2/21/13

Tensions

At the November meeting of the Urban Renewal board, we see there was a fairly good dustup over the Tabares thing. Oh, there were no fisticuffs or screaming hissy fits, but it was a bit tense. We can get a sense of this from the minutes:

Mack Burtis:   It would have been nice if we would have known something about what is going on so if anybody might ask me directly about the use of the building I can tell them.
Rebecca Goodwin: We are meeting with different groups to see what might work for them; how would they use the building; what they would have to have in there;  how it would be financed; and what would be the cash flow.
Mack Burtis:  My only question is I would like to be kept informed about these kinds of things instead of finding out about it at these meetings.
Rebecca Goodwin: This is a working group.
Mack Burtis: I didn’t know the working group existed.   The #1 criteria people I have talked to is they asked what are you going to use it for.
Rebecca Goodwin: That is what we are exploring.
Mack Burtis: Could we explore more in public rather than a group behind closed doors. I didn’t know it was going on.
Rebecca Goodwin: We talked about at last meeting about reaching out to other groups.
Jeff Reeder: Who is on the committee?
Chairman Horner: Rick, Bill, Rebecca and me.
Rebecca Goodwin:    We invited Ron Davis and Velma Simpson expressed interest. We asked other people of different backgrounds.
Jeff Reeder: I am with Mack on this. We didn’t talk about it.
Don Rizzuto:  It wasn’t in the minutes that a working group was approved by the Board. As a whole if you have a working group the Sunshine Law applies to all groups. This is a violation of the Sunshine Law. Where was the discussion? It doesn’t show in the minutes. It is not that I don’t want to have the working group. I am saying that the working group was formed  secretly behind closed doors.   How was this group created without the approval of the Urban Renewal Authority?  This would not be allowed by City Council. It is wrong at any level.   It should never have been done. It is inappropriate.  It should be voted on by Urban Renewal since it is an arm of the Urban Renewal Authority.
Rebecca Goodwin: When we did the sign and sidewalk stamp it was done this way.
(Note from BloggerCentral: I was at that meeting, and I sure don't remember it being done that way. BICBW.)
Bill Jackson: According to Roberts Rules of Order this Board would have to appoint those members of the committee.
Chairman Horner: Ok. If we are at that point.
MOTION:
Rebecca Goodwin made a motion that a group be formed to work on the feasibility study or a committee as a working group for the Plaza Building made up of members of the Urban Renewal Board and other community members that can assist with various areas of the feasibility study. Nancy Bennett seconded the motion.
Roger Roath:  Do we need names of the people on the committee?
Jeff Reeder: The Board has to vote on each one of them.


You see what happened here. The proponents of the 'renovation' of the Tabares building, the project that will cost the taxpayers at least $1.3 million were pretty much stacking the deck. They came up with this 'working committee' made up of members - Horner and Goodwin - who have heretofore made no bones about their willingness to pour huge amounts of tax money into the Tabares project. And, they selected like-minded 'community members' such as Velma Simpson. Klein and Jackson are staff support, and are not voting members.

So where are the minutes of this working group's meetings? As Mayor Rizzuto somewhat testily notes, the Sunshine Law applies to the working group's formation by the Urban Renewal Board. The Sunshine law applies to local bodies where "... Three or more members of the body (or two members if two constitutes a quorum) conducting business are subject to this law." After the official formation (as opposed to the 'secret group' to which Rizzuto, Reeder, and Burtis objected) at the November meeting, three or more were on that working group. So ... are there minutes available for public inspection?

And another thing ... reading the article in the Tribune-Democrat about this month's Urban Renewal meeting, we see a couple of 'prominent Republicans' sounding curiously like a mix of Barack H. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and John Maynard Keynes - that would be Otero Republican committee vice-chair Ed Hunnicutt and erstwhile Republican county commissioner candidate Lorraine Melgosa, as they supported sucking the tax dollars out of the state and local revenues for this 'renewal' project.

A casual glance of the Denver Post and other sources shows us that the state is having some real budgetary 'issues'. The state has a debt of $78,514,721 ... yet we are increasing spending next year, and for this year's budget, we had this:

Henry Sobanet, budget director, said on Sept. 20, 2011, that the state would face a structural imbalance of $400 million to $500 million in the 2012-13 budget. Sobanet's office said a historic recession combined with higher demand for state services has created the structural gap. An 11.1 percent increase in Medicaid costs and a 3.7 percent jump in prison expenditures also contributed to the budget gap.

Not impressed? Too far upstate to matter? Well then, try this one:

Funding programs in the face of budget cuts

So why is the state handing out piles of free money, taken from We the People, to pour into a garbage pit like the Tabares building, when there isn't enough money to provide real services to real people? Sal Pace would tell us that it's from different 'funding streams' you see; to which I would reply, "No, I don't see. Like all streams and rivers, there's a headwater. In the case of 'funding streams', the headwater is my wallet - and yours."

That's what our Republican 'leadership' (and I use the word 'leadership' very loosely) should be telling these tax and spenders on the Urban Renewal board. The smell of free money sure does funny things to those staunch Tea Party/Republican principles, doesn't it? Is that a toilet we hear flushing?

And where were those 'community leaders' who are against the project? There is little mention of them in the article in the Tribune-Democrat. Were they there? Did they speak out? If not, why not? Or were they simply ignored or downplayed by the T-D? Is this just another free ad pimping the project, on the part of the T-D?

