City leaders in Davenport claim that issuing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as an economic-development incentive to Ryan Companies for a six-story "Class A" office building in downtown Davenport is appropriate because it is image-altering. But let's be clear: Image-altering is not a criterion for TIF. It was a primary criterion for the Vision Iowa grant, and somehow Davenport is attempting to incorporate it into its TIF policy. The Davenport City Council should absolutely deny this TIF request.

The whole premise of the Vision Iowa grant was to revitalize our downtown to such a degree that private investment would follow. Scott County taxpayers have done our share in subsidizing the revitalization and "image altering" of downtown Davenport with the River Music Experience, the expansion of the Adler, the new Figge Arts Center, the two new parking ramps, and the skybridge over River Drive, to name a few. We should not have to subsidize a nickel of private investment for real-estate developers and two of the top corporations in Davenport, Lee Enterprises and RSM McGladrey. The demand for Class A office space should be incentive enough for the private sector to invest in a newly emerging downtown that has more amenities than many Midwest downtowns combined. It is unrestrained greed that imposes further subsidy on taxpayers after the enormous contribution we're collectively making.

Ryan is already enjoying a significant TIF district in the industrial park north of Davenport. Its development plan for the office building downtown is secure enough with two tenants (Lee and RSM McGladrey) occupying 65 percent of the space before a nail is driven. The remaining 35 percent vacant space should be easily leased if the demand for Class A office space is all that the various city leaders claim it is, including DavenportOne and Quad City Development Group. What possible justification could there be for TIF in this project; what legitimate criteria are being met to allow the use of TIF here?

Further aggravating the matter is the city's willingness to impose a 20-year TIF when almost all TIFs are only for 10 years. Taxpayers will not enjoy the incremental value that would benefit the city's general fund because during the most highly valued years, the monies will be paying down Ryan's loans instead of property taxes. After 20 years has passed, the property's value could be greatly reduced, thereby limiting any real benefit to taxpayers, ever. Why are Davenport elected officials and staff even considering such long-term TIF? And why are our city leaders pursuing it on such a fast track? The Community Development committee, led by Alderman Bob McGivern, was handed the packets of information on this project several minutes after the meeting commenced last Thursday, and passed the matter on for a vote by city council this week. The committee had not had a chance to read the documentation before it sent the matter on for a final vote. Nothing could be more irresponsible than this, as the past has demonstrated over and over again.

Before TIF is considered, let the council give taxpayers an update on how well Sentry Insurance is complying as mandated by the TIF it received. Our new city administrator will be watched closely on this matter because of the complete lack of oversight that existed with his predecessor.

Finally, what exactly constitutes Class A, and what precise specifications can taxpayers expect will be incorporated in this six-story building that classifies it as such? What has Ryan submitted to demonstrate this building will be any different or is in compliance with industry standards for Class A? How did Ryan arrive at $3 million in TIF for a 20-year period? Has the council seen any of this pertinent data prior to voting? I'm guessing it has not. So few questions are even being asked by the current city council, which is a complete abdication of its fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers and voters. How many times are citizens going to tolerate this political and financial abuse?

The notion that Class A office buildings must be built before the companies will come is obviously not the case, as evidenced by Lee and McGladrey's willingness to wait for its completion. This way, each company will have some say in how their respective spaces are finished. And 35 percent vacant space is hardly enough office space to drive a significant amount of job importation as Ryan claims, and it offers no concrete plan or timeline demonstrating how it will execute such projections. The bottom line is the company is building new corporate offices for Lee and McGladrey on the backs of the taxpayers. To claim that it is too expensive to build a Class A office building in downtown versus greenspace north of town, or any other location for that matter, is not supported in any financial projections to date. And if the vacancies are filled rapidly because the demand for Class A does exist, then the $3 million in TIF represents a subsidy of pure profit by taxpayers to developer Ryan Companies, and by association, Lee Enterprises and RSM McGladrey, especially if their rents are a penny lower than fair-market rates.

Once again, the city and DavenportOne, which is considering a contribution of up to $200,000 for the project, are catering to the needs of a select few special interests rather than to the needs of Davenport at large, therefore accomplishing zero by way of "image altering" because this is their typical modus operandi and consistent with their image for such conduct.

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