Welcome to my blog version 3.5.
I’ve been tinkering with blogging for over ten years. I started with the CityDesk tool by FogCreek Software installed on my own home server at gbjerke.com. Then graduated to a Radio 8 blog from Userland. When hosted Typepad came out I moved to it and found it very convenient. Now, after reading Michael Hyatt’s book “Platform”, I’ve moved my home base to this self-hosted install of WordPress.
I want to thank Cord Blomquist of ReadyMadeWeb for helping me successfully move my existing posts here from Typepad.
It will take me a few weeks to get this new site up to speed, with appropriate disclaimers, subscription opportunities, etc.
Mayor Ron Leone painted a very realistic picture in his State of the City address today at a luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at the Concord Hilton. He explained the hard truths – that state raids on local funding and the elimination of redevelopment will make balancing the city’s budget and closing the structural deficit just that much harder. He also pointed out how the now fewer, remaining city employees are being asked to do the same amount of work for less money and benefits.
The loss of redevelopment means funding for many events that draw shoppers to Concord – like the Farmer’s Market and Music in Todos Santos Plaza will no longer be available. Will the private sector step in to save these efforts? Will other funding be found? Will the City use General Fund dollars in the interim until a permanent funding source is identified?
On the positive side, Mayor Leone pointed out that the city is in a far better place, budget-wise, today than it was last year, or the year before, thanks to the revenue from Measure Q. In fact, if I read one of his PowerPoint slides correctly, Measure Q transaction taxes represent about 11% of Concord’s General Fund revenues. And the recent audit shows the city’s budget reserves have grown substantially in the past year after being nearly depleted as the city coped with the fall-out from the Great Recession.
The question will be should the city change the Measure Q strategy given the loss of redevelopment? Measure Q was sold to the voters as a way to maintain current city services and rebuild reserves over the measure’s five year life so that the structural budget deficit could be erased within the next ten years. Can losing the programs previously funded by redevelopment be seen as anything but cutting – not maintaining city services?
Mayor Leone even raised the question of whether we should be thinking about possibly extending Measure Q when it expires in four years. He didn’t take a position on that idea – just brought it up for discussion purposes.
The city continues to face tough decisions this year and probably will for several years to come. How to maintain essential city services, treat city employees fairly, keep faith with the taxpayers and rebuild budget reserves for the next downturn are on the City Council’s agenda this Spring as they consider the next budget. They need to know what Concord residents and business owners think – about the use of Measure Q dollars, about city service priorities and, perhaps most importantly, how soon the local economy will begin to resemble the Concord we all knew only five short years ago.
An article last week in the Contra Costa Times – "Behind the scenes, developers influence Concord Naval Weapons Station planning" – leaves the impression that Council members and city staff are secretly meeting with developers to find ways to change the adopted Reuse Plan.
That's not happening.
First, while it is true that market-rate developers have not, so far, actively submitted formal comments during the Reuse Plan process they were in attendance at the various workshops and CAC meetings that were held.
As crazy as it seems – given that this process has been going on for over four years – it's still too early and too uncertain for most builders or developers to care about or spend resources on the Base Reuse project.
Further, I think it is smart the Council has asked staff to have the Base Reuse plan's economics re-examined and NOT getting the development community's expertise and advice in that process would be a huge mistake.
Second, the story doesn't explain that ALL the other groups – labor, affordable housing, social justice, education, environmental, neighborhood, sports, etc. have held numerous informal meetings, workshops and even rallies with Council members and city staff invitees in attendance over the past four years. I know. I attended many, if not most, of them.
It's the Council and staff's responsibility to hear the viewpoints of the various stakeholders and make recommendations and decisions in the best interests of the entire community.
The Base Reuse process is far from over and everyone should continue to express their views and advocate for their cause. So far I think the process is working well. The fact not everyone is completely happy proves it.
I'm glad to see that the City has been able to negotiate a new management agreement for the Pavilion with Live Nation. The City Council will consider the agreement at their meeting next Tuesday (March 22).
It's unfortunate that the agreement is only for two years and that the changing realities of the music/concert business has yet again reduced what Live Nation is willing to pay the City for the management rights to the Pavilion. Fortunately the City was able to refinance most of the outstanding Pavilion expansion bonds in 2009 and thereby lower the City's annual payments. This agreement with Live Nation covers those payments and eliminates the need to use any General Fund dollars to subsidy the Pavilion over the next two years. I think the Council should approve the agreement.
Then we wait. We wait to see if the concert industry ever recovers. We wait to see if the entertainment industry's business model will ever favor a Pavilion sized venue.
Or we act. Long ago community activists, benefactors and music lovers started a Jazz Festival that grew and that effort resulted in the Concord Pavilion. Can't we begin an equally challenging effort to restore community support and pride for our Pavilion?
I know times have changed and the professionals tell us it won't work. But in 1996 many of those same professionals told us – incorrectly – that investing $19 million to expand the Pavilion would ensure its success. They were wrong. I think a new community effort, working collaboratively with Live Nation, may be the only chance we have to both protect our General Fund and enhance the long-term viability of the Concord Pavilion.
What do you think?