Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Zoning and Variance Decisions

If you could afford to file a rezoning petition for your property this year, you stood an 89% chance of having it approved.  If you could afford to file a variance petition this year, you stood an 86% chance of it being approved.


Of all 100 zoning petitions decided in 2014, 89 were approved, 2 denied, and 9 withdrawn (89% approved, 2% denied, and 9% withdrawn).

Most rezoning petitions are assigned to the Hearing Examiner, with some going to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission for their first hearing.  A small number are sent directly to the Metropolitan Development Commission by the HE for their initial hearing.  Any side of a contested petition can appeal the HE's or IHPC's decision to the MDC.

The HE made 77 decisions on zoning petitions in 2014 - 68 approved, 2 denied, and 7 withdrawn - otherwise 88% approved, 3% denied, and 9% withdrawn.

The IHPC cast decisions on 11 zoning petitions in 2014 - all were approved.

The MDC held initial hearings on 7 petitions and accepted the withdrawal of 1 petition prior to hearing.  All 7 were approved.

The HE's decision was appealed to the MDC 6 times.  One was withdrawn prior to the MDC hearing it (the HE had recommended denial).  Of three petitions which the HE had recommended denial, 2 were overturned by the MDC and 1 approved.  Of two petitions which the HE had recommended approval, 1 was approved and 1 denied by the MDC.

Overall, the MDC heard testimony on 12 petitions, approving 10 (83%) and denying 2 (17%).


Of all 323 variance petitions decided in 2014, 287 were approved, 23 denied, and 23 withdrawn (86% approved, 7 % denied, and 7% withdrawn).   Looking at only those 123 petitions not on the expedited docket, 100 were approved and 23 denied - (81% approved and 19% denied).

Most variance petitions are assigned to the Boards of Zoning Appeals, of which there are three.  If a variance request is packaged with a rezoning or other type of petition that normally would be heard by the HE/MDC, then it is assigned to the HE and not the BZA.

BZA I had 111 petitions on its dockets in 2014.  71 were on the expedited portion of the docket, meaning Staff and any neighbors or neighborhood organizations recommended approval of the petition.  These are perfunctorily approved by the Board.  Additionally, 7 were withdrawn.  Of the 43 petitions for which BZA I took testimony, 29 were approved and 14 denied - otherwise 67% approved and 33% denied.

BZA II had 70 petitions on its dockets in 2014; 43 expedited, 7 withdrawn, and 20 for which testimony was taken.  Of the latter, 15 were approved and 5 denied - or 75% approved and 25% denied.

BZA III had 100 petitions on its dockets in 2014; 73 expedited, 5 withdrawn, and 22 heard.  Of those heard, 19 were approved and 3 denied - or 86% approved and 14% denied.

The HE got 34 variances; 30 approved, 1 denied, and 3 withdrawn.

The MDC got 11 variances (7 initial hearings, 3 appealed HE decisions, and 1 withdrawn).  All 7 for initial hearing were approved by the MDC.  Two of the appeals were approved and 1 denied.

This is actually better than I expected, having expected the mid-90% approval rate.  Still and all, the variances are supposed to be granted because of a hardship on the ground that sets that parcel apart from every other identically zoned parcel in Marion County.  It is hard to believe that such a standard was actually met for the number of approvals granted.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Why the BZA Got the Sullivan Hardware Decision Right

[I posted this on IBJ's IndianaForefront blog today]

On December 16, the Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously denied Sullivan Hardware's request of Variances for its property at 4838 N. Pennsylvania Street. There has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth since.

The BZA got it right, though. Here's why.

Sullivan Hardware has shown little regard for the legally binding agreements they made in order to secure a Variance back in 2009, which allowed them to erect a greenhouse. In trade for the elimination of several setback, landscaping, and accessory use requirements, and the reduction of required parking spaces from 35 down to 19, Sullivan Hardware agreed to install a sidewalk on its 49th Street frontage and keep all outside storage within the new greenhouse to "visually enhance such storage". They have complied with none of their agreements, including to supply all 19 parking spaces. (For more of the zoning history at this location, I would direct you to Gary Welsh's post on Advance Indiana.)

Sullivan Hardware was issued a Violation notice back in August of 2013, listing 8 infractions. In September of that year, 4 Citations were issued. Four months later, with none of the fines paid and nothing done to clear the Violations, the City filed legal action against the 4838 N. Pennsylvania property.

It wasn't until April of 2014, that Sullivan Hardware filed several Variance requests with the Meridian Street Preservation Commission. By doing so, the legal action was put on hold until the Variance process could be completed. They asked the MSPC to agree to only 14 parking spaces (35 required by Code - but reduced to 19 by the 2009 Variance), to additional outside storage, to an unscreened trash container in the front yard, and to overturn the requirement that they install a sidewalk along 49th Street. The outside storage request referenced a site plan rather than a set number of square feet. From my calculations the total area requested for outdoor storage amounts to about 1000 square feet. Indy's Code would allow 200 square feet of outside storage if the agreement from 2009 were not in place to store all inside the greenhouse. However, the greenhouse allowed by the 2009 Variance gave Sullivan Hardware 2880 square feet for that storage. The matter was heard before the MSPC in June and approved.

There were some significant changes made sometime between the April filing with the MSPC and the September filing with the City.

Favorable changes included an apparent agreement to construct the sidewalk after all (which they could have completed over the summer, but did not), moving a proposed handicap parking space closer to the building (although shrinking its footprint), and enclosing the dumpster (even though it would remain in the front yard). Unfavorable changes that appeared in the Variance requests filed with the City included clarification that they were indeed seeking to store outside merchandise so close to the parking lot exits that they would violate the clear sight triangle required of all curb cuts in the County. The clear sight triangle law is in place for safety reasons - so that any driver exiting onto City streets can see oncoming traffic; be that pedestrians, bicycles, or motor vehicles. It is unsafe to drive the front of your car into oncoming traffic prior to your line of sight opening up enough to see what you could hit. They did mention that they would set the outdoor storage at one exit 10 feet back from the existing sidewalk, which would not entirely block the clear sight triangle. My calculations suggest that they were refusing to clear out less than 50 square feet blocking the clear site triangle at the two exits.

At the BZA hearing in December, Staff made it clear they had no problem with the request that an enclosed dumpster be allowed in the front yard - nor did the remonstrators voice any objection to that Variance request. Staff also had no problem with the outdoor storage on the south side of the property line, as long as the clear site triangle area was continuously clear of merchandise. Again, the remonstrators, representing neighbors of Sullivan Hardware, voiced no different opinion. The outdoor storage requested in front of the existing greenhouse, part of which occupied the clear sight triangle of the 49th Street exit, could be better used for parking and so not supported by Staff or the remonstrators.

The remonstrators made an excellent case against allowing the number of parking spaces to drop to 14. They brought up the fact that a number of Variances for properties at the intersection had already removed the requirement for about 65 off street parking spaces, while the on street parking capability was only 30. Businesses have resorted to posting signs limiting the remaining off street parking to their customers, and vowing to tow violators, because the parking is so scarce. Any further reduction in the parking available on the Sullivan Hardware site would only aggravate the existing parking problem.

