Saturday, July 02, 2011

Rio Nuevo Cloth Antics Continue

(Tucson, Arizona) Late last May we were led to believe that Donovan Durband, former Director of the Tucson Downtown Alliance, would be tapped to take the helm of the fledgling and sadly Cloth infested Rio Nuevo project, an enterprise that has managed to squander hundreds of millions of dollars to pay various characters to plan to study, study to plan, plan to pretend to study, create nice drawings of colorful bridges half a mile into the air over a wash, renderings of a new arena, a godawful effort to build a financial nightmare of a hotel near the TCC, and other shenanigans. Numerous blogs including this one as well as Star reporter Rob O'Dell have documented in considerable detail the embarrassing excuse for what a TIF district is supposed to be.

A few years ago, after then Rio Nuevo Director Greg Shelko went before the state legislature and acknowledged that $9 million had been spent which accomplished nothing (except stuffing certain coffers) for the community, the state came within a hair's breath of pulling the plug and shutting the whole mess down. It was THAT close, but alas, some well wishing individuals eager to salvage the effort from its corruption, suggested the entire board be replaced with individuals selected by the state, individuals who did not consider stuffing the pockets of well connected Clothmeisters as the prerequisite to scoring gigs for Rio Nuevo projects.

Their efforts worked, and a new board was established, minus Larry/Dan and their groupies - or so we had hoped.

Before we continue that path, flashback to 2007 or so when we had Durband running the Tucson Downtown Alliance. Briefly, businesses in a certain downtown area must pay an extra tax, the Business Improvement District (BID), whose funds are collected by the city and used to fund the Alliance. With these funds, Donovan most adeptly provided various services including the washing of the streets, security, marketing, Downtown Saturday Night, and other advocacy for the businesses paying this tax. These employers loved the Alliance and the work it performed to help them prosper.

The well functioning Alliance proved irresistible to Clothmeisters noted for their eagerness to take over or destroy anything that's working. (A training institute comes to mind.) So they usurped the Alliance, put Larry/Lynn, Inc. on its board, changed its name to the Tucson Downtown Partnership, and brought in Certified Cloth Aficionado Glen Lyons as the new director, bumping Durband to #2 briefly before booting him to give a sweet gig ($60K for a few hours a week) to Cara Rene, the wife of Nina Trasoff's chief of staff. Clothmeisters serve themselves, handing Lyons a $120+K salary to schmooze and provide downtown businesses positively nothing that could remotely occur as tangible. Need one ask what happened to the services formerly provided by the Alliance?

Returning to Rio Nuevo, the new board started trying to repair the damage and stop the incompetence, corruption, fuzzy bookkeeping, shady arrangements, and other FUBAR. New board member Alan Willenbrock, a razor sharp finance guy who calls a thing for what it is, choked on the $200M hotel being rammed down their throats, and loudly voiced his opposition to the fiasco, stating with conviction that it would hemorrhage profusely.

Well, this was inconvenient, so Clothmeisters had conflict of interest hound, Lewis&Roca/Rio Nuevo attorney Keri Silvyn write a letter asserting that Willenbrock had a conflict of interest. A decent person, Keri had spearheaded the Imagine Greater Tucson effort with the best of intentions. Anyway, key voices cited her letter to raise fears of legal action, and guess who was ousted from the board? For those who could see, the hypocrisy of those behind the assertion produced an involuntary retch. Key take away - "We may not be on the board, but we still want control, and those who don't do what we want will be removed."

So, who wanted that hotel so bad and why? Answer - Who would get a lot of money if it happened? Who serves those who would get a lot of money? Did anyone pay anyone for the privilege?

IMPORTANT POINT: If Donovan Durband were beholden to this cast of characters I loosely tag as "Cloth," they would have had no need for Glen Lyons. They would have used Durband and the Alliance for their greedy objectives and rewarded him handsomely. They brought in Lyons because Durband actually does serve the community and its best interests, not the greed of the well connected. Anyone with a sound mind and a conscience knows that Durband is part of the solution.

