Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Side Transparency: Comments to the Town Council

In keeping with this reporter's commitment to readers to fully disclose those communications that he decides not to keep private, the following note sent to the Town Council is provided. The message was sent following the special MRRA/Council workshop held on Monday, Sept 28th.


1) Concerns about Oxford Aviation expressed by this author and others are clearly the least of the challenges facing base redevelopment.

2) When it comes to due diligence on Oxford, the town could invest $100 or thereabouts in a Dunn and Bradstreet report and get it's own independent glimpse of the company from a standard evaluation perspective.

3) The fact that MRRA knowingly allows Oxford to represent to the "global community" that they occupy (or will, to be more precise) the entirety of Hangar 6 for their "Jet Division" while knowing that the agreement or lease or contract only covers half the hangar is troubling on several levels. At the very least, it demonstrates a lack of attention to consistency, detail, and accurate disclosure to the public. Such discontinuities only add to perceptions that communications and accountability are suspect.

4) Oxford's willingness to misrepresent itself in such a way on the internet creates serious doubts about all the other grandiose projections offered up by F. Lee Bailey in public settings. Quite frankly, they appear anything but trustworthy, and base redevelopment efforts create a "look the other way" atmosphere when such concerns arise. This is not a good combination for the public interest and trust.

5) There is clearly a chain of contingencies in play. MRRA must be authorized to 'operate' an airport first of all; then they must engage a Fixed Base Operator. Only then can Oxford Aviation have a functional presence. Sans any other commercial enterprises for the "airport," it will be operated for the sole benefit of Oxford Aviation.

6) Oxford talks of bringing in major full size commercial aircraft. I don't know the first thing about this, but I would think they'd find landing and taking off at an "uncontrolled airfield" a bit sketchy.

I stipulate that everyone involved is intent on putting the best possible spin on things to keep optimism at a high level. That said, unfounded optimism borders on gross misrepresentation, and vigilance is required to make sure things stay on track.

Public statements not withstanding, it is clear that if the Base goes into the tank for whatever reason, the stink will attach first to the town, second to the region, and third to the state. Promises of state support etc. need to be heard in the context of a state that has huge fiscal problems, and that clearly prioritizes social programs over economic sustainability.

I suggest again that it would seem wise to have the town attorney, or someone more qualified, conduct a "worst case" legal analysis of what could fall upon the town's shoulders if things go awry and the state chooses to cut its losses. Good intentions are nice, and political assurances are comforting. Reality has a way of interfering with both, and the town trying to hold the state to its promises doesn't have much of a chance.

Look at the hospitals, which are owed $400 million plus by the state. Now think about the assurances we are getting.

We all know poop runs down hill, and frankly, the town is at the bottom of the hill. You cannot and must not lose sight of that reality.

If you take the runways out of the picture, the other "commercial" potential is based largely on believing people can't find real estate on which to locate a business. Does that really wash in a state so little populated as Maine?

I also question the validity of citing Pease as a model, rather than say Bangor. Pease has a business climate that is nearly the dead opposite of ours, along with proximity to the greater Boston area and deepwater port activities, etc.

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