Above, 2007 photo by Mario J. Bermudez
36 years and counting for a third Super Bowl Trophy...
That's what Stephen Ross really ought to be pre-occupied
Things to watch for in the near future...
When rather than whether billionaire Dolphin owner
and perpetual celebrity-collector Steven Ross uses
his wealth to pay for top-tier lobbyists to help him
put pressure on local pols to do his bidding, and try
to put taxpayers on the hook for HIS stadium
It's rather perplexing, but not at all surprising,
that almost all of the articles I've read thus far
on his initial efforts in this regard have gone
out of their way NOT to mention specific
names and firms.
But citizen taxpayers WANT to know the
names and firms involved, and what's more,
want to see someone in the media -anyone?-
illuminate the connections (tentacles) of those
particular lobbyists to specific pols which are
considered solid enough for Ross & Company
to think they'll actually be a good investment.
For instance, is Steve Geller one of those
lobbyists? Have the Dolphins formed a PAC?
Personally, I'd like to know.
Simply saying Ron Book in a story is not really
taking this story to its logical conclusion since he's
a lobbyists for everyone, even Hallandale Beach.
I'd rather see a story about those aspects of this
story than hear yet another lame Super Bowl 44
puff piece that puts a smile on host committee head
Rodney Barretto's face.
Lesson learned this far: Ross will spend his
money for lobbyists, just not for stadium
improvements for his own stadium.
While transferring what I'd originally written
here as an email this afternoon to my blog,
I recalled something I'd written before on my
other blog which incorporated some insightful
Herald stories from 1979 about Joe Robbie
and the problems he had back then with local
pols in Miami who dared him to move the team.
For those of you who weren't living here back then,
trust me, it helps to explain why things are the way
they are now: dysfunctional.
It explains why there is a football stadium on the
Broward-Dade county line and not in Miami,
and how the whole idea of using common sense
in placing stadiums and arenas near areas needing
development, and creating mass transit improvements,
thus allowing the tax dollars involved to produce their
largest possible multiplier effect, and give the largest
number of South Florida residents much-easier access
to attend, was instead replaced by ad hoc parochial
decisions that have shortchanged taxpayers millions
of dollars and wasted years of opportunities.
Just imagine if the arena for both the Heat and the
Panthers was near Joe Robbie Stadium and the
crucial Purple Metro Line had been built.
Instead, we have the waste of resources we have.
Just in case you run into any problems reading those
old Herald articles I've included at the bottom,
move your mouse over them and right-click.
Hit "Open link in new window."
It makes the articles huge and easy to read.
And before I drop some recent articles that touch
on these matters, let's stop and look at a bigger
news story that nobody in South Florida's media
is talking about: how are tickets to Super Bowl 44
being distributed to elected officials?
Meant to post this email from ProPublica
a week ago, but...
Mieux tard que jamais!
We need your help.We need to know which members of Congress are attending this year's Super Bowl, and how they got their tickets. Would you help us call members of Congress this week and ask their staffers two questions: Did the lawmaker go to the Super Bowl last year, and is she or he planning to go this year?
Sign up here for our Super Bowl Blitz, and we'll get you calling instructions and phone numbers. As answers come in, we'll plug them into our online chart and our reporters will begin following the money trail.The Super Bowl is America’s most expensive sports spectacle, and it has long been used to rub shoulders, gain influence and form ties that help congressional candidates raise the approximately $1 billion they spend on their campaigns every two years. While most of us can’t afford a ticket to the Super Bowl, we know the NFL sets aside a large number of them for public officials and corporations to buy at face value (the cheapest tickets are going for as much as $1,799 on StubHub). Politicians use the tickets to reward big donors, and corporations use them to reward politicians.
The stakes are extraordinarily high this year. The resurgent Republican Party’s victory in Massachusetts last week raises the likelihood of yet another record-smashing year of campaign fundraising in advance of congressional elections this fall. Last week’s Supreme Court ruling, which allows corporations and other groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on ads for or against sitting members of Congress, also will trigger a spending spree.OK, but why do we need your help?
We're running short on time.In the next two weeks we need to find out which members of Congress will be watching in the stands -- or perhaps peering down from skyboxes -- and then figure out how those members got their tickets. Being a lawmaker's constituent, or a local or state reporter, will get you answers a lot faster than if we were doing the asking.
