A few days ago we wrote about the report that the new mayor wants to jump into downtown development by taking over the disposal of the old Coke bottling plant. We were raising the question on the long-standing "tradition" of mayors showing more interest in downtown development than the wants and needs of a great majority of taxpayers
One of the options under consideration of the Coke plant deal is outright purchase by the city. We don’t know the estimated price of the building and land, but it obviously will rise into the multi-million dollar financial stratosphere.
We use that phrase intentionally to make a point. Page 2 of the IBJ which hit our mailbox yesterday tells us that the city can afford only $3 million a year to work on sidewalk problems - 1/250th of the estimated total cost.
On page 6 is the news that the City-County Council has approved a preliminary step toward a tax increase for the proposed Red Line and other public transportation fixes.
The same IBJ issue carries an editorial which includes this statement with regard to the Coke plant.
"Politicians who run for mayor typically prioritize neighborhood development and question subsidies for private development projects downtown. Post-election, the necessity of guiding and spurring downtown projects becomes clearer." (Read "guiding and spurring" as "controlling!)
Is there anyone reading the IBJ or this blog who has any doubt about the timing of "clarity" of development projects? What really becomes clearer to the newly elected incumbent is the need to remember who helped financially to get him elected. It wasn’t those folks out there who put their lives in danger by walking in the street!
Sidewalks are actually one of lesser importance, relatively speaking, among functions the city has trouble financing. No need here to repeat that litany.
The question must certainly arise as to, in this specific instance, where in the current budget are these millions of dollars available to speculate in real estate. There are, of course, TIF dollars to be dealt out. And contracts to be signed and grants and abatements to be approved.
It's not hard to understand how the politician/mayoral candidate can be so "flexible" as to promise hard-to-pay-for sidewalks - for instance - but make an unbudgeted real estate purchase and, probably, deliver millions upon millions of tax dollars to some downtown real estate developer.
The basic problem is, of course, that we keep electing the type of politician who will follow this questionable practice. Do we do so because we don’t know any better? Are we victims of misinformation? Do we really just not give a damn?
Isn’t it about time someone brought to light the amazing similarity of this long practiced municipal tradition, as described without comment in the editorial, to the old "bait-and-switch" scam? "Sell ‘em one thing. Deliver another!"