Since the Boca (Not So) Grande fiasco, many Ripon residents have faulted city leaders for playing roulette with their tax dollars.

    Citizens’ disgust for City Hall’s irresponsibility has been understandable and even welcomed. Accountability is a critical, self-correcting check in a democratic republic.  

     But the residual disdain that some citizens continue to hold toward the “new” mayor and “new” Common Council eight years since the city signed its deal with the devil continues to be expressed in ways that sometimes seem irrational if not inane.

     This misguided vitriol most often is manifest on Facebook. ...

      It’s because the “big guys,” who in a small city are our friends and neighbors trying to do what’s best to help Ripon grow and prosper, do care what self-described “little guys” think that they have been adamant about protecting the city’s potential investment  with the hotel developer from Muskego, Wis.  

     At least, this is what we have been able to ascertain from the limited information the city has given the public about Lighthouse Hospitality’s entreaties for help with developing a $9.5 million, 60-room, boutique-style hotel on the 200 and 300 blocks along the west side of Watson Street. ...

     What’s unfortunate about this seemingly abrupt conclusion is that the public was never privy to the stakes being discussed. What was the city’s incentive package? What were the terms? Projected payback in tax increment? Market studies predicting performance? Prospects for another development proposal?

     ... now that the deal has been scotched, it would be nice if the city could level with taxpayers beyond “we are now moving forward with entertaining other offers” about what was afoot with the hotel proposal. ...

     Taxpayers are entitled to know how their Common Council members are offering to invest their money as well as to expect transparency when the need for secrecy becomes moot.   

     Such an economic-development explanation will better prepare the public the next time a developer comes knocking, and it might even convince a few denizens of the fever swamps that city leaders are virtuous people doing their darnedest to act in Ripon’s best interest.
                                                       — Tim Lyke

     To read the entire column, see the Dec. 7, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.