Conservative Viewpoints

"Government is not the solution…it is the problem" -Ronald Reagan

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Reynolds, Smith, Dowdy introduce new ploy to use tax dollars on Wayne

Posted by Stephen on April 23, 2007

This day was inevitable. There was no way the big three of Waynesboro City Council was going to be denied the chance to fund the Wayne Theatre. 

Tom Reynolds stated that he “can’t think of a better way to spend these funds that we’ve found.” With that said council women Nancy Dowdy, Lorie Smith, and Reynolds found a way to use tax payer dollars to fund the Wayne Theatre Project, and this time they will ignore the fundamental responsibilities of government spending and the needs of the city long enough to push their agenda through.

This is the same Wayne Theatre that Dowdy and Smith took off the agenda two weeks ago. This is the same Wayne Theatre that Dowdy, Smith and City Council voted to release to a private developer so that they might be able to take advantage of grants available to them. This is the same Wayne Theatre that voters were told was not going to come before citizens again.

The untruths, mixed messages, flip flopping of positions, and manipulation of the tax payers of Waynesboro lives on as the voting contingency of Reynolds, Dowdy, and Smith continues to grow and solidify itself as a tax, borrow and spend block that refuses to set limits on pet projects that they will spend your money on.

To be clear, a little more than $400,000 of unspent tax revenue was discovered by City Manager Doug Walker. Reynolds, Dowdy, and Smith pounced on the chance to direct $300,000 of those tax dollars toward the Wayne.

More troubling than their reckless fiscal behavior is the way in which they are attempting to manipulate the public. Reynolds stated that, by law, the city has to fix the roof on the Wayne because it is a city owned building. First, the council voted to transfer ownership to the EDA so that it could be transferred to a private developer for the WTA. The transfer was unanimously passed. At no time has there ever been a claim by the city that the roof, by law, must be fixed before the transfer.

“There was no discussion of the need to fix the roof before we voted on transfer of it,” said Frank Lucente.

Reynolds went on to state that perhaps the WTA would decide they didn’t want the building and in that case the city would be stuck with it. Unfortunately, this shameless attempt to scare the public into thinking the sky is falling and we must come to the rescue of the Wayne is baseless. At no time in the last three years has the WTA ever stipulated that they would only be interested in the Wayne if the city repaired the roof. Quite the contrary.

During a flurry of action in December of 2006 and January of this year the WTA updated City Council on their state of affairs and alerted Council that they were preparing to take ownership of the building. There was no mention of the roof or any other pending need that would prevent them from asking for ownership of the building. In March the WTA provided an update on fundraising attempts and at that time stated they were prepared to receive ownership of the Wayne. Additionally, they stated transferring ownership to a private developer was essential for the success of the project. Not a single word was uttered by the WTA explaining that they would only take the building if the roof were fixed. In fact, the WTA had full knowledge of the roof’s condition from the start.

Reynolds’ contention that the city must fix the roof only exasperates the fact that the city is already giving the building away. If the roof is fixed at tax payer expense, are Reynolds, Smith and Dowdy prepared to ask the WTA to then purchase the building at a cost equivalent to the repair costs since they are now receiving a building in much better condition than they originally agreed to take for free?

Of course not, because that would fly in the face of what has clearly been on their agenda since last summer.

Dowdy attempted to feebly suggest that the funds they ‘found’ were not tax payer funds, not really. It should be no surprise to anyone that members of this City Council cannot define what tax dollars are or where they come from. However, do not let such sideways comments confuse you. These are your tax dollars that were taken from you to spend on something that they decided not to fund.

Frank Lucente suggested that the money be placed in the Capital Reserve Fund, but Smith, Dowdy, and Reynolds would have none of that because that too would take away from an agenda they have been working on behind closed doors since last year’s election campaigns began, despite their attempts to suggest otherwise.

Smith, whose campaign was financed and managed by leaders of the WTA, suggested that it would cost the city a minimum of $300,000 dollars to do nothing with the building. That is the expense of tearing the building down if nobody wanted it. That might be worth considering if there were no takers for the building or if this City Council was suggesting they were attempting to sell the building and there were no takers because of a bad roof.

Once again, however, the fact is, City Council is giving away the building to the WTA because the WTA wants the building and has been prepared to take the building as-is. After all, they are getting the building for free, and rest assured this City Council’s big three will extend tax exemptions to them for the unforeseeable future.

Dowdy attempted to defend this calculated move by council’s majority by telling tax payers that this was about economic development and that tax payers would get their money back. She inferred that the theatre would be self sustaining and that it would lead to an economic boom downtown. She has nothing to base her findings on, not that facts, figures, or plans are of interest to her. The principle under which she operates simply states “if I want it, fund it. If there isn’t enough revenue, raise taxes. Don’t want to raise taxes than borrow the money.”

That is what happens when government does not approach spending with a business model in mind. That is what happens when a government official doesn’t understand the concept of scarcity. That is what happens when government does not see tax payer dollars as a precious commodity and a finite resource.

The fact of the matter is, such risky investments have not proven to be self sustaining. Ask Staunton whether theatres in their community are self sustaining.

What Reynolds, Dowdy, and Smith have clearly done is discover a way to take tax payer dollars and put it toward a private enterprise while other needs in the city, that aren’t as high on their personal agendas, languish. In doing so, they are clearing the way to request tax dollars for operating expenses at some point in the very near future.

While they will claim otherwise, charging that those are unfair assumptions, tax payers should remember that they are the same people who said this issue would not come before council again. These are some of the same people that voted in favor of a resolution not to be a primary funder of private enterprise.

The only thing tax payers can be sure of is that Reynolds, Dowdy, and Smith will do whatever is necessary to promote their personal agendas with little regard for the impact on tax payers. That too should be no surprise to citizens.

Stephen Winslow is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.


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