Cra Board Members Look Somewhere Else For Stadium Funds
Written by Eric Kalis on February 1, 2007
By Eric Kalis
A majority of members of the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency sent a strong message Monday to Mayor Manny Diaz and others who support using agency Overtown money to build a baseball stadium downtown: Find another source of funding.
CRA chairwoman Michelle Spence-Jones and board members Marc Sarnoff and Tomás Regalado said they would not support using agency money to close a funding gap for a baseball stadium on 9 acres downtown next to the Stephen P. Clark Center. Board members Joe Sanchez and Angel Gonzalez were absent from the meeting.
Mayor Diaz reportedly has examined expanding the agency’s Overtown district boundary to encompass the stadium site, which would allow agency money to be used for the project. The mayor was in Washington for a national conference last week and did not attend Monday’s meeting. Agency officials and board members said they have not had any discussions with the mayor or anyone else about the stadium possibility.
Board members directed Executive Director James Villacorta to draft a resolution for next month’s meeting that the agency will not financially support projects that do not directly benefit residents of the area.
"I know it is harsh," Mr. Regalado said. "The problem is the CRA is known to be a piggybank. Every time one of these grandiose projects comes up, people think, "Let’s use the CRA.’ Go to the voters or city commission and ask for general-fund money."
In opposing the notion of a baseball stadium partially funded by the agency, Ms. Spence-Jones cited a series of workshops last year in which a host of proposals totaling more than $750 million were submitted as possible CRA projects. Those must be prioritized and completed before the agency considers contributing money to a baseball stadium, Ms. Spence-Jones said.
"I do not support putting a stadium over the people," Ms. Spence-Jones said. "We need to deliver housing and other projects promised to residents."
City finance director Larry Spring said the stadium idea has not come up in negotiations with Miami-Dade County about extending the agency’s lifespan to 2027, which would affect how much money is available for each community redevelopment district. At this point, "the priorities on our list are housing and infrastructure," Mr. Spring said. "We did not deal with a stadium."
Several residents voiced their approval of board members’ emphatic response to the stadium suggestion. Elvis Cruz of the Morningside Civic Association said the agency frequently has been misused as a "slush fund" for major projects.
"At best, CRAs are inefficient and wasteful, and at worst, they are corrupt," Mr. Cruz said. "I applaud [Mr. Regalado] for stepping up and saying the CRA should not fund legacy building pet projects."