Off on a tangent, and related to that Paceian thing about funding streams, as well as the smoke and mirrors involved with giving away tax revenues as free money:

A FASTER End Run



2/18/13

Bread

Oh baby oh baby ... Sour Cream Rye bread:

3/4 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
7/8 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons honey
3tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups dark rye flour
1 1/2 tablespoons instant potato flakes
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons gluten
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

We used light rye flour in place of dark, and whole fennel seeds in place of the ground coriander.

Place all ingredients in the pan according to the machine manufacturer's basic instructions. Set crust on medium, and use the Basic or Whole Wheat cycle. The dough ball will be well shaped, but tacky, and will spread like a puddle during the risings.

The bread is very delicate, like cake, so be very careful in removing it from the pan. Next loaf, we're going to let it cool a bit before removing it.

This bread is, like, wowsers! Possibly the best one yet. It's on page 139 of "The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook."

Then we have:

Hungarian white bread with fennel seed.

1 1/3 cup water
 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
 4 cups bread flour (remember to use a spoon to shake the flour into the measuring cup; do not scoop)
 2 tablespoons sugar
 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp gluten
 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
 2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon bread machine yeast

Put the ingredients into the pan according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Crust to medium

Basic cycle

When the baking cycle ends immediately remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool on a rack to room temp before slicing.

Recipe is for a two-pound loaf.

We also add a teaspoon of caraway seeds and a half teaspoon of anise seeds.

This is a very fine bread for toasting. 

Otero Republicans speak with forked tongues ...

Saturday evening the Otero Republicans enjoyed their Lincoln Dinner bash. Scott Gessler, our secretary of state, was the guest speaker.

One of Gessler's most memorable lines from Saturday evening:

"Being a conservative, you don't take money from people that you don't need. People do a better job of managing their own money than government does."

Ed Hunnicutt was among the local dignitaries giving welcoming comments. Hunnicutt is vice-chair of the Otero Republicans.

I wonder how Hunnicutt rationalizes Gessler's views with his own. For example, at Thursday's Urban Renewal Board meeting, Hunnicutt was - according to the Tribune-Democrat - all for taking other peoples' money. So, in fact, was Lorraine Melgosa. Remember all those Tea Party extravaganzas down at the Santa Fe Plaza and other places, where Otero Republicans were going on about all this government taxing and spending? Apparently neither Hunnicutt nor Melgosa recall any of that.

One of the most outspoken and eloquent speakers was Lorraine Melgosa, candidate for Otero County Commissioner in the recent elections. She lives in Manzanola but is interested in business prospects in La Junta. Also, she said outside money helps to revitalize the economy fourfold for each dollar gained. Grants are outside money. We should take into consideration towns like Fort Collins, Pueblo and Florence, that have not hesitated to use grant money.

Aside from the fact that Melgosa sounds like Obama making a pitch for a bailout ... it's 'outside money' so we should take it? Because it's from somewhere else, it's OK to take it from the people to whom it belongs? Most of that grant money is from the state. It's from tax revenues. It's from taxpayers. It's money that the state government has taken from the taxpayers.Some of it might even be from Otero County, but we're looking at a minimum of $1.3 million to 'revitalize' the Tabares building, most of which is going to come from grants funded by tax revenues, or from matching funds generated from TID taxation. Do we really need all that money to fix up a pile of rotting timber and brick - just because it's, like, you know ... old? Is that why the state and federal governments take money from We the People? Is that why Urban Renewal sucks up all that money from the TID?

What happened to all those Republican principles about taxes?

What about all those Tea Party values Hunnicutt likes to go on about?

Gessler's correct. People can do a better job of managing their own money. Too bad the Otero Republicans didn't get the message. OTOH, it sure proves that Obama is right ...no ... wait ... not Obama ... Orwell. Orwell ... yes ... his closing lines for "Animal Farm." Yep.

The Tabares building Part 1
The Tabares building Part 2  Previous comments by Urban Renewal board members
The Tabares building Part 3  on the smoke and mirrors behind the 'funding' of this project
The Tabares building Part 4  observations on the 'demand' for this project
Urban Renewal vs Tri-County Motors



2/13/13

Nine bucks

I tried watching the SOTU last evening. I really did. But I find I cannot stand Obama's condescending, patronizingly smug superiority for more than a few minutes at a time. So I waited for the transcript. That filters out most of the visual crap.

How 'bout that $9/hour minimum wage?

I guess he hasn't figured out the difference between running a small business, which cannot borrow unlimited amounts for indefinite periods, and running the Federal government, which operates under no such limitations.

Small businesses have these things called budgets. Obama and the Democrats, and a goodly number of Republicans for that matter, apparently haven't figured out the budget concept yet.

But your average small business has only so much money. Some years more money than in other years, but it's never unlimited.

If XYZ Donuts and Bagels has enough money to hire three employees at $7.25/hour, and has a budgeted amount for payroll that will cover those three employees at that pay rate ... and the federal government comes in and says to the owner of XYZ Donuts and Bagels, "OK, now, you bourgeois oppressor of the proletariat, you now have to pay your employees $9/hour" what do you think that does to the payroll budget?

So what happens is that our bourgeois oppressor of the proletariat ends up laying off one of those three employees. The two lucky dogs remaining get to divvy up the sacrificed worker's paycheck.

