Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Indy Eleven Publicly-Financed Stadium Gets Worse, House Ethics Committee Chairman Abstains Following Advance Indiana Disclosure Of Conflict

The Indiana House of Representatives is doubling down on its efforts to totally screw over state and local taxpayers to publicly-finance a new soccer stadium for the shadowy Turkish immigrant who owns the Indy Eleven minor league soccer team, who by all appearances has bought off corrupt members of the Indiana legislature lock, stock and barrel with his team of high-powered lobbyists. The House approved an amendment to HB 1273 sponsored by Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers) that further exposes public liability for the riverboat gamble the massive $90 million investment in a new stadium for a little-tested professional sports franchise represents.

Huston's amendment adopted on a second reading would create a new White River Revitalization District, which would encompass the former GM Stamping Plant site where corrupt Ballard administration officials are pushing to redevelop the land for the new privately-built Marion County Criminal Justice Center and a new outdoor concert venue promoted by Dave Lucas, one of those 15 people the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star told us to watch in 2015--obviously having advanced pre-approved knowledge of the massive taxpayer heist planned for this year's legislative session. The revitalization district, which would be bound by the White River on the East, Harding Street on the West, Washington Street on the North and I-70 on the South, would be entitled to capture all incremental state and local income tax revenues within this development area, which will be used exclusively for infrastructure improvements of up to $5 million within the development area.

The amendment gets worse. It presumes a major expansion of Indianapolis' massive downtown TIF to encompass all of the undeveloped property surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium bounded by the White River on the West, East Street on the East, McCarty Street on the North and Raymond Street on the South. If the consolidated allocation area is expanded to include this territory, $10 million is to be deposited into the neighborhood stabilization fund to fund infrastructure improvements within this expanded TIF area. That's a massive expansion of the downtown TIF district that will siphon off property tax revenues from any new development for decades to come. This amendment seems to pave the way for the new soccer stadium to be built either near Lucas Oil Stadium or at the GM Stamping Plant site where Lucas wants to build his outdoor music venue, which is needed no more than the costly new stadium. This expanded TIF area is premised on an agreement being reached between the CIB and Indy Eleven to issue bonds and build the 18,500-seat stadium proposed by the team's owner, Ersal Ozdemir, who has unleashed a team of powerful lobbyists on the General Assembly the past two years to force taxpayers to build the stadium he has demanded.

An amendment adopted to HB 1273, at first blush, appears to help protect taxpayers by forcing Ozdemir to have some "skin in the game" as the pols use that term over at the State House; however, it's really just an empty promise. Rep. Ed DeLaney's amendment provides that "the owner of a professional soccer franchise that would be the primary tenant of a facility or complex of facilities constructed in the tax area; the professional soccer franchise;  the professional soccer league in which the professional soccer franchise competes; or any combination of the owner, the franchise, and the league; have guaranteed at least fifty percent (50%) of the amount that is financed under this chapter for a facility or complex of facilities that includes a soccer stadium. That offers no real protection to taxpayers. The franchise owner's newly-created business entity could simply file bankruptcy and walk away, leaving taxpayers holding the bag. DeLaney knows his amendment is nothing more than a phony attempt to reassure taxpayers, but that's just the kind of crafty lawmaker he is. An amendment offered by Rep. Cherish Pryor to give the City-County Council an opportunity to review and approve any stadium deal was voted down overwhelmingly.

Advance Indiana exclusively reported on the financial entanglement the House Ethics Committee Chairman, State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon), has with Ozdemir. Steuerwald has been immersed as one of several attorneys representing Ozdemir in contentious litigation between Ozdemir, his various companies and a former business partner, Jason Ellis, who has accused Ozdemir of defrauding him out of his 20% stake in his business, along with other serious allegations of wrongdoing. Ozdemir is also represented by Barnes & Thornburg, which is also one of sevearl law firms lobbying on behalf of Ozdemir's Indy Eleven soccer stadium deal. Despite his glaring conflict of interest. Rep. Steuerwald supported and voted for legislation last year pushed by Ozdemir's lobbyists to pave the way for his publicly-financed soccer stadium.

When amendments were heard on second reading today, Rep. Steuerwald asked to abstain from participating in those votes, a request granted by the Speaker with the understanding he would put his abstention request in writing. The State House news media, which excoriated former State Rep. Eric Turner's conflict of interest over nursing home legislation affecting his family's business because of their animosity towards him stemming from his opposition to same-sex marriages, has been noticeably silent on Steuerwald's equally-troubling conflict of interest, particularly as the key lawmaker tasked with hearing an ethics complaint against Rep. Turner and helping craft tougher ethics rules for lawmakers in the face of public outcry over lax ethics rules that permitted Turner's self-dealing.

