Friday, January 27, 2012

Council To Meet Monday Night

The City County Council will meet this Monday night.  The big item for consideration is the extension of Indy's smoking ban (Prop 18).  But there are other proposals of interest.

There will also be the rare hearing of a zoning matter.  This is encapsulated in Prop 303, 2011.  This is petition 2011-CZN-825, which seeks to rezone 1.6 acres from medium intensity commercial uses (C-3) to mixed residential / commercial uses (C-2) to allow for construction of a multi-family building.  The address is 2855 N. Keystone.  Councillor Christine Scales has called the petition down.  It takes 18 votes to overturn a decision of the MDC.

Of the new proposals being introduced Monday night, one in particular caught my eye.  That is Prop 44, sponsored by Councillor Ben Hunter.  Prop 44 would change the ordinance governing the composition of Council Committees to add :
(c) Any councillor who is employed by another agency of local government, whose budgets or salaries are subject to action of the City-County Council, shall not be appointed to, or eligible to serve on any committee which regularly considers the budget or salaries of the agency which employes such councillor.

Prop 44 will be referred to the Rules Committee.

Fundamental Friday -- Barney Levengood of the CIB

This week's Fundy goes to Barney Levengood of the Capital Improvement Board.  Levengood is the Executive Director and runs the day to day operations for the Board.

Levengood is one of the best in providing public records upon request in a timely manner and without fanfare.  In fact, he is the only one that ever held a request of mine because the documents I wanted were still in negotiation.  Once signed, he forwarded them to me immediately without requiring me to submit a new request.

I often disagree with the policies and funding requests of the CIB, but the access that the public has to their documents is very much aligned with the spirit of open government - thanks in large degree to its Executive Director.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

IBJ Reports Mass Transit Bill Dead

The IBJ is reporting that the Mass Transit bill died in committee this morning by a vote of 11 - 10.

Here's their brief account:
A bill that could have led to a new mass-transit system in Indianapolis and surrounding counties failed in committee Thursday morning.

Ways and Means Committee members voted 11-10 against the bill.

The bill would have given local officials the authority to increase income taxes to pay for a new 10-year, $1.3 billion public transportation plan proposed by the Central Indiana Transit Task Force. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard had endorsed the plan.

But Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said the bill doesn't have the support needed to pass.

CIB To Alternate Use Of MSA Parking Lot With the NFL

The Capital Improvement Board gets to operate the two surface parking lots that now exist in the footprint of the old Market Square Arena (NE and SE corners of Market and Alabama).  They contract with Denison parking for the actual operations.  Back in 2008, the only year I have documentation of net proceeds, the CIB brought in $788,693.12, and that was considered a typical year.

During the Super Bowl festivities, the CIB will alternate when they and the NFL get use of the northern parking lot.  The NFL gets to charge whatever it feels and has the responsibility of paying for the operation of the lot during the times it is scheduled to oversee the lot.   I have uploaded the schedule to Google docs.  The rate column shows the price the CIB will charge when it is scheduled to operate the lot.  If xxxx appears in the rate column, it indicates a time scheduled for NFL operation of the lot.

Here's the general summary of the schedule for the northern MSA parking lot:

The CIB will operate the lot and charge its normal $6 all day parking rate on:
January 27 (Friday)   --  7 am - 4 pm only
January 30 (Monday)  through February 3 (Friday) schedule  --  7 am - 4 pm only
February 6 (Monday)   --  7 am - 4 pm

On Sunday February 5, the CIB will operate the lot from 2 am to 11 pm, charging $99 a day.

The NFL will operate the lot and charge what they like on:
January 27 (Friday) at  4 pm through January 30 (Monday)  at 7 am  [the entire weekend]
January 30 (Monday) through February 2 (Thursday)  --  4 pm - 11:59 pm only
February 3 (Friday) at 4pm through February 5 (Sunday) at 2 am [half the weekend]

In addition, the CIB will raise rates on the southern lot the weekend of the Superbowl, charging $199 for a weekend tailgate pass from February 3 (Friday) at 6 pm through February 6 (Monday) at 6 am.

Senator Steele Pulls SB244

Update for those following SB244, which would have granted an exclusion in Indiana lobbying reporting laws to three groups (see yesterday's post for particulars), was pulled from consideration.  Senator Brent Steele (District 44), one of the bills sponsors, announced the action yesterday afternoon.  This is a very good development and I certainly support Senator Steele's decision.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SB 244 - Creating A Run Around Indiana's Lobbying Laws

Indiana law currently requires that lobbyists register and report all gifts made to all Legislators and the Governor.  But, with the ink barely dry, exceptions are being considered by the General Assembly.  Here's how Scott Smith of the Kokomo Tribune frames the situation:

One of the cornerstones of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2010 ethics reform bill was a ban on lobbyist-funded, out-of-state travel for legislators.

As it turns out, the ban isn’t quite an iron-clad rule.

And two years after the bill’s passage, legislators are busy trying to carve out additional exemptions to the rules.

If lobbyists can’t directly pay for a state legislator to go on a junket, they have another option.

By simply paying for membership in a group like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which brings together corporate lobbyists and a host of conservative legislators at conferences around the country, the lobbyists get unfettered access to influential legislators.
But, we get ahead of ourselves.  Let's start at the beginning.  Here is what the Indiana Code currently says about lobbying, in part:
IC 2-7-1-10
"Lobbyist" Sec. 10. (a) "Lobbyist" means any person who:
(1) engages in lobbying; and
(2) in any registration year, receives or expends an aggregate of at least five hundred dollars ($500) in compensation or expenditures reportable under this article for lobbying, whether the compensation or expenditure is solely for lobbying or the lobbying is incidental to that individual's regular employment.
(b) The following are not considered lobbyists:
(1) A public employee or public official.
(2) The National Conference of State Legislatures.
(3) The National Conference of Insurance Legislators.
(4) The American Legislative Exchange Council.
(5) Women in Government.
(6) The Council of State Governments.
(7) The National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
(8) Any other national organization established for the education and support of legislative leadership, legislators, legislative staff, or related government employees.
It must be that the activities of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, the National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses, and the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders Association, are not clearly ones of education and thus exempt by # 8 of this definition.  These three groups are the subject of individualized legislation in the form of Senate Bill 244, which would codify their unique exemption status by naming them as groups who are not considered lobbyists.

So, who are these groups, how do they interact with our Legislators in particular, and where does the money come to support those interactions.

The CSF appears to be the parent of the NASC.  Their combined website is:   

CSF has several events each year, among which is an Annual Banquet and Auction fundraiser.  This was last held on September 14 with individual tickets going for $1000 or a table of 8 for $6000, but with two seats reserved for VIPS.  Got to wonder who the VIPs were and who paid for the seats.  That information I could not find.

But, they do list their 'partners' on the CSF website.  These include such notable hunting and fishing sportsmen's groups as Alergen, Bayer Cropscience, CONSOL Energy, Oracle, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, BP America, Inc., Chief Oil & Gas, The Coca-Cola Company, Lockheed Martin, Novartis, Sanofi Pasteur, United States Steel Corporation, Aflac, Capitol Hill Consulting Group, National Mining Association, and NASCAR.

The NASC lists as its 'partners', among others, Comcast, Shell Oil, Aflac, Daimler, Exxon Mobile, Rubber Manufacturer's Association, and America's Natural Gas Alliance.

