Taking over the Augusta Commission Chamber

In early 2012, Augusta faced a dilemma. It had constructed a $15 million parking deck that it did not own. Local activists with the Augusta Today facebook group and CityStink.net had alerted the media when their research of real estate titles at the Clerk of Court’s office showed that the land was not owned by the city.

Cost recovery analyst Al Gray and Brad Owens took over the commission chambers to address the crowd and insist upon rights of audit, in what was seen as a one-sided contract.

Augusta Sales Tax Program Management Contract Extension

Augusta’s Sales and Use Tax-funded project management firm was up for contract renewal. After behind-the-scenes support of the commissioners, the contractor reduced the contract price by about $184,000.

A Tax Recovery Yarn

How a multidisciplinary review of an already-negotiated sales and use tax exemption package, including analysis of equipment purchase orders and contracts, produced $millions in additional savings.

This effort required study of the technical data and vendor operating manuals, knowledge of sales tax exemptions and application in a “direct-use” state, understanding of how tax codes were input to produce tax accrual reports, and taking the initiative to appeal that which had already been established.

The Aurelius Principle to Success, Money and Power

Looking at major projects, programs, and government regulations with a multidisciplinary approach producs astounding success that can be leveraged up to unlimited heights in a once-in-300-year socio-economic and political upheaval.

Along came the Aurelius principle and things might be changed forever.

Empathy Coupled With Introspection Powers Success and Salvation

Golden Ruler, Golden Rule & Golden Life

Aurelius Bust from Colorado.edu site

 

By Al Gray

Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. “He was the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.” This man was supremely well-educated by the best Greek and Roman tutors of his day. “Marcus Aurelius’ Stoic tome Meditations…. is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia presents a mixed explanation of the life of this pagan ruler, yet includes this account.

During the war with the Quadi in 174 there took place the famous incident of the Thundering Legion which has been a cause of frequent controversy. The Roman army was surrounded by enemies with no chance of escape, when a storm burst. The rain poured down in refreshing showers on the Romans, while the enemy were scattered with lightning and hail. The parched and famishing Romans received the saving drops first on their faces and parched throats, and afterwards in their helmets and shields, to refresh their horses. Marcus obtained a glorious victory as a result of this extraordinary event, and his enemies were hopelessly overthrown.

That such an event did really happen is attested by both pagan and Christian writers. The former attribute the occurrence either to magic or to the prayers of the emperor … The Christian writers attributed the fact to the prayers of the Christians who were in the army and soon there grew up a legend to the effect that in consequence of this miracle the emperor put a stop to the persecution of the Christians…..

Marcus Aurelius was one of the best men of heathen antiquity. (T)he judicious Montesquieu says that….we cannot read the life of this emperor without a softening feeling of emotion. Niebuhr calls him the noblest character of his time, and M. Martha, the historian of the Roman moralists, says that in Marcus Aurelius “the philosophy of Heathendom grows less proud, draws nearer to a Christianity which it ignored or which it despised, and is ready to fling itself into the arms of the Unknown God.”

The Bible upholds a number of foreign rulers to have moral qualities, including some who worshiped the Lord at times. It does not preclude us from considering words of wisdom from other sources. In this sense Marcus authored many very fine, uplifting, inspiring, and wise quotes including this powerful key to success –

“Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people’s actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.”

Before expounding upon this concept, let’s consider our Bible Verse of the week as it appears Matthew 7, verse 12 of the King James Version.

12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

These stunningly elegant words sum up the very essence of civil societies of all types, indeed of civilization itself. The concept is found in nearly all cultures for it sums up our fair expectations of how we want, expect, and demand others to treat us. Indeed, even in the most totalitarian of states there is reverence for this golden rule, for wholesale abandonment of it risks revolution. Some years ago this writer read of an elderly woman in China with a long term lease in the middle of exploding development, on account of whom a major office and retail complex was being delayed simply because the woman refused to move from her home. The story seemed odd, until one considers just how powerful the golden rule is.

“Do unto others” goes to the very heart of how we relate to each other as people living in harmony and peace. The concept is redundant in the Constitution of the United States and our precious Bill of Rights, with the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of first the 5th and, later, the 14th Amendments having stood resolute in protection of property rights since the Constitution was ratified.

Recently there been appreciable erosion, not just in our most priceless rights, but the underlying moral code of the golden rule. We stand near the abyss and will certainly topple over if we don’t recover the commandment found in Matthew 7:12.

