Friday, February 06, 2015

Norman Braman, back in the game, and the EB-5 Visa Program … by gimleteye

News arrives: Norman Braman and Raquel Regalado, (Regalado, a school board member, is emerging as a possible challenger to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez) have filed suit against the county for the SkyRise or, as we have dubbed it -- The Nail Clipper Building. "The ballot item (approved by voters in the last election cycle) described SkyRise as a “privately funded” venture, and the lawsuit claims the $9 million subsidy package Berkowitz secured from the county after the election violated a condition of the city referendum."

A couple of points, beyond our opposition to this ridiculous addition to the public realm that in downtown Miami shows all the predictable symptoms of bad planning and poor municipal leadership: first, it is a shame that our civic life has fallen so low it takes a deep-pocketed billionaire to mount a credible threat to the deal-making that passes for governance by the city and county commissions.

In the last election cycle, there were many common sense reasons for voters to vote against the Nail Clipper approval, but there was no money to deliver the message. Time after time, decade after decade, Miami civic activists have struggled to compete with well-funded schemes -- Bayside, by the way, being one of the original indignities to Miami's quality of life.

In our democracy, if you don't have money to mount campaigns, you are screwed. There are exceptions to the rule, but they are rare as hen's teeth.

The second point is about sources of money. In Mr. Berkowitz's case, he is using a popular tool of developers and speculators to raise cash, the EB-5 visa program. Under the EB-5 Visa Program, a $500,000 investment in a "Regional Center" enables foreign investors to qualify for the Green Card without the constraints of having to set-up and manage a U.S. business. This immigration option allows investors to live in any U.S. state and engage in a business, employment, or any activity of the investor's choice, or just retire.

There is nothing illegal about either investors or speculators using the flood of foreign cash to lock down their own financial objectives in Miami. George Lindemann, the investor suing Maggie Hurchalla, for example, in Martin County as a SLAPP suit claiming her interference in his plan to radically transform water storage/deal making in Florida, is advertising his rock mining adventure as an EB-5 project. Berkowitz claims to be using EB-5 investors as his source capital.

I find it morally objectionable to use the US Visa system for these purposes. That's a longer debate for another day. For now, thanks to Mr. Braman for, again, putting his wealth to civic purposes as opposed to business ones. Miami would be a much better place if more of the economic elite followed his example.


Anonymous said...

Now if he could only put his wealth behind Raquel Regalado and have her run for mayor against Gimenez in 2016 that would be cause for celebration.

Anonymous said...

I agree 1st anon and she can raise money in her own right to run too. It can be done if she wants to run and money machines can be beat. I always think of how Monestine beat Rolle as an example on the County level. Bell had an insider money machine like Gimenez has but Cava was able to raise an enormous amount too without all the dirty dealing, and from within the district, I might add!

Anonymous said...

When you wonder why there are shortfalls in county budgets: the library, the police, the fire dept., transit,'s because money is prioritized for private developers who donate to campaigns.

Anonymous said...

Berkowitz might end up falling flat on his face and bringing Gimenez down with him.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous above this comment----

From your mouth to God's ears.

Anonymous said...

how sad that commenters here are hoping that a billionaire puts money behind a candidate. I dont know what Regalado stands for. i'm hoping to hear more. she seems like a bright kid, but our interest may not align beyond this one issue.

sun tsu gave a strategy for war, not governance. the enemy of my enemy is no way to pick leaders and pitting billionaires against billionaires is tragic for our democracy.

Anonymous said...

When Braman walks away from you and says he prefers officials who give a damn about the taxpayers money, you know you are in trouble. Bye-bye Carlito Gimenez.

Anonymous said...

The EB-5 Visa financing schemes have been discredited. Foreigners have forked over $500,000 and NOT gotten visas and then lost their entire $500,000 stake. Berkowitz's scheme seems built on overly optimistic projections. Carlos Gimenez is being a dope.