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Stadium News - Sort of

Braman keeps losing point after point in the case.

A Miami judge dealt a blow Thursday to auto dealer Norman Braman's case targeting the financing for a Florida Marlins ballpark, dismissing two complaints dealing with bond funding for the stadium and other Miami projects.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen dismissed a complaint that Miami-Dade County inappropriately moved $50 million in general obligation bond funding approved by voters in 2004 to renovate the Orange Bowl to the $515 million ballpark project. She also dismissed a complaint the county is breaching its contract with bondholders by changing the source of repayment of bonds for the performing arts center.

Her decisions leave only two counts to be decided. She plans to rule today whether the financing for $3 billion in Miami projects needs to be put to a public referendum. She said she's "sympathetic" to Braman's contention that it does. However, she is hampered because a Florida Supreme Court decision requiring a referendum when ad valorem taxes are used to pay off bonds on major public projects is being reconsidered, and she's unclear how it should be applied until it is final.

The county and team will call witnesses today to show the stadium serves a "paramount public purpose" to counter Braman's argument that they're using public dollars for a private enterprise.

In case you don't know about the Florida Supreme Court case, it is as follows:

Judge Jeri Beth Cohen gave a hint, once again, that she considers a prominent case currently being reconsidered before the Florida Supreme Court to be pertinent in the Braman case. That case, Strand vs. Escambia County, addressed the right to vote on projects where tax-increment financing is being used to pay off bonds for a major public project.

The ruling should come today by Judge Cohen on all of the Braman objections, way before the Strand v. Escambia County is determined.  Then again, she may want to deliberate a day or two.

Miami-Dade and the Marlins will probably win the case in Judge Cohen's  court but the real problem will come on appeal, since Braman's lawyers have seemly convinced him to keep spending money to keep the fight going.

Cohen's rulings didn't seem to deter Braman, who vowed to fight on -- for years if necessary.

Of the judge's decision to drop the two counts Thursday, Braman attorney Bob Martinez said: ``It's just another issue on appeal. . . . Norman is doing this as a matter of principle, and he's going to take this all the way to the Supreme Court.''

This a problem if the Braman actually pursues this course of action since it will delay the construction of the stadium.


Marlins president David Samson is becoming apprehensive about the new stadium opening by 2011.


"It's beginning to worry me -- opening in 2011," Samson told reporters, according to the Herald.

The Marlins hope to break ground this year and have renderings available, but they won't release them until the case is over.

If the Marlins aren't able to break ground this year, only a few things can happen.

1) The Marlins, Miami-Dade and the City keep fighting it out and the Marlins workout something with Wayne Huizenga.  If that is the case the lease is going to be year-to-year and definitely will be ugly.

2) The Marlins say forget that and the team plays its games in Jupiter while waiting on a new stadium, with the Hammerheads moving to one of the back fields.

3)  The Marlins and MLB scream "no mas" and move the team.

None of these are attractive options to me.  Hopefully, Braman will give up his disruptive behavior and let major league baseball exist in South Florida, but I wouldn't count on it.