by Jim Nintzel
Ward 6 Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik blasts the Rio Nuevo Board:
Based on recent comments and actions, the chair of the "reconstituted" Rio Nuevo Board is clearly on the flat end of a learning curve. At a recent tour that I led of the TCC, the intent of which was to point to facility needs and draw the City Council and the Rio Board together to cooperate on funding some of the more urgent items, Rio Chair Jodi Bain was heard to ask the City Finance Director if the "TCC is a part of the District?" Really, Jodi? The Auditor General last year called it the Primary Component of the District. The Rio Board answered and confirmed that Finding in writing. I refer you to the Rio answer to Finding #5 from that audit in which your Board affirmed that it was going to invest 'excess Bond proceeds' into the TCC.
In recent media comments, this Chair has charged both the City and Rio's own Financial Trustee with withholding financial information from them. Really, Jodi? The City has documented proof that that statement is false and misleading as it relates to the City. The City has given Rio every piece of financial material requested, many of them several times. Furthermore, the Trustee told me personally that "Jodi, Mark (Irvin), and Alberto (Moore)" are the authorized signatories to their account and therefore are the only people to whom account information can be given. Rio charges their own Trustee with being in cahoots with the City and not giving them financial data. This charge is coming nearly 2 years after this Board was appointed by the Governor and State Legislature. Try telling your boss that after 2 years in a management position that you still don't know how much money the business has in it's accounts and see how long it takes you to be shown the door.
The City Council and the Rio Board voted to establish task forces to meet to discuss the TCC needs list. Two days later, Rio filed a Notice of Intent to sue the taxpayers ("City") for $47M. The Chair, Jodi Bain says that was only to get the attention of the City and cause them to bargain in good faith over the exact same term sheets that her Board voted to approve last December. Really, Jodi? "Good Faith?" Does not the term sound just a bit disingenuous coming from this Board after saying you're ready to sit down and talk about repairs to the TCC, only to follow that up with a threat to sue your putative partner in that exercise?
The Chair and others on the Board claim that they don't know how much money they have. And yet, their own Fiscal Year 2012 Budget calls out over $10M in "cash on hand," they requested and received a transfer of $10M from their account in August of this year, and their own financial audit from last October credits them with over $10M in "unrestricted cash." What has the Board spent money on other than high priced attorneys whose purpose is seemingly to do the bidding of the State Legislature and sue the taxpayers of the City of Tucson? Can they really sidestep their own data with impunity and claim that they don't know this money is in their own accounts? Or are we to believe that they have spent it all on legal fees and audits?
And now comes Bain's remorse over the "contentious term sheets" that "granted to the District ownership of dilapidated real estate." Don't mind me, but I'd like to be factual for a moment. The "Reconstituted Board" voted to approve those 'contentious term sheets.' The 'dilapidated real estate' was conveyed to Rio Nuevo in 2002 by the Tucson Heritage Foundation. It was not "granted" to the Board by the City. If Miss Bain had done a modicum of homework she would have understood that her own Board voted to accept that which it already owned. And the City sweetened the deal by agreeing to pick up the tab for insurance, taxes and upkeep on her 'dilapidated' building. That's 'contentious?' Really, Jodi?
In a recent KGUN-9 report the news anchor stated that it 'sounds like somebody needs time-out.' It is truly unfortunate when the local media fails to conduct any analysis of the dynamics of the stories it covers. The City Council and Staff has provided to the Rio Board every piece of information it has requested. The City Council and the Rio Board voted last year to approve the term sheets that the Rio Board is now walking away from. On behalf of the City Council, I led a tour of the TCC and came away with agreement that we would set up joint task forces to work together on repairing that facility - only to be served with an intent to sue us two days after the task forces were named.
We have legitimate momentum in terms of downtown revitalization led by the private sector, the Downtown Tucson Partnership, and facilitated by zoning and permitting changes this Mayor and Council have adopted since early 2010. This Rio Nuevo Board has placed all of that in jeopardy by taking the first step towards litigation. Do not be surprised when the cozy relationship between this Board and the Legislature is affirmed in the days ahead. Until then, understand that one side is acting in good faith, one side is not, and some elements of the media need to do their homework before calling a pox on both of our houses.
The press release that Kozachik is referring to: