Unless auto dealer Norman Braman has a giant change of heart, his lawsuit is going to trial Monday morning.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen ordered the parties into mediation talks Thursday afternoon to try to settle the case, in which Braman is suing the Marlins, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami over a plan to fund $3 billion worth of Miami projects, including a ballpark.
But formal talks were stalled as of Friday. And on Saturday morning, Braman told a rally of supporters on Watson Island he won’t settle unless there’s a public vote on the city-county plan. (I was not at the rally, but spoke with someone who was). Fewer than 100 people attended the rally organized at Watson Island precisely because it’s one of the areas the city and county want included in an expanded Community Redevelopment Agency district (meant to include areas of “slum and blight”) to generate millions more in property tax dollars to help fund the city-county projects.
Braman has said he would drop his lawsuit if the public was allowed to vote on the financing for the $515 million ballpark and the other projects. He objects to funneling dollars meant to revitalize neighborhoods into paying off construction debt for the performing arts center. He wants voters to have a say.
The county, city and Marlins believe they can win the case – several rulings have stripped some key arguments from Braman’s case – and they don’t believe a referendum is necessary.
I’m told settlement talks had included a variety of options, such as projects that would improve neighborhoods, increasing the percentage the community would receive if the Marlins were sold and providing more public access to the ballpark to be built at the site of the Orange Bowl. Those ideas appear to be off the table.
More on Monday…