Comparative Perspective: Maryland Governor and Gambling Issue. Where Is Florida’s Governor Scott?

Gambling: An issue Gov. Martin O’Malley can’t escape

By John Wagner, Published: May 26
During Maryland’s 90-day legislative session, there were few battles that Gov. Martin O’Malley worked harder to avoid than an attempted gambling expansion.
Just a few weeks later, it has become a fight he says he can’t escape.

”To accomplish other things, I do things this world requires of me,” Maryland’s governor says.

However reluctantly, O’Malley (D) now finds himself struggling to broker a deal over whether to allow a full-fledged casino in Prince George’s County and add Las Vegas-style table games at the state’s existing slots locations.
Brinkmanship over the issue contributed to last month’s collapse of the General Assembly session, and O’Malley said he has concluded that letting it fester any longer would get in the way of his priorities and stoke more distrust among legislative leaders.
“I saw it make a mess of the closing days of our legislature, and it threatens to do the same for the remaining two years that I have to serve the people of this state,” O’Malley, who is widely thought to harbor ambitions beyond Maryland, said in an interview last week. “My hope is to resolve this issue and put it behind us.”
His first step toward that goal was assembling an 11-member working group that will convene this week with the hope of crafting a consensus that eluded the legislature during a session in which it also failed to finish work on the state budget.
O’Malley declined to lay out his position but said that if the group can come up with a plan the General Assembly is likely to go along with, he’ll call a special legislative session in early July.
With a host of competing interests, reaching an accord is expected to be difficult — and some suggest that the governor is naive to think anything done this summer will make the gambling debate go away for good.
If there is a special session, “he becomes the central player,” said David Cordish, the developer of the state’s largest planned casino, which is scheduled to open next week in Anne Arundel County. “He will either go down as the champion of expanded gambling or he won’t.”
The work group is likely to start with discussion of a Senate plan that called for a statewide vote on allowing a Prince George’s casino, most likely at National Harbor, and table games, such as black jack and roulette, at the state’s five previously authorized slots locations.
That plan is anathema to Cordish, who has argued that it’s patently unfair for the state to allow another casino that would cut significantly into his expected market of the District and Northern Virginia. Maryland leaders should not change the rules of the game before all five slots locations have a chance to succeed, he said.
“It sends a signal that Maryland is not a reliable partner,” Cordish said, adding that a better solution would be to add table games at the five existing locations and delay consideration of a sixth site.
Others have argued that there is a way to be fair to everyone — including bumping up the share of proceeds that existing casinos would be able to keep.
That leaves it to O’Malley to broker a deal, which is not an altogether-unfamiliar place for him. In 2007, in his first year as governor, he sponsored legislation that launched Maryland’s slots program despite being on record as saying gambling proceeds were a “morally bankrupt” way to fund education.
At the time, O’Malley cast the measure as a compromise that would allow the legislature to move past an issue that had bitterly divided Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) for years. “My preconception was that I would never have to deal with this issue again as long as I live,” O’Malley said. “I was wrong.”
There have been several significant changes since 2007.
Back then, most elected officials in Prince George’s County were solidly opposed to hosting a gaming site, citing addiction and other social ills that can accompany gambling.
Now, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who was elected in 2010, is continuing to lead the charge for a “high-level, billion-dollar” casino at National Harbor that could bring tens of millions in additional revenue to his county every year.
With O’Malley’s involvement, Baker said that he thinks the prospects for achieving his vision “are pretty good.” Also since 2007, slots casinos in the surrounding states of Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have added table games, creating a disadvantage for Maryland sites in a competitive industry.
A Miller-backed bill that addressed both those issues rocketed through the Senate late in the 90-day session and then sputtered to its demise on the final day in the House. Busch said O’Malley’s engagement in the issue is “important because obviously there were a lot of challenges without his involvement.” But Busch also suggested that assembling the votes for legislation similar to the Senate bill could prove more difficult now.
“I think there’s a challenge in lowering the tax rate on casino owners after you just raised taxes on some Marylanders,” Busch said, referring to a decision to increase income taxes on six-figure earners in a special session called this month to finish work on the state budget.
Another hurdle emerged last week with an announcement by House Republicans that their members

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oppose a special session on gambling, an issue the minority party said needs to be considered in a “more deliberative and thoughtful fashion.”
O’Malley and others have argued that the issue needs to be resolved quickly so that needed approval from voters can be sought this fall. Otherwise, the earliest voters could have a say would be 2014. Despite Baker’s strong support, not all members of the Prince George’s House delegation are convinced of the wisdom of allowing a gambling site in their county. And some minds aren’t likely to be changed regardless of what O’Malley’s work group recommends, said Del. Melony G. Griffith (D), the delegation chairwoman.
The state has hired a consultant to take a closer look at the impact a Prince George’s site would have on the other Maryland casinos. The consultant’s numbers are expected to guide any work-group recommendation on how to compensate other casino owners.
Cordish said he is sympathetic to O’Malley’s desire to put the issue behind him but said this won’t be the end of the gambling debate in Maryland.
“I guarantee you, if Prince George’s is extended the sixth, there will be a seventh and an eighth asking for a license,” he said. “That’s just the nature of this animal.”
Related stories:
May 24: Md. House GOP says no to special gaming session
May 22: Second Md. special session could be week of July 9
May 11: O’Malley wants fast action from Md. gambling work group

Genting’s Plan Under Fire MH Jan 10, 2014

Genting’s plans under fire

The casino giant that promised a major boost to Miami’s economy now sees its business plans coming under fire on multiple fronts.

