Phase Two

March 25, 2013 at 1:15pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Construction has proceeded relatively smoothly as the Pinnacle Bank Arena nears completion for this fall’s opening. Alas, we knew it wouldn’t last. There were some fireworks late last week, and they’re worth a second look.

Earlier this year it became clear that there would be some opportunities to accelerate development of the West Haymarket area. Businesses are interested in moving into the area, but to make that happen they would need parking. Conversations began about the construction of two additional parking garages in the area. Those two garages were not part of the original Haymarket redevelopment plan so they were not part of the original $344 million (now $346 million) budget. An extra $30 million would be needed.

And that’s where the sparks started. Late last week, Mayor Chris Beutler and Regent Tim Clare—both members of the JPA—got into a spat over the extra funds. Beutler thinks they’re a no-brainer; Clare says we should slow down and think about this. Eventually Councilman Gene Carroll sided with Beutler and bam, taxpayers are on the hook for the extra costs.

It’s an interesting problem. On the one hand there’s no doubt some partisanship going on. Democrat Mayor Beutler, for example, has publicly accused Republican Clare of being “anti-business”—a charge more often levied the opposite way ‘round when the two parties are involved. Meanwhile Clare wants transparency, which he argues has been lacking because of the speed with which these garages were proposed and approved. The so-called “Phase 2” of the redevelopment is not widely known or understood by the public. In fact, there’s reason to believe it’s not even widely known or understood by the JPA or other interested parties. Unlike with “Phase 1”—the arena, the new streets, The Yard, et al.—you won’t find detailed Phase 2 documentation anywhere.

Thus Mayor Beutler’s “anti-business” charge is not only childish, it’s downright ridiculous. There’s nothing “anti-business” about wanting a plan. The JPA itself is already an end-run around the public participation process. Anti-business or not, the responsible thing to do is slow down and ensure that the next steps—“Phase 2” and beyond—are as well thought out as those already underway. That’s just good sense.

To illustrate the absurdity of “Phase 2” as it currently exists, consider this bizarre exchange:

“Are we on budget?” Clare asked Lincoln Finance Director Steve Hubka.

“We are on budget today, provided you adopt this budget,” Hubka replied.

That’s not an approach driven by planning and organization, it’s one driven only by cashflow. It is a reckless and dangerous way to advance a project that to date has been something Lincolnites can be reasonably proud of.

Lincolnites need to begin demanding information about this “Phase 2”. What is it? What are its goals? What is its scope? And perhaps most importantly, are we absolutely certain we’ve taken care of our obligations with Phase 1 first? Mayor Beutler owes the community an explanation before he and the JPA charge ahead any further.

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Fletch March 25, 2013 at 4:41pm

This was silly on many levels. Beutler calling anyone else “anti-business” is comical. Pot, meet kettle.

Secondly, Clare was not asking to put this on hold indefinitely or trying to tie anything up into perpetuity. He wanted to hold off a vote for 2 weeks - TWO WEEKS - to get more information, numbers, clarity, etc.

I hardly think Project Oscar or anything else would dry up and go away in that 2 week period.

Seemed reasonable, but I guess it doesn’t matter at this point.

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