Donovan emails: how SOC got signatures

August 14, 2006

screamingThis email is from Timothy Donovan to all his friends. He is asking them to sign the petition for the referendum. How does he persuade them? TD uses the Elebash message:

“to prevent $100,000,000 of our city taxes and 30 acres of prime waterfront real estate from being completely wasted by Trillium II. The city plans to give away control of our 30 acres of waterfront for $1.00 per year for the next 60 years to a private entity to build a baseball stadium. The project will cost us $100,000,000 in tax dollars. The only people that will benefit from this project are its promoters.”

Sounds like Elebash’s instructions to Marty and Charlie.

No mention of a better waterfront park plan. Fails to say anything about the land leases for private development going to the City or the bonds committment is $42 million (not $100 miilion) or the bonds are paid with CRA funds or the private entity is a non-profit board of trustees. This has Elebash’s fingerprints all over it.

SOC was formed to educate the public (it says so on their website). Instead it used half-truths and misstatements to get signatures to force this referendum.

Read the email: How to get a signature


14 Responses to “Donovan emails: how SOC got signatures”

  1. WanderingHoo Says:

    I’m not so concerned with the twisting of the numbers, etc as I am with the “completly wasted” and “nobody benefits” angle. This is a big picture project. Supporters need to be able to make their case on the overall benefits of the park – not just get dragged down into arguments about future cash flows.

    Sure, there are lots of distortions and a few outright falsehoods there – but the biggest mistake park promoters could make is to understatethe positive impact of a waterfront park for the entire community.

    On another note – I would suggest, as a matter of courtesy, you redact the email addresses of recipients (especially third parties) on any further emails you publish .

  2. Tom Garner Says:


    While I’m no accountant, I would like to make the following points:

    1. You state that the bond issue is $42,000,000 but you don’t mention that this figure is the principal only, and does not include any projected interest. According to the SOC literature, the cost to citizens, including both principal and interest, will be about $80,000,000. While $80,000,000 is a lesser figure than SOC’s original estimate of $100,000,000, it’s significantly more than the $42,000,000 principal alone. In other words, it’s a big chunk of money. In fact, from what I understand, it’s the second costliest project that the city will have ever undertaken.

    2. Although the Timothy Donovan e-mail may not mention it, the SOC literature which I recieved in the mail, and which I have to assume was distributed to all other registered voters in the city, very clearly states that there should be alternative plans offered to the one proposed by the CMPA:

    – “We are for development of our waterfront property, but it must be a true citizen-led process…”

    – “It’s time to do the planning correctly.”

    – “Save Our City believes we should have a true citizen-led planning process that sets aside our waterfront park forever. Then the city council should issue a national request for proposals to develop the remaining property.”

    It is my understanding that SOC’s position has always been that we should engage in a national level RFP process to determine the best proposal for use of the property. Under this scenario, the CMPA would be able to present their project concept alongside the others that would be generated by this national level process, and the best project would be chosen. For you to use a private e-mail with a limited ditribution to suggest that SOC has no alternative to the CMPA-led process seems a bit unfair.

    3. I honestly don’t know if Mr. Studer will personally make any money from this project or not. What I do know is that Mr. Studer has made a number of pledges regarding what will happen in regard to the property and the projected proceeds from it, yet it is my understanding that Mr. Studer’s pledges are in no way legally binding. Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but are we wise, as a community, to take anyone’s word for it when there’s a $42 million bond issue and 30 acers of prime waterfront property involved?


    Tom Garner

  3. Rick Outzen Says:

    1. The bond issue is $42 million, net proceeds will be $40 million. In its generally accepted accounting principle to not include the interest in the cost of project. Technically the interest is the cost of the borrowing.
    2. Tom, I believe it’s clear that SOC has no plan that the national RFP is a ruse. No capital plan will satisfy this group. However, we can differ on this point.
    3. You’ve been mislead here. Read the master lease and the master development agreements – they’re on the city website. Nothing can be done until signs binding legal agreements for all the pledges you refer to.

  4. Jeff DeWeese Says:


    On your 3rd point, under the master development agreement nothing moves forward until Studer enters into binding legal agreements for all of his obligations. City is safe on that one.

    On your 2nd point, CMPA will be conducting a national RFP for the private development features of the park while preserving the public areas for the citizens, not condos as Mark OBrien and William Cobb of SOC want.

    On your first comment, my house is worth a ton if I get to count the interest in the value.

