Monday, December 03, 2012

Ballard Has The Audacity To Seek Additional Travel Funding For His Overseas Junkets

It takes a lot of audacity to carry out the mean-spirited line-item vetoes that Mayor Greg Ballard made to the council-approved 2013 budget that slashed funding for the city council and other county offices held by Democratic officeholders, while keeping his own budget intact, in retaliation for the council's decision to assess a $15 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes ("PILOT") on the Capital Improvement Board in order to fund public safety, including new police and firefighter recruit classes the mayor's introduced budget failed to fund, payable from the CIB's surplus funds being held in abeyance to gift to billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers. It takes even more audacity for Mayor Ballard to come back to the same council and ask approval to transfer $25,000 in funds to the mayor's budget to pay for such things as travel expenses incurred by his personal security team that he insists travel with him on all of his overseas junkets. That's exactly what Mayor Ballard sought in Proposal 391, a move blocked by Democratic members of the Rules & Public Policy Committee.

Since taking office as mayor in January, 2007 and throwing in the trash can his phony promise to bring an end to "country club politics" in Indianapolis, Mayor Ballard has traveled overseas more than any other mayor in the history of the city on trips billed as "trade missions," and he's accepted gifts from pay-to-play contractors totalling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, including free memberships to the City's most elite country clubs. The so-called trade missions have never created any jobs and are nothing more than a scheme devised by Ballard to take free overseas trips with the pay-to-play contractors who are helping finance a lifestyle Ballard and his wife Winnie could not otherwise afford on the mayor's salary. The trips provide an opportunity for the people doing business with or seeking business from the City to wine and dine the mayor and his wife out of the viewing of the prying eyes of the public in exotic overseas settings. Pay-to-play contractors launder money through DevelopIndy to finance the trips so Ballard can claim no taxpayer dollars are used for the trips.

The cost of the IMPD officers assigned to Ballard's private security detail are paid for out of the mayor's travel budget, and those undisclosed expenses have cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. There is absolutely no reason the private security detail should accompany Ballard on these useless junkets. Nobody in these overseas countries he visits has a clue who he is. Even many well-recognized American celebrities travel throughout the world without body guards accompanying them. It's just an example of how preoccupied Ballard and his wife are with the trappings of the office. The City-County Council should not only reject funding for this wasteful spending request, but it should also investigate just how much money Ballard's travel outside the state is costing city taxpayers, and it should request under the guise of transparency that DevelopIndy turn over documents disclosing which businesses and individuals contributed money to the organization to pay for Ballard's junkets and how much and on what those monies were spent.

If you or I did what Mayor Ballard is doing, the IRS would bring income tax evasion charges against us if we failed to disclose on our tax returns the value of all the gifts and gratuities Ballard has been accepting since becoming mayor, the annual value of which I estimate exceeds his annual salary. A good prosecutor could also bring Ballard up on bribery charges. What he's doing is no different than the $5,000 cash payment former City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman accepted from an undercover FBI agent for attempting to grease the wheels to gain the necessary zoning approval for an imaginary strip club proposed by the undercover agent with one big exception: Plowman wasn't giving away tens of millions in taxpayer dollars to the people stuffing money in his pockets. At least Plowman reported to the IRS the payments he received from strip club owners on his individual tax returns. If Ballard were actually transparent enough to make his income tax returns public, I suspect we would find he's not paying taxes on the substantial gifts and gratuities he's accepted as mayor.

Speaking of the CIB, it now appears that Mayor Ballard is poised to raise taxes yet again to provide more money for the City's longest running racket. Ballard is reportedly planning to ask the council to raise taxes on tickets paid to professional sporting events and other events, as well as the tax paid on rental cars, in order to provide more funding for the cash-rich CIB to give away to the billionaire sports team owners who lavish free tickets, gratuities and campaign contributions on him and members of the City-County Council. Ballard's boss, Herb Simon, has already communicated via his rent-a-civic leader Jim Morris that the $33.5 million the CIB already gave to his Pacers simply won't cut it if he wants the team to remain in Indianapolis. It's also known as extortion. What was that about public safety being job one, Mr. Mayor? Yeah, right. This is in addition to the income tax increase he will ask state legislators permission to raise this year through a referendum in order to fund a $1.2 billion white elephant mass transit plan that includes a new light rail running from Noblesville to Union Station in downtown Indianapolis. This will allow the wealthy suburbanites who can afford the cost of season tickets for the Colts games to ride the train downtown a few times each year while consuming as much alcohol as their hearts desire without the risk of getting a DUI. The pay-to-play contractors are already dividing up the contracts that will accompany that plan to line their own pockets, knowing full well that the plan is nothing more than a boondoggle that will never be self-supporting and require the infusions of tens of millions of new public expenditures every few years to maintain its solvency.

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