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Friday, July 20, 2018

Commissioner Russell's take on the Melreese vote

For a guy whose political career began with a park, it may ironically end because of a park. I reached out to our Commissioner Ken Russell and asked him for an explanation for his vote regarding the Melreese Golf Course. I know many people are upset about his vote; he had the power at the Commission meeting and should have stood up to the Beckham group and Jorge Mas, they are bullies. Once the door was open, regarding private development, or any development in the city parks, it will be a disaster for years go come.

The District Commissioner's wishes should be respected, there was a reason Willy Gort and the neighbors who live next to the park don't want over-development in the park. One day, when Ken wants something for the Grove, we may not get the votes from the other commissioners since apparently the district commissioner's wishes don't count now. And the whole thing seemed like a show, because the outcome is so predictable in Miami. Just once we thought we had a hero, someone standing up for the wishes of the community, but it's business as usual.

This project is a huge project, it's not just a soccer stadium, the stadium is now accompanied by 96 businesses, a 500 room hotel, which is now 750 room and if Commissioner Joe Carollo has his way, 1000 rooms or more;  a conference center, a shopping mall and 400,000 square feet of office space and a minimum of 5000 parking spaces.  All this in a public park. At the entrance to the airport. 


The Beckham group is taking advantage of residents and the city commission and the mayor, making fools of all the taxpayers. It's not about soccer. It's about selling off/renting off valuable city owned green space. Voters will most likely vote in favor of the project in November because they will be fed a load of lies from now until then, telling them it will reduce taxes and bring soccer to Miami. They will be told that the park/golf course did not turn a profit, even though parks are not meant to turn a profit. It won't explained how they commandeered public park land to build a hotel, offices and a mall, because according to Commissioner Joe Carollo, the City of Miami needs a mall like Dadeland (his words), in this age of online shopping and dying malls. When one day condos, restaurants or offices start appearing in our local parks in Coconut Grove, you can remember this was the tipping point.


Here's Ken's explanation.

Hi Neighbors,

It was a tough vote this week at a special City Commission meeting regarding the Beckham group’s proposal.  From the hundreds of emails I’ve received, I know that many are happy, many are disappointed, and many just want more details. To start with, let me clarify what was approved at Commission yesterday.  We did not approve a soccer stadium. The commission voted to place an item on this November’s ballot asking voters if they want this or not. Specifically, asking if residents want the City of Miami to negotiate with the Beckham group to convert 130 acres of what is currently the Melreese Country Club near the airport into an approximately 60 acre open space Central Park, and a 70 acre development including a soccer stadium with restaurant, retail, hotel, and tech hub office complex. It’s a lot.  It’s a lot of potential development, but also the largest potential free and open park that the city has ever had. The potential development also includes a multi story driving range and 12 open public soccer fields. Theoretically, the ancillary commercial development would fund the stadium and green space allowing for no cost to Miami but rather a revenue stream and fair market rent. As the Beckham Group holds the only franchise with Major League Soccer to build a stadium in Miami, the ballot question also asks voters if the city should waive its normal procurement process to negotiate a lease directly with this group. Competitive bidding is mandatory in our charter but can and has been waived in the past through voter referendum. To complicate issues, the current golf course sits on deeply contaminated soil and is home to the very effective children’s golf charity, The First Tee. 

I am not here to defend or promote the intended project. I voted to put this forward to the voters so that they can decide what to do with their property.  I stand by my vote, but it was a very difficult decision. I would not allow this on the ballot unless I believed that it was a viable option that the public could consider. The status quo of the country club is of course a viable option as well. 

In last week’s meeting, the public and the Commission got their first in-depth look at the proposal. It was not good enough. The public outreach had been lacking, the financials of the deal were light, and the risk to green space was unclear. I had been receiving concerns from many residents and I vocalized those concerns in a specific list of demands that would need to be met and formalized in a term sheet before I could consider putting the proposal to the voters. I requested a special follow up Commission Meeting yesterday and asked for these commitments:

No Net Loss to Parks and Green Space. Although a tremendous amount of new park space and open soccer fields would be created on site, any commercial development on site would have to yield equivalent new park or green spaces throughout the city — All at the Beckham Group’s cost and responsibility.

Preservation and enhancement of the First Tee program that mentors children and builds character through golf and education. This would have to be done on site at the proposed driving range and classrooms and at neighboring 18-hole golf courses including Miami Springs Golf Course which is less than four miles away.

The City of Miami would not be responsible for any of the cost of the development, stadium, and Central Park, including no city of Miami money for any of the contamination remediation — no matter how bad it gets.

