Midtown Tower of Lies

I have been active in the community for many years now and have been a candidate for office for the last four. Over this time I have caused many actions and reactions from politicians but there is still one which gets me mad.  It is not when they attack me, I knew this was part of the game when I threw my name into the ring.  What still gets me angry is when politicians personally lie to people.Midtown Tower from Popwars.com

Tonight, the Rochester City Council was being asked to approve the sale of Midtown Tower to Buckingham Properties and Morgan Property Management for $2.  Now this may not sound so bad, but the property is presently assessed for $435,100.  The sale also comes with $11.9 million of public money, and very generous tax breaks for the next 20 years.  And the kicker is, the "buyer" donated $5,000 to the Election campaign of Tom Richards. This is not good. 

So we got a group together to come to the City Council meeting to protest this, not on the basis of the political corruption, but because it did not follow City Code.  This code is the laws by which the city operates.  I read the relevant sections of the code which states that in order to sell property the city either has to have an auction or independently assess the property and sell it for that, and it had done neither of these.  So when it was time for citizens to comment on the legislation that would give Midtown Tower away, I read the code, explained how the deal was in violation, then spoke for the group and offered $100,000 for this property.

I was followed by Democratic primary candidate for City Council, Lisa Jacques who explained that we intend to run the property as a community entity.  As is customary at an auction, we had 10% of the $100,000 on hand and could have paid that on the spot.

Now I expected the Council to ignore us like usual, but when they went to vote on this the Mayor spoke up and mentioned that our political theater was off the mark as this was an Urban Renewal Property and therefore was not covered by the laws I read.

When I spoke, I did not read out loud the section on Urban Renewal. It looks like I should have.  This section is 21-13 of city code and is only 3 sentences long.  The last sentence of which reads, "The procedures for submission and selection of development proposals shall be the same as those established for the disposition of City-owned real estate".  Which means that the City must follow the same procedures for the sale of Urban Renewal property as for city property.

Now Council was going to approve this despite our little show, there was no reason for the Mayor to speak up.  They had spent almost half an hour reading the code though and there is no way they could have misread this. For some reason, the Mayor felt inclined to misrepresent the law deliberately which is a lie, and I can not abide by our political leader lying to us. 

City Council passed all the provisions it needed to to hand over a $400,000 property for $2 plus loans, tax breaks and more.  There was one sad "nay" vote on one of the provisions.  City Council President, Lovely Warren went out of her way to explain that she was voting against the parking provision because that was one of the $2 cost.  The Developer should be paying more for the parking.  No one in the audience believed she really cared and she sounded as if she didn't believe it either.

This pay to play will end when I am elected Mayor on November 5th.

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commented 2013-07-23 11:54:53 -0400 · Flag
There only 5 ways for the City to sell property authorized in City Code, Section 21. Despite the differences in each of these, every one requires either an auction or an independent appraisal to set the value of the sale. The thought behind this is to prevent the transfer of valuable public property to friends, family, or campaign donors at a cost which defrauds the public. There is a loophole for property worth less than $1,000 but this does not apply as the City has assessed this property for $435,100. There was no listing or record of an auction and no appraiser would value this property at $2. Further, the City is already providing enough funding so that to get the full value of the property would not be a problem. Finally, it would only take a month or so to follow the procedure and do this right.

The fact that the City did it wrong may be a bit embarrassing, but it should be troubling to all Rochestarians because it is obvious that there are some, whose salary we pay with our tax dollars, who have a callous disregard for law.

You can argue that this type of corporate welfare is necessary. (I do not.) But what happened here was the public was defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars which we, by law, are entitled to receive. This money could have gone to something that we need but was cut in the last budget due to lack of funds.

Unfortunately, there is little we can do about the government committing this crime. We have looked into filing a lawsuit, but that will cost $5000, money that small business owners such as myself cannot throw around. We will bring this to the City’s Office of Integrity, but I have little hope they will enforce the law either. The real solution is to vote the criminals who disregard the law out of office. But we can’t do that without your help.