consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flaherty-&-Collins -- Oh my! Splatting out in Chicago's 'burbs. Allegations of faulty, shoddy workmanship. And ... and ... NOISE.

Condo purchases threatening to sue. Water damage, and lots of finger pointing but an unhappy owner. You figure, is there reassurance for Ramsey, dreamers or realists, in: "We're apartment guys who dabbled in condos. We’re batting 1.000 in apartments and we’re 0-for-2 in condos,” CEO Dan Flaherty told the SouthtownStar. “Apartments everywhere are doing really well, and I don’t see that market changing.”

I don't see glib excuses cutting it. But I guess I'm not as sharp as Colin McGlone says he is, because he sees no ugliness in Ramsey's ramp-wrap-rental bride. As beautiful as Ninety-7-Fifty is touted to become, I suppose. (This link, showing text dropped in Ramsey is not unique, the same bull having amazing mobility -and please, excuse me, it is: Ninety-7-Fifty, On the Park. Nothing pretentious. Just getting the name right.).

FLAHERTY-&-COLLINS: Should the firm be allowed to build again? One disenchanted buyer says no, emphatically - and there is more..

This link. This excerpt.

Matteson condos a bust

From all outward appearances, the 50 units at the Echelon are very attractive condos in a convenient location. But after the first phase of Flaherty and Collins’ proposed 168-unit development was complete, the condo market tanked and only one-third of the units were built.

Current owners have a laundry list of issues that include leaking windows, leaking plumbing, mold, mismatched cabinets, buckling floors and no soundproofing. They also were promised a pool and clubhouse that never got built because not enough units were sold, they said.

Condo owner Nicole Taylor said the firm “should not be allowed to build again.”

But according to the Indianapolis journal, the 18-year-old company has a “sterling record.” It manages more than 12,000 apartment units and nearly two dozen projects in 10 states.

Still, Echelon resident Maxine Carr said every time it rains, water comes in her living room window, causing puddles on the window sill and wood laminate floor. She fears she will get mold, like another neighbor.

Carr filed an insurance claim for damages to the new unit she bought one year ago, but her insurance company denied it. She provided the letter from the insurance company saying water damage was due to “faulty workmanship to the flashing and the installation of the deck above” her unit.

When she called Flaherty and Collins, she said she was told her condo was no longer under warranty.

Carr said she may have to sue for repairs and damages.

Barb Hollivay, who purchased her unit three years ago, has a hole in her garage ceiling from her upstairs neighbor’s leaking bathroom.

Noise from adjoining units is so loud, “it feels like they are living in the house with me,” she said. “There is no privacy.”

Residents said they can literally hear every move their neighbors make. Sometimes they can even see what others are doing through the vents in the walls, Taylor said.

They said they complain at homeowners association meetings, to the property management company and to Flaherty and Collins but never get a response.

“People have just accepted it because they believe they can’t get anyone to hear them,” Hollivay said.

The Better Business Bureau reported that three complaints from Echelon owners were filed in 2008, 2009 and 2011, but all were resolved with the BBB’s assistance, according to its website.

Flaherty said he was not aware of any unresolved complaints in Matteson.

“Whenever we get a call, we fix what needs to be fixed,” he said. “This is news to me. We don’t run from problems.”

Nevertheless, the Orland Park project will be “totally different,” than Matteson, Flaherty said.

Matteson has “significantly different” building standards, and Echelon was designed as a low-cost project to make it attractive to buyers, he said.

The Echelon was his firm’s first venture into the condominium market, he said. The plan was to build 168 units, but after the first 50 were built, the market slowed down. Now, they are “waiting it out,” he said.

“They were wise not to finish building,” said Pam Hirth, Matteson’s director of community development. “We would not want them built and standing empty.”

More condo chaos

Another unsuccessful Flaherty and Collins condo project — 210 Trade in Charlotte, N.C. — was never built. Steel was erected two years ago over the lower-level retail shops, but that’s how it still stands today in Charlotte’s downtown area, said David Weekly, of Charlotte’s land-use department.

He said there were timing issues and legal issues with the building permit.

We never abandoned that deal. It just didn’t make economic sense,” Flaherty said.

The market started going bad early in that process.

“It made no sense to build. Everyone would have lost more money,” he said.
[emphasis added, BNSF train pic. added]

That article leads as every article should, with a captioned photo:

Story Image

Flaherty and Collins, the developer of the Echelon property in Matteson, has not completed the project or responded to resident complaints. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

Readers in dear Ramsey can be excused for asking, "What's the story behind all this? How could that happen if this firm is as platinum plated as the town savants have been saying to us? Is there a disconnect somewhere from reality? Is the promising surrounding Flaherty-Collins spiels and deals - what - "suspect?"

The answer...

We're Apartment Guys ...

This is a good report, with numbers, bond rating talk, and an implication the Orland Park folks in office there are bigger risk takers than Ramsey's. They must have gone to Vegas too, and gotten the fever.

____________FURTHER UPDATE___________
It is good to read that some residents in Orland Park are not all willingly being a pack of sheep, although being shepherded, these article and comment excerpts from here:

Orland Park resident Janice Fleury questioned the comparisons made to a similar apartment complex in Indianapolis built by Flaherty and Collins, and whether the two locations themselves are similar enough to reasonably compare. The complex called Cosmopolitan on the Canal was built last year in downtown Indianapolis and has been fully rented out, Kirles said.

“Indianapolis isn’t a little suburb like we are,” Fleury said. “Everything comes down to dollars and cents, and we want to make sure this isn’t on our tax bill.“

Tom Cunningham then took the podium to ask why the apartment complex never went to referendum. [Village Trustee Ed] Schussler heatedly responded that there was no need to do so and “that’s why residents elected a mayor and trustees, to make these decisions.”

COMMENTS: Arthur Huff
11:52am on Tuesday, August 16, 2011
This just seems like a bad idea on so many levels. People talk about a potential burden on taxpayers but we have already started paying for this. Maybe not directly for bricks and mortar yet, but in lawyer fees, buying out successful businesses, and lost sales tax revenue when those places close, i.e Randy's Market. I can't deny that the plans for the development look nice. And if Orland would let it evolve naturally into that instead of trying to build a downtown atmosphere people would probably love it. And while Orland Park is trying to create something beautiful with the right hand it seems like they are hoping that nobody is paying attention to what they're doing with the left hand, and that is spending A LOT of money on a real estate investment opportunity. It wasn't too long ago that the articles in the paper were about increased fees (doubling vehicle stickers, increasing parking ticket fines to $60), people being laid off, and the Village bringing in consultants to trim the fat (unless of course the "fat" is related to someone high up in the Village). And once again I'll say, a 'bond sale' is government speak for BORROWING MONEY.

[emphasis added] That part about a referendum. They know in Orland Park a referendum would be defeated, as in Ramsey, where one would be resoundingly and definitively defeated. So they simply deny a public right to determine a very major shift in policy and modus operandi. That quote from the one trustee, “that’s why residents elected a mayor and trustees, to make these decisions.” Todd Cook used to like to say that sort of thing whenever citizens expressed vexation with bad decision making at the front council table. In fact, elections happen with the voter hope - usually against what history teaches - that the candidates ultimately elected will not produce a majority pack that once elected will circle the wagons against citizen criticism and pleas for caution and reason, and will instead make bone headed collective decisions because they spend almost all of their time talking to one another and reinforcing bad judgment that way, while debating critics instead of listening and reflecting long upon what the people talking about downside risk have to say. Then put a libertarian in among a pack of spendthrifts on a council and see what frustration can look like.

