Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Vote

I don’t know about you, but I think the cooler weather has invigorated me.  So here goes.

Tonight I vote on hiring BFW, a local company, and Ratio, an out-of- town company, to create an overall park and land use plan for the former Executive Inn site.  I have not gone soft, but I thought a bit of explanation might be in order.  It will come as no surprise that I have been critical of JJR and their Riverfront Development Plan.  Additionally, I was very critical of City Vision and their Renaissance Area Master Plan, a.k.a. RAMP.  You should also know that the RAMP was only “accepted” not “adopted” by the City of Paducah at the recommendation of the independent Planning Commission.  In other words, it isn’t part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the primary planning document. 

So what am I thinking about?  The old Executive Inn site, also known as the “debris field” or “scar,” is the last remaining piece of the riverfront not developed.  Maybe,I’m just trying to get this final piece correctly fitted into place, if you will.  Maybe I can find happiness with this last part of the puzzle.  Maybe the third time will be a charm.

I do think it is important to have a local face to lead the city in this endeavor, and Bacon Farmer and Workman will be that face.  Ratio is the firm that did the design work with the City of Indianapolis for the 2012 Super Bowl.  So, the skill set is there.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I’m not happy.

Tonight I voted to spend some $90,000 for re-engineering the riverfront park, a project I have twice voted against.  A change of heart?  No, but I’ll explain. The PRDA has come up with a simpler riverfront plan.  The $90,000 funds the engineering to bring the plans from the much larger JJR design to the current PRDA plan.  With this smaller plan, the contractors will then provide bid packages on the project.  We will finally have prices.

Without tonight’s redesign spending authorization and the contractor bid packages, the city will be stuck with the current “rock only” situation. This is not an alternative.  With firm bids, we can then see what we can afford.  Again, my position is to spend the $3,800,000 earmark and not our local taxpayers’ money on the project.

So I spend dollars tonight on a project I have twice voted against.  I am not happy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Missed Opportunity

A Post from Afar
(This commissioner doesn't go on vacation; he just frets about city politics via text messages and the use of his daughter's secretarial services.)

(For those new to the issue, this is in regards to the fate of the red brick building at the corner of 4th and Harrison Sts. It was voted last night to accept the proposal for the new owners to demolish the building and erect the Troutt General Store in its place. The losing proposal was for it to be kept and turned into apartments.)

I just did not see it coming. Yes, I had received emails from neighbors in support of the proposed Troutt General Store here in LowerTown, but I couldn't help but think of the tragedy of tearing down a building that dates back to just after the Civil War. No, I'm not a hopeless romantic. I understand that there is a balance that must be struck between economic growth and historical preservation, but still feel that there could have been an alternative to demolition of this structure.

Chad Beyer of i5 Design had also submitted a proposal, for renovating it to create a new four-unit apartment building. Paducah, we know, is starting an Upper-Story Living Initiative downtown. If we are to attract young thinkers and community-builders from both at home and afar, we must create attractive, affordable housing in downtown and LowerTown to give the district that sought-after metropolitan vibe.

The Troutt General store is a good thing too, but for me, there had to have been a better way forward. This did not have to be a zero-sum game. With more consideration, both projects should have been allowed to survive in a way that pleased entrepreneurs and preservationists alike. Unfortunately, we missed the opportunity to find a great location for the Troutt General Store and give a historic building a new life as a downtown living space.

To me, there is no better way to inspire a passion for Paducah in the minds of new downtown residents than to promote modern living in history-rich places. And while retail spaces like general stores, restaurants and groceries make for sustainable neighborhoods, if we don't also focus on residential spaces, who will be here to sustain them?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Go Muzzle Yourself.

Now that the first festivals of the year have passed…and we couldn’t possibly have any more city hall issues out there, I have turned my thoughts to the muzzling of dogs.  This is not about “should you bring your dog to an event?”  It is not a liability primer concerning dogs.  And it is not about how hot pavement must be painful to the pads of the dog’s feet.  No, this is just questioning why we have an ordinance muzzling your dog in city festivals or parks or well, wherever. 

