When recently elected Vice Mayor Josh Liebman arrived at his home on the Friday before his first city commission meeting, he had a special delivery from city hall awaiting him. The multi-inch thick binder he assumed was the city charter and perhaps development codes library turned out to be the back-up packet agenda for the next meeting.
“My greatest surprise was the size of the agenda books,” said Liebman. “We have three to four days—- two of which are the weekend—-to review the three inch thick material and prepare for the next meeting. The back-up for the Murray Pool issue is another three inch binder.”
Although criticized as a “flip-flopper” for leading the commission in a historic compromise to move the Murray Pool plan forward when he did not support the pool during his campaign, Liebman said he was standing up for a reasonable compromise on an issue already moving forward, rather than championing the pool per say.
“From previous meetings I knew the Murray Pool proposal was going to pass,” said Liebman. “The solution was to build the pool without raising taxes and allow us to use the revenue already secured for the project and not risk future loss of grant money. Too often people will not take a stand because they are too worried about getting re-elected. I chose to support it in the interest of compromise; to come up with viable solutions. Although I think the label of flip-flopper is much too presidential for me.”
Sporting blue and white flip-flops at the following meeting along with his three piece suit, Liebman enjoys a degree of levity during commission meetings. “I like to engage the audience and incorporate a twist of humor in the meetings. It is not to make light of serious subjects but I think it can be refreshing. I have never heard these meetings described as anything but boring.”
For the new commissioner who is about 15 to 20 years younger than his peers on the dais, he says humor is a part of the energy, passion and team spirit he brings to the discussion. “When the Miami Heat was playing during the NBA Finals, I made the comment that we should be more like a basketball team working toward a common goal rather than golfers independently out on the links.”
Liebman finds the apparent tradition of attempting to remove department heads from their jobs by elected officials as divisive and counter-productive. “I don’t understand why every time there is a new administration they want to bring in their own staff. Then you have no history and no experience when a new administration should rely on an experienced staff team.”
Although his votes are usually in the minority, Liebman believes he and fellow commissioners get along well (notwithstanding the fact that three of them did not support his election). “When you consider the nature of political dynamics in South Miami and the fact that most of the time we are not in agreement, I still believe I have a good working relationship with the commission.”
In terms of ongoing initiatives from his campaign platform, Liebman continues to work towards finding a home for the running track he envisions for the community, the beautification of area parks and increase in cultural events, improvements to the city website, and a greater alliance between residents and business owners.
“As I said during my campaign, I hope my involvement in local government will motivate others to get involved in the city and run for office, that way I won’t have to.”
Vice Mayor Liebman was recently accepted as a 2012 class member of former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson’s Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami.