Trust me when I say finding myself on the same side of an issue with muttering cranks like former lounge singer Ron Gomez and the Tea Party gives me pause. But this sweetheart Costco deal says more about the breadth of opposition it created in a very short time.
Contrary to developer Stirling Properties’ clever talking points, this isn’t about the Teapsters. I knew the merits of the proposal were in question from the very outset when the best defense of the deal proponents could muster was the Tea Party was against it, hence reasonable people should be for it. No, the problems with the deal transcend usual nutty Teapster themes. Fact is Stirling has finessed a fabulous deal for itself worth many millions with the assistance of political insiders like City-Parish President Joey Durel and others, without whose active support the deal would never have been possible. Sadly, the deal undeniably siphons years of desperately needed future property tax revenue from public entities like Lafayette schools to pay for infrastructure in and around the development (which, in the end, helps line Stirling’s pockets). Ask Superintendent Pat Cooper about the Stirling/Costco giveaway of millions in taxes not going to Lafayette public schools. His reaction? We should have considered other solutions. And the money will be badly missed.
There are many false claims associated with this slippery deal. Among the most disappointing comes from our normally clear-headed mayor himself. He’s quoted in multiple media accounts saying if we didn’t give Stirling the millions some other city would. But the deal is done. So we will never know. This argument, however, thinner than a Bourbon Street stripper’s lingerie, purports to scare us into believing some other area town (think the dynamic metropolises of Opelousas or New Iberia) would make a similar offer onto which Stirling would have immediately pounced.
Ok, maybe there’s another interpretation of Joey’s forecast of doom had we not given Stirling Properties the school board’s money. It would go like this. Costco, pissed that we refused, would have picked up its toys and moved on to a similar size market in another state. This assertion, however, omits what Stirling surely knows but our public servants who drank the promoter’s Kool-Aid possibly don’t. While there certainly are many other markets the size of the Lafayette metro that qualify by population, only a precious few of them in today’s weak nationwide economy have the booming environment Costco seeks. Who does have that? We do, here in Lafayette. We held a far better hand in negotiations, but then we just folded.
Another claim made by Stirling representatives was their Costco deal was Lafayette’s chance of a lifetime to benefit from big sales taxes generated by the prized Boustany property. True, Costco will generate a lot of sales taxes and ultimately property taxes in this highly desirable location, but this logic carries with it a question not addressed: Who believes, in this roaring Acadiana economy, other deals from other developers for the property, not encumbered by costly giveaways, wouldn’t be far behind? There are precious few sites, if any, of the size and location the Boustany property offered. Almost certainly there would have been other offers that followed, free of the PILOT tax giveaway.
Then there’s the fundamental question of what makes worthwhile the giveaway of millions in public revenue through TIFs and PILOTS. Don’t ask the Teapsters; they’ll tell you virtually nothing does. In fact, these programs can be of enormous economic and social value. Think only about the superb benefit created by the north Lafayette TIF, a Stirling Properties project that brought in a Target and numerous other quality retailers to residents who had been forced to drive across town for the goods and services they enjoy today, only minutes from their homes. Unlike the slick, quick, well-rehearsed vote that came down Tuesday night at the Industrial Development Board meeting, we need a genuine public discussion about what makes a project truly worthy of giving away badly needed local tax revenue. Hopefully this Stirling/Costco giveaway will become an object lesson for us in the future about how not to do it.
Expect more from The IND on this topic.
Steve May is co-publisher of IND Media, parent company of ABiz and IND Monthly.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.
With her political future in jeopardy, Sen. Mary Landrieu is turning to a natural constituent base in her re-election bid.
Terrance Broadway threw for a touchdown and rushed for 113 yards to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 34-10 victory over Texas State on Tuesday night.
Aligned with the party of an unpopular president, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu sought to keep her distance from the Obama administration, against claims from her chief Republican challenger Bill Cassidy that a vote to re-elect the Democratic incumbent was a vote for Barack Obama.
Seven people in Louisiana and two others in Mississippi have been arrested in connection with an international online sales scam.
Despite the hype and potential misinformation to have spread in the wake of Mark Cockerham’s recent departure from the LPSB, his candidacy for reelection is still on — now with the backing of the Chamber's Empower PAC.