Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Century Tower

Tucson, Arizona. I will say up front that as we venture into terrain where we start publishing real names of wealthy and powerful individuals many of whom do a lot of good for the community, it is necessary to be rigorous regarding what we are alleging. For all I know The Century Tower was a brilliant idea. For all I know it was a self serving scheme that would allow insiders to rake it in. Frankly, I'm inclined towards the former.

A blog can correct its content and acknowledge mistakes. The following is quite rigorous. I consider it safe to assert that a group of people created the appearance that they hijacked the process to select the next city manager, one that would green light projects in their favor. Here's the rub: the project didn't happen. This story contains nothing not already published in the press, and remember, the press is quite entangled in "Supergroup" itself.

The following represents old news in a developing lens that wonders if a point needs tipping.

August 4, 2003: Pima County hires Marana City Manager Mike Hein to be Deputy County Administrator for Chuck Huckelberry. Hein’s focus will be community and economic development.
October 13, 2004: City Manager James Keene announces his resignation.
October 21, 2004: Council Members Kathleen Dunbar and Jose Ibarra suggest County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry would be a good choice to replace Keene.
October 2004: In a tiny little world miles to the south, after sustaining losses of $360,000 due to funding cuts, SAIAT operates in the black for the first time in 15 months.
November 1, 2004: The City Council unanimously votes to establish a 15 member citizens committee to interview finalists recommended by a headhunter through a nationwide search.
November 15, 2004: The City Council votes to delay hiring a city manager for 13 months because Leal, Ronstadt, and Dunbar are up for re-election in a year.
November 23, 2004: The Star reports that city bureaucrats believe 13 months is too long. Council members Ibarra, West, Scott, and Ronstadt voice desire to hire one by April.
December 2004: Council votes against hiring a "temporary" manager. Cigar Man confronts Foraker at the cigar shop, "You’re already dead. You have a year. You might have two. You do not have four."
January 23, 2005: The Star publishes "Together at last for jobs" about the formation of the Regional Economic Development Council, REDC, which will absorb GTEC. Why this effort will produce good jobs where prior efforts have failed is asked. Sharon Bronson replies, "We're not going to have overlap, and we're going to have accountability in this process."
January 24, 2005: The Star reports that The Mercer Group, a national headhunter, is performing a national search for Tucson’s next city manager.
January 2005: A group about as close to the "Supergroup" being distinguished at this blog meets at McMahon’s Steakhouse to discuss the future city manager.
February 3, 2005: The Star publishes a letter to the editor from restaurant mogul Bob McMahon declaring that the city should stop its national search and select County Deputy Administrator Mike Hein.
February 8, 2005: The Star publishes an article stating that McMahon, David Mehl, Yoram Levy, SL Schorr, Larry Hecker, and Dan Eckstrom all support the idea of Hein becoming the city manager.
February 8, 2005: Fred Ronstadt makes the motion that Mike Hein be the sole candidate for city manager. It passes 6-1. Carol West is the only vote AGAINST stopping the national search. Mayor Walkup denies allegations that the council caved into pressure from a group of "influential developers and business leaders."

Carol West declares, "I’m embarrassed to be sitting at this table."

After the council vote, four members of the 15 member citizen committee quit in protest. Five other members state that they will not attend the interview arranged between them and sole candidate Hein. Former City Councilman Chuck Ford, one of those on the committee who quit, calls the scheduled interview "a charade."

February 12, 2005: Ernest Portello Jr. writes "Tucson seems headed for another fine mess" and declares "the fix is in."
March 16, 2005: The Regional Economic Development Corporation (REDC) formally changes its name to Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (TREO).
May 10, 2005: Joe Burchell writes "Tucson May Get a New High Rise."
An investment group...wants the city to give it exclusive no-bid rights to buy land at the Main Library Downtown, where it hopes to build Tucson's tallest high-rise…they would open a restaurant on the 27th floor of the 350-foot Century Tower building, which would have commercial tenants on the ground floor and about 160 condos on the floors in between.
May 22, 2005: The Star writes "Private Downtown Investment, Jump at It."
Dozens of local business people are interested in investing millions of dollars in Downtown redevelopment, city officials were told, in return for the certainty that they can buy a parcel of city land there without engaging in a competition for it.

The new proposal is..to put up Tucson's tallest building on land adjacent to the main library Downtown. They are calling it Century Tower.

June 25, 2005: Joe Snell is selected to become the new CEO of TREO.

The Century Tower was never built. I smell frustration. Please get that the Century Tower is a metaphor for the X building and the Y complex and the W initiative, all components (Rio Nuevo or not) of efforts stymied (for good reason or not). In a tiny little world, a greedy cockroach pads his account taking funding allotted to other non-profits.

Of course I only scratch the surface.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Century Tower was economically infeasible regardless of who was promoting it, but now that you mention it, Don Martin was behind the proposal.

