There is little chance Mr. Southern that I will convince you or others with the same “rose colored” perspective that, in today’s world, stuffing a promoter’s briefcase with millions of dollars of the public’s cash is not necessary for a city to have a strong economic development program.
Despite this, I will attempt to address your commentary entitled, “Stafford’s mayor takes a dump on Grid development.”
It must be noted at the outset, Brian Murphy, the presenter for the developer used over 50 minutes to lay out his case on the status of the Grid and his responses to my comments and questions from the audience, while I had less than a tenth of that time, or as you described it, “a five-minute rant,” to set forth my reservations. If there is any doubt about the length of the time taken by Mr. Murphy, or how enthralled you were with his presentation, just refresh your memory by reading your rambling front page article that goes on ad nauseam on three pages about what transpired.
While I will try not to ramble quite as much as you did, I feel, just as “compelled” as you, to address the main points you made, and didn’t make. First, and foremost, you virtually ignore the financial aspects of the arrangement including the $18 million in incentives, which are so overwhelming, and one of the main reasons I voted against the agreement.
Confirming my opposition, the numbers and time table, that are in the agreement the City executed are those supplied by StreetLevel, which require all sales tax generating establishments to be producing at a maximum level by the end of 2021. That is their firm representation, unmistakable conclusion and major component of the contract.
I repeatedly challenged that the assertion that the contract could comply with the provisions set forth. Sadly, the other Council and SEDC Board members voting on the agreement bought into it and some even castigated me for expressing opposition. It must be noted that many Stafford business owners were, and still are as adamant in their distaste as I—especially to the 80% sales tax kickback. Adding further credibility to my stance was that the City Attorney recently reminded the members of these two bodies that I had told them three times the numbers would not work.
What is lost in your commentary is just how radical the StreetLevel proposal made a month ago was. While they try to brush it off as just a “political slip up,” not only did it require the City to trash the year old agreement that took so long to negotiate, and was signed six month after the waters from Hurricane Harvey had subsided with no longer any lingering effects from the flood.
Further and somewhat unbelievably, StreetLevel tried to force Stafford into instituting a property tax, which would have devastated our image, reputation and credibility cultivated over the past 24 years derived from no city property taxes. Add to that, it would have required the passage and issuance of $25 million in bonds by the City. If that wasn’t enough, it would have abolished the Authority passed through the state legislature and signed into law by the governor, in which the Fort Bend County W.C.&I.D. #2 provides a vehicle for funding the project’s development. Really… just a “political slip up!”
A few other points of contention. You admonish me over comparing our agreement with that of Amazon HQ2 which provides for thousands of $150,000 jobs. If you think flipping hamburgers and picking up golf balls at the driving range are going to pay $150,000 salaries, you are misguided.
You take strong exception to my use of the term “iconic” as never having been used in reference to the TI property and being inappropriate. I have heard the term used many times when referencing that tract so ideally located. Further, a quick look at the Thesaurus lists exemplary, ideal, classical and supreme among other synonyms for the word. Hardly inappropriate.
You ridicule me for saying the politics of the City could be controlled by 5,000 voters living within a two-tenths of a square mile area in comparison to the remaining electorate of 9,000 voters spread throughout the City. There are numerous examples of a large block of the electorate in a small, concentrated area controlling the politics of a community. That you are oblivious to that fact is truly mystifying.
Finally, you excoriate me for denouncing the developer’s assurance that they would make Stafford into a point of destination—and their obvious inability to do so. You pretty much equate the term with driving to a fancy, jumbo grocery store—which by the way, why can’t StreetLevel attract a super jumbo, high quality grocery store to the Grid, especially when they are touted to be retail gurus? They never said, “a local point of destination.” I’ll stick to my examples of true points of destination, not your dumbed-down version used only for the purpose of giving them cover for another in their long list of failed promises.
Mayor Leonard Scarcella