Politics and Priorities

I received a response from the city's director of public works informing me they are aware of our infrastructure problems and hope to get to my neighborhood in a couple of years. We'll see. I don't begrudge other desperate neighborhoods getting precedence. I begrudge developers getting precedence and CDBG funds that could go for infrastructure in qualified neighborhoods, such as Bailey, somehow being spent on the city attorney's retaining wall or sidewalks that are more part of downtown than true Bailey.

What city officials, and members of Council who would still rather live in the future than the present, need to understand is the politics of priorities. We will continue banging away on what has and is being neglected in this city, until cost-effective public services and the needs of the neighborhoods, where most voters and taxpayers live, take precedent over subsidizing discretionary development and wishful-thinking programs and projects.

Using what amounts to shell companies and money laundering to allow special interests and high profile projects to cut in line is going to be stopped. All priorities for city funds will be subject to the same pool, and the magic money piggybacking of low priority public works on development projects will cease.

Some city reformers are upset that some of the old guard and old ways still reign in city hall. But think of how far we have come in the last year.

A year ago, Triplett, Goddeeris, and Beard were eager to throw $23.8 million at the City Center II developer, despite his by then thoroughly documented record, the obscene demands of his predevelopment agreement, REDACTED, and so on. St. Anne Lofts and the Residences and the Anne St. Plaza infrastructure were still being hyped as the best thing since whole-grain bread. Secrecy and the need for FOIA prevailed. Commissions did what they were told and asked no tough questions. Broken sidewalks were "low hanging fruit" for the budget ax.

We saved the city from almost certain financial ruin with City Center II -- Phil Bellfy is someday going to get full credit for doggedly continuing to fight city hall when almost everyone else had given up. Bonds for development are now political suicide. City officials are learning open government and access to information is in their interest as well as ours, and that getting help from knowledgeable citizens who want to help is a good thing. I believe it is only a matter of time before we thoroughly reform the composition of the DDA and BRA to make them as close to democratic as possible and impose rules to prevent doing business with cronies, crooks, and deadbeats, by ballot initiative if city hall continues to resist. Savings from maturing bonds will go for general not special fund purposes, again by ballot initiative if necessary.

Ignoring dangerously deteriorating and blighted neighborhood infrastructure while blathering on about how things are moving in the right direction and all the wonderful new developments and programs that are never assessed is now also political suicide.

We're dismantling years and years of a tightly controlled, media strategized, government that was all about development, with its citizens and their neighborhoods regarded as a nuisance, at best placated with some placebo or to curry favor (as is the likely explanation for the one section of sidewalk in our immediate vicinity that did get fixed by the city in living memory).

You've come a long way, baby! The fight is far from over, but etch-a-sketch politicians are canaries in a mine, and they are looking an awful lot like they need fresh air.

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