Monday, November 27, 2017






the numbers simply DO NOT add up 
on the viability factor

It was shocking to The Stark County Political Report to learn that The Canton Repository had apparently solicited and obtained an "official" relationship with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Project (HOF-VP).

The Repository in Canton, Ohio, was recently named the official newspaper of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (emphasis added)

As a part of the three-year partnership, all Hall of Fame guests will receive a daily edition of the Repository, which will be wrapped in a specially created section that will share the latest information about the Hall’s news and events and features about the game.

Readers of the newspaper and the website will receive specially created Hall of Fame content, including a daily feature on the paper’s front page. will also host a daily video series, which will feature the latest Hall of Fame news.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with an organization of excellence like the Hall, and we look forward to working together during this exciting time for the Hall and our region,” said Jim Porter, the Repository’s publisher.

Of course, "the powers that be" at The Rep have published a number of disclaimers as to its ability to credibly convince the taxpaying/reading public that it can pointedly report on and editorialize upon the HOF-VP in light of its business relationship with the HOF folks.

Here a couple of cites to The Repository's self-serving declarations in that regard:
Todd Porter's piece is particularly pathetically thought out.

Porter's account goes all the way back to the 1950s  (1959, to be exact) to justify what the SCPR thinks is a journalistic unethical relationship between The Rep and the HOF-VP folks in terms of undermining the credibility of The Repository when it comes to the general Stark County public or any other HOF-VP involved taxpayer jurisdiction relying on the scrutiny of a media company to dig out secreted information that might reveal details that raise manifold "red flags" as to the viability of and the efficient/effective use of public money that has been and continues to be solicited to prop up what more and more appears to be destined to fall far short of the grandiose plan unveiled in it 2014 roll out.

Oh! yes, Mr. Porter, longevity of being a cheerleader justifies everything.

Now that's about the most loosey-goosey logic ("logic," of course, a misplaced word in the phrase) the SCPR has ever heard.

For a journalistic enterprise (i.e. The Repository) to be "gilding the lily" in resourcing somebody to say that its three year contractual relationship with the HOF-VP is an "evolving" norm of ethics in journalism should simply be unacceptable to the reading/taxpaying public.

Quite a turn of events, a media entity that is supposed to be holding the likes of the HOF-VP accountable, does not want to be held accountable to the "highest" ethical standards.

What would the venerable Akron Beacon Journal publisher and editor John S. Knight think? This question should resonate with Desrosiers, he once worked at the Akron Beacon Journal.

Of course, the likes of Desrosiers and (Jim )Porter can do whatever they want in arguing that The Rep's relationship with the HOF-VP meets an ethical standard that is comfortable and opportunistic for them.

But the SCPR, for one, is not buying.

The Report thinks that authentic/credible journalism in not having any financial or other relationship with a subject of a journalistic inquiry should be at an ethical level "of avoiding the very appearance of impropriety" (i.e. conflict in interest).

The Rep's argument is at the low end of ethical standards, if a ethical standard at all.

Getting back to Desrosiers' use of the word "skeptical." The SCPR thinks, of course, readers should critically think about every medium of communication information.

When a media outlet argues for a "low" ethical standard, which the SCPR thinks The Repository has done on the HOF-VP matter; then readers need to have heightened scrutiny and proudly wear the label "skeptical" even though Desrosiers' attribution appears to be an offhand dissing of discerning readers.

The SCPR's read on the general tenor of Repository "official newspaper" coverage so far is to create a "rah, rah, rah" environment in which in-depth scrutiny is disfavored and "bias confirmation" of "all things coming up roses" is the order of day.

Why doesn't The Rep go the full measure and staff the public relations office for the HOF-VP operation?

All Stark Countians should want the HOF-VP to be a success and, of course, the SCPR shares that desire.

But not at the price of  "NOT" having:
  • a reasonable assurance based on a workable/documented financial picture of its viability, and 
  • an accounting on how much public money has been/is to be infused into the project, and 
    • the providing of an mechanism by which the  taxpaying public is empowered to know whether or not the public money expended can be shown to either have been productive or unproductive.
A critical phrase in Executive Editor Desrosiers' June 10th editorial, to wit:

Our task, editorially, is to remain transparent, remain independent. There will be skeptics. To them, we say: If something doesn’t seem right, let us know.

