Friday, October 29, 2010

The Act is Getting Old

Sometimes, when I go long between posts, it is because I have other things I must get done. Once in a while it is because I don't have anything to say. This time, it is because I have too much to say and needed to let things perk for a while.

I guess the core of it all is that I am so very disappointed in those Republican Councillors for whom I have some personal respect. Not that my opinion will carry any weight with them - or even should. But, with the exception of Councillor Christine Scales, the Rs have clearly demonstrated that they will get in line and do whatever their party leaders want them to do - regardless of what it means for their constituents, or for the City's welfare as a whole.

Last Monday night's vote on the CIB budget is just the latest in a string of truly bad decisions - all of which have just eeked by with the minimum of votes.

There was the vote last year, to approve the requisite zoning on 450 E. Market Street - that was the Council's only bite at the apple to shut down a plan by Mayor Ballard to spend $18 million on a garage that was only worth about half that, and give tens of millions of dollars of property to Tadd Miller Enterprises.

There was the hotel tax increase and the grant of permission for the CIB to take in a $27 million loan from the State - with no idea how they would be able to pay it back without raising yet another tax in 2012. Barnes & Thornburg lobbyists Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, who have insinuated themselves firmly in charge of the Mayor's office and now the Council, through Council President Ryan Vaughn, pushed all the levers to get their clients more money through the CIB. Hoteliers shamelessly hid behind the maids' skirts in order loosen the City's purse strings - then even more shamelessly, outsources the maids' jobs.

The sale of the sewer and water utilities had some bright spots. I think that Chris Cotterill tried to make as much information available as physically possible. Unlike others on the 25th and 23rd floors, he and Dave Sherman tried to sell the sale on the basis of facts and figures. Many people disagreed with them on the final decision - but it was an honest debate with honest differences of opinion.

The parking meter deal is cut from a very different cloth. What we are seeing now is a formula - make a PR push and keep to a script in order to sell the deal - but, make sure you do not share all of the relevant facts. We are seeing the very same thing with the North of South project.

But shades of this formula have been visible in the Council review of the CIB budget - particularly on the $10 million to be given to the Pacers in 2011, $8 million of which is from property taxes shuttled through to the CIB in a process that was the antithesis of transparency; it deliberately kept the deal from the light of day and any public scrutiny. There was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth and pseudo hard questions volleyed at the CIB representatives. All theater. And the act is getting old.

A friend of mine quipped, "Its amazing how much posturing can be done by a governing body with no spine."

Its all sad for Indianapolis. Lobbyists are in charge. Those folks elected to serve their constituents' interests, are instead serving their Party's interests. Its an abdication of their responsibility. And a mighty few are getting more and more wealthy because of that abdication. The bill keeps getting paid by the taxpayers and the ratepayers, and the bills will keep coming due for the next 50 years.

5 comments:

Advance Indiana said...

Pat, I totally agree with you except for your characterization of the transparency in the Citizens Energy deal. City officials were repeatedly questioned about the operating agreement with Veolia, particularly in light of the IURC's scathing rebuke of the company in its last rate decision, and how Citizens could ever expect to generate the kind of savings it was touting the deal would achieve if it had to shell out close to $50 million a year to Veolia to run the water company, as well as the separate operating contract with United Water for the sewer utility. We were repeatedly told the deal could not be broken because the break-up fee was too exorbitant. Compare that with the break-up fee the Simons would have to pay on the Conseco Fieldhouse lease and the administration's posturing on that--claiming the CIB really couldn't collect that big of a break-up, notwithstanding the clear language of the lease. Now we learn after the fact that it's no big deal for the city to pay $29 million to end an operating agreement the city arguably could have terminated for cause if you have checked out the class action lawsuit Stewart & Irwin has filed on behalf of the ratepayers, in addition to the IURC's rate decision. We have been totally hosed by Veolia, and now we are being forced to pay for the poor job the company has done running the water company.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Yes, this new development is very troubling. And it does cast a shadow on and call into question just how open the utility sale discussions were.

If there wasn't the string of deals that were just forced down everyone's throat, and which were so biased in there presentation to the public, then the Veolia contract might be chalked up to 'oops'. But, fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me.

Paul K. Ogden said...

HEI,

I agree with AI on the water deal. Sure they were at least providing the appearance of transparency, but it turns out they were hiding things, i.e. the plan to buy out Veolia.

On that deal, at the end of the day the problem is that the public is footing the bill to pay back a 30 year loan taken out by
Citizen's to finance improvements that might last 10 years at best. The whole sale from the public to the public was merely a way the Mayor could raise money for his re-election slush fund.

Otherwise, your post is spot on.

Anonymous said...

Had Enough Indy wrote:

Its all sad for Indianapolis. Lobbyists are in charge.
___________

It's sadder than that, I feel. When the Democrats had the Mayor's office and C-C Council, the thieves were in charge.

Where does a person turn? My impulse is to suggest we start with a new prosecutor who will aggressively go after pols who break the law. Brizzi has sure let everyone slide, both Dems and Repubs.

Citizen Kane said...

Modus Operandi

Put on "Dog and Pony Show."
Occasionally pretend to listen to the public - when pressure is mounting - otherwise ignore and marginalize.

Repeat and rinse.

And I agree wit the other posters that the Water Deal was cut out of the same cloth as every other deal, and I would add that I believe that is was far worse in its financial impact, due to the vast sums of money stolen from the future to fund largesse. The CIB, etc. has long ago stole its billion+ dollars to fund a recreation "bidness."