Sunday, September 07, 2014

No More Whining From Carmel Council About Palladium Costs, Please

The Indianapolis Star has a story this morning about some Carmel city council members who are upset that the city is being billed for millions of dollars in ongoing maintenance and operating expenses for Carmel's Palladium that is run by the nonprofit Center for the Performing Arts on top of the $2.5 million annual grant city taxpayers are providing to support its ongoing operations. "'We just can't allow this', said [Luci] Snyder, who chairs the city's finance committee." "We already give them $2.5 million." Although the finance committee has signed off on all of the additional expenses to date, which includes things like stage expenses, audio/visual equipment and 40 new box seats for the concert hall, Snyder tells the Star that she plans to offer a motion to block payment of any additional expenditures but not any cuts in the annual operating grant. She and other complaining council members remind me of parents with a spoiled child who constantly utter empty threats.

The Palladium was originally built by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission using the city's TIF dollars that were supposed to be sufficient to cover all of that more than $200 million in debt the CRC ran up over a several year period that proved inadequate to the surprise of nobody who had their eyes open. The Carmel City Council sat on the sidelines for years and watched Mayor James Brainard enact his reckless spending to impress opinion writers on either coasts to take notice of his affluent suburban Indianapolis community for something other than a predominantly white city where the city's cops are renowned for pulling people over for driving while black. When the city council agreed to bail out the RDC by refinancing all of its debt and putting the city's property taxpayers on the hook to repay all of its debts, it effectively agreed it was going to hold city taxpayers responsible for ensuring that whatever these costly endeavors like the Palladium cost to maintain in the future, the bills would get paid. After all, it should have been abundantly clear to council members that there was absolutely no way the Palladium would ever generate sufficient revenues to cover ongoing maintenance and operating expenses, let alone the massive debt owed on it.

It's a bit like the Capital Improvement Board and Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis city leaders convinced foolish suburban county leaders to go along with raising taxes on food and beverage purchases by their residents, along with a similar new tax on Indianapolis residents, to pay to build a $750 million football stadium for the Colts despite the fact that it still owed almost all of the original principal on the RCA Dome built 20 years earlier with a food and beverage tax Mayor Bill Hudnut promised city taxpayers would go away once the stadium debt was paid off. After Lucas Oil was built, the Capital Improvement Board whined to state lawmakers and city council members about the lack of funding for what were supposedly about $20 million in annual maintenance and operating expenses for Lucas Oil until they agreed to enact a series of new local tax increases and state subsidies. Those ongoing expenses have included additional corporate suites and entertainment areas within the facility from which billionaire Colts owner Jim Irsay derives all of the financial benefit despite paying nothing to taxpayers for rent to use our publicly-built stadium.

It's amazing how our local city leaders find no limits on what they can find to spend on these trophy projects that are supposed to provide such enormous innate benefits that surpass any other purposes they are mandated by law to fund. These projects, we're always told, will generate spin-off revenues from the resulting economic development activity that never seems to show up in the general fund from which basic services are paid. When it comes to funding the basics, people have to beg and plead and are only offered more if they agree to pay higher taxes. Mayor Ballard and Mayor Brainard are both irresponsible servants when it come to administering our public tax dollars for sure, but it's the council members of both cities who are their enablers regardless of their willingness to accept responsibility.


Anonymous said...

Uh oh...I hear Carmel getting ready to ask Indy for our money. A "use tax" for heading north to use their arrogant facility.

Since little Jimmy Irsay can't comment on the Colts, maybe Brainard can recruit him to tweet about the Palladium.

Anonymous said...

Luci Snyder and the Carmel Council were asleep at the wheel for years in their front row dashboard seats; the Carmel councilors allowed Brainard to drive the town deeper and deeper in debt with his dubious "New Urbanism" projects. Snyder, whose background is residential and commercial real estate, wants Carmel voters to believe she and the Council have no culpability in what is obviously going to be a series of never ending pleas for tax increases.

They laughed and vilified John Acceturo in word and in print when he consistently raised the warning flags about the burden of debt Carmel citizens would face because of a negligent Council and a mayor's poor stewardship of public tax dollars.

Pete Boggs said...

Legoland is not a public sector responsibility- it's abuse of the public purse & trust. Economically speaking, a more apt name would be The Charadium.

The newly branded "Republican" way is monetized real time expansion of government through public debt, payable in the future.

Metaphorically, the absence of economically articulate leadership brings to mind a quote from Wimpy, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Flogger said...

All that money spent for a totally boring looking building from the outside. Cow Pie Brown the official color of Carmel.

I have never fallen for idea that Elected City Officials in Indianapolis, Carmel or the State are somehow snookered by slick talk, or masters of illusions selling the idea of self-generating supporting venues like Stadiums for the Pacers, Colts or the Palladium. They know exactly what they are doing. They are like Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes - "I know nothing."

The Star article could have went a step further and identified the companies who receive the contracts. Are they bid or no bid contracts?? Do these companies have any relation to elected officials - family or other wise?? Do these companies make political donations? If so to who?

I think of this public squabble as providing cover for certain elected politicians. Any revenue shortfalls will be covered. First though, they need to show a reluctance to do so. Then they can approve the funding.

Anonymous said...

Use tax? That's funny. Kind of like the commuter tax Indy wants from those who work in Indy but don't live there. Carmel will take care of itself. It'd be nice if Indy did the same w/out mortgaging all of its' assets and leaving the city a hollow shell.