Monday, June 13, 2011

Big Ballard Campaign Contributor Scores Big With Broad Ripple Parking Garage Deal

The decision by Mayor Greg Ballard to award the privatization of the city's parking meter assets to ACS was always about the politics of rewarding big campaign contributors and the law firms and consultants paid to work on the deal. Now nearly one-third of the upfront money paid to the City will be gifted to a private contractor that just happens to be among Ballard's largest campaign contributors and just happens to employ his former chief of staff, Paul Okeson. Yes, $6.35 million of your taxpayer dollars will simply be handed as a gift to the private developers to build a $15 million, 350-space parking garage at the corner of College and Broad Ripple Avenues. There will also be city taxpayer dollars committed to renting out space in the ground floor retail level of the parking garage for a new police substation. But Ballard assures WTHR's Mary Milz rewarding campaign contributors had nothing to do with the decision:

The city has announced an operator for a new parking garage in Broad Ripple.
Keystone Construction is the leading developer for the $15 million parking garage proposed for College and Broad Ripple Avenues. The City of Indianapolis will pay $6.35 million, using money from the parking meter deal.
"Parking is a big problem. Customers complain often," said retailer Jeannie Kaplan.
"We feel like we spend half of our lunch hour just to park and then you rush in to eat," said Marizka Davis.
The city says the Marathon gas station and the Marco's Pizza building will be demolished to make way for the 350-space garage, which will be situated just south of the canal. The garage would charge market rates.
"This is a big day for Broad Ripple," said Tom Healy, Broad Ripple Village Association.
Healy says the project transforms a blighted property into much-needed parking, taking pressure off nearby residential streets. Plus, it calls for first floor retail and a police substation in an area known for late night partiers.
"We feel we need increased IMPD presence in Broad Ripple, because we want our visitors to feel safe and secure when they come here," Healy said.
Keystone Construction, Walker Parking and Ratio Architects are partnering on the garage, one of seven groups to submit bids. Keystone, led by Irsal Ozdemir, is known for projects like 333 Mass Avenue and for being one of Mayor Greg Ballard's big campaign donors.
"Most of the companies like what we're doing in Indianapolis anyway and they want to see it continue, so some are contributing, there's no question about that," Ballard said. "But no, I had nothing to do with the bid process."
Ballard will also have bragging rights that he awarded the deal to a minority-owned business since Keystone Construction's owner,  Irsal Ozdemir, qualifies a minority-owned business as a Turkish immigrant. Wouldn't you like the government to pay for one-third of your private real estate development deals? If you or I wanted to undertake a deal like this we would have to cough up an equity investment paid out of our own pockets to secure a loan from a bank. These political insiders get their equity investments paid out of your pockets, and you're suppose to thank them for being such good corporate citizens.

Meanwhile, as Mayor Ballard is giving away more than $6 million of your taxpayer dollars to his fat cat contributor friends, IMPD is facing a potential reduction in the number of police officers because of a budget shortfall. In 2007, your local income taxes were raised 65%, or $90 million a year, in part, to hire 100 new police officers for the City. Those new hires never materialized despite the enactment of that tax increase. Mayor Ballard later added 50 new police officers using federal grant dollars, which was never meant as a permanent funding source for those positions. Despite pocketing the federal grant money, the Ballard administration failed to fill the number of police officer positions required in order to comply with the terms of the federal grant. That failure could lead to a loss of $3 million in federal funding. WRTV's Jack Rinehart explains:

IMPD could lose nearly $3 million in federal grants funding, money that pays the salaries of 50 police officers, FOP President Sgt. Bill Owensby said.
Current IMPD staffing is 1,626 officers, a number below what the federal government requires to retain the grant.
"We want to make sure we're not in violation," Owensby said.
In order to maintain the grant, IMPD officials padded the ranks with Indy Park Rangers to move the department back into compliance.
"If you're not meeting the standard of the grants, you stand to lose that money. That's a possibility; obviously, we're not trying to let that happen," Ballard said.
To compensate for the shortage of officers, the department said they will abandon the beat system and create larger target zones.
IMPD would put most officers into high-crime areas, a move that could leave some neighborhoods without a police presence.
"The public needs to be a little bit more informed of what's actually happening here. There are some people that aren't going to receive the coverage that they may have in the past," Owensby said.
The budget crisis has also curtailed a plan to hire a new recruit class in October.
Dr. Frank Straub, director of the Department of Public Safety, said he's looking for ways to avoid doing less with a smaller staff.
"Everybody in policing is thinking about how we do our jobs differently. How do we do our jobs more efficiently? How do we do it, realizing that a year or two or three years down the road, we may have less police officers?" Straub said.
The budget crunch is so tight, Straub said IMPD may have to follow the lead of other departments across the nation.
IMPD is considering recruiting civilian volunteers and hiring back retired police officers.


SW Lane said...

Here's some ideas to address the shortfalls of the dept:

STOP THE PROMOTIONS. There have been more promotions to Sgt, LT and CAPT than there have been recruits. All probationary supervisors (less than 1 year of their promotion) should be reduced to their previous rank.

QUIT making up positions within the agency that have little to do with public safety. Many programs within the dept such as the OK ptogram, so-called mentoring within the community, PAL and other sociological 'feel-good' programs.

Human Resources- No one is being hired, so why have recruiters and background investigators? Throw them back on the street for the duration of this budget crunch.

Any position which can be civilianized can and should be, Immediately! THis includes a big majority of the "Professsional Standards/Administrative branch".
Good luck trying to get a retired Officer to do the same job as a currently serving one, at a reduced wage-it wont happen.

GET RID OF THE PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR position and all of the new hires he has made within the past year. That's well over a million dollars.

Mayor Ballard- This has ALL happened on your watch, directly and by ommission/lack of any leadership by you. You have weakened this agency to one which is all tail and no teeth. Beats go unpatrolled every day. EVERY day. Those who are left operate under a zero-defect mentality made by an egomanical fool, YOUR fool, and apparently, this weakening has finally come due.

So much for "Public Safety is Job #1".

Had Enough Indy? said...

If a parking garage is so very much needed in Broad Ripple, then why does a developer need any public funds?

The Mayor's press release actually says that the City will get the City will get use of space for a police substation 'free of charge', then 2 paragraphs later mentions the $6.35 million contribution of public funds.

What kind of disconnect exists between the 25th floor and reality?

Advance Indiana said...

An old hand on the local political scene said to me today, "What has changed? They used to put people in jail for doing that kind of stuff."

Downtown Indy said...

Meanwhile, we await news of which Ballard campaign contributor will win the bid to demolish the Keystone Tower apartment building.