Thursday, June 5, 2008

RDC presentation of the Master Plan, Part 3

Following up on Wanda Halbert's request at the CIP hearing May 21, and Barbara Ware's concerns at the O&M hearing May 8, the RDC came before the Parks Committee Tuesday to explain themselves and the Master Plan. I have broken it into three sections. [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] This is Part 3, with Wanda Halbert's questioning.

Click here to read more.Click here to listen to the 10-minute audio of Part 3 (2.0 MB MP3). Here is the transcript:
HALBERT: Thank you; I do have a few questions.

Regarding the Master Plan, I’m a little confused because to me a Master Plan means one thing. A Master Plan generally sets the direction of a concept or an idea. But you all have said that your Master Plan is a planning guide that doesn’t outline every component of the plan. Well, what is the plan?

DUCKETT: It doesn’t outline every component of the activities of the RDC. The Plan outlines concepts to be further defined in terms of projects. It talked about open space. It talked about connecting the City to the river. It talked about projects. We then come back as a body and develop projects to meet the goals of the Plan. And when those projects would require funding we come to City Council, as part of the CIP process and ask for the funding. Just as Beale Street Landing. It was not mentioned…

LENDERMON: Yeah. It was mentioned conceptually as…as a circle basically. And what it looked like and how it was built and how it functioned had to be developed later. And does there need to be some kind of docking facility in the building…

DUCKETT: For purposes of RDC, the Master Plan is a planning guide, because there’s some…

HALBERT: I’m understanding a little better now, but I have to be honest with you and tell you what my concern is.

This belongs to the City. But we’re turning this into something else. I’m just telling you the perception that I’m getting. I’ve been very confused about what RDC is, and what its purposes…I mean who, what, when, where, how, why, how long… I’ve just been very confused. But what you just said has helped me understand. RDC is really kind of driving a lot of what happens down here. But the City should be driving what happens. And even if they want to engage a relationship with RDC and get you to help us implement it, then that would make much more sense to me as a City official. But right now, this looks like something else. And I don’t want to get into the detailed discussion about that because that’s something I need to hear from the administration, because..

My thinking is, somewhere in our administration, someone should have […] the background, the expertise to say, “Well Mayor I know this organization can help us put this concept together,” But that people in the administration should be working hand-in-hand with you, and the administration should be presenting what you all are ultimately presenting. Because for me, this really looks like, this is your all’s plan, this is RDC’s project, this is not a City project. And I just say that respectfully. And the mere fact that you delineated what that Master Plan is, it makes a lot more sense to me now.

DUCKETT: Yeah. If I could, what you’re saying, it’s a philosophical issue. I commend the City Mayor. He realized that in order to bring long-term stability to redesigning in the aggregate our riverfront, there needed to be a constant body that’s sole purpose was focusing on it. Now the checks and balances implicit in this design going forward was one: The way the entity was structured it is populated with officials from City government: The City Council chair, the Parks department chair, the CAO, and a number of other members. Two: Another check and balance is, we can’t do anything without coming to this body, and asking this body for the funding. So that’s another check and balance on what we, as a 501(c)(3) independent body is doing. Now what we might need to do a better job of is, as we talk about projects, make sure we keep you the City Council better apprised of the projects we are thinking, before we come and dump it on you as a request for funding.

HALBERT: I agree that you all have the expertise and the ability, but still, RDC should not be driving what is presented to this Council. The administration of the City government needs to be driving that. Even if they have gone into meetings, and you all have made joint decisions…that’s a little sticky for me, because…

DUCKETT: I think I understand what you’re saying.

HALBERT: …because this is looking like an RDC project, and I didn’t understand that. And it is not just RDC. There are some other projects throughout the City, you know, Zoom. Some of what the Council members, some of us being new, I mean we don’t know what all this history is, and it’s just not quite making a whole lot of sense. It’s almost appearing as if the City has basically turned over facets of the City to different organizations, but then they got to come back to us, and we got to fund it and…I mean, I just want to say, someone told me you used to work for the city. Heck I would have loved to see you work for the City and do some of this FOR the City.

