Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What the Mayor's Office is not telling us about the Fairgrounds plan

While Fairgrounds preservation opponent Keith Moorman was given 4 minutes to express his support to council members for the Mayor's plan to privatize public property, Fairgrounds preservation supporter and attorney Lewis Laska was told he could only count on 3 minutes to present his case against. That was not sufficient to capture to the breadth of Mr. Laska's published analysis, most of which involves details that the Mayor's Office will not acknowledge openly:
  • If two consecutive State Fairs are not held on Fairgrounds property, the land will revert to those who sold it to the County in 1911. The land will not “revert” to the County (which already owns it) as the Metro Law Department asserts. So-called title opinions are limited and moot.
  • The Fair Board is the only semi-autonomous Metro department. As such, it has the power to mortgage the property, that is, borrow as much money as it needs to operate the State Fair and continue operations for many, many years.
  • The blockbuster issue is that the Mayor's budget is rigged to manufacture Fairground failure. The Fairgrounds investment fund was taken over by Metro Finance several years ago and bled of its earnings.
  • Another budget rig: original Fairgrounds depreciation totals are blown up between original numbers and final reports.
  • There are mysterious, untransparent accounting practices shuttling money out of the Fairgrounds budget and overcharging the budget for services rendered. Mr. Laska documents the oddities.
  • The fair board outsourced the 2010 State Fair but did not demand any accountability from the private contractor, which kept the entire gate revenue. If there was a plan, it was rigged to make the Fairgrounds look like a loser.
Mr. Laska reports that he called the Mayor's Office requesting a meeting with the Mayor, but they never returned his phone call. Instead, three Metro lawyers agreed to meet with him.

If Mr. Laska's analysis is accurate, these matters are in the public interest and should be acknowledged by the Mayor's Office. They would have an influence on popular perceptions about the wisdom of selling off public land as well as whether the current stewards of the Fairgrounds have exercised proper and thoughtful oversight beyond setting everything up for liquidation.

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