Yes to Barter, no to city subsidies

To the Editor,

During the Oct. 4 City Council meeting, one Mount Airy resident admonished city officials that they have yet to keep their promise to provide regular updates to citizens on the status of the deal being “negotiated” for a theater/hotel complex. Still another resident noted that, according to a Barter official, the theater had not changed its position since the beginning of those so-called “negotiations” and has no intention of doing so in the future.

The terms of the latest proposed deal, as put forth by city officials, simply showcase the embarrassing inability of our governing officials to negotiate from a position of strength and/or fiscal responsibility. Indeed, the last-known version of the deal leaves taxpayers with only one question: Why is the city willing to give millions of taxpayer dollars (in the form of leases, subsidies, and potential renewal options) to the operators and developers of the proposed theater/hotel project when, instead, it should be offering them only a reasonably limited amount of help (in the form of tax abatements, reduced utility costs, etc.) in order to jump-start this project?

No one is opposed to business owners making profits or theater companies making surpluses – even exorbitant profits and surpluses! — as long as the financial rewards they reap result from their own upfront investments, efforts, and risks. I believe that’s called free enterprise.

Let Barter come; let a hotel be built; and let both of those forward-thinking enterprises (along with all other ancillary businesses in town) succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Just don’t use city funds to inappropriately front those enterprises, while also leaving the city to shoulder the bulk of the financial risk if/when the promised dreams never become reality.

Rebecca Harmon

Mount Airy