BUZZ Blog: Why Rep. Roger Reinert opposes NorShor purchase
Peter Passi and Brandon Stahl cover issues related to the city of Duluth. Follow BUZZ on Twitter.
Representative Wet Blanket
If he were still on the city council, how would current Rep. Roger Reinert vote on the NorShor purchase tonight?
"It's unlikely I would support it," he said.
"To start, let me say that the opportunity to get the NorShor out of Eric [Ringsred's] hands and find a better future for the NorShor is very important," he said.
"To me," he said, "there are major questions around the value of the appraisal, the cost of reuse and rehabilitation. ... and I understand the issue about the skywalks and that's a valid issue, but there are questions around the appraisal and the cost of re-use."
Is that it?
"Maybe the most serious question is where do we go from here? What is the long-term plan? If the city still owns this 20 years from now, I'm not sure this was a wise decision. If it owns it for 18 months and then sells it to a private developer, a non-profit or the tribe, or if 18 months from now the Playhouse consolidates there, then that is exactly what city government should do."
"To me," he added, "the long-term use is the huge question mark."
Has he asked city councilors about what they've been told will be the long-term plans for the NorShor?
And the response?
"It varied," he said. "Which said to me is that there isn't a clear plan for this transition. Some had strong feelings for the transition, others were less clear as to what it should be, and others it wasn't that important."
So why would long-term city ownership of the NorShor be a problem?
"Number 1," he said, "government in general is not a good asset manager. It generally does not have the staff or skill set to do it. ... And number 2, the city has a lot of assets already that it struggles to manage and maintain, given the reduction of workforce and its reduced budget."
As examples, cited Reinert: parks, libraries and community centers.
So what? You ask. Reinert is a former city councilor. Why should his opinion have greater weight than any one else's? The answer: beside the fact that's he a democrat, is a good friend of the mayor's and is a supporter of the arts, the NorShor is in his district as a state representative. And the mayor has indicated he will seek state bonding money for renovating the NorShor, which would mean Reinert would be the key legislator to get that money.
And so if the city goes to Reinert to ask him to support bonding for the NorShor, what will Reinert do?
"If they make it the number one bonding request as part of the city's legislative agenda, I will honor that request," Reinert said. "But I do think it will be a very difficult request to have it be successful."
"Number one," he said, "given the fiscal nature of the state with a massive budget deficit, and there's ... no reason to think it will be any better for a decade."
And so, he added, "we'll still be making decisions based on must-haves versus nice-to-haves. And this is a nice-to-have. ... on the long list of bonding items, this shakes out toward the bottom and not the top, and that's tough love."
"State bonding dollars need to be invested in things of regional significance," he said. "And I think that would be a tough argument to make in these very stark budget times."
Allow me to translate: If Reinert won't be a cheerleader for NorShor bonding money in the legislature, the chances it has of getting approval goes from slim to none.