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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Public Private Partnerships - A Matter Between Friends

Well, you knew this was coming. After rumors circulated around Janesville for the past two weeks, it turns out another group of underfunded private special interest folks have approached the city with a plan to divest Janesville taxpayers of their ever more difficult-to-earn dollars. So far, one private business venture succeeded when the WHP captured an extremely soft lease contract and refreshment concessions deal with the city. The WHP will rent a property tax-free facility on the cheap with all routine maintenance and upkeep paid for by the city, while the group keeps 100% of admissions, concessions, sponsorship and advertising. Forgive me if I left something out.

The second group, led by city hall activist K. Andreah Briarmoon, laid down a somewhat awkward yet reasonable proposal for a community center to help economically distressed residents. She proposed a plan to save the old (historic) Case Feed Building near the city central by renovating it into a neighborhood/youth community center. The Case building proposal was not unlike the others as it involved a public/private scheme and the capturing of $450,000 in tax dollars. However, for the community center, the funding was requested from Federal Block Grant money, a source of revenue Briarmoon demonstrated as being diverted away from its original intentions and use by the Janesville City Administration. In the end, the city advised her to come back with a considerably reduced funding request.
JG Excerpt: (March 17,2009)
"I'm thrilled to be the real estate agent involved in a project that does so many things at once," Briarmoon said. "Preserving a historic landmark, restoring it, and on top of that, it will even provide space for service groups that will directly benefit the neighborhood."
There should have been some traction here. This was a very worthwhile and timely proposal, and besides, city officials have no problem finding revenue for leisurely amenities such as a hockey team/arena during a time most people believe will be a deep and long term recession. But things are quickly going south for the Case Feed Community center as the city gave the building owners a seven day notice to secure the structure by boarding it up.

Unfortunately, the community center idea was derailed at the most important time by folks you'd least expect.
JG Excerpt: (March 17,2009)
Council President Amy Loasching said she's not sure there's enough support to justify the project. "I would really question whether or not that is something that a large group of people would really utilize," she said. "I've heard from a handful of people that say that they want this," Loasching said. "If we're doing something with city money to please five people, I'm not in support of that."
These comments seemed very premature and dismissive coming from a city council member, yet very telling of the city’s initial reaction to the Case community center. Ironically, soon afterward and separate from the Briarmoon group, Loasching and Council member Kathy Voskuil formed a Janesville Poverty Coalition group under city auspice to serve low-income residents – I would guess - all five of them. Briarmoon must know by now the tables are heavily tilted against her initiatives, even by people she may have thought would have supported such a worthy cause.

But now we have a third private group proposing yet another public private partnership to confiscate tax dollars. This particular group proposes building a new ice arena facility south of the new baseball diamonds in the Youth Sports Complex – on the far, far east side of town.
JG Excerpt:
The group hasn't decided who would own the building. One option is for the committee to own the rink and lease it back to the city for a nominal fee, Squire said.
This is how Briarmoon should have approached the city for the community center. Ask the city for $2.5 million right at the start. Demand the city design, build, operate and maintain the property tax-free facility while you assume all the ownership benefits. And in the meantime, pull a nice income by renting the facility back to the city taxpayers! In Janesville, this one will fly!!

I would guess here on the ice arena that ownership all depends on whether the city signs a lifetime maintenance agreement and hands a green field over to the group for $1, draws a TIF District around it and then builds the facility. Another strike against the Case Feed building.

And to think, this one’s just getting started. I can't wait!

Jesse the "body" and the mind

Hasselbeck more worried about Pelosi than torture.


Anonymous said...

It's class warfare.

Anonymous said...

It's also upper class welfare.

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