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SaveUptown

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Affirmative Action was meant to re-dress past and present discrimination… to make sure government contracts were shared with folks who were historically shut out, disadvantaged.

Today, government agencies fall all over themselves to boast about just how much of their government contracts are shared with disadvantaged businesses.

Uptown has three separate government entities, even though they seem to act like one. But they brag about their Affirmative Action Numbers.

So to help their publicity, we thought we would identify the champion of their affirmative action program to help the disadvantaged or discriminated business.

The Gunda Corporation.

They are the company that’s running that plan to tear up Post Oak Blvd for dedicated bus lanes. You know the one that some Uptown officials will make millions from while destroying the private businesses along Post Oak.

We asked Uptown for their MWDBE/SBE expenditures… and lo and behold! Gunda Corporation is the big winner. They’ve been awarded $4.4 million dollars in Uptown contracts during the last three fiscal years. And there’s a lot more coming before the Post Oak disaster is finished.

We won’t tell you where he lives, but we will show you how the President of the Gunda Corporation, Ramesh Gunda lives, so you can see the results of discrimination for yourselves, the results of being shut out of business all these years. Inequities that folks in Uptown are trying to cure.

It’s a million- dollar home that’s about 6,000 square feet. Now that’s affirmative action.

UPTOWN MWDBE CONTRACTS 2014-2016

GUNDA HOUSE Above

GUNDA HOUSE Back

GUNDA HOUSE Front

Every day taxpayers are learning new bombshells about the stink surrounding the proposed Uptown bus project.

Last week it was word Uptown planned to eliminate critical turn lanes at Westheimer and San Felipe… promising to strangle traffic for tens of thousands of motorists.

Now we learn the independent study done to support the dedicated bus lane project is riddled with conflicts of interest.

The “third party” independent study by Walter P. Moore called the dedicated bus lane project the right solution for Uptown transit needs. It was released in January 2015. It was supposed to make us all feel better.

It was suspicious enough that Walter P. Moore was a long time traffic consultant for Uptown, but now Dolcefino Consulting has learned Walter P. Moore was being paid in the very same month to help design one of the transit centers needed to make the bus project work.

Documents released by Uptown show the company was given a $237,000 dollar contract just months before their so called independent review, making their report hardly independent. The Walter P. Moore report never identified their involvement in the overall project they were recommending. You won’t find the Walter P. Moore deal on the Uptown agenda either.

The independent report was stamped by Edwin Friedrichs in January of 2015. Now Uptown invoices show he was also on the payroll for that BRT Transit Center design project.

“So now we know Walter P. Moore got a slice of the pie before they recommended the pie to the rest of us. Ironically, that fits this entire project,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Taxpayers aren’t stupid. We can smell this deal all the way to Houston City Hall.”

Uptown is scheduled to start removing trees from the median on Post Oak Blvd north of San Felipe on July 5th, 2016, ignoring an ongoing criminal investigation.

Go to SaveUptown.com to donate and sign a petition to prevent the Uptown Board from causing even more congestion.

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The Harris County District Attorney’s Office confirms it is investigating whether Uptown violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The criminal complaint filed months ago by Dolcefino Consulting on behalf of property owners, alleges Uptown officials violated state transparency laws, failing to keep records of the very committee that was supposed to provide the public with transparency on this controversial project.

Now we learn the committee has no records of when it met or what it did!

Under Texas law, if Uptown is proved to have violated state transparency laws, the real estate transactions and contracts already completed could be voided by a Judge.

The Harris County District Attorney’s office should tell Uptown not to move forward with any more bus project real estate deals, or tearing up of Post Oak Boulevard until the Open Meeting Act questions are is resolved. If the votes are ruled illegal, who is going to pay?

Dolcefino Consulting has been helping business and property owners expose the mass of conflicts of interests in this bus deal. The results should outrage taxpayers. Several Uptown officials will make money if the dedicated bus project is allowed, in fact many of the properties already bought by Uptown belong to companies with financial ties to Uptown Officials. Taxpayers will end up paying to improve utilities by properties some Uptown officials want to develop.

“Are they really the people we want deciding this? With all Houston’s government money problems, don’t you wonder why City Hall is so quiet?”

Two and a half years of construction on South Post Oak is scheduled to begin next month, and that is why the Uptown complaint should be resolved first.

Of course, Uptown could voluntarily delay for transparency sakes.

Kendall Miller is cashing in, AGAIN.

Another company linked to the Uptown Chairman has just sold property back to Uptown. The purchase price is $1.9 million dollars.

Now add the deal in January, another $1.5 million dollars.

In five months the Uptown Chairman’s companies have made $3.4 million dollars, selling small pieces of property for the dedicated bus lane project.

