EDITORIAL FOR DEC 17-20, 2017
Iím CAVE MANAGER Paul Lotsof. One evening, nearly ten years ago the Benson City Council chambers were packed with people and many of them signed up to address the council. The crowd was there to drum up support for Bensonís largest and most popular bar. One person after the next extolled the virtues of the bar and how valuable it was to Benson. The only problem was that there was no question before the city council about whether the bar was a good thing or not. The issue before the council was the transfer of the barís liquor license. It seems that one of the buyers of the establishment had a drinking problem including a conviction for drunk driving. The matter before the city council was whether the new owner was fit to operate the bar. The purpose of organizing the crowd of people was to cloud the issue and get the council to approve the liquor license transfer. The strategy worked and the council voted for approval.
During that same era, the Mayor of Benson came under fire for issuing improper directives to the city manager. The city manager blew the whistle and the mayor said he would resign. At the next city council meeting dozens of people packed City Hall and many of them addressed the city council. All said pretty much the same thing. The mayor was a great guy who had the highest standards of ethics and he could do no wrong. But that wasnít the issue. The issue was whether the mayor had acted improperly. The crowd clouded the issue and the strategy worked. The mayor decided not to resign. Later the city manager would get fired.
Last week the same strategy was repeated. About 25 people addressed the city council and nearly all of them had the same message: The Villages of Vigneto housing development is the answer to Bensonís prayers. But that wasnít the issue before the council. The issue was whether a large securities investment firm should be hired to do a study of the special taxing districts pertaining to the proposed development. Again the crowd clouded the issue and that was their mission. The Vigneto developer reportedly wants no involvement with a nationally respected company called Stifel Nicolaus and the proposal before the council was to hire that firm to do a study. The crowd strategy worked and the council decided not to hire Stifel Nicolaus. Here itís interesting to note that many of the crowd who showed up last week were the very same people who had shown up ten years earlier to support the embattled mayor.
In case you arenít keeping up with the goings on in Benson, Vigneto is a grandiose proposal to build 28,000 new houses on the south side of Benson, along both sides of Highway 90. The plan comes from a Phoenix based company called El Dorado Holdings which is closely tied to another company called El Dorado Benson LLC. The El Dorado companies say that they will build and sell about a thousand houses every year for the next 28 years. The project manager is a character named Mike Reinbold. Many people have serious doubts that there is a market for thousands of new houses in Benson or that El Dorado could create such a vast market. To that criticism Reinboldís response is ďtrust us, thatís what we doĒ.
Mike Reinbold has an interesting past. About 25 years ago he and some associates came up with a proposal to build an aircraft maintenance hangar at the Portland International Airport. The financing came from public bonds. To make an extremely long story short, the State of Oregon claimed that Reinbold and his buddies did the state pension fund out of some 60 million dollars. You can find the details in the CAVE web site.
My opinion is that the Villages of Vigneto are a slick con job and the game plan is similar to what happened in Portland. Tens of millions of dollars will be raised from the sale of bonds and I predict that a good chunk of the cash will be squandered. The recipients of all that cash will take the money and run and the foolish people who buy those bonds will be taken to the cleaners. About that time the federal officials will descend on Benson and lawsuits will be filed left and right. Presently there is some debate as to whether the city would be sued.
As things presently stand, I am the only public notable in Benson who has openly and loudly proclaimed that the Villages of Vigneto are a con job. I know of nobody else who has had the nerve to openly declare that El Doradoís proposals are a hoax. In mid 2016 the Benson City Council unanimously approved a 40 year developmental agreement with El Dorado. I predict that this agreement will prove to be the most destructive contract that the Benson City Government has entered into since the town was incorporated in the 1920s. As I said, every member of the council voted yes on this agreement. But in the year and a half since that agreement was inked, it appears that two council members have had time to think about Vigneto. Lori McGoffin and David Lambert seem to be having second thoughts. Neither has publicly suggested that Vigneto is a sham but both voted no on appointing Larry Dempster to fill a council vacancy. Dempster is a good friend of Reinbold and he has become El Doradoís mouthpiece on the city council. And last week both McGoffin and Lambert ignored the crowdís attempt to cloud the issue and they voted against a resolution to have nothing more to do with Stifel Nicolaus.
There are many significant unanswered questions about Vigneto and El Dorado. One of them is why El Dorado is so opposed to allowing Stifel Nicolaus to do a study and/or market the bonds. There are a lot of suspicious things about the proposed Vigneto development and many questions need to be answered. A lot of questions have been asked and a lot of questions have been ignored and a lot of issues have been clouded. The coming year will be interesting.
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions youíve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone elseís. If youíd like a copy of this editorial or youíd like to express your opinions go to the CAVE web site which youíll find at CAVEFM.com and click on Editorials. Thatís CAVEFM.com.