Fraser Acted Against Advice on Proposal

Unsolicited Library Lot proposal was not put on a shelf

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 17, 2010): Conversation among councilmembers and residents on Sunday night yielded some additional historical insight into development plans for the Library Lot above the underground parking garage, which is currently beginning construction.

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) revealed that when city administrator Roger Fraser mentioned an unsolicited development proposal at the city council budget retreat in January 2009, he had acted against the advice of members of the council’s budget and labor committee. The committee had become aware of the proposal’s existence prior to the retreat, Rapundalo reported, and when they did, “We said that should be put away on a shelf somewhere. … (but) Roger chose to mention it at the retreat.” Rapundalo also added that while some councilmembers had seen the unsolicited proposal, he had not.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) recalled a phase in the community conversation about the future of the city-owned Library Lot that predated the January 2009 budget retreat. It was a time when the discussion centered on leaving the top of the parking structure as a temporary surface parking lot while its eventual, more permanent fate was considered – still a possibility, based on Sunday’s caucus discussion.

Besides the Library Lot, residents who attended caucus touched on other issues – the city council’s role in city governance, and the capital improvements plan for the year, which is on the council’s Tuesday night meeting agenda. Council is meeting on Tuesday, rather than its usual Monday schedule, because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Library Lot

Remarks by Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) about the history of the discussion surrounding the Library Lot’s future came in the context of a conversation with resident Bob Snyder.

Snyder began by saying he was happy that two previously eliminated proposals had been re-included in the interview process. [Chronicle coverage: "Library Lot Math: 6 – 2 + 2 = 6"] He suggested that the two proposals envisioning the parcel as primarily open space were a “sentimental favorite.” That was due, he said, to the sense that the city needed to have a “heart, a center.”

The University of Michigan Diag, Snyder continued, is not such a center. Even as a three-time graduate of UM, he said, he did not feel that the Diag was the heart of the city for him as a townie. The downtown, he concluded, needs to have something worth coming to.

Snyder contemplated the possibility that none of the six proposals would be accepted.

At that, Briere noted that when the concept for the underground parking garage was initially approved, the plan had been that nothing would be built initially. Instead, it would be a surface parking lot with a plaza and a cut-through street – having a surface parking lot was intended to prevent people from thinking it would be a park. The idea was that Ann Arbor would, she said, “sit on it for a while.” Briere and Rapudalo would later identify late 2007 as the relevant timeframe for that concept.

So the question Briere then put to Snyder was this: If the request for proposals (RFP) review committee were to accept none of the proposals, and the space were made into a surface parking lot until such time as something else could be built, how would people feel? Snyder said that for his part, he’d feel “disappointed.” He suggested that instead of surface parking, the area should be planted in prairie grass so that the space at least felt like it was alive.

Then Rapundalo followed up with Snyder on a suggestion Snyder had made about the proposals being considered based on “softer” criteria. How fair is it, wondered Rapundalo, and how can the committee do its job, if the responses to the RFP did not include the minimum baseline of requested information? [Rapundalo chairs the RFP review committee.]

The two proposals that had been initially eliminated, continued Rapundalo, had not talked at all about costs in their responses – what would the construction, concrete and steel costs for what they were proposing. “How can I stack that up against the other four?” he asked.

Rapundalo said, “Dahlmann, at least, should have been able to crank that out. I don’t know why he didn’t. I guess I will have a chance to ask him on Tuesday!” [Dahlmann Apts Ltd. is one of the two open space proposals now being considered. Interviews for those two proposals are scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 19 starting at 1 p.m. at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.]

Ann Arbor City Council budget retreat

From the January 2009 budget retreat. On the left is city administrator Roger Fraser with city councilmember Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). They're looking at conceptual drawings for a possible conference center on top of the underground parking garage to be built at the city-owned Library Lot between Fifth and Division streets. (Photo by the writer.)

Rapundalo also clarified how the RFP process had worked so far. The first step he characterized as an evaluation of the administrative requirements: Was there text in all of the right places? All six of the proposals that had met the deadline also met the administrative requirements, he said.

The second step, he continued, was to evaluate the text in each of the sections of the proposal.  The minimum requirement, he said, was for there to be some cost estimates – which the two open space proposals were completely lacking. After this week’s interviews, Rapundalo concluded, the scoring metric would be applied, including the 10% weighting of the financial return to the city.

