EDITORIAL FOR JULY 16-18, 2019

Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof.   If youíve been reading the Tucson or Phoenix newspapers or watching the TV news over the past month or so you probably know that a retired federal official has come up with some accusations that pertain to Vigneto,  a massive housing development that has been proposed for Benson.     The retired federal officialís name is Steve Spangle and prior to his retirement Spangleís assignment  was to determine if plans for the Villages of Vigneto complied with the provisions of the Federal Endangered Species Act.    Spangle, after examining scientific evidence, expressed the opinion that the Vigneto project likely would imperil some protected animals and plants.   But after making that determination Spangle says that he was told that high ranking officials in the Trump administration wanted him to change his mind and approve the project.  So he bowed to political pressure and approved it.     For reasons that have never been made public, months after he retired Spangle went to the Arizona Daily Star and complained to the newspaper that politics had eclipsed sound science.  What we donít know is whether Spangle acted entirely on his own or was persuaded by others  to take his case to the paper.   Shortly after the Star printed Spangleís assertions, the Arizona Republic in Phoenix  interviewed him and printed a similar story.    A couple weeks later the CNN Television network grabbed the story and did some additional investigating.

A company called El Dorado Holdings is heavily involved in Vigneto and   CNN revealed that El Dorado Holdings chief executive officer Mike Ingram had not only met with officials high up in the Trump Administration but that Ingram had also made sizeable contributions to the Trump election campaign in 2016.   Perhaps Ingram expected something in return for his contributions and he got it.   The most recent development is that Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva has indicated that he plans to conduct an investigation.  It goes without saying that environmentalists are delighted with these events.

Letís backtrack a few years:   It was about five years ago that a company called El Dorado Benson LLC was formed for the purpose of purchasing about 20 square miles of real estate on both sides of Highway 90 on Bensonís south end.   El Dorado Benson LLC had investors from as far away as Florida.   Although we donít know how it came about, Mike Reinbold emerged as the General Manager of the Vigneto Project.   One thing we do know is that Reinbold had a rather shady past dating back about 25 years when he was involved in a failed aircraft maintenance  hangar project at the Portland International Airport.  The hangar was to be financed with public bonds that were guaranteed by the Oregon State Employees Retirement Fund.    The State of Oregon accused Reinbold and some of his associates of bilking the stateís retirement fund to the tune of sixty million dollars.   Reinbold eventually settled the case by paying the State of Oregon seven million dollars.   For several years the details of this case have been posted on the CAVE web site and are still there for all to see.

As I mentioned, El Dorado Benson has close ties with a similarly named company called El Dorado Holdings which is based in Scottsdale, near Phoenix.   El Dorado Holdings has enjoyed success building several new suburbs of Phoenix.   The proposal for Benson calls for the construction of 28,000 houses and four golf courses and the new retirement community is supposed to look like Northern Italy.

Shortly after the plans were made public, they got the attention of several environmental groups who not only feared that this huge project would spell doom for some endangered snakes, birds and plants but there also were issues about the availability of water not only for the 28,000 houses but for the nearby San Pedro River.   Several lawsuits were filed to either stop the project outright or to get it downscaled.

One thing that sets the Benson project apart from El Doradoís other projects is the establishment of ten special taxing districts which will have the power to issue bonds that are expected to have a combined value of about six  billion dollars.

Now that we have the background information, the obvious question is what comes next.  One possibility is that El Dorado will be forced to reduce the size of its development plan to a lot less than 28,000 houses.   Another possibility is that in time all the commotion will blow over and El Dorado will be allowed to go full speed ahead if thatís what they really want.

But thereís still one additional big question and thatís whether there really is a market for 28,000 new houses in Benson.   Or if there isnít such a market can El Dorado create such a market? Or to go still one step farther, even if El Dorado could create such a housing market in Benson, is that really what they have in mind?

My strongest suspicion is that the top brass in the El Dorado organization know full well that thereís no market for 28,000 houses in Benson and there wonít be such a market for generations to come.   Accordingly the whole proposal is a hoax.   So whatís the motive?  Itís Portland all over again.   Issue the bonds and squander the proceeds.  The money disappears, the districts go bankrupt and some thieves walk away with millions.  An extremely important question is when the districts can start to issue the bonds and how much bonds can they sell?

Perhaps the thing thatís most upsetting about all this is that Bensonís public officials believe that the Vigneto project is Godís gift to Benson and Vigneto will make this insignificant little town into a booming metropolis.    So we really donít have to do a thing to improve Bensonís stagnant economy.   El Dorado has the cure all.    As a famous circus promoter once put it, ďThereís a sucker born every minuteĒ.   The Benson City Council has several of them.

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.  Weíre at CAVE FM.com.  Thatís CAVEFM.com