Saturday, February 25, 2012

CCR 02-25-12: Woeful Profiles

the Controversial Committee Report

“We don’t raise sacred cows...we just butcher them.”

The city council meeting where the non-binding referendum for the Entertainment Center was discussed played out as staff of the CCR expected. The Doddering ½Dozen, true to form, voted 6 - 3 to kill the measure and was not fazed by the multitude of citizens appearing before them, or the rationale of the points they presented to have the council place the ordinance on the ballot. Of course, a large majority of these individuals probably did not contribute to the council campaigns of this group of six, so that could mitigate why the vote went as it did.

If the fans of the Doddering ½Dozen have anything to crow about this ‘win,’ it would be that only the politically naive believed this ordinance would pass. However, by defeating the ordinance, the general population is acutely aware of how unacceptable the current agreement and financial plan really is for the Entertainment Center.

Regardless, the meeting caused staff of the CCR to ponder what John F. Kennedy would write about this council session if he penned a sequel to his “Profiles in Courage” tome. His assessment of the Doddering ½Dozen could characterize them in a potential Irving bestseller titled “Profiles in Myopia.” How would the Doddering ½Dozen and Irving come across if the chapters featured:

Dennis Webb - Isn’t it amazing how the individuals who were smart enough to vote Webb into office are suddenly too dumb to understand anything about the Entertainment Center, or be informed enough to vote on a non-binding referendum. In the history of city council meetings, one would really have to search to find a council member who displayed a greater condescending, loud and arrogant attitude to audience members not in agreement with their position. His comments seemed to register a blatant tone of: How dare you question my words, understanding or position on this issue. I know what I'm doing, because I'm sitting here and you aren't. (Dale Carnegie he ain’t!)

Rose Cannaday - Once again, like a bad tape on a perpetual loop, she treated the audience to her LCG talking points: Grapevine Mills Mall, the Gaylord Texan Hotel and the 2,000 jobs drivel. Maybe one day, someone will inform her that the two businesses now in Grapevine had more to do with land use and zoning in Irving than a city partnership that would require double pledging HOT taxes or placing property tax payers on the hook for any future operating cost or debt service payments for the projects. More importantly, residents around these potential zoning cases were not amiable to the increased traffic congestion or invasion of their neighborhoods that could occur with these developments. (But then, what do residents really know or understand?) As far as the 2,000 jobs that would be created by the Entertainment Center, this is probably just another cotton candy-number contained in one of the LCG studies that includes all the other fluffy revenue projections for the center. (Would someone please freshen her Kool-Aid?)

Lewis Patrick - The consummate bureaucrat turned politico, he started sipping ex-mayor Gears‘ Kool-Aid brew early on and views anyone speaking against the Entertainment Center as being nutty, ill informed and just plain out to lunch. (If the lunch is free, be sure he is on the invite list, though.) And this is surprising when considering that one of his Aggie brothers-in-arms clearly demonstrated at a recent council meeting all the pitfalls and hazards to the city contained in the current financial agreement for the Entertainment Center. (How do you know if an Aggie doesn’t understand the financing concepts of the Entertainment Center? He takes another sip of his Kool-Aid.)

Roy Santoscoy - He may hold the distinction of having his political capital fall quicker -- after being elected -- than a Kim Kardashian marriage...which lasted 72 days. While campaigning, he assured folks he would serve with an open mind and had no specific agenda. Of course, this was before voters discovered that the LCG and the Firemen’s PAC had heavily spiked his campaign war chest and ex-mayor Gears and Charles Cotton might be coaching him as mentors or Kool-Aid providers. (Probably both.)

Michael Gallaway - Staff of the CCR once thought that councilman Philipp asked the most questions at any meeting of the council. Well, there may be a new contender to the throne. If the council materials are this difficult for Gallaway to comprehend, then perhaps tutoring sessions with city staff before the meetings would be in order. This would certainly shorten the meetings. And while being tutored, he should be counseled on the ill effects and addictive properties of sipping the Kool-Aid being poured for him by ex-mayor Gears.

