SC

Bull Street: A Bad Deal For Taxpayers

There’s been some light reporting on this in other media outlets, but it turns out the lawyers responsible for advising the City of Columbia, S.C. on financial matters were adamantly opposed to mayor Steve Benjamin’s massive “Bull Street boondoggle.” In fact a memorandum from the city’s attorneys to Benjamin and…

There’s been some light reporting on this in other media outlets, but it turns out the lawyers responsible for advising the City of Columbia, S.C. on financial matters were adamantly opposed to mayor Steve Benjamin’s massive “Bull Street boondoggle.”

In fact a memorandum from the city’s attorneys to Benjamin and city council members lays bare the grave concerns they had with this recent crony capitalist “economic development” deal.

For those of you unfamiliar with this boondoggle, Columbia taxpayers are on the hook for $71 million as part of a planned “revitalization” of an abandoned mental health facility in downtown Columbia, S.C.

(For an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at this property, click here).

“We have an ethical duty to advise that the Bull Street Development Agreement, as currently drafted, exposes the City of Columbia to significant legal and financial risks,” the memorandum from city attorneys Ken Gaines and David Tedder states.

The memo proceeds to question whether the city has “a definitive approach or plan to provide the significant levels of funding required under the (agreement)?”

After outlining the numerous obligations associated with the deal – including “low trigger levels” related to the outlay of millions of dollars in taxpayer cash – Gaines and Tedder conclude that “we do not recommend that the Bull Street Development Agreement be approved or made effective.”

The memo is dated July 8, 2013 – one day after city councilwoman Leona Plaugh wrote on this website that “the city needs to put the brakes on the Bull Street project” owing to the need for “more public input” and “greater details from the developer.”

“Rushing this process over the July 4th holiday period is not the type of government citizens deserve and expect,” Plaugh wrote.

Somehow, the memo never saw the light of day … and on July 9 city council voted 4-2 in favor of the deal with Greenville developer Bob Hughes.

Benjamin’s response to the memo?

Naturally, he’s not addressing its merits – or the serious questions it raises about the financial wisdom of the deal he rammed through city council. He is attacking the person he suspects leaked it – and chalking the whole thing up to dirty political campaigning.

“I find it regrettable that a member of City Council would anonymously, unethically and possibly illegally release a document in an attempt to mislead the public,” Benjamin told WIS TV 10 (NBC – Columbia, S.C.). “I assume this is what we can come to expect during campaign season.”

BULL STREET MEMO

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19 comments

? September 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm

WVOC’s Johnathon & Kelly reference you yesterday Sic in relation to the “Strong Mayor” article you wrote up…good stuff.

They also referenced this whole Bull Street crap.

They need to just sell the property, hand out tax breaks to the buyer and leave the taxpayer off the hook for everything else….it would be a completely clean and done deal with a free market approach.

Otherwise the graft, liability and budget busts will take over with the taxpayer still on the hook.

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EJB September 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm

If Columbia would avoid all the chicken poop requirements, sell the property to the highest bidder they would make money up front and in property taxes over the years. Of course that would minimize the amount of money going into certain pockets but that’s the way it goes, sometimes.

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Slartibartfast September 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I was extremely disappointed with WIS’s news operation. Although they have always been cheerleaders for political correctness in Columbia, their coverage of this story has been even more one-sided.

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Henry Mixmaster Slumlord September 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Judi Gatson at work. Making sure her “peeps” prop up T-Bone.

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Smirks September 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm

“I find it regrettable that a member of City Council would anonymously,
unethically and possibly illegally release a document in an attempt to inform the public”

Fix’d.

“I assume this is what we can come to expect during campaign season.”

Hope so. Whatever might send your ass home suits me just fine anyways.

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just another guy September 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm

This is a joke, right? What Hughes is asking for is what anyone would expect IMHO. He is asking them to take care of the roads, because they will be public roads and he will be paying taxes on the land. He is asking for help on a parking garage, which is something we do in Greenville all the time and it has worked very well. They will get their money back from the garage from fees (Split with the developer). The main reason why Cola is pissed is bc they can’t hold a gun to Hughes Head to give money to the brother in law of a council person or minority contract. I do think the baseball stadium is too much but everything else should be provided, ie roads, sewer up fit, and water (Core functions of Government).

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vicupstate September 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm

When developing a subdivision, the developer normally pays for the roads and deeds them over to the city or state afterwards. As for water and sewer, developers often pay at least a substantial tap fee, and sometimes to extend the lines themselves too.
Such things are up for negotiations, but it is not a given that the city will pay for infrastructure on a new project at all.

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nitrat September 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

That’s the way the Beach Company operates, too. Most local governments don’t have the excess cash to play with those kind of people anymore.

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Slartibartfast September 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm

While I dearly love the people of Columbia, they have allowed their government to lean left for so long, I’m afraid they don’t know how to constructively cooperate with business, anymore. (unless you consider USC a business – and many people do.)

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Glad I aint no city dweller September 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Is there any truth to the rumor that the first rib joint in the new development is gonna be called The T-Bone? I hear it is going to specialize in late night drinking guaranteed to “turn yo’ lights out…” The Inn next door will accommodate anyone with a desire to run around on their spouse or sober up a little before returning to their daytime city jobs.

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Slartibartfast September 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm

It may also have a laundry which caters especially to diabetics and winos.

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Jay Ellington September 18, 2013 at 8:48 am

Complimentary herpes test with each stay.

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Jay Ellington September 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm

T-Bone did such a great job on the Village at River’s Edge development, I’m sure Bull Street will go off without a hitch. Hopefully one day in the not so distant future the citizens of Columbia will wake up and realize that everything he touches turns to caca.

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T-Bone's conscience September 17, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Repent Benjamin, for killing that women. Devote your life to serving other people instead of stealing from them and salvage what’s left of your life to show your children you aren’t a self serving bastard that grabs for money and power without conscience.

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Hnery MixMaster September 18, 2013 at 12:13 am

What I find absolutely amazing is how indiscrete T-Bone is. You talk to anyone in city government and they all know he’s sleeping with the City Manager and several other women not his wife. One can only guess that he’s be indiscrete about shady business deals, as well. I am amazed the city is going to re-elect him.

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Jay Ellington September 18, 2013 at 8:52 am

Well, just ask Pete Rowe how indiscrete T-bone is about business deals. Pete’s knowledge of how much of a fraud the man is got him fired from his job as director of HUD.

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Henry Mixmaster, Bon Vivant September 18, 2013 at 11:07 am

It would be one thing if he were like E.W. who was crooked as hell, but brought the bacon home to individuals in his district. T-Bone doesn’t do that or show up to events in a non-election period.

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9" September 18, 2013 at 7:44 am

Only in a barbaric country like,21C USA,would this place be abandoned;see,homelessness,etc…

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Same ol' Same ol' September 18, 2013 at 11:03 am

I suppose everyone in Cola city gov’t is “on the take” or otherwise implicated in all of the shady deals and wrongdoings. There are no principled folks left that are powerful enough to lead a charge for positive change. I am certain that this happens in every city/town/community in the country it’s just a matter of scale. Sad, but evil does win.

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