Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Franchise Agreement For Blue Indy?

UPDATED: I'm not cracked up about this idea, but some council members are discussing the possibility of requiring Blue Indy to enter into a franchise agreement with the City of Indianapolis to convert their illegal use of public assets for the French-owned company's exclusive use into something that is legal. Franchise agreements were used for the two cable TV companies that were given exclusive territories to operate in the city in consideration for annual franchise fees that were paid to the city for a period of time. That arrangement made tens of millions for political insiders who were allowed to buy shares of stock in the two cable TV companies for nominal fees, which they later sold at grossly-appreciated prices. It is our suspicion that Mayor Greg Ballard entered into illegal agreements on bad terms for the public with both Blue Indy and Vision Fleet so political insiders could make tens of millions of dollars at our expense. At this point, the public has no idea who all owns a beneficial interest in either of these companies.

The Indianapolis Star's John Tuohy, who has not hid his disdain towards any council members or other public officials who have questioned the Blue Indy and Vision Fleet agreements, discusses the potential franchise agreement skeptically.
Some City-County Council members are threatening to unplug Mayor Greg Ballard’s prized BlueIndy electric car-share program before it even gets rolling.
Public Works Committee Chairman Zach Adamson said the Democrat-controlled council may require BlueIndy to register as a franchise and pay the city an annual fee. If it doesn’t, the city could tow BlueIndy’s cars from charging stations across the city — a direct attack on the outgoing Republican Ballard administration’s eco-friendly initiative.
The franchise agreement would give the city yearly revenue from the car rental service for the life of the venture. Maverick Republican council member Christine Scales also is pushing for the franchise fee, an approach that has been researched by the council’s chief financial officer, Bart Brown.
Both the mayor’s office and BlueIndy officials dismissed the feud as election-year politics. They contend BlueIndy received permits that exempt the car rental service from the need for a franchise agreement.
The franchise agreement would be similar to ones the city had until 10 years ago with cable television companies. The city was able to collect fees if companies were using city property to install long-term infrastructure, Brown said. BlueIndy is building 1,000 electric car chargers at 200 locations on public streets across the city.
“Those who want permanent structures for more than a year need to enter these agreements,” said Brown. The agreement could also mean public hearings where charging stations are planned. Many residents and businesses have complained the stations are hogging valuable parking spots and they had no say in their placement.
Brown said BlueIndy was, at first, considering going along with the agreement because it would mean the car-share program could proceed on schedule. But HervĂ© Muller, president of BlueIndy, said this week he wouldn’t be inclined to agree to it if it is proposed.
“At this moment, we have no specific knowledge of why such an additional franchise agreement would be needed, nor have we agreed to enter in such an agreement,” Muller said, insisting that the 15-year contract it signed with the city was valid. “From our standpoint, we have necessary authorization from the city to operate where we do.” . . .  
Ballard Deputy Chief of Staff David Rosenberg said BlueIndy, like hundreds of other businesses, received permits that exempted it from the parking code or the need to be franchised.
One variance was a right-of-way permit and one was an encroachment permit. Together, they let the cars stay parked and the chargers be built and are good for several years. Council approval isn’t needed for either permit, he said . . .
What we know is that the initial agreement was illegal on its face because it was not competitively bid. Mayor Greg Ballard has no legal authority to steal the most valuable public parking spaces across this city and give them to a company with whom he has a corrupt relationship for their exclusive, for-profit business use. Mayor Ballad has no legal authority to steal sidewalk space and give it to Blue Indy to operate their power charging stations, which are essentially being billed to the taxpayers either through fees passed on to us by IPL on our electric bills or by money he stole from the downtown TIF district for this purpose. He also does not have authority to unilaterally change no parking zones for Blue Indy's use. As I've said before, Mayor Ballard is Rod Blagojevich on steroids. He's committed more crimes than Blagojevich talked about doing, but this is Indianapolis where our public officials have a license to break any laws they want for purposes of making them and certain political insiders very rich at the public's expense because we have no federal or state prosecutors who will enforce our laws.