In describing the proposal from Valiant Partners – which had been presented to Fraser in advance of the RFP process – Snyder alluded at one point during the caucus conversation to a “presentation” that had been made at last year’s budget retreat by that developer.

Both Briere and Rapundalo clarified that there’d been no presentation, but rather that the city administrator, Roger Fraser, had made councilmembers aware of the unsolicited proposal and offered to show it to them. From The Chronicle’s retreat coverage:

The second idea Fraser asked council to reflect on is one also associated by many community members with [Jesse] Bernstein: the idea of a downtown conference center. Holding a large manila envelope, Fraser said that he had conceptual drawings that had been developed by someone interested in seeing the parcel developed – it would sit on top of the proposed Fifth Avenue underground parking garage. He said he had permission from the proposer to show councilmembers the conceptual drawings. For The Chronicle, Fraser declined to identify the parties who had conveyed the drawings beyond saying that it was a developer in New York who had local ties. He said if the idea received traction on council, then the developer might be inclined to disseminate the drawings more widely.

At Sunday’s caucus, Rapundalo seemed to express some frustration that Fraser had taken that path. Rapundalo served then, as now, on the budget and labor committee, which is now simply the budget committee. And he reported at caucus that when the committee had learned of the unsolicited proposal’s existence, some committee members had told Fraser the proposal should be “put away on a shelf somewhere.” Instead, Rapundalo said, Fraser had introduced the topic at the January 2009 budget retreat.

Following up by email with Rapundalo after the caucus, The Chronicle asked for some additional clarification about his caucus remarks. In responding, Rapundalo put the timeframe of receipt by Fraser of the unsolicited proposal in late 2008 – Fraser then apprised the budget and labor committee of the report’s existence. The budget and labor committee, wrote Rapundalo, indicated that “we did not wish to have the matter come forward as it was going to take the focus away from budget discussions and other matters.”

When Fraser had introduced the topic at the budget retreat, Rapundalo wrote, “We were displeased because it countermanded our express direction to the contrary.”

In his emailed response to The Chronicle, Rapundalo noted that some councilmembers had seen the unsolicited proposal – he cited Sabra Briere and Sandi Smith as specific examples – but he had not. He’d not been offered to look at the proposal, nor did he wish to, he wrote. And that, he added, put him in a position now – as part of the RFP review committee – to help evaluate the proposals objectively based on their merits.

In his caucus comments about the Library Lot proposals, Rapundalo also stressed that he did not see the choice as between some big building and open space – open space had been part of the RFP. Briere concurred, saying that by open space the RFP did not mean “a pocket park in front of somebody’s building.”

Rapundalo also clarified that questions by the public for the proposers during the interview process could be submitted via email in advance [] or on 3 x 5 index cards at the interviews. They would try to get through as many of the questions as possible, he said.

All interviews and an open house will be held at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The interview times for the Library Lot proposals are:

  • Tues., Jan. 19: 1 p.m. Dahlmann Apts Ltd.
  • Tues., Jan. 19: 2:45 p.m. Ann Arbor Community Commons
  • Wed., Jan. 20: 9 a.m. Jarratt Architecture
  • Wed., Jan. 20: 10:45 a.m. Acquest Realty Advisors
  • Wed., Jan. 20: 12:45 p.m. Valiant Partners LLC
  • Wed., Jan. 20: 2:30 p.m. Beztak Companies
  • Wed., Jan. 20: 6-8 p.m. Public open house

Briere remarked that the Library Lot RFP process had been much more open than the last one [for 415 W. Washington], which earned a “Thank you!” from Rapundalo. [Link to city website with .pdf files of all six proposals.]

City Administrator and the City Council

Prior to Stephen Rapundalo’s (Ward 2) remarks about the city administrator’s choice at last year’s budget retreat to introduce the topic of the unsolicited proposal, resident Kathy Griswold had addressed the caucus on the topic of city governance.

Griswold contended that the city council was not holding city administrator Roger Fraser accountable. Instead, she said, the council was doing the work of city staff. The council was allowing Fraser to re-direct their conversation.

As an example, she cited the conversation at the last council meeting on the topic of problems with deer-car interactions, which Rapundalo had raised, along with Tony Derezinski (Ward 2). Fraser had compared the 30 incidents per year in Ann Arbor to the 150 incidents per year in a similar-sized community in Minnesota where he’d previously worked – suggesting that he didn’t think there would be a herd-culling program in the offing.

Rapundalo responded to Griswold by saying he’d interpreted the conversation at the council table differently. He said that he and Derezinski had heard from a constituent who was interested in seeing the city hire someone to cull the deer herd, and that Rapundalo thought it unlikely that that would happen in Ann Arbor.

Griswold allowed that in her remarks about the need to hold the city administrator accountable, she was perhaps “preaching to the choir.” [The caucus choir on Sunday was Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).]

Capital Improvements Plan

Resident Ethel Potts addressed the caucus, urging them to actually read through and consider the capital improvements plan (CIP), which is on the council’s Tuesday meeting agenda. She asked them to make sure that they could stand behind all of the line items in the plan.

Potts told councilmembers that the solid waste capital improvements associated with single-stream recycling had been like a “punch in the stomach” for her. She characterized the move to single-stream as a setback, saying that Ann Arbor residents were willing to separate their recycleables and that she’d need to resist her natural inclination to continue to do so.

Asked to clarify the status of items in the CIP, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) said that it was a plan or a guide – a set of priorities – but was not authorization for the expenditures listed. That would need to come separately from the council. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) confirmed that the CIP is a wish-list as opposed to authorization.

Briere noted that some items appear in the plan year after year and are not implemented – bridge repair, for example. [Items in the plan are categorized as desireable, important, or urgent.] The total funding specified for all of the “funded” projects for the plan, which covers 2011-2016, is $162 million.


  1. By mr dairy
    January 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm | permalink

    When is council going to understand that Fraser is a master manipulator?

    It’s time that council took control rather than allowing themselves to be easily distracted and pitted against each other. Show some leadership!

  2. January 18, 2010 at 3:16 pm | permalink

    Yes, this has been a more open RFP process than 415 W. Washington, and I thank the committee, the administration and the council for putting all transactions on the website and making the meetings of the committee open to the public.

    In contrast, the 415 W.Washington RFP was written more or less in secret by a staff committee and the advisory committee in that case deliberated in private. They did have an open interview/presentation of proposers.

    The RFP for the old Y site (that resulted in the William St. Station proposal) was drawn up by a DDA committee and deliberations were in private, as were any interviews. It was very difficult to see the proposals except by FOIA.

    This time round, the committee is also making an opportunity for the public to ask questions, not provided before. Very commendable. Thank you, all concerned.

    The true lack of openness here is that there was no real public discussion ahead of time to determine the public’s view on the best use of the site. Furthermore, council was not (openly) consulted in the drafting of the RFP. The criteria for the RFP were drawn up to favor a development proposal. The inside track that Mr. Fraser gave the “unsolicited proposal” clearly influenced the way the RFP is constructed.

  3. By Tom Whitaker
    January 18, 2010 at 3:57 pm | permalink

    If questions submitted by the public are too numerous to be answered in the time alotted, I would like to suggest that the Committee submit any remaining public questions to the proposers in writing, with proposers required to respond, also in writing, by a date certain.

    This would allow the public the opportunity to maximize the small role they’ve been allotted in the process and help to reduce concerns over unfair editing or discarding of submitted questions.

  4. By Karen Sidney
    January 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm | permalink

    Here’s a link to a video of the conference center discussion at the January 2009 retreat


  5. By Dave Askins
    January 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm | permalink

    Re: [3] “… suggest that the Committee submit any remaining public questions to the proposers in writing, with proposers required to respond, also in writing, by a date certain.”

    Based on the caucus conversation, I think something like that will be undertaken – to provide any remaining questions to the proposers so that they can respond, and to post all the relevant material (questions and answers) on the city webpage dedicated to the Library Lot RFP.

  6. By Gill
    January 18, 2010 at 4:40 pm | permalink

    Is there any way we can put open space downtown, but not on top of a very expensive parking structure? Is it so much cheaper to maintain an item like an ice rink on solid ground, rather than on top of a four story, underground structure. Think of the long term costs associated with soils on a structure…I am going to guess about 400x the cost per square foot.

  7. By Sabra Briere
    January 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm | permalink

    As usual, great covereage. I’d just like to offer a few — or not so few — clarifying remarks.

    At our City Council retreat on January 10, 2009, Roger Fraser showed us some ‘preliminary’ drawings for a conference center. We were not provided copies of these drawings. Later requests for copies or any further information was denied — their very existence was denied — by the FOIA officer at the City.

