Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Marion County Democrats Fuming Over Democratic Councilors' Vote For Republican Re-Election Spending Plan

Last night's vote for the transfer of ownership of the water and sewer utilities paves the way literally for the largest public works spending program in Indianapolis history. Financed with double-digit rate increases for utility users and hundreds of millions in new borrowing, the City of Indianapolis will begin spending close to a half billion dollars next year paving streets, building sidewalks and whatever other public improvements Mayor Greg Ballard and the Republican-led council think will buy enough votes and pay off all of the city contractors who have been bankrolling Ballard's re-election campaign to keep them in power for another four years. While these types of big tax and spending plans are what we've come to expect of Democrats, the Republicans seem to forget how the rank and file members of their own party feel about such spending boondoggles.

Three Democrats, Jackie Nytes, Paul Bateman and Mary Moriarty Adams, all known for cutting backroom deals to feather their own nests, crossed party lines and supported the Republican vote-buying scheme, along with former Republican and now Libertarian Ed Coleman, who has proven to be the least effective member of the council repeatedly after bolting his party two years ago.

Despite the fact that what few Libertarians there are in the county mostly opposed the big spending and hidden tax plan, the party's chairman actually put out a press release backing Coleman's vote to the bewilderment of many Libertarians. “This was a complicated deal and an important vote. We know Councilor Coleman carefully reviewed the facts and came to his conclusion after significant deliberation,” says LPMC Chairman Timothy Maguire. “After weighing all the pros and cons, we feel that this was the right move for Indianapolis.” Maguire goes on to say the plan simply corrects a mistake the City made in purchasing the water company several years ago. He then continued, “There are aspects of the deal that we wish could have been different, but we cannot let perfect be the enemy of good." "The Mayor’s Office and the Council will now be sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars and must use these resources wisely." So much for the Libertarian Party being more than an a mere echo of the worst of what our two party system has to offer.

Marion Co. Democrats have made it be known the three might face challenges in next year's slating should they decide to seek re-election. "What does the future hold? ... It looks like as many as three Democratic City-County councillors -- Jackie Nytes, Mary Moriarty Adams and Paul Bateman -- could be siding with Mayor Greg Ballard when the council votes tonight on the mayor's ill-conceived plan to sell the city's water company to Citizens Energy Group," the Democratic Indianapolis Times blog wrote ahead of last night's vote. "It could make for an interesting party slating convention in February."

Jackie Nytes has other problems. She is administering federal funds on behalf of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation while participating in partisan politics in violation of the Little Hatch Act. Last year, Nytes' husband's business was awarded a lucrative printing contract from the cash-strapped parks department just weeks before she crossed party lines and supported the CIB tax, spend and borrow bailout plan. Ballard then awarded her CDC a million dollar grant less than two weeks after her vote. Adams is a county employee in the assessor's office and is married to a retired police officer. Her boss, Greg Bowes, is one of a number of Democrats vying to be appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to fill a vacant Marion County judge position. And Bateman is facing an investigation of whether he and others made off with more than a million dollars from a now-bankrupt nonprofit, the Russell Foundation. It's a pretty sorry lot that teamed up with the Republicans to pull off the biggest government scam in Marion County history for which Marion County residents will be paying the price for decades to come.


M Theory said...

I wrote to the Libertarians and explained I'm no longer with them and that they can consider me an Independent.

I will not be supporting Coleman's re-election either.

Downtown Indy said...

My question now is, what else can they sell off, refinance or borrow against for The Next Big Thing?

I fear we have arrived at Ponzi's Last Scheme and it's all going to come tumbling down very soon. (But not before the next election, of course.)

patriot paul said...

“There are aspects of the deal that we wish could have been different, but we cannot let perfect be the enemy of good."

What kind of rationalization is this?
What about principle being above politics? The LP boasts about voting your principles despite the prospect of losing because your vote stands for principle; not compromise. Perfection has never been part of anyone's argument or philosophy so to blurt a juxtaposition into the mix looks more of an excuse for voting for the lesser of evils; a concept we are repeatedly told by the LP is the default state of the Republican Party. I'm not going to fault anyone for their decision; I'm just bewildered by the local LP's justification by rationalization.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It only took a free dinner and few drinks to buy off the Libertarian Party's support. How sad.

M Theory said...

Gary? Who bought the LP dinner? Where was the dinner? When was the dinner?

I wrote to Ed Coleman last week to let him know that if he voted for this deal he would not have my support in his re-election. I told the LP leadership the same thing.

He then chided me for threatening him and told me that I didn't care about our "friendship". He then snottily told me that I would find out his vote when he made it and that his conscience was clear.

I thought the LP was all about transparency and openness. Yet, they met behind closed doors and talked about this deal and didn't make the rest of us privy to what was discussed.

I gave Ed Coleman the keys to the HFFT blog a long time ago to create a dialogue with the public about important matters before the council that affect us.

I felt that it would be a big plus for Ed's image with the people and go a long way toward helping his re-election for there would be a record of his position on important matters. I thought it would be a good thing if we had a very accessible city councilor.

Ed promised to blog and then did nothing. Never trust a person who doesn't own their words to you.

Never trust a councilor who won't tell a constituent how they are going to vote either. I never thought I would ever consider putting Libertarian's head in my yard of shame, but I'm there.

I guess I might not have minded so much if the LP had kept us in the loop with their thinking, but they didn't. This is the exact kind of thing we're supposed to fight against.

Our Libertarian councilor and the Libertarian leadership really failed the people.

And I'm sure I'm not the only support they lost today.

Marycatherine Barton said...

I completely share AI and HFFT's disgust. Thanks for explaining.

Sean Shepard said...

