no bid contracts and the Arena

1/22/2010: An anonymous commentator pointed readers to this ODE story by CJ Ciaramella on no-bid contracts for the Arena. There’s another in the RG today:

I’d wondered what the story on that billboard on Franklin Blvd was. When someone rents a billboard to complain UO is not following the public records law it kind of gets your attention. The Director of the union group that erected it says of UO:

“The amount of time that it’s taken to get a public records request processed is far longer than we are used to dealing with,” Bonham said. “For this institution to be not completely transparent and forthcoming is a concern for the public.” The University general counsel’s office, which handles public records requests for the University, did not return calls seeking comment.

For the record, The UO official in charge of public record requests is Doug Park, dougpark@uoregon.edu, (541) 346-3082. Doug doesn’t sign his name to public records responses, and likes to use the email address gcounsel@uoregon.edu instead of his real one. I’m not sure if this is because he is embarrassed by what his boss Melinda Grier makes him do for a living, or is just trying to forestall an ethics investigation over the details.

I still remember the efforts to get a copy of this report on the arena revenue forecast from UO. Melinda Grier was trying to hide this report because its revenue forecasts were 1/3 of the 15 million needed to justify tax-exempt bonds. She and Doug Park stalled for months, ignored repeated emails and calls, and the Oregon DOJ played along with her efforts to keep this report secret. Finally it came out and we found this:

So the projection is for $4 million in net revenue, for $15 million per year bond repayments. When the State Treasurer’s office finally saw this report they refused to allow UO to sell the bonds as tax-exempt, because these numbers mean the IRS could have argued this was tax arbitrage, and imposed millions in penalties on UO. I wonder what Melinda is hiding this time?

WTF

1/21/2010: This is a pretty amazing story about former UO AD Bill Moos and his replacement Pat Kilkenny, from Ron Bellamy in the RG yesterday. I missed it, thank for the tip, Anonymous. It’s just bizarre. What are these people doing messing around with universities? Can anyone tell me the point to any of this?

In the end, he fell out of favor with Oregon’s chief benefactor, Nike chairman Phil Knight, whose generosity had been essential to Moos’ accomplishments and was essential to building a new basketball arena. So Moos was forced out late in 2006 and he was given the aforementioned settlement agreement, largely financed by the UO donor who would become his successor, Pat Kilkenny.

But it seems clear that that Oregon raised the prospect that Moos would lose the $1.4 million remaining on his agreement if he took the UNLV job and tried to cut a deal. Just to save money? Out of vindictiveness? Who knows?
Kilkenny, who largely financed the buyout and says he’s never actually read the agreement, said he’s already paid virtually all of his share of the buyout into a fund. “If you’re asking from a financial perspective if it’s material to me, it’s not,” Kilkenny said adding: “What the university agreements were and what those details are, I generally understood what it was, but it wasn’t anything that was done on my watch, so I never went back and looked at it.”
What’s Oregon’s explanation? UO general counsel Melinda Grier has neither returned phone calls nor responded to requests for interviews, including written questions, submitted through Phil Weiler, the UO senior director of communications.
And then the illustrious and irrepressible former UO President and endowed Knight Chair in Law, past Oregon Attorney General, one-time gubernatorial candidate, current Professor of a UO Honors College course on the “Theory of Leadership”, and conduit for $350,000 in Pat Kilkenny donations Dave Frohnmayer chimes in:
“I don’t want to make any judgment about that because I wasn’t party to the hammering out of that specific language, other than approving the final contract, and that was not a matter of particular focus,” Frohnmayer said. “I can’t really shed much light on that.”
He approved the final contract but he can’t shed light on it. It was all a bunch of real complicated legal stuff, is that it Dave?

So why doesn’t new President Richard Lariviere just tear up the contract and let Moos go on his way? Because the athletic department lost $1 million last year. Next year they’ve got to start covering the $15 million Arena bond repayments, figure out how to fund Chip Kelly’s new contract, hire a replacement for Kent, and so on. Lariviere has to kowtow to Knight and Kilkenny because the academic side is legally on the hook for any deficits. Lariviere has no choice about UO’s future: Knight and Kilkenny have owned it since the day they convinced Frohnmayer to borrow $270 million for their Arena, in UO’s name.

So why did Frohnmayer start UO down this one-way road? I’m sure it’s his love of sports, not the $50,000+ per year he got from Knight and the $350,000 Kilkenny’s “Lucky Duck Foundation” sent to Frohnmayer’s Fanconi Foundation. This couldn’t get any sadder.

