Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thoughts on Jason's interview with the Mayor and the City Audit Report

I started this posting a few days ago and was just too dang busy to go back and finish it. It's kind of a mixed up mess but I'm going to try to make some sense out of it and post it because I'm taking a break for a bit.

The Peanut Gallery

I've been meaning to comment on this:

From The Life of Jason Interview: Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson, when Jason said:



"During the announcement of Mr. Hammons landing the deal for the arena site, you made the statement “I’ll bet any day of the week, I’ll bet on people that have got real money at risk, time, money and effort to spend as opposed to the people from the peanut gallery.” Several of your critics have taken this statement and said this proves you are not betting on the average Springfield resident but only those with money. I wanted to give you the chance to explain that statement and to explain what you meant by the term “peanut gallery.”


Mayor Carlson responded, in part:



"What I was responding to was this: there were people who had real money at risk who had entered into the competitive process to see who would get to build on that land. There were other people who were critics of the city government who said the process was rigged. What I was trying to say was this: Those people who were saying the process was rigged were not trying to acquire the land. The people that had their money at risk and had to decide whether to spend their money here and their resources really do drill down and figure out whether they think the rules are fair. Those people said it was fair..."


Well, yeah, sorta. Here's the timeline of Richard Baier of BC Development's statements. There was a bit of inconsistency there:


October 3 letter to Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith
“There does not seem to be a desire by the TIF Commission or the City to enter into open and fair competition for the development of these projects.”

October 5 interview with Vincent David Jericho on KSGF radio
Baier:
“My only reluctance to do business in Springfield would be, if there’s a public bid type process. Maybe I don’t understand all the politics in that type of thing, and I would push away from doing that. But as far as private development, where I go down and look for a site to build a medical project or retail or whatever the case might be or another hotel, I’m all for that because I like Springfield.”
Vince:
“So, private development, love to do; dealing with the City of Springfield, you’d have to think twice?”
Baier:
“Yeah, I’d have to think a couple of times, there.”

October 22 City Council meeting
“We don’t feel that we’ve been mistreated in any way, shape or fashion on this process. We’re definitely interested in working with the city.”


The Audit Report Fall-out

I don't necessarily disagree with Doug Burlison that it would be counter productive to go on a witch hunt after hearing the audit report and reading what has been written after the report in the News-Leader and on certain blogs but I'm thinking that Councilman Burlison arrived at that position after being privy to the results of the audit for some time (like at least a YEAR). Burlison has had time to process the information from that audit and his end conclusion is that it is better to look ahead and fix the problems rather than look backward and try to place the blame. Burlison might be correct in his decision but, citizens of this city should be allowed that same span of time to process the information contained in the audit report and come to that conclusion after grappling with the facts of the audit report for a while. Citizens of Springfield deserve the same amount of time to fuss, complain and discuss the details of the audit report as, rest assured, the City Council has had and in more than one closed meeting prior to the hearing of the report December 6.

I suspect that these warnings against "witch hunts" and this promise to do better in the future is meant in some small way to placate the citizens, to calm the "Peanut Gallery," if you will. I don't resent the public's anger and frustration over the results of the audit on the City of Springfield. Just as the City and Council have had a good amount of time to come to grips with the state of this City, the citizens of this city deserve at least the same amount of time to process it. AND we deserve to be allowed to process it without being smeared and condemned for it or treated as though we are some second class, low-life "Peanut Gallerians" in the process.

Nationally, there has been an outcry from the American public for government accountability that will extend to local government and no amount of city officials patting citizens on the head will make it all go away.

So, to those citizens who take an interest in their local city government and criticize the way it has been run in past years, there's nothing wrong with that. Don't let anyone suggest you are being counter productive when you need the same amount of time to mentally process the results of the audit report that the city has had in dealing with and responding to the report. It is a natural process and will run it's natural course and citizens deserve to be allowed that process without being told they are "going on a witch hunt" or being counter productive. Don't believe it when you want to have your say in your local government and hold them accountable, it's your job.

The next shoe is going to drop on December 18 when the State Auditor releases and reports on the City Utilities audit. Poor timing for the City, they'll likely still be hearing from the public about the results of the City audit when they are faced with the new report on City Utilities and I suspect it's going to be a really big shoe.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

No one then, on the upper levels of the Busch Building, has to take any responsibility for the pension fund being 70 million short ??


Why not have a public vote to see if Mr. Finnie's separate City retirement should be funded? He would still have LAGERS and Social Security.

Without the Audit the City would still be saying things are fine and dandy in la la land.








T

Jason said...

