Monday, September 22, 2014

Seven Years of Tax and Fee Increases Proposed by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard


Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has supported numerous tax increases during his seven years in office.   This list no doubt omits some of them.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Lodging (Hotel) Tax
--Ballard supported a 10% increase (from 9% to 10%) at the legislature

Car Rental Tax
--Ballard supported a 50% increase in local car rental tax from 4% to 6%.

Admission's Tax
--Ballard pushed for a 67% increase in the admission's tax from 6% to 10%.

Alcohol Tax (tax on beer wine and liquor purchased in Marion County)
-- Ballard supported a 100% increase in the alcohol tax in the county.

Property Taxes
--Ballard supported an increase in the residents property tax through the elimination of the local homestead tax credit.

Food and Beverage Tax
--Ballard supported a 13% increase in the local food and beverage tax (2% to 2.25%) to bail out CIB.

Wheel Tax
--Ballard supported moving the sunset on the tax from 2011 to 2019.

Vehicle Excise Tax

 --Ballard supported moving the sunset on the tax from 2011 to 2019.

Personal Income Tax
--Ballard opposed a cut in the tax proposed by Governor Pence.

Property Taxes
--Ballard supported an increase in IMPD district to include outside old city limits, raising property taxes for residents who live in those areas.

Local Option Income Tax
-Ballard pushed for 18.5% increase from from 1.62% to 1.92% for extended bus service.  This tax increase is currently on hold depending on the mass transit referendum.

Vehicle Excise Tax
--Ballard supported removal of 2019 sunset

Wheel Tax
---Ballard supported removal of 2019 sunset

Public Safety Tax
--Ballard pushed through a 43% increase (.35 to .50)

Property Taxes
--Ballard is again trying to increase property taxes by eliminating the local homestead tax credit.

New Wheel Tax
--Ballard wants out of county residents working in Marion County subject to a new wheel tax.


Mayor Ballard has also supported directly and indirectly scores of fee and rate increases on Indianapolis residents and local businesses.

Parking Meter Rates - 100% increase in parking meter rates from 75 cents an hour to $1.50 in less than 2 years allowed via 50 year contract signed with ACS. 

Creation of Fire Inspection Fee from $50 to $150.  Also, added "self-inspection" fee of $25. 

Taxicabs: $100 to $471.

Taxicab drivers: $20 to $283.

Sidewalk cafes: $169 to $591.

Pet shops and kennels: $25 to $559.

Trash haulers: $20 to $479.

Hotels: $20 to $603.

Pay telephones: $52 to $114.

Transient merchants: $20 to $213.

Massage parlors: $250 to $559.

Massage therapists, escorts and nude models: $25 to $92.

Installation of new water heater in home or business: $25 to $153 (if venting or fuel type is changed).

Scrap dealers: $200 to $823.

Vendor cart renewals:
$100 to $273.

Block parties or other special events with a street closing: $25 to $113-$683 (higher fee for events with multiple street closures, food, entertainment and security.)

Horse-drawn carriages:
$20 to $77.

General construction inspections:
$40-$50 to $107.

Zoning variance to change permitted use of homes:
$200 to $579.

Zoning variance of use for a business: $900 to $1,999.

Sewer bill increases (increased for consumers in conjunction with sale of utilities to Citizen's Energy)

Water bill increases (increased for consumers conjunction with sale of utilities to Citizen's Energy)

Electrical bill increases  (Ballard supported having consumers subsidize his electric car program by run by a private company)

State GOP Chairman Writes Column Calling Indy Democrats Opposition to Property Tax Increase "Bad Politics"

In his "Chairman's Corner" column in the ironically titled publication "The Party Line," Indiana State Chairman GOP Chairman Tim Berry writes:
Tim BerryChairman's Corner
If anyone should have a say in decisions being made about a child's education, it's parents.
Unfortunately, this week Indianapolis Democrats stomped out the voices of parents, children and others who were in favor of a Republican-led effort to expand preschool programs for low-income children.
Parents, many with children in tow, showed up to the City-County Council's Administration and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday to participate in a debate on Mayor Greg Ballard's pre-K expansion plan. But instead of taking part in their citizen government, parents got schooled on politics. Politics_Enews_Gfx2

The Democrat-led committee immediately moved the debate from the front of the agenda to the back. So those intent on testifying waited three hours to share their opinions, but at the end of the meeting the issue was quickly tabled.

