Sunday, March 29, 2009

Centro de Una Ciudad Nuevo

Tucson, Arizona. The Star has a clothophile piece today penned by local clothmeister Glenn Lyons, CEO of the DTP, the guy who fired a terrific director with a real job to create a sweet cloth gig for the spouse of a council member’s chief of staff. Cloth material is easy to spot because it lacks substance, like TREO’s claim of creating millions in capital investment when a Walgreens resurfaces a parking lot. Lyons asserts Rio Nuevo's demise will cost Tucson $1.3 Billion.

He’s projecting a private sector investment number for a project that changes every other week. Maybe they’ll build a street car, but not if you listen to the state legislature. Maybe they’ll build an arena if anything’s left over after paying a CCC (Cloth Connected Consultant) to run a water line. Minus cloth talk about weaving the community fabric, why will a street car from UMC to Cushing Street spur capital investment? Will the Cushing Street Bar add another bar tap for increased patronage from UMC staff? Patients?

Back in the copper company days, when I was a responsible for a $50+ M budget, our controller was all over us financial analysts about our figures. You really had to know your business. Over time you get a sense of smell for reality and for nonsense. That $1.3 billion is as bogus as the smoke peddled by TREO. Somehow I don’t think the Cloth read Paul Krugman. Honest individuals accoutable for items like Rio Nuevo would know and understand material like that written by Nicolai Ouroussoff. You can bet they do in Austin and Albuquerque.

As Rep Barbara Leff stated most clearly, the TIF legislation was sold as creating a "New River" area at the river (hence the name - it's not "Centro de Una Ciudad Nuevo"). Shortly after it passed the clothmeisters hijacked the whole thing to fatten the wallets of the CCC’s to conduct studies, draw plans, eat dinner, travel, sample resorts, and so on. (Although not a part of Rio Nuevo, another classic CCC example is TREO’s sweet treat for KMK Consulting: $1/4 M+ to print a pamphlet.) As Rep. Jeff Waring noted, Rio Nuevo paid a CCC $40,000 to promote a parade. TREO paid gay bohemian advocate Richard Florida $50,000 for a 70 minute pep talk. I respect gay bohemians, but fifty grand to be told they will revitalize the Tucson economy?

None of this is new. Back in the GTEC days, Clothmeisters paid Bablove Ridgewood Workgroup six figure sums (I believe the marketing budget was $1/2 M) for a yellow streak. They assured us in the strongest terms that the streak was top of the line marketing that would show the world Tucson was the happening place. Microsoft, Cisco, GE, Ford, SAP, SONY, Honda, Motorola, Disney World, the Shah of Iran, Moses, and the 12 disciples would make moving here with tons of cash their mission in life.

The rhetoric in today's piece is no different from that published 20 years ago. Only the dates change. Acquire the full search capability used by academics and search the Star and Citizen data bases with suitable keywords. It’s all there.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tucson Citizen R.I.P.

Tucson, Arizona. Tucson's first newspaper shuts down this week. Art Jacobson's The Data Port has followed the unfolding developments of its demise. Like many and for good reason Art is concerned about the implosion of so many newspapers and the consequences it may have on journalism and the ability of the public to get to the truth, always a precious and difficult to obtain commodity. Those who have tried understand the difficulties associated with quality journalism.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a paper in print for 146 years, prints its final hard copy edition this week and from now on will be published entirely on the Web. Hearst Corp., owner of over a dozen papers, continues to lose money on most of them and like the owner of the Citizen, failed to find a buyer. The San Francisco Chronicle is in serious danger of closing, as is the Philadelphia Enquirer and many, many others. Even The New York Times, what one might consider the strongest and last to be standing, faces a $400 million balloon payment (the company might have a tenth of that on hand) this May. Uh-oh.

Checkmate has a good piece, The Great Newspaper Massacre of 2008 that reinforces Art’s concerns. It’s easy to watch TV and get the sense that the talking heads or their employees actually got the information. That almost never happens. Quoting the article: Newspaper reporting, for all its oft-mentioned flaws, is the photosynthesis of the news ecosystem; it feeds everything above it. The real thing usually comes from hardworking journalists covering their assigned piece of reality, in some cases persisting like hungry dogs chasing a scent against extraordinary adversity, a situation masterfully illustrated by the Oscar winning and fantastic film, All The President’s Men.

