also, a quote from an obviously bitter ex-wife does not really carry much, or any, weight in the universe of reality. Though it seems to have convinced you fully. Please, as a santorum supporter, just answer my question. What does the following episode in Rick Santorum's life, where he betrayed American veterans with a wormy little amendment say about the character of the man? We already know what you think about Newt's character. Thank you very much for your honest response.
I still say you’d get more people to read what you write if you didn’t use unreadable fonts. And didn’t sound like you wanted to bash people over the head, or as though you thought you were somehow entitled to an answer to your question.
Anybody who thinks that a single incident defines a person’s character will never truly have a candidate, unless they are really good at ignoring bad things about their choice.
You might as well ask what sitting on a couch with Nancy Pelosi tells us about Gingrich’s character — it would be a similarly useless.
Now, here is the official brochure of the AFRH's own website, describing the Retirement Home in Washington DC:
For more than a century and a half, veteran airmen, Marines, sailors and soldiers have enjoyed the finest lifestyles in their retirement. The tradition continues with both the Gulfport and Washington campuses of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, model retirement centers with facilities and services designed with our residents in mind.Wait, there's more: Washington Campus:
Two campuses located in Gulfport, Mississippi and Washington, D.C. provide outstanding services and amenities that rival those found throughout the United States. For those who meet the eligibility requirements, there are no costly initiation or registration fees, and the monthly user fees are affordable.
When prospective residents enter the Washington campus for the first time, theyre stunned by its majestic views, rolling hills, tranquil lakes and historic landmarks. Nestled on 272 acres in the heart of our nations capital, just minutes from the White House, U.S. Capitol and other national landmarks, the Home once housed four U.S. Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln.
But what about the cramped quarters from having to sell off 49 acres?
Considered a city within a city, the campus features everything our residents need for daily living: 400 plus private rooms for independent living equipped for cable television and telephones, banks, chapels, convenience store, post office, laundry, barber shop and beauty salon, dining room, and 24- hour security and staff presence. Beyond necessities, we take pride in offering outstanding social, recreational and occupational activities for every interest, including:
- a nine hole golf course and driving range; walking trails; garden plots
- two fishing ponds with crappie, bass, bream and catfish a professionally equipped fitness center and physical fitness programs
- a computer center; two extensive print, audio and video libraries
- individual work areas for ceramics, woodworking, painting and other hobbies
- a six lane bowling alley and leagues; card, game and recreation rooms; auto shop
- a fully equipped, 600 seat theater for movies, bingo, events and live entertainment
- bus tours to area attractions; numerous special events, trips and activities
But wait, there's also a major multi-million-dollar renovation. And a wonderful stragecic plan AFRH Strategic Plan:
The modernization at AFRH-Washington (AFRH-W) is ongoing through a design / build of the Scott Dormitory. Coined the Scott Project, this plan is approved and funded by $5.6 million in FY09 and $70 million in FY10 from the AFRH Trust Fund.
Today, AFRH-W is evolving into an even better retirement community that fulfills the Governments original Promise to take care of its own.
As of this writing, AFRH-W is in a transition as the design / build of the new Commons and Healthcare building has already begun. Temporary offices and common activity spaces are disbursed among the Sherman, Sheridan, and LaGarde buildings as the Scott Project advances. Construction completion is slated for 2013.
OK, enough about this decrepit sewer of a place we are forcing our retired soldiers to live in.
Ask this question -- why was the sale of land by this group subject to a congressional vote?
The AFRH is an independent establishment of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government and is financially independent. A permanent Trust Fund was established almost two centuries ago to sustain the AFRH. This Fund continues to be fed by active duty enlisted and Warrant Officer monthly payroll deductions, as well as fines and forfeitures from all branches of the military. It is also fed by monthly AFRH Resident fees, the sale or lease of underutilized land and buildings, gifts and bequeaths and interest gained on the Trust Fund balance.
So, they are associated with the government. As they say elsewhere: "AFRH is a unique Federal Agency that closely resembles a private sector CCRC."
