Friday, January 13, 2017

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is preparing to run for Governor of Florida by reading a widely discredited book about the state that's full of myths and made up 'facts'

In 2013, during his first run for Miami Beach Mayor, Philip Levine promised in one of his campaign ads to "get the city's finances under control [and] end corruption." Levine won the election, and a second term in 2015.

But yesterday - less then a month after the city discovered that $3.6 million had mysteriously vanished from its bank accounts without anyone noticing - Levine announced that he will not seek a third two-year term.

Instead - in a video posted on YouTube - Levine strongly hinted that he'll run for governor in 2018.

Levine told the Miami Herald that "he plans to go around Florida on a listening and learning tour this spring before making a final decision."

On Twitter, Miami Beach-based filmmaker, and frequent Levine critic Billy Corben, reacted to the news of a potential Levine candidacy: "Florida man who can't handle Miami Beach budget thinks he can run the whole state."

Levine told the Herald “over the coming months, I plan to travel the state to listen, learn and “find Florida,” he said. “I am actually reading T.D. Allman’s book “Finding Florida.” I will make my decision in the spring.”

But before Levine "finds Florida," he might want to look around and find a better reference book on Florida.

At the Miami Book Fair last year, Levine met Allman, had his picture taken with him and called him a "fantastic author."

Levine apparently made that assessment without doing any research.  Allman's "Finding Florida" has been widely discredited by both critics and historians.

A photo posted by Mayor Philip Levine's (@mayorlevine) on

James Clark, a lecturer in the History Department at the University of Central Florida criticized "Finding Florida" for being "grindingly negative." In 2013 Clark wrote that if Allman had "been willing to do more research and provide a complete picture, this could have been an outstanding book."

When I told Tampa Bay Times writer Craig Pittman that Levine planned to read Allman's book, he chuckled.

Pittman, a Florida native who has covered Florida's environment for the Times since 1998, is arguably, an expert on all things Florida. (Pittman is the author of "OH, FLORIDA! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.")

In 2013 Pittman and colleague Jeff Klinkenberg read Allman's book and found it full of "forehead-slapping errors."

Here are just three:
• About the naming of the state: "It was not because of any profusion of flowers. Look into any Florida backyard; even today you'll see a somber palette of greens" (p. 7). The guidebook Florida Wild Flowers features 500 colorful entries such as scarlet morning glories, meadow beauty and purple passionflowers.

• "Palms ... are not native to Florida" (p. 119). The Florida silver palm, the Keys thatch palm and the sabal palm — the state tree — are natives.

• "Rita Mae Brown had become the most successful Florida-born author since Zora Neale Hurston ..." ( p. 443). A two-fer: Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Ala., and Rita Mae Brown in Pennsylvania.

On, Pittman posted a longer list of errors and omissions contained in Allman's book, including this: "The omission that truly amazed me was the life and death of Harry T. Moore, the first civil rights leader to be martyred to the cause. Moore's valiant life and death are covered ably by Gilbert King in the Pulitzer-winning Devil in the Grove, a far, far superior Florida history book than this one."

Today I asked Pittman if he had a list of books he'd recommend that Levine read.

Here's his emailed response:
"If you want to learn about Florida, here's a list of 10 books that would be better than that other one."
--"Seasons of Real Florida" by Jeff Klinkenberg
--"Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams" by Gary Mormino
--"Backroads of Paradise" by Cathy Salustri
--"Fringe Florida" by Lynn Waddell
--"Up for Grabs" by John Rothchild

--"The Man Who Invented Florida" by Randy Wayne White
--"Orange Crush" by Tim Dorsey
--"Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston
--"Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen
--"Condominium" by John D. MacDonald

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