Uptown is now releasing the real estate deals because they have to, losing a fight to keep the records secret.

One other right-of-way purchase deal was announced today.

Surprise. Surprise. Another Uptown Board Member.

A company linked to Uptown Board Member Ed Wulfe was paid $466,000 for a piece of land.

And they tell us this is about relieving traffic congestion.

Join the fight to stop the self-dealing and the destruction of Post Oak Boulevard.

Go to www.saveuptown.com.

Uptown has bought only eight properties for their controversial plan to tear up and widen Post Oak for that exorbitantly expensive and unwanted bus lane project.

Just 8 of the 39 properties needed.

So why is the Mayor and City Council silent as Uptown announces plans to tear up the trees and medians on Post Oak between San Felipe at 610 this July, before they even own most of the property they need for the project?

Take a closer look at the few real estate deals cut and you might figure it out.

Maybe it is just a big fat coincidence, but most of the payouts so far have gone to financial interests of Uptown Board Members.

The whole deal smells. Uptown officials push the project, convincing the feds and state to use grant money, then they are the first to get to the bank.

The latest deals involve Uptown Board Member Steve Lerner, the President and CEO of Redstone Companies. Uptown records show he is the contact for the two latest right of way properties to close. Uptown paid $726,000. That is $65,000 more than it first said the properties were worth. Of course, Uptown has tried to keep it all secret, fighting release of real estate records.

And the committee set up by Uptown to make sure that all these cozy real estate deals were fair, did not even keep records of when they met, or what they did.

Among the first to cash in was Kendall Miller, the Uptown Chairman. He’s also the real estate developer who was put on Mayor Turner’s team to decide future transit. Huh?

Ask yourself why Uptown is rushing to start tearing up the road before they even own the properties? Lawsuits are certain over damages.

Ask yourself why Uptown would want to create Galleria Gridlock on a torn up Post Oak Road right before the Super Bowl, destroying the sales tax base of the exclusive retail area?

Ask yourself why Uptown is being allowed to spend all this money when the City has to layoff folks?

Ask yourself why Uptown has decided to put aside projects to fix the Arboretum, which tens of thousands enjoy, so they can create bus lanes and buy special buses to replace the buses that are often empty on Post Oak now?

It is simple. A big fat conflict of interest. It is insane to allow the Uptown Board to vote on a deal that most of them will make money. All these developers get taxpayers to pay for utility improvements, buy their land at premium prices, and taxpayers get to swallow the public debt. Sweet deal. For them.

Uptown is putting the cart before the horse, but they are doing it on purpose. Once you start tearing up the trees, you might as well do the rest!

DOCUMENTS
Construction 4-pager 6.24.15

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Take a look at the website for Uptown www.uptown-houston.com, and you’ll see their 2015 written promise about the purchase of $47 million dollars in right of way needed to tear up and widen Post Oak Blvd.

If you want to know what it says, here it is:

“Uptown goes beyond the letter and spirit of the laws government right-of-way acquisition”

I know. That is pretty funny based on what we know. But it is also sad.

At a public meeting last year at the Post Oak Hilton, Uptown officials reassured property owners they would be transparent amidst growing evidence many Uptown officials stood to financially benefit in the real estate deals needed for that controversial bus project.

They didn’t tell you the truth.

The Uptown Development Authority even announced a Special “Right of Way” Committee would be formed to make sure there was no funny business, this whole transparency thing. No one who owned property on Post Oak, or worked for companies who did.

Check the records. There is no recorded discussions or vote in the minutes of the Authority ever selecting which members would be part of the committee. So who did?

We know the four-member committee that kept no records includes Martin Debrovner, who was Vice-Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Weingarten Realty. Debrovner finally filed a conflict of interest statement in January of 2015 about his potential financial conflict because Weingarten’s owned property was needed for the bus project.

Now we know property owned by Weingarten was one of the first pieces of real estate bought by Uptown in April of 2015. The appraisal on the property was reviewed by the Right of Way Committee which Debrovner served on. Did he abstain? Who knows, Uptown minutes make it impossible to know what property is which.

Uptown finally released the real estate deal with Weingarten after months of fighting to keep it secret. $386,632 paid for just 1,455 square feet. That maybe a perfectly fair deal. That’s not the
point.

Dolcefino Consulting filed a formal criminal complaint against Uptown last week, alleging Uptown repeatedly violated provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

“The reality is Uptown flatly broke its’s contract with voters, ignoring guidelines it voted on,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Houstonians know this a land grab,
and Uptown fights to keep it secret because you can’t put lipstick on this pic.”

