Ron Kitchens: Downtown Kalamazoo arena would be 'melting pot'
An arena should be built in downtown Kalamazoo not because it will create jobs and investment, but because it will create vital social interaction.Well, it's good to know our 'vital social interaction chief' has his priorities straight. Wait...
So says Ron Kitchens, the region’s economic-development chief, whose job it is to generate jobs here.
Does this mean the elites pushing this plan have given up the argument that it will create jobs? And what is an 'economic-development chief' anyways?
“One of the things we don’t have in this community is a melting pot,” Kitchens said during an interview with the Kalamazoo Gazette.Why?
“If you live in Portage, you never meet or see someone who lives on (Kalamazoo’s) north side. … There’s no reason for people to mix,” he said. “We need some place that the community comes together and they mix and get to know each other.”
The proposal to build a 6,800-seat arena in Kalamazoo depends on voters approving a tax on restaurant and bar sales to finance $81 million in construction costs. A task force appointed by the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners is studying the issue, and commissioners have yet to decide whether to put the tax request before county voters in 2010.No, creating jobs is the key to economic growth. Students aren't leaving because they hate Kalamazoo, they're leaving because THERE AREN'T ANY JOBS. Bringing a few cool concerts isn't going to change that.
Kitchens said an arena is essential for making the region’s college students feel more included in the community. Keeping more students in the area after they graduate is key to the community’s growth, he said.
“If we can get them here and intertwined with the community, we’re going to see our companies and our institutions grow exponentially just by capturing that talent,” said Kitchens, chief executive officer of private economic-development organization Southwest Michigan First.The argument for government ownership of roads is that there is little possibility of competition in roads due to few plausible routes, and at least until recently, difficulty coming up with a plausible method of payment. Neither is at all applicable to arenas. You could just as easily say, 'grocery stores are private, so the military should be private'. Everything is the same except for the differences.
Kitchens also challenges criticism that an arena shouldn’t be paid for with public money. Arenas are public infrastructure, he said, just as roads and sewers, which are funded through public taxes.
“The private sector hasn’t paid for the airport,” he said, giving an example of public infrastructure paid for with public money. “And I’ll tell you right now, an arena downtown is more important to the community than that airport is.Based on made-up numbers. And air travel and concert going are equally important, right? That's why people pay equally much for both of them, right?
“Absolutely more important,” he said. “It will have quadruple the number of users the airport has in a given year.”
There's one thing the public definitely shouldn't pay for: Ron Kitchens.