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City vendor may get $1.2B from parking-privatization deal

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A private company pays to install hundreds of electronic parking meters. Customers pay a higher rate for the first time in 35 years but now can pay with credit cards. The city collects $400 million over 50 years to repair crumbling streets and sidewalks.

Everyone wins, right?

ballard-greg-mug Ballard

The pitch from Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration is compelling. But a proposed deal to sell the city’s parking meters to Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc. has the city giving up more in the long run than is immediately apparent in the talking points.

The private contractor likely will collect at least $724 million in revenue over the life of the proposed deal, based on an IBJ calculation using city revenue projections that are more conservative than those used by ACS. Under the more optimistic scenario, the company could collect as much as $1.2 billion.

Less clear is how much of the revenue would be pure profit for ACS, the Xerox-subsidiary company the mayor picked this month from among several bidders seeking to help the city unlock hidden value in its parking assets.

IBJ.COM EXTRA
For a map of planned changes to parking meter rates, click here.

The deal, which still requires City-County Council approval, calls for the city to cede control of about 3,650 metered parking spaces in exchange for a $35 million upfront payment for new streets and sidewalks, upgrades to the city’s meter system valued at $41 million, and a minority share of future meter revenue.

The city would get 20 percent of revenue up to $8.4 million annually, and 55 percent above that threshold. Revenue from newly installed meters would be split 50-50.

ACS declined to disclose its revenue or expense projections—including how much it plans to invest in new electronic meters or how much it will pay to manage the collection of parking fees and fines from violators.

Executive Vice President David Amoriell would say only that ACS hopes for a 10-percent annual return on its investment. Based on the city’s valuation of ACS’ investment, that would amount to $7.5 million a year and a profit of roughly $300 million over the 50-year term.

Projections differ

ACS—which is partnering on the deal with two local firms, Denison Global Parking and Evens Time—estimates all its investments and shared-revenue payments over 50 years would provide the city with $400 million.

The company based the estimate on historical data and from “25 years of industry expertise,” said Chris Gilligan, an ACS spokesman. He declined to provide the data used to reach the estimate, but said the city’s estimate of $41 million for new meter technology is in the “ballpark.”

“Our success is linked to the city’s success,” Gilligan said. “We own all the expenses for this project going forward, including maintenance, capital expenses and upkeep.”

The city’s own revenue projections for the parking meters show the deal yielding a figure closer to $233 million over 50 years, before factoring in the $35 million payment and ACS’ investment in new meters which would be replaced every 15 or so years.

The city’s model would result in $724 million—or 76 percent of the total revenue—going to ACS. If the city collects $400 million instead and the split remains the same, ACS would rake in at least $1.2 billion over the 50-year span.

A chunk of the city’s revenue take would continue to reimburse the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department for parking enforcement expenses. In 2009, about $2 million from meter revenue went to reimburse IMPD. That’s roughly the amount the city estimates it would collect annually from the revenue share each of the first 10 years.

The city had been earning about $750,000 per year, after all expenses, from parking meters and violations.

Fierce competition

For the city, the deal is part of a larger effort to shift the burden of paying for infrastructure away from property taxes and toward user fees.

The status quo was not a compelling option: The city’s adviser on the deal, Morgan Stanley, estimated the meters would generate just $37 million over 50 years with no upgrades or rate increases. Morgan Stanley’s fee on the deal is estimated at $1.5 million.

“We did this in the long-term interest of the city,” Ballard, a Republican, said in an interview. “We got a short-term bump but also a strong revenue stream for the future.”

Deputy Mayor Michael Huber said the city doesn’t need to know how much ACS stands to profit from the agreement, only that it makes the most sense for taxpayers.

“In a procurement deal, all we try to do is make the competition as fierce as possible,” Huber said.

ACS emerged from a field of 16 initial bidders, with a hybrid model that is vastly different from the parking-meter deal in Chicago in which Mayor Richard Daley agreed to a 75-year meter lease for a one-time payment of $1.1 billion. ACS was not involved in that deal, which is controversial because of rapid-fire rate increases and the $9.5 billion the private companies who leased the meters stand to profit.

Huber says the city learned from previous deals, opting to insist on both upfront cash and a share of future revenue.