Regarding the 5-4 board vote to make him the Executive Director of Rio Nuevo, who were the five in favor and who were the four against? Those in the know can cite legions of material to support him. What do the four say about their votes? Not that it matters, for since when did a silly vote get in the way of Cloth objectives? After the board voted to give Durband the position, guess what?

Now it's time to bring in the big gun, Maestro Lewis&Roca attorney Si Schorr, operating at the level of no less than Lord Larry and Godfather Dan. Rio Nuevo Chairperson Jodi Bain calls for help, and soon enough Bain and new Rio Nuevo attorney Mark Collins get to chat with Keri, who (drum roll) opines that Donovan Durband might be perceived as having a conflict of interest. Jodi does not want Donovan to get that job, adamanti! Why? Is this really about a conflict of interest? What about Vice-Chair Mark Irvin's vote for $18 million in contracts that included Sundt Construction? Oh, Jodi Bain works for Town West, and who did she want to get the Rio Nuevo Director position instead of Durband? Larry Lewis.

This Larry Lewis (investment adviser for whom?). Anyone else notice that Town West has been buying up properties near downtown, say close to Stone and the railroad tracks? Any of that going on recently? Now why might Jodi want Larry so bad? Remember when I mentioned retching when certain characters allege a conflict of interest?

Anyone else curious that through the entire grueling process of vetting and screening the candidates, no one said a thing about this conflict of interest? Only after the board approved him, then and only then, did Jodi raise her concerns. Do you smell what I smell, "You mean I didn't get my guy?!!! F$%k!! Sh&%!! #&@#@$%!!!! Donovan%#$&Durband!! Get me Si Schorr NOW!!!"

Occam's Razor. This is a blatant attempt by Jodi (and the Cloth behind her) to overturn the vote of the board and keep Durband from getting the position. They want someone they can control. On a perhaps unrelated topic, why did attorney Gugino (chummy with Eckstrom, Hein, etc.) suddenly resign last March?

You do realize the FBI is investigating Rio Nuevo.

One can't imagine why.


Anonymous Scarlett Letter said...

Welcome back to your blog!

7/04/2011 3:16 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

I had forgotten how intense x4mr can get. Wow.

The notion that Durband has a conflict of interest, coming from these people, is enough to make one retch.

So who are they going to hire instead? I doubt Ronald McDonald has a conflict of interest.

This is BAD.

7/04/2011 6:09 PM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

Well, whatdya know? A Town West person becomes chair of Rio Nuevo, and guess who starts buying downtown properties? Didn't they just buy some? THIS IS SO TUCSON.

That nobody said anything about this sooner is awkward and points to the fact that it was trumped up after the vote.

Some of this may have to do with animosity towards Koz or fear of his influence.

7/05/2011 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight.

Jodi Bain, the chair of the Rio Nuevo board, works for Town West, and she wants a Town West real estate adviser to become the Director of Rio Nuevo. As this develops, Town West is gobbling up downtown properties.

But Donovan Durband is the one with a conflict of interest.

7/06/2011 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Robish said...

The only question is, how many layers of corruption and dysfunction are revealed by this episode?

I know some people who swear that Kozachik's own chief of staff Ann Charles sabotaged Durband's chances by trashing him with Jodi Bain, before and after he applied for this position.

She is a classic example of a campaign chair getting the job of chief of staff after the victorious election, and as is often the case, governing proves to be harder than campaigning. Kozachik is loyal to her because she helped him win the election, although one might argue that Nina Trasoff was his best campaign asset.

Rather than being the guy who is always "right" but can never get a second for a motion, Koz could be more effective by building working relationships with somewhat like-minded council members like Walkup and Cunningham, and occasionally Scott, but Charles seems to relish advising him to take courses of action that put him out on a limb all by himself. Kozachik seems to have a big blind spot where she is concerned. I know several people from both parties who respect his work ethic and intellect, and are rooting for him to succeed, but they shake their heads at what she does and wonder why he doesn't see it, why he puts up with it.

Her motivations as far as undermining Durband with Rio Nuevo are hard to fathom if you are a normal person with a normal ethical sense. What I've seen of her, and heard from those who interact with her more, is that she is jealous, petty, power-mad, and loves to f**k with people just for fun and to make herself feel better. Kozachik has no idea.

