Nothing puts a gleam in the eyes of Miami-Dade County politicians quite like having extra money to spend. Think of the possibilities!
The cash, in this case: nearly $2 million. The source: the Miami Dolphins.
The football club wrote Miami-Dade a $4,784,337 check last month to pay for a special election asking voters to fund part of a $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium. The May 14 referendum was canceled after the Florida House of Representatives failed to take up legislation required for the vote to happen.
But the Dolphins’ payment was nonrefundable. As of Thursday, the county estimated that between $1.7 million and $2 million will be left over, after paying for pre-election costs. That’s an increase from earlier estimates that about $1 million would remain in Miami-Dade coffers.
So how to spend it?
It’s an unusual — and enviable — position. And like most matters involving money and politics, don’t expect a resolution to come easily.
“We’re having a party!” Mayor Carlos Gimenez joked to a reporter Thursday.
He wants to use the money to upgrade the county’s elections equipment, in the wake of voter lines up to seven hours long and slow vote counting in last year’s general election. New machines to sort absentee ballots would cost about $1.2 million, the elections department estimated last year. Electronic voter registries to use at 520 polling sites — instead of the paper books that poll workers have to flip through now — would cost about $1.6 million.
“It should be spent in elections, to buy the equipment that we need to buy in order to make sure that we improve our process,” Gimenez said. “It would be a nice thing, that the Dolphins had a hand in that.”
But some county commissioners have other ideas.
Commissioner Barbara Jordan wants to use the one-time money to help establish a low-interest loan program for small businesses. Commissioner Juan C. Zapata wants to split the money evenly among the 13 commissioners, for them to distribute as small-business grants or for summer programs for children.
Commissioners are scheduled to take up the competing proposals Tuesday. Before then, we want to hear from you: Where do you think the money should go?
Let us know. Go online and visit hrld.us/14aCmQl, or email pmazzei@MiamiHerald.com.
We’ll compile the responses and publish some of them in the newspaper by Tuesday’s commission meeting.
No answer is too outrageous, but be thoughtful — in spite of how appealing it might be to echo Commissioner Javier Souto, who last year suggested only partly in jest that Miami Marlins’ baseball tickets intended for commissioners to distribute to the public be flung from the Goodyear blimp.