Friday, November 2, 2012

Council Republicans - Its Obvious Now, They'll Never Stand Up To Vaughn

Mayor Ryan Vaughn has a bullying problem - and his cohorts on the Council have not taken him on, even when it means they cannot fulfill the job they were elected to do because of his vindictive vetoes of the Council-passed budget.

Much like a wife beater who blames their battered spouse, claiming he just wanted to 'have a conversation', Vaughn has lashed out at the Democrats, crippling the Council budget and that of every other duly elected Democrat in County government, but denying any responsibility for his outlandish, brutish actions.  According to his enablers, he was forced to do it because the Democrats would not talk with him and all he wants to do is 'have a conversation'.

The Republicans voted in lockstep on each and every vote last night to override Vaughn's vetoes of the budget (Councillors Scales, Gooden, and Freeman were absent).  If there were any time they should have stood up to Vaughn, it surely was when the vote was to override his veto of the Council's entire character 3 budget.  That is their budget.  I now have to give up hope that the Council will ever be more than an appendage of whoever is Mayor, not the independent body we should have.

Let's look at all the alternatives Vaughn had at his disposal.

1) Do nothing except use his soap box to cast derision upon the Democrat led Council.  He and his PR firm have been successful in getting the editorial writers at the Star and IBJ to denounce the Council's efforts to be circumspect and responsible in passing his TIF districts.  He has been successful in his behind the scenes blackmail and threats and pretending to share power with the greedy and ambitious.  But, that was not enough.  The Council had the audacity to disobey Vaughn.  They wanted a recruit class for IMPD and IFD - and they found a way to fund it.  They did not want to do as they were told and rejected the elimination of the homestead credit - a credit that the Republican controlled Council chose to fund with COIT money just three years ago, after the property tax caps were in full effect.  No, this was not an option for someone who will not be disobeyed.

2) Send down only the commentary on the $15 M PILOT that the Council required of the CIB.  This statement said that if the money were ever actually collected, Vaughn would veto any attempt to spend the funds.  This totally blocks the purpose of the PILOT, yet still leaves the door open for cooperation in the future.  Such a move would be enough if the aim were to have a balanced budget that worked for everyone in 2013.  That, however, was never the aim.

3) Send down the commentary on the PILOT and cut the Council budget by $652,654 in character 3.  The point in vetoing the Council budget is to keep the Council from introducing its own Council District maps and litigating those maps in court.  That amounts to $100,000.  That may be less than the raises Vaughn and his buddies on the 25th floor got, but it represents independent thinking and that shall not be tolerated in a Vaughn administration.  Gutting the ability of the Council to pay the rent, pay the light bill, hire attorneys or their CFO, or to even pay to put public notices in the paper as required by law will cripple the ability of duly elected officials, Republican and Democrat alike, to do their job.  President Maggie Lewis notes in a letter to constituents that this veto is "political bullying at work, not leadership".

4) None of these options being enough, Vaughn's next step would be to add the veto of the use of the money in the County General Fund for any County agency.  This is the big one - $31.8 million.  It cannot be said often enough that this is the part of the budget left untouched by the Council and it was pretty much what the introduced budget included.  At this point, logic left the building.  This is shear and naked vindictiveness.  Not that long ago, the County was under court order to bring its housing of inmates into line with human dignity.  Public safety is not just the cops on the streets, its the jail and the courts as well.  Job one in the Vaughn administration is not public safety, job one is not getting contradicted by the Council - and making sure they feel the pain if they get out of line.  Vaughn was a total coward when it came to cutting off the funding for the County agencies.  He is letting the DLGF decide exactly where those cuts will fall, instead of making those choices as part of his veto package.

5) And still - with the pain pushed to every corner of County government except those departments controlled by the Mayor's office - and still, this was not enough.  This last step was surely the most illuminating.  The Council had the temerity to create a subfund in the city's general fund that could only be used for police and fire recruiting and training. It was empty, but could be filled with any source of funds, including those from the $15 M CIB PILOT.  This fund caused no harm.  It was empty.  It would disappear without a fuss on December 31, 2013.  The existence of this fund, though, was more than Vaughn could stand.  It reeked of disobedience.  It had to go.

Vaughn is no longer an elected official, unlike the Councillors.  It is disheartening that those Councillors on the Republican side of the aisle would not tell Vaughn he had gone too far this time.  They enable the bully every time they acquiesce to his nasty machinations.

Instead they repeated all the falsehoods Vaughn is now trying to hide behind. 

Councillor Hunter said last night "I warned the Council the night this came up", referring to the police and fire recruit fund.

Councillor Pfisterer brought up the $35 m structural deficit not eliminating the homestead credit supposedly would cause through the end of 2014.  No alarms went out last year when the Republican controlled Council passed this year's budget using $40 m from the downtown TIF.  No alarms went out this year either, when another $10 m was pulled from the same source for next year.  And, it is factually inaccurate, to boot.  The Council's budget is as sound as the Mayor's introduced budget.  The fact of the matter is, that the recession will fade and the tax coffers will fill.  The income tax receipts are already rebounding and property values have stopped falling.  It is the Mayor's actions on TIFs that really jeopardize every taxing unit in Marion County and the services they provide.

Councillor Miller, who read a lengthy statement that demonstrates he understands exactly what is happening, bought into the idea that this is all about having a conversation.  He said "while I don't like coming to a conversation with a shotgun at my head, I have to agree that at this point a shotgun was the only way to get us to talk, and that's a shame".  That's simply not true, even though I think he believes it.  What exactly is to be discussed?  This budget process began back in August.  Plenty of time for discussion.  It was clear from the beginning that funding recruit classes was a priority of the Democrats - a goal Miller supported by the way.  Vaughn owns a phone.  Lewis owns a phone.  There could have been conversation.  These vetoes aren't about jump starting a conversation - they are about control.

I lost track of who repeated the thought that the appropriations remain, its just that the money won't be available to fund those appropriations for the County agencies.  That is clearly not true as the DLGF will insist on cutting appropriations so that the spending matches the funds available.  Whether they will wield an ax or a scalpel is unknown.

Vaughn's public display of temper will harm the Council, the County agencies, public safety, and the citizens of Indianapolis.  The least destructive road to travel at this point is for the Mayor's office to walk this back.  Allow the appropriations and funding to be reintroduced and not vetoed - and by January 1, 2013.  After that date the Council will not have the money to hold legally noticed meetings.  The shotgun Miller alludes to, is really aimed at forcing/blackmailing the Council into agreeing to raise taxes - likely in a few places besides the elimination of the homestead credit - and equally likely, pushing forward more of the Mayor's agenda.  Its not about the budget.  Its not about just wanting a conversation.  Its far more nefarious than that.  And the Council Republicans aided, abetted, and enabled Vaughn's vindictive and abusive ways.


Gary R. Welsh said...

The Feds should be following the money. This is all about Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers, a client of Ryan Vaughn's former employer. This budget crisis is being forced simply to make tens of millions more in subsidies available to Simon. It's extortion, and yes, it's a crime. This city is being held hostage for the benefit of Barnes & Thornburg and its client. This is worse than what Rod Blagojevich did in Illinois and it's being done in plain view with the complete blessing of our local news media. We are screwed until the prosecutor steps up to the plate and prosecutes public corruption in this god foresaken city.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Vaughn will make partner with all he is doing for B&T.

Paul K. Ogden said...

HEI, Vaughn ought to get that promise in writing from B&T.

I agree the feds need to be taking a look at what is going on in Indy, particularly what just made the news today.