Sunshine State News has apparently poked the bear with Miami Beach Mayor and possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, who recently launched into Donald Trump-esque Twitter and Facebook tirades over an article SSN posted about the popular homesharing site, Airbnb.
Last week, SSN published a story detailing how the city of Miami Beach is imposing hefty fines to the tune of $20,000 on illegal renters in the city, all while refusing to reach any short-term agreement with the company to lessen the fines.
Airbnb says it has tried repeatedly to arrange meetings with the mayor, but told SSN he refuses to meet with them.
Levine might not meet in person, but he didn’t have any problem taking to the internet to tweet his frustrations at the company’s official communications account. On Sunday, he turned on the Trump switch and began a full-blown Twitter assault on Airbnb.
“MB doesn't want what your selling!!!!” Levine replied after the company tweeted out SSN’s article. “Convince the commission!”
Levine went on to say he was a fan of Airbnb, but the praises were short-lived -- in a matter of seconds, Levine was back to trashing Airbnb for ruining Miami Beach.
“Against destroying neighborhoods/buildings [with] short term rentals in Miami Beach! LOVE Airbnb but not in [Miami Beach,]” he tweeted.
Airbnb attempted to offer an olive branch and requested an in-person meeting, but Levine wouldn’t budge. Instead, he spouted off a series of emoji-laden responses in retort.
“Soooooo sad....” the mayor wrote, with five crying emojis attached.
Twitter wasn’t the only place where Levine went to air his grievances with the company. He also responded in a lengthy Facebook post where he invoked a familiar Trump term, calling SSN “fake news.”
“LOVE when Airbnb pays writers to write fake sponsored articles with fake journalists on fake news-sites,” Levine commented.
Levine seemed to spiral out of control in the posts, puffing his chest about his own accomplishments while criticizing the company of promoting cyberbullying.
“Thankfully as a self made successful entrepreneur I don't need Airbnb money and would never crumble to their strong arm Mafia tactics!!!” he wrote. “Matter of fact, I would like to tighten up our short term rental laws even more so that future political leaders don't succumb to #CyberBullying.”
While Airbnb is a contentious issue in Miami Beach, it appears it’s not quite as controversial as Levine and the Commission might make it out to be. In fact, recent polling shows nearly all of Floridians in the area are in favor of putting Airbnb in their cities.
A Mason-Dixon poll, not commissioned by Airbnb, but by another vacation rental site, HomeAway, found 94 percent of Southeast Floridians want Airbnb to operate legally in their hometowns.
“HomeAway believes in working collaboratively with local governments and community stakeholders to come up with common sense regulations that do not arbitrarily—and adversely—impact the long-standing vacation rental ecosystem in Florida. We partnered with Mason Dixon on a statewide poll to better understand how Floridians view the state’s vacation rental economy," said Homeaway Policy Communications Director Philip Minardi. "The results reflect the strong support traditional vacation rentals have amongst residents across the state."
The same region also said municipalities shouldn’t stop homeowners from renting out their places to visitors. According to the poll, 65 percent of Southeast Floridians said state and local governments should not have the authority to ban homeowners from renting out their private homes for less than 30 days.
The City Commission has denied rejecting Airbnb’s meeting requests, telling SSN representatives from Airbnb are in their offices “all the time.” Meanwhile, SSN has requested a copy of all contact made to and from the homesharing company, but has not yet received a response from the city of Miami Beach.
Airbnb continues to remain hopeful that Levine will do the right thing, but expressed concerns that aggressive fines -- and Levine’s even more aggressive personality -- might cause his own residents to be afraid of speaking up for their rights.
“Most of Mayor Levine's constituents who share their homes through Airbnb are middle class people who genuinely count on that supplemental income to make ends meet,” Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit told SSN. “Unfortunately, these constituents have been stripped of the ability to vocally advocate on their own behalf due to the financially ruinous fines that loom over them.”
Breit said he hoped Levine took a deep breath and backed away from his computer for once.
“Their voices should be heard. We hope the Mayor will take a break from social media and get to know them,” he said. “We - and our Miami Beach hosts - remain willing to come to the table with him and settle these differences.”