Formula One’s plan to host county officials in Singapore hit the skids on Tuesday when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez intervened to cancel a planned delegation of administrators to see the kind of auto race the for-profit event company wants to bring to Miami.
Gimenez had declared himself recused from the Formula One issue in May after son C.J. Gimenez registered to lobby in Miami for the venture, which would need city and county approvals. But the mayor apparently lifted that recusal on Tuesday to announce the county was pulling out of a trip with Miami officials to see the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix. The Miami Herald revealed the planned government-funded trip in a story published Saturday.
“Upon further reflection,” Gimenez said in a statement released Tuesday, “I’ve asked the directors of PortMiami, Miami-Dade Police and Miami-Dade Fire to cancel their departments’ trip ... and to look for a venue closer to Miami-Dade County.”
The last-minute public scuttling of a planned county overseas trip for a Sept. 16 race is the latest sharp turn in the campaign to win government approval of an event that would send cars racing through a closed-off downtown Miami.
Formula One and its partners, including Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, had to scrap plans for a 2019 race after talks fell through amid backlash from neighbors over noise and congestion that would come to the Bayfront Park area during the event. Now the target is for a 2020 race, and the planned trip was billed as a way for city and county officials to see how a Formula One Grand Prix operates in an urban environment.
City Manager Emilio González said Miami still planned to send its delegation to Singapore. Formula One is holding a Grand Prix next month in Austin, Texas, but that’s on a permanent track. González said Singapore’s race most resembled the one that Formula One wanted to put on in Miami, since both would convert city streets into race tracks with vehicles roaring by at 200 miles per hour. He described the trip as a fact-finding mission to help Miami decide on whether the race is workable.
“They’re going to have a look at the logistics. They’re going to have a look at the security,” González said of the city delegation that was invited by Formula One to Singapore. “We want to see what their challenges are.”
Sending three administrators from the city’s events and police departments was budgeted at close to $20,000, according to documents provided to the Miami Herald last week. The city also planned to send at least one person from the fire department, but figures weren’t available on how much that would cost.
Miami-Dade planned to spend about $18,000 sending five people to Singapore — three from the police department and two from the fire department, according to county spokespeople.
The police representatives work out of the security operation for PortMiami, a county agency that also would have its facilities be part of a Miami Grand Prix course, according to preliminary plans for the track running from downtown Miami to the port and back.
Gimenez said he didn’t see the need to rush over to Asia to see the counterpart to a race that wouldn’t come to Miami for another two years. There “is plenty of time to consider attending a similar race closer to Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez said in his statement.
He offered no explanation for getting involved in county decisions on a proposal he had said he would recuse himself from over his son’s involvement. Myriam Marquez, Gimenez’s communications director, did not elaborate when asked if Gimenez had ended the recusal. “He’s recused,” she said Tuesday afternoon after the original statement was released.