The remonstrators also mentioned that the smaller footprint for the one handicap parking spot was too small to meet ADA requirements.

Other locally owned urban hardware or landscape businesses, including Hedlund Hardware, White's Ace Hardware at Nora, Habig's Garden Shop, and the Ace Hardware at Illinois and 38th Street, have not sought the Variances that Sullivan Hardware on Pennsylvania has, and yet they stay in business. Only one was issued a notice of Violation for outdoor display and storage of merchandise, and they brought their property into compliance.

Meanwhile, Sullivan appears to be following the same 'ask forgiveness later' path at his other location where he has been storing merchandise in the back yards of abutting residences, in violation of City laws, even though he has over 2 acres for his business. In July of this year, 5 residential properties, all owned by Patrick Sullivan, LLC, were issued notices of Violation. In aggregate there were 16 Violations noted, including no permit for accessory structures, oversized privacy fences, the outside storage of merchandise, and the outside storage of junk, trash & debris. Sullivan has filed a rezoning petition for these properties in response and a hearing is scheduled for January 29.

At the December 16 BZA hearing, the Petitioner was given the opportunity to have the Board vote on each Variance request separately; making it possible for some to be approved and others denied. They declined the offer. The evidence was very well presented and overwhelming. The Board voted  4 - 0 to deny the Variance requests.

Pat Sullivan threatened to close this location if he could not get the Variances. He reports that City leaders are reassuring him they "will find a solution", although their legal options are few and it is unclear what they can possibly do.

Sullivan Hardware is a popular spot in the area of 49th and Pennsylvania and there has been backlash to the BZA's unanimous decision to deny the Variances requested. The free popcorn notwithstanding, Sullivan Hardware should not be allowed to unsafely pile merchandise near the parking lot exits, they should have to create an ADA compliant handicap parking space, and they should not be allowed to offer fewer than half the required parking spaces in an already congested commercial node.

The BZA made the right decision.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How Many Existing Billboards are Illegal?

I posted this on the Indiana Forefront blog today.


If you listen to the representatives of Indy's three big billboard companies very closely, you will hear them talking about swapping and converting "legal non-conforming" billboards under the proposal written by themselves for themselves.  I refer to Prop 250, which the full Council sent back to committee on Monday night.

A legal non-conforming use is one that has been granted a certificate of legal non-conforming use (LNCU).  To obtain that certificate, documentation must be submitted showing the non-allowed use was in nearly continuous existence at a particular location since before 1969 or prior to the creation of the ordinance that created the non-conformity.

I have in my possession a list of billboard locations that Clear Channel offered, a couple of years ago, to swap out for digital billboards at new locations.  At the time, a Code Enforcement officer looked up locations to see if any permits had been obtained.  Of 42 locations with 52 sign faces, permits could not be found for 24 locations with 31 faces.

As of yesterday when I checked, none of these had certificates of LNCU noted in the City's online database.

Without a permit or an LNCU certificate, the billboard is illegal.

It would be an outrage to pass any change in the sign ordinance to allow swapping of illegal static faces for digital faces.

It would also be an outrage to pass any change in the sign ordinance that would allow the conversion of an illegal static face to a shiny new digital face.

Prop 250 does not disallow such exchanges.

The billboard companies should make public, before the January 26 Metropolitan & Economic Development committee meeting, a map of their current billboard locations as well as a table listing the address of each parcel and either the permit number or LNCU certificate number associated with the billboard at that location.

Any billboard that has neither a permit nor certificate is illegal and should be taken down at the expense of the billboard company with all due haste.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Digital Billboard Lobbyists Galore

A brief update - Prop 250 will be sent back to committee at tonight's Council meeting, the IBJ's Cory Schouten reports.

Now, without further delay - my post on lobbyists for the billboard industry.

One of the comments I made in my 'Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Proposed Digital Billboard Ordinance', brought a considerable amount of energy from the billboard industry representative during our meeting last Monday afternoon.

They came across as absolutely insulted that I would say that Prop 250 was "drafted by lobbyists for the billboard industry".  Who knew that members of the billboard industry would look down on lobbyists?

Representatives of Clear Channel, Lamar, and Outfront Media (formerly CBS Outdoor) made it clear that John Kisiel of Clear Channel wrote the majority of if, with their input.  No sense mentioning that Bose Public Affairs Group is listed on the proposal itself as having drafted it.  Kisiel told us he had to register as a lobbyist in order to talk with the Councillors.  So much for it not being lobbyist written.

But, the exchange sent me to the lobbyist registration for the City and County.

There has been a ramp up in the number of registered lobbyist representing the interests of billboard companies in the last two year - so much so there is no shortage of them.

Here is what I found by year:

2010 -- 57 individuals registered  -- 0 for billboard companies

2011 -- 34 individuals registered -- 1 from Bose, McKinney, & Evans representing both Lamar and CBS Outdoor

2012 -- 43 individuals registered -- 2 for billboard companies  -- 1 from BME for Lamar, the other John Kisiel of and for Clear Channel

2013 -- 28 individuals registered -- 4 for billboard companies -- 2 from Barnes & Thornburg for Clear Channel, 1 from BME for Lamar, and again Mr. Kisiel for Clear Channel

2014 -- 25 individuals registered -- 7 for billboard companies -- 4 from BME for Lamar and CBS-Indy, and 3 from B&T for Clear Channel.

The agencies listed as points of contact for these folks were primarily the City-County Council, but also included the Mayor's Office, DMD, DCE, IMPD, IndyGo, the MDC, and the Office of Corporation Counsel.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ten Things You Didn't Know About The Proposed Digital Billboard Ordinance

This was just published on the Indiana Forefront blog.  Availability to Had Enough Indy is still handled like a porn site on the City Hall internet.


Now that the proposed digital billboard ordinance has been voted out of Council committee, it might be a good time to review the problems with the proposal.

1) The proposed ordinance, drafted by lobbyists for the billboard industry, requires that in year three of the law, the Council must decide if the law should continue to allow conversions into the future or not.  Once the third year is over, the taxpayers would be on the hook to pay the future value of potential conversions to each billboard company, should the Council or the Mayor or the public decide to change the law back. Say a billboard company has 1000 signs in Marion County (as at least one company does). In year one they can convert 6, year two another 6, and in each year thereafter they can convert 2 to digital. That gives this billboard company guaranteed conversions for nearly 500 years. The future value would be hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in revenue for each conversion. Quick math isn't even necessary to calculate the payoff would be catastrophic to the taxpayers.

2) The proposal grants a monopoly to those billboard companies now operating in Marion County. Only these 3 or 4 companies with existing billboards may convert them to digital. Those billboard companies who are not so qualified, will surely sue the City. It won't be Lamar or Clear Channel that pick up the litigation costs. No, the taxpayers of Indianapolis will.

3) Digital signs can be bigger that those they replace. The proposal says that any sign face of more than 300 square feet can be replaced by a digital billboard face of 672 square feet. There are three legally allowed configurations that are more than 300 square feet - a 378, a 600, and a 672.

