The Miami-Dade Commission on Wednesday approved asking voters to raise hotel taxes for a renovation of the Miami Dolphins stadium , a $289 million payout that Mayor Carlos Gimenez said breaks new ground in how government subsidizes sports facilities.
The vote set up what the county elections chief said would be the fastest referendum ever held by Miami-Dade, with voters on May 14 considering a plan that was only released in detail late Tuesday. The urgency is driven by the contest between Miami Gardens and Santa Clara, Calif., for Super Bowl 50, which the National Football League will award no later than May 22.
We owe to the community the ability for them to decide what they want, Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa said. It will take away a little bit of the pain from the past.
Nearly five hours of discussion brought few surprises, as commissioners were expected to approve the plan endorsed by Gimenez, who won office in large part for his 2009 opposition to building the Miami Marlins a new, mostly publicly financed ballpark. Backlash against that agreement dominated Wednesday, with commissioners frequently pointing out differences between the Marlins deal and the plan proposed for Sun Life Stadium.
One measure of the lingering political fallout: It took 90 minutes before any speaker dared to utter the word Marlins, though there were ample references to the other deal.
The day did bring one twist: Gimenez had demanded early on that tax money be awarded only if the NFL gave Miami Gardens the milestone 50th Super Bowl, or, the 51st as a consolation prize. Both will be awarded by NFL owners by May 22, a week after the referendum.
NFL executives pushed back, and one of the mayors aides said it was the last significant sticking point in negotiations that stretched near midnight on Monday. On Wednesday, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee revealed that league officials were opposed to allowing Miami-Dade to link stadium funds with the award of a specific game, so the ballot language was changed to approve the tax hike as long as Miami is awarded any Super Bowl in May.
Dee said the original plan might make NFL owners feel that Ross had contaminated the integrity of the process.
Still, Gimenez and at least one commissioner said they would not look kindly on having the NFL unexpectedly award Sun Life a later Super Bowl. I dont want 52, the mayor said.
Commissioners cast two votes: one to set the special election, and the other to give conditional approval to the renovation deal.
The referendum is contingent on state legislation that the Florida House or Senate have yet to pass.
Voting for the referendum in a 9-2 vote were Sosa and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose Pepe Diaz, Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime, Dennis Moss, Javier Souto and Juan C. Zapata. Voting against were Commissioners Esteban Steve Bovo and Xavier Suarez. Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell and Commissioner Audrey Edmonson were out of town.
The vote to endorse the deal was 8-3, with Zapata switching to no.
That vote was preliminary, pending voter approval and two additional commission votes to hike the hotel-tax rate to 7 percent from 6 percent. The second of those votes, to take place after the referendum but before the NFL owners meeting, would include the first and only public hearing.