Genting, which three years ago proposed bringing a massive casino resort to the Miami waterfront, recently acquired a racetrack license it says allows for a modest 2,000-machine slot parlor on its land holdings. Its plans to start construction on a new hotel and condo complex at the old Miami Herald headquarters are now at least a year

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behind schedule. As Genting continues to tout gambling’s potential in Florida, it is making headlines for laying off 175 restaurant workers at its casino in New York.

The Malaysian-based company sued the federal government this fall in an effort to continue using foreign labor for a Miami-based casino ship offering overnight gambling cruises in international waters. On Friday, a federal judge ruled against Genting‘s request to overturn orders by immigration officials to either stop the cruises or hire U.S. workers as crew.

“The same company that promised to create 100,000 jobs is now suing the federal government to try and exploit foreign workers at subpar wages rather than hire Floridians,’’ said John Sowinski, the Orlando-based campaign consultant who heads up the No Casinos advocacy group. “It shows how big a lie the jobs argument is.”

Genting’s Miami-based executives rarely give interviews, and also declined to comment for this story. Through its public relations firm, Schwartz Media Strategies, the company issued a statement that said in part: “We are evaluating and pursuing all opportunities that arise. Our immediate focus is on developing a world-class, mixed-use project with residential, hotel and retail uses that will serve as a waterfront anchor in downtown Miami.”

In 2011, Genting paid about $400 million for the old waterfront Miami Herald site and the nearby Omni commercial complex. With South Florida still reeling from the recession and an idled construction industry, Genting pledged 100,000 jobs at a new $3 billion Resorts World Miami, with 50 restaurants, 5,200 hotel rooms and some 8,000 slot machines.

When lawmakers balked at changing state gambling laws to allow the project and a similar Miami casino sought by Las Vegas Sands, Genting began pursuing other options. Last spring, Genting said it would move forward with a large hotel and condo towers on the 14-acre Herald site. Demolition of the newspaper’s former building was slated for the end of 2013.

On Friday, Genting said the new schedule doesn’t anticipate demolition until the fall. The company said it faced more environmental issues than it anticipated on the Herald site, which the media company occupied until its May 2013 move to Doral. Genting has not submitted the zoning proposals required to start development, or released the renderings and floor plans needed to launch condo sales. “We are still refining the design and expect to submit our plans later this year,” Genting said.

With the resort plans stalled, Genting this week revealed an effort to bring 2,000 slot machines to the waterfront. The company announced a partnership with the Gulfstream racetrack in Hallandale Beach to use one of its two permits to authorize slots and off-track-betting at Genting’s property 17 miles away.

The plan quickly drew fire from Genting foes. “Slot machines are not compatible with the cultural climate of the area,’’ Miami Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Miami Democrat, wrote in a letter Thursday to Senate President Don Gaetz. The News Service of Florida first reported on the letter.

A Genting lobbyist described the slots parlor as “a less lucrative” option than the resort the company originally proposed. It would have none of the table games favored by the wealthy Asian gamblers it promised to deliver. That left Genting’s allies to grapple with a scaled-back version of the economic windfall the company said it could deliver if Florida approved its original plan.

“The large-scale resort they’re contemplating will attract visitors,’’ said Rep. Erik Fresen, the Miami Republican who sponsored Genting’s original gambling bill in 2012. “But I don’t think it’s going to redirect the gaming tourists from South America.”

Genting said it hasn’t given up on building a large “destination” resort with the kind of casino it originally proposed. But its more modest entry into South Florida’s gaming industry has also brought problems.

Last summer, Genting launched a 1,500-passenger casino ship to run passengers daily from Port Miami to the Bimini Bay casino and resort, which it began managing in 2012. Like major cruise lines, Genting took advantage of federal law allowing it to employ foreign workers for trips to foreign ports.

But when Genting began running overnight “cruises to nowhere” that didn’t require stops at Bimini, immigration officials ruled the trips required U.S. crews. Genting said it employs 250 foreign visa holders on the Bimini SuperFast, and that they live onboard the vessel. Replacing them with U.S. workers would require hefty termination fees, and Genting said the ban on gambling cruises endangered its entire SuperFast venture.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled against Genting’s suit, writing that the company’s argument would let ships that occasionally headed to foreign ports to be “effectively skirting immigration employment laws.”

In a statement issued late Friday, Genting said the ruling would not impact its day cruises to Bimini, “which will continue without interruption.”

As Genting awaited its Bimini SuperFast ruling after a three-month court fight, the company also faced political push-back in New York over casino employees. On Monday, Genting laid off 175 employees at the buffet restaurant at its Resorts World slots casino in Queens. The dismissals came after Genting and the casino’s union negotiated a new labor deal in October that had some workers making $60,000 a year, and the buffet employees earning $12 an hour instead of $5, according to a New York Times report.

