Thursday, August 28, 2008

Local 54 are THUGS (in our humble opinion)

Bob McDevitt and the Local 54 casino worker's union are well on their way to destroying the prospect of any future casino development in Atlantic City. Through a poorly disguised ruse, McDevitt and company are apparently threatening the ongoing Revel casino project unless Revel agrees to terms ensuring the employment of Local 54 members once the casino opens two years from now.

McDevitt flexed his muscle last year when he objected to 2,5000 job cuts at the Tropicana Resort and Casino. In response to the job cuts, McDevitt spearheaded an effort to revoke the gaming license of the casino's new owner, Columbia Sussex Corporation. Complaints were raised on grounds that the job cuts were so severe that the property was no longer being run as a "first class" resort as required under New Jersey law. The union presented claims that room service trays were not removed for hours, reports of vermin, and allegations of general uncleanliness due to under-staffing. The property's owner alleged many of the complaints were acts of sabotoge conducted for political purposes.

In a normal market, a property that was being run in a sub-standard fashion, as alleged here, would suffer lost revenue as customers turned away in search of better service. As a result, the property's owner would either lose money on its investment, or resolve to improve service in order to protect its investment. Atlantic City, however, is not a normal market. Rather than allow the public to choose its preferred casinos, the New Jersey Casino Control Commisison summarily revoked Columbia Sussex' gaming license, resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the casino's investors and threatening the owner's nationwide gaming enterprise.

In rendering the decision, Linda Kassekert, the head of the Casino Control Commission, stated that Columbia Sussex failed to prove it had the business experience, financial ability and good character to hold a casino license. Ms. Kassekert's conclusion was surprising given the fact that the Columbia Sussex company was built from the ground up by its owner, Bill Yung, and that at the time of the decision, the company operated some 60 hotels and casinos in 30 states across the country. Seemingly, Ms. Kassekert (who has never managed a hotel or casino in her life and whose professional experience consists of being a career bureaucrat and lobbyist) felt that she was better qualified to determine the appropriate staff levels at the Tropicana than Mr. Yung, who has spent his entire as a career hospitality professional.

Hidden in the subtext of Ms. Kassekert's public statements, however, is the more likely truth that Ms. Kessler and the rest of the Casino Control Commission buckled under political pressure exerted by Local 54 and other unions on state and local political leaders. Ms. Kassekert's most telling statement ocurred when she declared that her decision was not "difficult at all, given the applicants' demonstrated failure to appreciate the workings of the Atlantic City casino marketplace." Kassekert continued, "The applicants could have taken the time to educate themselves in what it takes to operate successfully here, or they could have hired and retained sufficient staff knowledgeable in those processes," Kassekert said. "They have done neither and must bear the consequence."
So, what is it that is so unique about the Atlantic City marketplace? What is it about "the workings of the Atlantic City casino marketplace" that makes it so different from the 30 other markets where Columbia Sussex successfully operated? And exactly what "does it take" to operate successfully here? Apparently, coming from out of state, Columbia Sussex failed to understand that in Atlantic City, the interests of Bob McDevitt, Local 54, and the politicians take precedence over the interests of hard working businesses, residents and taxpayers.
The Tropicana matter is not the only example of the unions' stranglehold on the public interest. The latest act in the union's thuggish repertoire is to circulate a petition for referendum on an already-approved bond ordinance to assist Revel in making road improvements for its new casino. The city's interests on the $54 million bond are fully secured by a first lien on Revel's 20 acre oceanfront parcel, which is worth an estimated $200 million. Consequently, there is very little risk of loss to the city and the risk that does exist is greatly outweighed by the millions of dollars in tax revenue and improvements as well as the thousands of jobs the Revel project will bring to the city. Nonetheless, the bond issue leaves Revel dependent upon city cooperation and McDevitt sees this as an opportunity to leverage the union's influence over the government officials (and his own membership) to force Revel to pay tribute.
At worst, McDevitt's tactics could risk the Revel project altogether. At the very least, McDevitt's tactics will discourage other casino developers from locating to Atlantic City as they know their costs will be higher and their risks greater if they choose to invest in Atlantic City regardless of whether or not they agree to patronize Local 54. If casino operators work closely with Local 54, they will pay higher wages and have fewer development options. If casino operators try to ignore Local 54, McDevitt has shown that he will do everything in his power to disrupt the casino's operations.
When weak and incompetent government prevails, as it does in Atlantic City and New Jersey, local power brokers such as Bob McDevitt have the opportunity to pursue their narrow self interests at the expense of common good, and that is exactly what Mr. McDevitt and Local 54 are doing. The residents of Atlantic City must understand that their interests are not parallel to the interests of Local 54 on this topic, or many others.
All of the above statements are solely the opinion of The Hanky Panky Report.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Boycott the Press of Atlantic City!!!

