Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Good to be the King: Proposal would make Hotel Construction Illegal Anywhere - Except Downtown

The idea stemmed from a roundtable meeting with Charleston's mayor earlier this year when local leaders asked for advise on bringing more hotels downtown. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley told leaders, "that's easy, we made it illegal everywhere else." -http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20111206/articles/111209848?p=1&tc=pg
Charleston, South Carolina - the pinnacle to which all of our elitist downtown leaders all agree that we should be so lucky to aspire to, does things a little bit different. The above quote from long-time Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston pertained to the question of how is it possible to attract hotel construction only in the central downtown district?

Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI), everybody's favorite quasi-government downtown lobby organization, recently suggested that the clear way to prompt downtown growth is by creating a flurry of hotel construction there - and the way to do that is to limit the free market, and make it illegal to construct hotels elsewhere in Wilmington - exempting of course a couple of the other developments operated by members of the insiders club, such as Autumn Hall and Mayfaire.
The public/private economic group has proposed a text amendment to the city's land development code that would prevent new hotel growth in the city except for in the Central Business District, Mayfaire Town Center, Autumn Hall and along the Riverfront. 
"Moving this proposal forward would limit growth and congestion," Wilmington Downtown Inc. President and CEO John Hinnant said. "This is ultimately a decision that will have a positive impact down the road."
The question is, a positive impact for who? A cursory investigation reveals that the same players involved in the northern downtown development projects in proximity to the convention center, are the same players involved in Autumn Hall and Mayfaire, not coincidentally chosen for protection by WDI. In addition, these firms are also charter members of WDI. In the minds of WDI and its members and benefactors, this proposal has a two-fold advantage - giving downtown Wilmington an unfair advantage in the market, and creating market protection for WDI's most illustrious members' projects. The 17th Street hospital corridor is also given a nod of approval from Hinnant - not coincidentally the hospital board also contains some of the same key players involved in the other areas surrounding WDI.

This proposal represents the very worst about these unelected, faceless, bureaucratic agencies that make decisions for all of us with no accountability or fear of retribution from voters. Spineless city and county leaders often allow free reign to groups like WDI, who receive a fair sum of taxpayer dollars every single year, but have absolutely no accountability to taxpayers.

Possibly an advantage for WDI, Wilmington Planning Commission Chairman Chris Boney's firm, LS3P Architects, just so happens to be a partner with WDI. In addition, Wilmington City Council members such as Kevin O'Grady, Laura Padgett, and Mayor Bill Saffo have shown a propensity for allowing an unfair advantage to downtown in order to support their agenda, such as a vibrant taxpayer-funded convention center, which forecasts now show to operate in the red indefinitely.

At first glance, the proposal seems ludicrous; but it takes a more sinister turn. If private, unelected citizens such as Hinnant, who just so happen to be a part of an organization with lobbying muscle at City Hall can finagle with regulation and zoning for their own personal benefit, and for the financial benefit of those in their camp, then where does it end? If other parts of Wilmington not targeted for their own personal agendas start to show signs of growth that they warrant as unfriendly to their goals, perhaps using the long arm of the regulatory law to shut them down would level the playing field for their own ends.

Again, internal politics at the city level is shown to be quite Soviet in its implementation. 17% of voters gave a nod of approval to the status quo last month, which greenlights this sort of initiative. This proposal is a prime example of the elitist few centrally planning the fate and environment of the masses; without accountability, and without any fear of retribution from the public. Taxpayer-funded agencies such as WDI and WID have for long been a chief planning, policy-making, and regulatory body that operates in the shadow of City Hall, and without the nasty impacts and scrutiny that public officials are subject to. In turn, public officials gladly keep stocking these agencies with cash to do their dirty work.

Despite the shockingly long amount of time this practice has continued to be the modus operandi of city government, voters still by and large sit home at election day, and completely abdicate their duty to hold government responsible for its excesses and creative ethics.
Hinnant said the proposed prevention of building hotels in certain areas is just one possible way to lure more hotels downtown.
He said he expects it to be controversial but that sometimes politics need to be put aside to clear the way for future planning.
"At some point we all have to be accountable for our decisions," he said. "A lack of regulation is how we got to where we are on places like Market Street and Carolina Beach Road."
Flaws in logic aside, given that disallowing hotels anywhere but downtown won't necessarily prevent them from locating completely outside of our city altogether; Hinnant demonstrates his complete ineptitude in understanding the role of government in a free market. His glib statement of it simply being "politics" that would create a controversy is telling. The argument is purely economic - not political. A free market is only free when it is left to its own devices unhindered. The beauty of this system is that it puts you and I - the consumer - at the top of the heap as the final decision maker as to what lives and dies economically; not some second-rate elitist bureaucrat hack, hell-bent on using every resource at his disposal to tilt the entire local economy to spill out favors to his cronies and allies.

Perhaps the most ironic of all, is Hinnant's statement, "At some point we all have to be accountable for our decisions". This - from a man who conveniently operates completely unaccountable to anyone for anything. He receives large sums of taxpayer cash year after year - and has no obligation to answer them for it. He is able to move in the shadows, undetected, without the spotlight of public awareness or impending elections to hold his feet to the fire. This - from a man who used the official WDI credit card account - paid for with the hard-earned tax dollars we contributed to government - to pay for booze, cigars, and groceries, and had absolutely no accountability for it.

Finally, Hinnant laments a "lack of regulation", referring to the vibrant hotel businesses within certain corridors of our city other than downtown. It was a healthy free market climate that offered the prime conditions for these businesses to thrive; but it will be the stroke of a pen from some progressive, "smart-growth" schmuck like Hinnant that will finish it off.

Someone who can point to an economically healthy sector in this current day and age, and castigate it as a negative because it doesn't fit within his scope of a centrally planned laboratory experiment that only serves to enrich himself and his buddies, is no friend to economic prosperity.

However, given the turnout of last month's local election, it seems like these policies will continue to rule the day unchecked, and voter apathy will once again sign over tacit approval for all things corrupt and counter to the basic ideas of liberty and prosperity.

1 comment:

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