News and Tribune

February 28, 2013

NEWS AND TRIBUNE LETTERS — For Feb. 28


New Albany resident urges wiser spending

It is with considerable trepidation that I venture my opinion concerning the construction of a sports center espoused by Mayor Jeff Gahan and some members of the City Council, as reported in a recent edition of the News and Tribune.

Have these people, our elected representatives, lost all sense of fiscal responsibility? Our children and our grandchildren will be burdened by this indebtedness. Recreational facilities may be desirable, but they are not essential. 

Streets, sidewalks, drainage and sewage, the homeless, the poor, police and fire protection, education, etc., are ongoing problems in our city, the solutions to which are far more essential than another recreational enterprise, which would serve only a small proportion of our population. The operation of such a complex is costly to say nothing of its maintenance, all of which are ongoing expenses and we have not mentioned the millions of dollars in interest which must be paid along with the almost $20 million in original cost.

Our governments, local as well as national, already are so overburdened by debt that the interest alone amounts to a considerable portion of income. Is it fair to us, to our children, and to their children, to obligate us, as well as our descendants — who have no voice whatsoever in the matter — to pay for such nonessentials? Why must we have instant gratification? What has happened to responsible government? Why can’t we save the money necessary and pay cash when we build it? (The total cost would be less than half).”

Mr. Mayor, members of the council: Please, spend our money wisely. Do not burden us with debt. Do not burden our children with debt. Be thrifty. Be fiscally responsible.

— Daniel l. Cannon, M.D., New Albany

 

Councilman looks for other uses for property downtown

The Mike Moore administration should rethink its $1-a-year, 50-year lease plans for some downtown properties. In recent years, the city of Jeffersonville forced businesses to close and residents to leave downtown all for the promise that this land would be put to a better use.

In theory, this canal district plan — promoted under former Mayor Tom Galligan — would have eliminated flooding, increased assessed property values, private investment, job creation, revenues to the tax increment financing district and created a downtown amenity that would draw people to visit. Over time, all these factors would result in a downtown we could be proud of and one full of economic activity.

We all know Mayor Moore was not a supporter of the canal plan. He believes this plan was way too expensive and over-hyped. That’s fine; now as mayor we see that he continued the downtown property purchases and continued to push for borrowing and bonding $11 million to improve this area. I worry that now that we have this property, there isn’t a proper plan to develop it, grow jobs and grow the tax base.

I was taught don’t complain unless you have some suggestions to improve the situation. I’ll limit mine to three:

1. Put out an request for proposal to large, deep-pocket developers for a majority of the property. Have this RFP reach out beyond Metro Louisville and make sure they are seen in big metro areas. Let experienced, well-funded entrepreneurs/developers suggest ideas on what they would do with this prime property located near downtown Louisville. If they come up with a good idea, go for it. And remember they will also have to offer a drainage plan to do something with all the water.

[Editor’s note: On Tuesday evening, after this letter was submitted, the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission discussed moving forward on seeking RFPs for the properties and area, and a more detailed RFP is expected to be presented at that board’s next meeting].

2. Create an art district plan and model it after other successful plans like Paducah, Ky.’s Art Relocation Program (http://www.paducahalliance. org/lowertown-arts-district). Some key aspects are that this district should not be in a prime location, should have a defined location, defined criteria and defined goals. Without a plan you are arbitrarily picking winners and losers and discriminating on what you think is worthy and/or artsy, which is a bad idea. 

3. If the big RFP does not go well, try to get a big local entity to be an anchor/draw to the area. Just look at New Albany and how the YMCA helped downtown or how Indiana University Southeast and the Purdue University in New Albany helped the Charlestown Road area. How about we call Ball State University or Notre Dame University and ask if they want a branch location in downtown Jeffersonville? I personally think Notre Dame South has a good ring to it. 

We can do much better then the current haphazard lease giveaway plan that is  being proposed by the Moore administration. As taxpayers who financed the purchase of all this land, we should demand more and to those we forcibly displaced, we owe much more.

— Ed Zastawny, Jeffersonville city councilman, District 2