So, let’s get this straight: Not only does the public have to vote in favor of any tourist bed tax increase that would help finance renovations at the Miami Dolphins arena, but the NFL also has to pick Sun Life Stadium for its Super Bowl 50 as well?
No game, no play? And we don’t pay?
That’s basically what Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said at a short, anticlimactic press conference this morning to dramatically announce — even though its been leaked already — that a referendum vote must approve any stadium public financing deal.
Well, duh. We, too, remember the recall of former Mayor Carlos Alvarez, which propelled Gimenez to the top job. And while the Marlins is a different team, a different fish with a different fishy deal, the sour taste that left behind in voters’ mouths is still quite discernible and the reason why the mayor and the Dolphins people keep hammering that point about the differences over and over again (more on that later) every chance they get, including at this press conference, which was much ado about nada.
Other than that doozy of a deal-breaker — the Super Bowl must be “landed,” we can’t just be “eligible” — and unless they know something about the NFL decision-making that we don’t, it was really a horse and pony show — all publicity and placation, no pulp.
“My priority is to make sure that the interests of the citizens of Miami-Dade County are protected,” Gimenez said, because apparently we need that clarification since he looks like he’s protecting the millionaire owners of the football team that gave him $25,000 for his re-election PAC.
Basically, however, we are still at the starting point. There is no deal. There are no new details. It’s just an announcement that “for any final contract we must have a public referendum.
“This point is not negotiable,” Gimenez said, and I want to believe him.
And then, I can’t.
“We have not started to negotiate,” the mayor added, and any credibility goes out the window.
Because of course they have started to negotiate.
They started to negotiate months ago when the Dolphins did the first poll in October that showed a whopping 84 percent of voters would say “No siree, we are not going to give public dollars to improve the privately-owned stadium.” That was shortly before they announced hiring Mayor Golden Boy’s campaign Dream Team, who, by the way, already have the mayoral race and one referendum — albeit the easy, sans opposition, Better Schools bond in November — under their belt.
They likely negotiated the questions on the most recent poll last week, which was more like a push poll, pressing for every possible angle they can use to sell the deal on us.
This very press conference — a joint press conference, mind you, where Mike Dee basically summoned the mayor to answer questions with him — is part of that ongoing negotiation, which should really be called cooperation: Make the plan more palatable to the community. Turn community disdain for their process into support for a public vote. Get the state legislators, who have not put the Dolphins desire on their priority list, to reconsider now that we have guaranteed the public will have a say.
Rah, rah! Bip, boom, pah! All that was missing was a few cheerleaders.
“This should put this legislation on the fast track,” Dee said at the press conference which was called over the weekend in a hurry by both the Dolphins people and the mayor — who haven’t started to negotiate — after the Miami-Dade delegation failed to put the stadium financing on their to-do list.
Another goal is to gain some momentum, not keep momentum as Dee said at the conference. Because right now they have no momentum.
Sure, Dee said the hotel and tourism industry is right behind them and community leaders have pledged support. The Senate tourism committee voted unanimously on the measure, which would increase the hotel tax in Miami-Dade from 6 to 7 percent.
But the people on the street, still smarting from the Marlins deal no matter how different it is, are not for the game plan.
What did come through in the press conference, albeit maybe not intentionally, is the pressure that the team and the mayor — who have not started to negotiate — are under to make this happen quickly. Basically, before the NFL decides who hosts Super Bowl 50, which is apparently a really big deal.
Such a big deal, in fact, that the county may be willing to spend about between $3 and $5 million to have the public referendum. It would only be of no cost to taxpayers if we have the vote at the next general election — in 2014.
In response to a question about that cost, and the possibility the Dolphins owners would pay for it, Gimenez said a court decision has ruled that businesses cannot fund special elections. I mean, can you imagine what that would do? We’d have elections every month for one special interest or another.
But the mayor also seemed to be willing to pay the costs (read: let us pay the costs) saying that he and the team — who have not started to negotiate — have a short “window of opportunity” and that is why they want to have the referendum on the same day as the NFL decides who gets the big game. So, basically, the referendum is apparently now leverage — expected to motivate the league to more strongly consider Sun Life Stadium for Super Bowl 50, a very big deal.
Such a big deal, in fact, that if we aren’t picked, if we are snubbed by the NFL, Gimenez wants the option of snubbing the Dolphins. No Super Bowl? No public money. He wants an out.
Then, if that’s the case, the $400 million in renovations — half of which, under the current proposal, are to be paid through public funds — is not about a long-haul effect on our area and longterm economic benefit and the soccer tournaments and other carrots dangled in front of us. They are about one single game?
If that’s the case, then the game’s already over. And nobody wins.