The website also notes legislation they'd like to see enacted.  Here's just one and how they describe it (emphasis mine):
Voter Registration
Encouraging sportsmen’s involvement in the political process is an important method for preserving our outdoor heritage. Increased participation helps ensure that the sportsmen’s voice is heard, particularly though the ballot box, which also strengthens the sportsmen’s ability to collectively defeat anti-sportsmen groups. Facilitating voter registration for sportsmen at the time they purchase their sportsmen’s licenses is one way to increase the number of registered sportsmen voters.
By incorporating the views of our partners and other state legislators who have passed this legislation, we present the following language:
“Each application to obtain a resident hunting, fishing, or trapping license issued by the (Department of Natural Resources/State Wildlife Agency) and made by an applicant who is within six months of such applicant's eighteenth birthday or older shall also serve as an application for voter registration unless the applicant declines to register to vote through specific declination or by failing to sign the voter registration application. (The Board of Natural Resources/State Wildlife Agency) and the Secretary of State shall agree upon and design such procedures and forms as will be necessary to comply with this Code section, including without limitation procedures applicable to processing of applications received by persons approved as license agents for the (Department of Natural Resources).”

Points of Interest
It is the duty of each caucus leadership team to determine the best means of action in your respective state and modify the above language as necessary.

The issue was introduced at the inaugural NASC Annual Meeting in 2004 by a Georgia legislator and was issued as a NASC issue brief during the 2005 legislative session. Sportsmen’s caucuses in Florida and Georgia have passed similar legislation and attempts have been made in at least six other states.
Just in case you were ready to buy into their role in education of Legislators, let me also link you to two places where CSF posted a job opening this past year for a fundraiser.  In one place they described THEMSELVES as an "Advocacy, Environment" organization.  In the other they say :
The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, which coordinates interaction and idea exchange among federal and state legislators, sportsmen's groups, industry, and outdoor media to advance a pro-sportsmen's agenda in the U.S. Congress and state capitals, is seeking an Outreach Coordinator.
Clearly, the CSF and NASC are pushing for specific legislation and thus do not deserve an exemption from Indiana's lobbying laws.  They can also serve as a means to give their 'partners', current and future, a run around our laws by giving money to these groups and gaining face time with Legislators through the groups' events.

The State Agriculture and Rural Leaders group also has interesting 'partners' and educational methods.  The SARL website is  They have an Annual Summit where invited Legislators listen to briefings and then adopt Resolutions.  The Summit was just held on January 6-8 in our Nation's Capital. 

Summit 'Partners' include, among others, BASF, Biotechnology Industry Organizations, International Associations of Fairs and Expositions, Kraft Foods, Land-O-Lakes, and Wine America.  At least their partners are not so far afield from the organization's base as those of the CSF and NASC.

The topic of the first Plenary Session was "How state/provincial policy makers can support our producers and communities".  During the Summit, the gathering adopted 10 Resolutions.  Here is one, just selected solely on the basis of its brevity (emphasis in last paragraph is mine):
2012 Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit  
Resolution on Country of Origin Labeling

the State Ag and Rural Leaders, (SARL) is comprised of agriculture and rural leaders of state and provincial legislative bodies from the US and Canada; and

Whereas,the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation has been a source of trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada; and

Whereas, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that the means by which COOL was implemented is not consistent with U.S. trade obligations; and

Whereas, the strength of the U.S.-Canadian trade relationship has created jobs and financial growth in both countries; and now therefore be it

Resolved, that SARL encourages the U.S. to waive an appeal of the WTO Dispute Panel’s ruling on COOL and further encourages the United States Congress to make a legislative amendment that would bring COOL into conformity with the U.S. WTO obligations without hindering the ability of the United States to continue to implement COOL for informed consumer decisions.
That sounds more like suggesting specific legislation than education.  The very fact that Legislators attending the Annual Summit are the ones actively adopting the Resolutions is a bit much.  Again, this group should not be exempt from our lobbying laws.
As far as news from the media on SB244, I have only found previously cited article by Scott Smith of the Kokomo Tribune.

I had not heard of this bill until Saturday, when Julia Vaughn, Policy Director of Common Cause of Indiana, was a Guest Presenter at McANA meeting.  That meeting is being televised by Channel 16, and you can access it from their archives.  Scroll down to 'other meetings' and select Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations (Jan 21, 2012).

Vaughn provided me with this statement:
This bill would allow these groups, who appear to be funded by a diverse treasure trove of corporate and trade industry organizations, to fly Indiana legislators out-of-state for "educational" events where they will be greeted by the same lobbyists who are prohibited from funding out-of-state travel for legislators.  These exempted groups could provide a convenient way for big money special interests to avoid having to disclose their lobbying expenditures and get around the ban on lobbyist paid out of state travel.  It's a bill that weakens transparency and citizens should call their Senators ASAP and ask them to vote NO.        
You can find your Senator and their contact information here.

Lets not let them weaken the lobbying rules by, knowingly or not, putting in place a great runaround of the intent of our recently enacted lobbyist activities and gifting laws.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Readers Chime In With Super Bowl Costs Updates And More

Alert readers have added links and information to help us flesh out the costs to taxpayers for the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana to host the 2012 Super Bowl.  I simply have the best readers !  Thanks to all the Anonymi and those who have sent links through email.

