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I’ll say this for city council meetings: they’re not nearly as dull as you would believe.
After over seven hours of discussion, the Miami City Commission elected to defer a decision to put David Beckham’s MLS stadium proposal to a citizen vote until July 18th.
That decision has to be considered a “win” for Beckham (or a draw in soccer terms), as it was clear there were not sufficient votes to put the matter on the November ballot.
Coming into the meeting, there were two “yes” votes (Commissioners Carollo and Hardemon), two “no” votes (Commissioners Reyes and Gort) and one undecided (Commissioner Russell). And as we left, the swing vote moved into the “no” corner.
Though that’s not entirely accurate, because in the face of that “no” vote, which would have scuttled the project (and likely MLS in Miami forever), they agreed to give Beckham’s group a chance to come back in a week to ease the concerns of the swing vote.
And that’s where the focus will be, as the other two “no” votes are simply entrenched at this point, with the “yes” votes happy to send the referendum to a vote by the people in November. Given we basically ended up where we started the day, it was a fascinating display, ranging from hopeful to contentious to nasty at points, especially when the vote was close to defeat.
Moving back to beginning (last week, which was part of the problem), when the Beckham team unveiled their proposal, it was clear there were going to be some hurdles. First, they were only giving the City about a week to consider the proposal before agreeing to send it to referendum for a vote by the citizens. Second, there were questions about the financials and transparency. Third, there are major environmental concerns. Finally, there was the issue of golf course, and displacing the 1st Tee program. With essentially a week between the proposal and the hearing, it was always going to be difficult for Beckham’s group to provide sufficient assurances to all of these issues.
And they weren’t able to.
Despite a passionate (and persuasive) presentation from Jorge Mas, and back up from David Beckham, they couldn’t do enough to convince Commissioner Russell to move this to a November vote. To my eye, there are four things that stand as roadblocks:
- Environmental cleanup costs: On this point, Mas appeared to be able to assure Commissioner Russell that the City would not be on the hook for any cleanup costs. Importantly Mas did not commit to clean up the waste at any cost; there is a cost estimate at which he admitted that the only course of action would be that the project doesn’t go forward. But that would be on him, and not the City.
- Minimum wage: This seemed to be the lowest of the low-hanging fruit, but Mas could not commit in real-time to pay the minimum $15/hr wage for all employees. It’s possible that this could be resolved, but as it couldn’t be agreed to at this hearing, Commissioner Russell couldn’t move forward.
- Revenue sharing: While the Mas proposal calls for minimum rent to be paid, Commissioner Russell wanted a revenue sharing agreement tied to profits. Mas was unwilling to agree to this, and unless one of the parties budge, this appears to be a deal breaker.
- 1st Tee: This is the program that helps kids get into golf. The demolition of the course would mean that these kids would be displaced. There appears to be a solution here, by moving the program down the road to another course, but those details haven’t been sorted out yet,
And that last bit is part of the problem: many of the details are not fleshed out to the Commissioners’ satisfaction. Again, that’s what you get when you drop a proposal on everyone, and then try to get a vote approved a week later. Miami is famous of their…shady politics, but there is a certain amount of legwork that must be done (meeting with politicians, constituent outreach) before trying to get a project of this size approved. Understanding that Beckham’s group was in a time crunch (and one nugget that was disclosed was that MLS is putting the pressure on the group to get a stadium done in time for a 2020 start), but you still have to do the work.
So Beckham’s group will get another shot at this next week, and one assumes they’ll be putting the full-court press on Commissioner Russell to clear up the concerns he has. Additionally, they’ll probably work with Commissioner Gort, in whose district this project will be placed. For Beckham’s MLS hopes, they’d better get to work.