Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hey, It's Only $149 Million

Well, the King of Pork from Carmel has finally been caught in one big fat lie. He knew all along his coveted Keystone roundabout project would cost taxpayers $149 million. For reasons only he explain, he told the public and the Carmel city council when he was running for re-election in 2007 that an agreement with the state to give the city $90 million in exchange for taking over Keystone Avenue would be enough to build roundabouts at intersections along the heavily travelled road. Last summer, he had changed his story to say the city would need an additional $20 million. Brainard later came back to the city council, asking for $20 million more, even though he knew he really needed $60 million to fund the project. The Star's Melanie Hayes writes:

Rick Conner, president of American Structurepoint, also acknowledged Thursday night that the firm began design work in December 2007 without a budget.

"We didn't have a budget at that point," Conner said. "We just started designing.

"We had a budget in February 2008. That was our first budget we produced. It was $149 million for the whole corridor."

City Council member Luci Snyder was angered.

"When the mayor said he needed $15 (million) to $20 million more, he knew he needed $60 million more," she said. "When he signed the (agreement with the state) in November and got $90 million, his down-and-dirty estimate from Structurepoint was $112 (million). He was $22 million over. He signed it anyway.

"The issue is: What happens to a public official who knowingly signed a contract and said things that are not true and causes the city to have to go into debt?"

Neither Brainard nor the City Council members had discussed the increased cost in public or sought additional funds until the mayor confirmed in October that he needed $50 million. Now the city thinks the project -- the landscaping and ornamental railing having been cut -- can be finished for $130 million.

Two weeks ago, the City Council approved advancing the project $20 million, the state's final payment of the $90 million. The money isn't additional funding, and would be paid back once the state's payment came in 2010, council members said.

"I'm only one vote," Sharp said, "but until I really know what we are doing, until I finally know what the real price tag is, there is no way I will vote for any new funding.

"The administration has dug us into a monumental hole."

This is the same mayor local Democrats were patting on the back because he supported Obama's massive trillion-dollar spending bill to stimulate the economy and travelled with other mayors to a meeting with Obama to salivate over the prospect of all of the pork barrel projects he could fund with the money the federal government was about to hand him. As far as I'm concerned, the Democrats can have Jim Brainard. This guy wouldn't be a Republican if he didn't live in such an overwhelmingly Republican city. He's a tax and spend liberal who likes lining the pockets of the fat cats and honey money boys who feed at the public trough just like Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. I pointed out how Brainard's 2007 campaign finance report showed that his campaign listed a single recipient, his campaign consultant, as receiving 90% of the more than $547,000 he spent on his re-election, effectively hiding how the money was spent. That should be investigated, just like his Keystone roundabout debacle, but I'm betting it won't. Unlike Chicago, we don't have an Elliot Ness-style prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald in Indiana to root out public corruption.

1 comment:

Mike Kole said...

This project is the tip of the iceberg. In 2003, Dean Barkley ran for mayor against Brainard on the basis of borrow-and-spend, with bonding approaching $250 million.

Well! Now it's approaching a billion dollars. Carmelites will rue the day they didn't look any deeper than the Mayor's party label, to see if it actually meant anything. When the place is new and shiny, it's sometimes hard to believe that there's a lot of rot at the base of it. Definitely, it pays to investigate.