The Indianapolis Star's John Tuohy, who has not hid his disdain towards any council members or other public officials who have questioned the Blue Indy and Vision Fleet agreements, discusses the potential franchise agreement skeptically.
Some City-County Council members are threatening to unplug Mayor Greg Ballard’s prized BlueIndy electric car-share program before it even gets rolling.
Public Works Committee Chairman Zach Adamson said the Democrat-controlled council may require BlueIndy to register as a franchise and pay the city an annual fee. If it doesn’t, the city could tow BlueIndy’s cars from charging stations across the city — a direct attack on the outgoing Republican Ballard administration’s eco-friendly initiative.
The franchise agreement would give the city yearly revenue from the car rental service for the life of the venture. Maverick Republican council member Christine Scales also is pushing for the franchise fee, an approach that has been researched by the council’s chief financial officer, Bart Brown.
Both the mayor’s office and BlueIndy officials dismissed the feud as election-year politics. They contend BlueIndy received permits that exempt the car rental service from the need for a franchise agreement.
The franchise agreement would be similar to ones the city had until 10 years ago with cable television companies. The city was able to collect fees if companies were using city property to install long-term infrastructure, Brown said. BlueIndy is building 1,000 electric car chargers at 200 locations on public streets across the city.
“Those who want permanent structures for more than a year need to enter these agreements,” said Brown. The agreement could also mean public hearings where charging stations are planned. Many residents and businesses have complained the stations are hogging valuable parking spots and they had no say in their placement.
Brown said BlueIndy was, at first, considering going along with the agreement because it would mean the car-share program could proceed on schedule. But Hervé Muller, president of BlueIndy, said this week he wouldn’t be inclined to agree to it if it is proposed.
“At this moment, we have no specific knowledge of why such an additional franchise agreement would be needed, nor have we agreed to enter in such an agreement,” Muller said, insisting that the 15-year contract it signed with the city was valid. “From our standpoint, we have necessary authorization from the city to operate where we do.” . . .
Ballard Deputy Chief of Staff David Rosenberg said BlueIndy, like hundreds of other businesses, received permits that exempted it from the parking code or the need to be franchised.
One variance was a right-of-way permit and one was an encroachment permit. Together, they let the cars stay parked and the chargers be built and are good for several years. Council approval isn’t needed for either permit, he said . . .What we know is that the initial agreement was illegal on its face because it was not competitively bid. Mayor Greg Ballard has no legal authority to steal the most valuable public parking spaces across this city and give them to a company with whom he has a corrupt relationship for their exclusive, for-profit business use. Mayor Ballad has no legal authority to steal sidewalk space and give it to Blue Indy to operate their power charging stations, which are essentially being billed to the taxpayers either through fees passed on to us by IPL on our electric bills or by money he stole from the downtown TIF district for this purpose. He also does not have authority to unilaterally change no parking zones for Blue Indy's use. As I've said before, Mayor Ballard is Rod Blagojevich on steroids. He's committed more crimes than Blagojevich talked about doing, but this is Indianapolis where our public officials have a license to break any laws they want for purposes of making them and certain political insiders very rich at the public's expense because we have no federal or state prosecutors who will enforce our laws.
Under this illegal scheme concocted by our corrupt mayor, Blue Indy will have at least 500 of its electric cars parked in the most prime public parking spaces across the city with 1,000 power charging stations and 200 kiosks. The franchise agreement is being offered as a carrot and stick approach to forgive all of the laws the Ballard administration has broken to commit the City to this one-sided deal in exchange for some fee sharing agreement with the City. If Blue Indy turns down the proposal, the council members say Blue Indy cars parked in no parking zones like those spaces it currently occupy in downtown Indianapolis on Washington Street will be towed. Marion Co. Sheriff John Layton has apparently agreed to enforce the no parking zone law on the city's books so IMPD officers won't have to risk being fired by our corrupt mayor for enforcing the law.
When you talk to people outside Indianapolis, they are simply shocked by the illegal acts our public officials get by with committing. What's the point in limiting the municipal executive's powers if he can simply act as a dictator and do whatever he pleases without consequences? They are even more surprised at how the media treats these transgressions with kid gloves, or even worse as with the Indianapolis Star, actually defends the usurpation of power. I think we're rapidly approaching the point where members of the public will have to take matters into their own hands. Clearly, the rule of law has completely broken down and our public officials feel undeterred in their efforts to break as many laws as possible and steal our public assets by the hundreds of millions of dollars.
UPDATE: It turns out there is a somewhat comparable situation from our not so distant past when the City of Indianapolis entered into a franchise agreement with Clarian Health to permit its use of the public right-of-way for building, maintaining and operating the people mover between Methodist and the IU Hospitals. That franchise agreement was subject to the approval of the City-County Council. It cost taxpayers nothing. Clarian received a non-exclusive use of the people mover; it was required to allow the public the same free access to its use that it provided to its own employees. The City-County Council reserved the right to terminate the franchise agreement in the future if Clarian failed to comply with its terms. If at any point it decides to charge fares for its use, those fares must be comparable to fares charged for other forms of public transportation, such as city buses. Clarian was required to hold public hearings regarding the placement of support columns and further approvals were required by the appropriate authorities for the design.
Hat tip to Councilor Christine Scales for bringing this to our attention.