The Press of Atlantic City has abandoned its journalistic duty to report on matters of public interest to the residents of Atlantic City and therefore should be boycotted.

Atlantic City is a veritable playground for any gumshoe reporter with the slightest sense of civic responsibility or interest in lurid public scandal. The city possesses every character flaw a local reporter could ask for to provide a constant stream of salacious front page stories. In the past year alone, four former members of city council were convicted of corruption, the mayor resigned following his own corruption scandal, and another member of city council was indicted for setting up a colleague with a prostitute, filming the encounter, and then attempting to blackmail him.

Not only are city leaders corrupt, they are also totally incompetent, as evidenced by the city's bloated payrolls and budget. To get a sense of how badly mismanaged Atlantic City is, look at Coral Gables, Florida for the sake of comparison. Like Atlantic City, Coral Gables is a city with a population of approximately 40,000 and which also has a tourist based local economy. Looking at some basic benchmarks, Coral Gables has a total of 859 city employees and a budget of $142 million. By comparison, Atlantic City has nearly double the number of employees (approximately 1,600) and a budget of $206 million. Despite the fact that Atlantic City spends 45% more than Coral Gables, it delivers far inferior services (particularly schools and public safety) to its residents. There is no legitimate excuse for the high cost and gross inefficiency and ineffectiveness of Atlantic City's government.

Moreover, crime in Atlantic City is at epidemic level. Out of 325 U.S. cities with a population between 40,000 - 60,000, Atlantic City had the highest murder rate in the country - by a significant margin. Thousands of Atlantic City residents live in drug infested, crime ridden public housing projects. Rather than promote efforts to move residents out of these decrepit conditions, local politicians shower them with public assistance dollars in an effort to keep the residents - and their votes - in Atlantic City. The city would be better served by shutting down this public housing and helping these residents move to more dignified conditions elsewhere.

Despite the over-abundance of highly reportable material, the Press somehow manages to be completely irrelevant as a city watchdog and cultural institution. A prime example of The Press' pointless reporting appears in today's edition, where we learn that the Pinnacle casino project, which was put on hold earlier this year due to the credit crisis, continues to lease billboards...

What? I'm sorry, were you waiting for something else to the story? No, no, there's nothing more. That's it. Just in case you hadn't recently noticed the massive billboards around town that are advertising the Pinnacle project, the Press just thought you should know...they're still there.

The Press is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the criminally incompetent and self-serving city administrators it should be questioning, investigating and exposing. Accordingly, we implore the residents of Atlantic City and the region to boycott The Press of Atlantic City unless and until it fulfills its public duty to report on matters of public interest and to hold the city's leaders accountable for their mismanagement of the city.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Coverage of Subway Groping is an Assault on Reason

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is beginning a new campaign to raise awareness of sexual harassment on the subway in the hopes of reducing the number of incidents. Highlighting the need for such a campaign, WCBS news, WNBC, the Daily News and scores of other media outlets have cited a 2007 study which found that 63% of women reported being sexually harassed and 10% saying they had been sexually assaulted while on the subway.

