After hearing the city council debate Tuesday night, I was reminded of an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying my Mom taught me growing up: "The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get." Naturally, that refers to taking the time to do a task right the first time.
The city has asked developers to propose a vision based solely on the zoning for the harbor area. The developers were not provided a vision by the city. There was no workshop with residents so that the developers might have a real dialog with residents to understand their concerns and visions. There was no history of the failed Heart of the City, so the developers might learn that railroading the residents is a risky strategy. So, in essence, the developers are shooting in the dark.
So now, after one meeting, the city council will pick a developer based on no set criteria. From the meeting, it sounds like each will generally base their decision on:
- An assessment of each developer's vision
- Each councilman's personal research on the past performance of each developer
- Each councilman's personal gut feel of their fiscal viability.
Oh, and some said they will also base their judgement based on a developer exceeding the Council's single public workshop. Hmm, if they think more is better, why didn't they just make that a requirement???
There is no Harbor Commission assessment. There is no outside assessment of each developer's past performance. There is no staff assessment of each developer's past performance. There is no independent analysis of their fiscal standing. There is no assement of the fiscal viability of their visions. (Can the harbor really support Portofino, Crowne Plaza, Best Western, Shade PLUS two more hotels???????)
So the city council will be shooting in the dark, using the visions of developers who are shooting in the dark. This is the recipe for a waterfront disaster. The chances of success are slim at best.
The council's reckless rush is irresponsible. It wastes the developers' time and money. It wastes city resources. It puts our waterfront at the risk of a failure that could take generations to fix. At best, it wastes time until cooler heads prevail and hit the "redo" button.
And how disingenuous. On the "no-brainer" decision to oppose the new power plant with a looming decision deadline, our Council has been "studying" the issue for two years with zero action. But on this important decision with our waterfront at risk with lots of complexity and moving parts and no firm deadline, we are rushing to judgement?
The city has gotten this wrong several times already. Pier Plaza (on top of the Pier parking lot) was a big failure. Heart of the City died because the city ignored residents' concerns. Why can't our council see the handwriting on the wall? This is too predictable.
Here's another applicable moral: "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." Sadly, I fear we will be doing all this all over again.