This is a great example of how Democrats let their own agendas overshadow the rights of parents, and in this case, common decency. It's interesting that the party which claims to be filled with Robin Hoods, robbed the voices from the very people they claim to so closely represent.

The bottom line is that parents' voices should be heard instead of the annoying blare of bad politics. While the Democrats may believe they have the upper hand in this case, it's at the expense of children, families and communities.

Our Party has long supported empowering parents to make decisions on what's best for their child including school choice. It's our fundamental belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to succeed no matter their background or family's income level. Let's be sure to send a strong message to Democrats this November that we are united and determined to keep Indiana red and our children's education first.

Ps. Click here to read an Indianapolis Star opinion column by Matthew Tully regarding Tuesday's meeting or click here for a letter to the editor by Indianapolis City-County Councillor Mike McQuillen.
Tim Berry
Indiana Republican Party
What Berry is writing in support of is yet another attempt by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to increase Indianapolis residents' property taxes by eliminating the homestead tax credit.  Although Berry said the measure is about the Mayor's pre-K initiative, the measure that was tabled didn't mention that. While Ballard has claimed the revenue from the property tax increase would be spent on a pre-K program, the administration wouldn't have been prohibited from using the property tax increase for other purposes.  In fact, Mayor Ballard just pushed through a 43% increase in the Indy's public safety tax under the guise the money would go to hire new police officers.  Just days after that vote we find out that only 14% will go for that purpose.

Berry fails to mention that the Ballard's earlier efforts to raise our property taxes have been heard and rejected after public testimony.

Even if the resolution tabled was about pre-K, since when are Republicans in favor of new entitlement programs, including one for municipal governments which neither by constitution or by statute have any responsibility for education?  This is especially true for pre-K which has been shown not to have any positive long term effects. For example, see the Vanderbilt study from last year.

I understand that it is the job of the State Republican Chair to support Republican candidates.  But there need to be limits such as when a candidate consistently pushes policies that are against basic Republican philosophy.  Mayor Ballard, with his never-ending push for higher taxes and fees during his long seven years in office, fits that category.  Berry should not be taking an active role, supposedly speaking for all Republicans in the state, in supporting higher taxes in Indianapolis.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Update on U.S. Senate Races

An update on the U. S. Senate elections.  Cook Political Report lists two Democratic senate seats held by retiring incumbents Walsh (Montana) and Johnson (South Dakota) as being "likely Republican."  He also identifies retiring Rockefeller's West Virginia's Senate Senate as "leaning Republican."  Those states have polled solidly for Republicans all summer.

Cook lists seven Democratic Senate seats as being tossups:  Begich (Alaska), Pryor (Arkansas), Udall (CO), Harkin (Iowa), Landreiu (Louisiana), Levin (Michigan) and Hagan (North Carolina).
Add caption

Recent polls have shown Republican challengers moving ahead in Alaska and Colorado, two states where they had previously trailed.  I would disagree with Cook on Michigan and North Carolina. They have polled solidly for the Democrats, albeit not by huge numbers, all summer.  I would put them in the lean Democratic column instead of in the tossup.

One seat that Cook lists in the lean Democratic column is Shaheen of New Hampshire.  A poll just released show former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown drawing even in that state.  I think that state may be moving to the tossup category.

As far as the Democrats picking up Republican seats, Kentucky is still listed as a tossup state.  But Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has consistently enjoyed a small lead in virtually every poll.  The race shows no sign of tightening.  I think it should be moved to the lean Republican category.

The Democrats probably best shot at a Republican seat is in Georgia where the polling has been all over the place, though generally in favor of the Republican Perdue over Democrat Nunn in the battle for an open seat.  Also, the Democrats have a shot at knocking off Kansas Senator Pat Roberts who is in a neck-and-neck competition with a left-of-center independent who is likely to caucus with the Democrats.

I would put it at about 65% that the Republicans will gain the net seven seats needed for the majority.  If pushed to make individual state predictions, I would guess Republicans will pick up seats in Montana, South Dakota, West Virgina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa and Alaska, the seven seats necessary for the majority.  I doubt that, at the end of the day, the Democrats can pull off upsets in Kentucky, Georgia or Kansas.

Marion County GOP Chairman Issues Press Release Decrying Indy Council Democrats for Not Raising Property Taxes

Kyle Walker, Chairman
Marion  County Republican Party
I never thought I'd see the day when a Marion County Republican Chairman would use my party's platform to push for higher taxes.  Yet, Chairman Kyle Walker never fails to disappoint.  This week Walker has issued a press release criticizing the Democrats for blocking the Mayor's proposed property tax increase to pay for a dubious pre-K program.  This isn't Walker's first use of his position to support higher is only his most recent.

