Archive for the ‘Missoula PAC’ Category

by jhwygirl

Longer-term readers of this 4&20 might remember my skepticism of the now (seemingly…I do believe in zombies) defunct Performing Arts Center fiasco of 2 years ago.

I mean – if King George can keep resurfacing his damned golf course-killing condo plan every couple years – call me a skeptic – it isn’t far fetched to think that that darned PAC won’t resurface….but I digress.

Last night, the Missoula Events Center (MEC) steering committee unveiled its plans for an events center for Missoula. With proper pomp-and-procedure, a carefully orchestrated event designed to make the mere commoners believe that electeds were all in support (since they were all ushered to the front rows for not only the best seats, but to make them all visible to everyone there), delivered to Missoulians the important information that:

(One) We don’t have a non-university related events center when compared with a randomly picked sampling of other university towns (the horrors!)
(Two) That cities that “compete with Missoula for economic development” (Texas?) have centers and Missoula doesn’t (crisis!)
(Three) Only 6 facilities exist in Missoula that have over 10,000 square feet of space! (Red Flag Warning!) Those include the Missoula Children’s Theater (at 17,748 square feet – and boy, that thing hardly has an open night to host all those conventions and events lining up to come here!), the UM Center (at 21,205 square feet) and, yep, the Adam’s Center, at 31,700 square feet.
(Four) A new facility would have the advantage of – well – being new.

Apparently I’m not part of the crowd of people that travel to places just to see their new events center. Who knew it was such a cool thing to do?

After the presentation (done by Hunden Strategic Partners, out of Chicago and Indiana) went through the ‘what Missoula has and why we need it’ portion, it went on to compare what regional competitors have (Spokane, Billings, Bozeman, Belgrade, Butte, Great Falls) have.

What? No mention of the Lewis & Clark County’s new, 36,000 square foot exhibit/convention/car show/concert hall. Didn’t work that into your analysis because – maybe? – it was new and the one’s that they picked elsewhere were built at the average date of 1976?

I mean – how’d they miss that?

All those comparisons and nothing telling us how many events per year? Capacity ratio? They gave us the hotel occupancy rates throughout the year, but didn’t think to tell us how jam-packed and overbooked all those comparables are in the region?

I also love how the throw the Bozeman Brickhouse in – considering that they started off with the horror that Missoula doesn’t have a non-university related events center. But yeah – that Brickhouse is pretty and would make someone wanting one of these things jealous. It’s Bozeman after all! Gotta keep up with the Jones’!

They also use the Belgrade Special Events Center – built by the school district to host regional sports events.

Why no comparison, then, with the Osprey Stadium (or whatever it’s called these days?) Cause you know that’s packed with outdoor concerts and stuff….and you know that is how that was sold to Missoulians nearly 8 years ago, right?. Call the Mayor and ask to see the agreement. We were blessed with a facility that was going to be for baseball and at least 2 outdoor events each year for the first 10 years…and then it gets turned over to the city.

So they build the presentation into a crescendo of “Everyone has one – and you, Missoula, are behind. Nerd.” level and then drop the bomb of their analysis (which included lots and lots of fine pictures of Brennan’s Wave and views of the Higgin’s Avenue Bridge and Caras Park and the Boone and Crockett and the U…and downtown, of course – but where do they believe this convention center should go? Out by Reserve Street and the Airport.

It scored 92 points, don’tcha know?

Economic Development my ass. It’s an economic UNdevelopment plan to kill downtown is what it is.

What? 17 acres of parking? 5 acres for the building? Easy access to what? Those hotels and motels that all end with the letter “N”? Meh.

The funniest absurdity of the night? Here it is: The steering committee comes to unveil its project. It’s the first time most are hearing of it, yet alone being able to see this pseudo early feasibility analysis of why we must have one…and after pulling all the ‘important’ people up front together for everyone to see, and they’re done with their presentation, they ask if everyone’s on board for the next step (which is putting them under contract for the full feasibility study – that probably-close-to-if-not-6-digit-contract) while everyone is still absorbing who? what? where? when? how much? Obligatory applause ends the presentation and little time is left for anyone that was even able to think of anything to ask.

