Skut FarkusTea Party Affair. "Scut Farkus! What a rotten name! There he stood, between us and the alley. Scut Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!" Oklahoma City's version of the Skut Farkus affair found its home in the Tea Party's announced goal of supporting candidates with the intention of taking over city government, and all eyes were focused upon that possibility — at least, mine were. That possibility came to a happy end with the primary vote on March 1.
Animal FarmMomentum Committee Affair. It wasn't until the Ward 2 runoff election that city-wide attention was given to a new animal on the block, the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum. At least with the Tea Partiers, one could see who they were, but with Momentum and its contributors whose identities were hidden from the light one could only guess. "No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?" * * * "Napoleon is always right." * * * "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." But, at the April 5 Ward 2 runoff election, this affair had a refreshingly happy ending, also ... at least for the time being.
- The Alliance For Economic Development Affair. From Bad Day At Black Rock: Liz Wirth: "What do you care? What do you care about Black Rock?" John J. Macreedy: I don't care anything about Black Rock. Only it just seems to me that there aren't many towns like this in America. But... one town like it is enough. And because I think something kind of bad happened here, Miss Wirth, something I can't quite seem to find a handle to." Just when people were starting to take a breather from the most unusual city council elections ever to be experienced in this town, another new animal immediately popped up its head. Oklahoman reporter Steve Lackmeyer was the first to publicly notice it when, on April 8, three days after the tortuous Ward 2 election, he alerted citizens to an item which would be present on the 1st meeting of city council to occur after that election. Read his April 8 article here.
Steve's article identifies the proposed members of this new association. In addition to Catherine O'Connor, presently assistant city manager, who would become executive director of the group (as well as executive director of the Urban Renewal Authority, Larry Nichols being its board chairman), the group would consist of several high-profile members of the community: Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy, would serve as chairman and the board would consist of Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; businessman Clayton I. Bennett; former Mayor Ron Norick; city council members Pat Ryan and Meg Salyer; City Manager Jim Couch; and representatives of the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, the Oklahoma City Industrial and Cultural Facilities Trust and the Oklahoma Industries Authority. The article also notes that Catherine O'Connor was "unsure whether the expenditures of The Alliance, which will operate with public funding, will be subject to open records laws."
- How about giving Momentum contributors an "amnesty" period of time for them to identify themselves and receive the public's absolution? In other words, fess up, all is forgiven, go and sin no more.
- In the almost certain probability that such an enlightened period of confession and forgiveness will not occur (can one reasonably foresee that a Momentum contributor would take such a risk, or that offended citizens would extend such forgiveness without it?), would citizens want a possible member of Momentum to be appointed as a leader of an important city policy making organization in the foreseeable future?
- Should such a miraculous development not occur, how is a citizen to know whether one or more Alliance members are not one and the same as members of Momentum? Obviously, we cannot. How might that lack of knowledge affect our perspective while evaluating the proposed contract with The Alliance?
Origins of the April 12 Proposal
The Proposed Alliance Contract, Generally
What IS The Alliance's Real Function?