ACS will not be allowed to raise rates until it installs meters that accept credit cards. Meanwhile, the city retains the right to create off-street parking for economic-development purposes and may close up to 6 percent of the meters at a time for special events without a penalty.

The deal also gives ACS exclusive naming rights for the parking system and the ability to sell advertising on the new meters, along with the role of providing neighborhood parking permits that could encourage more people to use metered spaces. The company is not required to divulge its costs or profits on the deal.

‘Sizable payoff’

The city’s deal is the first of its size in the country to include a revenue share and likely will be watched closely by other companies eager to break into the parking-meter privatization business, said Cezary Podkul, editor of InfrastructureInvestor.com, an industry publication.

Hybrid infrastructure deals that involve upfront payments in addition to a share of revenue are likely to be more “politically feasible and popular,” he said, than deals such as the infamous sale of Chicago’s parking meters. Port privatization deals in Oakland, Calif., and Baltimore have used a hybrid structure, and parking-meter deals pending in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles may follow suit.

“A lot of people fear if you’re just leasing something you’re selling the proverbial family jewels, but if you have a revenue share it feels like you’re getting more,” Podkul said.

He said it won’t be easy to determine whether Indianapolis got a good deal since there aren’t a lot of transactions to compare it with and ACS is unlikely to disclose financials. An internal rate of return of about 10 percent would be reasonable considering the risk ACS takes that, over time, people may lose interest in parking or living in parts of the city that have meters.

The Indianapolis deal, even if it doesn’t prove a financial windfall for ACS, positions the company to compete for what could be a “huge wave” of similar deals coming to market.

“I would imagine ACS wouldn’t do it if they didn’t get a sizable payoff,” Podkul said. “If 20 percent of the contract is $400 million, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s a lucrative deal to them.”

Flexibility lost?

The mayor is making a mistake by turning over so much public space to “a private monopoly that doesn’t have the public’s best interest at heart”—and locking in the deal for 50 years, said Aaron M. Renn, author of the urban-planning blog Urbanophile.

Renn, a supporter of most local privatization deals including the Indiana Toll Road lease and water company transfer, said the parking-meter sale as proposed would tie the city’s hands on urban planning for years to come. If the city wants to remove a parking meter, it would have to reimburse ACS for the value of that meter for the remainder of the 50-year period.

Unlike single-purpose entities like utilities or toll roads, the value of street real estate is flexibility, Renn wrote in an e-mail. No one in 1960 would have envisioned the Indianapolis Cultural Trail—a project that very well could not have happened had Mayor Ballard’s predecessors sold off parking assets.

Renn suggests the city should consider issuing revenue bonds against future meter proceeds so it can upgrade the parking system on its own, while retaining flexibility for the future.

“The parking meter lease isn’t just about privatizing a service, it is about selling a 50-year property right interest in the city’s streets,” Renn wrote in an e-mail. “It’s fundamentally a long-term real estate ground lease on the city’s public space. It assumes that we know today what the best use of that real estate will be decades from now.”

Huber said the city did consider selling bonds to upgrade the parking-meter system, but there were complications. The city would have had to create a new entity whose revenues would secure the debt, and such a sale would raise only about $20 million for infrastructure improvements.

He noted that the deal has built-in flexibility to allow for projects such as the Cultural Trail and a planned pedestrian corridor on Georgia Street between the Indiana Convention Center and Conseco Fieldhouse.

Reasonable rates

Nobody wants to pay more for parking, but the improvements to the system will be well worth annoyances over higher prices, said Fred Laughlin, a vice president with the not-for-profit Indianapolis Downtown Inc.

Under the ACS deal, rates would double in some areas to $1.50 an hour by 2012, before rising with inflation in the following years. Meters in certain areas would be outfitted with rates that change based on how long you stay in a space, mirroring the way some garages--including those at Circle Centre mall--charge for parking.

Hourly parking rates would have been at least $2 per hour had they followed inflation over the years, Laughlin said.

The city also will begin charging for parking on Saturdays, and parkers will have to feed meters until later at night in some areas, including until 11 p.m. in Broad Ripple. Some of the upfront payment to the city could be used to build a new parking garage in Broad Ripple, which ACS also would manage.