Of course, it doesn't have to be that way. Our bourgeois oppressor of the masses is clearly rich beyond belief, so he should give up some of that money he has fleeced from the proletariat masses and maybe even hire another employee at $9/hour, rather than laying one off.

That would be fair, don't you think?

Or ... silly moi ... I've missed the obvious. Our capitalist bourgeois oppressor of the proletariat masses could always raise prices. But then ... what if customers decided that wasn't working for them?


Why is it that every time our beloved president gives a speech, I feel like breaking out into a hearty rendition of "L'Internationale?"

2/10/13

Urban Renewal vs. Tri-County Motors

 Previous posts on this subject:

The Tabares building Part 1
The Tabares building Part 2  Previous comments by Urban Renewal board members
The Tabares building Part 3  on the smoke and mirrors behind the 'funding' of this project
The Tabares building Part 4  observations on the 'demand' for this project

The Tribune-Democrat continues to serve as an advertising agency for the Urban Renewal Tabares/Plaza building scheme.

As we noted in Part 1 of our series on the Tabares/Plaza project, the empty lot immediately to the east of the Tabares building is owned by the City of La Junta. That lot is presently leased to Tri-County Motors, and has been for some time.

Tri-County Motors has also expressed an interest in swapping the lot currently occupied by the Tabares building - assuming that it is demolished - for the lot Tri-County now owns at 2nd and Raton. It would be a one-for-one swap, costing neither party any cash. This would give Tri-County an excellent 1st Street presence.

Note that Tri-County recently put over a half million dollars of their own money into refurbishing their property. You have to admit that it looks a lot better than it used to. La Junta Mill should take the example, but that's another story.

But in the so-called 'community conversation' meeting held on February 7 at the Barista, we had backers of the Urban Renewal Project objecting to 'a large amount of public money being disposed of in this manner.'

The local Chevrolet dealer is interested in acquiring the space occupied by the Plaza Building. He proposes to trade a lot on Third Street in back of his car lot for it. Some people objected to a large amount of public money being disposed of in this manner, but some favored it.

Clearly, those who object because of  'the large amount of public money being disposed of ...' have no idea of the facts of the matter.

This was brought up at the May 21, 2012 Public Hearing on Demolition, and was explained by Mayor Rizzuto:

Tri-County Motors made a proposal that if the Plaza Building were torn down he would like to swap the lot they own at 2nd and Raton for the lot on First Street. Their proposal has not been accepted but if the swap were made there would be no cost involved for the City or Urban Renewal. 

That was the meeting at which Steve Simpson, a strong supporter of spending public money in this very manner, took the city administration to task:

'Said he was concerned that the City allowed the Kit Carson to deteriorate to the condition it was in and blamed City Administration for not doing anything to avoid this.'

Simpson's statement illustrated his colossal ignorance of the facts of the Kit Carson issue, but that didn't prevent Simpson from going on Facebook and referring to council members as 'bastards'. The Simpsons apparently have no problems with spending public money to directly benefit private property owners; the Kit Carson, as you know, was owned by Beverly Babb, who tried for years to get enough public money to fund her business enterprise.

So now we have the Simpsons, Babb, and their cronies arguing for spending a huge amount of public money for a project best left to the private sector ... and in the process, essentially declaring war on the one remaining GM dealership between Pueblo and somewhere in Kansas, a business that could have packed up and left with Obama's tax-payer funded bailout of the auto makers, a business that is one of the most viable - for the moment - in the downtown area.

Because, you see ... the lot currently leased by Tri-County is essential to any Tabares/Plaza project other than demolition. If Urban Renewal has its way, Tri-County will lose that lot. And, since Urban Renewal - a governmental unit of the City of La Junta - is the owner of the Tabares building, and the city owns the lot currently leased to Tri-County Motors ... we now have the city poised to undercut a major downtown business.

Is that really how we want Urban Renewal treating the few remaining businesses in town? All for the sake of a rotting, falling down pile of bricks that will require in excess of $1.8 million in public money to make it viable again?

2/8/13

The Tabares building Part 4

Now, let's look at the 'demand' for this project, and the multitude of potential tenants for it. This is the "Smoke and Mirrors" part of the deal.

I'm taking the term 'demand' right out of the latest survey: '... the group was able to determine the existing demand ...'.

And this is what they found:

The latest survey states that in the last 12 months La Junta economic development has 'been in contact' with:

Boutiques - at least 2 inquiries
Restaurants - at least 4 inquires
Various retail - at least 4 inquiries
bar/sports bar - at least 2 inquiries
non-profit expansion - at least 2 inquiries, both have already located
ice cream franchisee - 1 inquiry
meat market - 1 inquiry
specialty grocery store - 1 inquiry
furrier for taxidermists - 1 inquiry, presently established by may be open to expansion options
retail incubator - must produce sales tax to participate and must be a participant of the OJC Small Business Program and the SBDC.
winery
microbrewery
office space
existing local businesses looking to expand or move to a higher traffic area.

Is that what they call 'demand'? Note that these 'inquiries' are not specifically about the Tabares building; they are just general 'inquiries.' We have no idea as to how serious they were, or how in-depth they were.

Check that 'at least ...' thing. Do they not know how many inquiries they received? The non-profit 'inquiries' used that 'at least' thing, but then we see that 'both have already located.' So ED only received 2 such inquiries, not 'at least two' which implies more. So that 'at least' is a bit of smoke and mirrors on the part of the supporters of this thing, trying to put the best face on it.

