Erie’s 10-year ‘comprehensive plan’ consultants cost over $100,000

By Yaël Ossowski | September 18, 2015 | Watchdog.org

Hoping to leap into the future, Erie will spend over $100,000 to pay consultants to draw up a 10-year comprehensive plan to revitalize the city and “bring it into the future.”

The total amount of $137,880, approved preliminarily by the city council in February, will be paid to consulting firm CZB, an Alexandria, Virginia-based urban planning firm.

As revealed in a 2005 presentation
by Pennsylvania Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, the
main purpose of these plans is to give a city “priority consideration in
state funding,” meaning it can get better access to the state’s coffers
to fund its projects.

The background analysis for
the comprehensive plan conducted last March by Peter J. Smith &
Company, another urban planning firm, reveals the top project areas to
be tackled in the city-level plan. That includes marketing the city “as a
destination and community of choice for residents, businesses and
investors and visitors,” states the report.

Chief among them is the recurring problem of housing and urban
development, but also the decreasing population and effect of climate
change. The analysis says the city should be prepared to promote more
public transportation and invest in alternative energy resources.

It makes no mention of addressing tax reform or lowering taxes.

CZB Founder Charles Buki was present in Erie last week
at public hearings to present his outline of the 10-year comprehensive
plan to the public and hear feedback from residents. It’s due for
completion early next year.

“Based on everything we’ve seen in Erie, dealing with pervasive
blight in a strategic manner is one of the city’s four top priorities,”
Buki said in an interview with the Erie Times News.
“The others being the continued revitalization of downtown, fully
leveraging the potential of the bay front and rebuilding your middle
class.”

Buki’s office did not respond to Watchdog.org’s questions on how much the total plan would cost Erie taxpayers.

A similar comprehensive plan already exists at the the county level,
released in March, and triggers planning until the year 2040. It’s
estimated to cost over $3 million to implement over the next few years.

While the county-level plan is subsidized by grants from the federal
Department of Housing and Urban Development, to the tune of $1.8
million, it’s not clear if it will trickle down to cities.

The municipal-level comprehensive plan is required by
the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, but there is no guarantee
of funding from the state if cities implement these plans.

Yaël Ossowski is a Canadian-American journalist and writer living in Vienna. He is founder and editor of Devolution Review, deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter at Watchdog.org. He has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) from the CEVRO Institute in Prague and a Bachelor's in Political Science from Concordia University, Montreal. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria, and his writings have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online outlets across the world in multiple languages.
Website https://yael.ca
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