_____________FURTHER UPDATE_____________
What bothers me most when I hear that demand for "rental" is up, and that "rental" currently is the only healthy market segment with banks lending for "rental" but not for other real estate, is the unwillingness to consider transitory demand as an explanation. If you are a young couple or a single person with a downpayment amount stashed in some investment placement, or close to enough for a downpayment, would you buy now, in this market, putting the entire bundle at risk with prices still trending down? Of course not, you would hunker for a while tolerating shared-wall rental before plunging to get out to a single family detached home, with hopes of continuing future cash flow to make payments.

Strib recently reported:

Back-to-back housing reports show big price declines in Twin Cities
Posted by: Jim Buchta under Buying, Foreclosures Updated: August 31, 2011 - 3:58 PM

House prices in the Twin Cities metro area were down 7.3 percent in July compared with last year, according to a new report from CoreLogic Research. The July figures follow a 9.5 percent annual decline in prices from June 2011. And excluding distressed sales, year-over-year prices were down only 4.1 percent in July 2011.

The report follows the Case-Shiller report, which said Tuesday that house sale price declines in the Twin Cities during June were among the worst in the nation, but prices had risen month-to-month for three months in a row. The Case provides a local and national assessment of the market based on a large data set and always gets a lot of attention, but the methodology has also been debated.

Scott Sambucci, the chief operating officer of Altos Research, said that because there's a significant lag between when the sales happened and when the data is gathered and reported, the Case-Shiller data isn't the completely up-to-date. Case tracks sale prices on repeat sales to determine changes in pricing, but only includes single-family houses; townhoues and condos are excluded. Prices each month are based on a rolling three-month average.

To get a more accurate look at the market Altos tracks home list prices, the rationale being that if sellers see values rising, they're more likely to feel emboldened to increase their list price. In July, for example, Sabucci said that home list prices in the Twin Cities metro increased every month from April through June. In fact, the Twin Cities ranked among the top five of the 20 areas studied.

With uncertainty among professionals, and the enthusiasts predicting as they have for months that the market has finally bottomed out, people are suitably cautious. After all, it is their hard earned money they'd be putting at risk. It is not as if they are public officials looking at a cute gamble with other peoples' money. These are prudent wannabe home owners sitting out a housing price decline until they can see upward price cycling established, so they can buy on the uptick.

If Twin Cities area rental occupancy rates are at an all time high presently, what is the three-year prospect on that? Who knows? It all depends on when banks again are lending and demand for homeowner risks recovers. How long will that be, I do not know but I know there will be market cycling during the lifetime of any Flaherty-&-Collins rental building, and as with the Cosmopolitan in Indianapolis, it appears the FC modus operandi is to build, peak occupancy, show a capability early to jack rents up on lease renewals in a year or two, and get out while the getting is good. I believe the time term on bonding the city savants are considering is longer than three years, and crystal-balling into the future that far is guesswork. The idea is to put millions of dollars at risk in bonding to join a private rental adventure, on hope alone. Bad idea. Big risk. All on a guess or somebody's gut feeling. My gut says, ouch. Read that recent Strib item on rental demand, and see if you can truly foresee anything in there about long-term trending. Read on p.1 of that report:

Tina Gassman, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, said that based on an increase in calls from "accidental landlords" who are looking for guidance, there's been a steep increase in the number of houses for rent. Classes offered by the organization for homeowners-turned-landlords have sold out.

Across the board, rent prices and occupancy rates for apartment buildings and townhouse complexes in the Twin Cities metro area have risen in recent months and are considered healthy, but few are concerned that this shadow market will cause occupancy rates to fall. In the first quarter, the average vacancy rate was 3.9 percent, compared with 4.2 percent during the previous quarter and 4.4 percent last year, according to the GVA.

That's because the slow housing market has sparked a rise in the number of prospective renters.

"Sparked a rise" sounds transitory to me. You decide.

Nowthen First Annual Lions Fun Run.

An email request, plus two images giving detail:

Please pass this on to any runners or walkers you know that would want to participate in the 1st Annual Nowthen 5k Run put on by the Nowthen Lions.
Thank you

Laurie Olmon City of Nowthen Councilwoman

(Click the thumbnails to enlarge and read.) I expect any interested runner can print out the images, or contact a sponsor-rep per the images, and have a snail-mail application sent, or be given instructions to register online.

School bullying and the Anoka Hennepin District 11 current events.

We have a national mythology. We are better than other nations. We treasure the individual. We treasure individual rights. We treasure the freedom from intrusion into our private lives, and value privacy and choice in lifestyles and reproductive decision making, because we treasure "the family."

Then there is the reality of zealots wanting others to conform to their prejudices and belief sets.

Most certainly the Romans had cruel ways of executing people. They probably did waterboarding too. But that does not mean I have to bow to your cross, and what you say "The Cross" means and stands for; and you insult me greatly, my individuality, and my intelligence when you say bigotry and bigoted conformity is "God's way" when in truth it is nothing more than your way, and you think you've a pipeline to God or you are dishonestly blaming your prejudiced world-view on God.

Another myth, this one local, you can have a "zero-tolerance" policy toward bullying, when you make Verboten any discussion of the motivations that bullies may have, including those nurtured in them by their parents; and by strong peer group pressures to conform. It is anti-individualism, including a third mythology, the individualism of a squint-with-Clint or a flex-and-pose and carry an Uzi type of Schwartzenegger-Rambo character is what "individualism" is about. That mythology may be helpful in signing up boots on the ground in Afghanistan, but it has no place among school children. Yet video games and films promote violence while kids are stuck into crowded peer-group situations where if they act out the violence they see depicted in a positive way they only can do it among themselves, against one another.

Usually, bullying also involves collective picking on individuals where isolated circumstances are sought out and numbers favor the bullies. That is a shade less than courageous. It is the mentality of Klansmen.

That said, as things you can agree or disagree with, there is a range of reporting:  the PAL covered here, with MPR having an extended online report, here. The PAL website is here.

Here, you can read a series of Minn. Indy coverage.

In particular I liked the extensive MPR item (again here) because it represented broad coverage and because it mentions Laurie Olmon, a quality person, and a very vocal anti-bullying advocate.

Also a telling thing to me, the petition the PAL is taking the time and trouble to circulate, "... we the undersigned citizens of Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11 do whole heartedly support and desire that the School Board adhere to ..." as quoted in full, here. Wholeheartedly is one word, not two. Not only are they a pack of self-centered bigots with antiquated ideas and a lot of hate, they don't mind looking illiterate too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ramsey HRA. Work Session. The Nov. 2012 election cannot come too soon as to representation in Ward 2.

A bunch of people talking around the elephant in the room, as if not there. Ramsey, McGlone and Wise expressed happiness with things as they are. McGlone said he would not change one single thing in how he conducts himself, indicating an opinion of his capability that perhaps is not widely shared.

Bond and spend. Borrow and spend. All it needs is to fail once when played and played again.

It is a roadmap to a failed rental project in the failed Town Center, one that nobody but a handful of zealots unwilling to have a referendum wants.

