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Front Page » Top Stories » Bruno Barreiro Called Shots On Marlins Deal Changes Before Stadium Approval

Bruno Barreiro Called Shots On Marlins Deal Changes Before Stadium Approval

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Written by on March 26, 2009

By Risa Polansky
After years of negotiating to build a stadium for the Florida Marlins, making changes to the final draft of the $633 million-plus construction deal came down to a single person: Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, a longtime stadium fan.

In their first public discussion of the ballpark deal since approving its framework more than a year ago, each of the county’s 13 commissioners was allowed time to propose tweaks to the multi-pronged deal.

But it was up to Mr. Barreiro, who sponsored the stadium legislation, to make the call whether to allow the suggested changes.

Generally, his answer was no, and the deal passed substantially unchanged from the version Miami commissioners OK’d last week.

Commission Chair Dennis Moss proposed the process in hopes of streamlining the meeting, which began at 1 p.m. and lasted more than nine hours despite the time-saving — and negotiation-limiting — tactic.

It’s common at the county to allow a measure’s sponsor to decide whether to accept "friendly amendments" to a motion, Mr. Moss said.

But the practice is not part of the county’s set procedures, and often commissioners move to make amendments, then debate and vote on the proposed changes rather than leaving the decision up to a single person.

Still, the majority of commissioners at the stadium meeting agreed to name Mr. Barreiro umpire, though it meant forfeiting their right to vote on each proposed amendment.

Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, a vocal stadium opponent, moved early in the meeting to override the chairman’s proposal and take up each amendment separately for debate and a vote.

A "take-it-or-leave-it" approach could have "unintended consequences" down the road, he warned.

He pointed out also that City of Miami commissioners at their stadium vote last week proposed and passed a handful of changes to the deal.

"We should have that right," Mr. Gimenez said.

Several commissioners agreed — almost all of them stadium opponents.

Commissioners Sally Heyman and Katy Sorenson, who both voted no on the stadium deal, supported Mr. Gimenez, as did Dorrin Rolle, who later voted to support the stadium.

Commissioner Rebeca Sosa protested that if the county were to substantially alter the deal, it would have to go back to the city for approval, and could then come back to the county depending on the city’s action.

And if each commissioner at Monday’s meeting proposed five changes, it would mean "65 rounds" of discussion, she said. "We’ll be here for a week."

Commissioner Audrey Edmonson said there was no need to propose changes the day of the vote, as commissioners had opportunities to work with the team and administration ahead of time and to incorporate their proposed changes into the earlier city meeting.

"Mine were in there" at the city, she said. "I’m not here to grandstand today."

City-approved amendments included: capping parking facilities costs at $94 million; striving to ensure 50% of workers on the stadium construction job are local; increasing profit sharing for the city and county if owner Jeffrey Loria sells the team within the first 10 years after a deal; and requiring the team to build or improve 39 baseball fields in Miami-Dade.

County commissioners did not have the chance to make major changes.

Mr. Barreiro laid down his rules of the game from the outset: he had no intention of allowing any tweaks to the deal that would require city commissioners to reconvene and weigh in.

"Amendments that have to go back [to the city], I will not be accepting those," he said.

He kept his word throughout the more than nine-hour meeting, striking down proposed amendments that would be considered "substantial," and often looking to team representatives for approval before making his calls.

Among those that made the cut: at Mr. Gimenez’s suggestion, allowing commissioners the option to take over stadium-related decision-making from an administrative designee; at Ms. Edmonson’s direction, allowing the county-owned stadium to be used as a crisis refuge site in an emergency without paying the Marlins; and at Mr. Rolle’s urging, requiring monthly reports from the administration on construction progress and compliance with small business participation procedures.

Barbara Jordan secured several changes, mostly cementing protection for small businesses.

Some amendments Mr. Barreiro blocked included Ms. Heyman’s push to guarantee no general revenue would be used to back the project and to require an irrevocable letter of credit for cost overruns, and Mr. Gimenez’s suggestions to hire an independent auditor to review the team’s finances and to share in operating profits with the team.

Ms. Sorenson, who said she was fundamentally opposed to the concept of handing public money to a private entity, offered only one "friendly amendment": calling the ballpark "The Bruno Barreiro Stadium."