The Indy Democrat blog published by Jon Easter has the details on Walker's press release as well as this comment Easter obtained from committee chairman Angela Mansfield:
"First of all this was not a pre-k proposal that was tabled. The proposal was to eliminate the homestead credit, period. There was absolutely no guarantee where the money would be spent that if the proposal had passed. In fact several Republicans have stated that they do not want to support pre-k with these funds. Some made such statements during the last council meeting or in interviews later. 
A similar proposal to eliminate the homestead credit was previously heard in the public safety committee with a full hearing and public comment just a few weeks ago. The proposal was amended to remove the language re the elimination of the homestead credit. To have another committee meeting discussion on the same issue was redundant. This was reminiscent of last year when the mayor put the same proposal before us multiple times."
Councilor Angela Mansfield
So Mansfield points out that there is no guarantee that the revenue received by the city from higher property taxes would actually go to the pre-K program?  Agreed.  However, wasn't that also the problem with the public safety tax increase - there is no guarantee the money would actually be used to hire more police officers.  After all, the last income tax increase was also claimed to be for that purpose yet  we ended up with fewer officers.  To her credit, Mansfield also voted against that tax increase.

In her emailed comment to Easter, Mansfield goes on to dispute Walker's claim regarding public testimony.  She then makes this pointed comment about property tax increases that residents have already faced:
"From my own personal point of view, my constituents experienced a tax increase this year due to the expansion of the special police district. My own taxes went up almost 16% and I have a very modest house. The vast majority of my constituents receive a benefit of the homestead credit substantially greater than the average $22 the mayor continues to tout. Many are $50 - $150."
Yeah, I don't buy the $22 a house claim either.  The math just doesn't work.

In my post yesterday, I showed how public support for the Marion County Republican Party has continued to erode.  Walker seems totally oblivious to the fact that his advocating more taxes, more borrowing, more spending, isn't a good way to attract conservative-leaning voters to the Republican cause.

Meanwhile, the Marion County GOP has issued an invite to its Fall Reception.  The cost?  $5,000 to host, $2,500 to co-host, and $1,000 to sponsor.  If you're just a rank and file Republican toiling in the trenches, the cost of attending this Republican dinner is "only" $100.  Of course, the money will be used by Walker to push for more tax increases and to target Republicans who stand up for conservative values.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Will GOP Downward Slide in Indianapolis-Marion County County Continue in 2014?

One race I will be watching closely on election night is the Marion County Recorder's race. Why?  Because that race more than any of the others, best establishes the new baseline for the political parties.  With no offense to the candidates involved in the race - Republican Terry Dove and Democrat Kate Sweeney Bell - their race is a default race. Because only a tiny percentage of voters will actually know the candidates, voters tend to "default" to their party preference when casting a ballot on that race.  Low profile races such as recorder are used to establish the parties "baseline vote."

I have been tracking the declining GOP base in Marion County.   November will be an off-year election. While Republicans in Marion County do better in off-years, the Republican base has continued to erode for the last several elections.  See graph.  It should be noted that 2010 was an excellent Republican year and, nonetheless, the Democrats still trimmed off nearly two more points from the Republican base.

This November's election will more closely approximate the turnout in the municipal elections in 2015.  If the GOP baseline vote comes in at 42% or less, that will push the county beyond being what is seen by most analysts as competitive.  Such a result might also cause Indianapolis Republican Mayor Greg Ballard to opt out of running for a third term as the partisan hill will have become too steep to climb. 

I would add that Marion County Republicans do substantially worse in presidential elections when there is a much higher turnout.  My analysis shows the GOP base vote has dropped from 50.09% in 2000 to 38.21% in 2012.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tornadoes and the Myth of an Increase in Extreme Weather

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to view the movie, Into the Storm.  From the summary of the flick, I thought it was about an Oklahoma town being hit by a tornado and how it changed everyone's lives.  That was a compelling story to me as I had lived through a tornado in 1974 that wrecked my hometown of Madison, Indiana, and certainly changed our lives.

