Monday, October 31, 2011

Latest Tid-Bits About Broad Ripple Parking Garage

There are a few tid-bits that have accumulated recently, regarding the proposed Broad Ripple parking garage.  The simplest thing is to list them in one blog entry just to expedite getting the information out.

1) Old Marathon Gas Station site sold -  A sales disclosure form is available on the State's DLGF website that shows the Marathon Gas Station site at 6280 N. College Avenue was sold to 6280, LLC, on August 29, 2011, for $1.8 million.  Compare this price to the assessed value of $999,800.  Marathon made out great in this deal.  It always helps to have the government tossing money into a project like this.  Free money leads to price inflation.

I could find no sales disclosure form for the old Marcos Pizza parcel at 6286 N. College.  It appears to remain owned by 6286, LLC.  Who is behind that LLC is a mystery, except that the bills are sent c/o Todd Morris.  Morris is listed as the Parking Manager for Newport Parking - one of the players in Keystone Group, LLC, who submitted the winning proposal for the garage.

2) Significant site plan changes have been made - When the developer and City officials met with the Broad Ripple Village Association months ago, they pitched the garage using a specific site plan.  They promised at the time, to return for approval of any significant changes to that site plan.  Well, a new site plan was submitted as part of the new Variance request.  This new plan is significantly different, yet no imput on the changes has been sought from the BRVA or other neighborhood groups representing residents in the area.

Here is the first site plan floated to the BRVA:

Here is the current site plan:

You can see that, among configuration changes to the retail space and it's access, the retail parking spaces have been eliminated as designated spaces.  There are 10 new spaces in the southwest corner that appear to be outside of the garage itself.  The 18 spaces shown to the south are actually associated with the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic, and not with the garage itself.

The owner and Veterinarian Dr. David Brunner has been critical of the garage in public meetings.  He cited a study by his attorney, Steve Mears, which concludes that parking garages on non-rectangular lots have a typical price of $15,000 per space.  This garage weighs in at a hefty $27,000 per space.  Hmmm... 

3) Traffic Impact Study under way - The City is undertaking a traffic impact study for the Westfield / College intersection, with a particular interest in alternative configurations that might optimize pedestrian safety.  One possibility thrown out there is that the City is contemplating increasing the width of the sidewalk on the east side of the proposed garage, and a concomitant decrease in lane width of the vehicle lanes on College Avenue.  More on this particular point once I get a copy of a vacation petition that an alert reader of this blog mentioned in the comments section of my last entry.

The City has already stated that it will cover all expenses related to street improvements around the garage site.  It now sounds like significant changes to the streetscape are being envisioned.  To what cost, we do not know.  That puts into further doubt the statement that this garage proposal was the best submitted.  The need to at least consider revamping the streetscape just adds to the fact that the garage as proposed does not legally fit on the lot, cannot accommodate any more than 305 spaces, and cannot adequately accommodate a bank drive-through teller lane without variances.  (see my last blog entry "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Someone Forgot To Which End Of The Horse The Cart Is Attached")

That's it for today.  Expect more to come on this 'not-ready-for-prime-time' garage (with apologies to Saturday Night Live).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Someone Forgot To Which End Of The Horse You Attach The Cart

The saga of the Broad Ripple Garage continues, and does so in unerringly the wrong order.

For background you can read my earlier posts on the garage (see "Tidbits on the Broad Ripple Parking Garage", "Are Taxpayer Dollars Being Flagrantly Misused?", "BZA Decisions Contributed Mightily To Broad Ripple Parking Situation", "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - More BZA Decisions Noted - Running Total 320", "More News About Broad Ripple Parking Garage Deal - Sheesh!", and "BZA Decisions Impact Our Community In Tangible Ways - Parking In Broad Ripple".

For the latest news, that the agreement between the City and the Keystone Group has been inked down and contains some aspects that run counter to comments by both Council President Ryan Vaughn and Mayor Greg Ballard, see Paul Ogden's "The Tale of the Broad Ripple Parking Garage: Taxpayers to Pay to Build the Facility While Developer Gets 100% of the Ownership and Revenue".

This blog entry is about the fact that the developer has filed a variance asking for a few things that might make you wonder why these things are coming up AFTER the proposal was submitted and accepted and even AFTER the deal was inked down.

The hearing date is now set for 1 pm, November 15, in the public assembly room of the City-County Building.
Yes, petition 2011-DV2-021 asks for a few variances.
1) they want permission to build retail space and parking space at or below flood level without the required structural flood proofing for the building
2) they want permission to build the building 40 feet closer to Westfield Blvd and 35 feet closer to College Ave than allowed by ordinance
3) they want permission to reduce the size of the parking spaces themselves from 10 by 18 feet down to 8.75 by 18 feet (meaning they can only legally fit 305 spaces and not the promised 350 spaces if the variance is denied)
4) they want permission to locate a drive-through lane for a bank that will block parking spaces set aside for the bank, with that lane too short by about 6 car lengths as well.

So, you say the ground floor risks getting flooded?  And you say you can't fit the required building size on the lot legally?  And you are telling us that you really could only fit 305 spaces in the building you proposed in the winning proposal - not the promised 350?

And yet the City of Indianapolis said you had the best, most responsive proposal?  And furthermore, even after knowing you would need all of these variances just to squeeze, tuck, and constrict the spaces onto a lot obviously inadequate for the purpose, the City of Indianapolis still went through with the deal and signed the contract?

Wow !  Keystone Group (now going by 6280, LLC, for this project)  must have some fan-tas-tic salesmanship talents !

Here's the problem with granting these variances.  There will be tight turns in the basically triangular building that inebriated patrons of nearby bars will be trying to navigate after their night on the town.  If anyone could use a full size parking space to get in and out of, it surely are these patrons.  Then, because the lot is really a baaad choice, customers of the garage will be coming and going across congested streets to get in and out of the garage in their cars, and then crossing busy congested streets to get to and from the bars.  That sounds like a recipe for problems.

If rational thought is to prevail, the requested variances must be denied.  That will send the deal back to ground zero where it belongs and where some sanity can be regained by the City to kill this deal off.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Makes Pay-To-Play?

I noted in my last blog post that while some of the PACs contributing to the candidates have names that tell you who is behind that PAC, some do not.

Today we look at the PAC named Citizens for Excellence In Government.  In the last two years this PAC has given $34,000 to the Kennedy campaign and $15,000 to the Ballard Campaign.  These figures are from the PAC campaign finance filings with the State of Indiana, as well as contributions reported by the candidates and posted on the Election Board website through yesterday.

Turns out there have been two primary contributors to Citizens for Excellence in Government PAC in the last couple of years. One is an individual, Alex Oak, and the other is LC Investors, LLC.   State PAC finance records posted online go only up to the 2011 pre-primary report.  Posted records show that during all of 2010 and up through 4/8 of 2011, the PAC took in $64,200 in contributions.  Oak gave $31,000 of that and LC Investors, LLC, gave $25,000.  I do not have access to the donors of record from 4/8/11 through yesterday, as the 2011 pre-election campaign finance report for the PAC has not yet been posted on the Secretary of State's website.