This isn't a private organization that can do whatever it wants -- it's a government entity, controlled by and subject to the will of the taxpayers expressed through the elected representatives of those taxpayers. SO while one might find fault with a private home being forced to sell property to specific bidders, that is standard practice for a government entity to consider things other than just money, like deciding what the property will be used for when purchased. Wouldn't do after all to have a strip mall built next to a lovely retirement home.
But, they are funded from a sustainable trust fund, so they don't need direct appropriations. But apparently they need the government's approval to dispose of the property.
Was this a terrible hardship, getting rid of this 49 acres? Not according to their strategic plan document:
After faltering in the 1990s and starting fresh in 2002, AFRH planned for and propelled forward on an upward trajectory. The consuming passion was to build on the Home's historic past and plan for a modern future. Fulfilling the needs of our Residents is at the heart of it all. And management was focused on fulfilling our Vision: To actively nurture the Health and Wellness Philosophy of Aging.... So, we continually reshaped operations.
By 2004, we had reduced the footprint at the sprawling Washington campus and outsourced transportation, dining services, and maintenance at both campuses. As a result both AFRH communities flourished. The Agency was once again fiscally solvent and the Trust Fund balance began to rise again.
But it was Santorum and Kennedy who caused this. No, wait, they just said the place should be sold to the landowners next door. Because the government controlled the land, and could decide who could get it, apparently.
But there was questions raised about whether they would get the best price for the land. So Santorum and Kennedy amended the law to ensure that the land was sold for the fair market value. However, someone still is terribly upset that the Catholics got the land, even though they paid full price for it.
The article clearly shows an anti-Catholic bias, starting with the word "coveted", a word denoting a sinful desire. Which was clearly the intent, as the story woven by the article sounds much like the evil man who covets something of his neighbors, and sets out to obtain that desire through nefarious means.
Of course, I guess if you believe the Catholic church is the bad guy, that might be how you would mis-interpret the story.
Other interesting things -- one of their problems is not being able to talk enough potential residents into moving into the community, obviously important since they are paying residence, which would provide more money for upkeep and expansion:
Many veterans, retirees, and current war-theater combatants dont know about the AFRH and the great benefits of living here. A recent marketing study revealed approximately 3 Million potential Residents now live here in the US. Our challenge is educate them on the many benefits of retiring at AFRH.More later.
HON. HERBERT H. BATEMAN, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM VIRGINIA:And interesting and different take on the sale of the property. Note this answers the question -- why ask government for permission to sell the property? Answer, it was the Armed Forces which commissioned a study on how to better serve our retired military, and they recommended the land be sold, and needed authorization.
In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995, Congress directed the Chairman of the Armed Forces Retirement Home Board to carry out a study to identify and evaluate alternatives for the modernization and long-term viability of the retirement homes. The Board contracted with Coopers and Lybrand to conduct the study and reported the results to Congress in April 1996. One of the recommendations of the Coopers & Lybrand study was to sell a 49 acre parcel of excess land located at the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home. The Board subsequently requested legislation that would authorize the sale of this excess property and, in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997, that authorization was provided.
Bateman continues his speech:
It came to my attention early last year, that the Board was proceeding with a commercial development plan for the 49 acres rather than proceeding with the sale. In the Board's view, the language authorizing the disposal of the land also authorized the development of the land. This was not the intention or contemplation of the Congress when it passed the disposal authorization.Again, we see a rather different interpretation of what was happening, one well at odds with the story you tell, and also we can begin to see why congress might well intervene. Catholic University was a landowner adjacent to the property. Now, if the Home was private, I guess they could do what they wanted with their property -- put in a strip club if they wanted, even over the objections of the neighbors. But in this case, the home is a government entity, and government has an obligation to be good neighbors to the private organizations that surround it.
Worse, the trust took the authorization to sell and tried instead to develop the land contrary to the direction of the law, and in ways that would damage the property rights of their neighbors.
It is THAT condition which caused Congress to be more direct in it's approach. Bateman continues:
Because there was disagreement or a misunderstanding of the original Congressional intent of the disposal language, the committee and the House passed a provision last year that merely restated the requirement to sell the excess property.Again, in contrast with the story the article tells, the law being passed required an independent appraisal, which would set the price of the land to ensure the home got the most money possible for the sale. What they couldn't do was develop the property on their own -- and that pary had nothing to do with Santorum, it was a HOUSE member speaking, and we are talking about actions of house committees and the House.
