Miami-Dade taxpayers will get a say after all.
After reportedly trying to avoid a public vote on funding for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium, the Miami Dolphins have agreed to a county-wide referendum. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the referendum requirement with Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee Monday morning.
Gimenez said he would not hold a vote until he has reached an agreement on financing with the Dolphins, according to the Miami Herald: "We haven't started negotiations. It doesn't mean a deal is going to be done."
The team had tried to avoid seeking public approval for help with the $4 million renovations, with owner Stephen Ross indicating there wasn't enough time to hold a vote before the May 22nd selection of a host city for the 2016 Super Bowl. Miami is hoping to secure the game over fellow finalist San Francisco, despite warnings from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that Sun Life needs improvements.
But there's no doubt franchise execs were also aware they'll face a tough public in the wake of the Marlins Park fiasco, over which infuriated residents never got a say. A bill that would grant the Fins a $3 million sales tax rebate passed the Florida Senate Commerce Committee last week, but the team's hopes for a slide through Tallahassee took a hit when Miami-Dade lawmakers very noticeably left the stadium proposal off their list of priorities for 2013.
That bill, sponsored by state Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), will be amended to require the countywide referendum, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
"I think it’s a real act of desperation," said auto magnate Norman Braman, who led a recall of former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez after the county funded a huge chunk of private Marlins Park. "They're trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Shame on the mayor."
The Dolphins are seeking public money from not only the $3 million tax subsidy, but by increasing hotel bed taxes from six to seven percent.
Ross, a Miami Beach-bred billionaire who made his fortune in real estate, previously pledged to pay at least half of the costs of the improvements, which include a $100 million partial roof. But Miami-Dade Commission Chair Rebecca Sosa told CBS Sunday she thought Mayor Gimenez would ask Ross to increase his share of the costs.
"I hope so," Sosa said. When asked what percentage might be requested, she replied, "I don't know, that is the mayor's task."
Monday morning, Gimenez indicated the county would be on the hook for the cost of a special election, which the elections department estimated would be between $3 and $5 million.