Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bloggers Expose Roots of PR Campaign to Push Mass Ave TIF

The pressure has been mounting from the Ballard administration to push and/or extort the Council into approving 5 new TIF districts (with a 6th rumored to be waiting in the wings) before the recommendations of the TIF Study Commission are acted upon and therefore before significant details would have to be disclosed on those 5/6 TIFs.
At least part of the PR campaign has been uncovered and is now exposed by two fellow bloggers, Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana, and Matt Stone of Indy Student.
Welsh got the ball rolling (see "How To Get Your Political Nemesis To Sing Your Praises") when he uncovered the fact that Gordon Hendry, former so-called public servant, stands to see the company he works for, CB Richard Ellis, rake in over a million taxpayer dollars in commissions if the Mass Ave TIF goes in.  Hendry's wife is Jennifer Wagner who used to pen an outstanding blog of her own - Taking Down Words - on behalf of the State Democratic Party.  Ms. Wagner is now a spokeswoman for the Ds, even though her personal life seems more corrolated with her comments than does the actual positions of the Democratic Party.  Ms. Wagner has supported the obscene raises Ballard gave to his office mates.  She has supported the Mass Ave TIF.
In today's post (see "What the Hell is Grow Mass Ave?"), Stone reported some rooting around he did with domain names and the like, to expose the very new website for the newly invented "Grow Mass Ave".  Surprise, but the domain name was just registered this month by Wagner.  The website it already up and running - fast work that surely isn't pro bono. 
Back to Welsh's post today (see "Grow Mass Ave A Shill For Developers?"), Welsh propels Stone's report forward with revelations that Mass Ave business owners aren't all that thrilled with the proposed TIF or a developing plot to create an Economic Improvement District that could assess an additional tax from local businesses and residents in the Mass Ave area.  He lays out how the area has seen private investment in recent years, belying any need for public taxpayer dollars:
In the past couple of years, the corridor has seen continued redevelopment despite the depressed economic condition without the assistance of a TIF. On the north end of the corridor, Riley Area Development CDC is just completing a mixed use project, Trail Side, that involved razing a building formerly owned by Center Township and redeveloping a half block area into 69 affordable apartments with ground level retail/commercial space and off-street parking. The Cunningham Group opened up its second restaurant on the Avenue, Bru Burger, which has enjoyed great success, along with its first restaurant, Mesh. A microbrewery is slated to open up a block from the Avenue at the corner of Park and North, and a major mixed use project, which will cover almost an entire city block at the corner of Michigan and College, is slated to kick off next year without any government assistance.
Welsh also notes that the head of Grow Mass Ave, Cassie Stockamp, is not a business owner in the area, but runs the non-profit Antheneum.  The Mass Ave businesses already have an association to represent their interests.  The Ballard administration is always pulling in favorable comments from organizations that would like a little sugar, and this sounds like the case with Grow Mass Ave's Stockamp.
I'm not going to say it any better than Welsh - so here's the bottom line take home message for Indy taxpayers:
What should be abundantly clear to the public is that a propaganda machine has been put into place in an effort to steer tens of millions of tax dollars into the hands of private developers to redevelop an area that has already proven that it can sustain current and future development without ciphoning off much-needed property tax revenues from other taxing districts. Unfortunately, the mainstream media has simply been shilling for the Ballard administration and the private developers/architects, who stand to benefit handsomely from government handouts. This is an outrage when you consider that basic city services must be reduced because of the lack of revenues to finance them. The public must rise up and demand accountability from their elected officials. If Mayor Ballard gets his way, you will be paying higher property taxes on your homes, while these fat cats walk off with milliions of taxpayer dollars. Call your city councilor and the mayor's office today and demand that they represent the public's interest, not the fat cat contributors who are lining their pockets with campaign contributions, free dinners at five-star restaurants and tickets to sporting events.  

1 comment:

M Theory said...

Jennifer Wagner's blog "Taking Down Words" was the first to publish the derogatory label of "teabaggers" to the people who fought property tax in 2007.

This tasteless labeling included many of our city's elderly who lost their homes because they could not keep up with the property tax increase.

I thought the way Jennifer Wagner treated people, faced with the frightening possibility of losing their homes, was callous and mean.

That formed my impression of her a long time ago.

I think the connection of her husband to a million dollar commission from the deal should be looked into further.

I also think we should try to find out the opinions of long time property owners on the Avenue such as Robin Young, The Battistas, and David Andrichik.