You got to hand it to Mayor Stodola and Jim Lynch and the Downtown Neighborhood Association. The DNA asked for a head to head debate and got it, and for nearly two hours, despite a turnout of just over 30 people (including press), Stodola and Lynch covered an enormous amount of ground.
If you’ve been keeping up with the pros and cons on the penny tax (5/8 for operating needs, 3/8 for capital), you’ve heard them all. What you might not have heard is Stodola saying that the opposition to the tax derives not from the tax itself but tangential issues that folks have been angry about for a long time: Annexation of 90 square miles without demanding that the people who filled them up pay for the added fire and police protection, etc. they cost with impact fees. (Stodola’s answer: He tried to pass off the streets and sidewalks and sewer hookups that developers put in as impact fees, but that didn’t fly with either Lynch or the Ward 1 audience). Accountability: Fear the city won’t use the money in a transparent way and do what it says it will do. (Stodola: The ordinance calling for the vote creates a citizen’s committee to act as watchdog.) And in that vein, trust: Lynch noted that the city has yet to fully implement an ordinance that would have required rental inspections it passed in 1994. (Stodola: We haven’t had the money.) Balance in city priorities. Kathy Wells of the DNA noted the city spent $10 million to build two of the four lanes of the entirety of Chenal Boulevard to throw a bone to Deltic Timber. “Show me where that money is going to be paid back” to the rest of the city.
Stodola said all the issues the audience and Lynch (speaking as the treasurer of the “$500 Million — Too Much!” ballot committee) were raising were important, but off point. He said the city needs to do more than just fill the $8 million hole it’s in. It needs to fill job vacancies, build new fire stations, add public safety personnel, and kick in some of the money to build the “research park” to enhance high-tech development.
The point, Lynch said, is the city doesn’t need what amounts to an average of $50 million a year for 10 years (when the 3/8 capital needs tax expires) to move forward. He added he’d go for half that — with accountability.
If the winner of the “debate” was the one who got the floor the most, it was Stodola. Lynch scored some points as well.