You mean there was a quiz, sir?

So maybe I AM right. Maybe the PAC isn’t dead, and the MEC is just the zombie reincarnation of it. Because – you know – the Board of County Commissioners are on board with this. Of course, the numero uno location is close, if not within, their overwrought-with-bidders county economic development park.

Who wants to start the office poll on how many millions they’ll be asking to have put on the ballot to get this thing off the ground?

What comes around goes around. And around. And around. Kinda like the water draining out of the bathtub.

by jhwygirl

Tomorrow night’s city council will be taking into consideration the approval of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the old Fox Theater site located on Front Street – down there by the Orange Street Bridge.

You know – the site that was being contemplated as the location for the still-not-quite-dead-yet $60,000,000 Performing Arts Center? The one that I first heard about when the city tried to help along a proposal in the 2007 legislature that would have allowed school districts to issue bonds – i.e., tax – for structures that they don’t own?

Now, maybe 60 days is enough time. I’m truly putting the question out there.

It’s not a typical city lot – or even two. This property has been appraised for nearly $2 million.

Now, aside from the minor (?) problem that the actual proposal being considered isn’t available for people like you and I to view (there seems to be a glitch with the links within the minutes of the most recent Administration and Finance Committee meeting), the pre-committee meeting RFP will base its selection based on criteria like:

–The degree to which the proposed development meets an identified market needs of the community and downtown area. Proposal should present credible evidence supporting the need or market for the proposed uses. It is understood that a complete market analysis may not be possible in the timeframe of this RFP.

–Clear demonstration of the respondent’s ability to obtain financing for the project. The proposal should present verifiable evidence of the developer’s history of completing successful projects of similar cost and scope. (This part goes on to include things like a business plan, evidence of financing, and a description of the extent the project depends on federal, state and local grants, along with donations.)

It goes on, but perhaps you get the gist?

I guess I’m wondering what the hurry is? The PAC is still out there floating around, despite what some may say, and the 18 month extension that they were granted last November has yet to expire.

Any respondent – and this RFP is going out in the Seattle and Spokane newspapers, along with The Missoulian (and, according to Chris Behan, should get picked up on nationwide RFP lists) – has to consider the following, all in 60 days:

1. Missoula Riverfront Triangle Redevelopment Urban Renewal Plan
2. Missoula Riverfront Triangle Redevelopment Master Plan
3. The Riverfront Triangle Special Zoning District
4. Initial concepts of the Riverfront Triangle for the Missoula Greater Downtown Master Plan
5. Various maps and air photos of the project site showing location, infrastructure, parcel size,
ownership, etc.
6. Utility and soils information
7. Montana Laws governing transfer of public property for private use are attached to RFP.

Is it reasonable to think that decent legitimate proposals for a $2 million riverfront parcel would only take 2 months? Do we want a proposal that goes out cold on an RFP and comes back in 60 days? What kind of proposal are we going to get back?

Not that I’m a conspiracy theorist or anything, but could it be that there’s someone out there waiting in the wings with something?

Geez, come on. It’s September 2008. The markets are in shambles – and no one, realistically, is going to start anything on that site until 2010, at the earliest. At the earliest.

Give the city a fighting chance for the best possible proposal that we could get for that site. Put it out there for 6 months, at least.

by jhwygirl

Short and brief. The Pocono Record took notice of Patrick Duganz’s recent Independent piece on the Missoula Performing Arts Center (MCPAC).

You remember – the story which the Missoulian decided wasn’t news?

I also came across this piece too. It serves to remind me (and you) that this issue is not just that of the City Council’s realm – the County Commissioners are complicit also, in that they would be the ones to put the $20,000,000 bond on the ballot.

Merlyn Clark, professor emeritus of Political Science at East Stroudsburg University, who taught state and local government for 35 years provides us with this gem:

Let’s do the math. Beginning with a conservative assumption that 2,500 of these 5,850 houses are purchased by senior citizens or otherwise childless households, let’s also assume that the remaining 3,350 houses average just two children per house, and that the occupants of all 5,850 houses pay $5,000 per year in school property taxes. This is about $1,200 more than the current average property tax of $3,840 in the East Stroudsburg School District.

