Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mahern Posts Letter To The Editor RE: Tully's Column

First, you have to know it is there, and then you still have a bit of poking around to find it online...  But, today's IndyStar has a letter to the editor penned by Councillor Brian Mahern in response to Matt Tully's recent column (see my take on the column in my last post, "You Can't Fix Willful Ignorance and Greed")

Here's Mahern's letter:
In his Dec. 21 column, Matt Tully sets out to examine possible threats to Indianapolis successfully competing with suburban counties for taxpaying residents. Instead of exploring possible solutions to the serious and vexing crime problem facing our city, Tully instead settles for a full-throated personal attack against me.
He accuses me of political partisanship and failing to offer alternatives to the Ballard administration’s policies and proposals with which I have I disagreed. The fact is I have raised legitimate concerns regarding tax increment financing economic development policies that I believe were overused by the last two Indianapolis mayors, one a Republican and one a Democrat. My concerns about TIF are echoed by fiscally conservative Republicans in Hamilton County.
Mayor Ballard proposed balancing the 2013 budget on the backs of homeowners by raising their property tax bills by more than $8 million, these being the very people Tully suggest we are in fierce competition with the suburbs for. I suggested instead that the Capital Improvement Board should finally pay something for the large amounts of public safety resources used during the conventions and Pacers and Colts games held in CIB facilities. That seemed only fair to me. In response, the CIB threated a lawsuit, citing it lacked money to share with the city, only to turn around and give yet another $10 million to the Pacers on top of the previous $33.5 million it forked over during the last four years.
It is not helpful to give short shrift to the crime problem in Indianapolis. We all need to thoughtfully discuss the impact of crime and the importance of public safety funding. My now months-old invitation to Tully to join me for a chat still stands. All he needs to do is pick up the phone and return my call.
Brian Mahern
City-County Councilman


Anonymous said...

I always love a little fiction with my coffee i the morning/Mahern honestly believe this stuff he is spewing. We all know this is not about him caring one iota about us, its all about him being the that will happen

Brian Mahern is all about Brian Maherm if he says anything else, its a lie. He wants to be the Mayor of our city, however.. politically, he has no relevance any longer and could not get elected to any position.

Now maybe the public is seeing what the Maherns are all about..OH, you might want to check up on what CCC member has received more TIFF related funding than another other member..IM sure you already now the answer to that question....

Had Enough Indy? said...

Mahern is right. Of course, that doesn't seem to matter per your comment.

From where I sit, that qualifies him to be considered for Mayor. And that makes him relevant. But, your logic appears bent in another direction.

Enjoy yourself, but it doesn't help our City to ignore that TIFs are costing all of us in higher taxes and fewer services for the money we contribute to the City, our schools, library, IndyGo, police, fire, etc.

And as far as who has 'received' more TIFF (sic) funding - you'd be way off if you say Mahern.

Outside of the implication being fundamentally flawed that any Councillor receives the funding, if one wants to look at TIF money per Council district, one would clearly have to look at 15, 19 and 22 - the Downtown TIF and the United/Airport TIF.

Anonymous said...

Still pretty much an Eddie Haskell moment - never wise to respond to stuff like this except by surrogates (such as yourself).. As for who should, or shouldn't be Mayor, this seems way, way too early to start that dance - the next Mayor is probably out there getting stuff done, not obstructing everything that's proposed to be done (assuming the next Mayor comes out of the Council).

As for TIF, the proof is always in the project. At the time, prior to the post 9/11 travel disaster, the airport TIF looked pretty good. Our downtown has developed with no small amount of government support, TIF included, and finding an urban planner who doesn't advocate creating an urban core that will attract post-university professionals is nearly impossible.

Had Enough Indy? said...

TIFs can be good. What we have here and now is that we just might have too many.

Add to that the fact that the new ones are taking money from already thriving areas to fund development that would happen anyway; clearly taking property taxes from services to spend on the well connected, not to spur development that would not happen without the TIF.

Thanks for bringing this back to the main topic - TIFs and how our City should use them so that we can avoid the problems that attend too many ill placed TIFS.

At some time, we need to retire the downtown TIF. Either it made us all rich,or it did not. But, to let it continue to be simply a slush fund for the Mayor is not in the best interest of our City. There is much more to Indy than downtown - young urban professionals notwithstanding.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Pat, Mahern speaks the truth and some people can't handle that. The attempt to tie TIFF spending inside a council district to an individual councilor (like that person has some control) is far-fetched to say the least. Regardless you can be against a policy and still not favor unilateral disarmanent from the benefits of that policy. For example, taking the homestead credit on my home doesn't mean I'm disqualified from arguing against the homestead credit as policy.

