Indianapolis City-County Council Republicans will have some questions Monday night for Mayor Greg Ballard’s staff about a $6 million sports park that’s been in the works for years without their knowledge.
“I want to see more as far as projected numbers and everything,” Minority Leader Michael McQuillen said. He requested a briefing for the Republican caucus, which will meet privately before the general council meeting at 7 p.m.
McQuillen said he's not necessarily against the idea, but he and his caucus were surprised by Ballard's announcement last week that the city was building a sports complex, to be called World Sports Park, that could host international sports such as cricket. Ballard made the announcement while visiting sister city Hyderabad, India.
The council is in no position to halt the project, but that didn’t stop Democrats and Republicans on the Public Works Committee from expressing outrage to Public Works Director Lori Miser during an April 18 meeting.
“I’m concerned that we can’t support the parks now,” Democratic Councilor Pam Hickman said. “How are we going to maintain this?”
In recent talks about possible cuts to the current city budget, Hickman said, the parks department has discussed laying off staff, eliminating port-a-potties and downgrading maintenance.
“I’m floored by this,” she said.
Republican Councilor Ginny Cain agreed. She noted that Sahm Park has trees infected by the emerald ash borer that need to be removed.
“It goes to the maintenance of what we already have,” she said.
Cain added that she’s been on the council since 2004, and Ballard’s overseas announcement was the first she’d heard of the World Sports Park.
“I’m overwhelmed,” she said.
Republican Councilor Janice McHenry said the concept hadn’t been presented to the council’s parks committee, on which she also serves.
The council has already appropriated all the ReBuild Indy money that’s needed for 2013 projects, and the World Sports Park project was approved by the city’s Public Works Board, where the council has one representative. Miser told the council members she expects to award the construction contract soon.This should serve as a wake-up call to Republican council members who have supported Mayor Greg Ballard's efforts to secure passage of a new state law, SB 621, which strips the council of oversight authority to provide greater powers to his office. They should be thinking about the importance of checks and balances, not whether a Republican mayor or a Democratic-controlled council gets to decide something. Maintaining the proper balance of power is critical in our representative form of government.