“We made the difficult decision to close the Aqueduct Buffet because it never caught on with our customers and was no longer economically viable,” Genting said in its statement. “We sincerely regret the impact this closure has on the buffet’s employees and are working closely with the Hotel Trades Council to ease this transition.”

Read more here:

Heat Strategy in Selling Arena Deal in 1996 Revealed – How Cynical! Relates to Parcel B That we Are Now Calling Arena Park (2004 article)

Sports Business Journal: January 12 – 18, 2004
Successful strategies for pitching an arena project to voters
Published January 12, 2004
Major league sports and big-time politics are more connected than most people think. Both arouse public passions, both are in the news on a daily basis and both are fiercely competitive. When a major sports team seeks public approval to build a new stadium, sports and politics combine in a unique campaign.
Team boosters and owners are often surprised to learn that the public is often slow to warm to the idea of building a new sports stadium. When the Miami Heat announced plans to build a state-of-the-art waterfront arena in 1994, civic leaders who supported the deal were shocked to see polls showing a majority of the public opposed the new arena. Worse yet, an up-and-coming candidate for mayor made opposition to the arena a centerpiece of his campaign and roared from behind to victory.
Voters are wary of arena deals because they are both stingy with public funds on big projects and suspect of big sports teams needing any public money in the first place. They read about huge player salaries and assume that wealthy team owners can pay for the stadium themselves. Voters also fear traffic jams caused by big arena projects.

The Miami Heat used then coach Pit Riley in television ads that touted what a new arena would do for the entire community.

Team owners quickly find that a strong fan base alone does not provide enough votes to win a referendum campaign or force a new stadium project on wary public officials.
So what is a sports franchise to do when the world of sports merges with the world of politics over a proposed arena or stadium? A quick study of the Miami Heat’s successful campaign to win a Dade County referendum provides some interesting answers.
In 1996, the Miami Heat faced strong grassroots opposition to its plan to build AmericanAirlines Arena along the waterfront in Biscayne Bay in Miami. A Dade County open-space advocate had secured the petition signatures necessary to place a referendum on the November ballot to block the Heat’s arena from being built. In late August, the arena project appeared to be doomed. A Miami Herald poll showed that 60 percent of Dade County voters were opposed to the new Heat arena being built along the waterfront. And while the agreement called for Dade County to invest only $8.5 million a year to pay maintenance and operation costs associated with the new arena, there was still strong opposition to taxpayer subsidies in the project.
When the Heat hired my consulting firm, we did the first thing we would do in any political campaign. We conducted a Hill Research poll to find out why voters were opposed to the new arena and what messages we could use to change their minds.
We found that to win we had to make the referendum about more than basketball. It is important to convince voters that the winners in a new stadium are not the big team owners but the entire community. That demands a wider argument than just the glittering attributes of a shiny new arena for the home team. We had to make the campaign about civic pride, and we needed an effective candidate-like spokesman to sell our message. The argument that the Heat might leave Miami was persuasive to some voters but was not a compelling enough message to secure victory.
Our research showed that Pat Riley, the Heat’s coach at the time, was the team’s greatest asset. Riley was viewed as a big celebrity, a winner and someone who added prestige to the Heat and the entire city.
We also saw that different voter groups each saw different benefits in the arena. This was important. Most cities are combinations of different communities, each with its own unique outlook. In Dade County, Cuban-Americans saw the arena as a symbol of pride and local achievement. African-Americans saw an economic project bringing new jobs and had pride in the local NBA team. White voters were most excited about a new family-friendly park on Miami’s waterfront, including soccer fields and a new arena, which would bring in concerts and other entertainment events. Recasting the arena as a waterfront park and arena was to be key to our campaign.

It is important to convince voters that the winners in a new stadium are not the big team owners but the entire community.

We featured Riley prominently in political-campaign-style TV ads to deliver our message that Miami was a world-class city that deserved a world-class waterfront park and arena. The Riley ads refuted the notion that the referendum campaign was just about basketball and focused on the economic benefits and excitement the waterfront development would bring to the city.
To support the paid advertising we ran on TV, we ran aggressive direct-mail and phone campaigns that targeted research-driven messages to each specific voter community in Dade County. Jay Cross, Heat president at the time, hit the chicken dinner circuit with an impressive presentation on the new arena. We appealed to Cuban-American voters with Spanish-language ads and mail, and we conducted a community-by-community bus tour with Riley and Heat players to generate media coverage and momentum behind our “Save the Waterfront” campaign. We constantly checked and rechecked our effort with polling to make sure the numbers were moving our way.
In five weeks, we were able to shift the referendum debate from a question of building a sports arena for a millionaire owner and his millionaire players to one of securing Miami’s reputation as

