Monday, February 23, 2009

Bleeding and Stuffing

Tucson, Arizona. The Citizen has a Carli Brosseau article informing us of new taxes the city is considering to balance its budget in the current economic climate. What leaps out of the print is the regressive nature of the taxation. The largest cash cow is a tax on residential rent. Does that hit landlord or tenant? Uh-huh. Let’s extract funds from those who can’t afford to own a home. While we’re at it, let’s increase bus fares for those who can’t afford a car, and why stop there? Let’s hike taxes on water, natural gas, electricity, and garbage. These guys know regressive with a capital R. Since the poor are already bleeding, what’s a little more?

I don’t have data but highly doubt the elasticity exists to respond to a trivial increase in the bed tax for our resorts, probably easy money from those who won’t even notice. However, the next idea is to hit the gem show vendors. What?! Within days of an article quoting the show’s serious consideration of leaving Tucson for other locations due to a variety of issues, we have an article informing us that the city is considering higher taxes on show participants.

Does the council grasp the rage they fuel when they layoff and furlough workers while continuing to squander millions on do nothing outfits that provide positively nothing for Tucson? Why continue to stuff the Cloth? Scrap the do nothing acronyms and save millions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Old Song in a New World

How ironic that Barack Obama became the president at a time when the country is perhaps as divided as it has been since the Civil War. Anyone willing to seriously look at the implications of the advances in technology and rising populations can see that the Reagan paradigm regarding the government as a burden to its people is mortally flawed. The old song of "cut taxes and reduce government" is obsolete. We need governance that is smart, effective, and ENOUGH. Look at what LESS got us in terms of our financial institutions. How will LESS handle the impending health care crisis? How does it address our need to educate our workforce? What about the our neglected infrastructure (bridges, roads, transmission lines..)?

Now that we truly require a governing system that can handle today’s complexity, having those who despise government in the government is deeply problematic. The Bush administration amply demonstrated how those who hate government govern. The obstinacy of the GOP nay-sayers in Washington points to the frightening possibility that they would prefer to be scorpions on the frog rather than face the notion that their ideas require new thinking. The hard copy days of typewriters and paper filing would not have prevented some of the recent financial shenanigans, but without question the current economic meltdown, in particular the credit swap fiasco, would be far less extensive had it occurred back then. Now the country needs the most competent and intelligent government in history.

Unfortunately, it appears that Republican leaders will not lead, follow, or get out of the way. They condemn but offer no tenable solution, no new concepts, no fresh perspectives. Lacking a single creative idea, mechanically chanting like an LP record mindlessly stuck in its groove, "Tax cut, tax cut, tax cut," they bring nothing to the table. Eli Blake’s post One Page Playbook captures it. If aliens land in New York and capture Washington Square, Republicans in DC will call for a tax cut. Over at Blog for AZ, AZ Blue Meanie's Cognitive Dissonance notes the GOP hypocrisy of benefiting from governance while denying the need to fund it.

To be effective, those struggling to move the country forward must not only find votes, but also craft the lens through which the nation understands the issues, the answers, and the political wrangling. The art of framing is difficult. Cerebrally challenged W predictably chose the bullying language of the tyrant, "You are either with us, or you are against us."

Sadly, I think the GOP in Washington still operates in such a mindset. Some GOP governors assert they will decline unemployment insurance for their own unemployed constituents. While I am not delighted with the stimulus package, in particular the rescue of people that over borrowed to over buy, no one has produced a more attractive alternative. One productively counters a less attractive solution with a more attractive one. I don’t have one. Neither does the GOP.

Obama has a challenge in shaping the nature of the unfolding conversation. While I am sure a better angle exists, I have a first draft for his consideration. When it comes to our members of Congress: They are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem. Sometimes getting out of the way if one has nothing better to say is quite the contribution.

I know how to classify the broken records moaning the same old song.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gem Show Angst

Tucson, Arizona. Readers interested in Rio Nuevo should click over to a thorough and rigorous treatment of the situation at the Tucson Choices blog. The piece presents a stronger command of the content than anything I’ve seen, and it completely eclipses the pathetic opinion piece in the Citizen a few days ago. Today’s Star has another article questioning the future of the gem show in Tucson.

Rumors regarding the loss of the gem show are not new. Every year word spreads around that it may leave, and it doesn’t. However, each year the talk seems to have more substance, and new this year are the quotes from Gem Show Chief Douglas Hucker, "I would have never considered leaving the city of Tucson for somewhere else, but I am now." Hucker goes on to comment about Rio Nuevo, "I’m not sure a bridge painting on Fourth Avenue, or some track being laid down for a (streetcar) ... that doesn’t represent significant movement for me. There needs to be more. They (the city) better focus on revenue-producing things or they will lose their biggest revenue producer."

The dissatisfaction has been growing for some time, and I am not talking about the lack of hotels or arenas. The undercurrent involves the taken for granted treatment the show has received over the years. Either last year or the year before that, when the show had a reception of sorts expecting to be greeted by dignitaries including the Mayor, perhaps a few more elected officials, and others (chamber employees, etc.), very few attended. Certain gem show officials were quite incensed, and I paraphrase the sentiment with, "You know, we really like Tucson, and the weather is great, but guess what?"