4) The size of a digital billboard along a freeway can be more than twice the size now allowed. The current billboards along freeways are 300 square feet, compared to the 672 square feet that would be allowed for digital faces.

5) There is no requirement that the pole for an existing billboard be taken down when the sign face is removed as part of a swap for a digital billboard. It is possible that this is required elsewhere in the City's laws, but it certainly is not specified in the proposed ordinance.

6) If a billboard was removed as part of the conversion, another company (perhaps even the same company) could apply for a new billboard permit at that exact location. As long as the location met the criteria for regular billboard sizes and distances, a permit would have to be granted. This would severely impact any expectation for an actual reduction in the number of billboards in the County.

7) By any lucid individual, a digital billboard would qualify as an Electronic Variable Message Sign. But, since the proposed ordinances declares that not to be true, it would not be regulated as an EVMS. Currently EVM signs must be 600 feet or more from homes. The proposal would allow a digital billboard to be 500 feet from a home - and it is far brighter than the much smaller EVM signs.

8) Current law requires billboards to be separated by at least 1000 feet on city streets and no more than 2 per mile along freeways. Digital faces need only be 500 feet apart.

9) The proposed ordinance would allow up to a 2 second gap between ads. Studies have shown that gaps between ads are a hazard to driving, drawing longer gazes off the road and traffic. Two seconds is the distraction threshold accepted by the scientific community as hazardous driving conditions that lead to accidents and near accidents.

10) There is language in the proposed ordinance that claims that digital billboards are not intermittently lit, despite what lucid individuals might actually think.  It is there not only to get around our local EVMS laws, but also to circumvent the 1971 agreement between the State of Indiana and the US Federal Highway Administration on the control of outdoor advertising along freeways. In 2007, FHWA issued a memorandum that said digital billboards did not violate the intermittent lighting ban. That memorandum is being litigated in the Courts. If, as some expect, the memorandum is overturned, it would leave Indianapolis in an unenviable legal position - rescind the digital billboard ordinance and pay the future value of thousands of conversions -- or stand in violation of Federal Law for any digital faces erected along freeways in Marion County and face losing federal highway dollars. Either way it would be entirely too expensive for the taxpayer.

This proposed digital billboard ordinance is not only an affront to a vigorous public process, it is bad law for Indianapolis.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Proposed Digital Billboard Ordinance is an Insult to the Public Process

I just posted the following entry on the Indiana Forefront Blog - because my Had Enough Indy blog ist verboten in City Hall.


The proposed digital billboard ordinance, coming before a Council committee Monday night, is an insult to the public process.

This lobbyist written law would overturn the compromise embodied in the current law, which bans digital billboards in Indianapolis.  The current law was created with a robust, public process that included all stakeholders and was led by a bipartisan Council effort.

The current law has been vigorously defended, both before the Boards of Zoning Appeals, the Metropolitan Development Commission, and in the Courts.

The proposed ordinance would declare that digital billboards erected in Indianapolis are not really illuminated by, among other things, intermittent lights.  Yah, right.  And the emperor is fully clothed.
This particular phrase is included as an end run around a long standing agreement between the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration that, due to the intermittent lighting, bans digital billboards.

The lobbyists also included a provision that would allow the various ads to take up to 2 seconds to transition.  The literature clearly demonstrates that this is a particularly dangerous thing to do.  Two seconds inattention to the road ahead, is considered a hazardous driving condition.  The delayed changeover is specifically used in order to call attention to the ad, as drivers fix their attention, waiting for the next one to appear.

I could mention that a Michigan study demonstrated a statistically significant rise in accidents within 0.25 miles of digital billboards, even while the average accident rate on their highways fell between 2004 and 2012 – representing the years before and after  installation of electronic billboards.  The deviation is an 18% increase in accidents near such a billboard over the expected number.
I could also mention that a 2013 study of digital billboard induced driver distraction in Sweden, led that country to remove the signs and ban them.

Or, I could mention that an Israeli study that demonstrated a decrease in accidents of more than 30% when billboards were covered or removed along a busy Tel Aviv highway.  Injury and deaths from these accidents dropped 69%.

I could mention lots of studies.  But that is not the point I most want to make here.

The billboard lobbyists have been haunting the back rooms of City Hall for years now.  The total revision of our zoning laws has been going on for the last three.  The public could have been included in a review of the digital billboard ban in a comprehensive and valid way.

Instead, we are left out of the loop by some of our own elected officials.  Our previous efforts and our previous compromises are thrown aside as insignificant and meaningless history.

Its bad enough that lobbyists for any industry are allowed free rein to write our laws.  Its even worse when they are overturning a law that involved so many people, so many hours, and so much effort and money to create and defend.

Friday, October 31, 2014

County Compared With Downtown

After concentrating on the economic data for Downtown Indy yesterday, I used the US Census website to map the same sort of data for the entire County.  Downtown is both a bit better for income and a bit worse for poverty than the County as a whole.

The map for the estimated 2012 mean household income is below:

To make the maps as large as possible, I had to cut off the County at the very top and bottom.

As you can see, when it comes to average household income, Downtown isn't anything special.  In fact, 5 census tracts in northern Marion County are about twice that of Downtown.  Taking the County average for comparison, Downtown does outperform.

The estimated 2012 per capita income is mapped  next:

Again, the five northern census tracts are about twice the income, this time based on a per capita calculation, than Downtown.  And again, Downtown isn't unusually high or low compared to other areas of the County. 

Turning to poverty rates, we see that Downtown is slightly higher than average.  The map for the estimated percentage of people who fall below the poverty line is below.

The Marion County average is straddled by the three Downtown census tracts.  The worst poverty rates surround Downtown.

Looking at the situation for children in poverty, we find that Downtown doesn't stand out.

The intensity of poverty among children is much higher than the population as a whole, and further spread out beyond the Downtown limits.

It is untenable that a fifth of our people and nearly a third of our children live below the poverty line.  We have literally spent billions of taxpayer dollars on Downtown and we seem to have created, perhaps, a slight oasis in the center of our County, but not by much.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Downtowns

A brief news item by Jeff Swiatek and a follow-up by Erica Smith over at the IndyStar piqued my interest.

Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., now apparently going by Downtown Indy, on Tuesday, gave its version of how things are going in their namesake area.  I have looked high and low through the Googler, and I have been unsuccessful at finding their report, much less track down the data they relied upon.

The US Census does not have 2013 data for areas as small as downtown and nothing for 2014; the most recent are estimates for 2012.  So, where IDI got its numbers, I can't begin to guess.

According to Swiatek and Smith, IDI reports that downtown is humming along, with thousands of new residents whose household incomes average $90,000 a year, and who are employed in tech jobs.

The 2012 data from the US Census gives us a bit broader and more in depth look at the state of downtown Indy and the areas around it.  I pulled down the numbers and used the mapping function on the Census website for 24 census tracks.

The red line shows the generally accepted perimeter of "Downtown".  The numbers shown are those of the Census Tracts.
Downtown is composed essentially of three census tracts - 3910, 3542, and 3562.

