E Plurubus Unum, Rex Montis

Monday, January 07, 2008

Thoughts, and the event center

My blog has turned into something I do just for the sake of writing. From time to time I may feel the urge to dredge up an old war story or two, but mostly I need an excuse and a reason to write. I hope to one day to do some sort of professional writing. I do not yet know what that will be exactly. But a good writer is both well read and well written. This is one of several ways I simply practice writing.

I will be entering a writing competition shortly. I’m thinking about doing a piece on a fictional story in Iraq from the eyes of a terrorist. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, if anyone has any requests, topics, discussion or ideas they would like to hear me write about, feel free to comment and I shall determine if I have the time or desire to write about/on it.

Right now the only thing on my mind is the local event center that has plagued our city leaders in the form of an ugly monolith disguised as sunshine and roses. Maybe this event center is indeed a good thing, but right now all I can see is a $50 million project that certain people want without regards to the average taxpayer or the potential consequences.

As I have voiced/typed my opinion in online forums in the past, I have been called “Unpatriotic” (they were apparently safely in their homes with hands over ears and eyes when I got off the bus July 22nd after being gone somewhere for two years…) and a “hindrance to progress.” I take these as compliments, further attesting to my superhuman powers to point out the obvious to people that would rather live in a fantasy world where healthcare is free, taxes are something only rich people pay, and everyone is a victim who can blame someone else for all their problems and poor choices in life (failing that you can always call names and make character attacks).

The main argument is that this center will bring in a lot of revenue for the city. That’s all well and good. How does this help me? I know I’ll be paying taxes for it. The first assessor said it wouldn’t ever pay for itself. That assessment was quickly thrown aside in favor of one that agreed with the plan the infamous “they” had in mind. My question is this; if somehow this does make money through rentals to out of town businesses, will my taxes go down? Will I get reimbursed for the moneys I have been forced to shell out? Of course not! The argument is that I personally won’t have to pay for this, that the state will pay for a chunk of it. I counter with the question, “Where does the state get its money?” Answer, land taxes (in part) and who pays land taxes? I do! Along with a lot of people who voted NO to this thing…oops, I didn’t get to vote, I was busy in some giant sand box. How much did it pass by? 41 votes. How many of us were gone….? Interesting thought.
Oh, and who made the majority vote pass on this? Temporary students that were bussed in from the college to vote. Students who don’t pay land taxes, and who won’t even be here in a couple years to bear the burden of new taxes needed to support this “thing.”

Now the city council during a workers meeting suddenly changed the meeting into a final push to solidify the decision to make this $50 mil event center a reality (it was on the radio all day yesterday). When one person raised the motion that they wait 10 days so they could talk about it without being so hasty, that person was shot down with the response “We aren’t going to wait any longer.” These kinds of sentiments don’t seem prudent, and certainly don’t signify good leadership or stewardship of the people’s money.

Speaking of money, an extension has been requested on the local tax increase. I'm noticing a trend...

I wish there was more I could do than rant on my blog about this issue that is so close to home for me. Get a petition going, a court injunction…anything. (Any thoughts or ideas out there anyone?) I have so much to say on this subject, but I’m sure I lost peoples interest with lengthy text long ago. But that’s ok; this is helping me get it off my chest.

Conclusion: this is indeed a big issue for me. However, if this is the worst thing I have to think about compared to the last two years, things are all right.


Chet said...

I could write a book on this train wreck, Zeke. One of the problems, as I see it, is that there isn't much of a process in Minnesota for recalling elected officials. Some of the city council members voting to move forward with this turkey represent wards where the referendum failed badly; those council members are ignoring their own constituents and deserve to be removed from office. For now, at least, it sounds like the request for funding will be DOA in St. Paul. If that happens, the project will (hopefully) go nowhere this year. In the meantime, several of the city council members should be up for reelection this fall. If the events center opponents (aka people who understand basic math) can organize themselves and find viable candidates to run for those seats, that would be the democratic approach.

Diskdoctr said...

I can't comment on your Event Center issue asn I live and work nearly 300 miles south of you. I can say that I hear a lot of questions about "What can we send or soldiers that they need and want while in Iraq and the area. Coming from a soldier that has been there, tel me what I should tell them to send. When I was in combat I longed for a book to read, but I am not sure that is practical. Will you please help me with what to tell them? Thanks

Zeke said...

That's ok, the event center is more of my personal Waterloo anyway, the exception being I doubt I can win this one, only vent.

In regards as to what to send...I read a ton of books when I was there, but I don't think any need be sent unless requested specifically. I would focuse on the main things I used and loved.

#1 Wet wipes
#2 Beef Jerky
#3 Home baked goodies i.e. cookies, bars etc.
#4 Non-perishable food, granola bars, candy, summer sausage, crackers, nuts, canned fruit with easy open tops, drink mixes (gatorade powder, punch etc).
#5 magazines
#6 tobacco products (if you want to support a habbit)

It's kind of tough to guess. Some bases have everything you could want at a PX (minus home baked goodies), while others like my brother's outfit, don't even have a PX.

Find out what kind of unit the packages are being sent to. Infantry, tankers, scouts (combat arms) are more in need of above items.
"most" other units have access to basic necessities, but appreciate care packages just as much as the next guy.

Moon said...

Is there a way to demand another vote since those gone to protect everyone else's asses couldn't vote?

Chet said...

From reviewing the city charter I don't know that you could force a vote, but if you could gather up all the eligible Bemidji residents who were deployed at the time of the referendum and speak up as a group--whether that be at a city council meeting, in a letter to the editor or by contacting state legislators or Governor Pawlenty--to state your opposition to this boondoggle, yours would be a very difficult voice to ignore. The other option would be to target any of the city council members who are up for reelection this fall--to start actively campaigning against them NOW. With any luck, there won't be funding available for the center in this coming bill. In that case, you just want to make sure the next council doesn't try to secure funding again.

