Have Coffee & Conversation With Local Legislators on April 11
Here’s your chance to ask questions of and make suggestions to your local legislators
before the N.C. General Assembly convenes in May. Sen. David Hoyle, Rep. William Current
and Rep. Wil Neumann are scheduled to participate in a Chamber Coffee & Conversation
on Friday, April 11, at Queen of The Apostles Catholic Church Family Center, 503 N. Main St., Belmont.
Coffee and juice and a light breakfast will be provided starting at 7:30 a.m. The program will start promptly at
8 a.m. and end at 9. The cost is $5 at the door. Registration is requested by email to email@example.com.
For more information, call 704-825-5307, or go to the Chamber website at www.belmontchamber.com.
“Big Plan” Palenick had his vision and confirmation of at least 3 more years of job security voted in by the Gastonia City Council last night, 5-1. Even tenacious city-cheerleader/mayor Jennie raised her hand in the vote. We wondered about that, was she worried about a tie?
In the so-called Downtown Revitalization plan, the former First Union building will be torn down to build a parking deck. That surely must be a good first step. Can’t find parking for the Thursday night summer events at the Rotary Pavilion and on the 4th of July, so it must be able to alleviate that mess. It is certainly very close to the other “Gastonia” destination hot-spots of the DS Botanical Gardens (11.51 miles), the Schiele (2 miles, ok 1.98 miles), and the always jumping Franklin Square 1 (4.51 miles).
It is really doubtful that the other voting members of the Gastonia City Council get it. Business markets develop over time. Government interventions to jump-start private investment have very mixed results. One key is the local community support through pride of the the financial committment, and “boots on the ground”. Many of the downtown property owners know that, have waited for the “free” money (i.e. your taxpayer $$) to flow their way and ultimately allow them to cash out.
We have no problem with property owners wanting to get the best deal for themselves, or for a community to “profit” by investment in the downtown areas. But when a plan “elbows” its way into the process, with little discussion and the spectre of class warfare below the surface, it becomes a fairness discussion.
Moving the Salvation Army Shelter and administrative functions out of downtown, to “…hide your brothers and sisters…”, as Captain Stan Colbert has commented, is one way to rid the appearance of blight and depression. Ok, so 5 million privately contributed dollars later, the shelter is moved across the tracks and the homeless cross the Marietta Street bridge and hang out in front of the new downtown Microtel Inn and Convention Center?
It is just a shame that this proposal also chooses to ignore the already committed investments that the city has made to renovate the Webb Theater and the private investment plans that are slowly turning.
A downtown investment is not a quick fix. Mr. Kirlin knows that. The city of Belmont knows that as well. Our downtown “beautification” is certainly taking on a life of its own, but remember, it was a decade ago and commitments by PRIVATE property owners to work together to make it all happen. The city just dealt with the streetscape and made an investment into the park area. The Belmont downtown development group (underwritten by Stowe Mills), and the revitalized downtown merchants association (re-formed when the chamber was struggling with membership), worked very hard to work on a mix of business types to hopefully balance a purpose to visit the downtown area.
That result is an apparently vibrant downtown at 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 8:00 PM. Of course, that commitment also cost a visionary mayor his elected seat, and brought several more years of obstructionist cronyism before we could seriously address the need for nurturing our community soul.
Gastonia has to suffer the throes of similar tribulation – it will all work out in the end, that of which, we are hopeful.
To comment on the event last night itself:
The Belmont Front Porch’s intrepid editors, taking pages from the political science playbooks, stationed people at the council meeting and watched the drivel unfold on television last night. The exit polls by the “watchers” definitely indicate an uprising brewing among the Gastonia electorate. As far as television is concerned, it would seem that both city council members and staff should learn to dress for the low-tech cameras that are trained on their every utterance of “uh”, “yeah”, “okay”, and our collective favorite, “um”.
Gaston College offers public speaking classes, Toastmasters International has at least two area chapters, and there are a host of community consultants that for a fee could help these elected public officials and hired staff stand before a mic and camera. Please invest your training dollars wisely if you hire or elect mumble-mouths.
Gastonia’s super-secret-deal $16,000 contract consultant backs off his own report. Could it be that Atlantic Hospitality Advisors are worried about the possible business connection back to “Big Plan” Palenick?
We have to give a lot of credit to councilman Kirlin for wanting to explore this issue in more detail.
Tonight’s Gastonia City Council meeting will be televised (Gaston County Access Channel 16 on the TW cable). We hope Mr. Palenick wears some makeup.
The consultant’s fees for this market study don’t appear to be too well-earned. Most of the data looks to be lifted from several earlier studies of the Gaston County area and accessible data from both the Economic Development Commission and the Census Bureau. So, taxpayers footed the bill to tell the Gastonia City Council what they already knew?