In a blog subsequent to this one, the SCPR will be dealing with a specific exchange between Desrosiers and the SCPR concerning the foregoing Desrosiers' assertion "[if something doesn't seem right, let us know."

The SCPR has a story to share with readers which The Report thinks shows how a defensive, not meaningfully responsive Desrosiers (in his representative capacity of leadership at The Rep) betrays a knowingness that The Rep does not have the distance it ought to have from the HOF-VP/IRG pairing so as to be positioned to evaluate the project's viability and accountability credibly to Stark Countians.

And let it be known that the SCPR looks at the leadership and not its reportorial staff for decisions made/not made at The Rep with respect to reporting/editorializing on numbers that beg not to be overlooked in digging deep into what appears to be all too many "held in private" data points that seemingly are being hidden to the public by the HOF-VP folks under the guise of being proprietary "trade secret" information.

It is somewhat understandable that The Rep as an iconic and long lived Stark County institution would want to focus on the "best case scenario" hoped for financial/economic development productiveness for the county flowing from the HOF-VP.

A succession of Repository leaders have seen Canton, the county seat, take a nosedive in economic life since its heydey circa 1950.

Though a part of the Canton/Stark County business community, as the mainstay countywide newspaper, it is vital that Stark County's only countywide newspaper endeavor "to tell it as it is" so that community leaders have to face stark reality no matter how discomforting that may be.

There is no doubt about it, nearly seventy years of decline now has placed Canton in a survivalist mode joined in recent years, perhaps, by the NFL and its handmaiden of enshrinement and preservation of football as a core essential of American cultural life.

While they undoubtedly will deny it, the SCPR thinks that the impetus for the concept and fleshing out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Project as an extraordinary entertainment complex in the order of Disneyland (California) and Disney World (Florida) is a desperate measure for professional football and its museum to stay relevant in a fast changing society as to what is and what is not to be society acceptable youth sports participation for future generations of middle class Americans.

The SCPR has embarked on a quest to develop information on whether or not Canton and Stark County embracing the HOF-VP is a wise move in terms of investing Canton/Stark community social, economic, financial and political resources in the project.

A part of the analysis has to be whether or not the HOF-VP/IRG folks will allow the transparency needed for area leaders to assess in the context of knowing all relevant information the viability of the project.

If HOF/IRG leaders want to persist in withholding critical information from the general Stark County public, then, that in and of itself should prompt local leaders to say "thanks, but no thanks" we cannot take on all out support of a project that seemingly is based on "a hope and a prayer" and having "faith" that those leaders will give at least equal billing to the welfare of the Canton/Stark County public welfare as their private interest.

On the private interest factor, take a look at the following extract of documents the SCPR has obtained from the Stark County commissioners' office, to wit;

The import of the foregoing highlighted language the SCPR thinks is that "private sector businesses" will benefit from public monies being infused into the HOF-VP which suggests a possibility that should the HOF-VP "go belly up," the taxpayer could be left with a financial clean up like the federal government was in the 2008 national financial crisis.

Isn't it interesting of how some (certainly not most) from "the private sector" make financially unsound plans/decisions that on their face suggest if not reek of unsustainability and ultimately in some fashion the public picks up the deficits while the "some" walk off with profits.

The national media largely failed America in forewarning us of the impending 2008 financial crisis.

Only a government bureaucrat; namely, Brooksley Born, saw the crisis coming well in advance of its actual happening.

It could be that something somewhat analogous awaits Stark County taxpayers that might dwarf the 2009 county financial in which county employee Vince Frustacci was not properly monitored coupled with the treasury office not being properly structured, physically and procedures wise.

It may be that public investment in the HOF-VP will worth the risk and thousands of new jobs get created and the return on public money will be magnified many times.

But it is unacceptable that "we the people" are not being provided with in-depth information as to exactly what that risk is.

It is the job of all levels of government dealing with the HOF-VP/IRG corporate partnership ensure that the risk is NOT "an undo risk" and that legal protection is in place that taxpayers not be left with "a pig in the poke."