Unfortunately the movie turned out to be nothing about a before and after picture of the tornado-ravaged community. Rather it was about a ridiculous scenario in which the town is hammered by three sets of tornadoes in just a few hours, including one mega tornado.  While the film did have impressive special effects, it was devoid of any realism regarding tornadoes.  That lack of realism though didn't prevent the film though from suggesting that the tornado disaster that had set upon the town was because of global warming/climate change, albeit never mentioning those terms probably because they would have been a box office turn-off.

I have already addressed the issue of hurricanes - that a 100 year study shows we're actually having fewer hurricanes.  But what about tornadoes?  Are we having more of them?  Have they become more extreme?  The answer is no and no.

This is from the National Climatic Data Center operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
With increased National Doppler radar coverage, increasing population, and greater attention to tornado reporting, there has been an increase in the number of tornado reports over the past several decades. This can create a misleading appearance of an increasing trend in tornado frequency. To better understand the variability and trend in tornado frequency in the United States, the total number of EF-1 and stronger, as well as strong to violent tornadoes (EF-3 to EF-5 category on the Enhanced Fujita scale) can be analyzed. These tornadoes would have likely been reported even during the decades before Doppler radar use became widespread and practices resulted in increasing tornado reports. The bar charts below indicate there has been little trend in the frequency of the stronger tornadoes over the past 55 years. 
Below is a table of E-1+ tornadoes since 1954 as well as strong tornadoes E-3+ also since 1954.  We're not having more tornadoes and those we're not having are not stronger than in the past.  What we're seeing is better and more extensive reporting on tornadoes and other weather events.


What I find surprising is that people who know the truth, i.e. that we're not having more extreme weather, continue to repeat the lie because it fits their political agenda.

See also:   

Sunday, December 30, 2012, Research Meteorologist Finds No Increase In Atlantic Hurricane Activity Despite Claims of Global Warming

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Indianapolis Mayoral Candidate Ed Delaney Releases Preschool and Police Staffing Plans

Below is a summary of a preschool and police staffing plan announced by Indianapolis Democratic mayoral candidate and state representative Ed Delaney at a press conference earlier this week.

I. Increase the Number of Police Officers
--The goal is to obtain 1,797 by the 2018 (currently 1,527)
  • Assumes only 45 officers retire per year (619 officers are eligible to retire)
Rep. Ed Delaney (D- Indianapolis)
-- Revenue
  • Public Safety tax $15 million per year
  • “COPs” Grant $3 million per year
  • Cost savings by having regional training
  • State Revenue Sharing
II. DeLaney’s Preschool Plan
Prime the Pump
--The goal is a sustainable preschool program that attracts all parents to participate and involves all schools
  • We must avoid jumping the gun on any statewide preschool program
-- Funding
  • Startup cost should come from a combination of charitable donations and loans from unused reserves e.g. over $50 million held by our Township Trustees.
  • No robbing Peter to pay Paul
III. The Funding Gap
The common problem for both preschool and a significant Police force is a lack of revenue.
  • Tax cuts that were created by the State Government e.g. Inventory tax, inheritance tax, and property tax caps (over $100 million per year)
  • The State needs to share the tax resources that it is hoarding in order to keep an unnecessarily large surplus.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Is Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker Writing Off the 2014 Elections to Instead Target a Fellow Republican?

It would appear so.  Less than two months before a critical mid-term election, the Marion County Republican leadership appears to be doing nothing to support the party's countywide candidates.  In the two major countywide races, sheriff and prosecutor, the GOP nominees appear underfunded and waiting for the cavalry in the form of the Marion County GOP leadership to arrive.  As 2010 GOP
Marion County GOP Sheriff
Candidate Emmitt Carney
sheriff nominee Dennis Fishburn should be able to attest to, local GOP leadership is more interested in settling scores within the Republican ranks than building a party which can compete with the Democrats.  Fishburn received a ton of financial support to defeat fellow Republican Bart McAtee in the primary, but when it came to the general election, the GOP leadership all but abandoned him in his race against Democratic Sheriff Frank Anderson.

In the Sheriff's race, Emmitt Carney, who is viewed by most as an outstanding candidate with strong qualifications, has just $36,923 in the bank according to his pre-primary report filed in early April.  While Carney might have received contributions since that April filing, any contribution over $1,000 would have to be reported almost immediately.  Carney's only $1,000 plus contribution reported since that report is a $2000 contribution from ESG Security on 4/16.  No plus $1,000 contributions have been made to Carney's committee since that time, most notably no contribution from the Marion County GOP organization, including not even an in-kind contribution of more than $1,000.  Carney's report though showed he paid the Marion County GOP $10,234 back in January of 2014, no doubt the slating fee.

