Archive for November 16th, 2011

Law Enforcement

by lizard

If you don’t pay your rent, or your mortgage, you get evicted.

And if you break a law, or violate an ordinance, like illegal camping, there are consequences, like your few remaining material possessions getting seized by parks and rec and thrown away.

Unfortunately, selective enforcement of laws and ordinances exposes how one’s socio-economic status determines who must pay the piper, and who gets to call the tune.

If you are a chronic drunk drinking vodka on the courthouse lawn, you will receive lots of citations for having “open containers”. But if you are an upstanding citizen with money to burn walking down Higgins during First Friday with a plastic cup of crappy Merlot in your hand, you have nothing to worry about.

That’s just the way it is. The more money you have, the less the law can touch you. Can’t pay rent? Then no roof overhead. Crash the global economy? Unlimited injections of zero-interest smack to keep your parasitic junkie ass alive.

by jhwygirl

Not sure how this is flying under the radar – and maybe there’s a reason, huh? – but Missoula Redevelopment Authority (MRA) has apparently set its sights on the Hotel Fox LLC for redevelopment of the old Fox Theater site.

Back in the spring, MRA put out the call for proposals on the site, proposals being due June 30. Only two applications were considered to be complete, and the favorite which immediately surfaced to the top was the 200 – 250 room hotel with conference center proposal from Hotel Fox LLC.

Hotel Fox LLC is partnered with the Farren Group, a housing developer that’s done projects here in Missoula, Lambros Realty, and the high-end The Lodge at Whitefish Lake LLC.

Dieter Huckestein, former VP and President of the Hilton Hotels..and former president and chief executive officer of Yellowstone Club World, the world’s premier private club, appears to be financially interested in the project. Which certainly gives this proposal credibility (unlike that ridiculous Bitterroot Resort proposal from a few years back.)

Let’s hope the City or MRA doesn’t get a wild hair in their head that starts telling them they need to give the land away. I’m too lazy to go digging for the 2006 or 2007 appraisal that was done down there for that property. MRA did two appraisals as I recall, one was an appraisal for each of the two lots and the other an appraisal for the two lots valued as being sold together. Maybe some astute reader remembers those figures?

I say that knowing that “developers” are involved and this community has placed a certain priority on development of that Fox Theater site. Given the economy, we’ll certainly hear excuses for why they “developers” should get the site and a sale price of $1 because “that’s the only way these projects get done,” and the ‘just think of the economic benefit’ cry.

Didn’t we hear that with the Osprey Stadium deal?

Here in Montana, we can certainly call hog-wash on that sort of argument, it seems to me: The City of Bozeman is getting ready to entertain offers on the sale of its downtown parking garage, valued at $1.5M, for a high-end downtown hotel.

Here in Missoula, extracting that economic and community benefit of any large scale or high profile project has always been a pretty nebulous thing if you ask me. I still ponder whether the Osprey Stadium, with it’s hefty public money influx, has given back that which went into it….and while a lot of people might groan on that, there’s a whole hell of a lot more imo that are with the cynics like me on that project.

And Safeway? Missoula got a great looking grocery story, I think (?) …but wasn’t something supposed to happen with the old Safeway site too? Wasn’t that a part of the discussion? And now it sits?

Who do we trust to extract a real economic and community benefit?

For a few months here in Missoula a group of labor, community, transportation and environmental activists – and concerned citizens – have begun a discussion on how to bring good jobs to Missoula. Jobs that are both clean and living-wage. The proposal for development on the MRA-owned Fox Theater site looks to be an opportunity for these groups to actually coalesce around forming what many communities have been doing for the last decade: a Community Benefits Coalition (CBC).

I’ve done a bit of background reading on this concept, and the cynic in me loves it – what a Community Benefits Coalition does is it forms a contractually binding agreement between the developer and the CBC that ensures completion of a project that meets the definition of what the community defines as a benefit.

Again – given the track record of the city on these deals…..

Here in Missoula, some of those groups discussing a CBC for this project are the Missoula Area Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), UNITE HERE! Local 427, the Western Montana Building Trades and Labor Council, The Clark Fork Coalition and the local Sierra Club chapter. These orgs are meeting with other orgs this week in an effort to build the broadest coalition of partners.

Current goals are for a package of proposals which include a card-check neutrality agreement (which says the employer will be neutral in any union organizing campaign and will accept union representation should a majority of the employees decide to unionize), a project labor agreement (which ensures quality wages, benefits and working conditions for labor on the construction project) and a document which ensures meaningful input into the design, transportation, parking and public spaces that will be affected by the project.

Pretty soon here Hotel Fox LLC is going to want – is going to need – a more firm assurance from MRA and the City of Missoula that the old riverfront theater site will more assuredly be theirs should their project be truly economically viable. Most certainly that economic viability part will come from a marketing study, the cost being somewhere in the $25,000 range.

Hotel Fox and Dieter Huckestein have already told MRA that if they are to put out that $25,000, they need to have exclusive development rights.

Now – it sure seems to me that these guys are asking a whole hell of a lot from the City of Missoula for a $25,000 marketing study. If they want the right to a non-competitive exclusive development right, let’s hope there’s a real community benefit.

In other words, I’d love for someone to be smart about this, and my money is on a CBC.

I’m hopeful that we get a Community Benefits Coalition together here in this project…because I know that developers love to prey on communities in these scared economic times…and Missoula needs to tread carefully on any deal surrounding the Fox Theater site.

The community benefit must be clear, and must be real. It must include good jobs from design to construction to operation.

A Community Benefits Coalition is a more surer way to get there.

~~~~
Some information:
The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis paper on Community Benefits Agreements
A handbook on Community Benefits Agreements from The Partnership for Working Families
Good Jobs First, a non-partisan accountability organization for corporations that seek local community subsidies
A Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy paper titled Community Benefits Agreements: Can Private Contracts Replace Public Responsibility?
September 30, 2011 minutes of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency




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