To the editor: the Pinocchio syndrome

Embassy Square Chair, Sam Watkins, says “Our past economic prosperity was curing tobacco. We now must provide our people exposure to opportunities where they can cure disease, cure racial disparity, and cure economic divisions. We’re talking about the expansion and development of our human infrastructure for the future prosperity of our region. Literal grass roots economic development through a neighborhood facility like no other (sic).”

These assertions are made in the grant application that is the subject of a public hearing on Monday evening. The Embassy Square Chair asserts that a new performance hall in Henderson will help cure diseases and end racial disparity and economic divisions. If this were the case, we would all be ecstatic. Unfortunately, we must add these “cures” to the growing list of misrepresentations, misleading statements, and misconceptions about what could be called the Pinocchio Syndrome. Henderson has been struck down by this virulent strain, and Henderson needs a cure for this syndrome if our city expects to be healthy and viable.

The Pinocchio Syndrome began over the first contract agreement between the city and the Embassy Foundation. This contract was misguided and questionable as it was signed and agreed to by only Sam Watkins and the manager. The Pinocchio Syndrome then grew and multiplied with the misrepresentation that all the property for the Embassy South was blighted. These blighted properties sure sold for substantial sums of money.

Misconceptions about money and pledges abounded as the Pinocchio Syndrome festered and spread unchecked. Has the Embassy Foundation really raised $10 million to date, or been pledged $9 million, or will they pay back the city for the land before they break ground as promised? How much more taxpayer money will be in this project? And, our fund balance money– misdirected to the tune of $1.8 million,that the city spent without proper budget amendments or prior council approval–do we have a cure for that? There are even misrepresentations to the Local Government Commission as they expect this “borrowed money” to be returned to Henderson’s general fund. Could the LGC have been bitten by the Pinocchio syndrome bug also?

As if the Pinocchio syndrome was not bad enough by this time, it has gotten considerably stronger as the city asserts that it “inadvertently” closed out the David Street project. Since there was a public hearing, a council vote, and a final budget presented, how could that be true? Maybe the Pinocchio syndrome causes loss of memory!

Where will the syndrome strike next? Should we question the partnership between the schools, the Foundation, and the city that is mentioned in the grant? Should we question the future plans for at least one more building adjacent to the new police station is to be built? Should we question the fact that the Foundation says it is in partnership with the city to raise the needed funds to complete the performing arts part of the project?

What do you think the chances are of a capital campaign raising an additional $8.35 million in the next 9 months? About as good as the assertion that they were going to match $3 million in tax credits by October of this year–but, maybe that was when the syndrome was particularly bad.

And are we even sure that the city has clear title to all the land that the Foundation now wants deeded to them free and clear? (That is another strand of the Pinocchio syndrome that warrants its own research) Especially alarming is the contract that repeals all other contracts and agreements between the City and the Foundation. Would that mean the existing contract that says the city will be repaid is null and void? Or is that just another misleading document that been contaminated by the Pinocchio syndrome?

There is a well known cure for the Pinocchio syndrome and it is a cure that is long overdue. One big healthy dose of “truth” spoken constantly will do the trick. Who do you think can provide this real cure that Henderson so desperately needs?

Elissa Yount,