Unfortunately, the part of the city budget that goes to cover police and firefighter pensions is the same part of the budget that pays for ongoing police and fire operations, including additional resources needed for public safety. We will meet our pension obligations, and we will also find a way to pay for the additional public safety resources we need. And it is important to do both without raising taxes. Raising taxes may sound like an easy answer, but if we want to avoid the urban death spiral that so many other American cities have experienced, we cannot give individuals and businesses an incentive to leave our city.
Raising taxes is the "easy answer" he told us. So what has changed? Mayor Peterson came to office as a member of the inner circle of Sen. Evan Bayh for whom he served as a chief of staff while he was governor. The Bayh administration took a hard line against raising taxes throughout his 8 years in office no matter how rough things got. After all, Bayh defeated Lt. Gov. John Mutz in his first bid for governor on an anti-tax theme, thumping the Orr-Mutz administration for massive tax increases. With Democrats shut out of the mayor's office in Indianapolis for decades, Peterson wanted to achieve the same electoral success Bayh has enjoyed and to achieve that success, it was critical that he not be perceived as another tax and spend Democrat. That's why he said what he did in 2000. He didn't believe Democrats could remain in control in Indianapolis without adhering to fiscally conservative policies.
A lot has changed since 2000. Democrats have captured control of the city-county council for the first time since the enactment of Uni-Gov, they have captured every countywide office save the prosecutor's office, and they now control most township governments. Emboldened by his own landslide re-election in 2003, Peterson and the Democrats became arrogant in their exercise of power. Incompetent cronies have been appointed to some of the city's most government positions. The consolidation of law enforcement has resulted in an even more-politicized and unaccountable police department. And Peterson and council Democrats have passed tax increase after tax increase, turning Indianapolis from one of the lowest-taxed cities in the nation to one that is now seen as a high-taxed city.
The arrogance of the Democrats was readily on display at last night's council meeting during the adoption of this controversial, $90 million increase. City-County Council President Monroe Gray's opponent, Kurt Webber (R), believes Gray and his Democratic colleagues "showed disdain for the public and their fellow colleagues." “I am downright shocked that public officials like Monroe Gray would actually conduct any meeting in such an unruly fashion, let alone one as important as deciding whether to increase taxes,” said Webber. “Gray and everyone who supported the increase showed such a disdain for the public and their fellow colleagues that I was ashamed to witness it.” Webber cites the council's refusal to allow public testimony at last night's meeting and their parliamentary maneuvers to stifle debate among councilors. "Very few decisions can affect as many constituents as a tax increase." "Monroe Gray and his Council leadership should have made this meeting an example of open debate. Instead, they did all they could to limit discussion and increase taxes as quickly as possible,” Webber said.
The actions of Marion Co. Democrats of late can only lead one to conclude that they believe they are politically invincible. They've made themselves believe that a political realignment occurred in the county, and they are safely in power for decades to come. I think they greatly under-estimate the discontent of voters in this county right now and the lack of confidence in their leadership. “If this is how Council handles one of its most vital votes in years, I have no confidence in its leadership that it has the confidence of the people or the character and demeanor to lead our city," Webber said. He's absolutely right. Marion County Democrats are in for a rude awakening this November.