Voices from the Community: Alyssa Peterson, Part 2.

We want to share a letter sent by Hartford resident Alyssa Peterson to Hartford City Council.

Alyssa attended the Authority's public forum and has followed the bidding process and news coverage about Dillon Stadium.

Her letter presents some of the community's concerns about the fair and equitable use for the facility.

From: Alyssa Peterson
To: Glendowlyn Thames; Wildaliz Bermudez; Julio Concepcion; Thomas J. Clarke II; Larry Deutsch; Rosezina J. Winch; James Sanchez; Cynthia R. Jennings; John Q. Gale
Cc: John V. Bazzano; Kevin Murray; Kelly Kirkley-Bey; Shelly Jackson; Jason Ortiz
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 1:47 PM
Subject: Dillon Stadium concerns - Round 2

Council Members,

Tonite, there is the first public airing of what the proposed Dillon Stadium leasing arrangement and contract will look like.  It is important for either you or your staff to be in attendance at the Parks and Recreation Commission [PRAC] at 6 PM.

The final lease will have to be submitted for Council Committee review in March, public hearing and Council vote pursuant to Charter.  It is a significant lease of a public asset – probably the largest yet during your 2-year tenure.

Prior to the upcoming review, I am re-sending the memo you were copied on below, which I wrote to CRDA Ex. Director Michael Freimuth, encouraging him to come up with an agreement that mutually satisfied ALL bidders/proposers.  My fear was and is, that CRDA had so compromised itself during the selection process that litigation was probable and a favorable Council vote was questionable.  CRDA chose the most non-responsive bidder as regards scope and literally ended up becoming the Mandell group’s “business partner” in the process.  The Mandell proposal offered ZERO $$$ to the City but promised to invest in the team itself.  Come on now, isn’t it every guys' dream to be the owner of a sports team and have a city or state offer to subsidize it for them?!  Look at the Patriots/Kraft Hartford debacle and more recently, the Yardgoats and Josh Solomon.

Attached for your additional review are the scope pages from the RFP.  As I described in my earlier letter to Mr. Freimuth, the Mandell plan was most non-responsive.  CRDA committed almost $7 million of neighborhood development bonding funds to Mandell and promised to manage the facility for him at ZERO cost.  All he has to do is turn over $125,000/yr. which he will no doubt generate from ticket sales??  At least the other bidders/proposers had skin in the game -- $1.5 million from Civic Mind/Greenberg and $650K from Sarwar/Hartford FC.  The additional wrench in this process has now become the issue of community use.  The attached letter from a state commissioner to Council President Thames is priceless:

“ . . . in the context of my question regarding any plan for open community access to the development under the recommended bid, Mr. Fitzpatrick had no specific plan but noted the need to keep city assets like the stadium secure, except for controlled community access, due to concerns about potential misuse by “people around here.

Holy Cow!  That's yet another code name for Hartford residents:  "People around here".  I think I'll make up some t-shirts and start selling them as a park fundraiser! Development Services Director Sean Fitzpatrick was no doubt having a bad day at this meeting having been forced to resign his position the day before, but we all know the senior administration’s elitist attitude toward Hartford residents. 

This meeting occurred as a result of Ex. Director Freimuth's referral, see attached also.  I believe it was a poor choice to designate Development Services as sole negotiator – haven’t we learned our lesson after years of debacles with them?  It should have been a JOINT effort with the Finance Dept. and specifically, Eloy Toppin should have been brought in to either create or oversee the community benefits portion or usage portion of this lease post-construction

In closing, I am still advising a negotiated solution between all parties to prevent litigation and delay AND involvement of the community or a liaison such as Eloy Toppin BEFORE any draft agreement is finalized.  The losing bidders obviously have the $$ resources to litigate what they want and probably will and it would be an easy win.  CRDA’s usual professionalism was absent here.  They were salivating at the prospect of bringing in a professional soccer team.  But NOT when they’re proposing to use almost $7 million in scarce neighborhood bond funds.  From my experience, Hartford neighborhoods will rally together and fight such a large use of funds that could have been spent in various areas of the city especially when there is NO defined community usage or benefit.

And one more thought, I filed a Freedom of Information request to learn what are the other lease agreements negotiated within our parks.  I was stunned to find out that the Ebony Horsewomen’s contract is still not negotiated and other Friends of Park’s groups are old.  It is embarrassing that CRDA and the City of Hartford have expedited a non-resident, white businessman’s contract in just 2 short months without any plan for community use.  If I were any other resident city groups . . . I would be pretty livid right about now. 

Thanks for reading and please put this at the top of your list.

Alyssa Peterson  

TJ ClynchComment