City Docks: How would you vote?

Hello Tonka Bay.

It’s great to see the high level of passion and engagement from the community on issues being discussed at City Hall. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, I have to admit it I think it would be even better if everyone were working from the same set of facts when forming those passionate opinions. Having been through a couple of council meetings where passionate arguments were presented and opinions formed based on misinformation, I’ve decided rather than being quietly frustrated and losing sleep I’m going to have to speak up where I see opinions going off the rails due to incorrect or insufficient information.

So let’s talk city docks. First, as I’m sure you’re all aware, the Tonka Bay City Council on Tuesday night decided not to take a vote on the Doran proposal and instead move forward with spending as much as $300,000+ in city dock funds to self-fund additional docks (should 28 in fact be the magic number). Okay, so that’s done. A lot of people are happy. But should they be?

Was the Doran proposal a “terrible deal” for the city? Would we “lose a lot of money,” as was stated in the meeting? Read on and decide.

Under the Doran proposal: Doran pays $300,000+ to build 28 docks. The city gets 14 docks to rent to homeowners during the 10 years of the deal. The city rents those docks at $2,000 per season (today’s rate). $2,000 x 14 = $28,000 x 10 years = $280,000. (Add $280,000 to the $300,000 construction cost = city gets $580,000 in cash and in-kind). Here’s the big AND: the city retains the $300,000 it did not spend on self-funding the dock expansion to spend on the Manitou Park project or other city amenities — and that money is available immediately. What is the city’s investment in this scenario? Zero. Nothing. Nada. Yes, Doran gets 14 docks. Is that trade-off worth nearly $600,000 to the city?

Under the self-funding option (the adopted direction): City pays $300,000 to fund dock construction (again, using 28 as the magic number, which it ultimately may or may not be). City rents all 28 for 10 years at $2,000 (today’s rate). $2,000 x 28 = $56,000 x 10 years = $560,000. What did the city invest to get this $560,000? $300,000.

In the previous council discussion on May 25, I said I wanted to see the decision presented clearly as Option A vs. Option B. So …

Option A: Spend $0 today and receive $580,000 in value during the coming decade — with $300,000 to spend on parks immediately; and take 14 residents off the dock waiting list.


Option B: Spend $300,000 today and have $560,000 in hand after 10 years — with nothing to spend on parks in the short term; and take 28 residents off the dock waiting list.

Even if you think Option B is the better choice because 28 residents get a slip vs. 14 in Option A, can you honestly say Option A a “terrible” deal for the city? Do you still think Mayor Jennings should be excoriated for bringing the proposal forward for discussion? Are you shocked the council would even consider it?

So let’s talk bottom line: The decision was made to self-fund dock construction for the simple reason that we can pull as many as 28 people off the dock waiting list instead of 14. It was said in the meeting we would “really piss people off” if we moved the Doran residents in front of people who had been on the waiting list for a while. Thus, having dock space for an additional 14 residents was determined to outweigh the ability to save the $300,000 to spend on parks. Decision therefore made. Option B adopted. Fair enough.

But again I have to ask: If you were a member of the city council who takes seriously your responsibility to be a good steward of the city’s finances, what would you decide?

Seriously, given actual facts, tell me how you’d vote and why.

I sincerely hope we can learn something from this. When someone agitates against an issue and tells you it’s a terrible deal, check it out. Ask questions. Is the argument backed by data or is it purely emotional (e.g. big, bad apartment developer doing bad things)? Analyze the numbers and decide for yourself.

Misinformation is bad for democracy, especially in a small town like Tonka Bay, where word travels fast. Those agitating in our neighborhoods and presenting misleading information as fact need to be more responsible.

We will surely disagree on any number of the issues we will face as a city in the next three and a half years, but as a member of the council I will always consider all sides of an issue to make the smartest, most well-informed choice … and I will never mislead you.

Please direct responses on how you’d vote along with questions and comments to my Twitter feed: @tonkabaytim