Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Ballard Tax Increase Takes Effect Today

Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to make more than a billion dollars for one of City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn's clients moves a step closer today. ACS, the politically-connected firm that Ballard awarded a 50-year lease for the City's parking meter business, begins collecting higher parking fees and charging for extended hours of use today. Persons parking at metered spaces downtown and in Broad Ripple will be charged to park an additional 5 hours during the week as hours are extended from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m at the rate of $1.00 an hour. Additionally, the City will charge them to park those same hours on Saturdays for the first time in city history. The rates will jump to $1.50 an hour beginning in January, 2011, double the current rate.

The Star's Jon Murray misleads the papers readers on a bit of bait-and-switch ACS and the Ballard administration engaged in when it sold the City on the deal. Individual meters mounted on the existing poles were to be replaced by multi-space pay boxes; however, when ACS began switching out the meters, it instead installed electronic meters on the existing meter poles, not even bothering to replace the rusty old poles. The Star, which endorsed the corrupt 50-year deal, tries to explain it away:

Beginning in late spring or early summer, ParkIndy will install multispace pay boxes to replace about two-thirds of the meters.

ParkIndy has drawn criticism for leaving rusty meter poles and bases and replacing only the heads. Lou Gerig, a spokesman for ParkIndy, said that as pay boxes go in, leftover meter parts that are in good condition will be used to replace older hardware on remaining individual-space meters.

The multi-space pay boxes were the cornerstone of what councilors were sold when they approved the deal last year. ACS is installing the electronic meters on the poles for now, which are actually used meters that were removed from another city where they were previously used. By installing the older technology now, ACS is getting immediate access to revenues it will generate from the 50-year lease that includes the higher rates and extended hours. ACS will use those revenues to finance the cost of installing the more costly multi-space boxes over time for most but not all spaces. ACS plans to use newer poles already purchased by the city to put on the remaining parking spaces where it intends to use its used electronic meters. In other words, ACS and the Ballard administration flat out lied about how much money ACS would invest up front to install new parking meter technology.

There are many signs that ACS has used insiders with ties to the company to expand its business operations in state and local government in Indiana. ACS played a key role in the botched privatization of FSSA's welfare services that cost taxpayers more than a half billion dollars. The administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels blamed the entire mess on IBM when it terminated IBM's contract but kept in place ACS. IBM partnered with ACS in order to win the contract originally because then-FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, a former executive with ACS, initiated the privatization effort. Gov. Daniels then named another former consultant for ACS, Michael Gargano, to run the agency, who is married to another former ACS executive, Ann Lathrop.

ACS has long used the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg as its hired gun lobbyist to win government business in Indiana. The firm lobbies both state and city officials on behalf of ACS. Its chief lobbyist at the firm, Joe Loftus, is also paid as a key adviser to Mayor Greg Ballard. Lobbying records also showed City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn lobbied the state on behalf of ACS as a lobbyist for the firm; however, when this blog reported on his registered status as a lobbyist for ACS, Vaughn claimed a paralegal at his law firm registered him with the state in error. Vaughn also twisted arms of councilors to ram the deal through the council and voted in support of the 50-year parking meter lease despite his obvious conflict of interest.


M Theory said...

I heard it on WIBC this morning. This shall mean for me that I simply will stop patronizing downtown businesses when I have to pay to park.

Problem solved (at least for me).

Concerned Taxpayer said...

When the hell are people going to wake up!!!
And when the hell are the "republicans" going to get some balls!

Maple Syrup Maven said...

It amazed me, too, that the story in The Star made it sound like an "improvement" to up the parking meter fees AND extend the hours they'd be in force.

Downtown Indy said...

Wait for the outcry when people come downtown for the 500 Festival parade and try to deal with arriving an hour before a 3 hour parade and having only 2 hours of parking.

The roar should be audible county-wide.

Gary R. Welsh said...

No, DI, That won't happen. The City had it built in to the lease where it will not enforce during special events and will compensate ACS for the lost revenues.

CircleCityScribe said...

I see this as a user fee, not a tax. Indianapolis has long been behind other cities in collecting a fair rate for parking meter spaces. One example, Chicago charges $5/hr for meters until 9:00 p.m., when it drops to $2.50/hr...and it is collected at all times, including holidays.

Currently Indianapolis is in need of more parking in Broad Ripple. Fees could potentially be used to build a parking garage over the Canal to accomodate needs.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The reason Indy kept its parking meter rates low because the last time it jacked them back in the 70s, there was a major exodus of retail activity downtown. The mall was built on the condition there be ample discounted parking in attached garages, which the Simons say was a key to the mall's survival. Many people in Chicago don't bother driving and paying the parking fees because they have a mass transit system that we don't have in Indianapolis. People in Indy go to extremes to avoid paying for parking. The city could have avoided such steep increases in the rates if it had simply implemented new technology but kept control of the parking meters instead of turning it over to a Pay To Play contractor.

Paul K. Ogden said...

AI, is correct. The big issue is turning the operation over to a pay to play contractor that will make a ton of money of Indy residents.

I woudl point out though that a "user fee" is simply a tax that not everyone pays.

M Theory said...

Funny how they can get those meters up, but can't get the pot holes fixed.

This is the second alloy rim I have to buy for my Audi. It is a nightmare to find one that matches and they make you pay through the nose.

That's the POT HOLE TAX!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Did you file a claim with the city, Melyssa? People recover money for damage their cars sustain from pot holes all the time.