Anyone ever get duped into a game of Three Card Monte?
You take the Ace of Hearts and two black queens and bend them into a tent shape. Then the practiced hand of a street grifter flips them around a few times. The rube bets he can find the ace.
Looks simple enough, right?
But he can’t.
See, the dealer has a shill in the audience that distracts the rube just long enough. . ., well, you get the rest.
You will never guess the right card – unless the grifter wants to build your confidence so you double-down and bet the farm – because that’s the way the scam is intended.
And it works every time.
This morning I rolled out of bed and took my daily dose of local news.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal is reporting that our friends at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University just made a very generous investment in the speculative financing game with a $1-million-dollar gift to the FireSpring Fund which provides “seed capital” for promising start-ups.
The Orlando-based fund is a weird mix of public and private money that seeks to “create an eco-system for entrepreneurs, technologists and the creative class” in Central Florida. In my view, it’s just another corporate welfare scheme designed to teach budding tycoons that in 2017 you no longer need to stand on your own two feet – not when every local government is throwing ‘economic incentives’ at you, anyway.
I say let the “creative class” get off their ass and build a business the old-fashioned way – through the competition of goods and services in the marketplace. See, it’s not government’s job to fund your ventures with my tax dollars – especially when my fucking roads aren’t getting paved, etc.
But I digress. . . (Deep breath. Calm down, Mark. . .)
Interestingly, regular readers of this forum might recall that our elected and appointed officials rolled over and peed all over themselves in the County Council chambers when Mori Hossieni and Interim ERAU President Karen Holbrook came to collect their $1.5 million dollars of our hard-earned tax dollars.
Not including the parcel of public land we simply gave away to the private university for half its assessed value.
Yep. We sold Embry-Riddle the Volusia County maintenance facility across the street from the new Micaplex near Clyde Morris Boulevard and the Bellevue Extension for a paltry $400,000 – that’s a 50% bargain basement price from its assessed value of $800,000+ on the free market.
Anyone who still believes that county manager Jim Dinneen isn’t facilitating the greatest corporate welfare giveaway in the history of local government need look no further than this farcical financial shell game.
Through a not-so-subtle sleight of hand, Mori Hosseini requests (demands) $1.5 million-dollars ostensibly to benefit Embry-Riddle – where he sits as the powerful Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and last year was exposed has having taken $1.5 million dollars from the university in “office leases, utilities and aircraft charter services” between 2010 and 2012.
(Wait, can that be legal? Sorry – this is Florida – the rules are different here.)
Now, months later, the apparently flush university makes a very generous cash donation of $1 million dollars to the FireSpring Fund – apparently to buy their involvement in funding potential startups at the Micaplex – a “technology center” that has so far proven to be the biggest local, state and federal tax sponge ever devised.
Of course, the other half-million covers the cost of the public land purchase – and Embry-Riddle pockets a cool $600K in immediate equity on the deal. Which will probably go out the back door in office leases, utilities and aircraft charter services, etc. etc. Who knows?
How neatly packaged.
And conveniently confusing.
According to the News-Journal article, “The idea to fund Fire-Spring is fairly recent and came up after ERAU secured a $1.5 million grant from the Volusia County Council, Hossieni said.”
“The county has to be commended for doing this because this is the result of it,” Hossieni said.”
“This will bring high-paying jobs to the community.”
(Remember the code word is: “Jobs.” Always, “Jobs.”)
And besides, I’ll just bet a $1 million-dollar check buys a lot of clout in deciding which “startups” get funded – and which wither on the vine.
In my opinion, having studied Mori’s Machiavellian attempts to control virtually everything within his domain, I seriously doubt this money – having been washed through ERAU – doesn’t come with a few unwritten strings attached.
Plus, it adds a plausible buffer between the man, and the funding decision.
It’s a damnable travesty that a private university with as many internal problems as Embry-Riddle – the fiefdom of one man who casts a very large shadow – continues to permit this level of personal manipulation of government funding and endowments.
Boss Hossieni does what he wants – when he wants – and he could give two-shits about the needs, wants and opinions of those whose tuition pays the bills – the professors and staff who present the curriculum – or the taxpayers who fund the speculative investments.
Every hardworking resident of Volusia County who struggles and sacrifices to pay taxes in support of this bloated, caustic and horribly mismanaged plutocracy we call county government has skin in this weird money shuffle.
Once we were Patrons of the University – now, we find that we are just mere pawns in a massive corporate welfare scheme.
As I’ve said, ad nauseum, it is high time for the university’s oversight authority to commission an independent external review of ERAU’s governance practices – to include an investigation of Volusia County’s strange relationship with Mr. Hosseini and the wholesale giveaway of public funds.
Remember this the next time one of these fucking drones we elected asks for one red cent more in taxes.
Please. Remember this.