Downtown Development Initiative: Where’s the beef?

Friday, December 1st, 2006

[UPDATE]

How could the negotiations team done a better job informing the public throughout the process?

Here’s two examples from Greensboro’s District 5 Council member Sandy Carmany covering their coliseum issues, this one from a year ago and this one from November.

Sure, she wasn’t hampered by reporting on material potentially shielded under NC’s open meetings laws, but, then again, not every decision or thought process going into RAM’s “new” deal was by necessity shielded.

The only Council member directly involved in the negotiations, Sally Greene, has done the best informing the public of her thinking process on Lot 5 though nothing I read prepared me for such a right turn.

Original post:

Council had an excellent opportunity over the last week to answer the critics of the new Downtown Development Initiative Lot #5 deal.

Over the Summer, the public’s investment in the deal ballooned 15-fold, from $500K to north of $7.2M (with additional revenue hits, etc.). The Wallace Deck portion excised. Public space diminished. Boutique shops up, affordable commercial space missing. $385-$415 per square foot property, slated, as one critic pointed out, probably for affluent student housing.

What, over the Summer, caused the deal to change so radically for what I, other downtown business folks, two Kenan-Flager business school professors and many other concerned citizens consider the worse?

Council could’ve released more information – to provide a solid foundation for the public’s understanding of “the deal”. I’ve followed this deal quite closely. I agreed to “bite my tongue”. to not criticize the problematic elements of the original deal, to wait on the “new deal” which would correct the more egregious of the public’s concerns.

I’ve spent hours trying to pull together all the whispers, hints, etc. that incidentally wafted the public’s direction over the course of the Summer. But what I have is not enough.

The Council has the responsibility and obligation to fully disclose the details, to the fullest extent
allowed by law, of this deal.

Mr. Manager, Mayor and Town Council,

Thank you for being more timely this week and publishing the RAM development agenda item before close of business. Unfortunately, the agenda item is fairly light on the background of the “new deal”.

Would you please publish the remaining reports, discussions notes, comments, etc. that went into forming the “new deal” over the Summer?

I know that there’s some legal issues involved in releasing all of the notes – legal issues that will become moot after you sign the deal – so I’m not asking for ALL the information now (though I will be exercising a citizen’s FOIA prerogative ASAP).

I’m asking that you release everything you can prior to the meeting, including information not protected under the confidentially agreement but also not,to date, publicly disseminated.

For instance, would you please provide details of your consultations with the Local Government Commission (LGC) on financing?

This would include notes, reports, detailed analysis, etc. Please be thorough in your disclosures.

I’m interested in the LGC’s take on leveraging the secured debt, effect on our town’s debt ratings, thoughts on the quoted interest rate, etc. Essentially, I imagine, the same kind of financial analysis that a private business uses in evaluating the risk-rewards of taking on debt.

Finally, the main conduit for publishing this data has been the DDI website which hasn’t been updated since Spring. I’ve asked the Council to update the information on the RAM deal in a timely fashion. Several folks told me to “hold my horses”, that I needed to wait until the “final” deal was set.

Well, the final deal is set and the public still doesn’t have those details. I was hoping that this issue would be addressed over the last 9 days but it hasn’t.

The public has one weekend to review these critical additional details.

Please, if you can’t update the website, then submit them to the citizenry directly. If emailing or providing paper copies is easier, that’s fine.

I’ll make sure they get into the public domain over the weekend.

Thank you for your prompt attention,

Will Raymond

Fool me once, shame on you…: Possible Republican Judge Election Trickery

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

According to WCHL1360 some kind of organized tomfoolery is going on at the Morehead Planetarium polling place

Some students from UNC Chapel Hill are working to get votes for Conservative judges, but are not always transparent in their efforts.

Chapel Hill attorney Bob Epting says a young woman approached him outside the polling place and asked if he was a Democrat.  When he said yes, she gave him a list of candidates.

The implication was the list was of progressive judges (essentially Democrats) in this non-partisan race.

Fred Black relates the following over on OP:

Yesterday when I voted at Morehead (#996 since Oct. 23d), there was a young lady on the edge of the parking lot. She asked me if I was going to vote and I replied that I was. She handed me a small piece of paper that listed Duke, Martin, Levinson, Calabria, Bailey, and Stroud. With the DTH and the WCHL story as background, I asked if the named people were all Republicans. She said that she thought so but their’s are nonpartisan races. I asked her what organization she represented and she said she was just helping her friend who was in class.

More information on this BlueNC and OrangePolitics threads.

With the current vote flipping problems in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Florida – all biased towards Republican candidates – one has to wonder if the Morehead trickery is the least of election 2006 problems.

That said, I’ve gone ahead and contacted the campaigns of Duke, Martin, Levinson, Calabria, Bailey, and Stroud in case they weren’t aware of folks scamming the electorate in their name.

Their handling of this mess will be a great indicator of their willingness to cultivate public trust both in the election and judicial process.

Contact information:

  • Judge Duke – www.rustyduke.com judgeduke@rustyduke.com
  • Justice Martin – www.justicemarkmartin.org mmartin@justicemarkmartin.org
  • Judge Levinson – www.justicelevinson.org campaign@justicelevinson.org
  • Judge Calabria – www.calabria4judge.com amcalabria@nc.rr.com
  • Judge Bailey – www.judgekrisbailey.com judgekdb2006@nc.rr.com
  • Judge Stroud – www.judgestroud.com JudgeStroud@aol.com

Mailto link: MAIL the JUDGES.

My email:

RE: Apparent organized effort to deceive Orange County voters
TO: Judge Duke, Justice Martin, Judge Levinson, Judge Calabria, Judge Bailey, Judge Stroud

According to local media reports (WCHL1360 – http://www.wchl1360.com/details.html?id=2124 ) and several eyewitness reports ( http://orangepolitics.org/2006/11/republicans-attempt-to-deceive-orange-county-voters/#comment-65383 ) , an organized effort is being made in Orange County to deceive voters in your name. A list of your names is being presented to Democratic voters in a fashion meant to mislead uninformed voters into voting for you.

Given your current standings as judges, given the responsibility you’ve been entrusted with, given the tenor of all your campaigns, I imagine this tomfoolery comes both as a surprise and a disappointment.

Now that you are aware of the problem, would you please publicly ask the participants to desist? A quick resolution to this problem will serve the public well.

Thank you for your prompt attention,

Will Raymond
Independent, Orange County

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