Saturday, August 15, 2009

BudaFirst says it's ready with a lawsuit over handling of local project

"We believe there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes we haven't seen. We've got people doing in-depth research on this."

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By Bob Ochoa
RoundUp Editor

Hays County commissioners court, in a lopsided 4-to-1 vote last week, Aug. 11, approved a special tax and road construction deal worth $1.75 million to help U. S. Foodservice relocate to Buda from Austin. County Judge Liz Sumter was the lone dissenter. That's a pretty expensive helping hand, we thought, when Foodservice is just a hop and a skip away and belongs to a family of companies that seem to be pretty well off financially.

It turns out there's a long and winding story behind this generous act by our county commissioners. Part of the story includes some members of the court being on the receiving end of contributions to their campaign accounts. Another part includes Foodservice reportedly bouncing from Buda to Kyle, to the county, back to Buda and still talking to Kyle.
David Patterson, left,
and former Buda mayor Jim Hollis.

"The City of Kyle thought they had a deal, then suddenly pulled out," says former Buda mayor Jim Hollis. "That was told straight from Kyle officials. They (Foodservice) are still (working) with the City of Kyle, per the general manager of Foodservice."

From local press reports, we learned that almost on the very day commissioners court made its offer of corporate welfare
to Foodservice, a group of Buda citizens organized as BudaFirst was handing over to Buda City Hall a petition with 800 signatures – 800! – calling for an up or down referendum on the Foodservice project. Seems like the sensible and democratic thing to do. Buda's city council had mysteriously reversed an earlier vote, 5-to-2, to now allow Foodservice to build in a commercial spot, not in the designated industrial zone embedded in the city's master growth plan – a major faux pas, and a slap, some say, at a master planning process in which the city and taxpayers invested much time, $750,000, and received a yes vote by the citizens.

We wondered, why would commissioners totally dismiss the wishes of 800 taxpaying citizens in favor of a project that, by Foodservice's own admission, will add only 38 new low to moderate income jobs to the local economy, not to mention lots more big truck traffic to an already heavily congested area (near the intersection of I-35 and Main Street-east)?

And why would the city council look the other way, in a major unexplained reversal, and grant Foodservice a huge exception (zoning amendment) to the city's master plan? The petition . . . ? Buda City Hall has taken on a really sniffy attitude: Go away lowly citizens, this is an executive decision we're making. The people will not be deciding these matters.

BudaFirst has a lawsuit waiting to drop in the hopper, just in case.

This from David Patterson, who along with Mr. Hollis, is a central character (among many) in BudaFirst: "The county is already moving forward with the paperwork (on the tax & road deal for Foodservice – a 3 month deadline). There'll be a county public hearing coming, then the city's ruling on our petition question. We suspect Buda will rule against the signatures. They may validate all the signatures but still not allow a referendum. If they do that, we're going to court. The lawsuit will put the kibosh on the project . . . We're drawing up a writ of mandamus (petition for a court ruling)." Raises the key question, whose court? In Hays County, that always seems to be an important question.

The RoundUp believes that Messrs. Hollis and Patterson, perhaps along with the rest of the BudaFirst crew, don't have any real big dogs in this fight other than to uphold prior commitments of the city, per the master plan, and holding their elected officials' feet to the fire. We can relate.

– More of the story: The location Buda's city council approved for Foodservice sits within a group of Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs, known collectively as Sunfield, formerly known as Winfield) comprising around 2,000 acres, out behind the old abandoned truck stop on I-35. "The #1 MUD," says Hollis, "is the honcho MUD. They're all out-of-towners, a huge pension fund is behind it. They've batted around 8,000 homes, donated land for a school and a fire station. It will eventually dwarf Buda. Here's the central nut – none of this is in the Buda comprehensive plan. It's against what the citizens worked for in our master plan." Somehow, former Austin kingpin developer Gary Bradley's name got mentioned.

– We are told that an investigation is under way into certain aspects of this tangled web.

– A member of the Buda city council is said to be professionally associated with Foodservice.

– Mr. Patterson: "We believe there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes we haven't seen. We've got people doing in-depth research on this."

– Mr. Hollis: "This is not against U. S. Foodservice. This is against the process. That's what sticks in my craw, it is overboard with arrogance."

– Mr. Patterson: "Jeff Barton (Pct. 2 commissioner, Buda/Kyle) has been involved all along, trying to play it down the middle. There's no point in even speaking to him (Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley-Wimberley/Woodcreek) because he's already got his mind made up."

This one's worth a whole chapter in someone's book, "Hays County: Never a Dull Moment/Stories of Political Intrigue and Behind the Scenes Corruption." We'll be getting back with updates as they develop.