The Beckham Group would pay better than fair market value for the property. In addition to a base rent of $3.5 million per year as valued by independent appraisals, I requested the greater of that or 5% of all gross revenue earned on site by the Beckham group and affiliates, plus 1% of all capital transactions.  When they make money, the city would make money as well.

A living wage of no less than $15/hr for ALL employees on site.  They expect approximately 1400 permanent on-site jobs so this was an important one for me and has never been done in a non-subsidized stadium complex deal.  This includes groundskeepers, janitors, ticket takers, and everyone. For the employees of third party tenants that they would sub-lease to, I suggested a stepped increase over four years from $11 to $15.

By yesterday, the Beckham Group had agreed to every one of these concessions so I am comfortable with this proposal going before the voters.  There is a long way to go for this to become a reality though, so I remain skeptical on behalf of the residents who have been burned in stadium deals before. If the voters approve the concept, the city would negotiate a detailed lease that would come back to City Commission. A complete traffic study and analysis of green space impact and public outreach campaign would all need to happen before I would consider voting on that lease.

I’d like to thank everyone for their passionate advocacy for and against this project. I do not know if it will happen, but I do know that it is yours to decide. 

Your commissioner,
Ken Russell,
Coconut Grove

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27 Comments:

Blogger Elvis Cruz said...

What happened to Ken Russell?

Remember the guy who cut his teeth on public involvement by protecting his neighborhood park?

Did he get seduced by the power?

Ken, you have enabled a sweetheart deal for billionaires to greed-grab public park land.

Ken, please come back to the light. Please make a motion to reconsider at the next City Commission meeting. You can do that under the rules.

If you don't think Melreese should remain a golf course, then make it ALL a park. A glorious, wonderful park. Why is that choice not on the ballot?

You don't need this political albatross hanging around your neck for the rest of your career.



Elvis Cruz
631 NE 57 Street
Miami, FL 33137
305 754 1420

July 20, 2018 7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don’t even waste your time reading his bullshit. He knew from Day 1 he was going to support this project. The delayed meeting was totally planned and total nonsense. He’s a lousy actor. Go back to swinging your yo-yo. We need a Commissioner who will not sell out to wealthy supporters of pet projects and cut deals in the dark. Period, end of story.

July 20, 2018 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lame explanation. He should have voted against it. That's an awful location. Apart from all the obvious problems with the deal, traffic around there is already absolutely dreadful and this is just going to make it worse.

July 20, 2018 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I told everyone when he acquired his new desk, “wait to see how long it takes for Ken to flip his coin...” well there you have it, he’s for the community-my ass!, Thanks a lot Ken...

July 20, 2018 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The commission voted to place an item on this November’s ballot asking voters if they want this or not." - essentially allowing the developer to campaign and market through a veneer of smokescreens and shady backroom deals to convince the (indigent) people of that neighborhood that a (office) "park" will be exactly what they need - if they can ever get there though the wonderfully maintained road system our city continually neglects.

July 20, 2018 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Net gain in park space through gross reduction. Very strange. Where is our Hyde Park Mr. Beckham?

July 20, 2018 12:00 PM  
Blogger Travis McGee said...

Ken has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a lightweight, for whom virtue-signaling is more important than substantive actions. Now, we can safely say that he's a coward who preferred to kick the can down the road than stand up to the interests that are lined up behind this boondoggle.

July 20, 2018 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with putting stuff like this on a ballot, unless you know better, most people assume that our commissioners have fully negotiated and vetted the best deal possible. It then becomes a take it or leave it proposition - do you want MLS in Miami? Then vote - yes otherwise no soccer. Same as the $400 million bond referendum - do you care about sea levels rising etc? Then vote - yes otherwise your homes and neighborhoods will be flooded. Nothing could be further from the truth Russell’s own statement says in 1 part that they agreed to his demands and then in another states if approved the city would negotiate a deal - therefore they agreed to consider his suggestions - meaningless. The only good news is Russell has finally shown his true colors and the patterns are becoming clear.

July 20, 2018 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to golf and use green space. We don't need more stadiums. Ken Russel is a typical democrat. Bought and Paid For.

July 20, 2018 2:53 PM  
Anonymous al crespo said...

I am currently writing a definitive story about Russell's actions in the last week. Thank you Travis McGee, I never got on the Busted Flush, but I was always a follower,and thanks to you once lived on a houseboat myself. I'll give you name credit for the term "virtue-signaling." That's certainly an apt description of what he does.

My story should be up by Monday/Tuesday.

al crespo

July 20, 2018 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not a boondogle, soccer will be very succesful in Miami especially if the stadium is finished prior to 2026 World Cup. However at the cost to public property and green space it was a mistake. Now he needs to deliver all the missing parks since the development boom of 2000s plus public rail.

