Fight! Fight! Rich People Duke It Out Over Art and Real Estate! Someone Lend them a Knife!

Categories: Schutze

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Art fight! Art fight! Everybody ditch class and run out in the halls to watch! The rich kids are fighting about their art!

On this day when the national economy is still on life support, Texas schools are sinking into Dickensian poverty and the city can't afford sewers, our city's one and only, sole and lonely daily newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, gifts us with a big front-page story about a battle between a sculpture garden and a shiny new office-tower over ... glare.

Reflected sunlight from "Museum Tower," a new 42-story $200 million building that is not a museum, is causing unwanted glare to fall upon the nearby Nasher Sculpture Garden. I say that The Morning News "gifts us" with this story, because I mean it.

Nothing takes our minds off this misery we call middle-class survival in America like a rich kids art fight. It's like our own little hometown Brangelina.

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Light from the Museum Tower, future home to rich guys, is threatening the Nasher Sculpture Garden. Oh, the humanity.
In the piece in the paper today, John Sughrue, developer of Not-A-Museum Tower, says of the fight between his project and the sculpture garden, "... there's an element about this that is heartbreaking."

Apparently, reporter Mike Granberry did not ask which element. It's a little hard to tell. He does allow Sughrue to go off on a tangent about how he doesn't have $200 million to fix the glare. What, the only way to fix the glare is to implode the building?

And Sughrue does another little monologue about what a bitch Laura Miller is. She's the former Dallas Observer columnist who became mayor for a while. That's fun. (Sorry, Laura.)

In the story, Miller does a tangent on how the glare is very disturbing for Ray Nasher, the shopping-center magnate who paid for the sculpture garden, which is a little much, I must say, on account of Nasher being dead at the moment.

But, you know, what counts for most of us is that the rich kids are out in the hall pulling each other's hair and insulting each other's footwear over their art, which is just plain fun. We can use a little fun, right?

In The New York Times today there's a story about how teachers in Texas are working 12 extra hours a week unpaid and having to do janitorial duties because of the education funding cuts forced through the last session of the Legislature by Governor Rick Parry and the Texas Tealiban.

Lots of people who aren't even in education are putting up with the same kind of crap in life. The rich get richer and the rest of us get hosed. So what else is new? At least we've got an art fight going.

Why do rich people care so much about art? These are mostly money wonks who have devoted their lives to things like debentures. They've got about as much art in them as they have gills.

It's something about buying class. People in America can't just get rich and let it go at that. As soon as they get their hands on some loot, they have to start trying to convince the rest of us that they're British aristocrats. Who has time to wonder why? It's how it is.

I did pick up one note of extreme danger in the Morning News piece, however. When Sughrue isn't talking about what a damn bitch Miller is, he says something very ominous about taking this whole thing out of the hide of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

That's crazy, right? Why would the Police and Fire Pension System care about an art fight? Oh, dear. You didn't know? While you weren't watching, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System owned it. Yup. Bought the whole farm.

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System put up most of the money for Not-a-Museum Tower. Why would they do that? According to The Wall Street Journal, it had a lot to do with the fact that no one else would.

You think of a pension fund as having sort of a sacred trust, right? They need to hire a professional money manager to do arms-length investments for them spread all over the map so they won't be in the tank over any particular investments. The last thing they would want to do, of course, is take a big flyer on a politically wired local real-estate gamble in a down market with all kinds of City Hall pressure to make it happen.

All I can tell you is, the pension fund owns the building, so now they own the glare. Granberry's story includes this paragraph:

Sughrue said last week he's "on a jihad to push the Museum Tower regime to get it right," referring to the owners of the building, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, which purchased it for $200 million from Sughrue and his partners, Lyle Burgin, Dan Boeckman and Greg Green.

The story sort of explains that Sughrue and the people behind the Nasher really don't want to be in a jihad against each other because: A) Presumably they're not Muslim; and B) They are partners together in other rich people arts stuff like art fairs and art parties and art picnics and so on.

So why not take it out of the pension system's hide?

Am I feeling all mushy-face sorry for the pension fund here? Nah. If the cops and the firemen in this city are so slack and so dumb they can't control their own pension fund, if their unions are that piss-poor at looking out for them, then to hell with them. They deserve whatever.

My regret is this. I think if the pension fund gets in the middle of it, they'll wreck the art fight. Then it will be all about serious stuff like conflict of interest and due diligence and I.Q. tests.

I just want the art fight. That's what's fun.

Oh, damn! Here comes the assistant principal! Stop laughing, man! Look scared and get back to class! I can't believe that responsible adults would expose us to this kind of violence!

