“No skin in the game” is the comment I most often hear about this project. The implication is that this project, especially the developers that have spent the last couple of years working on this, have not invested their own money, time and resources- that they don’t plan to invest more, that tax payers will have to fund it all.
When I hear that, I know that the person I’m listening to is probably coming from one of two perspectives
1) Completely ignored all the coverage of the project so far and doesn’t understand how this project is being put together, or
2) Only wants something as long as they can get it for free.
The first one is easy enough to address, assuming the speaker is willing to honestly look at the numbers that have been spent so far, the legislation being drafted now and the previous work done between the City of Billings and the developer, Landmark Development. It has not been one sided and will not be one sided in the future(assuming there is a future). Time and money has been spent, been invested, on both sides.
The second one thing, that’s harder to address. For this group, the objection is “skin in the game”, but what they’re really saying, going by their commentary and actions, is that they want somebody else’s skin, not their own. In other words, outside groups, outside money, needs to fund the growth of Billings, none of our own. No risk, a lot of the reward. “Why should we(the taxpayers) have to pay for it all?” is the question they usually ask ironically, even as they demand everything for free.
I don’t have a reasonable way forward with the 2nd group. it’s not about logic or proof- We can show them the work already done, the legislation that’s being crafted, but that won’t matter. No amount of evidence will likely convince them that this project is being designed so that any tax payer money allowed to be used will be paid back. Or that this project requires developers to generate more tax revenue than it will receive. No, what matters here is that the City of Billings receive all the reward, none of the risk, none of the responsibility.
There are other objections, to be sure. Risk is usually a big concern. The worry that development in the rest of the city will suffer, etc. Those objections have been addressed before, too. These are reasonable concerns and there are reasonable answers and solutions.
Something for nothing, though, is that reasonable? Not when we’re being honest.