Lessons from Recent Developments

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Friday 4/11 more than 350 local people attended an auction run by the city for over 500 tax foreclosed properties. These folks spent more than half a million dollars to purchase these properties and will invest more than $5 million into these buildings to create roughly 700 new mostly low cost housing units through out the city. The most amazing thing about this is that it is all being done without significant public financing and no tax breaks. Meanwhile in Midtown sits the midtown tower. This building was recently owned by the city but they sold it along with three other parcels and a parking lot to Buckingham properties for $4 even though the city estimated its value at $700,000. Rochester has also given Buckingham properties $10.7 million and the state has found another $5 million. All this will create 177 apartments. While these are two very different types of property, it seems to me that one of these is a far better deal for Rochester than the other. While at the auction the city raised money, revitalized neighborhoods, stimulated investment, and created housing the others will cost a lot of money, get millions in tax breaks, and will create more vacant houses in our neighborhood. Perhaps there is a lesson here.

Another Reason Why Rochester has Budget Problems

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It is budget time again in the city of Rochester and once more we have an almost $30 million deficit. Like every year the city has tried to address this problem by begging Albany for more money as it seems that this is the only tool we seem to have. Unfortunately I do not believe the $6 million that Albany has gifted us is enough. After all it seems that our city council has no limit on their ability spend money. Last month at the council meeting there were a number of proposals like $50,000 to design repairs for the Rochester Police Department Special Operations facility, $485,000 to implement these design, $269,000 to design the conversion of N Clinton and St Paul to 2 way streets, $7,000 to the army corp of engineers to dredge the rive at port, $213,000 for building modernization for libraries, and $2,642,500 for implementation of a standard coordinated revenue and control system for all City-owned parking garages I was struck by both the size and randomness of the numbers. I understand that planning is important and that to convert streets from one way to two way takes more than a line of yellow paint but $269,000 seems like an awful lot to plan this change particularly when $7000 dredges the port of Rochester. Of course one of the problems is that all these projects were not bid out but were done through a request for proposal. If these proposals had been bid out then we would have gotten the lowest cost but in a request for proposal cost is only 10% of the criteria used for determining the winning proposal. As a result it is more important to have a slick proposal, a proven track record, and an experienced team than a low bid. This was reinforced by a representative of Ber-National Automation Inc of Rochester who bid a million dollars less on the parking garage project but lost to an out of town bidder. Now it is important to have companies that can complete project but this needs to be balanced with the need for effective use of our tax dollars. That night in march council spend around $1.5 million more than they should have. So at this rate the extra $6 million the state sent us will only last 4 months and so this is just another reason why we can afford nice things.

Listen to Alex...

...on Transforming Rochester on Rochester Free Radio. You can see when it's on at the Rochester Free Radio show schedule.

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