A few questions for the city council as the consider the multipurpose center

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The city council wisely postponed any decision on whether to purchase land and facilities from Rocky Point Baptist Church for the time being.  Now council members will have more time to determine whether to build a multipurpose center,what purposes the center will actually serve, where to put it, and—perhaps most importantly—how to pay for it.  They’ll need it—the time, I mean.

The Empire-Tribune has been reporting discussions on whether to build a new rodeo arena.  Those who spoke before the council on the subject said the new arena would not compete with the Lone Star—rather, it would provide events Lone Star currently can’t put on. 

Well—I don’t know enough about rodeo arena operations to know whether that’s actually true.  But assuming that’s the case—that is, we can have two rodeo arenas operating without competition between them—other questions also need to be answered.

Dr. Malcolm Cross
Dr. Malcolm Cross

First and foremost—why should the city get into the business of building and operating an arena at all?  If there were room in Stephenville for a new arena to operate profitably, one would think it would already have been built by a private entrepreneur.  Its absence raises questions about whether such an operation could be profitable.  And if the city can’t make a profit on it, it will simply become a drain on the city’s resources—like Splashville (for the record, I must confess I was a strong supporter of Splashville and was never troubled by the fact that admissions prices failed to cover all expenses, since the role of a city government is to provide services and not make a profit anyway; I simply remind readers of Splashville since so many are irked at its failure to make a profit, and should therefore oppose a new arena since building it might also fail to make a profit as well).  At any rate, rather than build its own arena, the city should let private entrepreneurs consider building a new arena.  If it competes with Lone Star, so what?  That’s free enterprise, and its not the city’s business to prevent competition among legitimate economic enterprises.

Secondly—what about the library, the senior citizens center, and the rec hall?  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, when the prospect of a new multipurpose center was first discussed while I was still on the council, its proposed purposes were to replace our current aging facilities.  Are these facilities worth saving?  Are the services they provide worth further provision?  And what further cuts will need to be made in current services, given the voters’ demand that we spend more money on economic development, even though current economic growth is too slow to provide the additional funds, contrary to what the Chamber of Commerce assured us?

And finally—how do we pay for the new multipurpose center, whatever it’s supposed to do?  As I’ve discussed before, the fairest and most democratic way is through general obligation bonds on which the citizens can vote, with the understanding that should the voters reject spending on the project, work on it will end at least until the voters change their minds in a future election.  After all, it’ll be their money to spend (or not) on their center.  They should have the right to decide—and the responsibility to accept the consequences of their decision, whatever those consequences may be.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987.  His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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