Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Opaque Government

The City of Fort Wayne forced me to file a formal compaint with the Office of the Public Access Counselor today.

As of today it has three months since our current Mayor personally promised me that I would have any and all financial information regarding the Harrison Square Project.

I filed seven Freedom of Infomration Requests on April 16th right before the City Council vote on Harrison Square. I waited until April 16th because I actually beleived that our current Mayor was a man of his word.

I no longer believe that to be the case.

I still have not received any of the infomration I requested with my seven Freedom of Information Requests.

Is there ANYONE who reads this blog who can come up with ANY reason why the City of Fort Wayne is refusing to provide infomration about the financing of the Harrison Square Project?

Do you think it is incompetence?

Do you think they are hiding something?

Do you think they should not be required to give me any information.

Mike Sylvester

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't believe there is any financial data other than what is already presented on the web.

Political decisions don't require reasonable thought. Take Tom Didier's comment for instance (paraphrased from memory) "I don't know if it is a good project or a bad project. It is a necessary project." Necessary for whom?

Kevin Knuth said...

Mike,

What did you ask them to give you?

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Kevin:

Below is a summary of the requests. I decided to use a "shotgun approach." The seventh item I requested is now posted on the City Website. It was posted AFTER I made the request. The sixth item they are not required to provide; however, since both The Mayor and Deputy Mayor promised to answer ALL questions I thought they might answer my list of 58 questions.

1. All financial projections involving Public Financing of the Harrison Square Project.
2. A copy of any and all revenue sharing agreements associated with the Harrison Square Project.
3. A copy of any and all agreements involving the new Parking Garage that is proposed as part of the Harrison Square Project.
4. All written documents associated with and including forms A1, A2, A3, and A4 that the respondent provided to the City of Fort Wayne in regards to the RFP issued on Dec 21st, 2006.
5. Any and all written agreements that Fort Wayne has with Hardball Capital.
6. The written reply to the 58 questions that I submitted to City Council and the Mayors Office in early March of 2007 regarding the Harrison Square Project.
7. Crow recently produced a report for the City of Fort Wayne entitled “Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Proposed Harrison Square Project.” This report repeatedly references a report entitled “City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Downtown Community Revitalization Enhancement District, Consultant’s Report.” I want a copy of the “City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Downtown Community Revitalization Enhancement District, Consultant’s Report.”

Kevin Knuth said...

My GUESS- and this is only a guess-

You can get what exists online already-

1. The city has released financial projections- of course, they will change as deals are finalized.

2. I think the MOU outlined the revenue sharing deal. I do not believe it is finalized.

3. Basic info outlined in MOU- seems to me that the city is still working out details with Lincoln and the hotel developers.

4. Didn't they release this?

5. The only document at this time is the MOU.

Mike, I am not sure my answers are correct, but I think you will find that the documents you are looking for are already public or do not even exist yet.

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Kevin:

No the infomration I am requesting is not available on the internet. They are 100% refusing to show anything except their final numbers...

1. Yes the City has released their projections. My request asks for the numbers they used to get to these projections. That has NOT been released.

2. The MOU is very vague. It does not specify the revenue sharing agreements. It is POSSIBLE; however, unlikely that they City does not have some of the Revenue agreements in place.

3. No info on the Parking garage has been released yet that I have seen.

4. No they did not release this Kevin. I have asked for these tables over and over. If they had released these tables I could have checked their projections.

5. You may be right, however, since they want to break ground by August 1st I would think they would soon have this info.

Kevin, they are not releasing any of the items an accountant would need to check their numbers. All they are releasing are their final projections. They are refusing to allow ANYONE to check their numbers...

I find this telling...

Mike Sylvester

Scott Greider said...

Mike, to your original three questions:

1. No, I don't think it's incompetence. I believe the administration has shown a huge amount of competence re: HS.

2. No, I don't believe they're hiding anything. Neither are they wasting time providing pointless information.

3. Yes, generally I don't think they are required to provide you the information you requested, but then again, I don't know how the FoIA works. Prior to that request, though, no.

