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Now, I'm just a lowly reporter; I don't control any billion-dollar corporations like Micky Arison or Ridder, but it seems that if Ridder didn't conduct all his meetings in secret, and if he didn't lie to reporters, and if he didn't wait until he had been sued and subpoenaed before turning over public documents, and perhaps if Arison hadn't been so damn crude in his efforts to extort from the city and the county a new arena just eight years after the current one opened, and perhaps if city and county officials had actually tried to solicit public participation at some point during this process rather than ramming it down people's throats, then maybe, just maybe the public would be more inclined to accept this deal, and Rebull and Ridder could instead spend their time trading memos on ways to raise $300,000 to support the county's library or parks systems.

It's not so much the Heat, it's the stupidity that seems to bother people in South Florida.

One of the Herald's stories on Saturday also noted a disturbing document in Ridder's stash -- a March 28 letter of intent with the basketball team. One day before the City of Miami, Dade County, and MSEA met separately in emergency sessions to approve the funding plan for a new arena, Heat attorney Eric Woolworth sent Ridder an eight-page letter virtually identical to the one Ridder would sign the next day. Yet Ridder never shared this missive with city or county commissioners before they voted.

Apparently Ridder didn't want to bother commissioners with too many niggling details, such as the fact that commissioners were giving up naming rights to the facility and were obligating themselves to pay for a traffic study that would guarantee that the Heat's VIP ticketholders would be able to get in and out of downtown as quickly as possible. Because if commissioners knew, for instance, that they were also waiving their ability to levy any new taxes directly against the arena, or that they would be responsible for subsidizing the Heat's losses if the new arena wasn't built on time, or that they were on the hook for all environmental clean-up costs, then maybe commissioners wouldn't have been so quick to approve the deal.

Which may get us closer to the reason Ridder had originally been so reluctant to release that March 18 letter from the Heat. The two-page letter asks Ridder to provide the Heat with "a written description of the FEC site in regard to DRIs [impact reports], environmental assessments, zoning, etc., and a proposal for how, both politically and mechanically, to get the site approved for construction of an arena in the shortest amount of time."

Ridder is supposed to develop a written proposal about how to "politically . . . get the site approved"? Gee, and here everyone had been under the impression that Ridder's job was to persuade the Heat to stay, when apparently the Heat saw Ridder's role as being one in which he sneaks things past commissioners.

That's right, he's Tony Ridder, secret agent man.
So where is Ridder's plan for getting the site approved? You got me. I looked and looked through all the material he released last week and couldn't find a single page of political strategy. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Which seems difficult to believe, as the Heat specifically asked for a response in writing, and even went so far as to send Ridder a note three days later reminding him they were anxiously awaiting his reply.

There appear to be other gaps in the documents Ridder released. Minutes exist for some meetings of Ridder's ad hoc arena committee, but not for others. There is the original six-week contract for $240,000 ($240,000!) between Ridder and the arena consultants he hired to help him craft the deal with the Heat. But there are only drafts of a subsequent contract, in which the consultants were demanding an additional $250,000 to stick with the arena project for a few weeks more. And since the consultants are still on the job, it's safe to assume they are being paid. But how much? And under what terms?

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede