Yesterday, city council patted themselves about the land swap deal they made. In the land swap, the city pays another city entity, the PSB, for land to swap with the Rescue Mission. Let us take a quick look at how we got to this point. The homeless shelter negotiated to sell their land to TXDOT because the state transportation department needed the land for roadwork. After the Rescue Mission sold its land, it took the money and bought another piece of land to continue their operations.
None of this had anything to do with city council. You read that right, there was no reason for city council to purchase land from itself.
However, politics are a strange thing.
The city buys land using capital funds from a predetermined project arguing it will get its money back when it sells the land it swapped at a later date. In other words, the city purchased land from itself to allow it to swap it for land that the Rescue Mission agreed to take. Did the Rescue Mission ask for the land swap?
No, the Rescue Mission bought a piece of land that was properly zoned for what it needed. The piece of land is in full compliance with all of the rules and regulations imposed by city council. The problem has nothing to do with city council except that some very important people (VIPs) do not want the Rescue Mission in their neighborhood.
That is the nexus to city council voting to buy land from itself and using your money to do it with. It wants to serve the needs of a special interest group and to do so it needs to spend your money. Even more egregious is that city council is paying itself for the land because the PSB is part of the city and funded by the same taxpayers, you.
As usual, there was much pontificating about how this is a good deal for everyone and that it will not cost the taxpayers anything.
The politicians, Oscar Leeser and Cortney Niland namely argued that there is no tax increase to the taxpayers. What they conveniently ignore is that the neutral impact on the taxpayers is based on the notion that the land will sell at a later date. If the land does not sell then the money used to purchase it must be reimbursed to the capital project. The politicians conveniently ignored this inconvenient fact during their pontifications.
You might remember that there is some controversy over the 2012 Quality of Life estimates for the pools and city council is now facing the need to scale back the projects or find monies elsewhere. This land swap deal is exactly the same thing. City council is making all sorts of promises about how it is a good deal and taxpayer neutral. However, the fact is that you, the taxpayer, is funding it and you will be the ones to pay for it if the plans do not come to fruition. All of this because a special interest group did not want a legally compliant Rescue Mission on their doorstep.
“Everyone is going to win here.” Remember this comment by Cortney Niland as the reality of the land not selling in the future sinks in.