Monday, July 7, 2014

Let's GO to the Tape.

It's no "Rose Mary Stretch," but the City's Board of Estimate & Apportionment's providing the wrong audio of its 05/20/14 meeting does raise an eyebrow. Instead of providing audio of its May 2014 meeting, E&A provided audio for a most perfunctory E&A meeting in May of 2013. Have a listen and hear for yourself.

Could be an understandable clerical error of mixing up 2013 and 2014, right? Could be. But here's the eyebrow-raiser. Aldermanic President Lewis Reed claims that at this particular May 20, 2014 meeting of E&A (of which an audio record has not been provided), both Mayor Slay and Comptroller Green urged that $29 million in a proposed bond go for infrastructure in Paul McKee's Northside Regeneration TIF zone. On June 23 Reed, citing this 05/20/14 E&A meeting (of which an audio record has not been provided), warned of a possible "sweetheart deal" for Paul McKee.

On June 26, Reed presented a GO bond proposal to the Board of Aldermen's Ways & Means Committee with specific project lists. Reed's proposal separated a controversial police 'real time intelligence center" ballot question from the larger bond, so that voters had the opportunity to support or reject RTIC separately from supporting or rejecting the rest of the bond issue.

Reed's substitute bill presented to Ways & Means on July 2 eliminated money for a home repair program and, perhaps most importantly for a possible "sweetheart deal," eliminated the specificity of the project list.
Mayor Francis Slay wasn't a fan of the level of detail outlined in the bill, saying the city needed flexibility to address changing capital needs. And comptroller Darlene Green didn't like the home repair money because it would cost the city more to sell those bonds.
Eventually, Reed reached a compromise with Slay and Green that kept the real-time intelligence center separate, but eliminated home repair funds and the specific list of projects.
The compromise, however, broke down as "Reed would be one of six aldermen to vote to restore $5 million in home repair, plus make other changes."

With the deal now kaput between Reed on one side and, on the other side, Mayor Slay and Comptroller Green, it's a question of to what extent Slay and Green will involve themselves in what (if any) bond bill gets out of BoA. It already appears likely that the home repair program funds won't survive, but what else could get axed or eliminated? The Capital Committee recommended a bond issue of $155 million total for "critical" departmental requests and set a ceiling of no more than $175 million total. Will a number around $175 million be what gets out of BoA?

How about $180 million? That's the $155 million identified by the Capital Committee as critical, plus $25 million for unspecified (or, if you will, flexible) infrastructure improvements. Keep in mind the proposed funds for things like building demolition that will "incidentally" touch upon McKee's Northside Regeneration, and it's not difficult to see how a $25 million pot for unspecified infrastructure spending gets us to a figure of $29 million for Northside Regeneration.

Perhaps the audio of that 05/20/14 E&A meeting can shed some light. Voters won't have a specific project list to illuminate the issue. Let's GO to the tape. (Get it? GO. Like a GO bond.)