Aside from lap dances, benders on taxpayers' dime lies a possible reason why Elk Grove's 'Archie, Jughead and Reggie' visited Vegas

Anyone who has attended a large convention or conference knows this - very little business is conducted, and there are a lot of shenanigans. 

An experienced attendee, if they are honest about their activities, might break their conference time like this - 10 percent is spent sleeping, 20 percent is attending the conference, 10 percent at conference dinners and hospitality rooms, and the remaining 60 percent is for shenanigans.

Now those shenanigans can range from benign activities like playing golf or lounging poolside with your favorite drink. But, unlike a taxpayer-funded trip to Washington D, C., where we have learned there are all sorts of extracurricular activities, shenanigans take on a whole different meaning in a place like Las Vegas. 

Recently three representatives of Elk Grove took a junket to Las Vegas for a shopping center convention. Coincidentally, representatives from Elk Grove attended the same convention six years ago.

Given how Elk Grove City Councilmembers like to call the city's innovation czar Christopher Jordan "CJ" during city council meetings, in keeping with this rampant use of nicknames, we will use three nicknames given to the junket trio by an EGN reader. City Councilmember Darren Suen is Archie, Jordan is Reggie, and Elk Grove economic development director Darrell "Bojangles" Doan is Jughead. 

The Riverdale trio had a grand time based on Archies pictures posted on social media. While the photographs verified they spent some time at the shopping center convention, who knows what sort of shenanigans they enjoyed. 

Maybe they went on a bender or enjoyed some lap dances. Regardless, as happens in these conferences, they probably obscured their expenses, so you, the taxpayer, paid for their shenanigans.

But what about the 20 percent of the time they spend conducting the people's business? What were they there for aside from a good time at taxpayers' expense?

There is a possible answer.

Could they have visited the shopping center convention to look for tenants at the proposed Project Elevate? Or, perhaps they attended the convention to find a new developer for the proposed $600 million so-called lifestyle center.

You may recall Elk Grove entered into a six-month negotiation period with Houston-based Hines Interest in February. Unfortunately, information on the negotiations is scant.

During his biennial report to the city council, Jughead briefly mentioned the project (see video below). For such a significant undertaking, which Jughead already placed in his "accomplishments" category, spent less than one minute out of 60 discussing the multi-hundred-million dollar project. 

We will know by mid-summer the negotiations' progress. Could Hines, a prominent and knowledgeable developer, already have told Elk Grove city manager and chief negotiator Jason Behrmann, who, to keep in character, we will call Mr. Weatherbee, they cannot make the project pencil out? 

Perhaps Hines is pressing Mr. Weatherbee, saying the current retail environment, much less Elk Grove's demographics, makes a high-end lifestyle shopping center only viable if they are given a pile of cash or free land. Maybe Mr. Weatherbee realized this could be an overwhelming embarrassment. 

In this environment, it is reasonable to suspect Archie, Reggie, and Jughead were dispatched by Mr. Waterbee to pitch Elk Grove to retailers and, more importantly, other shopping center developers should the six-month Hines negotiation period collapse. 

We will not know the true intentions of the junket for some time, if ever, but there are two things for sure.

First, Archie, Reggie, and Jughead had a grand old time doing their shenanigans while in Las Vegas on the taxpayers' dime. And second, let's look on the bright side of this junket - at least City Councilmember Sergio Robles wasn't there - taxpayers' bar tab would have been off the charts!  

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Neo Elk Grove said...

If Elk Grove is lucky, this project will be killed before it gets off the ground. Anybody recall the Elk Grove Promenade and the Ghost Mall debacle?

Since we are casting city hall people as cartoon characters, I have a suggestion for Sergio - Bender from Futurama.,is%20voiced%20by%20John%20DiMaggio.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

The City's web site offers the best insight into Project Elevate: "In the best economy, Project Elevate could take five years to develop at once, and possibly up to 15 years to develop in a phased manner, and City financial participation would almost certainly be required to make the Project financially feasible".

Has anyone noticed that the City is systematically moving beyond the traditional role of local government and has now been increasingly subsidizing private real estate transactions, providing direct payments to businesses for creating jobs (regardless of wage levels), and most likely, subsidizing a zoo without so much as placing an advisory vote on the ballot for the public who will be stuck picking up most of the tab. 

The Sacramento Business Journal best described Project Elevate as being "intended to be a modern city center of sorts, built from the ground up with components such as housing, retail, office and hospitality". So now our tax dollars are going to be used to help build a new city within a city we are already paying for? 

Despite the promise of subsidies, the City's go-to developer, Pappas Development as well as the other regional developers still walked away from the plan.  Seems like you can't cook up a plan behind the cubicle walls of City Hall and expect the private sector to risk their capital on a plan that seems to have no market feasibility.

But enter Hines Development of Houston, a global real estate conglomerate that packages deals for institutional investors. Like the late Zaha Hadid architect from London who was paid $1.5 million to design a space-age District56 only to to have the plan discarded, I suspect Hines also sees blood in the water and an easy mark in Elk Grove.

So when our little hick-town Archies are grinning and parading around in Vegas acting like big players, I say watch your wallets. Jeez, a new city AND a new zoo! Better grab hold of your children's wallets as well.

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