Consider the following excerpt from the Herald:

Miami-Dade voters strongly oppose spending tax dollars on a baseball stadium and other projects in a $3 billion public works plan, but would back spending on local schools, a new poll shows.

The survey of 800 Miami-Dade registered voters suggests the public is reluctant to spend local tax dollars for ”luxury items” during an economic slowdown, said Sergio Bendixen, whose Bendixen & Associates conducted the poll.

I’m going to go ahead nip this one in the bud before anyone grabs it and runs with it.  The money (Note: vast majority, not all) earmarked for the Miami Megaplan is allotted for the sole use of the intended individual projects.

If Miami does not utilize the $500 million FDOT is providing for the tunnel project, the funds cannot be diverted to education, healthcare, or any other sector.  FDOT will simply reallocate the funds to another or various transportation projects in other counties within the state.  Our loss.

Now about the stadium.  That funding, 90% of the county’s share according to County Manager George Burgess, is coming from the tourist and convention development taxes.  Tax money, which once again, can only be used for programs that will stimulate more tourism within the Miami-Dade County area.

CRA Money?  Care to take a guess?  Yep.  This money can only be used for the improvement of the redevelopment districts.

Now, before we start crying foul about the Miami Megaplan or any other infrastructure upgrades in these self imposed difficult economic times, perhaps we should stop and consider where this funding is coming from and what we are permitted to do with it in the first place.  I find it rather irresponsible of Bendixen & Associates to perform such a rash survey without considering the complex funding restrictions.

Bendixen noted that the poll didn’t ask voters’ opinions of the projects, just the funding mechanism. ”Voters aren’t saying they don’t like the ideas, they don’t think these projects are good investment for tax money,” he said.

And clearly failed to consider how exactly these funding sources work…

Voters were even more opposed to paying for construction of a new museum park at Bicentennial Park in downtown Miami. The poll found 66 percent of respondents found it a ”bad investment” for the county; while 29 percent considered it a “good investment.”

Guess what folks?  We had the chance to vote on this one already.  We approved the bond deal that enabled its funding.  Besides if we’re in such a dire need to improve our education, why not build these institutions of higher learning?  Every great city has large museums to compliment the classroom components of learning…

14 Responses to About That Funding…

  1. Steven says:

    I feel that the real issue, as you stated, is that people don’t understand the funding scheme and the intricacies that go into the budget and appropriations. When you add the recent spike in coverage of the shortfall of money for the school district, citizens instead want tax money to pay for the schools instead of yet another stadium in this county.

    Another big issue is that the voters don’t know what they approve when they vote for it. The museum and the port tunnel projects were both approved by voters a few years ago in a bond refferendum.

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  2. Wild Style says:

    Can voters be THIS ill informed? Is this a issue of people not paying attention to what they are voting for or is this a situation of the media and government doing pure jobs of educating people on whats going on?

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  3. Ellen says:

    I’m so juvenile I didn’t even read the article, I had to stop at nipped in the butt!! It’s nipped in the bud.

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  4. Ellen, I’ve heard it both ways.

    I’m sorry such a minor “error” would keep you from reading our work…

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  5. Abel Iraola says:

    I’m still against this Megaplan.

    Building the tunnel and stadium (as well as trying to get it done by 2011) would cause major disruptions in Miami, and all for two things that I don’t believe will really be worth what they cost. Also, who pays for the overruns? Anyone who thinks a project in Miami is going to both stay on schedule and within budget is kidding themselves.

    We can’t just provide ourselves these luxuries because the money is there. You know what I’d rather do with the half a billion FDOT is allocating us? Use it to support the Miami Intermodal Center project, the Orange Line, as well as the current bus system. I believe we’re in a position where upgrading and improving our infrastructure is more important than getting involved in newer projects.

    However, I’ll take a Braman stance on this. Give this to the people to completely decide. If they vote for it (which I don’t think they will), then it should be done. I would support the Museum Park proposal, but not if it’s tied to the other projects.

