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.
Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year.
The LPSB races are sure to get heated between now and Nov. 4, and with only 9 available seats, this year's field of 20 candidates will surely be wanting to set themselves apart from the crowd early; they'll get their chance next week, starting Tuesday with the kick-off of a three-day series of candidate forums.
Lawmakers say they've received complaints that waits have spiked, with people being forced to wait in line for more than an hour — and sometimes three hours — to handle routine tasks.
The campaign announced that Rep. Stuart Bishop of District 43 and Nancy Landry, District 31, have thrown their support behind the Naval Academy graduate and entrepreneur in his bid to unseat current Hunter Beasley in District 8.
A Lafayette man with an alleged taste for child porn was busted Thursday evening during a cyber crime sting launched by the Attorney General’s Office.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister says his chief of staff is on temporary leave after being booked with drunken driving.
It was a rare moment in Congress this week as Republicans briefly put aside partisanship in support of President Barack Obama's request to train and arm Syrian rebels, and while a number of Democrats opposed the measure, Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu found herself on the same side of the issue as her Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Home Depot breach bigger than Target; Alibaba IPO could be big; Rivers' last project and more national and international news for Friday, September 19, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
City-Parish President Joey Durel is asking the council to sign off on a resolution approving a pair of deals that would lead to razing the seedy Lesspay Motel at Four Corners to build a new police substation as well as transforming nearly a block Downtown where the old federal courthouse building now molders into a mixed-use development.
In 2013, the IRS — already the least popular governmental agency in the country — became the target of intense investigations after it was revealed that they had specifically and improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status from organizations associated with the nascent Tea Party movement.
Improving the running game was "a point of emphasis" during the offseason and the results have manifested themselves in the form of substantially greater production.
Louisiana's health department said Wednesday that its evaluation of the state's Medicaid privatization was on target, despite criticism from the legislative auditor that it lacked key data and contained inconsistencies.
The feds converge on your office, seizing records on several employees as part of a pay-for-plea investigation. WWYD? If you’re Mike Harson, you give yourself a $12k raise.
It’s football season and after back-to-back winless weekends for the Saints and the Cajuns many citizens are finding it difficult to be civil much less happy. Well, chew on this.
Considering his repeated stays in the local penal system, David Narcisse Jr. should have known that having a semiautomatic shotgun, even one given to him by a friend, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.
A state district judge on Tuesday threw out a last-minute retirement hike lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent, ending a political firestorm over a pension boost passed without public scrutiny on the last day of the legislative session.
The House has passed a bill to increase oversight of veterans' hospitals under construction, following a report that some medical centers take three years longer to complete than estimated and cost an extra $366 million per project.
An obvious follow-up question for any Republican politician who accuses Democrats of being science deniers is one about science, to which Jindal bobbed and weaved like a welterweight champ.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council is expected to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to go along with a proposal City-Parish President Joey Durel made in February’s State of the Parish Address and consolidate taxes for mosquito control and the parish health units into a broader tax program that would also cover animal control.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik has dismissed Greg Davis’ lawsuit against the LPSB, yet in his ruling, the federal judge doesn’t bite his tongue in pointing out the "threat" being posed by certain board members.
Of all the political offices being contested throughout Lafayette Parish, the race for Broussard’s top police post has literally become one of the most heated.
A state district judge is deciding whether to issue an injunction against the enforcement of a last-minute retirement hike that lawmakers gave to the state police superintendent.
A new website is up for Louisiana's state government employees and retirees to choose their health insurance plans for next year, a choice they must make by October.
That fact that New Orleans led both games in the final 10 seconds of regulation, and lost each by a field goal or less, is of little solace.