Miami Dolphins

Miami-Dade mayor issues veto to rescue Formula One’s plans for Miami Gardens race

A majority of Miami-Dade County commissioners passed a resolution to make it harder to bring Formula One races, like the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico, shown here, to the Hard Rock Stadium and the surrounding area in Miami Gardens. Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the resolution on Nov. 8, 2019.
A majority of Miami-Dade County commissioners passed a resolution to make it harder to bring Formula One races, like the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico, shown here, to the Hard Rock Stadium and the surrounding area in Miami Gardens. Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the resolution on Nov. 8, 2019. Getty Images

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a rare veto Friday to rescue a planned Formula One auto race around Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, a proposed event residents have called an unwelcome addition to their neighborhoods.

Gimenez said he wanted to give race opponents more time to reach a compromise with the Miami Dolphins and their owner Stephen Ross, who has been trying to bring the race to the Miami area under a 10-year deal. The first race would be run at Hard Rock in 2021 and held annually after that. The mayor had recused himself from decisions related to the race because one of his sons, C.J. Gimenez, was a paid lobbyist for the event.

Gimenez jumped into the fray when Formula One faced unexpected opposition last month from the county commissioner representing Miami Gardens, Barbara Jordan. Gimenez’s office said the mayor’s son stopped representing the Ross-backed entity pursuing the race in March.

Jordan’s resolution called for banning the road closures needed for the F1 event to run around Hard Rock, using a course that includes some public roads facing residential neighborhoods. A commission vote would be needed for road closures for auto racing elsewhere in the county.

It passed 8-5 on Oct. 29. Nine votes from the 13-seat board are required to override a mayoral veto, meaning F1 opponents could flip one no vote to yes and save the legislation — assuming the Dolphins’ lobbying arm doesn’t find a convert, too.

Joining Jordan in voting for the resolution were Commissioners Audrey Edmonson, Eileen Higgins, Daniella Levine Cava, Dennis Moss, Jean Monestime, Xavier Suarez and Javier Souto. On the no side were Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Sally Heyman, Joe Martinez and Rebeca Sosa. The issue divided the quarter of commissioners running to succeed a term-limited Gimenez in 2020, with only Bovo opting to back the Dolphins and Levine Cava, Monestime and Suarez siding with Jordan.

Miami Gardens has already come out against the race with a resolution from the City Council. On Friday, the city’s mayor, Oliver Gilbert, joined Jordan and residents for a City Hall press conference criticizing Gimenez’s veto.

“We understand we’re part of a great economic ecosystem. We get that. We just want that economic ecosystem to understand that we still live here,” Gilbert said. “Every great event isn’t a great event for us.”

Janice Smith, whose Miami Gardens home sits on the other side of a canal from the stadium grounds, said she’s already fed up with noise from the stadium.

“You can’t hear in your house with the Dolphins games already,” she said. She said her windows shake during music festivals there, and that it’s frustrating to see Miami-Dade encouraging such a disruptive regular event at Hard Rock as F1. “I feel like we’re being disrespected, insulted, and disregarded,” she said after the press conference.

Formula One has emerged as a divisive issue between the mayor and commission. After Jordan’s resolution passed, Formula One began airing Facebook ads urging people to contact commissioners who voted against the race.

Also this week, Gimenez issued a scathing critique of an F1 report issued by the commission auditor’s office that raised concerns about high noise levels and air pollution from the race. Gimenez noted the report failed to include information provided by F1’s current U.S. location in Austin, Texas, that an environmental regulator concluded the race cars produce emissions that are “likely far below the amount of emissions that Austin observes every day.”

Citing other bits of race information he found misleading or incomplete, Gimenez urged the commission to investigate how its research arm could produce such “unbalanced and biased information.”

In his veto message, Gimenez said he had a recent meeting with race opponents, Jordan and Dolphins representatives and that he hoped to work out a compromise that would leave both sides satisfied. With the race not scheduled until 2021, Gimenez said it was “premature to attempt to block an event of the magnitude of Formula One outright.”

“I remain committed to respecting the residents of Miami Gardens, and I remain committed to finding a way to bring this world-class event to our community,” Gimenez said.

Doug Hanks covers Miami-Dade government for the Herald. He’s worked at the paper for nearly 20 years, covering real estate, tourism and the economy before joining the Metro desk in 2014.
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