(Tucson, Arizona) Late last May we were led to believe that Donovan Durband, former Director of the Tucson Downtown Alliance, would be tapped to take the helm of the fledgling and sadly Cloth infested Rio Nuevo project, an enterprise that has managed to squander hundreds of millions of dollars to pay various characters to plan to study, study to plan, plan to pretend to study, create nice drawings of colorful bridges half a mile into the air over a wash, renderings of a new arena, a godawful effort to build a financial nightmare of a hotel near the TCC, and other shenanigans. Numerous blogs including this one as well as Star reporter Rob O'Dell have documented in considerable detail the embarrassing excuse for what a TIF district is supposed to be.
A few years ago, after then Rio Nuevo Director Greg Shelko went before the state legislature and acknowledged that $9 million had been spent which accomplished nothing (except stuffing certain coffers) for the community, the state came within a hair's breath of pulling the plug and shutting the whole mess down. It was THAT close, but alas, some well wishing individuals eager to salvage the effort from its corruption, suggested the entire board be replaced with individuals selected by the state, individuals who did not consider stuffing the pockets of well connected Clothmeisters as the prerequisite to scoring gigs for Rio Nuevo projects.
Their efforts worked, and a new board was established, minus Larry/Dan and their groupies - or so we had hoped.
Before we continue that path, flashback to 2007 or so when we had Durband running the Tucson Downtown Alliance. Briefly, businesses in a certain downtown area must pay an extra tax, the Business Improvement District (BID), whose funds are collected by the city and used to fund the Alliance. With these funds, Donovan most adeptly provided various services including the washing of the streets, security, marketing, Downtown Saturday Night, and other advocacy for the businesses paying this tax. These employers loved the Alliance and the work it performed to help them prosper.
The well functioning Alliance proved irresistible to Clothmeisters noted for their eagerness to take over or destroy anything that's working. (A training institute comes to mind.) So they usurped the Alliance, put Larry/Lynn, Inc. on its board, changed its name to the Tucson Downtown Partnership, and brought in Certified Cloth Aficionado Glen Lyons as the new director, bumping Durband to #2 briefly before booting him to give a sweet gig ($60K for a few hours a week) to Cara Rene, the wife of Nina Trasoff's chief of staff. Clothmeisters serve themselves, handing Lyons a $120+K salary to schmooze and provide downtown businesses positively nothing that could remotely occur as tangible. Need one ask what happened to the services formerly provided by the Alliance?
Returning to Rio Nuevo, the new board started trying to repair the damage and stop the incompetence, corruption, fuzzy bookkeeping, shady arrangements, and other FUBAR. New board member Alan Willenbrock, a razor sharp finance guy who calls a thing for what it is, choked on the $200M hotel being rammed down their throats, and loudly voiced his opposition to the fiasco, stating with conviction that it would hemorrhage profusely.
Well, this was inconvenient, so Clothmeisters had conflict of interest hound, Lewis&Roca/Rio Nuevo attorney Keri Silvyn write a letter asserting that Willenbrock had a conflict of interest. A decent person, Keri had spearheaded the Imagine Greater Tucson effort with the best of intentions. Anyway, key voices cited her letter to raise fears of legal action, and guess who was ousted from the board? For those who could see, the hypocrisy of those behind the assertion produced an involuntary retch. Key take away - "We may not be on the board, but we still want control, and those who don't do what we want will be removed."
So, who wanted that hotel so bad and why? Answer - Who would get a lot of money if it happened? Who serves those who would get a lot of money? Did anyone pay anyone for the privilege?
IMPORTANT POINT: If Donovan Durband were beholden to this cast of characters I loosely tag as "Cloth," they would have had no need for Glen Lyons. They would have used Durband and the Alliance for their greedy objectives and rewarded him handsomely. They brought in Lyons because Durband actually does serve the community and its best interests, not the greed of the well connected. Anyone with a sound mind and a conscience knows that Durband is part of the solution.
Regarding the 5-4 board vote to make him the Executive Director of Rio Nuevo, who were the five in favor and who were the four against? Those in the know can cite legions of material to support him. What do the four say about their votes? Not that it matters, for since when did a silly vote get in the way of Cloth objectives? After the board voted to give Durband the position, guess what?
Now it's time to bring in the big gun, Maestro Lewis&Roca attorney Si Schorr, operating at the level of no less than Lord Larry and Godfather Dan. Rio Nuevo Chairperson Jodi Bain calls for help, and soon enough Bain and new Rio Nuevo attorney Mark Collins get to chat with Keri, who (drum roll) opines that Donovan Durband might be perceived as having a conflict of interest. Jodi does not want Donovan to get that job, adamanti! Why? Is this really about a conflict of interest? What about Vice-Chair Mark Irvin's vote for $18 million in contracts that included Sundt Construction? Oh, Jodi Bain works for Town West
, and who did she want to get the Rio Nuevo Director position instead of Durband? Larry Lewis.
This Larry Lewis
(investment adviser for whom?). Anyone else notice that Town West has been buying up properties near downtown, say close to Stone and the railroad tracks? Any of that going on recently? Now why might Jodi want Larry so bad? Remember when I mentioned retching when certain characters allege a conflict of interest?
Anyone else curious that through the entire grueling process of vetting and screening the candidates, no one said a thing about this conflict of interest? Only after the board approved him, then and only then, did Jodi raise her concerns. Do you smell what I smell, "You mean I didn't get my guy?!!! F$%k!! Sh&%!! #&@#@$%!!!! Donovan%#$&Durband!! Get me Si Schorr NOW!!!"
Occam's Razor. This is a blatant attempt by Jodi (and the Cloth behind her) to overturn the vote of the board and keep Durband from getting the position. They want someone they can control. On a perhaps unrelated topic, why did attorney Gugino (chummy with Eckstrom, Hein, etc.) suddenly resign last March?
You do realize the FBI is investigating Rio Nuevo.
One can't imagine why.