The Biscayne Times

Jan 23rd
Two Layers of Gov’t., Explained PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jack King, BT Contributor   
August 2017

Plus fond memories of old stadiums and a former mayor

A Pix_JackKing_8-17few things I’ve always wondered about....

When I moved to Miami from West Palm Beach in the early 1970s, I was trying to figure out why Dade County had two layers of government. The usual answer I got was that the county government was more equipped to handle the “big issues,” while the cities were better at handling the smaller, local issues. What that really meant was that the county was better equipped (read: had money) to handle the big things.

Really? When Miami International Airport was built, it was on City of Miami land. Same for the seaport. And just about everything else in Dade County that had a public purpose. The county got the land for free, and the city got a nice thank-you note.

This has been happening for the past 70 years, with the latest land grabs centering on the waterfront property in downtown Miami, where the American Airlines Arena, the Frost Museum of Science, and the Pérez Art Museum Miami are situated. You’d think that if you’re putting up three giant buildings with limited sight lines of the bay, you wouldn’t have to build them on the waterfront. Ah, yes, the free land thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I like those buildings. I just don’t think they should be on the waterfront. The AAA could have been in Doral. The science museum could have been underground. The art museum could have been right next to a Metrorail station. As a matter of fact, all three should be next to Metrorail stations. Remember how convenient it was to go to Heat games when the arena was in Overtown -- right next to the Metrorail station?

And what was wrong with the old Miami Arena? It was the right size for rock concerts and other events. It was even the right size for the Heat -- until they started winning and Heat ownership (hey, Micky!) wanted a bigger place and on the water.

And then we have the great Marlins Park, right on the site of the old Orange Bowl. A great pick for baseball. After all, Cubans live in that neighborhood and they love baseball. That’s true, but they didn’t loving paying $50 for a ticket to see a game. Parking? Don’t even ask. And the parking garage was to be filled with retail shops to reduce the parking cost. What retail shops? Well, the sites were there, but there were no stores. This is what happens when you have a governmental entity (the City of Miami and Miami Parking Authority) running a retail operation.

What was wrong with the old Orange Bowl site for baseball? Remember, the Marlins moved to Joe Robbie (football) stadium for a few years until the city came through with new digs. I saw a few midweek day games there and had a lot of fun. It wasn’t Yankee Stadium, but it was sure like sitting on third base at Wrigley Field.

When I came back to Miami in early 1980s, I worked for the weekly Miami Beach Sun Post. I was living in the Grove, in a wonderful postwar apartment building called Grove Hill. Yeah, I know, not the one there now, but it was on the same spot. Everybody was getting a divorce (not me, I already was) and the pool was packed every evening.

I ran in to a woman I’d known from college who was working on Xavier Suarez’s first Miami City Commission campaign. The Big X and I hit it off, and he went on to win Miami’s first all-Hispanic city commission runoff, against Maurice Ferré. I thought it was normal in Miami to have a Cuban-Puerto Rican election!

It was the beginning of a great career for Big X, and a long-term relationship for us. Hell, how many people do you know who win elections in Miami who have an engineering and a law degree?

Suarez is an odd bird who loves Miami and its people. These days you seldom hear about him on the county commission; he prefers to work out of the limelight. He just gets stuff done.

He could have run for higher office, but I think his love of his new country and Miami kept him here. He’s certainly one of my heroes. I truly wish there were more Cuban-American politicians who felt the way he does and do what he does.

When the Big X was running in the City of Miami, all of the elections were citywide. No districts. And it made for some wonderfully weird situations. Rosario Kennedy, Joe Carollo, J.L. Plummer, Victor De Yurre, David Kennedy, and Xavier Suarez all served on the Miami City Commission at one time or another, and they one thing in common: They all lived in Coconut Grove. Miami population: 450,000. Coconut Grove population: 20,000.

Go figure.


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