Now ... note that this study doesn't say that these outfits were specifically looking at the Tabares project. Nope. These are just 'inquiries' though there is no mention of specifics regarding these 'inquiries.' 

What we have here is a grasping at straws. The project proponents - and that includes the people who performed this so-called 'study' - asked Economic Development how many 'inquiries' they had received. Then they stuck it in this report, giving the impression all these 'inquiries' are related to the Tabares Project, when in fact they are not.

You will recall that Source Architechnology was invited by the project proponents. They are not neutral. They have an interest in getting this project. If this were Chicago politics, we'd be looking for the kickbacks trail.

But wait! There's more! 'They' are really pushing this commercial kitchen function for the Tabares. So now we find that some of the businesses in town would like such a kitchen to use in the furtherance of their business. They are listed as 'potential building users/project partners.' And then we have OJC 'interested in commercial kitchen use for increased community education opportunities.' Really? What does that mean, exactly? And how about social services? They have 'an interest in a classroom area and kitchen to work with clients on food preparation.' Really? The Urban Renewal board wants to spend at least $1.3 million so social services can have a place to teach clients how to cook?

If a commercial kitchen is such a driving community need ... has anyone approached the Catholic Parish or the Knights of Columbus about leasing their facilities? How about the kitchen at East School? How about the kitchen out at CBR?

Then we have several local businesses who have 'expressed an interest ...'. Ark Valley Organic Producers; the Barista; F&J Brands; Froese Family; Lanahea Everrett; Rocky Ford Growers Association; S&J Brands ... and one 'local entreprenuer' who would like to start a bakery.

All of these are listed as 'potential' users who 'may have an interest' in the building.

Do you remember in the previous post the statement by Mayor Rizzuto about cost per square foot? He said that if the entire building, including the basement, were used, it would cost $300 per square foot to renovate. He said it would cost $600 per square foot if the basement were not included in tenant space. He used the project cost figures from the study.

And the survey says ...

For the apartments, fair market value based on HUD data:

1 BR - $495/month
2 BR - $601/month
3 BR - $832/month

The 2 bedroom units are 813 square feet. At $601 per month rental, that translates out to $0.74 (yes, 74 cents) per square foot per month. Contrast that against the Mayor's $600/square foot renovation cost. We will use the 'no basement' option because the study does not indicate any use of the basement for 'potential tenants' who 'might have an interest.'

And, taking the information from the study, office space would be $0.75 to $1.00 per square foot/month; retail space would be $1.00 per square foot/month; and restaurant space would be $1.00 per square foot/month. Contrast that against the Mayor's $600/square foot renovation cost.

It would take long, long time to recoup those costs, and that's assuming the thing is leased/rented out to capacity every day of the year, every year. The study calculates that the gross income allowing for 10% vacancy would be $52,032/year.

They plan on a fixed expenses cost of $1221/month, or $14,642/year. That would be, according to the survey, for utilities, maintenance, management, insurance, reserve fund contributions, legal fees, and advertising. Strangely, they don't break that down so we can see their figures for each category.

So what we have here is some very nebulous data on occupancy. It's all 'potential' or 'expressed an interest.' There is no 'demand' identified. There are a few entities/individuals who have 'expressed an interest.' There is no information on the fiscal capability or capacity of any of these entities/individuals to become involved in any way in the project. There is nothing concrete. It's all smoke and mirrors, cherry-picked by the usual suspects, to try to justify spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on this farce.

A high school business class could have done a better survey than this.

City council should vacate that board and reconstitute it with someone who has at least some vestige of business sense.

2/6/13

The Tabares building Part 3

So ... as we have seen from the minutes of previous meetings, there has been more than a bit of angst on the part of at least some Urban Renewal board members over the idea of spending a couple of million tax dollars on this project.

You see, it went from purchasing the building for $22,000, with the acknowledgement that it is in fact 'blight', and not some valued bit of ancient architecture, to a precious community resource worth spending  millions for renovation. Why is it that Rebecca Goodwin and her cohorts on the board cannot resist spending huge piles of other people's money to 'renovate' collapsing, rotting, mildewed, asbestos- and lead-contaminated old piles that have been neglected for decades by their erstwhile owners?

Now that private enterprise has turned up its collective nose at funding such 'renovation', why does it fall to the taxpayers to fund this monstrosity?

And how is that supposed to happen?

Well, this is part of the 'smoke and mirrors' of the project. There are over 34 sources of free money listed in the second 'feasibility' study -- and never mind that it would be 'feaseless', if the people pushing this had to fund it out of their own pockets rather than everyone else's.

Right now, according to the study, Urban Renewal has $185,000 earmarked as a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). That is for demolition and related activities. 'They' are assuming that if it is not used for demolition, it can be used for either building shell rehab, or rehab for tenant occupation. Those are the $1.3 million and $1.8 million options, respectively. Urban Renewal has committed $61,667 in matching funds. Those 'matching funds' are tax dollars taken by the government from property owners in the TID.

DOLA offers those Community Development Block Grants. They dole out anywhere between $350,000 - $600,000 per request, according to the study. These grants require a minimum of 20% matching funds. So that means if the government largesse is the full $600,000, Urban Renewal has to cough up at least $120,000 on top of whatever else they have spent to date. That is tax money taken by the government from property owners in the TID. The study goes on to say that $120,000 remains 'from the grant currently in place' -- so does that mean Urban Renewal has already spent $65,000 of that 'earmarked' $185,000 previously mentioned? If so, then $185,000 is not 'earmarked' ... $120,000 is. What happened to the $65,000? And, since that 'earmarked' money is a CDBG, there's a year waiting period before re-application can be made. So that's a chicken that definitely hasn't hatched yet. It just isn't there, and there is no way of knowing if it will be for quite some time.

