Friday, September 11, 2015

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has a branding manager, and other fun facts

Mayor Philip Levine keeps his public relations staff
busy producing stuff like this.  (Click to enlarge.)

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is fond of telling his constituents that he doesn't take a paycheck for the wonderful work he does. "I am the guy who spent $2M to clean this place up, [and I don't] take a salary or expenses," he recently reminded a disenchanted former supporter.

And on his campaign website, Levine says, "Taxpayers work hard for their money. This City should work equally hard to ensure that money is wisely spent."

But just because Levine doesn't take a city paycheck — and hollow campaign clichés notwithstanding — doesn't mean he's not spending the taxpayers' money like a drunken sailor.

Yesterday, outgoing Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin chaired a meeting on the city's budget.

Inexplicably, however, the mayor was absent despite the fact the meeting had been on the calendar for months.

One wonders how the meeting would have gone had the mayor been present. Almost immediately, Tobin turned his attention to the increased staffing in the mayor's office since Levine assumed command in 2013.

Tobin noted "the mayor has increased his staff significantly," and expressed concerns that some of the mayor's staffers seem to have been hired to do Levine's PR work.

Tobin also repeatedly tried to find out how much taxpayers were paying for Levine's "chauffeur."

"Tell us about the chauffeur," Tobin implored. "How much is the chauffeur costing us?"

After quite a bit of prodding, Tobin was able to get Budget Director John Woodruff to admit the cost taxpayers to have a chauffeur squire the mayor around town is about $90,000 a year.

Tobin then turned his attention back to the mayor's public relations people. "We have an extra four employees we never had before, " said Tobin.

Turns out the mayor does have quite a bloated staff, including a secretary, a front desk secretary, an office manager, a chief of staff, an aide, an executive assistant, a public relations specialist, and something called a "branding manager." All this for the mayor of a town with less than 100,000 residents.

Click here to enlarge. 

One of the questions not asked at the meeting was "Why in the hell does Levine need a branding manager?"

His branding manager, I've learned, is a guy named Djordje Milekic. He's the lucky dude who gets to follow the mayor around the city with a camera and preserve moments - like the one you see below - for the enjoyment of generations of Miami Beach citizens not yet born.

Click image to enlarge.

Best unscripted moment of the meeting came when Tobin cut off Commissioner Jonah "Potty Mouth" Wolfson's microphone after he attacked Commissioner Deede Weithorn after she raised questions about the city's budget.

But my favorite moment came when Tobin was discussing the city's Emergency Management department and Tobin called, Chuck Tear, the city's emergency manager, "one of the greatest Americans in the modern history."

I'm still trying to figure out what that means. Ed never disappoints.

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