by Jim Nintzel
The Rio Nuevo Board rushed out a press release on Friday night in what appears to have been an effort to head off the story in the Sunday edition of the morning daily that hammers the Rio Nuevo Board for spending upwards of a million bucks on lawyers and nothing on actual downtown redevelopment.
But the press release was so weirdly vague and badly written that it comes off as more of a parody than a professional communication from a public agency—and then Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Kozachik got ahold of it and shared his annotated version, resulting in what has to be the strangest document of year. Below, you'll find Rio Nuevo's original release, with Steve K's comments in italics:
The Rio Nuevo Board invited comments. I'm happy to oblige.
My first comment is that when you send out a press release, you might not want to bold the portions that cast you in a negative light. Perhaps a simple oversight by their copy editor, but I'll take the opportunity to point out what's being said about them, using their own release.
The timing of the Release raises the curious suspicion that they're trying to frame a position out ahead of some information they fear will be dropped in the media over the weekend. Stay tuned to see if that prediction plays out.
Now, on with the comments...
For Immediate Release: Rio Nuevo Misconceptions
The unpaid (yes, it's volunteer work - clearly) reconstituted Rio Nuevo Board has been accused by city bureaucrats of wanting to harm the City and downtown development. Untrue, the Board is comprised of volunteers committed to the financial health and welfare of our community, including a vibrant downtown.
There is a misconception that the Board’s commissioned legal and accounting efforts harm the city. (their legal efforts have cost the taxpayers several hundreds of thousands of dollars - their accounting efforts to date constitute a web site that is a year out of date, and refusals of FOIA requests from the media.) However, Board member Jonathan Paton says, “Nothing could be further from the truth. The Board only commissions work to protect taxpayers and to further effective downtown development.”
The board has been accused of feeding their rich consulting friends. (well, if you've got to feed anybody, I guess it might as well be your rich friends. Lord knows we wouldn't want them to spend taxpayer money on creating jobs for the unemployed.) Not true, the Board commissioned the audits which have saved taxpayers at least $507,000 to over $2 mil., according to project cost and budget reviews employed by the previous Tucson Mayor and Council. (interesting - they can know these data, but don't know how much is in their own bank account? And just for the record, Garfield Traub is still contesting this issue.)
Councilman Kozachik claimed that the Board is “not serious” about progress and suggests that the city will move forward on their own. (confession time - they're right. I am suspicious that after having been appointed for two years, spending nearly a million dollars on attorneys and not a penny on downtown revitalization, I'm not sure they're serious about their purported mission. The City has in progress the creation of incentives to do what this Board was appointed to do. We will do it, with or without them. They're still invited to the dance, though.) Again, the Board has not stood in the way of progress. As a matter of fact, it was the actions of the Board that pushed the issues into a timeframe for potential ‘real’ resolution. The call by the volunteer (this is the 3rd time in this release that they point to the fact that they're volunteers. They're either whining about it, or admitting that we're getting what we're paying for. I think I'd avoid making that point if this were my Release.) Board led to mediation which will result in progress. (It was a unanimous vote of the Mayor and Council that called for mediation - but, they later agreed, so they can have partial credit.)
“Discovering savings through the audits alone has provided the Board with hope and the possibility that the hard work of the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace and others may perhaps come to fruition.” said Board Chair Jodi Bain. (OMG - Jodi, please. the Friends of Tucson's Birthplace is a non-profit group of private citizens who went out and raised a substantial sum of cash to continue the work at the Mission Gardens. When they saw your lawsuit, and the threat to draw the County into it, they were afraid their efforts would be rendered moot. The City Council endorsed their work - Rio threatened it. To try to take any level of credit for their hard work is unbelievable.)
The savings provided through oversight by the Board is winning back the taxpayers' trust through transparency and making progress possible (update your website and provide your financials - make your deal points from mediation public - stop holding the bulk of your meetings in executive session. After having done all of that, come back and talk about transparency and trust.) The Board believes that despite the many missteps and misspent monies of the past, there is a foundation recognized upon which the future downtown improvements can be made.
Over the next several weeks the Board will release information which should clear up numerous misconceptions perpetuated by many interested in preventing trust and real progress. (Do it now. The people paying your attorney's and your Executive Director (by the way, what the hell does he do to earn his pay?) deserve to see how you've spent our money.)
Share your ideas and thoughts at www.rionuevo-tucson.org