"So I ran into Mayor Tom Carlson over coffee yesterday and he was already preparing for whatever criticism might come his way over the deal announced between the city and John Q. Hammons over the new convention center hotel. Indeed, if you read the comments after the news story today on the topic, you'll see the conspiracy theorists are out in full force.*
Today, he wrote in an unsigned editorial (trust me, he wrote it...or if he wants to deny it, that's fine, the News Leader is welcome to start requiring their writers to sign "Our Voice" columns instead of providing an apron string for writers to hang onto as they hide behind the Gannett name as if they are the (editorial) legs of a mama a little boy peeks out from behind).
Messenger wrote today, October 18, 2007:
"The problem with the city's process is that it adds fuel to the fire to those critics who believe this was never an open competition from the beginning. If, in fact, the city's logic holds true that the TIF process had to be reopened because of major changes to the scope of the deal, then why isn't the process being reopened again? Now the deal has totally changed, with BKD entering into a private agreement to build its office building on property Hammons owns. So the proposals that were sought seeking both an office building and hotel no longer apply.
The lesson for the city is that process matters. The city sends mixed signals when on one hand it says "Hammons has paid his dues" — as city attorney Dan Wichmer recently stated in defending negotiations with the developer — and on the other hand argues that the process has been an open and fair competition.
Hammons has controlled the process from the beginning, not because he's done anything nefarious, but because he holds all the cards. Because of previous deals with the city, he holds the contract to manage the Expo Center. He owns the land surrounding the site. He is the landlord of the company looking to relocate. In a nutshell, none of the other developers had a chance.
If this process proves anything, it's the truth spoken by a couple of city officials at the most recent council meeting — this is, that the city is not very good at development.
The City Council should approve this deal because it moves downtown forward and improves the city's debt and budget situation. But this chapter in the city's history should also send a clear signal that it's time to leave development to the experts."
I'm wondering, these people Tony has called "the conspiracy theorists," are they kind of like the people Mayor Carlson called "the people from the peanut gallery?" And hasn't Tony, peering from behind the News Leader's legs, written pretty much what "the people from the peanut gallery, the conspiracy theorists," have been fussing about all along...ah, that's different?
Further, what about his advice of last week, when he wrote:
"Focus on the issues, people. Leave the name-calling to children on the playground."
Does identifying people as "the conspiracy theorists" qualify as name calling?
Tony, Tony, Tony, I warned you last week to take your own advice. Now, you've joined the patrons of "the peanut gallery." Now, you've gone and put your stamp of approval on what "the conspiracy theorists" have been saying all along, yet for some reason we are all to believe that it's "conspiratorial" when expressed by the common man (or a certain radio talk show host ) but valid and legitimate opinion when expressed by the Editorial Page Editor of the News-Leader? Very, very interesting.
When you wrote:
"If this process proves anything, it's the truth spoken by a couple of city officials at the most recent council meeting — this is, that the city is not very good at development."
and when you wrote:
"...this chapter in the city's history should also send a clear signal that it's time to leave development to the experts."
You are saying the same thing that others who have said city staff is incompetent when it comes to negotiating deals with developers have said...the only difference? You didn't put your name on it. You are the Editorial Page Editor of the city's leading newspaper as opposed to a "conspiracy theorist" or a person in "the peanut gallery." I'll also note that you are happy to report that "the city is not very good at development," when it comes from the mouths of "a couple of city officials at the most recent council meeting" but others who have offered the same opinion, instead of being worthy of a nod? Conspiracy theorists?
Now you are asking the questions that "the conspiracy theorists," and patrons of "the peanut gallery" have been asking and making the same statements they've been making all along (as highlighted above).
Sorry, I'll place my bet, any day of the week I'll bet on people from the peanut gallery who are willing to put their names behind their words and are willing to risk time, reputation and persecution over those who call names but then agree with them in unsigned "Our Voice" columns at the city's leading newspaper.
Now, Tony, in your next unsigned column would you mind asking the city if they made Hammon's competitors aware of Hammon's control over the process before they wasted their "real money, their time, money and effort," on a process in which Hammons held all the cards? At what point did the city know that BKD was not interested in sharing their offices in a multi-use facility? Before or after they insisted developers include them in their proposals? Before they strung other developers along or after?
Was it proper process to not inform the other developers that JQ Hammons owned exclusive rights to food and beverage sales at the expo center until after they had invested their real money, their time, money and effort on proposing a multi-use facility that required a tenant who wanted no part of the facility?
Could the city have strung the other developers along to make it APPEAR to the peanut gallery and conspiracy theorists that the process was open for bid, knowing full well that the other developers didn't have a chance because the chips were stacked against them?
Did the city take advantage of the other developers in order to negotiate a deal with Hammons, causing them to waste their real money, their time, money and effort in issuing proposals the city knew they couldn't possibly compete with Hammons to win? If so, will any of these developers be willing to invest that real money, time and effort on future proposals? Will they return to their home cities and talk with other developers from behind their hands about how the city of Springfield jerked them around, causing other developers to refrain from dealing with the city of Springfield?
Is this sort of dealing in the best interest of the community? Is the council making the best decisions on behalf of the peanut gallery?
And then, answer this question, humor me, what's the difference between a "conspiracy theorist," radio talk show host, blogger or citizen journalist and an Editorial Page Editor of the News Leader?
*all emphasis, mine.