As it stands, the mayor of Indianapolis appoints the board's leadership. That arrangement was fine as long as the city bore the responsibility for building and maintaining Downtown venues. But with regional taxpayers, and now perhaps all state residents, asked to pay for stadium and convention center operations, expanding political oversight of the board may well be appropriate.
Persistent complaints have been raised over the years that the CIB operates too much behind the scenes. To his credit, current CIB President Bob Grand helped promote a public debate over the agency's budget problems months ago. The perception remains, however, that the board consists of political insiders who make critical decisions without sufficient public oversight. Given the need to reach beyond Marion County for help, it's a good time to assess whether the CIB can operate in a way that encourages more public input into decisions.
Making the CIB a regional authority would be the worst thing that could happen. That's simply an excuse for spreading the unaccountable board's taxing authority and, by so doing, creating an even larger monster. By its very creation, the Board is intended to lack accountability. It is run by an appointed rather than an elected Board. And it's two most powerful functions, eminent domain and incurring debt for public improvements, do not require approval by the City-County Council. If the unelected Board could tap into the largess of the suburban counties, the size and scope of its projects and undertakings will only grow. Further, the same powerful law firms that dominate local government in Marion County exercise similar power over the suburban counties, particularly Hamilton County. Do you really believe these firms will lose clout if the CIB is made a regional rather than a county authority?