City Council wants to “invent” their concept of historic downtown

downtownby Carla Hollingsworth Johnson –

Lenny, many kudos for your analysis of that senseless proposal! One comment I’d like to add (that actually came from my mother) is there is nothing “historic” about the plans for downtown. The council doesn’t want to “revive” an historic feel, they want to “invent” their concept of “historic”. For many years, we have had people in city government that have wanted to make Weatherford one of the Texas cities that has successfully brought business back to their square (think Granbury, Denton, McKinney).

However, the elephant in the room (or on the square, as it were) is those cities just mentioned do NOT have a US highway running through the middle of town. And, unless our city is willing to build an overhead over downtown (think Wichita Falls and US 281), we will always have that US highway! The fact that US 80/180 was the primary route from the west coast to the east coast should make it an historic property itself (think Route 66). Before the city fathers of the mid-1960’s permanently disfigured the square by cutting it into quadrants, maybe they should have considered embracing our place on that great thoroughfare.

The real problem with that bond was our elected officials wanting millions of dollars for a project that has not been approved by TxDOT. They have not explained explicitly what and how they were going to spend the money. Maybe they were looking forward to a slush fund to use however they wanted until approval? More lipstick on the Heritage Park/ First Monday pig (another multi-million project dreamed up without reality checks)? How much would have to be spent to buy hundreds of homesteads along Bridge and Alamo streets? How would they negotiate such purchases and how would they justify putting citizens out of their homes? How can they plan to impact the property of First Baptist when the church proudly displays an historic marker? I think we voters could neither approve the ridiculous amount of money nor the illogical plan of an inner loop. We were presented one way streets entering the square to create an ambiance existing only in someone’s dreams. Several years ago, we suffered the indignity of stone walls barricading the square’s quadrants and cutesy reproduction lighting. Historic? Really?


3 responses

  1. Senator_Blutarsky

    Poor “plan” and poor timing. One has to wonder why the City Council would even consider such a boondoggle.

    Charles Hugh Smith has an interesting new column –

    Which Cities/States Will Be the First to Default When the Economy Rolls Over? (November 12, 2014)

    What happens to local governments when the economy rolls over?

    Though we’re constantly reassured the “recovery” that’s stumbled for five years has years of strong growth ahead, history suggests the “recovery” is due to roll over. Few recoveries last longer than 5 or 6 years, and the business cycle is graying fast: subprime auto loans are not exactly the foundation of “strong growth.”

    So what might push the economy over the cliff? The strong U.S. dollar is crimping overseas sales and profits, the global economy is already recessionary, mortgage applications have dried up, auto sales are being driven by subprime loans, and the valuation bubbles in stocks and real estate are due for a breather, if not an outright reversal. Retail sales are flat, and with all these headwinds, growing profits by 10% to 20% a year becomes impossible for the vast majority of enterprises.

    So what happens to local governments when the economy rolls over? Tax revenues decline.

    The consensus is that local governments are sitting pretty: sales and property values have risen smartly, pushing tax revenues higher, and the cost of borrowing money via tax-free municipal bonds has fallen. Nice, but these are all functions of expansion and rising tax rates.

    The uneven nature of the “recovery” has left some cities and states more vulnerable to a downturn than others. Let’s catalog the various risk factors that might become consequential as the global and U.S. economies weaken.

    1. Those dependent on foreign tourism. The weak dollar made America a bargain destination for the past decade. As the dollar strengthens and other currencies lose purchasing power, America is no longer a bargain–especially as job cuts decimate the number of people who can blow a few thousand dollars on overseas vacations to the U.S.

    2. Auto manufacturing-dependent locales. Vehicle sales have been strong, and the cheerleaders claim sales will keep rising for years to come. Really? With what money? As soon as layoffs hit the marginal workforce and the subprime auto loan bubble implodes, vehicle sales will follow suit.

    3. Cities and states that depend heavily on capital gains taxes. Once the current housing and stock bubbles deflate–or simply stop expanding–tax revenues from the enormous capital gains reaped in the past five years will wither.

    4. Locales dependent on high income taxes. Given that most of the job growth of the past five years has occurred in low-wage sectors, adding jobs hasn’t boosted income taxes much. High income-tax states have jacked up rates on high-income earners, but there is no law of nature that says high-income jobs will survive a global downturn.

