People seeking elected office make promises to voters. I am no exception. My biggest promise is that if elected I will provide transparent, inclusive, and truly representative leadership. My commitment to upholding this promise is so strong that I attend every city meeting and post summaries and full audio on my TalkingPoli Blog for you to review.


I am already keeping my promise.


While this should be a relatively easy task, keeping up with shifting narratives and seeking missing information often makes it much harder than necessary.

Last night, at the regular Common Council meeting, more details were shared about the Renaissance Project agreement reached between the Redevelopment Commission and ARC Construction Management to clarify what Mayor Hall classifies as “misinformation.”

Based on the new details provided last night, we now know that the City of Charlestown’s Redevelopment Commission will provide a $950,000 bond as incentive to the developer, who will construct the $4-4.5 million project. The incentive will be in addition to selling the property purchased by the City of Charlestown’s Redevelopment Commission for $1,004,850 to ARC for $2.00 (if ARC accepts the phase 2 option). Some of the incentives will take the form of fee waivers, so, as city attorney Michael Gillenwater stated last night, “we don’t even know how much out-of-pocket” will actually be required. The bond will be repaid with the property taxes captured through the TIF of the Renaissance site. You can read the summary and listen audio of last night’s meeting here: Common Council Meeting 01/22/2019. The original meeting in which the deal was first discussed is here: Redevelopment Commission 01/17/2019.

It is vital that people have easy access to complete and accurate information about the executive and legislative decisions made by our elected representatives. Charlestown does not have this now.

Details that shift and change each time they are presented leave us confused and improperly informed. Consider the following timeline regarding the public notice calling for developers interested in the Renaissance Project:

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 11.54.10 amscreen shot 2019-01-23 at 11.54.22 amscreen shot 2019-01-23 at 11.55.32 amscreen shot 2019-01-23 at 12.01.30 pm

Which is it? Were multiple developers interested? Did the city approach ARC? Did ARC approach the city by sending in a request for proposal? 

Reporting what is said, and documenting it in audio recordings of public meetings is not “spreading misinformation.”  Misinformation arises when details change each time a meeting is held. 

You have my promise, that if elected, I will provide complete, accurate, and thorough information in pubic formats that are easily accessible. 

You have my promise, that if elected, I will allow you to ask questions at public meetings so that you leave well informed. 

You have my promise, that I am a woman of integrity and I will always remember that I report to the people I represent. I will work for YOU. 

My word is my bond. But don’t simply believe what you’re told by any candidate this election year. Let the recordings and documentation I provide be the evidence you need to decide who presents fair and accurate information.


Sources: 

Redevelopment Meeting 04/12/2018 https://talkingpoli.com/2018/04/12/redevelopment-commission-meeting-04-12-2018/

Redevelopment Meeting 04/26/2018: https://talkingpoli.com/2018/05/02/redevelopment-commission-meeting-04-26-2018/

News and Tribune Article 09/05/2018: https://www.newsandtribune.com/news/charlestown-considering-live-work-play-development-meant-to-revitalize-downtown/article_bdaf0a4e-b0a4-11e8-89f4-ffdd1fd04ede.html

Original blog post on the development agreement: https://trevaformayor.com/2019/01/20/what-price-progress-city-to-spend-5-million-plus-will-own-nothing-in-return/

 

49898411_10210477906822513_4474808408591040512_nThis past Thursday the Charlestown Redevelopment Commission approved an agreement between the city and ARC Construction Management for the development of the Renaissance Project property between Main and High Streets on Market. During the meeting the rough details of the agreement were made public for the first time.

To summarize: 

  • Development has been divided into two phases. Phase One includes the area on Market between Main Street and Green Ally. Phase Two will consist of the remaining land between Green Ally and High Street. The present agreement involves only Phase One, but allows ARC to activate an option on Phase Two within one year. 
  • ARC will purchase the property for Phase One from the City of Charlestown for $1.00
  • ARC will build a structure that includes commercial space on the first level (one large or two small restaurants) and 40 “luxury” apartments above. Apartments will be 20% 1br/1bath and 80% 2br/2bath with beginning rental rates estimated at $850 per month (this will rise once occupancy fills). 
  • The total cost of the construction is estimated at a minimum of $4 Million (depending on material costs). 
  • The City of Charlestown will fund the construction through a bond. This bond will be repaid with property taxes owed on the development.
  • If ARC activates the option on the second phase within one year they can purchase the remaining land for $1.00.  

