Saturday, September 23, 2006

Panel delivers advice to Bayou

Panel delivers advice to Bayou 'One of the most amazing things we found was that, for some reason, in the city's long history, hardly anyone seems to have crossed the bayou' and developed the wetlands and pine savanna on the west side of the waterway that gives the town its name, said Tom Murphy, one of the panelists and a former mayor of Pittsburgh.
So, let's subsidize the bayou. Get a critical mass. Then tax it to the heavens.

Bugs, critters, waste water, and other tidbits like infrastructure won't present a problem when we all 'work together' and use government money.

Public access to the docks land means public subsidization. If private developers were to enter the scene, they'd want to invest private dollars and marketplace forces. You don't want a free-market landscape because only the government officials should wine and dine and pick the developers. That way government corruption and kickbacks are on the backs and in the pockets of the governement officials.

The 'power point' presentations are nothing but hype. I've got some nifty power point presentations to show you of downtown Pittsburgh that never came true.

These types of gigs are right up Tom Murphy's alley. He gets to come in, present without much follow-up, without much advance community discussion, and then leave. Plus, he gets to use soft money to make slide shows.

On page two of the article comes the 'Tom Sawyer attitude' and getting everyone on a committee. Once there is a committee, there won't be any votes. Once everyone is on the list -- the guy who manages the list becomes the czar. His committee model is all about power for the one at the top and no power for the pawns and everyday citizens and committee members.

Accountability and democracy vanishes in the Tom-Murphy world. You don't need democracy because the committee suggested it. And, the committee is all of us. (Yeah, right.) The vision isn't a shared vision, it is his vision. The vision doesn't need to stand up to public comment as all public comment happened with the private developers and the RFPs (Request for Proposals) and the pre-paperwork to qualify as to who can submit a RFP. There will be RFQs too, Requests for Qualifications.

RFQs are gatekeepers to screen out anyone who isn't able to play the 'cronie game' of kickbacks and secrecy.


Anonymous said...


Panel delivers advice to Bayou
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Staff Reporter

BAYOU LA BATRE -- After spending the past week studying the needs and economic potentials in this working-class seafood town, a panel of planning experts from across the country delivered its recommendations in a spirited presentation Friday morning.

Among the panelists' recommendations was that the city keep its docks, which Greenville developer Tim James had sought to buy last year before Hurricane Katrina put a hold on his plans by chilling investors. The panel recommended the city work to turn the docks area into a marina that serves as a base for recreational fishing, birding, canoeing and kayaking in the Grand Bay wilderness just next door.

The panel delivered its suggestions to about 90 city officials and Bayou residents at the Bayou La Batre Community Center early Friday.

"One of the most amazing things we found was that, for some reason, in the city's long history, hardly anyone seems to have crossed the bayou" and developed the wetlands and pine savanna on the west side of the waterway that gives the town its name, said Tom Murphy, one of the panelists and a former mayor of Pittsburgh.

The docks land is at the mouth of Portersville Bay, which opens to the Mississippi Sound. It's the best waterfront land the city has to offer, and it should be developed in a way that optimizes public access, rather than cutting off the public, he said.

"There were a lot of good ideas here today," said Mayor Stan Wright of the advice from the Urban Land Institute panel. The institute does about 20 such community planning workshops every year and is currently visiting Gulf Coast communities hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The hurricane flooded the Bayou on Aug. 29, tossing boats into swampland and temporarily crippling its seafood industry. Katrina also damaged or destroyed about 600 homes.

In a Powerpoint presentation that included color drawings by the panel's architect, Marshall A. Anderson of Birmingham, the panel presented a vision of a future Bayou in which boardwalks along the waterway connect coffee houses, seafood markets, bait shops and tall-windowed restaurants with Cajun bands playing inside.

Jack Luft, president of Luft Consulting in Sanibel, Fla., presented a verbal "tour" of the new Bayou as it could be in 10 years, including a row of galleries along Railroad Street with loft apartments where artists and artisans would live. Elsewhere, a row of small cafes and stores would offer Asian dishes and groceries.

In addition to grand visions, the panel delivered specific advice.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Murphy said it was imperative that city officials and business people become "Tom Sawyers." In Mark Twain's famous book, young Tom gets out of painting a fence by successfully convincing other children that it's fun to paint out in the sun and open air.

"You have to get everyone in town on a committee," Murphy said.

The city should also broaden the mission of its Community Development Board to include land acquisition, developer recruitment, financing assistance and insurance -- acting as a coordinator between city property owners, state insurance regulators, federal officials and insurers, said Mark Schneider of Fourth River Development in Pittsburgh.

Such proactive development boards "are how you attract real estate investors like me," Schneider said.

The panel didn't shy away from making uncomfortable recommendations.

Murphy told Mayor Stan Wright he should reform the city's business license fees, a major revenue source for the city. Murphy said the tax, which is based on a business' gross income, discourages business investment in the city because "businesses are taxed whether they make a profit or not." That must be changed to attract new businesses, he said.

In an interview after the meeting, Wright said he's currently unwilling to consider changing the business license because "the city couldn't survive without it right now." If in the future the city successfully attracts new investors and residents, "maybe we can talk about changing" the license fee, Wright said.

The panel also urged cooperation between Bayou La Batre and its neighboring community, Coden, which has a great deal of waterfront property. The community is also a traditional rival of the Bayou.

"I've never seen two neighboring communities so at each other's throats, and we're all cousins!" said state Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Bayou La Batre.

After the meeting, Collier talked to various Bayou residents, asking that they help him find a panel of Coden residents willing to talk about future planning.

"Even if we have to identify the community as Bayou La Batre-Coden, we need to get them on board because we can't move into the future without them, and they can't move into the future without the Bayou," Collier said.