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JULY 8, 2013

 
GENERATING REVENUE
FRIENDS OF MARINE STADIUM ON TRACK FOR A CHUNK OF VIRGINIA KEY THAT WILL LET THEM CASH IN LIKE PIGS AT THE TROUGH

            “In Miami, July is the month when politicians try

            to pull off their sleaziest deals.”


I wrote those words as the opening sentence in the first story I wrote about the Miami Marine Stadium in July of 2011.


That first story dealt with how an art dealer named Don Worth, along with his “volunteer attorney” Lynn Lewis, had been in negotiation with the City of Miami and the Miami Entertainment & Sports Authority (MESA), to do a deal that would have turned over the control of the Marine Stadium to a Florida non-profit corporation that he had set up in December of 2010.


Among the many interesting things I discovered back then was that Worth’s non-profit corporation was just a shell that he had set up listing him as the sole officer and shareholder.


In addition to that information, I also managed to get my hands on a demand letter written by Worth’s “volunteer attorney,” that revealed a laundry list of specific demands that Worth wanted the city to include in the interlocal agreement that was then being negotiated between his “volunteer attorney,” the City and MESA. 


That letter detailed numerous ways that Worth intended to make the taxpayers of Miami patsies in his scheme to have the city give him over 20 acres of the last remaining waterfront property the city owned as part of a deal to refurbish the abandoned Marine Stadium.


The most egregious, in a letter full of egregious demands was the following:


        “The term “Rental” in the Draft Inter-local 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.”


Not only did Worth want the city to give him the Marine Stadium property for free, but he also as you can see was refusing to agree to pay the city any rent unless and until interest on any money raised money raised was covered AND most brazenly of all to receive a return on investment - which is called profit in non financial circles - before he would consider paying the City a penny in rent.


Sounds a lot like the deal that the Miami Heat and the AAA Arena has with the county, doesn’t it? Remember that, when you see who Worth decided to do a deal with to run the fancy restaurant he plans to put on the site.


So now here we are two years later and even though there was consternation within the city over what Worth was trying to pull off back then no one tried to kill the deal, because from the beginning there were too pigglets looking to get a piece of the action.


Instead what happened was that Worth, his pals, as well as his enablers at City Hall starting with Mayor Tomas Regalado who has made a campaign promise to have the Marine Stadium refurbished, along with Commissioner Marc “Ethics” Sarnoff and Assistant City Manager Alice “Alice In Regaladoland” Bravo, started looked around for other way to push this deal forward.


Other than putting an end to the original negotiations between the City and MESA - which was just a charade to begin with -  the only major change that occurred after my story came out involved Manny Alonso Poch - known in some circles as Manny The Puke - who many of you know operates a Charter School in Coconut Grove named the Arts & Minds Academy - another enterprise that I wrote numerous stories about.


Alonso-Poch was part of the original deal. His angle was that he was going to take over the new building that would be built on the property called an Exhibition Center and turn it into a Charter School that would go into competition with the Mast Academy just west of the Marine Stadium.


He was supposedly cut from the deal after my original story was published, but the rumors have persisted that he continues to lurk just out of site, and it’s not inconceivable that he might show up again like a dose of Clap in a whorehouse once the ink dries on this deal.


PEELING BACK THE LAST LAYERS OF THE ONION


At the next City Commission meeting on July 11th, there is a Resolution being put forth by City Manager Johnny “The Doormat” Martinez, that is intended to give Don Worth and his Friends Of The Miami Marine Stadium pals the last chunk of city property that they have wanted from the beginning in order “TO GENERATE SUFFICIENT REVENUE FOR THE VIABLE OPERATION OF THE MIAMI MARINE STADIUM...”

The claims about needing this piece of property in order to “generate sufficient revenue,” belies the claim that Worth and his pals have made from the beginning that they had never requested or received ay funding from the City of Miami.


That’s only true only if we were to paraphrase that great American linguist William Jefferson Clinton: ‘It all depends on what the meaning of funding is.’

It would be interesting to see Worth provide a detailed breakdown of who provided this supposed $600 thousand “to the cause,” and whether or not college students were pressed into service by one of the other partners in this deal.


While Worth and company have never to this point come out and openly asked for cash money, they have worked very hard and benefited at every turn from the largesse of a handful of key people within City of Miami who have gone out of their way to see that Worth’s efforts were supported and financed by the taxpayers.


First, after the original deal fell through and it was decided to create a “Task Force” as a cover for their activities, the pitch was made that the City Manager’s office would provide staff and administrative support while Worth and his pals revised their operational plan.  All of the costs associated with that activity have been covered by the taxpayers.


And now as revealed in the language of the resolution coming before the Commission on Thursday, the City is poised to turn over a critical 2.83 acre piece of land as part of the 23.66 acres of waterfront property that it owns so that Worth and his pals have the opportunity “TO GENERATE SUFFICIENT REVENUE FOR THE VIABLE OPERATION OF THE MIAMI MARINE STADIUM...”