Mayor Carlson's entire response to the Peanut Gallery question:

"First off, I’ll be the first one to say that it was an unfortunate choice of words. If I had to do it over again I would not have used that expression. What I was responding to was this: there were people who had real money at risk who had entered into the competitive process to see who would get to build on that land. There were other people who were critics of the city government who said the process was rigged. What I was trying to say was this: Those people who were saying the process was rigged were not trying to acquire the land. The people that had their money at risk and had to decide whether to spend their money here and their resources really do drill down and figure out whether they think the rules are fair. Those people said it was fair and you had four people in there trying to get the deal and because they perceived the rules laid down by the city in order to decide who would get it were fair we got a super good deal for the community.

So the question I was trying to respond to was “who really was in the best position to decide whether the city was being fair in the process or whether it was rigged?” And those who were spending their time, money and resources in determining whether to get into the horse race or not would be in a better position to make that determination.

That expression “peanut gallery” came out and it was a wrong choice of words and I apologize for it."

Jacke M. said...

I guess a link wasn't sufficient? :O

Jason said...

Thought it would be easier for your readers to see it here than click. :)

Jacke M. said...

Jason, I was looking over this posting and realized that I should have noted that I only used a portion of Carlson's quote, rather than the entire response. I have added the words "in part," for clarification. I copied the part I was responding to, pertaining to the developers involved in offering proposals on the former arena site but could have been clearer in doing so.

It was an unintentional oversight on my part and I offer my apologies to anyone who might have been misled by the omission.

tom said...

Jacke,

On January 5th citizens are welcome to attend a meeting to determine in which way we should go now that the audit is finished. We realize that all members of city council need to go 'cept Doug and we will start working towards those ends. The rubber stamp committee needs to have their stamping privileges revoked as soon as their term is up and in many instances that isn't soon enough but will have to do.

Jan. 5th at Kansas Expressway Library Station in the "frisco room" from 2:00 until 5:00 PM

Jacke M. said...

"We realize that all members of city council need to go 'cept Doug and we will start working towards those ends."

I don't know who "we" is, Tom.

I am not convinced that every member of the council needs to go "'cept Doug." I like Doug and think he is doing a fine job but I'm not so ready to condemn every other member as you seem to be.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Re: Witch hunt meetings with
Mayor Tom

The top floor of the Busch building is the "witch hunt" Department.

From what they have done to several police officers and a few others over the years, the witch hunting season should be open until about April 1st.

Anonymous said...

Hi T

My understanding is that the police pension fund is well over 100 million short, and needs 70 million to get back within what is generally considered to be a safe range...

-

Jason, you and Jacke seem overly concerned about getting the mayor's full statement out...

The real issue is - was the contract process rigged? Baier (the contractor) said it was. Then he said it wasn't. His partner has always maintained that it was rigged...

Why should we take the mayor's word that everything was okay? His credibility is highly questionable, and as a volunteer part-timer, he's not really even in a position to know what actually went down to make that deal come out the way it did...!

Jacke M. said...

Anon 12:03, I think it a commendable quality to keep people in context and it is for that reason that, when I realized I hadn't mentioned that what I quoted was only a portion of Carlson's response, I thought it worth mentioning in this comment section and noting in the original entry. You see, I absolutely adore the truth and will follow the facts to try to get at it. Sometimes I have an agenda that doesn't get met in the end but I'm able to sleep at night because I feel I've set the priority as getting at the TRUTH rather than supporting an agenda.

I don't believe there are any provable facts that support the contract process was rigged at this time. There were some questions raised and some inconsistent statements made by Rick Baier regarding the fairness of the process that Carlson ignored in his response to Jason and which I felt were worthy of noting and that is why I did so.

I have never suggested that anyone should simply take the Mayor's word that everything was okay but until someone can produce proof that the process was rigged then anything more than questioning it would be irresponsible. I like to think I am a responsible and consistent person. At least that is a high standard I have set for myself. In the end, all people are only responsible for what comes out of their own mouth or is generated by their own keyboard. I guard closely what I say and what I write about and try not to make charges that I cannot prove. Certainly, I have been known to QUESTION things and I will continue to question a good many things, no doubt. There is a difference however, in questioning and accusing, I draw a line of distinction between the two.

Now, you go and do your thing, promote whatever agenda you want however you, personally, choose to promote it, that's your business. What I promote is the truth, it always has been and I hope it always will be and it's my business how I promote that.

Oh, and feel free to question ME about it any time.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Jacke -

interesting that you accuse me of an agenda (you don't know me or anything about what I may be trying to do)...

I point out a fact which you cannot dispute, which is this -

The Mayor says the process was fair, even though he has absolutely no evidence that he knows what he's talking about.

How much of the negotiation did the mayor sit in on?

We don't know.

Can we review meeting minutes or e-mails to see what was discussed and by whom?

We don't have those.

