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Response to Girvan’s Kalahari memo
A city resident who has been consulting for the Silver Cos. on public relations for the Kalahari deal takes issue with Debby Girvan’s memo asking questions about the performance agreement.
Tom Byrnes sent a Freedom of Information request to Girvan and City Manager Phillip Rodenberg yesterday via e-mail. He was looking for the list of e-mail addresses to which Girvan sent the memo.
Byrnes said he wants those e-mail addresses "to provide recipients of her email with more factual information about incentives." He said he is not requesting this on behalf of the Silver Cos., but on behalf of himself, since his business often deals with economic development prospects and incentives.
For years, Byrnes has come to City Council meetings and touted the value of incentives for business development. Here’s what he had to say about Girvan’s memo (which you can see here):
Debby: I can appreciate your campaign efforts to establish differences between you and Mayor Tomzak, but I believe the concerns you relayed to your undisclosed recipients about Kalahari were misleading. For example, your confusion about the legality of a 20-year incentive was packaged in such a way that citizens could possibly be misled into erroneously believing it is illegal to enter into a 20-year incentive deal in VA, which you should know is not true (and as was re-explained again last night). The fact a tourism zone is currently limited to 10-years means nothing more than that; there is no such law in VA that says an incentive package must be confined to or administered via one incentive program.
I was disappointed to learn you’ve been waiting nearly three months for "a report listing examples of comparable incentive packages with detailed descriptions, preferably in the state of Virginia but if not available, elsewhere in the country" when you can turn on your computer and get this information in minutes. Why did you include the "if not available" in VA when a comparable 20-year incentive package was passed by your regional colleagues, during your term and with detailed descriptions reported numerous times in the FLS (and available free from Spotsylvania County)? Halfway through your wait, nearly six weeks ago, the FLS reported this, yet again: "For 20 years from the time the renovated mall is 70 percent occupied, the county is to return to the mall’s owner half of the new annual local sales tax revenue generated by the expansions to the mall." It appeared in a report listing examples of comparable incentive packages with detailed descriptions, entitled "Incentive packages become routine." Regardless, it only takes a few minutes to look this kind of information up online, and it is something I believe most council members did. I believe you led your undisclosed recipients into believing incorrectly the incentives offered by Fredericksburg are somehow unusual. I’d like an opportunity to remind them otherwise. Incentive programs are important to my business, and public perception of incentive programs is important to the reality of whether or not they are offered by the city. I believe you are negatively affecting this public perception, and denying your undisclosed recipients of true facts from other cited sources. I am using the FOIA request with fair intentions to give those you emailed more information. I am happy to withdraw this request from the City Manager if you want to forward the requested communication details to me directly. Thank you. -Tom