A tale of two markets: Some CMBS players see huge losses, others opportunity

first_imgShare via Shortlink From left: Florence Mall in Kentucky and Brookfield’s Brian Kingston; Louis Joliet Mall and Starwood’s Barry Sternlicht and Southland Mall in Cutler Bay and Investcorp’s Hazem Ben-Gacem (Google Maps, Brookfield, Getty, Investcorp)Nobody knows how to sniff out distress like Barry Sternlicht.In the early ‘90s, in the thick of the savings and loans crisis, his company Starwood Capital Group scooped up real estate loans for pennies on the dollar. And after snapping up distressed debt from Miami to Los Angeles during the financial collapse of 2008, Starwood became one of the largest real estate investors in the country.Sternlicht knows how to make money when others are losing it. So when his firm hands the keys over to one of its lenders on a nearly 1 million-square-foot mall outside of Chicago, it’s a beacon of foreclosures and distress yet to come.Investment giants like Starwood, along with Brookfield Property Partners and Bahraini-based Investcorp, have sought to turn over hotel and retail properties tied to securitized commercial mortgages as the pandemic continues to batter those markets.Across the U.S., major borrowers are seeking to let go of at least 100 assets in the commercial mortgage-backed securities market with an outstanding balance of nearly $4 billion, according to data provider Trepp.The process — commonly referred to as “jingle mail” to signify the keys being mailed back to lenders and special servicers — could become more common. And as forbearances grow, more banks and other CMBS servicers are going to be faced with the difficult decision of foreclosing or making serious loan modifications.“We see a mess coming down the pipe,” said Shlomo Chopp, managing director of New York-based Case Property Services, a firm that focuses on CMBS debt restructuring. “Whether it’s a mess for the borrower, or the lender and bondholder, it’s going to be a mess for somebody.”But despite a litany of problems with overleveraged and poorly timed CMBS deals in the past decade, some borrowers are still turning to the market for financing. Investors, in search of greater yield, are also looking to buy some of the riskier portions of securitized commercial debt.Year to date, CMBS issuance has amounted to just over $51 billion in 2020, about half of the total in 2019, according to Trepp. The market — which peaked at $230 billion in 2007 — is a far cry from its much frothier days. And while hotel and retail borrowers will be seeing fewer securitized commercial loans going forward, industry experts say demand for CMBS financing on industrial, multifamily and office properties could rise in the near future.“If your property qualifies for CMBS it is always going to be your best maximum leverage, non-recourse fixed-rate option,” said David Pascale, a senior vice president at the advisory firm George Smith Partners who arranges debt and equity for commercial real estate borrowers and lenders.Death of a mallWhen Starwood purchased the Louis Joliet Mall from the Westfield Group in 2012, the property had an occupancy rate close to 95 percent and an appraised value of more than $130 million. Since then, two of the mall’s main anchor tenants have departed: Carson’s in 2018 and Sears in 2019.Starwood, which lost control of a separate U.S. mall portfolio in recent months, stopped making debt payments on the Chicago metro area property in March. The company is now delinquent on a $85 million CMBS loan secured by the mall. And while the asset’s overall value has not been reassessed since Starwood’s acquisition, it is likely worth far less than its 2012 appraisal.Other institutional giants are making similar moves. Investcorp stopped making payments on a $65 million loan tied to a struggling indoor shopping center just south of Miami, which is now being shopped. And in Florence, Kentucky, Brookfield is seeking to ditch a regional mall backing a $90 million CMBS loan to avoid foreclosure, according to Trepp.  “We see a mess coming down the pipe. Whether it’s a mess for the borrower, or for the lender and bondholder, it’s going to be a mess for somebody.” — Shlomo Chopp, Case Property Services Even among the country’s largest investment firms, CMBS debt presents a number of unique challenges for borrowers. That includes fixed obligations to bondholders that often call for highly complex negotiations when it comes to loan workouts.Unlike with conventional loans that can often be restructured with a call to the bank, CMBS borrowers have to go through a lengthy process with their special servicers before the debt can be modified. And in order for major loan modifications to go through, bondholders must approve the changes through a trust. Sometimes, that entire process can take borrowers up to a year or more.But as special servicing fees rise, a wave of foreclosures could be coming soon — especially on properties where the equity is now worth less than the debt.“Properties are going to be liquidated faster than people expect,” said Dan McNamara, a principal at the asset management firm MP Securitized Credit Partners, who has short and long positions in some CMBS indexes. “Special servicers can’t take the keys back on everything and sit on these properties, it’s not in the best interest of the trust.”For borrowers, one of the biggest challenges with CMBS debt is that once a loan reaches special servicing it cannot be refinanced, which means equity cannot be taken out of the property to pay down debt.“If the borrower recently cashed out with a refinancing, they will be more likely to hand [the property] back to the lender,” said Suzanne Amaducci-Adams, a partner and head of real estate at the Miami-based law firm Bilzin Sumberg.Owners of suburban malls have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic.Outside of Minneapolis, for example, a $63 million CMBS loan secured by half of the 1 million-square-foot Burnsville Center hit the auction block this month. The chunk of the mall backing the debt was last valued at just over $137 million in 2010. But when the loan was sold off to investors, it yielded $17 million, marking a nearly 85 percent drop in the value of the collateral.Of the 100 CMBS loans that could be turned over to lenders from March to October, the vast majority are backed by hotel and retail properties, according to Trepp. Only one loan was backed by an office building, while another was backed by a low-rise multifamily asset. No loans were backed by an industrial property.  “Special servicers can’t take the keys back on everything and sit on these properties, it’s not in the best interest of the trust.” — Dan McNamara, MP Securitized Credit Partners One of these distressed deals includes a $13.1 million loan backed by the Eastgate Holiday Inn in Cincinnati that is now going through foreclosure proceedings.In the first half of 2020, the loan had a debt service coverage ratio — a measure of the property’s ability to cover its debt payments — of negative 0.38, with an occupancy rate of just 33 percent. Last year, the loan’s debt service was just under 1.4 while its occupancy was 67 percent.Learning curvesOf course, there are many properties that are being successfully worked out between borrowers and servicers, especially for borrowers with deep pockets.In September, Jeffrey Soffer’s Fontainebleau Miami Beach resort renegotiated its $975 million CMBS loan with its servicer KeyBank and exited special servicing. Part of the agreement allowed the Fontainebleau to defer monthly furniture, fixtures and equipment reserve payments to next year.“We’re fortunate to be located in South Florida, which is on the better end of the recovery curve,” Brett Mufson, president of Fontainebleau Development, told The Real Deal last month.At the same time, location has also become a telling sign of whether a loan is heading to special servicing. In Miami, where Covid restrictions have been largely lifted, delinquency rates for CMBS loans tied to hotel and retail properties rose to about 8.5 percent and 7.4 percent in October, respectively, according to Trepp. That’s up from zero percent and 1 percent in March.In New York, meanwhile, delinquency rates for securitized loans on retail and hotel properties skyrocketed to 12 percent and 30 percent in the same period, both up from less than 5 percent in March.And while location matters, so does property type.Hotel properties had the highest delinquency rate in October at 17.5 percent, while retail properties were at 11.3 percent.Nationally, delinquency rates for asset classes outside of lodging and retail remain relatively low. In October, rates rose to 1.86 percent with office properties, 0.72 percent with multifamily and 0.53 percent with industrial, according to Fitch Ratings.The total CMBS delinquency rate is still far below its peak of about 9 percent in July 2011, following the Great Recession. This October, the rate rose to 4.85 percent, according to data from Fitch.Plotting a plan BEven amid rising delinquencies and foreclosures and dwindling CMBS issuance, there are still deals getting done.CMBS deals, typically structured as 10-year loans, still offer some of the best interest rates for borrowers and the vast majority are non-recourse, which means bondholders and lenders can only go after the collateral in the event of default.The market is “very active right now for the right deals,” George Smith Partners’ Pascale maintained.Office buildings, many with long-term leases still in place, have accounted for 44 percent of new securitized commercial mortgages since the pandemic began, according to Kroll. Those transactions include Brookfield and Qatar Investment Authority’s One Manhattan West office complex in Hudson Yards, which was refinanced with a nearly $1.5 billion CMBS loan this summer. In a telling sign of bondholder interest: The One Manhattan West deal was oversubscribed by investors.And in Silicon Valley, San Francisco-based Sansome Partners and an affiliate of Hunter Properties secured a $155 million CMBS loan in August to refinance part of a suburban office complex that’s leased to the digital media company Roku.Institutional investors such as KKR and Oxford Properties have also targeted the CMBS market in recent months. Specifically, firms are looking to buy up B-pieces, one of the riskiest slices of newly issued loans since those bondholders get paid back farther down the line.In October, the return investors seek to hold on an index of BB-rated CMBS bonds over 10-year U.S. Treasuries — commonly referred to as the spread — rose to its widest levels since the financial crisis, according to Trepp.In July, KKR closed a $950 million fund committed to snapping up to B-pieces of newly issued CMBS deals. The global investment firm is specifically targeting loans that banks are trying to get off their balance sheets.Under the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, lenders were required to have some “skin in the game” when originating CMBS loans. The goal was to prevent lenders from underwriting shoddy loans and then immediately rushing them off their balance sheets. An exception allowed lenders to sell these loans to private investors, which then bear the risk if the loans default.In the case of KKR, the private equity firm is “re-underwriting” the deals and inspecting each site, according to Matt Salem, head of real estate credit for KKR.“Our thesis, dating back to our first fund in the beginning of 2017, was that the new risk retention rules would lead to higher quality CMBS loans,” Salem told TRD in an email. The originators of the commercial mortgages, which are largely banks, do not want to keep all of “the required risk retention” on their books, he argued.Opportunities could become even more plentiful as banks — which have deferred many of their loans — face write-downs and are forced to sell off their debt.That wave of distress has yet to come. But, in the meantime, investors and vulture funds will be waiting to pick up the pieces. Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlinkcenter_img TagsBrookfieldcmbsStarwood Capital Grouplast_img read more

