Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dust Up - For Reasons Unknown, But I Speculate Anyway

I have the greatest admiration for Councillor Brian Mahern, but last night he flubbed.

The Rules committee began their consideration of Prop 316, which would implement the recommendations of the TIF Study Commission.  After a thorough and really well done overview of the findings of the Commission, Councillor Bob Lutz introduced an amendment that would strike the very last part of Prop 316:
(d) Any proposal creating or expanding a TIF allocation area must be approved by a standing committee of the council before it can be considered for adoption by the full council.
The discussion, which actually preceded the motion to amend, revolved around current Council rules and how the proposed change would impact the ease with which the full Council could call a TIF proposal out of committee.  Currently, if a committee kills or votes down a proposal, the full Council can call it out of committee by the vote of a simple majority; or 15 votes.  This change would require the suspension of the rules in order to call a TIF proposal out of committee, which requires a 2/3 vote; or 20 votes.

After the motion and a second, Mahern refused to take a vote and asked to postpone the proposal until the next meeting of the committee.  He said postponing would allow time to discuss this amendment as well as one Councillor John Barth would be introducing.  He noted that Barth's amendment was only received that afternoon.  There was no second to his motion.  Mahern then tried to move off Prop 316 and on to the next agenda item.  After some brief, heated discussion, a recess was properly motioned and voted on.

After the recess a vote was taken on Lutz' amendment and approved by a vote of 5-1, with Mahern being the lone dissenting vote.  Then there was a motion and second to postpone further consideration of Prop 316 until the next meeting.  That vote was 4-2, along party lines.

I got no indication from the cheap seats why Mahern was so intent on getting the proposal to the next meeting.  While I would welcome a requirement for a super majority vote on any TIF proposal, it didn't seem to rise to the occasion of clearly violating parliamentary procedure in order to avoid a vote.

Barth's amendment was available at the Secretary's table.  This amendment would gut the entire proposal.  Barth is promoting his own TIF for his own neighborhood - Prop 291; the Mid-North TIF (see "The Mid-North TIF -- Developer Driven and Sans Critical Financial Details").  He introduced his proposal at the last full Council meeting.  Prop 316 was introduced at the same time.  One might expect, therefore, that any implementation of the recommendations of the TIF Study Commission would not apply to the Mid-North proposal.  But, Prop 291 was not placed on the Metropolitan & Economic Development committee agenda for Monday night, and it will not be until after the next full Council meeting that the committee would take it up.  So, as of yesterday morning it looked as if the TIF recommendations would indeed apply to the Mid-North TIF.  I can't read minds, but it is very suspicious that Barth introduced his amendment just hours before the meeting and that amendment would gut the entire list of recommendations contained within Prop 316.

Besides a technical correction, Barth's amendment would add one line to section (b) of Prop 316.  Here is (b) with the added sentence underlined:
(b) The factors set forth in subsection (a) [which enumerated the recommendations] are not exclusive, and the council may consider any other factors it deems appropriate in exercising its discretion to approve or disapprove proposals under I.C. 26-7-15.1(9)(a).  Likewise, the absence of any factor or part thereof does not limit the council's discretion to approve or disapprove a proposal.
With that last sentence included, none of the recommendations would be securely implemented.  The administration, or any that follows, could continue its pattern of withholding key financial information from the Council.  That information is necessary to a realistic look at the TIF being proposed.  Without that information the Council cannot make an informed decision and it cannot carry out its duty to review and vote to approve or disapprove as required by law.

TIFs do not generate free money, as many continue to believe.  TIFs have consequences, as many continue to avoid believing.  TIFs always caused increases in property tax rates.  Now they increase substantially the circuit breaker penalty caused by the property tax caps.  Property tax caps that were voted on by the people.

In this age of property tax caps, it is time for the Councillors to learn about the reality of TIFs. It is time to act as the fiscal body of our City that is different from the Mayor's office and that has a distinct role and responsibility.  It is time to demand full disclosure on proposed TIFs so that a reasoned decision about TIFs can be derived.  It is time to implement, not blow off, the Council's portion of the TIF Study Commission recommendations. 


Gary R. Welsh said...

Pat, It's like banging your head against the wall to get these people to understand the consequences of their actions. They conduct city business with the intellectual capacity of children in a candy store. We are facing a completely financial calamity and these people march along like it's business as usual. I've given up on them, Pat. I think we've got to convince the state legislature to step in and change the TIF law for us. These people simply cannot be trusted to use the TIF responsibly without bankrupting the city and other local governments like we saw happen in California.

Anonymous said...

Redevelopment Authorities and other generally unaccountable entities need to be banned as they are likely on the verge of bankrupting several cities in the coming decades.