LET’S FOLLOW THE MONEY


The Marine Stadium was built 50 years ago for $1 million dollars.  Miami was a far different place then, and a 7000 seat outdoor stadium was more in scale with the population at the time.


Today, it’s doubtful that any city, including Miami would agree to publicly finance the construction of a venue like the Marine Stadium because the economics of building an outdoor 7000 seat waterfront stadium just aren’t there. 


That’s one of the reasons that it has sat empty and abandoned for the last 20 years, even though money was appropriated after Hurricane Andrew to repair the damage that the storm wrought, because even then it was realized that the money could be better spent elsewhere.


Even the financial projections offered by Worth and his pals bears out the fact that this stadium is economically unviable.


Their own estimates claim that in year one the property will probably only be used for a total of 49 days.  I actually believe that that number is too low, and that it might get used for one activity or another somewhere between 75-100 days. That still leaves 265 days where the Stadium will sit empty.


This problem is why there has been such an effort from the very beginning to get the city to turn over additional land and resources as a way to subsidize the operation of the stadium.


In order to try and solve the problem Worth and his pals are looking to create a series of revenue streams from private, for profit ventures being operated on this public property to cover a portion the costs associated with operating the stadium.


That’s why Worth and his pals have wanted to get their hands on this 2.83 acre piece of land to the west of the Stadium. 


You can see the parcel here identified as Parcel 2B:

What’s critical about this particular piece of property is that beside it being the location of the old Bayside Hut/Vero’s By The Bay restaurant - another piece of city property that I have written about - it is also the location of the City of Miami’s Marine Stadium Marina.


But before addressing the Marina issue, I must digress to point out that as part of my stories on Vero’s On The Bay last year, I revealed that like Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing, no one has ever paid a single penny of property taxes on this piece of property even though a commercial, for profit  restaurant has operated there since at least 1994.


In discussing this issue with folks at the Property Appraiser’s Office I was informed that it was the City’s responsibility to do the paperwork putting this property on the tax roll - specifically the responsibility falls on Henry Torre, the moron currently pretending to the the Director of the Facilities management Department.


Torre never did this for a reason, and that reason will be revealed further down, but now let’s get back to the Marina issue.


To appreciate the particular importance of this specific piece of property and especially the Marina that sits on that property next door to the restaurant, consider that on July 2, 2010, Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff, received an email from Madeline Valdes, the former Facilities Director providing him with a breakdown of the revenue and income from this Marina for the previous 3 years.

The $550,587.47 shown as income after expenses in 2009 represents REAL MONEY, and it is that money, along with the property, that Don Worth and his pals have been angling to get their hands on from the beginning. 


Once the property is transferred to the control of Worth and his pals, the loss of approximately $500,000 a year to the city’s General Fund will be just one more example of just why Miami continues to have problems balancing it’s books and getting out of debt.


In the illustration below the Green square is where the current Marina and its boat racks are currently situated:

CRESPOGRAM REPORT
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The most amazing thing that I discovered about the above illustration is that much of what it portrays as how this property will look in the future is largely bullshit, a fantasy unlikely ever to be realized.


Lets’s start at the left - or west - part of the image. All of the dockage inside of the Purple areas is a figment of someone drugged imagination.


There is no way, given today’s stringent environmental restrictions that the sea bottom - which is shallow in most of those areas - would be allowed to be dredged to allow for dockage, or that docks and seawalls like those in the illustration would ever be allowed - given that most of them  are in what are now open, navigational waters - and this is before talking about the prohibitive costs associated with trying to do this.


The Blue rectangle and the Green one as well that includes where the City of Miami Marine Stadium Marina currently is located shows a series of canals between the boat racks.


The property in the Blue square is currently where the Rickenbacker Marina is. The boat racks that are on that property now run the length of the property from east to west. To accomplish the goals envisioned in this illustration the entire property would have to be leveled, dredged and turned into canals, and then the new square boat racks would have be built.


Who in their right mind actually thinks that the feds, the state or the county would permit dredging and turning that land into canals?


Even goofier is that the only passage to and from those storage docks to the Bay would be through a tiny channel that would be cut across the current access road to the Rusty Pelican where the Yellow arrow is.


Forget the costs and engineering problems, and just focus on the logistics of boats wanting to get in and out on weekends, and having to operate a bridge that would cut off access to and from the Rusty Pelican restaurant.


How long do you think that would last before people just quit going to the Rusty Pelican, or put their boats in storage elsewhere?


This illustration represents nothing more than a charade intended to bamboozle the unsuspecting citizens of Miami into believing that this rendering represents the future when in fact its little more than part of an effort to do an old fashioned land grab using pretty pictures and playing on people’s emotions and memories of the old Marine  Stadium.