You can read some of the fiction yourselves right here:
The report is a 2mb file and might take a bit to download. Pretty hefty you must admit for $16,000.
Mr. Palenick’s “revised” plan that will be discussed at tonight’s meeting:
At this morning’s First Friday Focus, a Gaston Regional Chamber, regular event, “Big Plan” Palenick, Gastonia’s city manager/chief litigator, presented HIS big plan for Gastonia.
Speaking before a good sized crowd of chamber members and interested others, “BP” noted that many downtown business owners supported the plan “enthusiastically”.
We already know that the city council has swallowed the kool-aid in its desperate attempt to revive a city that lost its relevance when I-85 was completed, and then again when Wal-Mart took over at both ends of town.
It now appears that the libertarian mouthpiece, the Gaston Gazette, is certainly looking more favorably on these plans as well. Their tone and style of writing is disappointing considering their distain for the TIF laws as passed in 2004.
Good luck Gastonia.
Really, we mean it…
Tax Increment Financing has turned Gaston County cities and towns into the real life example of the movie version, “The Music Man”:
A con artist, “Professor” Harold Hill, comes to a small Iowa town in the early 1900s. He convinces the town that it needs a marching band, taking orders for the necessary instruments and uniforms. He also sells music lessons in advance, concealing the fact that he cannot read or play a note of music. In the process Professor Hill galvanizes the town out of its torpor and falls in love with the local librarian/music teacher. The movie is the original setting for “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Till There Was You.”
We’ve got Trouble… Right here in River City…
An article in the Charlotte Oberserver reports that County manager, Jan Winters has bought into “Big Plan” Jim Palenick’s endorsement of the Big League Dreams program. Where did $23,000 to “study” the project come from? Another tap into the Tourism funds from the hotel/motel tax?
Another trip down the route of issuing municipal bonds without voter approval.
Isn’t “Big Plan” the same guy who questioned the Whitewater Park investment by Gaston area communities? Didn’t Mr. Winters have a dickens of a time dealing with the fallout of the failed Equestrian Center and county finances.
So, what are the differences?
Big League Dreams is a for-profit development firm that primarily builds baseball fields with the target area’s local money, and takes 50% of the profits (if there are any). The project is being sold throughout the United States as a way for cash-strapped communities to have “world class” athletic facilities.
The “target communities” are generally areas that have small parks and recreation budgets — if any at all –, are in areas of unrealized potential — along major highways/transportation corridors, and have attention starved local politicos. Several communities that bought into this project have already had to raise entrance fees — yes, parking/viewing — to meet the for-profit operating budget. Captured events, such as Legion Baseball, the Grizzlies, and any planned event, will have to charge an arm-and-a-leg to meet breakeven points. What guarantees are made by Big League Dreams if the community couldn’t attract major regional or national events?
This particular group is asking — demanding, actually (by the business model) — that the target community do the local site research, commit to the fund the construction, and guarantee the construction loan. Then they operate the facilities, and “split” the profits of the facility. The big kicker is that they MUST be able to sell alcohol in their parks. So in essence, the City (and County) in this scheme, want to get a piece of the alcohol sales and profit off of youth sports.
The passage of the Tax Increment Finance law in 2004, has allowed the traveling saleman to flood North Carolina communities with big visions and bigger ideas. Jim “Big Plan” Palenick and Big League Dreams blew in with this passage.
The US National Whitewater Center is a one-of-a-kind, locally volunteer-driven, non-profit organization. It is a planned out, unique destination place that has not yet been duplicated. Significant private investment was pledged and committed PRIOR to public investment.
The community investment in the USNWC is guaranteed by the public investment of tax dollars, which will be tapped this fiscal year, and probably for the next two consecutive years. Is it a lot of money?
In our opinion, sure, but at the same time it is less than the $18 million proposed for the Baseball fields. It is less than the proposed $12.5 million for downtown Gastonia’s “renovation”. For the USNWC, a total of $2.5 million was invested by the Gaston communities (Gastonia, Belmont, Mt. Holly) in the $35 million project.
Was there, or is there, a payback from the Whitewater Center? This past summer, the first year of operation, over 50% of the staff were from Gaston County. Primarly college students and young adults. Several events attracted a world-wide audience and visitors, many of whom stayed in the Holiday Inn Express at exit #27. The center attracted over 400,000 visitors — yes, free, mostly curiousity visitors, many more than the 300,000 anticipated.
So far, the “Big Plan” Jim Palenick public endorsement tally is over $30 million. We have to ask, what is next ?
This traveling salesman scores bigtime in Gaston County. “Big Plan” also scored in Bay City, Michigan and Rio Rancho, New Mexico prior to blowing into Gastonia.