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44 comments
Johnnance
Johnnance

Wow. I used to like your ass. But the context of your article is Big Boys against Big Boys (and at that level, I say go for it), but what's happening here is a fabulously wealthy man (Raymond Nasher) has given an immensely beautiful gift to the people of Dallas and fabulously wealthy people are f*g it up for their own personal benefit. Go figure. It's all the Nasher's fault.

Christina Rees
Christina Rees

Jim. You're smarter than this zero-sum-game bullshit. Shame on you. 

Guesto
Guesto

And just think that we've spent a trillion dollars on the wasteful, cruel War on Some Drugs that has destroyed so many communities across the country.  Every week the Dallas Observer should be criticizing some aspect of the War on Some Drugs if they want the right to bitch about any underfunded education or any other government service that provides real benefit to society.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Is there a reason the tower faces east/west and not north/south?

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

Pointing it east-west means views of sunsets and sunrises theoretically could be part of the pitch.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Would you be eager to buy a south-facing luxury condo high above anything that can block the summer sun?

South-facing sucks.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

I would think west facing isnt much better and south facing would at least kill the glare over the nasher.  Ifyou have that money, you probably dont give a shit about the AC bill.  Im thinking those windows are pretty insulated, these arent your apartments built in 1980

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

West-facing is many less hours of direct sun in a day than south. And yes, you can insulate yourself out of the problem at all with the right materials, just ask the folks in the United Arab Emirates about that, but it does significantly add to the costs of the building. The eventual buyer may not care about their AC bill, but the builder cares about their budget. And even well-insulated doesn't totally eliminate the annoyance of 14 hours of August sun trying to turn your pad into a pizza oven.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Don't they have some kind of  Pension board that recommend projects for funding? I think I remember Don Hill trying to get funding for Lancaster Kiest or something like that,if Pension fund did this financing ,I bet local members don't know anything about it.I bet some Council member brought the project to the Pension Board as a favor to the Art's guy who had helped get the Nasher deal. Dallas never changes I'm sure his heartbreak is them coming out now with complaint after helping to make deal happen.The Dallas Way is hell  think your're safe in the Boat, and dam, it hi'ts a stomp and you fall out, no life vest.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

It seems to me that at the time that the Police and Firemen invested in this tower (by the blessings of the city) that it was not a wise and prudent investment (I would not want my retirement funds being risked on this).    It seemed to me that the city was using one source of funds to solidify their visions of the arts district (a vision that has been to the detriment of the rest of the city in terms of projects, priorities and cost).   It reminds me of the story about how you know that some is serious when playing chicken (driving two cars strait at each other so see which driver flinches) when one driver tosses out the steering wheel (no way to turn the car).   The city was so intent on putting yet another nail in the arts district coffin (funding) that it saw no problem in this scheme of funding with city employee’s pension funds.  CRIMINAL at least INCOMPENENT at best.

BlueonBlue
BlueonBlue

It broke Turrell's skyspace, Blue - My favorite space is now closed.  

Parisrec
Parisrec

The Museum Tower is the only commercial franchise in the core arts d. It was payback for big museum donors and also was a double cross to nasher who thought he could get a larger tract. Mitchell Rasansky told me there MAY be a reversion deal on the nasher by the by. The entire history of the Nasher land aquisition is shady--not to mention his ( now dry) crocodile tears.

asu87
asu87

So, if we dumb this down a bit---you have an apartment and the guy that moves in across the courtyard has a giant mirror that reflects directly into your place....

That reflection will be a problem, maybe force you to wear sunglasses around the place or whatever else...right? 

So, what do you do? (i'd go knock on his door and tell him to take it down, or punch his lights out)

Just wonder if there is some sort of treatment you can put on the museum tower's glass that would remedy this situation...for art's sake.

gimme
gimme

When the next condo-bubble pops, think how much fun it will be to watch the rich diving out of the Not-A-Museum-Tower and squishing all those elegant patrons next door.  Splat! Pow! Pop!  You'll be picking bleached hair out of the sculpture garden for weeks.

The middle class won't be there, too busy shopping for bargain bin food and 2nd jobs.

Anon
Anon

popped? it never really inflated. you had a few condo properties that sold well because of brands (Ritz and W) that are well established, which brought in out of town buyers who paid cash and intended to hold them as investments. Don't quiz me on the investment thesis because I don't know what it is, but that was the idea. Other than that, I am not sure what other condo project could really be called a success. 

