Breaking News : Stephanie Brinkerhoff Riley To Vote No On Hotel Proposal

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For Immediate Release from Stephanie Brinkerhoff Riley

September 18, 2013

I will be the fifth “no” vote on the current proposal for the downtown hotel. Since August 5, 2013, I have tried to keep an open mind and wait for all of the information before making a decision. I have read every report compiled, and I have met with everyone who has asked to meet or offered to meet. I list the following points in determining my vote and will follow up with a more in depth statement this weekend:

* The proposed hotel will not “save” the Centre. The Centre doesn’t require saving. There is no operating deficiency at the Centre. The County receives approximately $800,000 per year for operating costs at the Centre from the Inn Keeper’s Tax. The money cannot be used for another purpose.

* The City of Evansville lacks a long-term plan of economic development. For me, I need to know what happens next. The potential for the IU Medical School is a perfect example of why we not only need a plan but an established fund/bonding capacity for unexpected opportunities. I believe we should develop a plan for long-term growth that includes a focus on education and health care. We need this medical school a lot more than we need a convention hotel. I want to make sure we get our priorities straight. I am not comfortable bonding this amount of money without an idea of what happens next or the potential cost to get the medical school.

* The money that would be pledged to pay the 25 yearly $2.6 million bond payments is not “dollars that can only be used for economic development.” They are property taxes that are currently captured by a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) zone. That money can be set free to rejoin the general fund whenever we have the will. Our total average annual budget for paving, sidewalks and demolition of dilapidated structures is about $2.5 million. Imagine the possibilities if that budget doubled for the next 25 years.

* The construction of the hotel will not create 800+ jobs. 800+ people will be associated with the project in some way and receive some amount of compensation. That is not 800+ jobs. Less than 200 people will be employed on the job site for any real amount of time.

* A successful convention hotel (60% average occupancy rate according to Hunden) will not employ 250+ full-time people. The hotel itself will employ between 100 and 300 part-time and full-time people, with the majority being part-time and low-wage. It is estimated that a successful convention hotel would create approximately 71 full-time equivalent jobs county-wide by the stabilization of the hotel in 2018. 71. To all of the people who have written and spoke about the amazing job creation that is coming- it’s 71. And that’s according to the Administration’s expert, Hunden.

* Economic activity is not the same as economic development. Economic development is the creation of permanent, full-time, living wage jobs through a process that builds on itself to spur additional jobs- e.g. a medical school. It requires a plan and a lot of work. Economic activity is what we do to keep the economy going when we don’t have real options for development. When cities can’t attract or create quality employers, they build arenas and convention hotels, and start to focus on people who don’t live here. It’s not the same. It’s rearranging chairs on a ship that’s going down. It’s like holding up your right hand to block the view of the north side of the expressway as you travel from the east to go down for an evening at the arena.

* The subsidy is too high. The Hunden Report does not require a full-service hotel. We’ve been told over and over to look at Fort Wayne. They built a limited service plus/full service lite hotel. So did Owensboro. We don’t need a truly full service hotel to attract conventions. We need a truly full service hotel to attract the business and leisure travelers who will make up 70% of the hotel’s business. At the point that we are focused on taking business from the existing market, we don’t need to be offering a subsidy for it. The developer should pay for the quality upgrade. The city doesn’t need it for conventions. I understand that the cost of full service adds approximately $7 million to the price of construction.

* Since the Mayor claims that the hotel will employ 250 people, and the developer claims that the apartments will need 144 parking spots, the city should not be paying to build a parking garage that will be used so heavily by the developer’s employees and tenants. The parking garage is a giveaway to the developer and should be calculated as part of the subsidy. It takes the subsidy to almost $26 million and put us at over 50% for the cost of the hotel/garage.

* Owensboro and Ft. Wayne got it right when they gave a relatively small subsidy up front and guaranteed an average occupancy rate. We are giving our money all up front. We are literally bidding against ourselves. I was accused of not being positive enough. How about we have faith in this hotel? If it achieved an average occupancy rate of 60%, we wouldn’t owe the developer anything.

* This convention hotel as proposed could do everything the Administration says it will, and it could still go bankrupt. There’s a sustainability issue as to size and quality, and we aren’t addressing it with anything more than an adamant, “we’ll sue if they don’t keep it looking nice.” As an attorney, I’m not really comfortable with that being the only option. We could very well have to put money into this hotel down the road to maintain the Doubletree flag.

* Without a clear plan of economic development, we cannot afford this project in light of the city’s other needs. The EPA mandated projects, the zoo’s desire to bond $25 million, the inability of the Parks Department to meet its needs without an annual $600,000 in County Option Income Taxes, the Administration’s desire to put $1.5 million in a new park, the $3 million requested by the Department of

Metropolitan Development to fix the parking garages located in the downtown TIF, the fact that the downtown TIF accumulates $7 million a year and doesn’t pay to pave its own streets, the fact that our budget is not balanced for next year, etc., make it impossible to support a project of this amount.

