I’ve been disheartened by the amount of animosity thrown at Georgia over the past few days. Their Governor will re-open portions of the state’s economy on Friday and his decision is controversial, to say the least.
It seems that there’s only two options:
Hate him. Say he’s killing people for money.
The virus is now a political wedge. It’s Red vs. Blue. Everything is.
Executive leaders carry the power to open and close portions of our society, so the partisan wedge is amplified at all levels of executive government right now. It’s Trump vs. Democrats and Cooper vs. Republicans.
We even see it in Fayetteville, with the only Republican on the City Council, Johnny Dawkins, coming out in favor of re-opening and against Democratic Mayor Mitch Colvin’s curfew order.
I think the common thread in all of this is our tribal desire to be “right.” This comes at a cost. Our need to “win” diminishes our ability to reason. We lose empathy and compassion, and we become less human when we see our fellow man as the opposition. I do it too, sometimes.
But back to Georgia…
Things are a lot worse there. More people are sick. More people are dying.
And so, North Carolinians, I ask that you pray for Georgia. Pray the suffering doesn’t increase, because no true American should ever desire the suffering of his fellow citizens.
Here’s a more practical reason: if Georgia’s “gamble” pays off, it means that the virus is not as bad as we fear.
The implementation of paid parking in downtown Fayetteville is getting expensive. Not only are you going to have to pay to park downtown in the near future, you’re going to have to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in unanticipated debt so that Fayetteville can implement paid parking enforcement.
If you want to read all about it, download the attached file.
Fayetteville doesn’t yet own the new parking deck downtown. The reason is that we’re not building it ourselves. We are buying it from private developers, once it is finished. Then, we’re leasing back most of the spaces to those same developers.
The deck is more than a year late. Therefore, we haven’t been able to rent out the spaces to Prince Charles Apartments, Woodpeckers employees, etc.
Thus far, according to the City’s numbers, we’ve lost $352,369 in projected revenue as a result of the delay:
In the meantime, the cost of the deck has increased by $3,446,095.
I have more good news: once the deck is finally finished, you, the taxpayer, will be paying a private company to manage, clean, and operate the deck, even though you will not get to use the vast majority of the spaces.
Need Money = Borrow It
So what’s Fayetteville doing to make up for these losses? Borrowing more money:
Now we are taking out a $500,000 loan to install electronic parking meters and equipment. Note that this was all supposed to be “cash funded” from parking revenues we already had.
Keep in mind, we’ve already taken out $14,842,032 in bond money to pay for the deck. The voters didn’t approve this by the way. The City went around the voters using a legal loophole called Synthetic Tax Incremental Financing. It’s great, assuming your tax projections pan out. They haven’t thus far.
The City of Fayetteville has already proven it is lousy at the parking business. It can’t decide what it wants to do, and it once it does, it has to take the taxpayers further into debt to get there.
Moreover, what’s the goal here? The end result of all this is a significant burden on downtown businesses. Less people are going to shop and eat downtown if they can get the same amenities elsewhere in town without having to pay to park.
The short of it is this: Your City government has taken you into debt so that they can charge you money to park on City property.
It’s pretty much a lose/lose. But don’t worry, City staff says that downtown parking will pay for itself, one day, when the deck is finally finished.
Despite the money shuffle, it’s pretty obvious where the problem lies.
In what is becoming an early-Spring tradition here in Fayetteville, City Manager Doug Hewett went on local radio this morning and defended the parking deck project downtown.
It’s making me a bit nostalgic…
I first published my concerns about the project in April of 2018. It must have struck a nerve, because Hewett immediately went on the radio and criticized my take. Since then, the contract’s been amended multiple times, costs have increased by millions of (tax) dollars, and the completion date continues to be pushed back.
This morning, Hewett assured listeners that the deck would be completed “soon,” and that the “big crane” would be returning in April to begin construction on top of the deck. Everyone loves a big crane. Hewett was hopeful that a few floors of the deck would open to allow Woodpeckers employees and Prince Charles residents a place to park.
Notice that the deck will be paid for with public funds (17+ Million). Also notice that the public won’t be parking in the deck when it opens.
But that’s O.K., Fayetteville, because after all this time, we’re still in love.
Love is Patient
The deck was supposed to be finished a year ago. Hewett said the City is still deciding whether it will enforce the $1000/day penalty provisions of our contract with the developers:
Hewett’s not being truthful here. He knows his office won’t push for enforcement. The city has not enforced a single term of this contract in the past. Why would it start now? Instead, the City Council and Mayor will be asked for patience and understanding, and they’ll give it.
Love is Kind
And why would we make our development partners pay us money, especially days after we were ready to pay them nearly $200,000 in interest income?
“Just Because” 😉
The council postponed the vote on the Assistant City Manager’s “interest income” proposal last week, waiting until after Valentines Day to give away your interest earnings to their development partner.
But look at the irony in that. We should be charging these developers over 300k in late fees ($1,000/day from March 15, 2019 to present). Instead, Doug Hewett’s office wants the council to pay them $186,095, for no reason at all. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Hewett also explained in the interview this morning that the parking deck is being built by “Hay Street Development Pad” (LLC), and not “Prince Charles Holdings” LLC. Hewett said many of the investors are the same, but technically, it’s two different companies.
Remember, we just have to take Hewett’s word for it on this. The public doesn’t get to know the identity of our development partners. It’s not a public record.
So while City Hall and these investors continue their tango into 2020, they’re asking the public to love a ghost.
And by “love,” I mean they’re asking the public to throw millions of tax dollars at a ghost.
If you look hard enough, you can almost see your money floating away…
I have to make a (bad) joke about it because it’s such an inherently awful way to conduct city government. We should not be receiving assurances on the radio from an un-elected city employee about a public-private development deal with secret investors.
It’s way past time to shine some sunlight on this romance. Local media won’t dig into it, and it’s clear you’re not going to get a straight answer from City Hall.