Under this illegal scheme concocted by our corrupt mayor, Blue Indy will have at least 500 of its electric cars parked in the most prime public parking spaces across the city with 1,000 power charging stations and 200 kiosks. The franchise agreement is being offered as a carrot and stick approach to forgive all of the laws the Ballard administration has broken to commit the City to this one-sided deal in exchange for some fee sharing agreement with the City. If Blue Indy turns down the proposal, the council members say Blue Indy cars parked in no parking zones like those spaces it currently occupy in downtown Indianapolis on Washington Street will be towed. Marion Co. Sheriff John Layton has apparently agreed to enforce the no parking zone law on the city's books so IMPD officers won't have to risk being fired by our corrupt mayor for enforcing the law.

When you talk to people outside Indianapolis, they are simply shocked by the illegal acts our public officials get by with committing. What's the point in limiting the municipal executive's powers if he can simply act as a dictator and do whatever he pleases without consequences? They are even more surprised at how the media treats these transgressions with kid gloves, or even worse as with the Indianapolis Star, actually defends the usurpation of power. I think we're rapidly approaching the point where members of the public will have to take matters into their own hands.  Clearly, the rule of law has completely broken down and our public officials feel undeterred in their efforts to break as many laws as possible and steal our public assets by the hundreds of millions of dollars.

UPDATE: It turns out there is a somewhat comparable situation from our not so distant past when the City of Indianapolis entered into a franchise agreement with Clarian Health to permit its use of the public right-of-way for building, maintaining and operating the people mover between Methodist and the IU Hospitals. That franchise agreement was subject to the approval of the City-County Council. It cost taxpayers nothing. Clarian received a non-exclusive use of the people mover; it was required to allow the public the same free access to its use that it provided to its own employees. The City-County Council reserved the right to terminate the franchise agreement in the future if Clarian failed to comply with its terms. If at any point it decides to charge fares for its use, those fares must be comparable to fares charged for other forms of public transportation, such as city buses. Clarian was required to hold public hearings regarding the placement of support columns and further approvals were required by the appropriate authorities for the design.

Hat tip to Councilor Christine Scales for bringing this to our attention.


Anonymous said...

What's going on with the Mayor's Cricket field?
Send them out on the east side, remember the taxpayers paid for that field!

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me that the Council is agreeable to making an illegal scheme legal and for the life of me I cannot understand why...Is this what career politicians do? Create illegal entities ad infinitum to financially benefit themselves and their cronies and then convert the illegal to the acceptable? For crying out loud, no matter how many excuses liberal Democrat Zach Adamson offers it is my opinion he is one of the weakest chain links we've had in a long, long time; Adamson flip flops on this illegal scheme like a minnow aflounder at creek side.


Anonymous said...

Charge Ballard with Felony Official Misconduct.

He had no authority to begin the Blue Indy or Indy Vision/Freedom Fleet contract in violation of state law and city ordinance.

He had no authority to take prime parking spaces for this waste. Nobody has used those POS vehicles that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will not allow on the public roads.

We need a Special Prosecutor!!!

Anonymous said...

I am beside myself that Christine Scales may be in favor of this franchise idea; it is bad public policy. I am not at all surprised that liberal Democrat Zach Adamson is one of the proponents of a scheme that will allow the illegal to become legal and continue an income stream to corruptocrats and possibly create new revenue streams for career politicians.

Gary, you are correct about the old Indianapolis Cablevision allowed connected politicos like Rex Early (was he on the Council at the time? I don't recall) to purchase stock in that early cable company and it allowed politicians to profit quite handsomely at the sale of that stock - in Rex's case and by his own admission- profit to the tune of almost one million dollars. As Rex Early wrote in his book about his huge windfall, it was a very good Christmas at the Early house. Don't believe me Zach...? It is in Rex's "thin pancake" book. Is that what you are doing, Democrat Zach Adamson? Creating potential money opps for career politicos to financially benefit even more at the taxpayer trough?? I don't mean to accuse but what the heck else are we Indy voters to think?

Geez, just damn sickening. No wonder the general populace holds politicians in such utterly low disregard.

Anonymous said...