We also know that the cost of educating a child is approximately $12,000 per year. Here’s what we get. Annual revenue generated from school property taxes from this 5,850 house development: $29 million. Annual cost to the school district/taxpayers: $80 million–leaving a mind-boggling $51 million deficit, every year, to be picked up by the balance of the taxpayers in the school district, regardless of whether they ever darken the door of the arts center. And that’s just the beginning. We haven’t even started improving roads or providing other obligatory services.

In the mid-1990s, early boosters of the arts center concept approached Monroe County Commissioners James Cadue, Janet Weidensaul and Greg Christine with a request that the county guarantee $12 million in bonds to get the project under way. Commissioner Cadue asked a simple question: If the arts center is such a good idea, why can’t you get private money to underwrite it? Blank stares from the boosters netted them no support. But even bad ideas, if driven by the lure of sufficient gain for a few, can survive.

Maybe we should ask him to do some math for us?

If not for us, how about for the children?

by Jay Stevens

Just yesterday I wrote a post about Missoula PAC director Amy Rue’s involvement in another failed PAC in Pennsylvania, a bit of information I had just caught. Naturally, the information was already out there. Stacy Rye mentioned it in a city council meeting more than a week ago – which was, as far as I can tell, the first time the public had heard of it.

Big news, right?

The Missoulian‘s Keila Szpaller:

Two years ago, the Missoulian undertook its own investigation of the center’s past troubles and Rue’s potential involvement. After multiple interviews with both critics and supporters of the Mountain Laurel Center, the Missoulian ultimately concluded that she was not to blame for the center’s woes; a story on the subject was never published.

Hey, you know, oops. Maybe if Missoulians are expected to shell out 20 million for something, we have a right to this information in its full context.

by Jay Stevens

Here’s an interesting report about Missoula ’s proposed Performing Arts Center in today’s Missoula Independent:

A lot can go wrong with a performing arts complex. When the small resort community of Bushkill, Pa. committed to build the $37 million Mountain Laurel Center, it envisioned regular performances by a major symphony orchestra, increased tourism, and more jobs.

Instead, the Mountain Laurel Center closed in 2003 after just seven performances, canceled the next year’s entire schedule as well, and pushed the local county government to default on $17 million worth of bonds.

Normally, a troubled Pennsylvania civic project would matter little to Missoulians, but the executive director of the Missoula Community Performing Arts Center, Amy Rue, served as the development director for the Mountain Laurel Center until shortly after it opened.

This is the first I’ve heard of this, although Stacy Rye mentioned it in the recent city council deliberations about the project.

To be fair to Rue, she was responsible only for raising private donations for the project, and the Pennsylvania center’s demise may have more to do with its remote location than anything she did, but it does raise questions about the ability of projects like these to actually make money, and benefit the communities they populate.

Just check out this blogger’s account of Richmond, VA’s experience with a Performing Arts Center (hat tip, Goof). Or this report on Duhram, NC’s PAC.

In fact, I’ve been doing Google searches for some time now looking for success stories for PACs. I’ve found a lot of links to stories on PACs that “expect,” “hope,” or “plan” on revitalizing urban areas. I’ve read articles that state, baldly, that building a PAC will revitalize a community, but without offering any evidence. But I’ve found no links to any PAC story that has actually been wildly successful, especially in a small town like Missoula .

The jury’s still out on this issue for me. But before we invest heavily in something like this, shouldn’t we know the success rate of other, similar ventures? Has anybody done a story on this? Or a report? Twenty million is a lot to throw away on a project.

Help me out. Throw me a link.

by jhwygirl

….should prove for an interesting few hours and some healthy conversation on, among other things, taxes.

Hillview SID will be before the full council, and you may recall that it didn’t fair so well in its last committee meeting with the SID being recommended for denial by a vote of 7 – 1, with Ward 6’s Ed Childers being the lone dissent.

Instead of working its way through the waiver issues, council caved to threats of lawsuits despite the assurances of both Director of Public Works Steve King and former director and current City Administrator Bruce Bender that the method of assessment has been utilized over and over, and was legally defensible. Keep in mind we’ve had 500+ SID’s before this one.