The latest blog entry on this topic was posted a couple of days ago here (see "Super Bowl Costs FINALLY Beginning To Be Revealed") and just today Gary Welsh comments on an WRTV report that 7000 fewer seats are being added to LOS for the big game than originally planned (see "7,000 Fewer Tickets For Super Bowl Being Sold Than First Promoted" over at Advance Indiana).
Here's a round up of comments and email alerts that you might miss if you don't check old comment streams.
1) The free-to-ride IndyGo buses are being underwritten, at least in part, by corporate donations and some local visitor bureaus.  From Anonymous 2:26:
I believe bus service is being provided with corporate sponsorships and extra government funding. 
During the week of the Super Bowl, Monarch Beverage and World Class Beer will be sponsoring free shuttle buses that will run between downtown, Fountain Square and Mass Ave taking visitors to bars, restaurants and stores along the route. On that bus will be advertising for our “Drink Local” campaign along with a Twitter hashtag, #IndianaBeer. 
The Hancock County Visitors Bureau agreed to chip in $3,600 to fund the service.
The visitors bureau already is underwriting the $17,000 cost of bus service between Greenfield and downtown Indianapolis on Super Bowl weekend.
The first link leads to a website promoting Indiana Beers
During the week of the Super Bowl, Monarch Beverage and World Class Beer will be sponsoring free shuttle buses that will run between downtown, Fountain Square and Mass Ave taking visitors to bars, restaurants and stores along the route. On that bus will be advertising for our “Drink Local” campaign along with a Twitter hashtag, #IndianaBeer.
During Super Bowl week, we strongly encourage everyone to use the #IndianaBeer hashtag to get the word out about local beer and where it can be found anywhere that Super Bowl attendees might be drinking!
The 2nd link offered leads to a piece by Arika Herron of the Daily Reporter who writes:
Super Bowl visitors who stay in Hancock County in the days before the game will be able to ride a trolley to visit restaurants, shops and other attractions around town.
The trolley service will be a key connector between the hotel cluster near Interstate 70 and attractions that are farther away, such as downtown.
The Hancock County Visitors Bureau agreed to chip in $3,600 to fund the service.
The visitors bureau already is underwriting the $17,000 cost of bus service between Greenfield and downtown Indianapolis on Super Bowl weekend. 
2) Seems the LA Times is dissing the parking prices for the Super Bowl.  From Anonymous 2:30:
LA Newspaper Tells Readers To Stay Home 
$399 for Super Bowl parking? And still a 20-minute walk?  
Much of the blog entry cited, discusses a report by WTHR's Ricn Van Wyk:
Fans who don't even know which teams are playing in Super Bowl XLVI are already buying parking spaces.
Lots and garages are charging fans much more than usual on Super Bowl Sunday. A $6 space across from City Market will cost $99 on game day.
Denison has about 10,000 spaces available and figures the whole week of Super Bowl activities could be worth a million dollars in parking fees, depending on who is playing and if the cities are within driving distance of Indianapolis, Gould says.
A short distance from Lucas Oil Stadium, PanAm Plaza is charging $129, neighboring Union Station is charging $99 and a downtown garage $59.
The most expensive advertised parking spots - at $399 - are the furthest away. The family-owned TWAY company expects to make a little money from fans with big RVs and party plans.
3) The figures just released for the CIB loss and their contribution to the City for IMPD costs associated with the big game apparently are in flux.  From Anonymous 7:53:
Fox 59 is reporting that the NFL is actually reimbursing the city only $3.5 million instead of the $4.1 million the CIB is touting. Raising the the CIB's projected loss from $810,000 to $1.4 million.
It doesn't take much questioning to find that this event has been financially mismanaged from the very start.
Much like our $750 million white elephant gift to Jim Irsay.
I am starting to wonder if the true economic impact may be negative if this cold weather Superbowl (during a down economy) doesn't attract the projected 150,000 out-of-town visitors that CIB needs to get to a direct spending threshold of $150+ million.
The NFL shortfall comment is at end of the broadcast.
This public safety meeting also uncovered that security plans are still up in the air, two weeks before the event, and the police union wants overtime pay, while management is trying to keep cost down by adjusting shifts and eliminating vacation days.
The FOX59 video report by Aishah Hasnie mentions that IMPD has received the funds.  These funds were not appropriated for spending at budget time.  Once that step is taken, we will have an opportunity to see what the final numbers are for costs and CIB donations.
4) This nugget from Anonymous 12:00 is served best without an introduction:
The NFL has tentatively called a brief owners meeting for Feb. 2 in Indianapolis, three days before the Super Bowl to approve financing for the planned 49ers stadium, including providing up to $200 million in funding grants from the league.
Should Indianapolis feel like they got ripped off holding the bag on $750 million Lucas Oil Stadium with potential Superbowl hosting losses as a "reward"????
Heck, Irsay just got a NFL loan, not a grant.
The San Francisco Business Times reporter, Eric Young says:
The Niners appear to be getting ever closer to lining up funding for a new stadium in Santa Clara.
The SportsBusiness Journal reports that the NFL within three weeks could approve financing for the planned stadium, including providing up to $200 million in funding grants from the league.
 5) And last but not least, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, Gary Welsh's take on WRTV's report of 7000 fewer seats in LOS for the Super Bowl than originally expected.  From WRTV reporter Kenna Kooi:
Despite the simmering excitement surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl, NFL officials said Indianapolis will host the smallest championship game in 20 years.
In the buildup to Super Bowl 46, officials had considered adding extra seats at Lucas Oil Stadium, taking the total from 63,000 to 70,000 seats on Super Bowl Sunday, but officials have drastically reduced the addition down to 254. 
As Welsh rightly points out:
This is still going to be a big event for the city, but in comparison to the number of visitors who come here every year to attend the Indianapolis 500, it's a much smaller event. The Colts have had plenty of sold out games over the past several years that have drawn as many visitors downtown. Clearly, Super Bowl planners are banking on a whole lot of fans coming into town to experience the atmosphere of the big game, who don't have tickets to the event. Given the marketing campaign for the Super Bowl Village in Central Indiana, planners expect to draw most of those additional visitors from the local market.
That's it for the moment.  Thanks to all the eagle-eyed contributors to this blog for their comments and for going the extra mile to put more information into the hopper.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

HB1006 - Proposed Elimination of Certain Professional Licenses and Inspections

Its one thing to let Aunt Hilda put a bowl on your head and proceed to give you a hair cut.  Its quite another to trust her with a chemical peel.

And, if you can't trust Aunt Hilda, why would you trust a perfect stranger?  Well, for now at least, the State of Indiana requires appropriate training and professional conduct to gain and retain a cosmetology license.  The professionalism of the Indiana State Board of Cosmetology and the rules they promulgate to protect public safety may not be perfect, but it is far better than just taking your chances in Indiana.

There are those in the Statehouse that would prefer you take your chances.  They would prefer to give the impression that regulation and licensing of cosmetologists is just expensive assurance that you won't get an unflattering haircut.

Truth is, the Board of Cosmetology regulates the proper sanitation of instruments, appropriate training on the use of harsh and dangerous chemicals, the requirements for maintenance of safe equipment such as tanning beds and electrolysis needles and units, among other public safety and consumer protection issues.  Up front proper training at beauty colleges and ongoing inspections of salons and shops are essential elements for consumer protection, not from bad hair days, but from serious infection or injury.

Truth is, too, that the licensing fees collected for Cosmetologists bring in more revenue than it costs to inspect salons and beauty colleges.  According the fiscal impact analysis of HB1006 by the Indiana Legislative Services Agency, the state takes in $983,646 in Cosmetology license fees but spends $203,044 to administer the licenses, including conducting the inspections. 

HB1006 is authored by Representative David Wolkins. Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana reports that Rep. Wolkins has a pro-consumer voting record on legislation that group follows, of 25% over the last four years - with a high of 50% in 2010 and a low of 0% in 2011.   They say of their ratings in general, " We consider that 80% is a passing grade for the legislators, meaning that if their "Pro-Consumer Voting Percentage" is 80% or above, they are working to protect consumers in the State House. If their percentage is below 80%, they are not working to protect consumers."

HB1006 also seeks to deregulate professional licensing and minimal requirements for dietitians, hearing aid dealers, private investigators and security guards.

Some may be content to put their personal consumer safety in the hands of Aunt Hilda and Rep. Wolkins.  I, for one, am not.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Super Bowl Costs FINALLY Beginning To Be Revealed

Thanks to all of my alert readers who have sent me links to news items reporting that some of the costs of the Super Bowl are FINALLY being revealed.  So, lets move forward here by listing our references and listing the costs now being reported.  To put it into perspective, the 2012 Super Bowl bid was submitted in April, 2008, and its terms are what are falling out into public view just 19 days before the event.

Articles of interest used for this blog entry in the order I received the links from alert readers:
Scott Olson, IBJ,  1-16-12 -- "CIB expects to lose money during Super Bowl"
Jon Murray, IndyStar, 1-17-12 -- "Super Bowl 2012 will drop Capital Improvement Board for a loss"
Mike Corbin, WIBC, 12-21-11 -- "Super Bowl Host Committee Releases Final Numbers"

Let's start with the last one and the claims of the Host Committee CEO, Mark Miles.

He claims that the "they've raised and are investing $154 million for some 250 housing units as part of the Super Bowl Legacy Project."  Well, as I recall, federal funds coming to the City were the bulk of the money being invested in the near eastside neighborhood.  Those funds were augmented by the NFL, but a clear accounting of the exact dollar amounts supplied by taxpayers but not credited to them has not been forthcoming.  From what I have heard, the lion's share of the investment comes from the taxpayer, not the host committee or the NFL, yet they are the ones getting nearly all the credit.

Also claimed is that the Host Committee "has also raised close to $27 million, surpassing the $25 million goal needed to host the 2012 Super Bowl."  No mention what that money was spent on.

And finally, this nugget: "Committee officials also say the city has fixed the Pan Am Garage which has been plagued by structural and water issues."  I recall news accounts of the Department of Code Enforcement closing parts of the underground garage at Pan Am Plaza until repairs could be made.  I thought that the garage was owned by someone other than the City and our MDC gave Pan Am Plaza to the Indiana Sports Corporation years ago now.  I certainly hope that the implication that the City paid to fix the garage and shore up the Plaza is erroneous.

The two stories on the costs and revenues of the CIB have overlapping figures.

