Mayor’s Blame Game Makes Getting To Yes On Downtown Development Difficult

The Stewart Administration remains intent on branding City Council Democrats as naysayers over bonding and construction of a new police station at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets.

The Mayor’s latest pronouncement reported in this Herald story over the timing of bonds for a police station  portrays the Council as getting in the way of financing the station that the Mayor  narrowly views as the linchpin for downtown revitalization.  The police department most certainly needs a new facility but making a public safety edifice the centerpiece of economic resurgence to the exclusion of other ideas has many residents and officials scratching their heads.

Majority Leader Phil Sherwood countered that the Council has given approvals to move forward with a new station every step of the way. When more than $30 million of public money is being put up, however, Sherwood and the Council would be shirking their responsibilities if they did not ask questions and do the oversight that is required of them.

More troubling in the Herald story is the assertion that an estimated project budget on how development funds will be expended by developers is not being shared nor has it been made public:

“During the last council meeting (Phil) Sherwood and (Michael) Trueworthy advocated for clarity on the details of the project and asked the mayor for a budget on the project. Stewart told council members the figures are projected and are public knowledge. Both aldermen said they have yet to see a budget on the police station but it is reportedly over budget. Both agree that the bonds are of a great benefit to the city.” 

The way forward on downtown development is for the Mayor to engage the Council and the public in a  transparent way as planning and design proceed.  A big picture on downtown development that draws on the city’s educational, business, health care and cultural assets, needs to emerge if real progress and development is to be achieved.

A continuing back and forth between the Mayor and Council gets in the way of getting to a good vision for the future of downtown. And Stewart’s continual sniping, his latest statement on bonding included, is no help at all.

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