Killer snakes. Cat killers. What a perfect moment to divert attention from the worst economic crisis in a century and those elected officials who voted to use a professional sports stadium as a "stimulus". Along those lines, thanks to Miami Today and its publisher Michael Lewis, also a journalist who has analyzed and reported the sordid details of the Marlins stadium deal. The devil is always in the details and, in this case, the details would not speak for themselves unless they were published.
As it turns out, the stonewalling by George Burgess before the county commission of the true, all-in cost of the Marlins deal is grounds for dismissal. He has to go. This is not a disagreement-- the matter of how much the new Marlins stadium could cost taxpayers-- among honorable friends with differing points of view. This is a very clear failure of providing information to public officials who, with that information in hand, could have taken advantage of an escape clause and voted to suspend the Marlins deal based on excessive bonding costs.
From now on, Katy Sorenson, Sally Heyman and Carlos Gimenez-- the minority of the Miami Dade County Commission-- will have to retain independent counsel and independent economists to assess reality for the blind mice who form the unreformable majority of the county commission. The skyrocketing cost of the Marlins stadium-- born mostly by general tax revenue if the tourist tax fails to meet bond obligations--will be close to $3 billion, all in.
"Amid the worldwide recession, overseas travel to Florida dropped by 13 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year, according to Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm." (Sun Sentinel, July 7, "United States, Florida losing battle for international tourists") If you are a decision maker, you ask yourself: is this a short-term phenomenon, or, a long-term trend? Obviously, our elected officials are surrounded by lobbyists and encouragements to drink from the pipe of tax revenue, not sip from a straw. Obviously, they are geared to a bright future for tourism, more development and construction, more tax base. They are clueless of the horror they turned Florida into, through overdevelopment and an unwillingness to protect and preserve quality of life. Marie Antoinette said of popular discontent, "Let them eat cake". Our county commissioners? "Give them all passes to the Parrot Jungle."
In the best of times, I oppose public financing of privately owned, professional sports stadiums. I disagree that the highest and best use of public tax dollars is to fund games and entertainments that benefit gladiators and the supply chain. But these aren't the best of times by a long shot. The Marlins owner and lobbyists began agitating for a publicly funded stadium in Miami during the best of times. Those ended in 2005 with the bursting of the housing market bubble. Yet the schemers, the dealers, the mortgage brokers, the politicians and their funders were all in fine fettle, with the Monte Cristos and the champagne parties at condo openings and professional athletes and movie stars and Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell elbowing their way into the coziest parties on South Beach.
No wonder a baseball stadium in Miami was just the place to put the tens of thousands of new arrivals who would jam downtown condominiums and fill Miami's streets with nightlife. Just like Singapore. Just like Paris. Just like San Francisco.
Nothing about planning. Nothing about listening to professional planners who took into account history, trend lines and infrastructure costs. Back in 2005, I started asking questions about the unfunded infrastructure deficits in Miami-Dade, as if a rationale analysis of what was needed might keep the decision makers from piling on more growth and more unsustainable debt on taxpayers. County manager Burgess kept the information hidden, at the time, like a state secret. Silly me.
Now is an excellent moment for the minority of county commissioners to hire their own counsel and experts since it is obvious Burgess is angling for a better perch once he leaves county government than operating a roller coaster ride on the side of a mountain in North Carolina.
We need to know what Miami-Dade taxpayers and tourists are on the hook for: last I checked, there were $6 billion in unfunded infrastructure costs, not counting the $2.9 billion for new global agreement, not counting the half billion plus obligation for the Performing Arsht Center, or $1.5 billion in wastewater and water infrastructure upgrades as part of the 20 year water use permit from the state of Florida. Now there is an obligation to pay as much as $3 billion for a new sports stadium. And Florida Power and Light is racing to commit ratepayers to $20 billion for two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point.
No one wonder Wall Street wants nearly 8 percent for Miami-Dade's obligations.
These are the worst times in living memory. There is no Plan B. No Plan B for federal economic stimulus. No Plan B for Miami and Miami Dade taxpayers. No Plan B for the state budget. No Plan A or Plan B for what happens within the lifetime of the Marlins bonds and the debt for nuclear reactors when sea levels start to rise and flood the lowest lying areas of the county.
6,000 unemployed showed up for 1,000 possible jobs at the new stadium site in Miami yesterday in just six hours. These people were not worried about sea level rise. Thousands of empty condo units are collecting mold in downtown Miami. The 6,000 weren't worried about mold. Condominium associations are under unprecedented pressure as foreclosures mount. They weren't worried about suburban developments sprouting the latest version of ghost towns.
But our elected officials should have been worried. They should have a plan beyond building a new sports stadium whose benefits will accrue nearly entirely to private owners when the team is flipped. Your elected officials response: open the gates and give away the store.
ALSO, SEE YESTERDAY'S POST: Fire all of them: managers and incumbent commissioners who supported the Marlins deal