Arts Center, Part 2

Further to my recent post on the Arts of Collin County discussion currently happening in Frisco, Bob Allen has responded to questions posed to him following the City Council meeting where the “re-vote” consideration was discussed. His email is copied below (thanks Bob for being so thorough in addressing many of my concerns).

Thank you for the note and for the opportunity to share my perspective.  I apologize that it has taken me a little longer to respond than normal, but I have been trying to spend available time to find a positive resolution to this issue.  To date, I have received a large number of both pro and con messages; this message will be sent in reply to both.  Finally, I apologize for the length of this message, but I do not know how I can provide a complete response without taking the time here.

I remain a strong supporter of the Arts of Collin County project.  People can articulate this as either a luxury, an amenity, or a necessity, but that is not the issue in my mind.   I do however believe this project will someday be one of the single greatest cultural accomplishments in the history of Far North Texas.  Most importantly, a project of this caliber could never be accomplished by any single city alone.  It will take a regional approach to address a project of this impact.

I recognize this issue has been raised by one of my fellow Council members, who has made no secret about his desire to eliminate the project, but I could not disagree more with either his approach or his intentions.  For me, it marks the first time in my Council experience where we are looking for a way to fail, rather than to succeed.  Elimination of this project would result in the loss of over $3,420,000 of taxpayer money that has already been spent.  That will be money lost forever, with no opportunity to either recover it or benefit from it. This represents almost 14% of the original approved bonds, as well as the operating costs since the project’s inception.  Lost also will be the hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours which have been expended during the past 10 years this project has been underway.   Lost will be the voice of those citizen’s that represented the “will of the people” in 2002.  And most importantly, lost forever will be Frisco’s reputation as a regional partner that keeps its word and follows through on its commitments.

I understand that some people now assert this issue should be re-voted because it was originally slated to be a four-city commitment, but let’s go back in time to look more closely at all of the dialogue that took place in 2002 and 2003 before we discount the “will of the people” in 2002.  I accept the fact this fellow council member didn’t live here at the time, so there is no way for him to have any insight into the situation.  However, I did live here and I was totally involved in the vetting/decision process and I can assure you the will of the people was clear.

So, what would have changed if we had re-voted in 2002/2003?  Nothing, except that we would have incurred additional taxpayer expense for another election and the overall project would have been delayed before we could have completed the Interlocal Agreements and established the Arts of Collin County Board.  Remember, both of those activities were critical so that we could begin the fundraising efforts that would ultimately be necessary to build the project.  The donation of the land was one such critical and valuable activity that was accomplished during this time.  The actual language in the bond amendment would have been exactly the same.  The amount of the bond amendment ($19M) would have been exactly the same.   The estimated operations cost of the facility would have been exactly the same.  All of the published information supporting the bonds would have been exactly the same. Were there citizens that wanted a re-vote at the time?  Yes, but they were well within a very small minority and many openly admitted they voted against it originally and wanted another opportunity to oppose it.  An overwhelming majority of public opinion was that we should move forward the project as is.  Despite that support, the vetting, research, and public input process took place for over a year after the original election.  Only then, after weighing all of the factors, citizen input, and implications of what would be necessary to create a successful product for the citizens of Frisco, it was decided that the original vote that passed by a 2 to 1 margin should stand.

Another concern seems to be that the population has changed since 2002, and that somehow the will of the 2002 voters means less today.  I could no more support that contention than I could a re-vote on the Senior Center, the Library, the Grand Park, the Economic Development Corporation, or the Community Development Corporation. The elections of the past are in the past and it is a disservice to those citizens to suggest their voice is any less worthy today.  The fact that new citizens have moved here is a testament to their past contributions.  And although these new citizens did not have the opportunity vote in 2002, the results of that vote have been well known and publically available, up to and including the time that Frisco was selected for their new home.

I’m particularly confused by this change in population argument, since it is one of the arguments raised by my fellow council member, yet even he made an assertion at a recent council meeting that had the revote occurred in 2002 he would be totally supportive with the project today.  I can only assume that even he no longer agrees this as a viable reason to revisit the issue.

A third concern I hear voiced – “this is this is not the time to issue the bonds”.  This argument certainly carries more weight for me.  You have elected your council to manage the city on your behalf.  I believe that decisions about the timing of expenses is absolutely within our core obligation to each of our citizens.  What I’m finding in some of the email messages and conversations lately however seems to be confusion between the “sale” of the bonds and the possibility of a “re-vote”. Although I do not support the latter, I agree that a great deal of thought must go into any upcoming bond sale.  But I do not believe that one should be connected to the other.

