Friday, March 22, 2013

Mass Avenue Business Owners Fighting Economic Improvement District Designation

A number of prominent Mass Avenue business and properties owners have united to fight an effort by key members of the downtown mafia to force on them an Economic Improvement District ("EID") designation that would force them to pay additional properties taxes to pay for, as the name suggests, neighborhood economic development improvements. In a letter to neighborhood stakeholders, the business owners identify the Riley Area Development Corporation and Schmidt & Associates, a major pay-to-play contractor for the Ballard administration, as being the impetus behind the effort to impose the new property tax levy.

According to the letter, the business owners disagree with the EID proponents' view that Mass Avenue is in need of additional economic development efforts. "The main problem with the proposal for the proposal for the Mass Ave EID is that the economy in our neighborhood, by all accounts, seems to be doing extremely well," the letter reads. "As a result, the vast majority of property owners in our area opposed an EID."

In order to win EID designation, the proponents are required to obtain the support of the majority of property owners within the geographic area to be designated who represent at least 50% of the assessed value of property. The letter accuses RADC and Schmidt of continually redrawing the boundaries of the district "in order to reach that magical percentage." "In a recent act of desperation, they have proposed to exclude most residential properties and include non-profit organizations, which have never been required to pay property taxes." The letter complains that non-profit organizations, which don't pay property taxes, "will only pay a fraction of what other properties will pay in order to garner their support for the EID." It adds, "Their main reason for pursuing non-profits is to gain the assessed value of the Athenaeum Building and the Murat Center, both of which are owned by non-profit organizations and represent millions of dollars' worth of assessed value."

The business owners are concerned that by adding the non-profits to the mix, the proponents "may come dangerously close to achieving their goal" of creating the EID. The letter laments the fact that the proponents "have not publicly released any specific information on the use of funds generated by the EID." It warns stakeholders against allowing "a few people" to "control the proceeds of an EID." The downtown mafia wouldn't have it any other way. The Athenaeum Foundation's Board of Trustees is chaired by lobbyist Greg Hahn and vice-chaired by Schmidt & Associates' Wayne Schmidt. Schmidt's firm has designed some of the least imaginative buildings in downtown, including projects financed with your taxpayer dollars courtesy of the Ballard administration in consideration for all the campaign contributions Schmidt threw his way. Sarah Hemptead, also of Schmidt & Associates, is president of RADC.

Last year, Ballard appropriated an entire city-owned block in the 500 block of Mass Ave and gave it away to his pay-to-play buddies, along with $3 million, unnecessarily forcing a huge public expenditure to build an entirely new headquarters for the Indianapolis Fire Department, a new building for the city's busiest fire station and a new headquarters for the Firefighters Credit Union, all of which are being displaced, because nobody on the city council gives a damn. The new development in the 500 block naturally will be designed by Schmidt. Ballard also succeeded in gaining council approval to have the booming Mass Ave business district designated as a TIF area, removing millions of potential tax revenues from the reach of other taxing districts to pay for public safety services, schools, libraries and other essential services. Instead, those tax dollars will flow into a slush fund to be handed out as the mayor pleases to his campaign contributors for their private development projects.

The letter is signed by Bill Pritt, George Rubin, Elliott Levin, Tom and Sherry Battista, Margaret Young, Shawn Miller, Dan McMichael, Jim Brown, Mark Infault and Todd Maurer. The letter encourages Mass Avenue stakeholders to write their city-county councilor and urge him or her to vote against approval of the EID if the proponents succeed in gaining the support needed to put the proposal before the council for approval.


Had Enough Indy? said...

Good luck. These guys may very well be up the creek without a paddle. Greed, greed, and more greed. This will not improve anything but a couple of favorite people's bottom line.

How much longer does our community have to endure these pirates?

Unigov said...

Good grief...I'd never heard of this monstrosity called an "economic improvement district" the IC about it and tell me if this sounds "Soviet":

An "economic improvement board" ? Sounds spiffy ! Why rely on free enterprise and the marketplace, when anointed mandarins can guide the economy ?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I didn't mention it, but the Mass Ave business association is already getting money from a ticket tax they collect on events at the Murat and the Athenaeum's theater, and they collect annual dues from the business owners. The city set a horrible precedent when it leased Georgia Street to Downtown, Inc., along with a couple of million in start-up money. Now Downtown, Inc.'s focus is all on George Street so these people on Mass Ave want to have a similar big pot of money to do special events and gussy up the neighborhood with unnecessary acoutrements. They are essentially now wanting to tax these business owners to compete with the big public subsidy being provided to the businesses along Georgia Street.

Had Enough Indy? said...

How did they manage to collect a ticket tax???

Gary R. Welsh said...

I don't know. Good question.

Southsider said...

Looking forward to the planning of another sports facility for 2 swimming pools, so the city can land future USA Olympic Swimming Trials since the city lost out this time around, since our 2 facilities were either too big or too small.

IndyDem said...

Why do you keep generalizing the City Council? Saying things like "..because nobody on the city council gives a damn" is really frustrating for those that do and actively fight against these sour back room deals.

Citizen Kane said...

Who on the council is fighting? I can't think of more than two - maybe three people - not a significant number by any means.

Private business associations should improve their area - just like the Broad Ripple Village Association should have built and owned their own parking garage - if it was really needed instead of crying about it for two+ decades.

Anonymous said...

This is the most grossly misinterpreted assessment of EIDs I've ever read. This article misses the point of RADC developments, the work that Schmidt has done, and worst of all the benefits of EIDs. I recommend that anyone who reads this article disregard everything it says and do some basic research on EIDs before forming an opinion. For those finding less information on EIDs, try looking up Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) as they are called in most states.