But it can get more absurd. Kilkenny apparently got a tax deduction for the $2 million he used to buy out Moos so that he could take his job – because the IRS says donations to university athletic departments help provide an important public good.

comments

1/20/2010: This site has been getting a lot of visits lately, and a few more comments. I do screen these a little, but usually post everything that doesn’t offer advice on how to get shrink mortgage payments or enlarge body parts. Posters might consider adopting a screen name, simply by checking the Name/URL option and making up a name. It’s still anonymous, it just gives you the option to use a name other than “Anonymous” – which gets a little confusing when everyone does it. Also, if you want to contact me anonymously without having your question/tip appear online, just put “Do Not Post” at the top of your message, and I won’t.

Graduation on Monday?

1/20/2010: This was news to me, from Jill Kimball in the ODE:

The main ceremony and most department commencements will be held on a Monday, a day on which the University has never before held commencement, to avoid a scheduling conflict with the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will take place on campus from June 9, the Wednesday of finals week, to June 12, the Saturday on which most ceremonies would normally be held.

Former University President Dave Frohnmayer and his administration made the agreement with the NCAA to host the 2010 championships a few years ago, unaware that it would conflict with the University’s academic schedule. Frohnmayer retired last year, leaving Lariviere and his administration to work out the scheduling kinks.

ORI building

1/20/2010: I really don’t know anything about local land use decisions. I wish someone who does would start a blog. From the outside, the local decision process seems to involve a few passionate citizens obstructing OK projects because they are not perfect, combined with secrecy, brinksmanship and apocalyptic warnings from developers claiming they will leave town if they don’t get their way. Next iteration everyone takes it up a notch. It’s a broken process that is slowly destroying Eugene. My own ignorant sentiment is that the ORI building should have gone downtown. I still haven’t heard a good explanation for why they can’t use their $5 million in NIH stimulus funding for that, and today’s RG editorial ignores the issue. But now that we are at the brink – if that’s really where we are at – of course good is better than a perfect nothing. UO and Eugene should do everything possible to encourage employers like ORI. Otherwise we hear Sid Leiken has a nice spot available in Springfield. But I do wish the ORI people would stop claiming that we should support this because they will build a bike rack, throw up a few solar cells, and get LEED certification.

Athletics

1/19/2010: I gotta get off this athletics kick, at the end of the day I don’t give a shit – let’s just play the game. But meanwhile, USA Today reports some numbers: in 2007-08 UO’s AD brought in $56,623,901 and spent $56,259,942, for a slight profit. These numbers look pretty comprehensive – everything from the State Lottery loot that goes to fund scholarships for athletes, to Kilkenny’s gifts.

For 2008-2009, the athletic budget grew by about $5 million, and Rachel Bachman in the Oregonian reports that they lost a bit more than $1 million. Belotti funded that by borrowing from next year’s football ticket sales. Apparently this is the first time they’ve had to do that. What does the future hold?  (Big Rose Bowl cash, in the short run, I hope!) I’m no economist, but keep in mind that athletic departments have the same asymmetric profit model as Wall Street hedge funds. In the good years they take a big chunk of the gross as salary. In the bad years they skip town leaving the academic side holding an empty bag.

Transparency and regulation are the usual solutions. We hope Lariviere has more on the ball than that Greenspan fellow.

union

1/19/2010: Someone has posted a few comments on the union – which we haven’t heard much about lately. You can add your own here.

Anonymous said…

UAUO seems to be basing much of their appeal to faculty on the fact that UO faculty salaries fall below comparator institutions. That led me to wonder if our union-represented colleagues at other institutions are faring better. Apparently not. The PSU-AAUP blog decries the fact that those faculty also are at the bottom of their list of comparator institutions – and they pay union dues. Not a very compelling argument in favor of unionization. See: http://www.psuaaup.net/blog/2009/04/how-is-psu-faculty-doing.html
 
This statement appeared on the PSU-AAUP Labor Blog (http://www.psuaaup.net/blog/labels/bargaining.html): “There is no doubt that it would be advantageous for the Oregon University System, which controls negotiations with PSU faculty, to do what it can — in a union-busting sort of way — to make certain that UO and OSU faculty are perceived to suffer less than PSU faculty, especially since organizing efforts are currently being made on those campuses.” Seems like a strong argument against unionization…

Breaking news – giant glass cube not energy efficient

1/17/2010: Greg Bolt of the RG takes a closer look at Phil Knight’s Jaqua Athletes Only jock box. Regarding energy efficiency, there are a lot of LEED and SEED terms thrown out here and I’m no architect, but it seems that SEED (a state standard) is tougher and smarter than LEED (a frequently criticized national standard.) The Lillis building, for example, got LEED points by slapping a few solar cells on the front (in Oregon? please), and having a bike rack. The state architects behind SEED measure actual energy efficiency – and it looks like the glass cube will fail. Shocking.

