Katherine Durack’s Common Sense Observations from Budget & Finance Meeting on 12/15/2014


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

1 thought on “Katherine Durack’s Common Sense Observations from Budget & Finance Meeting on 12/15/2014

  1. Steve Deiters

    Some spot on general and specific observations as to just how prepared or I should say more specifically, unprepared, people are on both sides of the desk in council chambers for council or committee meetings are. If this meeting would be the private sector the party/ies in charge would stop the meeting in the middle of the presentation and tell them to come back when they are completely prepared and stop burning up everyone’s time.

    I could give you a list of specifics I’ve witnessed and I left the council chambers shaking my head wondering how these people can make a rational, informed decision……on anything. Sausage making (government)-it ain’t pretty-but it could be done a little…make that a lot…smarter.

    Keep the spotlight shining on this. There is definitely much room for needed improvement. You have a collective in council chambers who spend a lot of time telling each other what a great job they do and I can’t help but think when I hear them they must be operating in a parallel universe a large portion of the time.


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