But, you get the picture.  A great deal of money has flowed to the two campaigns through this PAC that has two main contributors.

So, who are the contributors?

Alex Oak is Chairman, CEO, and Partner at Paul I. Cripe, Inc., d/b/a Cripe Architects + Engineers.  There is surprisingly little information about LC Investors, LLC.  Their registered agent is Stephen W. Lee who is a partner at Barnes and Thornburg who specializes in Real Estate Development.  There is one news story from the IBJ wherein LC Investors, LLC, is mentioned as a creditor in the bankruptcy of Flaherty & Collins Properties.

A review of Paul I. Cripe, Inc., in the City's contract database reveals 8 contracts - two originating in the Peterson administration and the rest in the Ballard administration.  Contract 1354 originated in 2005 and was for $25,000.  Contract 1425 originated in 2007 for $2.1 million.  That was extended in 2009, 2010, and 2011, adding $668,880 to the original amount. Contracts 8033, 8108, 8403, and 8284 originated in 2010 for a grand total that year of $691,143.74.  Contracts 9314 and 9115 have been inked down so far this year for a total this year of $406,826.  Grand total of two contracts under Peterson was $2,125,000.  Grand total of 6 contracts plus three extensions of a Peterson contract under Ballard was $1,766,849.74.

Did Oak contribute to this PAC to further the cause of 'excellence in government'?  Who knows.  Were any of these contracts and donations used in Kennedy's supposed calculation of pay-to-play schemes by Ballard?  Who knows.  That list has not been revealed beyond the Indy Star.  A review by the Star did find that Kennedy's claims were overblown (see my blog entry "Is the Kennedy Campaign in Trouble?")

So, if these contracts are extended in a Kennedy administration, or if new contracts are awarded to Paul I. Cripe, Inc., will that be considered by the Kennedy camp to be pay-to-play politics?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Large Contributions - Kennedy & Ballard 2011

I have gone through all campaign finance reports for both Melina Kennedy and Greg Ballard for the entire year to date (as of yesterday, October 25) and compiled a list of contributors whose total donations equal at least $10,000 since January 1, 2011.  A number of these contributors gave to both campaigns, but not to both in such large amounts.

Before I get into the list, I must note that the Kennedy campaign finance reports are deliberately randomized as to dates and alphabetical order of donors.  If you'd like to see for yourself, look for Lacy Johnson in Kennedy's pre-election report.  He made a large number of donations over the time period, but you will find his name scattered throughout the individual donors portion of the report.  Even then, the dates of his donations are not sequential.  These campaign finance reports may meet the letter of the law, but their deliberate randomization makes reviewing them extremely difficult.  They speak poorly of Kennedy's commitment to transparency.

Below I list the names of the individuals and organizations whose contributions amounted to at least $10,000 during 2011.  I have rounded off to the nearest dollar to make scanning the list easier.  I also segmented the lists into individual donors, corporations, political action committees, labor, and 'other'.

The overall outcome is that Ballard took in 28 large donations totalling $411,315 while Kennedy took in 29 large donations totalling $722,711.  This amounts to 24% of Ballard's total itemized donations for the year and 35% of Kennedy's.  Kennedy took in no large donations from corporations.  Neither took in any large donations from Labor (although many Labor organizations have set up PACs which did make large donations).

Christopher BurkeNaperville, IL$10,000
Christal DeHaanIndy35,000
Russell FortuneIndy10,000
Russell Fortune III (may be same person as above)Indy10,000
James IrsayIndy10,000
Scott JonesCarmel10,000
Phillip KuntzFishers10,000
Bhagwan PatelIndy10,000
Beurt SerVaasIndy10,000
Herbert SimonIndy20,000
Ray SkillmanIndy10,000
Randall M TobiasCarmel10,000
James WadeIndy10,000
Dean WhiteMerrillville25,000

7 Ray Skillman business locations

HNTB Holdings Ltd. PACKansas City, MO

Barnes & Thornburg, LLPIndy$20,329
Bose McKinney & Evans, LLPIndy15,000
Bruce White & E White JTWROSChicago, IL25,000
Central Canal Holdings FC LLCIndy10,000
DLZ Indiana, LLCSouth Bend11,000
Downey Racing, LLCAvon10,000
Hunt / Smoot Midfield Builders LLCScottsdale, AZ10,000
Indiana Republican State Central CommiteeIndy23,179
M & J Management LLCIndy20,000
REI Real Estate Services, LLCCarmel25,000
Ruth's Chris Steak House - Hoosier LP and Terra LP (two PACs)Indy17807

David B BeckerFortville$10,000
George A Buskirk Jr.Zionsville10,000
Gregory F HahnIndy15,975
Jason R HeslerIndy10,400
Alan P HoganIndy10,400
Lacy M JohnsonIndy24,642
Dennis MehielValhalla, NY10,000
Alan K MillsIndy10,500
Anne NoblesIndy10,000
Deborah J SimonCarmel10,000
Herb SimonIndy10,000
Cindy Simon SkjodtCarmel29,199
Ann M StackIndy38,035

Citizens for Excellence in GovtIndy$16,800
DPBG Political Action CommitteeIndy12,000
EMILY's List-NF FundWashington, DC10,000
IBEW Educational CommitteeWashington, DC27,500
Local 135 DRIVEIndy10,500
Midwest Region Laborers' Political Action LeagueSpringfield, IL25,000
Taft, Stettinius & Hollister Better Gov't FundIndy13,500
UAW Region 3 Victory FundIndy45,000
Victory 2010 CommitteeIndy105,000

Barnes and Thornburg LLPIndy$10,358
The Bart Peterson for Mayor CommitteeIndy60,000
Bose McKinney and Evans LLPIndy25,958
Brightpoint Eclipse, LLCIndy81,000
Hunt / Smoot Midfield Builders, A Joint VentureScottsdale, AZ10,500
Indiana Democratic PartyIndy60,394
Jonathan Weinzapfel for Mayor CommitteeEvansville10,000

Many of the PACs have names that reflect who they represent.  I will post about some of the others in later blog entries.  

Tully Takes Stand On Negative Ads

Star Columnist, Matt Tully, has taken on the negative ads and laid the bulk of the reponsibility on the Kennedy campaign.  In today's edition, Tully admits he favors Kennedy, however the tactics being employed undermine her message, and will leave a stain on her administration should she be elected.

He says:
If elected mayor in two weeks, Melina Kennedy promises to usher in to city government what she calls a spirit of collaboration and a bold effort to tackle, from the ground level and with the help of many people, the city's massive education problems.
Kennedy talks often about overcoming the city's challenges by working closely with neighborhood groups and building tight relationships with community leaders, teachers and other residents. The core of her campaign message seems to be a vow to rally Indianapolis residents around the notion that the city can be greater. Her team says she can be the force that brings competing factions and diverse interests together.

It's a compelling message -- one that anyone who has read my column in recent weeks knows has swayed me toward Kennedy as Election Day approaches. I'm convinced that Indianapolis needs a mayor who can persuade residents to embrace tough solutions to our biggest challenges, and Kennedy seems to have an ability to get people around her excited and motivated.

