Palm Springs city manager David Ready’s Valley Voice op-ed titled “Land sales a proven boon for Palm Springs” makes no claim that the city has received proven benefits from sales of Redevelopment Agency (RDA) properties. Instead he defends the lack of profits from sales by speculating that “hundreds of thousands of dollars in new tax revenues” will result from future development of the properties. Those hoped-for future revenues also included a “new public parking structure for the Convention Center” that were mentioned as examples of economic development incentive importance to those who purchased RDA properties. Some would argue that a better approach would have been to engage the services of a good realtor, have properties realistically appraised, and sell them for their genuine market value. Few would agree that selling properties below market value in order to provide developers with questionable economic incentives makes much sense.
The first part of the op-ed discusses city services and tax revenues – both have seen significant increases in the 2008 to 2015 period. The revenues discussed are hotel tax revenues, city sales taxes and the Measure J additional sales tax. Credit is given to hotel, business and airline incentives that were implemented by the City Council. No mention is made of the other significant factors that contributed to the period’s revenue and city service increases.
During 2008 through 2015 taxes and fees on residents were raised four times. These included the 4.5% Measure G Cell and Cable phone tax in 2009; the 1% Measure J sales tax in 2011; the 10% Medicinal Marijuana sales tax in 2015 ; and the incremental 100% Wastewater sewer service tax (increased yearly from 2013 to 2031). These all contributed significantly to city revenues, but were not mentioned in the city manager’s op-ed. Surely they deserve to be included in any summary of city revenue increases in the 2008-2015 period.
Following the 2008 economic recession a number of city services were eliminated or cut back. Among those were reductions in fire and safety funding, city hall services, pay cuts for city council members and other cost savings. Full restoration of all that had been eliminated or cut back has yet to occur. An obvious example would be the operating hours of City Hall which remains on a Monday through Thursday four-day work week that leaves it closed on Fridays.
It’s important that city officials provide information about activities and services along with responses to criticisms and questions voiced by residents or in the media. The city manager’s op-ed is certainly appropriate for it seeks to address acknowledged problems with respect to sale of RDA properties.
The concern that should be noted with the op-ed is it states only part of the story, presents a one-sided point of view and conveniently overlooks information that would provide a full picture. Some could rightfully claim that a more candid assessment of the subject would have better served both the city, its officials and the public.
The recent calls for complete transparency in all things related to city government apparently are falling on deaf ears. That appears to be the case with the op-ed for it is one clearly lacking in the candor and transparency that’s so desperately needed in our city’s current scandal-headlined environment. Will residents in Palm Springs ever see the day when ethics, candor, transparency, honesty and believability become an official city standard?
City Manager David Ready
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October 25, 2015
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