Meanwhile Carney's opponent, Sheriff John Layton pre-primary report showed he had $333,648 on hand.

In the prosecutor's race, Republican Duane Merchant, has only $250 on hand according to his pre-primary report.    Meanwhile, Merchant's opponent Democratic Prosecutor Terry Curry has $129,888 to spend.

So what is Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker doing to advance the Republican cause?  He's having meetings with northside Republicans to drum up support to take out Republican Councilor Christine Scales, a race that isn't even on the ballot until 2015.  Scales offense?  She too
Kyle Walker, Marion County
Republican Chairman
often votes against Mayor Greg Ballard's reckless tax, borrow and spend policies which has put millions in corporate welfare in the pockets of government contractors, i.e. Ballard's political contributors, while greatly hurting the overtaxed residents of Indianapolis   In other words, GOP Chairman Walker is opposing Scales because she, unlike Ballard and other Republican councilors, is actually standing up for fiscal conservative values.

Who is Walker supporting to replace Scales?  Tim Craft, an employee of CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), a consulting company which has been awarded many lucrative contracts by the Ballard administration, including a consulting contract to select the location for the proposed Justice Center. Craft is reportedly people that he is going to defeat the popular Scales in slating, undoubtedly not because he thinks he could actually gain more support from rank-and-file party workers in the district, but because he's been assured by Chairman Walker that the race will be rigged for him via chairman appointments before slating.

Lost in all this is that the new district is only a marginally Republican district that could be lost if the incumbent, Scales, is not renominated.  The bottom line is that GOP Chairman Walker would much rather lose the district to the Democrats than have a Republican in office who will stand up for conservative values.  Scales has stood up for taxpayers against Ballard's never-ending tax increase proposals and support of Indy's pay-to-play political structure that rewards political contractors at the expense of the public.  Walker doesn't like that.  But Scales' Republican constituents do.

Meanwhile the Mayor, who may not even run for re-election, is spending precious campaign contributions advocating income and property tax increases and a new entitlement program, pre-K, which many studies show offers no long-term educational benefits.  Ballard touts the program for that reason and as a crime fighting measure, even though there are no studies that show pre-K actually reduces crime.

There needs to be a change in the GOP leadership of Marion County.  Hopefully the city's dysfunctional Republican leadership will eventually be the focus of GOP State Chairman Tim Berry.  It should be.  Indianapolis is increasingly becoming a black hole for state Republican candidates, a hole that wipes out much of the Republican advantage enjoyed in other parts of the state.  It is imperative that the Marion County GOP be rebuilt so it offers competition to the Democrats.

Generic Ballot Suggests Republican Mini-Wave May Be Building

Polling results published by RealClearPolitics show that a Republican wave, albeit a small wave, is building.

Democrats led on the congressional generic ballot for most of the summer.  (A generic ballot is where the pollster simply asks whether, if the election were held today, the person being polled would vote for a Republican or Democratic congressional candidate.  No name is attached to the selection.) Recent polls though all show Republicans with the lead.

The most important thing to look for in such polls is movement.  The best way to gauge movement is to look at polls done by the same polling outfit.  That way one knows the any change in the results are due to the changing views, not the methodology employed which would be the same in polls done by the same polling outfit.  Here are the noteworthy results:
CNN Poll 7/20:  Democrats lead by 4 points
CNN Poll 9/7:    Republicans lead by 4 points.
Republicans improved by 8 points in just six weeks.

FoxNews Poll 8/12:  Democrats lead by 7 points
FoxNews Poll 9/9:    Republicans lead by 7 points
Republicans improved by 14 points in less than a month.
In 2010, there was a major Republican wave.  I don't think many analysts are anticipating a similar wave, but a smaller wave does appear to be forming.  Whether the smaller GOP wave dissipates before it arrives the shore of the election is an open question.

These generic polls can be found at RealClearPolitics.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New Questions Regarding Viability of New Indiana Tech Law School Are Raised After Dean Steps Down; Indiana State Bar Association Still MIA

I've been following the saga of Indiana's newly opened fifth law school, Indiana Tech.  However,while in Florida, I overlooked the mysterious story of the dean of the Indiana Tech Law School departing after the first year.  The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported last June:
Peter Alexander, Former Dean, Indiana Tech Law School
With very little fanfare late last month – in sharp contrast to how his hiring was announced – Indiana Tech announced the founding dean of its fledgling law school was gone.

