Friday, September 12, 2014

Lobbyist Dusty Melton Says Don't Give the Perez Art Museum A Plug Nickel. By Geniusofdespair

Jorge Perez the P in PAMM
Eston (Dusty) Melton is one of the better lobbyists. He is honest, well as honest as they come.

He wrote an "Other Views" column in the Miami Herald Today. He says:

This was the museum’s simple, three-part proposition:
• First, city of Miami, gift us free land in what then was called Bicentennial Park on the edge of Biscayne Bay. (In fairness, today the museum pays $2 a year rent.)

• Second, Miami-Dade County, gift us $100 million of public money, no repayment necessary, to pay for most of our new art museum building.

• Third: We wealthy and sophisticated leaders of the art museum will raise all of the private dollars necessary to 1. complete the new-building construction and 2. create an endowment whose interest earnings will cover any operating cost deficits of the museum — forever and ever.
Instead (More from Dusty):
"The city of Miami kept its part of the bargain, leasing the museum four acres of prime real estate and giving the museum $3.5 million in planning money. (A parcel of land on the Miami River recently sold for $100 million per acre, making the city’s contribution of “free” public parkland to the museum worth some $400 million today.)

I should know. I led the museum’s final negotiating session in then-City Commissioner Johnny Winton’s conference room at City Hall, where we haggled over how much park acreage the museum would control. The museum prevailed that day, and the City Commission unanimously approved a “Museum Park Miami” design concept in July 2002.

County taxpayers kept their part of the bargain, too. Voters agreed during the November 2004 Building Better Communities bond referendum to write a check for $100 million to the museum for construction of its new, waterfront facility.

I should know. The museum’s funding was tucked into the final ballot question: “To construct and improve libraries, cultural facilities, and Head Start learning centers for pre-school children to offer multicultural education opportunities and activities …” Vote for kids, and the museum will get its $100 million gift. That’s exactly what happened.

There’s no denying that cultural institutions in South Florida struggle to balance their budgets. But how’s the PAMM, back then known as the Miami Art Museum, doing financially today?

In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2012, the latest year for which records are publicly available, the art museum reported total revenues of $55 million — a 75 percent increase from its prior fiscal year, though some of that income was early, public construction money that had not yet been spent on the new building. That financial snapshot also showed that the museum had net assets of almost $106 million.

However, PAMM leaders — essentially the same Miami Art Museum heavyweights from a decade ago — are rattling a tin cup and trying to renege on their promises to our community.
And now we have the Cuban Museum on Parcel B with good intentions BUT NO MONEY. The Countty Commissioners should have let them down gracefully: "Get more funds first guys." If the rich billionaire people can't put it together, how can the people with no funds do it? They can't. Like PAMM they also have another Museum and the Freedom Tower they could have negotiated with. NO. They want our public money to be used and then they will complain about taxes. And that precedent on Parcel B hatched the Black Museum now pushed by Moss.

Dusty goes on to say:
"They not only want the county to continue its historic $2.5-million annual subsidy of public money, which they once promised would end when the newly constructed museum opened its doors, they also want to bump up the public subsidy by $1.5 million, to a cool $4 million a year.

That is outrageous. PAMM has all the money it needs at its fingertips. Virtually every other building ever constructed on public property in this county by a private corporation such as PAMM belongs to the taxpayers who own the property on which the physical improvement sits. Not so with PAMM: Written into its 99-year city lease, the Miami Art Museum of Dade County Association Inc. — the PAMM corporation — maneuvered to actually own its gleaming new building. If PAMM is short of cash, it should get a mortgage loan just like struggling taxpayers."
On new museums, taxpayers lose every time. Edifices the Commissioners can point to is the ego builder they need, they throw logic out the window and pander to the beggar at the door.


Anonymous said...

Thanks -- he sounds like he really meant what he said in the negotiations -- and did not realize that some of the art clients had their fingers crossed behind their backs. An honorable lobbyist -- how refreshing! And I completely agree. When basic services (parks in particular) are hurting it is simply wasteful to provide funding to what was to be a self-sustaining museum.

