Sunday, April 06, 2008

Tucson Regional Supergroup Authority

Tucson, Arizona. Rob O'Dell of the Arizona Daily Star published an interesting article yesterday titled, Price tag for a new Downtown arena soars.

The cost of a new Downtown arena has risen more than 50 percent.

Prices increase all the time, but 50 percent? Last year almost to the day the City Council approved a new arena near the TCC provided costs remained under $130M. Well, now we’re being told it will run almost $200M. The article starts to flex the forehead here:

The new arena's projected price tag was uncovered by a public-records request by the Arizona Daily Star that was released Friday.

We learned of the new price because the Star requested public records?

After the information was released, Tucson Convention Center Director Rich Singer released a memo to the City Council saying the costs of the new arena had increased to $166 million.

It gets better.

Other e-mails obtained by the Star showed infrastructure and other costs such as furniture would raise the arena's price tag another $25 million to $30 million, to as much as $196 million.

Singer said he informed the council of the cost increases after learning from the city attorney that the e-mails would be released to the Star. He said he didn't plan to tell council members otherwise, although he had known of the new cost estimate since at least March 19, e-mails show.

Council Member Nina Trasoff sent the plans to an outside architecture firm for review, and Architect Murray Beynon trashed the design of the arena, saying it was "one of the worst designs that I have ever seen."

Them’s fightin’ words. Something’s going on.

Until shown otherwise, I am inclined to consider GOP operative and Tucson businessman Bruce Ash a good guy. Word on the street and in the blogs is that Bruce has integrity and a good heart, so I consider his remarks credible and coming from an ethical place. An Independent, I recognize good GOP folk, and Bruce, along with Supervisor Ray Carroll, are among them. Bruce notes that the initial figures were not realistic.

The city shouldn't be surprised at the new costs said Bruce Ash, a Tucson businessman. "This should not have been a surprise. I think they have been low balling it all along," Ash said. "That kind of number is what I always expected it to be."

What's going on here? Why were they low balling?

Now we come to the main course:

Attorney Larry Hecker, a member of the new supergroup of public and private interests trying to redevelop Downtown..


Cloth Alert!!

Ahh, Supergroup. I should have known given the egos involved that "club" was entirely too mundane. A blogger can be taught. I won’t go back to prior posts, but "club" has now been supplanted by "Supergroup." Or is it the Regional Supergroup? Oh, wait, it’s the Tucson Regional Supergroup Authority (TRSA). Is the TRSA funded? Of course we already know who's on TRSA's board. Just look at TREO's board, but who’s the $200+ K salaried CEO of the TRSA? Did it drop $400 grand on furniture, fly to Portland, and steal funding from other agencies? How many vice-presidents work for the TRSA?

The article reeks, and I do not refer to Rob’s journalism. Something is afoul with this whole arena/hotel/convention thing. I don’t profess to know what, and clearly some of those involved are perfectly good citizens trying to do what is right. Some of those involved are not.

It is interesting that the Star printed this piece. Perhaps Jameson is considering allowing the press to cover what is actually happening in this town. Wouldn’t that be something?

My "Tucson Tipping Point" piece should be finished by the end of the week. As above, so below. The new are replacing the old. The new dogs grow weary of the same old tricks by the same old dogs. The old dogs have not realized that there are a LOT of new dogs with new tricks, like Web 2.0. The old dogs are mighty wealthy, but the new dogs, well, there's just so many of them, and their awareness grows each day. They have some money, and they're losing patience. When the balance tips and they bite, the pent up energy they unleash rushing to their side will shock even them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is strange that no one has started questioning the leadership in city hall yet. I am talking the City Manager's office here, which has led these efforts.

4/06/2008 10:30 PM  
Anonymous Scarlett Letter said...

