Braman’s public leak on Marlins

Wow, is Norman Braman a sore loser or what? The article in Miami Today, which quotes Mr. Braman, does not specify where the supposed 2003 Florida Marlins pro-forma financial projection was obtained, but only Freddie Mac regulators would be surprised if Braman were not the person behind the leak.

The article suggests that the Florida Marlins are in such bad financial condition that it would be a mistake for local governments to enter into any agreements with them. But the only concrete impression which can be taken from the limited data and sloppy presentation is that someone [Braman] is desperate to convince us of that position. However, not desperate enough to provide all the facts or the pro-forma financial itself. Given the importance of this issue to the community, to present the article as unbiased news was irresponsible. It should have been labeled as a Braman op-ed.

Here’s why: (more…)

Greight time to be a Marlins fan

On the eighteenth of September, the Florida Marlins scored eight runs and won their eighth straight game, which marked their eightieth win of the season. In the game, Mike Jacobs drove in his eighty-eighth run and the win was pitcher Scott Olsen’s eighth of the season.

OK, I’m a little giddy — workin’ on only eight hours … — and it might all turn out very differently, but as of this morning;

  1. The prospects for a Little Havana-based MLB stadium have never been better after a positive Florida Supreme Court ruling on a matter related to the Braman lawsuit.
  2. Our team’s eight young pitchers are the envy of MLB: Chris Volstad (age 21) / Ryan Tucker (21) / Andrew Miller (23) / Josh Johnson (24) / Scott Olsen (24) / Anibal Sanchez (24) / Ricky Nolasco (25) / Reynel Pinto (26) – FYI — that totals one hundred and eighty-eight years.
  3. My namesake [or ‘tocayo’], Jorge Cantu has hit 5 home runs in his last eight [OK actually 7] games to push his total to twenty-eight for the year. When he hit #25, the Marlins infield became the first MLB infield ever to each hit at least 25 home runs in a season — Ramirez (32) / Uggla (30) / Jacobs (32). To push that mark to 30 [sports records rounding fetish], would be amazing. Any achievement in a sport with the history and tradition of MLB, which can be described as ‘first ever’ is something to relish.
  4. One of our future stars, Cameron Maybin, after a good 2nd half of the season in the minors, was called up and is hitting in the eight-hundredths after his first 2 games. That won’t last, but he should next year.
  5. While highly unlikely, the win streak gives the Marlins the opportunity to come within 2 games of the 1st place Phillies [who are looking to win their eighth game in a row], if they sweep this weekend, dependent on the Mets, of course. Bottom line, heading into the next to last weekend of the season, the Marlins have a shot. Even, if they come up short, we end the season against the Mets in NY. Which means that we may yet have another opportunity to rip the heart — weak and timid as it may be — from the chest of those chronic losers [see historic 2007 collapse] in NY for the 2nd consecutive season. Think of it! One more chance to watch the anguish that comes with historic collapses written on the face of Met fans as they say goodbye to Shea Stadium in true NY Met fashion, a Chokapalooza festival! Someone pinch-hit me eight times.

All articles linked or referenced are copied in full at end of post.

South Florida
Marlins might get financing

By Juan Ortega and Sarah Talalay

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

September 19, 2008

Local officials rejoiced at a Florida Supreme Court ruling Thursday that gives them the authority to OK bonds for public projects without voter approval.

Community redevelopment agencies across Florida had been struggling after last September’s high court ruling in Strand vs. Escambia County. The court required a public vote before a government could dispense property-tax money to purchase bonds of longer than a year’s duration.

The ruling even held up financing for a Florida Marlins ballpark because it was tied to other projects using redevelopment dollars.

Now the court says long-term financial plans that pay off debt with future property tax increases are legal, even without voter approval. Delaying the plans for votes “would cause serious disruption” to local governments’ plans for community improvements, Justice Charles T. Wells wrote for the 4-2 majority.

Thursday’s ruling, which effectively reverses the earlier one, gives community redevelopment agencies more flexibility to approve big-ticket bonds.

