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Surprise! Bayou District Foundation is the choice

In case you haven't heard the news (wouldn't it be nice if we had some actual newspapers in this town?): according to Bob Becker, and coming as no surprise to anyone, the Bayou District Foundation has received the "highest point score" of the three bidders to develop and manage the new Phase I golf plan in City Park, and that now "negotiations" were being conducted. He did not state a date when the contract would actually be awarded. 

We can only hope that part of these negotiations involve the question of how City Park and the taxpayers will be protected when the new course ends up a financial failure, as has happened with the TPC Louisiana golf course that has to be bailed out by our tax dollars, or the Audubon Park Golf Course, which also loses hundreds of thousands of dollars a year despite being built with public funds and by an organization that receives a third of its revenues from tax dollars (see Save Audubon Park for more information).

Regarding their scoring system, it is described on page 9 of the RFP, and states that...

-35% is "Financial Capability", which BDf has indicated it currently lacks to the tune of almost $9 million dollars. Not only does BDF admit to having just $2.6 million committed rather than the $8.9 million City Park suggests is needed, it further states that the actual budget should be $26.7 million rather than the $24 million proposed by City Park! Both other bidders seem to think the project can be done for the $15.5 million that City Park already has on hand;

-35% is "Respondent's expected compensation", which BDF has shown to be substantially more than the other two bidders, $440,000/year or more versus $200,000 and $132,000 per year for Honors Golf and Billy Caspar Golf (see "Three proposals received..." article below for additional details);

-20% is "Experience and Qualifications", which BDF has indicated will come from a subcontractor in the form of PGA Tour Golf Course Properties Inc, rather than BDF actually managing the project on which it is bidding;

-10% is "Understanding of the Project", which of course BDF aced, since they have been instrumental since Katrina in pursuing alterations to the original City Park Golf Master Plan that would suit their particular needs. City Park had $46,563 in "Master Plan" expenses in 2008, most (if not all) of which was probably to refashion the Golf Master Plan into BDF's vision.

So it is with disappointment but little surprise that we await the public announcement of Bayou District Foundation as the winner. After all, their officials have been working tirelessly with state and city politicians and park officials since Katrina on BDF's plan to incorporate City Park's new golf courses as an integral amenity of "Columbia Parc at Bayou District", their rebuild of the St Bernard Public Housing Project. It seems they have almost every politician in the state on board, in fact.

This is politics at its worst. While it is certainly about money, unfortunately, it is not about money for City Park. It is one thing, even sometimes a laudable thing, for government to sell off public housing projects to private developers. But when they plan to throw our precious public parks into the sell-off as well, it is not okay. This is not a temporary plan; this is not a management contract that can be rebid if it doesn't work out; this is a permanent transfer of control over public park property to a private developer for political purposes that have nothing to do with benefiting the park or the people who have enjoyed it for generations.