At their last meeting (1:27:30) , The Shelby County Commission overtly COCKBLOCKED due diligence on a $62M public funding allocation, for downtown parking, to then adopt the measure in a 11-2 vote. The Commission had previously scheduled due diligence, to be conducted by County officials Chief Financial Officer Mathilde Crosby, Trustee Regina Newman and Assessor Melvin Burgess. Due diligence findings were to be presented at the January 6, 2021 Commission Economic Development Committee meeting.
Alarmingly, this COCKBLOCK, effectively obstructs County officials from doing their jobs, while such concerns go wholly unreported by the local press. This non-reporting highlights the rigged Memphis system and institutional failure of the press that keeps the public in the dark, on matters of elitist led taxpayer injustice.
The former is just an extension of the archaic and elitist Crump era culture, of days gone by, forwarded by idiots Blackjack Fred Smith and Puke Pitt Hyde. It’s commonplace for the elitists, through local legislative bodies, to dismiss the public at large. But this is a new low, with the Commission dismissing its own officials, as County officials make the public appeal to Commissioners, to allow them to do their jobs in supporting the public good.
Commissioner Mark Billingsley, who previously championed due diligence on this “important decision” matter, strangely reversed his position to champion immediate December 21, reconsideration of the $62M PILOT/Parking Extension Fund matter, without scheduled due diligence. The scheduled outstanding due diligence concerned: 1) legal authority of the PILOT Extension Fund (PEF), 2) Binding lease agreements to support $62M PEF for public parking and 3) historic PEF activity over the last 20 yrs.
While leaving the above outstanding due diligence unaddressed, Billingsley justified his position favoring the $62M request, based on having received a letter from AutoZone CEO, Bill Rhodes. And Commissioner Brandon Morrison favored the $62M measure, in honor of the work of Jennifer Oswalt, who is departing the Downtown Memphis Commission.
Billingsley further asserted that the corporate beneficiaries of publicly incented downtown parking in AutoZone and FedEx, cannot be taken for granted, as they can leave Shelby County anytime. Billingsley seemed ignorant to the fact that both downtown projects for FedEx and AutoZone have already received excessive local incentives, that total an estimated $64M. And that is $64M in local incentives, prior to any consideration of additional local incentives for downtown parking, all while not including $12.3M in state incentives for these corporate downtown developments.
Analysis – Parking Plan but No Economic Development Plan
Anyone find it weird that there is a Memphis downtown parking plan but no economic development plan ? Its because elitists, like Puke, have proven they don’t know what “economic development” is. Prior to COVID, when parking demand was higher, I never had a problem finding a parking place downtown. In fact, the DMC County Commission parking presentation documents this as fact, with the admission of available parking in both photographs (Orpheum Lot) and in written testimony (Front Street garage). So, there is no parking crisis, as was asserted by some County Commissioners at their December 21, 2020 meeting.
Enabled by a lack of governmental oversight and an non-investigative press, Memphians live in a bubble. Remember, the elitist Poplar TIF was approved, based in part, to relieve traffic congestion. Has anyone advocating for this stuff ever been to Nashville, Atlanta or Washington DC ? Trust me. There is no downtown parking crisis or East Poplar traffic congestion problem. Both of the former illusions come from an unchecked elitist narrative, designed to exploit, through taxpayer injustice, a majority Black Memphis community in need.
Further, review of the DMC parking presentation reveals clues to the the drivers behind downtown parking reconfiguration. Both of those drivers point to Puke’s pet projects in the Brooks Art Museum and the Riverfront. This $62M for the downtown “parking crisis” is actually more money for already previously funded projects, in the Riverfront and additional corporate incentives for downtown parking, to accommodate for the reduction in parking, for the Brooks Art Museum project. And then there there is also the Carlisle One Beale project beneficiary.
The $62M measure includes immediate access to $16M in funds that have piled up, over a number of years, largely out of public view, at the Downtown Memphis Commission. The mystery surrounding the existence of the fund, is a product of historically failed governmental oversight, that has persisted for years, in not reviewing annual industrial development board (IDB) financial reports. Besides DMC, funds seemed to have also piled up at other IDBs, such as EDGE, where EDGE has $22M in unrestricted cash assets.
When Blackjack was pursuing his FedEx Downtown incentive package, he recognized all of the public funds piling on IDB balance sheets and went after them getting $2M from EDGE and $1M from DMC’s Center City Development Corporation. Mayor Strickland has said, that local incentive awards do not include cash grants. But that is not the case for local companies, like FedEx, moving across town.
At any rate, in the end, there are too many open questions, related to the PEF, for this matter to be over. The public deserves answers.
Unfinished Business and Good News
With so much unfinished business regarding the PEF, local legislative bodies owe the public answers. The due diligence scheduled for January 6, 2021, on the PEF, should occur in Commission Economic Development committee as scheduled. If not that committee, some other committee.
Originally, the PEF matter was rightly referred back to Commission committee, because there was no available public documentation to support a quantitatively informed discussion around a $62M public funding request. But when Commissioners reconsidered the matter, on December 21, 2020, the dollar amounts discussed, were pulled out of thin air and based on nothing.
The fact is, there was never any hurry for the County Commission to approve the $62M public parking measure. In fact, Commissioner Tami Sawyer exposed this by asking Jennifer Oswalt, what the hurry was on the Union Row consideration when the project has yet to start 2 years after being approved. What the hurry was on this $62M parking project, involved local elitists wanting to control the agenda and narrative, while getting immediate access to $16M (based on Oswalt testimony), in DMC cash assets, without needed due diligence.
Due diligence of the PEF will likely reveal significant problems, and perhaps, even fund insolvency, based on the fund’s historical performance liabilities to the public. And that’s not to mention, to begin with, the implementation of the fund may never have been legal.
The good news is that, Chairman Eddie Jones and Commissioner Tami Sawyer voted against the $62M PEF, with support from County officials Crosby, Burgess and Newman. Lets hope, these public stewards, demand answers regarding the PEF, on January 6, 2021 and beyond…..