Friday, May 5, 2017

A matter of priorities: Harvey Hall-Rose Garden upgrade price tag $17.63 million

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High school sports, festivals and faires, and cowboy stuff:  Pretty much all there is to Tyler, right?*

Why are they doing this?

So, after selling this plan to the public in their unveiling earlier this week,  they disclosed the price tag on this project:  $9.3 million to tear down and rebuild Harvey Hall and another $8.2 million to make the Rose Garden complex real purddy.  It's interesting to me that, from the public's perspective, this thing sort of came out of nowhere and, after about 9 months of scheming...Badda-bing, badda-boom!  We have ourselves a complete plan.  By contrast, the convention center project--which seemed like a sure thing in terms of paying for itself--is dead in the water?  What gives?

Oh there may be a number of reasons they are doing this.  After studying Smith County's dysfunctional government so closely for several years, I feel like I could write a scholarly article titled "Common Characteristics of Dysfunctional Local Governments."  Within the top five of those characteristics would be a tendency to favor showy, expensive civil construction projects over spending on mundane stuff like infrastructure maintenance and basic government services.  Sometimes that is driven by pure corruption--officials getting bribes and kickbacks.  But usually it has to do with prestige.  After all, no civic leader is going to get a bronze plaque on a wall somewhere or get invited to a ribbon cutting for making sure potholes got filled in or for putting a few more cops on patrol.  But support building a jail or a new civic center, and your name goes down in the Annals of Really Amazing Local Politicians forever!

It also bears mentioning that the Richardson-based firm the city hired to put together this plan--Halff Associates--is supporting Establishment candidate Bob Westbrook for a city council seat.  Nothing really surprising about that.  But it brings a tear to my eye when I mention that that little tidbit of information was reported by our very own Faith Harper at the Tyler Morning Telegraph!

Here's what I think happened:  As soon as they started talking about this convention center thing, the Rose Festival people and other members of the Old Guard started wringing their hands, asking what is going to happen to our beloved Harvey Hall, and shouldn't we spend some money to make sure the place where we have high school football and the Rose Festival looks really great?  So the bottom line is that this is going to happen because the Right People--like Mr. Eltife and the Rose Festival aristocrats--support it and it's a done deal.  So, I'm probably just wasting keystrokes here, but I need to say my peace.

Who's going to pay for this...and how?

By virtue of the fact that they're not saying, oh don't worry--it'll pay for itself with user fees and other increased revenue, or, hey we've already got a bunch of rich donors on their death beds lined up who've put us in their wills, I'm guessing the taxpayers are going to pick up much of the tab.  The financial plan for this is vague, and I don't like vague when it comes to government spending:

Funds will be allocated to the project at later dates, as pockets of money become available

Pockets of money?  Whose "pockets"?

You know, I'm thinking that, since the Rose Festival is obviously the Greatest Show on Earth and apparently brings in more than the GDP's of some small countries (I'm being sarcastic)...maybe that's a good place to look.  After all, some of the families involved don't bat an eye at plunking down tens of thousands of dollars a pop for ridiculous-looking dresses and other stuff.  Would it be too much to ask them to get together and pitch in a couple of mil' over the next 20 years to defray a little of the cost?

It's a matter of priorities

What about the rest of the city?  The city--or somebody--is already spending money on this, as evidenced by the fact that they have hired a consulting firm to come up with this plan.  But I thought Tylerites were being told that because of sagging sales tax revenues they were going to have to hunker down and deal with city hiring freezes and reduced services.  For example...

What about the parks where the poor kids go to play?  Maybe I'm some kind of latent, closeted liberal or something.  But hey, even some of park facilities used by middle class families are lookin' pretty shabby.  So here's something to think about next time you go to see your kids or grandkids play soccer or baseball and the grass isn't mowed or they haven't cleaned up the sh-- surprise someone left in the restroom because the city can't afford it:  Why is there not a master plan for all of the city's park facilities?

A sports memorabilia museum? The previous article about this plan mentioned this, but I thought it was just one of those things that some crackpot member of the steering committed wanted and the left it in to shut him up, knowing that it would never end up in the final plan.

Plans also include space for a proposed Tyler sports museum between Harvey and the Mayfair.

Yeah, just something else to ponder as you sit at a traffic light on the loop a little too long, wasting time and fuel because the city had to cut the budget for traffic engineers:  They want to build a "Tyler Sports Museum."  Over by the Rose Garden.  Please tell me that whoever dreamt that up knows some private donor who is willing to pay for that!

I'm worried--Is Tyler going to be the next Smith County?
*The use of the Rose Complex Master Plan logo in the post is for educational, entertainment, and research purposes only, and should not be construed as an endorsement of any commercial service or product.

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