Commission meeting

Betty T. Ferguson speaks during the Oct. 29 county commission meeting. 

The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners upheld Mayor Carlos Gimenez’ veto of Barbara J. Jordan’s resolution to place additional oversight of racing in Miami-Dade County.

The legislation is a part of a conflict between opponents and supporters of Formula One racing coming to Miami Gardens, around Hard Rock Stadium.

Jordan, Betty T. Ferguson, the NAACP and members of the Underrepresented People’s Positive Action Council are against a Formula One Grand Prix being so close to the residential neighborhoods that surround the stadium. Stephen M. Ross, Formula One and businesses in the county’s tourism industry want the race.

“Just as much as you may be determined to have it, we’re determined to not have it in our bedroom community,” Jordan said.

Ferguson is a former county commissioner and chairwoman of the Underrepresented People’s Action Council. She has been leading protests at home games of the Miami Dolphins, who is owned by Ross and plays at the stadium.

“I feel that the community was totally ignored, totally disrespected and our commissioner was disrespected,” Ferguson said. “Not enough commissioners were brave enough to stand up to the mayor and override his veto.”

The vote was 5-7.

The commissioners who voted to uphold the veto are Sally Heyman of District 4, Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Sosa for District 6, Jose “Pepe” Diaz of District 12, Javier D. Souto of District 10 and Esteban L. Bovo Jr. of District 13.

For the veto override were District 3 Commissioner and Board Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson, District 2 Commissioner Jean Monestime, District 5 Commissioner Eileen Higgins, District 7 Commissioner Xavier Suarez, District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, District 9 Commissioner Deniss C. Moss and Jordan.

District 11 Commissioner Joe A. Martinez was absent.

In a statement, Bovo wrote that the upheld veto allows a dialogue between both sides to continue.

“After today’s vote, it is evident that Miami-Dade County needs additional time to understand the impacts of the race. We need to keep negotiations on the table and, ultimately, residents must have the final say. Additionally, while I strongly support F1 in Miami-Dade County, I will continue to vote against tax subsidies given to the Dolphins organization for signature events. I look forward to more community involvement in the process.”

Jordan said from the dais she will also no longer support subsidies for the Dolphins. She supported a tax break given to the Dolphins to build a practice facility next to Hard Rock Stadium.

Opponents of Formula One in Miami Gardens needed a supermajority of 8 votes to override the veto.

Jordan’s office did not respond as of press time to the need for 8 votes to override a veto. Her resolution had received 8 votes.

For Miami Gardens only, Jordan’s resolution would have required county commission approval of races, which require the closure of roads next to residential neighborhoods. The resolution would have also required a noise, traffic and air study and made it so the mayor has to make sure county commissioners have the materials before they vote.

“That’s why I brought this item, so you can have a voice,” Jordan said.

In a message with his veto, Gimenez wrote the resolution was too early.

“This legislation would prohibit the Formula One race from taking place in its current form,” Gimenez wrote in a message with the veto. “And while I remain sensitive to residents’ concerns in Miami Gardens, I believe it is premature to attempt to block an event of the magnitude of Formula 1 outright.”

Gimenez criticized a report from the Office of Commission Auditor writing that it be investigated.

Gimenez wrote the following of the report: the County’s Division of Environmental Resources Management never reviewed it, information from an air quality scientist was missing, that the report about Formula 1 “falls short” of the requirements of the Commission Auditor to provide “objective, independent, professional analysis.”

The missing information was that the monitoring network of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality “has not shown any adverse effects attributable to F1.” The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is headquartered in Austin where the only other Formula 1 race in the country takes place.

“The air quality was not tested a thousand feet away but on the race track itself,” Gimenez said on Nov. 19. “I believe it is my duty to say there is another set of facts we need to look at. And the Commission Auditor’s report, in my opinion, was biased and not complete.”

At the Oct. 29 County meeting Commissioner Moss presented Homestead-Motor Speedway as an idea but Formula One declined building a circuit near the racecourse in Homestead, citing costs and time.

Formula One sent a letter to Gimenez, Jordan and Moss on Nov. 12 saying the idea of renovating the Homestead speedway cannot be done.

“We conservatively estimate a capital expense in excess of $250,000,000 and a timeline of three to five years to design and build a circuit and amenities that align with our vision for the spectacle that we can create in the Miami marketplace.”

If Formula One’s plans move forward, races will commence in Miami Gardens in May 2021 on a 10-year contract.

Despite the vote to uphold the veto, Ferguson said she is getting ready for the next step.

“The mayor for all practical purposes lobbied for the Dolphins. What can I say? We’re just going to have to gear up for round 2.”

Ferguson has retained Dubbin & Kravetz but she declined commenting about possible litigation.

On Oct. 31, Samuel J. Dubbin sent a letter to Gimenez asking for a meeting between residents, the Dolphins and Formula One. Dubbin challenged the estimated amount of money the Formula One event would generate.

“Montreal promoters self-reported $65 million. Australia had a major accounting firm do a study and they reported $42 million. Our projection for Miami-Dade at $49 million seems reasonable. So, how do the Dolphins and F1 come up with $400 million?”

Ferguson said the demonstrations she has organized will continue.

“We are definitely going to continue our protests of Dolphins home games leading up to and including the Super Bowl.”

Patricia Wright said she is against it because of the longterm damage it will do to the nearby community.

“We have six schools in the area,” Wright said. “For 10 years, it’s going to be destructive to our community.”

Wright is a candidate for Miami Gardens city council seat 3.

Seat 5 candidate Francis Dave Ragoo said the vote is unfortunate but not the end.

“We are going to use every opportunity within our constitutional rights to make sure F1 does not take place in our bedroom community,” Ragoo said. “We are not against Formula One taking place in Dade County, we are against it taking place in Miami Gardens, in our bedroom community, amongst our residents.”

Ruban Roberts is president of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the NAACP and attended the Nov. 19 meeting. Roberts said he is very disappointed the mayor’s veto was upheld and thinks community involvement should have been better.

“I feel the way it was handled was lackluster,” Robert said. “The community was brought in when the deal was already made. The way this whole thing has been presented lacked consideration for residents of Miami Gardens.”

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