The fact that some people are screaming so loud is proof that they know Mahern's views are very popular. There trying to stigmatize him as being out of step when in fact probably 80% of those living here would agree with his views.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that we'll ever see the, or at least a, downtown TIF ever go away. The need to grow our downtown isn't going away.

To really benefit from a TIF, you do need some naturally occurring development. My example of that would be UNWA, where there was never any desire on the part of developers to be there, so we created a TIF that wasn't able to generate anything. If you have some demand, a TIF can accelerate development.

You do need something beyond just developers however. It helps to have substantial neighborhood involvement from folks with some understanding of development at the same time. That tends to help crwate things that work within the area.

Three areas that come to mind are,downtown, obviously, because Downtown Inc. has evolved into a neat organization. Another would be Irvington, and the third would be Midtown. You'll see some development in both of the last two anyway, because of some tremendous work done by local organizations, but TIF money can leverage what's naturally difficult for developers - infill development. Both also have some decent prospect of spilling over growth into older neighborhoods closer to downtown.

Had Enough Indy? said...

IDI, really???

Come on.

And you don't TIF well-to-do areas that already have development. That is the goal of a TIF, not the a priori requirement.

At some time, hopefully soon, downtown will fulfill the promises made year after year - and actually stop becoming a 'dead zone' always in need of more tax dollars, and become an are that contributes to the common good.

My how things have been turned on their heads with nary a proper blush on the faces of those that utter the new (false) paradigm.

Had Enough Indy? said...

For those unfamiliar with the UNWA TIF; a few details. It accumulates cash from taxes paid and does not float bonds using the flow of taxes as collateral. The accumulated funds can be applied to projects of interest, once there is enough money in the TIF fund.

This TIF has spent money in the UNWA area, as determined in cooperation with local neighborhood associations. However, the City also used UNWA funds to pay for development outside of UNWA - not in keeping with the setup of the TIF, to say the least.

In addition, active residents who surely should have been kept informed, were surprised to hear recently that over $3 million had accumulated in the TIF coffers.

To imply that this TIF somehow failed in its mission due to lack of developer interest misstates the facts about the UNWA TIF goals and does not mention how it has been misused by City officials. It has never had to be bailed out, as many other existing TIFs have. It has an engaged group of residents willing and able to make informed investment decisions that could help UNWA.

So, to pretend it is a poster child for a somehow failed TIF paradigm is disingenuous or uninformed.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I'm not sure there is a worse organization out there than IDI. If you're a downtown business and you want IDI to support you, you have to pay IDI. There's a term for that. IDI is not a "neat" organization. It is an organization that puts itself and its officers first, paying its executives ridiculous six figure salaries. There are other organizations out there that do what IDI is supposed to do and do it better. Yet they continue to a million dollars from the taxpayers every year. The City should defund IDI...immediately.

Anonymous said...

142 Is it just me or does anonymous(12:36pm, 1:15pm,4:33pm) sound an awful lot like Matt Tully.

Seriously, if Mahern is speaking out about new TIFs how does that make him a a TIF benificiary? Does anoymous have any facts to back up his claims or is he just anti-Mahern?

Anonymous said...

OK, so there are good Tif districts and bad ones. It seems doubtful that UNWA is a good one because it didn't build anything. Which TIF's are good, and which are bad, and why? If all TIF's are bad, is it because of Paul's argument that government shouldn't ever be involved in development, or just because at some theoretical tipping point there could be too many, since we'd be capturing all current AV growth? If it's the former, it's a reasonable philosophical position to take I suppose. If it's the latter, it's probably susceptible to some sort of calculation that keeps folks like Spalding (City Controller) up at night.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Where's the LIKE button. I want to LIKE Paul's comment about IDI. Right on the mark.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 8:59 - Excellent question. Not all TIFs are bad - they can and do good work. Some of our expectations may be too high. We may have too many of them if we want to maintain basic services at any high functioning level. And, we simply do not monitor them any more than one would monitor an artesian well - fully expecting all to be tomorrow as it is today.

The analogy with credit cards is pretty good. Each serves its own purpose and can make your life easier. Too much debt on any one card jeopardizes your ability to pay not only that debt, but the robbing peter to pay paul trick jeopardizes your ability overall. Plus your credit rating can take a hit with either too much debt or missed payments.

Look at TIFs through that lens and you see us robbing one TIF to pay for underperforming TIFS; robbing garage receipts, CBDG funds, and income tax revenues to pay for other underperforming TIFs; and, last but not least, raising countywide property taxes to supplement underperforming TIFs. Its like you having to get a second job, for goodness sake, in order to juggle your credit cards. And, while I'm at it, lets ask why we have to have $80 million sitting idle in a fund just to prop up our credit rating? Somebody needs to put two and two together and ask why we are forced to take that unusual step.

