consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

James Norman. Sentencing will be soon for Albert Lea offenses. A Wayback Machine screenshot, for then and now. [UPDATE - Sentencing was on schedule, read update details.]



I remember that board thing that John Feges or the Feges folks prepared for Norman, and he had his official Ramsey mug shot posed with it as background. I found that board offensive.

Sentencing reported: Electronic home monitoring, 90 days; severe probation terms if the following applies for the full reported five year probation:

Under [Mower County District Court Judge Fred] Wellmann's order, Norman will not be allowed to obtain employment or act in a nonemployment capacity that requires him to be a fiduciary for any other person. He was ordered to serve 100 hours of Sentence to Service or community work service and must also obtain a mental health evaluation.

In the hallway after the sentencing, Norman said he was disappointed in the sentence and noted that he “can’t seem to catch a break.”

It has been reported that an appeal was planned, but today's report noted, "He declined to comment on a possible appeal."

RAMSEY - Flaherty and Collins and the rental ramp wrap by the loud tracks, in exurban settings. The debunking of mythologies of catalysis.

The key question to the FC proposal in Ramsey should not be will it rent. Surely that is a key consideration, since Ramsey Town Center is not downtown Indianapolis where a big new rental adventure might not have been viable without officials requiring ramp parking to not add to existing urban parking pressures, and then there was a property tax subsidy which FC contends in offering equity participation in the Cosmopolitan is assignable, running with the land.

All the demographics differ in Ramsey, and with a miniscule rental base in the town, it's a lot of guesswork and risk.

However the key question, over all others, is whether the "catalyst" and "momemtum" talk is real or a hope, hype, or a hoax.

Check prior Crabgrass posts. There are links indicating that the Cosmopolitan has mucho housing occupancy with FC being able to jack up the rents on lease renewals, being landlords it is what they do for sport, and yet the "ground floor opportunity" the shop and restaurant space at Cosmopolitan takes gas. E.g., this link, reporting

Another selling point is the potential for rent growth of 6 percent or more per year, given the high demand for Cosmopolitan apartments.

Flaherty has been bumping up rent rates, which range from $1,000 up to $2,500, as terms expire, and would charge more initially for new units in a second phase, Jim Crossin, the company's vice president of development, told IBJ in February.

The first phase of Cosmopolitan had been set for completion by 2009, but a devastating fire in March 2009 delayed the opening by about a year.

The 16,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor of Cosmopolitan has been less of an overnight success, though the branding and advertising firm Three-Sixty Group agreed in February to take about 5,000 square feet and move from its current home in the Century Building.

Emphasis added. Track record counts. Track record is that over a year's experience in an attractive locale, the rental housing rented to beat gang busters, but in that year only 5000 square feet occupancy, finally after a half year of total vacancy (5000 out of 16000 available means slightly over a 2/3 remaining vacancy rate) is to be shown for the ground floor commercial occupancy catalysis that directly overhead rental allegedly, if you suspend disbelief and buy into the propaganda, "catalyzes." Never mind down the street at Town Center rental, it is drop-down and shop space at Cosmo. No winter walk. No rain, nor wind, nor dark of night.

Clearly - The rental success in Indianapolis did NOT catalyze jack at the lower floor, where the stuff existing Ramsey residents want, shops and restaurants, are NOT materializing.

Four pictures worth five thousaand words. Why do you suppose FC's Cosmo ground floor store fronts look like this?

Cosmo: Main retail area entrauce.

Cosmo: Street level exterior 

Cosmo: Last pic, detail, ... FOR LEASE

Cosmo: Main retail entry, detail.

(as always click a thumbnail image to enlarge and view) Storefront windows are not showing you how you can see incredibly neat, attractive store window merchandise to entice you inside. The windows are as they are because you are not encouraged to walk past and look in and see a row of ground floor empty spaces suggesting, what, besides a colossal retail-rental failure?

We are experienced. The one sign says RETAIL SPACE FOR LEASE, and in Ramsey we have seen FOR LEASE enough to know its meaning. Again, go figure.

With the Cosmopolitan as experience, FC did not want to even include a paltry 3000 square feet of commercial in the ramp-wrap adventure in Ramsey by the rails. What does that mean?

Go figure. To my mind, it means the "catalyzing momentum" stuff is pure hoax, or to be less judgmental, more hope than probability.

This high risk thing, ramping up the ramp another story or two, and wrapping it with schlock, may (against my crystal ball saying loudly "Failure prone" and "Very, very, very risky") work, as cash flow producing rental. I would not want to live rabbit-hutch style there, viewing the trade-off for dense shared wall being locale ambience vs. space and distance from others.

Ramsey has much potential in the latter category, the ability to provide large lot space.

Ramsey has zippo to offer as locale ambience that would offset a sacrifice of rabbit-hutch housing. It's not there. Define "culture" in Ramsey? Snow mobile trails? What? The little silly racing thing that the council's been considering? Diamonds? Junior soccer is not likely a luxury rental occupant's first priority. And will it be luxury.

BOTTOM LINE: Flaherty and Collins has justification for wanting to leverage the ramp-wrap by the rails, and to consider it a risk based on no history of any such adventuring to use to guage likelihoods of success or failure, and to also limit its exposure to downside outcomes. Hence, in their position it makes all the sense in the world to say, "Ramsey, town of, if you want this thing for whatever your reasons and hopes are, you carry the lion's share of the risk."

BOTTOM BOTTOM LINE: If it fails, what will be the appearance to the world and the metro region of Ramsey wisdom and reliance, and how will it affect things after the market has rebounded but where locales will continue to compete chasing the illusive goosing up of tax base in excess of cost of servicing the new residents' needs and expectations of local government.

BOTTOM BOTTOM BOTTOM LINE: If the ramp-wrap rental by the rails gets built, and the rental cash flow is stupendous because of high occupancy and ability to command high per square foot rates, will that catalyze momentum for anything actually desired by existing Ramsey residents who gain zippo from crowded traffic situations adjacent to Highway 10, and on it.

There are far, far, far too many contingent hopes to justify putting city millions into this super dumb idea. To borrow a phrase, the entire thing is weapons-grade stupid.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Anonymous comment left on earlier post. Flaherty & Collins intent to sell its Indiana Cosmopolitan project, was a CBRE talking point prior to May 2011.

Hat tip on comment to this post. This link, this screenshot on the FC - Cosmo:

Someone is better at finding online information than I am. The hope is that agents of City of Ramsey were as astute as this anonymous person, and loyally reported clearly material information as agents should, as negotiatons were ongoing, and the participation capability of FC in Ramsey was a point of discussion.

This would relate to Cronk in particular, and to Landform, via Cronk's involvement with Landform's people, ostensibly on behalf of Ramsey.

Can any reader help? Is the commercial market one where properties are shopped to known specific buyers, with arms-length negotiation; or is a listing taken, advertised, and there is passive waiting? My take from the entire linked item, the marketing people for big ticket know the players on both sides.

Final question, what's a reasonable time to wait in expectation that a sale will be closed on the Cosmo/Canal property on terms favorable to FC getting liquidity to participate in Ramsey without city cash risks?

A corollary question -- Would it not be proper, given the Ramsey deal is hanging fire and the ramp expansion question is contingent, that Ramsey ask about the offer-negotiation history FC has had, and what if anything has been turned down as a deal in Indianapolis at the same time the representations of needing Ramsey to risk up to eight million in a second position were being advanced? Second corollary question -- If a reasonable offer was spurned, and Ramsey was asked to put itself into new risk ways and means, what is to be inferred?

While I can ask questions, either they remain moot, or somebody decides to pursue answers. It would have to be city officials or agents, on behalf of the city - and it is fully proper and prudent to say, "The request was we put up to eight million bonding at risk on a private sector deal, by taking a high-risk position - a second lien, and at nominal interest in terms of the risk and selling land at its acquisition price hence a wash there, what's the story, were we being played as if a pack of exurban rubes unknowing of ways of diligence, ready for a fleecing?"

