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Why Not This MAPS?

6:00 PM EST on December 7, 2009

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Lately, I have seen a lot of "Not this MAPS" signs around town.  Considering how awesome the first MAPS was for the city and what great things MAPS for Kids did for the public school system, I wondered why this MAPS initiative is being viewed with such strident opposition.

To get some information, I visited the "Not this MAPS" facebook group, and this was the gist of the argument:

Out of 3/4 of a BILLION dollars not one dime is for creating jobs, public schools, roads, bridges, police or fireman. Instead they want to make a downtown waterpark, or a $400 million downtown convention center.

Correct me if I am wrong, but when you spend $400 million to build something, someone is going to be working on the project.  Is there some stipulation in the wording of the initiative that demands that all work be done by out of state robots?  Or, perhaps, some technology that creates state of the art buildings immaculately...and by "immaculate" I'm referring to its use with "conception" and not referring to the beauty, although I would expect that the new convention center would have that, too.

If past initiatives are any indication, the money will create a lot of jobs in this community.  Architecture and engineering for things like the Ford Center have been done by firms in this city, and the construction boasts the same.  These firms take the contracts for which they win the bidding and put people to work in this metropolitan area with good wage paying jobs.

Then, once the projects are completed, the purpose of the short-term tax comes to fruition by boosting economic development.  When you get something like a convention center that brings tourists into town, local businesses get a boost by the expansion of people spending cash, which create service jobs (and perhaps better white collar jobs when people attending those conventions leave with an improved image of our city), and the increased sales expand sales tax collections which in turn pay for all those police, fireman, roads, bridges, and public schools that are on-going priorities.

So basically, everything the opposition cites as reasons not to vote for this MAPS initiative are actually perfect reason to support the MAPS initiative.

That leads me to the question of "Why not this MAPS?" 

Through just a cursory look at who is behind the opposition, it has a cast of familiar characters.  Part of me wants to say that they sincerely oppose MAPS 3 on ideological grounds and not because they are pissed that they lost the Big League City vote.  But then I listen to, their patron saint, Wanda Jo Stapleton's opposition to the Big League City vote (because light rail was the priority) and now her going up against the initiative that includes light rail (it's actually a pretty interesting interview listening to her contradict herself by pointing out where the MAPS initiative addresses everything she says it does not).

So what would it take to get these people on board?  It seems they want this MAPS initiative to act as a bake sale for the police and fire departments--or at least that's the line of reasoning they are using to get the support of those unions.  Of course, that would be an awful idea.

I understand that revenue shortfalls related to the struggling economy has demanded that the city make 2% cuts across the board, including the police and fire departments.  Plugging the difference and hiring additional public servants with a short-term tax hike, though, is a recipe for disaster.  That is like using your Christmas bonus at work to hire a maid.  That's great until the bonus money runs out, but then you have no way of sustaining the payments.  Eventually, you will have to cut the maid loose, and you are no better off than you were before. 

Unless, that is, you get a pay increase in the meantime, which is what the economic development of MAPS 3 is essential.  It expands the tax base and therefore would make expansion to necessary services sustainable.

Then again, the police union appears to already understand that.  The union's council, Jim Moore, wrote to the city pledging support for the MAPS 3 proposal if the city caved to the demands the union was making.  One of those demands was that the police force contract issues be disengaged from the MAPS initiative.  Of course, because of the budget shortfalls their other demands could not be met, and the force suddenly became vehemently opposed because MAPS does not address officer desires.  Now, Moore wants to hide this strong arming letter.

Look, I want all the same things this opposition group wants:  jobs, better public transportation, better infrastructure, more money for public services, and beautification of the city.  I would even, like them, love to see the business leaders that normally suggest all taxes are bad, publicly reconcile their support for this initiative, just to have it on the record.  The reason I haven't joined in their cause is that MAPS 3 does all of those things.

(edit.  I'm sure someone in the comments is bound to point out that we have a big MAPS 3 advertisement on the left hand of the screen.  We accepted the ad because we support the initiative, not vice versa.)

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