Battle Over Dolphins Election Leftovers
County commissioners have their eyes focused on using the $1 million left over from funds the Miami Dolphins paid for an election that was never held on financing stadium upgrades.
Three proposals are to be heard today (5/16) in a county committee — each of which would use all the leftover funds for specific purposes.
A Juan Zapata proposal would spread the money among all 13 commission districts to be used either for county park summer programs for children or for the Mom & Pop program of aid to small businesses.
Barbara Jordan has two proposals, one of which would spend all the money for economic development in the City of Miami Gardens in her district, and the other of which would use it all to assist small businesses countywide in getting bonding for county construction contracts.
The Dolphins, under pressure from Mayor Carlos Gimenez, agreed to pay the total cost of a May 14 election to give voters a choice of whether to add a penny to mainland hotel taxes to fund part of a Sun Life Stadium upgrade. Part of the money would have gone to promote tourism.
The Dolphins paid the county the estimated cost of the election, which was $4,784,337, agreeing in advance that the county would keep the money if the election was aborted in the event the legislature did not approve a hotel tax increase.
The legislature adjourned without voting and the election was cancelled, but early voting, printing of ballots, absentee ballots and other costs had already eaten up most of the Dolphins’ payment. The county says about $1 million was not spent — and that’s what commissioners target.
Mr. Zapata’s proposal would allocate the remaining funds equally to each commission district, with each commissioner issuing a memo to Mayor Carlos Gimenez within 30 days "stating how he or she wishes to allocate such funds within his or her district." That would give commissioners a choice of funds for children or small businesses.
Commissioner Jordan’s two proposals are mutually exclusive. If commissioners chose one, they could not choose the other.
One would spend all the money within Miami Gardens, whose mayor, Oliver Gilbert, worked with Ms. Jordan in public to push forward the Dolphins’ plans for stadium expansion. The stadium is within the city.
County Mayor Gimenez would be responsible for planning the Miami Gardens program, which Ms. Jordan’s legislation says "should include at a minimum, funding alternatives for recipients of the economic development program, including but not limited to a revolving loan program, capital improvement grants, small business loans and infrastructure upgrades."
The other proposal by Ms. Jordan would fund a small business bonding assistance program that was not funded in this year.
The program provides funds for small businesses that contract with the county but cannot provide the county a payment and performance bond for 100% of the contract amount, which the county requires of all contractors for public works.
That legislation would require the mayor’s office to develop a plan for funding the bonding assistance program and develop ways for contractors to get construction bonds, including a revolving loan program "or leveraging funds from the banking industry."
The three competing uses for the funds are to be heard and voted on today by the county’s Economic Development & Port Committee. Final action would come later before the entire county commission.To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.