As much as I like a good row with someone when I think they are wrong, throwing down with the mayor tonight was anything but enjoyable.
But first let me clarify an issue. I said before that it was poor form for the council to do business via the postal service when they sent developer Jerry Franklin a letter to deny his request for public assistance for his hotel project.
Silly me, the mayor said the council placed the letter on the agenda Dec. 12.
No Sunshine Law violation, just a pure cowardly, sneaky punch in the gut. The council heard Mr. Franklin’s proposal Nov. 14. Mayor Baird Brock penned the “go fly a kite” letter Nov. 28, innocuously placed it on the agenda, sealed it with a middle finger, and sent it to oblivion.
Mayor Brock assured me there was no public comment. Gee, I wonder why.
To recap: Mr. Franklin first wanted to build a hotel/convention center at 50 Highway and 13 Highway after tearing down the University Inn. Restaurants and other businesses would be built next to the lake and hotel. Well, he scaled back the project by removing the convention center.
At the risk of sounding like a Jerry Franklin groupie, I’m not, but I must say this whole thing went down in a completely unfair manner.
This is a prime piece of real estate.
This is the gateway to our community.
Why not let the public have a say in the matter?
Franklin asked the city for public assistance for planning and infrastructure costs via tax increment financing and a community improvement district. TIF reinvests property taxes and sales taxes created by new development to pay for certain costs. The CID can capture additional property taxes and sales taxes.
Instead of showing him the door right away, why not establish the required TIF Commission and have public hearings? Maybe those who cared to participate would prove the mayor correct and say nobody that rich and despised deserves a TIF. Or, maybe the public would say, hey that sounds like something we’d support.
The council would get a recommendation from the commission. The council could then pepper Mr. Franklin with rotten tomatoes and laugh in his face.
Then I’d be back at this computer, playing reporter for free, wondering what the hell I am thinking.
Anyway, I spoke with the mayor tonight. He consented that the costs Mr. Franklin wanted to cover with TIF are, in fact, eligible costs covered by state law. In his letter to Mr. Franklin, Mayor Brock suggested these were “private development costs” and the city only allows creative financing for “public improvements that become part of the city or utility system.”
No matter, Mayor Brock assured me the bottom line is the council said, “No.” The letter from the mayor stands on its own (even though it’s severely flawed).
Why? Well, to be consistent. If you allow a developer to do one thing (get a TIF), you have to allow everyone else (which is allowed by state law).
It’s the flimsiest argument I’ve heard in some time. To me it’s the same thing as saying: We’ve never had a TIF. Therefore, we will never allow one. But the mayor said that was not true. Then what does it mean? He would not say.
Why can’t they just take a breath and come back to the table with a clean slate? I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Mayor Brock said the city has had “a number of problems with Mr. Franklin?”
Like what? (I knew you would ask).
“I’m not going to say,” the mayor said.
Again, I like a good confrontational interview every now and then, but this one left me numb. I’m completely disenchanted with our mayor. It makes me sad because I enjoyed his presence early on, but this is just flat bad business.
Clearly, there is more to this issue than the mayor’s beef about eligible TIF costs.
As Jimmy McNulty would say, “When did it become my f***ing turn to care?”