Go figure why they are disinclined to put the question of moving the city into bankrolling Ramsey Town Center stuff to a vote of the people.

However - Would any sane contractor touch the risk of that turkey without being "incentivized" and free money and eager and willing risk-shifting to the public from the private profit-seekers is as much of an incentive as paying a politician a bribe can incentivize the likes of, say, a Spiro Agnew. Spiro was incentivized by brown paper bags holding tens and twenties, not in serial number order.

Flaherty from Indiana played the walk-away game, perhaps not a game I cannot know what his personal thought processes are, yet, instead of being called on it about watch out for the door knob, we know what happened. The other side not only flinched, it went paralytic-ballistic, if you can imagine the combination.

Lazan, his words on camera last week were that he "was told in no uncertain terms" that keeping the ramp-wrap-rental on track was "the will of the council."

I do not believe David Elvig told him that.

I do not believe Strommen, running for the seat then, told him that.

I do not believe Tossey told him that.

I do not believe Backous told him that.

I believe he was honest in saying he had been told that.

I believe McGlone was being wholly honest when he says he will not change a single thing in how he sees and discharges his civic duty as one of seven, on council.

Nobody confronted the obvious, and some were too ready, far too ready, to say let's from now on all sing Kumbaya.

At least McGlone honestly said, "No, not my tune."

That tune very likely will not be sung.

Funniest thing said all evening - the mayor, roughly he said because we're the HRA, and then the council has to vote approval too, we have checks and balances. Something like that.


The "Johnny Northside" anti-blogging-freedom case will be appealed.

The trial judge in Moore v. Hoff ruled against Hoff on post-trial motions for judgment notwithstanding the jury verdict. Strib reports. Johnny Northside reports.

A professional journalist society intervened as an amicus on behalf of Hoff's free speech rights, and against the verdict. Such amicus presence can be expected on appeal. For those wanting to check the online docket, the case cause number is given in the sidebar, per my least-liked Minnesota case.

Strib reporting by Abby Simons indicates a multipage memorandum opinion was issued by the court, but Strib has not posted it with a link. I know of no other site posting the memorandum, which sets out the judge's rationale for her ruling. If any reader finds the item online, please email me at the address on the sidebar, or post a comment with link info.

Sheila Regan, Daily Planet, has posted about the case in the past, e.g., here. Ed Kohler, The Deets has posted in the past also, e.g., here. Neither of them as of noon today have items online, or I have missed them. Earlier Crabgrass on the subject, this Google.

Hat tip to Ed Kohler, sending this link to the judge's opinion.

That opinion is posted on the Minneapolis Mirror site, one that has been perpetually critical of Hoff and his blogging; this link for their accompanying commentary.

_____________FURTHER UPDATE______________
My opinion of the Judge's opinion - she entirely ducked the key question the Amicus filing so clearly brought into focus - can you be liable for an ancillary tort related to publishing true things? As in, "And the truth shall set you free."

Not always.

Judge Denise Reilly totally ducked the entire post-trial issue. No two ways about that.

She talked about sufficient evidence in the record for this and that, and such and so forth; but fell stone silent on the entire REAL issue of law that the case entails.

The Moore v. Hoff motion for judgment as a matter of law appears, from the online amicus filing, (which is the only online post-trial filing I have discovered), to have presented a rock-solid clear and essential First Amendment argument, casting the issue in undeniably bright and well reasoned daylight.

As an explanation, Reilly must be myopic. She failed to see it.

Judge R. clearly spent formative years within
the Duck-and-Cover  generation.
The other likely explanation, is Judicial Tap Dancing was a-play from the get-go; and That Stuff happens far, far too frequently - and should be called out each and every time as "unresponsive," (to say it delicately).

Take a look at this Crabgrass post, especially the links. The Borger amicus brief is online, here. You be the judge. Did Reilly frontally address the First Amendment and precedent contentions, or did she show less than the ability to unstring and gut such a convincing argument?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The last Ramsey HRA meeting was rebroadcast on QCTY, ending about an hour, a half-hour ago.

Tail end, Darren Lazan talking about thinking the Flaherty-&-Collins deal had flipped, "... I was told in no uncertain terms this thing was the will of the council" and to get it back on track.

 Who told the man that?

 Under what circumstances?

Based on what, an unofficial caucus among a majority of the council, where it was decided that even if dying, Darren's "job" was to Lazarus it.

"In no uncertain terms" that was Lazan's "job" and "Do it."

 If the council had info from Lazan, through proper channels, and voted that "in no uncertain terms" this was to be resuscitated - I missed that open meeting and I bet a good half or so of the Council did too.

 What's going on?

Is that anything like a fair and decent way to run a city government?

It's those liberals again. Troublemakers. Each and every one. Torches and Pitchforks. Raining on a bus tour.

Strib carries an Aug. 20 AP feed:

 WASHINGTON - Liberals argue that he caved on the debt ceiling. Unions are upset over his handling of unemployment and labor issues. Hispanics brought the immigration debate directly to his campaign doorstep.

President Barack Obama's summer of discontent has been marked by rumblings within his Democratic political base over his willingness to fight congressional Republicans and his approach to fixing the economy.

Liberals disappointed with Obama for compromising with the GOP during the debt-ceiling showdown now are calling on him to hold firm against Republicans this fall. They want him to push a bold jobs agenda while drawing a strong line on taxes and protecting Medicare and Social Security.

In recent weeks, the gripes have become so loud that the president himself acknowledged them during his Midwest bus tour this week.

"I've got a whole bunch of responsibilities, which means I have to make choices sometimes that are unattractive and I know will be bad for me politically and I know will get supporters of mine disappointed," Obama said in Iowa. He claimed progress on the economy, health care and two wars. And, offering his backers a bit of tough love, he added: "Sometimes you've got to make choices in order to do what's best for the country at that particular moment, and that's what I've tried to do." 

 The complaints — founded or not — are narrowing the tightrope Obama must walk over the next year to keep his base energized while recapturing the independent voters who helped power his win over John McCain in 2008. 

 Still, for all the complaining, the ultimate impact on Obama's re-election chances is open to question. The president faces no serious primary opponent, and polls show him faring fairly well within his party. Few liberals are likely to support a Republican for president next year.

But angry liberals could refuse to volunteer to knock on doors or make phone calls, a pivotal grass-roots role for a candidate's base of supporters. Disaffected Democrats could keep their wallets closed, hampering small-dollar fundraising over the Internet. Or they could just stay away from the polls on Election Day. 

"They want to love him, but he's given them little evidence and his rhetoric is running out of steam," said Princeton professor Cornel West, who campaigned for Obama in 2008 but has become a fierce critic.

[...] Liberals howled last December when he struck a deal with the GOP to extend Bush-era tax cuts. That reinforced earlier bad feelings from when he dropped the proposed "public option" for a government plan to compete with private insurance as part of the health care overhaul.

We want to love you. But you're no different than a f**king Republican. CHANGE!

Stunt timing. Being more Bachmann than Bachmann. And you thought that impossible?

Strib carries an AP feed:

 AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for nearly $350 million to cover the costs he says Texas has incurred incarcerating illegal immigrants in state prisons and county jails.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Perry reiterated a claim he's often leveled against the federal government: that it's not doing enough to secure the border with Mexico and as a result, has allowed illegal immigrants to enter the U.S. and use taxpayer-funded resources, including the prison system. 

