Monday, June 16, 2014

IndyStar Needs Better Fact Checking

It is imperative in a one-daily newspaper town, that said paper get important facts correct.  That is even more imperative when said paper was just awarded $3 million of taxpayer money by the Mayor of that town, for improvements to property it is currently trying to sell.

Such is the situation with the Indianapolis Star.

In an editorial in yesterday's paper and a front page story in today's issue, the Star takes on the topic of fixing Indy's roads and sidewalks.  Neither time did the Star take the opportunity to mention that one side portrayed in the debate, Mayor Greg Ballard, just awarded them the $3 million taxpayer gift.

Here are the facts that the Star apparently cannot grasp.

There have been 3 proposals put on the table and 2 still to be introduced to the Council.

1) Last year the Mayor proposed the City undertake a $350 million project, dubbed Rebuild Indy 2.  Most of the money was already on hand and would be supplemented with a $135 million, 30 year, bond issue.  The bond issue alone was presented to the Council - not the remaining $215 million cost of the proposal being touted by Mayor Ballard. 
Now the wisdom of taking a 30 loan for at best a 20 year improvement is debatable.  Never to my knowledge noted in the press was the circulation of a list of projects that neighborhoods were led to believe could be paid for if only RBI 2 was passed.  Not true.  The list was for twice as much money as RBI 2 would raise. 

Important questions never asked were : Why not go forward with the $215 million in projects for which the cash was already in hand?  Why were you misleading the public with the list of projects?

2) After this year's severe winter, the spring pothole problem was far worse than usual.  According to the Mayor's own estimates, the tab was an additional $24 million - yet he only requested $8 million.
Unasked questions : Why only ask for a third of what you say you need?  Why not clarify to the public that RBI 2 has nothing whatsoever to do with pothole repair? 

The $8 million proposal was passed by the Council after changes were made to ensure that every Council District saw some of the pothole money and repairs.

3) The Council Democrats put forth a proposal for the remaining $16 million that Mayor Ballard said was needed for pothole repair.  This proposal passed the Council, as well.
4) The Mayor still has $215 million in cash on hand for street and sidewalk projects.  But, he continues to hold that money and those projects hostage.  He now proposes that the $215 million be supplemented with only $85 million bond to be repaid over 20 years. 
The same question still applies : Why don't you do the projects you already have the money to do, and work out the remaining funding piece later? 

This new version of RBI 2 is being paraded around to the press and the public in generalities only.  Concrete details have not been released and the proposal has not yet been introduced to the Council.

5) The Council Democrats say they have a plan, to be introduced soon, that will fund street and sidewalk repairs and serve as a more fiscally responsible plan than either of the two versions of RBI 2 the Mayor has offered.  No details have been provided.

There is little doubt that street, sidewalks, and pothole repair are issues worthy of much coverage by local media.  The public, however, deserves an accurate recitation of the facts and presentation of both sides' motivations.  So far, Mayor Ballard's motivations have not been questioned, and they should have.  And, so far, the fact checking by the IndyStar has not been nearly as robust as the reading public deserves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for starting this blog!