$42 million in taxpayer money. That’s the city’s ante in the newly revived downtown convention hotel project, being pushed by developer Mike Burke at the behest of Mayor Sly James and his tax and spend City Council. Even former city councilwoman Cindy Circo got into the act on social media last week, praising the council for advancing the measure that brought the hotel project back from the dead. Keep in mind that as recently as June of this year, project backers were still roughly $30 to $40 million short in financing, a number that interestingly almost matches the city’s direct financial contribution. Things that make you go hmmmm.
This infrastructure-minded news-dog doesn’t think much of the project that $42-mil would go a long way in terms of infrastructure improvements, especially in parts of the city’s long-rotting urban core. But let’s not let boring sidewalk and street projects get in the way of another of the Mayor’s long list of legacy projects that include the toy train streetcar and the much ballyhooed single terminal airport plan.
While the Mayor has put this back on the fast track to passage, some of the girl power on the council says the plan needs more transparency. Councilwomen Loar, Shields and Hall filed an ordinance with the city clerk last week that aims to put some sunshine on the financial details of this project. The dog agrees. In a city that has a long history of back room deals that date back to the Pendergast era and before, the Dog would welcome a spotlight on this process. Let’s keep in mind that it was back room deals that led to our Police Department being controlled at the state level for the last 70 or so years.
While we’ve resigned ourselves to the ultimate passage of this highly leveraged TIF project, we’re pleased that at least a few elected officials with a modicum of common sense say there needs to be more transparency with this deal. Besides, if this were such a good idea, private developers would have jumped on this project a long time ago. Gotta keep the corporate cronies at the trough. Happy though, right?