The news release announcing Peter Alexander's departure came late on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day.

In contrast, when Alexander was hired in November 2011, the university introduced him at a news conference attended by staff, faculty and students at the school.

Though Alexander's departure was sudden and shrouded in mystery – no one will say why he left and his attorney Mark Paul Smith said he could not comment on the matter – university officials said the law school remains on solid footing as it looks to begin its second year.

Adding to the mystery is the not-publicized decision by the school and Alexander for him to remain on as a consultant from a distance, which school officials confirmed.
After Alexander's departure was announced, the university appointed andré douglas pond cummings as interim dean of the law school.  (Note:  the name is not a typo. Mr. cummings doesn't use capital letters in his name.)


“We've started the process (of looking for a new dean),” Englehart said, adding that the position has been advertised and is receiving interest and applications.

A search committee has also been formed, he said.


With 28 students having completed their first year at the yet-to-be accredited school on Fort Wayne's east side, there is a lot on the line.

Because the school is not accredited by the American Bar Association, those credits earned in that first year would not likely transfer to other law schools should a student get cold feet and not want to wait it out.
Law schools cannot even apply for provisional accreditation until they have been in operation for one year, according to the American Bar Association. 
According to required ABA disclosures published in July 2014, in its first year 68 students applied to the school and 51 were accepted.  The median GPA at the school that year was s 3.03.   The bottom 25% of the students have a median 2.42 GPA.   The tuition is $30,360.  Living on or off campus is
Jim Dimos, President of the
Indiana State Bar Association
pegged to cost an additional $17,800.
A law school education from even established law schools are, at best, an iffy investment in a saturated legal job market.  To spend nearly $50,000 a year to attend a law school that has not been ABA certified is an even more dubious gamble.  If Indiana Tech is not certified by the ABA, those who graduate from that school won't be eligible to sit for the bar in more than a handful of states, most prominently California.   Indiana, like most states, require that those sitting for the bar have attended an ABA certified law school.

I sense a big scandal on the horizon, likely led by angry former students suing the school.  Of course the Indiana State Bar Association has been a major leader in opposing the unneeded Indiana Tech and standing up for students exploited by false representations of law schools about the legal job market.  Of course, I kid.  The ISBA, as is typical, is nowhere in sight on issues relating to the Indiana Tech Law School.  That mirrors the ISBA's refusal to stand up for attorney free speech, including the right to criticize judges and others players in the legal profession.

More Gannett Outrage: Indianapolis Star Refuses to Report on Council's Vote to Increase Public Safety Tax (w/update)

The huge news on Monday night was that the Indianapolis City-County Council approved a 43% increase in the public safety tax (from .35% to .50%) or a 9% plus increase (1.62% to 1.77%) if you look at that tax as part of the overall local option income tax.  Ostensibly the reason was a desire by the administration to hire more police officers to combat the city's rising crime rate.  A 65% increase in the local option income tax in 2007, also to hire more police officers, actually resulted in much fewer officers seven years after the tax was adopted.  It has been speculated that the real reason for the tax increase is to generate revenue to pay the private contractor that the city will employ to build and manage the new Justice Center which is supposed to be built at the old GM stamping facility.

Indianapolis Star Editor Jeff Taylor
Regardless, the story was big news, a development that would affect virtually every adult living in Marion County.  Yet incredibly the Star made the decision to not report the story in either the print or on-line editions of the paper.  In comparison, the Indianapolis Business Journal immediately reported the development as the lead story on its website.

What made the front page of the print edition of the Star was instead the story of a councilor who had introduced a measure to prohibit councilors from displaying signs on the floor of the council, a reaction to the previous council meeting when five councilors displayed "Hands Up" signs in solidarity to Ferguson protesters alleging police brutality after the shooting of an unarmed man.  An interesting, symbolic story, no doubt. But the proposal was hardly one that impacts Indy residents such as approval of the public safety tax increase.

Why didn't the Star report on the tax increase?  Undoubtedly because Indianapolis Star Editor Jeff Taylor knew tax increases are not popular and he didn't want Indy residents to know what the Council did and that Mayor Ballard was the driving force behind the tax increase.  To paraphrase what Taylor has told his employees:  "Our job is not to report the news.  Our job is to guide the news."   If that means leaving residents in the dark on important issues like tax increases and hiring police officers to combat an ever increasing crime rate, Taylor is more than willing to use his position to do that.  And that is why, folks, the Star's circulation continues to plummet.