Ramsey Ward 4. A city hall lobby reception honoring Dave Jeffrey. CANDIDATE LIST (The "change of heart" grace period ended yesterday, 4:30 pm.)

JEFFREY RECEPTION: 6:15 pm is the time for the "coffee and cake" reception for Dave, in the lobby by council chambers.

THE WARD 4 CANDIDATES: With the filing deadline last Friday, and the grace period expiring yesterday, the City Clerk should be posting the final candidates for the Ward 4 vacancy that Dave's resignation opened, for the remainder of his term. There will be no primary, with election details, precinct info, absentee info, etc., online here.

Same online link, just posted moments ago, the Ward 4 candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

Brenda Look
5635 - 142nd Avenue NW
Ramsey, MN 55303
[ciy transcribed from candidate's filing form - the ...@gmail is an
inactive address - the brenda@... is from candidate's website]

Sarah Strommen
14546 Krypton Street NW
Ramsey, MN 55303

Thomas J. Towberman
14991 Waco Street NW
Ramsey, MN 55303

Tim Wrenn
14712 Fluorine Street NW
Ramsey, MN 55303

Look email updated on city website, here. NOTE if the NoScript security addon is used in the Firefox browser, none of the email addresses show on the city's election page, (unless scripts are toggled to be allowed on the page). It caused me confusion, it might confuse others.

Today's late evening HRA meeting - two agenda pages. Timing uncertainty of the start of the meeting suggests watching the broadcast is as good as being there for members of the public.

Click a thumbnail to enlarge and read:

I did not attend the meeting after attending the Dave Jeffrey reception before the meeting to say hello to Dave and wish him well for myself and family. Subsequent to the council/HRA meetings I was told that on motion of HRA chair Elvig, a council majority supported passing a resolution to wait at least 60 days while negotiations continued, with an intervening meeting or two possible depending on events and negotiations. Prior to the HRA vote by the council members, in the regular council meeting a majority voted to expand the parking ramp, the intent for expansion being the dedication of parking spaces in the ramp to renters in the rental project, should it actually be built. It appears that parking spaces will be dedicated at no per-space cost to the Flaherty-Collins thin LLC that will likely be involved; it being a cost-free FC subsidy.

Location, location, location.

Flaherty and Collins, their ramp-wrap-rental in Indianapolis - the Cosmopolitan by the Canal - akin to what might happen in Ramsey (click the thumbnail images to enlarge):

Downtown, Cosmopolitan by the Canal - Indianapolis location:

Downtown Town Center has a diffeent ambiance. Arguably, the high rent Gestalt is absent.

Monday, June 27, 2011

RAMSEY: The latest info I could find about Flaherty and Collins listing their Cosmopolitan on the Canal rental adventure in Indianapolis with the local CB Richard Ellis commercial brokerage.

First the fact of there being a listing was made public on or before the morning of June 21, with the online reporting, here, time-stamped "6:32 AM, Jun. 21, 2011." That means several days before that the listing details had to have been finalized. Just putting together the slide-show propaganda at the top of the CBRE page, here, had to take time - even if those are all stock photos, arranging the dog-pony presentation would have been a chore. Reader comments to the StarIndy item, online here.

Here is a screenshot, split into two parts for easier reading, freezing one image in the top-of-webpage-slideshow the realtor has online (click to enlarge and read):

You get the drift. If you want the slideshow, this link.

I don't know if it's specifically to hide stuff from Ramsey snoops, but CBRE, the realtor, requires that you sign a "confidentiality agreement" in order to get offering documents:

Well, I cannot post offering documents, I decline to sign, but I bet Bray or Goodrich could get offering papers on request, on behalf of Ramsey due diligence, and may have them already by now.

Here, you can toggle to download the confidentiality agreement and "offering brochure," a four-page el slicko propaganda piece on how great the Cosmo is and will be, without making any substantial representations of present fact, but with a photo montage.

So, what did CBRE know and when did they know it? What did Ramsey's agents [through Landform], Lazan and Cronk know and when did they know it?

I have no answers.

I bet Bray and Goodrich could get answers, however, and perhaps already have on behalf of my city whose wealth and income are things I would like protected by prudent inquiry followed by informed discussion involving the mayor and city administrator, the HRA chairman, but not so much of the council as to be a closed meeting in violation of the open meeting law (although regarding pending dealings there is an exception and the entire council/HRA could participate in a closed session - I would think). They have gone into closed session previously, they know the ground rules.

BOTTOM LINE: If they, Flaherty & Collins, can succeed in raising liquidity from the Cosmopolitan then bless them, for it means they can finance their Ramsey adventuring without the city's wealth and income stream being placed at great inopportune risk -- precisely as it should be since a city is a city, not a bank.

Ancillary info: Summer 2010, Flaherty-Collins brochures a meeting, with ending notice of the Cosmopolitan opening; and now Summer 2011, they are searching for liquidity from it. This link, ending.

It was not easy for me to ferret out the listing, on the CBRE website, since I could not find any press release or news posting about the listing. I found a CBRE - FC business dealings history exists, e.g., here. Also, here and here.

Apartment market doldrums, here, but with a thought happy days might be here again, around the corner, near-term.

Finally there is a Matt Flaherty, and there's somewhat of a facial resemblance, here; with CBRE in Colorado, while one agent representing Flaherty & Collins is identified here. The agents of CBRE representing FC and its Cosmo hopes, are identified in documents for which I have already supplied links. The appearance is the lead agent is the one identified on p.2 of the confidentiality agreement, a short thing, not presented with the first page image, above.

Readers are asked to email or add a comment if there are any bad links or other problems with the post. I have written it in haste, the lawn's approaching eight inches by being halfway there, and I do not want to breach any authoritarian ordinances so -- Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, off to mow I go. Enjoy.

I sat through a bit more of the slide show for the marketing, and they have location. They have a view of downtown, rather than propane tanks and RV sales outlets on Highway 10; and are on a scenic quiet canal, not a busy loud freight train track, where counting coal cars or tank cars could be a way to challenge insomnia from the noise.

__________FURTHER UPDATE_________
A slinging exercise, don't use a trowell to lay it on, use a large shovel; from here:

The acquisition of Cosmopolitan on the Canal presents the truly unique opportunity to acquire what is unequivocally the city’s finest residential asset.

Cosmopolitan on the Canal is a core, flagship urban community in Indianapolis’ thriving and progressive downtown, with best-of-class features and finishes. The property is well-positioned to take advantage of a palpable demand for ultra-premium luxury urban rental housing in the urban core while offering several untapped revenue enhancement strategies.

Okay, a transposition of a bit along the longitude and latitude, try this on for size:

The acquisition of a second lien position on the Ramp Wraparound Rental Residence at the tracks in Ramsey presents the truly unique opportunity to acquire what is unequivocally a junior lien on the city’s finest residential asset.

The Ramp Wraparound Rental Residence at the tracks in Ramsey is a COR, flagship urban community in Ramsey's thriving and progressive Town Center, with best-of-class features and finishes. The property is well-positioned to take advantage of a palpable demand for ultra-premium luxury urban rental housing in the urban COR while offering several untapped revenue enhancement strategies.

Imagine what, a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid train robbery romping room for the youngsters? A four-locomotive wall mural, showing that power needed to hump the Rockies and reach the west coast with goods and containers, and to return, with same, new varieties, small flag lapel pins and hand held US flags, Made in China. Other essentials.

That stuff the realtor cooked, probably with Flaherty and Collins having a word or two on wording, is slinging it further than the bull or horse could, or ever did. They kept to their pasture, and did it naturally, no hot air added as puffing, but a valid straight from the gut presentation.

RAMSEY: Filings closed Friday for the Ward 4 special election to be held in August.

