Posted on June 5, 2013
The CRA Workshop, that was initiated by some Board member concerns about about the appropriate focus of the CRA, turned into a discussion about redevelopment projects for Frenchtown. And some Board members were clearly caught off guard. County Commissioner Kristin Dozier said that “I thought it would be a different process. We did not agree to this process in advance.” City Commissioner Nancy Miller said she “was not given a heads up about the process.” In lieu of addressing the broad goals of the CRA, the workshop, designed by CRA staff, included a paid facilitator and a list of 37 priorities submitted by Board members before the meeting. The goal was for the Board members to narrow the list down to 5 priorities – it never happened. See list of priorities here. Instead, Board members made fun of the facilitator rules on debate and interaction with each other, and at times, simply ignored the rigid format designed to deliver results. Instead, the elected officials did what they do best, talk about their ideas, and that made for an interesting meeting. Commissioner Dozier said that “we need a better assessment of the annual impact of the CRA.” She said the CRA focus should be ” to create conditions that promote private sector development.” In contrast, City Commissioner and Mayoral candidate Andrew Gillum said “my approach is more expansive than the past CRA approach.” For Commissioner Gillum, the CRA should be involved in social services, transportation, education and the health of the community. County Commissioner Bill Proctor said that ” we should not invest in preserving what is going on in Frenchtown and call it culture – because it is not!” City Commissioner Scott Maddox, whose concern for the expansive role of the CRA prompted the workshop, made several interesting observations. Maddox said the “best role for the CRA is to look at infrastructure projects that would spur development. Projects that would not happen if not for CRA.” Maddox, one of the first to advocate for the relocation of the homeless shelter, stated he would support “relocating the Greyhound bus station closer to I-10.” City Commissioner Gil Ziffer reassured the Board that the homeless shelter is moving, but added we “need to send a signal to the Shelter board we are willing to help with their land.” Ziffer also made the comment that the “performing arts center project is in the wrong location – no economic development possibilities.” He was referring to the proposed downtown location for the performing arts center project. In the end, five hours and a paid facilitator was not enough to reach any consensus. Some Board members were visibly frustrated. Another meeting will be scheduled to try and more clearly define the CRA priorities.