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COUNTY MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ HAS A NEW SCHEME TO SCREW THE TAXPAYERS OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

GIMENEZ WANTS THE COUNTY COMMISSION TO DIVERT $2.5 BILLION - THAT’S RIGHT, $2.5 BILLION - FROM THE COUNTY’S GENERAL FUND TO THE OMNI AND SEOPW CRA IN A SLEIGHT-OF-HAND DEAL THAT WOULD USE A CHUNK OF THAT MONEY TO FINANCE THE OPERATION OF THE  PAMM AND FROST SCIENCE MUSEUM WITHOUT YOUR ABILITY TO VOTE ON THIS TRANSFER, OR TO HAVE ANY SAY IN HOW THESE BILLIONS ACTUALLY GET SPENT - BUT HE FACES OPPOSITION FROM COMMISSIONER KEN RUSSELL, THE NEW CRA CHAIRMAN WHO CAMPAIGNED AGAINST THE USE OF CRA MONEY FOR PROJECTS NOT DEALING DIRECTLY WITH ELIMINATING SLUM AND BLIGHT

PART I

JANUARY 24, 2016

I won’t claim that the sole reason that Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez decided to try and get the Miami-Dade County Commission to agree to extend the life of the OMNI and SEOPW CRA to the year 2045, and thereby allow them to collect and spend upwards of $2.5 billion - yes, that’s billion with a B - in additional Tax Increment Funds(TIF)  during the course of the extended life of these agencies was based on a desire to do favors for some of his politically connect, rich friends, but it’s certainly right up there with his desire to deprive the taxpayers of this county from having any say in how large chunks of this money will eventually get spent.


I believe that it’s fair to acknowledge that when it comes to the OMNI and SEOPW CRA’s that are in the City of Miami, their existence, and the hundreds of millions of TIF that they control have been disproportionally used as political slush funds given to deep-pocket campaign contributors who also happened to be developers looking to build massive condo and commercial projects in what were originally poor neighborhoods, thereby not only displacing the original inhabitants, but also because the some of these developers lacked the funding to move forward without using these TIF funds as either collateral on the loans necessary to move their projects forward, or even as collateral for loans that had nothing to do with their project.


Worse than subsidizing some of these real-estate development deals was the way that the three City Commissioners who chaired these two CRA’s over the last half-dozen years - Commissioners Michelle Spence-Jones and Commissioner Keon Hardemon for the SEOPW CRA and Commissioner Marx Sarnoff for the OMNI CRA - viewed the use of these funds for projects and activities not even tangentially related to the elimination of slum and blight, such as spending $400,000 to finance a low budget movie that left town owing over $200,000 to local vendors, and hundreds of thousands more for a film festival whose base of operations was on Miami Beach, another $400,000 for the creation of a Dog Park within the confines of Margret Pace Park, $1,000,000 to fund programming at the Perez Art Museum when the rich people who had promised to fund the endowment that would have covered those costs failed to pony up the money.


What’s never been revealed as a result of all of these transfers and giveaways of these hundreds of millions of dollars in TIF money is what role did a small handful of supposed “Community Outreach” consultants play in the decisions that led to these deals, and exactly how much money collected for their efforts?


In Miami, a “Community Outreach” consultant is recognized as the euphemism for the bagmen and women who act as go-betweens between the elected officials and the recipients of these tax dollar giveaways.


So now, in what is intended to be the biggest giveaway of General Revenue funds in memory - a giveaway for which there has been no impact study conducted to determine just how the loss of this money will impact on the services that will not be provided or funded as a result of this loss of money - Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is looking to get the County Commission at their next meeting to change the lifespan of both the OMNI and SEOPW CRA in order to that they finance a laundry list of projects using TIF money without further public approval.


It’s all spelled out in a 5 page memo that Gimenez sent to the Chairman of the Commission on January 14, 2016, and that I have included at the bottom of this story for your perusal.


I’m aware that the Miami Herald is working on a story about this issue that will be out either Sunday or Monday, and Miami Today last week published a story detailing some of the expenditures tied to the SEOPW CRA portion of all of this money, so therefore I’m just going to focus on the OMNI CRA’s portion.


Here is the portion of the Mayor’s memo that details how he expects the money generated through the extension of the OMNI CRA’s lifespan will be spent after the OMNI CRA changes their Redevelopment Plan to reflect his itemized list of projects.

First and foremost, you have to appreciate that the current lifespan of the OMNI CRA takes it to 2030. Given the development that has already taken place, plus the plans for development of just about every square foot of empty land within the boundaries of the CRA either on the drawing board or currently in the process of being approved,  the notion that there is some need to extend the lifespan of this CRA by an additional 15 years to accommodate “support or attention” in order to focus on “affordable housing” is just patented nonsense.


It’s a straw man argument not worthy of anything but impolite laughter and only underscores the cynicism that is at the core of so many of the arguments made on behalf of the majority of the working class members of the community that Miami politicians make when attempting to pull off some giveaway of public land or money by portraying themselves as concerned public servants looking out for the “little peeple” instead of outright crooks and scammers looking out for their rich friends.


MIAMI’S BERMUDA TRIANGLE


Last October, I wrote a long, detailed story about the attempt of the Knight and Miami Foundation, in cahoots with the board members of the PAMM and the Frost Science Museum to get the Miami City Commission to go along with their scheme to turn the new Museum Park over to them so that they could control it through a so-called Museum Park Conservancy.