See the city website, here, for election general info, but with candidate detail yet to be posted.

ABC newspapers reported last week before filings closed that at least four had filed:

David Jeffrey, who is battling pancreatic cancer, resigned May 31.

Candidates have until Friday, June 24 to file and paid the $5 filing fee.

As of today (June 23), four people have filed.

Brenda Look, 5635 142nd Ave. N.W.

• former Councilmember Sarah Strommen, 14546 Krypton St. N.W.

Thomas J. Towberman, 14991 Waco St. N.W.

Tim Wrenn, 14712 Fluorine St. N.W.

This link for more of the ABC report.

There will be a short period where filed candidates can withdraw. I did the file-withdraw thing last election, it is a five-dollar fee to file, and I withdrew because I did not really want to campaign and serve at that time. I was satisfied that the primary included people I could support.

This special election will be without a primary, so all filing individuals who do not exercise the opportunity to withdraw will have their names on the special election ballot.

Certainly a filed candidate can later publicly indicate a change-of-mind, but that will not strike the name from the ballot.


I know nothing of Towberman or Wrenn. I believe Towberman ran previously against Jeffrey, but am unsure about that. I am unaware if others besides those four filed subsequent to the ABC report.

Normal protocol is for the City Clerk on the website - elections subpage - to post names and contact for all candidates remaining after the withdrawal period, so that should be posted sometime this week.

Look: Brenda Look appears to be wedded to the idea of pushing the Town Center string - per the attempt to resuscitate that CORpse.

The City of Ramsey’s HRA owns 150 acres of land located near City Hall. This land (The COR) is the key to the financial future and stability for Ramsey. Increasing the commercial tax base will offset the taxes needed to be collected from citizens and provide us with services, employment, and enjoyment.

Big surprise, the mayor endorses her, (as does her spouse and Dustin Reeder, the guy who did her campaign website). The flavor is strongly ultra-right-wing GOP at first sight. We may learn more. I have no knowledge of what qualifications Look offers, in terms of education, public sector experience, or private sector experience. She touts Matt's sign printing home-business operation as, "small business owner," but beyond that I have no knowledge. Other than, "Matt's wife," I need to learn more.

This Link. Find a Democrat or IP person on that Page. 

Strommen: Sarah Strommen would add to the institutional memory on council, where all (except Elvig) have not served a full term; and where only Elvig's term of service exceeds Strommen's council service. Each was elected to council 2002, with Strommen interrupting her service while she and Jon expanded their family with the birth of their son, William. Strommen served two terms, a full six years, finishing a full term beginning 2004, and having a two-year term when the Ward system was instituted in 2002, (where the remaining two at large seat terms were staggered). She did not seek reelection in 2008.

Strommen was on council when James Norman left, and when Kurt Ulrich was selected to replace him as lead administrator. On staff, Kapler, Way, Olson, Lund, Thieling, and Nelson predate Strommen's council service, as does Goodrich as city attorney; but all of those people have implementation duty with policy making being the council's power and function.

Strommen earned her master's degree from Duke if I remember correctly, and besides having council experience she has extensive employment history in the private sector, primarily regarding environmental advocacy and public lands.


I am unaware if Dave Jeffrey has any viewpoint about possible successor candidates for the remainder of his Ward 4 term. He has not told me of any, nor have I pressed him about it. I am outside of that Ward and have no vote.

Readers valuing Dave's viewpoint, particularly those who reside in Ward 4 and would be voting, should ask Dave.


ABC Newspapers traditionally allows candidate viewpoints to be published, fairly with set questions and word-count limited responses; but has the vexing precedent of not posting that helpful voter-oriented information online. Buy the print edition or remain in the dark.

Because of that I might take that identical approach, with a Crabgrass opportunity for each of the candidates to define himself or herself, (in some balanced and controlled fashion with specific questions and word count limits, but without any editorial interference [including grammar and spell-checking]). My questions may differ in some details from those of ABC, so that even those buying the print edition with candidate statements might learn more, if I do solicit and post responses. I have not made any firm decision to do that yet.

RAMSEY - ANOKA COUNTY -- ABC Newspapers reports on traffic signal plans for Alpine and Sunfish Lake Blvd. intersection.

Contract for Sunfish Lake/Alpine signal project awarded
Government, News - Sat., June 25, 2011 7:04 am by Peter Bodley

A contract for a traffic signal and roadway improvements at the intersection of Sunfish Lake Boulevard (County Road 57) and Alpine Drive in Ramsey has been awarded by the Anoka County Board.

The low bid from Forest Lake Contracting was $1,250,426.89, which was well under the engineer’s estimate of $1,575,375.65.

According to Doug Fischer, county highway engineer, a federal highway safety grant will pay 90 percent of the project cost with the county and the city of Ramsey sharing the remainder of the cost. [more]

It may be coincidence, but bids for a possible Ramsey ramp enlargement [vertically] also were under city engineering department estimates. I am unaware whether the city has committed to enlarge the ramp or whether that question remains pending. I believe there is a split on council on whether this step should be taken at this time. That step, if taken, would involve a large grant amount also, but whether it is direct local property tax or indirect channeling of federal or state tax income, it is still tax money being spent for public works.

One can question the purposes of government, whether providing parking for a private venture is proper. It certainly is beyond the traditional norms of roads, storm water control, sewer, and water. It can be characterized as a developer subsidy, and how much subsidy and what kinds is a current Ramsey question regarding the questionable rental ramp wrap proposal where some might think such a private sector adventure should be funded by the private sector. The council does not seem to be thinking that way, however, despite the gang of four, mayor, Wise, Elvig and McGlone being active in Repubican political circles. At least two, mayor and McGlone, possibly others on council, were delegates in the last nomination of Emmer to run for Governor. Mixing private sector gambles and extensive public subsidy, when governments are strained to provide basic traditional services, seems in conflict with some of the GOP rhetoric. And it is watch what we do, rather than listen to what we say, as a guiding principle voters should have learned by now.

Jason Tossey representing Ramsey Ward 3 seems to be voting in line with a limited government libertarian viewpoint, and I believe he may have also been a GOP delegate convening at the Emmer selection, although I am uncertain of that.

My understanding is the Monday, June 27, RAMSEY HRA Special Meeting has been cancelled.

Readers are urged to confirm this meeting cancellation for themselves, and not to rely upon my understandings. The city's phone receptionist should during the day be able to provide reliable confirmation. There may be info on the city website Monday, or those on the email meeting agenda list may get details emailed to them.

The presumption is that when dotting "i's" and crossing "t's" in late stages of negotiations (even in situations where relatively small amounts of wealth may be put at risk), details tend to show themselves in ways that earlier had a less consequential appearance. Or that earlier were unknown. This is the stage where a bad deal can flip, and a good one consolidate. There are a million reasons and ways a deal can be bad, from the fundamental risk picture being bad - my view of the Ramsey ramp rental wrap - to uncertaities that suggest postponement might be prudent even if a deal does not flip. Due diligence is an all-along thing but the stage of double and triple checking something can often disclose detail overlooked previously. Overlooking things from one side to the other can be intended or negligent, but if questions arise they need to be nailed down.

Work Sessions. Presumably what would have been an interesting Monday session before formal televised Tuesday meetings will now be consolidated into the Tuesday work sessions, sequentially the council as such, and the council as HRA, in parallel to the meetings that happen later and are televised.

The work sessions ARE public meetings and earlier in the day so that late evening situations can be avoided by citizens who visit the work session and then view a rebroadcast of the latest of happenings in the formal HRA session, which for some reason has been made second in agenda despite it being the present seat of the city's most serious conduct of affairs.

So, attend the Tuesday work session to know what will be happening later on television.