* The developer is from another state and has thumbed its nose at the taxpayers that I represent and my request on their behalf for additional information as to their ability to own and manage the proposed hotel.


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  1. Excellent article Stephanie and thank you for your no vote. Most specifically, thank you for bringing awareness to the fact that sidewalks, demolishing dilapidated structures, and many other things can benefit from these funds. I appreciate your willingness to fight the blight.

    Also, I hope that you will push the mayor hard to live by his promise of reinstating and then updating the 01 master plan. I have it here on my desk if you or any other council member wants to see it. Mr Al Leibungunth (sp?) looked at it before the last election. It needs to comeback before we go back into a series of singular projects.

    Thank you!

  2. Everyone says:

    I hate to admit this, but if O’Daniel and Brinkerhoff Riley are against this deal, it’s probably a bad deal. I wanted the hotel. But O’Daniel and Brinkerhoff Riley are very bright and I trust their judgment.

    • Jim says:

      It’s too late to be a turncoat now. You’ve shown your colors on here and “Everyone” knows what they are.

      • AroundTheWorld says:


      • Brad Linzy says:

        I disagree with you here, Jim. People should be welcomed in when they change their minds. We cannot grow a movement to move this City forward unless we are accommodating to people who are curious and want to learn more.

        Everyone, welcome to the land of the awakened. It’s not a pretty place to be and it will require some hard work and tough decisions, but it’s gratifying knowing you took the red pill and at least aren’t living in some Matrix of willful ignorance.

    • Indianaenoch says:

      +1 Everyone, BUT, there have been intelligent people saying these things for months. You are likely an intelligent person also who needs to learn independent thinking. Be against this hotel because of the bad idea it is not because you trust Adams and Riley.

  3. jbyrd says:

    thank you Stephanie, now can we get a no from Connie Robinson

  4. Brains Benton says:

    “The City of Evansville lacks a long-term plan of economic development”

    Mr. Mayor are you listening????????

  5. gratefuldead says:

    I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the fab five, Council members, O’Daniel, Lindsey, Adams, Friend, and Riley…the comment that was made this evening on Ch-25 by Friend sums it up, “why risk not obtaining the downtown med school for a hotel” and ” med schools do not go broke” and Connor’s statement “the med school will be the Toyota of Evansville” and Stephanie observation of the lack of master planning, as originally presented by Ms Gillenwater, of course, censored by the CAN[Civic Administration News] a/k/a Nixon-Winnecke administration. Gives knew meaning to “get your news in the CAN”

  6. Martha Crosley says:

    Thank you for taking the time to do a thorough and thoughtful analysis. Your work is excellent and should be appreciated by all the citizens of Evansville. All those “Lets get ‘er done” people need to take the time to read and think about what you have written here. I so appreciate your hard work and your caring.

  7. whatever says:

    Finally someone addresses future maintenance!

  8. Brad Linzy says:

    I knew it would be the female wisdom that would see us through. Thank you for your good stewardship of the purse strings of the City of Evansville. Not everyone is going to understand it, but you and I know you did that right thing here.

    Now, let’s get our comprehensive plan on track and try to create some priorities. We must start being less spendthrift if we are to ever turn this city around. Thank you again for taking the first grand step in that direction.

  9. freedom matters says:

    Outstanding stance Stephanie. By voting against the Earthcare deal and now a bad hotel deal means you have finally become a contender to become the next Mayor of Evansville.

    Tonight begins the draft Stephanie for Mayor movement. Count me in.

  10. danny p says:

    Can’t wait to hear from Wayne Parke concerning this announcement.

  11. Brad Linzy says:

    ” Economic activity is not the same as economic development. Economic development is the creation of permanent, full-time, living wage jobs through a process that builds on itself to spur additional jobs- e.g. a medical school. It requires a plan and a lot of work.”

    Beautifully stated.

  12. Brad Linzy says:

    This is sheer brilliance. I may just read this aloud on Monday instead of trying to craft something on my own. It really says it all.

    If Friend’s effort was a bases clearing double, this is a homerun.

  13. people unite says:

    Stephanie for Mayor.

