11:20 a.m. | Original post
12:34 p.m. | Updated with response from Florida Jobs First
Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, slammed the political tactics employed by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on Friday, suggesting that the billionaire businessman’s threats will make it harder for him to get what he wants from Tallahassee.
Gaetz said Ross committed a major fumble by moving to retaliate against members of the Florida House of Representatives who opposed Ross’ attempt to get taxpayer subsidies for renovations he wants to make at the team-owned stadium in Miami Gardens.
Here’s what Gaetz said:
“I believe that the tactics of Mr. Ross in threatening members of the Florida House of Representatives, and saying that Mr. Ross for his own personal reasons, is going to take down members of the Florida House of Representatives, gains him no friends in the Florida Senate. That’s not the way to get things done. We work together to find solutions and solve problems. We don’t make public policy under threat. And we’re not going to do it in the next session either.”
Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, were in Fort Lauderdale on Friday speaking to a gathering of business and civic leaders assembled by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.
Gaetz offered his comments after the event – in response to questions posed to Weatherford.
Weatherford has come under intense fire from Ross since the end of the legislative session in May. On the last day of the session, the Weatherford-controlled Florida House didn’t act on legislation that would have paved the way for Ross to get taxpayer subsidies for $350 million in renovations he wants to make at the team-owned stadium in Miami Gardens.
In the immediate aftermath of the Dolphins’ defeat, Ross singled out Weatherford, saying the speaker lied to him. "He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade, and that is just wrong,” Ross said in a May 3 statement.
With an estimated net worth of $4.4 billion, Forbes magazine ranks Ross as the 83rd richest person in America. And he’s using some of that money to express his displeasure with those who crossed him.
Last month, Ross – a resident of New York and Palm Beach – formed a so-called super political action committee, Florida Jobs First. One of its first actions was targeting Republicans who didn’t back his legislation.
Weatherford will be term limited after next year’s session and leaving the Florida House. But having Ross as an enemy could be a long-term problem, since Weatherford is widely believed to harbor a desire to run for a top state office someday, possibly governor. In his May 3 statement, Ross said, ““I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come,”
Weatherford took an indirect dig at Ross, saying he hopes the team, which has had an abysmal record in recent years, will become a winner once again. “I wish Mr. Ross all the luck in the world. I hope the Dolphins go 16-0 again, break the old record, and win the Super Bowl.”
The Dolphins stadium issue wasn’t posed by any of the questioners at the breakfast despite – or perhaps because – of the presence of three team representatives at one of the event’s power tables. Others at the table included Terry Stiles, chairman and chief executive of the big construction, investment and property management company; Broward County Commissioner Tim Ryan; and Roy Rogers, a civic activist who played a key role in the development of Weston.
Afterward, Weatherford and Gaetz answered reporters’ questions.
Q: There were many people in that room who didn’t like what you did, or didn’t do on the Dolphins stadium. First, were you surprised you didn’t get asked about that?
Weatherford: “I was. Maybe the Dolphins had a presence in the room and so nobody wanted to put them on the spot. Here’s what I’ll say about that: I’m a huge Dolphins fan. Dan Marino is one of my favorite football players in the history of the game.
“I know that they feel like they need some improvements made to the stadium.
“But here’s what I would also say: At the end of the session, the [Daytona International] Speedway wanted money for their stadium. The Jacksonville Jaguars wanted money for their stadium and Orlando wanted to build a soccer stadium.
All were asking for state dollars. Orlando’s building a soccer stadium. The Speedway’s going to spend $400 million renovating their stadium. The Jaguars are going to pay $100 million renovating their stadium. Haven’t heard anything out of South Florida.”
Q: Are concerned that you’ve made a pretty big enemy in Mr. Ross?
Weatherford: “I don’t know. I think Mr. Ross is a really successful guy. I hate that he’s as disappointed in us as he is. I can understand why he’s upset. But at the end of the day I have a responsibility to my members first. My responsibility as speaker is to serve my membership.
“The members in Dade County were very, squeamish would be the wrong word but it’s probably accurate. They were not happy with the legislation.
“I think that we need to have a big picture conversation about what is the state’s responsibility in fixing these stadiums or building these stadiums at all.”
Q: Do you think he’ll be able to hurt you whenever you’re next on the ballot?
Weatherford:” I don’t worry about that. I wish Mr. Ross all the luck in the world. I hope the Dolphins go 16-0 again, break the old record, and win the Super Bowl. But I can’t worry about what Mr. Ross thinks of me. All I can do is try to serve my membership and worry about the state of Florida.”
Here's a response from Eric Jotkoff, spokesman for Florida Jobs First:
"We have great respect for the Senate president, and appreciate the strong vote we received in the Senate. South Florida needs jobs and needs investments that will keep it vibrant for many years to come. The Senate recognized that, while the House refused to even allow a vote. Voters deserve to know the facts about those who opposes jobs and opportunity, and we will continue to make sure the people of Florida get the facts about these important issues so they can decide for themselves."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun