Earlier this week the Fargo city commission approved what has become something of a controversial project in downtown Fargo.
Businessman, and gubernatorial candidate, Doug Burgum and some partners received a bunch of public assistance to build the Block 9 development. Millions and millions in public assistance, leading some to wonder why we need to help millionaires like Burgum and his partners pay for their big-money projects.
Following the commission’s vote the Forum applauded the approval of the public assistance, and singled out city commissioner (and some-time SAB contributor) Tony Gehrig for his opposition:
The lone opponent of the plan, Commissioner Tony Gehrig, is extraordinarily shortsighted, or his vision is skewed by a governance ideology that is numbingly utilitarian and without imagination. If his myopic view prevailed, the proposed site for Block 9 would remain a featureless concrete and asphalt slab of a parking lot that adds nothing to the ambience of downtown and generates minimal tax revenue. That scenario is lose-lose.
Calling Gehrig the “lone opponent” of the development is factually inaccurate, in multiple ways.
For one thing, Gehrig doesn’t oppose Block 9. In fact, he has said publicly that he supports it. “I support the project. I think it’s a fantastic idea,” he is quoted as saying by the Forum. What he doesn’t support is the public assistance.
For another, the city commission vote was 3-2 in favor. That “2” representing, you know, more than one no vote. Meaning Gehrig wasn’t the only person in opposition to the public assistance.
Commissioner Mike Williams also opposed some elements of the public assistance package. In fact, the Fargo Forum reported as much. “Commissioner Mike Williams voted for some of the tax assistance, but not a $6 million break through a program called payment in lieu of taxes,” the paper reported. “He said it was highly unusual and wrong for Block 9 to get a tax waiver the developers could use to pay back the city bond for the parking garage.”
Williams and Gehrig may not have had the same reasoning for their opposition, but the fact that they were both opposed is indisputable.
Does the Forum not read their own paper?
Gehrig has a reputation for being the most conservative voice on Fargo’s city commission, and the Forum has a reputation for not liking conservative perspectives all that much. Which is fine. But goodness, at least get the facts straight.
Also, can we get past this idea that developments like Block 9 wouldn’t happen unless they are showered with taxpayer assistance? If it’s a sound, profitable idea then it shouldn’t need public assistance.
If it isn’t, then the public has no business assisting.