What happened during negotiations while the mayor was erstwhile occupied with his other (paying) job?

We don't know. No minutes, no e-mails, not even the mayor's side because he was not there...

The only thing we have is his word on something that he has no knowledge or evidence of.

In closing, I'll resist the temptation to sarcastically thank you for your kind permission to "go and do my own thing"...

Jacke M. said...

Whoa, Anon 1:11!

You wondered, "Jason, you and Jacke seem overly concerned about getting the mayor's full statement out..."

I explained why I felt it was note worthy. Is there a problem with that?

You then proceeded to tell me and Jason that "The real issue is - was the contract process rigged? Baier (the contractor) said it was. Then he said it wasn't. His partner has always maintained that it was rigged..."

Let's put aside the fact that you don't get to decide for other people what "the real issue is," and look at my response...I agreed with you that Baier's statements were inconsistent, I even posted the inconsistent responses he has made in the original entry to which you are commenting. Is there a problem with that?

You asked, "Why should we take the mayor's word that everything was okay?" and I pointed out that "I have never suggested that anyone should simply take the Mayor's word that everything was okay but until someone can produce proof that the process was rigged then anything more than questioning it would be irresponsible."

That's the way I feel about it, Anon.

Now, as far as your outrage over my accusing you of an agenda, I'm sorry if that offends you. The way I see it, everyone has an agenda, I certainly have an agenda and alluded to that fact when I wrote, "Sometimes I have an agenda that doesn't get met in the end but I'm able to sleep at night because I feel I've set the priority as getting at the TRUTH rather than supporting an agenda."

Last but not least I didn't "give you permission" to do anything. Why would I? You don't need my permission. What I was expressing, or trying to express, is that I honor your right to go your way and promote whatever agenda you have however you see fit. I'd like to think you would honor me in promoting whatever agenda I may have in the same way. You have your way of doing things and expressing yourself and I have mine. I try not to condemn other people for the way in which they choose to express themselves and I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when I feel someone may be trying to manipulate me, a chip that is even a bit more readily knocked off at the moment due to the emotional stress I've been under of late. You see, not to have a pity party, I don't expect it to matter to you but I watched my mother get her leg cut off about a month ago, had to put her in a nursing home and finally watched the culmination of my dog's death last night. So, excuse me if I might come across as a bit testy, the fact of the matter is that I AM a bit testy.

What's funny is that I allow other people to be testy every day of my life, I don't judge them for it because I expect there just simply aren't any perfect people around these here parts, Anon, least of all me. I keep thinking that if I acknowledge that other people aren't perfect and that they all make mistakes and show a bit of mercy to them and for them that maybe it will be reciprocated. It's a little dream I have and you know what? It gives me a bit of peace to keep hanging onto that dream, so I plan to continue overlooking minor faults in other people, giving them the benefit of the doubt when at all possible and hanging onto this pipe dream that someday it'll pay off and someone will return the favor.

As far as I don't know you, you don't know me, Anon? My name is Jackie Melton, I write this blog and you are free to explore my thoughts to your heart's content. I'd suggest "What are you doing here, Jacke?" as a good starting place. Google it on my blog contents if you're interested.

Peace on earth, good will toward men and all that jazz. Jacke

tom said...

"WE" is the concerned citizens of Springfield that have finally had enough. It appears that every branch of local government will jump thumb there noses up in the air and proclaim to be better then "us" the common folk.
The last ones to be elected had NOTHING to do with the facts and figures of any of these audits, the rest of them were privy to this information for much longer and therefore need to be replaced when their terms expire. We need a complete overhaul of how the city operates and those from which benefit from this operation. Perhaps we should institute term limits on city council so NO ONE has the availability off getting cozy while serving.
We the citizenry are going to be asked to make some real tough choices in the very near future due to mismanagement from the city manager and quite a few various department heads, including those on council duty during that timespan. In the private sector most companies would be house cleaning and looking for replacements while we are quite happy to remain in the status quo and not make changes even though incompetence is rampant within the city structure.

Jacke M. said...

Tom, my *issue* was with the suggestion that every council member needs to go "'cept Doug."

You, yourself pointed out that there are 3 new members of council that were not on council during the time period covered by the audit.

You make a very valid argument for change and I'm glad you feel free to share your thoughts and opinions here, I always question, however, any time one individual is appearing to speak for an entire group of people, that's all. I know I don't like anyone speaking FOR me, now, if this "we" you speak of have all shared their opinions with you and are all in agreement that every council member but Doug needs to go that's another issue. Have they all done that?

tom said...

Jacke,

You are correct I should've said many believe everyone should go 'cept Doug. I just don't find that Cindy nor Dan have, in this limited amount of time on the CC, the BEST interest of the taxpayers as their agenda