The bus project may end up costing up to$300 million dollars. Houston City Hall is planning layoffs of city workers soon because the city is so broke.”

Any other questions?

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Kendall Miller is the Chairman of the Uptown Management District and since 2013 has been leading the charge to tear up Post Oak for a controversial bus project.

He recommended federal money be put into the bus project, then voted to hire consultants and contractors. In February 2015, Kendall Miller finally filed a disclosure admitting he stood to benefit financially from the bus project.

And he is among the first to cash in.

Records obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show Miller’s company was paid more than $1.75 million dollars in January of this year in one of the first real estate right of way deals. Miller is listed as President of MCFM, Inc. the corporation linked to WMJK, LTD. The property stretches along part of the shopping center just North of Westheimer.

Uptown claims they have bought, or have agreed to buy, 80 percent of the property for the bus project. They are giving you fuzzy math.

In fact, Miller’s property is one of the only properties even bought by Uptown in the last six months. Only six of the properties, a small fraction, are even completed real estate deals. That includes the secret deal to buy right of way from the Dinerstein companies.

Most of those deals have links to Uptown Board Members, an example of the conflict of interests that make this project suspect.

Miller’s company has so far been paid the second largest amount for real estate by Uptown. There is no way to know when Uptown voted on his deal, because they keep the amounts of the agreements, and even the formal names of the sellers out of the minutes of their meetings. The Right of Way Committee formed to make sure Miller and other Uptown officials didn’t get any special deal didn’t keep any records of their work, or even when they met.

Your tax dollars at work. Keep connecting the dots at www.saveuptown.com.

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Uptown has only completed a small fraction of the controversial real estate deals needed to tear up and widen Post Oak Blvd. A review of the only six transactions show most of them have links to officials on the Uptown Board.

Uptown fought for months to keep any of their completed real estate deals secret, after promising a transparent process. We now know on five of the deals, Uptown created records detailing the identity of owners of the property being bought with tax money. Purchase agreements or real estate contracts were signed before the money changed hands.

Except one.

The owner of a vital stretch of property along Post Oak Blvd at San Felipe wanted to keep his real estate deal with Uptown a secret. It was a deal for 2189 square feet.

Uptown says it did the $606,000 real estate deal based only on an appraisal approved by the Uptown Right of Way Committee, so identifying the owner wasn’t necessary. Dolcefino Consulting has filed a criminal complaint alleging the committee has no records of when it met, or what it approved. Uptown lawyers know that violations of The Texas Open Meetings Act could void the real estate transactions.

In the meantime, Dolcefino Consulting will be exposing the real estate money trail. In our view that’s what this transit project is really all about.

Based on Uptown’s own records, Dinerstein Companies didn’t even own the property when it was appraised for the bus project. It was owned by Edens. In case you are keeping track of this growing maze of conflicts, one of the members of Uptown’s Board is Chad Braun. Braun is managing director for Edens, Braun didn’t file any documents detailing any potential conflicts in the Uptown bus
project, but there is little doubt that Edens knew two years ago some of their land would be sold to Uptown for the project.

So here is the question. We know Uptown paid 606,000 dollars. We know Dinerstein companies deeded the property in return, but we don’t know who eventually got the money. Was it Dinerstein companies, or did Eden make the right of way deal part of their deal to sell the property?

It matters. Here is one of the reasons why.

Uptown is a management district but has been silent on the planned skyscraper on the Dinerstein property right on the corner of San Felipe and Post Oak, even though the traffic study used to justify the project has been exposed as questionable, to say the least.

Uptown knows the Vantage Dinerstein Property will build this massive building just ten feet from the Cosmo Condominiums. Still silence.

Is there a connection? The Dinerstein property is among the first to be sold for the right of way project that so many Uptown officials will personally benefit from.

That’s why the District Attorney should investigate the conflicts of interest. That is why the Mayor should halt this real estate game before any more taxpayer money is spent.

Spending tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money for a bus project when the City of Houston is 160 million dollars in debt doesn’t pass the smell test.

You can track developments in our Uptown investigation on www.saveuptown.com.

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Uptown is spending tens of millions of your dollars to buy real estate right of way for their plan to eventually tear up and then widen Post Oak Blvd. for a controversial bus project.

Dolcefino Consulting has now filed a formal criminal complaint with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, alleging Uptown has broken Texas Open Meeting Laws and disclosure laws, violating their public promise to Houstonians.

In November of 2014, Uptown bureaucrats voted to establish real estate rules for the bus project so that Houstonians would trust the process was transparent and fair. This was after some Uptown officials finally admitted they would make lots of money if Post Oak was widened.

