Michael’s Statement in Opposition to North River

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Prior to the vote on the City’s proposed acquisition of the North River property, Michael wrote an op-ed for the Journal Gazette explaining the pending issue. Here is a link to the November 20th column.

City Council’s vote took place on November 28th. Michael voted in opposition to the purchase during the committee session. However, the bill passed with a 5-4 margin. Michael left the meeting early for a family matter, and thus the final vote was tallied at 5-3.

Below are the comments that Michael made in opposition to the purchase.

I usually speak off the cuff but the implications of today’s vote on the North River property are too great to be anything but precise. Indeed, I want to be perfectly clear with my comments. First, I fully support the City’s attempt to acquire this particular property. Like many, I am excited about the potential of this property. But excitement should be tempered with logic and reason.

When I ran for office, there were no issues more universally accepted and embraced by constituents than the call for transparency and accountability in government. This deal fails both. First accountability. It will be the taxpayers – not the Rifkins – that will be held accountable for their environmental contamination. And if this vote were to pass it will be council that failed to hold this administration accountable for bringing a better deal to the table. I question what purpose this body serves, if it cannot demand accountability for the taxpayers.

And transparency. In this case – a lack thereof. Assuming council finds acceptable the 11th hour disclosure of this purchase agreement – an insult in its own right – there is absolutely nothing transparent about voting to indemnify for environmental contamination without knowing what that contamination entails. When the tax payers ask us what we put them on the hook for, the only valid answer to that question is: “I don’t know. I wasn’t permitted to see the report.”

Now, this is not the first time a less than perfect proposal has come to this table. And I am quick to point out that perfect is the enemy of good. And while Voltaire popularized that saying, it is worth noting that perfect also has other enemies. Like reckless. And stupid. And perhaps some other words not suitable for public consumption.

Pursuant to this contract before council, 4th Street from Harrison to Spy Run is to be named something like “Rifkin Way.” In an ironic twist, the North River Property and the soon to be named “Rifkin Way” will abut the Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge. A name synonymous with justice and equality will be juxtaposed with a name that symbolizes inequality. A family that held all the cards – and used them to trump the taxpayers to foot the bill for remediation of their own environmental contamination. And if the Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge signifies the proud entrance into our city, under the circumstances presented to us, Rifkin Way will be its Scarlett Letter.

I vote no.

Additional coverage can be found at WFFT and the Journal Gazette.

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