The city’s Budget and Finance Committee made short work today of over 20 agenda items, swiftly approving items of business detailed in over 500 pages of agenda-plus-attachments.
I would love it if someone could calculate dollars-given-away per minute in this meeting, adjourned after an hour and a half and with very little discussion of the items. And, I should note, even the most savvy accountant couldn’t do this calculation from the materials provided council because some of the figures in those documents were incorrect, as pointed out by David Mann, and also (as I recall) Kevin Flynn.
Regarding the Queensgate and Centennial Property TIFs:
• “As long as the streetcar is not involved in item 17, we’re ok” (Chris Smitherman I believe, but might have been Charlie Winburn — there was lots of agitation among council members when the word “streetcar” was uttered)
• “I can’t give you a dollar amount without doing some research” and “with that many variables, it’s difficult to give you a precise amount” — responses by the city to questions from Chris Seelbach about what $$ the city might be giving up if the ordinance was passed, and the expected rise in the taxable value of (if I caught this correctly) the Centennial TIF.
• “Don’t we usually have some sort of project plan?” – Yvette Simpson (the response Yvette got did not answer her question and was about how the current request was associated with some change in state law governing TIFs).
As a side note, the first item handled (from the back of the agenda) was a 5-year exemption for the developers of the Power Building. The rationale for the request? “”we’re still not completely profitable” and the abatement is needed “to make this a very profitable property.” A few years ago, I heard from a neighbor a rumor that the building was going to go condo—I wondered if the money spent on new upgrades to the building will enable the developers to profit on unit sales from just such a transition.
What should we, members of the public, be asking for? I’d like to see
• A standard framework for evaluating and acting upon developer incentives (Seelbach mentioned this was supposedly in the works since the summer, but was not yet available)
• An opportunity for public input and assurances of accountability on the Queensgate and Centennial TIFs
• Limits on agenda length and complexity to encourage—indeed, to make humanly possible! —thoughtful, well-reasoned, and well-researched decision-making