The golden rule was expanded upon by the words of the golden ruler Marcus Aurelius referenced above. The technique is one of supreme, sublime power. The greatest attorneys practice the first half. “Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people’s actions, and see what they would be at” In other words you get an advantage by placing ones’ self in another’s position, determining his motivations, and predicting his actions. Wise people of all professions, faiths, and organizations use this strategy to excel. Empathy is a powerful tool used to approach the second commandment of “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” It is also a way to lower resistance in an erstwhile adversary.

The second part of the Marcus Aurelius quote is the admonishment “to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.” The first part is extremely difficult to master by most people and they simply refuse to make the effort. Their thoughts, desires and motivations are too powerful to temporarily shove aside to gain empathy for another, be it for advantage or be it out of Christian love. Adding the second requirement of introspection of one’s own thoughts, desires, and motivations is an unimaginable, unattainable, and nearly impossible practice to even folks skilled in applying the empathetic first instruction.

The power of the combined technique is stunning. When a person does both parts of this instruction set, it combines empathy with introspection. You not only see the world through the eyes of others, but you analyze your own situation through theirs. It makes your arguments compelling, even overwhelming, for you not only are predictive of their words and deeds, you are predicting how they will address your own! If there is faulty logic, bias, dislike, hatred, or some other negative force in your position, you can objectively identify it and eliminate it before making a crucial error or misjudgment. If the other has the superior argument or position, one can adapt to it or adopt it before his position is established.

This is a path to peace. Wouldn’t it be great if world leaders would practice this? Most wars would be avoided!

If there is one technique that marries a holy commandment to friendships, continuous harmony, and even personal advantage it has to be this one. It is training in this life for eternity. It is of overwhelming power independent of faith.

Marcus Aurelius was a pagan, yet even a pagan emperor knew the magic of the golden rule. The words of Matthew 7:12 ring through the ages in law, as the verse stated, but this golden ruler recommended practicing a more stringent, demanding, and disciplined version of it as one pursues a golden life in every sense of those words.

Can you live the commandment of the golden rule?

Can you take it to a more demanding, higher level of empathy and tempered introspection?

The rewards on earth and in heaven are worth trying. You don’t have to be an emperor or prophet to gain your reward.

You just have to overcome yourself.

-AG

Originally posted at City Stink. net

 

Dekefeating the Tyranny of Credentials

The
Aurelius Principle

A Multidisciplinary Approach
Works Wonders

“Let it be your constant method to look into the design
of people’s actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is
practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first
upon yourself.”
– Marcus Aurelius

On Tuesday evening, September 17, 2013 Mayor Deke Copenhaver in an Augusta City Commission meeting challenged me to supply my “credentials.”  He cut me off and would not let me respond. Since he asked for it – here goes.

Fact of the matter is I don’t really have any credentials. I have something much more effective and powerful that I call the Aurelius Principle. What the principle stands for is looking at major transactions globally or taking a multidisciplinary approach. Clients get a whole lot of angles on a problem in one pass that just an accountant, lawyer, administrator, engineer, planner, procurement agent, or other professional cannot provide.

The Aurelius Principle works this way: it uses an opponent’s own power, authority, records, and documents against him. If you think about that, it is something that the very best attorneys use. If one does it really well, he might find himself with a new lucrative line of work. For example, the in depth study of the Augusta convention might lead to marketing the same strategies that the management company there used to secure $3 million a year taxpayer subsidy.

The Principle is time-tested and simply does not fail, because it works on all sides of valuable transactions. The technique has been leveraged up to ever higher planes. It worked well enough for me to hardly hit a lick at a snake and retire early. I don’t have a lot of references, but I do have the Mayor’s records. He will find those a lot more convincing than “Credentials”.

Let’s try to weave an aspect of the principle into the question that Deke Copenhaver asked. Marketing personally to Fortune Magazine listed company executives was nearly impossible but then I sent a letter to  them, with a great white shark eating their precious logos in a window envelopes! It worked! CFO’s whom I needed to spent $50,000 on to contact contacted me!

The renegade marketing added to an enquiry list from potential and eventual clients of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., its predecessors, and mine that included these names, which just might be impressive even to the Mayor.

