Burgess derails vote on arts center funding over tiff with Arriola
By Suzy Valentine
Citing a growing assumption of Miami's liabilities, the county manager Tuesday blocked a bid to channel millions of tax dollars into construction of the Miami Performing Arts Center.
The center, scheduled to open in October, was to receive at least $82 million through extension of the Omni Redevelopment District Community Redevelopment Agency.
However, Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess stopped the deal because of problems negotiating with Miami city officials, he said, including a deal in which City Manager Joe Arriola reneged on funding commitments for Parrot Jungle Island. Mr. Arriola originally agreed to commit the city to repaying in full a loan to build the attraction but later changed the agreement to an 80/20 and then a 70/30 split with the county, Mr. Burgess said.
It is the second straight week that the county has stalled an item that would have enriched the city. Last week, the commission deferred approval of a contract to buy a downtown air-conditioning plant because it required the county to assume a $300,000 liability of the city.
Mr. Burgess attended a meeting of the Community Empowerment & Economic Revitalization Committee on Tuesday that was to include preliminary approval of an extension for the Omni redevelopment agency. "I would like to defer the community redevelopment agency items," Mr. Burgess said.
No date was set for reconsideration.
"To say I'm upset is an understatement," Mr. Burgess said. "I have worked with the city manager since the summer on an agreement on a number of different issues, one being the Parrot Jungle. I had an agreement with Mr. Arriola and with others in office in the city."
After the meeting, Mr. Arriola said that although the city and county had agreed to extend the Omni redevelopment agency and its Overtown neighbor, the Parrot Jungle Island deal remained an obstacle.
"The more I sleep on it, the more I can't agree to it," he said. "I can't put the city in that bind just now."
The conduct of Miami officials was ungentlemanly, Mr. Burgess said. "The way I was brought up, a handshake means something," he told commissioners. "Sadly, that's not the way it works everywhere, and at City Hall, a handshake does not carry the same meaning as it does here."
Mr. Burgess promised to furnish Miami officials and county commissioners with a copy of a letter dated Sept. 30 in which Mr. Arriola sets out the terms of the revised funding agreement.
"It's my understanding that the city sent another letter more recently," Miami Commissioner Tomas Regalado said later, "saying it is going to stop all negotiations regarding Parrot Jungle Island."
The city commission was to have considered funding for Parrot Jungle Island on March 9 but didn't, Mr. Regalado said. "The settlement seems like the $7 million fire-fee issue," said Mr. Regalado, who has been at odds with Mr. Arriola. "Everything these people do, they do unilaterally, and they expect the city commission and the county commission, in turn, to approve."