Paradise Lost: Activist Says City Needs to Clean Up Litter Laws

Cork Friedman made a video about the dirty side of the beach -- and he's not talking about Snooki

Ogling topless women is no fun when you have to worry about stepping on a broken Corona bottle.

Residents packed the Miami Beach Commission meeting on April 14th to express their disappointment with the city's lack of enforcement of laws that govern noise, drunkenness and littering. 

The latter is the subject of an eight-minute documentary shot by activist Cork Friedman, who showed the video at the meeting to prove to commissioners that the litter on the beach is out of control.

Not-So Beauty and the Beach

This Thursday, Friedman will show that same video at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, where the Surf Rider Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of oceans and beaches, will meet to discuss the trash conundrum.

"I've been out here every day for 35 years," said Robert "Raven" Craft, who runs the beach every day, "and it's just like a pigpen out here."

Friedman says it's not the beach residents or tourists but rather those traveling across the causeway.

"Ask anyone who knows the beach -- lifeguards, regulars -- they'll all say the same thing. Sometimes I'll ask if they're going to pick up those bottles, and they tell me that's what they pay taxes for." 

Of course, one would argue that we also pay taxes so that laws, such as for littering, are properly enforced.

Right now, the city's solution is to take the "mom" approach and simply clean up after everyone.

"What the county does for the City of Miami Beach, it's a Hurculean effort," Surf Rider chapter member Michael Laas said. "They go out there every day and pick up the trash that was left behind."

According to John Ripple, head of sanitation on Miami Beach, of the more than two million pounds of garbage -- a staggering statistic in itself -- about 950,000 of that is litter that's thrown on the sand.

"That's 37 percent," Friedman calculated. "That's one in three people saying 'I don't give a s--t."

At the most recent commission meeting, commissioners told residents looking for immediate action that they would need time to come up with a long-term plan -- a story Friedman has heard before.

"They give it enough attention to satiate residents, but then it just comes back... Cities all over the country have put rid to the problem," argued Friedman. "Someone's standing there with a bottle, give them a ticket. It's illegal to bring bottles and alcoholic beverages onto the beach... But," he added, "it's now legal to bring a gun."

Friedman said he asked to police to provide him with a report of all the citations they had given for littering. The count was zero.

As for financing the enforcement, Friedman said that the city can't afford not to put money into the problem.

"How long do you think it's going to take before word travels across the pond and all of Europe sees the disgusting beaches that we have here in Miami Beach?" And without tourists, there is no industry on the beach.

"If you were a city official or law enforcement officer and I told you that a crime was going to be committed," Friedman theorized, "and I could tell you exactly when that crime was going to be committed, where that crime was going to be committed, and by whom that crime was going to be committed, and with what, would that not be a really good asset for you?"


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