Tenneco

 

Fort Sterling

 

Maryland Cup

 

Procter and Gamble

 

USG

 

Hanes Brands

 

Sara Lee

 

Con Agra

 

National Gypsum

 

Georgia Pacific

 

Lilly Tulip

 

3M

 

Sunbeam

 

McDermott

 

Johnson and Johnson

 

Fulghum Industries

 

Lowes

Medimmune

 

Home Depot

 

Corning

 

Bass Pro

 

CarMike

 

W.R. Grace

 

Eli Lilly

 

Bristol Myers Squibb

 

Intel

 

St Joseph Foods

 

Georgia Iron Works

 

Boise Cascade

 

Stone Container

 

Fort Howard

 

Weyerhauser

 

Willamette

 

Packaging Company of America

 

Temple Inland

 

Fluor

 

 Lenzing Fibers


 Kahn’s

 General Electric

 Hillshire Farms


 Fort James

 Unilin

Jacobs

 

Fulghum Fibres

 

Donahue

 

 Duke Energy  Sweetheart Products  Hoku Corporation

 BCE Outdoor

 Control Plus  Arale Woods LLC

I performed work for 29 of those companies over the years as an employee, contractor, or subcontractor.

Leveraging up the Aurelius Principle in Augusta and Georgia has made for amazing findings and real results, especially during the Augusta Project since 2011.

To sum up, I knew I might be rusty and used Augusta like my very own laboratory to sharpen my skills. Not many rats escaped.

 

          AG

The author is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of multidisciplinary contract cost avoidance, cost recovery, and public policy services to industry and government.

Dear Arthur, Tipped Balls Hurt

Originally posted March 12, 2013

Are the Falcons underestimating the Atlanta City Council?

By Al Gray

As University of Georgia grads know, an untimely tipped ball tantalizingly close to the goal line can kill championship dreams. The Atlanta Falcons have executed a well-orchestrated plan over the last two years to carefully plan and execute the win of a free $1.2 billion new stadium. Now the weakened opposition is down to an unlikely, untested, last line of defense called the Atlanta City Council. Its members were spectators suddenly called into a game with no advance preparation. Only a disaster can stop the Falcons now. Surely a bunch of city council members can’t muster anything heroic. Everything has been so perfectly played that half of the backfield has been cloaked with invisibility.

Political maneuvers bail out GWCCA, get Falcons to first and goal

Moments after the opening whistle in 2010, the Georgia World Congress Center contingent on the team realized that they had a huge problem. If they fully surrendered stadium operations to the Falcons, not only would GWCCA be giving up $20 million a year in hotel motel tax funding (Consultants’ numbers lead to totals of $1.2 billion over 35 years), it would be giving away $15 million a year in net income on a successful Georgia Dome operation. If someone only looked at the financials there could be trouble. A worse problem was the $2 million to $3 million in GWCCA overhead that the Georgia Dome has been absorbing for years. Then someone realized that money is fungible and that the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACV partnership with GWCCA could be used as a conduit to shift costs equivalent to those then covered by dome operations. In 2011 the team got a new 1% hotel motel tax passed worth $6 million a year to expand the ACVB’s marketing of events in the World Congress Center and elsewhere. About $4 million of the new tax appears on the GWCCA’s 2012 FY financial statements. That might have tipped some people off, so GWCCA’s Frank Poe proclaimed, truthfully enough, that the new tax was not going toward stadium construction. The contract between ACVB and GWCCA was modified in 2011 uneventfully. The cost shift will be a handy tool.

The series of plays in the General Assembly enabling the Falcons takeover extended the hotel motel tax and, just last week, killed a conservative bill strengthening right to work laws that would threaten the “community investment” now needed to have any chance at victory in Council chambers.

Another saving grace in the potential damage to GWCCA’s finances is that Georgia governor Nathan Deal, who has had a major role in the stadium negotiations, and GWCCA’s Frank Poe, now 62, will probably be retired before the harm to GWCCA becomes known in 2018. $15 million Dome annual net income contributions might be too great a loss to overcome, necessitating a state bailout.

On first down –

Tipped Ball  #1 – Public costs are not capped at the $200 million advertised according to City’s and GWCCA’s own documents that are posted online.