Well, Anon -- the questioning could start with ... YOU! If the active readers and writers on this blog each sent a note to his/her city councilor (that's presuming others live within the city limits) -- it would become an issue. From my experience in public policy activism, 10 -- TEN -- letters on a particular subject catches an elected official's eye and starts the ball rolling. (That would be at the federal level. God knows about these folks at municipal level..)
C'mon folks, let's do it. I pledge to send a note to Karin U. Anyone else game?

4/07/2008 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woof, woof!

4/07/2008 11:14 AM  
Blogger Policon said...

Rob's only begun to find the smokin' guns.

For his arogance and incompetence (classic combination) Rich deserves to go down hard. But he's still just a fall guy, set up to take a fall after dispensing them to others (think Herb). Who does Rich work for?

The party starts with Rich, though, so Rob, why don't you ask Pedro Gonzalez exactly (exactly!) how Rich Singer, Greg Shelko, and Nina Trasoff were able to buy off an entire historic neighborhood without a single neighborhood open meeting?

Rob, why don't you request all (every single!) document Rich showed his hand-picked hotel selection committee? Get the ones that were so compelling the committee relied on them when deciding to put a 30-story hotel on Cushing Street.

Rob, has the city refused to give you a detailed accounting of where Rio Nuevo's money has been spent, or have you failed to ask (Don't ask for a summary, Rob, ask for the cash disbursments journal!)?

While you're at it, why don't you look into how no one noticed that Bourn has already received clear title to not just a free parcel of vacant land, but rather, clear, unencumbered title that still has a two million dollar building on it that Bourn gets to keep (check the ownership records, Rob). It wasn't a free site, its a free site and a free $2,000,000 existing, fully functional and occupied building. How did that happen?

Maybe Peggy's project would have gone smoother if the city had given her the land for free, plus free title to the water department building next door, just like Shelko and Nina did for Bourn at the Post.

4/07/2008 11:52 AM  
Anonymous observer said...

Well, this blog is getting downright interesting!

4/07/2008 12:40 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Yes, it is.

What I find particularly fascinating is the slow ratcheting up of the nature of the information. As time passes x4mr cuts a little deeper, turns over a slightly larger rock, exposes a little more. The comments follow suit. This is not a place for dummies.

I wish I had more to contribute. I don't know any of this stuff. I'm guessing that the "Supergroup" is so arrogant, so confident, that they cannot take the blogosphere seriously. I am stunned that the press has not mentioned this blog, especially with the content of the past few weeks. X4mr has said that reporters visit here.

If I were an elected official, I would make reading certain blogs part of my daily routine. This one would be near the top of the list.

4/07/2008 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great point Scarlett Letter.

Remember that the current city manager was picked with the help of a backroom deal of local developer types that pushed him hard past...not through...a traditional personnel process established to attract a host of national candidates.

They went local for a reason.

Uncover that rock and you find quite a lot.

Trasoff, the elected officials have absolutely nothing...almost nothing I should do with what is going on downtown. They simply question, approve, or disprove what the City Manager and city staff bring them. We have a strong City Manager system with a weak weak mayor.

4/07/2008 8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The formation of these various regional supergroups--whether the Regional Economic Development Organization (generic name--obviously referencing TREO, although I like the acronym REDO) or the Regional Transportation Authority, or the Regional Water Authority that is coming, or the Regional Downtown Organization that Hecker and Myers hath created--all of it can be traced up to the 10th floors. Tenth floor West, in City Hall, in particular.

Pleasing Mike, currying Mike's favor, getting Mike's blessing, being allowed to exist--this is what it's all about.

The city council members don't know the half of what Mike is up to, and he operates with impunity. He is smooth. He doles out information to the council members by the teaspoon. Some of them don't like it, but haven't managed to pull together sufficiently to demand better, or remove him.

He creates the veneer of "reform", but it really comes down to him choosing to work with a handful of people, and they are given the green light to infiltrate existing groups or create new ones, with a "regional flavor".

4/07/2008 8:32 PM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

Wow, x4mr, you have come a long way from the guy I met at the shop several years ago. "Growth" is an understatement.