In the past, under other councils with other wills, work sessions were televised so that citizens could see more of their government in action without any added inconvenience. And now the inconvenience of attending work sessions is greater for most of Ramsey's people - city hall is no lnoger centralized as when it was on Hwy 5 opposite Ramsey Elementary, and now there is getting through a bunch of new traffic lights to the now not centralized city hall, and driving the speed-patrolled Sunwood Drive in Town Center where, and this is laudable, there is not the deliberate speed trap mentality one sees in Champlin. Ramsey has not taken on the appearance of having the public safety function tasked to turn a profit from traffic surveillance.

That is good.

Now if city officials could collectively have a bit more of a hoarder's instincts with public cash flow dollars - not obsessive, but prudent. And not regarding little-ticket salary situations here or there - but with the multi-million big ticket risks that may waylay them.

And there should be extreme caution over the fees to outside privatized planning, where if nothing else, an objective cost-benefit connection with reality is prudent. Keeping a due focus upon what is a track record vs. what is said or suggested or forecast out of advisory guesses aimed at "informing" known council member hopes, is what I mean by "connection with reality."

There is a fiduciary duty in informing, and it is a most necessary thing that the flow of material information is not filtered but conveyed, with the ultimate decision maker to be best informed of downside facts suggesting caution as well as upside possibility being touted.

The American Law Institute produces "Restatements" of various areas of law, in part to sell them to lawyers and law libraries, but focused mainly upon trying to show the unity and diversity tensions between different States' approaches in differing situations. They are not online, but the Anoka County Law Library has a complete set of Restatement 2d of Agency; which at its Section 381 addresses the general rule and nuances where an agent has “a duty to use reasonable efforts to give his principal information which is relevant to affairs entrusted to him and which, as the agent has notice, the principal would desire to have.” Restatement (Second) of Agency §387 further explains an agent's duty of absolute loyalty, “to act solely for the benefit of the principal in all matters connected with his agency.” Conflicting goals of an agent cannot preempt this basic requirement. It is called a fiduciary duty with the word having the same Latin derivation for "trust" and "loyalty" as the cartoon dog, "Fido," who may chase cats or bark at the mailman but does not willingly bite the hand that feeds him.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ramsey Town Center branch of Bank of Elk River will be permanently closed, July 20.

It saddens me because I like to be able to visit the bank to withdraw cash while shopping, and that will be no more. I had not been paying attention, but saw this morning that Saturday hours are suspended now, and the security screening around the teller space had the notice posted about July 20.

If a branch is not producing enough a decision has to be made. It is unfortunate.

Another bank - sorry that is no answer for me, because this is the one I bank at and have been doing so since I moved to Minnesota.

The Main Street branch in downtown Elk River has ordinary banking hours.

Now, the Elk River Walmart outlet is the best option, having seven day open hours.

(I suppose I could try the "Bank of Ramsey" at city hall but they are not retail. Their focus is to dole cash by the millions, yet I do not qualify. I have no dubious more-likely-to-fail-than-not pipe-dream promotion to hang off some existing building in Clown Center, the numero uno "here take our cash" priority of Bank of Ramsey.)

Had there been a more vibrant city focus on promoting retail-commercial-restaurant instead of rental housing, it is possible the branch might have fared better with more activity around it, but Town Center's been what it is.

Rely on Elk River. Rely on Riverdale. Rely on the Walmart branch.

Instead of rebranding the doomed-from-the-start failure "The COR" a more fitting name would be "That Place on Highway Ten Between Anoka and Elk River." Insufficient retail catalyst momentum strikes again. Deja vu. Here is wishing the bank and its surviving branches lasting success. They gave Ramsey Town Center a try. Town Center failed them, not vice versa.

RAMSEY - Flaherty and Collins. If the council does it, against good reason as I view it, an assignment of rents seems crucial.

The first lien position lender, if the Ramsey ramp rental wrap deal does not flip [my preference] will be PNC of Pittsburgh, PA. I know of no cause to view them as anything but a class-act bank, surviving the real estate bubble and credit crunch, and conservatively prudent. Which is why they would limit lending on the ramp wrap.

If Flaherty-Collins is illiquid, i.e., cash poor, and spreading money from project to project to keep debt serviced on all their multiple adventures, as suggested by wanting to sell an interest in the Indianapolis Cosmopolitan project, then a danger, if the ramp wrap happens, would be their wanting to spread cash flow from Ramsey to other places, possibly to the disadvantage of the second lien position.

That is why an assignment of rents is crucial for Ramsey.

First, Ramsey would be behind an assignment of rents for the benfit of the first position. PNC is no pack of fools.

However, with PNC being in Pittsburgh, and if our city makes the questionable decision to get into real estate banking without a banking license or any practice or experience in banking, then, however, a local oversight will be present to protect the out-of-state lender interests - something PNC should like, because a second lien holder has incentive to protect servicing of both the first and the second position.

That means PNC could reasonably be assured that in order to not lose all, the second lien holder [Ramsey if they do the thing], would be local "police" over the ramp-wrap's rental cash flows. Given how the deal has so far been checked out by Ramsey, at least what's public, there is uncertainty of how thinly spread FC is over its empire, an empire most likely subject to a host of mortgage responsibilities at multiple places nationwide. That means an active policing would be required and contracting, if any, should be written accordingly, with Bray being a sound attorney for that, if duly instructed and not told to be lax to make a bad deal happen.

Yet, the policing of cash flows and servicing of a first and second lien does not seem to be a Ramsey council priority, again they have no banking license nor experience in protective security for lending. Would they be up to the job? They should either rely on the new TIF guy, or hire the expertise, apart from any firm with a conflicted position such as Landform, which gets commission money to push deals, not to police interests or to suggest city cautions.

Presuming adequate supervision is maintained, by Ramsey's CFO Lund and Ra,sey's new TIF employee, and suitable retained agents, the PNC position should be confident of being serviced if the second position has a right to expeditiously intervene to receive and handle rents if either the first or second servicing goes into default.

If the second lien holder does not protect the servicing of the first lien, the second can end up foreclosed out of any interest. There thus is strong incentive for a second to assure the PNC first position does not go into default, and if it does to step in immediately and take over rent cash flows to cure default and assure servicing.

Hence, if the bad deal is nonetheless approved by the council, and if it insists on taking a strong assignment of rents position, it should be empolwered to step in and take over the rental cash flow if either the first or second lien position goes into default; with other standard loan protections in place also, but that's Bray's concern. The assignment of rents is critical to protecting any second position, and since Flaherty and Collins has no present intent to NOT service a first and second position, they should have no legitimate basis to want to decline an assignment. They do intend to pay properly, don't they?

The big gamble, however, is clear.

If the thing is as big a fiasco as I anticipate, the rental cash flow will be inadequate to service first and second liens, it will be a loser, and the North Carolina bankruptcies show how prompt Flaherty and Collins is in bailing out on a loser. And if they assert it was not a prompt bailout but a lengthy attempt at a workout, history is history, and reporting is that the two principals, Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Collins only incurred personal losses of about a million each on first position limited personal guarantees, while those prepurchasing a condo dream from the two adventurers' thin LLC shell collectively lost $7.2 million.

Flaherty and Collins, together and each separately, are most concerned with personal wealth and its advancement and protection, and while that is understandable there is zippo reason that City of Ramsey should bow and scrape to such a predilection. The city council's duty is to protect the city, not two dudes from Indiana, against loss.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RAMSEY - Flaherty and Collins. The time may not be ripe to prematurely or unwisely commit city cash now. The entrepreneurs may soon be able to put more of their own wealth at risk.

It is likely Flaherty and Collins are looking to gain liquidity back in Indiana. Hat tip to an anonymous comment to an earlier post.

If so that would mean either or both of the gentlemen could put more of their own money into their Ramsey Town Center gamble, so taxpayers do not get raw.

If mid-July is their bailout date, give them until then to work to gain liquidity since, after all, it is their deal, not Ramsey's.

