Monday, June 13, 2011

Going For Broke - The Ballard Paradigm?

We all either know people who have done this, or are people who have done this.  People who bought more house than they could afford.  People who cranked their credit cards up to the max and then went out and got more credit cards.  People who, since the economic downturn, have felt the full force of debt on their shoulders.

The Ballard administration has all the markings of such folks.  But, they also appear not to care to alter their ways in face of the new economic realities.

They have sold assets that could have been a source of revenue for generations to come.  They have made sweetheart deals with well connected developers and companies where few of the plans' details work to the benefit of the public and the taxpayers.  They cursed the previous administration, then outdid it in debt creation.

Now, they are proposing four new TIF districts - with few details yet known.  They are only saying that these areas were chosen because they may be future transportation hubs.  They are proposing to extend the biotech corridor further west on 16th Street and turn old Bush Stadium into apartments - again few details yet known.  The City has been busy trying to woo neighbors onto their bandwagon.

It is possible that these projects are beneficial and should receive wide support.  But, given the Ballard administration's proclivity for withholding pertinent financial details from the Council, the MDC, and the public and given their seeming inability to craft deals that actually benefit the public, a wise approach is to wait and see what the details really are.

How big a catchment area will be needed for each TIF district?  What types of projects will be funded?  What other collateral will be needed besides future tax revenues to underpin any bonds?  Who will the developer be?  Are they campaign donors or well connected individual firms?  Why can't they fund their projects without public subsidies?  How will any projects act as catalysts for future, private, investment?  How many city services will be required for the new development areas and how will those extra expenses be paid for?  Will the creation of the TIF district include language limiting its future uses and set a date certain by which the TIF will be retired?  Could the City craft a TIF district whereby only City/County taxes are redirected and where ALL future taxes that normally would flow to schools and township government continue to do so?

And, last but not least --  How much debt is going to be generated?  How much debt do we already have in Marion County? 

I can tell you that every neighborhood in Marion County feels that they have been left behind.  One would assume that, should these areas actually become future transportation hubs, that change alone would spur private development without the prior assistance of public dollars. 

But, all in all, as we have see time and time again with this administration - the devil is in the details.  Details that they do not want to disclose yet.  So, we will wait and as firm information is available, it will be discussed in this blog and hopefully all across Marion County.


Nicolas Martin said...

Ballard and "people who bought more house than they could afford" are merely practitioners of Keynesian economics. It's not debt, it's "investment."

If people like the editor of this blog believe that bologna at the federal level, then why not at the local and personal levels?

Citizen Kane said...

Anything that any party does that has nothing to do with providing basic services is merely a transfer of wealth from the masses to a few.

These purported transportation hubs can not exist without even more massive transfers of wealth from the "unigoved" suburbs to these inner-city areas that are dependent upon local, state and federal funds (transfer of wealth) to create projects that do not address problems, only mask them and move them elsewhere.

People from every economic class continually come to the government for handouts - some are okay with crumbs, but a selected few hold out for the big paydays.

If these projects were so great and worthwhile, someone would build them, without subsidy. These areas were abandoned unfortunately because of perverse policies that encourage sprawl development and a transfer of development costs from the developers to the general public (Read the last two chapters of "How the Economy was Lost" by Paul Craig Roberts.

It is a big game whereby unless your a player, you automatically lose.