I attended last night's city council meeting and learned my concerns were all for nothing.
According to the council the agreement they approved unanimously (4-0 Mr. Fox was absent) last night had very little to do with the Potrero Overpass Project. The agreement was actually just an update to Caltrans' master plan, last updated in 1952.
We were assured the agreement doesn't lock the city into completing any project.
We were told a financing plan must be in place before the project will go out to bid.
We were told it would be illegal for the design firm to take part in the management or construction of the project.
After Councilman Castaldo grilled the city manager, we obtained assurances no CFD fees would be used to fund this project; no taxes would be raised on any Beaumont citizens without 2/3 of voters approving the taxes; and without a solid financial plan, yet to be developed, no one would build the project anyways.
Mr. Castaldo showed us with a little simple math that if fees recently received from a new Beaumont business were extrapolated based on the remaining available space for development, the city could easily raise $50 million.
Mr. Kapanicas told us he believed that once the overpass was built that the county would come in and finish the remaining projects and complete the route from SR-60 to Highland Springs providing drivers a viable option to the existing I-10 SR-60 Interchange. And, even if the county doesn't follow their previously announced plans to build the new Potrero Rd, the city will always have the overpass.
I learned there are plans for a Victoria Gardens type mall in the pass area and the Potrero project will put Beaumont in a better position than any of our neighbors to lure the new mall.
All is well...My Work Here is Done. Well, maybe not quite yet.
I asked the city council to move slowly and make sure a detailed financial plan has been presented to the community before moving forward. Earlier in the meeting the city manager and Mayor Berg were praising how the city manager's report indicated the city's sales tax revenue was holding strong. Mr. Berg took credit for the council's work on developing the 2nd street businesses (WalMart, Kohls, etc.). I asked them to focus on bringing more new business that would increase sales tax revenue. I said I believed warehouses and distribution centers didn't generate sales taxes and were the wrong kind of business they should be focusing on bringing to Beaumont.
It seems our city council members believe the entire Potrero project can be financed with fees on new business. Mayor Berg believes the warehouse and distribution center projects will foot the bill for the Potrero project and bring desperately needed jobs.
I read last week the Sketchers warehouse in Moreno Valley actually resulted in a net loss of 300 jobs. 600 Sketcher employees relocated to Moreno Valley to work in the new facility and after Sketchers automated the facility, 300 jobs were eliminated. It doesn't sound like any Moreno Valley workers were ever employed and the city actually gained 300 more unemployed workers. This isn't the type of job growth Beaumont needs.
I wonder how many new business will move to Beaumont knowing their fees will be the major source of funding for the $78 million overpass. I believe the businesses with higher paying jobs and potential for significant sales tax income will be lured by our neighbors with financial incentives, not higher fees. Our neighbors won't be saddled with the debt of a major highway project, they will have plenty of warehouse and distribution center space in Beaumont to offer new businesses for their products. They will be able to offer incentives; the sales tax revenue and quality jobs will not be coming to Beaumont.
This strategy appears to run counter to Mr. Kapanicas vision that Beaumontians won't be driving to Yucaipa, Calimesa or Banning for shopping and jobs.
Did you ever wonder what Potrero means in spanish?
- (dehesa) pasture
- America cattle ranch
- Argentina playground (in a vacant lot)