I like Commissioner Christopher Pike. He’s a very approachable guy, and frankly I’ve always enjoyed talking with the man. His business is internet based, which means we come from the same roots. In this economy, he’s suffering apparently. That’s something that I know quite a bit about as well. Unfortunately for Pike though, as a city commissioner, his personal financial problems have become public ones.
There are some in the community that have been accusing Pike of fraud from the start after news surfaced that he failed to pay the Hilton Gardens for convention space for the Black Expo. Me? Not so much. After all, I’ve been in a similar situation that was a matter of the economy taking a bite out of my butt.
Unfortunately for Pike, there are more questions now than answers. Now that he has bounced a check for the James H. Gray Civic Center, those financial problems are no longer a footnote in the news. It’s no longer a case of to people, one of whom happens to be a commissioner, but now a public matter involving government owned space.
I discussed the situation with Pike when news first surfaced about his troubles. This wasn’t work either, but commiseration between two business owners who both found themselves on hard and not. However, Pike and I have dealt with things very differently since that moment.
Here at the Journal, we’ve contracted in size to a point where we are no longer bleeding capital. The idea is that when things turn around, we’ll be able to settle our debts much more quickly since we would be accruing profit more as we speak. However, Pike took on a new business venture, the Albany Shockwave. The basketball team may or may not be making any money. History shows that Albany doesn’t do a great job supporting sports, though the Panthers – and the Wildcats before them – are shaking that history to the core.
I haven’t had a chance to speak to Pike about his reasoning. I suspect the idea was that a new venture would create new revenue that would help him settle things up, but I don’t know. Personally, this isn’t an approach I would have taken. It’s risky, and when you owe the kind of money Pike owes, and you’re a city commissioner, you need to play it a little safe unless you can afford to take a risk. Pike clearly can’t.
City Manager James Taylor says that Pike is being treated like anyone else who bounced a check for the civic center. If that is true, then good. That is how it needs to be. However, Pike also needs to be investigated by the ethics board. That’s not to say I think anything unethical happened, but there are clearly questions that need to be answered. An ethics board investigation would be a good start at trying to answer them.
Failing that, I personally think the GBI should be brought in. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to have the GBI look into things regardless. An independent investigation has a much higher chance of being accepted should nothing come of it, and it’s not like the GBI has no experience investigating things.
I’m sorry that Chris Pike is having to deal with this right now, but unfortunately this now transcends personal financial difficulties. Now, it’s a matter for the citizens of Albany to be concerned of, and the city needs to understand that and work accordingly. Investigate and let the chips fall where they may, and maybe restore a little faith in a government many citizens feel has different rules for different people.