Since Smith effused about all the tax money generated by Downtown residents, I feel I must add that property taxes are also used to fund police, fire, and equally important, schools.  Here is my best effort in sketching the various TIF districts in the Downtown area.  The TIFs are drawn in blue, and the 2012 estimated population is mapped.

The claim of an average household income of $90,000 is a bit high, compared with the 2012 US Census estimates, but not too much higher.

Note that the three Downtown census tracks top the household income in the immediate area.

But, that is only one way to look at income.  Another is a per capita view.  This is mapped below.

Viewed on a per capita basis, the income levels of the three downtown census tracts drop to numbers 1, 3, and 6.

One cannot look at income without looking at poverty rates.  The percentage of people living below the poverty line in each census tract is mapped next.

I find these poverty numbers stunning in how very high they are.  Downtown clearly is not spared residents who live below the poverty line. 

The data are generally worse when you look at the poverty rate among children.  Only three of the 24 census tracts show lower poverty rates for children than the general population, and two of those are Downtown census tracts.

What of the claims of tech jobs?  The Census has a few categories, but the one that seemed to fit the claims best included management, business, science, and art occupations.  The percentage of the workforce engaged in these jobs are mapped below.

The percentage of those in the service industry are mapped next.

So Downtown residents do hold more management and fewer service types jobs than the surrounding areas, generally.

What of the unemployed? The unemployment rate is mapped here.

There are some shockingly high unemployment rates right against Downtown.  The jobs being generated do not appear to be helping much beyond Downtown's perimeter.

While IDI likes to be a cheerleader for Downtown, the entire picture is somewhat different. 

By some indicators, Downtown does appear to have a better financial footing for its resident households.  However, unabated enthusiasm isn't warranted when one looks at per capita incomes, poverty, and unemployment. 

One would hope that the City's goals are to move everyone forward, and not just those who become attracted to new residences springing up thanks to taxpayer funded inducements.  To do that, we need a bigger view of Indianapolis than just the 2.6 square miles of Downtown. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Had Enough Indy? How Ballard's "Freedom Fleet" Saves (sic) Money

I am so very weary of the fleecing the taxpayer gets under the Ballard regime. 

The latest example is the belatedly announced deal to lease 425 plug-in hybrid and all electric vehicles for seven years, now dubbed by the well worn PR firm as the "Freedom Fleet".

Reported yesterday by the IBJ's Kathleen McLaughlin, but inked down back in February (before the company was an Indiana entity, by the way), the City has entered into a lease arrangement with Indy Vision - with the City being the company's very first customer !  Gary Welsh over at Advance Indiana wrote about this deal and the owner of Indy Vision.  Paul Ogden at Ogden On Politics challenges the administrations numbers

Ballard is swapping out 536 gas powered vehicles that the taxpayers OWN for a seven year lease for 425 gas/electric vehicles.

They tell us that they estimate the cost of keeping the 536 fleet at $9000 per year per vehicle, but leasing the 425 fleet drops the cost to $7400 per year per vehicle.  The $1600 per year per vehicle savings come from the reduction in number of cars and savings on operating them.

Quick math tells us that any savings the taxpayer will see comes entirely from dropping 136 cars from the fleet.  This reduction saves $1,224,000 per year or $2880 per year per vehicle in the new fleet. 

Simply by supplying fewer vehicles, Indy Vision will profit $1280 per vehicle per year BEFORE any other savings, profits and tax credits are counted.

Let's recap:

If the existing fleet of 536 cars was replaced by 425 cars - the taxpayers would save AT LEAST $2880 per vehicle per year in the new fleet.  And, the taxpayers would OWN the fleet.

If the existing fleet of 536 cars is replaced by a lease of 425 cars - the taxpayers will save $1600 per vehicle per year in the new fleet.  There would be no taxpayer asset.

Ballard, as usual, is NOT saving the taxpayers a dime.  He is, as usual, charging us MORE while enriching a favorite contractor with the difference.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Paul Ogden's Real Crime

I'm going to go all Edith Bunker on you, but please bear with me.

Paul Ogden was just a quintessential Indiana nail.

I used to work for a company that was spun off a major American company.  Eventually it was bought by a major Japanese company.  During those years I had one particular conversation that stuck with me.  One of the representatives of the parent firm said that the reason they liked to collaborate with and buy out Indiana companies was the similarity in the social culture.

That kind of took me by surprise and befuddled me.  He went on.

In Japan, he said, there is an old saying that translates to - "the nail that sticks up, gets hammered".

That social culture is what they found here.

Fellow blogger, Paul Ogden, a lawyer who just recently put his law degree on the inactive list, was the nail that stuck up.  With regularity he used his blog to expressed his opinions on many things legal - from untoward recruitment practices of law schools, to self-serving methods of certain high power law firms that run the City government contract by contract, to telling the stories of unpowerful people caught up in the powerful legal system.

He cared enough to say out loud what other lawyers just mumble under their breath, if they notice at all.

Ogden was the nail that stuck up.

In a complaint jumped on by the so-called Disciplinary Commission, running its course over the last couple of years, powerful enemies tried to just push him out.  They waved around an email, making claims of ex parte communications and (GASP !) criticism of a Judge.  They piled on accusations.

He pressed on, taking it all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court. 

The Court sided with Ogden on all the major points.

As blogger and lawyer, Gary Welsh, put it
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court in an opinion written by Chief Justice Brent Dickson issued a 30-day suspension rather than a public reprimand because it found Ogden had been "obstreperous" rather than "cooperative" during the matter, which essentially means he contested the charges brought against him.
The Court, while siding with Ogden on 80% of the matters, crippled him with an unitemized and onerous bill of $10,000.  Faint praise.

The image of the Disciplinary Commission is toast at this point, as far as I'm concerned.  They ignore real legal rogues all the time.  They chose, instead, to hammer Ogden.

The Court's image isn't doing all that much better.  Any citizen would hope they were somehow elevated.  But, they don't seem to be.

They have done nothing to rein in the excesses of the Disiplinary Commission and managed to accomplish the very end desired by the Commission, by invoking a sort of debtors prison from which Ogden could not escape.

The Court just picked a different hammer to deal with the nail that stood up.

In the end, Ogden can hold his head up.  The others, should they have a conscience, cannot.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Councillor Robinson Voted Against the Tax Increase

There were some riveting moments during the 3 or so hours of last night's hearing on the IFD and IMPD budgets.

One of the most stunning was when Councillor LeRoy Robinson made a statement about why he voted against the increase in the public safety income tax.
"What we need is a permanent change in our priorities.  We tend to pay for what we want and tax the people for what we need."
"A whopping 286 Million dollars is going to development, entertainment, and parking garages."
"That's the real conversation."
Well said, sir.  Well said.

Below is the clip of his statement and IMPD Chief Rick Hite's response. 

I have to say, I found Hite's mention of IMPD being a paramilitary organization something of a non sequitur and somewhat disturbing - especially since I did not hear the phrase "community policing" all night long.  I have included his entire response, as he does bring up good points regarding how the police numbers fell off.

