This is no Aesop’s fable. It is yet another story about Houston City Hall and how it is making deals with your money you never get to see.
So who is the goose that laid the golden egg?
It is the growing Houston First Corporation, the city tourist bureaucracy that has been loosening the definition of the mission in the last year. It now owns much of the theatre district, and the appointed officials in charge are now directing money to economic development, helping develop lucrative retail shopping around an expanding convention center.
They are spending a lot of your money, even though politicians like to tell you hotel tax money we get from out of towners is kind of like play money, not really yours.
But because they are spending your tax money, Houston First has to comply with the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Today, Tuesday August 25, 2015, Dolcefino Consulting has filed a formal criminal complaint with the Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, alleging Houston First officials have engaged in a conspiracy to avoid transparency.
An investigation by Dolcefino Consulting has uncovered significant evidence top officials of Houston First have a “secret committee,” illegally meeting to direct the spending of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.
“You will love the name of this committee,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “The Master Plan Selection Committee. Sounds like the people who named it must think it is pretty important. All the more reason to know what they do.”
And that is part of the mystery. Houston First will not tell Dolcefino Consulting how the committee was formed. Who picked the members? There meetings are not posted. There are no certified agendas. No minutes. Yet we have found documents that prove the Master Planners may be running more of your city that you know with the knowledge of Houston First lawyers.
We do know the committee includes the Chairman of the Houston First Corporation Ricard Campo. The committee had as many as five Houston First Board Members on it, along with Andy Icken.
You should know his name, because he is the most powerful unelected official in town. Andy Icken is the Chief Development Officer for Mayor Parker, and oversees just about everything, including Houston First.
It is Andy Icken who calls Houston First “the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Maybe it is because they do such a good job promoting Houston. Maybe because Houston First is part of the growing city bureaucracies that City Hall hopes you don’t see.
“If I am elected mayor, I will revisit this project and the benefits and the costs before committing a single penny of tax money for such a limited public purpose. Houston has serious financial problems, and it is time to use our money wisely. Our streets are in deplorable conditions, and we need more police and first responders to address crime problems.
I oppose the planned Post Oak Bus Lane Project. My opposition is based on multiple grounds. My principal opposition arises from my conviction that tax dollars are needed for other purposes and the benefits of the bus lane do not justify the expected cost. While there are limitations on how TIRZ dollars are to be used, such limitations should never be allowed to justify imprudent expenditures. While the Galleria area is heavily traveled, the proposed bus lane does not meaningfully address this problem. Finally, the process by which the project has been developed– without full input from all stakeholders and nagging suggestions of hidden appraisals and friendship deals– does not serve the public trust. It simply does not pass the public scrutiny test!
It is time for the city to adopt reasonable guidelines and policies to govern the use of TIRZ dollars. As mayor, I will make implement more controls over the proper use of TIRZ tax dollars and advocate for more responsible use of such funds for the public good.”
The Post Oak Business and Property Owners Coalition wants the immediate resignation of Uptown Executive Director John Breeding, Uptown Chairman Kendall Miller, and Martin Debrovner, the Chairman of the Uptown TIRZ.
“The secrecy, deception and backroom dealing by the power hungry appointed members of the Uptown District, TIRZ, and Uptown Development Authority is deplorable,” says Jim Scarborough of the coalition.
Despite promises of transparency, Uptown refuses to say what property has been bought and for what price, even though nearly 1/3 of the property needed for the bus project has connections to appointed Uptown Board Members.
Documents released by the coalition reveal Uptown is using taxpayer money to lobby for the project, and has kept secret growing costs of the project.
The coalition has long alleged the unneeded bus project is a scheme to help some board members make money and redevelop their own properties. The new documents show Uptown has offered $1.5 million for property owned by a company Uptown Chairman Kendall Miller owns.
Miller and two other Uptown officials disclosed potential conflicts this year, but documents show the Right of Way discussions started nearly three years before. Other Uptown officials have refused to outline their involvement in the real estate deal.
“Houston city council members should demand the full disclosure of who makes money on this deal today,” says Scarborough. “They should also demand the truth about how much this deal will really cost taxpayers, because we know the numbers they were given are just false. Their silence is disappointing.”
For more information contact Wayne Dolcefino at Dolcefino Consulting 713-389-0810.
UPTOWN PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION
In the wake of continued deception by the Uptown Management District and TIRZ, members of the Uptown Property Owners Association will hold a morning news conference to call for key resignations of political appointees, including the Chairman of the Management District.
The Uptown Property Owners Association has been fighting plans for a $200 million plan to tear up and widen Post Oak Blvd for exclusive bus lanes. Uptown refuses to say how much they are paying for the right of way, even though some of the money will financially benefit Uptown board members.
