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.


Anonymous Robish said...

Lyons' fluff piece demonstrates clearly that he does not represent the interests of struggling downtown businesses that pay part of his exorbitant salary, but that he is essentially the out-sourced mouthpiece for Mike Hein's corrupt and incompetent regime.

It was just a couple years ago that the assistant city manager (under Jim Keene) who was in charge of TREO and Rio Nuevo was sent packing by Hein, and she told some of her prospective employers (city of Flagstaff, as I recall, and a city in Colorado) that her efforts with Rio Nuevo had resulted in $500 million in private-sector investment in downtown Tucson.

After a little googling and picking up the phone to make further inquiries on this claim, the city councils of those towns decided they should hire someone else to be their city manager rather than Karen Thoreson.

While Lyons isn't personally claiming credit for leveraging $1.3 billion in investment, you can bet that what he wrote yesterday will follow him to his next prospective gig, as communities not named Tucson are showing more sophistication in vetting the people they entrust with public funds, and using the internet to expose the BS.

If there is anything left of Rio Nuevo after the Legislature works over the City of Tucson, and assuming they finally let Shelko go, how much do you all want to bet that the city turns to this guy Lyons to run it? They will say that they have let the private sector begin to manage the project, despite the fact that the DTP is mostly funded by the city.

3/30/2009 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, nothing ever changes but the dates.

I like the CCC idea. The dishonesty and corruption is just incredible.


3/30/2009 11:40 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

Oh, well, maybe they were just doomed from Day One for lying about there being a river.

New River, what a joke.

Try Scorched Wasteland. How do you say that in Spanish?

4/02/2009 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"T-U-C-S-O-N" is the translation you are looking for.

4/03/2009 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Robish said...

I have to disagree with the position that the streetcar will have no effect on capital investment.

In Portland, the streetcar has had a demonstrable impact on developers' willingness to invest in housing and commercial buildings in downtown. Property values there are higher close to the line, and it's been a big part of developing the Pearl District. Developers from Portland came to Tucson specifically because of the opportunity they saw here because we are getting a streetcar.

In Denver, light rail has spurred the rehabilitation of brownfield sites into mixed-use neighborhoods along the light rail corridors, helping to make Denver more dense, livable, economically viable, and reducing congestion from autos. The voters of Denver County approved a $4.7 billion funding plan for light rail a couple years ago because the initial phase was so successful.

Phoenix has seen higher property values and new investment along the light rail corridor, and there would be much more if the collapse of the housing bubble and the recession hadn't decimated the development industry.

Tucson's streetcar can be a demonstration project for light rail, and phase one of a more extensive system that eventually connects to the airport.

The streetcar would be more successful and more valuable if the City had been able to pull off its grand plan of Rio Nuevo, but it will still be a catalyst for new housing development between downtown and the UA campus.

After we see the public investment in the streetcar, we'll see private investment in housing and then we'll see more restaurants, retail, and perhaps even another tap installed at Cushing Street.

I do worry that the ridership won't be there at the beginning, but I see it increasing as the area becomes filled in with more residents. The UA should definitely build some of its student housing and academic space in downtown and connect the people who live and study downtown with the main campus.

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