    Nice tone though. Healthy debate is good and I appreciate your opinions and questions.


  5. Curious Citizen Says:


    Appreciate your willingness to stand up and answer critics and supporters alike on the Park Project.

    You say there’s going to be a national RFP for private development features. What would they include? Certainly, office and retail from what everyone has suggested. Hospitality? Residential?

    What exactly will you ask developers to bid on, and how did CMPA come up with the appropriate mix of uses?

    Thanks for answering-

  6. Tom Garner Says:


    I have to say that in regard to the interest, if the money has to be paid, it has to be paid, and it’s fair game for inclusion as long as it is pointed out that the proposed figure includes the interest. If I have to pay, I want to know the full amount, regardless of accounting principals.

    In regard to the issue of Studer’s obligations, I will go to the source and ask SOC for clarification.

    Finally, I don’t see where Rick is getting the idea that SOC’s RFP plan is a ruse. What is behind this theory? Regardless, even if it were a ruse, it doesn’t preclude the city from following through with a national RFP on it’s own, and it doesn’t preclude the Studer Group from presenting their proposal as part of that process. If the Studer proposal is the best proposal, then it should have no problem getting the final okay.

    Tom Garner

  7. Courtney Says:


    You responded to Tim’s reiteration of the SOC mailing by stating “my house is worth a ton if I get to count the interest in the value.”

    I don’t think Tim was implying that the value of the park is $40M plus the interest. I’m pretty sure that he was merely being realistic in his assumption that the final cost of the park will include the interest on the bond loan used to finance the construction of the park.

    As an intelligent person, I know you bought your home with the knowledge that you were going to be paying more than just the principle on the loan. It’s an important fact that needs to be known.

  8. Jeff DeWeese Says:

    Obviously there is a limited amount of space at the Park so getting the most out of the available space with the right mix is the real challenge.

    No definite mix is set. We have been approached by literally dozens of businesses. Retail, national chains and local restuarants, etc. I am working on setting up the framework for the RFP process the exact mix will be up to the CMPA Board of which neither Studer or Cavanaugh will be members since they are tenants.

    Hope that helps


  9. Tom Garner Says:


    I know that you don’t take this point of view, but I have to say that your response to Curious in regard to the CMPA RFP proposal seems to lend credence to the idea that the entire 30 acres should be opened up to a national RFP process. I mean, it sounds like folks, even national level folks, are beating your door down to have access to this prime waterfront location. In this light, doesn’t it make sense to have the same RFP process for the entire piece of property?

    I’m certain that the Studer proposal would be submitted as part of such a process, and if it ended up being the best proposal, then it would certainly get the nod. If another proposal was chosen, however, in the end that would be what’s best for that piece of property and for the city as a whole. Whatever the final plan chosen, the citizens of Pensacola could rest assured that absolutely the best plan possible was being implemented by the City.

    Tom Garner

  10. Can't wait till Sept 5th Says:

    Tom, you stated “In regard to the issue of Studer’s obligations, I will go to the source and ask SOC for clarification.” Are you referring to the source of the propaganda or the source that outlines the obligations. If you are referring to the latter, the ‘source’ for clarification is not SOC, it is the legal documents between the City and the various parties named. I’m sure Jeff or someone can help by pointing you (without spin) to sections of the agreements that outline the obligations.

    Jeff, to clarify on the RFP process…although CMPA Board will take on the work of issuing and evaluating responses, the City still has final say on approving the sub-leases and development plans that come from the RFP. Right?

  11. Jeff DeWeese Says:


    Every deal at the Park will be subject to the City Councils approval. NO EXCEPTIONS


  12. Can't wait till Sept 6th Says:

    thanks, i thought others may need that clarification….

  13. East Hill Native Says:

    Is that really an issue considering nine-tenths of the current city council is fully behind the project and it’s developers? Is approval of anything really going to be that tough for the CMPA?

  14. Rick Outzen Says:

    The project will pass 65-35.

    The “developers” were Quint Studer, Jack Fetterman and UWF pres. John Cavanaugh.

    Fetterman died this spring – The museum fund-raising committee (developers?) is replaced by Sen. John McCain, Nancy Fetterman, David Hartman (former ABC morning host), Sen. Bill Nelson and Saints owner Tom Benson.

    Another “developer” was Mayor Emeritus Vince Whibbs – one of this community’s most respected leaders who died also. He has been replaced by Federal Judge Lacey Collier.

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