This was a "no win scenario" for Coleman I'm guessing.

A "no" vote suggests a belief that government should be in the monopoly water business.

A "yes" vote has the appearance of endorsing a deal that could have been better or more honestly/transparently promoted.

Politically, the smart thing would have been to abstain or be out of the chambers for this one. BUT, then you get blasted for missing an important vote.

I'm guessing that on balance it just came down to whether or not having the city run it or Citizen's run it was a better, closer to being privatized, arrangement. If Libertarians had more power and influence, obviously the whole deal could have been different and better addressed the concerns that I think all of us who pay attention had.

It's kind of like the consolidation stuff. Do you vote for (hopefully) less but more centralized government or for more, distributed government. It's a no win for people who desire smaller government, more local to the people.

Sometimes you're damned if you do, damned if you don't, eh?

Gary R. Welsh said...

That's a real cop out, Sean. You are really splitting hairs to suggest there is a real difference in the ownership of the water and sewer utilities being in the hands of Citizens Energy as opposed to the City. Both are nonprofits, and both are collectively owned by the residents of the City. This is simply a shell game to trick people into thinking they can have something for nothing. Oh, look, we can spend a half billion dollars on new infrastructure improvements and it will cost you a dime in higher taxes. You and I know that is complete bullshit. Whether we pay higher taxes or higher utility rates, the residents of Indianapolis will wind up paying for those infrastructure improvements. As Pat Andrews noted, it's a bunch of "Alice in Wonderland" crap.

dcrutch said...

The fundamental counter-Libertarian part some of us perceive is mixing fixing sidewalks with a change in water management. It's not that fixing sidewalks aren't needed. It's not that Citizens isn't potentially a good steward of our water as utility. It's mixing things that don't go together and asking us to trust government to do it well.

I don't remember trust in goverment being lower in my lifetime. We've been somewhat hoping, probably excessively, that Libertarians, associated with Constitutional adherence and budgetarial frugality, would be simple and staightforward instead on contributing to the perception of an eternal shell game going on.

I still look forward to alternative Libertarian candidates and will definitely vote for some of them. But, I disagree with Coleman's vote.

Sean Shepard said...

AI. What was the alternative? Don't have the money, power and influence to alter the deal. Don't believe a monopoly on the supply of water is a proper function of government and maybe do believe that Citizens could run it better than the City itself will or has?

Everybody acts as if there might not have been any agonizing over the right vote on this one and I've got to believe there was.

Sometimes it's worth giving people the benefit of the doubt and cutting them a little slack.

Honestly, I think if it had been my vote to cast it would have been a tough one to decide. I think dcrutch's previous comment makes a good point that, as with so many decisions/laws that government makes, it was mixing things that don't directly relate to each other.

The bottom line is "perfect cannot be the enemy of better". Lots of libertarians support, for example, the FairTax even though they might in principle oppose all manner of government theft. They perceive The FairTax as better than what we have now and a step in the right direction. It is the absolutists who would say that they cannot support something slightly better since it isn't 100% better.

Gary R. Welsh said...

First of all, Sean, the City should have been fixing the problems it had in paying exorbitant fees to Veolia to manage the water company that it had been so heavily criticized for failing to fix by the IURC. Instead, the City is leaving the water company strapped with that absurd contract and forcing it on Citizens Energy because Veolia has bought off so many of the politicians through their generosity to them. There are similar issues with the United Water operating agreement for the sewer system. What we've learned, if nothing else, is that Steve Goldsmith's privatization moves were largely a failure and resulted in no real savings to the taxpayers, but lots of high-paying jobs for insiders and lots of big contributions for the politicians. I believe Citizens can run the utilities more efficiently, but the City should have terminated those agreements instead of forcing them on Citizens, which I assure you will wind up in costly lawsuits with those operators trying to get rid of them when they discover how badly they are being raped by them.

Sean Shepard said...

AI. I agree very much with what you're saying there. I don't think anyone is happy with some of those contracts staying in place, I'm not sure why they are as part of this deal.

Where privatization often fails is when long-term monopoly arrangements or protections exist instead of opening things up to competition. Whether that be for support, management or contracted services or for the actual product itself.

M Theory said...

It sucks we're having this open dialogue now with the Libertarians AFTER the vote.

I set up a forum on HFFT for the dialogue to take place before the vote. Yet, Ed Coleman didn't honor his words to us to engage it.

In April 2009, Ed Coleman promised HFFT and the blogging community to open dialogue via the blog on important matters before the council.

"I personally plan to post once or twice a week. I will be posting on the big issues that pertain specifically to Indianapolis. I plan to keep you all informed on the goings on in the city council and provide my own take on each issue. I hope to get great feedback as I will be using your opinions and advice to help in my decision making process to help make Indy the great city that it can be."

He did not do that. I'd be far more forgiving if he had. This is likely the most important vote he would ever have to make.

Rather than owning his commitment to engage in written dialogue on the manner, he chose instead to ridicule me and my "shenanigans" in an email this morning.

In the email today, he proceeded to tell me he didn't know how he would vote until the council meeting.

Yet in an email from 7/21, he said he knew how he would vote and we would all find out on the day of the vote.

Coleman refused to say how he would vote, as if I and HFFT readers are not in the secret club and did not deserve to know ahead of time.

He then accused me of not being a "friend", as if I'm supposed to give him a pass on owning his words to HFFT readers because I've endured his extremely sexist and degrading off color jokes over cocktails too many times to count.

I can live with a politician voting their honest conscience. I cannot live with a politician lying to me about a matter as important as oppening a dialogue on a vote involing hundreds of millions of our dolars.

And I can't condone the LP for letting him get away with it.