On Monday, the Shelby County Commission should reject any additional funding for the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC). This rejection request comes after the Commission refused, on December 21, to perform due diligence and approving a $62M DMC appropriation, using an unknown about “PILOT Extension Fund”, for unneeded downtown public parking.
DMC financials reveal that the County Commission is appropriating $62M of taxpayer money, for a DMC entity, called the Downtown Mobility Authority (DMA), that lost $1M, prior to COVID in 2019. This $1M loss signals a lack of adequate parking demand to support a $62M public investment.
But even with an already excessive taxpayer funded approval in hand, $62M is not enough. Now, the DMC is asking for another $12M to clean up the 100 N. Main blight, left over by the DMC over 20 years. The former request occurred on Wednesday, as County Commission Chairman Eddie Jones obstructs public meeting participation and Commissioner Mickell Lowery, Commission committee economic development chairman, brings forward to make the request, former DMC President, Jennifer Oswalt, who now lives in Knoxville!
This is the same Oswalt that lied on the Commission public record, on December 21, while understating DMC parking garage liabilities by $12M in pursuit of the now approved $62M for unneeded downtown public parking. This is who your County Commission brings forward, from Knoxville, while obstructing public meeting participation in Commission Chambers.
After Oswalt makes the new $12M 100 N. Main request, in Commission committee, Oswalt then proceeds to ask for another $3.5M for a taxpayer funded loan, for private developer Billy Orgel to build a non-public private parking garage. Stunningly, the Commission economic development committee grants approval for Monday’s full Commission consideration of the new $15.5M DMC request, for potentially a total $77.5M overall appropriation for unneeded downtown public parking.
But there is more. After the additional $15.5M committee approval occurred on Wednesday, the June 30, 2020 DMC financials appeared on the committee agenda for approval. These are the very financials that the Commission refused to review, prior to approving $62M for unneeded downtown parking on December 21, 2020.
During the committee hearing on the DMC financials, the DMC, instead launches into a PowerPoint presentation on the work of the DMC. Sadly, no Commission committee discussion of the DMC financials, which includes the PILOT Extension Fund occurs, as the committee approves the DMC financials.
Based on DMC public information requests, over 25 years, the PILOT Extension Fund, mistakenly earmarked for downtown public parking, will consist of $137M in tax proceeds and taxpayer funded loans receivable. Less current PILOT Extension Funds liabilities, in a majority Black community in need, this is what instead $137M in taxpayer funds, now reserved for unneeded downtown public parking, could have been used for over 25 years:
- 1,300 students, per year, served with post-secondary wrap around services
- 130 small businesses, per year, served with $10K each in forgivable loans
- 1,000 impoverished, per year, served with affordable housing
Besides the fact the PILOT Extension Fund appears to be nothing more than a slush fund, the above missed opportunity of better serving a majority Black community in need, is why no more money should be appropriated to the DMC. This misguided use of public funding reveals, in large part, why Memphis does not move forward, while leaving its people far behind.
County Commissioners should reject all new DMC funding requests, while allowing for the purchase of the 100 N. Main, within the currently approved and obnoxious $62M approved public parking budget, and while rejecting $3.5M for private garage development.