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  6. Abel Iraola says:

    Forgot to mention one thing. Something I’ve always thought money should be allocated for here in Florida is high-speed rail. I fail to see how something that is so efficient and already in use around the world has failed to catch on in the United States.

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  7. Mr. dollar says:

    GLB,

    Very few people outside of public administration and newspapers actually know how local governments allocate all of the different taxes to all of the different priorities, and many of them don’t really stick to the funding rules much. The state raids its trust funds all the time when a political issue arises. And I doubt 800 Miamians would have stayed on the phone with a pollster long enough to learn.

    I think part of the solution for better transit involves using the same “methods” our hustler-politicos use in order to drum up support. Maybe get companies like ZipCar and the French rent-a-bike thing out here to do demos in already transit-friendly communities and at the universities. And maybe throw some kickbacks or coke to ambivalent politicos to close the deal. These methods work!

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  8. John says:

    You say the money is coming from tourist dollars so it doesn’t hurt us. But yesterday in court Burgess admitted that the money for renovating the convention centers, which is supposed to be paid for with tourist taxes, will instead be paid for with property tax money (because all the tourist tax money will be given to the Marlins). So the county is just playing a shell game and in the end it DOES come from our pockets.

    The tourist taxes could be used to, say, pay for beach replenishment (trucking in sand). Things that would actually bring in more tourists.

    Also, eventually, our tourist economy is hurt when we tax it to death. People get their hotel bills and find on top of the already-high nightly rates an additional 13% – leaving them feeling ripped off and less likely to come back. If the only thing we have to spend the taxes tourists pay is on a baseball stadium to make the Marlins rich, maybe we’d be better in the long run lowering the tourist taxes.

    –John

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  9. John – My point still remains the same, the funds cannot be used for education or any other local public service.

    I’m not arguing that building a ballpark with these funds is the best idea, I’m just stating the point that the funds can’t simply be moved elsewhere…

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  10. Alex says:

    The destination of those funds was established by legislative fiat and by legislative fiat it can be undone. In other words, it’s just a law away from extending their use to general infrastructure – like schools. So they are not “tax” dollars now, but it is public money nevertheless. And how a stadium promotes tourism is not a settled matter at all.

    On top of that, the CRA money is specifically earmarked for blighted areas. Braman is right in saying that neither the PAC bond obligations, the museums or Watson Island really qualify as blight.

    The problem with the Megaplan (some may say the genius) is lumping together all those projects which nobody agrees on. I’m pro-tunnel and museums but anti-stadium, for example. On top of that, mixing in a private, for profit entity like the Marlins complicates the issue.

    That being said, the poll was whacked. I don’t need a poll to tell you people will always vote for schools if asked. But ask them to pay for them and see the protests that the government is corrupt.

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  11. Steven says:

    I think the point that John is trying to make is that there is a precidense in the past where money is alocated towards one thing and a shell game takes place and in the end it ends up suffering. As an example of that, the Florida Lottery was supposed to suppliment the state education budget, but over time the budget amount has been cut back adn cut back to the point where instead of providing a suppliment, that money is now providing the state education budget. It may not be providing it completely on its own, but its a far cry from being a suppliment on top of budgeted money.

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  12. Tony Garcia says:

    To break with some of my fellow TM writers, I agree with Alex and Steven. Both the method behind financing the deal, and its contents are fundamentally flawed. The plan was conceived and passed in a way as to avoid public scrutiny. The first thing that the various players need to do is to go back and ask the public for permission to proceed. My vote for the GOB that included Orange Bowl upgrades was not an invitation to do anything with that land, it was for upgrades to the existing building. Likewise, the museum had funds allocated to it as part of the bond measure (only to find out, once again, that the County over promised, and under delivered).