That was a year or two ago. At the time, I-10 was all torn up, causing traffic snarls and parking frustration for the show vendors and patrons having received no advance warning about the construction. "If they had warned us about the construction, we could have prepared for it. No one told us a thing."

Perhaps the loss of TIF funding has a silver lining for the Cloth. It's a perfect excuse if Tucson does lose the show.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Iron in the Air

Tucson, Arizona. Can you smell it? It has a sweet, metallic aroma. When strong, one can actually taste blood in the mouth. A few years ago I ran a small non-profit that everyone (except customers) wanted to destroy. They created the pinata just to beat it to smithereens. The machetes never stopped. I note this only to support my sense of smell for carnage. I smell it now. There is iron in the air.

There’s the vitriolic comments unleashed by Rob O’Dell’s piece at the Star as well as concerns raised by a Carli Brosseau Citizen article, but readers interested in a taste of the front lines are highly encouraged to visit this video and depending on how much twinkie you want, fast forward to about the 25th minute (sooner if you want more, later if you want less) but before minute 30 where it gets going. Watch and then consider the likelihood of Senators Gould, Leff, or Waring supporting Rio Nuevo. Leff used the word “betrayal” on several occasions. Watch for yourself, but no big deal, they’re just the finance committee of the Arizona Senate.

What do I mean by supporting TIF? It’s already passed, right? The legislature passed TIF extension, HB2702 in 2006 (the actual legislation), and if you look at page two line 20 you see the following: UNTIL JULY 1, 2025.

We now see the power of just a few digits. Let’s skip the intricacies of House vs. Senate, and consider the simple amendment to replace 2025 with 2009.

Just like that.

If you watch the video, it isn’t hard to gauge Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jim Waring’s views on Rio Neuvo’s spending $40K to promote a parade. By the way, I can recognize serious cerebral horsepower, and Jim Waring is packing big time.

Suppose said amendment is put forward. Below is the Arizona Senate. I’ll leave the counting to the reader. You need sixteen to defeat it. What Shelko failed to grasp that you should know is that the folks below have recently undergone the gut wrenching exercise of cutting medical aid to the sick, school teachers from already strained K-12 districts, universities to where departments are closing, and child protective services to where brutalized kids will have to wait longer for help. There’s blood all over the floor up there, and 2010 looks worse than 2009.

Start with Paula (District 28) or Linda (District 29) to boost your confidence, but consider yourself warned. The math is not pretty. Seriously, you got 16? Please, post your names.

1. Steve Pierce (R)
2. Albert Hale (D)
3. Ron Gould (R)
4. Jack W. Harper (R)
5. Sylvia Allen (R)
6. Pamela Gorman (R)
7. Jim Waring (R)
8. Carolyn Allen (R)
9. Robert Burns (R)
10. Linda Gray (R)
11. Barbara Leff (R)
12. John Nelson (R)
13. Richard Miranda (D)
14. Debbie McCune Davies (D)
15. Ken Cheuvront (D)
16. Leah Landrum Taylor (D)
17. Meg Burton Cahill (D)
18. Russell Pearce (R)
19. Chuck Gray (R)
20. John Huppenthal (R)
21. Jay Tibshraeny (R)
22. Thayor Verschoor (R)
23. Rebecca Rios (D)
24. Amanda Aguirre (D)
25. Manuel Alvarez (D)
26. Al Melvin (R)
27. Jorge Luis Garcia (D)
28. Paula Aboud (D)
29. Linda Lopez (D)
30. Jonathon Paton (R)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rio Muerto

Tucson, Arizona. As a result of the previous post I encountered some information that cut closer to reality than mainstream media. In the past I have always waited until the heart stopped beating before posting a tombstone, but now I will pronounce ahead of time what the Cloth will continue to adamantly deny. Rio Nuevo has bought the farm. The TIF funding is history. Remember the scene in Unforgiven when they shoot the kid in the canyon? He's still screaming, crying for water, but it's over.

The bright light of scrutiny brought forth by the brutal economics of the current reality are popping the pimples of soft easy money for the pus of the Cloth. I'm talking about mucho dinero that makes TREO's theft of a couple hundred thousand look like pocket change. I won't get into the underbelly of the 21st Century Fund, and guess what? The Google search on that name doesn't return a nice Web site explaining the 34 line item expenditures of $22.5 million dollars. Don't bet on Tucson Newspapers publishing that page. The reader would not believe the energy under the radar regarding those three words: 21st Century Fund. Ask the Governor.

Like Rio Nuevo, it's DOA in the new reality. The distinction "Cloth" appears to be gaining traction in certain circles. In some respects a compression of "The Emporer has no clothes" but with corruption added to its semantics, the "Cloth" refers to self-serving suits who profit on empty rhetoric and mutual back patting deals to participate in lucrative arrangements of zero substance. Those of the Cloth get paid a great deal, most literally, to meet with, talk with, present to, take trips with, have lunch with, and impress EACH OTHER. The innocent child watching the orgy of mutual admiration who asks, "Do you people do anything?" upsets the Clothiverse of meaningless strategic plans and blueprints and trips and feasibility studies. It's all calories and zero nutrition, like eating Twinkies.

