Campaign grows against Sun Life Stadium public funding

Norman Braman, Cutler Bay mayor lead campaign against stadium funding

MIAMI - Opposition to public funding for the renovation of Sun Life Stadium is growing.

Norman Braman, who also opposed publicly funding Marlins Park, met Monday with Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall.

"My job is to make sure the people I represent don't have their pockets picked by a billionaire," said MacDougall.

"To a certain degree, it's worse than the Marlins transaction simply because you have an individual like (Dolphins owner) Steve Ross who is worth $4.4 billion," added Braman.

The two have traveled to Tallahassee, where lawmakers are discussing Senate Bill 306, which provides an annual $3 million state sales tax rebate to the Miami Dolphins for 30 years to fund upgrades at Sun Life Stadium.

"I think there was a time in this county that the wool could be pulled over the eyes of the public because you had these lobbyists and you had big money coming in," said MacDougall. "Well, today, I think the rules have changed."

MacDougall showed Local 10 a list of mayors of other South Florida cities against publicly funding renovations at the stadium. It included mayors in Aventura, Bal Harbour, Biscayne Park, Coral Gables, Doral, Golden Beach, Miami Beach, North Miami Beach, Palmetto Bay, South Miami, Sunny Isles Beach, Surfside, and Virginia Gardens.

Ross wants to use state and local dollars to help pay for $400 million worth of renovations to Sun Life Stadium, originally named Joe Robbie Stadium when it opened in 1987.

Dolphins management as well as other South Florida backers contend that the renovations will help the area in an effort to lure the Super Bowl for its 50th anniversary. But the renovations will also benefit the University of Miami Hurricanes and could help the state lure international soccer games.

Senate Bill 306 is contingent upon a favorable vote by Miami-Dade voters to also raise the local bed tax levy by one cent. The legislation has already passed through four of seven Florida legislative committees.

In an effort to sway some critics, the stadium bill has been changed to require a local referendum before local hotel bed taxes from Miami-Dade County can be used to help pay for the renovations.

"I will promise you, we have not received one single call supporting, so people are really upset about us, or whoever it is, considering public money," said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.

According to a poll by Dario Moreno, a Florida International University political science professor, 73 percent of Miami-Dade voters oppose the public financing. The poll asked 1,000 "super voters" whether they'd support publicly funding the stadium.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the team must still reach an agreement before the referendum regarding to local hotel bed taxes could go before voters.

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