    Rather, enterprises desperate to tighten operating costs will want to jettison high-cost employees first.

    5. Local governments with enormous debt burdens. With interest rates low, municipalities and states went to the bond market over the past few years for “free money.” Once tax revenues plummet, the interest on all that “free money” will take a larger percentage of tax revenues, heightening the cost of new bond debt as buyers start adding in the risk of eventual default.

    6. Locales with high fixed costs. These include high healthcare costs for homeless, elderly, government employees, etc., interest on all those bonds, government employee pensions, etc. The fixed costs only increase every year, regardless of tax revenues. Every local government with high fixed costs is in a tightening fiscal vice once tax revenues plummet.

    7. Local governments with generous employee benefits and pensions. Once the stock market rolls over, the big capital gains that have funded public pension plans dry up, and the annual contribution has to be paid out of declining tax revenues.

    Should interest rates actually rise, pension fund bond portfolios would plummet in value, too.

    8. Local governments dominated by self-serving entrenched interests. That is, all of them: sclerotic, self-serving, entrenched interests resolutely refuse to accept any cuts in their swag. As tax revenues fall off a cliff, government managers will face a dilemma: they can’t cut costs because the self-serving interests have made that politically impossible, and they can’t borrow money for operating expenses.

    That leaves defaulting on debt as the only choice left. And since that’s the only choice left, that’s what they’ll do.

    The vice will close on some cities and states sooner than others, but it will eventually squeeze every city and state with declining revenues and rising fixed costs into default.

  2. How true. A couple of points should be re-emphasized again and again. As various levels of local and regional government start to really feel the pinch a number of actions will be initiated before default. Why? Default would place the government employee’s benefit plans in jeporady. That cannot be tolerated.

    So what will happen?

    Taxes will be raised as much as possible.

    New taxes will be invented.

    “Project” bond issues will be undertaken, especially those which will be able to quietly apply a significant portion of the debt to operating expense for government employees who just happen to be participating in the project. It should be noted that the largest city and county defaults in recent history also were the entities that had bloated government employee payrolls justified by the avoidance of services by outside entities and contractors who could have been resized as the need arose. Instead they embraced large municipal works departments that characteristically demonstrated classic government inefficiency, which in itself increased costs.
    Importantly this multitude of government workers could also be relied upon to vote in favor of whatever scheme the government proposed.

    This could even happen on a Weatherford or Parker County basis. A lot will depend on the intelligence and interigity of councils and department administrators. Be careful and understand the imbedded issues. Use the ballot box to return the good managers and supervisors, and also to eliminate those who have demonstrated an unwillingness to truly respect the taxpayer.

  3. I don’t have a problem in preserving the old buildings, they’ve already done this along Main St. where all the antique shops are. Some of the surrounding square buildings have also been preserved and renovated…but let’s do this by giving tax incentives to businesses that want to locate there. Give me a tax break when I want to open up a Burger place in the square but, let the business pay for the improvements. I don’t know what the councils plan is…I suppose it also includes the roads around the square…I don’t see how you fix that with the “Historic Parker County Courthouse” in the middle of the whole shibang. Judge Riley spent no telling how much money renovating the Courthouse, and don’t get me wrong it’s a nice renovation, but what good does it really do, we don’t have tourists….I’ve never heard anyone say they were going to Weatherford for vacation. The City and the County do not try to entice industry to the County, which would help with the great tax burden they want to lay on us. Yet they want to spend money like this is Dallas. I’d like to know who’s idea this really was…someone on the council is going to profit from this, or it wouldn’t even be discussed. Blutrasky is right with the facts he states here….we will go bankrupt and will not have the money to pay for pensions, insurance, and other amenities for city and County workers if we continue funding every hairbrained idea that these so called “public servants” come up with. Let’s all quit expecting the Government to do everything and start requiring individuals and business to do their part. Someone I know said they were sitting in a tire shop the other day and some lady was complaining about the traffic, and he mentioned be careful or they’ll have light rail put in here, and she said oh that would be great…then he said but they’ll want us to pay for it. The lady looked at him and said I don’t think that’s right, the Government should pay for it……with that kind of attitude, and ignorance it will be a long row to hoe in order to stop these stupid ideas.

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