I consider it delightful to see people in the community discovering the blog (and they are). I have reason to believe it will continue. The above comments are spot on, but I would note that Scarlet Letter asks a lot about writing elected officials and putting one's true identity on the line. People can get fired (or worse).

X4mr deliberately (I assert) crafted a plan that allowed for blogging with little risk of professional retaliation. They can literally kill the guy, I suppose, but the shit storm that would produce is even worse than they know. In my last conversation with x4mr, he shared that CNN, MSNBC, and ABC News scan his content and have linked to it.

He has shared that he graduated from Northwestern. That's very close to Chicago. Planes fly from Chicago to Tucson every day. If I say more he will delete my comment.

X4mr does not play poker. He plays chess. There is no bluff, only concealed strength. Have you ever played a good game a chess? Sometimes you can feel the noose tightening around your king. Other times, you're flying happy in your own world without a care, and you hear, "Checkmate" and say, "Bullshit."

Then you look at the pieces and realize you'd been flying blind.

Keep it up, x4mr. I hope more learn of you and recognize you represent one way of helping the good and the fair. Your heart was not the only one TREO broke when they shut SAIAT down.

4/07/2008 10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Policon's comment about Rob O'Dell asking for an accounting of the Rio Nuevo money: talk about something long overdue!

If Mike Hein were as smart as he thinks he is, he would offer to release it all, once and for all, and just get it over with. He could market this move as full disclosure, with most of the embarrassing news impugning his preppy predecessor James Keene and his mistress.

Perhaps the foolish expenditures on consultants didn't really stop when JK left for Sacramento.

Really now, if you were a newspaper editor in Tucson, Arizona, wouldn't that be the first thing you would want your best reporter to look into? The public is cynical and fed up with the Rio Nuevo nonsense. Everybody in Tucson considers Rio Nuevo to be a bad joke played on us all by the city. It should be obvious that this is a story that needs to be told.

Wouldn't that make for a juicy series of articles? Or a major Sunday edition story? I can see it: coming this Sunday, "the Consultants", followed by articles on "the Many Master Plans", the "Goofy Ideas Given Credence" (arena shaped like a turtle? bridge connecting two science centers?), and "the Developer Giveaways".

Sounds like Policon has some insights. Travis too. Robish seemed to know something about the Fox. I'd like to hear more from them.

4/07/2008 10:52 PM  
Blogger Travis said...

I have a lot of thoughts on this one. However, I'm eager to see x4mr's "Tipping Point" post, as I have a feeling it's going to tie together a lot of the knowledge he's been building/posting in bits as we go.

I will state that I'm very wary of "conspiracy theories". Though I'll concede that some "back room" dealing takes place (it's an inherent part of the whole game we call self-governance), I think that crying "conspiracy" every time something doesn't go right (Rio Nuevo, the ballpark, etc.) is an intellectual cop-out. It's a refusal to actually dig down and see what's really going on.

BTW, I've always loved that David Fitzimmons (the Star's editorial cartoonist) refers to it as Rio Nuevo Gonna Happen.

x4mr gets this. Even though he's got it out for TREO (delightfully so), he's the first to state "TREO is not a thing. It has parts..."

This blogs readership is smart and also gets that.

I'll advocate that all of these organizations and processes (TREO, Regional Trasportation, Rio Nuevo, even the city council) are ALL open organizations. It's not just something to read about in the newspaper. Anyone here could go down and be part of the process. (I'm assuming some of us already are.)

I'm not talking about being the crazy or angry person who shows up at a city council meeting and vents over the mic. Find out when these groups are having open meetings. Listen in. Get a feeling for the players. Meet them. See how you can get involved. It's all about participation. If someone or something is blocking you from that for a reason that seems less than forthcoming, now you might have a story. Dig deeper there.

To me, it's all about participation. Lots of these groups /processes are dominated by the same people because they're the ones who participate. Yes, they gain power, some business, through this. But that's because they're there. But it's open to all of us in a multitude of ways.