Rick Stopfer - Sadly, any or perhaps all the good he may have accomplished during his never-ending encampment on the city council has boiled down to his shortsighted approach to doing what is best for Irving regarding the financing of the Entertainment Center. His close relationships with the north Irving ‘establishment’ and ties with ex-mayor Gears provides one with a jaundiced view of his soft-spoken pronouncements favoring the LCG’s ability to deliver on its contractual obligations. Admitting to maybe not knowing some of the more salient points of the LCG agreement also spoke loudly of why citizen’s perception of the council’s ability to protect their interest is sorely lacking.

Even if “Profiles in Myopia” is never published, one fact remains: Any misinformation the council perceives the general public might have about the financing of the Entertainment Center is derived from the council not addressing, discussing or leveling with the voters about the true nature and impact this $250 million project will have on property tax payers. Here are just a few of the current particulars and Las Colinas Group (LCG) contractual agreement provisions -- as they exist now -- that you do not hear the Doddering ½Dozen discuss, amend or shed light on.

  • To obtain ‘investment grade’ bonds to fund the project, the council will have to double pledge the HOT tax funds.
  • The council has already been informed by bond and financial consultants that to obtain $170 in bond funding they would have to double pledge HOT tax funds and have the tax payers on the hook for debt service obligations.
  • The council does not have to wait for the results of a bond review to know that HOT taxes will have to be double pledged and property tax payers on the hook for any shortfalls in ICVB, Arts Center and Museum budgets and debt service obligations.
  • The HOT tax funds are already pledged for the ICVB, Arts Center and Museum operations.
  • The LCG lease is for 100-years.
  • The LCG lease agreement does not provide for any rental escalation amounts to be paid to the city for 50-years.
  • The LCG and Fireman’s PAC contributed over $1 million to council campaigns in 2011.
  • The LCG has, time after time, missed contractual deadlines as established in their agreement with the city.
  • The LCG has yet to provide the city with the contractually required documentation that demonstrates their $80 million share of the project is now available.
  • The ill advised financing of the Entertainment Center could jeopardize the AAA bond rating that past councils worked diligently to achieve.
  • The financial requirements of the new convention center have already placed a burden on property tax payers and it is projected that this will remain the case for at least the next five years of its operation...even without the burden of an Entertainment Center or proposed hotel.
  • Having LCG establish timelines and prepare contract amendments to improve their position in the agreement does little to protect the tax paying public.
  • Funding the Entertainment Center, as currently noted, would not allow for any HOT taxes to be available for a proposed hotel on the site.
  • Restaurants not complying with the city’s 60/40 alcoholic beverage ordinance can not be shut down due to non-compliance.
  • The LCG is granted the right to develop 100 residential condominiums on city-leased property which would negate the payment of ad valorem taxes to the city.

While voters will not be able to vote on a non-binding referendum, they will be able to vote in the May election. And it is doubtful that the Entertainment Center financing boondoggle could be resolved before this council election. This is good.

There will be at least two new council members added after the election. One of these new members will fill the void left by the departure of one of the Doddering ½Dozen (Patrick).

The third council seat up for election features another of the Doddering ½Dozen (Stopfer) who is planning to run for re-election in an at-large seat. Since his spin and rationale for the Entertainment Center is not currently selling well with citizens, it will be interesting to see how it comes across during his campaign.

Voters should remember only one thing this election…myopia is a terrible thing to have when a council candidate is looking for voter support.

Ed. note: Sometimes, but not often, critics disagree with the reports issued by the CCR. That’s fine. However, staff of the CCR has found that the critics are usually upset over word choices used to describe situations or folks, rather than addressing the facts presented. As usual, the CCR will correct, if found, any factual misstatements presented. We regret to note that we cannot correct the genetics/absurdity of issues/people.