To review a summary of the full meeting or listen to the audio visit the link here: Redevelopment Commission 01/17/2019

What remains unclear after the meeting is the amount of money, if any, ARC Construction Management will invest in Charlestown.


What IS clear is that the Mayor is taking a significant risk on this project, and he’s relying on taxpayer money to do so.


image1-17According to tax records available at the Clark County Courthouse, the City of Charlestown paid $1,004,850.00 for the properties that comprise phase one and phase two of the Renaissance Project. (These properties had a total tax assessment value of $696,500.00 prior to purchase.) Following the purchase, the city paid to have the buildings demolished. Finally, the city paid ARC $6,000.00 for the first set of conceptual renderings, which had to be re-done after the Mayor failed to communicate clearly his vision for development and citizens called him out for presenting an option out of line with what he originally promised.  

Cities frequently offer tax incentives to entice firms that will bolster sagging economies or improve blighted areas. It’s terribly important, however, for city leaders to perform regular evaluation of these incentive programs to verify that they are working. Mayor Hall said in the meeting that he has used this kind of public-private partnership several times before, yet offered no clear evidence of its success

I am NOT opposed to development in Charlestown. Like all of you, I am thrilled about the idea of having more commercial, dining, and employment options in town.  

What worries me is that, in an effort to demonstrate its effectiveness in an election year, the current administration is giving away millions of dollars of property and then funding private development by siphoning off tax revenue for the next 20 years from our schools, library, and other taxing units.

I am excited about growth and development in Charlestown, but what good will such growth do us if the folks who work in the commercial space we build on the first floor cannot afford to live on the second? What good will it do us to welcome new families if our schools are underfunded and we cannot afford adequate fire protection for their homes? What good will growth be if we find ourselves bankrupt in the future? 

We need development. We need to let investors know we’re open for business. But we must move forward by putting Charlestown First.


***EDIT*** Following my release of the meeting summary and audio and the publication of this blog, Mayor Hall offered new information in an attempt to clarify the misleading details originally stated. For a link to all related meeting summaries, and the follow-up blog go here: Part II

image3-4Today is the first official day for candidate filing in Indiana!

I went to the courthouse at 8:30 this morning to submit my documents and have my name placed on the primary ballot for May 7th.

I am thrilled to have been the first mayoral candidate to sign the book, and I look forward in the upcoming months to meeting new people and working with those who have already volunteered for the campaign.

If you want information about the campaign or wish to offer your help, please reach out via the Contact page here: Contact Treva

In order to demonstrate my continued commitment to Transparency, and save anyone who is interested a trip to the courthouse, I’ve included a copy of my filed documents here: hodges candidacy papers

Let’s keep Charlestown First this election year!

breaking-newsI have just received news that the Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the sale of Charlestown’s water utility to Indiana American Water.


You can read the court’s decision here: Water Appeal Ruling


For over a year now we’ve been watching to see if this sale would happen. Many of us have our opinions on the appropriateness of the sale. I do not wish to re-hash all of the sentiments that have dominated our conversations about this important issue.

I do want to note that much of the anxiety, discord, and legal fees could have been avoided had the current administration offered a more transparent process from the beginning.

