Charlie and Karen Abowd: For the sake of downtown, city should find a compromise on redevelopment funds

As business and property owners within Carson City's downtown redevelopment district, we are doing something we have never done (nor did Paul and Adele) in the 30 years Adele's has been in business: respond to commentary in the local newspaper.


On Sept. 7, Supervisor and Redevelopment Authority Chair Robin Williamson wrote a dissatisfied opinion column regarding the Sept. 4 Board of Supervisor's 3-2 decision to direct $2 million from the city's redevelopment program into the city's general fund. Subsequently, on Sept. 14, the mayor wrote a rebuttal.


At the board meeting, both Supervisor Williamson and Supervisor Shelly Aldean expressed concern the action would not only inadvertently "double-dip" from redevelopment's successful economic stimulus programs, which have strict pay-back provisions, but also in the process disrupt the effectiveness and opportunity of existing and future programs. Both supervisors were very concerned about altering what is working " especially in such difficult economic times.


However, the mayor and Supervisor Pete Livermore concluded in their decision that these dollars should be redirected to more pressing capital improvement projects, like a pond at Fuji Park. Supervisor Richard Staub declined comment, although he was directly ask by the mayor to offer an explanation for his vote. His yes-vote-but-no-comment stance is unfortunate since many of us are confused by what was ultimately decided and still have questions.


Based on their public comments, we honor that what seems to be the impetus for both Mayor Teixeira and Supervisor Livermore's decision is support of our community's youth. We too share this commitment. However we agree with Supervisors Williamson and Aldean that the decision contradicts redevelopment practices and thereby negatively impacts the equally important needs of business incubation with redevelopment programs.


Carson City's economic development Web site, www.carsoncityecondev.com, highlights more than 40 success stories in our downtown " to include our project six years ago. Our partnership with the city allowed us to create 10 additional primary jobs and grow our overall sales tax contributions. Additionally, we now pay higher property taxes (which go back to Redevelopment) because the value of our business and property has increased. We are a small part of the millions of private investment dollars Redevelopment has been able to bring to downtown by leveraging small amounts of tax dollars. Among the most recent successes is the remodel of the St. Charles Hotel into the Firkin 'N Fox Brew Pub, which parlayed Redevelopment's $100,000 into a multi-million dollar private investment that generates significant food and beverage sales taxes and has raised the aesthetic value of 3rd Street exponentially.


This summer downtown Carson City has sprung to life. A lot of that came from citizens who were determined to demonstrate the value of our downtown. This effort is the work of the 300-person strong citizen-led Carson City Downtown Consortium, and has been vigorously supported by the tiny two person staff of the Redevelopment Authority. The Board of Supervisors would have to be foolish not to notice the difference the efforts have made.


In fact, not only have we here at Adele's noticed the difference; we've all helped make the difference. We've shown up. We've participated. We've helped out.

These small victories by Redevelopment have brought significant energy and excitement to downtown Carson City this year and we feel considering a compromise to the Sept. 4 Carson City Board of Supervisors action is in order.


We hope the mayor will exercise his talent as a bridge builder and find a way to address important capital improvement needs and at the same time ensure the continued success of downtown. We know repayment of the diverted redevelopment dollars can be achieved. Sales tax dollars that are now being earned from Redevelopment's Burlington Coat Factory project (these tax dollars are already earmarked to repay their $2 million loan), could be incrementally sent back to redevelopment programs and avoid the "double-dip" snafu, preserve business programs and address today's pressing capital needs.


Of course in this uncertain economy the definition of "pressing" may change daily. However, what won't change is today's need for forward-thinking, forward-planning governance from the city. Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand, but instead make smart decisions that bring clarity to the use and reuse of redevelopment funds and focus on how such funds can support our local economy.


Furthermore, we encourage the community to attend a special meeting of the Redevelopment Authority, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. in the Sierra Room " Carson City Community Center, and learn more about the efforts and successes of the 300-member Carson City Downtown Consortium.


Charlie and Karen Abowd are owners of Adele's Restaurant & Lounge in Carson City.

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