SA muni faces bulk supply interruptions due to heavy debt

first_img BRICS 17h00 – 20h3015h00 – 19h00 Featured image: Stock South African state-owned power utility Eskom has intensified the interruption of bulk electricity supply to Phokwane Local Municipality.  Interruptions to Phokwane were implemented on Tuesday, 18 September 2018 due to the Municipality’s failure to honour its debt to Eskom for the bulk supply of electricity. According to a company statement, since the Municipality has not made sufficient payments to halt the interruptions, Jan Kempdorp, Hartswater and Ganspan are now experiencing daily interruptions with a total duration of six and a half hours per day as opposed to the previous week’s four and a half hours.The parastatal has warned: “Should the Municipality not make sufficient payments by Monday, 1 October 2018, interruptions will be intensified to 14 hours per day.”The following interruption schedule applies:Week 2: 25 September 2018 – 01 October 2018 Notwithstanding the above proposed indicative times for the interruption of electricity supply, Eskom may, upon 15 calendar days’ notice, serve the right to disconnect electricity entirely and indefinitely should the electricity debt situation not improve. TAGSbulk electricity interruptionsdebtEskommunicipalitySouth Africa Previous articleIntegrated energy networks require advanced planningNext articleKibo Energy announces update on MCPP, Tanzania Ashley TheronAshley Theron-Ord is based in Cape Town, South Africa at Clarion Events-Africa. She is the Senior Content Producer across media brands including ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Power Engineering International and Mining Review Africa. Finance and Policy 06h00 – 20h0006h00 – 20h00 Week 3: 02 October 2018 until a payment agreement is reached Monday to FridaySaturday and Sundaycenter_img Low carbon, solar future could increase jobs in the future – SAPVIA Generation AFD and Eskom commit to a competitive electricity sector 06h00 – 09h0008h30 – 12h00 Monday to FridaySaturday and Sunday RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR UNDP China, CCIEE launch report to facilitate low-carbon developmentlast_img read more

Instructor of Computer Systems Engineering Technology (CSET)

first_imgOregon Tech is seeking applications for an Instructor for thedepartment of Computer Systems Engineering Technology (CSET). Thisis a 9-month, full-time position located on the Oregon Tech campusin Klamath Falls, Oregon. Oregon Tech offers competitive salarieswith excellent benefits including comprehensive healthcare, agenerous retirement package, and significant tuition discounts atthe seven public universities in Oregon. The primary duty for thisposition is the instruction of our departmental. CSET isa student-centric department focused primarily on teaching. Facultyare responsible for teaching both their classes and any associatedlabs. This dynamic learning environment is one aspect that attractsstudents to our programs. The successful candidate will have thefreedom to teach, both in and outside the classroom; to conductresearch and to publish, display or perform the results of thoseinvestigations; to participate in university shared governance andmake a difference in students’ lives every day. Candidates mustpossess a strong desire and the ability to teach courses fromfreshman through upper-division. A strong background in digitallogic and digital design using HDL is required. Specificareas of expertise that are preferred (but not required) include:microprocessors/microcontrollers, Assembly language, embeddedC/C++, computer organization and architecture, and sensorinterfacing. Other skills such as testing and verificationusing HDL or SoC would also be desirable.Required: Master’s Degree in related field.Preferred: PhD in related field; Experienceteaching in higher education; Two years relevant industrialexperience. How to Apply: To review the postingand apply, visit https://jobs.oit.edu/postings/3953.For questions about this position please contact Troy Scevers [email protected] .All qualified individuals are encouraged to apply.  OregonTech is an AA/EEO/Vets/ADA employer.last_img read more