Then we have DOLA shoveling more money at the project, in the form of an Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund grant. Now check this: "The purpose of the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program is to assist political entities that are socially and/or economically impacted by the development, processing, or energy conversion of minerals and mineral fuels." There is an award cap of $200,000 per application, with a minimum 20% cash match. OK ... but can anyone explain to me how this project has anything to do with 'Energy and Minerals' or how The Smile Hi is "... socially and/or economically impacted by the development, processing, or energy conversion of minerals and mineral fuels ... '? I am sure a professional grant writer can come up with a good line of 'creative writing' on an application - but that's all it would be, and apparently it is all that is required for the state to be giving away someone else's money. This is a real scam, and the Urban Renewal board should wallow in shame over even considering it. In fact, that the board would even be considering this, illustrates just how far detached from reality that board is.

Then we have CDOT's Scenic and Historic Byways Program. The grants range from about $50,000 to $150,000 ... and here is the Point of Shame on this one: the program '... affords the traveler interpretation and identification of key points of interest and services while providing for the protection of significant resources.' The Tabares is a 'significant resource?' Really? Rebecca Goodwin and Sandra Leonard said it was 'blight.' Looks like the board has been very creative, doesn't it? So this is another government scam, requiring some of that 'creative writing' so as to fleece funds from the taxpayers to give away to Urban Renewal boards.

Then there is a grant program from the State Historical Fund, allowing up to $200,000 per phase, with a minimum 25% match required.

Here's another good one: The Colorado Brownfields Foundation. Now this one has some pretty good tap dancing in it. No specific amounts are mentioned, nor are specific sources mentioned. We 'anticipate' contribution from sources such as Colorado Department of Health that 'could be' estimated at 'approximately' 80% of total abatement costs associated with construction. The Tabares is a 'brownfield' now? How very creative! And  here I was thinking it was a 'significant resource.'

And then they start listing private 501(C)(3)'s and other free money sources. Many of those grants are down in the less-than-$3000 range, so it would take a pile of them to fund this deal. And there is no guarantee any of this free money is forthcoming.

So ... if Urban Renewal commits to this, they will do so with no firm funding, and with a requirement on the larger chunks to match with tens of thousands of dollars of money taken from local property owners in the La Junta TID. And there is no way it can be completed 'as a whole,' as the study authors so endearingly put it. In that case, they are looking at '12-18 months of fundraising activity' - and that presumes they would get the grants, and that they get the grants the first time around.

So the funding for this thing is way up in the air, as nebulous as the jobs promised by our beloved president.

Perhaps Urban Renewal would serve the taxpayers whose money they are fondling much better by simply giving it back to them, and letting them use it to maintain their own properties.

The Tabares building Part 2

 We were going to look at the funding sources for this thing, in this part, but first, let's take a look at some past comments by Urban Renewal about spending all that tax money on this project.

Here are some excerpts from Urban Renewal meetings about the Tabares/Plaza building:

During the July 8, 2010 Urban Renewal meeting, the Structural Assessment from Slaterpaull Architects on the Plaza Building was accepted by the board. The assessment had already been accepted by the State Historical Society. At that meeting, Lynn Horner stated: "If it turns out to be a two million dollars project I am in agreement that I don’t want to spend two million dollars on it."

But the board had just accepted the findings of the Slaterpaull assessment ... which had a price tag of $2.1 million. So clearly, it's a 'two million dollars project.'

At that same meeting, Mayor Rizzuto stated: If Urban Renewal has to put any money into it you are talking about grant money.  With a two million dollar project that would require a 20% match. We need to get an attorney opinion on what the procedure should be. We have a fiduciary responsibility for Urban Renewal money on what we can do with those funds.    We don’t want to overstep our bounds within the comprehensive plan. We need to follow all the laws involving Urban Renwal and make sure of our full responsibility for projects like this.  This seems out of the realm of Urban Renewal where it has been more of a blight removal thing. If we are going to do something different that is ok as long as we are following state statutes and are on with the comprehensive plan. If it is not in the comprehensive plan my belief is to change the comprehensive plan and then it has to go to City Council and hold a public hearing.  If this project is 1.5 million dollars or 2.2 million dollars if you figure up the square footage it comes to over $300 per sq. foot for the building. Without the basement it is $600 per square foot. That is totally ridiculous to spend that much with tax money. At that point it is time to put in the ground.


From the September 9, 2010 Urban Renewal Meeting:

Discussion on the Plaza building:

Chairman Horner: Has Rick had any communications or discussion with the realtors on the Plaza Building for feedback on price?

Bill Jackson:  We didn’t get much feedback. They didn’t have much interest in doing this.

Chairman Horner: As a Board we need to decide if we still want to pursue putting it up for sale. One of the things we could do is put signs in the window and see if we get any response.

Bill Jackson: Do you just want to pick a realtor or do you want to put it for sale with the City’s number as contact?

Rebecca Goodwin:  I don’t think we want to pay 7% commission to a realtor.

Nancy Bennett: If the realtors are not interested I don’t see whey we should give them the business. (Note from BloggerCentral: If the realtors are not interested, there is a reason for that - it's because there isn't any business. Is that such a difficult concept to grasp?)