I saw a comment earlier (sorry, can't find it at the moment) mentioning letters to council members. They respond, especially if there are a lot of them. It's that effective.

I've orchestrated several grassroots campaigns effect change. It works. Relatively few constituents express opinions in truly constructive ways that elected officials really respond when this happens.

A smart letter-writing campaign (I think this blog would be an excellent forum from which to launch one) is one option.

And to my fellow x4mr readers, I'll ask (show of, er... hands? comments?), how many of us have participated? Have you written a letter? An email? Attended a community forum by one of these groups? Have you served on a community board or committee? Have you met or do you know any of the players? Would your council member know you if they saw you?

And, how many of us can say we actually know the cast of characters who get talked about here on a regular basis (good or bad). Snell? Hecker? Walkup? Scott? Carroll? Huckleberry? Hein? Giffords? Diamond? Or how about the whole TREO board? Has anyone given a call to the Star or Citizen... and instead of trying to get them to write about the blog, just ask them their assessment of it and what would interest them as a story? As much as it's fun to criticize, reporters tend to be pretty smart... and have great "bullshit" filters.

I know x4mr knows a number of the personalities of which he posts. Giffords. Carroll. I saw some good discussion of Herbie and the Fox. Cigar Man and robish seem involved. I saw Casey Delorme gave an enthusiastic defense of Rick Myers a while back. (Smart cookie, that Delorme. I think Tucson lost one of its up-and-coming leaders when he jetted town.)

I suppose, for me, it comes down to: great discussion, guys. Smart thinking here. Is that it? Or are we going to take action with our thinking? It's a hell of a lot more fun and effective than conspiracy theorizing. We're the community. We should be infiltrating.

Not to put the pressure on, x4mr, but you keep teasing with the "Tipping Point". We're listening.

4/08/2008 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Scarlett Letter said...

I've written an e-mail to my city councilor on this and have received a reply -- anyone else stepped up to the plate??

4/08/2008 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What did you write in your letter, Scarlett? Can you share which council member it was?

4/08/2008 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

xfmr and this blog are obviously bringing things to light. Which makes me wonder, what would it take for the Supergroup to bring xfmr and this blog over to the dark side?
That would certainly help them keep us in the dark.

4/09/2008 12:29 PM  
Blogger Casey DeLorme, APR said...

Um, wow, Travis. Thanks for the compliment. When are you coming out here to go paragliding?

4/09/2008 1:31 PM  
Blogger james said...

Rob O'Dell is a shill for the Manager's office. They point out what records to request and he does it. Hein skips off scot free while a city bureaucrat is thrown under the bus-this time Rick Singer. The unreported story is that the RFP for the arena construction was approved by the Mayor and Council on January 26, 2004, and Team Zocalo selected that summer. And since then NOTHING has happened other that a few hundred grand being spent for a "feasibility study" and schematic of the tortoise shell design. Here's a 2004 article from the Weekly describing the arena proposal:
In January 2006, Hein put out a memo taking personal leadership of Rio Nuevo but has not been held responsible for anything! Of course construction costs are going up! You don't need to do a public records request to figure that out. But perhaps if the brain trust that inhabits the 10th floor actually began construction back in 2005 we'd be discussing opening day events and not escalating construction costs. I believe the back story is that the 10th floor cut a deal with some folks involved in the hotel proposal that was approved by the mayor and council back in November. That deal, which includes folks like Alan Norville and Humberto Lopez, has probably fallen apart so Hein needs to scuttle the whole thing. What better way than to point out how much costs are going up and that we'll have to rethink the whole thing. And some how moving the Greyhound Bus terminal fits in this but I just can't figure out why. The Star reports that it has to be moved to make room for the arena-as if the bulldozers are parked out front ready to start construction. The only thing being built in downtown Tucson is a Potemkin Village.

4/09/2008 2:10 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...


Interesting content that warrants more attention, but I will wait just a bit. Please come back in a day, perhaps two, three at most.