Catherine O'Connor's April 12 Presentation
Responses By Pete White, Larry McAtee, David Greenwall, Skip Kelly
Responses By Pat Ryan, Meg Salyer, Gary Marrs, Ed Shadid, Jack Warner
Closing Remarks by Pete White, Ed Shadid
Related Documents Filed April 12
Preliminary Distress Regarding Momentum Committee. Although the meeting's content will be developed much more fully as this post evolves, here's an 8-minute sampler which shows the pall that was cast on the Alliance proposal by reason of the existence and practices of the Momentum Committee. The video clip begins with outgoing Ward 2 council member Sam Bowman's March 1 comments and picks up during the April 12 council meeting by observations from council members Pete White (x2), Ed Shadid, and citizen Dr. Jack Warner:
Origins of the Alliance Proposal. I've not fully researched this yet, but apparently about two months ago the general concept of such an alliance received favorable treatment by the council or at least by individual council members. So, while it may have been altogether new to most of us, it wasn't that new to some, either formally or informally. Council member Pete White alludes to his approval of the general concept "about two months ago," and council member Gary Marrs is much more specific. As you will hear (in Responses Part 2) below, he said, "We're not being asked to form this alliance. The alliance has already been formed. What we're asked to vote on is a contract with the alliance to provide the services that were detailed in the presentation." Reviewing the proposed contract leaves no doubt that, before the April 12 council meeting, the Alliance for Economic Development of OKC, Inc., was an existing entity, and that Larry Nichols was that organization's chairman of the board. See page 26 and page 28 of the proposed agreement, showing Nichols having already approved the proposed agreement on behalf of the Alliance. Before the April 12 council meeting, the establishment of the Alliance Committee was already a fait accompli. The issue intended to be presented to the April 12 city council meeting was Alliance's contract with the city and related agencies and was not whether such an organization should be formed in the first place. This section will be updated when I learn more about how Alliance came to exist before April 12.
The Alliance Proposal, Generally. In a nutshell, the proposal before city council is that the city (and other related entities) contract with Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, Inc., a newly formed not-for-profit organization for the purpose of streamlining ventures in the city which had earlier been performed by ad hoc city/business endeavors which had accomplished the same thing. A high profile example of one such earlier pursuit which in the future would be undertaken by Alliance is the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. Generally, the notion is that 3rd parties and the city would be best served by having a single entity designed to accomplish the union of the city and a particular proposed project. As to that general notion, there may not be many who would disagree.
But, as council member Pete White says below, "The devil is in the detail." Whether a devil is present or not is yet to be determined, but, regardless, all speaker presentations on this topic on April 12 are shown below. Prior to the April 12 session, the matter had been continued to the April 26 council meeting at the request of new council member Ed Shadid. Nonetheless, the presentation by Assistant City Manager Catherine O'Connor was made for the edification of council, presumably the same presentation she would have made had the item remained on the April 12 agenda.
I'm not that familiar with city council agenda categories, but this item had been placed on the "Consent Docket," which I understand consists of items which are not thought to be disagreeable to members of council. If that understanding is correct, it will be observed that the Alliance proposal did not merit the non-disagreeable classification.
What IS the Alliance's Real Function? As you will hear during the April 12 council discussion below, O'Connor several times makes the point that the Alliance is NOT INTENDED to be a policy making board. In replying to council member Pete White, she said, "This organization *** is not a policy making entity. It is the staff, in effect, for the city, or the Economic Development Trust, or whatever entity chooses to contract with them."
If the Alliance "is the staff," does that mean that the Alliance's powerful board members would be serving in staffing functions for individual projects? It would be interesting to see how that would work out ... in what way would Clay Bennett be staffing some staffing aspect of a project, for example? I submit to you that it does not seem likely that Larry Nichols, Clay Bennett, Roy Williams, former mayor Ron Norick, city manager Jim Couch, and council members Meg Salyer and Pat Ryan are going to be doing number crunching, researching of city ordinances, analysis to come up with ideas for creative financing, or whatever other types of "staff work" that "staff" historically did when putting together and effectuating prototype models for the Skirvin, Bass Pro, and/or Dell.
These guys and gals are not pencil pushers or research artists. They hire other people to do that. So, if these guys and gals are not "staff," what are they? Collectively, they form an elite cadre of the city's movers and shakers. They are people who form, mold, and shape policy. At least, that's my take. So, as you listen to the presentation and comments by Cathy O'Connor, Pete White, and all others, be listening closely for an illustration of how Larry Nichols and Clay Bennett will be serving as staff in any sense of that word. But if you're looking for actual "staff," that group is better described as being Ms. O'Connor, effectively the CEO, and the kinds of persons discussed in Section 7 of the proposed contract, some of them being particularly identified in Attachment B to the proposed contract.
