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

Friday, December 21, 2012

You Can't Fix Wilfull Ignorance and Greed

Its very unfortunate for Indianapolis that Matt Tully has an opinion column in which he can toss about misinformation and press for more of your tax dollars to be spent on his neighborhood's pet projects.  And its very unfortunate that he does that, not by providing well reasoned arguments, rather, by maligning one of the few elected officials still willing to stand up for sensible government that will not break our economy and who presses for sustainable funding for police, fire, libraries, schools, and other basic services that benefit all of us, rather than the few.

Tully is in love with the government giving your tax money to private developers and campaign donors, and he really evidences no concern with what that does to the public's ability to finance basic services.  He stood in favor of the Mass Ave TIF, that robs known tax proceeds to pour money into an area already building and thriving.  He stands in favor of the well to do in his own neighborhood and those neighborhoods nearby, to decide how THEIR tax dollars will be spent, while all the rest of us chumps can chip in to make sure his neighbors get police and firefighters to their door whenever they dial 911.  He cries a good game about the schools - but lets see where he sends his child.

But, the lowest point is reached when he maligns Councillor Brian Mahern, one of the last, if not the last, elected official willing to speak publicly of our need to be cautious about the use of TIFs, and who will acknowledge aloud that the more tax revenues we corral inside TIFs, the less money we have to fund basic services.

The pressure to frivolously spend, to ignore that each decision has pros and cons to be weighed, to follow the lead of those whose only goal is to feather their own nests, that pressure is great and has caused most who truly understand the impact of TIFs and corporate welfare to stand down and only whisper the truth among known allies rather than spread that truth further.

The sky is blue.  Water is wet.  And, like it or not, TIFs have consequences.

I had thought Tully was a reasoning person.  But, he has proven me wrong.  He just wants you to foot the bill for his basic services so he and his well off pals can give thier's to developers to make their neighborhoods more fun.

The old myths - that tax money before a TIF is established continues to flow to the schools and police, and that the bankrolled developments will spur free market development - continue to be pressed by those like Tully.  Meanwhile, the Mass Ave TIF and the Mid-North TIF stand on its head, the traditional use of TIFs to help struggling neighborhoods pull out of great need.  Now TIFs are to aid the well to do and to boost areas that are already seeing the free market work.

In the age of tax caps, unexamined TIFs and their unfettered use, will grind on our City's economy.  Then folks like Tully will leave because there are even fewer police and firefighters to cover our whole county, fewer tax dollars reaching the library and the schools and IndyGo.  And, instead of TIFs making his neighborhood more enticing to executives, it will make everyone more fearful of living anywhere in Marion County - fearful of crime as well as fearful of providing a very weak start in life for their children.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Council ReIntroduces Mayors' Budget Cuts

The last meeting of the full Council for 2012 will be Monday night.  Much is on the agenda, and much is to be introduced.

Postponed from last meeting due to two Democrat absences are Props 290, 316, 362, and 372.  Prop 316, which amends Council Rules to include information that should be provided for consideration of new or expanded TIFs, is the sole proposal that cannot be vetoed by the Mayor.  Prop 290 limits fraternization between certain employees of City-County government, in wake of the revelation that former Public Safety Director, Frank Straub, has a new main squeeze.  Prop 362 simple adds an additional purpose to which RebuildIndy funds may be appropriated - for recruiting and training new police officers and firefighters.  Prop 372 is the Democrat Council district maps, which must be passed in this calendar year to fulfill State redistricting laws.  It is clear that Prop 372 will be vetoed by the Mayors, but it will be interesting to see if Vaughn wants to fight over fraternization and recruit training options.

Being introduced are three of particular interest.  Prop 447, sponsored by Council President Lewis, would restore the full $652,654 to the 2013 Council budget - including funds to pay for any legal challenge to the competing Council district maps.  On the other hand is Prop 450, sponsored by Minority Leader McQuillen, which would restore only $552,654 to that budget - excluding the funds to pay for any legal challenge to the competing Council district maps.

