Mayo Civic Center Renovation / Expansion

The city council will be asked to reaffirm support of the project for 2012.  Here are my thoughts on the project, and why I am inclined to support it.

  • I think the decision making process was hijacked by a self important shadow government wannabe.  This resolution should remind them that those of us elected make the decisions.
  • We can’t just let the Mayo family gift go to pot.  We need to at least fix what we have and that may cost more than $10 million.
  • The new proposal for funding the local half changes the previous 1% lodging tax and 1% food and beverage tax with a 3% lodging tax.  Based on some research it appears our total lodging tax (7%) would be typical for the region and less than other cities with world class medical institutions.
  • The state portion would be part of the bonding bill.  Unlike the federal government, the state has guidelines preventing too much debt so we maintain proper balances.  Also the state bonding bill is going to be the same size regardless of whether the this project is funded, so Rochester citizens will not be directly funding this.
  • The current facility has significant deferred maintenance.  While this is not ideal, when you are forced to cut you budget every year since 2003, the first thing to be cut will be maintenance on facilities slated for an overhaul.  This maintenance would be addressed in the renovation / expansion, otherwise in must come from local property taxes.  From a financial prospective, doing this project will cost local taxpayers less than not doing it.
  • If we wait for this project to be popular, it will never happen, just like Target Field and the Peace Plaza would have never happened.  While there is no scientific polling, I suspect that a majority of citizens don’t want this project.  However I have had a pretty good response when giving my thoughts.
  • We will come out of this project with much needed updates and fixes to our Auditorium, Civic Theatre, Presentation Hall, Taylor Arena and meeting spaces.  We will also get upgraded technologies and a full time connection to our Art Center.
  • Perhaps most importantly to the surrounding area the facade will be unified and attractive for the first time.
  • Many of the amenities in the Civic Center provide the types of activities that are necessary to attract and retain the creative class and high end talent.
  • There are ongoing concerns about the operation of the space.  We would be recommending a review of operations by an independent consultant.
  • Control of this city owned facility should never be turned over to a bunch of self appointing good-ol-boys.
  • The plans which are now 5 years old will be reviewed.  I will want to make sure we address the ugly North end of the facility, add escalators like every other multistory convention center, and consider adding footings to potentially support a private hotel over the convention space.
  • There are some that feel that we should wait until 2013 because they fear this project somehow jeopardizes the unrelated sales tax.  I would ask those people to get off their butts and do something about the sales tax if they are so concerned.  I think the real issue is that they don’t want to burden certain elected officials with a vote before an election.  If true, that is really sad.  If that really is the reason, nobody is going to be fooled by waiting until 2013.
  • Notice in my analysis, I never once discussed the need for expansion or who benefits.  This is why I am a tacit supporter at best.  I see this as asset preservation and improvement.

Edit: City Council Passed the resolution 7-0

  • Bruce commented on the need to be an accessible facility.  I agree and that should come through in plan reviews.
  • Randy suggested and I agree that Mark Bilderback be added to the advisory committee.  Mark has experience working in the facility.
  • I had to give Dennis Hanson credit (no it didn’t hurt), for him (and the Mayor) to bring this forward, knowing full well it was going to be unpopular.  At the end of the day we just need to get this mess cleaned up.  We are not the Federal or State governments.  We have to pass honest budgets and make tough decisions.
  • There was a group of Tea Party members that came to speak against the proposal during open comment.  I think that if you are going to speak you should at least attempt to be informed instead of repeating talking points.  Post Bulletin polls are neither scientific nor a decision making input, and Cindy Maves’ comment that we should consider them even if they aren’t correct struck me as just silly.  I did not agree with the Tea Party position that we should abandon the project and be forced to fund deferred maintenance by raising property taxes.

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