The CIB will lose $810,000

$4 m to the City to pay for police overtime
$2 m for CIB employee overtime and temp hires
$794,000 paid to State to be applied toward stadium and convention center debt

$2.4 m hotel tax from visitors - not NFL employees
$440,000 food and beverage taxes - but none from LOS or ICC
$100,000 car rental tax - but none from NFL employees
(figures above are from IBJ and total $2.94 m - Star reports total estimate of $3.1 m from these taxes)
$4.1 m from NFL for labor costs due to Super Bowl events

hotel tax
restaurant tax
fuel tax
car rental tax
admissions tax
Star reports that "State lawmakers exempted the NFL and its affiliates from paying nearly all state and local taxes in connection with the Super Bowl".

The NFL will get the food and beverage tax revenue for concessions sold inside LOS and ICC, instead of that money flowing to the CIB.

between $150 m and $300 m in direct spending by visitors

NFL gets proceeds from parking lots owned and operated by State and Local government entities - the full extent of this agreement has not yet been divulged
DPW, DCE, IMPD, IFD real costs associated with events - IMPD already spent at least $500,000 in 2011 in preparations and the City already spent $600,000 to provide free Wi-Fi in the mile square
Income lost to taxpayers in City's Georgia Street giveaway to Indianapolis Downtown Inc., not to mention loss of that entire asset which just saw $12 m taxpayer renovation (bipartisan vote of Council, by the way)
Cost to Indy-Go for free bus service for visitors

Ill-Composed Rules Committee To Hear Smoking Ban Proposal

Tonight's meeting of the Democrat-stuffed Rules committee (see "Democrat's Power Grab Belies Words Of Interest In Cooperation") will consider Councillor Mansfield's version of an extension of Indy's smoking ban, contained in Prop 18.  You will recall that Democrats killed a similar measure that was introduced late last year by then Council President Ryan Vaughn.  The difference, we are told, hinges on letting minors into private clubs that vote to keep smoking, but in a separate room.

Today's Indy Star has an editorial penned by Richard Feldman, M.D., who spoke somberly and pragmatically about passing what can be passed, even though glaringly flawed.

Now that the Ds can claim credit, their version will likely get enough votes to move to Mayor Ballard's desk.  The real question is, will it be in a form that he is likely to sign.  The Ds have squandered all moral high ground to challenge Ballard should he refrain from agreeing with the contents.

The Rules committee meets at 5:30 in the Public Assembly Room of the City-County Building.

Democrats' Power Grab Belies Words Of Interest In Cooperation

The Democrats, led by Councillor Vernon Brown and supported by Council President Maggie Lewis, have ignored the electorate and composed Council committees to the super advantage of the Democrats.

Reported last Thursday by the Indy Star's Jon Murray on his blog Deep Fried Politics, the Council's committee on committees voted to increase all committee memberships by one Democrat.   This gives the 'edge' to the Ds by 5 to 3.  This is in addition to the outrageous 6-2 composition of the Rules Committee that was sprung on the Rs during a scheduled recess of the first Council meeting of 2012.


Nobody pays attention to the vote in committees.  When someone does pay attention, it is just to note that a proposal got out of committee with a 'do-pass' recommendation.  So, when there is a party-line vote, which happens somewhat often, a proposal will either die in committee ('nough said) or it will move out of a committee with a 5-3 vote instead of a 4-3 vote.  Big deal.

Maybe its so that the Ds can make even 'more' money through extra per meeting monetary compensation.  Again, big deal.

The real cost is any high ground the Ds had coming into 2012 and split government.  It no longer exists.  The Democrats have, through their own actions, painted themselves as petty, power hungry, officeholders who put the party and the trappings of power over the people.

It is a sad day for the Democratic Party in Marion County, as our standard bearers prove themselves to be not ready for prime time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail

If you missed Ike Randolph's 'My View' letter to the editor in today's Indy Star, I recommend you go ahead and read it.
It set me about looking for the complete text of the letter and in that, I ran across this lengthy, but wonderful YouTube video.  It is an hour well spent.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Statehouse Considers Tighter Redevelopment Commission Debt Rules

Today's Star has posted a letter to the editor from former Carmel City Councilor, John Accetturo, regarding SB 25, which would provide oversight of Redevelopment Commissions (called the Metropolitan Development Commission here in Indy) when they determine to accumulate debt.  This would apply to TIF districts in particular, I should think.  I do not know of another means available for a Redevelopment Commission to go into debt.  If one of my fantastic readers can clarify, please add a comment.
Here is Mr. Accetturo's letter:
In Indiana, certain boards and commissions can create taxpayer debt without any legislative approval and accountability to the taxpayers. One of these is a city or county redevelopment commission. The majority of the members of these commissions are appointed by the executive and, unlike elected officials, are not accountable to voters.
The power to encumber future generations of Hoosiers with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt is enslaving and potentially destructive. Therefore, checks and balances need to be in place to ensure this authority is used responsibly and in the spirit of the law.
In 2010, an opinion of the Indiana Attorney General upheld the existing statute that provides that power to redevelopment commissions. This opinion has opened the door in several cities for redevelopment commissions to borrow millions without limitation or public scrutiny for projects that are questionably titled “redevelopment.” Default on payments by any redevelopment commission could have a devastating effect on debt rating and borrowing capability for all redevelopment commissions in Indiana.
Existing Indiana law grants too broad powers to local commissions to unilaterally create debt. We need to change the redevelopment commission law to protect taxpayers and development in Indiana. I believe that Senate Bill 25 will do that. It will protect the public interest of Indiana taxpayers from an executive who chooses to avoid the scrutiny and diligence embodied in constitutional checks and balances.
Redevelopment Commissions and other boards serve a purpose in municipal government. However, checks and balances need to be in place over them just like any other part of government.
Here is the digest of SB 025 (emphasis added and digest reformatted by me):
Redevelopment commissions and authorities.  
Provides that a redevelopment commission may not enter into any obligation payable from public funds without first obtaining the approval of the legislative or fiscal body of the unit. Provides an exception if the obligation is for the acquisition of real property and the payments are for three years or less or the purchase price is less than $5,000,000.  
Specifies that the approving ordinance or resolution must include certain items.  
Provides that a redevelopment commission and a department of redevelopment are subject to oversight by the legislative body of the unit, including review by the legislative body of annual budgets.  
Specifies that a redevelopment commission and a department of redevelopment are subject to the same laws, rules, and ordinances of a general nature that apply to all other commissions or departments of the unit.  
Specifies that a redevelopment commission, a department of redevelopment, and a redevelopment authority are subject to audit by the state board of accounts and covered by the public meeting and public records laws.  
Requires a redevelopment commission to provide to the legislative body of the unit at a public meeting all the information supporting the action the redevelopment commission proposes to take regarding the sale, transfer, or other disposition of property.  
Provides that if the amount of excess assessed value determined by the commission is expected to generate more than 200% of the amount of allocated tax proceeds necessary to carry out the commission's plan, the determination of the amount of the excess available to other taxing units must be approved by the legislative body of the unit.
Permits the legislative body of the unit to modify the commission's determination
One item in particular jumps out  to me in this list of improvements to the law, and that is the review of the redevelopment commission's budget by the legislative body.  In Indy those would be the MDC and the City-County Council, respectively.  During the time of the infamous 'interlocal agreement' between the MDC and the CIB that gave the CIB $8 million annually from property taxes gathered in the Consolidated Downtown TIF District, which the CIB in turn gave to the Pacers, the City-Council ducked its responsibility to review that agreement, saying it was not the fiscal body for the CIB or the MDC.  This would make it absolutely clear that the Council does have that responsibility.

SB 025 is certainly worth following through this short session.

Super Bowl Ordinance Should Have Included Review Process

Just as several people and organizations argued back when the Super Bowl Ordinance was being reviewed, a glaring omission was putting all decisions in the hands of one person without a review or appeal process in place.  (see "Superbowl Ordinance Back At Council Committee Tonight")

Below is an item from today's Star that underscores that point.  At least these folks could turn to the ACLU for assistance, but it should not have come to that.  The Ordinance should be changed and protections put in place.

