Mayoral Candidates: Don’t be an eclair, have a backbone

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Photo from Miami Herald
Grant Miller

Carlos Gimenez is term limited. He’s been at the wheel of Miami-Dade County for eight years. That has brought a crush of candidates forward. Four of them are sitting County Commissioners: Daniella Levine Cava, Esteban Bovo Jr., Jean Monestime and Xavier Suarez. That means that the four of them, all elected from single-member districts, now have to appeal to a countywide electorate.  On the issue of Formula One , Commissioner Bovo is the only one of the four who has taken that approach and he is wise to do so.

 

The upshot of that is the other three are all trying to be as non-controversial as unbuttered white toast. Every move, every vote is being weighed in the light of what’s best for their campaigns, not what’s best for Miami-Dade County as a whole, or even their districts.  Take the move to bring Formula One racing to the Hard Rock Stadium.

 


I’ve written before about the benefits that a two-day Formula One event would bring to Miami-Dade County. It would bring a group of tourists to South Florida who might normally visit us. These are well-heeled international travelers with the cash to turn their visit into a much longer stay than a single weekend.

 

And as diversified as our community has become, we are still a tourist destination.  And since we don’t have a castle and a mouse, we have to play to our strengths: our tropical climate and our wide sandy beaches.  It seems like it should be a no-brainer. But that’s where politics comes in.

 

To get Formula One racing, the County Commission needs to pass some local legislation.  Some people who live close to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens are against the race. They claim It’s because of the noise that the racecars will make circling the track.   And they talk about the exhaust from those races. But the real reason for the opposition seems to be that they feel put upon, forced to endure the physical toll that hosting such and event will have on their community.

 

I recognize that it will increase traffic on that weekend and make getting in and out of their neighborhoods as tough as it is on weekends when both the Hurricanes and the Dolphins play on the same weekend.  But to date, no one has Come up with an estimate of how much race car exhaust or noise will be felt in the surrounding neighborhoods, other than Formula One who recently released their findings, which clearly indicate that the noise experienced in neighboring homes will be no different than other outdoor evens on the stadium grounds, like Jazz in the Gardens or Rolling Loud.

 

We could use the Homestead Speedway as a model. On race days, the roads are congested, but the noise and the exhaust from the Nascar race cars isn’t felt much beyond the parking lot.

 

The mayoral candidates as a group, other than Bovo, want to be as non-offensive as they can. Bring the subject of Formula One and they’ll turn their answers to anything but whether they intend to vote it up or vote it down.  Each of them sees the Miami Gardens constituency as up for grabs and none of them is willing to dismiss their chances. On the other hand, they don’t want to alienate race fans, hoteliers, bar owners and others who might rethink a contribution to their campaigns if they vote no.  You have to give Commissioner Bovo credit for taking a broader perspective and the approach that we should be focusing on how to make the event work for the community, not trying to stop it. It is, after all, Formula One is prestigious event for any community to host and has strong economic benefits.

 

But while Levine Cava, Monestine And Suarez are fiddling, the opportunity to do something that will benefit the economy of the area could go up in smoke.  Formula One isn’t going to wait until after the election. The County Commission needs to stop stalling and take a vote now.

 

The people of the Miami-Dade County didn’t elect their Commissioners to only do what is in their individual political interest. They were elected to serve the public good. And sometimes that means taking a position that might be politically unpopular for a few in favor what will benefit the community as a whole.

 

John F. Kennedy wrote a book before he was President called “Profiles in Courage”, senators who defied the opinions of their party  and constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions.

 

The book prompted the creation of the Profiles in Courage Award, given it is given to individuals  who, by acting in accord with their conscience, risked their careers or lives by pursuing a larger vision of the national, state or local interest in opposition to  pressure from constituents or other local interests.

 

Both the book and the Award highlight that courage is never shown by hiding in the shadows.

 

President Roosevelt once said of William McKinley that he had all the backbone of a chocolate éclair. I hope that comparison doesn’t fit the Commissioners running for Mayor, but they’re starting to look more and more like a platter of French pastries.

 

They should do what they were elected to do: take a stand and let the chips fall where they may. They should vote to bring Formula One to Miami.


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