Friday, April 18, 2014

Will Passage of Prop 364 Give Monopoly To Smoke Detector Company?

Philosophically, how do you feel about a law being enacted that was written by a lobbyist in such a way as to award his client a virtual monopoly on their product?  Well, such a law may come to pass if Prop 364, 2013, is enacted by the Indianapolis-Marion County, City-County Council.

Wednesday night the Public Safety Committee will consider adding a few lines to our Ordinance regarding smoke detectors.  This is the second go-round for the Committee on this proposal; it having been sent back to committee at the urging of Committee Chair, Mary Moriarty Adams due to "new concerns [having] been raised by her colleagues". 

Prop 364 was written by Scott Chin, partner in Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, and registered lobbyist for United Technologies, Corp., parent company to Kidde.  Kidde designs and sells smoke detectors, among other things.  Kidde has thrown some high power at Prop 364.  In addition to Chin, other FBD Partners J. Murray Clark, Frederick (Chip) Garver, Mindy Westrick Brown, and Joseph Smith all registered to lobby the City for United Technologies in 2013 and 2014.  Only Smith registered to lobby for other clients.

The proposal would add the following language to Indianapolis' Ordinances:
If the smoke detector is solely powered by a battery, such battery shall be a non-removable, non-replaceable battery capable of powering the smoke detector for a minimum of 10 years. Smoke detectors and fire alarm devices that are connected to a panel as part of a monitored fire alarm system, or other devices that use a low-power radio frequency wireless communication signal are exempt from the battery requirements of this section.  (emphasis mine)
Kidde was granted US Patent 7,525,445 in 2009, and it would be valid until 2023.  It claims, in part, a battery that by design of the smoke detector, is not removable and not replaceable.

If the Council changed the language to "tamper resistant", other smoke detector manufacturers' products would fit the proposed ordinance.  If it dropped the extended battery life to 6 years, even more would qualify.

In an email to members of the Public Safety Committee, one apartment owner claims that a lawyer for local law firm called and said the manufacturer would provide free smoke detectors to any apartment company that supports Prop 364 and helps get it passed.

Kidde has given IFD free smoke detectors - a practice one hopes is not connected to passage of this ordinance.

Scanning a FEMA report on smoke detector laws in various states, one sees a number of fire safety laws that have been enacted in a goodly number of jurisdictions.

Is hard wiring, especially in new construction, being proposed here?  Nope.

Is the use of photovoltaic smoke detectors being proposed here?  Nope.  (By the way, you might want to watch this NBC News report before you purchase your next one.)

Is there a requirement for a 'hush' button, especially if the detector is installed in a kitchen?  Nope.

All there is in Prop 364 is what the lobbyist put there.

Beyond all this, there are other problems with Prop 364.  For instance, there is no easing into the implementation of this Ordinance. 

On July 1, 2014, precisely, the new law would take effect. 

You would have to replace all of your smoke detectors by then or be in violation.  Given that the cost of these extended life devices is greater than the basic one-year battery type, this can be hundreds of dollars. 

Apartment owners could have significant bills for new smoke detectors - an unplanned for 2014 expense that could be harmful to their business.

Not to mention there is no time for retailers to get the non-compliant brands off their shelves via sales.

The entire concept of an extended life battery is also open to debate.  Just go to your favorite online retailer and scan the reviews.  Certainly, paying more for a smoke detector with a claimed battery life of 10 years and getting only 2 months out of it would motivate you to write a negative review.  Still, there is no study that I could find that compares the claims with real world testing.

I have no objection to trying to improve our fire safety laws.  But, I would prefer changes that begin with those that would make the biggest difference first - like requiring hardwiring, photovoltaic and hush buttons.  Any of these are more important than requiring non-removable, non-replaceable, 10 year battery operated devices (made exclusively by Kidde).

[parts of this blog entry were published earlier today at Indiana ForeFront]

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yes Kids, TIF Bases Really Did Erode

I was pretty taken aback when alerted recently to a Twitter exchange between City-County Councillor Zach Adamson and Mayor Ballard's Chief of Staff, Ryan Vaughn.



Yes, Ryan Vaughn actually stated that "TIFs don't touch the base.  That's why it's called Tax 'Increment' Financing."

It is discouraging that someone so involved with spending our tax dollars, does not understand the difference between the promises made about TIFs and the reality.

The erosion of the base was so prevalent in Indiana, that two years ago the Legislature enacted changes in how the base is recalculated each year (the TIF neutralization). 