The city county council should seek an injunction and a declaratory judgment. Let the Court determine which parts of the contract and permit process is improper and which can stand. All parties should agree time is of the essence. And based on the Court’s findings, let the ccc determine if it wants to enter into a new contract or franchise agreement. Its better to file now, before we get any further along. Get a couple of depositions taken to find out if Ballard will receive any kickback from his deal. And if the deal can be re-done on terms agreeable to the ccc, move forward. Otherwise, turn the charging stations into something usable by our electric car fleet and private party electric vehicles and drop the whole Blueindy crasher scheme. Its not too late to make this a deal that everybody likes. Just get a fair judge or arbitrator on board and get it done. Remember, this is about what’s right for the taxpayer.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Rex Early was the first to expose the cable TV franchise agreement kickback scheme in his book. He was not, however, a member of the city council that approved the agreement. The American Cablevision group included such names as Otto Frenzell III, Frank McKinney, Jr, Al Stokely, Julia Carson, Larry Buell, Bill Crawford, Jack Dillon, Mrs. Alex Clark, P.E. McAllister and Gene Sease. The other cable franchise competitor, American Cablevision Group, had its own set of civic leaders. It included folks like Tom Binford, Eddie French, Bob Borns, Dr. Frank Lloyd, Gordon St. Angelo, Glen Swisher and Dave Knall. Rex said he later sold his 11 shares for $80,000 a piece. He didn't say how much he paid for his shares, but I heard it was $1,000 per share. There were some people really pissed off at him for writing about it in his book. Not even the Pulliam-owned Star had written about it previously. I was told by a city council member that Beurt SerVaas is the one who brokered the agreement and insisted on the local ownership component. Names were circulated to the two cable TV franchisees who they needed to include in the local ownership component to win approval. The corrupt Evan Bayh-controlled Indiana Gaming Commission had a similar requirement for the issuance of the state's riverboat casino licenses. You didn't get a license unless you cut in the right local owners on the deal. Bayh's campaign reaped huge campaign payoffs for the scheme. The Republicans didn't complain because some of their people got in on the action as well.

Anonymous said...

It is, of course, possible to create a franchise agreement that actually does benefit the city, and not well situated individuals Corruption can exist within a legal framework, but it's not per se a requirement. One of the arguments that's been floated about digital billboards (and that's in no way to say it's the sole argument) has been that neither the current billboards, nor the immensely profitable alternative floated by the operators, generates much revenue for the city, but, assuming the other arguments against them could be reasonably resolved, it's pretty clear they could.

Flogger said...

I am thinking the "Franchise" approach, is method to get Blue Indy to ante up more money for the insiders. I am surprised Christine Scales would go for this. Why???

I seem to recall the Cable Franchise Fee or part of it was to fund a true "Public" channel station. The channel would function as an outlet for local individuals or groups to broadcast. Other cities as I understood it at the time had these "Public" Channels. My recollection and it maybe somewhat faulty is that Gold$mith Administration wanted no part of this.

According to the C.I.B 1998 financial statement: "During 1996, the City-County Council passed a resolution which amended its contracts with two cable franchise operators. Under the new contracts, the two cable operators must pay the C.I.B. a quarterly fee equal to fifty cents per monthly cable subscriber." ---- Further "During 1998 the C.I.B. paid $800,000 of the Cable Franchise revenue to the Pacers Basketball Corporation." "During 1999, the C.I.B paid $1,791,062 of the Cable Franchise revenue to the Pacers Basketball Corporation."

So do not be surprised if a "Franchise Agreement" with Blue Indy will be done deal, and fees find their way into the pockets of some quasi-government entity, or some non-profit controlled by insiders.

Christine Scales said...