    On Sunday, June 14, 2009, at the end of Caucus, Mayor Hieftje asked me to come to his office so he could show me something. At that time, he loaned me a copy of a proposal titled “Ann Arbor Town Center” from Valiant Partners LLD, dated May, 2009. On its cover was a green and white sticky note stating “Thanks, John. This is pretty interesting. Sandi”.

    I returned the original document to him the next day.

    This is the same proposal that was later publicized as the “secret plan” for the conference center by Vivienne Armentrout on her blog, Local in Ann Arbor, in August, 2009.

    I heard nothing more about the cenference center until December 3rd, 2009. At the Holiday Breakfast of the Main Street Merchants’ Association, Jesse Bernstein, the former president of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, expressed his displeasure at the Library Lot RFP process and Council’s inability to ‘make up its mind’. He said there he, the Mayor and Roger Fraser had worked hard to get the deal for the conference center proposal, and now we were sending mixed signals to the developers. He said that everyone agreed that this was what downtown needed. I said I didn’t. We agreed to meet for breakfast.

    On December 11, 2009, at 7:30 am, we met at the Northside Grill. Among other discussed items, Bernstein said he, Fraser and Hieftje had met with people from Valiant. The Valiant people had asked what they could do for the City. The ‘vision’ that had emerged from this meeting was that the City wanted a conference center. I do not know the date of that meeting, except that it had to have been prior to December, 2008. I also do not know if there was more than one meeting.

    At our meeting, Bernstein said he felt betrayed. He said that Valiant’s proposal for a conference center was a consensus project, and that it was not fair that Valiant should have to jump through all of these hoops.

    On Saturday, January 9, 2010, I spoke with Council member Stephen Rapundalo, who is the chair of the RFP advisory committee. I reported on all of the above.

    I also said that, as part of the mandatory RFP process, Valiant had signed a proposal statement which said, in part: “The undersigned acknowledges that it has not received or relied upon any representations or warrants of any nature whatsoever from the City of Ann Arbor, its agents or employees, and that this Proposal is based solely upon the undersigned’s own independent business judgement.”

    I said to Rapundalo that I questioned the validity of this acknowledgment since Fraser had participated in the design of the plan.

    On Thursday, January 14, 2010, I met with Chuck Skelton, president of Hospitality Advisors Consulting Group, a firm that performs site analysis, feasibility and valuation of hotels all over the country. Peter Allen was also at our meeting. He had set up the meeting at my request.

    Skelton said that he had met with Valiant principals in January, 2009 to discuss a hotel/conference center larger than the one currently before the RFP committee.

    Skelton said that in a small market like Ann Arbor building a hotel/conference center would be impact on existing businesses. Typically, if the prospects were economically sound the City would not have to provide financing assistance.

    Near the end of the meeting, Peter Allen asked, “ You mean there is no way a hotel can be successful? How about a boutique hotel?” Chuck responded by saying, “It is doubtful at this time given these market conditions.”


  8. By Glenn Thompson
    January 18, 2010 at 7:21 pm | permalink

    Response to Gill, post 6.

    I don’t see any reason to expect a such a high cost ratio for an ice rink or park on top of the parking structure vs on ground.

    The structure was designed to support a 20+ story building. For a park or ice rink the top surface would need to be designed to carry a greater load than any one story of a commercial building but the total load on the structure would be much less.

    One number you might use for comparison is the load of a green roof. I believe load numbers here are in the order of 10 to 20% more.

    Even if you assume the top deck load will be is twice as much as one hotel floor, re-engineering the foundation for this load would probably reduce the foundation cost more than enough to pay for the cost of the stronger top deck.

  9. By Cosmonican
    January 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm | permalink

    That is less of a clarification, than an indictment.

    Since Valiant is so willing to generously donate their idea to the city to the exclusion of others, do they propose to have free use of the parking structure as well. Exactly how do any of these proposals address parking, how many spaces do they want on a permanent basis, and how much do they propose to pay for them?

  10. By Cosmonican
    January 18, 2010 at 7:30 pm | permalink

    Sorry, #9 is in response to #7.

  11. By Glenn Thompson
    January 18, 2010 at 7:55 pm | permalink

    I certainly agree with Ms Potts, the conversion to single stream recycling is an extreme waste of money.

    At present the city has thousands of citizen volunteers separating the recyclables. Now the city tells us it more efficient for the citizens to mix them up and let the city pay people to sort them out again. That is absurd.

