The Logic of Billy Preston and the Ballpark Vote

I got tired of not finding an actual headcount on how the Miami-Dade County commissioners might vote tomorrow, so I’ll take a shot at it here. [Warning: I’m getting killed in my Descarga NCAA Brackets–I’ll never trust Clemson again–so please, no wagering.]

I bring no particular insight into the topic of how the commissioners might vote, given that I was unfamiliar with more than one of them before I started this post. What I can contribute as a long-time Miamian, is to say that any politician of a Hispanic background would be loathe to cast the deciding no vote on the Marlins ballpark deal. Whereas white politician’s with a non-Hispanic background, would wear that no vote like a ‘stinkin-bage‘ among their Howard Beale-sque constituencies. To say nothing of the annually replenished Norman Braman vehicles at their disposal [new ones for the first two years, then pre-owned, then … listen, just talk to Buddy Ryan] such a vote would produce. The African-American vote is more of a wild-card. This and what follows represents my shameless attempt to channel The Wire.

Publicly committed: 3 Yes votes – 3 No votes

District 4 – Sally A. Heyman – No
District 5 – Bruno A. Barreiro – Yes
District 7 – Carlos A. Gimenez – No
District 8 – Katy Sorenson – No
District 9 – Dennis C. Moss – Yes
District 12 – José “Pepe” Diaz – Yes

Publicly undecided – the Circumspect Six = 6 Yeses

All six of these commissioners voted for the stadium project in 2008.

District 1 – Barbara J. Jordan: Ms Jordan was recently appointed Chair of the Transit, Infrastructure and Roads Committee by the Commission Chairman Dennis Moss, who is a stadium supporter. No seemingly ideological agenda re public funding etc, so I assume she’s a reliable Moss ally on this issue.District 2 – Dorrin D. Rolle – Mr Rolle’s most recently sponsored legislation involved the Port of Miami tunnel. That tunnel is a key component of the mega-plan which is encompassed by the Marlins ballpark deal. Further, he is very active with inner-city youth groups. If MLB doesn’t end up sponsoring one of his activities in Liberty City, someone should get sued for political malpractice.
District 3 – Audrey Edmonson – Ms Edmonson’s district is adjacent to Little Havana neighborhood where the Marlins ballpark is to be built. Further, she co-sponsored the Port of Miami tunnel legislation with Mr Rolle. Her activities include a lot of outreach to the Hispanic community. Again, I have to assume she’s a reliable Moss ally on this issue.

Considering the four African-American commissioners as a voting-block–Moss, Jordan, Rolle and Edmonson–it is just hard to imagine one of them breaking off and sinking this project. In addition, one would assume a degree of cooperation with Michelle Spence-Jones over at the City of Miami commission, especially with respect to ensuring that their constituencies are not ignored in disbursing potential CRA funds.

District 6 – Rebeca Sosa – Ms Sosa’s district encompasses the city of Hialeah. A MLB-backed youth baseball academy was established last year in Hialeah. Non-Hialeah Cubans-Americans think Hialeah Cuban-Americans are really loud and intense baseball fans. Forget any issues here. The woman has to vote yes just to be able to enjoy meals in her district.
District 11 – Joe A. Martinez – West Dade district. Has been a commissioner since 2000 and once served as Commission Chairman. He probably is the biggest no vote potential given his experience, but I just don’t see the end game to his no vote. Again, following my perception that Hispanic commissioners would not want to be identified as killing this project, the safe play would have been to be out in front with a no vote.
District 13 – Natacha Seijas – The longest tenured commissioner, since 1993. Recently reappointed as chairperson of a Trade Consortium by Moss. Has ties to the AFL-CIO and recently commented that she is pleased that her concerns about labor unions have been addressed.

So while the ‘Circumspect Six’ may not exactly represent profiles in courage, the logic of the great Billy Preston–Nothin from nothin , leaves nothin’–will likely carry the day. The odds are high that County commissioners will have some new concession to point to–like their brethren at the City of Miami–by the time they vote. When you think about it, the undecideds are are practicing, at a gut-level, the same skill which is earning tenure at universities, game theory–an egghead description:

Game theory is the study of the ways in which strategic interactions among rational players produce outcomes with respect to the preferences (or utilities) of those players, none of which might have been intended by any of them.

See politician’s are laughing at those geeks, ‘Man, you had to go to college to learn to keep your options open?’ It’s actually pretty interesting stuff, see the Pirate puzzle example.

One publicly undecided Commissioner’s odyssey –
From Amerigo Bonasera to Alfredo Amezega

Of the undecideds, Mr Souto is the only one to have voted against the project in 2008.

District 10 – Javier D. Souto – Despite his no vote in 2008, Mr Souto’s remarks about the stadium deal merely express concern about getting a better deal for the County. Which is what politician’s do to keep their options open.

Check out what Mr Souto was doing Saturday according to the Miami Herald:

… County Mayor Alvarez [stadium supporter] spent Friday morning at the Miami International Cattle Show, admiring prized stud bulls with key swing-vote Commissioner Javier Souto. The cattle show is Souto’s pet project. Souto could not be reached for comment Friday night.

My guess is that he is for now, the pro-ballpark forces Amerigo Bonacera, a dormant asset. One text later, he will be their Alfredo Amezaga. Although Mr Souto lacks Amezaga’s distinction of having attended the great Miami Senior High, he can play one on the Commission.

OK we’re done, I’ve officially jinxed the Marlins ballpark deal. Wait, let me bury it completely; Hell, what could go wrong?

The lyrics to Billy Preston’s ‘Nothing From Nothing’ and article referenced are copied in full at end of post.

