Miami commissioners on Thursday requested a legal opinion on whether Miami-Dade could require David Beckham to employ county police and paramedics for off-duty shifts at the 25,000-seat soccer stadium he wants to build within city limits.
“I think it’s wrong,” Keon Hardemon, chairman of the Miami City Commission, said of the county requirement tacked onto a $9 million sale of county land that Beckham needs to complete his stadium site. “I think it’s good for the city of Miami to stand up for this.”
The unanimous resolution amplified a mini squabble that broke out hours after Miami-Dade commissioners granted Beckham a milestone in his four-year quest for a Miami soccer stadium. In agreeing to sell Beckham a three-acre truck depot in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, Miami-Dade commissioners added a last-minute demand: that only county police and fire personnel be hired inside the privately owned stadium, while the city could pick up the off-duty shifts in the streets surrounding the stadium.
The arrangement mirrors one already in place at county-owned venues in Miami, including Marlins Park. That hard-fought arrangement saw both governments’ powerful public-safety unions squabbling over how to divvy up popular off-duty shifts at the county-owned ballpark. The extra work has helped boost some police and firefighters to the top of both government’s best-paid lists, with the county’s off-duty rates ranging from $50 to $100 an hour.
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County leaders argued Miami-Dade was right to request assignments for its first responders as part of selling land to the private stadium venture.
“This was a real estate deal,” said Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who requested the hiring rule during Tuesday’s debate at the Miami-Dade commission and voted for the deal after Beckham representatives agreed to his terms. “We sold a piece of the county. One part of the deal was we’d like this benefit.”
Let’s not presuppose that there will be a stadium there on that site.
Keon Hardemon, chairman of the Miami City Commission
City objections come at a delicate time for the Beckham group. It wants to use Tuesday’s county vote as proof of new momentum in its extended quest for a Miami stadium as it tries to win Major League Soccer approval for its plans and partnership arrangements.
The stadium needs approval by the Miami City Commission for zoning changes and the closing of Seventh Street for the nine-acre site. Beckham’s group also is interested in purchasing some city land for the stadium as well, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado told commissioners on Thursday.
Hardemon, whose district includes the stadium site, emphasized the city’s central role in Beckham’s Miami soccer ambitions.
“Let’s not presuppose that there will be a stadium there on that site,” he said. “Right now, the county has sold the land.” He also questioned the division of labor between working inside an open-air stadium and patrolling streets outside. “There’s no reason they should be able to sit in the air conditioning and enjoy a soccer game,” he said of county officers, “and our employees are out there doing work.”
Beckham representatives declined to comment on the police flap after the commission vote. The tug-of-war could fizzle if city lawyers decide there are no legal barriers to the county’s demand, or it could escalate into a brinkmanship moment if Miami holds back approvals unless Beckham agrees to reverse its deal with Miami-Dade.
We sold a piece of the county. One part of the deal was we’d like this benefit.
Miami-Dade Commissioner José ‘Pepe’ Diaz
Regalado said he didn’t want Miami-Dade mandating county police shifts on private property within city limits. “The Beckham stadium is not a public venue,” he said. “We don’t think our fire and police need to be shut out of working in a venue which is in the city of Miami.”
Francis Suarez, a city commissioner running to succeed the term-limited Regalado as mayor in November, sponsored the resolution. It describes the county’s requirement as “unfair” and interfering with the city’s public safety functions.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s spokesman released a statement endorsing the arrangement that Diaz requested, and Audrey Edmonson, the county commissioner sponsoring the Beckham land sale, accepted as part of the legislation authorizing the transaction.
“Mayor Gimenez supports what our County Commission approved,” said Michael Hernández, the county’s communications director. The agreement “is a fair and appropriate arrangement for providing public safety services.”
Alvaro Zabaleta, a Miami-Dade detective and agency spokesman, said the Marlins Park arrangement demonstrates how well the two agencies already work together in Miami.
“We work the inside, they work the outside. The truth of the matter is we have an extraordinarily cooperative relationship,” he said. “We’re like family.”