Separately, are you sure you want to call the mayor a liar?

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Scott Greider:

I would have thought that you understood how important an open government is... Alas...

1. So you think because they voted to subsidize a baseball team, a hotel and a parking garage that they can refuse to abide by the law? Wow. You have been in New York a long time...

2. Providing pointless information? Are you kidding me? I want to know simple things like what hotel occupancy rate they are projecting... I want to know what their benchmarks are...

3. You need to read the law because you are way, way off base.

Mike Sylvester

Scott Greider said...

@Mike: sure, open government is a good concept, but FW is on it's death bed and needs to be revived! If the only way to do that is to shoot first and ask (or field or defend, re: Martin's covert purchasing of properties) questions later, then so be it. In other words, wheel and deal all you want if it benefits the entire City.

And enough already about hotel occupancy rates! They'd give a number, you'd claim it was too high, and then what?! Pointless. Besides, there are no comps to be had, and any information would be static anyway. And as has already been reported in rising prices of Midtowne Crossing sales, revitalization is not static. You can't just "run the numbers".

And what law are you talking about, anyway? I thought the FoIA was Federal? Or are you talking about Indiana's Open Door Law?

And lastly, yes, being in NYC so long has definitely shaped my perspective. For the better, of course. ;-)

Mark said...

Scott. You hit the nail on the head.

Mike, the FOIA will not require to the city to answer your 58 questions. You need to study the law a little more carefully.

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Mark:

You should go back and read my post. I know that they are NOT required to answer my 58 questions... I stated that in the comments section...

I just submitted it because The Mayor and Deputy Mayor kept telling EVERYONE that all questions would be answered...

Mike Sylvester

LP Mike Sylvester said...

Scott:

Fort Wayne is NOT on its death bed and you and I both know this project does not have the ability to renovate a city of a quarter of a million people, come on. It can only be considered a possible catalyst to cause some other projects to happen Downtown and I hope that it works.

You seem to be afraid of knowledge. Of course I want to know what projected hotel occupancy rates are. We SHOULD know what they are projecting that way if they exceed them we can praise them and if they come in too low we can determine why and take corrective actions. The Mayor's office ensured us that all of its estimates were CONSERVATIVE.

THE FOIA is a Federal law. The City of Fort Wayne provides a FOIA request to citizens who want to request CITY records. I got my forms from The City of Fort Wayne legal Office. I imagine the City uses the same form so that they do not have to create a new one.

I am glad that prices have risen at Midtowne. Prices SHOULD have risen at Midtowne. Whenever the Government pours money into an area prices will rise. It is something I like to refer as Economics...

Mike Sylvester

Tim Zank said...

Seems to me, a simple, quick phone
call or e-mail from Mayor Richard to you (Mike) early on would have alleviated a lot of animosity, no?

Even if he had NO answers, it would have certainly been in his best interest to keep in touch with you at least.

Anonymous said...

Boy am I anxious to have contact with this guy Scott Greider! I have yet, in 58 years in Fort Wayne, ever met someone who spent time in the Big Apple and returned to Fort Wayne with a "better perspective" Wow, that's almost an oximoron. John B. Kalb

Robert Enders said...

Scott,
Fort Wayne is growing in both size and population. How can a dead thing grow?

This city may not have all the attractions and amenities that Indianapolis, Chicago, or New York have. Before a city can have, say, a NFL franchise or a nationally famous opera house, that city needs a large enough population to support it. When you come back to Fort Wayne, you have to understand that there is a lot of things that simply will not be available here that were available in NYC. But at least the traffic isn't as bad, and we don't have to get our car emmissions tested.

Scott Greider said...

Can't respond to everybody, but I would like to thank Mr. Kalb for his interest in meeting me upon our return. I should like that very much, the chance to swap Fort stories for Apple stories.