Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Public's Right To Know - Dragging The Superbowl Expenditures Out Into The Open

It is my contention that the public has an inherent right to know how much the Superbowl is costing us, and how the City's deal with the NFL is affecting our laws.  I now see the beginning of bipartisan movement within the Council to pull at least the costs out of the Ballard administration.  While more is needed, I'll give one big HOORAY ! to the Council for getting the ball rolling.

There were two proposals considered on Monday night that, together, illuminated the fact that its not just those of us accustomed to the cheap seats who do not know what is going on, but also the Council whose statutory role is to hold the purse strings.

First up was Prop 171 which both changed how previously appropriated Public Safety dollars could be spent and added new money to that budget.  Fellow blogger Gary Welsh has posted about the lack of toilet paper and other essentials in Public Safety offices (see "Life in Straubville" and "More On Life In Straubville"). 

The overall reasoning offered to the Council for the need to shuffle funds between categories of types of expenditures was this -  The usual pattern of expenditures for supplies is about $1.5 m a year.  Public Safety was allowed to ask for only about $800 k for supplies in last year's budget and "challenged to find operational efficiencies" with the understanding that they would then go back to the Council and shuffle those savings into the supplies category.  In addition, there is money in the federal law enforcement fund that has never been appropriated.

Now, I did attend those budget hearings and it was never disclosed aloud that such an agreement was working.  I don't know what the Councillors were told. 

They seem to have found "operational efficiencies" in personnel costs, as that is the only category from which money is being shuffled.  But, supplies is not the only category getting the newly allocated funds.  The category that includes outside contracts is actually getting more money from the combination of "operational efficiencies" and the federal law enforcement fund.  While $731,650 is now going into supplies, just over $2 million is going into the category of "Other Services and Charges", which includes professional contracts and outside consulting contracts and the like.  No explanation was given at the Council meeting for the need for beefing up that category.

During the explanation of all of this, it also came out, that the Department of Public Safety has already spent over $500,000 this year on expenses for the Superbowl.  During last year's budget hearings, absolutely no mention was made of the need for money for the Superbowl and it seems to have been news to the Councillors that the total was already so high.

The vote on Prop 171 was 20 yeas and 7 nays.  The yeas were Democrats Brown, Evans, B. Mahern, D. Mahern, Minton-McNeill, Oliver, joining Republicans Cain, Cardwell, Cockrum, Day, Freeman, Hunter, Malone, McHenry, McQuillen, Pfisterer, Rivera, Sandlin, Vaughn, and lone Libertarian Coleman.  The nays were Democrats Gray, Lewis, Manfield, Moriarty, Nytes, Sanders along with Republican Lutz.  Councillor Bateman was listed as "not voting" and Councillor Scales was absent all evening.

This leads to Proposal 188, the Superbowl Ordinance, and its discussion.  An amendment was offered by Councillor Brian Mahern to get an accounting of the City's costs for each civic event each year by May 1.  There was a gentleman's agreement that Council President, Ryan Vaughn, would ask that the accounting for actual and expected Superbowl expenditures be provided to the Council by November 1, 2011.  I think I heard that it would be offered at a public meeting.

The Mahern amendment was offered with the bipartisan support of the sponsor of the Superbowl Ordinance, Councillor Angel Rivera.

The vote on the Superbowl Ordinance, Prop 188, was 22 yeas and 5 nays.  The yea votes were cast by Republicans Cain, Cockrum, Day, Hunter, Malone, McHenry, McQuillen, Pfisterer, Rivera, Vaughn, along with Democrats Brown, Evans, Gray, Lewis, B. Mahern, D. Mahern, Mansfield, Minton-McNeill, Moriarty, Nytes, Oliver and Sanders.  The nay votes came from Republicans Cardwell, Freeman, Lutz, Sandlin joined by Libertarian Coleman.  Councillor Bateman was listed as "not voting" and Councillor Scales was absent all evening.

So, through all of this, we, the Citizens of Indianapolis, will be getting some advance knowledge on how much money has been spent and how much more is expected to be spent on the Superbowl by the City/County.  It may be worth it or not, but at least we will have the information upon which we can come to our conclusions.
We still do not have similar information regarding which of our laws will be avoided by the passage of the Superbowl Ordinance, and unfortunately, no real push evident on the part of the Council to get just such an accounting.  I'll continue to write on this blog about the effect of the illusive agreement between the City and the NFL, as I firmly believe that it is an inherent right of the public to know exactly what has been promised the NFL in return for their naming our City as the host of the 2012 Superbowl.
For now, though, it is a good sign that the Councillors are waking up to the fact that this Superbowl will actually have scarce City and County government dollars spent on it.  They are the fiscal body for the City and County and they are asserting that role - which is very good to see indeed.


Anonymous said...

The Council would have to be stupid not to know that the city would waste a lot of money on the SuperBowl, despite phony promises to the contrary - the 25 million supposedly pledged privately for the Superbowl Committee.

Had Enough Indy? said...

One relevant question is, has the host committee actually raised that $25-30 million that they promised? Or, are some of the city expenditures needed to fill their lack of success?