Sunday, January 11, 2015

CCR 01-11-15: Costly Waivers

the   Controversial  Committee   Report
“We don’t raise sacred cows...we just butcher them.”

   Today’s Question:  Just how good and effective is QueenB VDs newly revised and fluffy ethics policy really working?

   If you are not sure, or haven’t been paying attention, then maybe you should tune in to the January 15, 2015, city council meeting for agenda Item #11.  Why?  Should the council approve the item, as recommended by staff, this will represent the second waiver of a "conflict of interest" for an individual doing business with the city since the adoption of the queen’s revised code. 

   The first waiver for a "conflict of interest," on a council agenda, was noted and fully documented in the September 3, 2014, CCR report which can be accessed on the blog.

   So, what’s the big deal?  Frankly, when the queen was promoting, pimping and browbeating her Pet Rocks to pass her inane and unenforceable ethics policy changes, she spent an awful lot of time assuring folks her revision was going to make all city business transparent, hold individuals accountable, remove the stigma of cronyism, ensure no more single source developers, and open the city’s business window utilizing RFPs for competitive options to verify the city’s best interest were met.  So stated QueenB VD.  So agreed the Pet Rock collection.  

   While not certain, QueenB VD may have even promised citizens her fluffy revised ethics policy would even cure a political hemorrhoid!  (Medical research scientists are still testing to determine if this is true.  Results of the next city election will document if this might be a valid hypothesis. )

   Another feature of the queen’s revised policy was supposed to be that all citizens would be treated the same.  With the second "conflict of interest" waiver on the table, it is starting to appear if you have the queen’s ear, live in her north Irving neighborhood or have pledged fealty, then this puts you at the front of the line for special consideration…regardless of what her revised ethics policy might state. 

   Back Story:  Item #11 on the noted council agenda is to waive the "conflict of interest" for an individual who wants to move his business to Irving from Dallas.  The stated conflict is the owner of the business is a member of the DCURD board.  (No, DCURD is not a form of yogurt prepared by the queen’s royal chef.)  DCURD is the Dallas County Utility and Reclamation District which is operational for the Las Colinas urban center.  The city has worked with DCURD on some projects in the past, but DCURD is primarily funded by taxes assessed businesses in their defined district.

   In addition to moving his business to the city, the owner also might believe the city should provide a ‘sweet’ incentive for all his efforts.  Chamber and city officials have apparently fawned over the owner’s desire to move to Irving and even engaged in the game of "What Can We Give You To Move."  That’s right…officials seem to be pleading and paving the way with tax abatements, opening the city’s cookie jar and searching for other gift bag items to effect this relocation.

   Reality Pause:  Ask any real estate agent and they will affirm the success of most businesses is keyed to location, location, location.  And, dear readers, Irving has the location.  Past and present city councils have used this as a mantra to lure business concerns to the city for years.  Most businesses moved to Irving as a result of the location and most didn’t have their ‘hat in hand’ looking for a goody bag of bucks or welcome basket loaded with tax abatements or infrastructure perks. 

   This then begs the question:  If Irving has the location, then why is the city council consistently allowing tax abatements and other infrastructure freebies to entice a for-profit business to make the city their home?

   Of course, the answer most often spouted by your elected official is: "Well, (fill in city name) offers tax breaks and incentives!  Irving has to offer or match those incentives to be competitive."  What?

   (Yes, this is the lemming response one would expect from QueenB VD and the Pet Rock collection.  The response doesn’t hold water, but it does fly off the cliff with ease.  And please remember, a lemming response is akin to a Torofeca statement from a member of the council…both carry a rather fetid aroma.)

   Certainly, the city council has little regard when giving away what shouldn’t be theirs to give away in the first place…tax collections and infrastructure incentives which could have been utilized for the benefit of all citizens.  

   (Consider if tax rebates and incentives were not granted: How many additional roads could be repaired or replaced; how many new fire trucks could be purchased; would more repairs and replacement of water and sewer mains prevent rates from increasing?  In essence, the bucks given as incentives force needed items to be fully funded with higher tax collections from citizens to replace what was given away.)

   Agenda Item:  The city council is preparing to waive the "conflict of interest" for the business owner with a ten year agreement wherein the city will only receive 35% of the annual tax collections for the first five years.  Of course, the business owner agrees to hire a number of new employees and crank out a level of business which will meet the stipulations of the agreement.  One might assume if the terms of the agreement are not met, then the business owner could reappear before the council and ask for another waiver.  (When the fox knows where the hen house is located, the return trip is easier.)

   Perhaps, citizens should contact members of the city council to remind them the holiday season is over and there are no more free "gifts" available to grant to for-profit businesses wanting to move to a city that already has location, location, location.

   What’s Next?  Readers should not be surprised when the queen’s ethics policy has additional waivers, reeking of "conflict of interest," pop up on future city council agendas.  Citizens should remember the Whistle Stop development will return featuring a sitting council member as one of the partners of this venture and a major donor and supporter of the queen as another partner in the development.  And don’t forget the single source developer, OliverMcMillan, who holds the key to the queen’s desire for a tennis center on the Texas Stadium site sans any RFP.

   Maybe, QueenB VD should re-revise her ethics policy one more time.  To save paper, effort and confusion, the policy should only be one sentence: It’s ethical to waive "conflict of interest" if I say it’s ethical.  Do you know who I am? (Sorry, that would be a two sentence queenly ethics policy revision.)

…………………………….Mark Holbrook