Just as the Dade County Youth Fair is set to start its annual three-week carnival on March 17, FIU has a fair2new champion for it’s delayed and struggling plans to expand onto property currently occupied in a rock solid lease by the Dade County Youth Fair and Expo: The student government president at the Tamiami Campus.

Alexis Calatayud, a senior political science major in the Green School of International and Public Affairs, has started a petition at Change.org, asking Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and members of the county commission to support the expansion of Modesto Maidique Campus to adjacent county lands.

Calatayud says she wants students to understand the importance of the expansion for them, future students and the South Florida community. But she did not return emails from Ladra and the language reads like she got help from some of the university’s PR staff:

“Dear Panthers,

On a November 2014 referendum, the Miami-Dade community demonstrated support for FIU’s calatayudexpansion onto the land adjacent to the Modesto A. Maidique Campus by voting “Yes.”

Now, more than a year later, it is imperative that we move forward with the plan to find the Fair a new home.

I am an example of the impact FIU has on South Florida. As a Miami native, FIU has allowed me to stay close to home while providing me with countless leadership opportunities.  FIU has given me invaluable tools to pursue a successful career and I will graduate with no debt. Other members of my family also have made the most of their FIU educations – my mother and brother are all FIU alumni.

FIU gives similar opportunities to thousands every year – we have 55,000 students and 200,000 alumni. These are our community’s leaders, engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs. FIU educates our community’s top teachers, employs thousands, and is helping to transform Miami into a cultural hub.

FIU’s success is our community’s success. FIU’s expansion would mean more and better jobs and educational opportunities.

As president of the FIU Student Government Association, I invite you to join me in asking Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and members of the County Commission to please take action. Some 30 sites have been studied and the South Dade site really works. Relocating the Fair to South Dade is good for FIU and is good for the South Dade community, which has already expressed support and excitement about bringing the fair to their area.”

But it’s not good for The Fair, say the Dade County Fair and Expo folks. Fair CEO Robert Hohenstein has already said that the South Dade — a county-owned property near the Homestead Air Reserve Base right off the Florida Turnpike and 272nd Street — is a no go.

Read related story: FIU’s bully battle vs. Youth Fair keeps costing us plenty

In a recent letter to the editor published in the South Dade Newsleader, he chided local electeds for falling for FIU’s trick — which is to build pressure on the county to break the rock solid lease and evict The Fair.

“FIU is free to spend its money as it deems fit, and faira major investment in South Dade would be welcomed news for the area. But the plan is based on a false premise – that The Youth Fair is a willing participant. A move to South Dade would be corporate suicide for The Youth Fair and its exposition business, a fact FIU knows very well, since it co-sponsored and co-paid for an economic study that showed the financial devastation The Youth Fair would suffer in South Dade. FIU also knows the board of the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition Inc. twice voted unanimously against such a move,” Hohenstein said.

“It is shameful that FIU persists in promoting the false plan. Youth FairAnd it is disheartening to realize that city commissions such as in Homestead and Florida City are falling prey to this ruse whose only purpose is to pressure Miami-Dade County into The Youth Fair from Tamiami Park so FIU can take over the land.”

An email blast sent last week has this headline:”Moving to Homestead? No.” And follows up with: “Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric from FIU about the Youth Fair’s future.”

The email says the South Dade site would cut revenue by $3.2 million a year and ultimately shut down The Fair.

So why is everyone honed in on this location? Who owns property nearby? Because Ladra believes the county is getting ready to present their case to a judge and position this property as an equal to the one that the Fair now occupies, which is required by the lease.

Read related story: Carlos Gimenez ‘I’d break The Fair’s lease if FIU pays’

It’s the only one of 26 possible sites that Mayor Gimenez gave details on in his Feb. 17 letter to Gov. Rick Scott, asking for state funding in this year’s budget (our public money) for FIU’s expansion dreams — even though there is no agreement for a relocation yet.

