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Friday, March 28, 2008

WTF? The beauty of the convention mart deal: You'll have no idea where the money went!

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 1:29 PM

The convention mart deal is the kinda trough made for Jimmy Dimora
In their ongoing quest to blowtorch your wallet, then stomp it to death while doing Cherokee war cries, Cuyahoga County commissioners may have fashioned their worst deal yet to build a new convention center/medical mart in Cleveland. In an ongoing series, Ace Reporter Lisa Rab breaks down the absurdity of the deal for those of you scoring at home: Whenever civic leaders want you to pick up the tab for a new project, they inevitably trot out claims that thousands of new jobs will be created. Remember Gateway, when they told us it would create 27,000 new jobs? Or how about the fabulous Euclid corridor project, where a miracle bus route is supposed to create 9,000 jobs? … Though commissioners have yet to trot out their own fictitious numbers for the convention center/medical mart, people might presume they will at least be creating temporary construction jobs. Think again, my friend. As we’ve noticed in previous installments, this just isn’t any deal. This is the Worst Deal Ever! Which naturally means Jimmy Dimora & Co. have decided to screw you in every way possible. Check this out: You, dear reader, are picking up the $1.3 billion tab for this bad boy. But that $1.3 billion doesn’t actually buy you anything. The money goes not only to pay for construction, but to pay Merchandise Mart Properties, so it can turn around and pay us back with our own money! Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. But since Merchandise Mart is technically the owner, the convention mart will be built as a private project. And that means it won’t have to abide by pesky little things like competitive bidding and open books so you can actually see where your money is going. This, ladies and gentlemen, poses something for a problem. Even in public projects, the county commissioners are to construction projects what Celebrity Apprentice is to high culture. When we last left our heroes on their ill-fated county headquarters project, they hired R.P Carbone Construction to head the management team. When company chief Vincent Carbone, later got indicted for bribery in Lorain, they kept him on the job. They also went out of their way to give an asbestos-removal contract to an Independence company, Precision Environmental, even though its bid was nearly $1 million higher than the competitor’s. After all, it’s your money, not theirs! LOL! And let’s not forget that to begin the HQ project, the commissioners paid $21.8 million for the long-vacant, asbestos-filled Ameritrust complex, without bothering to get the buildings appraised! Meanwhile, the commissioners have joined city leaders in routinely screwing black workers. Subcontracts set aside for minority-owned businesses magically end up going to front companies, who then kick most of the money and work back to whitey. The white-owned Precision had a lengthy history of running such a scam before it was hired for the HQ project — but that didn’t stop the company from getting more contracts [“White on Black Crime,” August 15]. So when it comes time to hire builders for the Mart, you can bet the commissioners will have a hefty say in who gets hired. Just don’t expect them to share the wealth.—Lisa Rab. Previously on Medical Mart Watch: Sam Miller has been jonesing for this mart for 20 years Why convention centers are the VHS of civic investment tools How you’ll pick up the tab for the convention center, but not even own it!

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