Homes for Sale
Homes for Sale

What about the artificially low interest rates set by the fed? Doesn't that affect the condos too since they are part of the real estate family?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

And, it is important to note, Ritz 2 had already stalled and resale prices at the W and Azure had already started plummeting PRIOR to this deal's approval by Dallas Police & Fire.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Jim,Still tossing tomatoes at the top hats of the wealthy, I see. Well, it's a fairly safe diversion for a pundit. Nobody likes he rich, and you never really hit anything anyway. So have at it. But you really ought to rethink your almost obsessive hostility to art and museums. It has lost its charm, if it ever really had any.   I don't know even where to begin to untangle your thoughts on this subject, but I'll start with a bit of history. Back when the Arts District was a gleam in the eye of a few wealthy developers (is there any other kind?), folks from the Dallas Museum warned repeatedly that high-rise construction would cast unwanted shadows and reflections into the museum's sculpture garden and, by extension, into anything built on the future Nasher site. I know. I was there. This suggests that the museum and the Nasher are the victims here, and not just one party to an essentially meaningless but entertaining fight among the wealthy. But this is just amnesia, not a flaw in your reasoning.The flaw comes in your argument, inasmuch as it can be taken as an argument, that fretting over the quality of visitors' experience in a museum and sculpture garden is foolish and worse at a time of a "national economy ...still on life support, Texas schools... sinking into Dickensian poverty and ... sewers." As if we humans could fret about or fix only one problem at a time. (And what about Polar bears? Somalia? North Korea? Ron Paul?)It's an old pundits' trick, a bit of journalistic sleight-of-hand, this principle of excluding the middle. Museums or fix potholes? Sculpture gardens or public schools?  What would pundits ever write about if they had to include the middle?Your second bit of trickery is your habit of linking-- never questioned, so far as i can tell -- the interests of the rich and museums and art. If it's the mostly the rich who fill the halls of the Dallas Museum and the gardens at the Nasher day after day. then Dallas has a whole lot more rich people than you or i ever imagined. Those Park Cities and Preston Hollow mansions must stand empty most weekends.In fact the enjoyment of art in the public setting of a museum or garden is a highly democratic and democratizing experience and has been since the first American museum was created by Charles Willson Peale, a man of only moderate wealth, by the way. But you know better, don't you? You love a nice juicy fight over art because it gives you a chance to play that well-worn role again, the aw-shucks, blue-collar guy who doesn't know much about art but knows what he doesn't like. It's the old anti-intellectual bit. Hey, we can trust you even though you are a journalist and you do have a university diploma. Because it hasn't tainted you with thought. You're just one of the gang.But we know better, don't we?.     

               

Bob
Bob

Every day that the Dallas Museum of Art is open there are lots of yellow school buses lined up next to it.  Unless Harwood Street has become a bus depot, I assume that a whole lot of schoolkids (PUBLIC school kids, mostly from DISD) are inside, doing whatever kids do in an art museum.  ALL of the institutions in the Arts District have youth outreach programs.

If you want to bitch about the people who contribute art and money to these institutions, you go right ahead.  Those folks can take care of themselves.   But if you want to bitch about the institutions that present the art and the performances and the culture of our civilization to everyone, not just a few chosen ones, then I suggest you go back into your cave and leave the rest of us alone.  We like the museums, we like the symphony halls and the opera houses and the theaters, because they represent the best of what human beings can do.  And they inspire the next generation, the kids who fill those school buses, to advance us into becoming better people.  You, apparently, missed that bus.

Bob
Bob

To clarify, the "you" in my post is Mr. Schutze, not Mr. Marvel.  I never disagree with Mr. Marvel.

Bob
Bob

 Speak for yourself, other Bob.

JimS
JimS

Why do artists paint people with noses coming out of the sides of their heads?

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Artists don't paint people, Jim. They paint canvases. On canvas you can put a nose anywhere you want. (There's a longer answer to your question, but Bob, above, wants me to be brief.)

Marvin
Marvin

Sometimes artists paint people, usually neckid supermodels.  That's the kind of art I can get behind.

Daniel
Daniel

That's what people with noses coming out of the sides of their heads get for going to an artist instead of a plastic surgeon.

Bob
Bob

Bill,

I like the idea of you as Shana Alexander to Jim's Jack Kilpatrick, but brevity, man, brevity.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

You mean, brevity like Jim's original blog?  Or did you have something longer in mind?

Steve T
Steve T

I'm crying a river.

BTW:  "parnters together" is redundundant.

RTGolden
RTGolden

This is why pension funds went the way of the Dodo bird and IRA's came in.  It makes no sense to have a pension fund controlled by the people who hire you and pay your salary, especially if those people happen to also be running the City of Dallas, TX.  Our city leaders (very loosely defined term) want to be West or East-coast, world class so badly, why not just buy them 40 lbs of dope rope each, some saggy pants and a ridiculous looking hat and be done with it?

