Monday, August 10, 2009

Who Needs Democrats When Republicans Act and Vote Like Them

Two years ago, a Democratic-controlled City-County Council approved a $90 million a year income tax increase on Marion County residents. With the exception of two Republican councilors, one who wasn't seeking re-election and another who lost re-election, all other Republicans on the council voted against higher taxes. As Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John said after that vote:

The councilors who supported this measure are assenting to the mayor's policy of spending first and asking questions later. There were many other ways to have funded this, especially if Peterson would work with the Legislature. This is another page in a sad chapter for Marion County.

At tonight's City-County Council meeting, we witnessed another sad chapter for Marion County. Except this time it was the Republican councilors, save one, who were writing this sad chapter. By a vote of 15-14, the council approved a $21 million a year tax, borrow and spend proposal to bail out the incompetent and grossly-mismanaged Capital Improvement Board so more of your taxpayer dollars can be given to the billionaire sports team owners and City-County Councilors can continue to receive all the free tickets, drinks and food to attend those events on your dime.

Despite all the promises and pledges tax activists heard over and over again from people like Greg Ballard, Kent Smith and other Republican council candidates during the 2007 tax revolution, only one of those councilors remained true to her word--Christine Scales. She was the lone Republican who voted against tonight's colossal public rip off. Republicans managed to buy off the vote of Democrat Jackie Nytes to make up the critical last vote needed for passage. Her community development corporation has been lavished with new grant money from the City, which should help secure her job as its executive director for the near term until she seeks a county-wide office, notwithstanding the clear violation of the Little Hatch Act her employment represents. Similarly, Nytes led the push for the 2007 tax increases. Her husband's printing company received sizable contracts from city-county agencies. Of course she insists there's no connection between the two.

The debate level was even lower than the public was served up during the 2007 tax increase vote before the council. A clueless Rules Committee Chairman, Bob Lutz, admitted he couldn't address the size of deficit the CIB faced if no tax increase passed and deferred to the council's fiscal adviser, Jim Steele. Astonishingly, Steele claimed there was no current deficit despite numerous reports of a 10-year running streak of deficits for the CIB. Throughout the year we've been repeatedly told the CIB was working to whittle down a $47 million deficit. The CIB claims it has cut at least $17 million from that deficit through cuts in its current budget. Steele suggested the structural deficit next year might be about $3.5 million. There were news reports that the CIB was claiming today its deficit might be as high as $60 million. Once again, the old adage that numbers never lie but liars always figure holds true.

CCC President Bob Cockrum and Lutz both agreed that this was not a permanent solution. "It's a 2-year patch," Cockrum said. The councilors would have you believe that this is a single tax increase that will be paid by mostly out-of-town visitors who stay at our hotels, but they admitted they have no plan for how the CIB plans to pay back $27 million in credit card borrowing the adoption of tonight's proposal will allow the CIB to undertake over the next three years.

Hearkening back to John's criticism that the Democrats in 2007 were spending first and asking questions later, Cockrum offered that the CIB would be required to begin new long-range reporting next year and that new members would be appointed to the Board next year. They agreed to proceed with Nytes' proposal to study the CIB's financial problems. Sadly, Councilor Lutz said, "It's the only idea." Councilor Benjamin Hunter called a vote for this tax, borrow and spend bailout plan a demonstration of "leadership" and "standing up." Huh? That's not the argument I recall Republicans making two years ago when they were urging councilors to vote against Mayor Peterson's tax increases.

Even more sad, the Republicans top two leaders, Bob Cockrum and Ryan Vaughn, blatantly violated the public trust by engaging in debate and participating in the vote on a matter in which the two have serious conflict of interest problems. Cockrum's son is an executive of White Lodging, the developer of the J.W. Marriott hotel that has already received and will receive tens of millions more in public funds as a result of tonight's action. Vaughn's law firm where he lobbies, Barnes & Thornburg, represents various Simon family interests. The firm has done work for the Pacers in the past. Of course, that didn't stop the firm's managing partner in Indianapolis, Bob Grand, from assuming the chairmanship of the CIB. But it's not like Vaughn had any choice. He sold his soul to the devil when he traded his council seat for a high-paying job at the firm. And don't count on the news media in this town to call out Vaughn and Cockrum like they did Monroe Gray two years ago. They're all in the tank on this bailout scheme.

So there you have it, folks. You thought you voted into office a fiscally-responsible Republican majority during the tax revolution in 2007. Instead, you got an echo of the eight years of Bart Peterson and a Democratic-led council. Let this serve as notice to the fourteen Republican councilors that we will never forget this vote tonight. And a huge thanks to Councilor Christine Scales for being the only stand up Republican on our City-County Council.


Downtown Indy said...

Lutz and Vaughn had me nearly apoplectic. Vaughn in particular angered me - regurgitating the 'think of the jobs we'll lose' nonsense.

