Closed Session Concerns

The City Council held a CLOSED discussion regarding Confluence Project details at the April 21, 2014 Meeting 

Questions:

1)  Is a closed session on an update of the Confluence Project appropriate?

  • There should be no bargaining or competitive reasons that would require a closed session in connection with the planning of the theater, plaza or student housing building.  Details on actual physical layout of each would be appreciated by all.
  • Information has been available since the end of March on the proposed operating structure and operating costs/planning for the performing art center.  There is no reason why information cannot be shared with the public at this juncture on these aspects.  They are not the subject of either bargaining or competition.
  • Updates on the status of the philanthropic fund drive for the performing art center also has nothing to do with bargaining or competition and also can be shared.
  • Updates of the new or overlay TIF required to fund the performing art center likewise can be shared, including the area it encompasses, new buildings anticipated, approximate cost, approximate ratio of private to public investment, anticipated impact on property taxes, timeline and when it will be ready for review.
Man Thinking - Closed Session Concerns
  • Updates on the University’s presentation plans to the Regents of the proposed performing art center (including ownership structure and budgets) likewise have nothing to do with bargaining or competition.
  • To the extent there is a plan to subsidize the private student housing, the public has a right to know.  Both a justification and explanation are needed, as such a subsidy is contrary to the representations made to the public by the City and press prior to the Confluence referenda. 

Moreover, the following should be considered:

  • Would anyone really want to subsidize student housing if there is no performing arts facility built?  If the goal is to return the downtown to vibrancy, student housing is not the answer.  As one of our volunteers, who worked for a tourist company commented, the following pitch will not bring tourists to downtown:

Come One!

Come All!

Come See Our Residence Hall!

The Confluence performing art center is hardly a sure thing at this point in time, as the State has not endorsed it.  In fact there is major opposition as noted by the chair of the State Assembly's Colleges and Universities Committee in his recent editorial that appeared in Sunday's Eau Claire Leader Telegram and in WisconsinOpinion.Com:

http://www.wisopinion.com/index.iml?mdl=article.mdl&article=54897

  • Such a plan raises some very serious legal questions in terms of the City’s involvement in subsidizing a private project, particularly one that involves destruction of a block of historic buildings.
  • Risk also is a factor in terms of who stands behind the student housing and the nature of the building planned.  The last thing the City needs is another white elephant like the hotel/conference center/ramp.

Holding a closed hearing on negotiations to subsidize student housing is inappropriate.

2)  Will the City provide both the public and City Council members a reasonable period of time to review and comment on proposals on each phase of the project?

The typical timing - receipt of the information on Friday afternoon, a public hearing on the following Monday with a vote the next day (Tuesday) - affords little to no opportunity for review and comment, particularly for anyone that has a family or works. Likewise, it provides Council members with inadequate time for a thorough review.  Let us make sure that we don’t find ourselves in Nancy Pelosi’s position with ObamaCare in which the Council has to “pass the bill to find out what was is in it”.

RECOMMENDATION:  Provide at least a two week period between the time materials are provided to the public and the date of the public hearing.