Laughlin said ACS’ experience should help increase the system’s profitability, bringing in more revenue for the city, and generate more turnover for the city’s parking spaces, which would benefit retailers downtown and in Broad Ripple.

The competitive bidding process ensures the city got a fair deal, he said.

“Obviously, it is a for-profit company and they are attracted to the project because they think they can make a profit on it,” Laughlin said. “I don’t begrudge them making a reasonable profit on it.”

Melina Kennedy, a Democratic candidate for mayor, says the city should set a long-term plan for public transportation before selling its parking meters.

She’s also surprised the current mayor has chosen to do business with one of the subcontractors to IBM on the failed FSSA privatization effort, which the state is now litigating.

Kennedy doesn’t understand why city officials seem to be in such a hurry to close the deal.

“A lot of questions need to be answered,” said Kennedy, a former deputy mayor under Bart Peterson. “I’m all for potentially creative solutions, but we need to be careful when we’re talking about 50 years—it’s hard to say what our transportation system will look like, and I want to make sure the city is protecting the ability to be modern in the sense of urban planning.”•

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  • City needs $35M? Really?
    How many millions did the city give to Pacers, Colts, Convention center, the managment agency of our sports facilities, and the new development of wanted-by-Lilly hotel and retail center on State St? Selling off our assets should require a ballot box vote on election day.
  • hmm
    well, if that's would be the case then i think we are going to create something like that. indianapolis event parking
  • Sliding Around Property Tax Cap
    Isn't this just another way to get around the property tax cap? This article points out two things - the Mayor is willing to give away "public" parking revenues to get a quick buck and it, basically, gets around the property tax cap (used to pay for upkeep) and still gets more money from the taxpayers. Oh yeah, Ballard doesn't care who it hurts as long as he gets his quick bucks. And, there's no Indiana company interested in management of parking meters? Ballard wants to privatize - but just like your man Mitch can't find anyone in Indiana to do it. But can find plenty in Indiana that it will hurt!
  • 50 yrs!
    you gotta be kidding me, some clown gave a 50 yrs estimate? And I believe him? Cost? Piece of the pie?
    I know for a fact if we keep it we get it all.
    No money for parking meters?
    Why isn't a percentage set off for that?
    No brainer to most people.
    So buy a Block at a time.
    Start with highest usage smart guys.
    What no fun?
    Temporary beaurocrats have absolutely no business selling off assetts destined for our great grandchildren.
    Who know for a fact the situation 50 years from now? NOBODY.
    These clowns will be long dead.
  • Which is it, people? You can't have it both ways
    I don't think this is the issue as much as who is getting the contracts over and over and over again in Indy.

    Why not choose a company locally owned?Is there someone on the inside? Who has worked for ACS and now works for the State of Indiana? Who has worked for the State of Indiana and now works for ACS? I think this is more the problem.
  • Izzy
    There is no security at ACS regardless of the contracts they get. There is only outsourcing to other countries. Truth...
  • Both ways
    How amusing. Everybody screams about the "government" being the worst manager of anything and free enterprise being the better answer, so the city outsources management of the parking to a private enterprise, and gets bashed for not managing it themselves.
    Which is it, people? You can't have it both ways.
    • Who is getting the job
      Well after all the information posted here, all the information written and published on different media outlets and analyzing all the numbers(I am not a Rocket scientist by the way), undoubtedly it seems that some within this administration are securing their jobs for the Future..Here I come, ACS!
      • Becareful Who You Vote For
        Politicians and ACS in bed together. Delightful. City's welfare in turmoil; parking upheaval; this person worked for that company now oversees this and that for the State and vice versa. Interesting to say the least. If it's all kept under the covers, then the citizens of Indiana remain uninformed and manipulated. Someone burn the bedsheets, please!!!!
      • Excellent analysis
        Aaron Renn (Urbanophile) recently posted his complete analysis of this project on his blog. Worth a read for everyone and then alert their council-person to make sure this doesn't pass...
        http://www.urbanophile.com/2010/09/07/indys-son-of-chicago-parking-meter-lease-to-be-a-disaster-for-city/comment-page-1/#comment-11020
      • political rip-off
        i guess most people do not understand how it works in indpls,leaders and staff party,drink get payoffs,hire companies who will kick back monies if their company gets a contract.kick-backs can come in all sizes,cottages,cabins free with all the trimming,boats ,food beverages included,campaign dollars put in their coffers,tickets to sporting events,start checking out the leaders of indpls and bring all the dots together,who was a intern for goldsmith and mitch daniels,who could now be a deputy mayor,never heard of him till now.believe me they are all connected,from previous leaders,these are the people who are in it for what they can get and leave in 4-8 years with all the trimings.wise up indpls this is how it works and more involved than you could ever believe..check it out.you would be shocked just how all of it works,not in your favor..god help the city of indpls on cover -ups
      • ACS should be watched more closely
        ACS has not only Indianapolis they have many cities and continue to provide less than adequate service. I was working at ACS and was included in a reduction in force one week prior to the Xerox acquisition. Guess who manages our unemployment process, our eppicard system, you got it ACS...My review less than 30 days before my layoff was close to a 4.0. Now I am "not qualified" to get the same job, the same positions with ACS today.