How the private sector is supposed to work: You seek rewards, you take consequent risks, and it is done 100% by the entrepreneurs and their bankers.

Why not be conventional GOP this time, for a change at the council table? Sit tight. See if there is more liquidity roused up in Indiana.

The Indiana guys, bottom line,
their gamble should be with their money.
Not Ben's or yours.

An afterthought: Surely Cronk and Lazan did their best to inform Ramsey officials of this latest development because Flaherty & Collins wanting to generate more liquid capital is clearly highly relevant to expectations on the Ramsey ramp-wraparound rental. Surely that was a known factor to all Ramsey participants in conference calls and meetings with the Pittsburgh lender FC intends to use for a first [hopefully only] lien position. The article refers to "offering materials" in reporting, and offering materials take time to produce and apparently are out now in finalized form:

Offering materials note the Cosmopolitan's upscale health and fitness center, yoga and pilates studio, salt-water infinity pool and grilling area, indoor/outdoor aqua lounge and attached parking garage with 342 spaces.

Surely the effort of counterparties to gain liquidity has been known to Cronk, Lazan, or both well before now so that this is not yet another press surprise for those in Ramsey government dealing with Flaherty & Collins. Yet what is puzzling is, knowing of such a liquidity effort, the Ramsey officialdom seems intent to prematurely force a question of Ramsey putting money into the ramp-wrap-rental now instead of seeing whether Flaherty & Collins hooks a fish.

I do not understand this but I anticipate a full explanation will be aired among officials at the Monday, June 27, 7pm special meeting [untelevised]. For it to not be a topic of clear and thorough discussion then would raise or at least allow uncertainties. Surely by the Monday meeting offering materials will have been looked at by lawyers Bray and Goodrich, or at least one of them, to review all potential implications in them that might impact Ramsey's situation. With millions at issue, diligence is due. Dimensions of this offering are material facts impacting the wherewithal and willingness of the Flaherty & Collins principals to self-finance in Ramsey, and how such wherewithal and willingness should be regarded by our officials.

Add candor, to wherewithal and willingness, as things to consider.

Hat tip again to an anonymous comment, giving this link. I had known of that item and had intended to post about it, got lazy, and this jogs the process. Old news can be helpful news. The report is about a Flaherty & Collins North Carolina bankruptcy previously mentioned in Crabgrass, here. The item is lengthy and well written, so read it for detail I omit -- However, please allow me to focus first on the part of the entire thing that grabs me tightly.

Failed Charlotte skyscraper brings Indianapolis developer back to earth
Greg Andrews - IBJNEWS - November 7, 2009

[...] The project—dubbed 210 Trade—would have been the tallest residential building in the Carolinas, with more floors than any building in the region except the Charlotte headquarters of Bank of America Corp.

But now the only thing spectacular about the unfinished project is the extent of the financial losses. Last month, Flaherty & Collins’ Charlotte FC LLC filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in Indianapolis, listing liabilities of $53 million and assets of just $197,492.

[...] Charlotte FC had planned to build 48 floors on top of a retail portion of EpiCentre. It owns “air rights” required for its project, as well as part of a parking garage.

But it already appears clear there won’t be nearly enough money to satisfy the entire $31 million owed to Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, the secured creditor first in line for repayment.

That likely leaves nothing for the other secured creditor, locally based House Investments, which is owed $6 million. The outlook is even bleaker for unsecured creditors, who are owed $15 million.

[...] The infusion from House Investments had helped Flaherty & Collins secure financing for the project four years ago without having to meet stiff pre-sale requirements that have scuttled many condo projects around the country, [...]

House and its investors provide what are known as mezzanine loans—high-interest financing that bridges the gap between what banks are willing to lend and what investors contribute in equity. Tim McGinley, the company’s founder and principal, did not return calls.

[...] Charlotte FC said it negotiated for seven months with a lender that would provide additional financing needed to finish the project, but it ultimately backed out because of “the unreasonable positions and delays” of Ghazi [a developer with an overlapping project, but independent of FC control].

Ghazi, on the other hand, contends that David Flaherty and Jerry Collins, principals of the firm, refused to consider financing options that would have required them to personally guarantee debt.

It contends the pair weren’t willing to put equity into the project, “thereby resulting in Charlotte FC being woefully undercapitalized and preventing Charlotte FC from obtaining adequate construction financing.”

That’s absolutely false, said Stephen Lee, a Barnes & Thornburg partner representing Charlotte FC. He said David Flaherty and Jerry Collins did guarantee U.S. Bank debt and each is going to end up losing more than $1 million.


That's enough for me. Not people a Minnesota city should do business with, in my view.

By itself this report causes that reaction -- but couple it with this report, innocent regular citizen people got hosed for $7.2 million while the two honcho promoters of the thing, Flaherty himself, Collins himself, lost far, far less - $5 million less, per reporting.

And where did that citizen prepaid cash go? I have not seen that little hummer of a question answered in any reporting. Flaherty website info is the firm runs both a management affiliate and a construction affiliate, but whether any such affiliation was used to attain project funds has not been answered in reporting I have seen, nor asked by Ramsey officials, again per any reporting of which I am aware.

Five million dollars. Poof. Gone. Disappeared. Somewhere. Rather than hear excuses or explanations what I'd want to hear is the door closing behind them as they leave Ramsey for good, with Ramsey's fisc being unimpaired by pulling back.

And - what after that cruncher are other troubling facts:

1- The two Indianapolis promoters used a shell LLC to insulate themselves and their extended empire from extended loss, in this case something called "Charlotte FC LLC." That is an FC pattern, i.e., with the shell LLC in other ventures also having the initials "FC" somewhere in naming.

2- As in Ramsey a second position was involved because the FC principals were unwilling or unable to put in sufficient equity to get by with their stake and a single first position lender.

3- The second position took gas, big time, for millions. But it was reported as a high interest rate bridge. Have you seen any interest rate mentioned for Ramsey for the ramp-wrap, in anything near congruence to a suitable rate-sized-to-risk range for such a risky second position? I have not, but I saw a suggestion that if there's initial default unpaid cash just gets rolled into the principal, it growing and growing until some halting point I do not remember. And that's yesterday's proposed terms, where citizens have yet to learn today's.

4- The two Indiana gentlemen appear to have not given personal guarantees to the Carolina first position holder, never mind that it is the second that is at risk and should nail down personal guarantees and an automatic assignment of rents if there's a default on the first or second positions, so that an ex parte court order can be attained to collect rental cash flow to assure the first is serviced so as to not fully foreclose out the second, and to assure FC does not keep hands on rent cash flows to take "fees" for management that would bleed both the first and second positions of servicing money.

5- These are the quality people Lazan of Landform brings to the table, with the Big Muddy Mayor saying, "Great, lets pop some city cash, millions, I foresee a thornless rose garden," or something like that  - not those exact words - with alleged contingency "exit strategies" in mind that have not been publicly fleshed out in any fashion whatsoever.

Trust me, okay Bob is an honest man; but Trust My Judgment, no way - it's awful judgment, it's insufficiently risk-averse to be deemed prudent mayor-think. Opinions vary.

The whole Gestalt - It makes one feel uncertain, doubtful, and concerned about Ben Dover, the Ramsey taxpayer.

Tammy Sakry reports in ABC Newspapers about the last Ramsey city council meeting.

This link. And there was citizen input, as Sakry reports in ending the item. Read about it there. Beyond that aspect, Sakry begins and explains:

Anonymous letter accuses city of corruption in The COR project

At the beginning of June, several Ramsey residents received a letter from the Citizens Summit of Ramsey Corruption. The group, whose membership remains a mystery, claims that corruption is taking place in The COR project, which is costing the taxpayers money.

The letter is full of outright lies, said Mayor Bob Ramsey at the June 14 Ramsey City Council meeting.

It has very few facts and the group did not have the “cojones” to sign it with their names, he said.

