A reader named Andy (last name withheld, he said, to avoid humiliating his wife and daughter, has captured that peculiar sense, experienced by so many travelers passing through Miami International Airport, of traversing Lewis Carroll's looking glass. Andy writes:
I'm sitting here at the Miami airport, after having endured hell to get to my gate, which is about five miles away from where I entered the airport. Here's my question:
Isn't it a fact that MIA doesn't really need all of this expansion and the headaches that go along with it? When I got to the airport, before I arrived at the security section for Concourse D, I walked through a long corridor containing nothing but charming artwork from the local public schools, plus pictures of what I guess Miami looked like a hundred years ago. Why is all of that empty space necessary for an airport?
It seems to me that a lot of the expansion continues because developers, in exchange for their campaign contributions and perhaps free tickets to sporting events and maybe even free condos, have been promised by Dade County commissioners that they will get all sorts of profitable contracts to build things at MIA that don't need to be built. They'll get their development fees up front, and stuff may ultimately be built, or it may not. It doesn't matter. The point I think is to get the money to the developers to whom return favors are owed. Meanwhile, the consumers who use the airport have to suffer through everything.
Why can't we all acknowledge that these payoffs are due, and simply use the least amount of dollars necessary to make the payoffs? My example would be, let's say that Commissioner A owes Developer A a favor because Developer A made a substantial contribution to Commissioner A's successful campaign. Commissioner A, instead of saying that we need a new concourse at MIA that can only be built by Developer A, should be honest and say, "I need a hundred grand of county money to pay back Developer A, without whose help I wouldn't be sitting here today." It's approved, and as a result the county spends a hundred grand.
A travesty? Sure it is, but it's a helluva lot better than going on the hook for a million dollars contract, of which the developer will still only make a profit of a hundred grand, and building or half building something that doesn't need to be built, and that will at best result in cost overruns and at worst will create tons of aggravation for the public.
Am I missing something here?