In the conference committee between the House and Senate on the authorization bill, a proposal was put forward that reaffirmed the sale of the property for the fair market value of the property based on its highest and best use as determined by the Retirement Home Board based on an independent appraisal.
The provision also directed that the sale could only be made to a neighboring nonprofit organization from whose extensive educational and charitable services the public benefits and has benefited from for more than 100 years. The House accepted this proposal because it ensured the Home received the highest and best value for the land, and it addressed the concerns of neighboring property owners and entities.
The charges lose their sting when the Catholic University is described in such glowing terms, rather than being treated as a pariah who "covets" things and then nefariously steals them for it's own evil purposes.
Now, the House Chair expresses his bewilderment at the objections being made to this provision, as Bateman explains them:
Since enactment of this provision, what would seem to be a simple land sale effort has received extraordinary attention in the media, veteran's groups, and from various Members of Congress.
I am aware of many of the issues concerning the operations and long-term viability of the Armed Forces Retirement Homesthey are important and they deserve our attention and our support.
However, today's hearing is specifically focused on the limited subject of the disposal of 49 acres of excess land that the Retirement Home Board asked Congress for authority to sell. The primary purpose of the hearing today is to fully inform the members of the committee on this issue and to allow those most interested in the disposal of this property a chance to present their views.
The first witness spoke at length from the home's point of view, here were the interesting parts to me:
Another initiative has been the development of a plan to use the land, the 49 acres that is the topic today, to generate income. This was recommended by a Coopers Lybrand study commissioned by the Armed Forces Retirement Home Board in 1995. The Coopers Lybrand staff noted the availability of land not in current use and set out to make a quick estimate of its worth, solving our financial challenge.Hmmm. The university had no interest? That's not what others have said. And note they clear intent to develop the land rather than selling it as required by law.
They queried our Catholic neighbors to see if they had interest in purchasing a 49 acre parcel of the United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home land, but the response was that the Catholic institutions had no interest. Thus, the Coopers and Lybrand study notionally placed a low-estimated valuation of $12.8 million on the land.
This study, conducted by partnership of over 25 leading corporations with expertise in construction, architecture, real estate, financing, et cetera, has produced another plan for the 49 acre parcel. The plan provides sensitive buffering and preserves the vistas of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.And now maybe we are getting some idea of where one of the problems was with their development. Nowhere in the author's article was the "Shrine of the Immaculate Conception" mentioned, but this apparently was a major point of contention. It seems clear that this development is what caused the Catholics to go to a good Catholic Senator and ask for help with the matter of a commercial development impacting on their holy Shrine. Or maybe not -- but why else would a proponent of development go to such effort to insist they had listened to those concerns?
Under the plan, the Armed Forces Retirement Home would be neither a developer nor a speculator. The Armed Forces Retirement Home would offer ground leases, with improvements reverting to the Home at lease termination. The risks of the marketplace would be borne by the private sector leaseholders. Cash flow from the ground leases would provide income of $105 million to the Trust Fund over a 35-year period for a net present value of $49 million.The plan was a land lease, for about $3 million per year, assuming of course that the development worked -- bankrupt owners of half-built properties don't pay leases (we have one such leaseholder now in PWC, so we are stuck with an eyesore of a framed but not enclosed building, with no money to tear it down). After 5 years they would have had more money than selling it for $12.9 million. They'd also get whatever improvements were built on the property, which they estimated had a present value of $53 million, but given they wouldn't touch them for 35 years, who really knows what depreciation would have done to their value?
We also understand too well that once land is sold, it is lost forever as an asset. We understand this because over the years the United States Soldiers' and Airmens' Home land, once over 550 acres, has been depleted to today's 325 acres. So we believe it is imperative that we look at the full range of options for disposition of the land, with the intent of recommending to Congress whatever option would produce the best value for the land.Remember, the trust was going broke, the armed forces had to commission a study to help them out, the study found the land unused and recommended disposing it (not "dispositioning").