However, he never addresses the spending priorities for the tax hike that appeared to be coming from, or at least endorsed by, both the Department of Public Safety and himself.  Those priorities include spending only $4 M of the tax hike on hiring new officers in 2015.  The tax hike is expected to generate $29 M; $16 M of which is earmarked for IMPD. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Can We Just Stop With The Lying?

So the income taxes are going up.

Front and center in the IndyStar review of last night's vote of the Council, is this quote from Councillor Aaron Freeman:
"We have fewer officers than we should because we have been taking in less property taxes in this bad economy the last several years."
He makes it sound like the Council and the Mayor have had less money to work with and that is why they didn't support funding recruit classes for IMPD these past few years, as the Council Democrats had continued to try to do.

Freeman either knows he is lying to the public, or he is just passing along the meme offered by Ryan Vaughn.

Yes the City-County takes in less property tax revenues than they did before the tax caps came into effect.  They also have fewer bills to pay.  This actually left the City-County with about $50 Million MORE to spend than they had before the tax caps.  Add to that the increased revenue from Peterson's Public Safety Tax, and well - they had plenty of money to do any hiring they wanted.

But, they did not.

Even without the tax increase, the 2015 budget does fund a recruit class of 50.  With the tax increase, they are looking at 40 additional.

So, its not true that "we have fewer officers than we should because we have been taking in less property taxes in this bad economy the last several years".  We've had the money, just not the interest.

Suppose for a second that Freeman's statement were true - why would we need to raise income taxes when both property tax revenues and income tax revenues are climbing now that the economy has improved?

And if the Ballard Administration truly sees a need to increase the number of officers, why is Jason Dudich saying that only $4 M will go to IMPD's budget in 2015?  The tax increase is expected to bring in $29 M.  $2 M goes to the excluded cities and towns, by State mandated division of Public Safety Tax revenue.  Likewise, $10 M will go to County functions - but no discussion as to how that money will be spent has been done in public.  That leaves $13 M that Dudich wants to put into IMPD fund balance.  This would be overruled in a heartbeat if Vaughn wanted the money to be spent by IMPD.

That's right folks - you get to pay more in taxes so that the biggest chunk can fatten the year end balance.  And a whopping fourteen cents of every additional dollar will go to hiring more police officers.  Fourteen cents.

One cannot ignore the fact that this tax hike comes just before the proposed Criminal Justice Center gets crammed through.  Could be a coincidence.

So, we'll see if this Administration actually moves toward keeping interested in hiring more officers as the years go by, or if they'd rather spend this new money on something else.

Meanwhile, can we just stop all the lying?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Another Budget - Another Big Whopper

Why can't we get a budget introduced without some accompanying, outrageous, whopper made about our financial situation?

This time around, Chief of Staff (aka Mayor) Ryan Vaughn, is reported by John Tuohy of the IndyStar, as having said
Vaughn said tax collections have lagged since passage of property tax caps in 2008. Next year's property tax revenues will be $63 million less than in 2008 -- the homestead tax credit and the police tax were a couple of the only options the city has left to collect additional money, Vaughn said.
Come on Ryan.  Either you know you are pulling a fast one over the public, or you do not.  Neither option is adequate to transparency in government.

Vaughn specifically picked 2008 for a comparison because that was the last year before the tax caps program was fully implemented.  You don't have to talk to government officials very long before they are bemoaning tax caps.  I don't want to dismiss all of their claims out of hand.  But - and this is a big 'but' - they never seem to recall the massive amount of obligations that the State took over, funded by the 1 percent increase in State sales tax.

In the case of the City-County, the State of Indiana took over funding of specific obligations that used to cost the City-County over $113 M a year.  For instance, the famous pre-1977 police and fire pensions.  This pension had not had prudent payments made to it over the years and those public safety folks were beginning to retire in mass.  This is the financial cliff that Peterson was facing when he got the public safety tax raised.

So, when you subtract the $113 M a year from the 2008 property taxes, well then Mayor Ballard got quite a golden ticket from the State Legislature.  When you subtract that $113 M a year in obligations, AND account for tax cap penalties, the City-County collected just about $50 M more from property taxes in 2014 than in 2008.  Yes, I said MORE.

Tuohy's article also states
The city projects it will collect $574 million in property and income taxes this year, an increase of $34 million over last year.
Okay - there's the real numbers for 2015.  Not this flagrant misrepresentation of our financial resources compared to pre-property-tax-caps days.  Geez.

Here is what I wrote back in April for the Indiana Forefront blog - IBJ's blog.
Below is a graph showing the City-County total property tax levy and the net levy (total levy minus circuit breaker penalty) from 2008 through 2014. To simplify the jargon, the total levy is what they asked for, the net levy is what they got. The state took over City-County obligations in 2009 and the circuit breakers began to hit in 2010.
As you can see, the total property tax levy (what they asked for) and net levy (what they got) took a real jump in 2009 (The 2008 data is normalized for the $113M in City-County obligations taken over by the State in subsequent years so we can compare apples to apples.)  Without a doubt, the initial year of the tax caps was good for the resources of Indianapolis.
I look forward to finding out more about the 2015 budget.  But, please save all of us from the big whoppers.  Let's act like responsible adults.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Referendum is Required for Any Criminal Justice Center

I've come to the conclusion that the proposed Criminal Justice Center, should it get any further, be put to a vote of the public in the form of a referendum.

Project details are being withheld from the public by the Ballard administration - even details they have seen fit to divulge to the project bidders. 

The price tag noted in the press began as $200 M, but has hemmed and hawed its way to over $600 M.  For our purposes here, any of these price tags works.

The CJC would be built and run by an outside, private concern.  The City would lease-to-own the building over 35 years.

The administration keeps saying it will not result in a tax increase. They toss around an annual lease payment of less than $122 M. Taxes might go up or stay the same.  Either case works here.

Nonetheless, some of the payments would come from money normally appropriated to the Sheriff's Office and the Superior Courts, among others.  The Public Defender and Prosecutor won't actually be part of the CJC, despite its huge size.  Any accommodations for them nearby would have to be part of a separate public-private-partnership and add to the already huge price tag being hung on the CJC.

Between just the Sheriff and Courts budgets, nearly $100 M comes from the Consolidated County Fund.   This year, this Fund got about $165 M in revenues, 25 M, or 15%, of which came from property taxes.  It is impossible to imagine a repayment scheme that did not include a significant portion from property taxes.

By state law, any project costing $12 M or more in property taxes - whether it be through bond or lease payments - requires the consent of the voters through a referendum.

The little information so far let out by the project handlers in the administration clearly demonstrates that the CJC project qualifies as a project that meets the threshold for a referendum.

The public has deserved far greater transparency on the proposed CJC than it has received.  It also deserves a referendum, so that it has a real say in whether or not it wants to commit hundreds of billions of dollars over 35 years to a Criminal Justice Center.

Hold On To Your Wallets - Its Budget Time

Tonight's City County Council meeting will kick off the budget process for next year's spending and taxing.

Mayor Ballard will give his annual budget introductory remarks. 