Here’s what I wrote then about the 2 museums and the Arsht Performing Arts Center, which will set up my comments about Gimenez’s efforts to use TIF money to fund these operations.


        In Miami, we also seem an unsolved mystery that I call the

        Miami Square. The Square starts at 14th Street and goes

        south to 8th Street, between Biscayne Boulevard and NE

        2nd Avenue.


        Within this Square there seems to be bottomless pit driven

        by a voracious, never ending need for public money to finance

        museums and a performing arts center.


        All of these ventures started out with lofty pledges and commit-

        ments made by their promoters that if they were given public

        land, and construction money, they would never ask for money

        to operate these grand palaces because the rich patrons and

        benefactors would step up to the plate and demonstrate their

        commitment to the public good by picking up the rest of the tab.


        Of course, that never happened, and the Arsht Center not only

        went tens of millions in construction cost overruns, but worse,

        it continues to receive $4.5 million of “Slum and Blight” money

        for its operating fund from the OMNI CRA.


        The PAMM on the other hand, after Pinky Swearing that if the

        City would give them the land, and if the County would “gift”

        them $100 million to build the museum, promised that they

        would raise the rest of the money to finance construction,

        and more importantly, as described by Eston “Dusty” Melton,

        create an endowment fund that would cover any operating

        cost deficits, “forever and ever.”


        To no one’s surprise, the rich folks decided they had other

        uses for their money, and again, with a tin cup and a woeful

        lament about providing art the the children in the ghetto, the

        PAMM folks showed up at the door of the OMNI CRA to get

        some more of that “Slum and Blight” money that Commissioner

        Sarnoff has always been so happy to give his elitist friends

        and political contributors.


Just days ago, the fine folks associated with the Frost Science Museum revealed that they too had miscalculated their finances - in a news release that it now appears was known within the political bubble for months before the news became public - and were now unable to complete construction of their museum without a serious infusion of public money.


By rights, in the days that followed the announcement that they had run out of money the editorial that should have appeared on the pages of the Miami Herald  should have been a no nonsense editorial that called for a criminal investigation into what had led to the failure to complete construction of this museum and not the whiny, ass-kissing tripe that did appear which ended with the faux scolding by the Herald editors that “everybody going forward, must keep their word.”


Following in the footsteps of the previous scams that led to the taxpayers having to pick up the cost overruns with the Arsht and the failure to raise the required operating funds by the PAMM, what happened with the Frost Science Museum points to a case of fraud having been committed on the taxpayers of this community by the rich and powerful clique who bullshitted the politicians into going along for the third time in a hustle that some people had questioned from the beginning.


Screw us once, shame on them, screw us twice, shame on us, screw us a third time then the cops need to come in and put somebody in jail!


But, this is Miami, and instead of a criminal investigation into how a project the size of the Frost Museum could turn out to be over $80 million dollars in the hole with a year’s worth of construction still left to complete, we have a situation where County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has agreed to convert the promised annual $4 million operating subsidy that was to come from public tax dollars into a one time bailout of $45 million.


To add insult to injury, the Miami Herald in reporting on this bailout deal stated that one of the conditions that Gimenez claimed to impose on this bailout was that the Frost Museum “must agree not to ask for operating help for 20 years.”


This flies in the face of the language in his memo which states that the interlocal agreement between the County and the OMNI CRA include a provision that would “provide an operating subsidy and capital fund for the Perez Art Museum Miami, Frost Museum of Science and Museum Park.”


Who can make this kind of two-faced underhanded shit up?


CARLOS GIMENEZ FACES AN OBSTACLE IN GETTING THE OMNI CRA TO GO ALONG WITH THIS SCHEME FROM OMNI CRA CHAIRMAN KEN RUSSELL


If I had written this story last year the odds of Carlos Gimenez getting his way would have been all but certain because the Chairman of the OMNI CRA last year was Marc Sarnoff, whose history of Pay For Play along with his  view that the OMNI CRA’s money was his to spend as he wanted, would have ignored - like he did for the entire time he was the Chairman of the OMNI CRA - any requirement to view the “Slum and Blight” requirements of the law to be of paramount importance in how the OMNI CRA operated.


The new Chairman of the OMNI CRA, Ken Russell, has come into office with an entirely different perspective of how the OMNI CRA should conduct business and how it should allocate it’s money, and in a conversation with him on Saturday about the Gimenez memo, he stated that he was “opposed to the use of CRA money being used to finance the operation of museums.”


The ramifications of Russell’s position regarding the use of CRA money could be the first real crack in what has for years been an almost lockstep mentality about the use of CRA money for just about any and everything NOT related to “slum and blight.”


Regardless of whether the County Commission chooses to support this proposal by Gimenez - which given election year politics places additional pressure on some of the Commissioners to suck up and go along with Gimenez - the fact of the matter is that he can only get what he wants if Russell agrees to let the OMNI CRA revisit the agency’s Redevelopment Plan and rewrite it to include the necessary language authorizing the agency to support and spend money on the items such as funding the PAMM, the Frost Museum and the Conservancy Park Trust.


At the end of the day, this is all about Carlos Gimenez wanting to use the OMNI CRA as a cutout in order to make sure his rich, campaign contributing pals gets the public money they’re unwilling or unable to raise themselves so that he can bail them out of trouble without his fingerprints being on the money.


That’s reason enough for people in Miami-Dade County to tell him to go screw himself and the horse he rode in on!


It’s Miami, Bitches?

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