Tuesday, April 02, 2013

SB 621 Still A Power Grab By Ballard Which Should Be Rejected

The House Local Government Committee amended SB 621, the power grab legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Young for the benefit of Mayor Greg Ballard, to remove a provision of the bill eliminating the four at-large council positions, but the worst parts of the bill remain intact. Here's why.

As passed by the committee today, SB 621 will permanently eliminate the option the City-County Council now has to collect a payment-in-lieu of taxes on the facilities under the control of Capital Improvement Board, including Lucas Oil Stadium, Banker's Life Fieldhouse, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center. Think about this. Citizens Energy, a nonprofit public utility, pays a PILOT to the city on the utility assets it purchased from the City. Yet the sports facilities operated exclusively for the benefit of for-profit professional sports franchises, which are owned by billionaires and which pay no rent for their use could never be subject to taxation if SB 621 becomes law. There is no legitimate public purpose served by doing that except to permanently lock in most-favored tax treatment status for the billionaire sports team owners.

The bill attempts to permanently strip the county sheriff of any role in law enforcement and place this elected constitutional office under the control of the unelected public safety director who answers only to the mayor. There is a legitimate public purpose behind this proposal, but the proper course would be to amend the state's constitution if the desire is to permanently curtail the powers of the county sheriff.

The most alarming provisions of the bill are those which strip the City-County Council of powers it has held since the enactment of Uni-Gov more than four decades ago and consolidate unchecked power in the hands of mayor. City agency directors and deputy directors appointed by the mayor would no longer require approval by the legislative body. The bill strips the appointments made to the metropolitan development commission, which controls zoning matters, by certain elected constitutional officers of the county and gives those appointees to the mayor, which will give his appointees unchecked control over matters that come before the MDC.

The bill even gives the city controller appointed by the mayor the authority to unilaterally reduce items in other agencies' budgets, including those of other constitutionally-elected officers. This authority allows the mayor to bring independently-elected constitutional officers to their knees through threat of unilateral budget cuts. It's not hard to imagine the prosecutor's budget getting cut by the mayor in retaliation because the mayor was mad at the county prosecutor for prosecuting a member of his administration or one of the mayor's key political supporters.

If that's not enough, the bill also cuts the period of residency for candidates for mayor and the council from five years and two years, respectively, to two years and one year, respectively. Do you want someone running this city who only moved into the city limits two years ago? Or have as your representative on the council a person who has lived in the district a mere year?

It is difficult for me to understand why any state lawmaker, regardless of their political party, could support SB 621 based on any sound public policy belief. Let's face it. This piece of legislation wouldn't have a prayer of passing the Republican-controlled legislature if the current occupant of the Indianapolis mayor's office was a Democrat instead of a Republican. It is nothing but a raw political power grab by a man who should not be made dictator of Indianapolis/Marion County government by state legislative fiat simply because he doesn't have the patience or willingness to work with a Democratic-controlled council. Any self-respecting state lawmaker should never allow him or herself to be used for the selfish aims of one man who is anything but infallible. Learn your history. Checks and balances serve an important role in our representative form of government.


CircleCityScribe said...

I support amending the state's constitution to permanently curtail the powers of the county sheriff. The office state-wide is known for nepotism, patronage, and....other things.

The office would best be served by appointment of the best qualified by a County Executive or Board of Commissioners, and run with a business-model.

Does anyone know why Marion County's Sheriff has such silly things as: motorcycles, bicycles, take-home cars????

Our sheriff has NO EMERGENCY duty. He does not perform EMERGENCY call-outs, and has NO NEED FOR MOTORCYCLES! What does his motorcycle patrol do? -Do they ride up on wanted criminals to make arrests? -NO! -Do they ride to the homes of those being sued to serve civil process???? -NO!!! -and a bike patrol???? -Really????? Do they ride bikes down the halls of the jail???? -NO!!!!

Indy Booster said...