I have obtained all of these forms for all Marion County TIFs from 2008 to 2013.  Below I chart the increment and base for all TIFs whose base was not already zero in 2008.  I did not include 2013 data because they grouped the TIF numbers - for instance, all the component TIFs of the Consolidated Downtown TIF are no longer reported individually.  Suffice it to say, the new base recalculating method is most helpful in preserving the base.

Some notes to the graphs:
Assessments are done in one year, and the taxes are billed the following year on that assessment.  Thus, the x-axis reports time in the format of 2008pay2009.
The y-axis for the increment is on the left and increment is shown in red.
The y-axis for the base is on the right and base is shown in blue.

29 TIFs had non-zero base in 2008.

 
 
 
I think TIF 151 had a transcription error on the pay 2011 form
 
TIF 640 had been dormant before 2012, when it was reactivated.  The base was reconfigured at that point in time.
 

 


 
 
Regardless of what happened to the increment - rise or fall - the base always fell.  The combined erosion of the bases between 2008 and 2012 (not counting TIF 640 - the Dow Elanco TIF because its base was reconfigured during that period) amounted to $283,579,872.  The taxes on that eroded base did not continue to flow to the schools, libraries, or the city, as was promised.  Instead it went into the increment to fatten the TIF slush funds.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Follow the Money

A long time ago now, the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations began following the City's annual budget based on one proposition.  That proposition is that our elected officials can say lots of things, spin lots of yarns, and try to influence public impressions, but they will always put money into the things they feel are priorities regardless of what they say.

Today we sit with news reports of yet more MILLIONS of dollars going to the Pacers and their billionaire owners - voted on by the CIB prior to public disclosure of the actual deal agreement(read Gary Welch's excellent piece on Advance Indiana for more). 

Our elected officials are prepping us for goodly increases in income taxes to provide more cops on the street - while saying violent crime is actually down, its just shooter's aim that has improved.

Our elected officials will be looking to eliminate the local homestead credit - the third time for this push.

Our elected officials will look for a calm moment within which they can place the mass transit referendum on the ballot to raise taxes even more - and you just know that the light rail boondoggle will somehow be included once again.

But, where do we actually stand?  What priorities has Mayor Ballard-Vaughn actually placed on his spending of tax dollars?

Below are two charts comparing the actual budget numbers for some City Departments and Municipal Corporations for 2014.

First is a comparison of several Municipal Corporations as well as the collective revenue from Marion County's TIF districts.  The total budget for all Muni Corps is nearly that of the entire City-County budget ($955 M vs $1.0 B).


You will notice that our elected officials value sports as much as they value the current IndyGo and public Library combined.  The slush fund that TIFs provide, of course, also rivals the basic public service spending that I thought City government was supposed to provide.

The chart below compares spending on different departments included in the City's annual budget.  The Fire numbers include the fire budgets for the three Townships that still operate their own departments in addition to IFD's budget.  The Parks budget number shown below also includes money Ballard has moved into DPW's budget.  DPW's budget number has the Parks money removed.


Elected officials give a little more priority to police and fire than they do sports, but not substantially more.  Parks has been gutted by this Mayor.  In fact, Ballard-Vaughn's proposed RebuildIndy 2 program would spend just about as much on painting bike lanes as he budgeted for all parks in 2014.

When an elected official talks to you about his or her priorities, ask them how they are really spending our money.




Admin Approvals March 14 Through April 14

Here are the latest Administrator Approvals listed in the Citizen Access Portal on the DCE webpages.  There is now a description of the project involved with the administrator approval petition, which I am including below.  For further information, each petition number contains a hyperlink to the DCE record.

First, those shown as having been submitted - but for which no decision has been noted:
7200 N COLLEGE AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46240

3260 WESTLANE RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46268
Cluster Plan Approval - Subdivision to be know as Bentwood Springs
Proposed wrought iron (or similar material) gates with stone/masonry columns at the west pedestrian entrance of Park Tudor's campus off of Pennridge Drive, set back with campus approximately 9-10 feet from the east line of (vacated) Central Avenue, at existing concrete walk.

