Monday, October 19, 2015

It pays to be Mayor Philip Levine's friend [Part one]

This is the first of a series of posts that will examine how Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine takes care of his friends. Beach residents, not so well. But friends, and incompetent employees are a different matter.


Charles "Chuck" Tear, head of Miami Beach's Office of
Emergency Management. 

Last March, Miami Beach threw a birthday party for itself.

From March 22nd thru the 26th, the city celebrated its 100 year history with a 100 hour party that was capped off with a concert.

The concert, fittingly, was as massive as the ego of its architect and chief engineer, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

(Levine told Ocean Drive Magazine that he expected more than 120,000 to attend the concert. The Miami Herald reported that a crowd of just 16,000 showed up. )

Figures released by the city show the celebration's revenues were slightly less than what the city spent (more than $5 million) on the entire shindig.

(Some of the expenses: $250,000 paid to singer Andrea Bocelli, $41,000 for a "Miami Herald ad," $12,000 for "VIP restroom trailers," and more than $143,000 was paid to two security companies. The city also spent more than $2,000 for "staff t-shirts.")

But in case you missed the concert and all the surrounding hoopla, the City of Miami Beach has you covered.

There are almost 100 videos on YouTube that will let you relive over and over, for years to come, all of the sheer wonderfulness of Mayor Philip Levine's greatest accomplishment.

There's even a video of the entire 7 and a half hour concert which includes footage of Mayor Levine embarrassing himself leading Beach commissioners in the singing of Happy Birthday.  The video has a grand total of 700 plus views.

All of the events went off without a hitch. And that's probably due to the tireless efforts of Chuck Tear, the head of Miami Beach's Office of Emergency Management.

At a recent commission meeting, Commissioner Ed Tobin - tongue-in-cheek - called Tear, "One of the greatest Americans in the modern history."

Tear was tasked with keeping the centennial celebration safe. He did all this from a million dollar mobile command center parked on the beach.

In a video on the city's YouTube page, Tear gives a Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco a guided tour of the command center.

Highlight: At one point on the video Tear tells Grieco that he has just issued a safety message advising those working on the concert preparations to "slow down and get hydrated." (Your tax dollars at work, folks.)

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales hired Tear as the City's Emergency Management Coordinator in May 2013 during the final few months of Matti Bower's term as Mayor.

In his more than two years with the city, Tear has managed to fly beneath the radar.

But across the causeway, I'm told that Tear isn't held in high regard by other emergency managers in Miami-Dade County. "You don't have to spend much time with Chuckie to figure out that he's full of sh*t," one source tells me. "How this guy was hired is a complete mystery," says my source. "His resume is loaded with red flags. He bounces around from job to job."

In Feb. 2014, after pictures surfaced that appeared to show 911 call center employees sleeping on the job, Morales turned over control of the call center to Tear, a man with minimal law enforcement experience.

But last April 13 Morales called Tear into his office, and after a profanity-laced tirade that could be heard in the hallway outside, fired him on the spot.  On hand to escort Tear from the building were Assistant Miami Beach Police Chief Lauretta Hill and Police Sgt. Tony Gil.

But sources tell me that when Mayor Philip Levine heard of Tear's termination, he ordered Morales to patch up whatever differences he had with him and rescind the termination. One source tells me that Tear told Morales he'd return to his job, but only if Morales apologized to his staff.

Another source spotted Tear later in the evening sitting in Mayor Levine's court side seats as the Miami Heat faced off against the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Arena.

But some in the city are asking the question: Why does Levine bother keeping Tear around?

Sure, he protected Levine's centennial celebration from an ISIS attack. But after the recent issues with flooding, some are beginning to wonder if Tear has any kind of plan in place to handle even a minor emergency.

Tear who makes well over $100,000 a year - as much as $150,000 according to one source - has one basic function: Make sure the city can respond to emergency situations.

Earlier this month, a Miami Herald photographer managed to find and take pictures of regular citizens struggling with the flooding.

Miami Herald photo by Walt Michot

But for a reason yet to be determined, no one from Tear's Emergency Management department ever dispatched any first responders to check on the welfare of residents affected by the flooding.

The elderly lady in the above photo had to rely on passersby to get back to her apartment.

Perhaps at the next debate, someone will ask Mayor Philip "Just Get It Done" Levine what Tear and his emergency management were doing during the flooding.

As a follow-up question, maybe someone will also ask Levine why no firefighters were available to help residents.

Oh, wait a minute. We now know why.

They were busy campaigning for the mayor's re-election.

On his website, Levine boasts, "At City Hall, we’ve put our customers first and put the government on track to be one of America’s best when it comes to serving our residents and businesses."

I'm calling bullish*t, Mayor Levine.

Chuck Tear may be good at telling people to get plenty of hydration, but as an emergency manager, he's a dismal failure.  Why not "get it done" and fire this clown?

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