The Falcons negotiators, gold dome allies, and GWCCA facilitators have stayed remarkably on message that public funds are only $200 million, while the Falcons will be paying $800 million of construction costs. When the deal with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was announced on Thursday, March 7, the press release said “The public contribution for stadium construction is capped at $200 million.” Maybe the Mayor thinks the council won’t mind that the legal summary says

 “Budget/Contributions: Estimated $948 million, comprised of….. Public Contribution: $200 million net proceeds of the HMT Revenue Bonds”

The legalese says the $200 million is an estimate, not a cap and puts stadium borrowings on the same funding stream that a Citi consultant projected would produce bond proceeds of $360 million. Even more critical is that those funding assumptions are terribly conservative, given the extraordinarily lower interest rates are available to Atlanta than the 4.15% rates used  and that Hotel-Motel tax revenues are currently up 7.49% over last year.

Second Down –

Tipped Ball  #2 –  No one is explaining a $612 million cash gap in Hotel Motel tax funds ($211 on a debt funding basis) over the “$200 million cap” and fully funded O-M accounts (which are being ignored as a public contribution)

A key Citi presentation of June 2011, secured by agraynation.com, was integral to the planning of the stadium agreement. This agreement used the 2.7% annual growth rate in H-M tax revenues and it showed the debt service required at then-existent rates for $360 million in debt. If the debt is reduced to $200 million, where debt is to be “capped,” it leaves $612 million in cash outlays unaccounted for, or $210 million in estimated bonding potential. These public funds are being pretended out of existence.

The legal summarycontains this bombshell about the extra funds: “City would agree that all HMT revenues not required under the Funding Agreement to provide for the payment in full of the HMT Revenue Bonds (including appropriate reserves) shall be deposited with a separate GWCCA HMT Fund Custodian, where such funds shall be applied to pay for any costs relating to the construction and operation of the NSP, as provided in the HMT law.”  In other words, excess funds can go into stadium construction that are over and above the $200 million cap.

 Third Down –

Tipped Ball  #3 –  The $186 million that the Atlanta agreement puts into “other event staging” through FY 2051 is to make up for the much, much higher costs the Falcons plan on charging as stadium managers than GWCCA did, isn’t it?

This one might tip off the public and Atlanta City Council thatStadCo will be responsible for the cost (to be identified) of providing its staff and other support that historically has been provided by GWCCAThey might awaken to the fact that Falcons costs as stadium manager are required to be built into all GWCCA events, GWCCA legacy events and Atlanta hosted events – events that now account for nearly 60% of Dome attendance! There are indications that Dome legacy events might be “not on economic terms” after the Falcons take over. Having to allocate $186 million to “other event staging” to make the existing venues and events viable reveals a controversial truth about the contract – the GWCCA won’t be staffing the stadium and will have to pay the Falcon’s cost structure, which may be considerably higher. (GWCCA’s consultant having already predicted 20% (after tax) ticket price increases and 44% concession price increases) Having to inject $186 million to make your own events “economic” after the Falcons take over isn’t a surprise to Atlantans?

Fourth down, Arthur, but don’t sweat it –

Tipped Ball #4 The Falcons only agree to pay that which the public contribution cannot be “maximized” to cover, not $700 or $800 million.

The Atlanta agreement says,All NSP costs in excess of the Public Contribution to be paid by StadCo” (the Falcons). Worse it says this about handling of funds when the bonds are sold in August 2013: “Invest Atlanta shall issue the Hotel Motel Tax (“HMT”) Revenue Bonds and StadCo shall establish an account into which its contribution will be deposited. ” This doesn’t even set an amount or a requirement that any money be deposited by the Falcons, only that an account be established! Beyond this, crafty lawyers restricted Falcon responsibility to “NSP Costs” which are established by a maximum price. The trouble with this is that an increase in the “maximum price” (which can change throughout the project) is not necessarily a change order for which the Falcons are responsible.

******************

Expect the great Falcons special stadium team to pick up the tipped ball and run in for the score. The officials will push the ball carrier across the goal line. “Whatever it takes” is the Georgia and Atlanta politicians’ motto.

After the victory is scored, the Falcons can proceed into the construction phase of revenue enhancement, where the next $50 million to $100 million in public funds lay waiting.

Why not make the full agreement open for public scrutiny instead of just the legal summary? Why not make this process easier on all concerned and just ante up another $250 million that is perfectly justifiable under sound strategic planning and will make this project palatable to the public?

Another $250 million from the Falcons remains a bargain, Arthur.

 

-AG

 

Update: The Atlanta City Council has since voted to approve the Flcon’s New Stadium Project