This is the proposal for implementing the Alliance by a contract with the city. "Quotable quotes" follows the video.
| CATHERINE O'CONNOR: First of all, I'd like to say that we've been working for some time now on trying to develop a plan that helps us to institutionalize our economic development practices. Now, we've had a great deal of success in the past using this kind of ad hoc pull resources from wherever we can get them approach to some very complicated projects. But, we knew that there were several things coming in the future that might make that more difficult to do, and would change the environment in which we were working in.***|
*** So, again, the plan was designed to build on past successes, things like Dell, and the Skirvin, and Bass Pro Shop, and to develop a full-time focus on implementing economic development projects using best practices.
So, the goals were to eliminate the duplication of resources and effort, to provide a more efficient coordinated delivery of economic development services to the community, to clarify the roles and assignment of resources to projects, and develop a structure that could be responsive to many different policy making boards.
So, the structure that we determined was that a new not-for-profit entity would best meet these goals, so a new not-for-profit organization was created and the board of directors was to be made up of somebody representing the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, someone from the Urban Renewal Authority, someone from the Industrial and Cultural Facilities Trust, someone from the Oklahoma Industries Authority, the City Manager, and two at large members, and at least one board member has to be a member of the City Council.
*** First of all, the Alliance will not be a policy making board. *** The Alliance won't decide whether or not to do a project or to fund a project. Those decisions will be made by the policy making board. Now, it will make recommendations, just as staff does for the city now, and it won't select a redeveloper. ***
But, the Alliance will focus on management, planning, and administration of the GOLT program, the city's TIF program, our retail strategies, and our other economic development policies. It will focus on job creation site development. One of the things that we sometimes have to do is identify sites for major industries to locate in Oklahoma City, so that will be something that we'll work on.
The planning and coordination of the MAPS projects, and especially the role of trying to maximize the private investment that can be created by the MAPS 3 projects. There are a lot of decisions and information and things that we need to look at as we consider the MAPS projects so that we can design those projects and develop those projects in a way that maximizes that private investment. ***
The services are expected to be provided to the City of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, the Urban Renewal Authority, the Oklahoma Industries Authority, and the Industrial and Cultural Facilities Trust. I think that there is a possibility that other trusts and entities might be involved in the future on a project by project basis. ***
I know there have been some questions about, "Why a not-for-profit entity," and one of the things that we were trying to do is to create an entity that could respond to a diverse set of clients that have a long history of being independent and that report to different policy making boards. For example, the Oklahoma Industries Authority is a county beneficiary trust, it is not a city trust. So, we were interested in finding a mechanism that allowed us to create this kind of over-arching management and administrative function without upsetting the apple cart too much with some of the policy making boards.
One of the other things that a not-for-profit has that sometimes the city doesn't is the ability to be very flexible and responsive in using consultants and gathering other resources for projects. ***
*** This entity will be very project focused. It will be necessary at times to staff up or to gather resources for an especially complicated project and then scale back when that project's finished, and we need the flexibility to be able to do that. And, again, it's a service provider, it is not a policy maker, and it was felt that a not-for-profit provided that flexibility as well.
And, the other thing that we learned *** was that this is a structure that's been successfully used in several other cities. Some of the most applicable examples were the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, the St. Louis Redevelopment Corporation, and the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation. ***
The scope of work that's addressed in the contract that was included in your packet was that the Alliance would serve as the city's lead economic development entity. We would create this one-stop-shop for trying to manage economic development projects. It would manage the city's TIF program, it would provide oversight and coordination for Project 180. *** Provide oversight and coordination for the city's General Obligation Limited Tax Bond Program which is our local economic development incentive fund, be a liaison to the Myriad Gardens Foundation and management of the Myriad Botanical Gardens. *** Facilitate the examination of existing and future downtown parking garages. *** Leverage MAPS 3 to encourage private investment. *** Facilitate the implementation of land use strategies. The planning department has prepared several different plans that impact the downtown area including the Core To Shore plan, so one of the roles would be to work with some of the other entities on facilitating those land use implementation strategies. And then provide periodic review of our economic development incentive policies. We are currently in the process of reviewing our retail incentive policies because some of you have expressed a concern about whether or not they really address our retail needs, uh, so, uh, and we also need to periodically review our economic development incentive policies for job creation, as well.
