The state legislature, which recently concluded its disaster of a session, can’t hide from the mess it left behind. Neither can the governor, even as he spends a few days traveling in China.
No, the damage done by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act lives on. And it’s costing Indiana in ways critical to its economy.
If you doubt that, consider a recent email Indiana State Fair Commission executive director Cindy Hoye sent to local convention, business, political and community leaders. In the email, Hoye noted with disappointment that Indianapolis recently lost out on a bid to become the 2018 and 2019 convention host for the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. That organization bills its massive four-day convention as the nation’s “largest event serving fairs, shows, exhibitions, and expositions.”
It’s the kind of event Downtown Indianapolis has been built on. The kind that brings the city a flood of visitors on expense accounts. The kind that fills restaurants, hotel rooms and museums. By all measures, it’s a great event. But it won’t be coming here. And neither will its 4,500 attendees or estimated $5 million in economic impact.
“The IAFE Board was presented pros and cons about each destination,” Hoye wrote. “RFRA was listed as a negative to choosing Indy and the IAFE Board voted to take their convention to San Antonio. … More work must continue.” . . .When Indianapolis loses out to another city for a convention, it's for one of three reasons: (1) the organization liked the amenities offered by the city it chose to host its convention better than what Indianapolis had to offer; (2) taking into account all factors, the host city chosen was a cheaper place to put on a convention; or (3) the preferred city offered better bribes to the organization to choose its city over competing cities. If Tully wants to do real reporting, he would investigate Visit Indy and the reputation it has nationally for its willingness to bribe convention planners using our tax dollars to choose Indianapolis over other cities. And while he's at it, he should start asking questions about why Leonard Hoops is making over $600,000 a year, along with other outrageous six-figure salaries paid to more than a half dozen other Visit Indy executives with our taxpayer dollars. Why is it Visit Indy is able to spend our taxpayer dollars buying off convention planners to host their conventions in Indianapolis? Would it be acceptable for lobbyists to do what Visit Indy does to lure conventions to convince lawmakers to vote for their special interests? Now there's a real story, Mr. Tully, not the manufactured stories your newspaper has become synonymous for publishing. There is not one organization that has turned Indianapolis down as a host city because of RFRA. That's a fact, and everything you hear to the contrary is a lie. Hoops, Hoye, Tully et al. know the truth, but the lie fits the agenda so let's go with it.