Roger Roath:  Can we just put a sign with the City number and if there is no interest we need to look at getting a grant to tear it down.

Mack Burtis:  There won’t be any quick sale with the way it looks. Do you really expect anybody to want it?  The next question is what are you asking for it?  We don’t have an answer for that. I think we are up against the question whether this group has any use for this building that we want to pursue. We can put the sign in the building but I am not going to hold my breath.

Chairman Horner: I agree but we don’t know if there will be any interest unless we do something.  A couple of years ago Becky and I talked to some groups that were interested at that time.  We would like to revisit with them to see if they are still interested in doing something.  

Rebecca Goodwin:  There was some potential use for it then.  There are some companies that demolish historic buildings for the materials. Maybe they could be contacted and see if there is any that might be interested.  The tin roof and molding are reusable. That is another option.

Nancy Bennett: That would be more sensible.

Rebecca Goodwin:  It makes more sense than tearing it down for trash. There is a chance to get some potential money back. I can check with some companies that do historic rehabs that are looking for that type of materials.

And here is the best line yet, from Mayor Rizzuto: "I still don’t feel comfortable with taxing the residents of La Junta to have somebody else’s property fixed up."


So why are we still screwing around with this, talking about pouring at least $1.3 million in tax dollars and free money from some non-profits - not much relative to the tax bucks - into this thing? Although Urban Renewal is looking at 20% or so in matching funds ... the bulk of the money comes from grants from government agencies. That is tax revenue the city has taken from Smile Hi property owners, and that the state has taken from someone else - and those 'someone elses' are just like you and me.

OK, next, we'll look at the funding sources.

2/5/13

The Tabares Building Part 1

From the front page editorial in the February 4 edition of the Tribune-Democrat, we see that the Urban Renewal Board is still more concerned with economic development than with 'urban renewal.' The Board is attempting, apparently with the help of the Tribune-Democrat, to broker another 'toss a pile of free public money down a rathole' project.

The Tabares/Plaza building has miraculously gone from being 'blight' to being another one of those 'historical treasures' that must be saved at all costs. The building is one of those 'valued historic properties' the owners let fall into rotting disarray over the course of several decades. That owner is the one from whom Urban Renewal purchased the building, for $22,000 worth of tax increment district dollars, back in November of 2007, after approving the purchase in the September meeting. The building was purchased at the urging of Director of Economic Development Ron Davis, who suggested that it might be used for a US Highway 50 museum. That project, despite the piles of money we are throwing into 'tourism,' and despite the interminable meetings in exotic resort areas attended by a multitude of 'tourism experts,' has gone nowhere. Rumor has it that the main roadblock is the Otero Museum, who/which does not want a competing museum on 1st Street. Or should we leave that to dangle, in the best "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment" manner of House of Cards thinking ...

From the minutes of the September 2007 Urban Renewal meeting:

Sandra Leonard made a motion, seconded by Rebecca Goodwin, that Urban Renewal purchase the Tabares Building at 8 & 10 East 1st Street for the purchase price of $22,000 with the acknowledgment that it is considered blight. Motion carried with a vote of 6 Yes and 1 No.

The solitary 'no' vote was by Mac Burtis, bless his doubting little heart.

The article in the Tribune-Democrat mentions but one figure associated with this latest bit of Urban Renewal fiscal skulduggery.

That's the $120,000 to patch and supposedly stabilize the roof, and 'other projects' to additionally stabilize the building. Then the article rather glibly moves to "... total cost would depend on the use of the building ...'.

That's a disingenuous statement at best. At worst, it's a deliberate slant, glossing over the costs in order to pimp the project, leaving the significant amounts actually mentioned in the study as great mysteries. Is this  a 'news' story? Or is it a blatant effort to palm this mess off onto the unsuspecting public. That isn't surprising, considering their position on Urban Renewal's La Junta Mill fiasco, wherein Urban Renewal was poised to funnel a half million dollars of tax revenues into a private business.

Some time after the Tabares building was purchased, a study was done. That one mentioned the sum of $2.1 million to overhaul the falling-down, collapsing, rotting, leaking piece of detritus to the point where it could be useable as a commercial property.

$2.1 million. Yep. 2.1 million dollars. But those who have their minds set on saving this bit of pork - that is, most (but not all) of the Urban Renewal board - pooh-poohed that as unrealistic.

So they recently commissioned another study at taxpayer expense, at the urging of Rebecca Goodwin. Why? To come up with more palatable figures?

That second study, the one only superficially cited by the Tribune-Democrat, came up with $1.8 million, for a building finished to the point that it would be ready for tenant occupation.  Yes, that is 1.8 million dollars. But that isn't so far off from the original survey, is it ... yet that original survey seems to have disappeared. Perhaps the survey is just an Inconvenient Truth? And, a close exam of the 'new survey' shows what appears to be some very optimistic costs. If anyone thinks that project will come in for $1.8 million in the current economic environment, they need a serious reality check.

The latest 'yes sir yes sir three bags full sir, what would you like to hear today sir' survey then mentions $1,301,738 (don't you love precise cost analyses?) to do a 'building shell renovation.' Yes, that is 1.3 million dollars.

Sounds like real money, doesn't it.

