By Roger Utnehmer
A “YES” vote on the April 3rd Sturgeon Bay Premier Resort Area Tax will give those in charge of city government another $800,000 a year of your tax dollars to spend.
The question to ask before giving them that much money is, do you trust their judgment with another $800,000 a year?
The track record of the current administration and council male majority has been one of condoning conflicts of interest, too many closed-door secret meetings, unnecessary and costly litigation, questionable development decisions and financially challenged Tax Incremental Districts. Giving those who created the current conditions another $800,000 a year of local tax money is not wise.
The best predictor of future behavior is past practice. The past practices of the current administration and male majority do not evoke trust.
City government is led by a mayor who appointed someone guilty of using his position of public trust for personal gain to the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority. Condoning corruption does not engender trust. Appointments like that create the perception of the insider “good old boy” network you often hear made about the male majority and mayor.
The frequent response to questions about the west-side waterfront from Mayor Thad Birmingham was “no comment.” Birmingham’s removal of opportunity for public comment from council meetings and his refusal to allow council discussion of efforts to preserve the Teweles and Brandeis granary are also reasons to not give him spending authority over another $800,000 a year.
Several developers have sued the city. A lawsuit challenging the tax assessment of Stone Harbor Resort has been filed by its owner. The allegation of non-disclosure in the suit filed by former developer Robert Papke is another reason to be skeptical about providing the city with even more money to spend. Papke claims he was misled. Taxpayers should know how he was misled, by whom and what it will cost the City of Sturgeon Bay before giving those responsible for the lawsuit more money to spend. There is a lot of explaining to do about a lot of lawsuits filed by a lot of different people against the City of Sturgeon Bay.
One can only wonder how the council majority and mayor would spend the additional $800,000 a year in tax revenue. There is no guarantee it would not be spent relocating tugboats, building a festival pier for another hotel developer, constructing a docking facility or pathway to property owned by a current WRA board member, or given to Bay Shipbuilding Company as more corporate welfare.
A YES vote should be earned by building public confidence and trust. The long list of lawsuits, a pattern of too many secret meetings, disregard for public input, condoning the behavior of someone guilty of using a position of public trust for personal gain and no guarantee money from an additional sales tax will not be spent benefiting the “good old boys” are all reasons to vote NO on the PRAT tax April 3rd. The council male majority and mayor have not earned the trust more open, transparent and inclusive government would provide.
That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.