Friday, July 28, 2006

Community, not Doyle, derailed project

It's getting so you can't tell the witch hunts reviews without a scorecard.

Mike Bauer, who doubles as AG Peg Lautenschlager's top lawyer and chief campaign strategist, says the Justice Dept. is looking under every bed for anything that might damage Gov. Jim Doyle, who Lautenschlager blames for getting Kathleen Falk into the AG's race against her.

AP reported:

Bauer said the prosecutors are reviewing for possible investigation a complaint from a developer called Prism over how Doyle's administration handled the bidding process for the $68.7 million UW-Milwaukee project. Prism lost out on a bid to turn a university building into student housing and retail space. The contract ultimately went to a firm whose employees had donated $51,000 to the governor's campaign since December 2003.
If there was ever any doubt that the Lautenschlager-Bauer team are more interested in covering their own asses and hurting Doyle than finding the facts, this case should settle it.

This was a Republican project, started under Scott McCallum, and the decision to rebid was made by the State Building Commission, not the Doyle administration, as Republican members of that commission have already reminded the news media.

It is a case where input from the community brought about change in the project. That's a good thing, not a crime.

This may be more than you want to know, but Michael Horne of Milwaukee World traces the history of the project:

"Legislator may profit from UWM project." That was the headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ... in the December 23rd, 2003 edition. The legislator, Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon), was a limited partner and consultant to Prism Development Co., the firm chosen to redevelop the Kenilworth Building for UWM. Gielow became involved in the project while he was serving on the board of the UWM Foundation, (he was once president) yet before he ran for the assembly.

Prism was awarded the contract, but the award was later rescinded once the Doyle administration took office, in part due to publicity regarding Gielow's involvement with the project...

Prism has since sued former Doyle Secretary of Administration Marc Marotta, saying he was inappropriately involved with the selection process that ultimately led to the choice of Weas Development for the 500,000 sq. ft. project, which is nearing completion on E. Kenilworth Pl., between N. Farwell and N. Prospect avenues. Weas was chosen in a second round, after the initial proposals were rejected...

One person key to the events is Jim Plaisted, the executive director of the East Side Business Improvement District #20.

His recollections are deposition-worthy, and show a much different picture of the negotiations for the project than appear in the newspaper. The BID was created in 1998; Plaisted has been involved in the project from the beginning. As early in 1999, the master plan for the neighborhood identified the Kenilworth Building (formerly a Ford Motor Company plant) as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the area.

Plaisted served on a committee in 2000 to discuss the redevelopment of the property. In line with his responsibilities to the neighborhood, Plaisted sought community input and involvement in the project.

In 2002, when the project was finally ready for bids,"I contacted UWM and asked them for a chance to review the RFP (request for proposal) before it went out, and was rebuffed," Plaisted said. Nonetheless, the project went out for bid and Prism, the firm with connections to now-Rep. Gielow, was selected.

"The RFP was poorly drafted, bureaucratic in nature and offered no review role for the neighborhoods involved or the City of Milwaukee for that matter. ... Several responders mentioned how poorly the RFP was constructed, and only two offered serious proposals: Prism Development and Cullen/Scion," Plaisted says.

Plaisted says he offered to alert the bidders to his concerns during the review process, but was told by UWM officials that there "was no room for negotiating the details of their proposal before the State awarded the development contract to Prism."

[In fact, it has since been documented that Prism officials indeed were able to make their own revisions to the proposal during the State review. This is significant, since changes during State review was a significant factor in the controversy involving the State travel contract awarded to Adelman Travel.]

Plaisted says there were problems with both proposals, since each included student housing levels of over 400 units, an amount that would be unacceptable to the neighborhoods in the vicinity.

Plaisted, with his BID, the Water Tower Landmark Trust and city officials, then contacted the state legislators for the area, Rep. Jon Richards and Sen. Jeff Plale, and expressed their concerns that the development was "dead in the water if it comes before the community as proposed, and that the process was flawed from the beginning by not taking into account neighborhood and City perspectives." Not to mention the Gielow/Prism connection.

Plaisted then attended a meeting in Richards' office with Marotta, UWM officials, Plale, and Alderman Michael S. D'Amato.

The state officials and UWM then agreed to advise the State Building Commission to reissue the RFP, thus angering the Prism officials, who had assumed the contract would be theirs. "I'm assuming the community concerns were the straw that broke the camel's back," Plaisted says.

The project was rebid in 2003, this time with community input, and the result is the Weas project, which seems destined to receive many awards when it opens later this year. Weas, Plaisted says, was open to working with the neighborhood groups. The process, he says, "was conducted in an above-board manner with community stakeholders at the table."

As far as Marotta's involvement, which is the subject of Prism's politically-motivated suit, Plaisted says, "I don't recall one instance [during the process] where anyone in the room mentioned talking to Secretary Marotta or having to consult with him. The only time I ever talked to him was in the meeting in Rep. Richard's office."
Your witness, Mr. Bauer.


At 9:51 PM, Blogger Blurondo said...

This is not more than I want to know. I am a regular reader of Milwaukee World and received this posting two days ago. He is a relentless investigator of the facts and consequently, his information is of the highest quality. His posting regarding this topic should be of value to the bloging body politic and the MSM as well.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Dad29 said...


At 11:14 AM, Blogger Dad29 said...

By the way, was it a Delco (GM) building, or a FoMoCo building?

I seem to recall Delco had it before they built the Oak Creek facilities.


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