Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Madison Avenue Economic Development Area Heresy

Once again, there is no meaningful news media attention on the serious problem we face in funding local government when we have madness like what was on display at Monday night's meeting of the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee where Proposal No. 253 was offered to create a vast new economic development area along the Madison Avenue corridor on the City of Indianapolis' south side. You have to suspend disbelief to comprehend how three Republican members of the City-County Council could come forward with such a proposal with the full backing of the Ballard administration at a time the council is pondering new property tax increases to close what the administration claims is a $55 million budget deficit.

As I've discussed ad nauseum, Indianapolis faces a problem funding basic city services not because its taxpayers are taxed too little but because its elected leaders have chosen to divert large portions of the tax base to slush funds that are used to finance crony capitalism pushed by their pay-to-play pals. With the expansion of the downtown TIF district last year and the creation of the vast new Mid-North TIF area, nearly 15% of the city's tax base has now been removed from the base that supports funding for basic city services. Proposal No. 253 would create a new economic development area that covers a vast area along Madison Avenue from Troy Avenue on the near south side all the way to county line road on the far south side of town. It includes real property with more than $1.3 billion in assessed valuation in which over 40,000 people reside. About half of the proposed economic development area encompasses residential real estate. The southern half of the proposed area is a thriving, well-developed area.

Surprisingly, some of the Democratic council members raised concerns that the area being proposed contained too large of a footprint, including Councilor John Barth, who sponsored the Mid-North TIF allocation area last year that included many areas like Broad Ripple where no additional economic development incentives are needed to spur development. The proponents, including representatives of the Ballard administration, emphasized that the area in which they would later seek TIF designation would not necessarily encompass the entire economic development area. That's not very reassuring in light of the fact that the city's most vibrant areas, including most of downtown, are all located within a TIF district currently.

The committee wisely voted down Proposal No. 253; however, Councilor Barth then made a motion to postpone consideration of the proposal until the committee's next meeting. Since when does the council postpone consideration of a proposal it has already voted down? The council's counsel, Fred Biesecker, seemed confused by Councilor Barth's motion, which was initially made while the committee was taking the vote on the passage of a motion to send the proposal to the full council with a due pass recommendation, making it out of order. Barth withdrew his motion so the vote could proceed, but he then offered it again after the motion on its passage was voted down on a 3-4 vote. I really can't bear to watch council meetings any more. The ignorance on display at these meetings gives absolutely no faith in representative democracy. Would somebody at the State House please pass a law barring local governments from enacting any new TIF ordinances since the people elected at the local government level can't be trusted to use this economic development tool in a fashion that doesn't force major tax increases on the serfs who aren't stuffing money in the politicians' pockets to finance the private development projects of their benefactors?

1 comment:

Btownmoon said...

TIF districts provide funds that gov't can use to spur investment in targeted areas. That's a good thing. However, the term of the districts should be limited so those dollars begin paying for services like existing homes and businesses.