MIAMI - City commissioners are scheduled to vote Thursday afternoon on the first step toward a land lease with soccer star David Beckham's Miami team to build a Major League Soccer stadium, business park and entertainment complex on city-owned Melreese Country Club golf course.
They are voting on whether or not to put a ballot question to voters in November to allow commissioners to go forward with a no-bid negotiation.
Amid the last week of lobbying, document filing and charm offensives, here are five things to watch at Thursday's commission hearing:
There is a possibility that commissioners will "kick the ball down the field," that is defer the question to a later meeting.
There are several reasons why one or more of the commissioners may ask for the delay: the delivery of financial numbers, documents and backup information delivered to the city from both Team Beckham and those opposing the plan in just the last week.
Miami team owner Jorge Mas and his group provided the city manager's office documentation of their tax revenue projections Tuesday, according to the city manager's office. Also, the charitable foundation management that operates children's programs at the Melreese golf course delivered their financial information to City Hall just Wednesday.
The timing of those deliveries may allow the commissioners to invoke the city's five-day rule for studying voting issues and say they need time to study the numbers.
Show of Support
Soccer superstar David Beckham has amped up his visibility in Miami this week with appearances at fan events and Nicklaus Children's Hospital, and he will personally appear at the commission meeting as his team makes its case.
But there will also be crowds of locals who oppose the project for various reasons. Among those reasons: Miami residents who favor keeping the Mel Reese golf course as a low–crowd park space; families who benefits from the First Tee program, summer camps and charitable programs run by the Delucca family, which has been the management entity for two decades; and county residents who oppose, in concept, giving public land to a private for-profit entity, whether by sale or lease.
Commissioners have been given various sets of conflicting financial documentation.
The city manager's office submitted paperwork showing the Delucca management company has been operating the golf course at a deficit for most of the last decade.
Melreese management delivered documentation showing their operations have made surpluses over some of the same years.
Team Beckham submitted projections that the soccer complex would generate more than $44 million a year in public tax revenue. It's own analysts added a disclaimer that the numbers "...have yet to be subject ... to an independent market analysis."
Team Beckham's plans for a soccer, business, entertainment and hotel complex at the city-owned country club is being negotiated in the shadow of the deal that built Marlins Park, which revealed itself to be a financially expensive deal for taxpayers, has been involved in ensuing lawsuits and the source of public costs higher than the public was told to expect.
City of Miami residents have expressed distrust in elected officials' ability to negotiate and oversee complex public–private deals and distrust motives of private entities that will profit from ventures on public land. Fair or not, those perceptions play into reality.
Miami commissioners will be voting on whether to put on the November ballot a question of whether to proceed. The actual ballot language asks voters whether they will amend the city charter to allow the city to negotiate a lease for the soccer complex.
The reason the charter would need a change is because negotiations for businesses on public land must go first to a public bid, and the Beckham plan would be a no-bid deal.
The ballot question voters will see does not explain the no-bid process.
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