Elimination of the local homestead credit is once again included - Prop 248.  Not to make ends meet anymore.  Not to contain the ballooning public safety budget 'deficit' anymore.  This time he wants to eliminate it to fund pre-K education.

I did not see increases in income taxes, but expect to see that appear soon enough.

Being introduced tonight is a second attempt to increase the stormwater user fee that appears on the property tax bill.  Prop 249 would automatically increase the fee each and every year going forward.  This feature was also included in the first attempt and drew speculation that the Ballard administration was just sweetening the pot so that he could sell off this utility to a private concern.

We are being treated again to a lobbyist-drafted ordinance sponsored by Councillor Mary Moriarty Adams.  Prop 250 would allow digital billboards in Marion County.

Prop 254 is offered in reaction to Ballard-Vaughn's recently inked agreement with Covanta for 'recycling', which contained a 70% tax abatement that was not called a tax abatement.  Prop 254 urges the State Legislature to make any agreement containing a rebate on taxes or a forgiveness of taxes to be subject to Council approval, just like any other abatement in a TIF district is.

Coming before the Council for a vote this evening are a few items, including:

Prop 241 urges IPL to abandon coal as a fuel at its Harding Street plant.  Check this one off as completed.

Props 162 and 163 would allow $100,000 from the Mayor's Office budget be donated to United Way.  This brings up two questions - why is there so much fluff in the Mayor's Office budget and why should taxpayers be subsidizing any non-for-profit that brings in millions of dollars a year on its own?

Prop 349, 2013 would establish a TIF in the Avondale Meadows area.  This TIF is much needed, no doubt.  But specificity regarding its funding remain lacking and of concern.  Also of concern is a lack of resident control of or input on the projects that might get funded.

Prop 195 would establish a landlord registry.  It would cost local residential landlords $5 per year, but it would require out of state owners to establish an in-state manager responsible for any infractions that might beset the property.  Failure to register a property would result in fines ranging from $100 to $500.  This is a good one in my book.

Another good one is Prop 232, which would require defibrillators in all public buildings and buildings housing a department or agency of the City County government.

Budget hearings start this week.  Tuesday will see the introduction by Controller Jason Dudich as well as the budget presentation his office, the Office of Corporation Counsel, and two others.  Wednesday will be the budgets of the Public Defender, Community Corrections, and the Child Support division of the Prosecutor's office.  Both hearings will begin at 5:30 pm in Room 260 of the City-County Building.  Thursday will be the hearing for the Parks Department budget.  That will begin at 5:00 pm, same room.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Criminal Justice Center Contracts - Do They Violate the Law?

The beginning of August has been interesting in view of the massive amounts of money the City has contracted to pay for  work on the proposed criminal justice center - not the center itself, mind you - but just to gather proposals for it.

Now IBJ reporter Kathleen McLaughlin has an article where the City-County Council's CFO, Bart Brown, is saying the contracts may have been signed in violation of the law.

The contracts in question were brought to the attention of the public by the media over the last two weeks.

John Tuohy, IndyStar reporter, broke the news that the  Mayor contracted with the new employer of his former campaign manager / former counsel, John Cochran; Bose Public Affairs Group.  That was to the tune of $750,000 for PR work.

Then Mary Milz, WTHR reporter, had a blockbuster last night.  She reported that there are even more contracts, adding up to $9,945,376, were also let to a variety of legal and financial advisor firms.  One thing that caught my attention last night - as we happened to be watching Milz news broadcast - was the closing comments attributed to Marc Lotter, the Mayor's spokesman.

Milz had inquired as to how the nearly $10 M in newly revealed contracts would be paid.
Mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter said not all contracts need to be paid immediately.  He said some contracts are being phased in.
He also said the controller has "the ability to shift funds around or seek appropriations if necessary, so there are a lot of tools we can use."
Well, the Controller actually has limited ability to shift funds around.  The City-County Council is the fiscal body that sets the budget and appropriates the expenditure of funds.  No money can be spent beyond what the Council appropriated for any of 5 types of expenses in any one department or agency.  Service contracts fall in one of those types.

So, the Controller can spend money earmarked for contracts on any contract they desire, up to the limit set by the Council through the appropriation for that department. 

McLaughlin quotes Brown today
Brown contends that the contracts were signed in violation of state procurement law, which requires council approval for multi-year obligations that aren't already funded. He said the administration has only $2 million available for the contracts, and that money wasn't expressly appropriated for consultants' fees.
Brown called it a "bait-and-switch." Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter couldn't speak to the legality of the contracts, but he said the city won't be on the hook for the full amount. Lotter said the city's consultant fees will be reimbursed by whichever development team is chosen to build the justice center. That's assuming the deal goes forward.
The contracts in question are posted online.

There are 6 contracts in all.  The contract numbers are sequential; running from #12449 through #12454.  The start dates of the contracts, however, are not sequential.

Here are the highlights of the contracts in order of contract number.  Links to each contract are embedded in the number for those wishing to review them.  All are assigned to the Executive and Legislative department budgets (Mayor's Office and Council Office, among others).
#12449 -- Bickmore -- $50,000 -- start date 3/10/14 -- end date 1/1/15
#12450 -- John Klipsh Consulting -- $100,000 -- start date 11/15/13 -- end date 12/15/14
#12451 -- KPMG Corporate Finance -- $3,000,000 -- start date 12/10/13 -- end date 3/31/15
#12452 -- Bose Public Affairs Group -- $750,000 -- start date 12/20/13 -- end date 12/31/14
#12453 -- Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum -- $4,695,376 -- start date 2/26/14 -- end date 6/1/15
#12454 -- Nossaman / Bingham, Greenbaum Doll -- $4,000,000 -- start date 10/14/13 -- end date 6/30/15
The last contract is actually a contract with Bingham for $1.5 M and a subcontract through them to Nossaman for $2.5 M plus expenses.

The grand total comes to $12,595,376.

That is a goodly sum of money.  Jason Dudich, City Controller, signed off on every contract as "acknowledged and approved for funding purpose" or "approved as to availability of funding".

The type of expense under which service contracts, like these, are allowed is termed Character 3.  Other expenses also come from this Character.  But, it is the maximum appropriated.  The 2014 budget appropriated the following total Character 3 for each of these executive and legislative groups:
Office of the Mayor -- $968,488
Office of Minority 7 Women Business Development -- $105,040
Office of Audit and Performance -- $132,276
City County Council -- $470,885
Office of Corporation Counsel -- $816,722
Office of Finance and Management -- $3,847,576
Telecom and Video Services Agency -- $116,599
So, back to Brown's point.  Where did and will the money come from to pay these contracts?  The total appropriated funds, which bear in mind are needed for other things beyond service contracts, is $6,457,586 for all of 2014.  Brown says the administration delayed paying its December rent on the City-County building by a month, freeing up $2 M for calendar year 2013. 

McLaughlin's article drops more bombs.
Lotter said the size of the contracts shouldn't come as a surprise to council members, because Council President Maggie Lewis signed a memorandum of understanding in December which states that the city may incur costs up to 2 percent of the total project. 
With fees of $12.65 million, the construction cost could be as much as $632.5 million.
Now we are topping $600 Million for the cost?  Are they nuts?

