Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ballard's State Of The City Address Falls Short On CIB Problem

If you were hoping for some straight talk and specifics from Mayor Greg Ballard on the colossal financial crisis of the CIB in his State of the City Address, you will be disappointed. "We are working with Governor Daniels and the General Assembly on solutions--solutions that directly involve the users of the facilities and those who benefit from them," is all that Ballard had to offer on the "$36 million deficit" at the CIB, which Ballard laments is "grab[bing] the headlines". "[The] challenges we face go beyond the headlines, and impact our citizens every day and in every paycheck," he explains. He adds, "Placing blame for this problem is not important, but fixing the problem is."

I couldn't disagree with Ballard more on that last point. Assessing blame for the current CIB requires analyzing how we got ourselves in this mess and what we can do to avoid facing similar problems in the future. Even worse, it clearly signals his belief that the problem can only be corrected by increasing public expenditures. While Ballard offered zero specifics on what he means by asking "users of the facilities and those who benefit from them" to provide the money for the additional spending, we know from well-placed leaks to the mainstream media what he has in mind. He wants anyone who attends an event at one of the facilities to pay a ticket tax. He wants to capture revenues which would otherwise fund other government services from an expanded development area around the CIB facilities and divert them to the CIB. He wants higher taxes on food and beverages and hotel stays. There's even talk of imposing a local income tax on people who work in Marion County but lived outside of it.

Ballard said in his speech today that "[w]e must tell the truth when we talk to our fellow citizens." Sadly, he won't even talk to us about his plans to fix the CIB. Instead, he allows guys like Bob Grand and Pat Early, both of whom have contributed to the very problem we find ourselves in today, to do the talking for him. To the extent they've spoken to the media, the information they've supplied has been very misleading and omits key information. Instead of talking to the man or woman on the street, the people who elected the outsider Ballard, he puts his trust in the same people who have consistently failed us and selfishly used public resources to benefit themselves and their friends and clients. "We must rely on the wisdom of our elected officials in the General Assembly and the City-County Council" and "the sage advice of those who came before us . . . ," he says. These are the same people candidate Ballard told us were the problem. Now he's telling us they are the solution. Why didn't we just re-elect Bart Peterson? Isn't that the same thing he told us? And please don't tell us you have made the budget process transparent when these folks you entrust play hide the ball with the facts and figures and negotiate in secret, behind closed doors with State House leaders to bail us out this mess.

Speaking of telling the truth, what's with the moving target on exactly what the CIB's deficit is? One day it's $20 million. The next day its $43 million. Then $50 million. And now we're down to $36 million. It's not exactly inspiring confidence in the people you expect to foot the bill to close this so-called budget gap.

What is a win for civic pride to Ballard? "We opened Lucas Oil Stadium, the new Indianapolis International Airport and finalized the JW Marriott Hotel tower project." "And, there's this event known as Super Bowl 46." It's all about the trophy projects. What about the state of our parks? What about the state of our streets and sidewalks? What about the lack of sewers in many neighborhoods? What about the skyrocketing number of abandoned homes in old neighborhoods and the blight and crime that accompanies them? These are things that affect the quality of life for the average person who lives in Indianapolis. Most residents can't afford the cost of tickets to see a Colts or Pacers game, let alone eat out at some of the fine but expensive restaurant in the mile square. They would be happy if you would just fix the sewers so raw sewage doesn't back up in their basement, give them a sidewalk, fix the potholes or do something about the abandoned house next to them. I found it remarkable that the Mayor had nothing to say about the 20% rate hike water users in the city are facing because the water company foolishly borrowed money using variable rate bonds that are now costing us over 9% in interest.

The Mayor assures us the city is safer today with him in charge of the police department, even without the 100 additional police officers you were promised as part of a $90 million, 65% increase in the local income tax. Hey, only 8 police officers are calling in sick on average during weekend duty. The number used to be 45 before Ballard took control of the police department he tells us. They had better be showing up for work. We are giving them back-to-back pay raises well above the rate of inflation, while most people are seeing their wages frozen or slashed. The Mayor is also very proud of the $5 million he passed out in crime prevention grants "to organizations fighting the good fight at the grassroots, neighborhood level." Sorry, I'll take my chances on the benefit of additional police officers over well-dressed ministers and career government grant seekers for my personal safety any day.

Addressing the infrastructure problem that has been ignored for too long is now a priority the mayor tells us. To address that problem, he has put a political science professor at IUPUI in charge. As a person with a political science degree, I can't recall any of my professors to whom I would turn for such a task. Again, it just reflects the failure of this administration to think outside the box on anything. Everything is approached as business as usual. Ballard intends to tap federal stimulus dollars to address some of those needs. While some high-dollar projects are focused on the federally-mandated sewage water collection and treatment improvements, many others are directed largely to the mile square area in an effort to "look our best" for the 2012 Super Bowl.

Overall, I would give this speech a D-minus. I'm just glad I didn't have to sit through it. Truly disappointing. What a difference a year makes. This guy has been transformed entirely from a modern-day Citizen Kane to just another politician whose decision-making is totally driven by the will of the same campaign contributors and elite insiders who have bled every last ounce of blood out of this city for their own benefit.


MissouriDemocrat said...

So he didn't mention his corrupt CIB appointments? No wonder since he passed up a wonderful opportunity to extol the virtues of our city by refusing an opportunity to visit with the President of the United States. When the President invites you to the White House you show your respect by attending. He is certainly a one termer.

Patriot Paul said...

The 4.5 million of taxpayer dollars for neighborhood groups for crime prevention should have a gps tracking device attached to every dollar. What are we really paying for? Church infrastructure for gyms for midnight basketball? How many updated musical instruments for church bands, fuel for buses to haul people to church; salaries to cover semi-absentee 'leaders' to supervise social events & pizza parties on the theory that it keeps youth off the street. And how much real tangible results are we to see from 4.5 million? Where are the receipts? This is an expensive piece of the crime puzzle if it effects nothing more than an annual shakedown from pregnant minorities about to give birth to more social sinkholes.

Secondly, a gps tracking device on every CIB and Development dollar would shock Hoosiers about the failed monetary and addicted Bond Bank borrowing with atrocious interests that citizens are forced to pay. Bad enough they semiannually blackmail residents' homes under threat of seizure for inability to pay property taxes, but giving it away for social activities is hardly giving Hoosiers a boost; but a boot.

M Theory said...

"The 4.5 million of taxpayer dollars for neighborhood groups for crime prevention should have a gps tracking device attached to every dollar."

THat's a great idea Paul. I'd also like a nanny cam in every government official's office.