Friday, September 03, 2010

Elrich Comments on Fillmore

Council Member Marc Elrich sent us the following remarks on our post this morning about his cooperation with a lawsuit to stop Silver Spring's Fillmore project.


Just to be clear. I wanted the issue of additional funding to come before the Council. A day after the groundbreaking for the library, I read, in the paper, that the SS Library is getting it's capital program reduced by $3 million. Money for a rock club, not for a library? We found excess capital funds and are spending them on a rock club instead of the library, which we're cutting. Not my priority. In addition, some of the "found" money came from projects that came in at lower costs, but some of it came from reducing another project to shift the money to Filmore.

We have lots of competing projects for capital funds and we made some hard decisions. Normally, this would have come back to us, apparently not a legal absolute, but as I was told by County staff, it would have been the normal procedure. I wanted to have that discussion and I wanted to understand how this project could be $3.2 million over budget.

We were told, not a dime more than $4 million in County money. If the estimates were so old as to be useless, how could we told with such certainty.

We were told that they were sure that there would be no cost overruns and the free rent provision, a mere safety valve, would not be triggered.

We were told to look at the pro forma, based on the county income, and see what a good deal it was. Getting almost half the 20 years rent free kind of changes the "good deal."

We were told that Live Nation would pay for all the cost overruns over $8 million. Instead the county is paying for at least $2.5 million of those costs.

Live Nation has an obligation to play less than 3 shows a week and we were told that they would rent it on the other nights and that the rent would be on the order of $6000 a night - and the County gets a total of $7500 a month. Giving a multi-billion dollar corporation a deal like this is mind-boggling.

I was done with this after the Council voted for it. I figured, you win some, you lose some, life goes on and it's not the end of the world. Only when I heard these new numbers come out, and only after I talked to staff who reaffirmed my belief that bringing this back to us for additional appropriation was the normal course of action, did I get upset. I was asked if I'd sign an affidavit saying that I believed it was supposed to come back to the Council, and since I believed that, I didn't see the harm in saying as much.

I doubt this would have killed the Filmore, but it would have forced a public discussion. And if a public discussion and examination of how we got here would have killed the deal, then you've got to ask, "How good a deal was it?" If this thing can't stand the light of day, perhaps there's a problem.

I would have been happy with a renegotiated deal, that gave the County a bigger cut of the income stream.

As for heat, I've been taking heat on the cost overruns since these facts came out. I've had people ask if "we're nuts" to keep giving Live Nation this much money and why won't anyone on the Council stand up to this. On the other hand, I'm sure I'll get heat from people who think that this is more important than libraries or rec centers.