We have to discuss the possibility that these actions signal that we have a very real TIF problem. And, we have to be adult enough to discuss improving our financial wherewithal and, just maybe, cutting up a few of the cards/TIFs.

Long story short, we need to have an open, transparent, frequent analysis of each individual TIF as well as the aggregate TIFs. We need to stop pretending that TIFs can't become harmful to our City/County's economy and look our portfolio over with a cold, hard, analytical, eye. We need to fashion plans to work out the problems with underperforming TIFs, and formulate a plan to make sure we don't make so many TIFs that we degrade basic services below critical levels.

Anonymous said...

Pretty reasonable. I just don't know quite where to have the discussion. The TIF Commission, from a testimony standpoint, was wonderful. What the commission bore out, however, was a pretty obvious picture of what seems to be wrong with City Councils as a whole - about 95% of Councilors didn't understand much of what they were hearing, so kept grasping at fragments so as to try to fit sentences into a political discussion, and one that necessarily worsens when you have Council and administration from different parties. Brian, and I understand how much you like him, was no better or worse than the rest except that once he distilled a bit of it into politic speak, he was off and running.

I suppose the ideal would be to get the past 3-4 controllers together in a panel to talk about how they view TIF, but absent the politicians, at least current ones. The conversation might be over most of our heads, but they're the folks who worry about this stuff with a substantial amount of knowledge on the subject. The rest of us just worry, making us easy prey for politicians.

There might be too many TIF's, and there might be bad TIF's but there also might be room for more, better TIF's, but assuming a City Council is capable of figuring it out, no matter how much information you give them, is probably not realistic.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 10:27 - I have to say that Mahern does understand TIFs, and to quite a depth. He may be a lightening rod in Council internal politics, but he isn't just repeating phrases that he's heard. As for liking him, I have seen him on the right side of fiscal issues time after time for over 4 years now. He has earned my respect.

I think TIFs are important enough, rather their impact on our future economy is important enough, that folks like me have a responsibility to get the word out. The public at large is actually growing more and more interested in TIFs, and not just the ones who think they are financial windfalls and want one for themselves.

I believe that the jargon used in TIF discussions is the largest impediment to folks wanting to learn more about them. The concepts, however, aren't all that foreign.

The public at large is an important target audience for a TIF discussion. The Councillors aren't all that different from the public at large and as you raise the discussion among the public, the Councillors can learn the ins and outs as well. Certainly they have a responsibility to learn this stuff as they are the last hurdle to keeping TIFs under control. I have greater faith that they can learn it than I have faith they will want to be responsible in their actions regarding TIFs. And, that brings us back to the public at large. Public opinion is still important, even in Indianapolis.

Anonymous said...

wow, so when Mahern runs for mayor, I assume you are members of his steering committee brain trust. The $5.57 that he will be ale to raise will help out a lot

Oh Pat,,how about the Millions that Maherns district got in SB funds that were tied to TIFF projects,,you conveniently forgot about this millions.Lots of new pretty living accommodations over there these days.....

Continue on with your Makern love fest,its quite entertaining.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 2:47 - No sense letting facts get in the way of a good rant !

Flogger said...

I personally think this whole idea of "Down Town" is something that belongs to a bygone age. Down town was once a center for shopping and the finance industry.
I am old enough to recall going with my parents downtown to shop, and standing in awe at the Christmas decorations.

Downtown started it's quick decline with the Interstate Hwy system and the Post WW 2 housing boom in the suburbs by the baby boomers. Shopping Malls were built in the Suburbs. The Banks moved out to where the money was.

All these schemes of TIFs, direct and indirect tax subsidies is like trying to put smoke back in a bottle. The issue is the billions of dollars being spent to try and put the smoke back in.

We have long since past the point of the government trying to provide some seed money for down town.

Anonymous said...

The time for fundamental change has come. Glad at least Mahern as elected official sees this. Average tax paying residents have been getting the shaft and stuck with the bill for all the downtown handout to sports teams and businesses. Mahern is breath of fresh air in local politics finally. Downtown elites have the knives out for him.  Soon enough voters will hae their ballots out for him.

Anonymous said...

doj needs to end this drama.

Free lunch said...

TIF's are just another way to fund debt Ponzi schemes, with the downtown TIF being the most obvious and obnoxious example. Even after all of the subsidies, downtown is largely a joke - as was indicated before, downtowns are an anachronism that should not be propped up by the future taxes of our children and grandchildren, ad naseum.

Local governments need to focus on providing services - that's it. It makes no sense to even try to do these other so-called economic development strategies, when providing basic services proves to be so elusive.

Again, TIFS are just another method of issuing debt; I don't believe there are any good TIF's as they are just another method of transferring wealth from the many to the few.

Citizen Kane said...


Anonymous said...

We should so like arrest someone. We can figure out the charges later.