Arriola Vows To Continue Campaign Against Miami Tunnel Tax
By Deserae del Campo
Miami City Manager Joe Arriola vowed this week to continue fighting taxation of city residents to help Miami-Dade County build a $1 billion tunnel at the Port of Miami even though he is expected to leave his post soon and Johnny Winton, the city’s most vocal opponent to the plan, is no longer a city commissioner.
Mr. Arriola said he doesn’t want city residents taxed because "the whole county is going to be impacted by it. The whole expressway and every municipality will be favorably impacted, so why should the entrance be the only part taxed?"
The state has not stipulated how the city and county should finance the tunnel, but Mr. Winton has said there was talk of taxing downtown property owners and establishing a special taxing district for downtown Miami.
Mr. Winton was suspended recently by Gov. Jeb Bush as he awaits the outcome of charges stemming from an alleged altercation with police at Miami International Airport.
Mr. Arriola is expected to give up his post soon after a replacement is named. City commissioners are scheduled to vote today (7/13) on Mayor Manny Diaz’ nomination of Miami-Dade County Deputy Manager Pete Hernandez for the post.
During a commission meeting in May, the governing board endorsed a request by Mr. Winton that City Attorney Jorge L. Fernandez come up with a game plan to prevent a tax on city residents to help fund the tunnel. Mr. Fernandez said at the time that he would return with a recommendation in a couple of weeks.
He said this week, however, that no one in his office is working on a plan and he is unsure about the status of the issue.
Mr. Arriola made clear how he feels. "You can’t tax people for something like that," he said. "We’re part of the county, and the county should take the whole burden of it. The county makes money from the port. We take no benefit from the port. We only have headaches because of it.
"I’m all for (a tunnel being built)," he said, "but the city should not be the only one paying the tax."
County Manager George Burgess will give a report on the status of the tunnel project to the county commission’s Regional Transportation Committee at 9:30 a.m. today (7/ 13) in the panel’s chambers.
Jose Gonzalez, the city’s assistant transportation coordinator, said he will attend the meeting.
A tunnel from Watson Island to the port would allow traffic to flow onto Interstate 395 and bypass downtown, where cargo trucks jam traffic.
The Florida Department of Transportation is putting together a request for bids. Three teams are vying for the job.