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Let's use 'true facts' in parking debate


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April 15, 2014 | 04:23 PM
The Geneva Shore Report, a local alternative publication, and the Regional News pretty much leave each other alone.

They do their thing and we do ours.

But I can’t resist responding to a commentary in last week’s Shore Report expressing opposition to a proposed parking structure in Lake Geneva.

It’s not the opposition that bothers me. While I support a structure, there are valid arguments against it. It’s a big deal and ought to be discussed and debated.

A referendum vote will settle the issue and that’s the way it should be. But let’s make this a fair fight.

If you based your vote on what the Shore Report said were the facts, you’d certainly vote against it.

So would I. So would the entire city council and the mayor and anyone else with a brain.

But most of their “facts” aren’t really facts.

The way I score it, one of their six “facts” is technically true but irrelevant, two others as “false,” a third is half true/half false, and the remaining two are “incredibly false.”

Here’s what they said:

1. “This planned parking structure cannot pay for itself in less than 12 years.”

Incredibly false.

Who said anything about 12 years? The city has the money. Period.

If the city uses TIF funds to pay for it, as it most certainly will, there’s enough money in TIF right now to pay for it.

Granted, there may be ongoing expenses that haven’t been fully fleshed out. The city will have to maintain it and maybe there’d have to be someone there to take money as you leave. The presumption is that the proceeds from the structure will cover the expense, but no one really knows for sure.

If you want to argue against the structure, it’s fair game to point out possible ongoing expenses. But as for building the structure itself, the city has the money.

2. “The location for this structure has been selected to go up where an existing revenue producing lot exists.”

True … but largely irrelevant.

If there is a structure, it will probably be built behind the Geneva Theater over a currently existing lot. But, the ground lot or its equivalent will still be there after construction. And then there will be three layers of parking above it.

The “existing revenue producing lot” isn’t being shot into space. It’ll still be there when the dust has cleared.

Granted, the lot will be out of commission while the structure is built, but those most affected by closure — the chamber and downtown merchants — are willing to bite that bullet. Again, you can argue against it because it will be down during construction, but it will be a moot point once it’s built.

3. “The six to eight million dollar price tag would be almost every cent Lake Geneva posseses.”


That’s so far off, it’s mind-boggling, but I didn’t have “mind-bogglingly false” as an option, so I’ll simply call it “incredibly false.”

Like I said, the money is already in the bank (or the legalistic equivalent). Construction costs wouldn’t come from the city’s general fund.

True, the $6 to $8 million would pretty much tap out the TIF fund. That’s fine because one of the main goals of the TIF fund from the beginning was to save up for a parking structure.

People want things paid as they go. Run government like a business or your household, they say. Save up for what you really want, then buy it without going into debt, is the mantra.

That’s exactly what the city did through the TIF project.

Granted TIF is hard to understand. Those who feel it’s jilted taxpaying bodies out of money over the years, can make that point.

It’s true that the money that would have normally been collected in taxes from those in the TIF has been put in the TIF fund instead. It’s also true that if TIF were closed, the unspent balance would go back to those taxing bodies.

But don’t forget that the idea of TIF is that even more taxes will come in the future because the changes TIF funded will mean those same properties will be more valuable and, therefore, will bring in more tax money in the long haul.

Most importantly, the money is available. It’s been built up. And a parking structure seems the most valuable way to spend it — an investment in the future of downtown Lake Geneva.

4. “This structure would rise almost 45 feet, well above every other structure around it.”

Half true. Half false.

True. It may be 45 feet tall, but based on the renditions and elevation levels I’ve seen, most of it won’t reach over the top of the buildings surrounding it. There will be some areas where you can see it from street level but it won’t peer over surrounding buildings like Godzilla.

5. “This structure will only add about 140 parking spaces in a city with over 1,000.”

False: It will add 240.

I’ll give them a mere “false” instead of “incredibly false” because some of the news on the issue has been confusing.

But it’s been confirmed: It will add 240 (or so) spaces.

6. “No thought whatever has been given to the absolute ugliness of such a concrete structure set in the middle of the city.”

False. Of course, appearance has been thought of and discussed. Of course, the city wants an attractive structure. And, yes, there is such a thing.

Deciding on whether to build a parking structure is a difficult decision.

That’s just the way it is with some issues.

We’ll have numerous stories before the referendum. We’ll be fair in our coverage and offer “facts” from both sides.

You the reader, the voter, get to decide — not the Regional News or the Shore Report.

But let’s debate using actual facts.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.


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