Please do not believe everything that you read in The Star. I am by no means "pushing" for a franchise fee. The need for a franchise fee is something that will be discussed in upcoming meetings. It is only a starting off point of discussion as to ordinances which are currently not being honored and other legalities of the program which need airing. Blue Indy and the City believe they are in compliance with ordinances, others of us on Council disagree. It has not already been agreed that this is a fix for all the problems that comprise the Blue Indy contract entered into by the Administration.
Christine Scales

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:27 here, Gary. Thank you for your comments at 9:30 and the deeper background of the two cable "competitors". I couldn't recall all the "Pancake Book" particulars and I can sure see why the other Democrat and Republican career political crooks were angered that Early revealed their complicity in unethical and probably illegal profit off the Marion County people. I look at the listed group of so-called elites, the Democrat AND Republican crooks who engineered their way to "invest" and profit only by virtue of their political connections. The list of names you delineate is nothing less than a disgusting group of self-interested greedy Democrats AND Republicans who should be reviled for their purely self-interest at making money off public deals.

This Blue Indy BS is the same filthy deal... to make this illegal scheme legal is pure crap, Gary. Why the hell should I adhere to a speed limit or refrain from littering or refrain from lifting items out of a convenience store?

If this City Council legitimizes Greg Ballard's bastard known as Blue Indy I wonder why I should not be immediately institute my own quiet civil disobedience on any law or regulation I am able to get away breaking or bending. If Greg Ballard and the Council do not have to follow "law" then neither the hell do I.

Anonymous said...

To quote "Ballard Deputy Chief of Staff David Rosenberg said BlueIndy, like hundreds of other businesses, received permits that exempted it from the parking code or the need to be franchised. [QUESTION: WHAT KIND OF "PERMITS" WERE ISSUED, BY WHICH AGENCY, AND UNDER WHAT LEGAL AUTHORITY?] One variance (?) was a right-of-way permit and one was an encroachment permit. [ISSUED UNDER WHAT AUTHORITY, BY WHICH AGENCY?] Together, they let the cars stay parked and the chargers be built and are good for several years. Council approval isn’t needed for either permit, he said."

INDIANA CODE DOES NOT AGREE. Pursuant to Indiana Code 9-21, TRAFFIC REGULATION, specifically Ind. Code 9-21-1-2, Local authorities; adoption of additional regulations; conflict of law; fines; disbursement, "(a)... a local authority may adopt by ordinance additional traffic regulations with respect to highways under the authority's jurisdiction. An ordinance adopted under this subsection may not conflict with or duplicate a statute." Pursuant to Ind. Code 9-21-1-3 Powers of local authorities; effective date of ordinances, "a) A local authority, with respect to private roads and highways under the authority's jurisdiction, in accordance with sections 2 and 3.3(a){ordinance traffic regulations concerning the use of golf carts or off-road vehicles} of this chapter, and within the reasonable exercise of the [legislative City-County Council] police power, may do the following:
(1) Regulate the standing or parking of vehicles...

Revised Code of the Consolidated City and County Ordinances, including Chapter 621 Parking, Standing and Stopping Restricted, were adopted pursuant to statutory authority delegated to the legislative, not executive, bodies of local authorities. See generally Sec. 621-117. - Parking for longer than six hours restricted; Sec. 621-119. - Parking prohibited at all times in alleys and on narrow streets; Sec. 621-120. - Special parking privileges for certain persons or vehicles in certain locations; Sec. 621-121. - Parking prohibited at all times on certain streets; Sec. 621-122. - Stopping, standing or parking prohibited at all times on certain designated streets; Sec. 621-123. - Parking prohibited at all times on specified days; Sec. 621-124. - Parking prohibited during specified hours on certain days; Sec. 621-125. - Stopping, standing and parking prohibited at designated locations on certain days and hours; and Sec. 621-126. - Parking time restricted on designated days.

To repeat, Mayor Greg Ballard's Deputy Chief of Staff David Rosenberg said BlueIndy, like hundreds of other businesses, received Permits that exempted it from the parking code. I challenge the Ballard administration to produce copies of these hundreds of Permits, and to designate the legal authority under which these "Permits" were purportedly issued.

Anonymous said...

Councillor Scales, do you know the status of the Vision Fleet lawsuit?

Christine Scales said...

Anon 4:51- I do not at this time, but have many meetings scheduled early this week to discuss Vision Fleet and Blue Indy matters. Please contact me at if you would like further updates.