IN MY OPINION

Armando Salguero: Lack of Miami Dolphins stadium election is galling

 
 
Rendering of proposed changes to Sun Life Stadium, showing partial roof covering.
Rendering of proposed changes to Sun Life Stadium, showing partial roof covering.
Dolphins

Asalguero@MiamiHerald.com

History reminds that people in Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, St. Louis and Los Angeles ignored the early signs of an NFL franchise getting ready to uproot long before their teams left town.

Politicians in those cities did what they do, which doesn’t always benefit the public. Opponents and proponents alike did what they do, which doesn’t always inform the public. And the public either went along or never got a say in the matter.

Then one morning …

The Colts were gone from Baltimore.

The Oilers were gone from Houston.

The Cardinals were gone from St. Louis.

The Browns were gone from Cleveland.

The Rams were gone from Los Angeles.

And when all those historic NFL franchises with deep community roots left, people who said the NFL would never allow such a move scattered to the winds.

People who said there was no place to move to anyway didn’t admit they were wrong.

Basically, those who said their teams would never relocate faced no accountability when the teams did exactly that.

This is a fact: NFL teams leave towns when an untenable stadium situation becomes unsustainable and someone comes along with a better offer.

Which brings me to the Miami Dolphins.

No, they are not moving from South Florida while Stephen Ross is the owner. Ross and his right-hand man Dolphins CEO Mike Dee have said on multiple occasions, including Monday, that the Dolphins will never, ever move as long as Ross is alive and owns the team.

But neither Ross, Dee nor any other human on Earth can guarantee this franchise’s long-term permanence in South Florida when the current owner or his estate sells — something that eventually will happen.

“That’s correct,” Dee said.

And that’s what makes what Florida House of Representative Speaker Will Weatherford did in the state legislature late last week particularly galling.

Weatherford is the Pasco County politician who closed the latest legislative session without picking up the Dolphins bill that would have, if approved, allowed a local election on whether to increase the tourist bed tax on Miami-Dade landside hotels by one penny.

Weatherford’s decision single-handedly undid everything the Dolphins and the Miami-Dade Commission had agreed to do several weeks before to upgrade Sun Life Stadium. Part of that agreement included a guarantee from the Dolphins to stay in South Florida at least 30 more years and that would have been binding to the next owner as well.

Weatherford’s action or deliberate inaction killed the deal and also effectively aborted an election that was already paid for by the team and well under way, with some 40,000 to 60,000 ballots already cast through the mail.

The irony is that elected officials such as Weatherford on the state level and commissioner Esteban Bovo on the local level, decided it was in your best interest to have no say. Weatherford effectively killed a house vote and thus the election while Bovo, you will remember, voted in the April 10 commission meeting to keep the election from happening at all.

Politicians working to crush an election.

(My parents brought me to this country to escape such practices.)

All of this has left a bitter taste with the Dolphins.

“It’s hard to imagine that there would be opposition to a process that enabled the voters to have the final say in an important community matter,” Dee said Monday. “Ironically, many of those who opposed us early in the process were the same people that said it should go to a referendum, that it should go to a vote, and it was only when we agreed to do that, that they turned to other obstacles and problems they have with what was being contemplated.

Final say

“The voters should have the final say, but Will Weatherford decided he knew what was in the best interest of Miami-Dade County, of Pasco County, of the state of Florida.”

People who oppose the now-dead measure counter that Ross initially opposed an election as well.

“No, we never said we were opposed to an election,” Dee answered. “We thought there wasn’t enough time for an election.

“As soon as the mayor gave us a way to do it, we agreed to it. And we paid for it.”

People who oppose this measure have a right to do so. It’s fair and principled to believe private entities should fund their own improvements.

But ask those people why they would stifle an election on the issue? Ask them to explain why everyone must respect their right to dissent but they oppose everyone else’s right to speak via a ballot?

As for the Dolphins leaving town, consider this:

Last week Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera informed the Dolphins their next property tax bill — expected to be between $3.8 million and $4 million for 2013 — was going up an extra $400,000.

Future designs

Lopez-Cantera, who has received thousands of dollars from stadium-upgrade opponent Norman Braman, according to websites that track political contributions, is said to have future political designs, including perhaps a run at county mayor.

One has to wonder if Lopez-Cantera becomes mayor how he would fill that $4.4 million annual tax void if the Dolphins’ next owner moves the team.

Read more Miami Dolphins stories from the Miami Herald

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