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Whitney: FMWF Chamber response to Gehrig regarding special assessments

In response to Commissioner Tony Gehrig's statement released May 31, I want to set the record straight on The Chamber's stance on special assessments in the city of Fargo. In short, we believe that special assessments have needed reform for many years, but the proposed plan to eliminate specials isn't the best solution. As we originally acknowledged, we certainly agree with those who say the current special assessments are very high—including Commissioner Gehrig. However, we are saying they need reform, rather than to abruptly end, especially, as we wrote in our original statement, "...without studying all of the options."

Gehrig claims that The Chamber supports special assessments, which is an incorrect conclusion from our original statement. In fact, we said we agree that special assessments are high. After applauding the Fargo City Commission for their recent action on May 21 to shift the cost of specials projects from a 50-50 split with the city, to having the public only responsible for 30 percent through a 70-30 split, we relayed the importance of keeping the conversation going to find a better solution in regard to specials, saying, "We recognize that there can still be more changes, and thus challenge the commission to further discuss special assessments." We also suggested a " conversation that encompasses a public education effort of its complexities," suggesting its importance as a community issue that needs to be addressed.

In an attempt to support his claim, Commissioner Gehrig brought up our support of a "massive convention center that will increase taxes and incentives that hurt the average taxpayer..." He is right only in that we support a dedicated convention space, which is due to its potential large economic impact on our communities. However, the discussion has not yet advanced to the level of saying it would be paid for by taxpayer dollars or increased taxes; in fact, we are proponents of a public private partnership.

In short, opposing a plan that shifts the cost to another source does not constitute being in support of the status quo. In this case, it means agreeing with Mayor Mahoney to study all of the options in order to have all questions answered and collaboratively find a solution.

Special assessments need reform.