When it comes to sound planning and transparent management of Virginia Key, it seems like the island never catches a break. Since last year we've had discussions about tunnel dredge material and Port Dredge material coming to the old landfill, and no less than two attempt to have the Miami Sports & Exposition Authority (MSEA) take over the Marine Stadium (with the latest attempt going for approval to City Commission Thursday, 1/26/2012). The City Commission and mayor of the City of Miami never seem to have the public interest in mind when deciding how Virginia Key should be managed.
You might remember that back in July 2010 the City Commission unanimously approved the Virginia Key Master Plan -- which called for the creation of an oversight board to govern the entire island. The Master Plan was the result of two years' worth of public process let by the Urban Environment League, in collaboration with other local park and preservation groups following the disastrous attempts by city planning staff (and their consultants) to come up with a vision for the island that preserved the Marine Stadium, and respected the natural resources of the island.
Since coming to office, and as recently as June of 2011, Mayor Regalado told UEL representatives that he would soon bring a resolution to the City Commission which would call for an oversight board that would govern the entire island. The same message was taken to Commissioners Suarez and Sarnoff -- yet no action has been taken since.
Enter the latest antics by city leaders to rush legislation through chambers that would ignore the mandate to create an oversight board for the entire island. Not only has an oversight board not been created, but now commissioners and the mayor are bringing MSEA into the mix to get around procurement problems, and allow the administration to sidestep a little known City law, known as the Carollo Amendment, that requires any conveyance of waterfront land to go to public referendum -- unless the land is transferred to a board like MSEA.
To be clear: MSEA has no real power or use other than it gives the city the ability to get around the Carollo Amendment. One has to ask -- why are they involved? Why doesn't the city simply create the Virginia Key Board to govern matters related the Marine Stadium? Why involve what most observers view as an ineffectual board to sneak around the public process? What is there to hide?
In addition, the Memorandum of Understanding between the City and MSEA creates a steering committee for what is being called Miami Marine Park, which includes the Rusty Pelican site, the Marine Stadium, and the basin area lands. Far from being the oversight board called for by the Virginia Key Master Plan, this committee will exclude the vast majority of Virginia Key Coalition stakeholders, and heavily represent one group, Friends of the Marine Stadium.
The City Commission should stop their rush to further parcel out Virginia Key and first create an oversight board that would govern decisions just like this one. The island deserves holistic planning and decision-making by a board that represents a diverse group of citizens and stakeholders -- not the same piecemeal planning that has consistently led to decisions made against the long term good of the island. Virginia Key deserves better.