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Levine is campaigning on climate change. But his sea-rise legacy is complicated.


Via @NewsbySmiley @JoeFlech and @HarrisAlexC

Philip Levine’s political prospects are intertwined with Miami Beach’s $500 million plan to survive rising seas.

When he ran for mayor in 2013 as a relatively unknown businessman, Levine promised to keep the city dry during seasonal high tides and better prepared for a future fighting back floodwater. Now that he hopes to score the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, the plan he set in motion to rapidly raise roads and protect neighborhoods with industrial pumps is a key cog in his progressive platform.

But as Levine crisscrosses the state promoting his radical sea-rise agenda on Miami Beach, his signature accomplishment is springing leaks back home.

Last week, amid questions about planning under Levine’s tenure, angst about the city’s climate change efforts effectively torpedoed the next steps of the former mayor’s agenda. Because of fierce opposition to a $24 million project that includes raising roads, a divided city commission punted on nearly $90 million of roadway and stormwater improvements in a residential swath of the city.

Following the vote, one elected official referred to the delayed project as “ill-conceived.” The criticism follows frustrations from business owners who’ve seen the city’s pumps fail during power outages and faced warnings from scientists who’ve documented evidence that those same pumps are polluting Biscayne Bay.

“I think Philip Levine helped wake everybody up. I love him for that. This is an elected official who said ‘We don’t have time to wait,” said Caroline Lewis, executive director of the climate change non-profit CLEO Institute. “But I’m not so sure everything was so well thought out.”

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