Don Martin is said to have had some trouble with TREO.

On the flip side, Bob McMahon was also involved, and he was pushing for Hein's hiring. This doesn't invalidate the inferences you seem to be making, x4mr, because the project simply didn't have any substance to it.

There are better examples than Century Tower of real projects with real money behind them, that have been stymied.

4/15/2008 9:30 AM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

Century Tower is a metaphor

Good post. I can confirm anon's assertion about Martin and McMahon and go a little further.

Don Martin gave TREO $50,000. He grew so angry that he demanded the money be returned. You can imagine TREO's generosity given their propensity to take and keep whatever they can get away with.

Martin made such a fuss they did in fact return some of the money.

Martin cannot stand TREO, but it has nothing to do with the slaughter of SAIAT or Augie.

4/15/2008 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hein has been in his position for over three years now. That's almost as long as Kommander Keene held the job.

As far as downtown and Rio Nuevo goes, one could argue that Hein has had far more resources ($$$) to work with and has actually accomplished much less than the maligned Keene. It was easy to mock Keene, but his administration got the Fox and Rialto reopened, and they didn't have hundreds of millions of the tif to work with as Hein does. What has he accomplished, really? Not so much.

Cynicism has increased, confidence has plummeted, and no one has a voice. These could be forgiven if they had actually built something. Now it looks like they can't get out of each other's way, which is remarkable because the staff purge has thinned out the City Hall ranks.

4/15/2008 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The key date in the chronology is February 8, 2005. The first item for that date says it all.

Carol West, good for you.

4/15/2008 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of the aptness of the Century Tower metaphor, Don Martin is a buffoon who epitomizes the half-baked scheme based on personal aggrandizement. It is a rather unfortunate choice for your post, since the project was doomed from the moment Martin called the press without taking the time to actually peruse a pro forma, something he seems incapable of doing.

4/15/2008 10:16 PM  
Blogger thelma said...

I've been thinking about this story since I saw it and wanted to comment but was fearful.

The anon that says the Century Tower is not a good example because it was DOA is correct, but I will guess that x4mr picked it because of the visibility. They pulled all of the February stuff and within months, guess who's pushing this mega-tower?

I think that's why he is so adamant about saying it's a metaphor for X building and Y complex. Perhaps for different reasons, it points to the bungling.

Cigar Man is far more on track (incompetence) than Econ Guy is (well manipulated system serving the chosen).

I am on thin ice. If someone connects the dots on who I am, PLEASE don't say anything. I promise the same courtesy.

I would hardly say Don Martin is "in the club" or SG or whatever, and I don't think "buffoon" is the word for Martin. He is not stupid. He does have quite the ego. I would call him a renegade and a bit of a loose cannon. The SG probably doesn't like him because he doesn't "fluff them up." Like x4mr, I think Martin tends to call something for what it is, hardly a feature desired by do nothing cloth types.

Cigar Man is right about the $50,000. When the PC thing to do is hand TREO a check, and you demand your money back, it makes waves.

4/15/2008 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin is straightforward and as politically incorrect as it gets, but his brutal honesty and charisma draws people to him. Decent, disillusioned people find that refreshing.

He is the anti-Hecker and anti-Snell.

If he could overcome his fatal flaws of egomania and no attention span to speak of, he could rally the masses behind him against the SG.

He had high hopes for TREO, but soon figured out that it was a scam, that it would spend lots of money identifying the obvious.

He has been beaten back a few times, besides the Century Tower thing, which had no chance to succeed, and now seems to be biding his time.

He'll just continue to succeed at what he is good at, making money, and have a good time doing so.

4/16/2008 12:20 AM  
Anonymous observer said...

Well, you have ventured where the press will not tread. I believe it was Robicon who requested that you articulate what your blog is about. I know the stuff about sustainability and equity for all and the development of humanity, really controversial stands.

What are you saying about this community? It's easy to bitch about Snell. Very few will argue with you. Note the outrage of comments defending him. It is not because they don't know about this blog.

You cut closer (and deeper) if you consider who is on the tenth floor, who interacts regularly with the tenth floor, and what promises get made (and broken). I can promise you that there are angry people who made made promises and did their part only to be let down.

Who let them down and why?

If you just complain, fine. Muckrakers have their place, but you cap yourself if you don't stand for results or policies that lead to constructive discourse.

4/16/2008 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Observer! I for one will get bored eventually if we're just going to bitch.

There's too much at stake here not to figure out how we can effect change. Our city's future is at stake.

4/16/2008 6:18 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...


I fully appreciate your remarks and agree with them, but you realize my position in all of this is that of a blogger. I can post content. I am working on positive statements about what I would like to see. I will present views and support them as well as I can, but you flatter me if you think my opinion carries much weight.

At the minimum, I will work to help increase the level of awareness. I have cause to believe that is occurring. I also have cause to believe that it is having an impact in a way best left undiscussed for now.

