Dec 29, 2006

Fluff YIR story continues to push false assumption on dual roundabouts

The dual roundabouts on Lee Road in Livingston County’s Green Oak Township at the new, $100 million Green Oak Village Place mall is the No.2 story of 2006, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. This is the time of year when newspapers recap the past year with year in review stories. Reporters and editors love these because they provide copy when news is slow, sources and reporters take time off for the holidays and they are easy to write.

My problem with this particular story is it again skimmed over the bigger story on how the roundabouts were financed, and the newspaper continues to advance the false assumption that there would have been a better interchange if an amendment to the 1975 Downtown Development Authority act introduced by Chris Ward in the state House had been allowed to stand. It’s simply not true, and it’s disappointing that a talented and professional reporter continues to let that false assumption stand. The fact is if the law passed for just one person had been allowed to stand you and I would have paid for the road improvements instead of the developer who is profiting from the mall. The exact same interchange would be there, and the only difference would have been the taxpayers would have paid for it instead of Quadrants.

Officials from Quadrants had hoped to get approval to use tax money through a downtown development authority to help pay for traffic improvements for the mall.
The issue came up again in 2006 during a campaign for state House, when incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Ward of Brighton Township defended his bill that would have made the DDA easier. The bill was approved and then deleted once it became law by another bill authored by Ward.
Ward's Democratic opponent, Mike McGonegal, tried to use that episode to his advantage. Ward defended the original bill, saying a more complete intersection could have been built with the DDA money.
Regardless of that debate, arguments continue to rage as to whether, in the words of one letter to the editor in the Daily Press & Argus, the roundabouts are "idiotic," "goofy" and a "monstrosity."

Ward defended the bill by basically lying. If he had not been caught trying to sneak an amendment by that that would benefit the very thing the original DDA act was designed to help failing downtowns compete against - huge suburban shopping malls with plenty of free parking and uniform store hours – taxpayers would have been stuck with a huge bill.
Luckily, the Livingston County Board of Commissioners rejected establishing the DDA, and one of the major reasons was because the developer did not and would not have to provide any money toward the $9 million project cost. The county was already struggling to replace $3.6 million in lost state revenue sharing payments. A 20-year bond would have been sold to finance the project and taxpayers would also have had to pay an additional $200,000 a year in interest for the next 20 years. This is confirmed by veteran county Commissioner Jack LaBelle, who has been a commissioner for more than 30 years.

Another respect elected official, former Brighton Mayor and current Councilwoman Kate Lawrence, took the time earlier this month to write the paper to say the legislation “was bad policy” and it “could have caused severe negative consequences for the downtowns of all Michigan cities.”

Despite all those facts by respect elected officials the newspaper refuses to change its position on the financing on the roundabouts.


Anonymous said...

We expect better from you, Kevin, "former print reporter."
1. The story was about the roundabouts' opening, not the financing debate, which happened in 2005, not 2006.
2. The story paraphrased Chris Ward defending the bill "saying a more complete intersection could have been built with the DDA money."
This is not "pushing a false assumption" as you claim, this is quoting an elected official.
I would expect that you, a "former print reporter," would know the difference between describing one side of an argument in a news story and "pushing a false assumption."
Quoting a public official on an issue of the day is not "pushing a false assumption," it is one of the core functions of a newspaper. You should know that.
3. The paper covered all sides of the DDA debate -- when it was happening. In an article published in October, for example, officials from the mall development company and the road commission were quoted saying there may have been enough money for more improvements to the intersection had the DDA been approved — such as a new off-ramp and a wider bridge. So who's "lying?"
4. Your objection seems to be to any mention of Chris Ward's side of the debate. You seem to think the newspaper is biased in his direction. But the coverage, going back to 2005, provided more than enough information for people to draw their own conclusions.
We only agree on one point -- those Year in Review stories are fluffy fillers.
To advance your agenda, I suggest you concentrate on more important issues, let go of the fact that Mike McGongeal got whipped by Chris Ward, quit harping on everything in the Press & Argus and do your own work.

Communications guru said...

Well, I’m happy to here from, even though you don't have thee courage to even identify yourself with a screen name.

1. You are wrong. If the story was “about the roundabouts' opening, not the financing debate” then why was Chris Ward’s lie even brought up.

2. It most certainly is pushing a false assumption when the newspaper allows Ward’s lie to stand unchallenged. Saying a more complete intersection could have been built with DDA money is a complete lie. Ask Jack LaBelle. The only thing difference would have been the taxpayers would have paid for it instead of the person who is making money off of it. That doesn’t even address that Ward tried to bastardize the DDA act for just one person, one person. It also completely goes in the opposite direction of the very reason the DDA act was enacted. A core function of a newspaper is reporting facts. One such fact is the developer never pledged a penny for the improvements that would help him make money, and he and Ward tried to hoodwink us into paying for the improvements. Many states have developer impact fees that required them to pay for needed improvements their development cause, but here we try to throw the money at them. And you don’t have a problem with that?

3. Chris Ward and you are lying.

4. That may be true, but the statement that a better intersection could be built if that favor to the developer had gone unnoticed is simply not true. What does “do my own work mean.” The election is irrelevant. Ted Bundy would get elected here if he had the R after his name.