If you haven’t figured this out by now, I’m writing this post from Savona, Italy, a Riviera town of 60,000 about an hour by train from the French border. We own a little apartment and spend our summers and holiday season on my husband’s side of the ocean. Santa Lucia is a big deal here every December, each street in the city center all aglow with it’s own distinctive twinkly lights, everybody packing the market that takes over for the weekend.
We were just zipping our coats to join the party when I got an email from a cincyopolis co-conspirator about the new TIF Districts for Gateway West and Centennial put on the agenda at the last minute for the special Budget & Finance meeting. Damn. Another 30-year development deal with no public input, everything I’d been fighting against for the last several months.
Not that I should have been surprised. On Tuesday, right before I left for Italy when I should have been packing, I’d spent the day in meetings with two different journalists. “I’m passing the baton,” I told both of them. “So another adult in the room will be watching.” I felt guilty about leaving because you can set your watch by the way the administration saves these mega-deals for the rush right before the December and June vacation breaks, agendas so over-loaded with complex deals nobody, not the most diligent, knowledgable member of Council could ever possibly have time to study and ask critical questions.
With less than 48 hours until the special Committee meeting, I put together a strategy to make the public aware of what was going on so that maybe this time – for the first time I can identify in the history of votes on development – the public might be included in the process. I’d write an editorial, send it to Cindi Andrews at the Enquirer, contact journalists, write a blog post, set-up a Moveon.org petition and send emails to every member of Council – and I’d do it all before I went to bed.
“A” for effort, “C-” for execution. I didn’t have enough time to really understand these deals and used the wrong terminology. I used “abatement” when these issues are about a new TIF District, which is a completely different animal. Luckily Bow Tweh of the Enquirer stepped-up to the plate and did an excellent job of summarizing the situation – this, even while he was babysitting his toddler daughter at home on a Sunday afternoon. (Anybody who thinks a strong local press is optional is fooling themselves.)
So the petition went up. My co-conspirator gently pointed out my error. I was embarrassed and deactivated it. The spirit was dead-on, but this is about law and law is exact. When I woke up this morning, there were so many comments about the disappearing petition I had to swallow my pride and reactivate it again, flawed as it is. People want a way to protest this decision-making process and my petition is as good as we’ve got at this point.
But isn’t all this chaos and confusion the bottom line of my concerns about the new 30-year TIF District? Citizens want to understand and be involved in decisions about how our city develops. The way we are intentionally excluded from this conversation is offensive to all of the smart, passionate, engaged, caring citizens who are part of this community. I’m sorry I didn’t get my facts right on the petition, but it really is the perfect illustration of the point I’m trying to make. So, go ahead, sign away. City Administration should give everybody all the facts on big real estate deals and get public feedback before anybody votes on anything.