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a first-tier American city. On Election Day, the anti-arena referendum was rejected by a vote of 59 percent to 41 percent, a nearly 40-point turnaround from the late August polling numbers.
So how do the lessons of the Miami Heat’s successful referendum campaign apply today? To be sure, the political situation that owners face now is more difficult than in 1996. There is much evidence to show that new sports arenas haven’t delivered the economic bang their proponents promised. There is growing fan dissent over rising ticket prices and spiraling player salaries. And there is a very real perception that teams have no loyalty to their communities.
All of these dynamics point up the need for sports teams to turn to political professionals to run the elections they need to win to secure public financing for new arenas. In most circumstances, the opposition forces to building a new arena will not have the resources to wage a traditional campaign with television ads and the other tactics we used in the Miami Heat campaign. This is a big advantage that owners should fully exploit. For a relatively small investment (we spent $3.5 million to win the Miami campaign), you can run a political-style campaign that will drive the public debate on your referendum.
The bottom line is if you need to win public financing to build a new stadium, you should do these things: First, start early, plan ahead and use a political pro who understands the schizophrenic way voters think about issues and elections to run your campaign. Second, make the argument wider than a shiny new building for your team, no matter how popular you are. Third, don’t be afraid to set the terms of the debate yourself, instead of waiting for your opponents to corner you.
Michael E. Murphy is a partner in the Washington, D.C., and Sacramento-based public affairs firm Navigators. He has handled strategy and media for more than 20 successful gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, and has worked with the Miami Heat and the New York Jets on arena or stadium issues.

Attack on County Charter Article 7 – Please Attend County COmmission Meeting 9:30 Am Monday 6/9/14 at County Hall

There is a last min. item on the Rec and Cultural Affairs committee on Monday – Item attached.

This is a bad idea — way to vague – and no time at all to react — It violates 4 day rule so could
be withdrawn.  It is calling for a referendum in November — if we can delay this it may preclude
meeting that date –

Commissioners are Souto, Barbara Jordan, J, Monestine and BCC Chambers.

Call or email their offices to complain about the time frame – and that it requires much more review
and discussion


Architects, Museum Advocates and Planners Decry Soccer Stadium

Debate over soccer stadium centers on park use


Downtown Miami skyline featuring Museum Park. Paul Morris / Paul Morris

Image 1 of 4


In a ballroom at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami Thursday, supporters of…




The vision for Miami’s new Museum Park began 14 years ago with a ferocious tussle over a proposed baseball stadium on downtown Miami’s waterfront, and it could soon end the same way — this time in a new battle over ex-footballer David Beckham’s campaign for a pro soccer stadium on the very spot.

Back then, a band of urban activists, civic leaders and politicians beat back a plan to build the Florida Marlins a ballpark in what was then semi-derelict Bicentennial Park. After scores of often-contentious public meetings and city commission hearings, multiple revisions, lawsuits and one referendum, a compromise plan emerged that explicitly aimed to preserve and enhance the rare public parcel of open bayfront.

That vision — for two new museums and a refurbished deepwater boat slip book-ending an expanse of open, tree-shaded parkland — is finally rounding into reality.

On June 14, six months after the splashy debut of the bayfront Pérez Art Museum Miami, the U.S. Coast Guard tall ship Eagle will sail into the long-closed slip for a three-day visit, inaugurating the long-awaited park.

Yes, a new park — encompassing shade trees, palms, a great lawn, paved paths, lights, benches, a sandy “beach,” mooring piers for boats, a new plaza on Biscayne Boulevard at the foot of the slip, and a grand new pedestrian promenade leading from the boulevard to the bay — is in the final, feverish stages of construction, and just about to open.

A finished, broad new baywalk now stretches from PAMM to the slip, and all the way around the open body of water’s half-mile perimeter to the edge of the AmericanAirlines Arena and the publicly owned, and still unimproved, county-owned plot of land behind it known as Parcel B. At the foot of the slip stands a striking, donated bronze statue by the late Cuban artist Cundo Bermudez.

The full cost to taxpayers to design, develop and build the park, including slip improvements, according to city officials: as much as $40 million, evenly divided between the park and the slip.

Swire Properties, the developer of Brickell City Centre, chipped in $700,000 more to barge dozens of 100-year-old oaks and other mature trees from the development site to the park. The semi-autonomous trust that runs nearby Bayfront Park and will manage Museum Park has budgeted $800,000 for maintenance, programming and 24-hour security for this year and expects to set aside $1 million annually after that.

But much of it may not last.


The Beckham group proposes to fill in the slip and take a substantial 4.2-acre chunk of the new park’s roughly 19 acres of green space to accommodate a stadium with at least 20,000 seats. The group has pitched the rough plan as a significant improvement and expansion for the city’s soon-to-open Museum Park, a scaled-down budget version of a blueprint by Cooper Robertson & Partners, famed designers of Manhattan’s Battery Park City and its popular esplanade.

The team has pledged to add 8.5 acres of green space behind the stadium, for a claimed net gain of 4.3 acres, including Parcel B, which would become part of their park. They say the stadium, to be used for about 25 events a year, would include restaurants to “activate” a park that they claim now consists of little more than grass and would otherwise be “dead space.”

“It’s much more than 20 percent better. It’s 100 percent better,” Beckham’s real estate advisor, John Alschuler said earlier this month during the group’s presentation of watercolor sketches and computer renderings outlining their plan, which is being developed by Miami’s Arquitectonica firm.