    I think the plan is a distraction from the real needs that our transit system and community are facing right now. To be specific these are some of the problems with the plan:
    1. The Orange Bowl (RIP 1937-2008) The fact that they tore down this structure is criminal to begin with. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a prominent civic symbol of our city, and we have so few to begin with. Aside from the demolition, the Orange Bowl Site is not currently well served by transit. A real win would be to use the dollars going to the streetcar to help fund the East/West Orange Line along NW 7th street. This, along with the other transit amenities that I have heard associated with this project (nicer bus stops, bike facilities), and changes to zoning to accommodate TOD’s will achieve the redevelopment that the site deserves, while also serving the need for more transit Countywide. Also, go ahead and protect the historic neighborhood to the East and South of the stadium so that future development saves this part of East Little Havana. (If you haven’t been there in a while, drive around. There are a wealth of great 1920′s bungalows, central halls, and other gems that need TLC, but are an important part of our past.
    2.The Port Tunnel. Do we really need to spend this much money on a tunnel for truck traffic? I’ve said this in other posts on this subject: cities have trucks and they don’t kill pedestrian life. As far as priorities go, this one is very low on a very long list.
    3.Shifty CRA boundaries, and funny funding. This is pretty obvious I think. The CRA has specific definitions (slum, blight, etc.), and they aren’t met when you shift around the boundaries to include non-blighted areas. Regarding the tourist tax dollars and where that money is spent, I certainly think that a functioning transit system would promote tourism, as currently tourists don’t have any other option than to rent a car. Transit needs to be funded by many different sources, and in creative ways. Why not by one of the five different tourist tax categories? (http://www.miamidade.gov/taxcollector/tourist_goes.asp)
    4.The Marlins. What a shifty game they play. I wonder if strong arming the County and limiting the benefits of the stadium to the public is a winning PR move for them. My guess is no. I just can’t understand why our County and City government gave any concessions to the team, when we own the land. If the Marlins want to go, they can go. We shouldn’t be told by the Marlins when we can and cannot use a stadium that belongs to us. During the off season, the stadium should be available to the team for 16 days. In addition, the financial benefit to the County in the event of sale, or of events during the off season are really low, and not consistent with other teams that have recently built stadiums on public land or with public financing.

    I think that our leaders need to prioritize transit. They would have a much better chance at convincing people if they looked at our transit woes and other large infrastructure projects (like this one) as a set of connected parts, and not individual projects. Rather than have the streetcar component in one place, and have the stadium in another, have that money help fund the Orange Line down NW 7th street, and as an added bonus let the Marlins help foot the bill for a great transit stop!

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  13. Tony Garcia says:

    PS. As far as the $155 million Marlin contribution, here are some other ball park projects in the works that are mostly or entirely funded privately:
    1. Cisco Field: Future home of the Athletics
    Cost: $400-$500 million, Privately financed
    2. Yankee Stadium
    Cost: $1.2 billion. $220 million city contribution, balance paid by Yankees.
    3. Citi Field: Future home of the Mets
    Cost: $600 million, with $165 from the city for infrastructure, and the balance paid by the team.

    Check out this site: http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/index.htm
    It shows that out of all the proposed stadiums, our local government is paying much more than other cities have paid. Think about it. Why should we overpay?

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  14. Alexander says:

    Transit Miami is a great site, but Gabriel’s argument in favor of the Miami Megaplan is flawed on most counts, and his fall-back position (‘The money can’t be used any other way’) is spurious and over-simplistic.

    As others point out, this deal stinks. It was struck in a back room and never exposed to public scrutiny; it’s a shell game whereby tourist tax dollars are siphoned into private hands at one end, while taxpayers donate to cover any defecits at the other; it effectively subsidizes the Marlins, a private, for-profit corporation trying to get an under-the-table public subsidy deal; it provides little in the way of direct benefit for the citizens of Overtown, who are the pawns in the recent lawsuit; and it’s another slap in the face for tax-paying citizens.

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