[Funding discussed; conclusion.]
Pete White, Larry McAtee, David Greenwell, and Skip Kelly
|Quotable Quotes From Council Members - Part 1|
| PETE WHITE: Before I start with some questions, I would like to comment that when this was presented a couple of months ago, as a general concept, I was very supportive at that time and I continue to be supportive of the concept. As Ross Perot taught us 19 years ago, the devil is in the detail, though, and so, when we start looking at the details of this thing, I have some serious concerns about it.|
In the past, my feeling has always been, although these were done through ad hoc committees, that the council and the city always was totally in the drivers seat. Now whether that was true or not, I don't know, but it's a feeling I had — that we were in the driver's seat. It is obvious by the makeup of this that we're not in the driver's seat. Now I understand that everything would have to come back here to be approved, but that's not the same as being in the driver's seat. Because if there are five options out here, and a group of people, especially as powerful as the group of people that are selected here, come up with an option, it's really not a fair shot to bring that option here and say we've got the right to do it or not do it. I mean, that's, as a practical political matter, we are giving that decision making authority away. That's how I perceive it. ***
*** I'm also struck by the lack of diversity of this group that you're talking about — both geographic diversity, which doesn't exist, and ethnic diversity, which doesn't exist. ***
The next thing, my concern is, that I don't know why it couldn't — anybody that's listened to me for the last 30 years I've been on the council knows how badly I detest bodies that — where money is being expended that's not in control of the council. ***
CATHERINE O'CONNOR: Well, the one thing that I will say about that comment and your first comment is that the Alliance is not a policy making board. All of the entities that you just listed make policy for city operations. *** This organization won't do that. It is not a policy making entity. It is the staff, in effect, for the city or the Economic Development Trust or whatever entity chooses to contract with them, and as staff does now, we bring forward recommendations to the policy makers for you all to examine the pros and the cons and make decisions. And that's how this will work in the future. It is not designed as a entity that replaces or supplants the policy making boards. ***
PETE WHITE: I completely agree with you in the way — it's not designed to be a — but it will make policy. In the same sense that the MAPS 3 committee on the convention is going to make policy. They're going to winnow these things down to one convention site — this is an analogy — and when all these high powered people, and I'm glad they all volunteered to do that, but when all these people vote and they decide on one convention site, and it comes through the MAPS committee, it comes back up here, anybody on this horseshoe that opposes that is going to look like Jesse James. So it is not, it is not a pure non-policy thing. The mechanics of it may not be policy but it's going to drive policy in a way that politically it's very difficult for us to get around. And, so, for that reason, I would at least want more council members on it so that there are more council people involved in this process so that when that policy comes back to people that are naturally a little bit suspicious like me I'm going to be able to talk to somebody across the horseshoe from me that was on that committee.***
The next thing is, I worry that we have, by creating a not-for-profit, a private not-for-profit, we have circumvented the open meetings, open records rules. And I have seen, and we have all witnessed, an atrocity with regard to the failure to have records open in these last political campaigns. That's a blot on the history of this city in my opinion that we will have difficulty ever erasing. And to start a new entity which is not subject to open records, to me, is very very problematic. ***
*** The last one my list is that, talk you about the sources of, I mean you talk about all these other partners, don't most partners derive their revenue from us?
[Couch responds on diversity, suggesting that more members could be added]
PETE WHITE: I think the possibility exists that we don't make it a 20-man operation because we won't get anything done if we do that. But, I think we need to look at whether all these players are necessary and then add some other players to solve some of these other questions I've raised.
|Larry McAtee|| LARRY MCATEE: Some of the questions that Pete raised I also have, so I won't belabor those. But a couple of the other ones that came up. On one of your slides, you indicated that this new group, the Alliance, would be involved in MAPS 3 projects. That seems to me to be outside the purview of this. I understand evaluating the private investment that goes along with it, but the way the slide read, I got the interpretation that now we've got another entity here that's gonna be involved in the process of implementing MAPS 3 and I find that a little bit questionable. |
CATHERINE O'CONNOR: Well, ...
