Think about recent events. Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is strongly linked to an alleged Ponzi scheme operator, Tim Durham, a major benefactor of Republicans throughout the state of Indiana. Evidence emerges that his office negotiated the early release of a convicted murderer in exchange for large contributions from the murderer's wealthy father. And more recently, there have been damaging revelations about Brizzi's all-too cozy relationship with real estate developer John Bales, which has been well-documented by the IBJ's outstanding coverage of Brizzi's tendency of landing business opportunities with city contractors and well-heeled members of the community on his relatively modest salary as county prosecutor.
Earlier this week, disgraced and indicted Perry Township Constable Roy Houchins conveniently drops dead in a restaurant/pub parking lot shortly before he was rumored to have been scheduled to enter a plea agreement on the federal charges brought against him. A federal investigation uncovered a badge-selling scheme run out of his office. Apparently, many of his badge buyers were members of the Columbia Club (and not all were Republicans) who had much to fear from damaging information he could share with federal prosecutors as part of a plea agreement. The Perry Township Trustee Gary Coons negotiated a deal to merge his township's fire department with the Indianapolis Fire Department and was quickly rewarded with a new job in the public safety department created especially for him. Until the media inquired about how he could hold two full-time public jobs at the same time, Coons had intended to continue drawing salaries from both positions.
This past week, City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman, who also served as a high-ranking IMPD official resigned both his police officer's job (with full pension benefits) and his council position after an ethics complaint was filed by Councilor Angela Mansfield to determine the reason behind Plowman's sudden suspension a month ago after he reportedly refused to cooperate in an FBI investigation. Mayor Ballard and Public Safety Director Frank Straub know the nature of the investigation but refuse to disclose any facts to the media. Why? Might it be that players a little too close to the Mayor had an unsuspecting part in the undercover sting conducted by the FBI that allegedly nabbed Plowman accepting a consulting fee for help with an out-of-state strip club owner needing assistance with a zoning matter? Instead of addressing the issue, Mayor Ballard headed out of the country on another junket to Brazil, his fourth overseas trip since becoming mayor by my count. A trip that I might add is funded by business interests lobbying for economic development handouts. Coincidentally, his economic development advisor, Nick Weber, announced he would be leaving his city job to assist Baker & Daniels and its clients in economic development matters.
The revolving door thing is proving quite fruitful for Ballard top officials. His chief of staff, Paul Okeson, left last year to work for Keystone Construction, a growing local contractor that does a lot of government work and passes out a lot of money to top Republicans. Kevin Taylor, the bond bank director who was formerly employed by AIG--the company whose failure cost taxpayers billions in bailout money, conveniently announces a move to a high level job at City Securities on the eve of the Mayor announcing his plans to sell the water and sewage services owned by the City to Citizens Energy. City Securities coincidentally is the same firm that had a big stake in the disastrous deal struck in 2002 to purchase the water company from NiSource for more than double its actual value and assumption of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of needed capital improvements. Under state law at the time, the intent of the law was to provide Citizens, a public benefit corporation, a right of first refusal to acquire the company and operate it for the benefit of Indianapolis area residents. It seemed that then-City-County Councilor Beurt SerVaas had a big beef with Citizens and felt it was best that the city acquire the utility to keep it from falling into foreign ownership. As it turned out, the City entered into a one-sided contract with a French-owned company that has totally bilked taxpayers. And as we later learned, SerVaas had negotiated an exclusive right to develop a water pipeline connecting Indianapolis water services with Lake Monroe in Bloomington without disclosing his little conflict of interest.
Mayor Ballard, who has already raised water rates nearly 100% since taking office, tells us the deal is good for taxpayers because the City will raise close to a half-billion dollars to invest in public infrastructure improvements. What he conveniently omits is the fact that Citizens will have to raise water rates in the comings years over 100% and sewer rates over 300% to cover the cost of the capital improvements it will have to make to bring the systems up to government standards. The City's short-term capital gain will be traded off for skyrocketing water and sewer bills. But the real gut of the matter is that Mayor Ballard will be able to award more large capital project contracts in the run-up to his 2011 re-election bid to faithfully reward all of those campaign contributors who have been filling up his campaign warchest.
The Republican Party was resurrected in the 2007 election after Ballard and Republicans fiercely attacked the ethics problems of former City-County Councilor Monroe Gray and the large tax increases enacted under Mayor Peterson. Ballard and the Republicans promised a cleaner, more transparent government that would rely on less taxation and property tax reduction. Instead, we have leadership dripping with ethical issues and a growing appetite to tax the little guy to death while passing out big handouts to businesses that never produce the jobs they promise to produce when they are awarded our public tax dollars. When our Mayor recently used a clawback for a company that failed to meet its goals, he passed the money out to the agency that promotes downtown conventions and the economic development council that funds his international travels instead of returning it to the taxing districts that had been deprived of those revenues in the first place.
To say I'm totally dissolutioned by what my Marion County Republican Party has become is an understatement to say the least. The only thing my party has proven to me these past few years is that it can do business just as corrupt as the old Democratic big city machines our party used to lambaste and use as a reason for electing Republicans. If you want to be involved in the party because of core principles of governing that you hold dear, our party leadership wants no part of you. They are only seeking to enlist people who are government job-holders, people seeking government jobs, current and prospective government contractors and the cronies who can raise the most campaign cash. The idea of a party of ideals is no longer operable. Machiavelli rules the day.