Monday, August 18, 2014

If The Tea Party Still Exists, Would It Please Stand Up, Indianapolis Taxpayers Are Calling

Tonight our turncoat mayor will step before the Indianapolis City-County Council and present the latest budget proposal, lacking the transparency and honesty in budgeting he promised when he first ran for mayor in 2007. As evidence of how things have come full circle, the architects of his Democratic predecessor's financial mishandling of city-county government are now working hand-in-hand with Mayor Ballard to convince the City-County Council it should enact yet more income and property tax increases that will supposedly fund more police officers and a newly-introduced idea of requiring city-county government to fund early childhood education expenses that have never been the responsibility of our municipal government. Yes, Mike O'Connor, the former chief of staff to Mayor Bart Peterson who once referred to Ballard as an unqualified "jar head," has joined forces in his job as a lobbyist for Eli Lilly where our former mayor is now an executive vice-president to push for additional tax increases to fix the same problem his 65% increase in the local income tax failed to produce 7 years ago.

The big elephant in the room, however, is the construction of a more than half billion dollar criminal justice center that Ballard is secretly negotiating with the same architects of Long Beach, California's heavily-criticized 31-room courthouse project that will cost taxpayers there at least $2.5 billion over 35 years. Ballard is proposing a public-private partnership under which he makes an incredible claim that we can get a brand new courthouse for our criminal courts, a new jail, a new juvenile detention center and other new offices for criminal justice agencies without paying a dime more than the roughly $120 million the current facilities cost us to operate and maintain. It's a bargain that is equivalent to trading your $100,000 house in for a brand new $1 million house and not incurring a single dime in additional mortgage and maintenance costs. If you believe Ballard's incredible claim, I have a bridge to sell you.

Ballard tells us that the use of traditional capital financing for a new criminal justice center through the issuance of bonds will cost more than hiring a private operator to build, operate and maintain a criminal justice system to be leased back to us. Personally, I think it has everything to do with crony capitalism mixed in with as much non-transparent taxing and budgeting as possible. Indiana law requires "controlled projects" that local governments rely, at least in part, on property taxes to finance either through bonds or lease-back arrangements to be approved by voters if the project costs at least $12 million. The criminal justice center started out with proponents estimating its costs between $250 to $300 million. Those projected costs have ballooned to anywhere from $500 million to $635 million depending on who you ask.

Fellow blogger Pat Andrews makes the case that Indiana law requires this project to be subject to approval of Marion County voters through the referendum process that was enacted as part of the 2008 property tax reform law that capped property taxes, but the Ballard administration is moving forward with the project under the assumption it requires only council approval. It has already awarded over $12 million in no-bid contracts, which includes some contractors involved in the Long Beach, California courthouse boondoggle, without an appropriation in the current budget for such purposes and apparently in violation of Indiana's procurement laws.

To be sure, these folks get crafty when it comes to evading the spirit, if not the letter of the law. The City of Greenwood initially began undertaking a referendum project to build a new aquatics center that was expected to cost at least $12 million through the issuance of bonds that would be repaid with property taxes levied for that purpose. The city got around the direct referendum requirement by reducing the project's cost below $12 million. It avoided the possibility of a referendum initiated through the remonstrance process by tapping TIF funds used for economic development purposes, thereby evading the referendum requirement altogether.

Our library board's CEO, Jackie Nytes, a former City-County Councilor who helped craft past disastrous, anti-taxpayer budgets while on the council, is undertaking $53 million in capital projects this year that will be paid entirely with property taxes. As fellow blogger Pat Andrews notes, Nytes is doing an end-run around the referendum requirement by breaking down the $53 million in borrowed funds into 7 smaller projects. The library board still owes $68 million in bond debt, most of which is outstanding debt on the boondoggle Central Library building that resulted in a substantial increase in our local property taxes, a project originally undertaken when Nytes was the library board's chief financial officer.