The property owners have obtained documents they will share with the public at the news conference at 11:00am, outside Masraffs Restaurant located at 1753 Post Oak Blvd.
For Information, contact Wayne Dolcefino at Dolcefino Consulting 713-389-0810.
E-mails obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show Uptown is digging up information on a leading critic of that expensive plan to tear up Post Oak for two exclusive bus lanes.
Last month, the Cosmopolitan Condo association filed a civil lawsuit to stop the project, but they didn’t sue Uptown.
Instead, the lawsuit was filed against Metro, claiming their involvement in the Post Oak Bus plan violates the 2003 election mandating rail be built on Post Oak.
Looks like that lawsuit didn’t sit well with some of the self-appointed folks who run Uptown.
E-mails show Uptown Board Member Jonathan Zadock and his lawyer have been digging up records on the Cosmopolitan, including deed records and corporate records on Jim Scarborough and his partners. Scarborough is Vice President of the Uptown Property Owners Association, one of the groups leading the fight against the wasteful project.
“This is another low for Uptown and proof it is time for a serious shakeup,” says Scarborough. “Every business owner in Uptown ought to demand this nonsense stop. Is this what they are doing in their $300,000 a year office on Post Oak, using taxpayer money to plot revenge just because we are trying to stop a giant waste of money?”
Zadok has taken an increasingly active role in selling the bus project in recent weeks.
“E-mails show Mr. Zadok is becoming the chief cheerleader for this bus project. I guess he’s heard from his customers who can’t wait to stand in the summer heat waiting for a bus after an expensive shopping trip,” says Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino.
Zadok and other board members have yet to fully disclose how much money they will make on the Post Oak Bus deal. In 2012 a corporation Zadok manages bought property on Post Oak. Months later he got on the Uptown Board of Directors and then started pushing the bus project. Records obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show part of the Zadok property will have to bought for the widening of the right of way.
“At least three UPTOWN officials have already disclosed they have a conflict of interest on the bus project and it is time for everyone to come clean,” says Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting. “What are they afraid of, sunshine? The Mayor thinks it is just fine for her friends to use taxpayer money to feather their nests. Houston is acting more like Chicago every day.”
Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall called on Mayor Annise Parker to stop the political abuse and apologize to Houstonians for wasting their tax money.
“Once again the Texas Supreme Court has had to remind this Mayor that her personal agenda cannot deny people the right to vote,” says Hall. “Her attempt to confuse voters on the HERO ballot is just another game and taxpayers should say enough is enough.”
Hall is the only mayoral candidate who has opposed the HERO ordinance, leading to growing endorsements from the faith community across the city.
Under Mayor Parker, “shadow governments” in some Houston neighborhoods are flush with taxpayers’ cash and doing deals that are walking conflicts of interest.
Take the $200 million Uptown Bus Project. That is the plan to tear up and widen Post Oak under the theory thousands of people will suddenly stream to 14 more buses even though the ONE that runs down the street now is rarely half full.
Early this year, some Uptown officials started admitting what critics already knew. Some of the people pushing the bus project will make millions on the deal. They own property that will have to be purchased for the street widening project. Millions of dollars. Uptown Chairman Kendall Miller will likely make millions. Other Uptown Officials have refused to admit if they will get a real estate payoff.
“Taxpayers are starting to wake up and smell the bull,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “These politically appointed officials are controlling tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and have inherent conflicts of interest. Do we really want neighborhood bosses using our money to make themselves money? We don’t get the profits. They aren’t even elected by the neighborhood!”
Uptown spent more than $165,000 in recent months on a PR campaign to try and sell the bus deal, and to calm the growing public belief this bus project is a huge waste of money. Uptown told us they even hired a special lawyer to make sure this deal was all on the up and up.
Now we know all that transparency talk was just that. An e-mail obtained by Dolcefino Consulting shows Uptown wants to hide not only the appraisals on the properties but what they agree to pay for the property they buy with your money. The e-mail was sent in June from Uptown lawyer Stephen Wood to Board member Jonathan Zadok.
“I did a little research and I believe that we can keep the prices we pay for land confidential until the project is complete. We might be challenged on that, but we will probably take this position, if asked.”
So the next time Uptown President John Breeding talks about transparency…remind yourself what they say in private.
When politicians know something is a bad deal for taxpayers they try to avoid talking about it.
That is what METRO is now doing about the expensive Post Oak Bus Boondoggle planned for Uptown.
METRO is formally refusing to say how much of YOUR money they have spent on the Post Oak Bus project.
Dolcefino Consulting asked the simple question weeks ago, and now METRO’s expensive outside lawyers are telling them to keep the information secret because METRO is getting sued by Uptown property owners.
