A number of items of interest are on my radar, so let’s scan the political horizon together:
• The Florida Legislature: It’s in the throes of its final week, and the wheeling and dealing in Tallahassee is intense. The 60-day session is very much like an NBA game — you can wait ’til the final few minutes to tune in and find out who wins. One likely loser is the Department of Children & Families and its understaffed, underfunded child-protective services. It doesn’t look like enough money will be allocated to pay for all the desperately needed social-welfare programs to protect children and treat their alcohol- and drug-abusing parents.
The governor wanted about $40 million to hire 400 additional child-protective investigators (no money for drug and alcohol rehab), but it looks like lawmakers will allocate less. At the same time, the worthies are finding millions for pet projects to please constituents back home. Wouldn’t you think that the deaths of 477 kids who’d been in contact with DCF, as the Herald reported, would be a wake-up call? Apparently not.
• Miami Dade College: Thanks to four thin-skinned state representatives from Miami-Dade and seven other local House colleagues looking for political cover, Miami-Dade voters will not have a chance to vote yea or nay on hiking the sales tax by a half-cent for five years to allow MDC to update its rundown physical plant. The lawmakers were ticked off by the strong, and sometimes too-strident remarks made by President Eduardo Padrón. He lit into the four reps by name to the Herald Editorial Board. He also called the lawmaker in line to be House speaker, Jose Oliva, incapable of appreciating the value of higher education because he didn’t graduate from college. That was uncalled for, but the 11 lawmakers who demanded an apology were too quick to take umbrage and too slow to accept Padrón’s apology. Pity.
• Gov. Rick Scott: Has there ever been a governor so out of tune with lawmakers and the legislative process? Just when he needs to be in Tallahassee to show he’s a leader who’s taking care of business, Scott was campaigning in South Florida. He spent the first two days of this week handing out medals and blaming Charlie Crist and President Obama for slight funding cuts to Medicare Advantage.
Scott is the guy who said, upon his election three-and-a-half years ago, that he was the new sheriff in town and would change the culture of Tallahassee. Good one, huh? He is part and parcel of the culture where venality and o’er-weaning ambition reign. His ambition for a second term may cause him to call a special session on gambling; Scott appears to have worked out a new deal with the Seminoles and wants lawmakers to ratify it in a special session. But Scott may not have the political skills to turn a special session on gambling into a victory.
• Soccer at PortMiami: Pushback on building a soccer stadium at the port was inevitable, but the intensity of the campaign and the money behind it are a bit surprising. Opposition is coming from a new group called the Miami Seaport Alliance, which appears to be a fig leaf for Richard Fain, chairman of Royal Caribbean cruise lines, a major port tenant. Its headquarters is next door to the proposed stadium site, and Fain emphatically doesn’t want to be neighbors with David Beckham. Even if it’s for only 25 soccer games a season, at least half of them are on Saturday nights when cargo and cruise operations at the port are at a standstill.
The Seaport Alliance, which also includes Norman Braman and his checkbook, is running TV spots that remind everyone of the disastrous Marlins stadium deal, which bears no resemblance to what Beckham is proposing — he and his partners will spend $250 million of their own on the project and a “fair share” of the infrastructure costs.
The Alliance has also run some full-page ads in the Herald that are laughably misleading. The headline on the first one said, “Here We Go Again,” an apparent reference to the Marlins stadium deal. The headline on the second said, “Why Trade Hard Hats for Paper Hats?” The paper hats are, presumably, worn by beer and peanut vendors in the stadium stands and the hard hats by stevedores, crane operators and other port workers. The ad says their jobs — 207,000 in all — would be “threatened” by a “few, part-time concession jobs like peanut sellers and ticket takers.” This is silly stuff, an empty scare tactic.
Let’s have a real debate about building a soccer stadium at PortMiami — legitimate counter-arguments can be made — but the campaign under way by the Miami Seaport Alliance is sophomoric.
• The Miami Heat and the AmericanAirlines Arena: What was Micky Arison smoking when he sent out an e-mail blast announcing a completed deal on a 10-year lease extension at AAA? Arison and Heat management were so eager to push the story out that they interrupted the broadcast of the second playoff game with Charlotte to let Heat President/Business Eric Woolworth talk up the benefits of the deal. Except that there’s no deal yet.
Maybe we’ll get one when the Heat make good on their 1996 promise to turn waterfront land just east of the AAA, known as Parcel B, into a soccer field and park. Currently the Heat use that property (at a ridiculously discounted rate) to park trucks and equipment for arena events. And Cuban exiles want the land for a museum. That’s a topic for another day.