Here is the Star's item (no byline)

City sued over newspaper sold by the homeless
The city of Indianapolis is working to avert a First Amendment showdown with the publisher of a newspaper that benefits the homeless.
A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday alleged that the city was preventing homeless vendors from selling the paper, Homeward Bound, Downtown in the week leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Volunteer Executive Editor and Publisher Jeff Tavares said he applied for a temporary permit from the city's Code Enforcement Department that would allow the sale of the paper in the Super Bowl "clean zone" but was denied.
Tavares sent an email to the city's law department saying he thought his First Amendment rights were being violated, then asked the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana for its input. The ACLU filed a lawsuit.
Kate Johnson, a spokeswoman for Code Enforcement, attributed the demand for a temporary permit to a "mix-up." She said such permits aren't needed to sell newspapers within the "clean zone," a roughly one-square-mile area around the stadium where special permits are needed for several commercial activities.
ACLU attorney Gavin Rose said he will withdraw the lawsuit when the city sends him formal notification that Homeward Bound can be sold.

Friday, January 13, 2012

WIBC Reporting Deal To Put Right To Work On Ballot

WIBC is reporting that there has been a deal struck by the Legislators to put Right To Work up for a vote by Referendum on the November ballot. 

Marion County Coroner's Office Needs To Be Investigated - Rotting Corpses Exposed By Whistleblower Video

I missed this report by WRTV report Jack Rinehart until I read Gary Welsh's post about it on his blog, Advance Indiana.  The Marion County Coroner is an elected official, Dr. Frank Lloyd.  He was not interviewed for Rinehart's report.

Employee(s) of the Marion County Coroner's Office video taped the conditions inside a refrigerated storage area and sent it to WRTV along with a note. 
In an accompanying letter, the anonymous employee said that some bodies have been at the morgue for more than a year, and that blood and bodily fluids have leaked onto the floor, making for unsafe and unsanitary working conditions.
The video confirms the written claim.

This is truly horrendous and unforgivable treatment of the dead by the Coroner.  There should be a full investigation of the conditions within that Office and full examination of their policies and procedures.

I find it incomprehensible that Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew finds on-site decomposition of human remains more humane and respectful than cremation.  She says
"That would be heartless to say, 'If you don't get this body out of here, we're going to cremate this body,'" she said. "No, we can't do that."
Former employee John Linehan, who was interviewed for the report, said
"It's no wonder people would complain about the smell or the sight," he said. "Some of the bags are open. There are body parts that are exposed through the bags. It would be horrible to work under those conditions."
He summed it up best when he said
"Whoever wrote that letter was right. There's rotting flesh that's visible here. The smell must be horrendous," he said. "To have them laying out and exposed not only seems to me to be a health hazard to those who work there, it's just not being respectful."
This cannot be tolerated by a civilized City.  The conditions at the morgue must be fully investigated and consideration of charges should at least be reviewed and evaluated.

Expansion of Downtown TIF District & Fall Creek TIF Moved To Council

Introduced to the Council last Monday night were two proposals to approve the MDC's decision to expand the Consolidated Downtown TIF District (Prop 15) and the Fall Creek TIF District (Prop 16). 

I have posted a document that has both MDC Resolutions, 2012-R-001 (related to the expansion of the Consolidated Downtown TIF) and 2012-R-002 (related to the Fall Creek TIF) on Google Docs - click here.  There are valuable maps included to help visualize the expansion areas.

For reference, I have also uploaded a map of Marion County showing all TIF districts.  Click here for that map.

The expansion of the Consolidated Downtown TIF will, miracle of miracles, bring that behemoth TIF district over to include Bush Stadium and its environs (see map on page 7 of the posted pdf).  You may recall how Mayor Ballard was going to pilfer at least $3.5 M from the Consolidated Downtown TIF for Bush Stadium area infrastructure improvements last June (see "Are They Insane, Stupid, or Totally Corrupt?  Had Enough, Indy?") even though it was a clear violation of State Laws regarding the used of excess TIF revenues in areas not within the TIF district.

If you are trying to track the Consolidated Downtown TIF on the Marion County TIF districts map, they are districts 140, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 153, and 157.

One clear question that needs asking is:  Why not create a new stand-alone TIF district?  A couple of possible reasons come to mind. 
1) they still want to pilfer money that already exists in the Downtown Consolidated TIF fund and this expansion just legalizes the effort. 
2) even after full development, the property taxes that would result in a stand-alone TIF aren't sufficient to pay off anticipated bonds. 
3) an expansion of an existing TIF would be governed by the existing TIF's rules and regulations.  In effect the expanded area, even though new, would assume the grandfather status of the existing TIF district and find protection from newer State laws designed to limit the life span of a TIF district.

Prop 16 and MDC Resolution 2012-R-001 also propose a second expansion of the Consolidated Downtown TIF district toward the northeast up Massachusetts Avenue, in two non-contiguous sections (see map on page 10 of pdf).  According to this expansion is to fund the Mass Ave parking garage and future development of an 11 acre parcel now owned by IPS and the site of 'The Trail Side at Mass Ave', now under construction.  You may have seen mention of the potential for a million dollar plus commission for CB Ellis related to the parking garage in IBJ reporter, Cory Schouten's, article "Mass Ave deal's brokerage fee raising eyebrows".

These proposed expansions of the Consolidated Downtown TIF should be raising concerns for all taxpayers, since this are is already a 'dead zone' for tax collections and the rest of us have to chip in more tax money to cover vital services to the area.  Then they cry about the tax caps, which are the only protection we have from their tax-commandeering ways.

Prop 16 is an expansion of the Fall Creek Area TIF (see page 20 of the MDC resolution pdf and districts 148 and 154 of the TIF districts map). The existing Fall Creek Area TIFs are housing TIFs set up to spur new housing in what once was called 'Dodge City'.  This is widely considered to be a successful endeavour, with any negative opinions centering around the gentrification of the area to the exclusion of low income residents.  Unintended gentrification needs to be dealt with as a pulic policy at some time, so that safeguards can be put in place for future redevelopments.

What is curious from the outset is that the expansion being proposed for the Fall Creek Area TIF is at least a mile and a half from the other two areas. The expansion is just south of the intersection of Binford and Keystone, west of the State Fairgrounds and in the Meadows area. There has already been redevelopment proposed here, backed by Warren Buffet. As Scott Olson of the IBJ reported :
East Village at Avondale is a $27 million project with eight layers of financing, including an investment from Atlanta-based Purpose Built Communities, co-founded by Buffett.

The developer of the project is a joint venture of Chicago-based Strategic Capital Partners, Mishawaka-based The Sterling Group, Meadows Community Foundation, Purpose Built Communities and the city of Indianapolis.

Strategic Capital Partners received $19 million in tax credits that were sold to Chicago-based National Equity Fund to help finance construction of the 248-unit apartment complex. It is being built on about 15 acres of land that Strategic Capital put under contract in 2010.

The city of Indianapolis also kicked in $5 million in tax credits.

East Village at Avondale is the first phase of a larger, $150 million development that is to include additional housing—both apartments and single-family—and retail development fronting 38th Street.
It is not clear if the purpose of this expanded TIF is to secure funds for the initial phase or subsequent phases.
One also has to ask the same question as for the expansion of the Consolidated Downtown TIF.  Why not create a stand-alone TIF? Especially given the distance between the existing and expansion areas.  The two districts currently comprising the Fall Creek Area TIF are expected to net an extra million dollars in property taxes in 2012 beyond what is needed to service debt, or so says documents submitted to the State.  I have no information on the fund balances and do not know if there are ample funds just waiting to be plucked or if it is bone dry.  But, why is the City refraining from creating a stand-alone TIF? Won't it generate the investment and taxes that they touted at the ribbon cutting?  Or, are they trying to grandfather the expansion so it does not get a State-imposed expiration date?

