Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo released a stunning visual presentation of his proposed new $135 million event center last week, but he refuses to show the full report that reveals the details. Usually, the devil always hides in the details.
Mayo has refused repeated public requests to see the detailed report that the city has so far paid $700,000 to see. He says the public would tear the whole idea apart, piece by piece if the details were known.
The public needs to be convinced that the project is feasible. Can it be built, and most importantly, can it be maintained in the years ahead? Is it practical?
To answer those questions, the city commissioned an $800,000 feasibility study and has paid all but $100,000 to architects and consultants. The city has received the report, but it has something in it that is so controversial that the Mayor won’t release it until after he is re-elected.
A feasibility study tells both the upside and downside of a proposal. The Mayo Administration freely shares slides and presentations that show the proposal’s “Upside” but hides the “downside.” Last week’s presentation showed no downsides at all, only the possibilities.
The upsides are attractive. The new event center will include 200 hotel rooms in a modern building that seat about 7,500 people. It is proposed to generate sales tax revenue upwards of $3 million a year. Private and public sources will put up millions for economic development, naming rights, and other incentives. It sounds great.
The “upside” sounds even better when Mayo’s KEDM radio projections last month are added. The Mayor said that the event center will provide 500 full-time jobs and employ over 1,000 people in its construction. He said last week that he has identified a secret source of $50 million for the project, and that source won’t require any new taxes or new bonds. “It won’t cost you a dime,” the Mayor said.
The dark source of $50 million of private money creates public suspicion. The Mayor won’t tell because loose lips sink ships.
However, tight lips fuel rumors. What devil is hiding in the details of Mayo’s plan? The rumor mill is churning out one answer: Casino Gambling.
In the absence of the feasibility study, the rumor mill whispers that Diamond Jacks Casino is trying to leave Bossier City. A recent push by Charles Theus and the Southside Economic Development District to get clearance for a Riverboat Casino tied to a possible Diamond Jack Casino on the Ouachita failed. He tried to hide the Diamond Jack connection to his plan, but it got out, and it died an instant death.
A new event center along the riverfront, tied to a casino, could provide 500 full-time jobs and enough patronage to fill 200 hotel rooms and generate $3 million annually in sales tax revenue. For a multitude of reasons, the casino idea, if revealed, could die a slow death, picked apart piece by piece.
That’s all rumor. No one in the administration has publicly endorsed the casino idea. However, the absence of information feeds the rumors. The public doesn’t like the unknown.
If gambling is not the source of the event center, then the Mayor should kill that rumor quickly because the rumors destroy public confidence and spread fear of hidden details.
The public has seen many failed ideas during this administration, including the infamous three-wheeled V-Car factory, indoor hockey, indoor football, a race track, and others that flared up and fizzled.
Those who drive past the Monroe Civic Center see the dilapidated, rat-infested, remains of what was once the Howard Johnson hotel. It was constructed to profit from events at the Monroe Civic Center. As Civic Center events dwindled, the hotel died.
In the minds of many, that eyesore, a stone’s throw away from the present center, is a reminder of what could be if we are not careful. That’s why any new venture requires full disclosure. No one wants another failed project.
We’ve watched the facilities and attractions that we own decline because of poor maintenance and neglect. The public needs the assurance that this project will not end up on the trash heap of other failed plans.
Without the full details, and full transparency, doubts will fester into opposition fed by the sneaky suspicion that the Mayor may be hiding something that we need to know.
If he can’t be trusted to lay all of the cards on the table and reveal the upside and the downside of his project, trust will disappear.
Without trust and full transparency, the whole event center idea, and possibly his re-election, will dry up like a raisin in the sun.