To repeat, it is interesting that Desrosiers would apply the word "skeptics" (see his italicized statement above) to those of us who:
  • examine promises made versus those kept,
    • Note:  Ask North Cantonians about the eyesore that prime Hall of Fame developer Stu Lichter has let go on and on in front of the former Hoover complex across from North Canton City Hall, and
  • push for strict accountability for public money finding its way into the HOF-VP including:
    • direct benefit Ohio/Canton government payments and redirected sales tax revenues,  and
      • Note: $3.8 million in federal/state funds are to be expended to fix perceived potential traffic problems as construction of the HOF-VP proceeds.  Of course, the expenditure of monies for the HOF-VP improvements might mean that other State of Ohio funded Stark County road projects lose or get diminished funding
    • indirect expenditures in the form of government administrative expenditures that would not be incurred BUT FOR the HOF-VP  (particularly those provided by Canton government and Stark County government)
The SCPR sees such an attribution as subtle putdown by an experienced word crafter labeling anybody who endeavors to comprehensively analyze the viability and public accountability of the project and raises questions why his employer seems to be giving a pass to HOF-VP administrators with incisive questioning.

Skilled readers of the above-cited Repository articles clearly see the journalistic ethical downside of the business relationship between The Rep and readers getting "no holds barred" coverage of the HOF-VP financial vulnerabilities.

Moreover, it is clear that Repository publisher Jim Porter and Desrosiers themselves also see the obvious conflict in interest and hence they perceived a need to go out a get an ethical opinion which in effects says "nearly everybody in the news reporting/editorializing business" is creating.

In today's blog, the SCPR focuses on two instances in which there are questions about the quality of Repository coverage of the HOF-VP as the project has evolved.

Look at this slide presented by HOF prime developer Stu Lichter at a October, 2016 meeting with the Stark County commissioners:


Compare the slide to what HOF-VP Executive Director C. David Baker said about the "final" cost of the Benson Stadium phase of the project:

Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker extended an invitation to the school district to “break in” the field. He spoke with band members on Monday after they finished posing for a photo and told them the stadium cost close to $150 million and is “the finest home of any high school in the world.”

Baker asked the students to remember three C’s when they use the stadium: To keep it clean and safe, to be classy, and to be competitive. He told the younger students they would have the responsibility of teaching incoming freshmen how to treat the stadium with respect.

“This is your house,” he said.

The foregoing was reported in The Repository in July, 2017 but insofar as the SCPR knows, The Rep has not dug deep and found out the reason for the more than six times the original cost estimate of the stadium.

So from $24.3 million to $80 million to $150 million?

Who came up with that initial $24.3 million figure?


Talk about inaccuracies in estimating costs!!!

Even at $24.3 million, it would take a long, long, long time to attract enough revenues to start making money on the capital expenditure?

Well, go six (6) times $24.3 million and the $150 million, more or less;  how many generations of Cantonians/Stark Countians/Ohioans will it take to offset the $150 capital expenditure for "the finest home of a high school in the world."

Though the HOF-VP folks ballyhoo a possibility that Canton City Schools (about $6.7 million over 30 years [$223,333 annualized average]) and Plain Local Schools (about $3.3 million over 30 years [$110,000 annualized average]), if the project turns out to be "pie-in-the-sky," then those numbers will be dramatically reduced.

What the HOF-VP do not talk about in a press release about a Tax Increment Financing agreement worked out with Canton and Plain schools is an implicit projection that the HOF-VP/IRG duo will walk off with $30 million with which to pay for bonding/interest/underwriting on the $9,500,000 in bonding issued by the Summit County and Lucas County Port Authorities to pay for work done on the HOF-VP.

A high school, by the way, which way too many letter grade "F" rank in terms of the quality of education it offers its students, to wit:

Now that is getting one's priorities right, no?  

And David Baker thinks it is a good thing that a failing school system has a $150 million football stadium to brag about?

Based on the cost overrun on the reconstruction of the former Fawcett Stadium (remember from $24.3 million to $150 million (more or less), where will the final cost of the HOF-VP end up?

$1 billion.  $1.5 billion.  $2 billion?

Even though Johnson Controls has at least $70 million to go on its commitment to the HOF-VP, the $70 million plus is still is a "drop in the bucket" in which the SCPR thinks it is quite clear, to wit:  if ever finished, it looks likely that the HOF-VP will be at least $1 billion.

