Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day: A 20% Chance of Rain

The last few days of summer are upon us and community leaders are struggling to make the right decision between two very different grocery store proposals. Will this generation of leaders choose the proven business concept from the company with experience that is likely to serve the Hill community for many years to come?

Or, as their predecessors did with Lazarus, will they choose the expensive, unproven model from a company relying on big government subsidies with no experience in the market it is entering?

In the business world, we call this decision a "no-brainer." Political and community leaders should choose the commonsense solution over government-subsidized "glitz" and go with Save-A-Lot. (Trib, Glen Meakem)

Assuming that what Mr. Meakem writes is correct about current market trends, and that he correctly interprets and applies it -- and assuming what he suggests about as-yet unasked-for subsidies on behalf of the Kuhn's project is reliable -- this is a cogent and stirring argument.

He goes a overboard with his framing of our options -- the misadventure of the Lazarus department store is only the most stinging available example of the inept allocation of governmental redevelopment resources -- and Kuhn's grocery stores are no Taj Mahals. There's more than a little artistic license at work here, but he scores some solid debate points.

One thing Meakem does not take into account (at least arguably) is community pride, self-determination, and sweat equity -- the very things which made this Community Benefits Agreement such an arduous imperative, and a necessary vehicle for reversing an unproductive and mutual civic mistrust. Though again, he is making this appeal forthrightly to community leaders, not to elected officials.

Leaving all that aside, though, the thing that got the Comet to wondering -- not that he has any more or less right to hold an opinion than we do -- why is Glen Meakem taking such an interest?

It somehow got us thinking about Dan Onorato.


P-G, Rich Lord
P-G, Edit Board
Trib, Team Effort
P-G, Edit Board
Trib, Edit Board
Trib, Ed Feulner
P-G, Mark Belko
Economist, Lexington


Q: What officials and members of staff had you been meeting with through the day and did you meet with any private attorneys in addition to..?

A: No.

Q: Have you spoken to Mr. Ford?

A: What's that?

Q: Have you spoken to Mr. Ford?

A: No. (LINK)

Why not? He's the first person we'd want to talk to.

Repeated and repeatedly vague insinuations by the Attorney Lawrence Fisher aside, this thing has gone about as far as it is going to go in this cycle. If you're betting on it, like we said, we'd say there's maybe a 20 percent chance of rain. It's getting more than a little weird to hear Our Mayor addressing "rumors and things being said right now," and it's time for us to withdraw.

There are more conventional avenues of securing accountability in our elected officials.

Mr. Ford is hardly a scapegoat. As we said in an editorial last week, he did not belong at the helm of an important public agency. (P-G, Editorial Aside)

This is a technically true formulation, but it is only barely edifying, let alone illustrative for the populace. An important public agency is one thing -- but life in the city is teeming with agencies.

Patrick Ford (under Mayor Ravenstahl's leadership and at his behest) headed the considerable Urban Redevelopment Authority, chaired both the Housing Authority and the Parking Authority, and was the virtual if not formal head of the Department of City Planning -- to say nothing of his influence on the Bureau of Building Inspection and others.

What do these agencies have in common?

If you want to build something, demolish something, put something up, put something in, plan something, allocate something, award something, reward something -- if you want to impact the city or if you want to get something out of it -- these are authorities and departments you need to leverage.

These were the eggs Mayor Ravenstahl laid in Mr. Ford's basket.

In the wake of Ford's fiery resignation, Councilman Patrick Dowd was all, this is "a very good turn of events for the city" and an "opportunity." (LINK)

Once again, when the Comet asked Dowd pointedly what this says about Mayor Ravenstahl's judgement and what it suggests about accountability, he wrote back:

The city does need a URA board and executive director who will carry out the mayor's vision. I believe the administration must make its vision clear and make serious changes at the URA.

A board and an executive director. "Serious changes". Got it.

That's just the URA. There are a number of other boards in this government that have been in emergent need of refreshment for some time. Machine politics has got to stop somewhere.


  1. Actually, I would think the building sphere, to the extent it included private building permits as well, would be maybe the most important sphere of machine politics. That’s where you can threaten all sorts of accusations of legal violations as well as throwing URA money to some company for public projects (sticks and carrots). And the Mayor and his crew seemed to be playing that for all that it was worth.

    Seriously, it seems like the Mayor’s rhetoric was decided neutral while Pat Ford was being investigated. If it’s true that Yarone Zober wanted Mr. Ford investigated at the same time Mr. Ford went to the State Ethics board, maybe Mr. Zober was trying to force Mr. Ford out of Mr. Ford’s plum position. Maybe that explains Mr. Ford’s seemingly erratic behavior, that there was a behind the scenes power struggle and Mr. Ford’s first going to the State Ethics Board and then abrupt resignation only the outward manifestation of that struggle (or am I just stating the obvious).

    But I don’t know that this story is over. That may depend on the pace of any possible federal investigation, swift or glacial.

  2. "That may depend on the pace of any possible [edacted], swift or glacial."

    First of all, Ed, what's with the taboo language?

    Second, I agree PF was controversial within the administration long before the surround-sound revelations.

    I highly doubt YZ wanted PF to be "investigated", as you seem to speculate. But yes, the mayor never favored PF with an ounce of either support or condemnation, and yes, the interminable Ethics board route backfired. Who's idea was that?