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THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
CUTTING TO THE CHASE: THE REAL PROBLEM WITH THE FRIENDS OF MARINE STADIUM IS THAT BECAUSE REGALADO AND HIS MINIONS ARE STUPID, THEY THINK EVERYONE ELSE IS TOO

FEBRUARY 23, 2012

Regalado’s claim that, “the time of local governments spending millions in taxpayers’ money on grandiose projects is long gone...” is not supported by his actions.

And that is at the crux of both my opposition to this scheme, and the growing concern of a number of people who are finally beginning to look behind the curtain at what Regalado is ordering city employees to do versus, what he claims his position is.





If only the Mayor spoke the truth when he wrote this.  Unfortunately, at the very same time that this letter was published, Don Worth a local art dealer who had become a player in the historical preservation arena was, unbeknownst to his playmates at the Miami-Dade Historical Trust, working behind the scenes to get the City to give him, and a couple of his pals the Marine Stadium and all of the property surrounding it.

The blueprint for this effort was a letter that his “volunteer” attorney Lynn Lewis wrote to the City of Miami in an attempt to have Worth’s laundry list of taxpayer subsidized benefits included in what was then an effort to negotiate an Inter-Local agreement between the City and the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority (MESA).

The Inter-Local would have been the Cherry on the top of the sundae, since had it been approved by the City Commission, the City would have given the Marine Stadium property to MESA, who in turn would have given it to Worth and his pals, without so much as a

There are few cities in America who’s record of managing their waterfront property has been as abysmal as Miami’s.


Starting with Jungle Island - which today is about $11 million dollars in arrears on its taxes, and $15 million more in it’s bond obligations, and continues to struggle to make quarterly rent payments - to the Children’s Museum on Watson Island, that got the sweetheart deals of all sweetheart deals on it’s lease from the City - $2 a year for 300 years - to build their museum right smack in the middle of the island, thereby making the overall property less valuable for development, and then, since opening, have blatantly operated an illegal Charter School in the museum.


Then look at what’s happening at Bicentennial Park with the 2 new museums, that were ramrodded through in a deal so stinky that Grace Solares, Elvis Cruz and others filed a lawsuit against the deal which is still pending.


Add to that the other sweetheart deals over the years for the Miami Yacht Club, Monty’s, the Chart House, Scotty’s, the Miami Rowing Club and the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and you realize that ALL of this property, if managed right, could have been putting a lot more money into the City of Miami’s General Fund each year.


Within this framework of giveaways and screwy deals the current effort to essentially give away the Miami Marine Stadium and as much of the surrounding property as Don Worth and his pals can wrest away from the City should ring alarm bells that should wake up even the long dead Manuel Yip, Miami’s most famous dead voter.


The 10+ acres of Rickenbacker Causeway land that includes the Miami Marine Stadium, Bayside Hut/Vero’s On The Bay, and the almost 5 acres of vacant land is the last remaining piece of the City’s waterfront property.


Last week I wrote about the scandal of Bayside Hut/Vero’s On The Bay, not paying rent for at least a year, and never paying property taxes.


Since I posted my story, I’ve learned so much more about the back-room dealings involving that property, including how much money the restaurant used to generate for the city, and more importantly how much money the property might be generating today if there was a real contract that was being enforced, instead of the blatant bullshit that is going, that it continues to amaze me how absolutely corrupt the last few city administrations have been in looking out for the public’s interest, and how grossly incompetent and useless the news media in Miami has become.


HOW THE GAME OF GIVING AWAY THE PUBLIC’S MONEY IS NOW PLAYED

When it comes to the current scheme over the Marine Stadium,  the Mayor last May wrote - or more likely had someone write a letter - to the editor of the Miami Herald about making the Marine Stadium  a priority.  Here is that letter:

The Mayor is partly right when he says that, “...the time of local governments spending millions in taxpayer’s money on grandiose projects are long gone.,” especially for a city that continues to go from one year to the next with multi-million dollar budget deficits.


Today, it’s impossible for Miami to pony up millions in a bond issue, or in money from slush fund to finance a project like the Marine Stadium refurbishment.


However, like all games of Three-Card-Monty played at Miami City Hall, what most people don’t realize is that for someone like Tomas Regalado, the game of giving away public money continues, but now it’s shielded in the fine print of Inter-Local Agreements and Memorandum’s Of Understanding.


While the Mayor is right that the City doesn’t have millions in cash laying around to give to Don Worth and his pals, he has the next best thing: He has access to valuable city land and previously committed tax dollars that Don Worth has made no secret that he covets as part of the deal.


