My rebuttal to Fairchild viewpoint

September 4, 2006

lensStop Our City founder Charles Fairchild gives the PNJ readers his final viewpoint on the Vince Whibbs, Sr., Community Maritime Park today.Viewpoint: Baseball park, flawed process biggest objections to proposal

For the first time, he reveals where he did his research on the baseball park component of the waterfront plan….Readers Digest. Yes, that same magazine we all read when we visit our grandmothers or the dentist office.

Taxpayers tend to agree with the concept advanced by a University of Chicago economist who said: “If you want to inject money into the economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest in a ballpark.” (August 2005 Reader’s Digest, page 48).”

Of course, the economist (Adam Sanderson) was talking about major league baseball parks that cost hundreds of millions to construct, not minor league ballparks built in downtown areas. Somehow Fairchild fails to mention that fact. Here is the actual article ( Readers Digest). And this is the problem with Fairchild, Donovan and Elebash – They did no real research – just went out and found quotes to fit their position.

Andrew Zimbalist, the Stanford professor also mentioned in the article, doesn’t like the $400-500 million ballpark and football stadiums being built. However, in a Washington Post article on the Washington Nationals’ ballpark, Zimbalist admitted that even those huge stadiums work when mixed with other development. Ours will have the state maritime museum, conference center, UWF classrooms and commercial. Again Fairchild doesn’t mention all the facts.

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Let’s look at the other objections of Mr. Fairchild

Deferred amenities: I like that Fairchild says there isn’t citizen input, then attacks the plan based on the amenities that were added because of the public input. But be that as it may – we all know construction costs have gone up –the delays caused by SOC haven’t helped. We also know that you have to clean up the property, build the roads, sidewalks, street lighting, etc and the construct the main buildings first for this project to have its true economic impact. The other fact is that private sector will step up and help pay for the amenities – like Skip Hunter’s $1 million donation for the outdoor amphitheater.

I led the fundraising, planning and construction of the new St. Ann Catholic Church in Gulf Breeze. We didn’t worry about the pews, altar, stained glass windows, baptismal font because we knew that once we built the church itself parishioners would step forward and donate them. They did.

If the picnic benches are so important to SOC, then they can help raise the money after we pass the referendum. It would go a long way towards healing the city.

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Private meetings were held between Pensacola City Council members and the promoters ” The State Attorney has determined this was not illegal or improper.

“City Council conceptually approved the CMPA plan before citizens could analyze” This is normal procedure for all governmental bodies – approve concept, then get input. Without a concept, there would be nothing to discuss. SOC had 18 months from the time the first Trillium proposal was defeated until Fetterman-Cavanaugh-Studer made their proposal – They and Donovan made no proposals, held no open meetings to get citizen input. After concept was approved, SOC and Donovan could still have come up with an alternative plan – they didn’t.

“Council amended the existing Community Redevelopment Agency waterfront plan” – so?

Ray Gindroz, was hired by Quint Studer and instructed to steer the efforts” – Everyone knew that Gindroz was hired by Studer for one set of meetings. He also had been hired by the City on two other occassion to study downtown. Leadership involves developing a basic plan and getting input to modify and improving that plan.

The city designed the request for proposals to conform to the CMPA plan.” This objection bothers me because this is what SOC wants to do if the referendum fails. They want an rfp that restricts what will be public and sell off the rest for condos and commerical development. The City did a RFP, except they wouldn’t sell any of the land. Donovan worked hard to get WCI and others to make proposals – any proposal not just for the RFP – none would.

“City Hall altered its established referendum precedent” This is true and is why the League of Women Voters are upset with the process. However, Fairchild told the LOWV that he liked the delay because it gave the SOC more time to state their case. Also SOC could have had the referendum sooner if they had submitted the petition signatures on a weekly basis,rather than all at one time. Doing the referendum vote as part of the Sept 5th primary – saved the City $100,000.

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The one thing missing for Fairchild’s viewpoint is a guarantee that if the referendum fails, that he, Donovan and SOC will support whatever plan comes out of the process that he described. There is no guarantee that he, Donovan and SOC won’t make us go through an never-ending series of referendums.

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