But the new Museum Park could be rapidly turning into an inconvenient, and possibly substantial, obstacle to Beckham’s campaign to put another stadium, though likely a smaller one, in the same prime public property once coveted by the Marlins.

Because the property has been closed and fenced off for years, many Miamians seem unaware that the new park and its fully refurbished slip are nearly ready for public use. The slip, a remnant of the old Port of Miami, had long been unusable because its seawall had collapsed and it lacked moorings for boats.

Alschuler, who has made a name as a sharp facilitator of some of the country’s most successful urban turnarounds and new parks, is brusquely dismissive of Museum Park — which he has likened to a Chevy in comparison to Beckham’s “Cadillac” — and its supporters.

“The slip is not a source of energy and activity, and never can be,” he said in an interview Thursday. “No one can defend this park. It’s going to be a failed park.”

But those who have long been awaiting the park are outraged.

The rapid embrace of the Museum Park stadium plan by Beckham’s team, along with Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, has provoked a heated reaction from many downtown residents, in particular those in the four new condo towers across from the park site, whose associations are organizing to oppose it.

Many say they had purchased expensive units in full expectation of one day enjoying the unobstructed green space in Museum Park that the city commission, then including Regalado, unanimously approved in 2008.

Some find it galling that Beckham and local political leaders would try to undo more than a decade’s worth of work and public investment for the private benefit of the retired soccer star and his investors just as it’s all about to finally pay off for Miami residents.

“It was always meant to be parkland. To me that was huge,” said Dalia Lagoa, president of the association at 900 Biscayne. “It’s a park that all people will be able to enjoy. It’s quiet. It’s open to the south. It’s a peaceful environment. The most appealing thing about the park is that you can take a stroll down Biscayne Boulevard and there’s trees and grass and benches and water right there, not hidden behind some monstrosity.

“I can’t imagine Beckham going to the mayor of London and asking to put a soccer stadium in Kensington Park, in James Park or in Hyde Park. He’d get run out of town.”

The Beckham team’s plan and its assertions have also drawn unusually direct and sharply worded criticism from a cadre of well known architects, urban designers and planners who played a role in the development of Museum Park, including Cooper Robertson principal Alexander Cooper.

The legendary designer, who has worked with Alschuler on a dozen major projects, last week signed on to a statement urging the city to reject the Beckham plan because it would “radically” disrupt the Museum Park goal of preserving open waterfront space.

The statement was coordinated by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who made Museum Park a cornerstone of his administration. Diaz, who envisaged a Major League Soccer stadium at Marlins Park, has come out of political retirement to fight the Museum Park stadium proposal.


The design professionals say the Beckham site plan, which puts a stadium 10 stories tall on Biscayne Boulevard and orients it north-to-south, would effectively obliterate much if not most of the already built park, seal off the green space the team proposes to build from the surrounding downtown, and forever shut off the views from Biscayne Boulevard of parkland and open water now afforded by the slip, which comes right up to the sidewalk.

“It’s like landing a flying saucer in the middle of the park. It’s an abomination,” said Raul Rodriguez, a prominent local architect whose firm is doing the construction drawings for the new Frost Museum of Science, now under way at Museum Park.

Ironically, the designers argue, the Beckham alternative would re-create and exacerbate the design problems that led to the failure of Bicentenial Park, a prizewinning space that was rarely visited in part because it was cut off from Biscayne Boulevard by concrete walls and earthen berms, and became instead a haunt for the homeless. They say it’s the Beckham plan, not the Cooper Robertson version, that risks becoming a lifeless zone.

In a dissection of the Beckham plan during an interview, Terence Riley, a prominent architect who as director of the former Miami Art Museum guided the development of the lavishly praised and heavily visited PAMM, called the stadium site plan “mind-boggling,” “preposterous,” “misguided” and “kind of crazy.”

“I can’t understand the urban logic behind it,” said Riley, former chief curator of architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “I’ve done a lot of research on stadiums and arenas, and, no matter what is promised, they are virtually always empty.

“The only population it would bring is a very large crowd on occasion, and that’s not what the park needs. It simply doesn’t fulfill its promise as a large urban park,” Riley said. “This puts a bad light on whoever’s advising them.

“Show me another example of an American city that after all this thoughtful planning and strategizing just sets it aside. It doesn’t exist. This is not the way urban planners who are experts in reviving cities would do things. This would be considered anathema.”

Museum Park, by contrast, was carefully designed to provide ample and inviting views into the park and the water beyond by keeping most of its perimeter open, except for where it’s blocked by an unsightly sewage pump station that would be too costly to move, supporters say.

The idea, planners say, is that residents and visitors could casually enter the park because it’s easily visible, accessible and safe.

“To put this stadium on Biscayne Boulevard would kill everything that this plan calls for, the whole idea of the open space,” said former Miami planning chief Ana Gelabert-Sanchez, who oversaw development of the Museum Park master plan and is now a consultant who also teaches urban planning at Harvard. “You would have a wall facing Biscayne Boulevard.”