The latest P3 project is just one in a string of costly initiatives pushed by this mayor and council that have cost taxpayers dearly, whether we're talking about the sale of the water and sewer utilities that have contributed to a more than tripling of bills over a period of years, or the sale of our parking meter assets that cost motorists three times as much in parking meter fees, while delivering hundreds of million in profits to the private operator over a 50-year period--returns that could have been retained by the City if we had installed our own electronic meters as cities across America have done. There's his poorly-executed plan to move the Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters, Fire Station 7 and the Firefighters Credit Union just so his pay-to-play contributors could redevelop a city block for their own profit-making purposes while saddling our already over-extended public safety budget with an unavoidable $50 million cost that is growing by the day as unanticipated problems with the move continue to pop up. And lest we forget his ill-fated decision to enter into a nearly $20 million, 25-year lease for the Regional Operations Center for a building owned by a campaign contributor that was totally unsuited for its intended purpose.

Our Republican mayor and all of the Republican council members except for Councilor Christine Scales have abandoned their pledge: not to raise taxes; to eliminate wasteful spending in the budget through a top-to-bottom audit, including the nearly $68 million a year spent on no-bid services contracts decried by candidate Ballard in 2007; and to conduct a budget process that is open, fair and transparent. They are now no different than the Democratic mayor and council members they condemned seven years ago when a budget was presented to the council that called for $90 million a year in new taxes at the same time the introduced budget ordinance was absent specific line item appropriations detailing how current and newly-raised taxes would be spent. Mayor Ballard is asking the council to sign a blank check to raise taxes yet again without offering any plan for how it is feasible to hire up to 200 additional police officers, fund a new $5 million a year pre-K education program and build a more than half billion dollar new criminal justice system. This is the same mayor who campaigned against that 65% increase in the income tax increase that resulted in fewer, not more police officers. Where's the outrage? Where's the Tea Party that successfully rallied local taxpayers to throw the bums out in 2007? An SOS is now being transmitted to you. Will you answer the call? Or will you let the whole sink ship like the Titanic.

UPDATE: In an act of complete disingenuousness, Mayor Ballard outlined a budget his administration is submitting to the council that excludes his plan to raise taxes to spend on public safety and early childhood education. Instead, he's proposing deep cuts in some agency's budgets, such as the Department of Public Works that is responsible for maintaining streets and sidewalks. In other words, he's telling the council it must approve the tax increases and add the numbers into his budget or he will veto whatever re-appropriating of revenues they do without enacting a tax increase. He's going to make the budget as painful as possible if he doesn't get what he wants.

The council meeting tonight is as disgusting as it comes. The same city-county councilors who have neglected to take care of the basic funding responsibilities for the city-county government while funding a half billion dollars in taxpayer giveaways for the private real estate development projects of their campaign contributors are now standing up and tooting their horns in support of Ballard's early childhood education program. Councilor Christine Scales is virtually the only member of the council who understands her legal duty and role as a councilor;  most of the rest are all about delivering speeches for their election campaign no matter how bad they sound in the process. If this isn't the worst city council in the state of Indiana, I would hate to see how bad the worst one is. What I know is that there is only one real Republican on the council; the rest are phony RINOS who need to have their butts kicked to the curb. If they're going to behave no differently than Democrats, what's the point in electing a Republican council member or Republican mayor?


Anonymous said...

They won't help. Tea-Partiers are just cop-loving, flag-waving, war-loving, Evangelical, troop-saluting, rule-following, big-government authoritarians.

They call themselves "pro-life," yet support every time the cops kill someone.

Unigov said...

The Tea Party in Indiana essentially doesn't exist. It's less organized than the Libertarian Party, which is saying a lot.

The criminal justice deal is a boondoggle, just like the monorail.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 10:29- You have absolutely no idea exactly what the Tea Party is, my friend, and that fact is obvious from the trite, misinformed hate you spew. You sound to be a close-minded liberal leftist Democrat (but I repeat myself) who would demand tolerance from all but who would consistently deny it of those with opinions other than your own.