 So why didn't the paper publish those figures? They are right there in the same study from whence their 'staff reports' drew that figure of $120,000. By the way ... that $120,000? That's public money. That's your money, and my money, and the money from our friends and neighbors, to be used to shore up - not fix, but shore up - a building that was left to ruin by a private owner. You know, it's one thing for Urban Renewal to buy up blighted properties for demolition, but it is quite another for Urban Renewal to think they should be renovating these disasters, at huge costs ... to the benefit of private businesses. If private businesses - entrepreneurs, the kind of people who made American business first in the world - can't see enough of a return to risk involvement of their own money - why is Urban Renewal risking our tax dollars?

Remember that 'blight' thing from the September 13, 2007 meeting? Where they talked about how if nothing else they could turn it into a parking lot? Well ... it's $280,530 to demolish it and turn it into an empty lot. That too is from the latest study, and that figure too was ignored by the Tribune-Democrat. Can that be because Urban Renewal - and their supporters in the local Fourth Estate - don't want you or me thinking about that option?

Speaking of empty lots ... another thing the Tribune-Democrat doesn't mention is the lot immediately to the east of the Tabares/Plaza building. That lot is currently leased by Tri-County Motors, the last remaining 'real' car dealership in town, and employer of a fair number of people here in the Smile Hi; a business that recently spent a pile of money to remodel and redesign their buildings and lots. Their own money. Not tax dollars given to them by a government board.

So let's turn our attention for the moment to the Public Hearing on Demolition, that was held on May 21, 2012. That's when the demolition of the Tabares building was discussed with the public. In that meeting, Mayor Rizzuto responds to a question by Cheryl Lindner, regarding the use of the lot if the building were demolished. Rizzuto's response:

Tri-County Motors made a proposal that if the Plaza Building were torn down he would like to swap the lot they own at 2nd and Raton for the lot on First Street. Their proposal has not been accepted but if the swap were made there would be no cost involved for the City or Urban Renewal.

Drive on by Tri-County Motors first chance you get. You will see they have cars parked in the lot immediately to the east of the Tabares building. I asked about that, and was told that this lot is actually owned by the city, and that Tri-County is presently leasing it, so as to conduct business, and in the process of that, provide employment for a number of people here in the Smile Hi.

Now let's turn our attention to that most recent study and how it addresses that particular lot, the one to the east of the Tabares building, currently leased by Tri-County Motors ... something that the Tribune-Democrat either overlooked - a journalistic lapse of considerable import if such is the case - or something they deliberately ignored, which is even worse than a mere lapse.

The study repeatedly notes a dependence upon that lot for parking and services support. This project clearly depends upon that lot for success. But if Tri-County has it leased, how is that conflict to be resolved? What about that proposal that would allow the lot swappage? Or is Tri-County just going to have to take it in the shorts? If that is the case, is it really Urban Renewal's mission to pull the rug out from local business? Not only local business, but the only real dealership left in town, and a business that is arguably one of the most viable in the downtown area? Hey, I'm just an interested citizen, and I'd like to know if Tri-County - a business that is basically a bird in the hand - is going to be treated with a bit of consideration and respect, or if they are going to be pushed aside in Urban Renewal's latest hunt for a couple of questionable birds in the bush?

How come the Tribune-Democrat mentions none of this in their front page editorial?  Is it the function of a newspaper to pimp government spending and curry favor with government officials to the detriment of the taxpayers? Is it the function of the newspaper to advocate for a project that will adversely affect an established business like Tri-County Motors? Or is it the function of a newspaper to expose such poorly conceived planning and spending in order to provide information from which the public may derive an informed understanding of what the government is doing?

In Part 2, we'll look at the funding sources ... and how Urban Renewal intends to divert tax revenues into selected private businesses.

2/4/13

"Morally wrong"?

Awhile back we had the little dustup over the Catholic Hospital defending itself against a wrongful death law suit, by using Colorado law as a shield. Colorado law defines a 'person' as one who was 'born alive.'

Therefore, a fetus cannot be a person, under Colorado law, and if the fetus is not a person, there can be no wrongful death.

When all that came to light, there was some backpedaling that was epically spectacular:

Catholic Hospital: It Was 'Morally Wrong' To Argue That A Fetus Is Not A Human In Colorado Court 

On Monday, the hospital and the state's bishops released a statement acknowledging it was "morally wrong" to make the legal argument.

and

... last week Colorado's bishops met with executives at Catholic Healthcare Initiatives, a branch of the church that operates the hospital at the center of the case, to review how the lawsuit was handled. The two released separate statements Monday saying CHI executives had been unaware of the legal arguments and pledging to "work for comprehensive change in Colorado's law, so that the unborn may enjoy the same legal protections as other persons."

OK. I find it difficult to believe that the bishops were clueless about the defense argument used, but now we have them coming out saying they ain't gonna do that again.

Meanwhile, our elected officials have been considering a law that would make it a crime to kill a fetus.

Last Monday, no church representatives testified as a state legislative committee considered a proposal to make it a crime to kill a fetus. Republican Rep. Janak Joshi said his measure was not meant to wade into abortion politics but rather enable prosecutors to file additional charges in cases like the Aurora movie theater shooting. One victim was so severely wounded during the July massacre that she miscarried, but prosecutors could not file murder charges on her unborn child's behalf
.

That led to this interesting twist of logic:

Democrats and an attorney for Planned Parenthood argued that Joshi's measure, as written, could enshrine legal rights for fetuses in state law and lead to an abortion ban. The committee voted it down, but Democrats later unveiled their own bill that would make it a crime to kill a fetus during a criminal act committed against a pregnant woman. That measure specifically states that the intent is to neither outlaw abortions nor give unborn children additional rights.