Having someone Koz trusts over at Rio Nuevo would have messed with her desire to have bad guys everywhere to pit him against.

Oh, and her husband works for Si Schorr at Lewis and Roca.

7/06/2011 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous 2 said...

If Rio Nuevo decides to go into the appliance business, Larry Lewis is definitely their guy.

7/06/2011 11:14 PM  
Blogger Cigar Man said...

So Kozachik chief of staff Ann Charles (wife of Si Schorr employee) trashed Durband to Jodi Bain? Now why might she do that? Is she a walking personality disorder, or is there more to it?

This Cloth saga could be reality TV.

The Town West connections look terrible (a Town West employee, as chair of RN, wants another Town West employee to become Director of RN, while Town West is buying downtown properties), which I think is x4mr’s point. He doesn’t say the events are illegal or unethical, but he cements the notion that the appearance of conflicts of interest is screaming at full volume. For these people to throw a conflict of interest stone at anyone is beyond absurd.

Add this development to a long list where the community gets screwed out of actual progress so a small number of people can feed their insatiable greed. In a year or so watch for the O’Dell article reporting that Rio Nuevo bought downtown property from Town West for 25 times the amount Town West paid for it last month.

7/07/2011 6:31 AM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

Reality TV? I would suggest a feature film titled, "Rio Nuevo II - The Cloth Emboldened"

Key projects could include:

"Shining South" - a $85 million project to line the streets of S. 4th with silver plated statues, a big one of Dan in front of Rigo's, additional sculptures on S. 6th, and high gloss mural paintings on many S. Tucson buildings.

"Tucson Workforce 2020" - a five-year $100 million dollar training program to create a workforce training institute. To get the TIF, they could build the place where the hotel would have been. After one year, Joe Snell and TREO could steal all remaining funds, shut the place down, and give the building to Pima College to teach English as a second language.

"Cycling High" - a $150 million elevated bridge 250 feet above Broadway that replaces the 3rd street bike path. It would feature really cool exit ramps every mile onto Swan, Alvernon, etc..

"Proper Dues" - a $400 million dollar project that just awards large sums to key players. In return for their sacrifice, every Rio Nuevo board member could get $5 million each.

All vendors interested in contracts for the construction or other services in these project should submit bids with their $75,000 application fee made payable to "RN, Inc", and they are highly encouraged to hire a consultant to "enhance their chances of being considered."

The movie aside, this nightmare should be SHUT DOWN!! before more taxpayer millions fatten the dollar saturated OBESE.

7/07/2011 9:56 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

That is brilliant. I especially like the "Proper Dues" project that "just awards large sums to key players." May as well drop all pretense that the Tucson "leadership" is anything other than what it is. At least they won't have to print brochures.

Otherwise, a great job of connecting the dots by X4mr and some very interesting comments.

Tucson can't seem to shake off this problem with the "small number of people" who have used Tucson to "feed their insatiable greed" while producing next to nothing for the citizens. I have no idea how they get away with it. My best guess is that the low expectations of bureaucrats, elected officials, and civic leaders are just so ingrained in the culture of this city that the citizens will not react to anything until their money is long gone.


7/08/2011 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Another Anon said...

I'm glad Thomas worked TREO into his screenplay.

I have no use for Ann Charles. I had occasion last year to briefly see her in action. What a complete and utter naysayer. Useless. Keep her away from me.

7/08/2011 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas forgot to include "Vaporland" - the distribution of downtown land parcels (including demolition of any inconvenient existing structures) to anyone who can make the RN board believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Great Pumpkin, or that they'll build something on the plot someday.

Come to think of it, maybe a pumpkin patch isn't such a bad idea. They seem to draw people more reliably than downtown lofts do.

7/08/2011 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ann Charles did not get Koz elected. He got the cross over votes as a result of the Trasoff "sorority nepotism," and her choice of pals in the Develoment business.The veteran vote put him over the top and that was a result of a local Marine, not Annie. Would love to see a roster of the folks who bought those junk bonds she supported. That list would lead you back to the FBI's mission.

7/12/2011 1:37 AM  
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