The councilors who supported this measure are assenting to the mayor's policy of spending first and asking questions later. There were many other ways to have funded this, especially if Peterson would work with the Legislature. This is another page in a sad chapter for Marion County.
At tonight's City-County Council meeting, we witnessed another sad chapter for Marion County. Except this time it was the Republican councilors, save one, who were writing this sad chapter. By a vote of 15-14, the council approved a $21 million a year tax, borrow and spend proposal to bail out the incompetent and grossly-mismanaged Capital Improvement Board so more of your taxpayer dollars can be given to the billionaire sports team owners and City-County Councilors can continue to receive all the free tickets, drinks and food to attend those events on your dime.
Despite all the promises and pledges tax activists heard over and over again from people like Greg Ballard, Kent Smith and other Republican council candidates during the 2007 tax revolution, only one of those councilors remained true to her word--Christine Scales. She was the lone Republican who voted against tonight's colossal public rip off. Republicans managed to buy off the vote of Democrat Jackie Nytes to make up the critical last vote needed for passage. Her community development corporation has been lavished with new grant money from the City, which should help secure her job as its executive director for the near term until she seeks a county-wide office, notwithstanding the clear violation of the Little Hatch Act her employment represents. Similarly, Nytes led the push for the 2007 tax increases. Her husband's printing company received sizable contracts from city-county agencies. Of course she insists there's no connection between the two.
The debate level was even lower than the public was served up during the 2007 tax increase vote before the council. A clueless Rules Committee Chairman, Bob Lutz, admitted he couldn't address the size of deficit the CIB faced if no tax increase passed and deferred to the council's fiscal adviser, Jim Steele. Astonishingly, Steele claimed there was no current deficit despite numerous reports of a 10-year running streak of deficits for the CIB. Throughout the year we've been repeatedly told the CIB was working to whittle down a $47 million deficit. The CIB claims it has cut at least $17 million from that deficit through cuts in its current budget. Steele suggested the structural deficit next year might be about $3.5 million. There were news reports that the CIB was claiming today its deficit might be as high as $60 million. Once again, the old adage that numbers never lie but liars always figure holds true.
CCC President Bob Cockrum and Lutz both agreed that this was not a permanent solution. "It's a 2-year patch," Cockrum said. The councilors would have you believe that this is a single tax increase that will be paid by mostly out-of-town visitors who stay at our hotels, but they admitted they have no plan for how the CIB plans to pay back $27 million in credit card borrowing the adoption of tonight's proposal will allow the CIB to undertake over the next three years.
Hearkening back to John's criticism that the Democrats in 2007 were spending first and asking questions later, Cockrum offered that the CIB would be required to begin new long-range reporting next year and that new members would be appointed to the Board next year. They agreed to proceed with Nytes' proposal to study the CIB's financial problems. Sadly, Councilor Lutz said, "It's the only idea." Councilor Benjamin Hunter called a vote for this tax, borrow and spend bailout plan a demonstration of "leadership" and "standing up." Huh? That's not the argument I recall Republicans making two years ago when they were urging councilors to vote against Mayor Peterson's tax increases.
Even more sad, the Republicans top two leaders, Bob Cockrum and Ryan Vaughn, blatantly violated the public trust by engaging in debate and participating in the vote on a matter in which the two have serious conflict of interest problems. Cockrum's son is an executive of White Lodging, the developer of the J.W. Marriott hotel that has already received and will receive tens of millions more in public funds as a result of tonight's action. Vaughn's law firm where he lobbies, Barnes & Thornburg, represents various Simon family interests. The firm has done work for the Pacers in the past. Of course, that didn't stop the firm's managing partner in Indianapolis, Bob Grand, from assuming the chairmanship of the CIB. But it's not like Vaughn had any choice. He sold his soul to the devil when he traded his council seat for a high-paying job at the firm. And don't count on the news media in this town to call out Vaughn and Cockrum like they did Monroe Gray two years ago. They're all in the tank on this bailout scheme.
So there you have it, folks. You thought you voted into office a fiscally-responsible Republican majority during the tax revolution in 2007. Instead, you got an echo of the eight years of Bart Peterson and a Democratic-led council. Let this serve as notice to the fourteen Republican councilors that we will never forget this vote tonight. And a huge thanks to Councilor Christine Scales for being the only stand up Republican on our City-County Council.