In November, Miami-Dade voters supported a referendum to allow Florida International University the same privileges the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair has enjoyed at Tamiami Park for almost 50 years.
The voters made the right choice because, while some may have fond memories of the Fair, expanding FIU is about our future. We must remember this as we find a new location for the Fair so that FIU can fulfill the voter’s mandate to expand.
And yes, we do have a mandate: The approval of 65 percent of almost 500,000 Miami-Dade voters is a mandate by any definition.
The Fair has been unwilling to relocate and has spent considerable funds on ads and lobbying efforts to broadcast its intention to resist this mandate. It has adopted an entrenched position because it has a favorable deal: a 99-year lease that pays $1-a-year in rent to Miami-Dade.
In its 64-year history, the Fair points out, it has awarded $10 million in scholarships to Miami-Dade residents. Compare that to the more than $170 million that FIU awards each year in scholarships and financial aid.
The Fair says that it promotes Miami-Dade’s agriculture industry and the people the industry employs. However, these jobs were not created by the Fair. Many of the jobs the Fair actually creates are seasonal for out-of-towners.
In contrast, FIU is one of the top 10 employers in Miami-Dade and employs more than 11,000 students, faculty and staff. These are people who work, raise families and spend money here. An expansion would create more and better jobs, which naturally leads to a more-robust tax base.
The Fair points out that FIU spent money on a campaign. Not exactly. Friends of Higher Education, a political action committee that I chaired, raised the money to fund a campaign to inform voters on the ballot question.
We know that college graduates make $1 million more than non-college graduates over the course of their careers.
The Fair likes to talk about the many millions the move would cost. The figures it uses are based on a study that assumed land would need to be acquired. A move to another Miami-Dade County-owned site would not cost nearly as much. The fact is that the Fair has moved before, first in 1961 and then again to its current location in 1972.
When it comes to the 64 acres adjacent to FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus, where FIU plans to expand, we need to consider the greater public purpose. This expansion would mean more than 150,000 new college graduates in our community in the next 10 years.
By supporting FIU’s expansion we are supporting more and better jobs and educational opportunities for ourselves. . We are supporting our sons and daughters’ future.
Eduardo Hondal, chair, Friends of Higher Education, Miami