Cynthia Calvert, the editor of The Tribune of Humble, Texas, is restoring community journalism to its rightful place in the Fourth Estate. She has written a series of articles challenging the actions of the East Montgomery County Improvement District (EMCID), which funded a now-bankrupt theme park called EarthQuest.
Payments from a 2009 municipal bond offering, and possibly other East Montgomery County sales tax collections, have been paid to various “consultants” on the EarthQuest project, most of whom appear to have left. The land on which the project was to be built, the only asset other than the intellectual property, is being foreclosed upon by the local bank that lent the funds to purchase it. The 500-acre theme park was an enormous gamble for a county improvement district to support, and the district appears to have lost the bet and the taxpayers’ money.
Calvert fires her most recent salvo in her article “EarthQuest 2009 bond sale: where did tax dollars go.” In the very best tradition of a journalist holding public officials’ feet to the fire, she wants to know exactly where the money from the bond offering went:
The netherworld of EarthQuest is a complex financial maze that challenges even the most intrepid investigator. But The Tribune is dedicated to unwinding this tangled web called EarthQuest so that all taxpayers will know how their elected officials have spent their hard-earned tax dollars.
This article will focus on one aspect of EarthQuest, the 2009 municipal bond sale. Specifically, how were the proceeds of that bond sale, totaling $7.635 million, disbursed, to whom and for what purposes. The bond proceeds were actually reimbursed to Global EarthQuest Ventures, LP, an entity of the Marlin-Atlantis Companies (the “Developer Group”). But The Tribune will spotlight those parties that ultimately received payment, thereby removing the ‘corporate veil’ of the Developer Group that would otherwise shroud the identities of the true recipients.