Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is There Enough Oxygen on the 25th Floor?

What's with the folks who reside on the 25th floor of the City-County Building? Mayor Greg Ballard's Office, by the way. Is there enough oxygen that high up? Maybe we should send in some testing equipment.

I tell you why I am concerned. Its that wacky, light-headed way they have for figuring out how to generate new revenues for our City. Well, that's the ideas that are generated on the 25th floor, not those thought up on the lower floors or, even better, outside the Building altogether.

Good idea : Raising fees to cover costs in the new Office of Code Enforcement (OCE). I actually support this effort. There was an analysis done to calculate cost of services performed and the fees were set to those calculated costs.

Bad idea : The Mayor not standing up to the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (GICC) and supporting the new Office of Code Enforcement THAT HE CREATED and which was always envisioned to be fee-supported. The introduction of this ordinance has been held up because GICC is supposedly worried about the cabbies. LOL !!!! Complaints about taxis are the number one category of complaints to public safety. Vehicles in poor condition, failure to speak English, refusal of credit cards, overcharging/surcharges, refusing short trip fares, lack of directional knowledge, illegal parking, unsafe driving, and failure to return lost goods are the topics of those complaints. According to OCE, IMPD and the hospitality industry cites cabs as a major downtown concern. Well you can't fix the problem with no money. Pretty simple.

Good idea : Raising fees to cover costs of zoning, variance, and related petitions in Current Planning of the Department of Metropolitan Development. Well, this one could have been funded in other ways. But, at budget time it was decided they would go fully fee funded just like OCE. Again, there was a cost of services analysis which was used to establish the individual fees. This new fee structure was approved by the Metropolitan Development Commission and the three Boards of Zoning Appeals after Councillor Lincoln Plowman and the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations spoke in favor. The Mayor sent nobody to support what HE DECIDED SHOULD HAPPEN.

Bad idea : Selling off parking meters and letting future downtown parkers pay exorbitant prices to park. Sounds like a sure fire way to get businesses who like having customers to move to the burbs. Idea generated on the 25th floor. See what I am saying? Paul Ogden over at Ogden on Politics has an entry on this proposal today.

Bad idea : Supporting a 35% hike in water rates so that you can build equity and privatize the company for an up front wad of dough. Water rates should be dependent upon the cost of delivery of said water. There should not be another increment to bankroll a privatization deal. Even if the expenditure of that wad of dough is on neighborhood infrastructure - which we really cannot count on. More likely the infrastructure in front of businesses will get the lion's share of any expenditures by this administration. All for the economic development thesis that spending tax money on businesses and granting abatements to businesses will, in some unspecified distant day, make Indianapolis better for its residents. I hope the IURC protects the water company customers from any portion of the rate hike that is not directly tied to the delivery of safe drinking water.

Bad idea : That wacky abatement deal with TM Miller Enterprises where the City would become owner of a downtown garage for more than it cost to buy that garage. Again the tag line is economic development. Again, an idea from the 25th floor. By the way, my recent inquiry for a copy of the deal came back with the response that the deal still is not finalized. Maybe there is hope for the 25th floor yet.

Bad idea : The latest loophole in the laws governing abatements seems to have been discovered - on the 25th floor !! The City has the legal right to grant abatements to businesses with the approval of the MDC, and in the cases of abatements in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Districts, with the additional consent of the City-County Council. When an abatement deal is constructed, the business agrees to certain jobs goals or investment dollars in return for the abatement. Should those jobs goals or investment dollars not be met, they have to give back a pro-rated share of the property tax dollars forgiven -- its called the 'claw-back clause'. Property tax dollars are distributed to the schools, the library, the City-County, and the Townships, etc., in proportion to their tax levies. The Schools get more than half and the City-County gets about a fifth. But, the 25th floor is claiming that when an abatement deal goes belly up, IT should get ALL of the money clawed back from the business. Now, it might be legal, but it ain't right. Furthermore, what ain't also right is giving that money to the Indianapolis Convention and Visitor's Association and the Indiana Economic Development, Inc., instead of fixing sidewalks and putting in sewers and any number of infrastructure improvements that are always in the 'some day when we have more money' category of City priorities. Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana has a blog entry on this issue today.

Funniest idea : You have to admit that the spectacle of KFC vs PETA both vying to advertise on IFD smoke detectors and fire extinguishers is classic urban theater. Got to love it !! I'll even give the 25th floor props for the levity generated for only $5000 in freebies.

So, another day and another wacky idea from our most powerful floor of the City-County Building. But, really, is there enough oxygen up there?

2 comments:

Indy Student said...

Pat,

While I see your point that fees for city-services that monitor businesses should be raised to support more quality control, there's two problems:

It's the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. These costs are either going to be passed right onto consumers, or at least affect them. If not higher prices, then less employees.

Also, why jump the fees so high so quickly? Why not just gradually up the fees over time, like it should've been done from the start?

As for the taxi concerns, I'd like to see some cold data on that. Indianapolis is a city that's very hard to get a cab, and also very expensive. The problems you mention in your post, I experienced at least 3 of those first hand in Chicago in a short 3 day trip.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Indy - I get what you are saying. But, most of the fee increases aren't that big when you consider the size of the job. Just sticking with cabs right now, its all of a dollar a day. Even if they only got one fare a day, its not going to stop people from using them.

I can see giving the license fee payers getting to make their normal fee in January and spreading the rest of the increase over the next 11 months. But, if the meter needs to be checked for accuracy, it take money to pay the gal or fellow who does the work to make that determination. Phasing in over 2 -3 years is actually compromising what can be inspected and what protection the public - living here and visiting - can expect from unscrupulous businesses.

As for Chicago.... I'm not sure that is the strongest part of your argument.