Thursday, May 26, 2011
Property owners are told they cannot enter City Council Hearing on the BID today
About forty property owners patiently waited outside 250 Broadway today to testify against the formation of a Chinatown Business Improvement District. Today was the last chance for the public to testify in person if they supported or opposed the Chinatown BID's formation.
As the last few Chinatown Partnership Local Development employees passed through the metal detectors to go upstairs to the 16th floor hearing room, the remaining people on line, were told the hearing was closed. The video of what happened is posted here.
The security for 250 Broadway explains that the hearing is closed for the rest of the day, and a representative for the City Council explains in the video clip that a "list" of speakers is already determined and that if the property owners who showed up to speak are not on that list, then "you messed up". The Sargent at Arms for the City Council informed the property owners who wished to testify that he was told directly by the Chairman of the Finance committee that "those people who are scheduled to testify are being allowed up, if you are scheduled to testify...." "There is no list" said Jan Lee, property owner, "There IS a list, I told the finance chairman 'are you taking testimony?' he said 'only the people who are scheduled to testify'" Explained the Sargent at Arms. "So this was preset with the committee lawyers..... You guys didn't get on that list, then you guys messed up."
This is no way to treat Chinatown property owners who took time to come to what they thought would be an open and democratic process. The Chairman of the Finance committee sent a clear message that the Committee, its legal advisors and Councilmember Chin have taken "preset" lists of people to testify and closed out the rest of the opposition.
To support this bias towards BIDs is to support a failed and dysfunctional system of pay to play politics at its utter worst.