(details, continuing from main page…)
If we look a little closer, at what the Bee is not saying – deliberately chooses not to say – there’s something else going on – and its not finished, not by a long shot. Let’s look at the most telling part of the story of all its theatrical elements. It’s in the headline, the little word “caps”, as in “Sniping caps failed…” – ‘caps’, ‘tops’, ‘finishes off’, ‘puts a lid on’, ‘done’, ‘forgotten’. That’s what the Bee wishes the reader to believe. This is ‘old business’, just a hard day getting over a disappointing yesterday.
And that’s where the real charade begins, the one the Bee, apparently, would just as soon you didn’t look at any closer; the one that hopes you will swallow the story that this little spouses’ spat over an old LOU has nothing to do with what’s happening now, or about to happen with the new Kamilos land-swap deal. “The wedding is still on, folks!” the Bee is saying, “Don’t eat your rice!”
Moreover, the Bee doesn’t explain how they happened to get the story. Did they have to dig for it? Was it an expose hard won from the fruits of investigative journalism? All we know is that, “Cal Expo officials wrote Friday that they learned…,” and “Moag on Monday responded in a letter saying….” What did they do, cc copies of their letters to each other to the Sacramento Bee? A photo op? Were they just answering casual inquiries? We do know, at least one email went to the Bee (they say so). Perhaps the Bee was just playing marriage-broker between these two squabbling nearly-weds?
What we know, and the Bee doesn’t want you to know, is that they actually had the story before the principles took their fight onto the street (at least the Cal Expo half.) Worse, they’ve been warned about the LOU and agreement violations, and worse, for the past 6 months by The CEAV Project and possibly others. But not a word of any brewing or stewing escaped their lips until this particular moment. Wonder why?
In a series of articles on this blog on February 27th and, in a letter to the Board of Directors of Cal Expo on February 26th, the day before its regular Board meeting, The CEAV Project accused Cal Expo of violating its (LOU) agreement with the NBA on its failed project to site a sports arena on the Cal Expo site. As well, we cited many other ways in which the processes used by Cal Expo and the NBA to move such projects forward were employed by Cal Expo to obscure details from the public and protect their choice from legitimate public examination, serious review of its weaknesses or any consideration of alternatives that might reveal a better way to proceed.
In almost all public projects these days, this has become a familiar device used by developers to nullify one of their most difficult obstacles on the road to securing their contracts; the insistence of public review and the requirement that the public interest be served. By any number of aliases – ‘non-disclosure agreement’ (NDA), ‘exclusive negotiating agreement’ (ENA), ‘Memorandum of exclusive relationship’ (MER) or ‘Letter of Understanding’ (LOU) – these agreements to secret the early phases of project description and shield their principals from public scrutiny, seek to remove the inconvenience of answering to the public and remove from public view the critical discussions from which a project takes its ultimate physical and financial form. It’s a stealth maneuver so often used, these days, that it’s almost taken for granted. Indeed, that’s just what developers (and their public agency clients) would like you to believe. They will even say, in defense of the practice, “Oh, its common business practice”. More likely it’s a relatively recent and deliberately designed practice that was borrowed from the oft abused model of ‘proprietary secrecy’ which corporations use to mask any number of dubious (sometimes criminal) activities. In any case, the Bee tells us nothing about the dark side of this LOU business; instead preferring to use its ink to quote Moag saying, “I don’t think its worth talking about.”
The Sacramento Bee has consistently turned a blind eye and major bias, in all of its arena stories, preferring to play the gushing bride’s maid, even as the NBA and Cal Expo rush to sweep their dirt under the rug. However, for nearly a year, The CEAV Project has been informing the Sacramento Bee of any number of ways Cal Expo and the NBA were using their muscle to hide their deals, thwart examination of their activities and block public discussion of alternatives. CEAV has made repeated complaints about the Bee’s silence on Cal Expo’s violations of the public’s interest in the matter. Certainly, the Bee cannot be unaware of the series of articles CEAV did a week ago on this blog exposing the matter and directly accusing Cal Expo of selectively violating its agreements with some third-parties while unfairly applying them to others (the public). The Bee reported on 2/27 (2/28?) about Cal Expo vacating the L.O.U. at their 2/26 Board meeting. What they didn’t say was that CEAV was also there, protesting the selective use of that document to mute all opposition. Indeed, CEAV, made mention at that meeting that it had emailed a letter to the Board accusing them of LOU violations the day earlier. Yet not a word appeared in print in that earlier story. (but does remain on this blog for public view).
