Commissioner Souto’s Response to Miami Today News Editorial

I read your editorial commentary “As big issues wait, commissioners fritter away ‘free’ time.” In the editorial you mentioned my concerns with regards to soccer park approval of a finding of necessity for a proposed Miami-Dade County Regional Soccer Park and Stadium to be located at theoretical 9000 NW 58 Street.

This application is being processed as a Government Facility application to allow the Park & Recreation Department to develop a 37 acre site with a Miami-Dade Regional Soccer Park and Soccer Stadium in northwest Miami-Dade County on a former landfill next to 10 acres of Florida Power and Light (FPL) easement property with high voltage transmission lines.

This item appeared on the Agenda of the Board of County Commissioners without prior notice or any information on whether proper analysis have been conducted on this former landfill to determine that it is a suitable site for a soccer park where you will have children running, falling, scraping their knees and elbows on the turf and coming into direct contact with soil or mud on rainy days that percolates from a site that we can predict with a high level of probability has contamination, let alone the combination of site contamination combined with the electromagnetic emanations coming from the high voltage transmission lines.

My job, as an elected official tasked with voting to move this item forward or to delay this item if the issues are not fully vetted, is to ask questions of those who seek to rush this item forward and to determine if proceeding may not be in the best interest of the residents and taxpayers of our community. So if I ask to see environmental reports on this site, which the Parks Department should readily have, since they acquired this parcel five years ago in 20 07 according to the item presented to the Board, I don’t believe that I am “frittering away free time” or engaged in a “turf war.” I would hope the Parks Department would have conducted extensive environmental testing through our own Department of Environmental Resource Management prior to acquiring the parcel or within the five years since they acquired the parcel. Just two days after I expressed my concerns with the rush to move this item forward without the proper information concerning the environmental assessment, the Parks Department discovered arsenic poison in the soil at Kendall Indian Hammocks Park and we have closed down neighborhood parks before after discovering high levels of arsenic and other contaminants in toddler playgrounds (tot lots).

I also questioned the rush to push this item forward when there was no funding identified for this project whatsoever, not even minimal monies for the design of a park and soccer facility, so why the rush.

I have seen enough of these rush jobs over the years and regret supporting some that seemed very worthwhile and had the support of the district commissioner. One was a proposal for redeveloping the Homestead Air Force Base after Hurricane Andrew with the promise of jobs for South Dade and a boost in the economy. Have we forgotten the County spending $23 million to build a parking garage in Liberty City using money meant to battle poverty under the guise of a biotech project pushed by snake oil salesman Dennis Stackhouse. Then there was the rush to build a baseball stadium
in South Dade in order to attract a Major League Team for spring training. There was the sudden urgency to purchase thousands of Prius and other motor vehicles that later were later stored away unused for five years or more in a Metrorail parking garage for years, while their factory warranties expired. Some of you will recall the $2 0 million lawsuit against the County from a Canadian developer for the fiasco involving the redevelopment of the Opa-Locka Airport. The County rushing to spend hundreds of millions to purchase Japanese trains for the airport, years before they were ready to install them and then having to pay the Japanese to exercise them for us and watching the warranties expire while they sat in Japan. I can continue to name many more projects like this that were pushed through the dais with the promise of jobs, economic development and great benefit for the community and none met these promises. Pardon me for having a modicum of skepticism, when I hear these great pitches over and over again. I want to know who is really behind developing this project, which we will soon know when the proposals come back. I expect some people already know who will be returning a submission, but I also want to know who those interests are and I think the public wants and deserves to know as well. I have heard rumors about international companies that have done substantial business with the County having interest in developing a world class soccer facility in this community. In light of all these uncertainties and a serious lack of documentation presented in support of this item, I could not understand and still cannot understand the rush to push this forward, but in the end we will all learn what is truly behind this seemingly innocuous item.

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