The House will hear HB 1273 on third reading final passage tomorrow. I presume its passage is a foregone conclusion since this corrupt body passed similar legislation last year with even less review than they've taken this year and could give a damn less what their constituents think. The bottom line is that your legislators auction off state and local tax dollars to the highest bidder in exchange for campaign contributions and other benefits shielded from public disclosure. In the absence of any real federal or state prosecutors to act as guardians of the public, a total free-for-all atmosphere permeates our State House hallways. Why is nobody asking any serious questions about who Ersal Ozdemir is? Where is all of his money and clout being derived? Where have all the State House investigative journalists gone?

UPDATE: This online story on the Indianapolis Star's website can be described as nothing but a deliberate misrepresentation of what the Huston and DeLaney amendments to HB 1273 accomplished. Here's how Mark Alesia describes Huston's amendment:
Another amendment--introduced by Huston--that passed included language to prohibit stadium money from going toward Ozdemir's hotel.
Well, duh, that was never in the original proposal. What was done in committee was language was added to the bill to allow state and local tax revenues generated by Ozdemir's hotel to be captured by an expanded Professional Sports Development Area, which allows the CIB to capture up to $5 million in tax revenues annually to apply towards the debt on the stadium bonds from the area developed for a new stadium and his hotel at an entirely different location. Of course, nothing in Huston's amendment prevents Mayor Ballard from passing out money for Ozdemir's hotel from his TIF slush fund he uses to reward his campaign contributors. The DeLaney amendment is similarly mischaracterized.
The House is scheduled to vote on the Indy Eleven stadium deal on Wednesday, after an amendment passed requiring the team owner to guarantee half of the debt . . .
The purpose of this amendment is simply to make sure the public is left to foot the bill for an underused stadium," Rep. Ed DeLaney, (D-Indianapolis), said Tuesday on the House floor. 
DeLaney said he didn't ask for a 100 percent guarantee because he wanted "a fair and measured approach."
"A fair and measured approach" would require the owner to build his own damn stadium, not force taxpayers to build another costly sports stadium when there are already costly, under-utilized sports facilities available to the greedy team owner for his team's use at which he's turned his nose down. Quite arrogant, we might add, for someone who only recently immigrated to this country and about whom little is known other than much of his business endeavors to date have been publicly-subsidized by politicians upon whom he's showered campaign contributions and other gratuities hidden from public disclosure. What DeLaney's amendment reinforces up front is the fact that all concerned already know that the taxes generated from this new soccer stadium and his totally unrelated hotel will, at best, generate half the cost of paying debt service on the bonds issued for the construction of the stadium. That guarantee does NOT extend to the multi-million dollar a year ongoing maintenance expense we already know taxpayers will be shouldering just like we do for the stadium and arena used by the billionaire owners of the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. If Indy Eleven fails as a sports franchise, Ozdemir can walk away without owing a dime with or without DeLaney's amendment. Only the full faith and credit of Indianapolis taxpayers will backstop unfulfilled expectations.


Anonymous said...

Simple ethics -- what is this dude thinking? I am starting to think there are far too many people in our General Assembly that are stuck somewhere between unethical and corrupt.

Eric Morris said...

Can I create a TIF around my own house? I promise I wouldn't use the money for anything nefarious like more alcohol. I'd earmark it for the education of my children and cut in a few bucks to David Brooks. Maybe I would build a basketball hoop in the front driveway and charge admission for watching me nail jumpers. Then, get an exemption and call my house a hotel to generate more TIF revenue. I might even make my home luxurious with all those TIF dollars.

Anonymous said...

This is the dirtiest city and state in the country. These guys are so corrupt that there is literally nothing that they won't do.

Why is stealing immoral if a stick-up man does it but moral if done on an industrial scale under a limestone dome?

Flogger said...

WOW, now I know why when I drive downtown it is sooo Stank at times. Our State House smells like Factory Farm cesspool.

The Mega-Media and Indiana Week in Review will probably be all giddy about this latest Crony-Capitalist Scheme to build a Sucker Stadium. Oh boy we are World Class.

Anonymous said...

You will really get to see how "dirty" this City and State are when you become involved in Republican politics. You will learn the filthy dirty are the attorneys on the take. Hello, Hamilton County! Even non-JD holders can be as corrupt. Hello, "It's A Mighty Thin Pancake"! And if you pay attention very closely, you will see the Democrats are just as corrupt and work with the Republicans by acting as opposition but functioning as the One Party where they keep 'the unclean' from truly having seats at the table.

Anonymous said...

We should not be financing any Turkish investments. Let him get the money from his own country...not from my tax money!

The entire matter is a failure in all respects...there is no revenue to pay for it.

Hernan Dough said...

11 minus people's property & income = public treasury looted by the establishmentH

Anonymous said...

Sent a letter to my representative urging them to look into all the facts of this deak, and voicing many of your concerns. I hope they weren't on the take like the rest of these leeches.