Tuesday, May 03, 2011

City, Goldwater eat dessert, fight, document it all

Note: This editorial appears in the 5/5 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/6 issue of the Peoria Times

Have you ever read 100 pages about something and learned less? No? Then you should totally check out the transcript of the meeting between the City of Glendale and the Goldwater Institute. It’s chock full of nothing.

To recap the issue at hand: The City of Glendale reached a deal with businessman Matthew Hulsizer to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes so that the team can remain in Glendale. The Goldwater Institute, which is an organization that does … something, is challenging the legality of the deal, stressing the risk to taxpayers. These two sides came together for a meeting two weeks ago in which the goal was, apparently, to pretend they didn’t despise each other and to eat cupcakes.

Indeed, someone brought cupcakes to the meeting, and the first few pages of the report detail this fact. I’m not sure why this needed to be documented, but it did lead to Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs posing the question, “What does ‘ooey-gooey’ mean?” which was the only question of the meeting that was actually answered, albeit inaccurately. “Ooey-gooey,” according to Starlee Rhoades, “is chocolate and more chocolate and peanut butter.” Hmmm. I thought “ooey-gooey” meant sticky and messy—a perfect description of these proceedings. But hey, whatever.

The Goldwater Institute had “seven questions” regarding the Coyotes deal which they wanted to outline and then discuss. Goldwater CEO Darcy Olsen planned to go over each question individually, but Mayor Scruggs wanted them all at once first, and then individually, so she could “write them down,” even though this whole thing was being mercilessly recorded. This battle of wills ensued for several pages. Also, the questions were never answered.

Part of the reason the questions were never answered was because Mayor Scruggs expressed her inability to answer the questions because it would violate the council-manager city charter. City Manager Ed Beasley, who was all over print and radio when council approved the deal originally and who could have easily relieved Mayor Scruggs of the heavy burden of public evasiveness, was not at this meeting because … I don’t know. Why would he be? He’s only the City Manager. Besides, in his stead: cupcakes.

Neither side thought an independent arbitrator would be necessary for this meeting. The result was an embarrassingly immature display of political posturing and ego wrangling in which people interrupted each other and challenged the most basic topics of discussion for no apparent reason. Take this exchange:

MS. OLSEN: Yesterday, (City Attorney) Craig Tindall told our attorneys that negotiations with Matt are ongoing and no contract has been finalized, but in an email –

MR. TINDALL: That’s not what I said. (Blah, blah, blah …) I said that the possibility is that we may need to negotiate in the future …

Good. Great. Glad we cleared that up. Can we proceed? No? You didn’t say what you just said? Okay, please continue. I am going to sit here and jam this pen into my thigh. This type of back-and-forth went on for 113 pages, by the way.

The Goldwater Institute has valid questions but questionable motives. The City of Glendale wants to keep its team but is being blatantly evasive. This meeting could have resolved, at least somewhat, this chasm. Instead it widened it.

A few people have asked me which side I rest on in the case of the Coyotes. I am on the side of a calm, reasonable solution by mature elected officials and professional human beings that has the city and team’s best interest at heart as opposed to its own political, corporate or personal worth. When that side emerges, I will let you know.

At one point during this epic fourth-grade debate team session, Tindall accused a Goldwater rep of “eye-rolling” as a result of something Mayor Scruggs had said. Ummm, Mr. Tindall, Goldwater Institute (tapping them on the collective shoulder)? It was me. It was us. At all of this.

3 comments:

Stacey said...

Hi Mike, I'm a little late to the discussion (darn finals!) but I'm glad to see I was not the only one who felt dumber after reading that transcript.

This whole case is a mess and I'm driving myself crazy trying to figure out what each party wants and what their motives are. Nothing seems to make sense. I feel like the pieces we've been given don't fit together and there is a whole other half to the puzzle missing.

