Thursday, October 14, 2010

Star Refuses To Discuss Vaughn's Conflict Of Interest On Parking Meter Deal With ACS

It doesn't matter to the Indianapolis Star that Barnes & Thornburg represents ACS as its lobbyist before the Indiana General Assembly, the Daniels administration and the City of Indianapolis. It doesn't even matter that records show that City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn is a registered agent of ACS to lobby the Daniels administration on its behalf, even if he belatedly claims the state lobbying records that have been publicly viewable for more than a year were prepared in error. It doesn't matter that Mayor Greg Ballard's own legal adviser and kitchen cabinet member, Joe Loftus, is registered to lobby the City of Indianapolis on behalf of ACS but assures us with a wink and a nod he has never spoken to anyone in the Ballard administration about ACS's parking meter deal. Because the blogs raised this issue, Dennis Ryerson has deemed that information mere "noise" and something the readers of the Indianapolis Star have no right to know. That's abundantly clear from the Star's latest report on the Ballard's administration's window dressing maneuverings to ram through a deal that will enrich ACS and Vaughn's law firm enormously. In a story headlined, "Ballard set to shorten lease term for meters":

Indianapolis City-County Council members say Mayor Greg Ballard is ready to bow to concerns that 50 years is way too long to hand over control of the city's parking meters.

A scale-back in the term of Ballard's proposed lease of meters to a team led by a Dallas-based contractor is among changes that could be announced in the next week or so, according to council members.

Ballard's office has been renegotiating with Affiliated Computer Services, a Xerox company, and its Indianapolis-based partners. This week, Ballard declined to specify any changes, which could be key to winning support for the deal from even his fellow Republicans.

"I think a pretty consistent view is that the agreement will not be for 50 years," said Barbara Malone, a Republican at-large council member who is the lease proposal's sponsor. She had not yet heard a firm number but said "the reality (among council members) is somewhere between 15 and 20, and maybe with some option to renew for a term."

Council President Ryan Vaughn, a Republican, has taken part in discussions with the mayor's office and agrees a shorter contract term is likely. One possibility, he said, is that contract renewal options could be tied to periodic meter upgrades every decade or so.

Other potential changes would address, at least in part, concerns about a requirement that the city compensate the vendor for removed meters' lost future revenue and the vendor's right to all advertising revenue.

Critics have focused on many aspects of the proposal, but a chief concern is that ACS could profit mightily. It wouldn't have to publicly disclose how much of its share of revenue is profit. Vaughn said requiring more disclosure of profit margins -- which contractors typically consider proprietary information -- has not been among the issues under discussion . . .
Still unclear is whether the potential changes would secure enough votes for the lease to pass the 29-member council, which is split among 15 Republicans, 13 Democrats and one Libertarian.

"We'll have made significant changes to the contract based on their input," Vaughn said, "and we'll see if the needle moves or not."
That's right. The Star is actually talking directly to Vaughn and discusses how he is participating in changes in a lease deal for his own law firm's client without even raising the freaking issue. What's wrong with this picture? In any other city in America, this would be front page political scandal. In Chicago, the U.S. Attorney's office would have already convened a grand jury to hear evidence and subpoenas would be flying after both the Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune had already run in-depth analysis of the troubling ties between ACS, Barnes & Thornburg, Ryan Vaughn and Mayor Ballard's administration. But no, this is Indianapolis where it is a matter of right for political insiders to use their positions in government to line their own pockets and then tell us with a straight face they are sincere public servants only doing what's best for the public. And if you don't believe them, Dennis Ryerson will pen a column chastising anyone who suggests otherwise.

For the other side of the argument, Murray could only find someone who lives anywhere but Indianapolis. He quotes Aaron Renn, a blogger and urban specialist who has eloquently explained why the deal is bad for Indianapolis but who resides in Chicago, not Indianapolis. You see, there is nobody with any credibility in Indianapolis who opposes the deal in Dennis Ryerson's world so the Star simply ignores everybody else. Great newspaper you're running there, Dennis. You and your newspaper are the laughing stock of the journalistic community in this country. It's no wonder that any reporter worth his or her salt is leaving your newspaper to work for real news publications. Move along now. There's nothing to see here, folks. You'll have to pick up a free copy of the city's weekly alternative, Nuvo, if you even want to read about this.

As an aside, if you want to further be outraged by Ryerson's newspaper, check out his editorial today. If you don't like the fact that the city is diverting excess property tax revenues from downtown TIFs to fund the Indiana Pacers and the private development projects instead of spending on libraries or public transportation, then raise taxes. What a pompous asshole he is.


Marycatherine Barton said...

Dennis certainly is a pompous ass, and I will not say what I think Ryan is.

dcrutch said...

One of only maybe a handful of people who despise the supposed "journalism" of our local newspaper as much as I.

Like they say in the cowboy movies, don't sugarcoat it, Gary. Tell them what you really think about the Star and Ryerson.

kate said...

The people involved with this deal are quiet aware of the conflicts. I'm absolutely floored by the lack of ethics with everyone involved in this deal, especially The Stars.
ACS must be holding a the trump card and have serious dirt on someone. I'm sure we will continue to uncover additional people involved that have conflicting connections. Everything eventually comes out in the wash one way or another.