Vote for Culture

What exactly does that mean? Today we know it means that two museums will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to build hulking structures in a waterfront park. But on November 2, most people had no clue

Instead of securing a limit on acreage, she settled for a nonbinding written agreement to establish a "steering committee" to "guide the planning and development of the project." The panel would include representatives from the museums, the UEL, neighborhood groups, and local government officials.

After much heated debate, the UEL board ratified the agreement on October 7. "I guess you have to have a little trust in mankind that they will keep their word," Liebman says. "The main goal is that it be a fabulous park that happens to have a couple of museums in it."

A small group of civic activists led by Steve Hagen and Luis Penelas formed an ad hoc organization called Save Bicentennial Park from Massive Museums. They waged a negligible media campaign, relying on a few newspaper ads, some talk-show appearances, and lots of e-mail messages. They were barely noticeable amid the million-dollar advertising blitz launched by Neighbors Building Better Communities.

Miami Art Museum director Suzanne Delehanty, who believes the people have spoken, has reason to smile
Jonathan Postal
Miami Art Museum director Suzanne Delehanty, who believes the people have spoken, has reason to smile
Gillian Thomas, president of the Miami Museum of Science, tried going it alone but was smacked down by the county commission
Jonathan Postal
Gillian Thomas, president of the Miami Museum of Science, tried going it alone but was smacked down by the county commission

At 9:30 p.m. on November 2, with 60 percent of precincts reporting, Suzanne Delehanty was already beaming and hugging a colleague at a science museum election party. "I just think it's an amazing thing that the public voted for this," she gushed later, without irony. "The Miami-Dade public thinks the cultural institutions are as important as water. And you need both to make a really great community!"

Hagen also found it amazing. On election day he interviewed about twenty voters who said they would not have voted for #8 had they known they were approving $275 million to put two new museums in Bicentennial Park. "Most of the black voters I spoke to voted for this thing because of the Head Start learning centers," he says. "It was a bait and switch."

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