UPDATE:  An alert reader posted a link to an on-line story.  I checked the Star's on-line edition out from the minute the story broke and never saw it on the Star's home page.  (The only story about the council on the Star's home page was the story about signs.)  The on-line story might have been buried in the news section of the on-line paper which would raise questions about that placement.  Nonetheless, I did doublecheck the print edition of the Star and unbelievably Tuohy's story on the public safety tax increase didn't make the cut. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Coalition of Indianapolis Republican and Democratic Council Members Pass 43% Increase in Public Safety Tax

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
In a bipartisan vote, the Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night approved a proposal by Mayor Greg Ballard to raise the public-safety income tax by 43 percent, partly to fund additional police recruits.

The public-safety income tax will go from 0.35 percent to 0.5 percent, making Marion County’s total income-tax rate 1.77 percent, effective Jan. 1.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
The 0.15 percentage-point hike will cost the typical Marion County household, earning about $42,000, another $5.25 per month.

Ballard, a Republican, proposed the income-tax hike in conjunction with eliminating the homestead tax credit in order to pay for a preschool program that he believes is a step toward long-term crime reduction. The homestead credit provision was stripped from the income-tax proposal in committee and reintroduced as a separate measure, now headed for its own committee hearing at a later date.
An amendment that would have re-joined the two measures failed Monday night. In the final 19-10 vote on the income-tax hike, the dissenters were nine Democrats and one Republican, Christine Scales.
Kudos to IBJ for correctly reporting it as a 43% increase in the tax.  Yesterday on one of the TV news shows I heard it referred to incorrectly as a .15% increase in the tax.  The difference between the two is huge.  I would point out that the word "bipartisan," however,  is used incorrectly.  A bipartisan vote is one in which a majority of the members of both parties are on the same side of the issue.  Here the Democrats by a 9-6 vote opposed the tax increase so it wasn't "bipartisan.".  Almost every vote involves at least one person crossing over to vote with the other party.  That doesn't make those bipartisan votes.

But I digress.   As Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana has pointed out there is nothing that requires that this tax increase actually be spent be on hiring new police officers. The 65% increase in the local option income tax in 2007, which was also supposed to be used to hire new officers, resulted in substantially fewer officers.  Welsh believes, and I concur, that the new revenue is likely to be used to pay the new private operator of the planned Justice Center.

Welsh provides a breakdown on the vote:

Voting for the Tax Increase


Voting Against the Tax Increase


A Mayor Ballard supported amendment to also raise property taxes by eliminating the local homestead tax credit failed.  Unfortunately there was no coverage of that vote.  In fact, the online version of the Star doesn't even have a story of the 43% tax increase ostensibly for more police officers.  Instead it has a story about Councilor Sandlin's proposal to eliminate political signage on the floor of the council, a measure, regardless of merit, which will have little if any impact on city residents.

It should also be noted that once again Channel 16 is late putting up video of a council meeting so I could not include what actually happened in my story.   It used to be that council meetings where immediately uploaded to the website once they were over.  Now it might be days before they get posted, which late posting of course cuts off reporters and bloggers from timely reporting what happened at those council meetings.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mayor Ballard and GOP Councilors Try Again to Increase Property Taxes; Democratic Councilor Attempts to Cancel Justice Center Consulting Contracts

Some interesting proposals will be introduced at Monday's Indianapolis City-County Council meeting.

Resolution 268, initiated by the Ballard administration and sponsored by Republican councilors Marilyn Pfisterer, Robert Lutz, Ben Hunter, Will Gooden, Mike McQuillen, Jose Evans, Aaron Freeman, Jeff Miller Jack Sandlin and Jefferson Shreve, would raise property taxes on Marion County residents by repealing the local homestead tax credit.  Noticeably missing from the list are Republicans Jason Holliday, Janice McHenry and Christine Scales.

 Councilor John Barth
Democratic Councilor John Barth is introducing Resolution 273, which is summarized in its digest as follows:
"amends the Code to create a new non-reverting Indianapolis pre-k fund; add the community affairs and education committee as a standing committee of the council; repeal the council rule on approval of charter schools; replace such rule with a new one giving the community affairs and education committee oversight of the Indianapolis pre-k fund and the budget, policies and expenditures of the office of education innovation; and establish the Indianapolis pre-k program"
The link to this resolution is broken so I can't tell if there are other sponsors of this resolution.
Councilor Angela Mansfield

Resolution 274, initiated by Republicans Jack Sandlin, and co-sponsored by Aaron Freeman, Ben Hunter, Mike McQuillen and Jason Holliday would prohibit any signs on the council chambers floor with the exception of the names of the councilors or staff.  This is obviously aimed at the "Hands Up" signs displayed at the last meeting.