Geniusofdespair said...

This museum had a home near the downtown library on the other side of the plaza. IT DID NOT NEED A NEW ONE. IT WASN'T RITZY ENOUGH FOR THE BIG WHEELERS. Let them spend their money not ours. It surely doesn't belong in the park.

Anonymous said...

When the Art Museum was located in the Cultural Center, next to the Main Library, here's how nice they had rent.

The library, on the other hand, was charged $5.1 million for ISD maintenance in 2012-13 to make up for this general fund difference. In retaliation for exposing this, the library was denied the use of the third floor and basement of their own 1986, bond paid for, building. All services except for the Computer Room upstairs and a section of ancient documents downstairs have been removed. This nastiness was punishment for showing the public that the system was gamed against the library's special taxing district. Now the library has a 1/2 price tag on the "rent." However, the new tenants - storage for the old court house - doesn't seem to be paying...or at least anything anyone is willing to talk about.

Also, nobody's talking about the huge hidden cost to the library of this move out. Money had to be used to build out space in the public areas at Main LIbrary. The removal of books, bookshelves, desks, furniture - (capital that had been paid for by tax dollars). both at Main and at Regionals - sent to the county store to be sold at pennies on the dollar.

An example of how the library was forced to re-prioritze, toilet paper had to be moved from basement storage to an area that held Adult Fiction at South Dade Regional. Hundreds of books were "weeded" and shelves removed on the ground floor to make space for systemwide bathroom supplies.

All of this chaos and cost for the Mayor's error in setting the millage too low back in 2011 and refusing to change it until forced.

What I want for Christmas? A department by department audit to expose the trail of forced waste. Yes, Mr. Mayor calls the library and other departments "inefficient." His decisions make it so.

Anonymous said...

Dusty Melton speaks "truth to power". It is rumored that the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is really losing $12 Mil PER YEAR and the board members and staff are working behind the scenes like little beavers to force the taxpayers to cover all the losses. Why doesn't Perez step up and fund an endowment? After all, he is a billionaire and he demanded his name on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Yep Dusty's really honest,....(cough, cough) by the way genius got a hot property 5 miles west of chrome I can get you a real good deal on.

Geniusofdespair said...

Chrome really? Putz.

Anonymous said...

Did you steel that chrome land or were you lead to it?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Melton is no angel. My bet is he's angry that PAMM didn't hire him. That isn't to say he's not stating facts, just that I'd bet he has an ulterior motive.

Anonymous said...

Museum's collection sucks.

PAMM, if they breach the agreement, County should start charging them the fair market value of the lease and sue PAMM for breach and take the assets and make it a County entity.

PUTZ said...

Maybe we can iron out a deal on chrome land...... damn spell check........
Dusty still no Saint, If he'd got paid he'd be shoving that museum down our throats, just like he did in that murky land deal with the school board....

Dusty said...

Let's stick with the known facts:

1. At the outset in 2000 the offer to me was to be paid to represent MAM. I declined, and volunteered my services for free instead. I always have had a strong pro-bono element in my lobbying practice, and had just shed the Boy Scouts of America as my main civic endeavor because of the BSA's discriminatory membership policies. MAM became my new, largest charity endeavor.

2. The 1999 land transaction between my client and the Miami-Dade County School Board was far from "murky." It was enormously well reported in the media. I am very proud that many thousands of local school students since have been educated at Ferguson High School and Curry Middle School built on that property.


miaexile said...

honest lobbyist is an oxymoron, nonetheless Senor Melton says it well. The county stopped mowing public parks this summer !! and the rich are asking for more?! bulldoze the

Anonymous said...

Jorge Perez the billionaire is no dummy. He got his name on the wall AND on the building and now he should donate $250 Million to create a permanent endowment.
(The Board members who voted to sell the name of the Miami Art Museum for a measly $5 Mil plus some scrappy art should be indicted).