“People need to remember all this was built up based on larger visitor taxes and user fee taxes because it has to get paid for some way,” Ballard said.Huh? What's this guy smoking? People have already been paying higher taxes and user fees to pay for these sports palaces. The argument went that if we raised taxes to provide a revenue stream to build these sports palaces, visitors would flock to the downtown, spend tons of money and generate even more business expansion that would grow the tax base and help pay for other city services. The exact opposite has occurred. Both the admissions taxes and auto rental tax were raised in 2005 to pay for Lucas Oil Stadium, but it still wasn't enough. In 2009, we raised taxes on hotels and received millions annually in state tax subsidies supposedly to help pay stadium-related costs. Now we're being asked to raise taxes yet again to pay operating costs on the Fieldhouse that billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers have been contractually obligated to pay since the Fieldhouse was built nearly 13 years ago. The more we tax and spend for these facilities, the greater demand there is from the CIB for higher taxes and additional spending for their benefit. When does someone tell the downtown mafia that enough is enough? We must focus our efforts on taking care of basic city services. We don't have the luxury of continuing to pump more tax dollars into a business sector that is simply cannibalizing the city's public resources to the detriment of everything else.
UPDATE: The comments Ballard made in an interview with WTHR's John Stehr are even more stupid than the comments he made to Fox 59 News. Ballard claims the Simons donated $100 million in services to the City by taking care of the Fieldhouse for taxpayers despite the fact that they get rent-free use of the building and get to keep all of the revenues generated from it as the reason we now must give Herb Simon at least $10 million a year. By the way, Ballard says other cuts will have to be made in the city's budget to make up for a shortfall at the same time he supports the CIB handing out tens of millions of dollars to Herb Simon without even batting an eye. That's just how much contempt he has for the people he was elected to serve. He would rather give your money away to someone who doesn't live in the City and who has more money than he knows what do with than use the money that belongs to all of us to provide essential city services.
John Stehr: "Here's the narrative that I think people have in their mind: We built them a building, we let them use it rent-free, we let them keep the revenue that is generated in that building all year long and now we have to give them another $10 million to pay for the upkeep and pay for the utilities. Is that still a good deal for the city and at what point does it stop?"
Mayor Ballard: "We're subsidizing the running of the building and the Pacers bring down 10,000-15,000 people 50 times a year to our downtown, so that's what they do. I could have stood on my high horse and took over the building and I can run it for $112-115 million, which was our estimate at the time and 'Pacers, you go away,' but then I don't have 10,000-15,000 people coming down 50 times a year and I've got a largely empty building, but I'm running it. Well, that's not optimal."
Stehr: "So is part of this that you don't want to be the mayor that loses the Pacers?"
Ballard: "No, I just want to make a fair deal, but I want people to understand that it takes money to run the building and the Pacers have been running the building for us."
The mayor says by operating the Fieldhouse in the early years, the Pacers provided $100 million of service to the city.
Ballard: "At that time, when we made the deal three years ago, it was cheaper for the Pacers to operate the building than it was for us to operate the building."
Stehr: "So, it's a good deal...a good deal for the city?"
Ballard: "Right now it is, but we're going to have to see if we can operate it more cheaply into the future."
The mayor also said that the city needs to look for cost savings to handle the current budget shortfall.