And that is what makes the topic of today's column -- the relentlessly negative and exaggerated television and radio ad campaign Kennedy has run -- so disheartening. For weeks, she has pummeled incumbent Mayor Greg Ballard, by all accounts a decent and honest man, with phony and unfair attack ads portraying him as everything from a corrupt fat cat politician to a reckless big spender eager to raise taxes.

Meanwhile, she has sat back while the nasty and bullying leaders in the Marion County Democratic Party air radio ads on African-American stations suggesting, at the very least, racial insensitivity on Ballard's part, invoking an unwelcome dose of racial politics into the campaign.

Finally, her campaign has needlessly dragged Deputy Mayor Michael Huber through the mud. That's a particularly infuriating tactic. In 19 years of covering politics, I don't think I've ever dealt with a more impressive, sincere and dedicated political aide than Huber, a young father who spends his days eager to find solutions to the city's biggest problems, including efforts to transform the city's infrastructure.

Huber is exactly the type of person we need in politics -- collaborative, creative and smart. But the attacks against him explain why so many good people avoid public service.

For months, I've listened to Kennedy's speeches. I've read her position papers. I've spent hours talking to her about issues such as crime, education and her vision for the city. She is a master of policy and has big ideas about what the city can achieve. She is an impressive communicator and a tireless worker. She's pretty much sold me; I believe a Kennedy administration could do big things.

But this much is clear: The tenor of her paid-media campaign does her candidacy a horrible disservice. And it is turning many people off.

Repeatedly, I have talked to voters, both Democrats and Republicans, who mention with disappointment the nonstop negativity coming out of the Kennedy campaign. This week, I talked to a friend who said she went to bed Sunday night, after watching the final mayoral debate, excited about Kennedy. But after seeing a handful of attack ads during the local news the next morning, she'd changed her mind.

It's just too mean, she said.

For the record, Ballard's campaign has run negative ads, too. But Kennedy went first, forcing Ballard to respond, and the ads coming from her campaign are more personal; they are filled with much more dangerous allegations. And, of late, they have come without any balance. It's as if her campaign has decided to go all negative, all the time in these final weeks.

In the end, it might work. Fear and anger clearly motivate voters, and those emotions have helped retire many incumbent politicians in recent years.

But there is a cost. And it's far too steep, particularly for a candidate with Kennedy's potential and in a city that desperately needs leaders who can bring people together.

A campaign too heavily based on mean-spirited messages will leave a lasting stain. If Kennedy is elected, and I still hope she is, voters will remember not just that she won but also how she won. Ultimately, she will learn that harsh campaign tactics make it much harder to bring about the type of positive change she so often talks about outside her TV ads.

That would be a shame. That would be harmful for Indianapolis. That's why Kennedy should stop the silliness and end her campaign on a different, much more uplifting note.
While I'm not the fan of Huber that Tully is, I think he painted the rest of the picture quite well.  Time is running short and there are repercussions that may outweigh the benefits to the tactics being embraced by Kennedy's campaign.  I know in my house, which is composed of Liberal Democrats, the majority are now voting for Ballard precisely because of Kennedy's actions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Campaign Finance - Ballard & Kennedy, 2011

I have pulled together the entire year's contributions, as of today (large donation supplemental reports are being filed daily), and totaled the sources for the itemized donations for both Greg Ballard and Melina Kennedy.  The campaign finance reports are available on the Election Board website - for Mayoral candidates specifically, click here.

Itemized Campaign Contributions - 1-1-11 through 10-24-11
total itemized$1,723,067.80$2,067,977.37

Many labor organizations have formed PACs, and their contributions show up in that category.

The 'other' category includes businesses that are not formed as corporations (law firms, LLCs, etc), and donations from political and candidate organizations. 

Individual donation totals were pretty darned close, with Kennedy taking the edge.

Ballard took in twice as much from corporations, but Kennedy outpaced him more than 4 to 1 in donations from PACs.  Kennedy scored slightly better than Ballard in the 'other' category of donors.

As of the pre-election campaign finance report filed last week (covering through 10-14-11), Ballard had $886,435.37 cash on hand, while Kennedy had $738,126.19.  Since that report, Ballard has filed reports of large donations (greater than $1000 each) totalling $35,000, while Kennedy reports total large donations of $47,000.  However, no smaller donations or any expenditures are reported since 10-14-11.

Indy Star Calls Ballard's Comments Like They Were

Today's Indy Star editorial calls out the Kennedy campaign - softly, but still it calls it out - on their deliberate warping of the facts to suit their gutter politics (my accurate choice of words, not the Stars').  Here is what they had to say:
In response to a question about high unemployment rates among racial and ethnic minorities in Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard, in an Oct. 15 televised debate, made reference to a "difficult population" in connection with his administration's efforts to create jobs in the urban core.

Was it the "gotcha'' moment of the 2011 Indianapolis mayoral campaign, an indication of the incumbent's lack of respect for or insensitivity to minorities in the city? Marion County Democrats clearly think so. They've been running a hard-hitting radio ad in support of challenger Melina Kennedy that blasts Ballard's quote as an "outrage."

Let's agree that the mayor's phrasing was awkward. Ballard never will be mistaken for an eloquent public speaker. But a fair reading of his comments, kept in context -- and, more important, his record over the past four years -- should dispel fears that Ballard doesn't care about or hasn't tried to reduce joblessness among minorities, especially for African-Americans and Latinos. One example: The city during Ballard's term has significantly increased the number of women-, minority- and veteran-owned enterprises that it does business with.

The fact remains, however, that the unemployment rate among blacks is unacceptably high. That's true not only in Indianapolis but also the nation as a whole. In August, the national unemployment rate for blacks (16.7 percent) reached its highest level since 1984. It declined slightly, to 16 percent, in September, but the long-term trend is discouraging. The unemployment rate for blacks has stayed above 10 percent for more than four years, and many economists predict that it will stay that high for years to come.

Several factors help explain why the unemployment rate among blacks is higher than in the general population. Black workers tend to be younger and less experienced and have a lower level of educational attainment than the American workforce on average. Those are stiff challenges -- difficulties? -- in the best of times. In a stubbornly weak economy, it's a formula for deep suffering and despair.

Given that reality, a few awkward words in the heat of a political debate should have little lasting significance. Far more important is ensuring that this community does all it can to create a fertile environment for jobs to be created, and to ensure that all racial and ethnic groups have the opportunities and skills they need to thrive in the workplace.
My party can do better than this and Democrats need to demand it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kennedy Must Repudiate Treacy's Tactics

Ed Treacy has sunk to new lows.  He claims that Mayor Greg Ballard uttered a phrase during last week's debate that proves Ballard is a racist.  He provides no context, nor any link to a transcript or recording so fair minded people can check his claims out for themselves.  But, he has an ad running on radio trying to incense Indy's African American voters so that the will come to the polls in force and vote for Melina Kennedy.

If Ballard made a racist statement during the debate, why then did Kennedy, who was standing right next to him at the time and had a microphone at her disposal, why then did she not call him out on the spot?  She did not because Ed Treacy is making this crap up.

