Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why Does the Republican Caucus Want Ryan Vaughn ?

With the changing demographics in Marion County, this could be the very last Republican majority in the Council. Given that possibility, why on earth would the Republican caucus ever want Ryan Vaughn to be their President?

In case you missed it, last night the Council voted in favor of Prop 132, which will immediately raise sewer utility rates to pay for a $170 million bond. IF all goes as promised (promises that were denied legitimacy because they were not written requirements of the Proposal) then this will be the biggest reelection slush fund in the history of Indianapolis. Utility ratepayers will immediately begin to see increased bills to finance $135 million in unnamed projects, paying an additional $157 million in fees and interest over 30 years for projects that do not have a useful life anywhere near that long. But, they can spend it any way they want to. Need a moving sidewalk in time for the Superbowl? I know where there is some money. Need a boost to the reelection of a favorite Republican incumbent? I know where there is some money we can spend in his district. Pacers or the ICVA or the CIB or the convention center need some more dough? I know where there are $135 million smackaroos that can be spent without regard to small matters like promises that weren't guaranteed in writing.

Back to Ryan Vaughn. Councillor Vaughn is clearly ambitious. And not in a good way. Upon getting elected, he traded up employers to a job at Barnes & Thornburg. When the Republicans were swept back into control of the Council, he tried to become President of that body, without anything, even a committee chairmanship, to recommend him. Then, when there was an opening at the Indiana Senate, he tried to get appointed to that post - because it was better than being just a Councillor. Finally, his caucus granted his wish and he was elected President of the Council in January.

This Ryan Vaughn is a man who likes to pull out his portable soapbox and lecture others about ethics, fiscal responsibility, and the law.

This Ryan Vaughn doesn't care about ethics when it serves him to ignore the ones that should apply to himself. He consistently refuses to recuse himself from votes that affect B&T and their clients. This is why, after all, he was hired by B&T. When he uses the word 'we', he refers to the Grand-Loftus Administration, and not the Council.

Ryan Vaughn doesn't care about fiscal responsibility and keeping promises. This reelection slush fund, which will see even more money when he pushes through the sale of the water and sewer utilities, is fiscally unsound ten ways to Sunday. Getting a 30 year loan to pay for projects with shorter useful lives is not prudent fiscal policy. Paying over $1 for just 50 cents of work, is not prudent fiscal policy. Just the same sort of misguided fiscal policy Ryan Vaughn used to pull out his soapbox and lecture the Peterson Administration about. Proposal 132 specifically says that the funds can be used for anything for which money from the County General Fund can legally be spent. No tying the promises to the deeds in this Administration and no problem for Ryan Vaughn who lectures the public each time a budget hearing comes around about what vapid promises look like.

And last night saw the apex of Ryan Vaughn's approach to power -- ignore the law if it is inconvenient. Proposal 132 appropriated the funds to be generated by the $170 million bond. Several of us at the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations (who have not had any input regarding this blog entry) talked about going down to the Council hearing, as it seemed like it should be a public hearing because Prop 132 involved an appropriation of funds. The agenda indicated it was not a public hearing. So, Cathy Burton, President of McANA, inquired directly of Councillor Vaughn. No, it is not a public hearing, was Vaughn's reply. So, I guess that means he is a lousy lawyer to boot. Because it was required to be a public hearing. Only, the public did not get its 48 hour notice of the hearing and when specific inquiry was made, they were told the wrong thing. Did that stop Ryan Vaughn from pushing through to the vote? Did he do the right (as in legally clear and ethical) thing and table the Proposal so that the legally required notice could be afforded to the public? Hell no ! It was inconvenient to abide by the law, so he chose not to.

So, why does the Republican caucus want Ryan Vaughn to be their President? What on earth do they see in him that says he is the cream of their crop? I can think of numerous others in that caucus who would hold themselves to higher standards of conduct. Just last week, at Tuesday's Rules committee meeting, Councillor Vaughn's impatience with having to actually hear the other side's comments and concerns, was liberally on display; culminating with his childishly storming out of the meeting just after the vote and before the meeting was actually over. All the other Councillors managed to stay in their seats until the meeting was gavelled to a close.

Yes, he got the reelection slush fund through. Yes, there will be appeals for its use for all the shiny toys that are the sports teams, the Superbowl, the CIB and ICVA -- and spending the money on those things will be perfectly legal. But, others could have accomplished the same and without the ethical cloud, without the pious lecturing, without the cry baby demeanor, and without breaking the law.

What am I missing? Why does the Republican caucus want Ryan Vaughn to be their leader?


Anonymous said...

