Aug 26, 2011
Arena Gets Press Pass
The Mayor must be happy with the series of Morning Call feature articles about his palace of sport. Although written by two reporters, there is not one critical word. The articles gloss over the fact that the arena has grown from a $80 million project to now include an event center, and a price tag of $175 million. This has occurred before the first shovel of dirt has been lifted, or the first word of public input. Speaking of dirt, none has been disclosed. Last month, the displaced merchants were dismissed as selling "discount" clothes and "cheap" electronics. Visit Target in South Whitehall, and see the men's shirts for $4.99. While in the western suburb, stop in at the AT&T by Starbucks, and get a GO phone for $9.95, we're all discount consumers. The articles might have included the expense of Pawlowski's previous location at the river-front. There, we stole the Neuweiler Brewery from the lawful owner, but paid $800,000 for the garage behind it, owned by a roofer. We also purchased a furniture plant further south on Front Street, taking all three properties off the tax rolls. Talking of taxes, in the fine print, Pat Browne discloses that property taxes can be used for Pawlowski's Palace of Sport, if necessary. I suspect as this project seems to know no limits, it will be necessary. How will earned income tax from the poorest section of Allentown pay the debt service on a $200 million dollar bond? At some point in time, the arena will get very expensive for the taxpayers. Other municipalities have learned, just because you build it, it doesn't mean that they will come. Competition for entertainment dollars is stiff. Don't be fooled by the enthusiasm of a team owner or an arena operator, it's not their money. In early presentations we were sacrificing the merchants, we're now gambling our taxes, which currently go for needed public service. As it becomes necessary to use the property taxes for the arena, will the city, county and school districts cut back their budgets? Due diligence and public discussion may have anticipated that this plan may well result in tax increases, as the current taxes are siphoned off for debt service. But there was no public discussion, nor even scrutiny by the press.
Bernie O'Hare received an advance copy of this post, and is preparing a sequel for next week