With that prelude, the report continues where citizens can distinguish "outright lies" from where hair-splitting distinctions can be made, but without any real difference:

According to the letter, the Ramsey City Council paid $6,760,000 for the vacant land once owned by the Ramsey Town Center (RTC), LLC.

In fact, the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) paid $6.75 million for 150 acres and the Minnwest Bank Central, which held the $35 million foreclosed mortgage, was required to pay $1.25 million in back taxes on the property, said Deputy City Administrator Heidi Nelson.

A $60,000 difference, less than a 1% discrepancy, reporting continuing:

Although the Citizen Summit claims the purchase costs the 6,000 Ramsey households $1,300 per household, Nelson said the group’s facts are wrong.

Ramsey has 8,100 households and the city did not issue any bonds to incur debt service to purchase the property, she said.


This may be the nub of disagreement, the report continuing:

Development manager

The anonymous letter also claims the taxpayers pay $80 per year for the city economic development director and Landform Professional Services.

According to the letter, “the city council pays about $100,000 to a director of economic development. Because of (the) COR, they now have hired a private development company – Landform – which charges the city $480,000 per year.”

The city’s economic development/marketing manager’s salary is $73,000, said Nelson.

Landform, which has been working on The COR project since 2010, receives $15,000 month for administrative fees from the HRA, which has a $375,000 levy and $10,000 in monthly incentive advancements for the first year.

“The advance on incentive compensation is deducted from incentive compensation due at the time of the (land) transaction,” Nelson said.

[...] While the letter’s claim that Landform has not sold any property in The COR in 18 months is true, there are two properties that are scheduled to close this summer.

The land sale to Flaherty and Collins for the 230-unit market rate luxury apartment complex, The Residence, is expected to close in late July and a land sale to TOTI Land Development for a 85-unit senior housing project is expected to close in August, Nelson said.

There are also approximately eight to 10 active development deals on which the Landform and the city are working, she said.

“Contracts on many of these deals are expected to come forward in the coming months,” Nelson said.

Counting chickens before they are hatched looks like eggs to me. And as widely known, Flaherty and Collins decline to buy without millions of public dollars put at risk, for their rental gamble. And their proposed building, if ever bulit, promises to be an eyesore. Reporting continues:

Flaherty and Collins

The Citizens Summit letter also highlights Flaherty and Collins Properties, its recent track record and city subsidies for The Residence.

According to the letter, the Indianapolis company “… has driven two properties into bankruptcy.”

Flaherty and Collins Properties, which has been in business since 1993 building, constructing and managing multi-family housing in nine states and has 90 properties, totaling 12,000 units, has had two projects go into bankruptcy in recent years.

In October 2009, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on a 48-story, 419-unit condo tower it was constructing in Charlotte, N.C.

It was followed seven months later when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on a 274-unit apartment complex in Raleigh, N.C.

“The bankruptcies happened at a time when real estate values deflated because of the economy and (changes in) credit market,” said Jim Crossin, Flaherty and Collins development vice president, in December 2010.

The Raleigh project had been completed, but the mortgage market situation made it difficult to get permanent financing to pay off the construction loan, even though the complex was 93 percent filled and was already making money, he said.

The project was later sold and everyone was paid, Crossin said.

Then there is the hanging cloud - the great unknown - how much will Flaherty and Collins hose the city for, in round number millions, worst case scenario. Reporting is:

City subsidies

The Citizens Summit letter also claims Landform promised Flaherty and Collins almost $8 million in subsidies for the apartment complex and a free parking lot for the residents.

The group claims the subsidy is more than $1,200 per Ramsey household.

At this time, the city has no idea how much it could be asked to subsidize as the project is still being negotiated by Flaherty and Collins and its bank, said Mayor Ramsey during the June 14 HRA meeting.

“We don’t even know if we are going to be subsidizing it yet,” he said.

It would be a bellweather statement, "We will pay no subsidy." Any bets on that secenario?

I participated in citizen input after the Nelson statement was read into the record [read it online, here, see related commentary, here]. Also providing citizen input was former council member Margaret Connolly, who did a better job of things than I did in terms of the emperor's clothes.

Again, either wait for a month until formal city meeting minutes are put online, or simply read the Sakry synopsis which is factually accurate (no matter what posted minutes may later state); this link.

Sakry also summarizes council comments in reaction to the anonymous mailing. To the effect that there have been no misdeeds. The thing was reported as frustrating to mayor and council because they worked very hard on "The COR." My take on that, hard is not necessarily smart; and as to good faith, everyone should agree that unsound judgment, alone, is not a crimes.

RAMSEY -- Flaherty and Collins. My thinking, let them build more rental on their triangle lot, downtown Indianapolis. City fathers there can pile on financing freebies. Let Ramsey say no while getting out of development speculation and back into patching roads.

This thing in Indianapolis is BUTT UGLY. Our ramp, by itself, looks better.

They made a ramp-wrap rental happen in Indianapolis, after the fire. Bless them. Let them go for more. There.

The photo is from this report. This is an excerpt:

Developer plans $24M second phase for Cosmopolitan
February 11, 2011

The developer Flaherty & Collins is finalizing plans for a second phase of Cosmopolitan on the Canal that calls for 162 more apartments, a 180-space parking garage and a small amount of retail space at a cost of about $24 million. The new section is proposed for a triangle-shaped parcel bordered by Michigan and Senate streets and Indiana Avenue, just south of the existing building.

The first apartment phase of Cosmopolitan is 100 percent leased, which suggests Flaherty could have demanded higher rents, said Jim Crossin, the company's vice president of development. [...]

The commercial space in Cosmopolitan is another story. About 12,000 square feet remain on the first floor after Flaherty last week landed its first tenant: The branding and advertising firm Three-Sixty Group has agreed to take about 5,000 square feet [...]

Flaherty, which bought the land for Cosmopolitan from OneAmerica, hopes to secure a city incentive deal and begin construction on the second phase by early 2012. [...]

There is much to learn from Indianapolis:

1- It's ugly.

2- These guys have an established Modus Operandi. Squeeze local governments for subsidies, for their own private sector rental projects. Let them do that in Indianapolis again, more of the same, there, and bless them if the city fathers there give them a great and substantial subsidy.

3- Humongo rental is PROVEN TO NOT BE A "CATALYST" FOR COMMERCIAL. From reporting about downtown Indianapolis, that fact you can take to the bank.

This is so, even for built vacant opportunities on the rental's own ground floor; and not vaguely to the north or to the west of it within an unbuilt wasteland. So what of that same experiment, in the outlands of Ramsey rather than in an established densely populated and culturally vibrant urban neighborhood bordering a university district? Go figure.

This Cosmopolitan ground floor opportunity situation probably explains Flaherty & Collins wanting to weasel out of putting even a bare 3000 sq.ft. of retail into its planned Ramsey ramp wrap. They KNOW from experinece that their stuff catalyzes nothing. This urban vacancy situation in Indianapolis seems no different from the rental/condo/whatever stuff now on the ground in downtown Elk River, an existing and real downtown and not some trucked in prefab; where retail vacancy stands out like a sore thumb.

All that "momentum" stuff and "catalyst" stuff is BS.

Cronk of Flaherty & Collins may tell Darren of Landform the opposite, but his bosses, Flaherty & Collins have on-the-ground proof that it simply has not worked as the "scenario" being touted in Ramsey aggressively argues. For all I know, Cronk may be telling Lazan that it hasn't worked, I am no part to any such conversations, but Lazan seems nonetheless to be singing mightily of catalyst momenta, whatever Cronk tells him. Whatever information source Lazan has for spinning that tale, it seems clear that FC on the ground in Indiana contradicts him. That's the news reported from Indiana, with no cause to disbelieve.