The letter was dated Aug. 10, three days before the Republican governor formally announced he is running for president.

 [...] In his two-page letter to Napolitano, Perry described the formula used to come up with his $349.2 million bill, including $94.4 million to cover costs incurred by county jails.

 [...] "The longstanding failure of the federal government to secure our border with Mexico continues to burden local communities and resources in Texas," Perry wrote.

That Gov. Perry, is something. He wants me to give him 350 silver bullets.
I'm ignoring him, Tonto. Once the election's over, Tonto, he's Elmer Grantry again back to thumping his Bible. -- Yes. Big Empty suit, Kemo Sabe.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Puzzling evidence. Cause and effect, or coincidental parallelism? You decide.

This Chart from the St. Louis Fed, here; and if you open that page you can manipulate the display, i.e., adjust the time axis, etc.

This comparable Chart also from the St. Louis Fed, here.

(If that last chart is extended backward in time to the default 1948 timeframe, the trending effect of women in a spousal pair entering the workforce to achieve double income to keep up, in increasing numbers with time, is apparent up to the present depression-related employment drop-off.)

 Next we might focus yet more upon the late 2008 time frame (where the housing bubble was made to splat in the late lame duck Bush second term autumn-winter), and to look at the charts in light of these Fed memos; telling an incomplete propagandized/sanitized story perhaps; here (from the Geithner NY Fed), here, here, here, here, and, recently, here.

Bernanke's hands on the levers continued after 2008, despite election results as a judgment of late Bush events; and Geithner was put into the Treasury by B. H. Obama - with his NY Fed ties and all.

 The Fed policy from then late in 2008 has consistently been one instituted then, and onward, to discourage credit and lending, and to encourage parked big-bank reserves instead of money circulating productively as is normal in the economy via interbank lending and credit then to the private sector. Credit is dry, excess reserves are parked to earn risk-free interest, jobs are gone -- all so the dollar can be cheapened on the international stage with food and other commodity prices jacking up, but without "inflation" [which in Fed-speak as best as I can read things means that wages are staying frozen because people are put into hyper-fear mode over jobs they may still hold and you don't see unions striking after the Scott Walker gaming, etc.].

An inverted and perverted Robin Hood regime, steal from the poor and give to the rich. Or not?

Think about it. Are we being lied to and fleeced? Go figure. Was that "debt ceiling" grifter show a pile of hooey, with Ron Paul there correctly saying the Fed could cancel the treasury bonds it held and that would create $1.6 trillion of immediate debt relief. (But the banks would not have things as cozy.)

 Now, we see a quality American, not some phony horn-tooting "Patriot" of the Tea Party persuation or otherwise, saying, simply and bluntly, guarantee Social Security solvency and quit screwing around (and quit lying hither and yon). Does the "Keeping the Social Security Promise Act" ring your bell? Or was it a false charade all along, never a promise at all?

There is a comparable employment chart on Brad DeLong's blog banner area, here.

There is more. Here. My favorite subtopics there, sequentially, here and here. Please do check that linkover, and read the, "Comments on the interim final rule, identified by Docket No. R-1334." (The easiest thing, do a page search on the linkover page for R-133).

____________FURTHER UPDATE___________

There is more. This link, for this beginning excerpt:
The Slow Disappearance of the American Working Man A smaller share of men have jobs today than at any time since World War II by Mike Dorning - Thursday, August 25, 2011 As President Barack Obama puts together a new jobs plan to be revealed shortly after Labor Day, he is up against a powerful force, long in the making, that has gone virtually unnoticed in the debate over how to put people back to work: Employers are increasingly giving up on the American man.
photo credit, here
If that sounds bleak, it's because it is. The portion of men who work and their median wages have been eroding since the early 1970s. For decades the impact of this fact was softened in many families by the increasing number of women who went to work and took up the slack. More recently, the housing bubble helped to mask it by boosting the male-dominated construction trades, which employed millions. When real estate ultimately crashed, so did the prospects for many men. The portion of men holding a job—any job, full- or part-time—fell to 63.5 percent in July—hovering stubbornly near the low point of 63.3 percent it reached in December 2009. These are the lowest numbers in statistics going back to 1948. Among the critical category of prime working-age men between 25 and 54, only 81.2 percent held jobs, a barely noticeable improvement from its low point last year—and still well below the depths of the 1982-83 recession, when employment among prime-age men never dropped below 85 percent. To put those numbers in perspective, consider that in 1969, 95 percent of men in their prime working years had a job. Men who do have jobs are getting paid less. [...]
Does anyone have any questions, so far?

Friday, August 26, 2011

An interesting double-edged sword of an opinion, one that can cut two ways.

A Wednesday Minnesota Supreme Court opinion, this link.

In Ramsey, the ability to assess at "redevelopment" potential could cut against the Hunt family's having gotten Comp Plan provisions favoring the redeveopment potential of their properties; as well as against a large acreage property on Sunfish Lake where redevelopment potential soundings have already been made with the City. How far such an opinion could be argued in the assessor reaching to up valuations to increase tax income flows while the politicians toot about not raising assessment rates is an uncertainty, and something that can be used to do great mischief.

The other edge, by example a person in the situation of council member Wise, with a store site that will be taken in the course of the Armstrong realignment. Should he and family and their lawyers not find a negotiated offer-acceptance meeting their hopes, they can contend a higher and better redevelopment use exists beyond the present retail outlet and its value, and seek to win on that if litigation ensues.

The Berry & Co. case is a ticking time bomb, unless subsequent opinion narrows it and defuses the worse of its implications. Right now, it arguably is a blank check for assessor abuse.

The recent decision that got press attention was not the far-reaching tax opinion, but the one touching upon standards of circumstantial proof of a crime in the context of a lurid murder; see reporting here and the opinion here.

Consider white collar crime, for instance the bribery statute concerning a public official, Minn. Stat. Sect. 609.42, subd. 2, making it the crime of bribery for one "being a public officer or employee, requests, receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any such benefit, reward or consideration [per subd. 1] upon the understanding that it will have such an influence." That "upon the understnding" is tough language, unless the circumstantial evidence is somebody wearing a wire, and handing a politician a brown paper bag full of bills and saying, "Here's the bribe money for your arranging that grant financing," or whatever public action delivered for a bribe might be involved. It's hard to prove. Not like a murder with blood many places, cell phone calls, hammers hidden around a property, etc., as in Hawes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A dime for your thoughts? The PPP, or P3, or whatever other gimmick name you have for it, has been touted by Landform and its hangers-on, but has it an immediate or long-term history?

I have enjoyed calling the gang-of-four efforts to spend public money in risky ways to subsidize private adventuring disinclined to shoulder its own inherent risks as GOP socialism. Perhaps that needs reexamination. At least one council member outside of the gang-of-four has used the term "corporatism" or "corporativism," terms I have seen used interchangeably, the latter being the less favored usage.

At the last Ramsey HRA meeting, Colin McGlone argued that he saw subsidizing Flaherty-&-Collins as "a public private partnership" as if that is something good, or desirable; (perhaps in his thinking inherently so, beyond its sounding like a catchy but empty advertising slogan - a P3).

