In 1968 the portable AM radios were all playing a young Mick Jagger singing, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might get what you need.” In 1968, Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan was three years out from getting her bachelor’s degree from Morris Brown College. She had to have heard this song.
It appears that she forgot the lyrics.
Commissioner Jordan failed in her efforts to block Formula 1 racing at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, setting off a firestorm last week.
Jordan had been pushing for legislation which would have required Miami Gardens’ approval to run the race in 2021. The failed vote came after Jordan pleaded with every other Commissioner to support her and oppose Mayor Gimenez, a staunch supporter of Formula 1. But this time around, Gimenez didn’t have to use his veto. Jordan’s fellow commissioners broke with her.
Late last year, Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed an earlier proposal by Jordan to kill the race. At the time, she came out swinging against the Mayor, claiming that he was speaking out of both sides of his mouth, supporting the race when speaking to one constituency while seeming to want to help the Miami Gardens it while talking to those in that community.
Jordan recognized from the dais that her rhetoric might have gone too far, but she also said Gimenez was out of line by continuing to push for Formula 1 when she opposed it. Jordan lashed out hard when she didn’t get her way.
“I may be out of line, but as far as I’m concerned, the Mayor is out of line because this is not his community,” she said.
And I, Grant Miller, resented that line. Barbara Jordan does represent a part of Miami-Dade County, but the Mayor also represents that same part of the County, as well as every other town and neighborhood.
We are ONE community. It doesn’t belong to her, like a feudal fiefdom, nor it the Mayor’s sole dominion. Jordan’s comments only served to divide us and stoke anger in the Miami Gardens community over an issue that doesn’t deserve it.
As an aside, Commissioner Jordon might be surprised to know that I was born in the late 1950s at Jackson Memorial Hospital. I grew up at 19541 NW 7th Court, right next to Miami Norland Senior High. The Hard Rock Stadium would be built later about a mile and a half from by boyhood home.
My belief is that we are one community with one goal. That goal is to make Miami-Dade County the best place to live, work, and play. The heated rhetoric coming from Commissioner Jordan and the officials of Miami Gardens and the responses from the advocates of Formula 1 has gotten under my skin.
Like every Commissioner, Jordan was elected to speak her mind and marshal forces that see eye-to-eye with her. Her job is to fight for what she believes in and try to stop what she believes is wrong for residents of the neighborhoods she represents, including Miami Gardens. She did all of that, but ultimately lost.
When it appeared she didn’t have the votes to block the race again, she could have and should have pivoted. She could have sought to get compromises and conditions that would have gotten some better protection and participation from the County and the event organizers. Commissioner Jordan didn’t do that. Simply put, she blew it. This became a case of either her way or the highway. Or in this case, a racetrack that will cause much less disruption to the surrounding neighborhoods and community than other events, like RollingLoud that are already held at the Stadium.
The racetrack won.
Although I have been critical of Carlos Gimenez from time-to time, he is right much of the time. And he’s right on Formula 1 racing.
The Mayor believes the economic benefits that Formula 1 racing will bring to all of Miami-Dade County as a whole should be embraced with open arms. As a gesture of goodwill, he requested all interested parties to sit at the same negotiating table to come up with solutions for the problems of noise, pollution and traffic. And Barbara Jordan and the opposition leader, former Commissioner, Betty Ferguson, shut the door in his face.
After the vote, Jordan and Ferguson even took it a step further and announced a new lawsuit would be filed to stop the race, the next salvo in the fight against Formula 1.
Now the courts will have their say, which is the way democracy works in America. The courts always have the final say, even if they say “Case dismissed”. The reflex of drafting a motion for an injunction may give a momentary sense of vindication, but will not likely yield anything productive for Miami Gardens.
The lawsuit Jordan spoke about will likely lose and even the possibility that she could get a temporary injunction to block the race is razor thin.
You can attract a certain amount of attention by setting your hair on fire. But when the fire is out and your scalp is sizzled, you don’t have a lot to show for your efforts. Democracy is about standing up for your principles. It’s also about recognizing that goodwill and compromise, which Jordan is usually know for, can lead to healthy outcomes.
It’s often said that the best deal overall outcome is one in which both parties leave the bargaining table less than completely satisfied. Barbara Jordan is rejecting the chance to take a seat at the table.
I would encourage Commissioner Jordan to think back on those words that were first expressed in 1968. You didn’t get what you wanted. Try sitting down and talking. You just might find, and the community might find, you can get what you need.