I’ll leave the in-depth discussion of the future of journalism to others, but as hinted at in the Checkmate piece, its future has to include Internet based content that attracts the readership hits to support adware for which advertisers will pay. While at levels far below what I would like to see, the public has elements hungry for quality journalism and the first rate journalists that can generate the truth. The demand for the product has not diminished. The product’s media have changed. Smart people must figure out a way to turn this corner. I’ve been 100% keyboard and screen for over a year, but that said, I will always miss a certain something about Sunday morning with a fat stack of print.

Word in Tucson is that the Cloth trough might fund a few of the Citizen’s displaced workers to spin smoke for the Clothmeisters, giving them titles like "Public Relations Director" or "Community Outreach Specialist" with the real assignment of making stuff up to flatter naked emperors. (Rio Nuevo could use a dose of sugary syrup these days.) I wish the employees of the Citizen a better future, and may they have good luck in securing positions that encourage and reward their talents.

UPDATE:In what occurs to me as a cruel move, today it was announced that The Citizen will continue to live on a day to day basis. Gads. Serves me right for posting a tombstone ahead of time. Apparently we now have Republicans fighting for Rio Nuevo.

I thought the GOP hated boondoggles.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cloth Circus Continues

Tucson, Arizona. Rob O’Dell has yet another Rio Nuevo article today that exposes blatant inconsistency and lack of cohesion around what should be a straightforward project to run a water line. First, we have the near tripling of the price from $250K to $680K. (We’re running a water line). City manager assistant Fran LaSala asserted that the higher bid was "the only true bid from a true contractor."

Excuse me?

Is he saying other bids (if any) were "not true," or that other contractors were "not true"? How does that happen? What is he saying? What logic or thinking leads to such an assertion? Is he operating in an environment rife with false bids and fictitious contractors? Yikes.

It gets worse. Archer Western did not bid specifically on the waterline job. It was awarded a contract to do all planned Downtown infrastructure work, estimated at $37 million, based on its qualifications and resources. The company is automatically awarded work on specific jobs as needed, without further bidding.

Are they serious?

All planned infrastructure work. All of it? What does that even mean? What line items added up to $37 million? Any? How was the $37 million calculated? What scope exists if the company is automatically awarded work on specific jobs as needed without further bidding? Are they really saying they create "specific jobs as needed" with no bidding whatsoever and automatically approved at any price?

Ahh, to be one of the Clothmeisters. I could run X4mr’s Awesome Blueprint Fabrication and get paid $300K for fifty pages of banter no one reads. I could make a fortune with X4MR Feasibility Analytics. I could steal from programs for crippled youth, victims of domestic violence, child protective services, and the food bank, put the money in my company’s account, and brag to my clothified board of improved financial performance. They would smile and clap and tell me what a terrific job I’m doing. I wish I were exaggerating.

What a circus.

UPDATE: At the Scarpinato article yesterday and O'Dell's piece today, for a time they had online polls asking if readers had confidence in the correct management of TIF funds (yesterday) and general monies (today) by the city. Both polls returned "No confidence" at about 90 percent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cloth Cash Trough

Tucson, Arizona. Clothmeister Glenn Lyons was unavailable at his Downtown Tucson Partnership office today because he'd caught a plane back to Calgary to rake in extra cash above his $130,000 cloth gig running essentially a Partnership of Ward 6, the City Manager's Office, and their various "private sector" enablers. This is the guy that fired the director of Tucson Downtown Alliance so he could create a $60,000 cloth gig for the wife of a city council member's chief-of-staff. Apparently he supplements the city salary on Tucson's nickel in Canada. He's returned to Alberta on a regular basis since the fall, teaching real estate development classes.

Despite brutal city budget woes, butchering a Youth Employment Fund, and questionable Rio Nuevo hanky panky, cloth cash flow remains healthy. Perhaps Dr. Richard Florida could accompany them with some Rio Nuevo consultants to discuss "creative class development" in the Mediterranean. When is TREO's excursion to explore the Albuquerque resorts?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Inflection

Thomas Friedman has a New York Times piece The Inflection is Near? suggesting that perhaps 2008 will go down in history as the year in which the United States, and by virtue of global dominoes, the rest of the world fully awoke to the unsustainable freefall of humanity so greedily devoured by the wealthiest gluttons enjoying domination of the planet for their own self-interests. Sustainability is the first word in the title of this blog by design. The astute have known for some time that sustainability is a word that will grow in significance in the political and economic discourse. It hasn’t even really begun to begin.

I speculate that’s about to change. The word "footprint" is about to take the stage with a vengeance. For good reason.

We’ve had a system that subsidizes gluttony and greed, allowing the disgusting to gorge themselves at a fraction of the true cost of their hyper-consumption of oversized meals in oversized houses with oversized garages containing oversized gas guzzling behemoths. It boggles the mind to fully appreciate how we have obesified what takes us from point A to point B. For what usually moves us a nominal distance in a nominal time, we need a vehicle with 2400 horsepower so it can feature a DVD, HD TV, wet bar, 200 pound leather sofa seats with 20 pound positioning motors, Jacuzzi, card table, gymnasium, golf course, auditorium, football stadium, zoo, circus, and museum. Think I exaggerate? Look at the vehicles produced in Detroit and the advertising designed to sell them. They’re STILL chasing horsepower. Think about that.

I want the tiny wheeled thing that brilliantly maintains safety standards and gets 125 mpg. I’ll do the DVD at home and exercise at a gym. I don’t need to go bowling and watch trapeze artists while I drive to work.

The auto industry should scrap everything it thinks it knows and start engineering from the 25cc mini-scooter. Every tiny ounce and cc added to the design needs to fully justify itself under the most brutal scrutiny in terms of function and economy. We need to retire the paradigm that insists we haul theme parks back and forth every day to do our jobs.

This is about more than cars.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Toxic Talk

I posted Dancing with a Snake last month about the GOP leadership vacuum and the nature of those seeking to fill it. Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reminded us that radio blow hard Rush Limbaugh has forcefully voiced his desire for President Obama to fail. Emanuel stated, "I do think he's an intellectual force, which is why the Republicans pay such attention to him."

Without getting into the semantics of such a failure (would Limbaugh like to see the economy implode to mass starvation?) one has to question the motivation of the CPAC crowd during these times. How do they scream for less governance in a nightmare brought forth by lack of governance? What data do they cite to forward the argument that the issues of our society are best resolved by whom, CEO’s? The data hardly supports the notion that unchecked these characters solve anything for anyone but themselves.

To agree with Emanuel requires me to twist the semantics of "intellectual" backwards. Limbaugh may be an intellectual force, but in the anti-intellectual direction. Like George W. Bush, he is the non-analytical who rejects the slightest introspection. From the self-anointed mantle of infallibility, Limbaugh bellows his self-righteousness, facts be damned.

At the local level (hey, some of my best friends are ... ) I’ve enjoyed conversations with more than a few elected Republicans I’ll go on the record as respecting. They include county supervisor Ray Carroll, Rep. Frank Antoneri, Senator Jonathon Paton, and others. I also got to know (rather well) another local GOP politician no longer holding office that demonstrated what I think may point to the death sentence of the Republican party, blind loyalty and unquestioning allegiance. She supported W "no matter what." Even though Randy Graf’s positions in 2006 made him a ludicrous candidate, she worked hard on that campaign. Why? Loyalty to the party.

Remember the bumper sticker, "Question Authority"? President Obama has welcomed intellectual rigor and the enrichment of the discourse regarding the extraordinary challenges we face. One of the elements blowhards like Limbaugh have in common is that they have never held office or had to solve a problem in the face of reality. Neither he nor Hannity nor O’Reilly nor Coulter nor Beck has seen let alone touched the trenches of crafting and passing legislation that helps one citizen. Not only do they have no solutions, they don’t even have questions.

The rage and hate infested rhetoric inflames dangerous elements the McCain campaign unintentionally exposed at its rallies. Whipping the base into a frenzy does not expand it. I think the GOP exacerbates its difficulties if it allows empty headed venom to become its voice.