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Horse Gone; Barn Door Debate Continues

Hindsight is 20/20

By Nick Barbaro, Fri., July 8, 2011

Back-to-back Statesman editorials Tuesday and Wednesday "urge the City Council to amend the [Formula One] contract at the earliest possible date" (editorial board, July 5), and acknowledge that "that is backward. You negotiate terms upfront to get the best deal possible. Doing that after the fact weakens one's negotiating position" (Alberta Phillips, July 6).

One wonders: Where was that strong editorial voice when the issue was still in the balance, before council rushed to approve the contract with the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee last week on an emergency timetable? More to the point, one also wonders: If all this is so blindingly obvious now, just how did city government allow itself to be railroaded into signing the deal as it stood – among other things, allowing CELOC to act on the city's behalf in contracting with the Texas Comptroller's Office, as well as with race organizers, with little or no public oversight or disclosure? (Speaking of disclosure, I should note that both editorials cited my wife, Susan Moffat, speaking for the citizen volunteer advocates who worked on the contracts and got council to adopt several last-minute amendments to them.)

Regarding CELOC and Formula One, this is probably all moot; there's little chance at this point of amending a signed contract. Regarding the performance of City Council and city legal, however, there's nothing but more questions: How could city legal allow a contract to come to council allowing CELOC to change any of its "obligations and responsibilities" simply by notifying the comptroller and the city that it is doing so? That's one of the sections council had to amend from the dais. Why was no outside counsel brought in after repeated council requests? (Or, conversely, why do we need to hire outside counsel to get legal representation that actually advocates for the city?) Why would Mayor Lee Leffingwell insist on signing such a poor contract, language be damned? And as for the remaining four council members who held their noses and voted to approve the contracts as they stood ... well, they're probably left wondering why that seemed like a good idea at the time.

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