They are banking on the absurd 'doesn't affect residents' fallacy sinking in to enough soft brains such that it doesn't come back to haunt them at reelection time. Sadly, that's probably what will occur.

I'd back the Council 100% on a tax increase, promise to the contrary notwithstanding - if - IF, it were because this was an unavoidable predicament which befell the CIB.

In actuality, it has been a manufactured crisis and it was engineered by the CIB so the only 'practical solution' was to raise taxes.

That, of course, is a euphemism for 'we don't have the backbone to stand up and fix the real problem' which is their inability to conduct a legitimate, sensible and fair-to-all contract negotiation.

As long as the council is gutless and unwilling to force accountability within the CIB (or some new incarnation of it) and as long as imposing yet another tax continues to be so easy for them to vote for, we'll always be paying for their irresponsible and reckless spending.

And now that the Council has played their hand, we can all eagerly await the Brothers' Grand and Levengood Fairy Tale entitled 'Long Range Plan.'

artfuggins said...

How about a little credit to the Dems who voted against it in agreement with your position?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Sorry, art. The Dems don't fool me. They were in on tonight's deal cooked up by the downtown elites. Nytes agreed to be the first vote to match a Republican defection. They had a couple of more in their pocket just like the Democrats did 2 years ago when Keller and Langforth crossed over to provide the votes needed for the passage of Peterson's tax increase. The downtown elites are celebrating tonight. They fooled some very stupid Republican councilors into ending their political careers tonight. They're most happy, though, that the vote sealed Ballard's fate as a one-term mayor. People have short memories. Scott Keller ran against Karen Horseman on a pledge not to raise taxes. He broke that promise on numerous occasions and then had the audacity to back the Democrat Bart Peterson for re-election. The voters in his district rejected him by a better than 2-1 margin at the same time they were voting for Ballard over Peterson. Some politicians will never learn.

artfuggins said...

At the same time, look for opposition to Jackie Nytes in the Dem primary....

Gary R. Welsh said...

From this month's website newsletter for Jackie Nytes' CDC, Mapleton Fall Creek:

Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation is chosen as a partner for Neighborhood Stabilization Plan Funds
“We set out to determine which community partners were best suited to help us transform entire sections of the city by making the most significant, immediate and positive impact with these funds,” said Mayor Ballard. “This is a great opportunity to bolster stabilization and revitalization efforts taking place throughout Indianapolis.” MFCDC will immediately begin a project development phase involving working with city staff and neighborhood stakeholders to address the following: Acquisition/Land Bank, Acquisition/Rehabilitation, Acquisition/New Construction, Demolition, Rental Development, Financing Mechanisms, and Administration.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I told my friends in federal law enforcement that federal funds would be used to fund this City's Ponzi scheme before it was all over. See what those federal funds can buy you?

Citizen Kane said...

The NSP program is just more of our tax money (from the printing press) down a rathole. But a bunch of architects, engineers, CDC racketeers and other non-profit "leaders" will rake in the dough.

jabberdoodle said...

Mapleton-Fall Creek needs massive investment, so lets not fault that area because of Nytes' vote last night. If selection of that CDC as one of the recipients of these funds was politically motivated, then its the first solid political performance Ballard has made. His usual bumbling ways are more likely than a slick payoff here.

Nytes voted aye because she wants more money to go to her friends downtown and isn't considering the issue in any real depth. Just like the Rs, save Scales, who say they bought into the end times for downtown scenario.

That said, nobody here is so naive as to think that, if the Ds were in the majority, the vote outcome would be any different. In 2013, when the Democrats have regained the Council, they will raise the two other taxes for the CIB and, should Vaughn get reelected, he'll be back up on his soapbox with the fife and drum corps ringing in his head, demonizing the Ds for their fiscal irresponsibility.

While I do hope there are political repercussions for the votes last night, it is the Indianapolis residents who will continue to pay the price for these kinds of priorities.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

I wonder how much time my Republican friends spent considering the following three things:
1) Earlier reports about how the CIB "subsidizes" hotel rooms for groups who complain about the high cost of conventions.
2) Local businesses who rent hotel rooms for out-of-town members, entertaining clients, etc.
That means LOCAL people will be paying the higher tax, NOT just tourists, like they want us to believe.
3) Highest hotel tax in US. Goes right along with Indiana being Number 1 in smoking, obesity, school drop-outs, foreclosures, bankruptcies, syphylis, etc.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Jabber, while what you say is true, that is true for almost all the Democrats, not just Nytes.
Nytes still would not have voted "yes" unless the Rs needed her vote to pass the tax increase.

It's nothing but pure politics. The Democrats know perfectly well this is a potent political issue. They were going to make sure it passed if the D's had to give the Rs 1, 2, or 3 votes. It's a much better issue for Ds in 2011 now that it passed.