It is gutter politics and race-baiting at its worst.

All decent Democrats should be outraged and call for Treacy's removal as Chairman of the County Party.

Melina Kennedy must repudiate Treacy's tactics and demand that the ad be pulled from the airwaves.

How she handles this situation will speak volumes about whether or not she is fit to lead our City.

Its that simple.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Promises And Laddertrucks

At Monday night's City-County Council meeting, Councillor Jackie Nytes made a number of comments during the evening.  Two in particular I would like to address, as I think they are important issues and I hold a very different opinion than Councillor Nytes.  Gary Welsh took up a few of her comments and added his own thoughts over at Advance Indiana Monday night.

What I'd like to address in this blog entry are Nytes' comments made just before the IFD special district tax rate was approved.

Now, Councillor Nytes gets points from me for being quite consistent in the matter of more money for government.  She makes no bones about it and will ignore her caucus' position on matters when those matters will produce more revenue for some component of the City-County government or for downtown.  Her constituents knew her stand when they voted for her and she has not veered from that stand.  So, she gets points for that.  But, I heartily disagree with her comments and the underlying positions, nonetheless.

When then-Mayor Peterson was pushing consolidation of the various fire departments, critics claimed it would cost more, cause layoffs, and lead to township fire equipment and manpower shuffled into the old IFD district.  All that was pooh-poohed as untrue.  It was said that the merger would save money and lower taxes to boot.  When Ballard became mayor, he pushed consolidation even more fervently than Peterson had.  But, he dropped the claim that there were savings to be generated through consolidation, since the proof was abundant that it did not.  In fact, Mayor Ballard began to leave the merging township with the debt from their fire department and took the assets into IFD.

It seemed to me then and it still seems to me now, that the merger was just so township tax resources could be pulled in to help fund IFD.

Now we have the current affair of the proposed removal of ladder truck 21 from Station 21 in Washington Township, and within Councillor Christine Scales' district.  The College Commons neighborhood responded and have posted an informative letter online that I recommend folks read for the details.  One interesting paragraph lists the loss of services located in Washington Township since consolidation:
As stated above, Station 21's primary fire response has gone from 10 to 8, to very soon 4 firefighters. What else has the North-Side lost since consolidation with I.F.D.? Here are the fire/rescue services that were provided on the North-Side of Indianapolis and have since been removed by I.F.D. Remember, these services are now gone: The Hazardous Materials Team from Station 21, Heavy automobile extrication from Stations 4, 6 and 21, (They are still "light" extrication companies, but the heavy extrication comes from Station 14 at 30th and Capital.) Rope Rescue from Station 4, Medic 4 has been marked out of service, Ladder 17 has been marked out of service, The Ice Rescue Sled from Station 6 is gone (taken away the day after it was used to rescue a dog on the ice in a nationally televised story. It is now in storage collecting dust.), all of the engines and ladders in the former Washington Township response area were front line ALS (Advanced Life Support = paramedic) responders, (eight trucks in all) now only 2 are frontline ALS responders, and of course, come this December, Ladder 21 will be gone. Did you know this much has been taken away? Are you paying correspondingly less in taxes for having all of these services removed?
So, its not just a matter of the ladder truck - it is the decrease number of firefighters as well.

Nytes castigated the public and fellow Councillors to get with the new reality of the merged fire department.  Well... promises made were that this would not happen.  Those promises should be kept - not just what was written down in the merger documents.  AND it is the responsibility of a Councillor to advocate for and support the needs of their constituents.  Which is exactly what District 4 Councillor, Christine Scales, did in getting the decision to decommission Ladder Truck 21 reversed.

Here is another paragraph from the neighborhood organization's letter:
District 4 Councilor Christine Scales is working feverishly to try to organize the homeowner's associations in her area to act. She has spent countless hours on researching response times, NFPA standards, insurance ratings, actual driving distances and times between firehouses, and documentation of fire burning rates, as well as many other fire related statistics. She is fully against Ladder 21 being shut down. All of the officials contacted seem to be concerned, but no one is willing to act. She isn't the only person within the City Government working in your favor, but she is the most diligent.
Scales is a well regarded Councillor, not just in District 4, but throughout Indianapolis.  She does her homework on issues, and like Nytes, does not always follow her caucus if she believes it contrary to what is best for her constituents.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  Christine Scales is a gem of a Councillor.  Her work to restore Ladder 21 is just one more example of her indefatigable efforts on behalf of the residents of District 4.  Indy could use more Councillors just like her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2012 Budget Is Done

Well, its been going on since August, but the 2012 budget is finally completed.  Here's some of my impressions of it.

1) Between the sale of the sewer utility and the parking meters, and the near depletion of the rainy day fund last year, there is a $35 million hole in the revenue stream for 2012 as compared to 2011.  That money is never coming back.  Instead of dealing with it by meting out significant budget cuts in an election year, the Ballard administration chose, and the Council endorsed, robbing the consolidated downtown TIF district fund of $38.5 million.  This is not sustainable and next year we likely will be forced to pay the piper.

2) While the administration continues to repeat the phrase, "no layoffs", the truth is different.  The budget cuts demanded of the Clerk's Office will generate about 10 layoffs - and the Criminal Justice committee of the Council was so informed prior to their vote to move the budget to the full Council with a 'do-pass' recommendation.  Clerk Beth White requested an increase of $76,623 over what Controller Jeff Spaulding recommended.  This was still a decrease of over $300,000 from the previous year.  White testified that her employees tended to be single mothers earning salaries at the low end of the City's wage charts.  Add to that the fact that the Clerk's office and its workflow is critical to the jail overcrowding solutions, and you have a stance by this administration and the Council Republicans that is more than difficult to comprehend.  Let us hope that this cut, with real life ramifications for real people, was not generated out of party politics. 

3) The 'grown-up' award goes to the Public Safety Committee.  I have to disclose that I am an ardent supporter of the Council being an equal branch of local government with the Mayor and the Courts.  I really hate it when the Council takes on the role of Mayoral lapdog, instead of constituent watchdog.  That said, the Public Safety Committee, chaired and led by Ben Hunter, rolled up their sleeves and slogged through the numbers, asked hard questions, demanded changes, and made the budget for its departments and agencies all that much improved over what had been submitted by the Ballard administration.  Members of that committee are Republicans Hunter, Freeman, Pfisterer, Scales, and Vaughn, and Democrats Adams, Oliver, and Brown.
An additional 'grown-up' award must absolutely go to Sheriff John Layton, who stated his case and then worked with that committee to head his budget into the right direction.  He got the pension fully covered and is working toward solutions for his other, large, shortfalls.  And, he is doing so in an effective and cooperative manner that will bring results for the citizens and taxpayers of Marion County.

4) Parks is a mess.  Stuart Lowry has been a disaster as Director.  From comments during the budget debate it became clear that the budget for Parks still contains the -$1 million cut as a line item, instead of having been allocated to specific items.  Really?  Don't sit quietly and accept the cut if you can't make the decisions of where those cuts will end up.