Can anyone explain to me why it should be a crime to kill a fetus during the commission of another crime (see the state's existing statute on 'felony murder'), yet killing the same fetus through abortion or neglect should not be a crime?

2/2/13

"Orthodox Alexithymia"


In the previously posted link to the blog article by Evans, we see that she includes a link to yet another article, this one by Richard Beck addressing a phenomenon he calls "orthodox alexithymia." Here is an excerpt:

"What I'm describing here might be captured by the tag "orthodox alexithymia." By "orthodox" I mean the intellectual pursuit of right belief. And by "alexithymia" I mean someone who is, theologically speaking, emotionally and socially deaf and dumb. Even theologically sociopathic."

Now what does this have to do with the evangelical and/or fundamentalist view of the relationship of the bible and theology to science? Quite a bit, I think.

History is full of examples of 'theological sociopaths,' many of whom seem to me to have some serious pycho-sexual dysfunctions. Religion seems to exacerbate these. Sex is a major preoccupation with evangelicals and/or fundamentalists. One of Relevant magazine's most tortured and most extensively commented upon articles - and a followup - dealt with masturbation and the sinfulness thereof. Would you not agree that the more active members of the various smitten-by-God cultures in the Old Testament exhibit what we could call 'religico-psycho-sexual malignancies?' The crowd(s) in Genesis 19 would make guys like John Wayne Gacy feel right at home. What of the Ammonites, and their child sacrifices? Mere heathens, wallowing in simple deviate debauchery (is there any other kind?) or something more deeply indicative of the demons that gnaw at the souls of men? And what of Kugel's argument that the verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy specifically addressing child sacrifice are an indication that this was at one time practiced among the Hebrews? Does this mean that many of the ancient leaders of the Hebrews were manipulative sociopaths? Detached emotionally from the masses, yet skilled in manipulating the emotions of those masses, working their social and cultural prejudices with a religious bent? The assassin in Angels and Demons (my favorite fictional psychopath) is a great example of this type of religiously-founded mental aberration, but not nearly so much as the church fathers willing to loose him upon the masses. The One True Church has for centuries harbored, even nurtured, these personalities. The Protestants of early colonial America, with their witchhunts and fascination with sexual 'misconduct' are a psychotherapist's treasure trove. And, when we get the likes of Brother Pat, and our brethren and sistren in the Concerned Nazarenes going on about "God's judgment" as the reason for almost incomprehensible suffering one immediately thinks "Aha! Orthodox alexithymia!"

But then we have this:

"When theology and doctrine become separated from emotion we end up with something dysfunctional and even monstrous. A theology or doctrinal system that has become decoupled from emotion is going to look emotionally stunted and even inhuman."

I think he's missing the main point here. There is no lack of emotion in the fire and brimstone version of God's judgment. Quite the contrary; it is full of emotion. Preachers rely on emotion. It drives the reaction and the purse strings of the congregants. Was the mob in Genesis 19 lacking in emotion? Were the mobs of Moloch emotionally decoupled? Of course not; mobs are ruled by emotion.

Televangelists, prosperity preachers ... the Hagees, the Pat Robertsons, the Huckabees ... all of them ... depend on the emotional state of the mob - their congregations - to make a living. The last thing such people want is an income source that believes in reason, that is capable of reasoning. But are such preachers emotionally decoupled from their own actions? Is that the basis for the theological perversion? And the bottom line ... if such Leaders of the Church - and I use the term very loosely - allow the reason of science to prevail, how does this affect their power over the masses and their purses?

2/1/13

Heresies! Evolution vs the Bible!

My three favorite 'heretics' are at it again.

Thomas Jay Oord is a professor of theology at Northwest Nazarene University. We came across him whilst Leece was working on her master's.

Oord has a blog, here. It's broken down into several major areas. One of these is 'Theology and Science.'

He has some recent posts in that Theology and Science area that are pretty good, in which he takes a look at the conflict between science, biblical literalists, and evangelicals, who may or may not be literalists, though the majority seem to be.

Here are some:

Nazarenes exploring evolution

Evolution and the Bible

The Bible and Evolution

Along those general lines, Peter Enns has several good blog posts up as well:

The deeper scandal of the evangelical mind: We are not allowed to use it

His main Patheos page is here.

And then we have Rachel Held Evans, who writes:

The scandal of the evangelical heart


Oh ... but wait! There's more!

Richard Beck writes on this as well:

Experimental Theology: Orthodox Alexithymics

an excerpt:

Orthodox alexithymia is produced when the intellectual facets of Christian theology, in the pursuit of correct and right belief, become decoupled from emotion, empathy, and fellow-feeling. Orthodox alexithymics are like patients with ventromedial prefrontal cortex brain damage. Their reasoning may be sophisticated and internally consistent but it is disconnected from human emotion. And without Christ-shaped caring to guide the chain of calculation we wind up with the theological equivalent of preferring to scratch a doctrinal finger over preventing destruction of the whole world. Logically and doctrinally such preferences can be justified. They are not "contrary to reason." But they are inhuman and monstrous. Emotion, not reason, is what has gone missing.
(In my opinion, hard-core, double-predestination Calvinism looks just like this. An icy, monstrous and alexithymic theology.)