Miami-Dade voters face a decision of utmost importance for the future of higher education in South Florida on the November ballot. Voter approval would clear the way to pursue expansion of the main campus of Florida International University onto adjacent land used by the Dade County Youth Fair.
Miami-Dade’s charter requires park land to be used only for park purposes, unless an exception is granted. The proposed amendment would extend the exception to FIU and provide, as well, that no county funds could be used for expansion and relocation.
That’s why the issue is on the ballot. The Youth Fair, understandably, does not want to relocate, and both FIU and the Fair have a lot of boosters. Fair advocates say its grounds are home to a year-round schedule of events, and also that the decision is premature, given that there is no agreed-upon relocation site nor a reservoir of funds to pay for relocation.
But voter approval is necessary first, because of the county charter provision. Without an approved charter exception, the move would be blocked.
The Fairgrounds next door are the logical place to expand. FIU has made its plans for the site clear: An engineering center, new residential halls and an academic building. FIU President Mark Rosenberg foresees some $900 million worth of construction on the expanded site over 15-20 years.
The issue is not new. The County Commission has voted in favor of expansion following public discussion at least three times, going back to December. The public has had time to be informed of the facts. Both the Fair and FIU are important institutions in Miami-Dade County. But FIU’s value as an institution of higher learning, its economic importance to the county and the need for it to keep growing carry the day. On the charter amendment allowing the county and FIU to pursue expansion, the Miami Herald recommends YES.