Those of my readers who are concerned about, or even just interested in, the burden on taxpayers should remember the establishment of these TIF district expansion areas every time a politician crys about property tax caps.  There very well may be adequate reasons for all of these project, or just some, but they are tied to a bigger picture that reaches into every Marion County taxpayer's pocketbook.  Hopefully somebody on the Council will ask enough questions so that the public can have confidence that these TIF districts are absolutely necessary.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Urbanophile Series on Louisville Bridges Project - Part 4 Now Posted

Aaron Renn's great series on the two bridges project over the Ohio River at Louisville wraps up with "Indiana's Bridge Deal Boondoggle,Part 4: A Better Plan".  Renn makes some suggestions that would improve the project while lowering the overall cost and saving Indiana taxpayers over half a billion dollars.

There Has Got To Be A Better Way - Election Day Looking To Be Chaotic

The way election district and precinct lines are drawn in Indiana needs some serious consideration for coordination.  It would serve the public interest in less voter confusion and far lower costs to run the elections themselves.

In a previous blog entry ("New Precincts and Proposed New Council Districts") I mentioned how the new precinct lines in Marion County were drawn AFTER the various Township Boards drew their districts.  The Boards had to redraw the districts after the 2010 census results were available, but prior to November 8, 2011, to give ample time before their election year, which is 2012.

2012, mind you, is also the Presidential Election year, which always attracts the best voter turnout.

For those of us who man the polling sites, these things matter because the greater the number of ballots, the greater the chance for confusion and voters getting the wrong ballot. 

Even if there were minimum numbers of ballots in every precinct, this year will be confusing to voters because many will be voting in a new location.  Most voters do not remember their precinct number, just their voting place.  So, the fact that the precinct number changed is of little concern.  But, where those lines were moved, then the expatriated voters must find their way to a new poll.  Hopefully the Election Board or the Voter Registration or whoever is responsible for such things, will notify everyone of their new precinct and polling location.  This  is expensive, of course.  But, there are more costs to pile up this election year.

At every Primary you have at least 4 ballots.  You have the Democratic Party ballot and the Republican Party ballot.  In addition, anyone who will be 18 years old by the day of the General Election in November, but who on Primary Day is still 17, does have the right to vote.  But, they vote on the '17 year-old' ballot, which lists only those races that will not be finally decided until November.  Thus you have a 17 year-old Democratic Party ballot and a 17 year-old Republican ballot.  So, at the least encumbered precinct on Primary Election Day, you have at least 4 ballots.

At every General Election you drop to 1 ballot in the least encumber precinct.

With that stage set, lets look at the complexity caused by the re-drawing of precinct lines without consideration of the Township Board districts, which had already been set.

Here in Decatur Township, we now have 16 precincts and 7 Township Board districts.  This morning I sat and compared both maps with an eye toward how many Board districts were represented in each precinct. 

Of 16 total precincts, 8 will have only one Board district election, 6 will have two Board district elections, and 2 will have three Board district elections.

So, for 8 of our precincts, there will be 4 ballots on Primary Election Day and 1 ballot on General Election Day.

For 6 of our precincts, there will be 8 ballots for the Primary and 2 ballots for the General.

For 2 of our precincts, there will be 12 ballots for the Primary and 3 ballots for the General.

Now, that is a lot of different ballots and a lot of cost to print and properly distribute the assortment.  I do not know how the voting machine programing costs fluctuate according to the number of different ballots in one precinct.

During the budget hearings for the Election Board, the City Controller's office argued that the Election Board did not need as much money as they asked for, and so the Election Board's requested budget was cut by some $400,000.  It was stated that the law requires the City to pay whatever expenses are incurred for elections, regardless of what was budgeted.  The Election Board's requested budget was calculated from previous Presidential election year expenses, and could not take into account the massive re-precincting that would be announced in November.  (Yet another reason why then-Council President Ryan Vaughn should have come clean and let everyone know he had already let a contract to re-precinct.)

So we have a self-inflicted situation where the uncoordinated re-precincting and re-districting will lead directly to massive numbers of ballot configurations, amplified costs to organize and run the 2012 elections, and what I think will be voter confusion and frustration the likes of which we haven't seen in decades.

There has got to be a better way and the public deserves some consideration by those in power as to how to fix this so it does not happen again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

CIB/NFL Agreement for Use of Indiana Convention Center

I have now been sent the signed agreement between the Capital Improvement Board and the National Football League for the use of the Indiana Convention Center and two surface parking lots abutting the south end of the ICC.  I have uploaded it to Google Docs - click here.

Like the agreement for the use of Lucas Oil Stadium, this agreement is lengthy, running 136 pages.  Unlike the LOS agreement, the ICC agreement sheds little light on the original bid by the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee (now operating as Our2012SB, Inc.).  The original bid and subsequent Host Committee/NFL agreement is being deliberately held from public view, as are the cost to Indianapolis for Police and Fire services, snow removal preparations, and code enforcement/court enforcement activities during the Super Bowl season.

As you might guess, the ICC, with some exceptions for offices used by tenant organizations and CIB operations, is being provided to the NFL FREE OF CHARGE from 8 am January 18 through 5 pm February 11, 2012 (p 2 of the pdf).  There is one carve out in that the Sagamore Ballroom lease is up at 12:01 am February 11.  I believe the County Democratic Party Slating Convention is scheduled on that day.

NFL use of the two parking lots began at 12:01 am January 9 and will extend through 11:59 pm February 17, 2012.  They get the use of these parking lots "rent free for construction and preparatory activities for the NFL Events, conducting NFL Events and for dismantling of construction and equipment after the NFL Events" (p 2 of the pdf).  Revenues from the parking facilities will go entirely to the NFL (p 22 of the pdf).

There are expenses that will be the responsibility of the NFL incurred from their free use of the grounds of LOS and ICC.  I'll go into those in a future post.

Back to the use of Indy's Code Enforcement Officers to police infraction of NFL copyrights, we have this section of the ICC agreement (p 125 of the pdf):

4. Licensor [CIB] shall use its reasonable commercial efforts to prevent the unauthorized sale of such merchandise [Super Bowl and NFL-related merchandise and novelty items], including scorecards, line ups or newspaper inserts with line ups and roster, depth charts or similar items relating to the participating teams in the Super Bowl Game within the Licensed Premises.  In accordance with the terms of the Host Committee Agreement, the Host Committee shall use its reasonable efforts to request that the City enforce the prohibition during the NFL Events of all temporary vendor licensing authorized by local governmental authorities for the area within a one mile radius of the ICC property boundaries.

That is again reference to the Clean Zone, establishment of which was enabled through the Super Bowl Ordinance.  No accounting for the number of man hours our Code Enforcement Inspectors will be away from their usual jobs in our neighborhoods, nor the extra costs for 24-7 patrolling of the Clean Zone, nor the cost for having the Environmental Court Judge on call 24-7 to man the rocket docket to mete out on the spot justice, has been made available to Indianapolis taxpayers, who are on the hook for the expense.  There are other costs to our City that remain unreported to the community who will be required to cover the expenses.  That is not right.

Governor Daniels - Say What ?

Like many of you, we sat around the television last night, watching Governor Daniels' last State of the State speech.  There are many lines that many people certainly took exception to (those of you who showed up at the Statehouse - we could hear you).  But, there is one line I want to bring to the forefront this morning, if only to be sure the taxpayers of Indiana know what is really going on.

Daniels briefly touched on the INDOT / Kentucky DOT two bridges project to span the Ohio River crossing into Louisville.  He declared that this project will put Indiana in the forefront of public-private partnerships.  Say what Governor Daniels?  You are really going to go there?

It just so happens that a series of blog posts are currently in process about these very Ohio bridges, being penned by the much respected urbanist, Aaron Renn, over at his blog, the Urbanophile.  The series is titled "Indiana's Bridge Deal Boondoggle".