2014ADM027 -- elevations
6081 E 82ND ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46250

Approved 4/14/14
 
8220 TROTTER RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46113
Antenna and equipment upgrade on exisiting tower

6330 GUILFORD AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46220
Replacement of 3 antennas and addition of 3 modules to existing tower; addition of ground equipment

5444 BARKER LN
LAWRENCE IN 46236
Replacement of 3 antennas and related equipment to exisiting tower

Approved 4/11/14
 
7256 COMPANY DR
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46237
equipment upgrade cell antenna - existing tower

8421 MASTERS RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46250
equipment upgrade cell antenna - existing tower

8688 MADISON AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46227
equipment upgrade cell antenna - existing tower

5155 S EMERSON AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46237
Wireless communications facility antenna and equipment upgrade through replacement

1005 WESTERN DR
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46241
equipment upgrade cell antenna - existing tower

Approved 4/9/14
 
4515 LAKERIDGE DR
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46234
Change in window elevations approval for PK2 district.

Approved 4/7/14
 
7929 MICHIGAN RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46268
Approximately 218-square foot outdoor cat enclosure addition to existing building of the Humane Society

Approved 4/4/14
 
150 STEEPLES BLVD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46222
Approval of site plan for track and field and parking lot at Central State

4700 TODD RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46237
site plan, landscape plan and building elevation approval for assisted living facility.

4702 ROCKVILLE RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46222
Approval of site plans and elevations for a remodel to the Chuck Klein Park softball field and building.

965 E TROY AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46203
Approval of upgardes to an existing wireless tower

4700 ENGLISH AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46201
Sidewalk addition

Approved 4/2/14
 
4141 S EAST ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46227

2236 E 10TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46201
Approval of awning sign replacement for Soul Sisters' Comfort Food.

2014ADM050 - cell tower
8500 KEYSTONE CROSSING
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46240

Approved 3/28/14
 
8435 PENDLETON PIKE
LAWRENCE IN 46226

Approved 3/27/14
 
6231 N KEYSTONE AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46220

Approved 3/26/14
 
227 W MICHIGAN ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46204

5360 W 16TH ST
SPEEDWAY IN 46224

Approved 3/25/14
 
2119 N PARK AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46202

Approved 3/21/14
 
2700 S BELMONT AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46221

4650 W 86TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46268

Approved 3/20/14
 
6161 DECATUR BLVD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46241

Approved 3/18/14
 
6901 ZIONSVILLE RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46268

11725 FOX RD
LAWRENCE IN 46236

3636 E 38TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46218

Approved 3/17/14
2014ADM044
3360 W 30TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46222

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Expansion of Protection from Discharge of Weapons On Council Agenda Monday Night

Up for a vote at tomorrow night's City-County Council meeting will be Prop 6.  This proposal, introduced by Councillor Angela Mansfield yet again, would expand to all of Marion County, the prohibition on shooting off guns.  Mansfield added exceptions to the expansion for agriculture-zoned parcel of 10 acres or more, and for shooting ranges of various types.  It is already illegal to shoot off guns within the old City limits and within the excluded cities of Lawrence, Beech Grove and Speedway.

Curiously enough, it is also illegal outside the old City limits and this ordinance would actually carve out the exceptions noted above.  When the IMPD taxing district was expanded so the City could pull in more tax revenue from the outlying Townships, the ban on shooting off guns was also expanded.  Public Safety Director Troy Riggs unilaterally gave everyone outside the old City limits a pass on obeying the law.  I wonder how he gets such authority to decide which ordinances he will enforce and where.

It is well past time that this Ordinance applies to all of us equally.

It is no less startling and threatening to hear gunfire in the perimeter outside old Indy than it is to hear it inside.  Just because the probability of criminal intent is less, does not make it safer or of less concern for nearby residents.

Shooting in one's own backyard, with or with a target, with or without safety training, with or without the intent to intimidate ones neighbors, still can alarm, frighten, and cause concern to those neighbors.  I know from personal experience that when you hear gunfire you cannot assume it is of benign intent.  You cannot assume that errant aim will not harm you or your loved ones.

Hunters pursuing their hobby, sometimes illegally on others' property, don't always know the many directions that prey may take that also leads in a straight line to a house or playground. 

Bullets can travel 1 to 5 miles, depending upon the gun and other variables.  This substantial radius increases the need for Prop 6 to pass.

It is not enough that few people have been seriously injured by hunters and backyard shooters to keep Prop 6 from passing.  Everyone should have the right to enjoy their own property.  When the threat of guns going off keep you and your children from enjoying your own backyard, then the things have gone too far and need to be righted.  