Well....This is the state that decided to place the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush as Governor.

Whatever happens.....Ineptitude and malfeasance will be rewarded. Ma and Pa Kettle will be none the wiser. Hell,they'll probably applaud such dubious efforts.

Anonymous said...

Vaughn is helping voters understand why grown ups should be elected not childish, fit throwing, self-centered kids like himself!

Yoda said...


Paul K. Ogden said...

How in the world is that council meeting not a public meeting? You should at least file a complaint with the Public Access Counselor. Of course he is a former B&T attorney too, but he appears to be showing some indpendence so let's keep our fingers crossed.

There have been legal issues come before the council that Ryan Vaughn appeared woefully unable to handle. I doubt he is a good lawyer and certainly is not an experienced one. But then again, Bob Lutz, who has been an attorney longer, seems to not have a very good legal mind either. Angela Mansfield seems to have a more analytical mind than any Republican attorney on the Council.

You have to understand though, Barnes & Thornburg is filled with mediocre lawyers. It's a firm that specializes in selling political influence, not necessarily providing quality legal work. I tell people that not all big law firms are the same. Ice Miller, Baker Daniels, Bose McKinney all thrive on political contacts and charge outrageous fees just like B&T. But the quality of legal work at the those big law firms is generally higher than at B&T. Not with respect to every lawyer at those firms, of course, but I would certainly say most.

Ryan Vaughn is in the position he is in because B&T wanted more influence on the council...that they could sell to clients. It didn't hurt that Vaughn's opponent, Bob Cockrum, was perceived as being ineffective.

Again, if Vaughn is actually saying that a council meeting is not a public meeting, I'd file a complaint with the public access counselor. While I don't know that's you'd have remedies for the wrong, someone should set Vaughn straight about the law.

Anonymous said...

I'm really disappointed that your point about borrowing money to pay for something that has a significantly lower life span (curbs and sidewalks) was not brought up in the arguments against this deal. There are ligitmate reasons it should be delayed, but "we've not been privy to the same information" seemed to be the only response given.

I'm also disappointed that some councillors wanted to know what infrastructure projects were going to be done in their districts before they would approve it, rather than saying some things would be prohibited. I think I did hear Lutz say an ammendment was added that proceeds from the transfer/sale or sale\transfer could not be spent on professional sports teams, but details were not given.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Paul - I guess I wasn't clear enough. The meeting was public and well noticed in advance. Some items to be discussed must be held as a public HEARING - meaning the public has the right to come testify regarding that particular proposal.

I have thought of the PAC in regards the hearing issue, though, but I'm not sure that office does any more than open door and open records.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 7:08 -- Yes, Councillor Lutz did amend Prop 131 - the sale of the water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy - to ban expending the proceeds of the sale for the benefit of sports teams.

No such amendment was made for Prop 132, which is the topic of this blog entry and which will provide $135 million in cash to the County coffers and cost the ratepayers $292 million to repay. In addition, the sewer rate increase, that will finance these PILOT payments, will provide over $100 million ADDITIONAL money in cash over the 30 years that is not part of the bond finance. That has neither strings nor promises attached to it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification about no strings being attached to Prop 132.

The entire thing is very frustrating. Like even political savy Indianapolis residents have the time to follow all of these winding roads to see how our money is being spent and will be spent...
And we wonder why more people aren't enagaged in the political process. This confusion is intentional, and it needs to stop.

I would like to know the Mayor's practical definition of transparency.

Citizen Kane said...

They need new young hungry blood do to the dirty work; in short, they need to bring along some youngsters that will do their bidding and who in turn believe that they will be able to obtain the power and prestige they believe they so richly deserve.

Citizen Kane said...

Both Propositions are borderline thievery. But I did not realize until the council meeting that the PILOT funds were from sewer fees. It is outrageous and clearly bad government to extract sewer fees from ratepayers, and provide long-term bonding to pay for street repair and sidewalks. Sewer fees are for sewers - that is why they are called fees. When you take it and use it for something else, it is nothing more than a tax by another name. Every councilor who voted for this should be removed from office.

And the same goes for the Citizens deal; I have no problem with Citizens running the sewer and water utilities (sans Veiola) as long a no money exchanges hands. It should be treated like any other transfer of duties between public agencies; it should not be used as a scheme to steal money from ratepayers. Yet, with our sheep-like citizens, impotent media and lack of real leadership (on both sides of the aisle), we continually get robbed in every way imaginable.

Then after the bond is issued, they will be wringing their hands about cost over-runs and funding for our long-term sewer obligations, while 95% of the public won't even realized that they just got gored.