Are You Upset The City Bought The Mall?
You know, in talking to nearly everybody I've come across recently, it doesn't seem that anybody is a fan of the city councils backdoor dealings with buying the mall. Mainly, how the mall could be worth 50% more now after losing a major store like Dillard's since the last time it was purchased. Not to mention, once again, the politicians promised roads for a bond then immediately started spending money on things that are not roads. How these people stay in office is beyond me, but that's not the topic of this conversation. Today, it's all about the mall.
The day after the CIP revenue was voted on and approved for rebuilding roads, the city announced they'd be buying the Fairmont Creamery. This was back in February. The people revolted, they shut up about it and backed off that decision. Then coronavirus hit. I think it's safe to say, the citizens of Lawton thought the council and mayors office was then off this idea of buying property, especially when the city started claiming they had no money in April and May. They realized that you can't have tax revenues when you forcibly close all the local businesses, and still, they did next to nothing to remedy the situation even though plenty of legitimate suggestions were on the table.
The weeks passed, mandates came down, people revolted the mandates, they stood, people revolted social issues stemmed from other states, then we all sort of just accepted current life and started living as much as we could again. 2020 has not been a fun year.
I can't remember the timeline, but at some point during the late summer or fall, the city announced they were buying the mall to accommodate Fort Sill jobs. It wasn't a bad idea, it could legitimately save our Central Mall, but the price was 50% higher than it was bought for a year prior with a history of declining revenue and popularity. Foul. Once again, the people revolted, the city went silent, and we all figured they backed off that idea too. After weeks of no news about the topic, they announced last week, right before the biggest holiday of the year, that they are going ahead with their mall purchase idea, probably counting on the holidays to be a distraction from the secretive inner-workings of a probably corrupt local government. A week later, it's still in our minds.
In talking with people in person and on social media, it still smells of crony capitalism and back-door deals. Honestly, I wonder which councilors and how much our mayor is getting in a nice little kickback from that crazy purchase price? Which councilor will get fat contracts for construction and other mechanical jobs to put together the next great failed idea of small-minded politicians? Makes sense. As most local politicians are local business owners, they have to find a way to supplement their own incomes since their own policies and mandates affected their revenue streams earlier this year right?
All the same, and in my trite and true yin/yang way of life, maybe this will save the mall. Well, "save" might not be the right term here. Odds are, the mall will continue to flounder as they've fallen out of favor with shoppers. Not that all malls are suffering across the nation, that's not true... but malls that remain old and out-dated seem to be shrinking as their either close or get big facelifts to restore that trendy nature with consumers. I think we talked about this a week or two ago. I honestly think a major facelift would in fact save our mall. As shoppers return, stores will return, and with more tenants paying rent, the ridiculous rumored policies of our local mall owner could become more standard in terms of renting spaces to people looking for their own piece of the American pie.
The city isn't going to be able to do that. The current politics of the local government have people leaving city limits now, slowly trickling our population down +/-5% over the last ten years, imagine them continuing to let the infrastructure crumble just to improve a mall that will eventually be a just another non-descript, plain looking government building off limits to anyone not holding an employment badge. If one thing has taught us anything, government bailouts aren't good for anyone and often only benefit the those at the top of business.
While I would suggest being in contact with your city councilor, I think it's clear the words of the constituency fall on deaf ears at this point. They shall do their will regardless. Instead, remember this moment the next time our local elections swing around. If your councilor voted for it, feel free to vote for their challenger. If your councilor voted against it, replace them too since they obviously don't hold any political sway. Crony capitalism is one reason there's an entire population of people that never vote for an incumbent in any election. Not a bad way of doing politics either.