Monday, October 5, 2009

Dickert Derails Corinne Reid-Owens Project

KRM vs. Corinne Reid-Owens Project

Even before its appointed time, the decision has been made. Racine City citizens, you are officially on hold. Now, how does that burn?

Mayor Dickert has decided to put the economic development of Racine’s inner city on hold. The proposed redevelopment of the 1300th block of State Street, an area adjacent to the Transit Center, has been officially stamped ‘postponed’. The project, to be labeled the Corinne Reid-Owens Square, is a community supported effort to ‘make more’ out of Racine, providing brand new residential quarters and prime commercial space.

But, today, Dickert has clarified: you can’t always get what you want, at least not until the Mayor gets what he wants.

Scheduled to meet October 7th, the Racine Redevelopment Authority and Racine-native, real estate developer, Brent Oglesby, had an appointment to decide whether or not Oglesby would be allowed to move forward with the Corinne-Reid Owens Square Project. Already a deferred engagement, Oglesby looked forward to the opportunity to passionately advocate the needs and benefits associated with bringing newness and restoration to Racine’s inner city. But, right before he got the chance, Mayor Dickert publically made the decision: a big fat no; “the city has no plans to develop.” Ouch!

So, what was the point of even setting up a meeting in the first place? Community advocate, Alfonso Gardner zealously states, “Why have economic development committees, when the final decision isn’t even in their hands? Obviously, the mayor has the authority to kill projects or let them go through. I feel, as a taxpaying citizen, that the minority community is being cheated!” That being considered, in light of an obvious injustice, must we now question the real role of our elected mayor and to what degree his ‘power’ extends? According to Gardner, the answer is yes: “The mayor and his administration are playing games; there should be no game playing. I will fight for the project until the last breath in my body; Ms. Reid-Owens should be honored [exactly in the way Oglesby has presented].”

So, now we come to this question: why is such a promising project being delayed? Why is a young African American real estate developer begin told ‘no’ when all he wants to do is bring more jobs, affordable housing and aesthetic appeal to his hometown? And why is he being robbed of the opportunity to even advocate his position? According to our newly elected mayor, the progress and prosperity of Racine’s inner city hinges on a final decision regarding the Kenosha Racine Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail; a wait that could be up to two years from now!

Why is that, you ask? Well, in recent press release, dated October 5th, Mayor Dickert doesn’t exactly say. Yet, in an obviously desperate attempt to soothe over any red-hot opposition, he includes the weak advocacy of memorializing Ms. Reid-Owens in some way, in a future project. “…while there are not current plans for developing the site, by the city, any future project will include a tribute to Ms. Owens.” Dickert also goes so far as to indirectly and misleadingly associating State Representative Bob Turner with the decision made, making the first sentence of his press release read as so: “Mayor Dickert and State Representative Bob Turner announced today that Corinne-Reid Owens will be memorialized as a part of the design of any project, on State Street, that is constructed next to the train station.” Why even mention Representative Turner? Who is he when it comes to the decisions of the city? In his own words, recorded October 6th, Turner stresses the fact that he doesn’t have any weight concerning the city’s decision; yet he fully supports proceeding forward with the proposed project, clearly stating, “If I was on city council, I would yell and scream in support of that project. This project should go forward.”

So, the African American support Dickert was looking to recruit is, yes, in favor of commemorating Corinne Reid-Owens, but not years from now. State Representative Turner advocates fully the project ‘the way it’s supposed to be.” That vital piece of information seemed not to make its way into Dickert’s press release; instead, Turner is positioned as an advocate for postponement – however, this is just not the case. Sorry Dickert.

All in all, one could conjure up a slew of reasons why Dickert says no to the immediate, much-needed edification of Racine’s inner city. Perhaps postponing any development, in lieu of a decision regarding KRM, is to avoid bringing in African American residents that may make Racine look bad, should the commuter rail have to stop at the nearby train station? Or, perhaps, the willing heart of Brent Oglesby is just too young a heart? Regardless of Dickert’s inner reasons, the citizens of the City of Racine need to demand an explanation. Why is our inner city development dependent upon the hope for a commuter rail that may not even come? What should we do while we wait? Continue to decline? How about a shower of hope? How about giving Racine a collective goal we can all work toward? How about giving local and minority contractors some extra work in the next couple of years? How about providing decent, affordable housing to those who’d really appreciate it? How about encouraging commercial expansion in the inner city, and among the minority communities? How about it, Mayor Dickert? We see development all over the city…how about the new brick sidewalks downtown? What are those going to do for the community compared to Oglesby’s project? Nothing; yet there was no delay in having them laid. Must more be said?

Basically, we wind down to this conclusion: Dickert says no, Racine says why?

Case open.


