The Indianapolis Star today reported the Carmel Mayor James Brainard and the Carmel City Council (all members are Republican) knew in February 2007 that the Keystone Avenue project would cost much more than the $90 million price tag touted by Mayor Brainard during 2007 re-election campaign.
Quoted from the article:
I'm not sure about the reporter indicating he was reelected "two months later" after the February 2007 report was issued. Apparently the reporter was referring to his May Republican Primary which, given the Republican dominance in Carmel, is tantamount to winning the general election.
A study in February 2007 put the total cost of the six-roundabout Keystone traffic improvement project at $138.6 million if the rebuilding took place over an 11-year period, according to calculations by project manager Jeremy Kashman.
However, running the project on a three-year timetable shaved inflation costs, Kashman said, and put the estimate at $112 million.
Brainard took that number and, figuring he could earn interest on the money and cut costs, publicly committed to finish Keystone with the $90 million the state gave Carmel to take over the road. He declined to bring the higher estimates to the attention of his constituents, who re-elected him by a wide margin two months later.
Although Brainard tries to spin his way out of his misrepresentation, let's be honest. He blatantly lied to his constituents and should be held accountable. Likewise, the City Council members who knew the numbers were faulty should likewise be held accountable for acquiescence in Brainard's efforts to mislead Carmelites.
As a Republican I hate to say it, but this is what you get when you have complete one party (in this case, Republican) dominance of an area. The two-party watchdog system is not present to ensure that the interests of the public are being defended.
Republicans need to clean up their act in Carmel. Brainard has had Republican opposition before and has been able to squelch it. That Republican opposition needs to rise again and bring back the principles of good government to Indy's fast growing neighbor to the north.
As a side note, a good government measure would be for more documents like the Carmel Keystone Avenue study to be placed on line for everyone to see. Mayor Brainard's misrepresentations would have been discovered much earlier with such a policy. Taxpayers should not have to depend on newspapers making open records requests to expose to public scrutiny documents that are by nature public documents and everyone is entitled to view.
Finally, I can't end this without giving kudos to the Indianapolis Star and reporter Heather Gillers for the investigative work on this story. The Star has often been criticized, I believe rightly, for not investigating news tips and falling into the trap of simply reporting what others are saying or doing. In this case though, the Indianapolis Star and Gillers acquitted themselves quite well and showed the importance of a free media to keep the politicians honest.