Thursday, January 25, 2007

Karnak at the Council

Back in the day when this author was one of the more vocal opponents of the 4B half-cent tax, one of the arguments I used through five campaigns was to point out an inevitable downside, namely the predictable howls of outrage when the Development Corp. gave a (grant, subsidy, bribe, pick your term) to a new business which would be directly competing with an established firm.

Well, just that played out in Council meeting today, in four part harmony. Diversified Collection Services got a package of incentives in 2002, has created 400 some jobs, and has since come under new ownership. COSADC had negotiated a similar, but larger package for Account Control Technologies, which also specializes in student loan collections. Jon Shaver, owner of DCS cut no slack in letting Council know his company felt betrayed and that this move would kill a 200 job expansion DCS had planned. If he was peeved that ACT was to get a more generous package than had DCS, that beef was soft-pedaled in an hour long protest by Shaver and several DCS employees.

As I predicted over 10 years ago, it was far from pretty. DCS won this scrimmage, ACT threatened to pick up their marbles and go home. Meanwhile Council accused COSADC of leaving Council in the dark during the process, and COSADC's feeling were hurt, after all, you told us to go bribe companies boss, Whassamata now? Matt Lewis told a reporter we need a new mayor, but declined to run himself. A kiss-and-make-up joint meeting of Council and COSADC is scheduled, but at Council meeting Tuesday Jon Shaver and employees owned the only happy faces in the house. Chalk one up for my Karnak the Magnificent file.

Interestingly, ACT relented and announced, with a slight backhand to Mayor and Council, that they would be coming to Angelo anyway. Seems debt collector is a hard job to fill and our pool of workers, including former DCS employees is hard to find. Allow me to don the Karnak turban: ACT will be here longer and will create more jobs at higher pay than say, Taylor Publishing. Not unlike a romantic relationship. If you court and woo a lady, convince her your interests coincide, you might end up with a wife. If you short circuit the process with cash, you get what you pay for and they don't respect you in the morning.

In other action, Council approved, as expected, the tennis courts deal. I seem to have gotten their attention by appealing, tongue in cheek, for funds to provide the San Angelo Billiards Association, of which I am a member, a central pool hall with say, 24 regulation size tables. Discussing this later with individual members, I was surprised that almost none seemed to have considered the possibility of creating a Facilities Corp. to deal with the now inevitable requests from every sports group in town. “If tennis gets money, why can't (curling, archery, paintball, pick your pet)”, will be the litany. Tennis got a rather substantial sum, by the way, $750,000 total. With that precedent, I can promise you other sports enthusiasts will be appearing before Council, hat in hand, asking that said hat be filled with public money.

I was surprised at the lack of consideration of a facilities Corp. as it played so large a part in the Faith-based Prison issue. Actually, the only reason it would not have worked for the prison was that other laws would reasonably not allow us abandon a few hundred human inmates post-default. If a group of sports enthusiasts raises money for their idea under the facilities umbrella, the money is entirely between them and the bondholders, worst the city gets is a padlocked playground.
There will be more detail on the Facilities Corp. idea here, especially as other groups come forward . I can tell you, that of the members I was able to personally speak to on this, the initial reaction to the rough sketch of the concept was favorable.

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