Posts Tagged ‘Uhlich’
Three events surrounding Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment have occurred in the last month: the Tucson City Council rightly ended plans to build a convention center hotel, the state Auditor General released an audit of Rio Nuevo’s funds, and we did our first Rio Nuevo “Reality Tour.” As each event unfolded, there was an outcry from a portion of the downtown community. The common line in each was: “Let’s turn the page and concentrate on the future.”
In some cases, letting go of yesterday is a healthy step in the healing process. In this case, $230 million is missing with little to show for it. There needs to be an explanation to the individual and business taxpayers of the city and the State of Arizona.
Here are some things that need explanations: Print this story
• Are people who were complicit in the massive failure of Rio Nuevo still in positions of authority?
• How could the city make wholesale transfers of millions of dollars of assets with little more than a footnote in a financial statement?
• When will taxpayers get an explanation about every single dime that was spent?
There are “ghosts” of Rio Nuevo past. Most have departed the city bureaucracy. The cast of characters who deserve most of the responsibility for the fiasco that is Rio Nuevo include:
Former City Manager Mike Hein is back at Pima County working at the pleasure of County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. There was Hein’s right-hand man and in charge
of the early hotel projects, Jaret Barr. There was the early quarterback Assistant City Manager Karen Thoreson and project manager John Updike. Sprinkle in Greg Shelko — at $100 per hour — and former city managers Luis Gutierrez and Jim Keene, and you have the makings of too many government officials with too little private sector experience controlling a huge checkbook.
The financial audit spelled out the inability of the original four-member city-appointed Rio Nuevo board to manage and control the purse strings. The district was supposed to be autonomous and the board was to act as the gatekeeper of the tax revenues. The original board included former county Supervisor Dan Eckstom, bed-and-breakfast owner Jeff DiGregorio, Anne Marie Russell, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and former state Sen. Victor Soltero.
The chosen few
These are the myriad of consultants, engineers and planners who reaped huge fees for designs that were never used on projects that were never built, like commissioning an out-of-state company to make an $820,000 movie to be played in a museum that never got built. There were countless insider developers and campaign donors who were beneficiaries of $1 rents, free land and prime redevelopment tracks because they hired the right consultants or attorneys with the relationships. At least this is changing and the light is being shown on these backroom deals thanks to Councilman Steve Kozachik, investigative reporting and talk radio.
Three of Rio Nuevo’s “superstars” are gone from the City Council: Jose Ibarra, Steve Leal and Nina Trasoff. Councilwoman Shirley Scott and Mayor Bob Walkup still bear responsibility because they’ve been there from the beginning. Walkup, the chief cheerleader for the hotel and light rail, has burned all his political capital and now needs to begin planning his second retirement.
Councilwoman Karin Uhlich added to the fiasco when she pushed for low-income housing projects that have taken an inordinate amount of attention at Rio Nuevo. Scott, Uhlich, Walkup and Councilwoman Regina Romero all were responsible for green lighting an $80 million bond sale at the worst possible time to sell bonds, and for spending it on museum designs, orange griffen statutes, and an over-priced parking garage. They can also take credit for $18 million to plan a hotel that never made sense.
After researching and leading a tour for 40 people a few weeks ago, we came to a realization that the taxpayer was not only robbed by this Rio Nuevo debacle, but punched in the mouth by the city.
The lines between what were Rio Nuevo assets and City of Tucson assets have been so blurred they’ll be hard to untangle. We’ve identified over $44 million that have shifted balance sheets and will probably involve lawsuits to sort out. There is a $14 million parking garage and $30 million spent on the west side.
And just before the state installed a new Rio Nuevo oversight board, the city removed $30 million of assets from Rio Nuevo. Coincidence?
People who were compliant in the fiasco now must face the consequences. These are the first steps the city must take to regain the trust of taxpayers and the Legislature.
We’ll be willing to turn the page on Rio Nuevo when the city is open and transparent — two concepts that have been lacking in the project so far.
Copyright © 2010 Inside Tucson Business
Here’s another Player Report. The Player Reports are supporting stories detailing how a select few individuals or groups that know how to ‘play the game’ benefit above and beyond our standard business owners. The Players ultimately ruin the system for the rest of us. The Players thrive in our dysfunctional leaderless community. Read The Player opinion in the Inside Tucson Business.
Follow the bouncing ball…..
From Uhlich’s city web site:
Karin served as the Executive Director of Primavera Services (Primavera Foundation) for nine years, an affordable housing/job training and homeless services agency with an annual budget of $2 million and a staff of 50 people.
From yesterday’s AZ Star:
The Primavera Foundation is working with the Downtown Tucson Partnership to try to broker a deal with city officials to donate or sell for far below market value 1.6 acres the city owns southeast of West St. Mary’s Road and the westbound Interstate 10 frontage road, Primavera Executive Director Peggy Hutchison said.
This is as good as the “Beth Walkup – Children’s Museum” story we ran a few weeks ago….HERE.
Hello AZ Star are you out there?
From today’s Citizen – HERE
Uhlich, who made the motion to dismiss Hein, said Tuesday evening that the decision to fire Hein would not have a substantial effect on the city’s wrangling with precipitous drops in revenue or its struggle to maintain the Rio Nuevo sales tax stream the state Legislature has threatened to sever. “The city certainly doesn’t ride on the rise or fall of one person,” she said.
Romero provided similar assurances, referring to the city as “a well-oiled machine” staffed with top-notch department leaders.
She cited concerns about transparency. “I think Tucson deserves better,” Romero said.
The vote left Hein’s three council supporters fuming.
“I think it was one of the most patently shortsighted and ill-conceived decisions they could have made,” Trasoff said of her colleagues.
Glassman said, “I supported the city manager based on his work performance and the importance of consistency and focus on taking care of our neighbors during these troubled economic times.”
City of Phoenix proposing bus fair increase – Read the Republic article HERE. It will be fun to watch and see if our neighbors up north can pull this off.
If you remember a few months back, Tucson city government almost crumbled over a proposed .25 cent bus fare increase. Here is a timeline of events from the Star:
1. Hein submitted a budget to M&C showing a large loss at Sun Tran.
Then – read more about the story by clicking.
2. Uhlich accused Hein of lowering the subsidy for Sun Tran, causing a shortfall that forced the council to consider a hike in bus fares. Uhlich demanded to the AZ Star editorial board that Hein: “own his mistakes” — apologize and explain why the $36 million general fund subsidy of Sun Tran and Van Tran was reduced in the next two years’ budgets.
3. Hein fired off an e-mail earlier Thursday in which he slammed council aides for meddling in council affairs and took offense at the council’s implication he had purposely cut the transit-fund subsidy to hurt the poor.
7.Leal fires off an email demanding Hein’s head – while Hein is on personal vacation. The email apparently got sent PRIOR to the vacation but it got lost in Internet land. The Geek Squad looked into it and couldn’t confirm it was sent, lost or written early.
8.Everyone backs away from Leal and goes out of their way to praise Hein.
This story goes right up there with Leal locking himself in Pima County jail over night. This is better than Barney Fife and an episode of The Andy Griffen Show. Great You Tube HERE.
As a result, Glock said, the share of Sun Tran’s operating cost covered by fare revenues has dropped from 23 percent in 2000 to about 19 percent today.Without the fare increases, or an increased taxpayer subsidy, transportation officials calculate Sun Tran would rack up a $1.1 million shortfall next year, and a $3 million shortage the following year.She said she doesn’t want to burden passengers with higher fares, especially when other costs are rising steadily. But she also doesn’t want to see service cuts, which transportation officials say will be needed without the fare increase.“My goal is to keep the fares as low as we can while still being fiscally responsible with our bus services. I would not keep fares low if we had to scale back bus service,” Uhlich said.
Read the Star article HERE.The fares in other major markets:
Colorado Springs $1.25,
El Paso $1,
Las Vegas $1.25.
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