Precourt and MLS: Pitting City Against City

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Leslie Pool
Posts: 158
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:22 pm

Precourt and MLS: Pitting City Against City

Post by Leslie Pool » Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:22 pm


I have been outspoken on the many parts of the Precourt proposal about which I have major concerns, such as providing tax-free property and below-market rent. I still have these concerns and plan to discuss them tomorrow. However, I wanted to take a moment to talk about another aspect of this conversation that I believe is also very important but has not gotten as much attention.

These last two years have illustrated the importance of local government in serving our residents, including by providing for the members of our community who are targeted by state and federal government, as well as by making real progress on pressing needs such as affordability and mobility. These two years have also illustrated some of the challenges that we face as local officials – chief among them from private companies and other levels of government that seek to divide cities in order to impose their interests. It has been – and still is – clear to me that in order to remain strong, we, as cities, need to stand together.

I felt that San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff summarized many of my own thoughts on this topic when they wrote to Amazon CEO in response to Amazon’s bidding process for their second headquarters. In that letter, they declined to submit a formal proposal and noted that they felt the process would create a “bidding war amongst states and cities.” Soon after that, Professor Richard Florida initiated a ‘non-aggression pact’ – which has been signed by elected officials and community leaders here and across the country – that urges cities to avoid competing over providing large incentive packages to Amazon.

That was the lens through which I viewed the Amazon process and also one of the lenses through which I’ve been viewing the Precourt proposal. Still, my viewpoint on this was largely limited to the conversations we have had here about the potential costs or benefits under this specific proposal – and I felt it was important to elevate that analysis in my mind to the larger question of what happens when we allow others to pit city against city.

With that in mind, I decided two days ago to buy my own ticket and travel to Columbus to get a better sense of the different dynamics at play in this conversation. That experience has given me a better appreciation both for the intangible benefits of civic pride and community that teams can bring – and also for the divisive way in which Precourt has pursued this process, with secrecy and arbitrary deadlines meant to pressure Council into a decision soon after we received the first real details. The details we have - months into this process - still fall short in protecting the city against open-ended commitments and providing benefits to our residents equal to the amounts we will forgo. The deal is tilted to benefit Precourt through special treatment - property tax exemption, below market-rate lease, among other concerns. We have a ways to go to get a balanced deal.

As a Council Member, I believe that we do our best work when we are discussing policy decisions on our terms rather than when we are forced to do so on someone else’s terms – and I do not wish to set the precedent that a private, for-profit entity can play us off of another city in order to come here, impose a hurried deadline, and push for special treatment that locals do not get.

Leslie Pool
Council Member, District 7