If the notion of building a Major League Soccer stadium on PortMiami land seemed fraught with practical complications and political pitfalls, try putting one on water.
David Beckham and his investors are examining whether filling a deep boat slip with rocks, forever altering the jagged edges of downtown Miami’s shoreline, would work as a location for their planned stadium.
They’re likely to find at least as many challenges as they did for their first-choice port site.
There are new costs to weigh, environmental and building permits from federal, state and local agencies to request — and not one, but two municipal governments to persuade.
Beyond those logistical and political considerations is a broader question for elected leaders in Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami. Do they want to turn over the last remaining piece of public, open waterfront along Biscayne Boulevard to a private entity to build an imposing structure?
“You’re basically giving away public land,” said Laura Reynolds, the executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society, who has repeatedly fought attempts to fill the water basin over the years. She sent the county a letter Friday opposing it as a stadium site.
Under fierce criticism for withholding information on child deaths, the Department of Children & Families on Friday asked a judge for approval to release new details on 177 children who have died since November.
Ruling from the bench, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers granted the agency’s request to release information to the Miami Herald from incident reports received by the agency that the department had previously redacted.
But DCF Deputy General Counsel John Jackson said the agency will continue to withhold similar information in the future. He said the agency had erroneously turned over hundreds of documents to the Herald in the past year and it was now seeking the court’s permission to release the redacted information to help improve public confidence in the agency.
“This is not only a matter of satisfying media interests. It is an acknowledgment by the department that getting this information out there will ultimately improve the process and improve the department,” Jackson told the court during the 20-minute hearing late Friday.
The Herald’s year-long investigation of Florida’s child welfare system led to the Innocents Lost series, which chronicled the deaths of 477 children over the past six years from abuse and neglect whose families had been known to DCF.
The Herald reported last week that after the series was published, DCF changed its policy and heavily redacted information provided in incident reports that it had previously released — including details of the child’s death and the family’s prior history with DCF. To illustrate, the Herald published side-by-side snapshots of the same report, one just released and showing nearly every word censored; the other, from last year, with modest redactions.
“The article raised questions about the department’s handling of the incident reports and created a concern that the department was not being forthcoming with information on these children or on these children’s families,” Jackson said.
The article also sparked immediate criticism from legislators, who were in the midst of rewriting the state’s child welfare laws to overhaul the way DCF handles and investigates child deaths.
Jackson said the news reports “dinged the agency,” and interim DCF Secretary Mike Carroll, who is in his second week on the job, has since announced he is looking at “revamping the entire death review process.”
“All this put together, we think, that it is [imperative] that we have the trust of the public that we can do this and we can do it right,” Jackson said. “We can do what the Legislature intends and we can do right by Florida’s kids. And so we do not want hanging over our head the fact that there is information that we are holding back because it brings suspicion over the department that we are not being transparent.”
The department asked the court to release of 277 pages, relating to 110 of the 177 cases sought by the Herald, to help the department show that it is willing to “fix problems, ” improve public awareness and restore public confidence in its ability to protect children, Jackson said.