For those of you unfamiliar with INDOT, this will be an eye opener.  For those who are all too familiar with INDOT, be cautious when reading - there is danger of occular strain for all of the eye rolling you will experience.

In Monday's post, "Part 1: A Financial Fiasco", Renn relates how INDOT shaved $1.5 billion off the cost of the projects.  That's a good thing, right?  Well, simultaneously, INDOT managed to increase the cost to Indiana taxpayers by $200 million and save the Kentucky taxpayers $1.7 billion (that's $1700 million).  Talk about pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.

In yesterday's post, "Part 2: Hoosiers to Pay Even More With Tolling", Renn reveals that the States have a plan to toll the bridges, but no plan on how to divide the toll revenue.  He also analyses who might pay more in tolls, Indiana travellers or Kentucky travellers.

I highly recommend Renn's series.  He makes it easy to follow.  It's not Renn's writing style that is hard to understand, it is how INDOT could let this happen to Indiana taxpayers and those cities and towns that will lose projects in order to pay for INDOT's mistakes.

[edited to add]  Renn's third installment is now available.  This is a drama all its own in "Part 3: INDOT's Mini-Big Dig".  Renn leads us from one bread crumb to another; from showing how excessive the cost to Indiana taxpayers to build a bridge terminating tunnel under posh digs at a preliminary cost of $795 million for 1.4 miles of roadway, through to the point that the Indiana Constitution just might prohibit the State from building a road in another State.  Its a flabbergasting read.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Democrats Off to Bad Start

The first meeting of the Council of 2012 demonstrated that the Council Democrats are not willing to share power in an equitable fashion.  This is a very unfortunate portent for Indianapolis' next 4 years of divided government, and ignores that not everyone in Marion County voted for Democratic candidates.  In fact 13 Republicans were elected along with 16 Democrats.  Yet, the fraction of Republicans seated on the Rules Committee was just 2 of 8.  Even sticking with the fraction of the Council, that committee should have at least 3.  This is also the traditional split, giving a clear majority to the party who controls the Council.   Looking at it another way, 13 of the 25 Council district electorates chose Republican representation.  But, they are not getting a fair share of that actual representation on at least the Rules committee, and there appears to be squabbles about other committees as well.

More important than all of that is the message this sends to the community.  First, the Democrats want more power than allotted to them through the election process.  Second, the representation of those areas of the County that chose Republicans are being shortchanged by the new Democratic majority - and it doesn't seem to bother the Democrats at all.

Jon Murray, IndyStar reporter, described the situation this way:

"It didn't take long Monday night for friction to arise.

"During a meeting break, while a panel called the Committee on Committees convened briefly, Minority Leader Michael McQuillen accused Democrats of diluting the GOP's influence.

"He sits on that committee with Lewis and Majority Leader Vernon Brown. Their task was to select members of the key Rules and Public Policy Committee, so the rules panel could meet to decide several council staff appointments.

"Over McQuillen's objection, Lewis and Brown voted to appoint six Democrats to the eight-member rules committee, leaving two seats for Republicans. McQuillen said he was blindsided because the rules panel has long had three members from the minority party.

"Brown, however, pointed out that city-county code requires just one minority member on most committees. And he told McQuillen: "I'm not negotiating."

"When the full council reconvened, McQuillen said: "I'm very disappointed that the first action of the new majority caucus was to shut voices down."

"Lewis told reporters she was open to further conversation and chalked up the spat to "first-night jitters."

"A second meeting later Monday night among Lewis, Brown and McQuillen ended quickly, with no decisions made about other committee assignments amid similar disagreement over the division of seats."

Monday, January 9, 2012

First Council Meeting of 2012

The first City-County Council meeting of 2012 will be held tonight and usher in 4 years of Democratic control of the Council and Republican control of the Mayor's office.

Tonight's agenda is replete with organizational matters.  Being offered for consideration, though, are a couple of items that caught my eye.

Prop 15 would approve an MDC resolution on January 4, 2012, to expand the Harding Street consolidated redevelopment area and to adopt an supplemental plan.  Councillors Osili and Simpson are listed as sponsors.  This is assigned to the Metropolitan Development committee.  I am still searching for the committee calendar, so I cannot provide their next meeting date.

Similarly, Prop 16 would approve an MDC resolution on January 4, 2012, to expand the Fall Creek/Citizens consolidated redevelopment area and to adopt an supplemental plan. Councillors Scales and Talley are listed as sponsors.   This is also assigned to the Metropolitan Development committee.

Prop 17 would combine some Council committees.  There would be a new Metropolitan & Economic Development committee and a new Public Safety & Criminal Justice committee.  Councillors Lewis, Mahern, and Brown are sponsors.  This is assigned to the Rules committee.

And last but not least is Prop 18, which would expand Indy's smoking ban.  This will be assigned to the Rules committee.  It is written by Councillor Mansfield and sponsored by Councillors Mansfield, Hunter, Barth, Miller, Moriarty Adams, Hickman, Adamson, Osili, Robinson, Talley, and Simpson.  A quick scan of this proposal indicates that it would extend the current smoking ban to include electronic cigarettes, all family owned businesses, hotels, nursing homes, company/city vehicles, tobacco bars, bowling alleys, and bars.  It would also extend to any private club that allows minors to enter or which does not vote to keep the exemption by July 1, 2012.  Keeping an exemption would be any tobacco business that makes more than 20% of its gross income through the sale of tobacco; these businesses would be required to obtain a license from the City which could be sold or transferred as long as the new licensee met the minimum legal standards for the exemption.

Downtown Indy Hotel Workers Sue For Unpaid Wages

First the downtown Hoteliers hid behind the skirts and aprons of Indy's hotel workers in order to fight for the right of the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) to get even more tax money.  No matter that the CIB gives millions of dollars every year to the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (ICVA).  By all rights the ICVA should be funded entirely by those downtown businesses that benefit from the organization, not the taxpayers.  The ICVA, among other things, pays to discount hotel rooms for convention-goers.

Then the downtown Hoteliers outsourced their maid services.

Now we learn that the outsourcing service, Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS), is being sued by hotel workers who claim they have not been paid for all of the hours they actually worked.

Here is the text of the press release written by Unite Here's Sarah Lyons:
WHO: Thousands work in hotels downtown, more and more through subcontracting agencies at minimum wage with few or no benefits. Now, a number of hotel workers are coming forward to blow the whistle on mistreatment and wage and hour violations they experienced while working at area hotels through the subcontractor, Hospitality Staffing Solutions, (HSS). On Monday, these hotel workers will be filing a lawsuit in a federal court against Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS) and ten major hotels for wage and hour violations.  
This landmark lawsuit is the broadest wage and hour case in the history of the Indianapolis hospitality industry. If the lawsuit is certified as a collective action, eligible employees as a group could be entitled to as much as ten million dollars in back pay. Workers in the lawsuit allege that HSS and area hotels regularly fail to pay them for all the hours they work and force them to work off the clock and without breaks.
Indianapolis city government has invested over one billion dollars of taxpayer money in the downtown hospitality industry with the hopes of rebuilding the area economy. Sadly, Indianapolis hotel workers are some of the lowest paid in the nation. Hotel workers here start at $7.25 per hour and are offered few or no benefits. Now, some hotels that the city has chosen to subsidize are being accused of illegal activity--of not even paying their employees the minimum wage. During the Super Bowl, room rates in downtown hotels are expected to cost over $1000 per night. Hotels are slated to make millions of dollars each during the week of the Super Bowl alone.
When will Indianapolis turn its focus toward the people who live and work here?  Not the corporations that, through second hand means, accept tax dollars and then send their profits elsewhere.  I've said it before and I'll say it again...  Indianapolis should be as great a place to live as it is to visit.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

CIB and NFL Sign Lucas Oil Stadium Agreement For Super Bowl Season

On December 30, 2011, the Capital Improvements Board and the National Football League signed off on their formal agreement regarding use of Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2012 Super Bowl. 