Moreover, the SCPR has a credible source in the eyes of this blog report that there are some $24 million outstanding HOF-VP invoices that lack funding to be paid that is said to have come out at a recent Stark County Port Authority meeting.

As far as the SCPR can determine, The Rep has yet to deal with that report and its suggestion that the $24 million together with a $54,420,000 "developer's equity" might just, might just, might just (repeated on purpose) suggest a project viability problem?

So far as we know, the HOF-VP is costing about $137 million not counting the state of Ohio $10 million infusion. Taking $54.5 million plus $24 million and dividing $137 million into the result, one comes up with with a Debt to Capital Expense (D/CE)  ratio of some 57%.

Hey! forensic accountants out there:  any cause for concern on the sustainability of that financial picture?

Questions begging to be asked of the HOF-VP/IRG folks?

Do contractors/developers build HOF-VP-esque projects to acquire equity stakes in a given project?

Do contractors/developers have a business model of "We will do the work, pay us when you can?"

Probably not very interested in engaging the SCPR in an exhaustive Q&A, no?

The SCPR is increasingly hearing that local government officials are starting to be concerned that local government will be "left holding the bag" for what appears to be lack of accounting for unpaid bills and the carrying of debt as having an equity stake in the HOF-VP.

There are those who say that the National Football League will swoop-in at the end and ante up the likely necessary millions if not tens of millions of dollars to ensure that the profit-making companies involved in the project get paid.


Here is a spreadsheet that the SCPR developed from the June 4, 2017 Repository article which The Report thinks suggests that such is dispositive of any questions that anybody might have about the viability and accountability of the project.

The SCPR encourages readers to go to the links provided in this blog, thoroughly vet the material and all other material The Rep has published and look the SCPR in the face and say that The Rep has critically analyzed, thoroughly vetted (meaning: asking and sticking with unanswered questions until answered with a high degree of plausibility) and investigated with third party sources so that folks who read The Rep feel assured that the HOF-VP is viable and taxpayers are fully accounted to and protected.

What will happen first?

Readers being so assured or Hell freezing over?

As the SCPR sees it, the joint private enterprise effort of HOF-VP/IRG cannot negotiate "private sector financing" of even the initial phase (i.e. $137 million) of the HOF-VP cost without millions upon millions of dollars of public money let alone the untold millions which will be needed to complete the project as envisioned by the Baker led crowd as he does a masterful job of ginning up excitement and enthusiasm for community that is in desperate need of a financial/economical shot in the arm.

It may be that the millions of dollars of public money put into the David Baker vision is worth the risk that vision may not materialize.

As HOF-VP matters stand now, it is very, very, very, very, very hard to see a pathway forward to the realization of promises made without millions more of public money being pumped into was supposed to be a private enterprise project.

The SCPR is totally in favor of private enterprise.

BUT private enterprise needs to keep its fingers out of the public till.

Obviously, that is not happening with the HOF-VP/IRG project.

To the degree a private enterprise project gets public money,  it absolutely MUST be a viable project in the sense that there is a certainty that there will be a return on investment to taxpayers and progress to the realization of the certainty is monitored through transparent accounting to the taxpaying public.

The October, 2017 meeting between the HOF-VP/IRG officials and the Stark County commissioners included an executive session.

Such is not transparency.

In the private sector, company officials are entitled to be secretive.

But we taxpayers should not tolerate that our elected officials provide public funding without knowing how each and every public dollar is spent.

If The Repository with its vast resources (as a part of the Gateway media complex) is not up to protecting the public interest because of its own financial needs, then the one-person Stark County Political Report will do its best to dig, dig, dig and dig more so that the taxpaying community is informed on the goings on with the HOF-VP.

The greatness of America is that here and there one person achieves  the seemingly impossible in being a difference maker.

Could it be that the SCPR will prove to be a difference maker in forcing out information relevant to the productive feasibility of public investment in the HOF-VP?

As matter stand now, there are far too many unanswered questions for the taxpaying public to be comfortable in investing public money in the HOF-VP!

Links to SCPR blogs on the HOF-VP:

1 comment:

public/leaseholder said...

Maybe we can put a Dome over, it and all the Homeless in Canton can at least get out of the winter cold