The term "public private partnership" might seem to some to be a term coined by Landform and locals, e.g. here, the Landform prepared slide and pony presentation part at p.9 et seq., these images (click a thumbnail to enlarge and read about P3):

I suggest one modest change for the second of the images above. Aside from that, I expect McGlone, perhaps Lazan, and other readers might be unaware that P3 is a bureaucracy, perhaps better called a cottage industry; here, with that resource listing eighteen (18) separate kinds of partnership arrangements when including related interrelationship terms of more general use at the end of the listing. My favorite is the OMM, or the "Operations, Maintenance & Management" style of P3, because the abbreviation looks like a variant of a Buddhist chant - while the BOO and BOT also have cognate charm.

P3's have their own Wikipedia page even, here, with variant growth existing from a mature concept, see, Wikipedia pages here and here. Look at those last two, and remember, Colin McGlone likes P3. Want more? Here, an exposition with "criticism" even. Make sense of that last one if you can. Across the Atlantic, P3 thrives. A Euro-zone buzzword. There even is a slide-show online item that Lazan may have cribbed from or learning of it, may crib from it in the future; e.g., these:

Have a look, here. Lazan's stuff and this stuff looks as if dropped out of the same bull. And there's more - is this Lazan-ish, or what:

Can't you imagine, change the tan tone, stick a big COR across the top, and everywhere it says "Council" put in COR, diddle the font, attribute the quote to Heidi Nelson COR-wise, and stick it somewhere here.

Wrap-up time: History has a say also, on public-private interplay; and while readers should read Lew Rockwell post content skeptically as politically-biased (but interesting in small doses), this Lew Rockwell post is one I could not resist quoting [go to original for footnote links]:

So-called corporatism was adopted in Italy and Germany during the 1930s and was held up as a “model” by quite a few intellectuals and policy makers in the United States and Europe. A version of economic fascism was in fact adopted in the United States in the 1930s and survives to this day. In the United States these policies were not called “fascism” but “planned capitalism.” The word fascism may no longer be politically acceptable, but its synonym “industrial policy” is as popular as ever.

Few Americans are aware of or can recall how so many Americans and Europeans viewed economic fascism as the wave of the future during the 1930s. The American Ambassador to Italy, Richard Washburn Child, was so impressed with “corporatism” that he wrote in the preface to Mussolini's 1928 autobiography that “it may be shrewdly forecast that no man will exhibit dimensions of permanent greatness equal to Mussolini. . . . The Duce is now the greatest figure of this sphere and time.”[1] Winston Churchill wrote in 1927 that “If I had been an Italian I am sure I would have been entirely with you” and “don the Fascist black shirt.”[2] As late as 1940, Churchill was still describing Mussolini as “a great man.”

[...] Certain British intellectuals were perhaps the most smitten of anyone by fascism. George Bernard Shaw announced in 1927 that his fellow “socialists should be delighted to find at last a socialist [Mussolini] who speaks and thinks as responsible rulers do.”[4] He helped form the British Union of Fascists whose “Outline of the Corporate State,” according to the organization's founder, Sir Oswald Mosley, was “on the Italian Model.” While visiting England, the American author Ezra Pound declared that Mussolini was “continuing the task of Thomas Jefferson.”[5]

[...] The Washington, D.C.—based Center for National Policy has also published a report authored by businessmen from Lazard Freres, du Pont, Burroughs, Chrysler, Electronic Data Systems, and other corporations promoting an allegedly “new” policy based on “cooperation of government with business and labor.”[23] Another report, by the organization “Rebuild America,” co-authored in 1986 by Robert Reich and economists Robert Solow, Lester Thurow, Laura Tyson, Paul Krugman, Pat Choate, and Lawrence Chimerine urges “more teamwork” through “public-private partnerships among government, business and academia.”[24] This report calls for “national goals and targets” set by government planners who will devise a “comprehensive investment strategy” that will only permit “productive” investment, as defined by government, to take place.

And here is what resonates in that post, with Flaherty-&-Collins, the gang-of-four, and Landform's P3 in mind:

Whenever politicians start talking about “collaboration” with business, it is time to hold on to your wallet. Despite the fascist rhetoric about “national collaboration” and working for the national, rather than private, interests, the truth is that mercantilist and Protectionist practices riddled the system. Italian social critic Gaetano Salvemini wrote in 1936 that under corporatism, “it is the state, i.e., the taxpayer, who has become responsible to private enterprise. In Fascist Italy the state pays for the blunders of private enterprise.”[25] As long as business was good, Salvemini wrote, “profit remained to private initiative.”[26] But when the depression came, “the government added the loss to the taxpayer's burden. Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social.”[27]

[...] “Three-quarters of the Italian economic system,” Mussolini boasted in 1934, “had been subsidized by government.”[28]

And with gang-of-four eagerness toward parallel massive "corporatist" ramp-wrap-rental subsidy, per giveaway parking and provision of multi-million dollar banking services by City of Ramsey to Mr. Flaherty's LLC, another modest suggestion is that perhaps Landform with majority approval by the Ramsey HRA, might change the Town Center P3 rebranding symbol-&-color scheme:

Photo source, Wikipedia, here.

I hope the gang-of-four is happier I am not referring to their efforts as "socialism" in this post.

This link, for a related concept, privatize profits socialize losses; where gang-of-four Flaretyization is a precursor, privatize potential for profits, socialize risk of loss.

Details vary, but this is the same mentality underlying Bush-Bernanke-Bailout activity, and the Savings-and-Loan bailout of Bush Sr.

The Second Bush bailout was with Bernanke given an atta-boy retention by the man of promised change, B. H. Obama.

Some want reform to start from the local level, up, thinking it is never going to happen top-down. I believe the Tossey vote against the ramp expansion falls into that category.

Presently a reason why banks are not lending to a lot to folks like David Flaherty might be due to Mr. Bernanke's instituting the Fed paying interest to banks to maintain excess reserves so that instead of lending at any risk they can park money with Bernanke's henchmen and get risk-free returns to where regular business people like Flaherty are scratching their heads and wondering where the credit has gone and small community banks are unable to deal normally with correspondent banks because of the big directly connected banks parking money with the Fed instead of putting it in the economy as in the normal course of banking. People wonder why the depression continues unabated, with a partial answer being banks are doing just fine NOT lending money. It stinks. But that does not mean City of Ramsey should become Mr. Flaherty's bank. It means there's perhaps a lamp-post with Bernanke's name on it to some more bloodthirsty than I am, but that should not be cause for city officials to put Ramsey behind the eight ball.

Readers, the links on the effect of banks parking excess reserves at the Fed for risk-free earnings were found on a hasty search. I have seen better analysis online but could not quickly relocate it. If readers have a better or more clear link about why lending and credit have dried up, including the interest payment on reserves by the Fed, please add a comment. There is this, with links here (an internal Fed study), and here. (Forbes, earlier, here). I have not read that Fed study, and expect it would not be overtly critical of its own senior-set policy and practices, but the chart on this page is astounding.

________________FURTHER UPDATE_______________
Is this credible to you? Bernanke gives a speech. A Jacksons Hole speech. Transcript online, here. A bankers' banker, talking to big-time bankers. He obliquely blames everybody else. A word search "reserves" has no hits. He declines mentioning excess reserves parked by big banks with the Fed, earning risk-free interest. Is he disingenuous? Should he be fired?

If you faced a stagnant economy, and ran the banking cartel as top dog as Bernanke is, but with a true committment to the public interest, would you try to do this with the banking system, instead of letting them park money that should be put into the economy?

