“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”- Karl Marx
Last week, councilmember Jerry Heimlicher vowed loudly and publicly that, joined by a majority of his colleagues, he would insist that council be updated on the USOC deal in open session.
That didn’t happen.
Yesterday during the informal City Council meeting, avisibly chastened Heimlicher made only fleeting reference to his former devotion to the public’s right to know, saying that “the press has reported that we’re within days of a new EDA (economic development agreement), and we promised the public that it wouldn’t be done behind closed doors.”
Assistant city manager Mike Anderson, who introduced himself as “assistant city attorney Mike Anderson,” gave a brief presentation on the progress of the deal.
A grim-faced Anderson characterized the negotiations as “complex,” involving as many as 13 lawyers representing the interests of the city, LandCo, and the USOC. He noted that the USOC had not yet “staffed this to their board,” and that, since the organization’s board members are dispersed throughout the country, meetings are more difficult to plan than those of city council.
Mayor Rivera chimed in, saying that “I’ve been very cautious (about forecasting the date of a new EDA). (But) the intention of Scott (Hente) and myself and Mike is to have a very public (process).”
Anderson finished his presentation by, in essence, saying that the “finalized agreement” would be brought to council for a public unveiling as soon as it was…well, agreed and finalized.
Councilmembers, having nothing of substance to talk about, then ruminated at length on what to call the document that they so yearn to see. “Finalized agreement” sounded too much like a take it or leave it backroom deal-how about “finalized draft”? Or maybe “coordinated draft?”
Then, as if actors in Kabuki theater, councilmembers fell into long-practiced rituals, praising city staff, and condemning the evildoers of the media.
Vice mayor Larry Small sorrowfully sympathized with Mike Anderson.
“I see the anguish on your face,” he said, “and I hope when this is over you can go back to looking 20 years younger than your age.”
And councilmember Tom Gallagher’s often-tangled rhetoric reached new highs.
“So we need to mitigate the malcontents,” he said, referring to the ink-stained wretches of the fourth estate, “you ignore ‘em, they just grow and fester.”
“Growing and festering”- that’s us!
Despite the happy talk, it seems clear that the proposed deal has hit some major snags. If your mortgage broker tells you that your application is “very complex-but we’re making very good progress,” that means you’re not getting the loan. If your attorney-or your assistant city manager-looks like death warmed over as he announces that 13 attorneys are working on your “very complex” business deal, you’d better hire a bankruptcy lawyer.
What’s holding up the deal? We don’t know, but we can guess.
Holdup # 1: LandCo can’t perform according to the terms of the original EDA, but they can prevent a new deal from being done. It’s simple: pay ‘em, and they’ll go away.
Holdup # 2: The original deal called for LandCo to give the USOC 16 million big ones. LandCo can’t do it-but the USOC still wants the $-show us the money!!
Holdup # 3: The city is broke, and getting broker by the week. The usual suspects-El Pomar, the state, local philanthropists aren’t stepping forward. So where’s the money?
Holdup # 4: The city doesn’t want anything in writing when it comes to the $16 million-no use getting those unmitigated malcontents all riled up! The taxpayers just wouldn’t understand…but the USOC wants cash, or a firm commitment to provide the cash at a date certain. Money talks, BS walks.
Actually, the deal’s simple. Just find lots of money, and give everybody some! That’s fine-but don’t ask the taxpayers.
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others” - Groucho Marx