This rendering is how Don Worth and his pals want people to think Virginia Key will look. But that’s not a true representation, and if its not true, then what else isn’t true?


LINING UP AT THE TROUGH TO CASH IN


I have contended from my first story in the summer of 2011 that this was as much a scheme of self-enrichment as it was an effort to “save” the Marine Stadium.


At the end of the day stories like this always end up focusing on whose getting the money.


Here is a copy of the projected expenses that Worth’s Group submitted to the Miami City Commission as part of their presentation for this week’s Commission meeting. I have highlighted 3 line items. You can see the entire presentation in PDF format the bottom of this story. 

First, notice that they don’t expect to pay any taxes.  That’s why Henry Torre never had anyone in Facilities Management do the paperwork to put the 2.83 acre piece of property on the county tax roll.


Secondly, notice that there is no line item that includes any payments to the City of Miami such as rent and/or percentage of profits like there is in all the contracts that the city now has with the private companies who lease or license city property to operate for-profit businesses.


This was not an oversight.


From the beginning, Worth and his pals set out to evade any contractual relationship with the city directly, instead trying to have the city turn over the property to the Miami Entertainment & Sports Authority (MESA).


The reason for that was that by doing so they would not have to enter into any kind of agreement that would require them to comply with the normal provisions that come with dealing with the city such as putting out RFP’s for contractors, management services or vendors.


As proof of that, here is a portion of the demand letter that his “Volunteer attorney” wrote to the City in 2011 where he wanted this language to be inserted in the Interlocal Agreement between the City and MESA.

As further proof, during a City Commission meeting last year when he and Commissioner Frank Carollo were discussing whether to continue funding the MESA Board in advance of using it as the cutout for this deal for the Marine Stadium Sarnoff openly described the benefits of using the MESA Board in order to evade having to go to the use of RFP’s.

Sarnoff’s comment serves to acknowledge what many have long believed that the Children’s Museum, and the illegal Charter School that it has operated on the museum’s property for years was nothing more than a sweetheart deal concocted by using MESA as a way to circumvent the established requirements to put that property up for bid, and to allow it to operate independent of city oversight. 


To appreciate just how in-your-face the Children’s Museum deal was, their rent to the city for the Watson Island property is $2 a year.


Having gotten away with it once, the 5 Dwarfs on the City Commission are poised to screw the taxpayers again, by allowing Worth and his pals to get their hands on this extremely valuable piece of city waterfront property and doing what they want with it without oversight or supervision by anyone responsible for protecting the public’s interest.


Not surprisingly, this willingness to evade the requirements of soliciting bids has allowed Worth and his pals - even before they’ve gotten their hands on the city’s property - to start making sweetheart deals, starting with the Miami Heat Group managing the fancy restaurant that they plan to build on the property, and with being able to choose the contractors and other vendors without making them go through competitive bidding.


To appreciate just how cozy this deal is, consider that the Miami Heat Group will  get  $120,000 a year minimum, or 7% of gross, which ever is higher, without having had to bother with any pesky requirements like having to compete for the opportunity to run the restaurant.


For those who are unclear on the concept, a guaranteed minimum of $120,000 a year to operate a restaurant provides a pretty good example of what a sweetheart deal looks like.


Not surprisingly, there are no documents establishing how long the contract with this group is, or what other payments and/or side deals that the Miami Heat Group might have with others as part of this deal.  


You’ll notice that Worth and his pals have cut themselves in for a cool $300,000 a year, with built in increases to operate as the management group. This $300,000 represents 1/5 of the gross income that they project the Stadium will generate on an annual basis.


So, they get the property for free, they evade having to comply with any of the pesky requirements of doing business on public land by having the property transferred from the city to MESA, who will then give it to them thereby allowing them to evade both things like RFP’s,property taxes and rent to the city, and then they cut themselves in for $300,000 plus a year to run the operation.


How absolutely fucking sweet is that?


And if by chance things don’t necessarily go as planned, they’ve got their hands on the check book that controls the cushy endowment they plan on raising, so they’ll never have to worry about running out of money when it comes to making sure they get their $300,000 plus a year.


SO HERE’S WHERE WE’RE AT


The 5 Dwarfs on the City Commission are poised to give away the last remaining piece of city waterfront property conservatively valued at anywhere from $40 - $60 million dollars that includes a working Marina and boat storage facility for bupkus.


To appreciate just how skanky this deal really is, consider what none other than His Ignorance, Mayor Tomas Regalado said last year about another troubling deal involving waterfront property on Watson Island:

This Marine Stadium deal with Don Worth and his pals has from the beginning been a Regalado Deal, and as the guy who’s had in hands in many bad deals over the years, this might go down as one of his worst.


It’s Miami, Bitches!

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