“What it means is a flood of new activity across the state for CRAs,” said Gary Rogers, director of Lauderdale Lakes’ Community Redevelopment Agency and president-elect of the Florida Redevelopment Association.

The initial, unanimous ruling in Strand cast doubt on construction projects across Florida. Among them is a plan for $3 billion in projects in Miami, including the Marlins stadium, a port tunnel and debt on a performing arts center. Other projects in limbo: a $100 million resort project in Hollywood, affordable townhomes in downtown Delray Beach, and a town square master plan in Boynton Beach.

“It’s been a bottleneck of nearly a year, with huge frustration in project delays all over the state,” Rogers said.

Thursday’s news was particularly welcome for the Florida Marlins, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami. Their efforts to finance a $515 million ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl were held up by auto dealer Norman Braman’s lawsuit challenging how $3 billion in Miami projects were financed.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen was waiting for the Strand decision before ruling on the final count in Braman’s case: part of the financing requires a referendum because it relies on CRA dollars. Cohen has scheduled a hearing for Monday.

The team, city and county argue Strand does not require a public vote on the stadium. But they hope Thursday’s ruling clears up misconceptions about the ballpark and other projects.

“It’s not just about the stadium,” Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said. “It’s about building affordable housing and infrastructure and fixing up the parks in the area, building streets and sidewalks and flood mitigation, job creation-type projects.”

The ruling should also be a huge boost for the $100 million Marriott Ocean Village and Resort on Johnson Street in Hollywood beach. Hollywood officials had promised developers a city community redevelopment agency would secure bonds to pay for a 1,600-space parking garage.

Not everyone was cheering the ruling.

Attorney David Theriaque represented Gregory Strand, a Pensacola veterinarian who challenged an Escambia County road-widening project.

“We think it’s a very sad day for taxpayers,” Theriaque said. “This means local government can incur long-term debt without citizens being able to vote and decide whether that’s a good idea first.”

Staff Writers Linda Trischitta and Ihosvani Rodriguez contributed to this report.
Miami Herald
Posted on Fri, Sep. 19, 2008

Florida high court ruling clears path for Miami megaplan

Miami’s largest public works initiative in decades received a major legal boost Thursday, thanks to a Florida Supreme Court decision that likely green-lights financing for the $3 billion megaplan.

By extension, the Florida Marlins appear to have cleared the last legal hurdle blocking construction of a $515 million state-of-the-art facility the franchise has sought for nearly a decade.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz cited the Depression-era New Deal in addressing what the court’s decision means for the growth of his city amid a chaotic and stumbling economy.

”I think if we all retrench and go home and put our money in a shoebox under our bed, then I think you make a bad situation — financially, economically — you make a bad situation much worse,” said the mayor.

The Supreme Court’s ruling dealt with a case in Escambia County, but the decision has resonance in Miami and across Florida. The court ruled that voter referendums are not required when government spends community-redevelopment money to pay off bond debt.

The decision reversed an earlier ruling that had appeared to cast a cloud over the Miami plan’s financing.

The development money, usually administered by community redevelopment agencies, or CRAs, is the glue that holds Miami’s megaplan together. Although not used to directly fund the stadium, CRA money would flow to other pieces of the public works blueprint — freeing up separate dollars to pay for the stadium.

The high court’s ruling had been holding up the final court decision in auto dealer Norman Braman’s lawsuit attempting to derail the stadium. Thursday’s decision could well pave the way for the end of Braman’s case.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen had already tossed six of Braman’s seven lawsuit counts. Last week, Cohen killed a big chunk of Braman’s argument, saying a publicly financed stadium serves the public good.

The final count — over the plan’s financial structure — was on hold as she awaited the Escambia ruling.

It is not clear when Cohen — presiding over an unrelated jury trial this week — will rule. But the Supreme Court’s decision is a strong indication she will toss Braman’s final count.