    The Container Recycling Institute has conducted a very good study on single stream recycling. The summary of their study was “you can’t unscramble an egg.” More specifically the CRI concluded that single stream recycling was more expensive and less desirable for the environment than letting Ms Potts and fellow citizens do the separation.

    The worst is that Council authorized about $6 or $7 million to be spent to “unscramble an egg” when claiming these is a budget crisis that require fire fighters be eliminated, Mack Pool and the Senior Center closed.

  12. By Rod Johnson
    January 18, 2010 at 8:34 pm | permalink

    I’m a little shocked at what Sabra has laid out above. Pretty damning. (And “their very existence was denied — by the FOIA officer at the City”? What fast food franchise is that person working at now?)

  13. January 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm | permalink

    Re #9: an excellent question and good one to ask at the interview on Jan. 20. The parking spaces have been allocated in a number of different ways, but as Karen Sidney has documented through a series of memorandums and emails, the terms of the Federal program under which the bonds were sold will restrict the number of parking places that can be allocated to any one leaseholder. The city is evidently hoping to trade off permitholder spaces in Liberty Square and Maynard but it is not clear that all parties understand these arrangements.

    Re #12: A slight misstatement – there was a FOIA, again by Karen Sidney, I have attached to my blog: [link] that was denied not because the proposal’s authors were unknown but because the proposal was not official city business or some such explanation. (The officer signing the letter was Jayne Miller.)

  14. January 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm | permalink

    Regarding #2, I may have been mistaken that the William St. Station choices were made in secret. It was several years ago and my memory just dredged up some comments, perhaps quoted in DDA minutes, about why the choice was made. I’m pretty sure that the public was not generally invited, though.

  15. By Rod Johnson
    January 18, 2010 at 9:23 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the clarification, Vivienne.

  16. By Cosmonican
    January 18, 2010 at 9:38 pm | permalink

    #13, thanks for the detail Vivienne, unfortunately I cannot attend, so lets hope someone takes up that question for the record.

    It would certainly be a joke on us if this new parking oubliette turns out to cause a net loss of usable public parking spots.

  17. By mr dairy
    January 18, 2010 at 9:43 pm | permalink

    When Valiant asked what they could do for the city, why didn’t anyone suggest they they build a new Stadium Bridge?

    It appears to me that a few people are so out of touch with reality.

    Conference Center or a Bridge? You choose!

  18. By Dave Askins
    January 18, 2010 at 9:56 pm | permalink

    Re: [13] “A slight misstatement – there was a FOIA, again by Karen Sidney, I have attached to my blog: [link] that was denied not because the proposal’s authors were unknown but because the proposal was not official city business or some such explanation.”

    The Chronicle’s request under the FOIA for those documents, made in early fall 2009, was denied on the basis that ” … the City has no documents responsive to your request.”

    We asked for clarification of how that could be, in light of the photograph of Taylor and Fraser standing together looking at documents: Was it the city’s contention that the documents in the photograph were not responsive? The clarification we received was [emphasis added]: ” … no documents were kept by City staff from the proposers.”

    So one broad kind of followup question that we have been pursuing (somewhat indirectly) since receiving that response concerns the city of Ann Arbor’s interpretation of its responsibility under the FOIA with respect to records that are in the possession of elected and appointed officials.

    When (if) we can establish anything conclusive, we’ll report results.

  19. January 18, 2010 at 10:52 pm | permalink

    @11: Thanks for pointing to the CRI study, Glenn. I read most of it and will pose some questions to Tom McMurtrie about how our system stacks up against those in the study (and the studies it references.)

    On what basis do you conclude that converting to single-stream recycling will be “an extreme waste of money”? Even generalizing from the study you’d need to justify that characterization, which exaggerates and possibly misinterprets its conclusions.

    My current understanding is that the processing technology has advanced in recent years, our MRF upgrade will include newer technology, and our processing contractor has a strong track record for quality, partly due to appropriate financial incentives. All of these (as well as other factors, including educated and motivated participants like Eppie) combine to make the planned conversion to single-stream collection a prudent step.

  20. By Leah Gunn
    January 19, 2010 at 6:36 am | permalink

    Regarding the interviews for the “Y” lot – not only were they public, but they were videotaped and broadcast on CTN. The interviews were held in the County Board of Commissioners room, using their equipment for taping. I know, because I was a member of the selection committee, and offered the facilities (intergovrnmental cooperation). The project ultimately failed because of lack of bank financing.