What is GI's concern? From what they claim, they are concerned about the tax payers being on the hook for these bonds that the City of Glendale would like to issue in order to help Hulsizer purchase the 'Yotes to keep them in AZ. (Sounds like a legitimate concern to me.) But then why is it when Hulsizer offers GI to lay out his business plan with the projected cash flows and how the business will pay the city back (and how the city will be paid if the 'yotes do not make their projected goals) does GI say something along the lines of "thanks but thats not necessary". THE HELL IT'S NOT!! If GI's main concern is the tax payers eating the loss for the bonds, then how the city will be repaid (and therefore the taxpayers) is absolutely necessary and relevant.

Relevant. That is a big word that GI needs to learn. Forget the cupcake business. Why are you making a big deal about what took so long to get documents? Do you have them now? Okay, good. Move on. How is badgering the Mayor (I think it was the Mayor) about why a person who works for the city - and is not sitting in the meeting - showed "disrespect" in an e-mail to a GI employee that is sitting in the meeting. Irrelevant! And there are many many more that I can't remember right now, but you get the point.

So far from what I've gathered on the case, GI's main concern is winning the cases they open. Seeing as they seem to have no need for facts and figures (unless of course they request them) GI is going to play the perception angle and make the taxpayers of Glendale feel wronged by the city by painting the city in a bad light. Then (and this is the really smart part) when GI takes Glendale to court and stands in front of that jury- who is the jury? Why it is the taxpayers of course! -they will have already made a decision based on the bias created by GI. Facts and figures will no longer matter. GI wins; Glendale looses, as do the Coyotes and the hockey fans, and the employees who will be out of a job when the 'yotes leave the desert.

(Sorry for such a long comment. I never comment on any blog, but this case just has me so frustrated, and I'm not even an Arizona resident!)

mkenny59 said...

Thanks for the comment, Stacey! Agreed, wholeheartedly. "Irrelevant" is the word of the day is it relates to this particular meeting, one in which some progress could have been made if not for the surplus of egos in the room. And yes, Goldwater's motives are so questionable -- they just recently released a mailer that looks like a bad campaign ad, "calling out" Glendale for this proposed deal. It's hard for anyone to take them seriously without knowing they're ultimate purpose. That, combined with the city's shadiness have made for one spectacular display of ineptitude.

Stacey said...

As for the 2nd http://goldwaterinstitute.org/sites/default/files/CoyotesMailer2.pdf:

“Glendale will have spent nearly $400 million of public money on a team worth $134 million…” Well GI, it looks like you know everything. Would you like to document where those numbers came from or are you exempt from that?

“…city is using intimidation tactics” I liked the part of the transcript where GI was completely offended about a news report that said the city was going to sue Goldwater. GI went on and on about that “threat”, yet near the end of the transcript said they were “still committed” to suing the City. Also, Darcy Olson stated on Fox (you can find it at GI’s homepage) that the threat of suit by Glendale was “old style Chicago bullying”. Here I thought that’s what GI was doing…again with the perception angle, Darcy.

“…information presented…behind closed doors” and “…made worse by the city’s lack of transparency in these dealings” and “Why are Glendale Politicians trying to keep this deal a secret?” Also, what you said about the city’s shadiness. I can’t agree or disagree on the whole, but I think that maybe the NHL, being the seller, doesn’t want everything out in the open (ha, go figure).

Olson also stated in the news report “if you have neither the facts, nor the law, pound the table”. I’m thinking this applies best to Goldwater…no?

One other thing, and I don't believe it has anything to do with this case but has really gotten under my skin; GI is tax exempt under section 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code. A lot of non-profits are, because they are mostly charities. However, GI is cited as an “educational foundation”. What is that? I have not been able to find anything related to the specific criteria that must be met to be cited that way. Do they offer scholarships? Yes. Do they offer “educational seminars”? According to Arizona’s Secretary of State, yes. But, that isn’t their main purpose. So what gives?

Okay Mike, I think I've said all I needed to. Thanks for listening and good post!