How hospitality job losses will spill over into real estate, construction

first_img Retail, except motor vehicle and parts dealers, food and beverage stores, and general merchandise stores44,7740.6 Administrative and support services142,4941.6 Food services and drinking places2,674,889 21.8 Wholesale trade36,9540.6 SectorLoss% Management of companies and enterprises85,0603.5 Educational services147,5913.8 The executive chef of Otto Enoteca stands in front of the closed restaurant caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)Editor’s Note: Introducing TRD Insights, our answer to the industry’s unspoken data deficit. With clear and concise analysis, our insights will provide a closer look at the real estate market on a macro and micro level. Stay tuned for what’s to come, and in the meantime, please enjoy our first post below!The job losses across the hospitality and food service world are spilling over into the real estate and construction industries.A 50 percent drop in accommodation and food services jobs nationwide in the second quarter of 2020 could translate to 3.1 million job losses in those industries and an additional 1.2 million job losses in the broader economy, according to a new report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. That could lead to the loss of 33,972 and 22,314 jobs in the real estate and construction industries, respectively.The study, released April 2, used data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to estimate the “spillover” — the impact that events in one sector or industry have on a seemingly unrelated sector or industry. The report did not break down the types of jobs in the real estate and construction sectors that could be impacted. No. of Job Losses Amusement, gambling and recreation industries52,8092.9 Accommodation514,52424.6 Real estate33,9721.9 Construction22,3140.3 SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics However, the real estate industry isn’t immune to direct job losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. This month, some of New York City’s biggest brokerages began laying off and furloughing large chunks of their workforce. Redfin, an outlier in the industry for employing salaried brokers, laid off 41 percent of its agents.Last week’s jobs report from the BLS showed that the real estate rental and leasing workforce shrank by 3.8 percent in March 2020. Overall, the number of coronavirus-related business shutdowns has sent jobless claims skyrocketing, totaling almost 17 million over the past three weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This content is for subscribers only.Subscribe Nowlast_img read more

Omnibus appoints new Business Development Manager

first_imgAdam Stephenson joins Omnibus as Business Development Manager, from The TAS Partnership, where he was a Senior Consultant and Quality Manager.Adam is bringing his expertise to a number of areas for Omnibus, combining his data analysis skills with his flair for marketing and design.Omnibus appoints Adam Stephenson as Business Development ManagerWhile at TAS, Adam led the TAS benchmarking and performance research, with particular responsibility for the analysis and interpretation of data from bus operators’ electronic ticket machine (ETM) systems.Adam has also worked for Greater Manchester PTE, analysing passenger data.He is very familiar with Omnibus software, particularly OmniTIMES which he used for operators within a variety of projects as part of network reviews and service development.Michael Meilton, Business Development Manager for Omnibus, says:  “Adam brings a valuable skill set to Omnibus.  Not only his expertise gained from his time at TAS, but also his marketing and design skills which we will be utilising for our printed material, graphic design projects and the development of our new website.”last_img read more

Roger Waters Planning Autobiography, World Tour In 2016

first_imgFans of Roger Waters have every reason to be optimistic about the future, as the Pink Floyd bassist has just revealed very active plans for 2016. Coming off of a revered performances at the Newport Folk Festival, where he was backed by My Morning Jacket, Waters is planning to write an autobiography and head out for a world tour in 2016.Watch Roger Waters’ Unbelievable Newport Folk Festival Set With My Morning JacketSpeaking to Israeli publication Haaretz, Waters told the paper that he would be writing an autobiography and heading out on a world tour. The article reads, “He’s in the process of writing an autobiography, played at the Newport Folk Festival last week, and plans to go on another world tour next year.”This would make sense, considering Waters debuted a new song during his set at Newport Folk. Waters hasn’t released a new solo album since 2005’s Ca Ira, but he has toured on various occasions since then.The full interview delves into Waters’ views on the Israeli-Paliestinian conflict, and talks about his working relationship with David Gilmour amongst other things. Gilmour is set to perform in the US in early 2016 as well.last_img read more