        They do have a connection politically back and forth with hiring staff that conveniently were previously employed with the State that could get them State contracts or to get work from State departments that so happen to have key staff that used to work for ACS. What can be done about this? Any suggestions?
      • Management now that is a novel concept
        The current Mayoral Administration has shown absolutely no Management Leadership on ANY issue... They come up with these Lunkhead approaches to a very simple managerial issue... and instead of being good stewards of public assets they structure loser deals that provide no benefit to taxpayers (owners of the Public Assets).

        If this were a Publically Traded Company there would be Shareholder Derivitave Suits.

        This deal is so unconscionable. This Mayoral Administration makes Brizzi look like a Choir Boy. Now you know why Mayor Marine never spoke out on Brizzi...

        I could find local high school talent with a one year government class that could perform better than Mayor Marine, Bootlicker Vaughn and the rest of those SYCOPHANTS.
      • Aaron Renn..
        this is no different than the toll road lease. Except for a few extra zeros.

        Both are management issues and should have been addressed as such. The truth of the matter is that neither Ballard or Daniels (or Bayh or O'Bannon) wants to be seen as raising taxes.

        I'm not sure if Huber is incredibly naive or just plain stupid. Ballard is both. Was Huber involved with the toll road lease when he was at the State?
        • Goldsmith...
          you just can't rid of him. I feel sorry for the citizens of NYC.

          Goldsmith has been advising Mayor McCheese and ACS was a done deal. Could it be because Goldsmith became an Executive VP at ACS after he was Mayor? Might that be related to the 10 year no-bid contract that he gave ACS to run the City's IT? An absolute mess that was.

          Mitch Rube - a Goldsmith staffer - also went to work for ACS. As Director at the State FFSA, Rube awards ACS a $1B contract for welfare privatization. And we know what happened to that contract. Rube then gets a promotion and raise. Why would you keep hiring ACS when they have such a bad track record? Kickbacks? Job offers?

          People, open your eyes. You're being taken to the proverbial cleaners.

          Someone (IBJ, Star) needs to do some Brizzi-like research on Goldsmith, Rube and their ACS connections.
          • STUPID MESS
            THIS IS A STUPID MESS MAYOR,LETS GET RID OF THESE SO CALLED CITY LEADERS !
          • The private theft of public assets continues...
            The status quo was not a compelling option: The cityâ??s adviser on the deal, Morgan Stanley, estimated the meters would generate just $37 million over 50 years with no upgrades or rate increases. Morgan Stanleyâ??s fee on the deal is estimated at $1.5 million.

            â??We did this in the long-term interest of the city,â?? Ballard, a Republican, said in an interview. â??We got a short-term bump but also a strong revenue stream for the future.â??

            Deputy Mayor Michael Huber said the city doesnâ??t need to know how much ACS stands to profit from the agreement, only that it makes the most sense for taxpayers.

            â??In a procurement deal, all we try to do is make the competition as fierce as possible,â?? Huber said.


            So, why is the city trusting an advisor to tell the city how much they would earn under the status quo, whose only interest is making the deal happen and collecting fees? Souldn't we know that already?

            And how does Ballard think that it is in the long-term interests of the city to get a percentage of revenue instead of getting all of the revenue? This deal, for fifty years, restricts the use of the public realm, no matter how much the silly politicians and their sycophantic supporters say otherwise.

