Saturday, August 25, 2007

Letter To DLGF Commissioner About Harrison Square

I've sent the following letter to Cheryl Musgrave (, Commissioner of the Department of Local Government Finance. Musgrave has approximately 90 days to approve the Harrison Square bond financing. I wanted to voice my discontent towards the project and I would encourage everyone else to do the same. Property taxes are certainly a hot potato right now so there's a slight chance Musgrave will listen to the people.

Ms Musgrave,

I'm writing to voice my opposition to the Harrison Square project here in Fort Wayne. I was very dismayed to read that one of the DLGF commission members said the claim that 70% of the residents were against Harrison Square is "unsubstantiated and unfounded". While 70% might be a slight exaggeration, recent Zogby polling data found that 65% of the public was against the project. Of course councilmen Talarico and Pape would have you believe this is because the public just doesn't understand and if they could educate them then they would support the project.

However, they have had 6+ months to explain this project to people and the people still do not want it. Mayor Richard has time and again said the project will not be payed for with an increase in property taxes. However, expanding the TIF district eliminates a large section of prime downtown real estate from the tax rolls. To argue that this land would never be improved over the next 30 years without Harrison Square is ridiculous. Remonstrators recently beat back a $500 Million bond the local school district was trying to get for their long term facilities project. Taking land like this off the tax rolls will only further exacerbate the problem the school district faces.

Beyond that, there has been no credible analysis that the new TIF district will generate the necessary revenues to pay for the bond. Numerous citizens have requested the relevant financial information from the city only to be stonewalled time and again by the administration. The city's argument has been that they are only planning on using 50% of the Jefferson Pointe TIF to support the Harrison Square project and that, if necessary, they can dip into the other 50%. What they don't tell people is that other 50% has already been accounted for in other places in the budget. THIS is why they needed the backing of a general property tax increase to get the bond financing - it's because their TIF numbers simply don't add up.

The city is building a turn-key baseball stadium to replace one that is only 13 years old. They're also providing, as far as I've been able to ascertain, the largest subsidy ever for a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. All of this is being done under the guise of "economic development". The taxpayers know what the project entails and we don't want it. We know that it will inevitably lead to an increase in property taxes at a time when increases have come in at 47% for certain parts of the city.

Since our local government will not listen to the people, and can no longer claim to represent the people, we can only urge you to do what's right and reject this bond lease.

Thank You

Jeff Pruitt


Sam T. said...


Should we even elect representatives any more? or should we just based every decision on polling results? While I have never denied that a majority is opposed to this project, you must admit that it is an inherently difficult question to pull because there are so many variables that must be discussed. I have found repeatedly that people are much more open to this idea when you have a chance to go through all the details which, in many cases, are new to them.

Your "shot" at me and Tim Pape is unnecessary and unfair.

The overwhelming majority of people that approach me are for Harrison Square. I know this is meaningless because people seek me out to share this view.

I will give you 60/40. Councilman Smith has said that he will ALWAYS vote the way of the majority even if he disagrees with the decision. In my opinion that is ridiculous and it is certainly not leadership.

I cant believe that you must have such a cynical and low opinion of your sitting democratic mayor and his administration.

Jeff Pruitt said...


I hardly think what I wrote was a "shot" at you. I know you and Pape were there and you just said yourself (as you have in the past):

"I have found repeatedly that people are much more open to this idea when you have a chance to go through all the details which, in many cases, are new to them."

Isn't that exactly what I wrote in my letter? How is that unfair? I don't even see what I wrote as a criticism towards you and Pape - just a point of disagreement more than anything.

I certainly don't think every issue should be polled before voting on it but it's not like this was a campaign issue that voters had a chance to research before voting for yourself or the mayor. Also, I don't think it hurts to look at a major project like this and ask if the community supports it. But I might be in the minority here because as a populist I think we should automatically have a path towards a referendum on projects that exceed a certain dollar amount - say $50 Million or so...

John Good said...

Jeff- We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. . .

Andrew Kaduk said...

I think John Good may have a really good point hidden behind his dissent.

Giving too much control to the masses has, on occasion, backfired really badly.

In theory, I love it! I think it works great at the state and county levels (heck, I live in Ohio, we vote on what seems like everything).

However, there are lots of idiots in America. I can summarize the crux of my argument in one word:


Jeff Pruitt said...

Ah yes. The people are just too stupid to know what's right to do with their money.

How could we ever survive w/o the leadership of this administration and the city council? Well us common folk would be totally clueless I tell you. It's a good thing we have the mayor to make these decisions for us or else we might make a decision to provide the largest subsidy for a Courtyard by Marriott in the United States.

The idea that government is somehow wiser than the masses is an elitist fallacy...

Robert Enders said...

While often it is noble to stand up for an unpopular cause, like school desegregation in the 1960's, in this case HS's unpopularity alone makes it economically unviable.

I am opposed to all corporate subsidies as a matter of principle, and I would have opposed this even if it were popular. However, in this case the success of the project as a downtown attraction is so unlikely that liberals and conservatives alike have cause to oppose it. Smith gets partial credit from me for listening to the polls.