Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lake Basebegone: MRRA helps region dodge a bullet; takes one for the team.

Well, it’s been a quiet several weeks here in Lake Basebegone, where all the plans are sustainable, all the politicians are apolitical, all government spending is vital, and the challenges for our future can be overcome by the right public statements by the right people.

Your humble reporter has not filed a report on this subject in some time, and there are those who suspect that our travel to Canada to worship its health care system, and a bout of the bug upon our return, probably contributed to this seeming lack of dedication.

Reasonable suspicions, we think.  But au contraire, mon amis; the truth is that Other Side did not want to scoop the Ostrich, who, we had come to believe, had a new found determination to lead on covering BNAS development issues, especially as they related to Oxford Aviation, F. Lee Bailey, and their tempting blend of spinning prop blades and flights of speculation. 

We assumed that after chastising local officials, Ostrich editors would seize the opportunity to lead the way from here on out.  Ever mindful of their well-earned reputation, we here at Side backed away to give them the space they needed to take the lead.  We have now concluded, however, that our expectations were hopelessly delusional.  And so, once again we weigh in to pick up the slack.  And there’s more than enough slack for everyone.

We begin with a completely out of character assertion: a big round of applause goes out to the MRRA for finding a way to squeak out of the Oxford Aviation MOU deal with minimal damage and embarrassment.

In spite of the glowing publicity about Oxford’s proposal to occupy the huge hangar at BNAS, the job fair promising hundreds of new jobs, and their compelling story of success, the MRRA recognized that the underlying fundamentals of the deal were not credible. Erring on the side of caution, the MRRA board, an apolitical entity, said “not on our watch will such an unsupportable plan be publicly funded.”

Despite urging from former Speaker and DECD Commissioner John Richardson, the MRRA maintained it’s steadfast determination to avoid political pressure and put the public interest first, and we should be grateful.

Although Oxford continues to advertise their occupancy of Hangar 6, the MRRA demonstrated its commitment to sound business practice and a very public due diligence process by forcefully walking away from the Oxford deal, regardless of the very public attempts to make them do otherwise.

In all likelihood, F. Lee Bailey’s “potential investors,” who were recruited in attempts to bail out the deal, uncovered the same troubling facts that our savvy MRRA had already compiled.  The MRRA had months of effort involved, and based on their guidance, Bailey’s investors took only hours to realize their grand plans based on Oxford had no chance of success. The deal just didn’t fit, Bailey decided to quit, and he and his friends wisely beat a hasty retreat.   They owe the MRRA, as we see it.


Moving on to a more realistic train of thought,the big news in recent weeks, of course, is that Oxford Aviation has been forced to layoff 23 staff members.  This has been reported in the Sun Journal, the corporate parent of the Forecaster.  And the media titans of the Portland Market covered it in this report.  Both showed appropriate professional respect for the Ostrich’s leadership in covering such news for the BNAS area.

Have you ever wondered what the term “shifty eyed” means?  If not, the video below will give you a damn good idea.  We’re not body language experts, but the Horowitz performance should instinctively make anyone over 21 very skeptical.  Including those in government, even if they do play by different rules than the rest of us.


The theatricality of walking out the door to show a small pile of scrap lumber is a real beauty, but not quite up to F. Lee Bailey standards.  We’d guess the value of the scrap to be in the $100 range; an impressive amount, but a bit below the reported $100,000 or more in damages from “leaks.”

Read the stories; you’ll find out Horowitz/Oxford have a 30 year lease on the 40,000 sq ft facility at Oxford Airport, and they’re paying less than $22,000 a year for that space.

This reporter, in a prior career, occupied 1,000 sq ft of office space in Brunswick from 1996 to 2002, and our employer paid about $15,000 a year for it.  So one would not be exaggerating to say that Oxford was being given a sweetheart deal.  At taxpayer expense, we might add.  Corporate welfare anyone?

A careful reading of the reports might lead the curious to wonder why a late payment from a litigation settlement would require Horowitz to lay off so much of his staff.  Is Oxford dependent on lawsuit outcomes to stay afloat, rather than the revenue from its core business?

How could this be, since according to the published reports:

In January, Horowitz won a $250,000 settlement from the county. Horowitz is required to use the money, which is being paid in installments, to maintain and repair the buildings. But after several visits to the company, county officials say there is no evidence the money is being used to fix the problems. 

If the suit had never occurred, would Oxford be even worse off?  Did Horowitz string his staff out on expectations that settlement amounts from the county would keep them employed? 

Apparently so, judging by this statement:

Having that settlement money in our cash flow, in our budget. Expecting that to come in? Absolutely," said Horowitz.

Are the head counts he claims, which have been questioned before, at all credible?  Come to think of it, given the record, is anything he and his spokesman say credible?

We may never know now.  But we can be thankful the MRRA was there watching our six.

As for this reporter, we’re wondering whether sprouting a salt and pepper pony tail might add to our professional image.  It would be fun to traipse around town with a wind sock streaming from the back of our noggin.

On the other hand, it could make us recognizable as we chase down the rest of the story on your behalf, and without us, where would you be?

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