Better City Superior Issues Status Report

BCS Leader Makes a Case for Redevelopment

By Doug Dalager

Explore Superior has been covering the process and progress of the Better City Superior initiative for the past several months. Recent articles have elicited new information from Bruce Thompson, BCS leader and president of National Bank of Commerce, Superior. (Click Here to see list of previous ES articles about BCS)

Thompson is passionate about the “proof of concept” efforts of BCS, and believes that dramatic downtown redevelopment is necessary for Superior. The BCS Board of Directors has been working on this project for the past three years, and their efforts are now coming to a head.
According to Thompson:

Better City Superior - Vote Yes on November 8th for Progress“Results from market studies, project studies, funding ideas, public challenges and public input are encouraging to the point of driving the potential to our state legislature for permission and action. The funding for this venture has come primarily from our generous business community who have a sense of urgency to see Superior’s fortunes turn positive.”

The BCS initiative has also been financially supported by the Tourism Development Fund, Chamber of Commerce, Duluth/Superior Community Foundation Morgan Fund, APEX, the Northland Foundation, Rotary Club #40, City of Superior and Douglas County.

In the process, BCS has contracted with Better City US, Westmoreland Flint and Capitol Consultants. These groups have provided counsel to Superior development enthusiasts, leading all to believe that with the right funding mechanisms, Superior can rise again and be a growing successful community.

Thompson goes on to say:

Bruce Thompson“Communities across the country recognize the value of investing in themselves and attracting the workforce of the future. This will in fact, drive down the share of fixed taxation, and grow our local economy while dramatically improving Superior housing stock.”

The very first project undertaken by the people behind Better City in Ogden Utah fifteen years ago has resulted in $1.2 Billion of reinvestment. As a result, Ogden has led the nation in job and population growth. Meanwhile, average household income in Ogden has increased by 20%.

Ogden now has the 6th highest home prices in the nation. It is a destination for entertainment, recreation, jobs and tourism has a new “hip” factor working in its favor.

A significant development is the impact on property taxes. Ogden citizens bear only 19% of the city budget through property taxes compared to double that for Superior. The Ogden city budget has won national recognition as one of the best transparent, successful and useful budget presentations in the country.

Contrast that with Superior which has not grown in over 50 years. Superior has a significantly lower household income than state and national averages, and has lost national retailers. This has consistently resulted in flat revenue and cost cutting or property tax increases to survive another year. These types of efforts to keep the ship afloat are also challenging but of a completely different mindset.

(Editorial comment by ES: Superior city administration has attempted to balance the budget by repeatedly cutting back and consolidating services. While this may fix a problem on the short-term, it will not improve the city coffers on a sustaining basis. You cannot cut your way to prosperity…long-term success requires reinvestment in our community. We urge the Mayor and the City Council to take a stand for a successful Superior.)

Better City Superior - Vote Yes on November 8th

The steps towards development

Many Superior residents are concerned about crime in our home town, and the social ills that go with it. Ogden also had high crime and serious gang and drug problems fifteen years ago before they decided to take a courageous stand and try something different.

Since the redevelopment of Ogden, crime has been reduced significantly because a strong city budget can afford strong law enforcement. Rising real estate income in a city via new development result in more funds for essential public services such as fire and safety. The video below gives an overview of how Ogden has advanced in the last fifteen years.

Compare this to the situation Superior residents find themselves in.

In 2014, Superior ranked #2 only to Milwaukee in the State of Wisconsin in crime per capita. Law enforcement is the single highest budget cost in Superior’s fragile city budget. Enhancement of our police and fire departments is constrained due to flat tax revenues.

Rendering of Proposed Complex | Better City Superior©

Rendering of Proposed Complex | Better City Superior©

Here is the answer as Thompson and the Better City Superior advocates see it:

“We need to be strategic. We need to not just recognize our existing potential but invest in it for our future. We need to shift to consumption based taxation support over time. That can only happen with changes that create new properties that generate income, and increase income through jobs. Following this positive and proactive path will increase our quality of life, and will attract young working families. Combined, this will increase the demand for upgraded housing stock which Superior so badly needs.”

Thompson goes on to say:

“We all have to work together and we are encouraged by the efforts between city and county government and other stakeholder organizations to work collectively on solutions.”

Better City Superior is just one organization working toward these goals. Others include the Superior School District, UW-Superior, WITC, Labor, political parties, multiple service clubs, Superior BID, Superior Chamber, Superior/Douglas County Development Association, APEX and others. Thompson urges that focus with ongoing transparency is the key that will lead Superior to success.

Better City SuperiorThe Exposition District legislation that the Better City Superior group is pursuing for Superior is a one tool that will help develop and enhance the future of our city. It is not an entire solution and needs to be augmented with other progressive ideas and successes. Thompson and the BCS group hopes that the citizens of Superior will learn about and support new ideas that can lead to a promising future in our home town.

At the end of the day, Thompson asks Superior residents for a BIG “YES” vote in the advisory referendum this November 8th. He believes this will put Madison on notice that the collective voices of Superior citizens desire development. It also gives BCS permission to continue the cause and return in the spring for a binding referendum of our citizens in favor of redeveloping downtown Superior with a long-term goal of growth.

Should the advisory (Nov. 8, 2016) and binding referendums pass (April 4, 2017), the goal will then be to place the Superior Exposition District into the state budget in July 2017 via bi-partisan support. This is done through a budget entry requiring the support of Governor Walker. This avoids a legislative route that could get hung up due to political conflict, and will enable Superior to chart a new future.

The consumption taxes generated in the new Exposition District will support partnerships in the proposed downtown projects. The proposed consumption taxes include a ½% sales tax on food and beverage in restaurants and bars (5¢ per $10 sale), and 2¾% sales tax on hotel/motel stays and on rental cars. Realistically, the only tax that will fall on local residents to some extent will be the F&B tax.

BCS will host a Lunch & Learn session at the Douglas County Historical Society on Wednesday, October 5th from 11:45 a.m. until 1 p.m. (see link below for more information). At that time, Bruce Thompson will explain the initiative in all of its detail, and will accept questions upon conclusion of his presentation.

For more information about BCS, please follow the links below to read previous articles on ES about this initiative:

Lunch & Learn About BCS (September 23, 2016)
Better City Survey Results (September 13, 2016)
Origin of Better City (September 9, 2016)
Better City Vision Shared  (August 31, 2016)
Better City Receives Council Support (August 18, 2016)
Better City Wants Your Opinion  (December 16, 2015)
Better City Initiative  (November 5, 2015)

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