Anonymous said...

Gardner pays taxes in Mt. Pleasant. If you support the city so much, try moving into it.

Denis Navratil said...

Ken, the property in question may increase in value by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Should that increased value go to the taxpayers that own it, or to Brent Oglesby? As I understand this issue, Oglesby would have a "hold" on this property for 18 months. If the property value were to increase, he would have himself a sweetheart deal. If it didn't increase in value, he could walk. Giving Oglesby or anyone else this deal would be corrupt, plain and simple. Is corruption OK with you so long as the spoils go to a black person? I sure hope not.

Downtown Brown said...

Clearly the best solution, if the land is on the city rolls is to offer it to the highest bidder. The new owner can then sell or propose whatever development they feel is appropriate for their own lot. Neither Dickert nor Turner should predetermine what goes in that location unless it's going to be a public park. The immediate area there is holding it's breath for the KRM train. I suggest they begin looking for things to improve the area. The idea that a train station 2 blocks from a prison, not close to the shopping/ or touristy area is going to bring folks to visit our city is delerium. Nor is it likely to bring a mass of commuters wanting to drive and park there.
In the current economic times are we really gonna spend 100 million dollars to build this train? We are not. There are too many other choices, which are less costly including the most likely choice of not building anything. But to give Mr. O a special reservation seems unfair regardless of race.

Urban Pioneer said...

I have thought for some time the State St. area just across from Dania Hall and the new Church area would be a great mid-upscale shopping area primarily targeted at the African American community. Sort of a mini "Harlem". I don't think the District could extend to Memorial with the King Plaza, Merchants, and the school in the way. So either it's gonna be East or West of that intersection..and the East direction makes more sense. It was a prosperous shopping area at one time, and the main buildings are architecturally very nice. I would suggest Mr. Oglesby should target his Owens project there where buildings already exist. Let Mr. O and the banks work it out with Nelson electric, et al
Good luck. If the city want to dedicate a park to Ms. Owens they can choose that at the Council level.

Anonymous said...

Ken - Damon Dorsey here. Great article. As you know I initiated the CO project and I am very much dissappointed that the new Mayor of Racine doesn't support this project. Fact is, nothing was happening on that site until Al and I proposed this project three years ago. Since we proposed the project much as happened; a Great Recession, Old Mayor busted, WHEDA denies that Racine needs affordable housing and now a new Mayor that has determined that waiting for a pie in the sky dream like KRM is worth waiting for more investment and jobs. A sad day for Racine. Also, the value of the land is unlikely to go up anytime soon, even if there is a KRM stop at the site. This Mayor couldn't worked with Brent to get this project done but instead he became hostile towards him. I think Racine needs to take a good look at their new Mayor and really ask "is he what we need for the future" or is someone like Brent Olgesby what we need for the future.

Downtown Brown said...

Damon, interesting comments. Glad you agree with my KRM assessment. I was glad to see the Council set the decision aside for now on this project. Either put the land up for sale to any buyer, or don't sell it to anyone. If Mr. O has the cash to buy the land put a cash proposal on the table and get the land off the City rolls. Then Mr. O put your plan together. I HOPE we don't have anymore Low Income property's in our City. NONE. Fair market value, without ANY Govt. subsidy makes sense. We have plenty of projects around town looking for tenants. We don't need any more competition in that arena. ESPECIALLY at the Low income end. Racine doesn't need to encourage any more Low income people to our community until we get our unemployment rolls down to 4 or 5%, and our occupancy rates level out. But I am in favor of any fully private development, without regards to special status for minority or Govt. set asides. If that happens Mr. O. you will have my support to keep the City Council out of your way when it comes time to build.
Some will want to accuse me of being Anti-Low income people..I am not, and the best way to help those Low income people is to improve the choices they have rather than dilute the choices they have. I haven't heard any Rental agency that is at full capacity.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, mr. Oglesby did offer $75,000
for the parcel.

Downtown Brown said...

Mr. O bid's $75,000. Do I hear more?? The highest bidder should get it.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't have to be just for black people; affordable housing and job opportunity can be for white and brown people too. I agree, NO HOUSING! It encourages the wrong crowd. If Oglesby wants to create an equal opportunity fir the citizens of the city of Racine, and if he wants to encourage the city's economic development, let's let HIM do it. Who else has stepped to the plate? Are they as serious as Oglesby is? Who cares about property value? It's community we should be thinking about - it's the people, not the dollars, that matter. If Mr. O makes a few extra bucks, so what? Good for him - he's trying to do more than us got this city. Dickert's not a very sharp cookie when it comes to politics... Ah well... Anyway, let's create dome new oportunity in this city before it goes to the dogs. We can keep praying got this so called commuter rail in the mean time.