I’ve written several times about the letter that Mr. Worth’s Volunteer Attorney, Lynn Lewis, wrote to Luis Cabrera on June 20, 2011, detailing all the items that Worth wanted included in the Inter-Local Agreement that the City at the time was negotiating with the Miami Sports and Entertainment Authority (MESA.


That agreement would have allowed the City to turn over the Marine Stadium property to MESA, who in turn would have given it to Worth and his “Friends.”


Here are some of the demands that the letter contained:


They wanted the “Marine Stadium, the greenspace, the basin, the Marine Exhibition Center, plus all related parking and landscaping.”  From the survey that was done, they wanted all the property from the Miami Rowing Club to the east, to the Miami Marine  Marina to the west.


They wanted complete freedom to do what they wanted without

interference from anyone from MESA or the City, including the

City Commission.  Included in that freedom was the ability to hire the architects and engineers.


They wanted the ability to do whatever they wanted related to

“construction, development or operation of the Marine Stadium Park improvements, to take place without any competitive bidding or RFP’s.


Claiming that they were doing this at Zero cost to the City, not  

withstanding the value of all that they expected the city to give

them, they wanted all their capital costs, plus interest, plus a

return to be repaid before they gave the City a penny in rent.  (In finance, a return on investment is considered a profit.)


They wanted the money that the City had earmarked for building the new parking garage at the Rusty Pelican, as part of Miami 21.


That was what they wanted last year. Today, they’ve enlarged their demands to include a restaurant along with everything else.


That’s an enormous commitment of public land and resources to be given away - and given away is what would happen - because as the letter last year spelled out, Worth and his “Friends” were absolutely clear on the financial terms that they expected the city to agree upon regarding the city’s “rent.”  Here is the verbatim portion of her letter:


        “The term “Rental” in the Draft Interlocal Agreement

        needs work.  FMMS, through itself and its delegees,

        is improving derelict City property at $0 cost to the City

        or MESA.  These capital costs, plus interest, plus a

        Return, need to be repaid to FMMS etc. before Rent

        is paid.  This should include “Municipal Service

        Payments.”


In the world of finance, the term “Return” is shorthand for Return On Investment, which is legalize for making a profit.  So, contrary to the claims of Worth and everyone else associated with him in this venture, they have every intention of making this operation a profit making venture, and like Micky Arison has found at the AAA Arena - there will always be expenses and book keeping tricks available to shield them from ever making enough money cover all the costs and pay the city so much as one red cent in rent.


So that’s the deal. The citizens and the taxpayers give these people all of this property for Zero cost, as well as the millions of dollars earmarked for the new parking garage on Virginia Key, and they turn around and using the free land and the other resources refurbish the Stadium, develop the rest of it, putting in a Marine Exhibition Center and a restaurant and who knows what else, and they do it all without having to worry about putting anything out for bid, so they can essentially give ALL of the contracts to their friends, or Regalado’s friends, or Sarnoff’s friends, or a combination of everyone’s friends that makes sure that all the insiders get their piece of the action, and 10 years down the road, someone will look around one day and say, “Hey, how come these people are making all of this money and have never paid a penny in rent?”


At that point, if I’m still alive, I’ll get to say, “What did you expect, It’s Miami, Bitches!”


At the end of the day, people have to realize that the actual Marine Stadium is the nose of the camel that Worth and his “Friends” are using to get inside the tent and get their hands on this almost priceless piece of city property.


The Stadium is an event facility - and a small one at that.  It seats 7000 people.  More people go to a year’s worth of Heat games that will go to events at the Stadium.


It will have it’s share of events, but like Sunlife Stadium, the AAA Arena and the new Marlin’s Stadium, it will sit empty and unused for large parts of the year.


Don Worth and his “Friends” are really developers passing themselves off as historical preservationists. Their deal is developing money making enterprises on the other portions of the city land they’re angling to get their hands on for FREE.


That’s what this deal has been all about from the very beginning.  All the historical preservation talk, and all the evoking of nostalgic memories about Jimmy Buffet concerts, and Sammy Davis hugging Nixon and the Lady of Charity, and all the rest are just the kinds of emotional manipulations that slick hustlers have always used to distract folks from asking the real questions, and making decisions that turn out not to be in their own best interests.


Tomas Regalado is the singular person responsible for this deal having come this far. 


On Thursday, the City Commission is scheduled to vote on approving the first step in the revised effort to directly bypass an Inter-Local agreement between the City and MESA as a prerequisite to goving this land away.


It’s now up to the members of the City Commission to decide whether giving away this property to a group that expects to get a “Return” on its money before it pays the city one red cent in rent is in the City’s best interest.


Once this step is taken, it will be harder, if not imossible for the process to be reigned in. Therefore, this is the vote that will tell you who’s standing for the citizens, and whose willing to let the city get screwed one more time.

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