Whether you are on the tear it down crowd or the turn it into an indoor park crowd, I bet you agree the public has every right to know how much of our tax money is going to be part of the Astrodome deal.
So why are public officials trying to keep the negotiations secret?
What are we missing? Don’t you own the place?
Dolcefino Consulting has learned that as much as $30 million in city tax money may be used to help fund an Astrodome deal, part of some kind of trade of assets between the Houston First Corporation and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, who will then use the money to renovate the Dome.
For those losing track of the growing number of corporations set up by Houston City Hall and Harris County Commissioners to spend our money, here is a scorecard.
Houston First is a government corporation set up by Houston City Hall to run the convention center/theatres and spend hotel tax money.
The Harris County Sports Corporation is a government corporation created by Harris County and runs NRG Park, home of the Dome.
In recent days, both agencies have refused to give up e-mails between Sports Corporation President Edgardo E. Colon and Houston First Chairman Ricard Campo. The Sports Corporation first had an outside law firm tell us we would get the e-mails from Houston First. Then Houston First withheld the Dome dealings, and days later the Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan declared every e-mail between the two public officials were some big secret. We would expect nothing less from the distinguished County Attorney, who fights every request Dolcefino Consulting makes.
Houston First isn’t a bastion of total open government either. Dolcefino Consulting filed a criminal complaint this week alleging Campo and others met in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, another one of those silly transparency laws.
“It is time for the Mayor and County Judge to come clean so the public knows what this deal will cost” says Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting. “Not after the deal is done, but before. Maybe it is a smart investment? Maybe the county corporation will eventually repay the city corporation from all the money they make. What is with all the secrecy? These are two government agencies who work for us.”
Just think, a renovated Dome may spur on all kinds of development around the Astrodome, which may be exactly what some of the players are betting on.
Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall says the African-American community is outraged at the destruction and removal of historically black schools, and he pointed an accusing finger of blame at Sylvester Turner.
Turner was against the $1.9 billion HISD bond campaign before he was suddenly for it. Hall opposed the bond election and says HISD is compromised with “pay to play” politics.
“Mr. Turner has betrayed the black and brown community,” says Hall. “He was a political panhandler during the 2012 HISD bond election, got the black community to vote for it and then sat silently when HISD broke its promises.”
On the Fox 26 broadcast Tuesday afternoon, Turner is suddenly criticizing the very bond deal he helped pass.
“If you are going to be the cheerleader for a bond campaign like Turner did you better do your homework before you get out the pom-poms,” says Hall. “I am not going to stand by and allow Mr. Turner to cloak himself in innocence when he had the opportunity to know better. You have to wonder why he sold out.”
Hall says another mayoral candidate, former tax collector Bill King also has some explaining to do. King was a lawyer on the payroll for HISD at the same time he was running the bond campaign.
“Bill King has already been the Mayor of Kemah and Sylvester Turner has been a politician for decades,” says Hall. “It is time for the public to start looking at their records to follow the money. People are fed up with career politicians.”
Plans to build a 15-story garbage dump along Highway 6 near Hempstead have suffered another major blow tonight.
The Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has filed court papers saying the current landfill application hearing must be dismissed because now everyone knows it did not meet state environmental rules.
Lawyers for the Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead and the City of Hempstead have proven the landfill application was garbage, because it showed the shallow hole for the trash would be dug into the ground water.
That is what residents have been warning about for years, that the landfill site will contaminate the drinking water.
The State Office of Administrative Hearings has not yet ruled, and the TCEQ boss made it clear this is only for the current application before the judge.
“This is just one more nail in the coffin of a landfill deal that stinks more than the trash ever will,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “It is time for those Georgian garbage peddlers to pack their bags and leave the good people of Hempstead alone because they won’t stop fighting…ever.”
Dolcefino Consulting is also calling on Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healy and his band of special prosecutors to stop obstructing the truth. Both a Waller County Judge and the District Attorney have asked for Healy’s special prosecutors to turn over the results of their investigation into the landfill so a new criminal investigation can occur. A Waller County Jury ruled last year several officials held illegal meetings and votes.
“It is sad Mr. Healey and his top prosecutors just don’t want the truth to come out,” says Dolcefino. “I know Fort Bend County voters don’t have a stake in a Waller County landfill investigation, but they should remember this prosecutorial stonewall. The Waller County DA needs to stop stalling and seek a court order. The people of Waller County are being shortchanged by.”
Last October, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson filed formal criminal charges against the Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services for violating state charity transparency laws. Nearly two months ago, the same District Attorney’s office issue a subpoena for the payroll records of the ambulance service.
After all, taxpayers pay most of the salaries.
Cypress Creek has ignored the subpoena, and this week, Cypress Creek lawyers delayed another pre-trial hearing on the case. That makes eight times this court case has been delayed. It is set again for September 10, 2015.
Meanwhile, the ESD #11 Commissioners you elected to watchdog your money have demonstrated a bizarre refusal to actually do their job.
“It is time for all this pretty please with sugar on top stuff to stop,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “The District Attorney ought to execute a search warrant today to get these records because these are the tax-payers records.”
Dolcefino Consulting has spent more than a year investigating the financially bloated ambulance service, from the expensive entertainment habits of the top administrator to questions about possible bid rigging in a lucrative medical billing contract.
“Taxpayers should not have to file lawsuits to see how their money has been spent, and the ESD Commissioners should be ashamed of themselves,” says Dolcefino. “CCEMS talks about all the awards it gets for great ambulance service, but they forget they would be out of business without this government contract.”
They also forget who is paying the bills. Why shouldn’t they stall, wasting tens of thousands of dollars of your money that should be spent on bandages?
If this was a game of chicken, it is pretty obvious who is winning!
You should remember that when you vote.
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.