Dolphins court Black voters for support

caines | 5/2/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Concerns of the Black community

About 50 people filled the offices of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation [MLKEDC] in Liberty City last week in order to discuss the lack of community benefits in the $289 million grant for Dolphin Stadium. Board Chairman Billy Hardemon said he opposes the plan at least in its current form. The county commissioners did the right think by putting this in the hands of the voters unlike when they voted for the Marlins deal, he said. But I just dont believe they really read it because I dont see anything in the Dolphins plan that benefits Blacks. If they want my support, theyre going to have to show me a community development agreement that specifically includes us. I have problems giving tax dollars to a billionaire for his own private asset. We need to be very clear when representatives from the Dolphins come to our community and tell them its not about what we want but rather what the Black community deserves, said local businessman Cuthbert Harewood. I think the failure of the Marlins deal frightened some of our county commissioners thats why they put this in the hands of the voters, said attorney Keon Hardemon. But they should be serving as our advocates. They shunned their responsibility as our elected officials. We all know someone that paid the price a long time ago, said School Board Member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall. We need to be asking serious questions and making sure that theres something in this deal for us. Im going to vote my conscience and urge you not to allow yourselves to be bought for a pittance. The Rev. Dr. Willie E. Sims, Jr., said he supports the deal and spoke during the meeting as a member of Miami First. I know the history we all do, he said. The rail that was promised to us went to Hialeah, the tunnel thats being built has very few if any Blacks working on it especially those who are being paid the big bucks. The Marlins shafted us big time making sure that their deal only benefited those who speak Spanish. This plan is different. The Dolphins are the biggest taxpayers in the County. The renovations would drive the tourism market and thats where Miami makes most of its money. This will bring jobs that we sorely need. I dont understand why people want to kill a project to which we could easily attach ourselves and from which Blacks can benefit.

Continuing negotiations

Miami Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Bill Diggs met with Dolphins officials last Friday and says that based on their conversation, he believes that a community agreement will be ready for public viewing within the next few days. The Dolphins understand the value of building a diverse workforce and I believe they realize that there is great disparity here in Miami-Dade County in terms of jobs being given to Black contractors and other Black employees. They have promised that as the community agreement unfolds, what we will not see is the way the Marlins discounted Blacks. Its all in the details. I am not a paid advocate for the Dolphins I represent an organization whose mission is to promote economic development in the Black community. Were going to track the jobs that come from this project and not just for Blacks but how diverse the workforce is, how gender-inclusive it is. And we want to see where the workers come from that is where do they reside. Blacks have a right to be gun shy given the history of Miami. Weve been promised a lot of things and watched nothing come true. All four of the Black county commissioners spoke with The Miami Times. Each of them said they were continuing to monitor the situation. Their concerns were similar: making sure the public was correctly informed about the pros and cons of the plan; placing the burden of proof on the Dolphins in terms of why voters should support the plan; ensure that there is an aggressive plan to hire small Black businesses and Black workers. In addition, they urged Blacks to continue to call their offices with concerns and said they were committed to following up to make sure the Dolphins keep their promises. Specifically, County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, in response to comments from MLKEDCs leadership, said she remains open to working with them, or other groups, in order to help them identify specific benefits for their constituencies but had not been approached by MLKECD prior to the day they voted to put the decision for approving the Dolphins plan in the hands of the voters. Clearly my District stands to gain the most from the Dolphins plan thats why I sponsored the legislation that went to the State for approval and why I was a primary sponsor for the Countys plan, she said. We have to remember that one can talk about diversity but not set asides for one specific race or group because thats forbidden by federal law. I continue to remind people that there is a big difference between what a commissioner can do whose job is to represent an entire district versus what a grassroots group can do. People have a lot more power than they know they just have to utilize it properly.

Latest developments

Jotkoff emphasized that the 4,000 jobs projected to come as a result of the renovation project are for full-time workers and that the number of positions is a conservative estimate and are mostly associated with the construction. But were going to need engineers, architects and other related positions, he said. There will be more jobs that will be part-time when we secure Super Bowls and international sporting events. But Sun Life Stadium is also partnering with Operation 305, along with the South Florida Workforce to make sure the benefits of this project stay in Miami-Dade County. We will be working with Operation 305 and local business leaders to recruit local small businesses and local workers for the construction and ensure that we are hiring a diverse Miami-Dade workforce for this project, said Dolphins CEO Mike Dee. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com