The utter ignorance and mean-spiritedness of your comment is beyond the pale and deserves nothing more than contempt from clear thinking, honorable men and women.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I'm with Anon 12:05. Anon 10:09 obviously doesn't care that he completely mischaracterizes the Tea Party. It's not clear whether it's done out of ignorance or dishonesty.

Nonetheless, Gary is totally right that the Tea Party needs to be more active in Indianapolis politics given the looting of our tax dollars that is going on now.

Anonymous said...

12:05, if you're a Tea Partier, what's the platform?

Eight claims were made about the Tea Party. Which are untrue?

1. Does the Tea Party love police? Does the Tea Party believe that police are a good idea and that we are all freer and better off if each one of us submits to police authority so that police can direct us to the best and safest course?

2. Does the Tea Party love the flag and national symbolism? Does the Tea Party believe all persons are better off being instructed in national stories, slogans, songs and goals? Does the Tea Party believe in "American Exceptionalism?"

3. Does the Tea Party support the wars and our military efforts overseas? Does the tea Party support using the military to defend Israel? Does the Tea Party believe that military members should receive priority treatment at stores and restaurants and should be given priority boarding on airplanes?

4. Does the Tea Party support Evangelicals and the Evangelical view of the world? Does the Tea Party think Israel is a chosen nation and that Jews are "Chosen People?"

5. Does the Tea Party salute the troops and believe that public events should include a troop salute? Does the Tea Party think we are free because of the troops?

6. Does the Tea Party believe that it's good to have rules, and that it's better to follow a bad rule than for people to decide for themselves which rules ought to be followed?

7. Does the Tea Party believe in big government? Does the Tea Party oppose legalizing unregulated drugs, prostitution and gambling? Does the Tea Party believe that government only has permission to intrude upon any action that involuntarily harms another person?

8. Does the Tea Party believe that our safety and security is best secured by acting as a group, and that it's necessary for people to be part of the group for their own benefit and the benefit of the group? Does the Tea Party believe that we're all freer and better off if each person first considers how every action will impact the group before acting in self interest and that if self interest diverges from the group desire that one should suppress self-interest and obey the wishes of the group?

Anonymous said...

For Paul Ogden and 12:05, here's a story that just hit the wires:

I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.

Does the Tea Party believe this cop is mostly correct, or does the Tea Party believe the cop is cannot be more wrong and the cop's attitude is proof that the country needs a revolution?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anon 11:41/4:45/6:15 for proving my point at 12:05 and vindicating me completley. You sure do seem to come from a very unpleasant mindset and you place your mean-spiritedness here on display for all to plainly see.

Your questions are evidence that you are indeed from an extremist far left of center political point of view that is out of sync with the majority of Americans.

Thanks also for investing so much energy in drafting eight queries- 8!- that are inherently created to provide you with your unearned sense of moral superiority. Anyone also schooled in Test and Measurement would agree that each of your numerous questions are crafted in a duplicitous manner slanted against honest discussion.

Anonymous said...

Running away, 7:02?

Here I was so yearning to learn the Tea party platform.

Anonymous said...

Any search engine would can answer the query, "What is the platform of 'The Tea Party'?" Unless, of course, the goal really isn't edification but rather instigation...

Tea Party Movement Platform

Pete Boggs said...

Gary's right to pose the challenge or question. And, Anon10:29, 12:05 is wrong in their bigotry.

The establishment has revealed itself as the short change cashier; to whom any return is a "shame on me" proposition. The Greed Over Principle (GOP) establishment suffers from poor intellectual hygiene; unaware of its own smell. Disconnect with the party battered base is establishment made; a growing enthusiasm gap which ironically spells the end of the establishment...

Public sector misadventures in real estate & business development are shiny object distractions from their Constitutionally legitimate mission; public safety (~provide for common defense, etc.), that which is government's true & limited design.

It's been said that the contemporary Tea Party movement began here back in 2007; maybe so. It's at least fair to say that ours was an early incarnation; therefore now advanced, in its experience & disillusionment.

The Tea Party is focused on these issues of the status faux; unconstitutional, runaway, non-government. Gary & Paul are right however, there's work to be done- now.