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Archive for February 9th, 2014

it’s about the MONEY

As seems to be the rage of the day, there are several fallacious premises being tendered when discussing this golf course situation.

Dollars funnel.

Starting with the letter from Karl (or whoever wrote this piece), we continue daily operations at City Hall, managing public safety, water/sewer maintenance, road repair, snowplowing, emergency response and the myriad of responsibilities government is charged with including oversight of our finances. Just because the golf course has become the topic du jour on FB, blogs or talk radio, do not mistakenly think this is the sole concern of this administration. Infrastructure has undergone a tremendous amount of strategic and “affordable” upgrades in six years (see my State of the City addressES at http://www.wildthane.wordpress.com) through the millions of dollars of grants we have secured. We’ve also advanced numerous projects and initiatives that have changed the physical landscape of our city. We continue with this work.

The user fee increases were implemented by the prior council to offset the heavy cost of the water and sewer distribution systems that our property owners were carrying. This shift allowed us to lighten property taxes for our city taxpayers and more fairly distribute water/sewer costs to outside users and not-for-profits. This has been good for city taxpayers.

The increase in debt had come about because we replaced aging equipment and funded long overdue capital projects that had been put off to the point of being hazardous to employees and residents. We also bonded in anticipation of revenue we would receive as reimbursement via grants. This has been good for our employees and residents.

Population has increased in our city and six industries have expanded operations here. We have a $20M assisted living project on the south side that will bring 75 professional jobs and an $5M industrial prospect at the Esquire site that will bring several dozen good paying jobs, both slated to launch this Spring.

The letter posits that the Golf Commission has based their recommendations on an outdated study by graduate students from the Masters in Business program at Union College. The study had served as a foundation for the Commission’s work, but they’ve spent the past three years doing additional analysis, talking with the PGA, golf professionals, cart rental firms, and doing comparative analysis of surrounding golf course operations. Working with the former Council, with Gina DeRossi serving as golf liaison and attending most commission meetings, the Commission put out a Request for Proposals to regional golf professionals to elicit workable, innovative ideas that may carry this facility into the future. This was done publicly and with the expectation of fair consideration.

The current Council has chosen to ignore all of this work and instead award the contract (albeit, removing performance measures such as financial statements, business plan or marketing strategy), refusing to acknowledge the failings of the course or the promising compromise I had offered that would have straightened this out weeks ago. The proposed changes we offer pay for themselves as indicated in the report submitted to the Council from the Commission.

Mr. Scott’s hiring would allow us to attract a whole generation of new golfers as he already has an agreement with the school system to teach golf to thousands of children through his “Cover the Distance Golf Academy” program. He also has a plan to spend twelve months of the year actively marketing our facility via traditional outlets and the internet (another failing of the current operation.)

The competitive analysis (I think that is what the letter mean by “competition analysis”) has been done, as well as comprehensive scrutiny of our operational failings. The key components missing at the course are managerial oversight, a defined business plan and a marketing strategy. This was also the finding so many years ago in the Union report. If the current contracts are awarded again, nothing changes and we will continue the spiral of decline. To date, we’ve experienced a 43% loss in membership, escalating costs, flat revenues and a decline in the physical condition of the course. Meanwhile, the council wants to award the contract worth well over $100,000 to the current golf pro for seven months of work instead of controlling those revenues for the betterment of the course. How does this action serve golfers or our city taxpayers? The course has unlimited opportunity to generate direct and indirect benefit to this city.

Everyone sees this for what this is: a flexing of political muscle for special interests. Until we overcome this unscrupulous behavior, this city cannot move forward. I work for over 18,000 people that include the 390 golfers at Muni. I have everyone’s best interest in mind. I hope that the Council puts special interests aside and starts acting for all of our taxpayers and not just a few. It would be ridiculous of them to force this into court.

I challenge this current council to tell me how awarding the current contract works financially for the city. I want to see their financial analysis.

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