5) Last but not least, I think there are a couple of time bombs in this budget that will have to be defused as 2012 moves along.  I also do not think that is any way to make a budget.  The Coroner's office is still using wishful thinking to hope for an additional $400,000 in revenue to come from who knows where.  The Controller's office is content to simply 'moniter' the situation as 2012 progresses.
There is still no rough, much less reliable, estimate of the cost of the Superbowl to Indy's taxpayers.  At least the Council has demanded that estimate be delivered some time in November.  Credit for that goes to President Ryan Vaughn and Councillor Brian Mahern.  The IMPD budget took a half million dollar hit this year in unbudgeted pre-superbowl activities.  Nothing has been budgeted for them, IFD, Code Enforcement, or Public Works for 2012.  That is not realist and the actual cost to taxpayers should not be held from the public.  Obviously, the November 8 election is a motivating factor in the reluctance of the Ballard administration to be clear and transparent in this matter.

For the vote on the City-County budget, the Assessor's budget was pulled out because Councillor Adams and Councillor Lewis' spouse work for that Office.

The final vote on the 2012 City-County budget (sans Assessor) went primarily along party lines - 16 yeas and 13 nays.  Democrat Brian Mahern joined all 15 Republicans in voting for the budget.  Lone Libertarian Coleman joined the rest of the Democrats in voting against the budget.  The Assessor's budget vote was 22 yeas, 5 nays, and the two abstentions.  Voting nay were Coleman, Gray, Minton-McNeill, Oliver, and Sanders.

The individual municipal corporation budget votes were interesting in who voted against them.

The airport budget was passed 26 to 3.  Councillors Coleman, Mansfield and Sanders voted no.

The CIB budget passed 19 to 10.  Voting no were Republican Councillor Hunter, Libertarian Coleman, and Democrats Bateman, Brown, Evans, Gray, Dane Mahern, Mansfield, Oliver and Sanders.

Health and Hospitals budget passed 27 to 1.  Councillor Coleman was the sole no vote.

The Library budget passed 25 to 2 with Councillor Nytes abstaining.  Councillor Hunter had left the meeting to attend to an emergency.  Councillors Brown and Coleman voted no.

The IndyGo budget passed 24 to 4 (Hunter absent), with Brown, Coleman, Oliver, and Sanders casting the no votes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

...'Til Tomorrow

There is much to blog about with the City-County Council meeting last night.  But, as this is my father's 84th birthday, I am opting to spend my day with him.  I'll be back tomorrow with the budget wrap-up, plight of the hotel workers, and a rebuttal for some of Councillor Nytes' comments.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Is The Kennedy Campaign In Trouble?

Melina Kennedy has a lot going for her.  She is intelligent, articulate, understands the issues and can formulate approaches to solutions.  But if you looked to her television ads, you will not have seen any glimpse of that view of Kennedy for about a month.  That is because all of her latest ads, run on a heavy schedule (at least on the channels we tend to watch), are about current Mayor, Greg Ballard.  Now, an advanced sorry to those who earn their living by advising campaigns.... but.... with Ballard's record as Mayor, critiquing his job performance should be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Instead, Kennedy's campaign has used its last two ads to infer, but not clearly state, that Ballard has exchanged city contracts for campaign contributions.  This is the pay-to-play politics frequently brought up by my fellow bloggers Paul Ogden (Ogden On Politics) and Gary Welsh (Advance Indiana).  So, there are plenty of specific instances that could be brought to the public's attention.  The Kennedy camp has, however, taken to supposedly enumerating the dollars given and the dollars returned, without specifying the donors' corporate identities. 

The list of these supposedly suspect donors and contracts has not been made available to the public.  That list, however, was obtained and analyzed by the Indianapolis Star.  The Star analysis concludes that a) "But as Kennedy's campaign acknowledges, she has received contributions from some of the same city contractors that have given to Ballard, as well as from their employees, though Kennedy receives less overall." and b) "But when it comes to the contract total cited by Kennedy's ad, a spot check of a list provided to The Star suggests the figure is, at best, unreliable."  One does have to wonder if the release of the list of suspect donors and contracts would embarrass Kennedy and put her at odds with some of her own donors.

After the Star analysis was published, the Kennedy camp came out with a second ad that only discusses the campaign contributions.  When it played on our television last night, my husband and I looked at each other and asked, is the Kennedy campaign in trouble?  Why else spend your air time on a claim that didn't stand up to scrutiny and for which there is ample time for the Ballard campaign to correct that claim? 

Hopefully in the waning days of the campaign, the Kennedy ads will return to her qualifications for the office and her vision for our City.

 Here's what the Star had to say about the ad on Sunday, in its entirety:

Math in Kennedy ad about contracts doesn't quite work
Editor's note: The Indianapolis Star is examining campaign ads throughout the fall election season, focusing on those in which candidates attack or make claims about their opponents.
The candidate: Melina Kennedy, Democratic nominee for Indianapolis mayor.
The ad: After a couple of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's TV ads have criticized Kennedy, her ad highlights Ballard's campaign contributions from city contractors.
The script: "Notice how many of Greg Ballard's ads talk about Melina Kennedy? Maybe it's because Greg Ballard is trying to hide the fact he lost the endorsement of Indianapolis police. Or that he's raised taxes, rates and fees 140 times. Or maybe it's because Greg Ballard is hiding the fact he gave $300 million in city contracts to his political contributors . . . who gave Ballard $1.3 million for his campaign. It's true. It's troubling. And it's why we need a change."
The facts: The new claim here is about city contractors donating to Ballard's campaign. The connection, a long-recognized political issue faced by incumbents, creates, at the very least, a perception that contributors are being rewarded with big contracts.
But as Kennedy's campaign acknowledges, she has received contributions from some of the same city contractors that have given to Ballard, as well as from their employees, though Kennedy receives less overall.
Kennedy's campaign says it searched the city's online contracts database to look at contracts or renewals that took effect after Ballard took office in 2008.
And it counted any campaign donations to Ballard by the contractors and their employees.
But when it comes to the contract total cited by Kennedy's ad, a spot check of a list provided to The Star suggests the figure is, at best, unreliable.
 On the list are 76 contractors -- more than a third of them connected to public-works projects -- associated with $309.5 million in contracts. Others are law firms, consultants and technology companies.
 Among the problems:

