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May 21, 2005

So many questions, so little time...

Davenport alderpeople asked some good questions Thursday about the riverfront deal with Isle of Capri. Can they get them all answered by June 1, the date on which they're being pressured to vote?

Lots of questions concerned a $7 million slice of the $43 million deal. The IOC would lend the $7 mil to the city, which would would repay it by rebating $7 million in property taxes the new hotel would otherwise pay. Oh, yeah, the loan carries a 6.9 percent interest rate.

Use of the money? $3.1 million would pay to move the Rhythm City boat; $1.1 million would pay for rerouting utilities; $596,000 would go toward floodproofing the site, and so on.

Why doesn't the Isle just loan itself the $7 million and pay for moving the boat itself? That'd save the taxpayers the interest on the money.

Lots of questions, too, about the $32.8 million that's been negotiated as the property-tax assessment on the hotel. It was repeatedly described as a "minimum" assessment, which reflects wording in the agreement (Page 7). But the very next paragraph (a long one) describes $32.8 million as an assessment "ceiling" (Page 8) and says that if it goes up, the assessment on the boat will go down "dollar for dollar." What's up with that?

A couple of alderpeople said they'd like to see some data from some other towns that shows riverboat gambling operations really do mean money for shore-based merchants. I'm thinking hard data's going to be tough to come by.

Also coming in for quite a bit of criticism was the makeup of the "design review panel" that's supposed to insure a hotel, if one is built, isn't ugly. Four of the nine members would be IOC employees in one fashion or another. Of the remaining five members, two would be appointees of pro-deal mayor Charlie Brooke, one would be appointed by the downtown guys who favor the deal and one would be appointed by the Riverboat Development Authority, the director of which has been leading the charge for the hotel.

Speaking of the Riverboat Development Authority, its $5.1 million contribution to the $43 million total didn't come in for many questions, though it should.

The RDA, in case you don't know, is the entity that actually holds the gambling license used by the IOC in Davenport. The RDA gets a share of the gambling proceeds and awards grants intended to generally better the community. So far, some $35 million has been distributed to various good causes. List

Looks to me, though, like the $5.1 million will come out of future grants; that, is the RDA is going to have $5 million less for its assistance program.

Instead, the money will go for flood protection and other related work at the boat/hotel. Oh, yeah, and for interest, since the $5.1 million will be borrowed.

Given all the questions from the alderpeople, there's bound to be a third draft of the agreement. Assembling that and re-submitting it to the council, which may want to further dissect it, seems a lot to get done by June 1.

Especially when the stake is the riverfront for the next 100 years or more.

Posted by jcb at May 21, 2005 10:23 PM

Comments

If this was a good thing for the Davenport taxpayers, there wouldn't be such a rush. Even if nothing else about the agreement caused suspicion, this whole move to ram it through at warp speed would.

I feel like we're at the used-car lot, and the salesman is urging us, "Drive it away today!"

Posted by: Anonymous at May 23, 2005 09:53 AM

Well, not to pressure the citizens of Davenport, but there WAS somebody in earlier to test-drive the riverfront casino, and they were going to go home to talk to their wife. So if we really do want this deal, we'd better sign and sign quickly!

Of all the baloney about this, the most shameless is trotting out the old lie about how this is going to be a boon for downtown business. The current boat hasn't done much for downtown business. Nor have the boats in Rock Island and Bettendorf. But THIS time it's going to be different? Come on!

Posted by: Anonymous at May 23, 2005 11:53 AM

Cars and parking lots will be replaced with green park space.

The casino will forego their property tax abatement and Davenport will
get an extra $1 million per year in tax revenue even after all
improvements have been paid for.

Davenport will get about 5 acres out from under the lease and back in
our control.

It will keep tourists coming to our downtown and infusing dollars into
our local businesses.

Posted by: Wake Up at May 25, 2005 11:50 PM

Cars and parking lots will be replaced with green park space.

The casino will forego their property tax abatement and Davenport will
get an extra $1 million per year in tax revenue even after all
improvements have been paid for.

Davenport will get about 5 acres out from under the lease and back in
our control.

It will keep tourists coming to our downtown and infusing dollars into
our local businesses.

Posted by: Don't Blow It at May 25, 2005 11:52 PM