Prop 448 restores, in essence, the full 2013 budget for County agencies as introduced by the Mayor and as struck down by the Mayors.

Prop 449 would reinstate language in the 2013 budget passed by the Council and struck by the Mayors, that allows for the CIB PILOT money to be deposited into the rainy day fund.

Curious is Prop 458, which would amend the recent requirement that Flea Markets operate under license to exclude sales in Clean Zones of big events.  I'm not really sure why one would want to let folks in these Zones sell goods that could have sketchy provenance, but I guess we'll find out.

The changes to the 2013 cannot be implemented before the end of 2012, thus their timing.  If competing proposals on the Council budget had not been introduced, the Pollyanna in me might have suspected a compromise in the works over the Mayors' line item cuts of the Council-passed budget.  The fiscal ordinance proposals all go to the Admin & Finance committee, which next meets on Tuesday.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CIB to Sign One Year Deal With Pacers

This press release came from Council President, Maggie Lewis:
Indianapolis City-County Council President Maggie A. Lewis
Media Response about CIB Vote to Extend Pacers Agreement
December 12, 2012
"Extending the Pacers agreement at this time allows us the opportunity to focus on the pressing issues at hand which is city governance.  Issues such as public safety are a priority for us right now.  Approving the agreement with the Pacers moves this off of our list and allows us to place all of our emphasis on matters that are pressing to our constituencies and will keep moving Indianapolis forward."
This just saves the CIB the embarrassment of begging for more tax revenue at the same time they are flush enough to hand millions more of public money to the Simons.  If they can afford an extra $10 million right now, then they should pay up on the PILOT and turn down any tax increases.  Enough is enough.


Could See This One Coming for Years Now

Anyone who remembers that the CIB bailout from a few years ago contained two delayed opportunities to increase taxes, knew those two taxes would be on the table.  Will someone please explain to me why we go through this charade of 'well, maybe we won't need the money'.  The city mothers and fathers never let a chance to raise taxes fall to the wayside.

Today's Indy Star holds the 'revelation' that there is intense consideration by the CIB and Mayor Vaughn and Council President Lewis, to raise the admissions tax by an additional 4% and the car rental tax by an additional 2%.  Reporter Jon Murray has a great article, and one that has a host of information in it.  Last night fellow blogger Paul Ogden commented on it over at Ogden On Politics.  This morning, Gary Welsh adds his thoughts on Advance Indiana.

The additional taxes could raise about $7 million in additional funds to the CIB each year.  The CIB was funnelling $10 million a year, $8 million of which came from property taxes through the Consolidated Downtown TIF, for the past three years.  They are now in 'negotiations' to hand over even more cash to the Pacers.  Since they continue to receive the $8 million from property taxes, an additional $7 million might leave a $5 million 'surplus' (after what I assume will be a 'negotiated' deal to continue the $10 million extra funding to the poor Pacers).

But wait - there is a new twist.  After cutting the Council budget off at the knees because the Democrats placed a $15 million PILOT obligation on to the CIB, Mayor Vaughn is apparently interested in syphoning off some of the CIB's new tax revenue for the City.  The shell game is such that the City would ask the CIB to pay for the public safety services it receives from the City; services that are now provided free of charge.  So, the City can get a new stream of tax revenue by raising taxes for the CIB.  Since the super bowl supposedly cost $4 million in public safety, this new shell game could not possibly cover the true cost of services provided to CIB-run facilities throughout downtown.

While Mayor Vaughn refused to fund recruit classes for IMPD and IFD and says the city budget must be lean, he continues to foist more TIFs on the taxpayers, push for even more corporate handouts of tax dollars, and craft ever greater sweetheart deals with multi-millionaire sports team owners.  Priorities in this City are out of whack.  Our City government has become hardly much more than an extension of the Chamber of Commerce.