Braman, vowing an appeal, took little heart in Thursday’s 4-2 court decision, noting three justices who wrote in favor will soon be gone. Then he took a swipe at what he called a ”celebratory press conference” at Miami City Hall.

”With a Wall Street Journal headline this morning saying it’s the worst economy with no help in sight, how could anyone even think of spending these type of dollars for a for-profit business?” Braman asked.

Replied Diaz: “Everyone’s focused on baseball. But the reality here is, it is really about affordable housing and infrastructure, and parks and the homeless.”

Diaz said CRA money will be used for affordable housing and to aid in moving Camillus House to a new Civic Center location. Beyond the 37,000-seat stadium in Little Havana, the public works plan will help build a $1 billion port tunnel, a park at Bicentennial, a streetcar system, and pay a $484 million construction debt at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said the projects will create much-needed employment for local residents.

”This is about making decisions that will move this community forward, and making sure Miami-Dade County prospers,” he said.

Braman sued Miami, Miami-Dade and the Florida Marlins in a bid to block the use of $499 million in public money to build the stadium and a parking garage. Braman also tried, but has failed, to halt construction on any of the other projects that use CRA money without voter approval.


The plan envisions some $800 million in CRA money for the projects, with only the ballpark to be built without use of anti-poverty funds. The stadium would be built mainly with tourist tax dollars collected through hotel rooms — and with the team covering about a quarter of the costs.

Marlins spokesman P.J. Loyello said the team will reserve comment until Judge Cohen rules.

Thursday’s ruling involved the case of Escambia County resident Dr. Gregory Strand, who challenged the use of property tax money to pay off a bond debt incurred for road work — without a public vote.

”We think the court’s decision makes it a very sad day for the taxpayers of Florida,” said Strand’s Tallahassee attorney, David Theriaque.

The 4-2 decision reversed an earlier ruling in Strand’s favor. The court agreed to rehear a motion after being inundated with similar cases from counties throughout the state that used CRA money after a precedent-setting ruling on a Miami Beach case dating to 1982.

In his order, Justice Charles T. Wells pointed to the Miami Beach case and said governments have relied on that ruling for 27 years in issuing “bond financing by local government authorities, including school boards, enabling the financing of many public works that have enhanced the quality of life in our state.”


Dissenting, Justice R. Fred Lewis made reference to a Bill Murray movie, saying an article in the state Constitution renders the Miami Beach case useless. ‘Like the hapless protagonist in Groundhog Day, this court will be forced to continuously relive this controversy until we `get it right,’ ” wrote Lewis.

The reversal is likely to have far-reaching implications throughout the state, where the spending of more than a billion dollars in CRA money hangs in the balance for dozens of projects, according to the state’s CRA association.

In Fort Lauderdale, CRA director Alfred Battle said the ruling provides the agency “greater flexibility to finance future projects designed to stimulate economic development in neighborhoods and business corridors.”

”This lessens the burden on taxpayers, and contributes to the long term viability of our urban areas,” said Carol Westmorland, executive director of the Florida Redevelopment Association.

Miami Herald staff writer Dan Christensen contributed to this report.

Judge Cohen punts even when she rules

I am glad that the stadium plan cleared this hurdle, but …

I had an earlier post which speculated on whether a judge could recuse themselves due to an election. But now, safely reelected, you would think that Judge Cohen would be free to provide a clear perspective on the case brought by Norman Braman against the Marlins and local governments. However, by ruling in the Marlins favor that a new stadium could serve the public good, but then noting — see Sarah Talalay’s blog — that the Marlins got a ‘sweet deal,’ she still seems more concerned about not appearing to endorse the stadium plan, even if the law did not allow her to rule against it.