LENDERMON: I worked for the City 25 years.

HALBERT: Well, I’m talking about this kind of project because when I hear a Cindy Buchanan or some of these other directors talk about the expertise in these management groups... I mean the management used to be our management and now you’re outside of management and you’re the one who knows how to do all of this. And so it almost looks like were paying twice, for something should have been doing as a City administration anyway.

And then, two final comments that I have and I know we’re short on time, and we’re going to have t at some time to come back, because now it makes me bring up some more questions that I have for the administration, but on these changes: Has the Council been made aware of all of the changes, and not only be made aware of them, but VOTED on the changes, because I did hear the word, “apprised.” So I need to get the administration to tell us, where did this come from, where was it when it was first developed, how has it changed since first developed, and the fact that the Council has approved those changes, because that’s a little cloudy for me.

And then, during these budget hearings, you all talked about a parking lot. Is that parking lot supposed to take up part of Tom Lee Park, or

DUCKETT: It’s part of the Beale Street Landing project.

LENDERMON: It’s not in there [on screen], it must be somewhere else. There’s a 50 car parking lot that’s adjacent to, that’s incorporated with the Beale Street Landing CIP project. As compared to…the parking lot that exists there now is 120 cars. You see [points to screen], that is the park as it exists now, and right here there’s a little 50 car parking garage [sic], this is the green roof, this is a building, this is again two acres of Tom Lee Park, and the built-out four acres. But this little 50 acre [sic] parking lot right here, landscaped real heavily right here, open here so that it will accommodate Memphis in May. But we feel there has to be some parking somewhere near there for people to access the boats.

HALBERT: But again, that should not be your decision. That should be coming [from] and driven by City administration. And if that’s what they feel we need then they have their expertise already on board, they need to come to you and ask, “How can we make this happen?” But it’s just looking like…

LENDERMON: Understand. But the parking there specifically…our project at first didn’t include any parking. The City Council asked us to include parking.

HALBERT: I hope you all understand what I’m saying. This just does not appear to be a City project. This appears to be an RDC project. And the final comment that I have is, also during the budget hearing… I mean I asked the question because I didn’t know what this was. Who are you? Where did you come from? How long are you going to be here? How long are we going to be dealing with this? And you all said that the Master Plan was a 50 year plan, but we have five-year increments [of] contracts with RDC.

I can understand putting together a concept that we think may take up to 50 years. But we hire the experts to come in and, here’s our direction, this is what we need to do, whether we agree to it together… But if this is going to be going on for 50 years, I mean even though we’re approving it five years, to me the City needs show, where is your ownership of this? What is the CITY’S direction? It’s just…that to me is where some of the confusion is coming from. I don’t see…what I see in you, the leadership in you and the expertise; I need to be seeing that for the City. And I’m missing that. And I’m going to talk to the Mayor, and I hope his administration is listening. They need to have ownership of this, and they need to tell us, where are we going with this. I mean, I’m feeling like other entities OWN the City’s business. And that’s just how it looks to me. And again it’s not just the RDC it’s throughout the City. And we’ve got to address that because that part…I want [???] and Orange Mound to look just like Tom Lee. But nobody’s talking about that because they’re only interested in what’s happening downtown. My neighborhood doesn’t look like that.

[MEETING ADJOURNS]


Comments

Apart from all the spin, there is a misrepresentation here that I cannot let stand without clarification.

Lendermon says the there was no parking lot originally and that City Council asked for the parking lot.

While there may not have been a parking lot in the original contest submission from Argentina, there has long been a parking lot in the subsequent, evolving design of Beale Street Landing. Originally it was to be underneath the restaurant. Due to water table levels, it was later decided not to be feasible there, and it was replaced some time last year by outside parking covering a section of Tom Lee Park. The City Council did not ask for it. It came as a big surprise to them when it was noticed in a City Council committee meeting last fall.

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