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Letter: City needs candid discussions, and soon

To the Editor:

The failure of negotiation between John Falconer and the Port Authority on the sale of land to build a winery raises troubling questions. Refusal of the Real Estate Committee to grant first position to a lender in the deal contradicts what several commercial bankers told me, that port authorities will grant a lender first position because their major goal is to be "helpful and accommodating" to a business trying to realize a project.

Why is it so different here? In addition, some port members were not informed before the meeting about the intentions of the committee.

Another stumbling block was evidence of financial backing. Some say it was given; some say it was not. Yet another problem, the notion that Falconer might be engaging in land speculation rather than building his wine business, is difficult to believe.

In any case, could simple provisions in the purchase agreement have removed these hurdles? The need for more specific public discussion and disclosure on these and other points trumps any alleged need for confidentiality if the port wants to maintain its credibility and viability.

There are those who sincerely see benefits in the failure of the winery proposal. But the losses far outweigh those supposed benefits. The city will, unless somehow the tide changes, probably lose a unique business enterprise in a growth industry; an agricultural and scenic attraction at the gateway to the city producing both revenue and positive image; the desire of many citizens to participate in city government because an inner establishment makes all the decisions; trust that public statements and private actions will be congruent; and Red Wing's reputation as a place where people work together for their own good.

Depending on one's point of view, Red Wing has either avoided a loss or shot itself in the foot with its own loose cannon. We need more candid discussion of which is the case, some giving in of entrenched interests, and soon, if the city is to move forward as a community that works rather than malfunctions.