The NFL – which is a special interest, like any other -- won't tell us how many tickets it has set aside for politicians, let alone who got them. All we could squeeze out of the NFL was one sentence from NFL lobbyist Jeff Miller: “We respond to requests to purchase Super Bowl tickets from a wide array of groups, including sponsors and other business partners, members of the news media, elected officials and fans.”We also tried to get information from the political party committees that often organize fundraisers around popular events. For instance, the National Republican Congressional Committee got face-value tickets from the NFL and used them to reward their big donors for 10 years running.
Unfortunately, the major party committees are refusing our requests for information about this year's Super Bowl. In the past month, ProPublica reporter Marcus Stern asked the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, NRCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about the Super Bowl events they're planning. Only one - the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - got back to Marcus, and said it had no events scheduled.If you're game, sign up here and we'll get you what you need.
Amanda Michel and Marcus Stern
Got this email from a friend? Subscribe. Unsubscribe.
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. We are located at 1 Exchange Plaza, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10006
Well, to see the results thus far, see
Sarah Talalay of the Sun-Sentinel puts
the taxpayer question on stadium improvements
to Joe Robbie Stadium directly to NFL
Commissioner Roger Godell here:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Exclusive Q&A with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
By Sarah Talalay
January 31, 2010
MIAMI-DADE - DOLPHINS' STADIUM: Miami Dolphins propose raising tourist tax to pay for stadium fixes - One proposal being pitched to bankroll improvements to the Dolphins' stadium: raise tourist taxes. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez says he's opposed.
By Matthew Haggman and Douglas Hanks
January 27, 2010
Aiming to raise public dollars to improve their privately-owned stadium, the Miami Dolphins and team backers have hatched a plan: get state legislators to lift the ceiling on Miami-Dade's hotel tax and then ask county commissioners to increase the rate of the so-called bed tax.
Backers of the plan, which has been presented to state legislators in recent weeks, say the move would generate millions of dollars for renovations on the Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium -- along with upgrades of the Miami Beach Convention Center.
State law now caps hotel taxes at 6 percent, the amount already assessed in Miami-Dade County. Revenues from the tax levied at Miami-Dade hotels are largely spoken for after county leaders agreed to use public funds to construct a new baseball stadium.
''This is certainly one of the options,'' Dolphins lobbyist Ron Book said of the plan to seek an increase of the county's tourist tax. But Book -- who also represents Miami-Dade County as a lobbyist -- said other financing proposals are being weighed.
''There is more than one way to skin this cat,'' he said.
But winning public funding to enhance a stadium whose primary owner is billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross remains a tall order -- particularly at a time governments are strapped for cash and taxpayers struggle through an economic downturn.
On Tuesday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said he hasn't been presented with any specific proposals. But the mayor declared his opposition to tax dollars being used for renovations at the Miami Gardens facility.
''I would not be supportive of any public funding for the renovation of the Dolphins' stadium,'' said Alvarez, who said he's against raising the tourist tax. ''Now is not the time.''
Alvarez strongly backed the use of public dollars for the under-construction Florida Marlins stadium in Little Havana, but said Tuesday that this situation is different.
For one, a funding source was available then, unlike now, he said. For another, he said ''the Marlins will play 81 homes games a year here for the next 30 years, rather than paying for improvements to compete for one game every four or five years.''
NFL executives, Miami Dolphins officials and stadium supporters contend that Sun Life Stadium needs more than $200 million in renovations if future Super Bowls are to return to South Florida.
The improvements include partially enclosing the stadium with a roof that would shield fans from rain showers and the glaring sun. The proposal calls for new lighting to accommodate high-definition television -- which the team must currently install every time it hosts a night game.
And the blueprint includes tearing out the lower bowl of the stadium to add 3,000 prime seats and moving the spectator area closer to the field.
Next week South Florida is set to host its 10th Super Bowl, the most for any region in the country.
But some warn it could be the last if the improvements aren't made, as NFL owners move the championship game to newer, better-appointed stadiums.
''Doing nothing would be a huge mistake as we would surely watch cities like Dallas, Indianapolis and New Orleans land more Super Bowls,'' Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee, wrote recently.
Alvarez responded Tuesday by saying: ''South Florida in February is a place a lot of people would love to be.''
In recent weeks Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and lobbyist Book have been meeting with state legislators in Tallahassee to discuss the funding proposal.
An effort to rewrite state hotel-tax law could set off a scramble for the millions in extra dollars during a historic budget squeeze.
''Do you know how many people are going to jump on that bandwagon? Museums, performing arts centers, arenas,'' said Stuart Blumberg, the recently retired head of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association who also co-chairs a city panel on the Miami Beach Convention Center.