Several contracts originally signed long before Ballard's term began are counted at the value listed in the city database. That's a problem because the amounts appear to represent their value over the contract's lifetime -- not just the value since they were renewed or amended under Ballard.
At least two contracts -- including one for nearly $12 million -- were signed by the county's Information Services Agency. Ballard appoints a minority of members to the ISA's board, so he doesn't have direct control over its contracts.
The largest contract -- listed at $98 million for United Water -- is questionable. The company has operated the city sewer system since the 1990s, and the city renewed it for nine years in 2007.
One problem: Democrat Bart Peterson, Kennedy's one-time boss, was mayor when that happened. Ballard took office soon after, and aside from minor amendments pursued by his staff, the financial terms -- a base fee of $29 million a year -- changed little.
When pressed about the contract's timing, Kennedy spokesman Jon Mills pointed out that regardless of who signed the contract, Ballard has been very good to United Water.
The company retained its sewer system role even after the city sold its water and sewer utilities this year to Citizens Energy Group. Kennedy's list counts United Water as giving $17,500 to Ballard's campaign.
The spin: Ballard spokeswoman Molly Deuberry called Kennedy's contracts attack "political hypocrisy" because she accepts campaign donations connected to contractors. Deuberry also pointed out that some of the contractors did city work when Kennedy was Peterson's deputy mayor.
"It is obviously a sign of a desperate campaign when Kennedy is funding the ad with money from the same people she is maligning," Deuberry said.
Mills stood by the ad's contracts figure. He said Ballard "is a mayor who said when he came to office that he was going to get away from pay-to-play politics. . . . These companies all have the right and should do all they can to work with the city. What we're drawing into question is how this mayor decides to conduct city business."
The bottom line: Kennedy's ad raises a fair issue that may resonate with some voters. But while Ballard clearly has received contributions from contractors holding very big contracts, the size of the ad's headline figure -- $300 million -- doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
 Compiled by Star reporter Jon Murray

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jail Overcrowding And The 2005 COIT Increase

Much hay is trying to be made of an increase in the County Option Income Tax back in 2005.  So I thought I'd revisit just what was going on at that time and who voted what way on the increase.

Jail is the place where folks who have been arrested await trial.  Prison is the place where folks who have been found guilty go to serve their time.  Not all those folks who are in jail are innocent of the crime for which they are charged.  Not all those folks who are in jail are guilty of the crime for which they are charged.

For many years, Indianapolis/Marion County had a jail overcrowding problem.  It really was a human rights issue.  Finally, the Courts handed down an order that limited the number of arrestees who could be kept in the jail.  What followed was the release of arrestees to keep the count below the court order.  The situation is best summarized by Councillor Steve Talley at one of the hearings to raise the County Option Income Tax (I'll tie that tax increase in below - this is just the best summary I could find of the jail overcrowding problem)
Councillor Talley said our criminal justice officials are over stressed and under funded.  Our jails have been over crowded for the past 30 years, and worst of all, murderers and other dangerous criminals are being put back on the street.... Councillor Talley said since the early release of criminals in 2001, more than 9,000 offenders have been put back onto the street and five have been linked to homicides following their releases. He said that in 2004 alone, more than 1,500 people were released from jail early. Of those, 238 have committed additional crimes while awaiting trial. Councillor Talley indicated that 31% of criminals released early fail to appear for scheduled court dates.
I actually believe that the Council's finest hour came when they formed the Marion County Criminal Justice Planning Council to examine all the reasons why the criminal justice system was so slow that arrestees backed up in the jail - waiting for trial.  This group examined all of the ingredients.  Their approach was non-partisan and when they went to the public to share their findings, they did so by having Democrat Judge Mark Stoner and Republican County Clerk Doris Ann Sadler as the spokesmen.  The Planning Council was established in 2003.  The members of that group were representatives of the City-County Council Sheriff's Department, IPD, the Prosecutor's office, the Public Defender, Community Corrections, the Crime Lab, the County Clerk, the Circuit Court, and the Superior Courts, among others.

Enter Prop 44, 2005, to increase the County Option Income Tax from 0.7% to 1.0% over three years.  The tax had been held down in Marion County while all surrounding counties had gradual increases over the years and were already at 1.0%.  In fact, almost all counties in Indiana had reached that level by this time.

Prop 44 was sponsored by Democrat Councillors Nytes, Talley, Sanders, Gray, Moriarty Adams, Brown, Bowes, D. Mahern, and Boyd, and Republican Keller.  It passed out of committee with a do-pass recommendation by a vote of 4-3 that split along party lines.  Voting yes were Democrats Sanders, Brown, Moriarty Adams, and Nytes.  Voting no were Republicans B. Langsford, McWhirter, and Plowman.

Come the night of the full Council meeting, the comments of Republican Councillor Borst are the most illustrative of the evening's discussion.  From the minutes of that meeting:
Councillor Borst said that he started the day believing he would vote one way on this proposal and ended the day thinking another. He said that he sat down and calculated over $115.5 million worth of annual needs for the City and County that cannot be met with the current budget and revenues. He said that he does not think this is the right answer to solving the problem and believes it is just another band-aid which does not come close to fixing the budget woes.  However, he recently saw the judiciary and criminal justice system take steps in consolidating administrations to find cost savings and free up funds, and he applauds them for taking these steps and thereby indicating their serious commitment to funding initiatives. He said that he is tired of seeing prisoners released from jail early and wants to see the crime lab get the funds they so desperately need. Councillor Borst said that he was encouraged to see what happened today, with Republicans and Democrats getting together and working to solve problems and communicating openly. He said that the result of these discussions was an agreement to insure that revenues generated by this increase will be used to address funding needs of the criminal justice system and public safety operations, such as jail overcrowding, criminal court expenditures, forensic services, and debt owed to the Indiana Department of Corrections. He said that, if available, new revenues generated by the proposal could be applied to inventory property tax relief for citizens, and if another revenue source is identified, the revenue could be applied to real property tax relief or the COIT could be rolled back. He added that several recommendations are being identified to present to the Marion County Criminal Justice Planning Council for streamlining and creating efficiencies within public safety and the criminal justice system. He said that he is against raising taxes, but will now support this proposal, knowing that the money will go where it is needed most.
Prop 44 passed by a vote of 21 to 7 with one absence (Speedy).  Voting yes were Democrats Abduallah, Bowes, Boyd, Brown, Conley, Franklin, Gibson, Gray, D. Mahern, Mansfield, Moriarty Adams, Nytes, Oliver, Sanders, and Talley, and Republicans Borst, Bradford, Keller, B. Langsford, McWhirter, and Randolph.  Voting no were Republicans Cain, Cockrum, Day, Pfisterer, Plowman, Salisbury, and Schneider.

The next couple of years saw the rollout of the plan and its implementation, funded by the increased COIT funds.

An Indianapolis Business Journal editorial on August 2, 2006
There has been some progress. The Marion County Criminal Justice Planning Council's vote Aug. 1 to recommend renting 200 jail beds for six months was a smart decision that the City-County Council would be wise to ratify at its meeting Aug. 7. But it's purely a short-term fix.

There is broad agreement that the long-term solution is making the wheels of justice turn faster. Cases need to proceed more quickly so that inmates spend less time in the county lockup.

To grease those wheels, we need more judges, attorneys and clerks. And we need to pay them better, so that they stick around a few years.
And from IBJ Reporter, Scott Olson, on January 1, 2007:
 At the administrative level, Peterson called for an extra $54 million in public safety and criminal justice spending in 2007, $19 million of which funded fire protection. Most of the money came from the County Option Income Tax and borrowing from the city's Sewer Fund.

From that, $2.2 million already has been spent to create a night court to process cases faster and relieve strain on the jail. Overcrowding is a major concern, because a court-ordered cap forces Sheriff Frank Anderson to release potentially dangerous inmates early if the jail population exceeds capacity. A concept he has floated involves outsourcing jail management to a private firm that could manage inmates more efficiently, supporters say.