Finally, a measure that is sure to raise the ire of the administration is Resolution 276, sponsored by Democratic Councilor Angela Mansfield which would cancel four of the consulting contracts, that was to cost taxpayers over $9.5 million.  Over $12 million of the no bid contracts were handed out  by the administration to promote the new judicial center.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard Pulls Bait and Switch: Solicits Campaign Contributions Then Spends Money Advocating Tax Increases and Pre-K Program

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Mayor Greg Ballard's campaign is buying radio spots to promote his proposal to hire 280
Mayor Greg Ballard
new police officers and invest $50 million in early childhood education.

The ads will begin running Thursday on several stations in advance of a Sept. 22 City-County Council deadline to take action on his plan. If it is not approved, the pre-k component would die for this year.

The ads are being paid for by the Greg Ballard for Mayor Committee. Ballard has not yet said whether he will seek a third term as mayor.

Campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Hallowell would not reveal how much was spent but said it was "a decent-sized buy."

She said it was unusual for a campaign to spend money on a legislative proposal but the mayor was committed to getting the plan passed.
So Mayor Ballard solicits campaign contributions to run for office, and instead uses the money to push for income and property tax increases and to promote a pre-K program?  While perfectly legal in Indiana law, I can't imagine his donors, many a few of which may be conservative Republicans (if there are any of those left who support the mayor given his liberal policies), are happy about paying to promote tax increases and the adoption of a new entitlement program.

Ballard should be pocketing every dollar he receives in 2014 in anticipation of a 2015 re-election bid. The fact he isn't doing that suggests that Ballard might well forgo running for a third term.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Indianapolis' Tax, Borrow and Spend GOP Councilors See 20 Year Road Improvement Bond Proposal Stall in Committee

Last Thursday, Indianapolis Council Republicans failed in the Public Works Committee to push through Proposal 212 which would allow Indianapolis to borrow $110 million over the next 20 years to pay for street, roads, sidewalk and curb improvements in 2015, which not coincidentally is an election year.  The $110 million in IndyRoads Revenue Bonds would be in addition to $20 million regular budget of the public works department.  The Democrats successfully amended the proposal to
Councilor Zach Adamson
reduce the amount borrowed to $70 million. 

According to the Democratic chairman of the committee, Zach Adamson, the reduction would save more than $16 million in interest and would allow the annual bond payments to be paid from the additional gas tax revenue that Indianapolis is expecting to receive from the State of Indiana.

Adamson discussed the possibility that $70 million borrowed might be supplemented by up to $45 million from the downtown tax increment financing district.   Republican Councilor Jack Sandlin objected that those TIF dollars are suppposed to go to economic development.  Later, Sandlin claimed that any excess in the downtown TIF district should be returned to taxpayers, a suggestion that is completely at odds with Sandlin's consistent support for every tax increase and taxpayer funded corporate welfare proposal considered by the council.

Councilor Jack Sandlin
Republican Councilor Ginny Cain protested that money from the district could only be spent downtown.   Council Chief Financial Officer Bart Brown, however, said that the administration had successfully established that the entire county is in the downtown TIF district when it gave Visit Indy $8 million from the downtown fund even though much of Visit Indy's operations are outside the county.

With regard to the companion appropriation measure, Proposal 213, the Democrats successfully offered an amendment reducing the money appropriated to $35,000, apparently with a similar amount to be spent in a second year.
Councilor Ginny Cain

A vote on the amended Proposal 212 and 213 was tabled until the next meeting of the Public Works agreement.   According to the Democrats on the council this will allow more time to negotiate with the administration.

The one area in which there was agreement was on Proposal 214, a measure that would eliminate the 2019 sunset on the excise surtax and wheel tax.  Discussion was that the continuation of the tax would help fund the IndyRoads Revenue Bonds and that without the taxes, the City wouldn't have the money to pay the bonds after 2019.  Not mentioned was the fact that Councilor Adamson had said the reduced amount would allow reducing the bonds to $70 million would allow those bonds to be funded completely by state gas tax revenue Indianapolis would be receiving.  My guess is that primary source of funding for revenue bonds is not as certain to continue as suggested by the administration and councilors.