On Tuesday, Dee declined to discuss specific proposals, including raising the bed tax, saying he wanted to give time for a new sub-committee formed by the South Florida Super Bowl Host committee to consider improvements to the Dolphins home and ways to pay for it.
The committee, headed by former Dolphin Dick Anderson, is set to hold its first meeting Thursday.
''I think the discussion about funding comes at a later point,'' Dee said. ''What will take place on Thursday is the opening kickoff. All of us will have to let this subcommittee do its work.''
Yet, time is short.
The reason: presentations to NFL owners to win the chance to host the 2014 Super Bowl come in May. Proponents of a stadium overhaul say plans to update the facility must be in place by then.
''The clock is ticking to show we have some movement,'' said Dolphins lobbyist Book. ''Certainly we have to have something to show the owners, to show what we are doing to keep the stadium in a position that they find acceptable.''
Reader comments at:
Why don't the Miami Dolphins' owners pay for stadium upgrades?
By Glenn Garvin
January 26, 2010
Emilio Estefan has just published an autobiography, The Rhythm of Success: How an Immigrant Produced his own American Dream.
"The next generation of immigrants needs to learn how we did it,'' he recently told a Miami Herald reporter. "How much hard work there was for us at the time we came to this country.'' My advice is to skip directly to the chapter that explains how to go on welfare, which is what Emilio is doing.
That's right: Emilio and his wife Gloria, who have amassed a net worth estimated at $500 million -- including not just their music companies but an empire of hotels, restaurants and other businesses -- are becoming welfare queens. And the Estefans, who've always thought big, aren't going for penny-ante food-stamp fraud, either: They want a $250 million government handout for the Miami Dolphins, the football team they own a chunk of.
You've probably always thought it would be unpleasant and even faintly humiliating to trudge single-file up to the window in a welfare office. Not now! The conga line for a stadium handout starts with the Estefans, but includes their equally glamorous Dolphins co-owners.
Like Venus and Serena Williams, whose $45 million-plus winnings on the pro tennis tour are dwarfed by their endorsement contracts. (Nearly $100 million just for shoes.) Or Marc Anthony, the best-selling tropical salsa recording artist of all time. And though she's not technically a Dolphins owner, maybe Anthony's wife Jennifer Lopez (estimated net worth: $110 million) will tag along, that is, if she's not too busy with a $15 million movie role.
And don't forget the team's majority owner, developer Stephen Ross. I'm tempted to identify him as "carpetbagging plutocrat Stephen Ross,'' but I hate to kick a guy when he's down, and poor Steve has lost $1.6 billion in the crumbling real-estate market -- which, according to Forbes magazine, means he's now merely the 110th richest person in America.
If it seems to you that Ross and his let's-tan-in-St.-Tropez-this-
To be fair, Ross and his merry band of looters insist the stadium improvements aren't for the Dolphins. That 17-percent decline in season-ticket sales over the past four seasons of Miami football mediocrity has nothing to do with this. We should kick in a quarter of a billion to fix up their stadium for our own good.
Without a roof and more luxuriant seats for the pale, tender butts of corporate aristocrats, Ross says, the NFL will stop bringing the Super Bowl to South Florida. And pffft! -- just like that! -- we lose the $460 million that comes with the game.
The problem with that argument is that it's -- how do I put this politely? -- a monstrously bald-faced lie. The economic impact of big one-shot events like Super Bowls is easy to track through sales-tax receipts, and literally dozens of studies have shown that they bring in far, far less than the Dolphins and their local-government toadies are claiming.
(Of course, the Dolphins have a study from a lobbyist company to back up their estimate. Funny how they won't let anybody see it.)
In a winter tourism center like South Florida, the impact of a February Super Bowl is diluted even further. We're already overrun this time of the year; Super Bowl visitors just crowd out other tourists, and the only real economic spike will be in hotel prices. That feeds the coffers back at the hotels' corporate headquarters but doesn't do much for the locals. Paris Hilton should be sending us a thank-you note, or at least a shout-out in her next sex tape.
But you don't need to pore over a stack of economics journals to understand how patently false the claim of that $460 million windfall is. Just ask yourself this:
A brand-new state-of-the-art stadium can be built for $490 million (that's the price tag on the Marlins facility that started construction last year). Why doesn't the NFL simply take over some little town like Yeehaw Junction, build its own stadium and tourism infrastructure the way Disney did in Orlando, and pocket all that Super Bowl money itself? After the first year or two, it's pure profit forever and ever.The answer is that the $460 million is as mythical as Monopoly money. The only people who will benefit from this stadium boondoggle are the Dolphins' indolent gazillionaire owners. As Gloria Estefan likes to sing, "I'd do anything for you.'' Except dig into her own pockets.