There are two new things here. First, UO spokesperson Phil Weiler admits general UO funds are being used for the building:

The internal improvements and landscaping costs were paid with athletic funds and other unrestricted money, according to Phil Weiler, UO’s senior director of communications, which would be in keeping with UO’s long-standing assertion that sports are self-supporting.

Really? it seems like using unrestricted monies for this project specifically contradicts that assertion.

“There were no tuition dollars or state dollars used for those improvements,” Weiler said.

This is a very weak statement on Phil’s part. How much “unrestricted money” (for example, Foundation money that was *not* specifically earmarked for the athletic department and therefore could have been used for academics) is being spent on the Jock Box? Greg doesn’t follow up on that interesting question.

Second, Greg finally reports on some of the terms of the Frohnmayer codicil – including the news that Frohnmayer got nothing for the academic side in return for giving the athletic department the land, that professors are not allowed upstairs (my apologies to apartheid guy below – you were right!), and that now the jocks are considering charging the academic side for the heat we use when we hold Senate meetings there. Seriously.

Given the Senate’s history of hot air production, I think I see a potential win-win solution.

more on ORI building

1/17/2010: Anthony Biglan of ORI calls out the AAA professors opposing their new building:

This year Oregon Research Institute will celebrate its 50th anniversary of doing research in the behavioral sciences. Much of our work focuses on the prevention and treatment of the major psychological and behavioral problems that jeopardize health and well-being. To continue and expand this work, we’ve planned a new building in the University of Oregon’s Riverfront Research Park — a project whose timely completion is threatened by unwarranted delays.

… But our ability to do this work is threatened by efforts of UO professors Mark Gillem and Ron Lovinger and some of their students to prevent the building’s construction (Commentary, Jan. 3). The NIH grant comes from federal stimulus money that must be spent within a two-year time limit, and the clock is ticking. As we indicated to Gillem in early December, a delay in construction could result in our losing the funds entirely and/or the building not being built.

Tough questions for the opposition! I’m not impressed by this though:

The building plan includes photovoltaic cells to offset energy usage; …

We should be long past the point where you can paste a few solar cells on a building in Oregon and use that to brag that it’s green – whatever the LEED rules say. Both sides should take this off the table and send the photovoltaics to Haiti.

weekend hyperbole

1/16/2010: Phil Knight writes on 66 & 67: “There are words to describe what we are doing with 66 and 67: It is called a death spiral.” And a UO professor writes on Knight’s jock box: “… I worked in southern Africa. At the time there was a system in that region that enforced economic and educational separation and privilege. They called it apartheid. I never expected to find it when I got home.”

Arithmetic has no mercy

1/15/2010: This David Steves RG story is the most honest I’ve seen yet on what’s going on with state spending:

Question: What’s really going on with the state budget? One side says politicians in Salem behind the tax increase just increased state spending by $4.7 billion. The other side says the budget was cut by $2 billion. Who is right?

Answer: They’re both right. Tax critics are citing the state’s “all funds” budget, which grew from $51.2 billion in 2007-09 to $55.9 billion in 2009-11, a 9 percent increase. The “general fund” is the budget within this budget that tax-increase supporters are focusing on. It was $15.1 billion for 2007-09, until the recession hit. It went down in 2009-11 to $14.2 billion.

That’s not a $2 billion cut, you say? That’s right. The $2 billion figure cited by Democratic leaders is the difference between the $14.2 billion in approved spending and the $16.2 billion estimate of what it would have cost to keep up with growing case­loads, enrollment, medical inflation and previously approved government expansions.

Question: Why did the state’s general-fund budget get smaller when its overall spending increased?

Answer: Let’s look at the general-fund budget. Income taxes from households and corporations, plus lottery money, make up nearly all the general fund. The recession hammered those tax collections.

More than 130,000 Oregonians lost their jobs and investment income and corporate profits tanked. The amount of corporate and personal income tax revenue lawmakers could count on when they crafted the 2009-11 budget had fallen by $1.4 billion from what had been expected two years earlier.

Now, let’s consider the state’s all-funds budget. The general fund makes up just under a quarter of it. The rest comes from taxes and fees outside the general fund, as well as federal dollars.

The Legislature’s $733 million in higher taxes for the general fund through measures 66 and 67 are front and center now. But the state raised other revenue that doesn’t flow into the general fund, thereby boosting the all-funds budget. For example, the state increased the gas tax and DMV fees — a $568 million jump — for highway and bridge work. Plus, the state imposed $500 million in new taxes on hospitals and insurance premiums to increase health care for poor families.

In addition are hundreds of millions of dollars of fees, such as university tuition, that the state raised to offset dwindling income-tax revenues.