4- This hang-it-onto-the-ramp rental is NOT a shoppe, nor a restaurant, as were years ago promised to flow from Clown Center. Add that to the proven fact noted above - that ramp-wrap-rental is proven as unlikely to "catalyze" shoppes or restaurants miraculously sprouting in Town Center dirt. Put another way, we been bamboozeled from day one by those using the "shoppe" spelling in the first instance when raw land was to be sold, onward to the present, about retail, shops and restaurants - which is all that the existing people in Ramsey want and care about, and existing people in Ramsey are not in droves shouting for wanting any city co-venturing into rental development schemes with public cash.

5- When Cosmopolitan burned down, Flaherty people did rebuild. They have that track record. However this report noted:

The Cosmopolitan fire has been described as the biggest fire in Downtown Indianapolis in 20 years; it took 125 firefighters nearly 11 hours to get it under control.

To my knowledge, there has been no council thought given to the scale of possible fire threat, the adequacy of existing fire fighting size to meet such a blaze, nor to the cost of any necessary upgrade. Dean Kapler is quite capable, but has he weighed in on this, or even been asked by council to publicly express a studied opinion of the added fire risks Ramsey might face from hanging that eyesore onto the city ramp?

6- Comments to the article cited at the opening of the post, this link, are clear that citizens there, as here, are disinclined to want government subsidization of private sector gambles.

7- Article comments also suggest the demand for rental where FC built in downtown Indianapolis near a vibrant university community was pent up and substantial, factors not at all at play for such a thing out in the tules and directly next to the busiest freight hauling rail line in the state of Minnesota. Some of those coal trains from out west seem almost endless, and the land vibrates when they are passing by.

8- Nobody argues against the idea that such a ramp-wrap project might work in downtown Minneapolis or in the University district. The point is that is there and we are here, and who wants to commute miles and miles daily to Plymouth or Bloomington or elsewhere where the jobs are, and at the same time live in a humongo-costly pie-in-the-sky Ramsey rabbit hutch rental next to fast and loud night trains? Common sense has a place in all this. Paraphrasing the Jerry McGuier film, "Show me the pent-up demand." Prove to me, "Build it and they will come." That should come before "Show me the money" arises among the council savants, wanting to show and shower it upon Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Collins, who are properly willing to receive as much city money as they can extort by threatening to walk from a deal without more sugar.

9- Jason Tossey is spot on, in advocating city effort to try to get a Fleetfarm outlet here, which would be of use to the hunting-fishing inclinations of many now living in Ramsey. Aim to fit the population, rather than aiming to want to retool the population into suburban rabbit-hutch renter types.

10- It is ugly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


No, this post is NOT about Ramsey's city council.

It's ---- fanfare ---- Ron Paul, goldbricking. "Fort Knox Fever" version. This story:

He wants to throw open the doors to Fort Knox.

Paul isn't so sure the nation's supply of gold is all accounted for and thinks it might not exist at all. He has introduced legislation that would require an independent count of the 5,000-plus tons of gold bullion that's sacked away in the Kentucky vault, as well as smaller amounts held in government facilities in Denver, West Point, and New York City. Paul also wants a lab to test the bars, to prove it's as pure as the U.S. Treasury Dept. says.

Paul, who has said he thinks it's possible there is no gold at Fort Knox, told Bloomberg Businessweek the government is asking the American people to trust that all the gold is there, while not allowing site visits and not publishing all the data.

As chairman of a House Financial Services subcommittee that oversees the gold stores, Paul called a hearing on the matter for June 23. One man who's looking forward to refuting the congressman's doubts: the person in Washington who has actually held those gleaming, 27-pound gold bars in his own hands. Eric M. Thorson, the inspector general of the Treasury, is responsible for keeping track of the U.S. Mint's deep storage gold and silver reserves. Last September, he became the first outsider in 37 years to be granted full access to the U.S. Bullion Depository, as Fort Knox is formally known.

Opened in 1937, the vault is encased in 16,000 cubic feet of granite and 4,200 cubic yards of concrete. The depository is a classified facility, the Mint notes on its website. No visitors are permitted, and no exceptions are made. Until September, even Thorson and his team of auditors had never stood in the presence of all the gold. Their annual reviews mostly consisted of making sure the locked compartments hadn't been opened. At the time, the tamper guards were decidedly 18th century: Each door was secured with special tape and sealing wax.

That is from the middle of the story, near the start. This link again, for the full item.

While we in our fine nation have Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann posturing, the business of the world is business, and is being done.

This link. With a comment.

While tea party knuckle-draggers belittle alternate energy, (I have seen the term "fairy dust" in an ill-informed blog comment regarding wind power), astute folks are on the move, spot on. Being left out is consequential, but hey, how about Zygi and that stadium? Timmy and Mitt.

Paragraphs could be written about the nuances of this image below, but let it speak to you as it will.

DONE DEAL. Flaherty-Collins' low-capital-investment, let-the-city-take-risk Ramp Wrap-around rental thing will happen.

It will be done to us.

The politicians will say "for us."

You heard it here first.

Any questions?

* * *

Here are the details. The basic deal of the city putting bond money at risk in a favored private capital venture where more city money is at risk than the adverturers' money, Mr. Flaherty's and Mr. Collins', should go unaltered, although expect token movement.

Ditto for their bank, putting a bit more into the first position.

My best guess, the city will still be at risk for more than Flaherty and Collins put together, at commercially unreasonable terms as to default and security, with a multi-million second lien behind a substantially larger first lien being basically an unreasonable box to put a city in from the get-go.

There will be a televised HRA three-ring circus, in the tradition of P.T. Barnum, this Tuesday, with the politicians knowing as Barnum knew, a circus impresses most if all rings are coordinated.

The real show will be untelevised, an open Monday 7 pm meeting where the next day's showtime will be scripted and rehearsed. It will be where Backous and Tossey will be pitched to on a let's make it unanimous for the folks at home watching, let's show patriotic solidarity for "Our Ramsey," etc., that being the effort required for the aim of keeping all circus rings coordinated.

I hope Backous and Tossey hold tough, and don't cave in to being pressured. The justification speeches will be rehearsed Monday, and if you show up, Lake Itasca Room, 7 pm Monday, again being the real theater, you can then watch Tuesday at home and hear the same politician-speak, perhaps in some instances verbatim.

How Backous and Tossey handle the Monday meeting, and then explain themselves on Tuesday after the regular Council Meeting boredom has chased away many viewers and the HRA show starts, will be an interesting aspect of the entire exercise.

I expect Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Collins and Mr. Cronk and Mr. Lazan all see that four of the politicians have not spit the hook, and will enjoy showtime.

Basic script: We hung tough, it might have flipped, [gasp!], but all sides remained in contact and in reasonable hard-fought negotiations, and we in that process gained tremendous concessions of great importance, to wit [here it will be token adjustments but with the basic deal of the city being at great risk with citizens being the ones at risk, and the provisions at play if Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Collins do not perform on servicing terms re the second lien position the city takes being ill-secured, and with the performance terms being lax as was the case from the start]. This will be characterized as a major breakthrough a city equivalent of D-Day. And it will be less. But propaganda is the package where often truth needs to be ferreted out. It will be theater.

CAVEAT: I may be wrong but I doubt it. There could be substantial change. But I doubt it. Most certainly, (as certain as I can guess not having an infallible crystal ball), is that it will be insubstantial change, mischaracterized for political purposes.

Installing Elvig as new chair of the HRA and giving him a part of a conference call between the players, was an interesting step in holding tight a four-vote coalition.

One of the few Republicans with whom I exchange email, Gary Gross who publishes the Let Freedom Ring Blog out of the St. Cloud area, used a term once with which I was unfamiliar, "weapons grad stupid," and something last night at the work session meetings or afterward triggered my recollection of it. It is a fine term, which readers can remember and apply as they like.