It's fabulous to be one of the anointed in Clothiverse where one gets paid six figure sums to impress those who are being paid to be impressed so long as you, when its your turn, are dutifully impressed by their charade over their sweet gig. I exaggerate not. One gets paid a fat salary to produce the occasional Twinkie, empty and meaningless fluff such as Rio Nuevo chief Shelko delivered in Phoenix last week.

Twinkies.

Well, the people in Phoenix, blood all over their hands and arms from cutting bone and teeth out of the K-12 budget, weren't in the mood for Twinkies. The new reality is starting to awake, and it's got a knife.

MANY people are aware of what I speak, but those that know fall into one of two camps. They are either in on the Cloth and amply rewarded, or they are scared to death to say anything. I know a high ranking executive at a large, local firm that contributes to TREO, and he retches and showers each time he writes the check. Will he say anything? Of course not. The reader would be shocked to know how many know but will not speak.

Tick tock.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reality Slams Cloth

Tucson, Arizona. Daniel Scarpinato of the Arizona Daily Star has an article today that points to the strong likelihood that the city of Tucson is going to lose its most lucrative TIF funding for Rio Nuevo, a project that was supposed to lead, starting eight years ago, to a variety of attractive downtown enhancement projects. Those familiar with this blog know that it dug into Rio Nuevo last year with a TIF for TAT series that started here and continued here. The series drew quite a bit of readership. A few months later, Rob O'Dell of the Star ran an article that sure looked familiar, but I was not involved, I promise.

I've long since moved on, and odds are high I leave Tucson permanently within the next year. However, it was interesting to read Daniel's piece that just dripped with what I saw years ago, the world of the Cloth, a set of overpaid suits that attend luncheons and flatter each other while accomplishing nothing, and I mean NOTHING, for the citizens of this town. Worse, they attack any efforts they perceive as competing or in any way contrasting with their own lack of results. Local cloth includes TREO, our do less than zero economic development organization, Downtown Tucson Partnership, a group that used to do something under a different name, but since it did something, its leader and staff were replaced by those who know better than to accomplish a result, and MTCVB, a group that promotes tourism.

Sadly, these do nothing clowns and the millions they squander can damage noble and worthwhile efforts like Science Foundation Arizona, which was recently lumped into the same crowd as TREO by state representative Frank Antoneri. Groups that actually produce something can find themselves entangled with the trash and tossed out. In the world of cloth, notions like "deserve" and "merit" and "results" are shaped more by self-flattering fraud than facts.

Well, it's interesting to watch how long a total sham can fool its funders. Rio Nuevo had a pretty good run, snarfing perhaps $100 million to stuff the suits of its pals to pretend to conduct studies and attend luncheons, not a bad take over eight years, but it appears Rio Nuevo's time is running out. The folks in Phoenix aren't particularly impressed with the small stack of blueprints and obsolete stacks of paper.

Remember when TREO flew in Cloth God Richard Florida? For $50 grand of taxpayer money, the snake oil swindler came into town and told us we needed more artists and gay bohemians to boost our creative class. I don't have the slightest problem with gay bohemians, but anyone that talks about them as the drivers of Tucson's economy should consider a degree in Cloth. Last I heard, one obtains such credentials at the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

Rio Nuevo appears slated for termination. I wonder how long TREO and DTP can continue to swill at the trough. Over a quarter million dollars for a blueprint no one reads. Fifty grand for a one hour con artist that left us with what?

A bill.

See what I mean?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Boondoggle

Daniel Scarpinato of The Arizona Daily Star has a front page article today noting the funding reductions to the university related research effort known as Science Foundation Arizona. At first glance it looks like a worthy program deserving public support, but apparently some Republicans such as LD-25's David Stevens regard such efforts as corporate welfare, including closer to home LD-30 representative Frank Antenori.

I've enjoyed a conversation with Frank over a good cigar up at the Anthony's on the northwest side. The special forces veteran has a way with words. I'm not in the position to comment on the science foundation, but Antenori was not shy about mentioning another organization with whom I do have experience, the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities fiasco also known as TREO.

"If I could kill TREO, I would put a stake in TREO's heart tomorrow," Antenori said. "It's another slush-fund boondoggle."

Oh, if Frank only knew. A couple years ago TREO stole funding allotted to other local non-profits, $30,000 from a Goodwill program for handicapped youth, $62,500 from a small business assistance program, and $132,500 from a training institute that helped businesses train employees. All were non-profits. The institute was destroyed, its classrooms now empty and dead, including over a thousand square feet of raised floor server space with two optical fibers (right on the backbone) hanging from the ceiling. The stupidity is legion.

TREO distinguished the extra $220,000 on hand (they just padded their account) in their 2007 annual report, boasting that the money was the result of "improved financial performance."


SOMETHING ELSE