U.S. Foodservice has a really
fun web site, by the way, with a truck in it tooting its horn. You should check it out. Here's what it says:

U.S. Foodservice® is a federation of extraordinarily diverse and talented people. Their talents have been blended together to create a team capable of catering to any need. Currently, we are one of only two national broadline distributors operating in the multibillion-dollar foodservice industry.

Together we—

• Provide food and related products and services to more than 250,000 customers, including restaurants, hospitals, hotels, schools and governmental operations.
• Employ more than 26,000 associates and operate more than 60 distribution centers.
• Offer more than 300,000 fresh, frozen, dry and nonfood products from every major national brand and a robust offering of exclusive brands of our own.


Anonymous said...

I've been against the Sunfield MUD rezoning from the start but the Buda First movement has become a joke. Everyone knows that the Urban family is pumping tons of money into the organization because they want to build a fancy retail center on Main Street.

Yes, the Buda City Council made some serious mistakes in dealing with this but that comes from their lack of leadership rather than any behind the scenes crooked behavior. Sometimes elected officials are just incompetent rather than crooked.

I just wish the Buda First movement would find a better spokesperson than David Patterson and start conducting themselves in way that won't have Buda residents laughing at them.

Anonymous said...

All of this to “add only 38 new low to moderate income jobs to the local economy”? Are you people in nuts? You ought be lynching the ones responsible for this super boondoggle. Maybe living too near I-35 and breathing all that carbon monoxide has finally taken its toll in brain cells.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting points you make #1, but you seem to want to take an 18-wheeler detour away from the many points of interest in the story. Am I sensing political envy, or is it scorn? If the fancy retail center on Main Street is within the city's master plan, big deal. The story suggests two suitors (Buda & Kyle) chasing after the same fair damsel (maybe not so fair, in this case) and the commissioners court egging them on. I'd like to know who is receiving the contributions from Foodservice and more on the FBI thing. This is a good piece of writing. Btw, there's no shortage of key stone cops in the county. I'd say our commissioners court takes the cake.

Charles O'Dell, Ph.D. said...

There are three distinct steps in replacing corrupt government.
1. Citizens paying attention to what their elected officials are really doing.
2. Citizens coming together to petition their elected officials, and if necessary, relying on judicial recourse.
3. Citizens replacing corrupt and weak officials with those more interested in public service than in personal gain.

Go BudaFirst!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Dell,

Are there any elected officials currently in office that you do not believe are corrupt? Just curious about your opinion. Not trying to incite the wrath.

John W Davis said...

Its appears the citizenry of Hays county - and much of Texas - enjoys the bullying of its elected officials. Sure, politicians are crooked, but not ours...right?

Comes a time when you'll either have to get up off your butts or move elsewhere. Not many other choices.

Texas has changed for the much worse in the past 20 years, and its hit central Texas harder than elsewhere. Have you all given up your responsibility of grown up stewardship of your home? Your politicians should be shunned and mocked publicly, but you just keep on letting them pull these stunts of the priveledged.

You're getting what you deserve, but Texas deserves better than you.

Charles O'Dell, Ph.D. said...

"Are there any elected officials currently in office that you do not believe are corrupt? Just curious about your opinion. Not trying to incite the wrath."
You're not curious---it's just an attempt to belittle and bait someone who not only cares about good governance and citizen rights, but who also works hard to expose corrupt officials.
Are there any elected officials currently in office who you believe are corrupt?
Your real name would provide context and motive for your question. You might be one of those corrupt officials---or just a supporter. I operate in the light of day---not from behind a veil.
Whether you approve of my efforts as a citizen and accept the evidence I present, or not, who would you trust more---someone you can see, or a sniper firing from the dark?
I welcome public scrutiny---do you?

Anonymous said...

For heaven's sake, O'Dell! I have read much of your writings and find them very interesting. I truly wanted to know who you think isn't corrupt in this county because I respected you and your hard work. Guess I was wrong. What a way to alienate a supporter!

Charles O'Dell, Ph.D. said...

"What a way to alienate a supporter!"

If I judged you wrongly, then I apologize to you. I read any anonymous post carefully because I'm attacked by those who I expose. Your question seems too open ended and of course cannot be answered.
If you have read much of my writings then you should know many of those who I believe the evidence shows are corrupt. A culture of corruption exists in Hays County, at county and municipal levels, and involving those who are part of the Good Ole Boys/Girls system. Controlled from the top and supported by cronyism and nepotism at lower levels. Anyone who doesn't cooperate is forced out.
Waste and misuse of public resources is rampant. I direct your attention to the three steps outlined for replacing corrupt government I posted earlier.
Feel free to contact me directly and confidentially if you wish to pursue your question.