The Brooks at Vale Park development appears to be a beautiful plan. It is also a highly functional plan that will improve stormwater detention upstream on Beauty Creek, thanks in part to a $6 million direct contribution of public funds. But despite our city council's recent approval, we still don't know if it's a good financial plan for Valparaiso overall.
At the public hearing, I asked some basic questions like whether anyone had made a revenue forecast for the new development. I asked what the total value of public infrastructure that we are assuming is. And, most importantly, I asked whether the projected revenues were sufficient to cover the projected replacement cost of the infrastructure in the coming decades. My questions were summarily dismissed as a campaign issue.
When we approve a new development we make an implicit promise to provide for its safety, security, mobility, common enjoyment and long-term maintenance. Promises are easy for cities to make; but they are harder to keep. Over time, we lose track. The revenues that new developments bring in get used up, or are re-appropriated or fail to materialize at all. Over time, as nature takes its course, our promises are revealed once again when they are broken.
Like most cities, our city is littered with broken promises of the past. I see them as I walk around town and hear about them when I talk to people. They say, “The new things are great! We love the downtown. But we also have to maintain our neighborhoods better.” Our neighbors want sidewalks they can roll a stroller or a wheelchair over. They want basements that don’t flood. They just want the promises we made long ago to be kept.
As mayor, I will not fix every broken promise from the past; there are simply too many of them for the tax base and resources that we have available. But, as a CPA, I can commit to doing basic return-on-investment projections and to changing our processes to give neighborhoods a greater say in where and how we invest.