DURA: The cons outweigh the pros

By Jay Stooksberry

Dear Editor:

I applaud Laura Earley for wanting to see our community thrive and prosper. However, I respectfully disagree that the Delta Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) will be the vessel to achieve this goal. When you weigh the pros and cons, it's more than apparent where the scale tips.

DURA is monopolized by the City of Delta. During the most recent DURA meeting (where it was publicly stated that there was "no plan B"), a noticeable Freudian slip kept occurring. The projects being proposed were continuously attributed to City of Delta. Somebody in attendance thoughtfully clarified that City of Delta was not the sole proprietor of what was being presented; this was supposed to be DURA, which includes representatives from the various taxing districts.

But that's the problem: City of Delta monopolizes DURA. Of its nine members, DURA's board consists of five City of Delta council members. With a simple majority, whatever the city wants, the city gets. It is painfully clear that our cash-strapped and deeply-indebted city sees this as a revenue-generating activity.

Countywide economic development demands a fair and impartial arbiter -- something which DURA is far from. If Delta County is going to be responsible for financing 40% of the hotel project, they should get more than one member on the DURA board. That only seems fair.

Taxation without representation. It's also interesting that Earley references mill levy votes. And her reference begs the question: When did we vote on DURA? (Spoiler alert: We didn't.)

An urban renewal authority doesn't have to jump through the same hoops, such as a public vote, that a taxing district does. Even if a taxing district, which was approved by voters at some point in time, boldly asserts that they are not going to give up their increment, DURA has the legal authority to challenge that decision in court and still get money out of the deal.

When you voted for a fire district mill levy, did you intend for that money to go toward developing a hotel? No, you intended that money to go toward the fire district.

If this isn't "taxation without representation," I don't know what is.

Eminent domain. URAs have the legal power to use eminent domain. Our current city council members promise that they will never use it. But that promise's shelf life is only as long as their elected terms. Once created, power will be used in the future, and it is best that we don't create that authority in the first place, because it will be abused by future boards.

Corporate welfare. How can this riverfront hotel be seen as anything more than a government handout to a private company? Will existing hotels and motels within City limits get the same million dollar tax-funded benefit as what is being offered to this yet-to-be-named hotel chain? Do we really want to be in the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace?

There is more bad than good when it comes to DURA. And I encourage all other taxing districts that have not given up their increments to continue to play hard ball in their negotiations.

Jay Stooksberry
Chair of Libertarian Party of Delta County