Sunday, October 26, 2014

This week in WisGOP corruption- selling DOT building to buddies

The Capital Times' Mike Ivey deserves credit for unearthing a big story this weekend. It relates to the plans the Walker Administration has for the DOT's Hill Farms State Transportation Building, and it's not something they wanted us to know about before this election.
he state earlier this month quietly posted a request for proposals (RFP) for a developer to design and construct a 600,000 gross square foot office building on the 21-acre site along Sheboygan Avenue. Parking would be a mix of a ramp and surface spaces.

As part of the deal, the developer selected by a special committee would purchase the remaining land at Hills Farms along with the existing 400,000 square foot Department of Transportation office building that would be vacated.....

“This is the first I’ve heard of the RFP ….. and I’m on the State Building Commission,” state Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) told The Capital Times late Friday afternoon.

The RFP was posted online Oct. 13 with interested parties required to register by Oct. 15 for a mandatory tour of the facility. Proposals are due Nov. 7.
Hmmm, 2 days' notice for a "mandatory tour of the facility?" I'm guessing there was a guest list in mind, since it'd be pretty hard to have decision-makers at an organization to drop everything to go on this tour, and then put together a multi-million dollar package for such a large property in a matter of three weeks.

In addition, Ivey's story mentions that the RFP asks for the purchaser to also buy the state's property on Badger Road that houses the Department of Employee Trust Funds, and eventually the Public Service Commission would move into the newly-renovated Hill Farms Building. And the 2013-15 capital budget included the remaking of the Hill Farms property in it, adding $147 million in borrowing, bringing its total cost to $197 million. Sounds like it would be helluva project for someone to get their hands on it, and to a piece of a state contract to do the construction on it.

This is where the second part of the story comes in, because there's a reason this story should be ringing some bells for you. Remember a story from the AP's Scott Bauer last year, where failed GOP Senate candidate and general scumbag Terrence Wall wanted to use his backroom connections to come up with a heckuva business opportunity?
One of Wisconsin’s largest real estate developers wrote to Gov. Scott Walker to express his interest in buying several prominent state office buildings at the same time the Legislature was considering doing away with competitive bidding for such sales, according to newly released records.

Terrence Wall offered his cellphone number in the letter, urging that the “appropriate person” call him to discuss possible deals for properties including the state crime lab, records obtained by the Associated Press show. Wall also offered his support for the change in the bidding process, an idea that originated with Walker.

Wall sent the letter on June 10. The Republican-controlled Legislature agreed 11 days later to allow no-bid sales of state properties over the objection of Democrats, who argued that it opened the door for political cronies to be cut special deals....

Walker called for legalizing no-bid sales of state properties in the budget he proposed in February. The Republican-controlled Legislature agreed in June, after adding a requirement that any sale negotiated by the governor be approved by the budget committee. The state Building Commission, which Walker chairs and is controlled by Republicans, would also have to approve.
And what was one of Wall's biggest targets that he mentioned in the letter? The Hill Farms complex. Funny how these things work out, isn't it? Might not be a bad situation for T. Wall to buy this land from the state at a reduced price, then lease it back (along with any other development around it) for a whole lot more profit once the new building is built.

The timing of the RFP is also VERY interesting, trying to be snuck through while the elections are going on and much of the media is looking elsewhere. It also could lock in a "pennies on the dollar" kickback for campaign donations deal for the connected developer that might get those properties before new governor Mary Burke and a newly-configured Joint Finance Committee (which could be split between Dems and GOPs) would get a chance to veto such a deal, because all decisions associated with the RFP are expected to take place by the end of this year. Which would be before Mary Burke or Susan Happ or any new state legislators would take office.

And if Walker were to somehow survive the election, selling state properties could be a source of a one-time shot of revenue to fill the massive budget holes that lurk in the next budget- while shortchanging taxpayers of the true value of those properties, and leaving an even bigger budget hole for later years (after Walker has gone on to his bigger paycheck at Fox News or some other GOP wingnut welfare).

It seems fitting that the Greater Wisconsin Committee released this ad, describing Scott Walker's "private club", which gives its members big-time benefits.

So yes, this story on the plans for the Hill Farms Building is a big f-ing deal, because it shows that the corruption and cronyism will not change in a second Scott Walker term, and the plans for such schemes have already been drawn up- most just haven't been revealed to the public yet. The way these and future Chicago-style deals can be stopped? Voting in Mary Burke, Susan Happ, and Dems in the Legislature. Period.

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