The ongoing abuse of Davenport taxpayers by elected officials, city administration, and DavenportOne is reaching critical mass. On the heels of the disgraceful development agreement between the city and the Isle of Capri comes another vague, taxpayer-unfriendly project - a public market in the Freight House - to suck the financial life out of Davenport's already strained coffers.

DavenportOne continues to lobby the city council to commit us to fiscally inequitable projects that benefit a few special interests in the name of economic development - an easy task because our particular elected officials, along with our city administrator and various department heads, are without business acumen and are easily intimidated.

Time after time, taxpayers are saddled with projects approved by just six aldermen (or five aldermen and the mayor) without any due diligence in the form of a cost/benefit analysis, risk assessment, expense-to-revenue forecasts, and associated opportunity costs, to name a few of the basic tools for making sound fiscal decisions.

Predictably, DavenportOne's spokespuppets parade in front of the council with platitudes extolling the project's merit, challenging the aldermen and mayor to "step up." Most of these spokespuppets are employed by area businesses that will directly benefit from new development, such as the community's utility companies. In two weeks, expect a second run by D1 at the council to approve a lease making the city a tenant in the Freight House and encumbering taxpayers indefinitely to the tune of $2 million to close the deal. Council members should demand that the following questions be answered for the public prior to another bite at the apple:

(1) Have any other parties been approached to lease this space besides the city? Who, when, and what was their response?

(2) Would the developer behind the scenes, Daryl High, take this lease deal if the shoe were on the other foot?

(3) Why doesn't D1 just take the lease themselves, as they are the ones feathering their nest to assume control of the public market and market district? They just received a $500,000 grant from the city.

(4) How do the operators of the current farmer's markets feel about this project? Have they been consulted? What was their feedback?

The inflated projection of $58 million in increased tax base if the city commits to subsidizing a public market inside the Freight House is derived from nothing more than a consultant's conceptual rendering, complete with vague mathematical conclusions, contracted for by DavenportOne. There is no basis in reality. The financial data is contrived and offers no specifics as to how this number was actually arrived at.

There is no implementation plan that says the Freight House must be converted to a public market or development will not occur in this part of downtown, let alone that public dollars should finance it. The concept merely suggests that the Freight House would be suited to a public market, especially if there is sufficient surrounding residential development to support it. I don't disagree. In fact, a public market could potentially be a terrific idea for enterprising entrepreneurs.

But more importantly, D1's "market district" concept calls for 24 blocks of redevelopment to generate $58 million of increased tax base. DavenportOne, six aldermen (including Brooke, Howard, Barnhill, Frank, and Dumas), and Mayor Winborn would have you believe that if taxpayers foot the bill (indefinitely) for a public market inside the Freight House, then High turns the Builders building across the street into high-end residential condos, and voila! These two interlocked projects will magically attract the required 24 blocks of new development necessary to realize a $58-million gain in our tax base ... in a projected timeframe of eight years no less ... and with almost zero population growth! What a plan!

The proposed conversions of the Freight House into a public market and the Builders' building into high-end condos will contribute little if anything to the tax base because the city owns the land the Freight House occupies and developer High will most certainly enjoy the benefits of TIF and allowable tax abatements for his part in the Freight House and neighboring condos. This means that out of the gate, the first two projects will have no return on taxpayer investment for at least the first 20 years.

Meanwhile, Whitty only started paying his full land lease of $68,000 to the city last year, so if the council agrees to this deal, then we taxpayers will forgo forever the return on investment we made in the first renovation of the Freight House for Whitty's purposes. To add insult to injury, instead of receiving $68,000 in annual revenues from the current Freight House lease, we will be paying $70,000 plus in annual expenses for rent as a tenant of the Freight House. But first we must incur the additional expense of $2 million to repurpose part of the building for a public market. (See "The Freight House," River Cities' Reader Issue 575, March 29, 2006.)

Consider that perhaps now that Whitty has the annual financial obligation of $68,000, he will improve his efforts to create economic activity in the Freight House to offset some of this cost, and at the same time protect the Freight House from undesirable development (which is purportedly why taxpayers are being asked to get involved).

Finally, I challenge DavenportOne and the city council and administration to refute a single criticism from this editor relative to the development agreement with the Isle of Capri or the information put forth by the Reader on the public-market project, or any other public-private partnership we have covered in the past. Stop continually whining about the criticism and step up. If I have misjudged the situation, prove it. I am willing to be persuaded.

Support the River Cities' Reader

Get 12 Reader issues mailed monthly for $48/year.

Old School Subscription for Your Support

Get the printed Reader edition mailed to you (or anyone you want) first-class for 12 months for $48.
$24 goes to postage and handling, $24 goes to keeping the doors open!

Click this link to Old School Subscribe now.

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!


"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher