South Florida

Should secret Amazon bid details be public? Miami commission puts its view on record.

Aerial rendering of the 27-acre Miami Worldcenter project in downtown Miami, which is one of the locations the Beacon Council is pitching to Amazon as a potential site for its second headquarters.
Aerial rendering of the 27-acre Miami Worldcenter project in downtown Miami, which is one of the locations the Beacon Council is pitching to Amazon as a potential site for its second headquarters. Miami Herald file

The secrecy lid on South Florida’s Amazon HQ2 bid got screwed down even more tightly on Thursday.

The Miami Commission voted unanimously and with no discussion to allow the city manager and other administrators to sign non-disclosure agreements regarding information about the regional Amazon bid, which is being led by the Miami-Dade Beacon Council. The 5-0 vote came a week after the council, a business-development group, asked all participants to sign secrecy agreements, according to sources close to the project.

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos reportedly has insisted on secrecy as short-listed cities move into the second round of requests for information. Compliant public officials have cited competitive reasons for keeping details under wraps. But some prominent critics, including noted urbanist Richard Florida, a part-time Miami Beach resident, have complained that leaves the public in the dark over what public officials may be offering Amazon, including land and financial incentives believed to ascend into the billions of dollars in taxpayer money in some cases.

Michael Finney, Beacon Council president and CEO, has said the local bid for Amazon includes only incentives available to any company considering relocating to South Florida.

Amazon’s announcement of 20 finalist cities for its second headquarters on Jan. 18 set off frantic speculation over incentive offerings and potential locations. Leaks of information in Miami and elsewhere reportedly prompted the demand for NDAs, as the confidentiality agreements are known.

At Thursday’s Miami commission meeting, only Commissioner Ken Russell asked a question, querying assistant city attorney Barnaby Min for “legal clarification” as to whether Florida’s broad public-records law would still apply. Min merely said the NDAs do not “trump” state records laws without providing details.

Miami-Dade County, however, has not responded to a public-records request filed by The Miami Herald in November.

Miami’s original bid is believed to have included eight potential sites — five in Miami-Dade, two in Broward and one in Palm Beach — that would fulfill Amazon’s HQ2 requirements of an initial 500,000 square feet of existing office space, on-site access to public transport, proximity to airports and livable, lively communities.

The number of sites was reduced by Amazon, Beacon Council President Mike Finney said last week, but provided no specifics.

Sites believed to be still under consideration include the 27-acre Miami Worldcenter mixed-use project now under construction and the proposed 10-acre Miami Innovation District next door in downtown Miami.

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