—————————————————————————-
Lyrics for: Nothing From Nothing

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me

I’m not tryin’ to be your hero
‘Cause that zero is too cold for me, brrr
I’m not tryin’ to be your highness
‘Cause that minus is too low to see, yeah

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
And I’m not stuffin’
Believe you me
Don’t you remember I told ya
I’m a soldier in the war on poverty, yeah
Yes, I am

[Instrumental Interlude]

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me

You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me
You gotta bring me somethin’ girl
If you wanna be with me
——————————————————————————
Struggle for a Florida Marlins stadium comes down to last pitch BY JACK DOLAN AND CHARLES RABIN

Posted on Sun, Mar. 22, 2009

With a final vote on the Florida Marlins’ new stadium looming Monday, the franchise appears to be one tense afternoon away from a goal it has chased since 1994 — a South Florida ballpark to call its own.

For critics opposed to spending hundreds of millions from public coffers to build the stadium in Little Havana — and those pushing the Marlins to pick up more of the proposed $634 million tab — Monday’s vote by the Miami-Dade County Commission could be the last stand.

Momentum swung dramatically in the Marlins’ favor Thursday at Miami City Hall, where the team won a tight 3-2 vote approving the deal.

But city commissioners extracted two significant concessions: a greater share of the profits for the county and city if the team is sold after construction, and a promise that at least half of the people who will build the stadium will be hired from South Florida.

That leaves stadium skeptics on the County Commission eager to extract concessions of their own, even as some begin to admit that the stadium deal will likely pass.

”I think they have the votes now, but you can still make the deal better by changing some aspects of it,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, the most outspoken stadium critic on the county board.

Commissioner Joe Martinez made a similar point in a memo to his colleagues immediately after the city’s vote.

”In the eleventh hour, the Marlins have now conceded to changes under pressure from the City Commissioners,” Martinez wrote. “If the Marlins will agree to these changes, perhaps they will do even more.”

So the question isn’t so much whether the stadium agreement will pass, but how much the Marlins might have to give up to make the deal go through.

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, the principal county advocate for building a stadium for the Marlins, argues that professional sports teams are a key feature of any world-class city, and that the stadium will create public-works jobs at a time that the economy is starved for them.

He announced Friday that he wants the commission to cast a single vote on the five contracts that constitute the deal — an effort to avoid the spectacle of the agreement being carved apart piece by piece on the dais.

That’s bold, because one measure — waiving the competitive bidding process to allow the Marlins’ chosen firm, Hunt-Moss, to build the stadium — requires a nine-vote super-majority of the 13-member board.

A SUPER-MAJORITY

”We want it to go forward as one big resolution that requires nine votes, with everything in it,” Alvarez spokeswoman Victoria Mallette said Friday.

That announcement came after Alvarez spent Friday morning at the Miami International Cattle Show, admiring prized stud bulls with key swing-vote Commissioner Javier Souto. The cattle show is Souto’s pet project. Souto could not be reached for comment Friday night.

The agenda for Monday’s meeting, released late Friday, shows all five stadium contracts voted on at once. But the agenda can be changed by a simple majority.

Among those firmly behind the project are Chairman Dennis C. Moss and Vice Chair Jose ”Pepe” Diaz.

On Friday, Diaz said that if the hotel-tax money that would finance most of the stadium could be used for police or social services, he wouldn’t vote for the deal. But by law, bed taxes must be spent on tourist development, such as a stadium.

”We’re going to create jobs in making the park itself,” Diaz said. “We’re going to create jobs around the park. It will create jobs when the stadium is functional.”

Opponents have other ideas.

Gimenez has called for scrapping the existing contracts and writing new ones, with the public contribution dropping from about $480 million to about $76 million. The Marlins are committed to paying $120 million toward construction and repaying a $35 million county loan.

”A motion to start all over? That’s absolutely ludicrous at this point,” Alvarez said.

PUSH FOR REVISIONS

Should Gimenez fail to persuade his colleagues to start from scratch, he said he wants the Marlins to contribute their share for construction first. Under the current deal, the public pays to build the first three-quarters of the stadium; the Marlins pay to finish it.

Gimenez also wants the public to get a share of the profits if the team is ever sold — not just in the first nine years, as the current contract stipulates. And he wants the county to hire an independent auditor to make sure that the Marlins have the money to live up to the deal. Team owner Jeffrey Loria has refused to open the Marlins’ books to show assets and liabilities.

”It’s a major-league franchise,” Alvarez said. “We met with the commissioner of Major League Baseball. These are legitimate people.”

A skeptical Gimenez said the county shouldn’t enter into such a big business deal based on its partner’s word.

Gimenez isn’t the only one who will be waiting for the deal with a legislative scalpel.

Commissioner Sally Heyman said she’ll introduce an amendment to reduce the county’s share of the construction cost to $206 million and to make Major League Baseball cosign the Marlins’ promise to stay in Miami for 35 years. That way, the league could be sued if the team were to leave.

Heyman also wants to get rid of the so-called ”death clause” that would allow Loria’s heirs to sell the team without the requirement to share the profits with the city and the county.

”I am very concerned about the agreements because they offer little financial or legal protection for our citizens,” she wrote in a memo Wednesday.

While commissioners debate the contracts Monday, Loria will sit in the audience, possibly one momentous roll call away from a dream that he and two previous owners have been chasing for 15 years: a permanent home, with a retractable roof, for a team that consistently ranks near the bottom of the major leagues in attendance and payroll.

Despite playing in a football stadium that is often nearly empty, the players have managed to win two World Series.

”South Florida really needs a baseball-only facility,” Marlins catcher John Baker said last week after Miami’s vote. “It would be a great benefit to the community to have a stadium.”

Miami Herald staff writer Andre Fernandez contributed to this report.
———————————————————————

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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