Council Gives Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Gift of Public Money
Corporate Profits Remain Private But Risk is Made Public
|Mayor Scott Donahue|
Giving Wareham $200,000
of the people's money is nice
but $500,000 would be better.
Councilwoman Ally Medina felt Rich Robbins' pain Tuesday night and argued to give Wareham $208,000, however her two colleagues Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez thought Ms Medina was too stingy with the people's money and held out for a gift of $500,000 instead; the amount recommended by staff. All three pointed to the public benefits the citizens will reap from the Transit Center project. The City Attorney, Michael Guina reminded the Council members that returning the money to Mr Robbins is strictly voluntary and they are under no legal obligation to do so but that fell on deaf ears among the majority on the Council.
Ms Medina's argument ultimately held sway and the City of Emeryville will now write a check for $208,420 to Mr Robbins for building the project the Planning Commission twice voted down due to its "lack of public benefit". The two figures bandied about Tuesday night ($208,000 and $500,000) represent two visions of what was characterized as "fair" by their respective City Council champions Tuesday but neither had any legal basis, opening up the City to possible lawsuits from other developers similarly taxed and looking to be made whole.
|Councilwoman Dianne Martinez|
Yes, let's make it a cool half million.
Mayor Donahue told the Tattler after the final vote, "Fees are paid or improvements are made to provide a city for reimbursement for public services. When infrastructure is provided that the fees pay for, having that fee is a kind of double charge." The Mayor added the cash back to Rich Robbins is "prudent" and speculating about future Wareham development projects in Emeryville, he cautioned, "We'll have to negotiate with Rich in the future (for our benefit)."
Councilwoman Medina expanded on the idea of "fairness" after the vote, stating she felt constrained by "the intent of [the City of Emeryville's] credit policy for transit impact fees' regardless of the City Attorney's concise release from any such (legal) constraint.
The dissenting Council members, John Bauters and Christian Patz, relied on the City Attorney's view and also the need for future transit public infrastructure improvements. Mr Bauters reminded everyone of the considerable impacts the Transit Center will bring, especially as pertains to bike safety with the glut of cars from the 823 parking spaces the project will provide, "We're going to put a lot of cars on [the Horton Street] Bike Boulevard" he said noting the money, fungible as it is, could help ameliorate that safety issue and help other transit needs the City has.
For her part, Ms Martinez agreed the Transit Center will have a negative impact but she said she is more concerned with being "fair" to Mr Robbins.
|Councilwoman Ally Medina|
After what the City Attorney said,
$500,000 might sound too generous...
Let's settle on $200,000.
Mr Bauters noted developers, when they put together a project, take a risk that a municipality might change the rules (including the fee schedule) and they are not required to be made whole following such a public policy change. "Development equals risk" he said Tuesday, raising the specter of the much derided federal government's fealty to Wall Street and their propensity to help them keep corporate profits private while socializing the risk.