Plantiff Norman Braman is suing to quash a Dade County $3 billion redevelopment scheme that includes a new stadium for the Florida Marlins as a centerpiece. “Here is local government, for all of its history of scandal and inefficiency, trying at last to think big and be big, and finally haul Miami into the 21st Century,” writes the Miami Herald’s Greg Cote, “only to have the whole grand package jeopardized by one guy’s nuisance suit.”
In 1982, he led a campaign to defeat a city sales tax that would have renovated the Orange Bowl for the Dolphins. It was what led Joe Robbie to soon after announce he would build a stadium and move the team north. It was a harbinger of years of OB neglect that would lead to the Hurricanes also moving out and the old stadium being demolished. With that, Braman had drawn his line against public dollars for stadiums. Yet barely a decade later, in 1993, he owned the Philadelphia Eagles and offered to build a stadium only if the city would donate the land. Evidently, Braman had by then developed a moral distinction between getting public money and getting public land.
In 1999, Braman helped defeat a one-cent sales tax earmarked for a $1 billion mass transit plan for Miami. Hmm. Imagine that. A car dealer fighting mass transit! No vested interest there, right?
Now Braman is aiming his slingshot at big government again, but unlike the Biblical David, the little guy is no hero. He is just a rich little guy with a slingshot and a team of lawyers, slinging a lawsuit because, well — because he can.
(And perhaps because part of the Miami megaplan includes streetcars. Imagine! The car dealer is against mass transit again! What a coincidence!)
A Marlins fan should support a new, 37,000-seat retractable dome stadium (even if not thrilled about the OB site in Little Havana), but even nonfans should appreciate the benefit of how a thriving big-league sports team can knit a community.
Indeed, if we’re to put credence in the findings of Smith College’s Andrew Zimbalist, a big-league sports team can bond an entire city’s tax payers, though perhaps not in the way Cote is thinking of.