Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Council Ready To Approve Yet Another TIF Area

The Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee of the City-County Council heard compelling testimony from a number of neighborhood residents on the City's north side. The problem, as usual, is that the only persons whose message they heard were the proponents of a North Midtown Economic Development Area TIF who stand to gain financially from the creation of yet another TIF district. To hear them speak, Broad Ripple and Meridian-Kessler are on the verge of total economic collapse unless land extending across many blocks and covering many acres is removed from the tax base and placed in a protected status so that all property tax revenues are captured for future redevelopment projects, including a boardwalk along White River, described by some neighborhood residents as frou-frou.

Opponents of Proposal 291 pointed out that 12% of the county's assessed valuation is already located within a TIF area, and that in municipalities where restraint is exercised in designating areas for TIFs it is capped at 5%. Opponents pointed out that TIFs affect 20% of the tax base relied upon by IPS and IMPD. Opponents pointed out that most TIF districts are under performing and are bailed out using tax revenues from areas not within TIF districts. Opponents from the affected neighborhoods described their area as booming, with home values nearly double the county as a whole and vacancies for commercial properties at about 5%. The opponents criticized the plan for even including the new Broad Ripple parking garage being built with nearly $6.5 million in public funds. Aren't we told that TIFs only consume what they create?

One had to suspend disbelief and take a journey through a parallel universe to understand the questions and comments from councilors at the meeting. There were no tough questions for those proposing the TIF district; only for those opposing it. The onus was on them to prove that a new TIF district wasn't created because the proponents had spent many years putting together their redevelopment plans for the affected neighborhoods. The councilor sponsoring the new TIF district, John Barth, complained that when he moved into his new home south of Broad Ripple that his neighbor behind him was in the process of moving to Boone County. He feared other neighbors were going to make the same decision. Apparently it hasn't occurred to Councilor Barth that his neighbors may be moving to the suburbs in search of better schools or less crime, problems that are only made worse through the creation of yet another TIF district that will remove more taxable property from the tax base that supports our schools, public safety and other basic city services. Councilor Barth is the same councilor who gutted through amendment a TIF reform measure proposed by Councilor Brian Mahern that would have imposed some measure of restraint in adopting future TIF districts to the point that Councilor Mahern no longer wanted to claim ownership of his reform measure. The committee passed Councilor Mahern's unrecognizable proposal over his objection.

There is simply no hope for this city when those elected to represent us wear blinders in carrying out their official duties. They hear only what they want to hear, and they act only upon what those who are contributing to their campaigns, providing them free tickets to sporting events or otherwise helping them financially want. The rest of us are just background noise interfering with their greater plans.

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