JIM COUCH [interrupting]: If I could answer that for you, Mr. Mac. A couple of things along those lines. Certainly, for private economic development that [inaudible] mentioned to make sure we get — maximize our private investment off MAPS 3, that's one of the focuses that we're talking about. But, right now, Cathy would become executive director of Urban Renewal. Well, Urban Renewal is involved in MAPS 3. They're presently now doing land acquisition for it on the Core To Shore park, and they are doing some other things that they are doing associated with that. So, we're not talking about changing the structure ***
LARRY MCATEE: If that was the intent of that bullet on the slide, I'm perfectly satisfied with that. You also made statement, Cathy, that the Alliance would be the major economic development player, I guess you didn't use the word player, but entity. How does that match up with — I thought we had contracted as a council and a city with the Chamber of Commerce to be our major economic development entity.
CATHERINE O'CONNOR: I think what we contracted with the city, with the chamber to do is business expansion and recruitment, marketing, those kinds of activities and they'll continue to do those things. So, the way we've kind of looked at this, it's their job to bring a prospect here, and then just like they do right now with the city, they come me and my office and we work together to put together whatever package of incentives they might need. The Alliance will do that piece of it. ***
LARRY MCATEE: Then I have one, two other questions real quick. You mentioned that this new organization would provide a more efficient way of getting the job done, that's kinda what you came back. Efficient to me means we're spending X amount of dollars in all these different entities including the city and the like to get the job done right now. More efficient to me would be that that X is going to be reduced by putting all this together under that one office. I would like to see some definitive, quantitative information to see if that is really going to be the case. And the final comment is, I see this as being, you used the term "land use," I see this possibly and ties in with what Pete was talking about, more downtown focused and not total city focused, and I think that some attention needs to be, I think, directed to that so that we can be assured that this is a city wide alliance effort to promote business and put deals together rather than just be downtown focused.
CATHERINE O'CONNOR: The intent was for it ...
JIM COUCH (interrupting): It'll do both. ***
|DAVID GREENWELL: I do appreciate councilman Shadid requesting that this item be looked at a little bit further, because I do think there's plenty of questions that can be asked and addressed. First of all, with councilman White, I certainly agree with the concern from south Oklahoma City as far as a loss of retail establishments, and I welcome any new idea that comes along that would help us create a better environment that will help us to attract retail establishments, especially along I-240 but not solely on I-240 — there's other areas in the city as councilman McAtee has pointed out — councilwoman Salyer's Capitol Hill district and other areas certainly need some assistance. *** If this helps us become better at attracting and developing retail establishments, I like the idea, but I think all these questions and concerns are valid, and hopefully over the next couple of weeks we'll be able to address those concerns.|
|Ronald "Skip" Kelly"|
Patrick Ryan, Meg Salyer, Gary Marrs, and Ed Shadid
Documents — April 12, 2011. Two PDF file documents were filed with the city clerk which were associated with the Alliance agenda item. As long as this link works, you will observe for this agenda item a graphic that looks like that shown at right. Note, however, that text below the PDF file links reads, "One or more files are marked confidential and are hidden." Unless that text is mere boilerplate, one or more other documents may also have been presented to members of council and not the general public.
The 1st PDF document is a 2-page cover memo by the City Manager. For convenience, I've converted that memo to graphic format and you can read it here: Page 1 and Page 2.
The 2nd PDF document is the 35-page document containing the proposed agreement between the City, the Alliance, and other public entities. The 1st 27 pages contain the primary agreement, the last 8 pages being attachments. I've OCRed that document and it is set out below as text. Formatting is different than the original but the content is the same. Due to its length, I've reduced the font size and you may want to increase the size for reading by pressing Ctrl+PlusKey. Square-braced [page x] references indicate where particular pages begin in the original document.