The Dolphins Deal: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
SDM spent the better part of yesterday afternoon tuned into the county hearing on the Dolphins stadium project. By now, most of our readers must know that the Dolphins got a commitment from the county to pass an additional 1 percent on the hotel bed tax to fund a major renovation. SDM will give you the good, the bad and the ugly on this deal – but in reverse order.
Once again, county tax dollars will go to paying for a renovation of a sports facility, rather than to better uses. At the end of the day, this will be the reason SDM and all of our living and dead relatives will vote no on the referendum (more on the referendum in a moment).
An old and worn out shibboleth reared its ugly head once again during the extensive discussion of the item. Namely, the idea that this particular tax is limited to certain uses largely related to tourism marketing and promotion and, of course, stadium construction. (These go together apparently in certain weak minds.)
One commissioner railed that the revenue generated by the extra penny tax could not be used for other purposes than those contained in the statute. In a literal sense, this fact is true. The county must follow state law when imposing the tax. But this argument is the shibboleth (a common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth).
The fact is that the county is right now – at this very moment – asking the legislature to amend the bed tax statute so it can raise the bed tax rate. So why couldn’t the county also ask that it be permitted to spend the money for different purposes? Of course it could – if county leaders wanted such flexibility.
But, let’s just say for argument’s sake that the law will not and cannot change. Why shouldn’t the new revenue be used to promote tourism, which is a currently legal use? Well, we all know why. All those hotels are just ATMs for sports franchises – that’s the ugly Miami way.
The Bad – Part I
The proposal adopted by the commission calls for an election in May – yes, you read that right – next month, within 30 days! The county elections supervisor called this timeline “unprecedented.” SDM calls it shameful railroading; most overseas voters, including deployed military personnel, will not be able to participate.
Where are all the lefties screaming about voters’ rights and access to the ballot and all that other nonsense? Or does getting every voter to the polls only matter when a Democrat is running for re-election to the presidency?
The Bad – Part II
While SDM watched the spectacle yesterday, what kept running across our tiny little brain plate was this question: How can billionaire owner Steve Ross want this money so badly that he is willing to join himself at the hip with our community’s best and brightest elected officials? (More on the deal in The Good, below.)
Aside: Commissioners spent the most time trying to figure out how to require that only county cops be hired to provide off-duty security (except when Miami Gardens holds its carnival) and to ensure that more workers on the construction site “look like them” (to quote Commissioner Moss). SDM Wonders: Could the commissioners hear us gag on that little bit of racist tripe? Probably not, but these are your new money lenders Mr. Ross.
Then it struck SDM: Ross built his empire on government deals!Some SDM readers may not know, but Ross builds and operates affordable housing projects all over the place. These projects are built using complicated tax credits and all kinds of other government subsidies and the government helps occupants pay the rent. Because Ross has been “partnering” with government forever (like a Remora or a tape worm), this Dolphins deal is right smack in his wheel house. Ross is a master of corporate welfare.
SDM readers by now should know that this blog opposes this deal on philosophical grounds. However, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez deserves praise for crafting a very good deal nonetheless. Some examples of his tough negotiating:
- The deal requires a vote of the people. So simple, yet so profound…the Alvarez administration probably would have survived had it demanded an election on the Marlins catastrophe.
- The decision to hold the election in May comes from Gimenez’s desire to land Super Bowl 50. In order to do so, the election needs to happen before the NFL meetings later in May. If the legislature supports the tax and voters approve it, then Miami-Dade stands a good chance of being awarded the event. SDM calls this business savvy, but there’s more.
- Gimenez demanded that the Dolphins pay for the election – all of it. To hold the election in May, the county must start getting ready now, which means that costs will be incurred right away. Gimenez got the Dolphins to agree to put up $4.8 million to pay the election costs and the money is nonrefundable. Even if the county doesn’t spend all the money, they get to keep it regardless of the outcome. That, my friends, is cojones.
- According to the testimony, Ross is personally guaranteeing the $120 million debt, which must be repaid in 30 years. Pretty darn good if you ask us.
There’s more to like about the structure of the contract, but you get the picture. Also deserving of kudos are Commissioners Suarez, Bovo and Zapata who raised serious, pointed concerns about the deal and voted to oppose it. (South Dade’s commissioner Bell is in China for some reason and missed the meeting. She wouldn’t have mattered anyway.) Commissioner Bovo was prevented from amending the ballot question to state clearly that the measure increased taxes. His effort was right on and worthy.
SDM Says: The old saying goes that you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken sh*%. Well, this deal ain’t chicken salad, but it’s light years better than the fraud perpetuated by the Marlins. If a deal like this must be done, Mayor Gimenez showed the world the right way to do it.