Sunday, February 23, 2014

The farmers market, opportunity cost, and decision-making prior to fact-gathering.

At last Thursday's city council meeting, I mentioned the opportunity cost of tying up the southeast corner of Market and Bank with a farmers market expansion.

Opportunity cost: The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.

Councilman Gonder explains this opportunity cost in much greater detail:

If, on the other hand, the market were successful at the new garage site, (and it likely would be, because the local food movement is real and has been embraced by so many) then the current market site at Bank and Market Streets could be returned to service as a fully functional component of downtown commercial revitalization. It makes little sense to have one of the most economically valuable, as well as spatially valuable, pieces of property in the entire downtown, off the tax rolls, and dedicated to only intermittent use for eight or ten days a month six or seven months out of the year.

If set on a different course, that corner could be thrown open to a design challenge which could yield exciting possibilities not now visualized.

If, on the other hand, the City commits hundreds of thousands of dollars to that corner, the very expenditure itself is likely to shackle us to that piece of property, while other more profitable, enhancing, and defining, uses of the property are turned away from the downtown and, rather, sent to the outer reaches of town where development, while necessary and welcome, contributes less to what is the true heart of our City.

Yesterday, another friend put it this way:

Opportunity cost is when you have the fleeting opportunity of just a mere 48 months to spend an entire generation's tax dollars. You tend to focus on spending rather than planning.

What I find noteworthy is a very clear pattern over the past two years. A decision is made and fully funded, then reasons found to support the pre-determined conclusion. From swimming pools to the farmers market, this pattern has been repeated. Only once has there been an exception: There must be a study to determine the future of the one-way street grid before a decision is reached.

If you want to know why I'm pessimistic about the future of two-way streets and walkability in New Albany, this is the reason. If you wish to know more, ask John Rosenbarger -- who already has made up his mind.

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