Miami-Dade County

Frost Science Museum bailout opposed by voters in survey

Construction of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science as it looked in January 2016.
Construction of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science as it looked in January 2016. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Miami-Dade County’s $49 million bailout of the Frost Science Museum received a thumbs down from a majority of Miami-Dade voters in a new poll.

A slim majority, 51 percent, opposed the recently approved plan to rescue the museum’s beleaguered construction project on the Miami waterfront. Forty-two percent of voters supported the plan, according to the survey by Bendixen & Amandi International.

 

The results mostly confirmed the political vibe that hung over the April 5 Frost vote, which had supportive politicians saying they were reluctant to approve more tax funds for a project that had already received $165 million from the county. Mayor Carlos Gimenez, facing reelection this year, proposed the rescue, which he described as revenue-neutral since the county would use a planned $4 million operating subsidy to instead pay debt on the borrowed $49 million.

Frost, a private museum moving from its longstanding home in Coconut Grove to Miami’s Museum Park, fell short on the private dollars it planned to use to finish the $305 million project. Gimenez said Miami-Dade had no choice but to rescue the museum, since the alternative was to idle the construction site until private donors could be found to finish the building.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners approved a bailout for the Frost Science Museum in the amount of $49 million during a commission meeting Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Dr. Phillip Frost, along with new chairman of the Frost board, Cesar Alvarez, and Miam

“The mayor and the administration can sympathize with why people would have a negative view on this,” said Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández. “We didn’t sugarcoat the issue. While these numbers are upside down, they could have been much worse had we handled the issue differently.”

Gimenez’s leading challenger in the 2016 race, school-board member Raquel Regalado, opposed the mayor’s plan, saying the museum named after billionaire medical magnate Phillip Frost and his wife, Patricia, should have been forced to come up with private dollars to fix the problem.

“When I’m talking to people and they’re frustrated about the lack of money for transit, the lack of money for water and sewer, the lack of money for police officers, they always mention: Carlos Gimenez found money to bailout the Frost,” Regalado said. “They say ‘bailout,’ in Spanish and English.”

The poll, conducted May 1-4, found Gimenez holds a 46-percent job approval rating as mayor, with 43 percent holding an unfavorable view and 11 percent offering no opinion.

That’s lower than two of the county’s other top administrators, according to the latest poll results.

Kathy Fernández Rundle, the county’s top prosecutor who has held the State Attorney post since Janet Reno left for Washington in 1993, holds a 54 percent job-approval rating, according to the poll. The survey found 24 percent rated her job as mediocre or poor, with 22 percent offering no opinion. Rundle last week won a seventh term when she did not draw an opponent before the filing deadline for her office.

The poll found lopsided approval for the county’s unelected school superintendent, Alberto Carvalho. In the survey, 73 percent rated his job performance as excellent or good, and 19 percent found it mediocre or poor. Eight percent offered no opinion.

 

Carvalho has long been seen as a potential Gimenez challenger, and stopped short this week of saying flat out he wouldn’t jump into the race before the June 21 filing deadline arrives.

“I’ve said it before,” Carvalho said after being told of the latest poll results. “I have a strong commitment to the school board, to the school system, to our students, and our community. That’s been my consistent message.”

“I don’t necessarily see — as is the case with others — that I would necessarily need to transfer my talents elsewhere to achieve more,” he continued. “This [school system] is equally important to many other forms of government.”

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