Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Indianapolis Star Misrepresents Key Change Made By Senate Amendment To Indy Eleven Stadium Bill

Just like The Indianapolis Star printed false stories about the impact of the RFRA legislation contained in SB 101, it is now printing lies in its newspaper about HB 1273, the legislation that provides for public financing of a new $83 million soccer stadium sought by the shadowy Turkish immigrant owner of the Indy Eleven. The difference portrayed by Star reporter Mark Alesia about a key change made by an amendment adopted by the Senate on second reading today is the difference between night and day.

Sen. Brandt Hershman stripped the original language contained in the House-passed version, which put taxpayers entirely on the hook to build an entirely new soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven. Hershman's committee amendment replaced the bill's original language with bond authorization granted to Indiana University of up to $20 million to renovate Carroll Stadium on IUPUI's downtown Indianapolis campus where the Indy Eleven currently play. Hershman's amended bill, he said, would allow Carroll Stadium's seating capacity to be expanded from 12,000 to 18,000, just 500 shy of the seating capacity of the $83 million stadium sought by Ozdemir. Members of the Senate committee that heard HB 1273 expressed their view that if Ozdemir wanted anything better than what the $20 million would provide, he should pony up his own money for the renovation project.

After the bill hit the Senate floor, Sen. Hershman filed a floor amendment that changed references in the bill to Carroll Stadium to include "or its successor." Sen. Hershman in a telephone interview with Advance Indiana Monday morning said he offered the amendment after talking to representatives of IU, who he explained were working on a design plan with Indy Eleven that would relocate the track and field component of the stadium, which was the original purpose it was built to serve, to a nearby location. Hershman said Indy Eleven had prepared renderings showing Carroll Stadium replaced by an entirely new stadium absent the track and field facilities to allow seating closer to the field of play. Hershman also said a new stadium would be configured with a playing area running north and south at its current location instead of the east and west direction of the current field of play. This bait-and-switch flew in the face of the desired outcome of making the facility a multi-purpose facility. Either Lucas Oil Stadium or Victory Field could have accommodated play for the Indy Eleven, but the demanding minor league soccer team owner viewed such reasonable and prudent suggestions as insulting.

Commenting on the proposed amendment in this week's edition of the IBJ, Mayor Greg Ballard's chief of staff, Jason Dudich, told the IBJ the City was prepared to step up and provide the necessary funding to pay for the new stadium to augment the $20 million in bonding authority included in the bill for IU, which is not required. Dudich defended city funding for a university-owned stadium on the same basis the City used last year for dipping into the downtown TIF fund to pay tens of millions to the university to renovate the nearby Natatorium, which IU allowed to fall into disrepair after the Lilly Foundation and others donated generously to build the facility, to attract national diving and swimming competitions. The City used the newly-built natatorium, which was considered the best in the country at the time, to help land the Pan Am Games in 1987.

Despite the IBJ's reporting and Hershman's explanation of it to Advance Indiana, this was how Alesia grossly misrepresented the changes in the bill adopted by a voice vote in the Senate today in his news story on The Star's website:
Amendments to House Bill 1273 passed on the Senate floor Tuesday involved financial reporting and clarifying language. An amendment on the use of minority- and women-owned businesses for the stadium at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis failed after a brief debate on whether it was repetitive of existing law.
Clarifying language? It's only clarifying language when it allows the track and field facilities to be displaced, the entire stadium razed and replaced with a brand new stadium exactly to the design specifications demanded by Ozdemir, a businessman about whom very little is known other than he suddenly fell into large sums of money that he started spreading around to all of the politicians about a decade ago after bankrupting a prior business he owned? Large campaign contributions have translated into hundreds of millions of dollars in public contracts and public subsidies being handed out to Ozdemir by state and local governments in Indiana. At least two lawmakers, House Speaker Brian Bosma and State Rep. Greg Steuerwald, have been put on Ozdemir's payroll, a fact neither bothered to disclose to the public last year when the House passed in record time legislation granting Ozdemir everything he demanded after very little public debate. Senate President Pro Tem killed that legislation when it arrived in the Senate.

The handwriting is on the wall that Ballard intends to use the unelected, unaccountable Capital Improvement Board to finance the balance of the cost of a new stadium without even seeking the city-county council's approval. Thanks to a state law Ballard got state lawmakers to enact, the council has less control over the CIB's finances, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds due to its increased taxing authority and additional state funding it has received under a professional sports development area established under state law that allows the CIB to capture state income and sales taxes to support its sports palaces and convention center. You can bet IU has no intention of paying the costs of maintaining and operating a new soccer stadium. The CIB will wind up paying 100% of those costs just like it does with Lucas Oil Stadium and Banker's Life Fieldhouse for the Colts and the Pacers. These are facts The Indianapolis Star is hiding from the public because it is quite obviously a co-conspirator with the folks who get very rich off the billions the City invests in anything related to sports. If that means telling the public something other than the truth, then so be it.

Perhaps it's time the public demanded to see a copy of the lease The Star signed with the Simon-operated Circle Centre Mall (built with taxpayer dollars) for its new digs. We'll presume the lease wasn't an arm's length transaction until proven otherwise, particularly the way the newspaper has pimped for giving billionaire Herb Simon hundreds of millions in public subsidies for his NBA team, The Star's publisher, Karen Ferguson, started dating Pacers CEO Rick Fuson soon after she moved to Indianapolis from Scottsdale, Arizona. They seemed to be an item even before her divorce with her ex-husband was final. The Star's new offices puts her and her newspaper's staff just a stone's throw from Banker's Life Fieldhouse.


Anonymous said...

Where does it end, Mr. Welsh? Will the cookie jar lid ever slam shut on these scum bags, or will the jar go empty first (bankruptcy)? We can't provide a respectable level of basic services in this city but there's never a second thought when it comes to welfare for millionaires and political hacks, especially when its accompanied by shiny new things downtown.

Flogger said...

The Star since at least 1997 when the New Pacer Stadium was put on the table has never honestly reported on Professional Sports Welfare Payments.

The Star's articles are just re-written Press Releases or the leaving out salient pieces of information. The Star lacks any type of serious analysis, when it comes to Corporate Welfare. A project this huge deserves a presentation of facts not fluff.