The ways our leaders act can sometimes be misunderstood, or vague. But in this case, elected officials claiming to represent the people of Miami-Dade County have acted clearly and concretely. The problem is that they have done so to protect corrupted interests, something that shouldn’t be a surprise anymore to anyone following South Florida politics.
I am talking, of course, about the recent debate over the Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, and whether or not it should receive public funding. Team owner Stephen Ross has been warning for months about his plans of renovating the stadium with a $400 million-project, but has been actively lobbying to receive large state subsidies from Tallahassee.
Supporters of the subsidy up in the Panhandle are now waiting for some local support. Eddy Gonzalez, a Republican Representative from Hialeah, gave earlier this week a 50% chance for the subsidy to pass through the Florida House of Representatives, but the odds may now be more in his favor. The Miami-Dade County Commission, chaired by Republican Rebeca Sosa, passed on Wednesday a resolution urging the House of Representatives to increase local taxes to pay for the Sun Life Stadium.
Yet, we thought the relationship between the Board of Commissioners and the state government was supposed to go the other way around, with the County lobbying for the County’s interests. Instead, the Miami-Dade Commission masochistically yelled out “Raise my taxes!”
The way local politicians have been picturing the debate seems too good to be true. All they ask for is a small tax increase on hotels, to pay for a renovation that could bring not only thousands of jobs but also a Super Bowl and millions of investment dollars. In reality, the bill being considered would not only subsidize the Dolphins but any sports team asking for it. In reality, the only jobs being created would be temporary, bringing no effect to the general economic health of the county. In reality, all the money invested and spent for the possible Super Bowl L or LI in Miami would have been spent in another industry anyhow.
But even more importantly, the reality is that the subsidy is not the financing of a noble public project. It is plain, simple corporate welfare. According to Forbes.com, Stephen Ross is worth more than $4 billion, so paying for the entire bill would barely scratch his pockets. But his intense lobbying efforts have made the debate look like a stadium vs. no-stadium question.
It should be noted that virtually none of the opponents of the subsidy are opposed to the renovation. Norman Braman, another Miami billionaire and longtime opponent of corporate welfare, has been engaged in counter-lobbying efforts. In fact, back in November, he had spent thousands to put a competitor to Commissioner Barbara Jordan, the sponsor of the Commission bill that calls for state action. But Braman is not opposed to the renovation. He simply wants the rich team to pay for it on its own.
Barbara Jordan and the Miami-Dade County Commission have hit a new low. Interestingly, the strongest proponents of this corporate welfare plan are Republicans, from the county to the state level. Maybe Republicans are not so dedicated to fiscal responsibility after all.