Next, is union short-term myopia shooting themselves in the foot, this link? It seems to be syndicalism to me. Do you remember the miserably awful gas-guzzling cars of the 1970's where if you got 100,000 miles from one you were special? That was when Detroit had an oligopoly, GM, Ford, Chrysler and the UAW all on the same page with only the public, consumers, made to suffer. The airlines had cozy market carving per government regulation and pilots were making out-of-line salaries, but the flying public had few options but to go along? The role of government is no more to promote syndicalism than to bankroll an out-of-town landlord's adventures, on the local level. If the government errs, who suffers? Taxpayers and consumers? Anyone else? Not bankers. Not large multinationals expanding every day in India and China. Not politicians using the into-lobbying revolving door as soon as out of office by their choice or choice of an electorate. I think taxpayers and consumers is it. Franken seems correct if this reported situation is correctly reported, and he is opposing further concentration in information handling services in the nation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ramsey - Northstar. Matthew Look identified Clifford Greene as the negotiator for the BNSF right-of-way hit.

Clifford Greene negotiated BNSF dealings, if not from the very start then at the relevant times that the funding was being produced and an actual train run ensued. Did he pay too much, or cut a  great deal? I don't know, but BNSF was in the driver's seat, subject to politics nationwide.

The Ramsey price is down presently to about five million dollars. For the train to stop for minutes and resume.

Warren Buffet owns BNSF, or a controlling stake now, so expect to pay.

Matthew Look has faith in Clifford Greene's capability and says the BNSF people are trusting of him.

Matthew Look says a hit less than five million is possible.

With the decision being the Flaherty-&-Collins thing is being put on ice for the duration, and it is "See how the train stop happens" mode at Town Center, I think exploratory attention should be given David Elvig's idea of the entire ramp-wrap-rental adventure being done on '"pass-through" bonding. If for nothing else, to see if there is any viability to the thinking.

In first hearing it with Elvig talking face-to-face after the last HRA worksession to David Flaherty, I have to admit my initial reaction was to be skeptical.

Yet now, with time I believe, (Nelson and Landform needing no involvement distracting from other things), Lund and bond advisors should be tasked to explore things. My understanding is any bonding for a private adventure would have to be taxable, and not sold as tax-free municipal bonding.

Elvig's idea, [and I hope he reads this in case I misunderstand - I have no email address for him - he posts none on the city website], is to look at the hocus-pocus stuff done with PACT school. The entire cost of their building was done as "pass through" bonding where the city issues the bonds but, all assurances were the city was really not on the hook for a penny of it, the bonds were conditioned as non-recourse against the city but only against the property as it being bond security.

If that understanding is wrong in a detail or two, Elvig as HRA chair can work along with Lund and bond advisors, to assure the key feature, the city being off the hook and not on the hook for a penny of Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Collins adventuring, with the ramp-wrap-rental building being the entire security, per express terms of the bonds.

Obviously Flaherty would be involved, but why would he be expected to be a deal killer? It is his project and when he and Elvig spoke I could see he was receptive to the idea.

Again, it stinks unless the city is not on the hook for a penny. But that is what the exploration is all about.

The determinations of merit would be two-fold, is there a rate of return suitably set to where such bonds would sell for the entire cost of construction; where interest rates on bonds always are made up of a basic cost of money, and a risk premium.

The bonding would be for the entire cost of construction. PNC in a first position would be a non-factor. PNC would remain in Pittsburgh and not be a player at all in Ramsey Town Center.

Again it is only something making sense to Ramsey if there is a guarantee that the city would never be on the hook for a penny of principle or interest.

The second factor, would such a thing adversely impact the city's AA+ bond rating, to make borrowing for actual city purposes vs. to subsidize Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Collins, more costly. If the determination in exploration is that the bond rating would go south, then it's a totally bad thought.

But until it is explored to see feasibility, it remains an unknown, but possible answer to meet objections of Tossey on council, wanting to not see a deal where the city plays banker and risk taker and where he, as a policy matter, believes all risk of a private venture should remain with the risk-reward adventurer, and not be socialized in whole or in part. He is not dead set against it if it is done out of Flaherty's pocketbook. [Fair disclosure, I oppose it because I believe it will not rent at levels they are talking, price will be compromised, then with cash flow lessened upkeep will be compromised, and it will end up a massive dump but at least not too far from the cop shop].

Certainly if Mr. Flaherty has his heart in things, and gets financing this way, he would not carp and complain about any rate that the market might set as commensurable with bondholder risk. He would have to be a disingenous parasite to do that. And the cut of his jib at the meeting suggested there was none of that. So, Flaherty would be on board no matter what rate would be needed to attract a bond purchase. Ideally, one would want the issue to be a private placement with a sophisticated institutional investor, where disclosure-based securities litigation roping in the city would be unlikely because the buyer would be relying upon its due diligence and sophistication.

Flaherty could be obligated to pay for the marketing of the bond issue. He has probably been in structured finance of this kind before. And besides the property being the security Flaherty might favor some personal and LLC guarantee if it gets him a lower bond interest rate. There is flexibility.

Again, it is only viable if the city is not on the hook for a penny of the risk, principal, or interest; and if the bond rating is not put into the toilet in trying the financing.

There is time now for staff to be doing all of that exploration, and bond advisors should be willing to earn and receive a fee to assist the exploration. It Elvig's idea proves feasible I would be the first to say my initial skepticism was wrong, and to publicly favor that direction; so long as the city is not at risk for a penny of the financing, principal and interest.

Yet with PACT school the "pass through" hocus-pocus being marketable was a surprise to me, and always seemed an artifice and strange. But there it apparently worked and still works. The AA+ bond rating, and PACT financing not snapping and costing the city anything seems to be the reality, now, years after the approach was adopted.

How many Met Council planners have moved to be along the Hiawatha line? To Anoka County to be housed neighboring a Northstar stop? To a Ramsey "townhome," for shared wall housing and a walk to Coborns?

Consider all the garbage about high-density shared wall housing that is "transit oriented," TOD being "transit oriented development" to the planners, the word "Tod" meaning death, in German.

It is a myth. It is somebody's brain-fart idea. Some one said "It's as impressive as the Emperor's new clothes." Somebody else said, sure, but neither of them moved from housing themselves and their families where they chose, independent of transit, independent of walkability.

And TOD is being pushed on everyone by whom? The bus company. The folks selling flushes tell us how sewer and water and TOD = warm fuzzy nice communities. For them it's fine as a theory, and it is job security, so, yes, it is productive. For them.

That however should motivate zippo among a disbelieving populace.

The developers get on board, the politicians get on board, the people are left in the cold. Ben Dover faces the elements. Bad Koolaid. Don't drink it. They say we want development oriented to their jobs, we want the privilege to pay SAC charges, to be close to a bus stop, whatever.

How many Met Council planners walk as they talk?


At last night's HRA meeting the snow job of the rental-ramp-wrap had some of the obscurity stripped away. Darren Lazan said that a few weeks ago he was ready to write off the Flaherty putsch as dead, but "was told" to Lazarus the thing. Told. Who, how, why, what context? Was this telling to Lazan procedurally up front or behind a bunch of backs? The public deserves an explanation and very, very, very much sunshine on the muck of what happened and who did what and how and every word of every explanation must be fully public since these guys have already burned a ton of credibility with that ramp-wrap-rental again-and-again putsch against reason. Darren Lazan's one comment was the moment of truth of the entire meeting.

