Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard rejected the notion today that simply adding more police officers would solve the city's violent crime problems.
He said it was "the definition of insanity" to keep going back to the same idea of expanding the police force, which he called a "default option" unsuccessfully relied upon for decades to cut crime.
"None of this is the issue," Ballard said, later adding, "You cannot keep going back to default options ... and think that's going to solve the problem."Ballard's statements today came as his administration announced support for contributing $10 million to IUPUI, a state-owned university that pays no property taxes, to make $10 million in street improvements around the campus, including a new rain garden, and make at least $20 million in repairs to the university's Natatorium, although city officials claim none of the money being paid out of the City's downtown TIF district will be used for the Natatorium.
The definition of insanity is to raise taxes yet again for the purpose of hiring additional police officers and expecting a different result. Ballard came into office nearly 8 years ago with about $90 million a year in additional revenues from a public safety tax enacted by his predecessor. That plan was supposed to be used to hire at least 100 additional police officers. Ballard and the City-County Council placed their spending priorities elsewhere, such as investing more than a half billion dollars in subsidies for TIF-related projects and even more in property tax abatements rather than hiring more police officers. In fact, Ballard until this past year continually boasted that the city's crime rate had fallen under his leadership without hiring additional cops. The mayor's plan to provide future pay raises to current police officers and to build a new criminal justice system will more than consume the additional tax dollars the proposed tax increase will generate.
UPDATE: WTHR-TV's Rich VanWyk's report at 6:00 tonight showed Ballard becoming visibly angry when Van Wyk questioned him about needing more police officers to reduce crime; however, VanWyk threw out some totally false numbers to offer an alternative explanation on why there isn't enough money to hire more police officers without raising taxes again. The video has not been uploaded to WTHR's website.
But the city's been getting a lot less money to pay for fire, police and other essential services. We looked over some of the city's finances and budgets. The recession and tax caps has slashed property tax revenue by $43 million. Income taxes are down $31 million. According to spending numbers, public safety has fared better than most city services.
While tax revenue dropped 13 percent since the start of the recession, IMPD funding increased 11 percent. The police department receives more than a fourth of local tax dollars.
We asked the mayor, given the alarming increase in violent crimes, if there was more money, would you hire more police officers?
"That's not the issue," Ballard answered, sounding irritated. "You guys keep going to that. It's not the issue. If you want to stop violent crime, you have to rethink what people are saying over and over again."There they go again blaming the recession and property taxes on reduced income and property tax caps. What Van Wyk's numbers fail to disclose is that the 2008 property tax reform law that imposed property taxes required the state of Indiana to take over tens of millions of dollars in annual outlays for unfunded public safety pension liabilities and county welfare services that had previously been locally paid. As usual, no attempt is made to explain where all of the public safety tax revenue increase dollars went. Van Wyk's numbers ignore the nearly $120 million in property taxes that is diverted from funding basic city services each year to the TIF slush funds that are used to reward the politicians' campaign contributors, and the tens of millions in new tax abatements that are approved annually by the Mayor and City-County Council.