Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An activist writes in

Leaving the City’s proof-of-financing rule unwritten poses 3 problems:

· It perpetuates the City’s pay-to-play policy.

· It encourages the City to seek subsidies from the Commonwealth cash cow.

· It prevents legal challenges in court.

After $4.3 billion in failed projects (Fan Pier, Columbus Center, One Franklin, Longwood Center), Mayor Menino vowed in August 2008 to require proof-of-financing on every major project. But over one year later, the BRA Board has adopted no policy, and there are no set criteria, as reported last week in “BRA to developers: Sure you’ve got money?” (Boston Courant, 9 October) and again today in “New BRA financial standards a state of mind” (Banker & Tradesman, 12 October).

Keeping the proof-of-financing rule un-written is just another example of City Hall’s pay-to-play zoning: for a campaign donation to the mayor, the BRA makes everything optional and waive-able. The BRA rule is kept unwritten so that: (1) it can be selectively enforced, and (2) it is virtually impossible to challenge in court.

Also, if the City started requiring proof-of-financing before approving proposals, that would turn off the spigot to the Commonwealth cash cow, and Mayor Menino and the BRA would have to stop asking the state to subsidize un-funded projects. That’s why the City never adopted the rule that Menino promised over one year ago.

It was precisely because no proof-of-financing rule existed that Mayor Menino signed 3 state subsidy applications for $29.5 million — under pains and penalties of perjury — in which he certified that Columbus Center had 100% financing, even though it never had any financing at all. Had there been a proof-of-financing rule during 2005, 2006, and 2007, Menino and the BRA could never have applied for those state subsidies because the un-financed proposal would never have gotten City approval to begin with.

Ned Flaherty

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