Thursday, March 02, 2006

Doubling Down with PHLF

Got an email in my inbox late, late last night from Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, excerpted here, emphasis is mine:

We want to alert you to the opportunity to provide testimony to the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission here in Pittsburgh on April 18th and 19th.  Unfortunately there is an imminent deadline of March 6th at which time you need to register your interest in appearing at the hearings at the Omni William Penn Hotel.   The registration form must be received by mail in Harrisburg by this Monday.

While you may not have a position on the casino proposals at this time, in order to express your feeling in April you will have to complete this registration form now.

We have pointed out the benefits of the Forest City/Harrahs proposal for Station Square to those interested in neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, and increasing jobs and taxes for Pittsburgh residents.

This proposal will endow Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation with $25 million and the funds will augment our financial assistance programs, particularly in grants, for those involved in neighborhood preservation and in efforts to save and adapt various historic structures to new uses and to preserve our citys parks and landscapes.  We will also augment our educational program now reaching 12,000 people in our schools.

In addition, Forest City-Harrahs will establish a new fund of not less than $1 million a year, to be chaired by Franco Harris, to make grants to non-profit organizations working to improve and support neighborhoods, arts and culture, health and welfare and economic development.

Of the various contenders, Harrahs will invest the largest sum in the casino- entertainment center including a major theater, a total of $512 million, generating initially jobs for 2,000 employees and rising to 3,000 with spin-off reaching 10,300.  Job training will be handled by the Bidwell Training Center.

Forest City will also build 1,250 condominium units on the east side of the Smithfield Street Bridge to help revitalize a new section of the South Side and bring thousands of new tax-paying residents to the City of Pittsburgh.

Revenue from the development, which will be used to reduce property taxes, will be significantly higher from this proposal.  They have an independent study that shows they can raise over $100 million more per year in tax revenue that will be used for property tax reductions.  No public subsidies will be involved in the project nor will there be any continuing public maintenance obligations.

The new sources of grant making that accompany this proposal are definite upon issue of a gaming license.  They are not contingent upon gross or net sales and the money due Landmarks is guaranteed by legal agreement.

We recommend that you register to testify to the Pennsylvania Gaming Board at the Omni William Penn.  Your registration must be received by March 6th and forms are available on the site listed below.

Determine which project you feel benefits the community to the highest degree including direct benefits through grants and low interest loans to local non-profit organizations, job creation, gross taxes, and chances of successful fulfillment of plans.  Then support your conclusion with testimony.

Very interesting.  More interesting when you keep in mind the following:
(1) Harrah's plans involve the development of Station Square, the conerstone of PHLF's preservation activities;
(2) PHLF is heavily influenced by Mr. Mellon-Scaife;
(3) The normally outspoken Allegheny Institute (another Mellon-Scaife shell corp), has been, at best, ambivalent on the proposed casinos, choosing instead to focus on the process of selecting the winning licensee and their assumptions rather than the actual proposed development.
Although I hate to admit something like this, AI is correct on one thing: the bidding war for these licenses has publicly focused more on community give backs and "circuses" than the real viability of the casino plans.
Wasn't this a Simpsons episode? 

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