Before tonight’s Fort Wayne City Council meeting, Greg Leatherman, Executive Director of Redevelopment, spoke with me regarding my documents request. Â The documents which I officially requested earlier today will be partially released. Â Those documents related to the TIF balances and projections will be released tomorrow. Â However, the document regarding Parkview Field and showing the various balances, Hardball Capital contributions to-date and possible other ballpark improvements will not be released.
The reason for the refusal is that the document contains speculation regarding possible options for the ballpark that may or may not materialize. Â These were things on a “wish list” of sorts that could be plugged in if there was extra money or unanticipated savings in the project. Â I countered to Greg that I can understand that part of it to a degree. Â However, it is very important for the community to know where we stand on the project – and more importantly, we need to know that Hardball Capital is contributing to the ballpark as called for in the Definitive Agreement. Â In light of their not starting construction or even having the groundbreaking for the Condominium/Retail portion of the project yet, this makes it doubly important for the community to be assured that Hardball is fulfilling it’s $5 million contribution. Â In addition, the community needs to know Parkview Field is in line with budgetary concerns. Â I think this important given the news yesterday revealed in the meeting. Â This news being that the not-to-exceed 50% commitment of the TIF funds has been exceeded.
Please understand that I do not think the document in question harbors any horribly bad news that is intentionally being kept in the dark. Â In fact, I have implicit trust in the Redevelopment Commissioners that if something were amiss, they would have picked up on it and asked questions during yesterday’s meeting. Â I also have trust in Greg and Jim Irwin of Barry Real Estate that they aren’t trying to pull one over. Â (I know, I know, I can hear it now – so please do me a favor and keep it to yourself.)
In May of last year, I wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Journal Gazette. Â I’m going to quote myself here:
[…] The other area that needs continued, ongoing work is the openness of city government with regard to this project. The city has already set a high bar, albeit made easier with the Internet and e-mail in addition to traditional methods of information collecting. Public officials have made themselves available to answer questions and educate the public. This needs to continue throughout the project and even into the early operational phases so the public can judge whether it was a good use of public money.
[…]Â Watching Harrison Square develop over the past four months and our City Council deliberating over the last few weeks have been a learning experience. This plus a public hearing and the city’s openness in providing documents and information regarding the proposal have marked a turning point in our city’s history and direction. The burden to make this successful lies not only with the city. The public has a continued responsibility to stay informed, ask questions, challenge when necessary and help educate others to make this the most successful redevelopment in the history of the country.