One of the saddest things someone will experience is watching an addict ruin his or her life and not take offered help. You try your best to stand by them but not enable them. I have been faced with similar feelings watching my fellow Hanford Council members handle the General Fund.
Citizens of Hanford have said no to a sales tax increase three times in a row. After the first election, I suggested we remove zoning restrictions to be able to develop new business to generate new sales tax revenue. The thinking: if we can’t increase our sales tax rate, lets generate more sales. This was fought by many downtown advocates saying that it would destroy downtown.
Downtown Hanford has decayed the past decade (before I was on the council) and the policies in place have not helped. I simply suggested to change what wasn’t working.
I introduced the discussion of downtown incentives. Let us reduce the barriers of entry for the whole city but offer incentives to entice downtown activity. This too was met with opposition.
A former council member suggested increasing the TOT tax to fund these incentives and recently I voted to support that revenue stream; it was voted down.
Meanwhile, all Hanford problems still exist: a decaying Police Station, vacant lots, poor parking, poor lighting, dilapidated buildings, and numerous planned capital projects to improve our community. My most recent suggestion to generate funds for these projects was to sell properties that could actually yield enough money to fix our problems. This too was disregarded and most recently the council gave staff direction to bring forward a proposal to seismic retrofit the Bastille to the tune of $1 million dollars.
Again this is only for seismic retrofitting, not to make it usable.
Meanwhile, the courthouse HVAC would require $500,000. Staff presented that Accumulated Capital Outlay for Fiscal Year 2018 might have $1.2 million available to spend. Proceeding under these conditions overspends ACO and halts every other potential capital project for another year.
To accomplish both, some council members are saying we have the funds we just need to borrow from development impact fees and that we can just “pay ourselves back.“
The need to borrow indicates not having the funds. This is the exact definition of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The ultimate irony is that these same council members, opposed Measure S, opposed removing zoning restrictions, and are now advocating for a sales tax rate increase. The very people who said no to new revenue, said no to development, and voted to over spend are now asking for a sales tax rate increase.
Every solution I have offered has been about generating revenues to fix problems. The current council is only creating more problems.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel, many neighboring cities have beautiful downtowns and balanced budgets. Let us look at the examples of the beautiful downtowns of Visalia and Clovis and follow their lead. Let us avoid the bad examples like Downtown Fresno.
The current council is heading down the Downtown Fresno path and sadly I alone cannot stop it. If you truly want to save Downtown Hanford, call your council person and tell them to live within their means and reduce the regulation that impedes development. At minimum, tell your council person to fix the Courthouse first, It actually has tenants in it! Beg them not to spend $1 million on one building that will still need more to make it usable.