Today's (better-late-than-never) Winner: City council member Nick Licata.
Licata, along with fellow grassroots activists like John Fox, was among the most vocal opponents of the city's decision to buy the Pacific Place Garage, for $73 million ($23 million more than it cost to build), in 1997—part of a deal with developers to build the Pacific Place mall and move Nordstrom to its current location downtown."If we loan out public funds to a corporation, then we need to think like an investor and ask, 'What is my return and when do I get it?'”—Licata in 1998
At the time, activists decried the move as a $23 million developer giveaway; and in recent years, the garage has cost the city even more, requiring hefty subsidies to stay afloat.
Now, with the council preparing to sell the garage back to the original developer, Matt Griffin's Pine Street Group, Licata can finally say "I told you so." And he did. Here's what the newly sworn-in council member wrote in his very first council newsletter, back in 1998:
I personally doubt that any audit of the downtown garage transaction by the City Auditor or State Auditor will uncover anything “wrong”. They will review the documents and find that the City received “consideration” for its $23 million overpayment, i.e. that government representatives expected the downtown economy to improve. Obviously after spending millions of dollars, an economy is going to improve. Therefore their actions are legally justified.
What we have here is not a story of graft – of public officials pocketing money or gaining private financial gain. Rather it’s a story of attitude – of determining who should receive public welfare.
I’m a Democrat. I believe that welfare is not a bad thing. I think that some people do need to receive welfare in order to get by and improve their lives. But when we, as a public body, give out our money it should be to the neediest, not the wealthiest. Otherwise, we should expect a return that is commensurate with the risk being taken. If we loan out public funds to a corporation, then we need to think like an investor and ask, “What is my return and when do I get it?”
The "return" on the garage, of course, has been negative—just as Licata predicted 15 years ago. Licata is kicking off his reelection campaign—for a fifth term—Wednesday night at the Crocodile.