The design professionals also dispute the Beckham’s team assertions that their plan would expand the park. Because the open-water slip encompasses some nine acres that are meant to be an integral part of Museum Park, filling it in and putting a stadium in the middle of the park would actually result in a net loss of open space, even taking the addition of Parcel B to the park into account, Diaz and others say.

Moreover, critics contend it’s disingenous for Alschuler and the Beckham team to claim their plan would provide a continous baywalk through the area for the first time.

The new baywalk already does that, they note, and in fact provides far more waterfront length than the Beckham alternative since it traverses the full length of the slip. Because Parcel B is already supposed to be public parkland, all that would remain is for the county, which owns it, to improve it, critics of the Beckham scheme say.

“It’s silly,” said Avra Jain, president of the Marina Blue condo association across from the park, and developer of the resuscitated MiMo Vagabond motel, soon to open farther up the boulevard. “Parcel B was already ours. That’s not a gift.”

The Beckham team’s renderings of the stadium — which Alschuler acknowledged represent “a vision, not a design” — have also come in for ridicule. In them, the presumably large stadium structure is barely discernible, and then mostly as a green mound or a transparent glass wall surrounded by greenery.

Sean McCaughan, a blogger on Curbed Miami, sardonically called it “the magical disappearing stadium for 25,000 people.”

Critics also say it’s telling the team did not release images showing views of the stadium from Biscayne Boulevard. Alschuler says they’re in design and should be ready in a few weeks.

Alschuler’s response to the critics is characteristically blunt: “They’re wrong.”

The issue comes down to differing conceptions of parks, Alschuler said. Successful urban and downtown parks need features and activities to turn them into “destination parks” that attract visitors, as opposed to “pastoral” or “passive” parks that consist mostly of trees and greenery, which don’t draw people.

Though Museum Park includes two large museums and a slip that city administrators insist will get significant use — the Miami International Boat Show wants to use it, and other tall ships are eager to visit, they say — the green space as it now exists fits the latter label, he argues. Alschuler also contends the slip is filled with floating beer cans —although no floating trash could be seen in several recent visits by reporters.

But that’s a view echoed by Beckham plan supporters.

Businessman Todd Oretsky, who co-founded Pipeline Brickell, a shared working space, attended the unveiling of the Beckham group’s latest renderings and said a stadium would bring more people to the waterfront.

“This is not a utilized park,” said Oretsky, a Bay Point resident and boater. “Nor is the water. Right now, it’s filled with garbage. It’s terrible.”

“In my experience, opportunities like this only come around once in a blue moon,” he said. “I’ve never seen a proposed deal so good for the public.”

To be sure, the park that will open in mid-June is not the full-fledged Cooper Robertson plan.

City officials, facing a budget crunch, have spent just about $10 million to $12 million on the green space, instead of the $45 million called for in the Cooper Robertson plan, which included an observation mound, a bamboo grove, a children’s garden, a park pavilion and other elaborate features that have yet to be built. (The balance of the $40 million total spent so far represents design fees, the cost of rebuilding the park’s and the slip’s seawall, environmental cleanup, and the cost of installing mooring bollards, among other big-ticket items.)

Because the park as built contains the full infrastructure framework for the more-elaborate park plan, said the project manager for the city, John De Pazos, those features can be built as money becomes available.

Alschuler said he doubts that. “Even if they had the money, that’s a very big if,” he said.

Because the basic framework is already in, Alschuler contends, it would be a simple matter to build Beckham’s alternative park template over it, meaning much of the public investment would not be wasted.

But Alschuler said the group does not intend to refund taxpayers any of the money spent on Museum Park or on slip improvements, noting that they plan instead to build the stadium, fill in the slip and rebuild the park at their own expense, “whatever the cost,” without public funds.

The team has also said it expects to pay “reasonable” rent for the land. Miami voters would have to approve the deal in November if the city commission puts the measure on the ballot.

Alschuler acknowledged the group is asking Miamians to reconsider a plan many thought long settled.

“I wasn’t here for that debate. But I’ve lived that debate many times,” he said. “I don’t want to be cavalier or flip about it, but this is what’s wonderful about American cities. We are constantly reopening these debates. Are we asking a community to take a second look at this question? Yes.”

But Museum Park supporters — many of whom say they want soccer in Miami and believe it should be downtown — say that debate is closed and the new park a fact.

“We are very close to seeing this come together. There is a critical mass downtown now. There are people there now. There is a need for open space,” Rodriguez said. “Go somewhere else.”

If the stadium is built, they contend, what would be lost — the unique proximity of Biscayne Boulevard and a body of water where porpoises and manatees are frequently sighted — could never be replaced, no matter how good Beckham’s designers are.

“It’s the only place where the water touches Biscayne Boulevard,” Gelabert-Sanchez said. “It adds recreational opportunities we otherwise would not have. It’s like having a balcony into the water. It is part of the urban aspect, to be able to look out and say, ‘This is where we live.’

“If you take this away, you’re taking away that possibility forever.”

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

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May 25: Demonstrations Begin Against Beckham Stadium in FEC Slip and Museum Park. More to Come.