Don’t forget, either, that Dick Haines seems to believe it is the role of city government to play the role of banker for future developers.

Caving to pressure in Hillview will send a message to the rest of the community that all you have to do is get out there is somewhat nominal numbers, threaten to sue, and then you’ll be able to avoid an SID….

That healthy discussion, therefore, should include a discussion on HOW to provide for the improvements needed on Hillview – how to provide for safety and sidewalks and bikepaths – how to keep cars from landing in people’s yards. Is it taxes? What does that require? How much will it require? Will those that deny the SID vote to raise taxes? Where will the money come from? And how will it be prioritized?

Now that is the question? Does anyone see Haines/Hendrickson/Ballas/Wilkins voting to raise taxes?

Juxtapose that discussion upon the Performing Arts Center request for an 18 month extension on the parking lot at the old Fox Theater site. 18 months. What does 18 months get us? Another request for another extension in 18 months. And almost certainly another extension request after that. It also gets us a request for a $20,000,000 bond.

We just voted down a $10,000,000 school bond.

And if they if they get that $20,000,000 bond, they’ll then be fishing through the community for another $20,000,000 in donations just to get the performing arts center off the ground.

A vote against the performing arts center is not a vote against the arts. It is not a vote against economic development. It is a vote for reasonableness.

We need a new police station – hey – maybe that new police station should go right there at the triangle? – we need infrastructure, roads, street lights, and we need more police personnel, considering how the Griz football team is stretching the force’s time.

The city/county should not abuse or overstretch its ability to bond and the good will of its citizens by asking for $20,000,000 for a performing arts center with so much necessary matters needing attending.

Good luck to all the council people tomorrow night. They’re gonna need it.

by jhwygirl

Calling back my hero worship, sadly.

Seems Jaffe is waffling on what seemed to be his lack of support for extending the hold on the city-owned riverfront triangle property for the proposed $60,000,000 performing arts center.

The one that wants to ask the citizens for a $20,000,000 bond and donation of the land itself – worth in the several million dollar price range if not more? Anyone, please, kick in there with a value on that prime piece of real estate….

He’s now saying “If the PAC committee can find a $20,000,000 donor, and if they can raise an additional $20,000,000, and if the voters approve a $20,000,000 bond, they will be good to go.”

That’s a whole lot of ifs there Bob. And last I looked, there really isn’t any pie in the sky. In fact, there’s just a whole bunch of storm clouds lately.

We have an very worthy organization, Missoula Community Radio, that is seeking to obtain an FCC license for the last FM radio signal here in Missoula – a radio station that would be an “unfiltered media source” – which I think most of us all would agree is very worthy. It would provide an venue for local musicians and the local community organizations and promote communication. All in a non-profit setting.

They aren’t asking for free land – and hell, they haven’t even gone to the city and ask them to donate the $8,000 that they need to pay the attorney they had to hire to help them through the complicated FCC license application process.

You can donate to this worthy cause – I know they’d appreciate it. Even if everyone that reads this blog today donates just 5 bucks, that would be a hell of a nice chunk off of that $8,000 bill.

Instead, we have a Public Arts Committee (PAC) that seems to think it is entitled to a piece of city-owned prime real estate, entitled to a $20,000,000 taxpayer bond, and entitled to a $20,000,000 jump-start donor – – all because they are a “worthy cause”.

Well – Missoula Community Radio is a worthy community cause. HomeWORD is a worthy community cause, United Way Missoula is a worthy community cause – the list goes on and on.

We have more important things to do than to deal with this – and if the extension passes, we will continue to have to deal with this time-sucking cash-sucking venture.

Ward 3’s Stacy Rye kicked in with some common sense after Jaffe’s waffling began last night:

On one hand the Council is told we’re not doing anything but supporting a reservation of land. On the other hand, we’re told that if we don’t support it, we’re doing away with the project because they can’t find a major donor without public (City of Missoula) buy-in. I do not like being put in that kind of position, and yes, it’s fairly clear to me that if we do support this, we are giving a stamp of approval, not simply an extension of a land reservation.

Amen Stacy.

So I may not have a hero on City Council – but it does look like I have a shero.

