Museum officials say they're happy to provide Dade commissioner Gimenez's information
By Risa Polansky
Art and science museum officials say they're ready and willing to share financial and other information with Miami-Dade commissioners as they continue to work toward new homes in downtown Miami funded in part by hundreds of millions in public money.
Commissioner Carlos Gimenez is asking for a report on the two museums' construction status, the amount of county bond money disbursed to each, the amount of bond money under contract with each, the projected timeframe for contracting the remaining bond dollars to the museums, the "due diligence performed" by the administration to verify each can fund the balance of construction costs and future operating costs, and county verification of the ratio of cash on hand vs. pledges to fund completion costs.
And until the commission sees that report, no more cash to the museums.
The museums are to get a combined $275 million from the voter-approved Miami-Dade general obligation bond program and have promised to raise more than $100 million each.
Not only did the county's Recreation, Culture and Tourism Committee pass the Gimenez measure unanimously Monday, but three other commissioners — Rebeca Sosa, Sally Heyman and Barbara Jordan — asked to cosponsor it.
They voted also to fast-track the legislation to the full commission's Jan. 21 meeting.
Miami Science Museum chief Gillian Thomas said she's comfortable with the requests.
The measure seems "ordinary, straightforward," she said in an interview after the vote. "They just want an update report, and we're always happy to do an update report."
Terry Riley, ex-Miami Art Museum director turned consultant, said the same.
"The commissioner I think understands that we have as much interest in transparency as he does," he said.
Mr. Riley said he agrees the museums should have money in hand for each phase as it happens — from preconstruction to construction to operation.
The museums' land leases in Miami's Bicentennial, soon to be Museum Park, also require proof the institutions can build the buildings, he pointed out.
Both museum leaders said they were encouraged by what they called Mr. Gimenez's public support for the projects.
"This is not an attempt to stop the projects in any way, shape or form — it's just a due diligence effort," Mr. Gimenez said at the meeting.
He said in an interview last week that he wants "to know how much is pledged and how much is in the bank — and I don't really care too much about pledges. I want to know what's in the bank."
At the meeting Monday, he publicly clarified he's "not talking about that all the money has to be in the bank," but simply wants a progress report to "make sure their plans are in line with what reality is" after reading articles in the national media about struggling cultural organizations in today's economy.