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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Leave funding decisions to officials

Last week, Common Council members requested several amendments on Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's capital budget including hangups for two of the largest price tags. First, they challenged the tax incremental finance contributions to the Edgewater Hotel remodeling project, which could total up to $16 million in funding. Second, it was requested that the central library project, totaling $37 million, be put to a public vote. Underlying both referendum proposals is not only the possibility of political power plays, but also an unnecessary demand to put major spending decisions on the shoulders of the average citizen.

Luckily, these proposals were both defeated on Monday night, preventing what could have been prolonged stalls on two of the larger development projects for the city this decade. The central library referendum was kept on file, so although it's unlikely,

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The Edgewater Hotel carries the heftiest price tag on the mayor's budget, taking up a sizeable chunk of the $185 million. And while it is true the TIF funds involved would come from citizens' wallets—seemingly giving them an inherent right to weigh in—the budget does not even require or demand the certain use of those funds. It only provides for the opportunity to use up to the full $16 million ceiling. And if the funding were pulled out of the budget, requiring three-fourths council support to gain approval, the project supporters would have large hurdles to overcome to find another sufficient source of funding.

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Attacking the use of tax dollars to potentially prevent large spending in harsh economic times would have been the theme of the referendum, as the building of a new central library would have been entirely placed before the voters. This tactic is significantly more transparent than the Edgewater request, as its subtle agenda comes from opponents looking to squash it.

Aside from our previous endorsement of the project, this move also brings forth our view that we elect our public officials to do the research to make the educated decisions we tasked them to make. Along with their job to thoroughly research and familiarize themselves with these decisions, it is also not the job of referendums to pose as a last stand for opponents of large-scale spending.

 Although the public has a right to voice their opinion on such expensive projects, we should remember that we are not a direct democracy and that our elected officials are already responsible for projecting the voice of their communities. Especially considering the delicate economic situation and track record of referendums squashing any and all challengers (see California), we feel in these specific cases it is appropriate for officials to do what they were elected to do.

 

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