            Huber claims that there was fierce competition, without any basis in reality. They just picked the deal they wanted - well, they picked the deal
            Goldsmith told them to picked. People, if you haven't noticed, this is Goldsmith II. And just like G-I, it is going to end badly for the citizens.
            • review of details
              Free Press-
              can the City, really? The City has such a great track record managing operations like this...especially when it entails tracking long-term performance. CIB. Bond Bank.

              Regarding the details of the agreement:
              The City maintains flexibility to move parking around (see ~pp 46-51 of ACS agreement.) The deal will be a reasonable one for the City assuming that parking demand continues to grow, and the City/ACS continue to develop parking. This seems fairly likely given that downtown continues to be attractive to developers - see the upcoming IBJ Power Breakfast series - and that the new "attractiveness and demand for urban living" will likely continue for at least a few decades, if not generations.

              Could the City self-manage an improved parking system and "keep 100%", over a 50-year term? Maybe. Doubtful. See first paragraph.

              Will the City benefit from outsourcing parking development and management? Probably, if economic development strategy focuses (more intently than presently) on urban areas. Seems like a safer bet either way.
            • Good Public Policy is Smart Business
              Shoupist,

              You need to make your pitch to someone who sees some value in having some middlemen get up to 80% of the profit on a 50 year city monopoly.

              The city can raise rates, change parking pay periods, buy better meters, build new parking garages, AND retain complete control and flexibility without ACS or Morgan Stanley.

            • Details Details Details
              Indianapolis Parking Proposal

              http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Mayor/Pages/Parking.aspx

              Please review all 15 responses to the RFI -request for information (not competitive RFP - request for proposal)
            • let's get the facts
              Informed Citizenry-
              I agree. Do you know any local press pundits that can produce a critical analysis of the deal? And present it in an unbiased manner? IBJ is probably our only hope, yet I'm not holding my breath.

              Even in the debate (and Urbanophile's blog post) about the Chicago deal, the facts of the flexibility that the City may or may not have reserved are not part of the conversation. This should not be an academic debate, but rather a critical analysis.

              Are you game?
            • Free Press
              Sun light on the details of this deal appear to be making some people a little touchy.

              Only the free press can make the checks and balances of government work correctly. It's now time for the legislative and judicial branches to do their job.
            • Incumbents
              UGOTTABKIDDING, that approach of punishing everyone in office regardless of how they vote makes absolutely no sense.

              I will vote for any at-large councilor who votes against this idiotic deal, regardless of party.
            • Shut up Hacks
              Shut up political hacks. The issue is parking, which isn't going to go away as part of our transportation infrastructure anytime soon. Drivers should pay for parking, period. As a previous poster noted, downtown real estate is not cheap, and drivers need to pay a suitable parking rate in order to to lease it for parking. Will the terms of the deal change over 50 years? No doubt. Has the City negotiated a contract that allows them flexibility to develop parking real estate appropriately? Yes. Stop whining about the deal (which like all deals will change as circumstances demand) and look at the bigger picture. You are the reason that politics is not a game for thinkers.
              • 100% of Profits Better than 50%
                Why don't they just issue muni bonds backed by parking revenue to buy new parking meters and build new parking garages?

                Raising parking rates and extending paying hours is another issue that has serious impacts on the attractiveness of working, playing, and living downtown.
              • Who is going to jail for this?
                Morgan Stanley's $11 Billion Makes Chicago Taxpayers Cry

                Chicago drivers will pay a Morgan Stanley-led partnership at least $11.6 billion to park at city meters over the next 75 years, 10 times what Mayor Richard Daley got when he leased the system to investors in 2008.

                http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-09/morgan-stanley-group-s-11-billion-from-chicago-meters-makes-taxpayers-cry.html
                • Chicago dejavu?
                  Chicago Inspector General Parking Deal Report
                  http://www.chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/pdf/IGO-CMPS-20090602.pdf

                  Keep in mind Morgan Stanley did the Chicago deal and is teamed with ACS for Indianapolis.

