A critic of Albany’s downtown urban renewal agency has given up the idea of referring a specific funding decision to the voters.
Instead, Tom Cordier said Friday afternoon, he now will work on an initiative to subject all forthcoming Central Albany Revitalization Area projects to an election.
Cordier, a North Albany resident, is an engineer by profession and retired in 1998 as vice president of sales and marketing at Wah Chang.
At recent meetings of the city council acting as the governing board of the Albany Revitalization Agency, he has been critical particularly of the Dec. 14 decision to allocate $510,000 in urban renewal funding to continue the Broadalbin Street promenade for one block.
He had been hoping to start a referendum petition to refer just the promenade to the voters. On Friday, though, after conferring with two lawyers, he concluded that the law was “very unclear” on whether this was allowed, so he decided against it.
Albany City Attorney Jim Delapoer told the city council on Wednesday that unlike legislative decisions, administrative ones are not subject to a referendum.
Cordier said his talk with lawyers told him the line between administrative and legislative actions seemed to be “not very clear.”
But there’s no question about the right to initiate legislative actions. He said he planned to write and file an initiative amending the resolution the city council passed in 2001 to create CARA.
The measure would require voter consent for spending money on projects. He wasn’t sure if he wanted elections on all projects or just those of a certain size.
He hoped to file a prospective petition and gather the roughly 2,550 voter signatures required to get his proposal on the ballot for the May 15 primary election.
“They have to stop siphoning money away from the schools and other taxing districts,” Cordier said.
CARA receives the property taxes that the city, county and education districts levy on the increased value within the urban renewal district since it was formed.
When CARA was formed, the city estimated that by the end of the district in 2026-27, it will have received $11 million in taxes from the county, $22 million from the city, $15.8 million from the school district, $1.8 million from LBCC and $1 million from the education service district.
At the time, all three Linn County commissioners, including Roger Nyquist and John Lindsey, who are still in office, voiced concerns about the cost of CARA to other districts.
Reacting to the initiative idea, Mayor Sharon Konopa said it was “very unfortunate Tom feels this way.”
In an email she said the 14-member CARA board meets monthly to review projects and Cordier had “never attempted to participate in the CARA public meeting process or even attended any of the meetings the past 10 years.”
She worried that every future CARA project would cost the taxpayers money for a special election.
“Every project takes many pages to review,” she wrote, “and it would be almost impossible to fully inform the voter.”
Konopa noted that project reviews are done in public and cost nothing, and she worried that delays in the process “would affect future investment and jobs in our urban renewal district.”