There are probably cases where public investment in the urban center is still necessary, but many of us who participated in that early redevelopment process are scratching our heads over the Ballard administration's proposal to put $98 million (up from an originally announced $86 million) into North of South, a hotel and apartment complex being developed by Buckingham Properties.Kennedy then observes questions fellow blogger Paul Ogden recently raised that may explain why the Ballard admnistration was so anxious to put so much public money at risk at a time when it is slashing budgets for basic city services and decided the city had to turn over the city's parking meter assets to ACS because it couldn't afford to invest $6 million in new parking meters.
The administration justifies this use of taxpayer dollars (at a time when libraries and public transportation are starving for funds) by pointing out that private lenders all rejected the project as too risky. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that those lenders may have had sound business reasons for coming to that conclusion.
Indianapolis recently has added more than 1,000 Downtown hotel rooms; furthermore, hotel bookings in Central Indiana declined by 5 percent during 2010. Why would lenders risk financing a hotel project now?
Blogger Paul Ogden recently posed a fair question: Why is it too risky to borrow $6 million to buy and install new parking meters, but not too risky to issue $98 million in bonds for a project private lenders wouldn't support?
Ogden also noted that the project's lobbyist is Tom John, who just stepped down as Marion County Republican chairman.
Council president Ryan Vaughn cast the deciding vote on the ACS parking contract despite being ACS' lobbyist. More recently, Robert Vane resigned as a deputy mayor and won a no-bid consulting contract with the Capital Improvement Board.
It all looks a bit too cozy.
When there is an appearance of impropriety, taxpayers can be forgiven for questioning questionable deals.Yep, that about sums it up.