Expert warned

Expert warned against funding Banning Cultural Alliance


10/26/09 – In 2006, right before the City first contracted for “services” by the Banning Cultural Alliance, the acting Redevelopment Director Oscar Orci issued a memorandum in which he concluded that funding the Banning Cultural Alliance would be a bad idea. ( click here to view memo ).

Orci, a professional administrator and expert in the field of redevelopment, pointed out that the Alliance does not have any track record whatsoever ; the Alliance was just started a year earlier by Bob Botts ( it’s former Vice President – view documentation ) and others. Orci went on to say that there should be a feasibility study that shows that success could be achieved in the way the Alliance proposed it – yet  no feasibility study was ever considered by the City Council.

Additionally, Orci points out that a set goal – the increase of  “foot traffic” in downtown Banning – cannot be measured and therefore is inconclusive in determining the success or failure of the program proposed by the Alliance. Orci strongly advised against working with the Banning Cultural Alliance. He also made it clear that the property owners of downtown Banning will not agree to a PBID (Property Based Improvement District) and he asked how the Alliance could possibly get it done against their will.

Orci’s memo was ignored by the City Council, which included Barbara Hanna, who has never even once voted against funding the Alliance. Now , 3 years later, it turns out that Orci’s concerns were valid : the City funded the Alliance with tens of thousands of dollars each year to organize the PBID, but it was never established and  the tax money expended just went down the drain. The PBID program of the Alliance is a total failure. But  Botts, Hanna and Robinson  never ask any critical questions when it comes to the  Alliance’ performance – they just keep funding them with more money – and without any accountability whatsoever. So far about $ 746,000 went to the Alliance.

Why would the City Council ignore the well founded concern of an expert like Orci ? Is there an agenda ? We know that Bob Botts is a former Vice President of the Alliance (view), and with his wife Ann on the Alliance “Advisory Board” (view). Doesn’t this create a conflict of interest for Botts when voting on issues concerning the Alliance ?

The same question must be asked for Don Robinson, who’s wife Katryn is on the Board of the Alliance (view).

Don’t those close relationships create an ethical problem for those two City councilmen ? Obviously they are both in denial : neither Botts nor Robinson have ever abstained from any votes on Alliance issues. The same holds true for Barbara Hanna who was given lots and lots of support in her reelection campaign by individuals running the Alliance ( Sakurai, Rashid, Newkirk , Clavelot etc.).

It seems that the Alliance has become the City Council’s convenient, taxpayer funded political tool, always there to support whatever the City Council wants to do. But such a  political whore doesn’t come cheap. Why should the taxpayer  have to fund these shenanigans ?