Friday, February 13, 2009

MMPI and the Mall 2, Forest City & Partnership 0

My final thoughts on yesterday's Medical Mart hearings: MMPI looked good. They made a strong case for the Mall as the best location for the project. They showed that they'd carefully studied all the possible sites, and thoroughly explained why they chose the Mall.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership and Forest City looked bad yesterday. MMPI found a way to make the Mall site work that the Partnership didn't see. Assuming MMPI's engineering studies hold up, it'll save Cleveland taxpayers a projected $111 million. That raises the question of why the Partnership's site panel members weren't better problem-solvers with the Mall site, and why they weren't more skeptical of the pricey, awkward Tower City site.

Forest City is going to try to undo this decision. But they'll face the challenge Chris Kennedy of MMPI posed to them yesterday: “If (you had a plan to) save $125 million for the city of Cleveland" -- really $111 million -- "you should have spoken up earlier."

When MMPI defended the Med Mart project itself, their case was pretty good, though you could see some weaknesses. The Med Mart is an untried concept that may prove very attractive to medical suppliers -- or it may not. Also, MMPI seems more focused on getting that trade-show business than winning back the convention business Cleveland has lost in the last several years. To succeed, they will have to do both.

Jimmy Dimora and Tim Hagan looked bad for two reasons. First, they didn't show up at the public forum, sending a clear message that they don't think they need to know what taxpayers think of the project.

Also, MMPI's thorough presentation proved the point that the commissioners were wrong to make their decision in closed executive session. What we heard yesterday was almost the same presentation that convinced them to choose the Mall site on Jan. 22. If the county had asked MMPI to make this presentation in public three weeks ago, it would have saved everyone a lot of arguing about closed meetings vs. open government.

Other takes on the hearings yesterday: The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt is impressed with the case for the Mall site. Roldo is still unimpressed with the Medical Mart deal. Cleveland councilman Brian Cummins has lots of questions. County administrator Jim McCafferty corrects two mistakes in the Plain Dealer's otherwise sharp and important story about the county's tentative agreement with MMPI.

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