Reader comments at:
To understand in part why and how we got to
this point in time, where there's widespread
voter opposition to local pols getting involved
in trying to micromanage what happens with
sports stadiums in South Florida, I'm going
to excerpt some of my own older posts at
South Beach Hoosier, my second blog
which I plan on retrofitting soon:
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Donna Shalala and the U-M Board of Trustees
to do what's right for the school, the team and
the vast majority of South Florida's Hurricane
fans by leaving theOrange Bowl Orange Bowl
in the rear-view mirror, what follows is the
March 16, 1979 Miami Herald story by
Bill Rose, which ran about two months before
the Bill Braucher column that was the basis
for my last post.
It traces the history of how Dolphins owner
Joe Robbie got the better of Dade County
Mayor Steve Clark and Commissioner
J.L Plummer by publicly embarrassing them,
simply by telling the truth to the gathered NFL
owners in Hawaii, which, unhappily for Clark
and Plummer, was a history replete with
broken promises to Robbie and the Dolphins,
and real threats for them to move out of Miami
if they didn't like it.
Joe Robbie, who'll be the future subject of a
South Beach Hoosier post dealing with his
role as the Dade County Democratic Party
chair, lived long enough to call their bluff
and have the last laugh!
Yes, the fights over beer sales, and the fights
in court when the Dolphins prevailed and the
City of Miami didn't like it and appealed
-and lost again- the threat to prevent the Dolphins
from actually playing a preseason game in the
Orange Bowl, et al.
This as the NFL owners convened to decide
among other things, the site of the 1981
Super Bowl, which turned out to be Detroit,
even as Miami officials took it for granted that
they were in the driver's seat.
(That was Super Bowl XVI, where the
49ers beat the Bengals 26-21, the first
of their Super Bowl meetings, with the
second coming in SB XXIII in Miami,
with the 49ers winning 20-16.)
Just as was the case with the Braucher
column post, I'll try to write out the story in
the future here in case you can't read it
Reviewing the Battle of the Orange Bowl
March 16, 1979
of South Florida history which, to me at least,
speaks volumes for all manner of current and
past public policy problems/govt. projects that
have beset South Florida for the past forty
years: inertia, apathy, incompetency and finances.
I've been keeping it at the ready since first having
it printed out at the Miami-Dade County Main
Library downtown, and seeing the downtown's
myriad problems "up close and personal" for the
first time in months...
This March 18, 1979 Bill Braucher column
below, which ran on the front page of the Sunday
Broward news section, serves as a painful
reminder that even when or IF you were to
eliminate all the current incompetent people
in the City of Miami responsible for the
disgraceful current condition of the Orange Bowl
-and have you seen the city's website for the
OB, which seems like something a junior high
school kid did over a weekend, with none
of the sorts of historical photos that you'd
expect to give it context,
it's important to keep in mind that, just like
cholesterol, it's not just environment, it's genetics
which determines a patient's health.
The City of Miami has very recessive genes.
Logical result: The Orange Bowl has been
sick for decades!
To read this column from those pre-cable,
pre-internet days is to be reminded all over again
of the sorts of half-assed things that were
commonplace back in 1979, when Dolphins
owner Joe Robbie was getting screwed-over
once again by the kangaroo court that was
Miami's powers-that-be, principally Dade County
mayor Steve Clark.
To date myself, yours truly was then a senior
at North Miami Beach Senior High School,
a true-blue fan who never missed a Dolphins
or Hurricanes home game.
Titled Orange Bowl Isn't Worth Drive to Dade,
Braucher, the Herald's former Dolphin beat writer
-who later became their Broward editor- when I
was growing up as a kid in the '70's, mentions some
very telling anecdotes that perfectly illustrates that
the City of Miami's bad attitude isn't just a recent
phenomena, rather it's a living, breathing entity
that's been around for decades, regardless of its
core competency to solve the problem either
intelligently or in a financially prudent fashion.
At a future date, I'll try to write it out for those
who can't read it completely when you capture
it with your computer mouse.
Miami Herald, Broward edition
Orange Bowl Isn't Worth Drive to Dade
March 18, 1979