My go-to logic says, “What do other cities do?”  Naturally, I tend to think of places that we might be willing to visit or to live in ourselves.  How about Lexington, Austin or Nashville.  What do they say about “the muzzle ordinance?”  As a Google user it is easy to find out.  All three of these very livable cities do not consider muzzling dogs enough of an issue to make it an ordinance.  O.K. You got me. They do mention “vicious dogs.”  But really, what is it that we know that the aforementioned cities don’t know?  Maybe we have discovered that the muzzle ordinance is the “cutting edge” of truly livable cities and by retaining the ordinance we will leapfrog Nashville, Lexington and Austin.

My guess is that our city is simply, just more risk averse, but risk abounds in everyday life.  I suspect we may be told that we are safer when dogs are muzzled in public, but that is hardly quantifiable. It just seems strange that three very livable cities have gone one way, and we have gone another.   

Let the muzzles be removed and your comments begin. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

I'm getting tired.

I’m getting tired.

I appreciate the Paducah Sun’s generally positive editorial on the PRDA’s efforts to recommend a way forward on the riverfront’s, to use the pejorative, “rock pile.”  Again, what is so great about partially finishing the park to conserve monies to get the transient boat dock partially finished?

All of this is purely academic.  Until we get contractor’s bids, and our track record on the “bump out” has been less than stellar, we really have no idea as to what we can build and at what cost.  Why do we still hold onto a riverfront plan that was developed in 2007?  The world is changing.

In the Berenstain Bears children’s book Get The Gimmies we learn that bear cubs cannot have everything they see.  Likewise, does the city have that old “gimmie gleam” in their eyes? With my “no” vote, it will probably be another 4-1 vote.

I’m just tired of talking about all this spending.  Maybe I should quit talking. My fellow commissioners and the mayor probably would be happier with me……but…..I suspect you will hear more from me. 

I’m pulling for you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Wolf By Its Ears, Still

A Wolf By Its Ears, Still…

Why do I have to be the one to raise the objections? Don’t the others see what I see, that the city has to live within its means? Once again, it seems that we have that old “gimmie gleam” in our eyes.  That gleam is, of course, the Riverfront Park.

Seven and one half months ago I posted “a wolf by its ears.”  You might read it for a bit of background.  I just don’t get it.  We paused the entire riverfront project because of not enough rock.  About $800,000 of not enough rock.  PRDA was given the task to straighten the mess out and give the city a new way forward.  And they worked hard.  I think the other commissioners were really spooked at that $800,000 cost over-run last summer.  Tonight we have a new way forward, and after you add all of the monies still to be spent we are still at, are you ready for this, $800,000 short.  From the PRDA proposal it appears we are $481,582 short.  However, this number does not include the Boating Infrastructure Grant match from the city to the tune of $320,000.  Added together it amounts to $801,582 of your tax dollars to complete the riverfront.  Except it is not a completed thing. My guess is that the camel has his nose under the tent, and I‘m sure there will be more taxpayer expense to come as we dress the riverfront.

I tried, unsuccessfully, an idea from PRDA’s own cost figures.  It is called scenario #4.  To wit: If the city would vote to lose the gangway, transient boat dock, fuel service, in other words all the water activities, it would appear we could have a completed park with all the amenities at the desired level above flood stage for approximately $3.5 million.  This is well under the Federal Highway Grant of $3.8 million.  No more taxpayer money.  A completed park that all of us could enjoy.

And hey, we could use that $800,000 as a down payment on turning the old Executive Inn area into park space that will connect to the riverfront park.

The city must live within its means.  It isn’t pleasant being the naysayer, but I have to do what I think is right for the taxpayer.  Spending has to pass my filter for my “yes” vote.

Tonight we voted to get the grant agencies to bless, or not, the proposed revisions to the riverfront.  Better to ask permission than to plead for forgiveness.  As a husband, I get this concept.

I expect to be out-voted on the riverfront project in the coming weeks.  I’m not surprised, given the votes last year on this project were 4 to 1.  I’m used to it.  This vote allows the city to advertise for bids to be taken on the riverfront project.

Once the bids come in we will review and vote again.  Hope we don’t get the same surprise as last year.

And one final fact you may not get a riverfront booster to mention.  The total pleasure boat traffic through the two locks was down 21% for 2013.  A whopping 628 boats came through Barkley and Kentucky Locks, for the entire year.  Doubt they all made it to the Paducah riverfront.