The Ballard Administration has been particularly opaque on everything surrounding their proposed criminal justice center.  The fact that the contracts are sequential in number but not in start date demonstrate the administration had all this laid out before October 14, 2013.  Yet we are just hearing about this jaw-dropping amount of taxpayer money being spent on something that may not get built.  Now we hear from the Council's CFO, that the contracts may not be legal because the money to pay them has not been appropriated.

The public deserves full disclosure - and full disclosure now.

[edited to add - as I was typing this up, Gary Welsh posted about the same thing over at Advance Indiana - click here]

Slow Down the Criminal Justice Center Bullet Train

The Ballard Administration no longer pretends that it is transparent.

The behind closed doors decisions being made regarding the proposed criminal justice center is a prime example.

The administration is even blocking press access to the request for proposals it put out.  This comes AFTER the State's Public Access Counselor's opined against the City's position.

IBJ reporter, Kathleen McLaughlin wrote last Saturday in an article about funding the center
Director of Enterprise Development David Rosenberg declined to state the maximum annual fee, which the city already has shared with three pre-qualified bidders. The mayor’s office also refused to release the request for proposals, a type of document typically considered a public record.

Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said he couldn’t think of an exemption to open-records law that would apply to the RFP. The city still had not cited an exemption as IBJ went to press.
So, behind closed doors, Mayor Ballard's people are happy to share details with bidders, but not with the public who would pay for the deal.

While I'm on paying for the deal, McLaughlin's article extensively quotes past City Controller, Jeff Spaulding, and his skepticism that costs will really be confined to current budget expenditure levels for the services that would move into a justice center.
Former city controller Jeff Spalding said the administration’s unwillingness to walk through the math behind its conclusions makes him skeptical the new facility won’t end up requiring more public dollars.
“I want the criminal justice center to happen,” said Spalding, who left the Ballard administration in April 2013 to become director of fiscal policy and analysis at the Friedman Foundation. “There’s more potential downside if you don’t do it the right way.”
 Ballard is already spending significant amounts of cash that the City can't afford on the proposal.

It was revealed last week, to the shock of most, that a $750,000 no-bid contract had been awarded to the new employer of former campaign manager and special counsel to the Mayor, John Cochran.  Bose Public Affairs Group is in charge of public relations for the justice center by this contract.  John Tuohy, IndyStar reporter who broke the story, quoted Republican City-County Councillor Jeff Miller as saying
Miller said he was not aware of the $750,000 contract Cochran signed.
"That is a big number. Now I know why he's so easy to get a hold of," Miller said. "I knew he was not doing it for free, but I did not know (his firm) was getting that much."
Fellow blogger, Gary Welsh, has written extensively on the justice center and the money being thrown at it over at Advance Indiana.  About the $750,000 contract with Bose, Welsh writes
Does anyone else see the irony in Ballard throwing away $750,000 of our taxpayer dollars on a politically-connected firm which has just hired his likely Democratic opponent next year, Joe Hogsett, and which will in turn invest that money in doing all within its power to ensure that Hogsett defeats Ballard in next year's election?
As I recall, Ballard did the same thing when Melina Kennedy ran against him - awarded her law firm a fat contract on the deal that sold the water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy.   That may have been one reason she never really had an opinion against it - in public at least.  So, with this one $750,000 contract, Ballard is sweetening his old pal's value to his new employer and potentially tying Hogsett's hands as far as being too vocal and too against a justice center.  Of course, who knows if Kennedy personally liked the Citizens deal and if Hogsett will really like or dislike the justice center proposal.

The latest stunner was broken by Mary Milz of WTHR.  Welsh summarized the nearly $10 Million of of additional no-bid contracts uncovered by Milz this way:
WTHR's Mary Milz has now uncovered millions more spent by Mayor Ballard on no-bid contracts. Those include:
  • $1.5 million to Bingham, Greenebaum Doll for legal services, the former law firm of Ballard's likely Democratic opponent in next year's mayoral election, Joe Hogsett;
  • $4.7 million to Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Inc. ("HOK") for project development services; and
  • $3 million to KPMG Corporate Finance for financial services
Keep in mind that this boondoggle of a project still requires the approval of the City-County Council. If for some reason the council decides against the project, that $10 million is just flushed down the drain. Imagine how many new cops could have been hired with the money Ballard has blown on these no-bid contracts.
Exactly.  This is serious money that we need for other things right now.  But Ballard and his people are going to push this through if its the last thing they do.  And it very well might be.

The public is on the hook for the excessive contracts already let on this deal.  They are being kept in the dark about any details, made all the worse by the Ballard Administration's violation of the Open Records laws in order to keep secret from the public, what it is happy to share with bidders.

Today's IBJ has another article by McLaughlin.  This one deals with the potential impact moving all of the Prosecutor, Sheriff, and Court offices out of the heart of downtown.  Office vacancy rates still have not recovered from the Great Recession.  McLaughlin writes
At a time some large downtown law firms are cutting back on space, the proposed criminal justice center will gut the downtown office market.
Moving the Marion County prosecutor and public defender to the new center at the former GM Stamping Plant southwest of downtown will alone shift 130,000 square feet.
Add in the 590,000 square feet occupied by jails, traffic court and arrestee processing center and the downtown core is on track to empty a total of 720,000 square feet—roughly equivalent to the entire OneAmerica tower.
City officials claim the moves to the new justice center will add only about 1 percentage point to the existing 20-percent downtown vacancy rate. But Jon Owens, an office broker at Cassidy Turley, isn’t buying it. He said the vacancies could account for three times the amount city officials predict.
With a total of 10.5 million square feet of downtown office space, the removal of the prosecutor and public defender offices alone will move the needle 1 percentage point, Owens said.
“It has the potential to take a big chunk of that southeast quadrant, kind of like what the state government center did in the early 1990s,” he said. “It took forever to backfill that space.”
While the proposed justice center is being sold as a complete consolidation of criminal justice services, it is not.  Back in April, McLaughlin reported
Fullbeck [Ballard's senior policy advisor for economic development] said the request for proposals from developers, due out this month, will not include office space for the Marion County prosecutor and public defender. That space will be built under a separate procurement process, which he said will allow the developer to decide whether to build additional leasable space for other users, such as jail-service providers.
The price tag just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The public deserves details and time for discussion.  The current trajectory is for the bids to be back just as the budget for 2015 is being finalized.  If they follow former practices, they'll put out information around the holiday season when most of the public's attention is elsewhere.

But complete transparency is feasible at this point in time.  There is no excuse to keep from the public what the Ballard administration is willing to tell bidders.  There is no excuse to put $10 M of taxpayer money at risk through no-bid contracts for a justice center that may not happen.

There is no excuse.  Then again, I don't think Mayor Ballard and his Chief of Staff, Ryan Vaughn, care one wit, what you or I or the Council or the press thinks.  They see our money as their money.  They see our City as their City.  They have their goals and they don't care how much of our money it takes to reach them, nor how badly it could go for future taxpayers of Indianapolis.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hallelujah !! Its Raining Cash Again at the CIB !!!

