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The So-Called Global Agreement


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With discussion on the Marlins stadium reheating upon news of the vote of the Miami City Commission, I think lost in all of this is that the City has just passed a package of potentially massive public works projects plus re-financing of the arts center. Oh, yes, the tunnel is back on the agenda as well.

 

So what do you think the impact having these massive projects would be to the city? Which of these would you support or not care about? And what about the residents of Overtown? Are they right to be angry about what the Commissioners did yesterday?

 

There's so much to digest that it definitely warrants a discussion thread.

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Guest iFesta Touch

This plan is going to redefine the downtown area. As I said in an earlier thread, the last 6 years have seen an unprecedented boom in downtown development. The next 6 years could be twice as nice.

 

Potential projects:

 

-Two museums on the bay (redevelopment of Bicentennial Park)

-Miami streetcar

-Baseball stadium (and the potential boom to the Little Havana area)

-Soccer stadium

-Port tunnel

 

Add that to:

 

-AmericanAirlines Arena

-Carnival Center for the Performing Arts

-Boom in downtown construction

-Parrot Jungle

-New MIA terminal

-Miami Intermodal Center

-MetroRail connection to MIA

 

All this could be potentially completed within a 15 year period. :o

 

(Don't forget the MetroRail North line and work to I-95. But those are more iffy.)

 

The downtown area has come a long ways.

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http://www.miamiherald.com/top_stories/story/346565.html

 

DOWNTOWN MIAMI

Downtown mega-plan took years to hatch

A handful of Miami-Dade's most prominent government leaders three years ago developed the plan for downtown Miami's huge construction package.

 

BY CHARLES RABIN, Admin LEBOWITZ AND MICHAEL VASQUEZ

crabin@MiamiHerald.com

 

What appeared to be the rapid-fire execution of Miami-Dade County's most ambitious public-works plan in decades wasn't rapid-fire at all.

 

The seeds that set in motion last week's vote by Miami commissioners to build a port tunnel, a Museum Park at the bayfront and a Florida Marlins baseball stadium were planted three years ago and involved a handful of Miami-Dade's most prominent government leaders.

 

What was rapid-fire: a frenzied 48-hour period in which the plan's architects sold the blueprint to politicians while sidestepping voters. That window was crucial to pushing the multibillion-dollar plan forward and featured political maneuverings that were spirited even by Miami standards.

 

They included a seemingly innocuous meeting Tuesday between County Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro and Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz -- which mushroomed into a crowded gathering of county officials and representatives of the Florida Marlins and Major League Baseball. It was there, with just one reporter present, that the detailed financial package to build a new baseball stadium at the Orange Bowl was forced into the open.

 

Two days later, Miami commissioners voted 4-1 on a city-county pact to extend the city's Community Redevelopment Agency districts.

 

The plan extends the Omni CRA to Bicentennial Park and Watson Island, enabling Miami to accumulate more than $2 billion in CRA money that would help pay for the tunnel and the park, with money also going to affordable housing.

 

County commissioners could vote Tuesday to complete the historic deal. Nine of the 13 members said they are leaning toward approval.

 

If so, they'll adopt a plan crafted largely by five figures: Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess and Assistant County Manager Ian Yorty, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, City Manager Pete Hernandez and Miami Chief Financial Officer Admin Spring.

 

''The overall message here is about the city and county working together to create a milestone agreement that transforms the future of the region, the city and the county,'' said Diaz, who refused to comment further, citing the sensitivity of Tuesday's vote.

 

Expanding the CRA to Bicentennial Park and Watson Island and using some of its money to help build a ballpark had first been explored by the late Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr. six years ago.

 

At the time, the CRA was dogged by allegations of corruption and unchecked spending. Teele's vision attracted little support. ''I just don't see a compelling reason for it,'' Diaz said in 2002.

 

By 2004, with the CRA cleaning up its image, the mayor began a change of heart.

 

That summer, in a spacious 29th-floor County Hall conference room, government leaders gathered to discuss a seemingly unrelated matter: a controversial loan that the county had made to the city to build Parrot Jungle on Watson Island.

 

At the gathering were Burgess and Yorty, former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola and Assistant City Manager Otto Boudet-Murias.

 

Burgess offered an idea: How about expanding the CRA boundaries and life span as a way to produce new money to pay down the debt? CRAs earn money from new tax revenues, which are then pumped back into targeted areas, so that enlarging a current district adds money.