I noted the following items in Judge Cohen’s ruling:

  • The financial condition of the Marlins is unknown to anyone except the Marlins and MLB [that sentence is a source of great sadness to this blogger].
  • Marlins consistently have among the lowest attendance figures in MLB.
  • Marlins are the seventh most watched MLB team on television.
  • The County will loan the Marlins $35 million for the construction of the stadium. The Marlins will repay that loan at $2.3 million per year for 30 years – that amount has incorrectly been referred to as rent.
  • Marlins will pay the City of Miami approx $4.6 million per year for parking spaces.
  • Braman claimed that several years ago Marlins were $60 million in debt.
  • 18 new stadiums since 1992 were constructed, are under construction, or are in pre-construction stage in cities throughout the nation … most with large contributions of public funds and significant revenue streams to the sports franchise.
  • Only two courts in the country have held that the building of sports facilities do not satisfy a paramount public purpose.
  • Judge agrees with Braman that the Marlins got a sweet deal and that they may not be able to honor their financial obligations.

Things I would have liked to see addressed in her ruling:

  • Why is it a sweet deal? In comparison to which of the other recent stadium financing agreement(s)?
  • Beyond the Braman testimony regarding possible Marlins debt years ago, what other facts contribute to her perception that the Marlins may not be able to meet their obligations?
  • What would account for government officials entering into a stadium agreement with the Marlins without having informed themselves as to their finances?
  • If the Marlins are deep in debt, is the sweet deal a necessary component to having a viable MLB franchise in Miami?
  • How much sweeter would the deal have to be in order for her not be concerned about the Marlins meeting their obligations to the county?

I would have expected a judicial ruling to either address the questions I list or avoid topics which are ‘not the business of the Court.’ So Judge Cohen, next time, please put up [quantify] or … edit more aggressively.

See a link to a PDF of her decision. See various complete Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald articles below.
South Florida
Marlins win major battle in lawsuit over stadium

By Sarah Talalay

7:57 PM EDT, September 9, 2008


The Florida Marlins say they will proceed with plans for a $515 million ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl after a Miami judge ruled Tuesday that the project serves a “paramount public purpose” – meaning public dollars can be used to build it.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen called the ballpark issue “contentious and emotional,” but said the law is clear in the case filed by auto dealer Norman Braman targeting the financing of $3 billion in Miami projects, including the ballpark.

“The job of this Court is to examine the facts and apply those facts to the law,” Cohen wrote.

The Marlins, Miami-Dade County and city of Miami will continue negotiating final construction and financing agreements and hope to present them to city and county commissioners in the coming weeks. The team plans to unveil renderings of the 37,000-seat ballpark shortly.

“This is a critical step in securing the long-term future of Major League Baseball in Miami,” Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement. “We will proceed immediately to finalize discussions with the County and the City to put in place all the long-awaited final agreements.”

Braman, however, vowed to fight on.

“We’re optimistic we’re going to prevail on appeal,” Braman said. “We’re going to take it to the district court and if necessary to the Supreme Court of the State of Florida.”

Cohen plans to rule on the case’s remaining count – whether a public vote is needed on a portion of the funding of the $3 billion in projects – after Sept. 15, as she is waiting for the state Supreme Court to rule in similar cases.

Regardless, the team, city and county believe they can move forward because the ballpark’s financing does not rely on property tax dollars. Braman, however, disagrees and says the funding for all the projects, including the stadium, must be subject to a public vote.
South Florida
Marlins Stadium Update No. 0-60
> Posted by Sarah Talalay at 11:40 PM

The Marlins scored a huge victory Tuesday when Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen ruled their ballpark serves a “paramount public purpose” – meaning public dollars can be used to help build it.

The team, Miami-Dade County and city of Miami believe the ruling in the case filed by auto dealer Norman Braman targeting the financing for $3 billion in Miami projects, including the ballpark, means they can move ahead with their plans for the $515 million stadium at the site of the former Orange Bowl.

They plan to step up negotiations of definitive construction, financing and other documents so they can bring them to city and county commissioners in the coming weeks. And the team says it will finally be able to share new renderings of the ballpark soon.

“We welcome Judge Cohen’s ruling, which confirms that our elected officials have made the right decision for the future of our community. It is unfortunate that so much time and so much of the public’s money has been wasted in this legal process,” Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement. “This is a critical step in securing the long-term future of Major League Baseball in Miami. We will proceed immediately to finalize discussions with the County and the City to put in place all the long-awaited final agreements.”