The vote called for establishment of a Right of Way Committee, made up of Uptown board members who did not own property on Post Oak nor are representatives of companies that own property required for the project. Special outside counsel was hired to doubly make sure each transaction was fair, to avoid potential conflicts of interests. Of course, Uptown officials had been pushing the project since 2013 and none had ever disclosed a potential conflict of interest. In January and February 2015, amidst mounting pressure from area businesses the first conflicts of interest statements were filed as required by state law. Dolcefino Consulting believes those disclosures and more that haven’t been filed were required to be disclosed before the very first vote to proceed with this project.

It gets worse. Now Uptown admits they created no records of the dates of the meetings, the agendas, or the minutes of the Right of Way Committee, the very governmental body created to ensure there were no special real estate deals. We believe that’s a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and have now formally asked the District Attorney to investigate.

For months, Uptown fought to keep secret the real estate right of way deals already completed.

Now they have finally released details of the only 6 right of way payments they have made. The slow pace of the right of way agreements make moot any traffic studies justifying the need for this expensive project in the first place, but the documents raise even more questions about one particular real estate deal.

On one particular right of way deal, Uptown officials agreed to ignore another promise they made to taxpayers in that November 2014 vote. Uptown agreed not to create a purchase agreement or real estate contract to protect the identity of the seller of a piece of property at the corner of San Felipe and Post Oak.

Uptown agreed to pay $606,000 thousand dollars to buy 2,189 square feet of property. Uptown admits the only document the Uptown Development Authority had in front of them was the original appraisal, not even the identity of who the property was being bought from.

“We have been arguing from the start that this process only fuels the belief that this unwanted bus project is more about a real estate deal and high rise development than relieving transit congestion,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.

“Why this special deal to protect names in a government real estate deal? How can taxpayer money be paid in a secret real estate deal? It is unheard of.”

Homeowners in Uptown are demanding the City of Houston reject a traffic study used to justify a massive 40 story apartment skyscraper planned for the corner of one of the most congested intersections in the crowded Galleria.

The traffic study commissioned for the Dinerstein Family Companies from Walter P. Moore Inc. is factually flawed and exposes the growing conflicts of interest in Uptown development.

“Based on our ongoing investigation, this entire process by the City of Houston to evaluate how this project impacts traffic congestion is little more than a sham,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Investigative Communications Firm Dolcefino Consulting. “This entire process is a joke, and Houstonians need to know why.”

The City of Houston has already announced the elimination of at least one traffic light on Post Oak, and the requirement that some traffic in Uptown would have to make U turns because of plans to eliminate a key traffic median. The plans for that expensive bus rapid transit system will eliminate a right turn lane at the very corner the project is planned. That was all known prior to the traffic study, yet it is was not mentioned. Without those key traffic changes, the report is no longer worth the paper it is written on.

What is most intriguing must be the study claim that traffic volume in this key intersection in Uptown is increasing less than 1 percent a year. Wait a minute, isn’t this the same place that is so congested taxpayers have to spend up to $300 million dollars on dedicated bus lanes.

The report ignores any traffic impact from massive construction that will tear up Post Oak for this project. Instead it relies on a highly disputed claim that the bus project will actually reduce congestion by 4 percent. Who is Walter P. Moore’s company relying on for that wishful thinking? Walter P. Moore.

That’s right, the very same company paid to help justify that project for the Uptown Management District is now using their own math to justify this skyscraper.

Maybe the traffic engineers there don’t keep up with the news. Metro has significantly reduced projected ridership and planned parking at transit centers has been dramatically reduced.

Moore’s company has to know that, but doesn’t mention the impact on the traffic on San Felipe at Post Oak. Here is the bottom line. The entire process is suspect.

Traffic Impact Studies are done by the Developer of a planned major project, hardly an independent review. When is the last time a study recommended the developers not go forward, or recommend expensive traffic mitigation because of the nuisance the project will create?

According to the Mayor’s Office, this vital traffic study for the Vantage project was submitted in November 2015 and was supposed to be reviewed by the City Engineer and the Traffic Operations Division of the Public Works Department. Comments were supposed to be made and the report changed until it was acceptable.

Turns out no one at Houston City Hall ever asked Walter P. Moore to defend any of the findings, or change a single word.

Hundreds of cars will be added to the congestion at San Felipe and Post Oak from a single project. Several other skyscrapers are planned. It is time for the City of Houston to evaluate how this explosion of high rise development will impact the tens of thousands of Houstonians who use this intersection every day to travel to work and their homes around the Galleria area.

“It is time for Houstonians to demand the City of Houston start protecting the people who already face gridlock in the Galleria area, and not just give a wink to the developers who want to put a skyscraper in Uptown every ten feet,” says Dolcefino.

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