I was provided a copy of that agreement in response to an open records request of the CIB.  I have posted the agreement on google docs and it can be reviewed here.

This is a lengthy document and it is going to take me a lot longer to absorb its contents and portents.  What did catch my eye, though, was the light it manages to shed on the original bid by the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL.  The Host Committee was set up, I am firmly convinced, to act a shell to protect the deal from the prying eyes of the taxpaying public.  They have continued to operate as they see fit, while holding to themselves all of those pesky details, like how much the taxpayers have been put on the hook.  The Host Committee called the shots on the Super Bowl ordinance that will serve to protect the NFL copyrights, and to give one person sole power to waive a number of our zoning laws that otherwise require a public hearing on a variance petition.

The CIB/NFL agreement is, to my reading of it, not the entire agreement between the City or State with the NFL, but revolves exclusively around the LOS environment.  However, the agreement does capture some of the original NFL minimum specifications for bidding Host Committees, some of the original bid offered by the Indy Host Committee, and from time to time the document's wording  allude to other promises made, but not fully fleshed out in the CIB/NFL agreement.

Before I launch into those items I see from the original bid, let me also note that this agreement does not tell us if these items have been eliminated from final agreements with the Host Committee, or if they are not pertinent to the CIB and LOS and survive in another form with another NFL agreement.  It is clear that some parts of the original bid are not included for reference in the appendix containing the bulk of the information about the original bid.  For instance, there is reference on page 64 of the pdf to a section of the bid documents entitled "Government Guarantees".  As you can imagine, I have scoured the entire 176 pages for that section.  It is not included.

So, here is a litany of items that caught my eye regarding what sorts of things the Host Committee offered. 

All ticket revenues go to the NFL, who also get to set ticket prices.  "All Super Bowl and Super Bowl-related event tickets will be exempt from sales, amusement, or entertainment taxes, and other surcharge obligations." (p 64)

The Host Committee may purchase 750 tickets, but cannot resell them for more than face value.

85% of all suites have been turned over to the NFL.  (p 67)  The NFL will have exclusive use of all club seats.  (p 64)

"Per the Host Committee Agreement, police and fire services will be provided at no expense to NFL or Licensor [the CIB].  Licensor and NFL acknowledge and agree that per the Host Committee Agreement neither party shall be responsible for the costs and expenses, if any, related to police and fire services for Super Bowl Events in accordance with the above-referenced Security Plan."  (p 13)

Parking is strikingly incomplete in this document.  There is reference in the original specifications for bidders that the NFL required at least 35,000 parking spaces within one mile of LOS, provided free of charge.  The Host Committee bid wording suggests that it will meet the requirements, but seem to say that all of the spaces will not be within the mile perimeter requested.  They also make the argument that due to the hotels being connected by enclosed corridor to LOS, about 14,000 "of the NFL's most important guests may not require parking."  (pp 55 & 60)

Page 68 of the pdf has a number of offerings by the Host Committee, including a "fully funded $25 million budget", hosting for the NFL a party for 3,000 members of the media, and "providing key cards branded with the Super Bowl logo for all downtown hotel properties and team hotels."

This is one of the sections of the bid that have been crossed out.  At a minimum that means it is not included as part of the CIB/NFL agreement - not that it has been removed from the Host Committee agreement with the NFL.

Page 158 of the pdf also has a couple of interesting allusions to the Host Committee Agreement.  In item 1 it says "In accordance with the terms of the Host Committee Agreement, the Host Committee shall make available to NFL at no charge up to 24,000 sq. ft. of storage space in tents outside the Stadium".  And, item 4 says "In accordance with the terms of the Host Committee Agreement, the Host Committee shall use its reasonable efforts to request the City enforce the prohibition during the Super Bowl Game and the Super Bowl Events of all temporary vendor licensing authorized by local governmental authorities for the area within one mile radius of the Stadium property boundaries."  That would be the Super Bowl ordinance provisions for Clean Zones and the anticipated 'rocket docket'.  The rocket docket will have a Superior Court Judge on call 24 hours a day to deal with those cited by the City's code enforcement and police officers for violating the Super Bowl ordinance.

There is much more in this agreement, but it will take time to digest and report on it all.  Meanwhile, have a look for yourself.  The public has been kept in the dark as to the costs to our tax coffers for all of this.  I'll just remind everyone that the 2012 budget required a $40 million cash infusion from the Consolidated Downtown TIF district in order to be balanced.  Word is that the hole will be even bigger for the 2013 budget, but all the slush funds will have been drained by then.  So, enjoy the party - its going to be one doozie of a hangover.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Governor Rescinds His Order To Limit Statehouse Visitors

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that Governor Daniels has rescinded the policy restricting the Statehouse to 3000 people.  According to reporters Mary Beth Schneider and Chris Sikich:
Daniels said he made the decision this morning after consulting with legislative leaders and taking into consideration public reaction to the new rules, which had capped access at about 3,000.

“I’ve asked the fire marshal to rescind the new policy and to restore the traditional unlimited access here to the building,” Daniels said. “That’s in place right now. All three doors are open. ... We will do that unless and until there’s a problem.”

Daniels said that “anything goes” policy will continue “as long as that works.”

If situations arise where public safety is endangered, he said, the police “have my authority to do something different at that point.”

Daniels said the security issues were “not idle concerns.”

But, he added, “Indiana respects fervently the rights of minorities” including those of labor union members.

Judge Rosenberg Makes The Right Call

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg has ruled that the Secretary of State, Charlie White, can stay in office until Rosenberg's earlier ruling can be reviewed by the State's highest Court.

Star reporter, Carrie Ritchie, quotes Judge Rosenberg's ruling:
In the ruling, Rosenberg wrote that “the negative consequences would be great and irreparable” if White were removed from office and then a higher court overturns the decision that ousted him.
Rosenberg also denied a request by the Democrats, who initiated the election challenge, to add conditions that would ensure Osili would become secretary of state if White were removed from office for other reasons while the appeal is pending.
Rosenberg said in his ruling today that the Democrats’ request “unnecessarily injects the court in issues not before it.”

I think Judge Rosenberg made the only decision he could as someone who values the law.  Politics and one's political affiliation should play no role in seeing that justice prevails.  Other Judges could learn something here.

The Arrogance of Power - Lobbyists Over Citizens

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' decision to limit the occupancy of the State House to 3000 people is clearly and obviously designed to keep the Unions and sympathetic citizens from inconveniencing himself and the State Legislators with their presence and expression of their opinions in numbers.   His decision to allow lobbyist preferential entry is downright chilling to Democracy and the First Amendment.

Make no mistake, Mitch Daniels and any Legislator who supports this thinly veiled attack does not value ANY citizen nor ANY citizen's opinion on ANY matter.  Letting the paid jackals have clear and free entry, and without having to even stand in line, is blatantly against the interests of free and open government.  Each and every Legislator should be asked to go on the record as supporting or opposing these First Amendment assaults.

Buy the way - it costs $95 per year to sign up to be a lobbyist and you must be compensated by your employer as a primary qualification to enroll.  So, this has to be added to the list of 'pay to play' and 'paid to play' political advantages.  You have to be sure they have a bankroll sufficient enough to treat the politicians to all those nice freebies that they are accustomed to.  You and I aren't likely to do so.

The State website has a list of registered lobbyists for 2011.  It consist of 63 pages, each with about 13 names, for a rough total of 830 people who are more important to Daniels than you or I.

I hope the Indiana ACLU will step in with a lawsuit on behalf of a citizen who wanted to exercise their RIGHT to petition their government, but was denied entry to the Statehouse while a Lobbyist was allowed in.