4/09/2008 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go back and take a good look at the stories done in the Star on the selection of our current City Manager. It begins there, and as one other anon said, the 10th floor is where it all starts.


4/09/2008 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

city hall hires people for top posts who are from elsewhere so the locals don't take the heat for their gratuitous and inept boosterism of a "progressive city" while the county rolls over for developers. there wil not be a viable downtown for townsfolk 'til big outside money arrives, supposedly on the heels of the re-built I-10, Ha! i suggest the city build silverbell road out as a igh-end quasi-commercial/residential arterial (parallel to I-10) with cross santa cruz river traffic establish this latent & lucrative affinity. get pro-active guys!

4/11/2008 7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[posted by Policon, who's having trouble with Google Blogger account]

Navigator, you sell yourself short. Can you really not describe the Beast? I'm guessing that most everyone posting here is actually a member of the Beast, the SUPERORGANISM that rules our town. If not, why would we use our real names.

The Beast is the government-based economy of Tucson. Our politics follow our economy.

Tucson has an inordinately high number of core jobs in Big G: local, county, state, fed.

We also have a very high number of Little "g" jobs: Raytheon, UofA, Pima College, TUSD, Tohono, TREO, COPE, CEBUS, MTCVB, IDA, (groups who's funding comes primarily from govt).

The old "Five C's", cattle, cotton, copper, climate, and citrus, has been replaced by G,C&E (govt, climate, and education). Our largest "private" employer is a bomb factory for the government.

This makes us somewhat unusual by US standards.

If we want to affect change, we must understand and deal with the actual battlefield. As Howard Bloom describes in "The Lucifer Principal:"

"SUPERORGANISMS, IDEAS, and the PECKING ORDER -- the triad of human evil -- are not recent inventions "programmed into us by Western society, consumerism, capitalism, television violence, blood-and-guts films or rock and roll. They are built into our physiology. They have been with us since the dawn of the human race."

We aren't going to get anywhere with this blog without recognizing that the SUPERORGANISM ruling Tucson is in place because we are a government town. The forces that caused TREO to consolidate power in itself are the kind of self-protecting activities that all SUPERORGANISMS engage in.

Who was championing the SAIAT cause? Were they high in the PECKING ORDER, or just nice, smart people? Nice people don't wield power. People high up in the PECKING ORDER do.

This blog needs to embrace the regime as it exists.

x4mr, will you make a side-bar link to an org chart displaying the names, bios, email, and phone numbers of the Supergroup and the hot staphers who are actually controlling decisions this week and next month? If a few calls and letters have profound effects on electeds, you wouldn't believe what it does to non-electeds.

This blog should also articulate the IDEA it promotes. x4mr, can you honestly say your ideal is "Meritocrocay, and Anti-Bureaucracy?" Are you pissed that the feisty, nimble, cost-effective training program you ran on near-passion alone was crushed for no good reason? Will we rail against the machine even when it pits us against other political philosophies we do embrace?

Everything I'm learning about you says you will. You respect political philosophies, but you respect your inate common sense even moreso. I think you hate the Nannystate and Liberal Fascism.

There is a wind blowing down I-10 as our Tucson liberal government based SUPERORGANISM collides with a conservative free economy SUPERORGANISM that is steadily making us into a suburb of Metro-Phoenix. We may not like it, but this is the battlefield were we stand.

The Tucson Liberal Voter SUPERORGANISM is also under attack from balkanizing communities (Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, etc.) which is exascerbating the collision with Phoenix. Employees of the UofA, TUSD, Raytheon, etc., worry about their government jobs. Are they safe? Are they meaningful? They vote to keep power in the hands of their SUPERORGANISM leaders (think of the union influence in Tucson city council elections).

If we want to stampede the herd, we'd better truly understand the motivations of the average cow, not just their current leaders. Are we stampeding them out of fear or greed? Are they supposed to recoil from the SAIAT and Rio Nuevo Bridge follies, or embrace the greener pasture of Phoenix's plutocracy? More to come.

4/13/2008 9:44 AM  

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