One interesting aspect of the HRA in work session, for the first I ever heard him acknowledge it, Jeff Wise wanted guidance from others on council/HRA over a conflicted situation. Given that his store will at its present location be kaput, (due to Armstrong relocation where he will be bought out by the public), and given that he now publicly tells others that he wants to relocate into a new Clown Center spot when/if it ever materializes; with that conflict of interest - he had asked his colleagues should he participate at the televised session. They gave no answer at the public work session where few from the public were then present.

Little and late. Now that Dave Jeffrey is off council and the seat vacant, a 3-2 vote can carry things so that Wise becomes unnecessary to holding a majority, and he now shows concern for not appearing to have a conflicted position.

Politicians do as politicians are, and belated acknowledgement after changed circumstances has a hollow ring to me, a bell of dross not fine metal.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TODAY, THIS EVENING. Down the rabbit hole, rat hole, whatever - a work session chance again to see the ongoing effort to dump millions there, millions of city dollars to buttress chosen private capitalist adventurers. Is willingness to bury a CORpse in near-endless amounts of city money any kind of a good idea? Spend to success, or what --- institutional bankruptcy with still a failure to show for all the sunk cash?

Ask Alice.

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, aka today's Ramsey HRA work session, this item.

I wish I could give readers a time. However there is this Public Works work session agenda to be navigated first, taking who knows how much time, before the HRA untelevised mischief begins. Way to go, Ramsey.

Actually, the Public Works thing might be interesting - on the engineering services. Is this somebody's attempt to throw yet more money at Landform? The agenda is vague that way. It might be worth attending to see. I might even invest my time that way. And if it is a potential Landform boondoggle, will Darren be at the table for the work session, or not?

Be there and see. Lake Itasca Room -- at around 5:30 pm, unless you want to geek around at the Water Tower #3, from 5:00 pm - 5:30 pm, approx.

After the Public Works thing, the real Mad Hatter's Tea Party - the Ramsey money for Flaherty & Collins show. Such as it will be.

Monday, June 20, 2011

RAMSEY - How CORpse cashflow flows. A new sidebar poll open until noon, June 20.

As with other open sidebar polls, this item shall be the top post during duration of the poll. Newer posts will be placed below this item until the poll closes, when normal sequencing resumes.

The poll question speaks for itself. Reasons for it are self-evident. By the way, who is  Flaherty & Collins?

This Google. For now, I leave that question with only the Google for an answer. Subjective opinion may be posted later.

By error, the poll "closed" prematurely. It's fixed.


The sidebar poll that closed yesterday showed an eleven to one response:

Is it relevant to you to know whether Landform, and/or Darren Lazan, and/or Michael Jungbauer is being paid money by Flaherty & Collins above and beyond money being paid by City of Ramsey:

Eleven out of every dozen felt it relevant, (coincidently - the numberical balance in a different context among Apostles). In an email exchange, I wrote:

eric zaetsch to Hendi Jun 18 (3 days ago)

At the end of the item, you state, "Please contact Heidi Nelson at or 763-433-9817 if you have
questions or concerns." This link:

So -

Is it relevant to you to know whether Landform, and/or Darren Lazan, and/or Michael Jungbauer is being paid money by Flaherty & Collins above and beyond money being paid by City of Ramsey?

Add Cronk to that.

Unresponsive responsiveness being an art form, I got back:

Heidi Nelson to me - 12:39 PM (20 hours ago)


The current contracts related to the Flaherty and Collins project are between the City, the HRA and Flaherty and Collins. If amendments to those contracts are approved, they will be between the same parties.

If this land transaction is closed and the project moves forward, Mr. Lazan will be compensated with development fee as approved on December 14, 2010. These items are all included in the December 14, 2010 HRA, City Council agendas and minutes, and are available to you on-line. Mr. Cronk will not be compensated with development fee by the Ramsey HRA. Mr. Cronk does have a real estate business relationship with Flaherty and Collins, as discussed on December 14th, 2010, and will be compensated via his role with Flaherty and Collins.

Mr. Jungbauer is not a party to any of the agreements for the Flaherty and Collins project, nor is he a party to the development management contract between Landform and the City's HRA. As we have mentioned in previous information, Mr. Jungbauer is employed part-time with Landform, but he does not work on the development management services contract for the City of Ramsey HRA.


Heidi Nelson
HRA Executive Director


Fiduciary mixed loyalties and conflicting interests matter to me. As RELEVANT.

In showing up for a Ramsey Council meeting to give some citizen's input, I was struck by all the front table guys now wearing suits.

I recall earlier telecast council meetings, Gamec as often as not wearing a suit, but others, not so. Now I see the Gang of Four, (the four wanting to "spend the Town Center out of failure to 'success' no matter how many public dollars it might take to create that illusion"), all wearing jackets and only Elvig with a turtle-neck vs tie-white shirt. Taking on airs. I think it's a trend the new mayor started, something I noticed because of a dislike of uniforms. Matt Look, earlier while on council, did the suit thing too. There is this:

I am unsure why that image came to mind. Reader help with suggestions of why would be appreciated. Vaguely I think, it might have something to do with Landform and spending.

P.S. I measure success one good restaurant at a time.

If Anoka County shuts down, will the Board of Commissioners continue paying themselves 100 cents on the dollar; and would that be moral?

Reform Republicans, Look, Sivirajah, West, Westerberg seem to have overlooked any belt tightening among the top dogs, but is that a surprise to anyone?

My guess, the board will see themselves perhaps only a step or half-step more essential than police and fire-fighters, and contract things accordingly. They set their own pay and they pay themselves well.

Where is the conservatism in that? Doesn't conservatism start at home?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"That we would build bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar and not Baltimore and Kansas City, absolutely boggles the mind."

Strib carries an AP wire feed, questioning priorities, questioning what America is or should be:

US mayors gather in Baltimore; topics include redirecting military spending to home front

Article by: ALEX DOMINGUEZ , AP - Updated: June 17, 2011 - 2:46 PM

BALTIMORE - Money spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be spent at home under a resolution proposed Friday by U.S. mayors who called on Congress to hasten the end of the wars.

The resolution proposed at the opening of the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting wants Congress to redirect the military spending to domestic priorities. The resolution says $126 billion is being spent each year on the wars that should be spent at home to create jobs, rebuild infrastructure, develop sustainable energy and provide for other needs.

The conference, which ends Monday, represents mayors of the more than 1,200 cities nationwide with a population of more than 30,000.

When asked to respond to those who argue military efforts overseas have made American cities safer from foreign terrorists, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pointed to the cost of the wars.

"How did we get to a deficit and a debt larger than at any time not only in U.S. history but in human history? We got involved in two wars that, no matter what you think about those wars, we haven't paid for," Villaraigosa said.

"That we would build bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar and not Baltimore and Kansas City, absolutely boggles the mind."

Many of the mayors speaking at a news conference opening the four-day event also criticized federal cuts that they say have increased the burden on local governments, cuts Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called the "Great Retreat by the federal government."

Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said safety at home should be the top priority.

"And along with that it is about our economy and it is about getting people back to work, and it is about reinvesting in those efforts that will help us retain jobs and create jobs in our country," Kautz said.

My guess, our Ramsey mayor missed the event.

The above Strib excerpt is roughly the first half of the item. For the remainder, again, this link.

Regarding that last paragraph quoting the Burnsville mayor, see the sidebar.

"What's the count?" Click the image. Making bad decisions, continuing bad decisions and extending bad decisions, is our national treasure? Too many generals, too much brass, and not enough brains?

Remember that, "I'd rather fight them on the Mekong Delta, than the San Francisco Bay." How many Viet Cong after we bailed out on that one showed up invading the Bay Area? Bad logic. Bad propaganda.

More about , "It's the jobs, stupid," this link. The GOP wants to bring a marriage amendment. That will produce how many new well-paying jobs, exactly?  Well, divisiveness has its own agenda, screw jobs; is not what they expressly say; but how else do you read those tea leaves, Batman?