By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
A Student of the Game
In his November 14 column ("Arena Winners and Losers: Alex Shoots, Alex Scores!"), Jim DeFede failed to mention those who suffered the greatest loss of all -- the people of Dade County.
Not only were we duped into allowing the use of at least $250 million in public tax money for a new arena for billionaire Micky Arison and his Miami Heat, but we were betrayed by Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, who willfully reneged on his central election campaign promise less than three weeks after taking office.
The public's objection to the new arena deal has always been to the use of public tax money to subsidize Arison and the Heat (whether for construction or operation of the new arena). Penelas campaigned on a repeated pledge to oppose the use of any public money for a new arena.
So what did Penelas do as soon as he was elected? He agreed to give the 65th richest man ($1.7 billion net worth) in the United States at least $250 million of public money for a new arena and, in so doing, created an outrageous and obscene corporate welfare program for Arison and the Heat. Then, to add insult to injury, Penelas willfully deceived the public in order to sabotage the vote on the arena referendum. He intentionally misrepresented the new agreement when he disingenuously announced (on the Friday before the Tuesday vote on the arena) that no public money would be used to build the arena.
By deliberately not mentioning the involvement of substantial public money in the new deal, Penelas purposefully gave the impression that no public tax money would be used for the new arena. He undermined and subverted the democratic process, and he swiftly and shamefully manipulated the public into voting to allow the arena to be built before the agreement that he made with Arison could be exposed for the disgraceful fraud that it is.
Not only were the people of Dade County scammed out of more than $250 million, but we were betrayed by our very own Mayor Penelas, who showed utter contempt and disregard for the people of Dade County. Shame on us for indulging in the delusion that Penelas's election might usher in responsive and respectful county leadership.
DeFede Flunks Civics 101
Jim DeFede's column on winners and losers in the Miami Arena deal is very shortsighted and shallow. His personal attack on individuals and entire communities exhibits no journalistic foresight when considering the big picture.
The big losers in this arena fiasco are our children, because South Florida suffers from severe school overcrowding. The price of one arena would go a long way toward resolving that overcrowding. The egos of the politicians and team owners played an integral part in creating such a waste of money; meanwhile, our children will be taught in portable classrooms. What kind of society do we live in where it has become more important to build not one but two brand-new arenas when our children's education is at risk?
While I do not blame any one individual for this insanity, both Dade and Broward County politicians should be ashamed of themselves for not working together with our teams on an arena deal. Broward residents voted down a minor tax increase to build new schools, but their politicians overwhelmingly supported the use of a bed tax to pay for a new arena. Dade politicians did not react to building a new arena until the Florida Panthers committed to playing in Broward. Now we'll have two (actually three) arenas.
Mr. DeFede could better utilize his talents by addressing the shortcomings of our elected officials in establishing priorities rather than add fuel to the fire by describing residents of Broward County as "a pathetic bunch of losers" and "Dade County wannabes" living in a "cultural wasteland." Mr. DeFede is not the first journalist (or politician) in this community who has pitted Dade and Broward counties against each other, and he certainly won't be the last. Many Broward residents such as myself (who grew up in Dade and work in Dade) are not jealous of Dade County. Mr. DeFede fails to realize that people choose to live in Broward County for various reasons, whether it be a more suburban lifestyle, less crime and congestion, or a slew of other reasons. To describe Broward residents as pathetic losers because their politicians were unable to sway a professional basketball team to play in their arena is ridiculous and, from the tone of the commentary, immature.
The tricounty area should be viewed as a large megalopolis with each city offering its own uniqueness. Do individuals living in Manhattan consider Long Islanders as pathetic losers? I don't think so. The county commissioners must work together to create a better South Florida. Until we recognize that we're a large cosmopolitan area and must work together, we will always maintain this small-town mentality that Mr. DeFede's article reminds us of. In closing, let's look at the big picture from the "Arena Capital of the World" and determine what is really important in life.