Dec 5, 2006

Former Brighton Mayor sets the record straight on slanted and false editorial on DDA Bill

Former Brighton City Council Member Kate Lawrence took the time to write a Letter to the Editor to the Daily Press & Argus Monday on its recent editorial aimed at trying to clean up Chris Ward’s image for a future run for a higher political office. Lawrence was the mayor of Brighton when Ward's scam to help a rich developer was attempted, and Ward's fellow Republican also considered a run at the seat Ward currently holds in the House when it was an open seat in 2002.
The editorial in question falsely claims that the change to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Ward sponsored and was approved to benefit just the developer of the new Green Oak Village Place mall would have significantly improved the U.S. 23 off ramp and did away with the hated roundabouts had he not been caught trying to sneak in an amendment at the last minute and had to rescind. The truth is the road, the roundabouts and the bridge would have looked exactly the same if the con had gone forward. The only difference would be the taxpayers would have paid for the improvements that would have benefited the developer.
Lawrence’s letter does not address that issue, but it does address the absurdity of drafting a bill that would benefit the very thing the original act was designed to help failing downtowns compete against.

As one individual member of the Brighton City Council, I wish to respond to your Nov. 24 editorial ("DDA plan would have widened roadway, not built three traffic circles").
Let's start with a little history for your readers. In 2004, state Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton Township, authored legislation that amended the state Downtown Development Authority financing law that allowed DDA financing to be used for specific large-scale commercial development related infrastructure improvements. As a past president of the Michigan Municipal League, I will tell you the legislation as written was bad policy.
You must remember that what Rep. Ward does in Lansing affects our entire state, and not just our little corner of the world. We did communicate to our state representative and the public that the legislation as written could have caused severe negative consequences for the downtowns of all Michigan cities.
The legislation, as originally adopted, created an uneven playing field between cities like Escanaba all the way to Monroe that have very few tracts of undeveloped property within their boundaries vs. neighboring townships that have large tracts of undeveloped land.
It was that specific section that was bad policy for our state.
Brighton did not act alone in lobbying Rep. Chris Ward to get his 2004 DDA-TIFA financing legislation repealed but, rather, we were part of a broad-based Michigan Municipal League-led effort, along with nearby Howell, which also testified at a committee public hearing.

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