Miami protects Olympia, but county stumbles over monorail
Unsolicited proposals that weren’t ready for prime time got polar opposite government response last week. Miami city commissioners wisely bypassed a glittering offer, but the county couldn’t resist lures dangled in an economically and politically powerful transit/gambling deal.
In the good news column, city commissioners decided to wait for talks with Miami Dade College that had already been in the works 15 months rather than choose an unsolicited and relatively unknown bidder to manage its landmark Olympia Theater. Why cut short the city’s chosen path with a community star for a bag that might – or might not – be filled with gold? Smart move, commissioners.
In the bad news column, the county voted to start down a monorail path to a deal with a global casino – not transit – giant for a vital Miami-Miami Beach link before a $10 million study that has long been in the works on that transit line has even been finished, much less evaluated. How smart could that be?
The county is going to roll out a request for proposals that will favor Malaysian firm Genting, which in years past touted the world’s largest casino at its site in the Omni area. Genting not only has the land but has been working on the project with a Chinese rail firm for over a year; other bidders would be starting from scratch with a six-month window to bid. That’s a 100-yard dash that gives Genting a 50-yard head start.
Then again, there might not be other bidders: who wants to do battle with behemoth Genting with a widespread perception that the mayor is on Genting’s side, just because his campaign leaders are Genting’s partners in the deal? Perception is a lot.
Details of the Genting offer are mostly hidden, and will be through the process. Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. got the bid period stretched from four months to six and insisted that the request for proposals come back to commissioners before it’s issued. Commissioners should heed Frank Nero’s column on this page and bar casinos from the radius of the transit site, because while any other bids will be based on transit, only Genting can factor in not only its real estate holdings – including a hotel it’s developing on county land with members of the mayor’s election team – but also its gambling aims and what they mean to transit.
As in casinos, at this point it feels like the fix is in for Genting. Whatever happens is going to look bad.
Just think how smart Miami was with the Olympia.