Lost in all this discussion has been the value of this project, the fact that no single city in the area could possibly go it alone, and the fact that it will forever change the landscape of our community. Yet, the positive aspects of this project are not merely cultural.  There are also economic benefits.  Yes, the operations of this project are not projected to make money, but neither do operations such as the Senior Center, the Library, or any of our parks.  Each of these are components which build into our overall quality of life.    And while we can always find people that do not want to utilize some of these specific facilities, we cannot be a sustaining community without them

A study published by The Perryman Group (renowned expert on Economic Development) in 2001, The Arts, Culture, and the Texas Economy, attempts to quantify the value of the investment and the value specific to economic development.  To quote a small portion of the study, “Virtually every city with sustained expansion over an extended time horizon has embraced the arts and the arts are a vital part of our lives, our communities, our well being, our economy and our very social fabric”. While I appreciate we are also doing other projects to support the arts, this project is unique.  It has been touted around the world as a model of regional cooperation for the good of its citizens.

During my service to you, I have always focused on the tasks necessary to ensure Frisco is a sustainable city.  We cannot have a city that lives in the past, we cannot sit where we are and believe “it’s good enough”, and we cannot exist in an economy that does not receive revenue from outside of our borders. Our success will depend on revenues from outside of our city, our state, and even our country.  The success I describe must come through regional partnerships and promises kept.  I have always promised you that I would work on your behalf to provide a balanced view between a competitive tax rate and value added services that benefit our community.  I will continue to keep that promise.

The topic at hand today should not be about a re-vote.  As a result of decisions made in 2002 and beyond, we have been working collaboratively with our regional partners and we have an obligation to continue that collaboration. The opportunity for a re-vote on the issue could have been addressed through public sentiment in any or all of the representative elections since that time.  They were not, because they were not an issue.  The four city issue only became the lightening rod, when it became a means to an end from a single individual searching for a way to stop a project he does not support.

Again, I apologize for the length of this message.  It is not a simple topic and I’m sure I still did not do it justice here.  Still, there are many complexities that deserve attention.  Although I have not included a copy of the original report here (it’s about 140 pages and 3MB in size, so I didn’t want to clog your email box), I will however share it with you if you are interested in looking at it.  I believe it is further evidence of the total due-diligence which has been a part of this project since its inception.

Finally, I cannot impress upon you enough the harm that I fear will occur should Frisco decide to revote this issue.  It’s not a matter of whether it passes or fails; the damage will occur long before any vote would actually take place.  It will be swift, immediate, and permanent. However, you can still have a voice.  If you find this information is of value to you, I urge you to share it with your friends and neighbors.  Then I encourage everyone to make sure the Council hears your wishes.  Since I am sending this note as a response to everyone, authors of both pro and con messages, I know there will be some that disagree with me.  I respect that will be the case, but I hope to you will also consider some of the background and perspective I have provided here.  I’m not opposed to citizens being heard today, but neither can I discount the voices of those in 2002.  I humbly request your support.

Bob Allen

Currently Bob Allen and Bart Crowder are the only council members that have indicated support for Frisco’s continued involvement in the project. Email the Mayor and Council to share your thoughts before Monday (March 8).

One Comment

  1. James:

    Nice letter. I wanted to add that when I voted on this project, it was never about what other cities would or would not do. It was about what I wanted for Frisco to do …and that vote …like the parks, police, fire, streets, heritage center, senior center, library, etc. were something I thought I would love to see (and in most cases needed) in Frisco. Plus, we (husband and I) worked on the Bond Committee and there was very little if any pushback against the ARTS. I remember the Heritage Center & Senior Center having more discussion than the Arts.

    Frisco for 13 of the 15 years I have lived here have had very intelligent and visionary city council members and Mayors and that is why Frisco has turned into this wonderful city everyone wants to come live in. EVERY single mayor that has ever served in Frisco is in support of this project, not to mention the 3 or 4 hand fulls of city council members, p&z members, educators and more.

    I can’t for the life of me understand why and how a vote can be overturned like this. It flys in the face of Democracy!

    Thanks for the thought provoking note.

    p.s. I also like the fact that Bob Allen addresses for and against citizens in his email …unlike Mr. Fallon did on his ranting email to very pointed and selectively chosen people. (whom all were against)