Mandy Gazelka, GRI said...

For fun I will play the devil's advocate! You are wondering how the events center could ever be a good thing and how you will ever see money come back to you for all the taxes you will pay... Here's my thoughts if all goes as planned. Say the events center starts bringing "culture" to our area in the form of concerts and other such events. This brings interest to our community. The people that attend these events will need a place to eat and sleep thus helping local restaurants and hotels allowing them to keep and hire new staff which is good for the job market. Which in turn could cause people to view this as a great place to live and work due the need for workers and all the "culture"! Thus causing them to need a place to live. The more people needing a place to live the better the housing market! So in conclusion the way that you will recoup your taxes paid is that the value of your house should go up and POOF there is your money! I hope you can read my rantings I didn't have much time to type!

Chet, CPA (inactive) said...

The city is already growing and adding the sort of low-wage service jobs you mention without wasting $100 million in tax revenue on an overgrown hockey rink that can't cover its own operating costs under even the rosiest, most deluded of assumptions. The CSL "experts" also forecast an operating and maintenance shortfall of anywhere from $250,000 to $750,000 per year, which will land squarely on the backs of city property taxpayers. Any new residents who settled outside the city limits (and the last I saw, there weren't a lot of vacant residential lots left IN the city) would contribute NOTHING to the city's property tax revenues. And since there's no city income tax, the city doesn't benefit directly from additional jobs, either... it has to trickle down to new construction, which would generate some property taxes, which would be largely offset by the need to provide additional services. Likewise, the argument about increases in housing value are specious. Even if the events center did drive up property values, those increases would not be restricted to the city (if anything, city property values would fall because of the increased tax burden the center caused). So, your tax bill would go up but you'd have to sell your home before you saw any benefit and unless you were moving out of the area, you'd just be paying someone else in the area the same type of inflated price for their home; consequently, the homeowners don't benefit at all unless they plan to move away. Realtors, however, would be taking a commission out of an inflated sales price, so I can see why they might like the idea. This whole thing is nothing more than a warmed-over rehash of Reagan's trickle-down economic theory, or as his VP called it, voodoo economics.

Anonymous said...

The way that I see it unless you own proporty within the city limits it really doesn't matter.

Chet said...

Or if you live outside the city limits but own a business in town, where you'll be stuck with higher property taxes you weren't allowed to vote against. Or if you shop in town, where you'll be stuck paying an additional sales tax for the next thirty years. Or if you're in the adjacent townships and will be annexed into the city in the future and inherit the bill for the operating deficits. Or if you live anywhere else in Beltrami County and end up picking up a larger share of joint city-county projects on your property taxes because the city property owners are getting reamed by the events center deficits. Or if you live anywhere in the state of Minnesota and have to pay property taxes to help cover the state bonding portion of this turkey. So, yeah, if you don't live in Minnesota and never set foot in Bemidji and don't have any friends or relatives who live there, it probably doesn't affect you. But the rest of us are getting screwed.

Zeke said...

Well said Chet, my wife is very tired of hearing me talk about this issue, but I can't help it. It sickens me to see our elected leaders being so stuborn and bullheaded because they don't want to see their project die. The close vote alone should have raised some heads.

As far as Bemidji wanting to grow, I don't buy that. Bemidji has always been anti-growth. They didn't want Walmart, they didn't want Home Depot, but all of a sudden they're portraying the Event Center as a wealth of jobs...I'd say Walmart brought way more jobs in. Personally I would hypothesize that someone is getting some seriouse $$$ for this little venture.

I couldn't help but notice the first survey that predicted it wouldn't even pay for itself until year 7 was conveniently thrown out and they found a better one that meshed with their plan better.

As I've said before, if this is such a sure fire money maker, let the people that are pushing this thing take out a loan, and they can pay themselves back with all the vast profits.

chet said...

Menards is projected to generate more jobs than the events center, and we didn't have to blow $100 million in taxes to get them to come to town. The numbers keep changing from one day to the next, but the latest figure I've seen in the Pioneer is a $67 million facility. Let's assume $25 million from the state, leaving $42 million from local sales taxes (backed by property taxes). Then you've got the $14 million in acquisition costs. The city is paying roughly 4.5% interest on those bonds, so lets assume they manage to get the same rate on the construction bonds: $14 million + $42 million = $56 million. $56 million at 4.5% interest amortized over 30 years = $3.4 million per year. Add in the projected annual operating deficit ($530,000) and maintenance costs (0.5% of construction costs = $335,000) and you're looking at potentially $4.3 million per year over the next 30 years. And for what? Their big announcement: 6 home games per year against WCHA teams instead of 2 or 3. That's over a million bucks a game, just to (hopefully) draw an extra 1,000 or 1,500 hundred fans... though I believe attendance at the last UMD game here was listed in the paper at about 1,600. And it doesn't address the lack of viability in in the CHA, nor does it provide for an autobid for the NCAA tournament. The city council needs to pull their collective heads out of their asses and and kill this boondoggle before they bankrupt the city.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, the voters approved (by that I mean 40 college students from out of town) a facility that was $28 million dollars.... where the hell did the $50 million price tag come from.

I think this is called "bait-and-switch"... funny that hasn't been mentioned in the papers.

Zeke said...

My point exactly. The original ammount projected was much lower than the large problem it has turned into. If they want to just boost the price, they need to have a re-vote. Notice that there is going to be an extention on the local sales tax that was promised to be temporary.
I find it interesting how promises can be fluid. Lets hope people keep these things in mind during the elections this fall.