Moreover, Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has added six deputy prosecutors to the homicide unit, bringing the total to 12. COIT money funded the new positions, as well as additional jail beds.
The Planning Council still has a remnant in the Thursday Afternoon Group.  Representatives of the Council and Public Safety and Criminal Justice agencies all meet to discuss and coordinate ways to be more efficient and effective.  I'll repeat what I said above and many times in public meetings.  I believe that the work of the Marion County Criminal Justice Planning Council was the finest example of good government; with all parties working to determine the causes of a problem and the ways to remedy them.  The positive outcomes of this group's work continue with our City today.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Evolution Of Code Enforcement In Indianapolis

Normally any blog entry about Code Enforcement would get three readers.  But, given the decision to require that Pan Am Plaza and the garage underneath be repaired, despite their utility to the upcoming Super Bowl, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth about fee increases in the current campaigns, it seems to be just what is in order.

Let me state this right at the beginning.  Code Enforcement saw significant gains under two successive Mayors, to the benefit of all of Indianapolis.  This should not be a bad thing.

For the historical perspective, one has to go back to the first time Bart Peterson ran for Mayor.  It was clear that neighborhood organizations' number one issue was the total failure of code enforcement in the City.  Few violations were getting prosecuted, few inspections of new buildings were actually getting done, and the frustration with that situation was rising with each passing day.  Peterson took the issue seriously and I think his handling of it is one of the true successes of his administration.

Peterson hired a guy with experience in Virginia, Rick Powers.  Powers had seen what an effective code enforcement operation looked like.  He came into the Office of Code Enforcement, at the time under the Department of Metropolitan Development, and he shaped it up.  It took a couple of years to change the culture, but he turned it into an effective and efficient organization.  For the first time, residents of Indianapolis were seeing that the ordinances, when enforced, meant better, more enjoyable neighborhoods.  Inspections of the vast number of new homes were rising.  There were still problems as Peterson left office, but the trajectory of the Office of Code Enforcement was steep and in the right direction.

Enter Greg Ballard's term as Mayor.  Ballard kept Powers on at Code Enforcement.  By this time, the effectiveness and efficiency of the Office of Code Enforcement could best be appreciated by the huge backlog of cases in the zoning section of the Office of Corporate Council.  Chris Cotterill was chosen by Ballard to head up that Office.  He very soon came to understand that one prosecutor, no matter how dedicated, could not cover the volume of violations headed to the Environmental Court for adjudication.  He beefed up the staff working on zoning, much to the positive benefit of neighborhoods across the City.

Discussions moved toward spinning the Office of Code Enforcement out of the Department of Metropolitan Development and into its own Department.  Other changes would be rolled into it as well.

The Department of Code Enforcement (DCE) would take on some other functions, like licencing of certain businesses.  The requirement for licensing of taxis, massage parlors, escort services, and the like, was on the books, but largely ignored and not really pursued by the Office of Financial Management, which for some reason had the responsibility.  Taxis were the number one complaint of the downtown business community; to their minds negatively impacting the impression tourists have of Indianapolis.  

The number of code enforcement officers would be increased to ensure that all buildings were inspected during their construction.  This would not only ensure construction actually met the standards written into law, it would cause the overall insurance rates for homeowners to drop, because there was some assurance that the houses would stand.

And all of this would be funded by turning the new DCE into an entirely fee-based operation. 

Spinning the Office of Code Enforcement into the Department of Code Enforcement garnered nearly universal support.  One caveat was the requirement of the business community that the new fees be rolled in in two phases.  Other than that, there really was no discussion of those fees.

Proposal 177, 2009, was sponsored by Councillors Lincoln Plowman (R), Jackie Nytes (D), Brian Mahern (D) and Dane Mahern (D).  The synopsis of the proposal was:
amends the Code to establish a new city department of code enforcement, to consolidate into two sections the various fees to be collected by the new department, and to make corresponding technical corrections
The Rules Committee, Chaired by Councillor Bob Lutz (R), considered the proposal on May 12 and June 16.  Prop 177 passed out of committee with a unanimous vote of "do-pass recommendation".  Those voting in this committee were Republican Councillors Lutz, Cockrum and Plowman, and Democrats Gray, Mansfield and Sanders.  The only point of discussion that made it into the minutes of that committee meeting was to which Council committee the new department should report.  Nothing about the fees was noted.

The vote at the full Council meeting on Prop 177, 2009, was 28 yeas, 0 nays, and one absence (Moriarty-Adams).

The establishment of DCE concurrently raised 113 fees by my count.

In 2010, Prop 149 was introduced and raised 88 of the fees further.  This proposal was sponsored by Councillors Mike McQuillen (R), Lutz (R), and Mansfield (D).  The synopsis was:
amends the Code to add and amend various chapters related to license and permit fees to be collected by the department of code enforcement pursuant to a cost analysis study determining the cost of the services underlying these fees to the department
A study had been conducted of the amount of time and salaries required to do pretty much every task DCE would be engaged in. Those folks seeking permits would be charged the amount of money it cost the City to investigate and issue a permit - tailored to the type of permit being requested. Likewise, taxi inspections would be done for the first time and the license fee would cover the expense.  Inspections, etc., were also reviewed for exact cost to the City.

The vote in the committee was 6-1.  Those voting for a "do-pass recommendation" included Republican Councillors Lutz, Cockrum, McQuillen, and Vaughn, and Democrats Mansfield and Sanders.  The lone vote against was Republican Angel Rivera.

The full Council passed the fee increases by a vote of 22 to 6, with one absence (Bateman).  Those voting for the proposal were Republicans Cain, Cockrum, Day, Freeman, Hunter, Lutz, McHenry, McQuillen, Malone, Pfisterer, Scales, and Vaughn, and Democrats Evans, Gray, Lewis, Brian Mahern, Dane Mahern, Mansfield, Moriarty Adams, Nytes, Oliver, and Sanders.  Voting against the proposal was Libertarian Coleman, Repbulicans Cardwell, Rivera, and Speedy, and Democrats Brown and Minton-McNeil.

I agree with the fee increases.  It is, though, a matter of personal opinion that should guide the vote of the rest of the Indianapolis community on November 8.

I haven't heard anyone say they would seek to repeal the fee increases and return code enforcement and its other new duties back to funding through tax revenues.  Hopefully the neighborhoods of Indianapolis will see Code Enforcement blossom even further in effectiveness and efficiency under a third consecutive Mayor.  We will all be winners if that happens.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ed Treacy - What An Embarassment

Despite Kyle Walker’s plaintive wailings, Mayor Greg Ballard isn’t cut out for the job of leading our city. At each public appearance, he shows more of his blubbering ways.
Thus begins the latest press release from Marion County's Democratic Party Chairman, Ed Treacy. Surely the first draft was scratched out with a crayon.