Based on this shocking statistic, it would seem that there is an epidemic of molesters running amok in the Big Apple's underground. There's only one problem - the statistic is totally unreliable. As was previously reported more than a year ago by both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, the study's methodology was fatally flawed. As a result, the 63% figure which has been so widely circulated likely grossly overstates the actual extent of the problem. This type of sensationalistic reporting has become so widespread that many don't even question how improbable these statistics sound any more.
Undoubtedly, steps should be taken to deter the victimization of women on the subway. Rather than starting a scare campaign based on bogus statistics, however, it would be more constructive to promote a campaign based in fact, which encourages and empowers women to deter this type of behavior by forcefully confronting it. As noted in the WCBS story, the failure to confront offensive behavior only invites further attacks - whether on women in the subway, or on their male counterparts through the media.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Atlantic City Can't Wait to Give Away its Crown Jewel

The Press of Atlantic City reports today that the City is trying to speed up the process of getting bids for the development of Bader Field, a 140 acre parcel of prime waterfront property worth an estimated $1 billion. Ordinarily, we would applaud the efforts of the city to quickly sell this parcel for development, as it will hopefully result in a major development that will bring thousands of jobs and tourists to the city as well as new infrastructure and amenities. But, as they say in life, timing is everything.

The country's current housing woes have been front page news for months. The credit crisis has banks reeling and the availability of debt and equity capital for new development is scarce, if it can be obtained at all. We have already seen Pinnacle halt development of a planned 1.5 billion casino in Atlantic City due to the credit crisis. Revel, too is having difficulty obtaining financing for its project and has asked the City for assistance in securing $56 million in debt for its $2 billion development. Just last week, Boyd Gaming - which co-owns the successful Borgata casino in Atlantic City - announced that it was suspending construction of The Echelon, a $4.8 billion casino project already under construction in Las Vegas due to the weak market. The stocks values of gaming companies have plummeted in recent months, with some falling by more than 70%, and they remain near their 52 week lows. Gaming revenue in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas has fallen compared to last year as distressed consumers cut back on discretionary spending.

In sum, there could hardly be a worse time to expedite requests for proposals for the acqusition and development of Bader Field. Under the current economic conditions, a quick sale of this prized parcel will attract little interest and those firms with the resources to bid will undoubtedly submit low ball offers which fail to recognize the long term value of this property. The result will be the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the city, its taxpayers, and residents.

There is no pressing reason why the City should not and cannot delay the RFP process for 6-18 months until the economy and capital markets have stabilized or recovered and that is exactly what the City should do.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cropdusters, Bikes, Babes

In general, we at The Hanky Panky Report endeavor to provide our readers with commentary on current events and somewhat serious matters of public interest. Nonetheless, sometimes we come across random things on the web that we just need to share.

We recently came across the following website which was just too good to keep for ourselves. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, we give you - a site all about "Cropdusters, Bikes, and Babes...Smokin' Grass for a Livin'"

So that's what they do in Arkansas....f-ing genius if you ask us.

In addition to the pics of the cropduster planes in action, be sure to check out the sweet shots of the "Duster Babes" and the "Secretary of the Month". Apparently, the good judges in Arkansas adhere to the Russian school of thought on matters of sexual harassment, (i.e., If We Had No Sexual Harassment, We Would Have No Children).

If We Had No Sexual Harassment, We Would Have No Children

In stark contrast to Americans' absurdly prudish interpretation of sexual harassment (see Sexual Harassment: If they Like You its Called Flirting), a Russian judge recently ruled that sexual harassment was not only permissible, but indeed necessary in order to ensure the continuation of the human species!

The case was brought by a 22 year old executive who testified that she was locked out of the office after refusing to have sex with her 47 year old boss. "He always demanded that female workers signalled to him with their eyes that they desperately wanted to be laid on the boardroom table as soon as he gave the word," she told the court. "I didn't realise at first that he wasn't speaking metaphorically."

In a bold and brilliant example of contrarian rationale, the judge dismissed the case, not for lack of evidence, but because the boss' behavior was in fact a patriotic duty, rather than an illegal act. "If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children" the judge defiantley proclaimed.

Clearly, things work a little differently in Russia. In light of this case, and the reversal of Italy's infamous "tight jeans" defense to rape (stemming from a case in which an Italian court ruled that the defendant could not be guilty because the girls jeans were so tight there is no way he could have removed them without her consent - see,23599,24068240-38200,00.html) Russia has clearly established itself as the world's preeminent nation for boorish machismo.,-Russian-judge-rules.html