It was no surprise when the Geneva St. parking structure’s informational meeting drew a large crowd. Throughout the night C4LG counted over 80 attendees it was standing room for the first two hours of the meeting. The presenters, consultant Steve Roloff and Lake Geneva architect Ken Etten, were flanked by Alderman Bob Kordus, Alderwoman Sarah Hill and eventually Mayor Connors to address questions that did not pertain to design of the building, construction materials, cars flow with-in the structure, and basic maintenance costs that are associated with a parking structure this size .
After only a few questions were asked it was clear that this informational meeting was solely a presentation on the design and not an informative meeting to provide answers people have sought for years surrounding this issue. Care for Lake Geneva and attendees had hoped the city was prepared to be a source of information on the controversial issue but it became even more adversarial, further pitting constituents against the council, landowners verse business owners, and neighbors against neighbors. Questions like:
“Will there be overnight parking?”
“How much revenue will this generate?”
“How will this structure impact traffic patterns?”
“Will parking near Maple Park be rezoned residential parking only?”
“What is the parking plan around the city once this structure is built?”
, continue to go unanswered. Attendees were provided an "expected questions & answers" sheet that gave non-informative statements to the most pertinent questions of the evening. The answers themselves felt more like smoke and mirrors and read as if some dark political agent crafted savvy but confusing statements meant to distract from the fact that the city does not have the answers. As frustrations grew with city representatives' answers; attendees took familiar stances and parroted the pros and cons of the issue:
This post in no way should take away from the attractive building that was presented. The design is clever in that the building being viewed from Geneva St. does not look like a parking garage but a quaint downtown. But like the saying goes You can't judge a book by it's cover. Beneath the facade are serious financial decisions and long-term city impacts. What this post highlights is the city's lack of preparedness, lack of transparency, and as of today their inability to properly inform the public in advance of Novembers vote on this issue.
How does the city expect voters to support their nearly $7 million taxpayer funded project when they are unable to answer such basic questions about it?
With comments like “the parking structure is not a solution that solves all the cities parking issues” from Alderwoman Hill and significant accounting questions with city administrator Dennis Jordan’s parking revenue estimates, the meeting felt like a sales pitch gone awry. Mr. Jordan’s revenue numbers rely on nearly everybody during the busiest summer months to voluntarily pay for parking instead of seeking out those free spots around Maple Park. These numbers can be met but only if we see significant increase in tourists.
It is clear that there are forces within the city that are motivated to see this project happen. They made it a goal and are now determined to check the completion box regardless of the outcome and impacts. Residents need to understand that this TIF funded project is being spearheaded by people who have no better understanding of TIF law and procedure than the average person, let alone the ins and outs of Lake Geneva's TIF #4. Statements made at the parking meeting about TIF #4 by the mayor and the Alderperson are contrary to statements made by the city council during a May 2014 city council meeting where TIF #4 was voted to remain open.
Less than a month from now Lake Geneva voters will cast ballots deciding the fate of the Geneva St. parking structure. Lacking vital information to specific project related questions the city leaves voters to literally judge this structure by it's cover.
We encourage residents to reach out to their city representatives and press them for this information. Ask for specifics and everything in writing. Please share anything you learn with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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