“The funding is essential to making FIU’s expansion possible and I am as determined as ever to bring this project to conclusion,” Gimenez wrote. Shouldn’t his asks be for some county needs instead?

And does that mean he is going to kick The Fair out and let them take him to court? Gimenez has asked FIU to guarantee they would pay the legal costs of any court fight. Is he trying to get them state funds for that?

Ladra has an idea. Why doesn’t the county give FIU that South Dade land for a satellite campus? Wouldn’t it better fiu mapserve the community in South Dade — which the mayor constantly ignores — to have the school there? Classes closer to home for many South Dade youth. Jobs in an area that needs them.

Gimenez said in his letter to Scott that the project is “so critically important to increasing educational opportunities and economic development for our state.” But wouldn’t it be better for increasing educational opportunities and providing economic development if the expansion were in South Dade?

Why is nobody asking that question?

My favorite part of the letter to Gov. Scott is where Gimenez lies yet again about the 2014 referendum in which voters simply gave FIU the same waiver of use on park land IF AND WHEN they ever expanded to the fairgrounds. He actually says that he is committed to “working cooperatively and creatively with FIU and The Fair on a site solution that addresses the needs of all parties, and ensures that we fulfill the terms of the November 2014 referendum.”

That was the whole reasoning behind the ballot question, which was obviously premature since there is no move or relocation plan on the horizon.

It’s too bad that the mayor takes these very same voters and ignores them when it comes to the referendum for the Pets’ Trust Initiative.


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As expected and reported in Political Cortadito previously, we are still fairnowhere near a deal for FIU to expand onto the grounds currently occupied by the Dade County Youth Fair and Expo.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez finally admitted Wednesday that talks have led nowhere and that The Fair doesn’t have to budge because it has an upper hand, using a poker analogy with the Miami Herald editorial board: The Fair is holding a royal flush; the county has a card short of a low straight.

Lost in the ensuing laughter, the follow up questions that were never asked is why is the mayor playing poker with The Fair to begin with? Has there been bluffing involved? What are the stakes? And shouldn’t the county already have folded? Is this really the best use of our mayor’s time and energies? What would breaking the lease, as he also suggested he might do, say to other entities looking to do business with the county?

Read related story: FIU’s bully battle vs Youth Fair keeps costing us plenty

Because at the same time as Gimenez admitted a deadlock, he also admitted two other things that should be sorta outrageous. Gimenez PeriscopeThe first is that he is going to continue to waste our county time and resources to work on a solution that he says can’t be had that would work for both FIU and The Fair, which would need to get an equal or better location able to accommodate 24,000 cars.

“I am actively trying to find a location, an alternative, uh, you know, half way, acres, you can co-mlocate, all that,” Gimenez said in an often rambling half hour interview broadcast on Periscope that ran the gamut from CRAs and the Frost Museum bailout to regulations for Uber and the Liberty Square redevelopment.

The second thing is that he is willing and ready, mind you, to break the lease and evict the Fair even though they have “an incredibly sweet deal” of a rock solid contract that is legally binding through 2085 and they are, well, holding all the cards. He just doesn’t want to have to pay the financial consequences.

Isn’t that like saying you’re willing to steal something as long as you aren’t caught and charged?

Read related story: Mayor to meet with FIU and Youth Fair over standoff

Gimenez has said FIU would have to provide a legal guarantee that they would pay any costs fiuexpandassociated with a lawsuit.

“What I’m saying is that if you want us to do that, then somebody is going to have to pay if there is a relocation cost, someone is going to have to pay if there is a judgement against Miami Dade,” Gimenez said, flanked by his entourage of county staffers — Budget Director Jennifer Moon, Communications Director and spin doctor Michael Hernandez and Chief of Staff Alex Ferro, as well as whoever was Periscoping.

The university president has already said that they can’t do that.

They have $50 million committed — which would come out of state funds, by the way (read: our tax dollars) — to move the Fair and for the construction of

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