 

SPARK OF AN IDEA

 

For Burgess, a light went on. If you could expand the district to generate new cash for that cause, how about helping others -- like the county's heavily debt-burdened Performing Arts Center?

 

''He had to find a way to fund all this,'' Arriola said in an interview from Spain. 'I said expand my time for the CRA. He said, `OK, but I want money for the PAC.' ''

 

''It was a brilliant move on George's part,'' Arriola added.

 

Two key pieces of the current plan -- a $525 million baseball stadium for the Marlins and a nearly $1 billion port tunnel -- were not yet part of the conversation.

 

The University of Miami had not explored playing at Dolphin Stadium, a move that would clear the path earlier this year for city leaders to consider demolishing the Orange Bowl, creating room for a ballpark.

 

Over the next 18 months, Burgess and Diaz explored an array of ways to use CRA money to fund projects.

 

Frank Rollason, who headed the city's CRA at the time, said he learned of the plan to extend the life of the CRA at a breakfast meeting with Burgess and Arriola in the spring of last year at Greenstreet's in Coconut Grove.

 

By summer, Rollason took a call from Hernandez, who had just replaced Arriola as city manager. Hernandez said the city planned to expand the Overtown/Park West CRA to Watson Island.

 

They later decided to switch it to the Omni CRA.

 

The idea of using CRA money to help the performing arts center and the Museum Park kept popping up during meetings late last year.

 

''Manny and George began negotiating about the global pact,'' said County Commission Chairman Barreiro. ``Every time I got briefed by the manager, there were more and more things.''

 

By this summer, with the Orange Bowl site now a potential new baseball home, the Marlins were brought into the emerging plan. Burgess and Yorty crafted a detailed financial formula unlike any before.

 

Prior bids for a new stadium often died in Tallahassee, where state legislators refused to provide a crucial $30 million contribution.

 

But Burgess cut the state out of the equation. He asked the Marlins to put far more money upfront than envisioned before -- $155 million -- while trimming the club's contribution, and increasing the county's over the long haul.

 

A new stadium would not benefit directly from CRA taxes -- but it would indirectly. The county would use CRA money to help pay off the PAC debt, freeing millions of tourist tax dollars to be used anywhere.

 

Eager to have a Marlins financial plan in place by year's end, Barreiro placed an item on Tuesday's agenda to discuss stadium issues.

 

That move -- coupled with an impending deadline on the tunnel project -- prompted quick action by those quietly working behind the scenes. It was time for the deal to go public.

 

Miami's Diaz had already met Barreiro on a Saturday at Jose Mart park during the commissioners' annual holiday party; he had coffee with Commissioner Joe Martinez in the bustling, second floor food court at Government Center; he met twice with Commissioner Carlos Gimenez at the mayor's office.

 

He also briefed Commissioners Natacha Seijas and Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz.

 

''Manny did a great job selling me on this,'' Gimenez said. "There was something in it for everyone.''

 

Commissioner Diaz called a meeting with Barreiro last Tuesday to explore where things stood -- before anyone in the public had a clue that the multipronged deal was in the works.

 

''That meeting mushroomed,'' Barreiro said.

 

By late evening, a small third-floor conference room was filled with five commissioners, Burgess, Yorty, and MLB and Marlins officials -- the room was so crammed, in fact, that several people had to stand, including the Marlins rep and county bureaucrats.

 

Burgess had no choice but to explain the fine points of what was in the works.

 

By Wednesday, when The Miami Herald reported the details of a potential new stadium at the Orange Bowl, Diaz was polishing his sales pitch.

 

The mayor huddled with the Marlins and an MLB attorney, then publicly revealed the giant plan.

 

The vote passed at Miami City Hall. Next up is County Hall on Tuesday and, with approval, an unprecedented public works program.

 

WHAT ABOUT VOTERS?

 

A question remains: Why was the package never presented to voters? Even some Miami commissioners griped about having to digest vast material in such a short period, and a few activists raised voices about the public not being given a say.

 

''There comes a time, I think, when the elected officials have to assume the responsibility that the people placed on them, and they have to make the tough choices,'' said City Manager Hernandez. ``Otherwise, things would never get done.''

 

Miami Herald staff writer Matthew I. Pinzur contributed to this report.

 

Interesting read.

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