Random thoughts and tidbits from the trial in the lawsuit filed by auto dealer Norman Braman against Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and the Marlins over a plan to finance $3 billion worth of projects, including the Marlins' proposed $515 million ballpark:
First: if you haven't read my colleague Mike Berardino's notes from Tuesday's All-Star Game, read them here. MLB officials remain optimistic about the Marlins opening their new ballpark at the site of the Orange Bowl in 2011, but they are a tad concerned about the timing, particularly with the ongoing lawsuit.
What if: What will happen if the ballpark isn't ready in time for the 2011 season? Unclear. The team's lease expires after the 2010 season and Dolphin Stadium officials have previously said the team won't be kicked out if its new home isn't ready. Asked about this issue during the trial Wednesday, Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess said "My assumption is they'd either renew their lease or it would be up to them and Major League Baseball to find an alternative place to play."
While much of the testimony has focused on the intricate details of bond financing, requirements for public referendums, "paramount public purpose," and ad valorem taxes, there have been some moments of levity.
Oscar v. Super Bowl: During his testimony about the economic benefits of a publicly-financed baseball stadium, University of South Florida economics professor Philip Porter compared stadiums to movie theaters to show that private enterprises don't deserve public dollars. Even though he has repeatedly disputed the economic benefits of Super Bowls and other large events, he acknowledges he is a sports fan who loved attending Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl when he was growing up in Miami.
The movie theater comparison prompted Assistant County Attorney David Hope to ask Porter what was the last movie he saw in a theater. Practically stumped for an answer, Porter said, "Oh, I don't know...Ben-Hur." The answer elicited laughs from the courtroom.
Hope was questioning Porter about determining quality of life issues. He acknowledged that Ben-Hur, released in 1959, won an Academy Award and wondered which Porter received more enjoyment from - the movie or Super Bowl III? Porter said Super Bowl III.
"Ben-Hur won an Oscar and you still remember Super Bowl III," Hope said.
"It had nothing to do with public subsidies," Porter said.
Dueling cell phones: At one point Wednesday, a cell phone chirped -- a no-no in court. Burgess pointed out the culprit was his wife. Judge Jeri Beth Cohen gave Mrs. Burgess a pass.
She wasn't so lenient with Braman attorney Bob Martinez, whose phone cell phone also began ringing. "Mr. Martinez," Cohen admonished: "Mrs. Burgess's wife is not usually in court."
A red-faced Martinez chuckled about his Bob Marley-playing phone.