It was with a palpable sense of deja vu that I took in Wednesday’s “Walk, Bike, Ride” workshop which preceded the Mammoth Town Council meeting.
There was a very bright consultant with his PowerPoint presentation and his archetypal starched casual look. There was the rapt attention of Council which pretended it had never seen a PowerPoint presentation before. There were the big dreams we’ve dreamed before but which, perhaps, Mr. Consultant was hoping we hadn’t dreamed, so he put ‘em in his report to help justify his exorbitant fee.
But what really stirred the deja vu was when Mr. Consultant talked about how we would pay for his THREE proposed 150-300 space parking garages, or the proposed $24 million town-wide gondola system with its $4 million annual operating budget.
He said we would simply have to create an EIFD (Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District).
An EIFD is the latest craze among consultants and politicians who are always struggling how to mask their appetite for taking and spending money.
Here’s how it generally works. The politicos set a tax baseline for a particular area. That’s the cap. If property values rise in that area, the difference between the old valuation (and tax collection) in that area and the new valuation (and projected tax collection) is siphoned off into an EIFD slush fund which can be used for neighborhood improvements.
The EIFD would have its own board, just like MLH and MLR and MLT and all the other non-governmental organizations we’ve created around here.
Here’s the catch. All sorts of different governmental agencies have a claim on property tax. The Water District, School District, County, Fire, etc. Schools are automatically exempt. Other agencies can choose to voluntarily participate, or not.
Here’s where the deja vu comes in. Two years, Mrs. Consultant (Jamie Licko of Centro, Inc.) came to town to talk about how to fix parking. Her idea: Finance parking via an EIFD. She didn’t consult any of the affected parties like the County before she made her presentation.
The County and MCWD, when they finally weighed in, said no way, we’re not interested in sacrificing tax revenue to such a district.
Two years later, a consultant again comes in and makes a splashy proposal without doing his homework and consulting affected agencies. It’s as if consultants are afraid to do research which involves speaking to actual people. The whole thing is D.O.A. EIFDead. The consultant could’ve known that just by a cursory look at The Sheet archives.
Councilman Bill Sauser observed at the meeting that Alta’s report amounted to what would be yet another “dust-collecting folder” on Town Manager Dan Holler’s shelf. While fellow Councilman John Wentworth followed that up and tried to be nice by saying, “There are a lot of great ideas in here,” it’s hard not to believe Sauser’s blunt truth as opposed to Wentworth’s fuzzy generality.