July 20, 2018 4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good job Grapevine, Crespo and all who commented - What a crock of you-know-what from Russell. He could have stopped this in in its tracks but didn't have the nerve to do so. To me this was not a question of whether it should go to ballot or not, my question was how the hell did it get this far anyway. 'This is park land - no you can't have it!' Also, I don't think this is a democratic move - it's about big bucks and Carollo and Mas I'm sure are Republicans, and they are star struck by Beckham. Of course soccer would be great in Miami but that's not what this is about. It is a boondoggle.

July 20, 2018 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it’s very interesting that Willy Gort, the commissioner for the district where Melreese is located voted against it. I haven’t officially and analyzed any data but it appears there is a bit of a pattern with controversial votes. In that, I have noticed that the commissioner from the district that is being affected by a particular item will appear to be on the right side of the issue and supporting his constituents either fighting against it or for it and will then vote with what appears to be the will of his constituents but then the majority will vote the other way. Effectively giving cover to the affected district’s commissioner and allowing him to say I fought for you!!! It should be interesting to see what happens with the zoning board’s NCD recommendation. If the pattern continues Russell will vote for it but ultimately it will not pass and he will make a statement saying “I fought for my constituents but etc”. This form of government that was implemented to combat corruption appears to have been corrupted. But the good news is we no longer have that right turn only lane on Bird Rd and it only cost us $2.1 million to add more traffic congestion. Thanks Ken!!!

July 20, 2018 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

World cup will be played at Dolphins stadium - no way its coming down to the Magic City Casino!

July 20, 2018 4:43 PM  
Blogger Steve Hagen said...

Dear Miami Residents who are very concerned about and don't understand what may happen with about 123 acres of parkland owned by Miami residents, known as MELREESE GOLF COURSE. YOU MAY ALSO SIGN THE PETITION found at More Parks for Miami NOW also on Facebook. Over 400 SIGNERS TO date.

Due to space limitation, please go to More Parks for Miami NOW on Facebook to read 16 points to make this pig more acceptable. It is also posted on Ken Russell Face Book page

I encourage you to share this post.

You may have received this already via email. If so, look at this copy as there are changes.

I hope you have been paying attention to the proposal before the Miami City Commission to eliminate the City owned Melreese Golf Course / Country Club near the airport in exchange for a soccer complex and huge hybrid office / entertainment / shopping complex.

Below is an email I sent to Miami Mayor Suarez and Commissioners.

I hope you will agree with many of my 16 points.

I urge you to give your thoughts to the Mayor and Commissioners ASAP . (just copy their email addresses below)

If you send via email, I would appreciate being blind copied if you so choose. stevenmia@aol.com

As most, I am not fully informed about the details of the proposed development but I do know what great green parks need in order to attract repeat users on regular basis. If parks are not pleasant and have interesting landscaping to draw residents, they will fail.

I believe the proposed 58 acre of park in this location will fail and ultimately will also be covered with more commercial activity.

I know what is in the Parks Master Plan which the Commissioners should follow for the benefit of all residents city wide, not just those in the area of this proposal, nor only soccer fans.

Hold them to the Parks Master Plan!

There is HUGE opportunity here for 25 NEW neighborhood parks, IF they get it right.

But Mayor Suarez and Commission must act before the November vote. They must clarify and put in writing what is meant by "no net loss of parkland" amoung other items that need to occur as detailed below.

Otherwise, be prepared to spend money to defeat Beckham and Mas and vote NO.

Steve Hagen 305 754 0099. Stevenmia@aol.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Hagen
To: WGort ; KRussell ; JCarollo ; MReyes ; KHardemon ;FSuarez, FSuarez@miamigov.com

Sent: Sun, Jul 15, 2018 9:12 pm
Subject: Email & attachment on Freedom Park proposal

Miami Commissioners,

Please study my 16 points below on the
Miami Freedom Park proposal.

From the feedback I have received from residents on an email to hundreds of
Miami residents and leaders, you must provide park land replacement among other things or there will be a lot of very angry no voters.

Steve Hagen 305 754 0099


File: 16 points to make Freedom Park Proposal Fly, 4 pages.

July 16, 2018

An open letter to City of Miami Mayor Suarez and Commissioners,

I ask all of you to acknowledge receipt of this document.

Some of you know me as a very active advocate for green parks that are well landscaped as to create a desire in all age residents to want to enjoy them on regular repeat basis.

All size parks should be a source of pride to enjoy, not an uninteresting “open space” to be taken over by special interests.

