This election holds significance

To the Editor,

This Tuesday (11/3) we vote for Mayor and city Commissioners. This election might be the most important in a long while because it could determine whether to have heavy city spending and tax increases or not.

The big issue is the Redevelopment Commission (RDC). This is an official group created a year and half ago to get private developers to buy and rehab the Spencers property. The city Board of Commissioners (BOC) appointed the RDC members and gave them instructions to deal with the Spencers property itself, but not privately owned property.

That seemed clear enough but the RDC showed from beginning that they didn’t want to go by the rules and wanted control over other privately owned properties. By including these private properties RDC might press owners to make changes and/or improvements. Owners who refused could possibly face condemnation or, in extreme cases, RDC could take the property by Eminent Domain. RDC also has the power to borrow money without a vote by citizens. Such debt could fall on taxpayers if RDC projects could not pay for themselves.

RDC finally unveiled its “draft plan” a couple months ago and it did include 14 private properties. The BOC promptly said no. Since then it appears to me RDC has focused on taking control of our city government. That should make approval of most any RDC plan easy. Two new candidates (Jerry Taylor and N.A. Barnes) are running for commissioner seats (and even a third one when Joe Reid announced as a last minute write-in). All three are big supporters of the larger RDC plans. One received a $500 campaign contribution and the others may have received support as well. These new candidates have seldom if ever been seen at a BOC meeting until now. Commissioner Steve Yokeley is also an RDC supporter and in fact he’s chairman of RDC. He’s running for Mayor.

The candidates who want RDC to deal first with only the Spencers property are … for Commissioner: Dean Brown, Jim Armbrister, Shirley Brinkley; For Mayor: David Rowe.

A few weeks ago, four developers showed their project plans at the RDC meeting. They were really fancy, but my 34 years in commercial banking says they are extremely high risk for our small town market. That makes me wonder which if any would actually be built as shown. All four developers showed the need for extending Oak Street about 100 -200 feet and a connecting street over to Franklin. None of the developers made any mention of all the other street work that the RDC plan involves. In fact the RDC plan does not include any work on any Spencers buildings at all. They want $5-$10 million spending on new streets, a traffic round-a-bout, and purchase/destruction of commercial buildings unrelated to Spencers, etc.

The obvious compromise is to do only the Oak Street Extension and connection to Franklin. That would allow developers to go ahead with their projects (with their own money). If the projects prove successful, the other areas will take care of themselves because other developers will want to buy them. That compromise would cut out 95 percent of the conflict and save millions of city spending. Even though that compromise seems a great one, the RDC has shown no interest.

RDC supporters are active and will get out their vote. Whatever side you are on be sure you vote as well. Otherwise just a small group will determine the outcome.

John Pritchard

Mount Airy

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