Interestingly, Cohen’s ruling indicated that she understood the ballpark issue is “contentious and emotional,” but acknowledged it was the court’s role to apply the law, not sentiment.

“While the Court agrees with Plaintiff that the Marlins are getting what amounts to a “sweet deal,” this is, put bluntly, not the business of this Court,” Cohen wrote in her 41-page ruling.

The team would like to begin construction by year’s end and open the 37,000-seat retractable roof ballpark in 2011. That time frame is getting exceedingly unlikely, but hasn’t been written off yet.

“Our plan is to recommend to the board that we proceed as we’ve always intended,” Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess said. “We’re happy about the project … We’re committed to a project and if you’re confident in your position, why would you stop?”

Braman, however, plans to continue his legal fight, taking his case to appellate court.

“We’re disappointed in the judge’s ruling, but not that surprised by it,” Braman said. “We’re going to be appealing the judge’s decision, we’re optimistic we’re going to prevail on appeal. This is the first round of a fight, that we expected would last beyond the lower court.”

Braman said he will take the case to appellate court and even as far as the Florida Supreme Court, if necessary.

He also quoted Winston Churchill as saying “Never, never, never, never, never, never surrender your principles. Fight on.”

Besides, he said, “This is the end of the third inning of a nine-inning game. It’s got six more innings to go.”

Among the items Braman is referring to is the one remaining count in his case on which Cohen has yet to rule: whether a portion of the financing for the $3 billion in city projects must go to a vote of the public.

Cohen said she will not rule until after Sept. 15, as she is waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to rule on similar cases.

But the team, city and county say that ruling is immaterial to the ballpark since the financing for the venue does not rely on property taxes.

Braman, however, disagrees. He believes the entire financing package for the Miami projects must go to public referendum.

Burgess and Marlins President David Samson say the referendum question is unrelated to the ballpark.

“All I can say is he can avail himself of whatever legal process is his right,” Samson said. “As far as we’re concerned this is the right result. We’re very confident it will be upheld at any and all appellate levels.”

Braman was not shocked to learn the team plans to move forward.

“There’s nothing here that surprises me,” Braman said. “They still have to get bonding. If they get someone silly enough to get them bonding, if they’re willing to take that risk, that’s their problem, not mine.”
Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Sep. 10, 2008
Judge: Florida Marlins stadium serves public good


The Florida Marlins took a major stride Tuesday in their lengthy quest for a permanent South Florida home, when a judge ruled that a new ballpark funded primarily through tax dollars serves the public good.

With Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen’s ruling, the county and Marlins said they will move ahead with construction of the $515 million, 37,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium in Little Havana.

”This is the one we’ve been waiting for,” said Marlins President David Samson. “It’s a complete victory. It took a long time.”

County Mayor Carlos Alvarez on Tuesday restated what he told the court during his deposition: Building the ballpark will revitalize the neighborhood and create much-needed jobs.

”When the economy is hurting, it means thousands of jobs — good-paying construction jobs — for people who need them now,” he said.

The team and government are going forward even as one of billionaire auto dealer Norman Braman’s seven lawsuit counts has yet to be adjudged. They believe that issue — involving the complex financing that set the stadium and a string of other public works projects in motion — would not affect the new ballpark eyed for the former Orange Bowl site.

Braman took minor solace in Cohen’s 41-page ruling. Though Cohen found that the stadium meets the key ”public purpose” test, she also gave credence to his belief that the stadium can be viewed as a ”sweet deal” for the Marlins.

Cohen noted the county didn’t do an economic impact study for the Little Havana area, said the site has no link to downtown, noted the team did not have to make its financials public even though almost $400 million in public money would be spent, and agreed with Braman that clear proof does not exist that a new stadium would stimulate the neighborhood.