On completion of the appraisal, our desire is to put the land up for competitive bids, and then to compare the bids with the present value of the income stream and residual values associated with the extended lease option, assuming the financial parameters of that option are validated by the independent appraisal. The Board would then hope to be in a position to execute whatever option produces the most long-term value for our Trust Fund and, thus, for the current and future veterans who are its beneficiaries.So their stated plan was to use the appraisal called for by the law, not to sell the land as required, but to sell their plan to be property developers through land leases, for a use that was objected to by their neighbors.
In other words, far from the nefarious and underhanded plot weaved by the story in the article, this is a simple land use zoning issue, only with the federal government as the one responsible for the property.
Next, Bateman asks some good questions. People should really read this linked committee discussion, it's a lot less emotional and one-sided than the article.
He points out one of the real problems, which wasn't this 49 acres, but how the federal government was shortchanging the servicemen:
Mr. BATEMAN. Well, we get beyond the focal point of today's discussion, but this Member of Congress thinks that it is very inappropriate for the soldiers, sailors, and airmen to be paying through a dues or through a payroll deduction assessment against them the cost of preserving these national historic properties. That is something that ought to be done, but it should not be done by that source of funding. And I will certainly be happy to cooperate in trying to get the Congress to get the appropriate agencies dealing with historic preservation to foot the cost of doing that. It should not be a part of your insolvency problem, and I would like to see that get eliminated from this whole discussion. And I hope my colleagues would support doing just that.
Bateman also pointed out that while this was an argument over the sale of 49 acres, there was a lot more money they were losing because the Clinton Administration wasn't enacting a law passed to bring in more money. I'll let Hilbert's testimony explain that one:
General HILBERT. I would just remind the board and distinguished Members of Congress that thanks to you all, in 1995 a law was passed that raised the donations of our Active Duty force from 50 cents to a dollar. For, I do not know what reason, the intent of Congress has not been carried out by the Department of Defense to date.
Already that one item has cost the Home $34 million because of the problem of not enacting that legislation. As you can see, sir, an income stream of $7.4 million to $7.5 million a year would certainly assist us a long way in continuing to serve our distinguished veterans.
Now, Santorum did provide a statement for this hearing. We'll get to that.
On an editorial note, it is really a shame that the poster didn't just create his own thread for his article, so all of this information couldn't just be put in that thread, instead of having to take up all this space in someone else's thread. But after so many insistant complaints that the poster be paid attention to, I thought it was best to do so.
Now, the "covetous" Catholic University's response:
We very much appreciate the opportunity to appear before this subcommittee regarding its consideration of the Congressionally authorized sale of 49 acres of excess Federal land, presently held by the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home, adjacent to the Catholic University.See, the more we learn, the more we can understand. Excess FEDERAL land, not some private property to be done with whatever that private landowner wishes. This is why the feds are involved.
The university itself occupies approximately 150 acres of the campus in northeast Washington, where it has been for more than a century. It has a realistic expectation of growth, which will require additional grounds. One day in July 1997, Cardinal Hickey, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, read an announcement in The Washington Post to the effect that the Soldiers' Home's 49-acre parcel contiguous with the University might be available for purchase. The Cardinal immediately saw this news as an opportunity to meet the university's future needs, and asked the university administration to look into the possibility of a purchase.So clearly, the university WAS interested in the purchase, once they found the land was to be made available. When the law was passed, they went to action, making a good-faith effort to purchase the property at fair market value:
The Archdiocese of Washington, for itself and on behalf of the Catholic University and other contiguous Catholic entities, submitted a proposal, in October 1997, to purchase the 49 acres at fair market value, not at any discount. While the Archdiocese initially spearheaded the offer to purchase, Catholic University has emerged as the entity which would acquire the 49 acres of land for its use.Now, one can see a less nefarious explanation for why the "covetous" Catholic University might have enlisted the help of a Senator to help them with this problem.
Since the October 1997 proposal to buy the property, the picture has become clouded. We have been told that the Soldiers' Home has received, and is considering, proposals from land developers speculating about the commercial development of both the Soldiers' Home's main campus and the 49 acres that is our interest. Because the Soldiers' Home is on property of the United States of America, the Congress has the sole authority to decide its disposition. In fact, Congress already has made its intent clear by giving express statutory authorization to sell the excess 49 acres to the university at the fair market value for its highest and best economic use. Since Congress already has enacted authority to sell the 49 acres to Catholic University, the proposed speculative development of the 49 acres would require a change in the law. An independent executive agency was flouting the law and making their own plans contrary to the expressed consent of the congress.
