Monday, February 11, 2013

Stadium referendum?

Over the weekend, we heard that the Dolphins may seek a referendum on their stadium construction plans. 

The local media reported on it breathlessly but ignored a couple of basic concerns.  What, exactly, would this referendum be for?  Is it to get the public on the side of the team - or is it an attempt to bypass legislation in order to get what they want? 

Clearly the setback in Tallahassee last week had an impact - the bills introduced were not among "priorities" to Miami-Dade legislators, and will likely never see the floor for a vote.  So this move (the referendum) could be a response to that - but again for what end goal?  In either case (public opinion to get the legislature to move or legislative to somehow compel this to happen) there are rules to be followed.  Both require signatures of voters to get to a ballot.  Obviously, an end-run on legislation has other, more stringent, requirements.

And then there's the cost.  Local papers have estimated that just staging an election might cost $55 million dollars.  That's money that WILL come out of your taxpayer dollars. And though the county wants to see if there's a way to recoup it from the team, it seems (a) unlikely that they'd be willing to put money up for that and (b) state law is pretty specific and says that it can't be paid for by the person or group who is seeking the referendum.

Of course there's always the time pressure that the Dolphins have arbitrarily set: they want this done before the NFL owners vote on SuperBowl L May 22. That's 13 weeks away.  This being a new agenda item, that would be tough to do - but of course the Superbowl host committee and the Dolphins claim its important because this is the one they really, really want.  (note to host committee: while anything is possible, it seems extremely likely that the new 49ers facility *will* win this one, even if you get the renovation money in time).

So let's recap.  Need to follow the law.  Need signatures.  Little time.  Cost to taxpayers.  Still would have to get the votes (simple majority). 

Doesn't seem likely to me....

And then there was this, as posted by the Herald:
On a program aired Sunday, WPLG-ABC 10's Michael Putney asked Dolphins CEO Mike Dee to respond to criticism that the plan is "welfare for billionaires." Dee answered: "Just because somebody is wealthy enough doesn't mean he should invest money in a way that is unwise. Mr. Ross has made a tremendous commitment to this franchise, and to this community."

I'm sorry, it its unwise, then I guess he really doesn't need it?  He's the owner.  If he wants renovations, he should get a bank to loan him the money - as any other business would - and repay it.  Just because he's made a "commitment" to the community doesn't suddenly mean he can get anything he wants.