Let’s take a closer look at what the Bee says and doesn’t say in Bizjak’s story (3/3/10, p. B1)
The Bee says Cal Expo and the NBA each accuse each other of violating their LOU (vis a vis Kamilos on the one hand and horse owners and advocates on the other). What they don’t say is that the same LOU has been used to block input and discussion from the public for at least as long. CEAV and Doug Tatara (one of the proposal submitters) stated that publicly at the same meeting Bizjak reported on a few days ago.
The Bee says that the Kamilos proposal is one of seven proposals. They don’t say that the Kamilos proposal is the only one that has muscled itself into City Council meetings, as well as Cal Expo meetings and NBA offices, while the other candidates, along with CEAV and possibly others have been locked out by the same document the two principals are violating. CEAV informed the Bee last year that it regarded the L.O.U. exclusion clause (3B) as a conflict of interest (a private, third-party agreement that is used to exclude discussion of a public matter, by public officials, with the public). The Bee says nothing about that.
The Bee-Bizjak story mentions the private sale/development of Cal Expo properties in three different contexts in today’s story. It does not say a word about CEAV’s year-long, vigorous opposition to any sale or use of state-owned public commons to finance what are purely local interests – sports arenas and mixed-use development for the benefit of Sacramento alone.
The Bee reports that the NBA (Moag) doesn’t think the letter exchange (L.O.U. violations) are worth talking about, but says nothing about how this agreement has been used to thwart public participation in the process. We presume the Bee doesn’t think that’s worth talking about either.
The Bee reports the NBA and Cal Expo’s conciliatory and mutual interest ‘love-notes’ to each other, but not a word that others view the matter very differently. Indeed, It doesn’t even bother to question the validity of Cal Expo’s assertion that the LOU has, in fact, been nullified and is defunct. CEAV would remind the Bee that the original LOU and its extension were undertaken by Cal Expo pursuant to official Board actions. Though it will take lawyers to sort the matter out, it seems reasonable that it can only be vacated by similar and compliant Board action – which Cal Expo did not take on Friday, no matter how many votes they may have shouted into the air. The Bee makes no mention of the fact that an action to vacate the agreement wasn’t even on the February 26th agenda (though we’ll bet, now, it will be on the March agenda).
The Bee story concludes on a note of mutual lovey-dovey valentines in a quoted exchange by the two malefactors without so much as a raised eyebrow. Bottom line, a simple dereliction of duty and transparent bias on the part of our press. And who is left out of all this spilled ink. CEAV? No, though the Bee has yet to once mention CEAV or any of its interests in the matter. The public, of course. Only the voices of the principals are reported, slinging mud at each other with one hand and patting each other on the toosh with the other. The rest of the article is laced with excuses and dismissals by the only voices the Bee cares to report, Cal Expo and the NBA.
The Bee surmises that the whole matter of the LOU was a “gentleman’s agreement”, overlooking how it was employed as a legal (if questionable) obligation to cut the public out of the process. What the Bee should be doing is calling for a full investigation from the State Auditor of every aspect of this whole sordid affair, from the very beginning. If they did that, if they investigate and reported fully on these issues then, perhaps, by now the City would be seriously considering whether they should even be dealing with entities that demonstrate such questionable behaviors. No doubt, ‘Sacramento First’ might be having second thoughts if they wish to recommend entities with such an already questionable relationship to each other, and to the public.
No doubt, the back rooms of this deal hide a wealth of other secrets. And, too, this little staged spat is no ghost from the past, but a continuing an routine habit of the present and the future. Certainly something our professional news organizations should have ferreted out by now and fully exposed to the light of day, even as the principals hide their own dealings by circumventing California sunshine laws. Perhaps we need some sunshine laws for the Sacramento Bee as well?