“Mayor and Council Ignored Promises of a Full, Open Public Discussion”

| August 9, 2022 | 0 Comments

By Paul Krueger

There were many reasons for the City Council to soundly defeat Mayor Todd Gloria’s ill-conceived settlement proposal for the Ash Street litigation.

But one very important factor was lost in the machinations that led to the council’s July 26 approval of the settlement.

One month earlier, on June 27, Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and the Mayor abruptly withdrew a previously scheduled discussion vote on the proposed settlement.

At that time, the council president and Mayor said they were delaying the vote to give taxpayers more time to study the proposed deal. The people deserved answers to their questions and concerns about the terms of the agreement.

But in the month that followed, the council and the mayor did nothing to educate taxpayers on the supposed benefits of the settlement.

They did nothing to rebut City Attorney Mara Elliott’s well-reasoned and persuasive advice against the proposed deal.

They did nothing to respond to equally persuasive arguments from attorneys Mike Aguirre and Mia Severson that showed the Mayor’s proposal was a give-away to the companies and investors who are profiting from the Ash Street transaction.

They offered no response to the excellent reporting and editorials in the Union-Tribune and La Prensa.

But most importantly, they failed the basic job of elected leaders: they failed to hear the public’s questions and address the public’s concerns.

The closest we came to a public discussion and debate about the pros and cons of this very costly, very controversial proposal were a series of dueling commentaries on the U-T’s opinion pages.

Three essays argued against the proposed settlement; three supported it.

One of those in support was signed by the Mayor himself. But he failed to rebut any of the very persuasive and detailed objections raised by City Attorney Elliott and attorneys Aguirre and Severson.

The second pro-settlement essay was co-written by three of the mayor’s political allies, one of whom has benefited from the mayor’s political largess. Their allegiance to the mayor clearly tainted their credibility, and also failed to address the substantive arguments against the settlement.

The third essay was written by an attorney for the Cisterra development company, who completely shredded his own credibility by referring to the original Ash Street lease agreement as being “… extremely favorable to the city,” a bogus claim that not even supporters of the settlement would dare utter in public.

The Mayor and Council President’s refusal to honor their promise of an open, public, and informative discussion of this very controversial settlement was reason enough for the full council to delay their July 26 vote.

Unless and until they fully responded to the legitimate concerns raised by credible critics of the proposed settlement and explained in detail why they supported or opposed the deal, they had no right to approve the settlement.

We owe a big thank-you, and much respect, to the three council members — Vivian Moreno, Monica Montgomery-Steppe, and Marni Von Wilpert — who had the wisdom, common-sense, and political backbone to oppose the settlement.

Now, we must make sure that the six council members who sided with the Mayor on his self-serving deal are held to account for refusing to hear the public’s concerns and ignoring the powerful arguments against the settlement.

101 Ash Street continues to be a focus of attention and controversy.

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Category: feature, Government, Historical, Housing, Local News, Real Estate

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