Catholic University has been the Soldiers' Home's closest neighbor for over 100 years. The university and related Catholic entities have embraced the residents of the Soldiers' Home in its social services, nursing, and pastoral care programs. For example, the religious community of the Daughters of Charity, who operate the nearby Providence Hospital, provided nursing care at the Home for a century. These sisters, including Sister Carol Keehan, current President of Providence Hospital, nursed the veterans and lived at the Home until the 1980's. We deeply care about and support the Home's mission and its importance to our country, and we join you in saluting the veterans who are present and the veterans throughout this nation. And I assure you that we stand firmly opposed to anyone taking advantage of our veterans.This is the kind of offer that doesn't deserve the contemptable treatment given to it by the author's article. "Covetous"?
We are most willing to pay fair market value for the 49 acres, thereby providing the Home with guaranteed, immediate income. In addition, we shall preserve a dignified and responsible use of that property, consistent with the purposes of the Home and with the character of the neighborhood in which it is found.
While many other institutions fled the city during tough times, the university has remained steadfast in its presence in northeast Washington and as vibrant contributor of culture, services, and economic enrichment of the neighborhood. Catholic University's missions are wide-ranging to the residents of the Soldiers' Home, to the neighborhood, and to the city of Washington. The University and its affiliated church organizations have a solid record of providing vital services to and enhancing the economy of the local community.
Here's a description of the 49 acres from the University's perspective:
The 49 acres is a natural entryway into the grounds which already constitute the university and related archdiocesan activities. There is the John Paul the Second Cultural Center to the north, the university and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to the east and south, and other Catholic institutions further to the south and to the east of the 49 acres. North Capitol Street suggests a logical separation between the Soldiers' Home activities to the south and west and the university's activities to the north and east.Now, imagine how they felt finding out there was a plan to convert this land to a major commercial development -- a plan that, btw, the Home had testified earlier would NOT require any zoning approval (but a congressperson later said it would), since it was federal land and therefore not subject to zoning laws. Congress zones this land, and therefore it is the requirement of Congressmen like Rick Santorum to make judgement about the best use. And clearly, there is a good argument to be made that selling to the Catholic University was it's best use.
The University's preliminary development concept for the 49 acres includes the establishment of a biomedical research facility, expanded educational and research activities, student housing facilities, and administrative support for the adjacent $50 million John Paul II, the Second Cultural Center, which already is under construction. If we are to commit resources to fulfill this concept, we need to own the 49 acres. We cannot risk an uncertain partnership with a commercial developer.Which I guess was their alternative, if the Home was allowed to get away with their subversion of the law requiring their sale of the 49 acres.
Our proposal is on the table to buy the 49 acres at fair market value. The Soldiers' Home needs money; Catholic University offers the proverbial bird in the hand. We are not interested in buying any part of the Soldiers' Home's main campus west of North Capitol Street. We understand that the Soldiers' Home has under consideration a separate commercial development proposal for its main campus on the west side of North Capitol Street. Assuming that commercial development of the main campus of the Soldiers' Home is harmonious with existing land use in the area, we foresee no objection by neighbors to such development of the Home's main campus. For our part, we certainly will not develop the 49 acres in a way that is inconsistent with the development of the Soldiers' Home's remaining acreage. Assuming the commercial development of the Home's main campus is compatible with the neighborhood, we would specifically yield to the Home any otherwise justifiable position we might assert as to the use of the property west of North Capitol Street. We envision this as a solution that meets the objectives of both the Home and the university.Now, THAT'S interesting -- the Home was not only planning to develop the 49 acres they were supposed to sell, but were also planning to develop land they weren't even authorized to sell OR lease out for development. But the University, acting CHARITABLE (not "covetous" as the poster claimed), is willing to not object to that type of development, since it is across a major street, and not directly impacting on the charm and character of the University like the 49 acres would be.