I've come to the conclusion that the CIB is manic-depressive.  But, I could be wrong.

The CIB engages in cycles where it says -
we're going broke, give us more taxes
thanks, now we're okay
wow ! we've got more money than we need ! let's throw some away !
we're going broke, give us more taxes......

We're Going Broke

The latest cycle began in 2012 when the CIB said they couldn't spare a dime to help fund public safety.  They had debts coming due for which there was no money.  You'll recall the drama played out with the CIB, the Mayor, and the Democrats on the Council back when Brian Mahern was VP.  The Council voted to tap the CIB for a $15 M payment in lieu of taxes.

Here's what I wrote about the contentious Council Muni Corp Committee meeting at the time:
On the actual meat of the reasons for this PILOT, Councillor Brian Mahern kept bringing it back to the fact that the Mayor's proposed budget would let police and fire numbers drop even further.  He said there are already 100 fewer police than at the time of the merger and by not holding recruit classes, the numbers would drop even further.  He noted as well, that the CIB relies heavily upon IFD and IMPD services for the many events that are held in their facilities.
While Councillor Lutz primarily discussed the legal aspects, Councillor Cardwell brought up all the trickle down taxes that he said were due to the CIB, indicating that was more than enough help to the City.
Ann Lathrop mentioned "I feel your pain" and later said she had a fiduciary responsibility to the CIB "not to run it into bankruptcy".  Oh pah-leez on both counts.
The PILOT was reversed.  Later a deal was struck between Council President, Maggie Lewis, and Acting Mayor, Ryan Vaughn, to increase the admissions tax and car rental taxes for the CIB, with the City getting a fraction of that new money back.  This deal netted the CIB an additional $5.6 M per year.

Thanks, Now We're Okay

At the CIB's 2014 budget hearing, Ann Lathrop laid out how the new money would be saved in a reserve fund so that upcoming debt could be paid off.  There are two debts due, for which no money has been put aside. 
First, there is an outstanding principle of $34 M due to the so-called "mall investors" who loaned the City money back when the Circle Centre Mall was just a hole in the ground.  That is due in 2017.  The Indy Star is part of that group, by the way.
Second, there are two $9 M loans that the State made to the CIB as part of the huge 2009 bailout.  Those are due in 2019 and 2020.
Lathrop testified that they needed to put this new $5.6 M away every year just to pay these outstanding loans.
Here is the shortest clip I could gather from the September 12, 2013, CIB budget hearing that lays out the need to use the new money to make ends meet.  They have capital improvements to make, like new carpeting for the Fieldhouse, as well as the two loans to repay in the near future.  No fluff, just necessary revenue.  Councillor Jason Holliday asks some follow-up questions of Lathrop, and Councillor Monroe Gray has some back and forth in between.  (click here to view the entire hearing and choose "Sep 12, 2013 Video")

Wow ! We've Got More Money Than We Need ! Let's Throw Some Away !

Fast forward to yesterday when the CIB board voted 4-2 to throw away $5 M on the IUPUI Natatorium project.  Yes, folks, the CIB had more money than it needed.  Go figure.

Councillor Lewis, who sits on the Board, was one of the two NO votes.

We're Broke, Give Us More Taxes

Just wait, its coming.  This pattern is the same one we have seen play out over and over and over again.

Some might accuse the CIB and its President, Ann Lathrop, of simply and continually lying about the true state of finances of the CIB.  Me, I think the organization is just manic-depressive.  But, I could be wrong.

Friday, August 8, 2014

2013 Salaries - Directors & Muni Corps

The last post was a lengthy list of salaries of City, County, and Township government employees making over $100,000 in 2013, as well as the pay of elected officials.

The post caused some alert readers to delve into the Indiana Gateway database for other salaries.  A bit of interest was shown in Department Heads, Directors, and Executive Directors of Municipal Corporations. 

So here I list the salaries paid for all of those positions in 2013.  In come cases, for instance City Controller, the position turned over to a new employee during the year.  For those, I combined the salary paid to both individuals to reflect what was paid in total for the position that year.

Just as a benchmark, let us note that Mayor Ballard was compensated with $102,620.10 in 2013.

City Directors

Carlos May, the only person listed as Director of Community Outreach received a comparative pittance for that position in 2013.  I can only imagine that the position was created in 2013 and that he took it mid-year.

Employee Department Job Title/Duties Compensation in 2013
Riggs, David T Department of Public Safety Director Of Public Safety $138,859.52
Taylor, Sarah & Bain, Hannah  Mayor's Office Director-Constituent Services 73877.01 & 46587.92 = $120,464.93
Dudich, Jason D & Spalding, Jeff  Office of Financial Management Controller 68557.74 & 49771.77 = $118,329.51
Thies, Adam  Department of Metropolitan Dev Director-DMD $109,999.76
Lotter, Marc  Mayor's Office Director-Communications $105,118.40
Miser, Lori  Department of Public Works Director-DPW $98,985.73
Powers, Rick B Department of Code Enforcement Director $98,752.37
Williams, John  Dept of Parks & Recreation Director-DPR $96,095.76
Mendez, Manuel  Office of Audit & Performance Director-Audit $90,830.43
Henry, Bruce  Department of Public Safety Director-Human Resources $90,326.67
Brown, Brandon S & Bray, Beth A Mayor's Office Director-Charter Schools 77500 & 7486.37 = $84986.37
Wilson, Gregory  MWB-Minority & Women Bus Dev Director-Minority Business Dev $83,159.90
Gehlhausen, Jane  Mayor's Office Director Of Internal Cultural $73,085.10
Hairston, Douglas  Mayor's Office Director-Front Porch Alliance $72,432.69
Rosenberg, David B Mayor's Office Director-Enterprise Dev $63,358.32
Hackler, Daniel L Office of Financial Management Director-Human Resources $62,115.37
Wright, Tamra O Mayor's Office Director-Turnaround Schools $57,500.04
May, Carlos  Mayor's Office Director-Community Outreach $20,249.

Deputy Mayors

Both Deputy Mayors and the Chief of Staff made more than the Mayor last year.

Employee Department Job Title/Duties Compensation in 2013
Vaughn, Michael  Mayor's Office Chief Of Staff $120,119.88
Kloth, Jason  Mayor's Office Deputy Mayor of Education $119,999.88
Williams, Olgen  Mayor's Office Deputy Mayor-Neighborhoods $119,999.36

Municipal Corporations

The Muni Corps include the Airport, the CIB, the Library, IndyGo and Health & Hospitals.  Here is what the Executive Directors of those units pulled down in 2013.  I added a column to note the number of other employees made more than $100,000 from that Muni Corps in 2013.

Employee Muni Corp Job Title Compensation in 2013 Others > $100K
Terry, Michael IndyGo President & CEO $120,712.00 0
Duncan, Robert A Airport Executive Director $218,771.33 16
Levengood, Augustus  CIB Executive Director $254,399.20 9
Nytes, Mary  Library Chief Executive Officer $135,000.08 3