METRO is facing growing questions about whether they can even legally participate in the plan to tear up Post Oak for two exclusive bus lanes. Even some METRO Board Members are wondering out loud if the money train to consultants should be shut down until the Texas Attorney General rules.
Public reports say METRO has squandered $40 million on the failed plan to put rail down Post Oak. Now METRO won’t say just how much more have they have spent on the controversial bus project.
“It is sad METRO has chosen secrecy,” says Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino. “The public has a fundamental right to know how their money is spent. Period. If the Metro lawyers think that hurts their case in court that should tell taxpayers a lot. METRO should also reveal just how much they are paying every hour for this enlightened advice.”
METRO is supposed to release ridership numbers for the proposed Post Oak Bus project this week. Dolcefino Consulting has already proven Uptown was exaggerating ridership numbers when they claimed 14,000 people would be using the bus lanes by 2018.
Sylvester Turner announced he wants to raise the City of Houston revenue cap–That’s how career politicians hide their requests for tax increases in politician speech.
“Turner will raise taxes on Houston families,” says Houston mayoral candidate Ben Hall. “Houstonians are paying enough. They demand City Hall be more efficient and accountable.”
Turner has outlined his plan to raise taxes to hire more police. But the community should look at what he did not say and why!
- Ben Hall wants a civilian review board, with subpoena powers, to add transparency to probable police disciplinary violations. Turner is silent.
- Ben Hall wants video recordings of police confrontations reviewed within 24 hours by an independent panel. Turner is silent.
- Ben Hall wants to allow the public to be able to file sworn complaints at public libraries and other city buildings if they feel intimidated by the police. Turner is silent.
- Ben Hall will post sustained excessive force complaints against police online by badge number. Turner is silent.
- Ben Hall will require drug and alcohol testing of every officer who uses deadly force that causes death or serious bodily injury to assure the public no improper influences contributed to the use of such force. Turner is silent.
There is a reason for the silence!
“Sylvester Turner is a career politician who has long been financed by the Houston Police Union,” says Hall. “Special interests have ruled Houston long enough.”
Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall today unveiled his comprehensive plan to promote accountability of Houston Police Officers to the public in the wake of heightened distrust of law enforcement across the country.
“Too many of our children are dying at the hands of police under questionable circumstances and too many citizens simply do not trust the police,” says Hall. “Such distrust will only lead to more bad consequences, and more funerals.”
“Let me be clear. Both citizens and the officers of the Houston Police Department are entitled to respect. We need police to protect us from criminals. Our officers’ loved ones want them to come home safe at night, and we need to ensure encounters between police and our communities do not begin for the wrong reasons or end in unnecessary death.”
To enhance more trust and respect, Hall released his initiative called L.E.A.P. — which stands for Law Enforcement Accountability Policy:
LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY POLICY
I. An effective and independent Citizen Police Review Board will be empaneled. This nine member board will be empowered with subpoena power, and will have three members chosen from the community, one member from the business community, two members from the judiciary, two members from the law enforcement community and a member representing the Mayor’s office.
II. Houston Police Officers will be required to appear before the Citizens Police Review Board on probable violation cases to directly answer questions about departmental policy violations lodged against them.
III. Every HPD officer interacting with the public on the streets will be equipped with and required to wear a body camera, with open microphones, to record every interaction. Any deliberate attempt to compromise the recordings will be grounds for disciplinary action, including termination.
IV. Every HPD officer will be required to provide his/her badge number upon being request to do so by any citizen, unless doing so would jeopardize the safety of the officer or another. The badge number must be provided, however, as soon as is reasonably possible without posing risk to the officer or another.
V. Confirmed excessive force complaints against officers will be posted on-line by badge number, along with a summary of the complaints and findings.
VI. Any police officer using deadly force that causes death or serious bodily injury will be required to submit to immediate drug and alcohol testing. A positive test will be grounds for immediate disciplinary action, including termination.
VII. Houston Police Officers will not become unreasonably rude or escalate conflicts with the public, nor shall they intentionally place themselves in harm’s way to invite the use of deadly force.
VIII. Any Houston Police Officer who covers up for another officer’s wrongdoing will be held accountable for the same violation as the offending officer for whom he or she covered up.
IX. Dash Camera and Body Camera video of any altercation in which a citizen is charged with assault on a police officer or resisting arrest will be submitted to and/or reviewed by the Citizen Police Review Board members within 24 hours after written reports are filed.
X. Sworn complaints against any Houston Police Officer may be filed at any public library or public city building. Citizens who file false complaints on law enforcement officers will be investigated and charged with the crime of filing a false report.
We no longer have the luxury of absolute trust of police officers. This is a regrettable fact, but one that needn’t persist. With these policy enhancements it is hoped that the deserved trust of out police officers will be re-established.