Michael Burnstine may be comically underfunded and critically late to the game, but he's not lacking in passion. He hates the $515 million Marlins Stadium deal. And he's not alone.
"It's horrendous. It's one of the worst deals I've seen in my life," Burnstine tells Riptide.
The insurance salesman and Miami Chamber of Commerce official realized a couple months ago -- as the U.S. economy dropped like Kimbo Slice in that big fight -- that he couldn't sit by while Miami-Dade finalized the deal, which would steer $347 million in county funds toward construction. So he made a couple of phone calls and quickly ended up with a coalition of more than a dozen groups and a last-minute plan to derail the project.
The County Commission is scheduled to meet Friday to vote on five contracts for stadium construction. Several of the contracts are no-bid, which means the commission needs a super-majority to pass them. So if Burnstine and his partners can convince five of the 13 commissioners to vote against the contracts, a last minute roadblock to the Little Havana ballpark will spring up in the road.
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Burnstine says his biggest objection to the project is that most of the stadium construction funds will come from the county's tourism budget. He has a point: How many out-of-towners are really going to come to Miami to watch a Marlins game? Wouldn't that money be better spent on improving the Miami Beach Convention Center or on public transit?
"Why are we risking all our future tourism revenues on this and what are we getting in return?" Burnstine says. "We get a stadium and we keep our baseball team, which I'm definitely in favor of. But does that make economic sense right now?"
Burnstine's group is holding a press conference today at the Fillmore in Miami Beach to push their message to the County Commission, and to encourage opponents to attend Friday's meeting. Who knows? Maybe they'll change a few commissioners' minds.
But in a county where money always seems to talk -- and where billionaire Norman Braman has already spent $1 million without a victory in his personal crusade against the stadium -- Burnstine is operating "without a single penny raised so far. We're truly grassroots."