Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Downtown Special

Council is divided against itself again. Last month we held a committee meeting where most people said good things about the proposed Downtown Special Improvement District. Today the knives were out. Our municipal employees union, AFSCME Local 7 sent a letter strongly objecting to the SID. The services the SID would provide sound too similar to the services already provided or what should be provided by municipal workers, they think.

There's no question we need to keep downtown clean and inviting. That private businesses want to tax themselves to deliver "enhanced" services is seemingly generous - especially because their employees already pay city income taxes and the businesses themselves pay city assessments for certain services.

Its off the next council agenda and certainly back on the front page.


Blogger Michael Veh said...

Downtown redevelopment has been on the table for decades and never seems to go anywhere. All this talk about the Marina District sounds strangely like the hype that surrounded Portside so many years ago. There was no central focus and no plan beyond the immediate project. The Special Improvement District is part of a long-term project that was designed by DTI and supported by council. This is just part of a larger picture of the future of Toledo's Downtown core and should receive overwhelming support by council, the Mayor and the local unions.

If private business wants to join togethter to pay for improvements downtown, then that is up to them. Funding it through a SID makes sense -- particlarly if it has support of those paying the tax. If the workers with AFSCME 7 object to businesses paying for services, I suggest they find out why business feels the need to pay for additional or enhanced services.

This is clearly a case of council being afraid to take a stand on a simple issue. The Special Improvement District is a method of paying for needed services above and beyond what is already being provided. Where is the controversy in that?

11:15 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Appreciate Mike's post...

"There was no central focus and no plan beyond the immediate project." said Mike.

Went to two meetings this afternoon that address Mike's thought. First, a council committee meeting to discuss the Marina District. The developers, Pizzuti Group (Columbus, did Nationwide Arena) are presently in the field doing a market study. The Mayor would like Council to pass a Development Agreement Tuesday. We get the market study 1/31. They brief us and take input and present a Memo of Understanding for the Mayor's approval. And they meet a March deadline for an overall development plan.

The second meeting was a brainstorming session at Central Union Terminal presented by the City's able Brownfields Coordinator Ford Weber and an urban planner from Chicago, Farr Associates. Mr. Farr cited the miles of public waterfront back home and noted Toledo has vast opportunities along our Maumee River.

We have an opportunity to completely change our perspective on what's "downtown" that shifts to a central focus on the waterfront. From the steamplant project, the Docks, a vibrant marina district, Main Street on the East Side, a new look at waterfront property in the near south end, etc...

Perhaps the SID should be held up and tweaked to include this longer term vision?

11:57 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

The Marina District and downtown growth issues seem destined for mediocrity if we do not let the markets drive the development. Keep in mind I am a fairly liberal Democrat and and a believer in smart growth. Still, if we ignore the input of experts who know how to measure and plan for what the market can and will demand/sustain, we will have another Portside like scenario. Looks good, but becuase it is a deriviative of political motives, not true economic opportunity and demand, it could lack sustainability. Toledo has the critical mass of citizens and resources that allows us to compete with more econmically vibrant and aggressive suburbs if we accept that sometimes allowing the market to dictate development is the right move, within limits.

Government needs to protect againt development that drains and destroys resources, but I do not think it is government who can propose a plan that is truely innovative and self sustaining on a business level. Smart people do not always have the answers, they just know where to look for good information to solve their problems. In this case it may require looking outside of City Council.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

What were the objections raised by the AFSCME folks?

9:31 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

Council voted 12-0 tonight 1/25/05 to pass the SID. AFSCME never signed on, but Council President Escobar met with them this afternoon and indicated that they appreciate that Council will intervene if the SID attempts to take over responsibilites of municipal employees

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

frank thank you for taking on afscme. i know that afscme is pised over this, but we need to show that uaw runs this town.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Council didnt see this as "taking on AFSCME" - in fact, state law protects municipal employees from having SID's encroach on the responsibilities of municipal workers.

Not sure what the UAW has to do with this debate though - but I like that you are anonymously posting critical comments on each topic. It keeps me on my toes.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:01 PM  

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