Dear City Council President Hazouri and Members of the Council:
We expect City Council to vote Tuesday on Ordinance 2020-0648, the current Lot J taxpayer subsidized private development deal.
We have over several weeks urged Council to defeat this bill. We have asked that you start new negotiations using the City’s practices that govern all other tax-payer subsidized private developments, that are transparent, and that protect local taxpayers.
We continue to do so.
During your last Committee of the Whole meeting, you listened as Tarik Bateh raised four “red flag” concerns about the structure of the current subsidy. Mr. Bateh, a Senior Director with JLL Capital Markets, has extensive experience in capital development projects that include taxpayer incentives. We were dismayed when his concerns received no discussion by Council members, especially since Council invited him to share his analysis.
To quickly remind you, Bateh argued the current deal has not been subject to common due diligence review; is atypical in investing the public dollar first; should base the amount of the public subsidy on a financial “gap analysis; ” and should retain the public’s ownership of the land. Remarkably, Bateh argued that the estimated cost of this development is double what it should be.
In short, the current deal does not protect taxpayers: the public assumes all the risk and the developer reaps all the profit. The only way to protect the taxpayer is to start over. Conduct a gap analysis and negotiate a set amount of taxpayer subsidy that is paid only when the project is complete.
OurJax thanks the four Council members who voted “No” during the meeting of the Committee of the Whole last Thursday: Tommy Hazouri, Matt Carlucci, Danny Becton, and Al Ferraro.
One final time, OurJax urges members to vote “No” on this deal, scrap it, and start over to create a Lot J deal that is fair and will make us all proud.
Michael J. Ward