Downtown Development Initiative: Where’s the beef?


How could the negotiations team done a better job informing the public throughout the process?

Here’s two examples from Greensboro’s District 5 Council member Sandy Carmany covering their coliseum issues, this one from a year ago and this one from November.

Sure, she wasn’t hampered by reporting on material potentially shielded under NC’s open meetings laws, but, then again, not every decision or thought process going into RAM’s “new” deal was by necessity shielded.

The only Council member directly involved in the negotiations, Sally Greene, has done the best informing the public of her thinking process on Lot 5 though nothing I read prepared me for such a right turn.

Original post:

Council had an excellent opportunity over the last week to answer the critics of the new Downtown Development Initiative Lot #5 deal.

Over the Summer, the public’s investment in the deal ballooned 15-fold, from $500K to north of $7.2M (with additional revenue hits, etc.). The Wallace Deck portion excised. Public space diminished. Boutique shops up, affordable commercial space missing. $385-$415 per square foot property, slated, as one critic pointed out, probably for affluent student housing.

What, over the Summer, caused the deal to change so radically for what I, other downtown business folks, two Kenan-Flager business school professors and many other concerned citizens consider the worse?

Council could’ve released more information – to provide a solid foundation for the public’s understanding of “the deal”. I’ve followed this deal quite closely. I agreed to “bite my tongue”. to not criticize the problematic elements of the original deal, to wait on the “new deal” which would correct the more egregious of the public’s concerns.

I’ve spent hours trying to pull together all the whispers, hints, etc. that incidentally wafted the public’s direction over the course of the Summer. But what I have is not enough.

The Council has the responsibility and obligation to fully disclose the details, to the fullest extent
allowed by law, of this deal.

Mr. Manager, Mayor and Town Council,

Thank you for being more timely this week and publishing the RAM development agenda item before close of business. Unfortunately, the agenda item is fairly light on the background of the “new deal”.

Would you please publish the remaining reports, discussions notes, comments, etc. that went into forming the “new deal” over the Summer?

I know that there’s some legal issues involved in releasing all of the notes – legal issues that will become moot after you sign the deal – so I’m not asking for ALL the information now (though I will be exercising a citizen’s FOIA prerogative ASAP).

I’m asking that you release everything you can prior to the meeting, including information not protected under the confidentially agreement but also not,to date, publicly disseminated.

For instance, would you please provide details of your consultations with the Local Government Commission (LGC) on financing?

This would include notes, reports, detailed analysis, etc. Please be thorough in your disclosures.

I’m interested in the LGC’s take on leveraging the secured debt, effect on our town’s debt ratings, thoughts on the quoted interest rate, etc. Essentially, I imagine, the same kind of financial analysis that a private business uses in evaluating the risk-rewards of taking on debt.

Finally, the main conduit for publishing this data has been the DDI website which hasn’t been updated since Spring. I’ve asked the Council to update the information on the RAM deal in a timely fashion. Several folks told me to “hold my horses”, that I needed to wait until the “final” deal was set.

Well, the final deal is set and the public still doesn’t have those details. I was hoping that this issue would be addressed over the last 9 days but it hasn’t.

The public has one weekend to review these critical additional details.

Please, if you can’t update the website, then submit them to the citizenry directly. If emailing or providing paper copies is easier, that’s fine.

I’ll make sure they get into the public domain over the weekend.

Thank you for your prompt attention,

Will Raymond


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