Sunday, March 10, 2013

City Council, March 11th

Monday's Council meeting is pretty quiet for our purposes here.

The Urban Renewal Agency has a couple of updates - information only - on the Minto Bridge and Path funding. $212,700 in urban renewal funds, an application for $750,000 in Oregon Parks and Recreation grant (from lottery monies), and news about the survey and $1,225,000 grant from the BPA and Department of Fish and Wildlife

Conference Center in Urban Renewal Agency Audit
There's also a brief mention of the annual audit of the Urban Renewal Agency, but no direct link to it because there was nothing remarkable in it, good or bad, apparently, and the auditors issued no "management letter." Still, if you burrow into the City's website to find the report, you can pluck out interesting bits like this:

Conference Center Operating Loss
So is the Conference Center actually generating a significant increment of additional money for the City of Salem and the community of Salem? Who knows!

It would still be great for someone to explain if the Pringle Creek URA actually outpaced inflation! Sure there are big concrete buildings there, but if we hadn't torn down other buildings and businesses, would gradual reinvestment and redevelopment actually have created more value than the dramatic make-over did? 

The scope of the audit doesn't appear to assess whether the investments are actually creating additional value - that is, it doesn't assess whether urban renewal actually works for the City at large! Instead it's mostly concerned with internal financials - the ability to service debt off the property tax increment and to pay for projects.

It sure seems like there's room and a need for a thoughtful analysis and critique of urban renewal and tax-increment financing here in town.   It seems difficult to believe critics who say it's all a crock, but at the same time, it sure seems like there are a number of instances where the investment didn't do much more (if anything) than a "do nothing" state, and we could probably use urban renewal more shrewdly if we had a more open discussion of its flaws and its successes.  Why don't we analyze the failures and net-zeros more honestly?  Right now it's too much mystical mumbo-jumbo, magical economic development

Other Stuff

There's more on a proposal to pay for streetlights and neighborhood street maintenance out of a new utility fee. Remember the gas tax isn't enough! "This funding is necessary to overcome a $1 million shortfall between transportation revenue..."

A report on a replat at Boise. It was approved with a condition to vacate the right-of-way previously set aside for a new at-grade RR crossing, which was to have required closing State Street.  This is a win.  A development that required closing State Street at the Carousel would harm Salem generally, so criticism of the current apartment complex proposal must be balanced against the constrained access because of the railroad.

Three new lots.  Plans to vacate the ill-conceived RR crossing!
In the legislative positions, the City opposes a carbon tax on fuel (HB 2792). (Sustainable Salem, eh?) In mildly exciting news, the City supports expanding ConnectOregon (SB 247) to use lottery funds for bike, ped, transit, and passenger rail projects.

Since the ground floor retail in the Liberty parkade is empty, the City wants to offer discounted leases to the Salem Art Association and Mary Lou Zeek for spring art installations. It's along a state highway! You may recall the proposal for a visitor center there.

Barricades sure make for a friendly walk, don't they!
It's a great idea to use the vacant space, but when will the City attend seriously to the fact that it's a crappy place to walk, not inviting at all? Just putting neat things into the retail space won't reclaim the avenue as a pleasant place to walk or just to be.

There are also a few interesting April dates coming up:

Work Session on Council Goals ~ Monday, April 1, 6:00 p.m.  (April fools?!)

Adoption of the Capital Improvement Plan for Fiscal Years 2013-14 through 2017-18 ~ Monday, April 8
Work Session on Parking Task Force ~ Tentative: Monday, April 8, 5:30 p.m. 

Comprehensive Park System Master Plan Update ~ Monday, April 22

And of course the budget:

Presentation of FY 2013-14 Budget by City Manager ~ Wednesday, April 10, 6:00 p.m.

Budget Reviews ~ Wednesday, April 17, 24, May 1, and May 8, 6:00 p.m.

No comments: