A Blue Dome district businessman who helped lead the battle to get a rooftop signs ordinance passed by the City Council said it is likely to be another month before he is able to take advantage of the new measure.
Blake Ewing, the general manager of Joe Momma's Pizza at 112 S. Elgin, originally had hoped to have a rooftop neon sign blazing atop his soon-to-open The Max bar at 114 S. Elgin by May. But he indicated last week that timetable was a little ambitious.
"We're shooting for early June," he said of the sign, adding that it would certainly be in place by the time D-fest kicks off.
Ewing said the new bar is still on schedule to open by the middle of May.
Ewing and fellow entrepreneur Elliot Nelson helped lead the successful push for the ordinance, which was approved by the council on March 4. The ordinance applies only to businesses in the Blue Dome district.
Nelson, who could not be reached for comment, has said he plans to put neon signs atop his Asian restaurant Yokozuna at 309 E. Second St. and his new bowling alley, the Dust Bowl, which is expected to open sometime this summer at 211 S. Elgin, both of which are located in one-story buildings. He has said he has no plans to put signs atop two of his other businesses in the area, McNellie's Public House at 409 E. First St. and El Guapo at 332 E. First St., both of which are located in multi-story structures.
A Big Payback?
If a proposal to sell the former City Hall building at the west end of downtown to a local development group reaches fruition, the money generated from the sale might be used to help retire the debt on the purchase of the new City Hall building, One Technology Place, according to a city official.
The City Council is still considering how to proceed after a group called Brickhugger LLC offered the city $1 million for the building and some surrounding property in March and announced its intention to convert the building into a 200-room hotel.
City Finance Director Mike Kier said when city officials abandoned the building a few years ago, they talked about what to do with the money if the structure was sold, but they never officially made any decision.
"That was part of the discussion at the time," he said. "When we did the financing on (One Technology Place), we never said, 'OK, you have to sell these assets at these prices to make this transaction feasible,'" he said. "But it was always kind of noted that that would be (something) that you could achieve."
He said city officials then seemed to be leaning toward that scenario.
"We didn't make that in any kind of formal commitment," he said. "We had discussions about it, that it would be a good thing to do."
Proposal in the Works
The city councilor who is leading a task force charged with examining possible changes to the city's municipal elections structure said his group could have a proposal to send to the City Council soon.
District 9 Councilor G.T. Bynum, who serves as chairman of the task force, said the group met two weeks ago and examined the issue of campaign finance reform in response to the concerns of some citizens over the past two mayoral campaigns, which have featured candidates who have self-financed their campaigns to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bynum said that has given rise to concerns that those without access to that level of funding will not be able to mount a viable campaign for that office in the future.
But when the group looked into the possibility of whether it could place limits on how much a candidate could pour into his or her own campaign, it ran into a roadblock.
"Federal law clearly prevents us from doing anything about that," he said.
But the group is likely to forward a proposal to change the law in regard to how independent candidates for office are treated, Bynum said. At a meeting in early April, task force members explored the possibility of requiring independents to go through a primary election of their own, rather than being placed directly on the general-election ballot, as they are now. Some observers have complained that creates an unfair advantage for independents over most major-party candidates, allowing them to avoid a potentially costly primary campaign. They also worry that it is leading to a situation in general elections in which it is difficult for any candidate to attract a majority of votes.
"I would suspect we'll have a proposal going forward from the task force in a couple of weeks that would make it more equitable for independent candidates," Bynum said last week.
The councilor also indicated his task force is going to examine the possibility of adding runoff elections, which are not a part of the current system.
Any recommendations the task force makes would have to be approved by the City Council, which could vote to send them to a vote of citizens in the form of a charter change.
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