Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber want companies to bid for the chance to build a monorail connecting their two cities.
The Miami-Dade County Commission voted on Monday to move forward with the bidding process for the project; there’s now a six-month bidding process. That comes after Malaysian gambling company Genting submitted an unsolicited proposal two months ago to build the monorail.
Gelber has expressed concern that Genting seeks to build the monorail in order to connect Miami Beach to a downtown casino. WLRN’s Luis Hernadez spoke with both mayors on Sundial this week. Below are excerpts from both conversations.
This has been edited lightly for clarity.
WLRN: Can you tell us about their (Genting) idea and how it would solve that problem?
GIMENEZ: Their proposal -- not the project -- says that they could build a linkage between Miami and Miami Beach in the area of $400 million and that they would be putting in more than $150 million of their own money, requesting about $100 million from the county and $100 million from the state and then some money from the cities of Miami and Miami Beach. They would then construct a monorail. They would design, build, operate and maintain a monorail.
What do you think about Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott saying they've got grave concerns about this (in their words "fears of espionage from a foreign power")? Genting is Malaysian and there's a Chinese connection.
Yes. It's B.Y.D. and they are not a Chinese state controlled entity. The majority stockholder as far as I know is Warren Buffett. I've responded to that letter by saying I too share in their concerns. However, the law that they looked at says that any federally funded transit agency cannot use these companies. And what I point out to them is that a lot of local communities are going to be looking at public-private partnerships and there may not be a need for federal money. So if you're talking about the safety and security of the nation, then you need to close the loopholes that says any project with companies that are state controlled by the Chinese government ... cannot participate or purchase that kind of rolling stock.
WLRN: Anybody who wants to bid has six months to make their bid and then we could start seeing other proposals. Is that correct?
GELBER: We haven't seen the Genting proposal. What should happen is what's best for the community. Typically what would happen is this Parsons study (a $10 million study commissioned by Miami-Dade County focused on its transportation needs) would come back and say we think this is what the best proposal would look like, this is what mode you should use, these are the connections that you should use and it would be based on the metrics and data. That's not ready yet, so instead of waiting for that we're doing the [request for proposal] first. Our city is stuck in this process but we have asked the county to issue the RFP as robustly as possible so all ideas in the marketplace are available. We've also asked for a timeline that allows as many bidders as possible to engage in the procurement process because the last thing we want is something so tight, short and constrained that the only possible option is the one of the unsolicited bidder, which is in this case Genting and there's a whole another issue I have with them which is of course the gambling.
Have you received political contributions from anti-gaming groups or supporters?
Anti-gaming groups I'm hoping a lot have supported me. I've been against casinos. I imagine a lot of my residents who have donated to my campaigns are against casino gaming. By the way when I was in the legislature I was against it. And before I ran for office my father -- who is the mayor of the same city -- was chairman of no casinos. I've been against casinos for decades in public office and in private office.