Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Joplin developers' "blackmail" threat can't make Globe's page one

The folly of the so-called public-private partnerships that have been pursued in the city of Joplin since the tornado has never been more evident than with the latest developments in the Towne Center project.

At the last regular Joplin City Council meeting, developer Charlie Kuehn reiterated a threat that had been made earlier by the city's master developer Wallace-Bajjali that the city needed to kick in another $4 million to the developers.

If not, Kuehn said, without a hint of apology in his voice, then the Towne Center might just end up being another strip mall.

The comments were buried on the inside jump of the Joplin Globe's City Council coverage the following day.

Even less attention was paid in the Globe today when the developers were called out on their threats at last night's Joplin Redevelopment Corporation meeting.

This time, the article did not even begin on page one. The part devoted to the $4 million threat began in the fifth paragraph:

Keith Grebe, a JRC member, said he was concerned about comments from Wallace-Bajjali about the need to fill a $4 million funding gap to make the project financially viable. He said remarks from the developer suggested that without the additional money, the project would end up as something closer to a strip mall.

"That sounds like blackmail to me. We never talked about infusing that much money," he said.

As always, the primary emphasis in these public-private partnerships has been on the public- the taxpayers, who are having to bear the burden.

The Joplin Globe has continued to beat the drum for the developers. When questions were raised about the master developer in the Loraine Report, the Globe, after making a big play to take the city to court to have the report made public, buried its contents on its website. In its print edition meanwhile, the Globe ran little of the report, provided more space to former City Manager Mark Rohr and Kuehn to refute its allegations than to the actual allegations themselves and totally gave a pass to the most serious allegations, which were leveled against City Councilman Mike Woolston and Wallace-Bajjali.

Now that serious problems, problems which would have been evident far earlier if the Globe and the rest of the local media had brought them to light, are finally becoming clear, the Globe is continuing to act as it is not a really big deal and is continuing to push a policy of public-private partnerships- a policy that will end up costing taxpayers far more than it ever brings to the city.

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