hashim-benford_web.jpgIt’s unbelievable! Our elected city and county officials are considering handing over billions of taxpayer dollars to build the Florida Marlins a new baseball stadium in Miami.

Meanwhile, we are heading into what could be the worst economic downturn in generations. And despite protests earlier this year from every sector of Miami, from low-income and working class people to wealthy individuals, from housing and job activists to prosperous businesspersons, the government persists in its hustle to make this stadium deal happen.

These are uncertain times, but we can count on one thing: Miami politicians will continue to sell out our city, our county and our tax dollars to the highest bidder. We must end this system of patronage between politicians and big business.

This stadium plan shouldn’t be considered. Nix it. Don’t even try to fix it.

There is a lie going around local government that building a stadium will help build up infrastructure and create jobs. 

What infrastructure?  There are countless examples, from Miami and across the country,  of stadiums and arenas that have created dead zones within the blocks that surround them.  In the pursuit of big profits that we the taxpayers will never see, homes and local business will be sacrificed, plowed to the ground to make way for acres of parking spaces. 

And because the Marlins play fewer than 90 home games in any given season, the parking lots surrounding the stadium will remain empty for most of the year.  On the occasion of a popular game, the accompanying traffic would cripple residential neighborhoods and bring no benefit to the surrounding area. Clearly, stadiums don’t build up infrastructure; they deplete what little we already have.   

Jobs?  What Jobs?  Once the stadium is built, all the construction jobs will float away as if they never existed.  Miami needs long-term jobs, not temporary employment.  The only long-term jobs a stadium provides are positions for concession workers, parking attendants and security guards.  Not only are these low-wage positions void of any benefits, they are part-time with no path to advancement or increased income. 

To add insult to injury, the majority of the people paying for the new stadium, including those who will work in it, don’t even make enough to buy tickets to a ball game.  Why should Miamians settle for selling hot dogs on our lawns while we front nearly 70 percent of the cost for a stadium without any promise for a return on our investment?    

Tax money is our money. This money should be spent with an eye toward the future of all Miamians, from doctors to laborers, from child care workers to the disabled, from teachers to firefighters. When we spend our tax dollars, it should be for physical, cultural and sustainable developments that enrich and sustain all who live here. If the point is to build infrastructure and generate long-term jobs, why don’t we overhaul public transportation and make it useful?

Why don’t we incubate green businesses with a long-term mission to retrofit every building in the county?  Why don’t we develop a citizen corps that expands and maintains our public parks and beaches? These types of projects benefit those who live  here and make Miami more attractive to our primary source of revenue, tourists.

In a time when the national conversation centers on public investment for public infrastructure, the stadium is a bad idea founded on backwards logic. Our president just signed a stimulus package to the tune of nearly $800 billion. He will continue to make moves at the federal level that can siphon money back to our city and enhance the lives of all Miamians. These progressive moves at the national level are threatened locally if our government leaders continue to ignore common sense and sink our money into projects like the Marlin Stadium.

Now, as the world shifts below our feet, is the time for us to demand smarter spending, smarter government and smarter development.

Hashim Benford is an organizer for the Miami Workers Center, a grassroots strategy and action center that works for racial and economic justice in Miami and beyond.