Upon sale of the 49 acres to the University, the Soldiers' Home will gain an immediate infusion of a substantial amount of cash, while it seeks Congressional approval to pursue commercial development of the Home's main campus west of North Capitol Street.So, to summarize: The University was willing to buy the land, they put an offer on the table, they pledge to pay whatever the determined fair market value is, and they were ready to PAY THE MONEY NOW, when the home needed the money. They were the ones authorized to buy by law, and were the natural purchaser for FEDERAL LAND adjacent to their property.
I can't fathom why the poster has provided an article trying to fault Santorum for his part in this -- it seems clear that selling to the university was the correct choice.
But let's continue, with a few answers to questions by the university. In the first, the University expert explains that the "fair market value" isn't the "most money you can get", in part because there ARE zoning considerations. For example, if you are selling farmland, you can't claim fair market value as if the land was ready for quarter-acre housing, if zoning restricts it to 10-acre residences.
No. 2, in answer to your question, Congressman, open bidding does not always realize the best price on a property. And I think what Congress did here in saying an independent appraiser, using the highest and best economic use of the property as a guideline, comes up with a fair market value that nobody can quibble with, if they do it in accordance with GSA regulations. And I think, therefore, the highest bid is a possibility that may bring a lower amount of money. Do not forget this property is totally surrounded by Catholic church propertydifferent entities.The point here is that the city, in determining whether to allow this property to be rezoned commercial, would certainly take into account that all the neighbors are religious institutions of various sorts (the university, a church, a hospital), and those entities would object to open-ended commercial utilization that was short-term in nature (in a statement I skipped, the church witness noted that when the church says they are in it for the long term, they mean centuries, not just 35 years and then dump the depreciated property back into the hands of the federal government to deal with).
Rep. Duncan Hunter asks the question: "I mean, appraisals, you know, in court cases, appraisals can becan differ as much as 500 percent with no problem whatsoever.":
Mr. COMSTOCK. But Congressman, if they have in that plan the assurances that you questioned them about, that will show up in this appraisal that GSA is authorizing; and that will be the number that will come out as the appraised at the highest and best use. That property presently sets unzoned, untested for environmental purposes or any other purpose that we know of. But my conclusion to you would be that if those documents are accurate and show that that offer is there, and the appraiser is certainly going to take it into consideration in coming up with his value.Maybe the home was concerned that, with the zoning so iffy, a fair appraisal wouldn't come to the conclusion they were hoping for?
Lastly, the Church witness offers an empassioned defense of his instutution against the near-slander of the article we are discussing, calling the university "covetous":
Father O'CONNELL. Mr. Chairman, if I could just make a comment. I think there is at times a temptation, and we all succumb to it, including those sitting here in black suits at this table, to think of the church as only as an institution, a faceless institution. And I would just like to say for the record that this institution is also a community. It is a community of people, people of faith, a particular faith, but it is a community of people who have faces just like the faces that were introduced todaypeople who are veterans, people whose children benefit from the services of the Catholic University of America, people who themselves have benefited through the GI bill after the war, people who are in the Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home who are served by Providence Hospital, or ministered to or worship at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
So I just want to say that because I think at times the temptation is to look at the church as this big institution gobbling up land, and I just want to say for the record that it is a community of people as well as an institution. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We still need to see Santorum's statement.
But again, an editorial comment. I decided to search to find out what the land ultimately was appraised for. In the end, the University bought 46 acres of land, and paid $22 million.
Interestingly, when searching for that information, I found the web sites who were peddling this very story. Mother Jones and Daily Kos. Just an interesting tidbit. I used to have a subscription to Mother Jones, provided for me by a somewhat liberal but good Christian friend of mine from work. To say they are liberal, and not a friend of the conservative Catholic Church, would be an understatement.
BTW, the other real problem with your article is that it isn’t an article, it’s a graphic. So you can’t actually read your citations because they are too small, and you can’t click on them because they are just an image.
So you are pretending to provide links, but aren’t really providing links, just the image of them.
I wonder how Gingrich’s organization would feel about you putting out a hit piece on the Catholic University and formatting it so it looks like it was done by Newt’s campaign?