                  Chicago office oversaw the deal, failed to calculate how much the parking meter system would be worth to the city over 75 years if it retained the system rather than leasing it, the report found.
                • VOTE'em OUT
                  Tommy,
                  You find one that is and I'll recant. Until them, VOTE'em OUT (until we find a good one) That better?
                • Not like other deals
                  There ways of doing deals where there is accountability. This does not look like one of them. I am a rep. and don't agree with not knowing the real/pro forma numbers. How can we split something on a percentage basis when we don't know the number to make a percent of???
                • parking permits
                  I wonder what will happen to Downtown resident parking permits. Will we have to pay for our permit?? We live here and contribute here. It could UP the price to live Downtown just when so many are encouraging others to move here.
                • GRAFT ALERT
                  Is this like organized crime or something? I thought that is against the law. Can we get the US Attorney's office to investigate the Mayors' office.

                  GIVING AWAY A RIGHTAWAY????

                  Can the city simply lease the equipment at say a cost of funds of 5%, have the staff reconcile automatic deposits from credit cards(ach clearing house) into a bank account, have the staff that currently maintain the meters maintain these same meters and the city keep 100% of the user fees for THE PUBLIC TRUST. THESE ARE TAXPAYER ASSETS.

                  Issue REVENUE BONDS if we need the $35 million.

                  This deal is ridiculously way to rich and is detrimental to the city.

                • 50 years
                  What reason could we be so greedy that 20 Million is not enough. Then raise the parking fees ourself and keep control of our streets. This just seems to be a deal that would put a halt to any future mass transit of any kind. It is like buying a new home with an attached garage but you have to share the garage with the builder for your first 5 years so they can keep storage building material and access to your home.
                • No Accountability
                  Ugottabekidding, the contract says the City won't question ACS's numbers and calculations when determining the revenue the City is entitled to. I can't believe the City would agree to such terms, but this is Indianapolis.

                  Please though stop peddling that vote out every incumbent nonsense. If a Councilor is willing to stand up against this hairbrained one-sided deal, why punish him or her by voting that person out of office? We need to use the stick AND the carrot. Reward politicians who do the right thing, punish the ones who don't, including our dimwitted Mayor.
                  • VOTEOUTALLINCUMBENTS
                    Is there no accountability? This is another scam on the citizens of Indy. Does it ever stop? ACS has already raped the state once. Denison has a monopoly on parking. And we have an assistant, Huber, that doesn't need to know details?? WTF? VOTE OUT ALL INCUMBENTS! GET A CLUE INDY, YOU'RE POLITICIANS TAKE YOU FOR FOOLS!
                    • Connections
                      ACS did a terrible job in DC on a seven year contract, also with no financial oversight, and we are pushing a fifty year contract! The contract as written gives ACS all of the marbles and the city zero leverage, the contract as written only benefits ACS and the lawyers.
                    • No Google?
                      Ethics, maybe the City doesn't have "google" on their computers? Or here's an idea...they just don't care whether ACS will do a good job. This is all about political cronyism.
                    • Hurray! We're going to get screwed!
                      The same ACS that is currently being sued in Texas and Louisiana and a host of other places? Look what a simple Google search turns up when you query ACS + Parking!

                      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/27/AR2007022702115.html

                    • Bid?
                      Great article, though Schouten should have pointed out that Indianapolis Downtown is deeply subsidzed by the city. IDI is little more than a mouthpiece for the administration which gives the non-profit millions every year.

                      I can't believe IDI's Loughlin said: "The competitive bidding process ensures the city got a fair deal, he said."

                      There was no "bidding." There were proposals and the city picked the "best" one. It was a no bid contract.
                    • 100%
                      Renn has it correct. Issue MuniBonds and tie future revenue stream from the meters if the City is that desparate for $35,000,000.

                      Further Bank of America or CIT Equipment Finance can provide a lease deal to the city as well. Cost of funds is very cheap and the city will get the necessary upgrade.

                      Hey Mr. Mayor why NOT KEEP 100%? That STUPID HUBER thinks it is not important to know what ACS is making NEEDS to be FIRED. HE is shallow and breaching his duty to be good stewards of PUBLIC ASSETS.

                      I have lived in Indianapolis my entire life and never have I seen a more CORRUPT administration.

                      We want to keep 100% of our money.. No gimmicks or trickery... Get off the Crack Pipe, Bro...



                      This is a crooked deal no doubt period!

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                    1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

                    2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

                    3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

                    4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

                    5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.

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