Thursday, January 8, 2015

A quick note on Wednesday's exhibition center vote

Constituents and friends,

I wanted to take a moment today to discuss a vote I made at last night's Appleton Common Council meeting. As is typically the case, some of you will approve of my decision and some of you will not.

If you've been following the news, you may know that I was one of eight alderpersons who voted to deny a request to purchase the county property south of the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, the projected site of the proposed exhibition center. This vote leaves the future of this longtime city project in question.

If you've been reading my alderman blog you may already know some of my concerns regarding this project:

- 2014's shift from a privately-owned model to a city-owned model removed this project from the city tax base and left the city holding all the risk in the event things didn't work out for any of a variety of possible reasons.
- The county's asking price for the potential exhibition center property far exceeded its value, and the deal also included the city making significant concessions in the area to replace the county's parking. This is roughly the equivalent of the city buying your house by paying you twice its value, AND building you a new house.

I still believe that an exhibition center would be a tremendous economic addition to our downtown, under the right circumstances. I supported this project in the 2014 budget before seeing the shift in ownership model and the county's demands for the property. At this point, however, I cannot support a project that benefits multiple entities but piles all the risk on just one.

Emails and other messages I've received today suggest that the city is relatively evenly split on whether or not this was the right decision. I hope that those of you who feel I voted the wrong way will at least understand my rationale for doing so.

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