  14. bootsie says:

    I would like to know what else was expected when an entity is being handed a 80 mil property, no strings attached, and they stomp their feet when questions are asked? Ask any questions about this and we’ll take YOUR marbles and go on home?
    What of this scenario doesn’t smell like muddy butt? I don’t THINK I am fully off my rocker, but if they want to go away because we DARE ask questions? Buh-Bye, don’t let the door..yada, yada…you get my drift.
    Mr. Winnecke, you’re going to have to find a new way to pay off your cronies, besides giving them gravy jobs.
    How do you sleep at night? How do you?
    We don’t have money to fix poor people’s teeth, or help single mothers pay for daycare, take decent care of our dead, or our living’s parks–SO many things to help the people who live here, but without question, we are to be forced to purchase a weekly inflated priced hotel for your buddies?
    The very thought that John Dunn didn’t want competition is laughable-he HAD extensive property downtown, most of which he sold for a 500% profit, he could have wiped out any competition a dozen times over-he isn’t remotely worried about our poor attempts, you can be sure-but he was trying to be merciful and save us the expense/suspense-if anything viable was possible, he would’ve already done it, and done it in excellent style, with not one red cent of our money. John Dunn scared of our pitiful competition…it’s too funny.

    And Robert’s Stadium is just a memory-that’s the saddest part. Gone on a whim, where and who was THAT designed to benefit?-not the people paying for it, to be sure.

    Mr. Winnecke, why don’t you just resign, your contempt for the people of this city is palpable. And our distrust and contempt for you is making the tar and feather rail system an attractive idea….

    Oh, and Mrs. Brinkerhoff Riley: I trusted your good sense and prudence to say NO long before now, as you have always shown good sense. I know one is not supposed to assume, but I did because I know you wouldn’t fall for this nonsense.

  15. Indianaenoch says:

    You’re jewel Riley. Maybe we have seen Evansville taking the last exit before Detroit. This morning is the first one in a long time that I have had hope for Evansville.

    Now what about the Mesker Amphitheater.

    • V- is-to-r says:

      Enoch, I looked over that Mesker Amphitheater location while on an visit to St Joseph tracing some family roots.
      You know that’s an underused asset,if Evansville does adapt an Student population educational and infrastructure renewal plan the location can be updated for outdoor symposiums,with the right I.T. and media connections soem minor seating and lighting to enhance atmosphere during the evening hours that could be an knock out place for learning and new concepts in class presentation. Environmental and Bio-technical as well as Medical symposiums presentations leasing. Could help support the smaller entertainment presentation there.
      It looks as if it was built for this “in this day”,being located really close to the Evansville Zoo and Garden there.
      I know of at least one fella doing his final resting not far away that would have gone “all in” on the concept.
      Only saying that because historically he and that family helped start what Evansville now has in Evansville’s educational system.

      I went up there to put an grave site location with the photos of the Man. I thought of the symposiums while reflecting on his driven work for advanced Evansville learning.
      This visit was before your conceptions there for downtown convention hotels even stroked the new print. The place just looked right for an different type classroom concept.

  16. honus_wagner says:

    Ms. Riley,

    Thank you for the articulate and factual letter. Your Hotel decision was sound.

    Not to quibble, but your first paragraph re: The Centre is inaccurate. Yes, The Centre does receive $ 800,000 per year subsidy from the Innkeepers Tax to help offset Operating Costs. However, that statement alone proves that The Centre is a big-time money losing facility. The Centre has never made a profit in its history; and the accumulated losses are around $ 8,000,000. Contrary to your statement; there is a HUGE operating deficiency at the Centre; and in agreement to your statement, correct, the envisioned Hotel would not have saved this facility.

    The best thing to do would be to tear down The Centre, and avoid the operating losses.
    The subsidy of $ 800,000 per year can be redirected to a better means. The fact that there are future bond payments remaining are irrelevant to the decision making , as the Bonds must be paid whether the wrecking ball swings or not.

    • Brad Linzy says:

      Why tear it town? Far better to just auction it off or include it in some incentive package for a future hotel developer perhaps. What doesn’t make sense is destroying it. That like saying “if we can’t make it work, no one will.” It’s the jealous boyfriend approach to governing.

  17. intheknow says:

    I always look forward to Stephanie’s opinions. She has a marvelous way of summarizing all the important points in words easily understood by us all.

    She, by far, is the most valuable city council member.

  18. Pressanykey says:

    ” Economic activity is what we do to keep the economy going when we don’t have real options for development. When cities can’t attract or create quality employers, they build arenas and convention hotels, and start to focus on people who don’t live here. It’s not the same. It’s rearranging chairs on a ship that’s going down. It’s like holding up your right hand to block the view of the north side of the expressway as you travel from the east to go down for an evening at the arena.” (Councilwoman Brinkerhoff Riley)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Truer words were never spoken and it is my fervent wish that Councilwoman Riley’s colleagues would understand these words and take them to heart.

    If people fully understood these words they would never again look at a school corporation as an economic engine for the area, as opposed to an institution for educating our children.


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