Tuesday morning, this week, the Commons Board decided to not enter into a contract with Redevelop Columbus Inc. for the leasing management of the Commons. Instead, they chose to continue with CDI.
Mayor Armstrong allowed RCI president Kristen Brown to speak on something the Board did not have time to hear in the last hearing. Brown inquired as to why the Board needs an "intermediary" to run the Commons leases. She pointed out that all CDI or RCI plans on doing is hiring a real estate manager for the purpose of seeking businesses to fill the leased spaces. The intermediary would then choose businesses from that list and then pass it back to the Board for approval.
My question, and in step with what Brown's point was, why are we having a middle man for the middle man? Why even bother with a CDI or RCI? Can the Board not hire a Sharon Renfro (the lady CDI has decided to contract with to run the garage leases. She is also the one who managed the leases of the Commons before it failed. Take note of that, in particular!) and make the choices themselves?
THe Mayor and a couple of the board members cited they do not have time to look through leases. So not only does CDI get to controll who goes into the Commons, but the Commons Board has no plans at looking at these leases? Just rubber stamp?
One member of the Board told Brown that what she and her corporation were tring to do is commendable. She was impressed that someone from the public is stepping up to try and do something, it seemed, was her point. That apparently was not enough to change her vote.
Let's drop the charade, ladies and gentlemen. We all knew that CDI was going to be picked. The Board did not even discuss the matter in the meeting. They just voted all in favor of CDI. Why? Why are they doing this?
Well, it's interesting one should ask that.
CDI is a private entity created by the City of Columbus because they complained no one was bidding to manage leases for these new structures (ie the garage). So, citing this, the Redevelopment Commission created CDI. CDI has three board members. One is chosen by the Mayor, one by the City Council, and one by the Redev Commission. Since the mayor basically controlls who is on the Redev Commission, the Mayor could be seen as having his hand in deciding two spots to be filled.
So why was no one bidding to manage the leases? Well, let's take a look at the bidding requirements set down by the Redevelopment Commission.
So why is this CDI so evil? It seems like a good idea. City decisions are now stream lined. Infact, CDI can manage these buildings without votes from the commissions and boards, to a degree. Leasing is the only thing that gets passed back to commissions and boards. The rest is up to CDI directly. Want to know the price for this expansion of government control? You have to keep your nose out of it.
That's right! CDI and their attourney, Terry Coriden, purport that their entity is private and no questions from the public have to be taken or answered, no one can have any access to documents belonging to CDI (even when the City is paying for the transactions and such that the documents itemize), and CDI only answers to itself.
Who is on the board of CDI? Ann Devore, a City Councilor. So we have a private entity, receiving public funds to manage a public building, is chaired by a City Councilor, but we are not allowed to see records? Well, the State of Indiana has stated otherwise.
Turns out that Kristen Brown also sent an inquiry to the State about public access laws to public documents and asked if CDI was public enough for citizens to demand documents from them with their City dealings? They said yes, but Terry Coriden still says no.
So what is there to worry about? Well, Columbus is writing checks to CDI in the order of thousands of dollars at a time, but no itemization of services or goods bought are recorded or documented. That's interesting. Now what will happen when SBOA comes to Columbus and audits them? Will they ask "What happened here with these checks?"
I would love to see Terry Coriden say to the SBOA, "You can't have those documents, we are a private entity." The State has already identified CDI as being subject to State audits. I highly doubt CDI will be able to keep up the curtains to for much longer. When the curtains finally fall, we'll see who has their hand cookie jar and what the current City officials have REALLY been up to.