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UEL Resolution Opposing Beckham Stadium- Walling Off Our Waterfront

Press Release: A Chevy for a Cadillac? A People’s Club?

The Urban Environment League Condemns the Soccer Stadium/Wall Against the Waterfront in Downtown Miami

A Resolution by the UEL’s Board of Directors
Contact: Gregory Bush, Vice President: 305-926-5001;

For Immediate Release: Saturday 24, 2014

While explaining why the plan for the new soccer stadium in Miami’s FEC slip (and Bicentennial Park) was so valuable for residents, David Beckham’s adviser David Altschuler recently said that trading a Chevy for a Cadillac should be a “pretty fair transaction.” His comment underscores a fundamentally elitist misunderstanding of the needs of our community under the mantle of attracting a major league soccer team to Miami. Such a notion of status is not the central issue to define this issue, nor is Michael Putney’s recent assertion that soccer legend David Beckham strikes him as a “regular guy” as a rationalization for deference. The stadium – in the last open space in downtown Miami – is wrong because it insults any sense of smart urban design in contemporary times by deferring to a soccer legend as a front man for financial backers. How dumb can we be – again?

The UEL strongly condemns the action by City and County Mayors in strong-arming a hastily drawn plan to wall off more of our long forlorn downtown waterfront against residents in favor of a Major League Soccer stadium. While some of the arguments in favor of the stadium in the FEC slip strike us as old and tired, it is important that we remember what we have experienced – and forgotten – in the recent history of attempts by sports corporations to “take” our rare public waterfront through complex formulas that disguise the theft of public space for private interests. The UEL believes that the public is, finally, tired of these games and will show their anger to public officials over the coming months in a variety of ways.

One argument that the Beckham forces have used is that nothing has been happening in Bicentennial Park and Parcel B? It’s dead space. Altschuler notes: “There are no places for people to gather. There is no place to have an ice cream with your child. There is no place to have a glass of wine and enjoy the view. It is a skeleton park. Not a fully fleshed out, robust park.” Well hello, we have been through that argument before. People do have memories. Public officials have failed to follow through in making the park a secure and attractive place.

In 2000, the argument against the Marlins was “Bums or Baseball” which was equally fallacious because over so many years- public waterfront parks have been set up for failure by conscious neglect by public officials.
Well why is that and what does it mean now? Parks need funding and long tem planning for security, maintenance and amenities. That has seldom happened in this city with any continuity.

Another argument advanced is that the new Beckham plan will provide more park land for the public? Those figures are fallacious. At least 2.7 acres were previously pledged to be parkland and never delivered after the 1996 referendum. Four acres will be taken away from Bicentennial Park for the stadium. Taxpayers have already paid millions to improve the “new found land” in the slip. The cost of each acre of land could be valued at $17 million or more if sold in the open market. What a gift to the rich!

It is clear is that urban density and traffic will become far more intense in an area of Miami that is so often gridlocked- even NOW. And there is no parking included in the hastily promoted design.

The stadium is projected to be 100 feet high and will clearly block views of the water, obscured by the deceptively alluring architectural renderings that have been so widely dispensed by the largely compliant press.

Ultimately, the UEL condemns the recurrent rapidity of decision making. Last minute deals, the deference paid by local officials to private sports entrepreneurs – just like 1996 – when today public assets (libraries, parks) so often go neglected.

After the 1996 referendum on the Arena, Parcel B (2.7 acre open space on the waterfront), a central element in selling the stadium to the public (according to the Heat’s own PR guru Michael Murphy (2004), was quickly changed by the county commission to allow various commercial interests. The public had been deceived.

Overall, the local press, with few exceptions, has been embarrassing and irresponsible in its fawning deference to this soccer star embracing Miami as his new town. We’ve heard that before.
Many questions need to be asked by the public in a more organized manner. The UEL demands a better public process – hopefully championed by local elected officials – so that what happened in relation to the Marlin’s attempt to get cheap waterfront land for their stadium will not be revisited. We should not be fooled again.
Miami faces another defining moment in its history. It not only relates to the stupidity of walling off our waterfront, the insane density being proposed, and endlessly rearranging what passes for public space today. It also concerns another example of a rushed deal- thrown at the public through a compliant press that echoes Beckham saying “take our demands and do it quickly or we wont play in your town.” Sounds like a spoiled child to us. Quality public government must rely on thoughtful and transparent planning processes. That’s central to this issue.

To conclude, the UEL calls for public officials to speak out for our public waterfront, not the quickly drawn scheme before us. We call for a variety of public protests, organization of effort by many groups, and we seek a better process to forge alternative modes of activating our waterfront and the connectivity needed for all our people. Stop this prvaization of public space.

We also need to remember that this struggle is not simply about the needs of any one group of real estate interests but, like other cities with vibrant waterfronts, it should involve the larger decision making process and the imperative need to enhance our public waterfront through coherent and transparent public planning.

Beckham’s Stadium Does Not Have to Be on Miami’s Waterfront No Matter What they Demand; We Should Enhance Our Public Waterfront

Preserve public waterfront open space

Who wouldn’t want a waterfront site for their stadium or for a Cuban Exile History Museum?

