Vol. 9, No. 25 – September 14 – September 27, 2016 – Opinion/Editorial

SheldonPicColor•    I stated that I was done talking about the closing of Brook’s Institute, but I lied. I’m not going to be critical, just factual. And, I am actually not as riled up as I was originally.

On Monday Sept. 12, at the City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Watkins made an excellent presentation to the Council explaining (as best he could) what had transpired prior to Brook’s closing, which included some sharp questions and criticism from the Council.

In 2007 the City purchased the so called “505 building” from the County that is located behind City Hall. I think that this was a wise thing to do.

Brooks was not moving into City Hall but to this building behind it. This structure is not at all historical and is a rather innocuous looking building.

The lease with Brooks called for a security deposit and first and last month’s rent that was never collected (which amounted to approximately $70,000). The City did not spend any money on the improvements so the loss was the money not collected and the on-going rent which is also not going to be collected. The non-profits (that had to move) that rented this space were paying below market rents so the lost revenue from them was not huge. Someone still made a big mistake in not collecting the money from Brooks and should be held accountable (okay a little criticism).

If a tenant can be found that can use the space with the partitions as built (and complete the construction) they are certainly worth more than $70,000.

There is “No right to lien public property” so there will not be liens filed against the City as will be  filed against the owners of downtown buildings that Brook’s will now not occupy. These will likely be filed by contractors, sub-contractors and material suppliers.

Councilmember Cheryl Heitmann (who was very critical of Watkins and staff) suggested that Watkins also send his explanation to the media so that Venturan’s have a better understanding of the situation. I think that this would be an excellent idea. Councilmember Mike Tracy was a little calmer about the situation.

Councilmember Morehouse thought that this would be a waste because the media will just slant it and edit the information. I don’t know about other media, but if we receive an article from the City with their byline (written by them) we would publish it as submitted just as we did with a previous City article regarding Brooks.

The real problem, as I see it, (and several Councilmembers agree) is that the City should not be in the commercial rental business but should hire a professional property management firm to handle the future renting and management of the 505 building. If this was in place the $70,000 would have been collected or construction would not have continued. The leasing of commercial space is not like renting a house – it is very involved and complicated.

A similar situation is the operation of the City golf courses. Once it was decided that the City really shouldn’t be in the golf course business, a professional golf course management firm was hired to run the courses.

•    I am very happy that Scamp has decided to run for President. I am sorry that his tax returns cannot be revealed because he is being pawdited. The IRS thought that a $2,300 deduction for treats might be excessive but they don’t know Scamp. Per his announcement in this issue’s article, he will be holding a rally on September 18 so come join us to show your support.

•    Please see the ad in this issue introducing our first photo contest and send in your best. I know that you will have some great submissions.

•    If you love great jazz, my friend Rafe Hernandez and his 10-piece band Equinox Ensemble will be playing at Squashed Grapes (2351 E. Main) on Friday Sept.16 at 7pm. Italian food from Cordello’s Pizza is available so eat, drink and enjoy the music, and come say hi to me because I will be there.

•    At a recent City Council meeting, an unusual thing occurred. Usually the City Council routinely approves the  appointments to city commissions as recommended by staff.

After Councilmember Carl Morehouse, who chairs the Appointments Recommendation Committee, read the names of  candidates who were selected to serve on the various committees  the council voted 6-0 (Christy Weir was absent)to approve all of the recommendations except one. That was an appointment to the Planning Commission.

Jim Monahan, Neal Andrews and Carl Morehouse voted against the appointment of Mark Abbe to the Planning Commission. A little later, Jim Monahan changed his mind (don’t know what that was all about) so the motion for approval passed 4-2.

In explaining his vote (in part) to the Breeze Neal Andrews said, “As I indicated at the Council meeting, it is very rare for a person nominated by the Appointments Recommendation Committee of the Council to not receive unanimous support from the Council.  However, the Planning Commission is arguably the most important and influential commission in the City. Therefore, appointments to it should be made with the utmost care and must have not only the perfunctory approval of every member of the Council, but must have the studied approval of every member of the Council.”

“I have reviewed Mr. Abbe’s credentials carefully, listened to his statements on numerous occasions on a variety of planning issues, and in fact interviewed him for the Planning Commission on a prior occasion when the Appointments Recommendations Committee declined to recommend him for appointment.”

I have no opinion regarding Mr. Abbe but like the fact that the Council didn’t just rubber stamp the recommendations.


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