Many park advocates may not agree with me, but I am not opposed to a soccer team and stadium in Miami and even some commercial development on some of the Melreese County Club site, however the proposal before you including the premature proposition needs a rewrite that reflects the stated needs of all Miami residents not just soccer fans.

You should consider what you have heard and discussed to date but you must first follow what Miami residents, yes Miami residents have expressed over three decades in the Comp Plan and the Parks Master Plan.

July 20, 2018 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a much better KR vote than the one about the 40 "historic" houses in the Grove.
For me it's about jobs for Miami residents -- lots and lots of them. How many people will benefit from this vs. how many people use a public golf course?

July 20, 2018 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Robin Parker said...

Al Crespo, I look forward to your report...

Ken Russell wants Miami's voters to decide...Well Ken, beginning back in 1925 Miami's voters have done great things voting:

http://digitalcollections.fiu.edu/tequesta/files/2000/00_1_02.pdf

And now, again through your belief in the lying, hollow promises of developers and their 'nonsense' projections is self-serving BS!

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me

July 20, 2018 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken Russell is a self absorbed little teenager who can’t even make up his mind about who he is, one day one haircut, the other a goatee. He clearly loves power and does not listen to his constituents. He should go back to playing with Yo-yos and leave the real decisions to the grownups. He also Tends to lie, lie, lie. He and his staff have to go.

July 20, 2018 6:51 PM  
Blogger Lance said...

Beckham sign the first 2 cheerleaders F Suarez and k Rusell.

July 20, 2018 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who didn't see this coming?

1. Russell crusaded for the park in front of his house to protect his property value. Powers that be took this as an opportunity to parade him as "Mr. Coconut Grove" and run him for commissioner. He never had any intention or cared about all the other parks affected by the ash. He was finally forced to do something about Douglas Park.

2. He never voted in a midterm election. He only voted in presidential elections. It is ironic that he feels it should be up to the voters when his personal voting record is dismal as best. I will never get over how people were willing to overlook his dismal voting record. Voting is the mark of a good citizen. If you don't care enough to vote, well, you really don't care.

3. Did anyone miss the part where he promoted himself as a businessman and not a politician?

So, there you go. You, dear voters, were conned by a local that never even bothered to vote in over half the elections. We have dearly paid for his lack of experience while we watch downtown Grove get overrun with high-rises. He hasn't stopped anything that is destroying the Grove. Remember this as you leave an extra hour early for the airport and sit in traffic, hoping you make it to the plane in time.

July 21, 2018 5:10 AM  
Blogger Elvis Cruz said...

Michael Lewis at Miami Today wrote an excellent op-ed on the situation:

http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2018/07/17/it-takes-guts-to-keep-developers-off-city-golf-courses-turf/

July 21, 2018 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Park land, park land, park land. That is a joke. You people are delusional. It is a golf course that few people can use except those that pay to play. I'd would rather have the 58-60 acre park and the soccer fields which are sorely needed. If you want to insist it is park land then shut down the golf course and let's use it as a park. Walk and bike along the no longer used golf cart paths and picnic on the greens.

July 21, 2018 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Joe for stating what everyone seems to have missed...Melreese IS NOT A PUBLIC PARK unless you consider paying $150 for a round of golf a public park.

July 23, 2018 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you seem to be missing is regardless of it’s current use, it is a public park. Current use is a public golf course but the land could be turned into another public use in the future. If this deal goes through the opportunity to change its use in the future will be gone. Big difference between public and private land use. We are signing away our rights to control the land use and can’t expect a for profit organization to do what is in the best interest of the public unless we get it agreed to upfront and its enforceable. This might be the best thing to do for the city but the big problem is that our leaders should have negotiated a “set in stone” deal to the public for approval not a “to be negotiated” deal after we already approved it. We will have lost our leverage by doing it this way. Unfortunately, our leaders appear starstruck and all too eager to fill up their campaign coffers to stand their ground and get us an actual set of deal terms to vote on. The real problem is we have no idea what they will agree to and negotiate away after we have approved it. At the very least we should have the right to reaffirm the deal once it is finalized.

July 23, 2018 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

https://www.local10.com/news/local/miami/man-caught-on-camera-starting-fire-at-melreese-country-club-manager-says - think this is coicidence???

July 25, 2018 2:44 PM  
Anonymous al crespo said...

For those who might have missed it my "Sellout" Russell story is here: http://www.thecrespogram.com/dont-stay-mad---get-even-july-19th.html

July 26, 2018 7:45 PM  
Blogger Alan Layng said...

it will be a failure? Miami not support soccer, look at Marlins

July 29, 2018 4:00 PM  

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