighting, increase police visibility, address homelessness, help our local businesses and provide family-friendly programming and activations.
I refer to myself as an elected representative and not a politician, and I strive to act accordingly.
Q. When you reflect on the difficulties of the past year, what’s the “silver lining” you find the most promising?
The development of early COVID-19 testing and now the rollout of the vaccine have been amazing to watch. I am proud to have spearheaded initial efforts to bring COVID-19 testing to Miami Beach as we were one of the first municipalities to offer testing. Since the vaccine rollout, I have seen firsthand our fire department’s heroic efforts in administering more than 1,500 vaccinations to our seniors.
Q. If you had to pick one place to spend the rest of your days, where would it be? Why?
Find a place that makes you happy—Miami Beach is that place in the world for me. It has so much to offer, including beautiful scenery, wonderful people, along with the warm feel and vibe of living on a barrier island surrounded by ocean, beaches, fresh air, iconic palm trees, and Art Deco architecture.
Q. What’s something that’s moved you—to tears, to act, to smile—whatever it may be? Why did it affect you so deeply?
I smiled and shed tears recently seeing our seniors receive their vaccinations. The relief and joy I witnessed from our seniors to have finally received the vaccine and who are now safer from the life-threatening effects of COVID-19.
Q. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve experienced regarding municipal government in your time as vice mayor of Miami Beach?
Although local government is non-partisan, as there are no political affiliations, it can be just as “political.” To get legislative initiatives passed and implemented, you have to get through some of the red tape to achieve results. I try to make it as non-political as possible. I refer to myself as an elected representative and not a politician, and I strive to act accordingly.
Q. Who are three innovators (artists, inventors, business people, companies, etc.) we should all be watching for right now? Why do you have your eye on them?
Museums, cultural institutions, and innovative business owners are setting their eyes toward Miami Beach, especially as we continue to rebrand South Beach from a party scene to a cultural hub. I support these efforts at rebranding and am proud that my legislative initiative to bring family-friendly activations to Ocean Drive recently unanimously passed our commission. Stay tuned for the rollout of the activations in the coming months.