City Council has no business, whatsoever, giving away a piece of prime real estate to anyone. Lease it, yes. Sell it, yes. But giving it away is wrong.

City Council has no business reserving a piece of property for an entity that is asking for it to be given to them. Again – lease it to them or make ’em pay for a reservation – it’s done all the time in real estate…called a “right of first refusal”…but they’ve had quite a bit of time already with absolutely no takers on their offer to have someone give them a $20,000,000 check.

Does anyone think that, if sent to the voters, a referendum to give the multi-million dollar property away would pass muster? Doesn’t council have a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers to act more prudently with city-owned property? Hell – maybe I should check the law on that one.

And having already had that prime piece of riverfront property in their hands, reserved, fee-free, for two years now is telling. They say they need the reservation to get a donor, and yet it hasn’t happened.

It ain’t gonna happen – and the City needs to move on.

There’s more important things at task.

by jhwygirl

Yesterday, Ward 2’s Bob Jaffe posted an open letter on the MissoulaGov listserv (created by Jaffe) which outlined his concerns regarding the proposed $60,000,000 Performing Arts Center.

Overall, he expressed concerns on a number of levels – the limited amount of public money available; the recent failure of the $10,000,000 school bond coupled with the need for a $20,000,000 bond for the proposed arts facility; and the inability of other similar arts facilities to maintain affordability despite being able to increase attendance and revenue.

He also called into question the overall ability of the arts community to be able to fund the project when they weren’t/aren’t able to support the art museum’s shortage on last season’s heating bill.

The City had to kick in $100,000 to pay that bill.

He also cited other examples of the city having to bail out these types of ventures – naming specifically Swim Missoula and the stadium bail out.

(I may have a new hero!)

Jaffe’s initial post garnered only support – former city administrator Janet Donahue comment summed up well the voice of all of the initial posts.

Bob, as much as I love the cultural aspects of Missoula and have participated musically on many levels, I don’t believe the city and I can afford to foot the bill.
I believe we would have to subsidize the Performing Arts Center which will take resources from many basic needs facing Missoula, such as bike/ped/auto infrastructure, police facilities, fire stations, equipment needs, and parks development to name a few.

Then late (11:12 p.m) last night, Geoff Badenoch, former head of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and previous candidate for Mayor, posted comments from the Performing Arts Committee – citing

I was contacted by the Committee of Missoulians working on the performing arts center project. Since they are not members of the list serve, they asked me to submit the following comments on their behalf. These comments were put together in haste due to the late hour and because they felt at a disadvantage in not being involved in this exchange of information from the outset.

(Like the listserve is some sort of exclusive group.)

What followed were two replies to the listserv, by Badenoch, filled with a collection sniping remarks disputing the numbers put forth by Jaffe – who apparently had done quite a bit of homework, contacting other communities to gather information – and citations of recent concert attendance at the Rolling Stones and Elton John events as illustrating a need for another arts facility.

(It’d be worth it to point out that Badenoch’s posts, garnered from comments he gathered, appeared to be cut-and-paste — so apparently, these comments were gathered by email, further shredding the cries of the critics who felt “at a disadvantage of not being involved in this exchange of information from the outset.”)

Talk about apples to oranges – just because some concerts sell-out at the Adam’s Center doesn’t mean that we need another facility. It’s not like the Adam’s Center is holding concerts every night and turning away venues.

Today, the 12-member Administration & Finance Committee dealt the proposed arts facility its death blow – voting 9-3 against holding on to the riverfront triangle property for an additional 18 months while the PAC attempted to gather its magical sugar daddy (or mama) that would ‘spark’ the project with a check for $15,000,000 to $20,000,000.

That’s a whole lot of zeroes.

Bob Jaffe and the 8 others who used some good old common sense and fiscal responsibility to the City of Missoula should be lauded for their brave stance. It’s not easy to say “No” – I think it needs to be done more often – and it definitely needed to be done in this case.

Let’s hope that the PAC’s sour grapes aren’t so sour that they they call on the end to the listserv. If they do it’ll be shame on them.

(In full disclosure, I have not been a fan of the arts center. I have previously posted this at Montana Netroots.)

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