”It reminds me of a football game that you lose when all the statistics are on your side,” Braman said after the ruling. “It’s not what we believe the constitution of the state of Florida states, and we will appeal the judge’s decision to the Supreme Court.”

Replied Samson: “Let’s cut right through it. The trial court’s job is to apply the law — not to make the law.”


Ultimately, Cohen said the case law was unshakable, and that she could not counter 39 years of rulings that backed the Marlins, the county and the city of Miami’s contention that the public would benefit from a new stadium.

” . . . The law in Florida is clear that retaining a professional baseball team in Miami satisfies a paramount public purpose,” the judge wrote.

Braman sued the county, Miami and the Marlins over a smattering of issues, chief among them the claim that the use of $382 million in tourist tax dollars to build a private entity a ballpark does not serve a public purpose.

His bigger concern was that the public did not get a vote, through referendum, on the spending — part of a larger multibillion-dollar megaplan for Miami. Government leaders countered that the public elected the politicians who approved the development blueprint.

Tuesday’s ruling continued a string of losses for Braman, with all six lawsuit counts adjudged so far going against him.

Still on the table is a ruling from Cohen on the sole remaining count: whether the county can use Community Redevelopment Agency dollars to pay off a $484 million construction debt at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Though that financing, on the surface, has no ties to building a ballpark, it’s all part of Miami’s most expansive public works plan in decades — the $3 billion deal to build a port tunnel, a park at Bicentennial, the ballpark and a streetcar system, and pay off the Arsht Center debt.


Paying off the debt frees up another pot of money to help fund the ballpark, Braman contends, noting that the team signed an agreement linking the arts center payoff and the ballpark.

The county argues it could build the stadium regardless of the arts center debt.

The agreement calls for the Marlins to put $120 million toward the stadium, and also repay the county another $35 million in “rent payments.”

Braman believes that if he wins on the last count, the court could potentially order a referendum on the spending at the Arsht Center. That, he believes, could doom the stadium.

The other side sees that last issue differently.

The ballpark, they said, will be financed with an array of tourist and convention-development and sports-franchise taxes, plus a $50 million bond voters approved in 2004 for Orange Bowl renovations — but no CRA funds.

Though Alvarez and County Manager George Burgess say there’s no link between the final ruling and the stadium, they’ve avoided answering how the Arsht Center debt would be paid off — if the judge rules it’s illegal.

Cohen said she’ll make her decision after the Supreme Court rules on a similar case from Escambia County. Initially, the court decided property tax money couldn’t be used to pay off bond debt without a public vote, a ruling that could have resonance in the Braman case.

The court then decided to rehear a motion and hasn’t issued a final ruling. There is no sense when Cohen will decide this issue.

Braman’s hope now is that, with a favorable ruling in that count, a political change of will would doom the stadium.

But Tuesday, the government was focused on the ruling at hand.

”We were quite confident that was how this ruling was going to come down,” Burgess said Tuesday at County Hall.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said the still-pending count of Braman’s suit will not hold back construction, though he couldn’t pinpoint the date for a stadium groundbreaking.

The city will move ”as fast as we humanly, physically, possibly can,” Diaz said.

The Marlins are pushing ahead with architectural drawings and finalizing arrangements with a contractor, all in the hopes of opening the 2011 season in the new park.

If the Marlins hope to break ground this year, county commissioners must finalize construction, management and other agreements; and city leaders need to approve land-platting and permits.

But that was the last thing on Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria’s mind Tuesday, shortly before his team took the field against National League rival Philadelphia.

The team said a retractable roof stadium would draw crowds otherwise driven away by South Florida’s steamy, rainy weather. One midday game last week drew fewer than 600 fans in their seats for the first pitch.

A new stadium would pour concession and skybox proceeds into the bottom line of a team that has won two World Series but has had among the lowest payrolls and attendance in baseball.

”We look forward to the Marlins playing in the new ballpark for generations to come,” Loria said in a prepared statement.

Miami Herald staff writer Michael R. Vasquez contributed to this report.

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