Anon
Anon

pensions went away not because employees didn't want to have their retirement security attached to their employer. it was quite the opposite. most people in the US who are not upper middle class or higher, when polled, would prefer an old, defined benefit pension. it's the employers who no longer want them. it makes sense. your business skills should be used to run a business, not figure out how long your employees will live or what their healthcare costs should be.unfortunately, most pensioners just assume that the people running the fund are looking out for their best interests when it is more often than not happening.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Investment in this problematic project (which arguably violated the "prudent investor rule") was approved by the pension fund in a controversial 8 - 4 vote following a three hour long, closed-door discussion.

FOR - Council Member Jerry Allen, Gerald Brown (Dallas Fire Rescue), Rector McCollum (Dallas Police Department), Council Member David Neumann, Richard Salinas (Dallas Fire Rescue), George Tomasovic (Dallas Fire Rescue), Steven Umlor (Dallas Police Department), Richard Wachsman (retired firefighter).

AGAINST - Council Member Ann Margolin, Council Member Sheffie Kadane, John Mays (retired police officer) and Steven Shaw (Dallas Police Department)

My gut tells me there is a real story here regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding this project's approval.  It is particularly interesting to note the opposition of Commander Steven Shaw (DPD) who was arguably the most highly educated member of the board (in addition to being a police officer, he is an attorney, has an MBA from SMU and holds at least one or two doctorate degrees); he was also the Board's vice chairman.  Interesting, he no longer appears to sit on the board.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

While it believed the city is on the hook for the soon to be cash strapped but property rich Police and Fire pension fund .I see a low on funds city doing a Pennies on the dollar deal with the pensioners .

Bad Board driven decisions are going to bit them in the ASSI think this will be a good reason for the City Fathers & Mothers as the case may be to pull out a bylaw or two that says They don't have to help because the screw-ups are on the membership it self for not minding what those they elected to the board did .I mean it is their Pension fund and they do run the Table when it comes to Board decisions.8 Police and fire to 4 city council  voting majority .

And look at what they have done.

[They need to hire a professional money manager to do arms-length investments for them spread all over the map so they won't be in the tank over any particular investments.]Ever wonder why the 8 to 4 Majority pensioners on the board didn't  ? I do .

Certainly an experienced  pension fund money manager would know how to do just about every thing related to Managing money WOW what an idea !

Yes  this will be a case of could have would have should have but didn't .

The bitter pill they will swallow is how it is all going to drop right in their laps. Along with deeply cut retirement checks.

 

 

JimS
JimS

Maybe those cops should start using some of their criminal investigative skills on this one.

Guest
Guest

 The criminal investigative skills that made Dallas the epicenter for wrongful convictions?

Montemalone
Montemalone

Mr. S, you realize the tower is a condominium with prices starting at $1,000,000.00 on up to 5 mil or so. It's rich people against rich people against.... rich people.I haven't noticed how long the line is to snap up these luxurious accommodations, perhaps you could find out?

DISD Student
DISD Student

JS it was you who said our City would show some maturity when our rich people would start to fight amongst themselves.  Well, there you have it.

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

This is too easy. Simply hire Christo to cover the Tower with a giant tablecloth.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

There's major world-class cred in that too.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

[The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System put up most of the money for Not-a-Museum Tower.]

I believe they actually put up all the money.

[They need to hire a professional money manager to do arms-length investments for them spread all over the map so they won't be in the tank over any particular investments.]

Investment in this one single asset left the pension fund over-exposed to real estate (in violation of their own guidelines) and (together with their investments in the LBJ Tollway and Jack Matthews' boutique hotel) heavily exposed to Dallas economic risk (it's kind of like an Enron employee pension fund deciding to invest in Enron stock, Enron bonds, and companies leasing equipment to Enron).

Not coincidentally, the Fund's real estate portfolio performance began to tank shortly afterwards (last year, they reported a roughly 3% return from real estate versus an 11% benchmark-- in other words, they would have been much better off simply sticking the money in a real estate mutual fund).

[Am I feeling all mushy-face sorry for the pension fund here? Nah. If the cops and the firemen in this city are so slack and so dumb they can't control their own pension fund, if their unions are that piss-poor at looking out for them, then to hell with them. They deserve whatever.]

Members of Dallas City Council also sit on the pension fund's Board of Trustees and (collectively with active-duty police and fire department members) control the fund's decision making.  If the Fund faces a shortfall (which it currently does, to the tune of over $800 MILLION), it is up to the taxpayers to cover the gap.

Sa
Sa

800 MILLION!!!  Thank goodness i don't live in Dallas.

king
king

Good stuff. Little rich though given the topics highlighted here.

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