Thank you, reporter Katie Brandenburg and City Editor Robyn Minor, for the recent articles regarding Hitcents Park Plaza.
The mixing of public (government) funding with what are properly private (entrepreneurial) pursuits often leads to peril. The Hitcents Park Plaza is but one local example. The Gateway Farmers Market is another and a topic for another day. Public funds should be used for public purposes – public safety, roads, parks, sidewalks – not large capital projects with questionable benefit to the public. Private investors/entrepreneurs calculate risk and potential return on investment. They also put up their own money – not taxpayers’ money.
Voters should know which city officials voted for these arrangements. The Sunday article noted that former Commissioner Bill Waltrip was the only no vote in each of the votes and that Commissioner Melinda Hill voted yes. According to the minutes on the city website, also voting yes in 2012 were Mayor Bruce Wilkerson, Commissioner Joe Denning and then-Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash; in the 2013 vote, in addition to Hill, Mayor Wilkerson and Commissioners Joe Denning and Rick Williams voted yes. Doug Gorman, chairman of the Downtown Economic Development Authority, appears to be deeply involved in the situation. What is his role in this debacle and what oversight has he provided for this project? Is anyone on city staff providing oversight for the project?
A flowchart of the cash flows would be helpful. The county has issued $27 million in bonds, but is not responsible for the repayment; the city is leasing the garage with payments equal to the bond payments. Who is the city paying? Who is making the bond payments? How has the $27 million been spent and by whom and to whom? There must be accountability for the commitment and spending of public funds.