It is clear that you hate Mayor Ballard more than you hate Satan. While you have a right to your own opinion, you do not have the right to your own facts.

The City-County Council decided to tax the CIB (in the form of PILOT). The State Legislature decided to intervene. You may not like the circumstances, but the Mayor is not made more powerful if the CIB cannot be taxed.

The Indy Mayor is the only executive in the state that I can think of who requires legislative approval to appoint assistants. The Governor is more powerful than the Mayor, but he doesn’t require approval.

The Sheriff is not Constitutionally required to have his own police force. IMPD was created as an act of the City-County Council. SB621 merely locks in the current structure. As a matter of personal preference, many of us prefer that the police not be political and that hiring be done on merit. The Sheriff is a politician while the Public Safety Director is a step removed from politics.

The County Assessor, Auditor and Treasurer are not Constitutionally required to make appointments. In Marion County these Offices make appointments because they concurrently serve as County Commissioners. County Commissioners are not mentioned in the Constitution. If you read SB621, the Mayor will be required to appoint 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats to the Metropolitan Development Commission. The remainder of appointments will be made by the City-County Council. Since Democrats presently control the Council, they will control the MDC.

The County Commissioners in Marion County are a historical anachronism. Before Unigov, three County Commissioners ruled Marion County as both the Executive and Legislative branches. After Unigov, the Mayor is Chief Executive of the County and the City-County Council is the Legislative branch of the County. The County Commissioners are left with the power of appointment.

The Prosecutor is a Constitutional Office, but he does not have the power to fund himself. That power is reserved for the Executive and Legislative branches. I do not know how the controller will interpret his allotment power under SB621. It appears, however, that the provision was included in SB621 to limit cost overruns. If you are a conservative, isn’t limiting cost overruns a good thing?

You express a morbid fear that the Mayor is going to blackmail the Prosecutor. Why don’t you have a fear that the Prosecutor is going to blackmail the Mayor?

It seems to me that it is a “power grab” to give the Sheriff, the Assessor, the Auditor, the Treasurer, and the Prosecutor powers that they do not deserve.

Thanks for publishing this.

Gary R. Welsh said...

And ignorance is bliss, Indy Booster.

The law has always permitted the levying of a PILOT on the CIB facilities. I would argue that our state constitution mandates it. The sports facilities are being used exclusively for a for-profit, private use. They are not operated as public facilities for a public benefit. Thus, property taxes should be levied on them and paid by the billionaire sports team owners who utilize them free of charge.

The mayor of Indianapolis, unlike other mayors, has executive authority over a unified local government, which by its nature, gives him more power than any other mayor in the state.

You may not like the fact that our constitution mandates a sheriff in every county, but it does. If you don't like the office, amend the constitution. That's all I'm saying. You may not like the idea that there are other constitutional offices, but there are. The mayor's handpicked controller should not be disctating to them how they can spend their money. The council appropriates the money. If the council determines that funds are lacking, it can pass a revised budget to deal with any shortfall. The mayor wants to bypass the council and dictate cuts to other constitutional offices.

The party label means nothing on those appointments. I can find someone with a D behind his or her name who will always vote the way the mayor wants the person to vote. The same is true when a Democrat mayor runs the office, which is likely to occur more frequently in the future given the demographic changes.

We saw the mean-spirited move the mayor made this past year to reduce the funding for critical agencies in retaliation for levying a PILOT on the CIB. The man is so indebted to the billionaire sports team owners he is endangering our public safety agencies to curry favor with them.

You're right. I put Ballard in the same category as Satan because that's the only way I can view someone who totally lied about who he was when he ran for office and then stabbed everyone who helped him get elected and gave all the power to the people who worked to defeat him in the election, in addition to running the most corrupt administration in decades. The man walks around with his hand out seeking freebies from people seeking government contracts and public subsidies. It's a joke around town how much on the take he is.

CircleCityScribe said...

Gary is right!