Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ketzenberger Doing The ICVA's Bidding; What Else Is New

Whenever any of the downtown elites want to peddle their latest propaganda on why the taxpayers at large should continue to subsidize a handful of businesses in the mile square, they can count on Star business columnist John Ketzenberger to do their bidding for them. A phone call is made, lunch plans are made at Palamino, a good time is had by all and then Ketzenberger goes back to the office and spits out the story that has just been spoon fed to him. Today, Ketzenberger explains to us why we have to spend more of our taxpayer dollars to promote the City as a convention destination:

In this era of renewed attention to the bottom line, Indianapolis has a chance to "make hay while it's raining."

That's the take of Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association spokesman Bill Benner. The city can shine in tough times. "I think Indianapolis, given its central location, is ideally situated to pitch business meetings in the most positive light," Benner said.

Dow's right about one thing: the importance of business meetings, both nationally and in Indianapolis. Of the $620 million spent here by visitors last year, $434 million was tied to business meetings . . .

This is not the time to cut back spending at the Convention & Visitors Association. The budget was trimmed by about $400,000 in 2008 and is flat this year.

Mayor Greg Ballard's administration is grappling with the two-fisted punch of an economic downturn and a huge shortfall in the Capital Improvement Board's budget. Much of the Convention & Visitors Association money flows through the CIB . . ,

More importantly, the city's just a little more than a year away from nearly doubling the size of the Indiana Convention Center and adding nearly 1,600 hotel rooms in the J.W. Marriott complex. As nice as it will be, that space won't sell itself.

The additional space means the number of meetings booked each year has to rise to 770 from 425 and the number of room-nights sold has to jump to 850,000 from 500,000 . . .

Don't we want to open the door when opportunity knocks?

The appropriate question is not whether "we want to open the door" but whether the businesses which have been handed this golden opportunity courtesy of the taxpayers of this community want to open that door. Hey, Ketz, did you forget about the more than $200 million taxpayers have invested in the convention center expansion? Or the $65 million taxpayers invested in the Marriott? Or how about the $20 million we plopped down on the Conrad Hilton? That's in addition to the tens of millions the CIB has appropriated to the ICVA over the last several years. I don't expect the taxpayers to pay for marketing my business, and I don't think it is fair that a handful of hotels which reap the vast majority of the benefit from the convention business expect us to pay to market their businesses. Every one of those convention hotels has a full-time staff whose job it is to market their hotels. Start selling. We've done our fair share, Ketz. Perhaps you should have lunch with an ordinary taxpayer every now and again to gain a better perspective.


Patriot Paul said...

Excellent post. The CIB is a misguided board and similar to the City Council, is ethically and business challenged. Sports is a non essential just as the Arts. There is a place for those in our society and should be expressed and publicly supported through private individuals and groups; not by forced taxpayer dollars. We don't need any more Ann Dancing signs or tire retread sculptures when people are loosing their jobs and their homes and the CIB makes atrocious business deals by amateurs getting into the corporate business world for the city instead of taking care of the city's taxpayers. The entire board needs dissolved, and it's about time someone asks the Star for a reality check. 2 thumbs up!

M Theory said...

John's wife was my sister Mindy's college roommate. I'd be happy to volunteer to be a taxpayer lunchmate to John.

M Theory said...

Check out this little gem of a video that a local citizen made. Coincidently he draws the same conclusion you do about Ketzenberger. He also exposes the CIB's handlers as nothing more than a way to enrich the elites at the expense of the taxpayers.

M Theory said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uBXk5dcc1s HERE'S THE VIDEO.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary, I think you're a little rough on John. I'm a friend of John's, and I think we might have had lunch a time or two discussing a possible story. But we didn't do Palomino. It was a Chinese restaurant and Working Man's Friend. I used to play baseball with John and know him fairly well. When I think of John K., I sure don't think of the sophisication of the Palomino...far from it. He's a burger and beer guy.

Wasn't the point of his article that IF you are going to invest so much money money on the convention center, don't neglect to invest the money needed to promote it so the place is filled?

It is sort of like spending $700 million on a retractable roof stadium and then not spending $500,000 on drainage so the roof can be left open most days. While I was against the stadium, once the decision was made, I would have been all for spending the $500,000 to have drainage. Now we have a retracable roof stadium that has to be closed 90% of the time.

I always thought John K. was pretty much a straight shooter. I think he's by far one of the most insightful members of the Indiana Week in Review. Then again, I don't care too much for those who just spit out the party line on the show...so that only leaves the three media types.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, No offense intended, but I think your judgment on Ketz is clouded by the nice column he wrote about you. Otherwise, I can make no sense of your conclusion, just like when you defended Cherish Pryor for introducing that terrible legislation to give two new board seats on the CIB to the hotel and convention industry. It made no sense.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Nah, Gary, the history is longer and deeper than that. I did just see the quote from a column of his about the development though. He was completely wrong about that. That there is no doubt about. I was just referring to the fact I think he's generally fair. Hey, it's the Star. Low espectations.