In an article from 10 years ago by noted columnist Geov Parrish, we get a glimpse of what HUD is in store for under Ron Sims:
You might have thought, after the protracted investigative fiasco that accompanied the City of Seattle and Nordstrom’s use of HUD money to finance a glitzy new downtown retail palace–or even the firestorm of criticism that met the city’s giveaway of the lucrative PacMed building to a “public-private partnership” this fall–that The Usual Suspects would be lying low for a while.
Then again, you might believe that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Teletubbies are all hanging out in Baghdad this week, catching some rays.
In what may be the most audacious non-stadium use yet locally of public money for a private project, County Executive Rom Sims last Tuesday announced–to virtually no media attention–a financing scheme for a planned new four-star hotel on Port of Seattle property at Sea-Tac airport, adjacent to Concourse C and connected directly to both the concourse and the parking garage. The Westin hotel would be majority-owned by the Multi-Employer Property Trust, a pension fund manager for building trades unions (home base for Ron Judd, head of the King County Labor Council). MEPT is an investor in the new Pacific Place retail development downtown. It would receive a 53-year ground lease on the airport land.
To swing the deal, King County proposes to offer Community Development Block Grant money: an $8 million HUD loan under Section 108, the same provision used by Nordstrom’s to purchase the “blighted” Frederick & Nelson building downtown. Section 108 loans are generally given to non-profits, low-income housing developers, and social service agencies. King County is proposing the loan under a provision that 51% or more of the jobs created will be low or moderate income–a fair bet for an enormous hotel, heavy on the maids and bellhops. (How many of those jobs, in a union-owned hotel, won’t be unionized or pay a livable wage?)
Sims’ press conference posturing about having extracted public benefit for the deal was, at best, disingenuous; without the jobs promise, the loan would be illegal. According to backers, 216 new full-time jobs and 44 part-time jobs would be created; the $8 million, therefore, represents about $60,000 per low-income job. The county is essentially putting up the first few years of the cost of half of the hotel’s work force.
Once again, the public is picking up the risk for a private investor’s nearly certain profit. Moreover, the plopping of a elegant upscale hotel on highly visible public property is in many ways similar to Seattle’s strategy for its downtown retail core: the creation of public space where the extremely wealthy will feel comfortable, and the poor won’t be welcome. Except, in this case, as part of the servant class.
More pointedly, the county’s desire to use CBDG money for a hotel development (owned by a real estate speculator associated with one of Sims’ biggest political backers) comes sharply on the heels of a proposed King County budget that cuts social services. Sims’ budget also contained a proposal for a property tax increase–six times the increase allowed under Prop 47 limits–to pay for more cops to combat a crime wave that may or may not exist. Sims is also happy to spend money on himself; the budget for the county exec’s office has steadily expanded under his rule.
The whole article is still available online, here. I can’t find any follow-up to it yet. But with Ron Sims history of botched million dollar computer deals, hiring Jeffrey Dean to program King County’s voter registration database, and his claims that Diebold machines are “hacker proof” it is clear he is not a man to be trusted with public funds.
Hopefully this all comes to light when he is investigated for this position. While King County will be better off without him, I fear giving him even more power in Washington DC.
Filed under: Voting News | Tagged: Ron Simms, Ron Simms Corruption, Ron Simms Secrets, Ron Sims, Ron Sims Baggage, Ron Sims Corrupt, Ron Sims Corruption, Ron Sims Diebold, Ron Sims hires Jeffrey Dean, Ron Sims HUD, Ron Sims Misuses HUD Funds, Ron Sims Secrets, Ron Sims Vetting, Why Ron Sims Should Not Be Confirmed |