There is every appearance of a procedural irregularity with very serious implications.

Simply put, who went behind other peoples' backs, and did what? How exactly was Lazarus reinflated?

Who moved, as the genesis of pushing Lazan from his belief the thing had [rightly and properly] died, and said "Get David Flaherty back here again, and push like hell to keep this idea on track?" What group or collection of officials was informed of that happening, what other group or collection was kept wholly in the dark? How did our city government "move," and was it movement in a way that was at all proper? That question has to be answered, no BS, WHAT HAPPENED? WHO DID WHAT, ON WHAT AUTHORIZATION, FROM WHOM?

The man said as much as "The back door was used."

That is an irresponsible way to conduct city business.

From when Ceasar crossed the Rubicon and was stabbed to death, we can say things done in aggressively irregular and dark ways have no good to come of them, and the consequences can be foreseen as divisive, disruptive, and costly. The next HRA worksession meeting needs a large public turnout, and all the dirty laundry needs to be aired. Folks have to explain and justify themselves.

It is one of the few ways credibility can be reasserted.


More credible than that, a referendum. Who wants the damned thing hung onto the ramp with parking spaces that cost dearly given away without justification beyond Flaherty will not do it unless we giveaway that AND finance what his bank will not risk, and which he too will not risk? Put it to a public test. Give me and those two nice DAR women who showed up at the meeting last night a vote. Give David Jeffrey who had to step off council a ordinary-citizen's vote. Give Margaret Connolly a vote. Give losing candidate Harry Niska a vote. The public is not a collective enemy. It is the sovereign. The opening sentence of the Minnesota Constitution is,

Section 1. Object of government. Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent, together with the right to alter, modify or reform government whenever required by the public good.

Those words ring. Dishonored in practice, they are bedrock truth, nonetheless.

Politicians forget that Constitutional language far too readily. And that's the better of them, the ones that don't hate the concept of the people being preeminent and their being where they are only to serve the will and interests of the people. They'd rather play Father Knows Best.

BOTTOM LINE: A referendum will wrongly not happen because the knot of unlistening Ramsey politicians pushing this pile along know that a vote of the people would kill the damned thing decisively, permanently, and rightly. And they "know better." Bullshit they do!

Hell will freeze over before this bunch gives us a referendum over the stuff they're pulling.

End with a simple question? Click the image, enlarge, and note the underlined language. Is it, with the underlining, credibly reassuring, at all and in any way, to YOU?

Online, here.

It says, the deal can be done, "without referendum" since we guess the thing will be profitable and if not we will reach into other pots of money, rather than have a referendum on the "Bonding for Flaherty" game.

"Without referendum?" What is the goal here our elected officals are intent upon? Keeping us from having an effective voice and keeping us from judging what they are up to is the only way you can read those tea leaves.

"Without referendum" stated so glibly speaks volumes. How can we do it without the people having a chance to skuttle the skunkworks? It sucks.

Another way to say things is the ghost of James Norman haunts his Norman Castle, and nobody at the front table was elected and no administrator was appointed to be either King, Queen, or Rasputin.

_____________FURTHER UPDATE____________
Cramdowns stink. Let's have for us that referendum.

_____________FURTHER UPDATE____________
Highlights of front table brilliance at the HRA meeting, things that have to be shared.

Jeff Wise, "Everybody talks about risk. I risk everything I have in my business every day." Good point. If David Flaherty wants to do that with all his wealth, I do not think many are willing to stand in the way of David Flaherty doing exactly that. It is the normal course of business. The point, Jeff, this is not your money. It is public money. You have no place doing stupid risky things with it, that is the antithesis of your job.

He makes my point, as if it is supportive of his decision-making.


Second, McGlone's saying, "People have to realize there is a cost to doing nothing." Colin, you have to realize there is a benefit to doing nothing. Especially when your hot-to-trot alternative is to do something both really, really stupid and out of line with government's function, and risky with money that is not yours but the public's.

There is a benefit to not digging the hole deeper. To not making the Ramsey Town Center more of an embarrassment by yet another failed step. There is a benefit to not being wasteful and full of hubris when it's not your own dollars at risk. Same story as with Jeff.

And, finally, there is a benefit, personally, to being cautious in your own affairs and being Tom Sawyer getting others to whitewash your fence. David Flaherty is a poster-child role model for that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where big-buck rental may work. A proposed Loring Park high-end rental tower. A neighborhood with a tradition where people can be expected to pay a high-buck premium to live there. Groundbreaking set at same time as Flaherty-&-Collins, in Ramsey.

This link, and a first of two pages screenshot. Loring Park has a big-buck tradition behind it. People have traditionally been willing to pay a premium to live there. It does not have the more house and more lot for the money tradition of Ramsey. As Colin McGlone once said, he is in Ramsey because he got "the most house for his family" for what they would be paying by moving into Northfork. That outlook of McGlone in family decision-making is the antithesis of rabbit-hutch rentals, with a pool and cabanas, which is not traditional Ramsey. In Loring Park it is an experienced major-league developer retooling from a condo plan to enter big time into the rental market - and picking a neighborhood suited to it - with the mantra of real estate people having always been, location, location, location. Click the image to read; and again, go here to see the entire story.

Think over what the Flaherty-&-Collins higher-risk adventure will be competing against, where there is a seasoned Chicago area firm larger and more experienced than Flaherty-&-Collins, (compare their Wikipedia pages - the FC firm having none; and with Magellan proving itself a high stakes savvy major league player). Magellan, picks its places carefully, and has had the site in play for years before plunging big money into it - with this quote from the end of that first of two pages screenshot [italics emphasis added]:

In 2005, Magellan was approved by the city to develop a [condo] tower on the same site that was a little taller (39 stories) but with fewer units (275). That project stalled, however along with the overall housing market.

The company switched gears and is proposing rental because apartments "seem to be the preferred mode of people living these days," said Brian Gordon, vice president of development for Magellan. "People are more transient and don't want to be bogged down with mortgages," he said.

Gordon described the apartments as "high-end luxury" with a 24-hour doorman, a health-club facility and pool, movie theater and business center.

Gordon said the company was patient with the site as it waited for financing. He said Magellan is in the preliminary stages of talking to several lenders and equity partners. Magellan hopes to break ground in on the project in 2012.

See related reporting, here and here. Nowhere in there do you read of Magellan with its hundred million dollar project wanting some municipality to bankroll its high roller ambition.

Magellan has the wherewithal to not stoop or play anyone as if unsophisticated yokels responsible for public funds, but pliant. If Flaherty-&-Collins wants to take a risk on their own dollar, bless them and wish them good luck.

FBI investigation and US Attorney activity on mortgage fraud, reaching into Coon Rapids; with two pleas already and unidentified coconspirators.

The remaining alleged participants likely are the primary targets, given that two in the alleged conspiracy have copped pleas and appear ready to testify. How far it reaches, with a $20 million number mentioned, is unclear. One plea, an individual out of Coon Rapids, the other plea, an Edina man - with neither name meaning much to me in terms of name recognition and history.

The US Attorney's office release, here. Reporting, here, here and here.