Here's a couple more snippets from other press releases sent out by the Party in recent days, where Treacy has decided to try to brand opponents with the Tea Party label:

With just 34 days until the 2011 Municipal Election, Mayor Greg Ballard, the first Tea Party candidate, is quickly losing steam and getting sloppy.
I'm sure Ballard's connection with the Tea Party caught both him and that group by surprise - much less his elevation at being their first candidate. But, Treacy is not one to let facts get in between him and his 'political strategy'.

At the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum just days ago, incumbent Republican Councilor At-Large Barbara Malone announced the Republican Party’s support for the consolidation of all school districts in Marion County, including Speedway and Beech Grove.

A Tea Party Republican, a leader within the conservative Republican caucus and the sole sponsor of the unpopular 50-year parking deal, Barbara Malone has exercised significant influence within the Republican ranks. This newest proposal, which has no resistance from her fellow Republican candidates, continues to highlight the extraordinary disconnect between Tea Party Republicans and the educational challenges facing the city of Indianapolis and its students.
The headline for this press release was "Making IPS Only Public School District in County Will Be Priority for Republican Council".  Did Malone say "I think we should look at consolidating the school systems in this particular County"?  Yes, she did.  Was she the Councillor who is the named sponsor of the parking meter concession ordianance?  Yes, but it seems like a brain fart caused that fact to be included in that paragraph.  The rest is fantasy and fabrication on Treacy's part. 

Earth to Treacy - the Council is not the school board. The only authority they have is tangential to the charter schools; schools that Treacy supported under Peterson, but now wants to bash under Ballard. There is no continuity of thought, no guiding principles of importance - only trying to score with ill humored name calling.

Treacy's hyperbole harms the Democratic party and any credibility it can have on the important issues affecting our City, much less on any solutions to be offered. His juvenile rantings reflect on the rest of us. Little wonder that the press only calls on Treacy when they want some vitriolic outgassing for the news.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2012 Budget - Big Picture, Big Problems

Over the next couple of weeks the City-County Council committees will offer final amendments to each of their segments of the 2012 budget.   The full Council will vote on the entire budget in two weeks, on October 17.

As I've noted before, I've been spearheading the McANA effort to review the budget for the 5th year running.  Today, I'd like to take the eagle's view of the budget and talk about what I've been able to glean from the big picture.

First of all, this has been the most difficult budget to review.  There are stylistic changes, like how charges are made and for which departments.  There have been changes in the presentation that do not normalize out the unique expenditures or revenues that happen from year to year.  The practice in previous years made it easy to compare apples to apples.  In addition, there are significant issues with this budget regarding from where the money will be coming - specifically the administration's plan to tap excess revenue from both the consolidated downtown TIF and the Ameriplex TIF. 

We are told, but not shown with clear data, that there is a $64 million gap between revenues and spending for 2012.  To bridge this gap, we are told, that the Ballard administration has cut $20 million from individual department and agency budgets through their request for a 5% cut in base expenditures.  The administration also desires to take $38.5 million from the consolidated downtown TIF.  This all totals $58.5 million.  One item they are not publicizing is the extraction of $7.5 million of funds from the Ameriplex TIF to cover anticipated shortfalls in the debt service for the 'redevelopment district'.  I have asked for a list of the items funded by this district.  That brings the total to $65 million.  Close enough to $64 million for government work.

On the revenue side, I have had to pull figures together on my own, as my request for the summary revenue page has been met with the statement that the Controller's office does not want to put it out without being sure it is correct, and that they hope to release it prior to the full Council vote on budget.  Swell.

So, here is what I found about revenue shortfall for 2012 compared with 2011.

Total tax revenues - including property and income taxes and accounting for the effect of the tax caps - is $16.5 million less for 2012 than 2011.  One would expect these numbers to rebound as the economy recovers.

Federal grants are expected to drop by $15.7 million.  One would expect these numbers to rebound as the economy recovers.  However, the statement made regarding all grant funded programs has been that if the money does not materialize, the program is cut.

The healthy rainy day fund was nearly depleted last year, creating a drop from that source of money of $15.8 million.  I would not hold my breath on the recovery of the rainy day fund any time soon.

Last year, $3 million was taken from the golf course subfund of the Parks fund - but it was one time only.

The sale of the parking meters caused a $4 million revenue drop that used to go to IMPD and DPW.  This revenue will never come back.

The sale of the sewer utility caused a $13 million revenue drop that used to go to IMPD, IFD, and DPW.   This revenue will never come back.

The total revenue shortfall from the 2011 budget to the 2012 budget noted above comes to $68 million.

However, I see these revenues falling into three categories - revenue that will recover with the economy, money to fund projects that will not happen if the funding does not come through, and revenue that will never come back again.  One would expect the best effort to be made to bridge the gap for those revenue streams that should recover - trying to make ends meet until a better day returns.  One would expect to forgo those projects funded by grants.  And one would expect structural changes to the operation of the City-County to accommodate the reality that some funds are gone forever, as the assets that generated the revenue are gone forever.

Using those categories, the $16.5 million reduction in tax revenues should be bridged.  This was already accomplished with the $20 million in budget cuts.

The $15.7 million reduction in federal grants should simply mean that those programs do not happen.

The $17 million from the sale of the parking meter and sewer utility assets is never coming back and there really should be permanent cuts made to reflect this reality.

The $18.3 million from the loss of the rainy day fund and the lack of new funds from the golf course subfund could go into either the first or last category - but I think they belong in the latter, since they cannot come back until much after the economy recovers.  This would bring the need for a structural budget change to $35.3 million.

Instead of dealing with this reality during an election year, the Ballard administration prefers to rob the downtown TIF district in order to make ends meet. 

The statement has been made that there will only be $20 million in excess funds left in the consolidated downtown TIF to appropriate for the 2013 budget.  The Ameriplex TIF has been robbed to depletion over the last couple of years.  There will be almost no wiggle room left and severe cuts, the need for which are being ignored this year, will have to be made next year.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Council To Meet Tonight

The City-County Council will meet tonight, October 3rd.  The agenda indicates a public hearing on the budgets of the Municipal Corporations (CIB, Library, IndyGo, Airport, and Health & Hospitals).  At the last Council meeting there was a public hearing on the budget.  Discussion led to this second opportunity for the community to speak up, as these budgets had not yet been presented at any Council committees.  There were, however, a couple of City-County budgets that were in the same situation, most notably those budgets for IMPD and IFD.  Perhaps tonight's public hearing will allow for comments on those budgets, as well.

Of those proposals being introduced, one caught my eye.  That is Prop 277, sponsored by Councillors Mansfield, Coleman, Sanders, and Brian Mahern, that asks Mayor Ballard to "cease and desist from all efforts to rename Georgia Street".  The agenda indicates that the proposal will be assigned to the 'committee of the whole' meaning the entire Council.  Thus, it could be discussed and acted upon tonight.

Besides the budget ordinances still working through the committees, Prop 242, which seeks county option income tax refunds to certain qualifying low wage downtown hotel workers, was tabled by the Rules committee on September 27 by a 4-2 vote.  This may have gone down party lines, as those committee members in attendance were Republicans McQuillen, Cockrum, Lutz, and Rivera, and Democrats Mansfield and Gray.