Local officials promise "transparency," offer few details on stadium/jail/Astrodome TIRZ deal

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The Chronicle‘s Bradley Olson reported today that the City and County are in negotiations to use TIRZ revenues to finance a soccer stadium, a jail, and Astrodome redevelopment:

The city of Houston and Harris County are negotiating a deal that could pave the way for construction of a new soccer stadium, a new jail and the redevelopment of the Astrodome, according to officials taking part in the talks.

The negotiations, which have been under way for several months and are reaching their final stage, focus on the use of tax increment reinvestment zones, or TIRZ, as vehicles for the major capital projects.

No real details follow, but one official apparently stressed, in all seriousness, the “complete transparency” of all these dealings that the public knows nothing about.

A couple of notable reactions immediately surfaced online. Blogger Tom Kirkendall tweeted about the absurd reference to transparency:

Local Houston officials promise “transparency,” then essentially offer none in Chron article.

Blogger Scott Henson raises a potentially sticky issue:

This seems like a pretty blatant misuse of the TIRZ statute, which was created to encourage private economic development, not to override the will of the voters in bond elections.

Indeed, it’s hard to see how Harris County can justify using a TIRZ to build a jail. By law, the county must certify that projects built “will significantly enhance the value of all the taxable real property in the zone,” but a jail won’t increase property values.

We can’t wait until our transparent officials elaborate on all these details, so the public can try to sort it all out.

What do you think?

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Kevin Whited
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