John Henry of the Marlins surely did back in 2000 when he spent millions trying to secure space for a stadium in Bicentennial Park. Yet led, in part, by the Urban Environment League, multiple forces coalesced to stop his powerful and expensive lobbying team, stimulating a unique public design process that eventually saw two museums being placed in the park.

A real park was also supposed to be part of the plan — but that has yet to materialize after more than a dozen years of inattention. Then, after endless negotiations, public officials finally made a very bad deal to pay billions for the Marlins Stadium — though thankfully not on the waterfront. Can’t we do better this time and stop obsessing about taking even more waterfront space for a stadium or another museum at more unknown costs to the public? Sometimes it seems we are reliving an old story in a region whose memory is so notoriously weak.

Some considerations in this debate:

• Public open space has long been particularly vulnerable on Miami’s waterfront. Miami has among the least amount of park space per capita of any major high-density city in the country. Politicians have promised to expand waterfront park space time and again in the past, but when have they delivered in recent decades? Parcel B? Bicentennial Park after 1976? What has happened to the funds to buy other waterfront land derived from a portion of the profits from Bayside — as prescribed in city and state legislation?

Impact fees are inadequately collected for new park space even though the downtown area desperately needs new parks as one hears from the recently created Downtown Neighborhood Association representing more than 27,000 new residents.

• Soccer will only play 25 games a year in a soccer facility, yet how would investors make money out such a stadium in the FEC slip? Clearly big profits are central to their plans.

• What happened to the idea of smaller ships in the slip or tall ships that could bring people to the waterfront? Do we live on a real waterfront for residents and tourists or a stage set/theme park in today’s news? Other great cities around the world cherish and expand their waterfront parks; Miami generally has event spaces with little regard to human-scale relationships to the natural world.

• A critical problem in assessing our waterfront involves the jurisdictional complexity of these waterfront spaces — leading to public cynicism. The slip is city property; Parcel B is county property subject to city zoning regulations; the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve and the Shoreline Review Committee also have jurisdiction — and more. Public understanding of these complex issues remains minimal. The Florida Inland Navigation District — public tax money — provided millions to upgrade the seawall of the slip and Parcel B in the last few years. Was that money totally wasted?

• From an urban-design perspective, this site would block even more views of the waterfront for local residents and the public unless one walks along the nonexistent baywalk — originally promised to residents back in 2001. That’s aside from the height and noise of a stadium.

• Above all else, the question of density including traffic congestion should remain paramount in the discussion. Even now projects in the downtown area and Biscayne Boulevard more generally are driving residents, commuters and others crazy — before new buildings come online. Traffic studies have, quite obviously, become even more of a fraudulent inside joke.

• Other sites for both the soccer stadium and the Cuban Exile History Museum have been inadequately examined with public input. Maybe the port site works, or doesn’t, but David Beckham and local politicians should certainly look at other sites.

• Above all, we should not be rushed by private interests in this media frenzy but demand an orderly public process in which a clear set of criteria to preserve public waterfront open space remains paramount. Public debates should include new ideas in a thoughtful urban design process. What a concept!

Gregory Bush is the director of the Institute for Public History at the University of Miami.

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The Heat Shake Down Miami-Dade Residents Again

Posted on Friday, 05.16.14

Gimenez and Arison reach deal on Heat arena; push is on for Tuesday vote

Miami Heat fans gather outside the AmericanAirlines Arena July 9, 2010, for a welcome to Miami celebration for Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has reached a deal with Miami Heat owner Micky Arison to rewrite the 1997 agreement that gave the team a $6.4 million subsidy and a profit-sharing arrangement that has yielded almost no money to Miami-Dade, according to people familiar with the talks.

Gimenez aides are now racing to get the proposed agreement in front of commissioners for a Tuesday vote, but at least three are pushing back on the timing.

“I don’t understand the rush,’’ said Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who opposes renegotiating the Heat deal, which expires in 2030.

The proposed terms haven’t been made public. The Heat’s public campaign for an additional 10 years on the current deal began during the play-offs, and Arison first told fans he had hoped to have commissioners vote on the deal two weeks ago.

Rebeca Sosa, the chairwoman of the County Commission, wields authority over the agenda. She said Friday county lawyers told her the proposed agreement contains 500 pages, and she wasn’t eager to analyze it in just a few days.

“I want to make sure we do things right,’’ she said. “I don’t think it’s fair to accept one item without giving it the proper time for the staff and commissioners to get involved.”

Arison proposed increasing the yearly subsidy from its current amount of $6.4 million to an average of $15 million during the last 10 years of the extended agreement. Arison also offered to donate about $1 million a year to the county’s parks department in exchange for ending the current profit-sharing arrangement, which has only paid Miami-Dade about $270,000 after 14 years.

The original deal had the team finance construction of the county-owned arena, then pay itself back $213 million, plus interest, out of profits.

Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo said early Friday afternoon that he had not been briefed by Gimenez aides on an agreement. He said Tuesday may be too soon for the elected body to decide on a proposed deal.

“We’re cutting it close,’’ he said. “We’re really cutting it close. I don’t know if it gives commissioners enough time to digest it.”

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