Once the sale is completed there’s little that can be done, other than hold IAW accountable, which I intend to do. As we move into the election year and people question whether a change of administration is needed, please keep the following in mind:

  1. The City sold the public water utility without an open bid process. Rather than issue a public bid to interested companies, the city negotiated a sale privately with IAW. This process places Charlestown in a weak position. We deserve a mayor who embraces the open marketplace to ensure the best possible deal for taxpayers in all negotiations. 
  2. The City only advertised the public hearings about the water sale in the fine print of the public notices of the News and Tribune, which is the legal minimum. How many people regularly read these notices? We deserve a mayor who embraces modern technology to keep taxpayers well informed beyond what is only minimally required by law. As mayor I will post such notices on social media, on our electronic signs on Market and Park streets, in City Hall, in mailers when necessary, and in Newspapers as required by Indiana Code. 
  3. The City ignored our legal petition to make this decision by voter referendum. Believing that he knows best, and without regard to the voices of the people who have placed him in office, our current mayor circumvented the remonstrance process after over 1,000 citizens signed a petition to take the sale issue to a vote. We deserve a mayor who is beholden to the people she represents. 

Maybe you agree with the sale and are thrilled that the appeal has affirmed the decision. Maybe you were against it from the beginning. Maybe IAW will finally offer what has been neglected for nearly 20 years.

Regardless of your feelings or what steps IAW takes in the coming years, remember that a lack of transparency and disregard for taxpayers’ voices have made this entire process more difficult and costly than it should have been. 

In November of this year, elect a mayor who promises to keep you involved and informed, someone who wants to keep Charlestown First.

Thank you to everyone who came to the Hometown Holiday candidate meet and greet event last Sunday. I enjoyed getting to meet many new people and seeing familiar faces. I am honored to have had the opportunity to share a summary of my platform with you and to introduce people who intend to run for Clerk Treasurer and Common Council positions. If you missed it, you can watch the speech and introductions here: 

The campaign office will be closed for the holidays until Wednesday, December 26. I hope you all enjoy the warmth of the season and have a very happy end to the year. I’m ready to hit the campaign trail running in January! 

It’s not enough for people seeking public office to speak only in broad generalizations about what they plan to do once elected. I can say 10,000 times in the next year that I will increase transparency in City Hall, but if I don’t have clear plans for you to consider then I’m selling you short. Part of providing TRANSPARENCY is making information easier for you to obtain, and that’s certainly part of my plan. The second part, however, involves making it easier for you to get information to me. 


This desire for reciprocal lines of communication is the motivation behind my Community Table concept. 


Whether you have offered a meal to friends in times of mourning, celebrated milestones with banquets, or participated in dinner interviews, coming together to “break bread” is a common ritual in our communities. Teenager Kevin Peña understands the importance of meal sharing. When he established his “Everybody Eats Foundation” Peña did so because he believes that “food brings people together and it brings happiness to the table” (Everybody Eats Mission). 

I agree. There’s something warm and inviting, even comforting, about sharing a meal with someone. 

As luck would have it, science backs me up! 

food-salad-dinner-eatingA recent study out of the University of Chicago found that sharing meals encourages cooperation and helps resolve conflicts more quickly because it generates trust (The Star 2016). Food sharing also has been shown to generate feelings of empathy that can help improve social bonding (PsychToday 2014). Research from the University of Oxford demonstrates that “communal eating increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing” (Oxford 2017). 

The Community Table concept is a part of my mission to foster community cohesion in Charlestown. At least once per quarter I will host town-hall style meetings that give you opportunities to bring your ideas, celebrations, and concerns to public attention. While avenues can and should be opened for public comment in regular Common Council meetings, the Community Table goes farther, and it does so in a more welcoming and warm environment. 

Each person attending will be asked to bring something to share to supplement a main dish provided by me. Maybe you’ll bring a couple of 2-liter drinks, your grandma’s best chocolate pie (please…), or the broccoli salad recipe you “borrowed” from the deacon’s wife at church. What we get is a resource sharing opportunity. While we share our food, we also share our vision for Charlestown.  

I’ll continue to share the plans that support my platform in the following months here on my blog, so please stay tuned! You’re also welcome to come visit me at the campaign office located at 904 Main Street if you have specific questions. In the meantime, since we’re in the midst of the food sharing season, please invite someone new over for dinner one night, grab a shared lunch at one of our local restaurants, or check out the opportunities around town to help provide holiday meals for folks who could use a little help.

The election is months away, but we can get a leg up on building our community cohesion right now. After all, regardless of our differences, Everybody Eats!