Miami Commission Sends $400 Million Bond Issue To Voters

Jul 27, 2017

Miami may soon have a large pot of money to pay for infrastructure reinforcements in the face of rising seas.

Thursday, in a narrow vote, the city of Miami decided to put a $400 million bond question to the voters in November.

Last year, the City Commission voted down Mayor Tomas Regalado’s proposed bond plan. Commissioner Ken Russell was one of those no votes.

He told the mayor to get more public input on how to use the money generated through the bonds.

On Thursday, though, he was one of the bond’s champions in a long and contentious commission meeting.

“There are funds available for this exact purpose, to do big, city-changing, life-changing, shoring up of our resilience. That is what a bond is for. That is what our job is to do,” said an exasperated Russell after two commissioners made their nay votes clear and the issue teetered on failure.

“[If] we can’t get it together to at least put it to the voters and let them decide, we’re holding that opportunity away from them,” Russell  added.

A wish list of almost $1.5 billion from community members had been whittled down to $300 million, the proposed amount of the bonds. But at the insistence of Commissioner Keon Hardemon, $80 million was added to fund affordable housing and economic development and an additional $20 million for parks and cultural facilities. That additional money drew irate remarks from Commissioner Frances Suarez.

Those additional funds also made the decision a tough one for Commissioner Willy Gort, but at the last minute, he threw his support to placing the measure on the ballot.

“Look, you want to give it to the supporters, I’ll vote for it. Let the voters do it,” said Gort.

Current plans include $192 million going to sea-level rise mitigation and flood prevention, $78 million for parks and cultural facilities and $23 million for road improvements.

On Nov. 7, voters will decide if they will allow the city to leverage its tax revenue to pay for these long-term goals. The city thinks it can so this without increasing taxes.

Commissioner Frank Carollo stood in staunch opposition to the bond issue, saying the mayor’s office ignored specific allocation requests from his constituents, earmarking no money for his district. He said the issue will be one he’ll campaign on.

7/28/2017 This story was updated to clarify the bond's effect on city taxes.