We Were Outgunned // Alice Dreger

What happened at the BRA yesterday? ELi has my report up, but I would sum it up this way:

We were outgunned. And we were paying for the other side’s weapons.

What my reporting team saw yesterday is what we see at so many meetings. People representing our side – in this case, BRA members Jim Croom, Jeff Smith, and Aaron Stephens – ask really reasonable questions and express reasonable skepticism. 

But then, in the end, they vote “yes” without adequate protections for us. In the fog of war, they do what they’re told to do by the other side, and no one on our side is advising them well.

The reason they’re put in this position, again and again, is because we lack adequate representation. In this case, the man who works as the City’s financial advisor, Brian Lefler of Baird, was literally being paid with our money to represent the other side. 

For reasons I cannot fathom, our City Manager went into this with no financial advisor for our side. And then he voted to pay Lefler to represent the developers, who got another great deal – another million dollars we didn’t have to pay them.

The BRA also suffered yesterday from woefully inadequate legal representation in our City Attorney (who didn’t know the Master Development Agreement had terminated?) and our Bond Counsel (who never did explain the apparent conflict of interest). 

Somehow we manage to use these bonds to pay for excellent representation for the developers. But we can’t seem to afford to buy ourselves decent representation. 

When will we have a City Council majority that demands we have adequate representation, and top City staff who know not to take us into these situations with inadequate representation? When will we have staff who stop throwing our tax dollars away?

Alice Dreger 

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