Stay Calm and Go to the Top of the Foodchain

Anger can be a very productive emotion if you learn how to use it properly.  But it requires a conscious effort.  Let’s take a look at my most recent bout when I was being given the run-around by the Port Authority regarding Western & Southern’s equity participation in Queen City Square.  (See the blog post, Now I’m Pi$$ed)

1.  Their Associate Counsel sent me a 63-page document that did not answer my question and told me to hire a lawyer to read it for me.

2.  Since I had copied the specific employee who negotiated the original deal for the city on my request, this was very frustrating and I did not feel they were making a good-faith effort to supply the information. Grrrrrrrrr. The implication that I was too stupid to understand a legal contract did not help my mood and I started using terms like “that little pip squeak.” Double grrrrrrrr.  “Stupid” is the worst thing anybody can imply since I try very hard to do more homework than anybody else in any room.  My poor husband – who really doesn’t understand why I don’t just mind my own business – had to pretend like he was listening to a lot of complicated real estate jargon that doesn’t directly impact his life.  

3.  Then I slept on it.

4.  And when I woke up this morning, I wasn’t mad anymore and knew from the bottom of my heart that I was not a powerless, little insect that the Port Authority could flick-off at will, a mere annoyance on a list of much more important considerations.  I am a Citizen and there’s nothing more important.

Still in my nightgown, I created a multi-pronged plan to march towards change.  And the change I’m looking for is increased transparency, a better educated electorate, and more meaningful community conversation.  None of it requires casts of thousands or any money.  It is a commitment of time, will, and faith in the intelligent goodness of my fellow citizens.  I believe in us.

The first item on my action-list was to go back to the Port Authority and ask for the intervention of the woman who runs the show, Executive Director, Laura Brunner.  

Hello, Laura.  Christopher Recht has been very responsive in my recent requests for public documents regarding the Queen City Square project.  But we seem to have reached an impasse on the question of any retained equity ownership of the building by Western & Southern Life Insurance or any of their affiliates.  Since the building is currently on the market two years after completion and the Lessee can terminate the lease on or after October 1, 2015 this is important for the citizens of Cincinnati to understand.

 
Christopher’s first response to my query was a one-page summation of the project financing and it clearly included no discussion of division of proceeds should the building be sold. When I told him that this was not the information I needed he sent the 63 page Lease Agreement and suggested I consult an attorney for interpretation of the document.  
 
I have seen a 15% percent retained ownership mentioned in other sources, so I am puzzled as to why I don’t see any reference to such an arrangement in documents provided by the Port Authority.  Susan Thomas negotiated the terms of the project for the City and I was hoping this would be a fairly simple question for her to answer.
 
As Christopher implied in his most recent email, perhaps I don’t have sufficient expertise to read and understand legal contracts without going to the expense of paying an attorney. But if that is the case, then I would suggest we need a uniform executive summary of the most important financial facts regarding each of the Port Authority’s projects that is accessible on your website.  I’m sure this improvement in communication would save a lot of valuable time for your staff in responding to inquiries such as mine.  Currently there is no standardization and the information on Queen City Square appears to have been written by a public relations professional, seriously lacking in financial detail. Your biggest project to date by ten-fold, it deserves far greater transparency and I would be happy to volunteer my time to help the Port Authority develop a standardized format for use by elected public officials, citizens, the press, and commission members.
 
In the meantime, I would very much appreciate it if Christopher could supply me with a reference to the particular section and page numbers in the Lease Agreement that pertain to division of proceeds on sale of Queen City Square.  If my other source is wrong in regard to equity participation, that would also end our conversation and I could feel comfortable in my understanding of the relationship of the city to this project, but I would like somebody to say it out loud. 
 
Thank-you for your help,
Kathy Holwadel

Fellow Citizens, we’re not crazy and we’re not stupid.  There’s always something we can do to disrupt the patterns of secrecy that create an unhealthy balance of power, especially now that we can network through social media.  When you get that yucky feeling in the pit of your stomach about what’s going on, dig in your heals and refuse to go away.   Because that’s what they count on.   Not because our public officials and administrators are bad people.  They’re just like the rest of us, always slightly over-whelmed and trying their best to do some very complicated jobs – so, of course, it would be easier for them if we Citizens would trust their judgement and not worry our pretty little heads about these complicated political issues.  

Ask questions.  Get angry.  Pick up a pen.  Talk to each other.  We are powerful, Citizens, and nobody is more important.

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