At the Rule Committee meeting where Prop 6 was sent to the full Council by a vote of 4-2, Councillor Bob Lutz said that he generally supported Mansfield's efforts, but would vote against it lest someone take the issue to court based on his interpretation of the wording of a 2011 Indiana law keeping local government from passing any local laws impeding the right to own guns.  Council Attorney, Fred Biesecker, noted that the word 'discharge' of a weapon was deliberately removed from the Indiana law before its passage.  Noone has taken the ban on shooting off guns within the old City limits to Court, and the City has not removed that ban for fear of losing a potential lawsuit in that geography.  It seems like a straw dog to worry about possible legal challenge to a simple expansion of an existing law.

Councillor Christine Scales notes that some Councillors who advocate a 50 foot safety free zone to protect downtown-goers from panhandlers, apparently do not find protecting citizens from stray bullets of any concern.  Scales makes an excellent point.

Loud music from a neighbor can get the police to show up and restore the peace.  Firing off a gun, with its attendant alarm as well as its loud retort, should also elicit action by the police, not just a 'call us when someone is hurt' attitude.  Given Riggs' curious position regarding the enforcement of an existing ordinance, Prop 6 needs to pass so all of us can get the same protections.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

$160 M MORE to Pacers Over Next 10 Years - How Many Cops Would That Buy Us?

IndyStar reporter, Tony Cook, has a breaking story that the CIB and the Pacers have reached a deal.

The deal would keep the team in Indy for the next 10 years, for an additional $160 M over that time.

The CIB would own the scoreboard at the end of the term; a scoreboard likely in need of replacement by then.

Curiously, Cook reports that, "the deal sticks even if the Pacers begin to lose money."  It sounds as though they might be making money already, but the taxpayers who provide them with free room and board as well as all proceeds from all events at the taxpayer-owned Fieldhouse, don't get to peek at their books.

The hard hitting negotiators from the CIB also got the City first right to buy the Pacers team should Simon die and his lenders foreclose. 

Elected officials are on the stump as we speak, trying to gin up support for increased taxes to pay for more police.  Yet, they have endless millions to throw at billionaire team owners.

This is where the City officials' real priorities lie - with the frills over the fundamentals.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Administrator Approvals Last 30 Days - March 7 To April 7

Here are the latest Administrator Approvals listed in the Citizen Access Portal on the DCE webpages.  There is now a discription of the project involved with the ADM petition, which I am including below.  For further information, each petition number contains a hyperlink to the DCE record.

First, those shown as having been submitted - but for which no decision has been noted:

6905 W 46TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46254

2014ADM027 -- elevations
6081 E 82ND ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46250

Approved 4/4/14
2014ADM059
150 STEEPLES BLVD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46222
Approval of site plan for track and field and parking lot at Central State

4700 TODD RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46237
site plan, landscape plan and building elevation approval for assisted living facility.

4702 ROCKVILLE RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46222
Approval of site plans and elevations for a remodel to the Chuck Klein Park softball field and building.

965 E TROY AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46203
Approval of upgardes to an existing wireless tower

4700 ENGLISH AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46201
Sidewalk addition

Approved 4/2/14

2014ADM055
4141 S EAST ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46227

2236 E 10TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46201
Approval of awning sign replacement for Soul Sisters' Comfort Food.

2014ADM050 - cell tower
8500 KEYSTONE CROSSING
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46240

Approved 3/28/14

2014ADM052
8435 PENDLETON PIKE
LAWRENCE IN 46226

Approved 3/27/14

2014ADM036
6231 N KEYSTONE AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46220

Approved 3/26/14

2014ADM048
227 W MICHIGAN ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46204

5360 W 16TH ST
SPEEDWAY IN 46224

Approved 3/25/14

2014ADM049
2119 N PARK AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46202

Approved 3/21/14

2014ADM046
2700 S BELMONT AVE
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46221

4650 W 86TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46268

Approved 3/20/14

2014ADM040
6161 DECATUR BLVD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46241

Approved 3/18/14

2014ADM045
6901 ZIONSVILLE RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46268

11725 FOX RD
LAWRENCE IN 46236

3636 E 38TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46218

Approved 3/17/14

2014ADM044
3360 W 30TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46222

Approved 3/13/14

2014ADM037
5225 E 56TH ST
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46226

9487 BAY VISTA WDR
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46250

2014ADM039
9505 BAY VISTA WDR
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46250
 
Approved 3/11/14

2014ADM035 -- elevations
5303 STANLEY RD
INDIANAPOLIS IN 46241