Keeping the Indiana Pacers as part of the fabric of our City is important. But Mayor Ballard’s plan to provide more than $30 million to the Pacers comes at a time when the City is struggling to keep our libraries, parks and pools open and available for our families, many of whom cannot afford to go to Pacers games or other events held in Conseco Fieldhouse. In my view, finding money for the Pacers should only come after carefully reviewing these funding priorities and being completely transparent about the sources and uses of the money. So I ask the mayor to answer the following questions as part of any deal with the Pacers:I would first note that Kennedy never states that she opposes the $33.5 million gift to Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers. She's counting on raising big bucks from Simon family members just like every other major Democrat in this state has done for the past four decades. She raises some interesting questions, including what accounting is being done to ensure the money will actually be spent on operating costs for Conseco Fieldhouse as claimed. That's the question this blog first asked after Mayor Ballard made his announcement earlier this week. The answer is there is no accountability for how the money is spent because the CIB does not have access to that information, and the Pacers aren't required to disclose their audited financial statements.
1. Will any accounting of the public funds - at least $10 million per year according to the mayor - be required so that taxpayers understand what their tax dollars go toward?
2. Will any property tax dollars, including any money from any Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, be used to fund the $33.5 million dollars Mayor Ballard is giving to the Pacers?
3. If the Pacers do not play next year due to an NBA lockout, has Mayor Ballard agreed to go ahead and give the Pacers $10 million dollars even though they won’t be playing?
4. The Mayor announced last year that he needed to cut CIB funding for initiatives such as the arts and Indiana Black Expo. Has his position changed on those funding cuts in light of the new found "savings" that the mayor says are now available to provide to the Pacers?
At a time when jobs are too few and taxes are high, City Hall should be reigning in spending. If new spending is to occur, we ought to demand that tough questions be answered before authorizing it – especially when that spending is only providing short-term solutions. To create a city of opportunity, we cannot keep kicking cans down the road.
I'm not sure what her reference to TIF tax dollars is about, but I do know the CIB is only able to offer this money to Simon because of a higher hotel tax, an expanded sports tax district area that captures state sales and income tax revenues downtown and a $27 million loan courtesy of the state. The only TIF district revenues I'm aware of are used to retire bond debt on facilities constructed in connection with the fieldhouse, including the Virginia Street garage the Pacers are getting to use rent-free.
She raises a good question that has also been raised on this blog about whether the money will still be given to the Pacers if a collective bargaining agreement is not reached for the NBA and a player lockout occurs. Mayor Ballard responded to the media today, saying that was a difficult legal question for which he does not have an answer. Well, someone should have thought about that before committing ourselves to give $33.5 million to the Pacers whether they are playing basketball at Conseco or not.
Finally, Kennedy questions spending money on the Pacers while the grants to organizations like Indiana Black Expo have been axed. In my view, those grants should have never been established in the first place. The purpose of the CIB is to operate our capital improvements, not to award grants to community organizations. She throws that out there only to score points with the groups that lost out on those grants without raising a legitimate point about the handling of this deal.
I'd give her a C minus for this first attempt during her campaign for mayor to discuss an actual real life issue. Kennedy is really incapable of running the most effective campaign a candidate could run against Ballard because she's an establishment candidate. A populist message elected Ballard, and a populist message will defeat Ballard because he turned tail and ran away from his populist message as soon as he got elected, causing him to lose the support of his core base of supporters who got him elected in the first place. The truth is that Kennedy on the substance of most issues would do things very little differently than Ballard is running the City, which is essentially the same way Peterson would have run the City had he been re-elected.