4/16/2008 8:41 PM  
Blogger Robish said...

It seems to me that Tucson is at a dangerous juncture, where a nudge in either direction can either elevate it to new heights or plunge it into deeper depths. We can become a great place to live or a larger version of Sierra Vista.

Yes, I know, it's at a Tipping Point.

The inability to get something going with Rio Nuevo and the predictable loss of baseball, and the general paralysis among our so-called leadership to foresee, let along prevent, these catastrophes makes me think we're headed downhill as a city. A lot of people I talk to are saying the same thing. I fear a mass exodus of smart people who are fed up, leaving us even less-equipped to excel as a city.

But the SuperCloth crowd seems to truly believe that we are headed irreversibly in the right direction. They point to the creation of TREO and the passage of the RTA as harbingers of unprecedented regional cooperation and emerging civic maturity. The thing is, they really seem to mean it. It's not ONLY that they are fully embedded in those groups or have to defend their record.

I hope they are right and most of the rest of us are wrong, I really do, but I must conclude that their optimism is more attributable to the fact that they have perfected their status as completely and fully integrated into the power structure, and are quite smug about it.

They have their city manager, their county administrator, and a bunch of pliant elected officials who follow the will of those two. They've created an economic development agency that considers them royalty. They almost certainly belong to the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, a group that, while still pulling the strings, has been relatively successful at "green-washing" itself as a sensitive, warm and fuzzy group at the same time over the last year with its Regional Town Hall and its claims to support the arts.

What could be better than being part of the elitist group that pulls the strings but no longer gets blamed for being the elitist group that pulls the strings?

We're talking about thugs in tasseled loafers here.

4/16/2008 8:44 PM  
Blogger Robish said...

I'm honored to have been (apparently) fused with Policon by Observer (above), as "Robicon".

Observer's excellent suggestion should be taken and pursued:

"You cut closer (and deeper) if you consider who is on the tenth floor, who interacts regularly with the tenth floor, and what promises get made (and broken). I can promise you that there are angry people who made promises and did their part only to be let down."

To that I would add that it would be helpful to learn who those people who interact with the 10th floor interact with after they've left the 10th floor. Access to government power is hugely important, but if we are talking about "power brokers" rather than people reaping direct rewards from their access, then we must know who these people are fronting for.

4/16/2008 9:01 PM  
Blogger Robish said...

Oh yes, and I would like to ask Thelma to lunch in Casa Grande or Benson.

4/16/2008 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is poetry...it is correct. I am sorry that Martin has distracted from what is the real meat of this post.

Read this again. Also, remember that when the City Manager came into office, the practice of signing in was thrown out the door...in the spirit of showing open access. It also hides who comes in and out the most.

Read this again. It is right on.

"You cut closer (and deeper) if you consider who is on the tenth floor, who interacts regularly with the tenth floor, and what promises get made (and broken). I can promise you that there are angry people who made promises and did their part only to be let down."

To that I would add that it would be helpful to learn who those people who interact with the 10th floor interact with after they've left the 10th floor. Access to government power is hugely important, but if we are talking about "power brokers" rather than people reaping direct rewards from their access, then we must know who these people are fronting for.

4/17/2008 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had forgotten about that sign-in thing. At the time it seemed like a breath of fresh air after the alleged elitism of Keene (oh, for the more worldly view of Keene). Hein bought himself some time by actions like that. He projected an image of being down-to-earth, accessible, approachable, unpretentious.

Since then, he's proven that he's paranoid, arrogant, secretive, vindictive, smug, evasive, and perhaps also incompetent.

Keene got a bum rap for not sucking up to the idiots in the local political machine. The same clowns who groomed Hein to replace him.

4/17/2008 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting juxtaposition between the actions of the cowardly, irresponsible city council and a much more responsible group of bureaucrats, back in November 2004.

The city council was willing to throw an entire year down the tubes because they feared the damage a search for a city manager might inflict on their re-election chances. Talk about selfish and short-sighted.

The next entry mentions city bureaucrats pointing out how disruptive it would be to delay the hiring process for 13 months.

Who had the best interests of the citizens of Tucson at heart?

I believe one of the more vocal city staffers who argued against delaying the search was Benny Young. I believe he essentially resigned his assistant city manager position in protest when Hein was hired. Benny smelled a rat, and what he really didn't like was that the County had groomed this particular rat to take the reins of the City.

Benny agreed to a demotion within about a month of Hein taking over. Oh, if we could get Benny to blog!

4/17/2008 11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw Benny at the airport a few weeks back. He is a fountain of knowledge about the dysfunction and corruption of open government in Tucson. As a musician he could pen some mighty lyrics capturing our less than honest ways. But then the million dollar question is, who has the gonchas to overthrow this Regime? They are entrenched beyond belief or reproach. And to think Kendall Bert is still on the team, with a batting average of about .106!

6/05/2008 2:47 AM  

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