The proposal certainly signifies an indication that administration is moving in the right direction and should be applauded. However, the Mayor's strategy as reflected in the editorial is missing a key ingredient: a willingness to confront and reverse the corporate giveaways that have for the last few decades been governing philosophy of Republican and Democrat administrations. It is exactly because of that corporate welfare mentality that there has been such a pressure on spending. While the Mayor might not want to go down this unchartered road, the fact is unless he takes this populist course his chances of re-election are slim and none.
Here are some agenda items the Mayor should latch onto if he wants to fight for the taxpayers:
- Put the contracts for all vendors doing business with the city on-line where they can be seen by everyone. Full disclosure should be a requirement of doing business with the City.
- Open up the records of the Capital Improvement Board. The Board, which is the source of much of the corporate welfare, still believes it can operate without the full scrutiny applied to other governmental entities.
- Remove the leadership of the CIB, Bob Grand, who is the managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg. Grand has far too many conflicts of interest to have ever been appinted to that position. In addition to his job with a law firm which receives substantial business from the city, he represents the Simons, owners of the Pacers (who will be renegotiating their deal soon with CIB), and sits on the board of the Sports Corporation which benefits from money directed by CIB to the Sports Corporation. Replace Grand (and other members of the Board when possible) with individuals who are willing to fight for Joe Taxpayer and against the entrenched corporate interests who are simply after more taxpayer money.
- Start demanding that the Colts foot the bill for the operating deficit in the new Lucas Oil Stadium.
- Do not agree to give away more taxpayer money to the Pacers when they come knocking at the door for the same giveaways the City gave to the Colts.
- Stop fighting taxpayer efforts aimed at recovering taxpayer funds Mayor Peterson's administration successfully and, we have argued in a lawsuit illegally, diverted to the Indiana Sports Corporation during the last few days before he left office. The Mayor's Office should not be using taxpayer money (i.e. City Legal) against taxpayers in an effort to get the lawsuit dismissed. One has to wonder who would have advised the Mayor to take the fall for last minute shenanigans pulled by the Democrat Peterson administration in favor of Democrat Susan Williams who runs the Indiana Sports Corporation. Quite likely it is someone who benefited from the deal and does not want to see it exposed during the discovery process.
- Demand full disclosure of law firms receiving city legal business. Their contracts (all of them) need to be made public as well as their billing records. Those of us in law know how those firms regularly inflate their bills when taxpayers are the ones paying. Note: Mayor Ballard told me before the election that the fleecing of city taxpayers by the big law firms would cease under his watch. Well it has not. Barnes & Thornburg, which has connections at virtually every level of the current administration, is the worst offender. Vaughn, who had been an up and coming member of the council, would have been the ideal person to speak out against this and in favor of taxpayers ... except that a month after becoming chairman of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee he was hired by, you guessed it, Barnes & Thornburg.
- Demand full accountability from private vendors who contract with the city. I know from my experience in corrections litigation that privatization contracts are simply not enforced, including provisions requiring that those vendors indemnify government for attorney's fees and judgments when the vendor's wrongdoing results in government getting sued. (Quite often these private companies are shelling out big campaign contributions not only to secure the contract to begin with, but to entice government officials to look the other way when it comes to their compliance with the contracts.) The City could recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions if it simply enforced these provisions.
- Appoint a bipartisan commission to study the corporate welfare and giveaways in this county that are adding to our tax burden. The Commission needs to be made up by people who truly represent taxpayers as opposed to those with corporate ties.