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso to compete in Rolex 24

first_imgTwo-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso will be competing alongside the world’s best sports car drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway’s road course on Jan. 27-28, 2018, the United Autosports team announced Thursday.Alonso will be part of the team’s two-car prototype effort in the WeatherTech Championship’s lead class, co-driving a Ligier LM P2 with Lando Norris, a McLaren development driver, and Phil Hanson, the reigning Asian LeMans Series LM P3 champion.“What an exciting and interesting project,” Alonso said. “Learning about a completely new racing category, adapting to a different car and to another style of driving and everything that goes with it, is a new challenge for me and I can’t wait to test myself again as a driver.“The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic U.S. endurance race and one of the world’s great races. Everyone knows it.”This is not only Alonso’s first entry in the esteemed Rolex 24, it’s his first try in any of America’s premier endurance races. In May, the versatile driver earned Rookie of the Race honors in his Indianapolis 500 debut, where he started fifth and led 27 laps before his car’s engine failed, relegating him to a 29th-place finish.The 36-year old Spaniard won back-to-back F1 titles in 2005-06 and has won 36 grand prix races since debuting in the series in 2003.“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Fernando Alonso to IMSA competition in the Rolex 24 At Daytona,” IMSA President Scott Atherton said. “It’s not possible to overstate the significance of this news. There is no question that with his Formula 1 experience and how competitive he was at the Indianapolis 500, he will be an immediate contender for the Rolex 24 victory.”Alsonso and the United Autosports team will participate in the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 test days on Jan. 5-7, 2018 in Daytona Beach.last_img read more

Third place at Phoenix leaves Ryan Blaney outside Championship 4 field

first_imgAVONDALE, Ariz. — Needing to make up a 23-point deficit to qualify for the Championship 4, Ryan Blaney started 10th in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500, last among playoff contenders.RELATED: Race results | Hamlin prevailsBlaney’s Team Penske No. 12 Ford improved throughout the race, and he finished third behind Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, but with Hamlin winning the race and Busch also advancing to the finale, Blaney was knocked out of contention.Blaney had a chance to win when the race went to a restart with three laps to go, but Blaney started second on the inside, with Hamlin taking the top lane.“I felt like I got an OK start,” Blaney said. “It’s really hard for the guy on the bottom on the front row to accelerate and turn down the hill. It’s the way (the track) is shaped. It’s kind of tough, especially in Turn 2. But I don’t know, you can always get a better start, right?“I thought I got an OK start, but the 18 (Busch) got a better one and got inside of me, and, honestly, the top is so dominant, especially if you’re on two (tires), you’re kind of just sliding up from the bottom, and he (Hamlin) was obviously the best car all day. Just needed the lead and I might have been able to pinch him through 1 and 2, and you never know. But it’s not enough.”last_img read more

