Monday, May 16, 2011

The Wizard of Oz, or maybe Pearl Street.

The proposed River View riverfront development project was back in the news yesterday, as the Tribune editorial board daintily skimmed over numerous cautionary considerations expressed here and elsewhere, donned its finest cheerleading apparel (now in Clark County school colors), and said there are just times when a city must roll the dice and see what happens.

River View: Newspaper editorial expresses "hopes" for economic development.

Something about it reminded me of numerous occasions during the recently concluded election campaign, when I heard objections to the project phrased something like this: Why give more assistance, more breaks and more money to those who already have plenty of them?

I tend to agree, but if only this River View matter were so simple. Previously, I've grappled with the implications of public/private financing in this context:

It goes something like this: The city wields its TIF as a magic wand to borrow against future tax revenues in order to build a parking garage beneath the buildings that the investors cannot finance without the city’s parking garage as collateral, and in time, the city gets paid back while the developers profit from their project.
What has yet to be refuted, much less adequately explained, is actually the converse of conventional populist wisdom: The developers actually are not awash with cash, and are lacking in plenty, and so what the city proposes to do with a TIF-cremented foundational parking garage is not so much providing a handout to monied interests as it is providing the means for those interests to become monied.

That's the part bothering me, and pending the money being shown to us before the Big Dig comences, this is why I continue to have doubts about the project. It isn't personal. It is a question that we must ask, now more than ever, and as we ponder these imponderables, here's how councilman John Gonder sees it:

Private profit should not be the determining factor in a decision of this magnitude. When the fate of our downtown is on the line, it is time for a wider airing of the decisions we face as a community.
And here's a great book review in yesterday's New York Times:

How Bernard Madoff Did It

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