The prosecutor's press release is dated July 25, 2011, so it is month old news already. Yet this is the first I noticed of it, and readers might be interested but unaware of yet another situation being run to ground. Where it goes next, including identities of the presently unidentified coconspirators, seems yet to unfold. I have no idea how extensive coverage will be, so readers interested in the situation should keep informed; and ideally would send an email to me at the address on the sidebar so I can post if anything further happens of interest in Anoka County.

Here is the story. Orland Park is not Ramsey. It is ahead of Ramsey. If the Flaherty-Collins thing works there, it might, or might not work in Ramsey. If it fails there, the thing in Ramsey is doomed.

Orland Park has an online "State of the Village, 2011." This Link. You can read it all, and compare it to Ramsey. Orland Park is in a larger metro market area, and clearly is more developed and mature. It has clout in its area. It is not bucolic, but for a failed Town Center nightmare.

They have a major commuter rail stop already built, 2007, along with two other stops. Relatively speaking, it is advanced and prospering - with these few illustrative pages from the 2011 item painting a picture [click any thumbnail to enlarge and read]:

Make of the data what you will. If you want comparative info about Ramsey, ask Diana Lund, Ramsey's CFO. You have a right to be comparatively informed. My experience has been that Ms. Lund has been willing to give answers, and efficient in doing so. No smoke and mirrors or shading of impressions, just the facts, and responsive rather than diversionary dancing. Sound.

I wonder, looking at that OP 2011 report, p.21, "Outstanding debt as a % of EAV," what would the Ramsey % number be with the bonding for the rail stop, for Armstrong Blvd. improvements, and eight million dollars plunged into a dubious rental housing adventure - with all that on top of money already pumped and to be pumped into Town Center infrastructure, the BIG RAMP, and the BIG NORMAN CASTLE [aka city hall]. Any bets we'd be as sound as Orland Park, or substantially more debt leveraged, by this present and past councils? The problem in getting such a number, the EAV part would be estimated for the rental thing w/o any track record and pure guesswork instead; and there's extreme elasticity in that. Cost to build is guestimated at $28 million -- vs value if successful, vs value if it splats out big time???

Bottom line, if Flaherty-&-Collins cannot fly their dream there in Orland Park, it will not get off the ground in Ramsey. That we can be assured of, and Flaherty-&-Collins can take it to the bank. [The PNC bank in Pittsburgh, which, seeing an Orland Park failure can be expected to bail on Ramsey, leaving what, our savants bankrolling the entire Flaherty-Collins bad idea? And don't laugh, they are considering exactly that right now as a possible alternate scenario.]

If the nation needs to rebalance personal wealth and income imbalances, as it does, where is the wisdom of those wanting to put the super-rich into the White House?

Boston Business Journal reports:

Romney plans to flatten his Calif. beachfront mansion, rebuild at four times the size
Boston Business Journal - by Galen Moore
Date: Monday, August 22, 2011, 9:01am EDT - Last Modified: Monday, August 22, 2011, 10:11am EDT

Even as he angles to occupy the 55,000-square-foot White House, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has his eye on quadrupling the size of his Southern California mansion, according to a report.

Citing a permit application, the website Sign On San Diego reports that Romney, who made his fortune as a private equity investor and co-founder of Boston’s Bain Capital , plans to raze a 3,009-square-foot beachfront home he owns in La Jolla, Calif., and build a new home on the property at roughly four times the size.

Romney purchased the single-story home at 311 Dunemere Dr. in May 2008 for $12 million, according to the real estate information site Plans filed with the city of San Diego call for a two-story, 11,062-square-foot structure, according to the Sign On San Diego report.

While I do not begrudge Mr. Romney being super-rich, something he did via the investment banking game - where we all know about its impact on present economic affairs.

That segment of the economy almost deliberately brought on the nation's present depression at the tail end of the Bush lame-duck presidency's last year. While we need not begrudge Romney being super-wealthy, where is any sense or wisdom, if many of the rest of us are thinking to put this person at the head of government, i.e., at the head of setting tax policy when he and his party have the history of fostering and leading us into the extreme and extremely harmful income and wealth disparity situation all the rest of us currently face? It makes no sense.

Let Romney live in luxury in his expanded Southern California waterfront mansion. The rest of us need something better, fairer, and more mainstream-American in the White House.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Looming, monster ugly thing being planned by Flaherty-Collins, in Orland Park.

Look at this hideous thing:

This link. It looks like something designed and built in the Soviet Union during Stalin times. Socialist chic. Will the one in Ramsey be that ugly?

Expect it, since the bells-and-whistles description differs little to not at all; this for Orland park.

It will be about the same size in Ramsey, but with the Ramp included to make it BIGGER. Compare the p.3 description, (with LESS parking, but MORE retail), again, this link.

Enlarge that first image, look at it, the scale of it, and imagine it looming ominously on the Clown Center skyline. Drive Sunwood, and feel the claustrophobia.

PiPress has an online story about the Northstar stop, here.

When you think about it, the Star express [the subsidized bus] has been losing money consistently, month in, month our and will cease running when the train stop is finished. It can be expected to lose money consistently up to that point. At a conservative $12 million to fully build the stop, and projecting a bus ridership growth to 300 riders round-trip, that works out to $12,000,000/300 = $40,000 per rider and it has been pointed out more than once by Terry Hendriksen, that Ramsey and the other taxing entities in play for the project could buy each rider a nice but conservatively priced low-end Lexus for that money, and still have around $10,000 per head, cash left over.

Moreover, at an annual Metropolitan transit taxing authority $300,000 further tax tab, for three hundred riders, existing non-user Ramsey taxpayers will be accorded the joy of paying an extra $1000, per rider, per year, for the benefit to them of having those riders pay less than it takes to make the thing pay for itself, ticketwise.

What a deal. And PiPress reports the shiny new thing is set to be completed, when? Read it, it says,

The station is projected to boost Northstar line ridership by about 10 percent, much of it coming from riders who currently take the Ramsey Star Express bus, which will be discontinued when the station is ready.

[...] In addition to St. Cloud, there has been discussion of constructing a Coon Rapids/Foley station and more recently a stop in Becker.

The time isn't right for any of those, Look said, adding that Northstar first needs to increase ridership to 4,500 daily before Metro Transit - the owner and operator of Northstar - would consider extending the line to St. Cloud. Currently, ridership is hovering around 2,450 people daily.

In the meantime, attention will be focused on marketing the rail service and getting the Ramsey station up and running. The station is anticipated to open in late fall of 2012.

Boosting 2500 riders ten percent is 250 riders, so my 300 rider scenario has an optimistic bias.

Isn't it great? Dump $40,000/rider into capital, all paid from taxes at one or another level of government, and then add an annual hit of $1000 per rider for sweeping out the station, and what have you got? Answer: You have a boondoggle that will be conveniently opened election time, 2012, well before the ramp-rental-wrap will splat out, and those up for reelection will beat their chests Tarzan style touting "how great it is."

Wait and watch. That is exactly how it will shake out and Ben Dover will be on his perch across the street from city hall, always smiling, no matter what. And the veterans needing clinic attention will drive because the thing with its spiffy stop only runs during morning and evening rush hour, to/from downtown, and either the vets drive or hang around Ramsey all day (for a half-hour appointment) and sit, spit, and listen to and feel the trains rumbling by. How great it is.