Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Joe Finley's math is edge-of-your-seat

I spent a little over 30 minutes at Mayoral Candidate Joe Finley's downtown press conference today, and I can honestly say that it will take me quite a few hours to validate everything he proposes and alleges. It was definitely both interesting and colorful.

There weren't many folks there (see photo). Just reporters John Higgins (ABJ), Kymberli Hagelberg (NPR) and me. A half dozen campaign supporters rounded out the press conference, which Finley held at the parking lot next to the downtown Federal building.

While Finley continued his base themes attacking Mayor Plusquellic on campaign contributions and sweetheart development deals, a few of Finley's other ideas certainly bear discussion.

For example, Finley proposes keeping the Innerbelt because it helps people get to the hospital whereas Mayor Plusquellic would consider tearing it down because of a lack of use and the chance to redevelop the property. JF says people tell him how much they love the Innerbelt, but I've not met any of those folks so I guess I'll take his word for it.

JF also proposes spacing out the Akron Police Department instead of one downtown station. That's a new idea to me. He mentioned opportunities to open satellite police stations in Chapel Hill and/or Rolling Acres Mall. While APD is certainly bursting at the seams of the Stubbs Justice Center, I'm not sure splitting up the force would be popular.

At times, JF's "creative math" had my mental calculator smoking .. and my head shaking back and forth.

For example, Finley says that city debt has surpassed $1.1 billion dollars and that city leaders are "tapped out" as to what they can borrow for future projects. I checked with Finance Director Dianne Miller-Dawson this afternoon; she said that as of Dec. 31, 2006, city debt was at $760 million .. with more than $200 million of that set aside for the Akron schools, so that part of the debt is being paid off with the income tax increase passed in 2003. That means actual city taxpayer debt is really more like $550 million or about half of what Finley said.

Still, Finley's statements about money owed on Canal Park had merit. He claims that the City of Akron owes more NOW ($35 million he claims) on the stadium than we did when we built it. At first, I found that hard to believe, but Miller-Dawson tells me that as of Dec. 31st, we owed $29,570,000 for the stadium .. or roughly about the same as the initial project in the mid-90's. It's less than what JF said today, but still alarming that we haven't made much progress on paying off the stadium yet.. other than refinancing it to a lower interest rate, which will save big $$ in the long haul.

Here's some more fun-with-numbers: Finley says that if he wins the election, he'll cut the number of cabinet members from 15 to eight. He wouldn't elaborate on which staff members or deputy mayors would head out the door, but Finley claims he can run a smoother city hall with fewer people.

JF knocked Inventure Place as a bad investment, but believes the Civic Theater was money well spent even as it struggles to find acts. He'd place a cap on how much Akron should be willing to pay to keep Goodyear and doesn't believe the BassPro Shop project at the expense of the Poet Streets homes is the right thing to do.

Finley also said that Akron should be able to attract businesses to move to town without tax incentives .. basically, they should move here just because we're a nice city with nice people. As much as some criticize DP's deals to lure businesses to town, I'm not sure Finley's handshakes alone will be a strategy voters will support.

JF's folks gave reporters a 30-page packet of data, ideas, and accusations. It'll take me some time to go through it, but I'd like to "Check the Math" on more of what JF says to see what adds up.


Anonymous said...

All of Finley's numbers include interest, keep that in mind.

Anonymous said...

Of the 30 page document - I wonder how much JF wrote or understood, or did his spokesperson (Warner) do all the writing. Just as Mr. Kilby does a good but of his talking.

Anonymous said...

I hope you check out the 2006 auditor,s report on the City. You will see that the city's accounts are edge of your seat. Joe Finley will immediately address the accounting mess at City Hall

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I would call fudging numbers, a way to clean up an "accounting mess." Someone please get JF a calculator and a dose of reality.

derek said...

Why are all of the comments anonymous? Sad, really.

As far as the numbers go, I have background in math and statistics (I am working on a BS in math at CSU) so I know how numbers can be manipulated so I won't get into that here.

But, what is so wrong about not using tax abatements and other giveaways to pull in businesses. Businesses that move in because of deals like this are just as likely to move out if they get a better deal.