Student groups prepare for midterm elections

first_imgAs Tuesday’s midterm elections approach, members of the Notre Dame College Democrats and College Republicans are making phone calls and knocking on doors, helping candidates for local and national offices campaign and get out the vote.Senior Mark Gianfalla, president of the College Republicans, said the group focused primarily on campaigning for Jackie Walorski (R-IN), the representative for Indiana’s 2nd district who is running for re-election, and Jeff Sanford, who is running for county prosecutor. He said the club organized rides to phone banks every Thursday over the past several months and canvassed neighborhoods in the county every weekend.“It gets you the experience of seeing how much of an effect you can have,” Gianfalla said. “That’s why we’re focusing so much on the prosecutorial race. It’s a small race, smaller office, but in the end, our group could have a huge effect on it. So are some of the county council races we’ve been working on. It’s important to see how you can make a difference.”Senior Michelle McCarthy, co-president of the College Democrats, said that, although the group does not campaign for candidates directly, several members of the club intern for Joe Bock, a professor at the Eck Center for Global Health who is running against Walorski, and some members helped county council candidate Chris Stackowicz’s campaign in the spring. McCarthy, who canvassed and made calls for the Bock campaign, said working in the field allowed her to learn about South Bend politics and the people who vote in local elections.“I’ve done some research. I’ve talked to local residents about what they want, what they don’t want, knocking on doors,” McCarthy said. “It’s a really great way to see South Bend. By actually talking to people, you figure out what they’re actually interested in and what they actually care about, which might not necessarily be the same things as a Notre Dame college student.”Senior Iris Schweier, a member of the College Democrats who interned for the Bock campaign’s financial wing in the spring and did field work this fall, said meeting voters helped prepare her for a career in the political field.“I think [I’m] getting a more firsthand experience of what politics actually is,” Schweier said. “I had some policy experience before this, with legislation and certain issues, but now I’m figuring out the people aspect of politics, which is so cool. If we’re electing these people to represent us, the people who they’re representing are so important, getting to know how they feel about issues and how they’re affected and whether or not they’re going to vote.”Sophomore Louis Bertolotti, the College Republicans’ director of political affairs, said canvassing in South Bend and Mishawaka, especially in low-income neighborhoods, helped him understand the issues important to voters.“We live in the Notre Dame bubble. It’s really easy to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, but there are a lot of issues out there,” Bertolotti said. “Going out, getting to meet these people and going to see the issues that matter to them really shows what it’s all about. It gives you perspective of what you’re doing it all for, and it gives you motivation to keep working hard, keep doing what you’re doing.”Bertolotti said the College Republicans will hand out literature on candidates on Election Day and continue to work with the St. Joseph County Republicans after the results come in, collecting voter information before the next election cycle.McCarthy said members of the College Democrats will be at the Bock campaign headquarters Tuesday. She said working on campaigns this election cycle helped her make connections in the St. Joseph County Democratic Party, and she said she hopes to continue to foster those relationships in the future.“Now that I have the names and the contacts of local leaders, I definitely let them know that Notre Dame College Democrats is a resource for the people of South Bend,” McCarthy said. “We have people who are very passionate about these issues, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship there, where our club members can really get involved with real politics in a real city, and hopefully we can provide some manpower to [the Democratic Party] as well.”Tags: Chris Stackowicz, College Democrats, College Republicans, Jackie Walorski, Joe Bock, Mark Gianfalla, MIchelle McCarthy, midterm elections, votelast_img read more

An angry Lewis exits City Council service

first_img Later, he turned his ire toward Freeman, suggesting that the mayor failed to learn his job as chief executive and that he needed to learn his job description.“We need to make sure … we will never do this again,” he said, at times lamenting the city was “turning into Section 8,” that property tax collections were down and that people were selling houses “as is.”But by the time Lewis finished speaking, an obviously angry Freeman was not willing to absorb any more body blows from the departing councilman and responded icily and in detail.Freeman, recounting that he and the council met even as water flooded his own home at the height of Harvey’s fury, and said that Lewis “came slithering up here (to City Hall) that day” not to talk about storm relief for citizens, but to push for the city to spend $30,000 for programming on The Breeze radio station. “The only thing you worried about was that $30,000,” Freeman said, recollecting that despite his two decades in public office, Lewis had nothing more to add that day but only wanted to get public money spent on his friend’s radio station.Council members interjected to end discussion before the exchange continued; when the mayor asked for a vote on whether to discontinue the discussion, they loudly responded “Aye” in unison. By Ken [email protected] Arthur Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis, serving his last official meeting Tuesday night in a District 5 seat that voters eliminated two years ago, left public service apparently angry and swinging at ghosts, blaming first former City Manager Brian McDougal for the loss of city equipment during Tropical Storm Harvey and then blaming Mayor Derrick Freeman for not exercising more control over McDougal.center_img This time, the usually affable mayor, who had sidestepped Lewis’ occasional barbs during the first two hours of the long evening meeting, was having none of it.Lewis, speaking first during a discussion item about hurricane preparedness, then following up on a discussion item about Article II, Section 6 in the City Charter — Lewis had requested both discussions — railed that the city had failed to do “due diligence” in training for hurricane season during 2017, then said city officials failed to protect city equipment parked on low-lying areas, causing the city to suffer financial losses from which it may never recover.“What is the plan?” he asked, his voicing rising, suggesting that there was no hurricane preparedness in 2017 and there might be none now. Both Freeman and Interim City Manager Harvey Robinson responded that there was and is a plan in place, but Lewis responded, “Someone was asleep at the wheel.”last_img read more