  21. By Karen Sidney
    January 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm | permalink

    When I emailed a FOIA request on Jan 12, 2009 for the proposals presented at the January 10, 2009 retreat, it was denied based on the the following exemption:

    Communications and notes within a public body or between public bodies of an advisory nature to the extent that they cover other than purely factual materials and are preliminary to a final agency determination or policy or action

    When I filed a FOIA request in August 2009 for unsolicited proposals including the one from Valiant, it was denied because “City staff has not saved any unsolicited proposals for the library lot location that have been presented to the city.” I followed up with an inquiry regarding whether council members were included in the definition of city staff but never received a response.

    The September 2009 letter from the city responding to the August request also went on to say “Although the response to a prior request for the proposal had stated that it was exempt from disclosure as an internal communication, that response was based on an internal miscommunication. The City already did not have the proposal at the time of that request and the response should have said that instead of saying that the proposal was exempt under the internal communications exemption.”

    Jayne Miller signs the FOIA letters.

  22. By Teaman
    January 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm | permalink

    @18: Dave, it would be a real service to the community if the Chronicle could put all of these various pieces of information into a detailed timeline (Council and DDA emails, Council actions, FOIA requests and responses, RFP activity, Sabra’s account, etc.).

    It seems quite odd that the City would have the Valiant drawings on January 10, 2009, but then not have them two days later on January 12; Then have them again in June 2009, but not in August 2009. All the while, Mayor and Council were denying that there was any predisposition to build a conference center. Mr. Bernstein, according to Sabra, apparently had a very different understanding.

    At the very least, it would seem there’s been a lot of skillful “tip-toeing through the FOIA’s” going on here.

  23. January 19, 2010 at 9:58 pm | permalink

    Leah, thanks for the clarification (#20) on the Y RFP process. I shouldn’t have shot from the hip without looking it up.

    I believe that you are mistaken about the reason the project died. I’ve been researching that recently in the wake of the lawsuit and just did a post on it [link] that also links to a copy of the lawsuit brief. It has a detailed timeline.

  24. By Tom Whitaker
    January 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm | permalink

    I haven’t seen any reporting on the public Q & A portions of the interviews. Anything interesting come out of that?

  25. By Dave Askins
    January 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm | permalink

    Re: [24] It’s been a long week at The Chronicle. My current intention is to wrap relevant aspects from the interview process into the account of the joint meeting of the technical and RFP review committees — I just returned from there. Outcome was that all but the Valiant and Acquest proposals have been set aside for further consideration by the review committee. The committee will now forge ahead with the consultant on the Valiant and Acquest proposals.

  26. By suswhit
    January 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm | permalink

    “The committee will now forge ahead with the consultant on the Valiant and Acquest proposals.”

    Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! Who’d have thunk that plans for a hotel/conference center JUST like the one they have been secretly planning all along would be the only ones still being considered. What a surprising turn of events.

    This process is a complete farce. Who do they think they are fooling? There are a few egomaniacs around these parts who think we are too stupid to pay attention let alone figure out the corrupt financing plan they’ve got worked out. I sure hope we can prove them wrong.

  27. By Tom Whitaker
    January 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm | permalink

    Thanks, Dave. I was mostly taking a poke at They posted stories about the interviews rather quickly, but with all of the concerns raised about public participation in this process, you’d think they’d have covered at least a few of the public questions and responses. The only “public” comment they highlight was by Ed Surovell who praised the Valiant conference center/hotel/condo proposal. It took readers to reveal in the comments below the article that Mr. Surovell will profit from this development as the real estate broker for the condominiums.

  28. January 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm | permalink

    My opinion is that not a lot new came out of the public Q&A though there were some good questions. A big one was a question directed at Valiant about whether they had received prior assurances. If so, they would have been in violation of the terms of the RFP. Seyferth responded stiffly that they had talked with a lot of people but had received absolutely no assurances of any kind and had just offered their proposal to the city as a sort of model that could spur other proposals and valuable discussion.

  29. By Tom Whitaker
    January 23, 2010 at 8:37 pm | permalink

    “The public justification for public financing, including construction financing with tax exempt bonds, is that this is an investment that brings jobs and consumers to a city’s downtown. Academic research on the value to economic development, however, has universally concluded that sports stadiums, convention centers and hotels do not increase economic activity in downtown areas.”

    Domestic Policy Subcomittee,
    Committee of Oversight and Government Reform
    United States House of Representatives