Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Tony, We Are About There...Time to Tell the Folks!
The small talk in chamber before the meeting is usually pretty telling. Today I noticed a short row of Suns fans, revealed only by the team spirit-type comments between them and the council members as they entered the room. There were just a few city staff in attendance today, all good people who are always friendly to everyone in the "audience." Right away I noticed Tony Dahbura milling around, who is often referred to as a minority owner of the Suns team. I watched every one except for those who were late to the meeting pay homage to him upon entering. The most telling moment for me was when Council member Lewis Metzner gave him a big handshake and back slap and said, "Tony, we are about there."
The Executive Session that is conducted in private was summed up by Metzner and presented as non-Suns related and Suns-related. The Suns-related discussion included calendaring, recent negotiations, offers, and basic funding agreements, "concluding in a successful manner for both the city and the Suns." OK, what ever that means. This left me feeling uncomfortable [wink, wink] and left hanging wondering if there was an agreement yet. Since there was no announcement I was left to believe that there still is no lease agreement...or is there?
Mayor and Council are determined to give we-cant-use-municipal stadium-because-it-is-beyond-repair tours. Remember back when they were going to do a $9M upgrade? Then we were told that the Washington Nationals wouldn't allow the Suns to play there even with the upgrade. The Ripken Report reps said that they didn't consider Municipal Stadium for their study because of "site constraints." We found out at the last city council meeting that it wasn't the Nationals at all and it wasn't site constraints. It was the Suns owners who said it was non-negotiable. Then they wonder why there is so much suspicion around the planning of this project? Regardless, the tours will go on. The first tour is scheduled for September 19th at 6:00 p.m. If you go, you will be shown field conditions, water drainage problems, clubhouse deficiencies, and lacking player and fan amenities. You will be told that there is no opportunity at this site for further development. Knock down all of the failed projects around it and you have plenty of space. In my opinion these tours are a farce. Municipal Stadium was upgradable for $9M until the Suns owners said that they would not allow the Suns to play there. I wonder if they would be a little more willing to consider the upgrade now that Winchester seems to be dropping out? I think that September 19th would be a lovely evening for a TEA Party.
Remember, "Tony, we are about there." Yet they are just now discussing "a public information process" for the new Suns Stadium. At the last meeting they had all but decided on a round table forum that would "provide a more controlled and quiet discussion." I objected to that because the deal is about done! Tony, we are almost there! Yet this is the first opportunity for the community to be heard. They have controlled the entire process without any input from the community. It is time for the community to control the discussion. If they have us in quiet discussion at different tables, we can't hear all of the questions or all of the answers. Don't you think it is time that we do? Apparently there are others who agreed with me and also wrote to the mayor and council asking for a truly open forum. I have absolutely no proof of it, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they have already made a verbal agreement, but for appearances want to wait until after the public forum to announce it. We are so close to an agreement and only now are we planning a forum? Again, I have no proof of that.
The community meeting will be held on October 9th at 5:00 p.m. They are almost sure it will be at the Clarion Hotel, but that is not yet confirmed. I actually like how it will be conducted. The "facts" will be available all day in the meeting room. There will be tables, each with information on one topic regarding the stadium. These tables may or may not be manned with city staff. At 5:00 the mayor and council will present their facts and, make no mistake, attempt to sell this project to the community. They are hoping that people will bring their questions in written form (Attention! You are no longer in control! This is the people's meeting!!), and they may put time limits on each citizen comment. There you have it.
Now for the boring details of the meeting:
Rodney Tissue, city engineer, was asked by Metzner how often Municipal Stadium flooded. Metzner commented that Tissue had been misquoted about this detail in the Herald Mail. Tissue answered that the stadium has only completely flooded three (3) times since it was built. He went on to say that it floods to some degree annually, most recently flooding the dugouts and causing a game to be canceled. He said emphatically that "rain is a significant factor." My questions, had I been allowed to ask them: How many times annually, causing how many game cancellations, and how much money, if any, has been spent annually to repair damages from the flooding? Oh, and would this have been rectified in the original $9M upgrade that the Suns owners will not consider?
Lewis Metzner said that he would hope that the folks will bring written questions for no other reason than to avoid duplicates. He felt he needed to strongly state that "none of us have any intention on voting on a bond bill until we hear from the community and settle the financing." Interesting.
Martin Brubaker agreed on the public hearing format, even to include questions about things not brought up in their presentation. Wow, how noble. He feels they need to get all the information out to the community as soon as possible and doesn't think that 2 weeks from the public forum is unreasonable. He thought there may need to be time limits put on citizen comments.
Forest Easton said that the Clarion has to be confirmed as soon as possible so that they can get the word out to the community. Of course the mayor, who never misses an opportunity for sarcasm towards those that question him, asked him if he actually thought that they weren't going to let the people know where it was going to be held. Easton patiently stated that he was trying to stress the importance of timely information.
Lewis Metzner stated that there is nothing that any of us want to hide. He doesn't "want to mortgage our children's future with debt and we won't do that. Grant money of $25M is not mortgaging our children's future with debt." Mr. Metzner you are much smarter than I am, but I disagree! Grant money IS taxpayer money! No matter how they slice it or dice it or spin it or gift wrap the financing...if it is not privately invested money it is taxpayer money. If the new Suns Stadium fails to support itself and has to be subsidized like other city projects, it will be taxpayer money.
I am still a little frustrated that people think that they know me, what I believe in and who I vote for, based on my involvement in the TEA Party. To them I would say, go ahead and make my day. Ask me.
IF YOU BELIEVE THAT TAXPAYER MONEY SHOULD NOT BE SPENT ON THIS PROJECT AND THAT PRIVATE INVESTORS SHOULD TAKE ALL OF THE RISK...SIGN THIS PETITION AND PASS IT ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW THAT LIVES IN THE CITY OF HAGERSTOWN, WASHINGTON COUNTY, AND EVEN THE STATE OF MARYLAND.
GO TO http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-taxpayer-funding-for-hagerstown-stadium/ to sign the No Taxpayer Funding for Hagerstown Stadium Petition. GO TO the petition Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Taxpayer-Funding-for-Hagerstown-Stadium-Petition/409239369130044 and click on like. The more likes we get, the more free promotional tools we can use!