Last week I attended a meeting called by City Council President Anna Brosche with City Council Member Lori Boyer. The discussion centered on the District Development, a nearly $90 Million development in San Marco.
The first statement from Ms. Brosche was,
“How we use taxpayer dollars is important.”
Bravo Ms. Brosche for caring about that very important part of your job.
Eye has been concerned about this project due to the size, scope, costs and risks to the taxpayers. Plus…in January this deal showed up at the DIA and a lot of upset taxpayers showed up to question the “honey of a deal” at that time. This deal was put forth to the DIA by the developer and a big donor to Mayor Lenny Curry. It STUNK up the DIA and the developer pulled it back and worked with Aundra Wallace, CEO of the DIA to re-do it. We applauded that decision.
And then…the deal came back out and this time it was a more “traditional one – one that would protect the taxpayers of Duval County.” — words of Mr. Wallace. But it was asking for more money! WHAT??????
Stop reading the article and let me ask you a question here:
If your kid did something sneaky and you caught him. Then later on he came back and asked for something from you along the same lines…would you trust him 100%? Would you believe he wouldn’t be sneaky again? Apply that thought to this deal.
Okay now to the rest of the story.
Ms. Brosche asked about the status of providing a Proforma for the project. She asked for that in April and was asking again for it. Mr. Wallace didn’t think we needed one. (We’re giving away nearly $90 Million and we don’t need a Proforma???)
She asked if we should be concerned with the interest rate we were giving the developer – 2.66% over the next 20 years. Nope. Nothing to see here.
At one point, Mr. Wallace seemed irritated with the questions and Ms. Brosche asked him “Are you frustrated?”
His reply, “I’ve been working on this project since 2016 and its 2018.”
Ms. Brosche’s response to him, “But the City Council has only had this project since March.”
Good statement Ms. Brosche. He had two years and the City Council has had 3 months. It would appear the City Council would take their time to review the documents, ask questions and be completely comfortable before handing off that big of a deal.
And speaking of deals, Mr. Wallace said this in that meeting:
“It’s a Super Mega Project. Totally different than anything we’ve ever done before.
We’ve never done a project this big.” – Aundra Wallace, CEO of Downtown Investment Authority
Well that should be enough to get the City Council to slow this down and do their homework. But, alas, that doesn’t seem to be happening. (And we wonder what the rush is.)
Today Eye attended the Finance Committee Meeting where this deal was “debated.” If that’s what you want to call it. It looked like a dog and pony show to Eye. Had minds already been made up???
There was a little discussion about public parking spaces in the District development. Yada yada yada.
There was a little discussion about the definition of “time sensitive” wording in the document. Yada yada yada.
There was no MAJOR discussion or concerns over MAJOR questions such as:
- Proforma criteria
- Interest rate
- If the City could be responsible for contamination issues on the property
- If the Developer sells the property – what then?
- What happens if the developer goes broke?
- What happens if the developer isn’t here to see it finished?
- Why are we spending so much money on this development when we have other needs across this city?
This is how government works. Ask a few questions to make it look like you are doing your job and then ignore the big elephant in the room such as…
Is this deal a good deal for Jacksonville?
Is it a fair deal for all?
Is this still a honey of a deal?
Has this document been reviewed and gone over with a fine tooth comb?
How will we ever know the answers to these questions? We may never. And you know what – this deal might just work out and we hope it does because it sure as heck is going to cost a lot and it would be a shame if it didn’t work out.
But today, Eye smelled a Stink Eye and all the members of the Finance Committee – minus Matt Schellenberg – voted YES to pass it along to the full City Council for a vote next Tuesday. Yep, nearly $90 million of your taxpayer dollars will be signed off without the benefit of that fine tooth comb. Without asking the deep dive questions. Without having time – like Mr. Wallace had – to review it and make sure our tax dollars were being spent wisely.
Why does Eye care? Here’s why — there are stories like this all over the county and the latest happened in South Florida last month. Taxpayers got the surprise of a lifetime when they thought they were loaning $28 million dollars to bring the Jimmy Buffett-themed resort to Hollywood beach. But guess what, it turns out it was a loan that became a grant between the third and final version of the 99-year lease. The city commissioners are in an uproar and feel “duped.” Read all about it here: We were duped
But of course — that could never happen here. We are too smart for that. SMH
Eye sends a Wink Eye to Ms. Brosche for diving into the document as best she could and to Matt Schellenberg for voting NO. The rest of the committee needs to read that article about Margaritaville and pray they didn’t miss anything significant in the rush to give The District the deal of a lifetime.
The entire City Council needs to read it too before they place their vote next Tuesday night.
They still have time to do their job — ’cause it’s not 5 o’clock. Somewhere else but not in Jacksonville! This deal calls for more work and less 5 o’clocking!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://eyeonjacksonville.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Billie-Tucker-1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Billie Tucker has worked in the CEO world for more than 30 years and was the Chief Operating Officer of Vistage Florida, a think tank for CEOs. She started her own consulting practice, CEO Service Bureau, in 2001 and earned a reputation for her keen understanding of the motivations, challenges and goals of people and became a life-long student and teacher of leadership principles. She craved anything leadership related and enjoyed being around the world of entrepreneurial CEOs. She watched as they made decisions; pondered how they would make payroll when cash flow was tight; and appreciated how they created career opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people. Because of her experiences, she has emerged as a key resource for the media and others who want to understand important insights about executives, management teams and board dynamics. In 2008, Billie became discouraged as she watched some of her clients struggle with the political economic impacts on their businesses. The same CEOs who mortgaged their home and charged up their credit cards to make ends meet to build a business and keep others working, now watched as their government bailed out the big banks who had mismanaged their resources. She cringed as most of her clients laid off employees for the first time and she vowed she would help them… somehow…someway. That somehow…someway showed up in the Tea Party Movement in America. She formed one of the largest tea party group’s in America (more than 9,000 members strong) and helped bring attention to America’s debt problem, out of control spending, over taxation and regulation strangulation on companies. With her background in working with leaders and her influence in the political and leadership world, Billie has continued her dream to help CEOs navigate these troubling waters that permeate the world of capitalism in America. She has been an active participant in the media as a guest on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business, Bott Family Network Radio and co-hosts a political/financial radio show in the Northeast Florida market entitled, Smart Money. She was the first speaker at the House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus inaugural event and was invited by Heritage Foundation to speak at their prestigious annual Heritage Resource Bank, and on their National Security Panel live broadcasts. She spoke at the Congressional Republican House Retreat in Pennsylvania in 2012. She was also the co-host and co-producer of the CNN Tea Party Express Debate in the 2012 Presidential Election. She is a firm believer that America needs more entrepreneurs and more opportunities for people to use their God-given talents and passions to better themselves, their communities and America. Her favorite quote has become her mission to help CEOs succeed: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison[/author_info] [/author]