Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mayor Ballard Proposes New Taxes to Bail Out CIB and Billionaire Sports Owners

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports this morning that it will cost nearly $50 million annually to get the Capital Improvement Board's books back in the black. How will the Mayor's Office close the gap? The IBJ reports that:
"In private discussions, Repbulican Mayor Greg Ballard's administration has proposed hikes to CIB's existing mix of hospitality taxes, or alternatively, permanently shifting sales or income tax revenue away form other government
Translation: Instead of taking a hard line against the billionaire business owners, Mayor Greg Ballard's administration wants to give them more taxpayer money. Disgusting. Fortunately for Marion County Republicans, Indiana does not have recall to boot elected officials out of office before the end of their terms, or there would certainly be a petition circulating already to oust Mayor Ballard, a petition that would have a lot of signatures from unhappy Republicans.

Mayor Ballard has refused to publicly comment on this financial disaster CIB is facing. Instead CIB President Bob Grand, managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg, is leading the charge for more taxes rather than ask for sacrifices from the billionaire business owners of the Colts and Pacers. Grand is the attorney for the Herb and Mel Simon who own the Pacers. Although Grand promised to wall himself off from discussions regarding the Pacer's lease of Conseco Fieldhouse, he has not done so. In fact, the additional $15 million CIB has already indicated it planned to give the Pacers is part of the reason Grand is asking for more money from taxpayers.

It is now evident that Grand did not tell the truth when he said he would wall himself off from discussions regarding the Pacers, as if such a thing were possible. That's typical Bob Grand. Grand's m.o. has always been that he can lie his way out of anything because he is brilliant and everyone else is stupid and will believe whatever he says. During a recent round of publicity, I found him making false statements regarding his firm's representation on cases, lies which I then had to correct. Many were about things that could easily be confirmed to be false by simply looking at public records. Grand just assumed no one would check to see if his "facts" were true.

Most of the blame for the CIB financial fiasco though should fall at the feet of former CIB President Fred Glass. He negotiated a terribly-lopsided deal with the Colts that left the CIB deeply in the hole. Yet at the time, and afterward, he was labeled as a brilliant negotiator. The details of the Colts contract for the Lucas Oil Stadium reveals a negotiation that was terribly lopsided in favor of the Colts, a contract that is now coming back to haunt the CIB and the city's taxpayers.

The Mayor needs to speak publicly on this issue and reassure voters that, despite what the IBJ reported this morning, his administration is not behind the scenes lobbying to increase taxes to close the CIB's deficit. He needs to also make clear that he won't divert tax revenue from other projects or programs in order to give the money to the Pacers and Colts. The Mayor needs to take control over the CIB and should start by asking that the ethically-challenged, conflict-riddled Grand resign his position. The next President of the CIB needs to be someone who doesn't have a huge conflict of interest and is willing to take a stand against more corporate welfare by asking the billionaire sports owners to pony up. If the Mayor is going to increase taxes to hand out more money to the city's sports billionaires, he might as well forget about running for re-election. No amount of contributions is going to reverse the political damage he will be inflicting on himself.

See also Gary Welsh's brilliant column this morning: CIB Annual Shortfall Now Pegged at $50 Million.


Anonymous said...

More taxes will prove disasterous; let's hope it's not the case.

Sean Shepard said...

When calling into question the poorly negotiated contracts and this whole situation, a few quick thoughts come to mind:

(1) Largely, the negotiators are negotiating over money that isn't theirs and can be rationalized by "it's only XX dollars per person". When their numbers turn out wrong, does it now become XX + $50 per person?

(2) They are negotiating things for government that are not the proper role and function of government. If it is profitable to be in the sports and stadium business, organizations should buy the land, build them and be in that business. Taxpayers should not be.

(3) While the positive economic impacts are always touted, is any consideration given to the economic impact of keeping tax rates low? Not blowing $50 million on sports teams and doing other things with that money? What is the economic impact if our sales, income or property taxes are lower than surrounding states or other parts of the country?

(4) They may find places to cut to get their $50 million, but if they could do that for the Pacers and Colts, how was it not possible to do that to return the money to taxpayers?

Anonymous said...

Those who supported Ballard and worked on Mayor Greg Ballard's campaign could have predicted and prevented this Grand Takeover...but, they were conveniently shoved aside by Bob Grand at the beginning.

But, let us not fret, Ballard has the "preachers" to PRAY for him, he doesn't need legal advisors.

It appears Grand isn't even using vaseline. The question of the day is, "Just how dumb IS Mayor Greg Ballard".

Paul K. Ogden said...

Excellent observations, Sean.

Here's one of my own. When people say that a public investment into a business venture will yield great returns, the question should always be asked as to why the private sector isn't putting up its money. The reason why is because it is not considered a profitable venture.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Instead of investing the couple of billion we've spent on these sports teams the past 20 years, what if we had instead invested that money in a public transporation system linking downtown with the neighboring suburban communities by light rail? Those expenditures could have been heavily leveraged with federal transportation dollars to allow billions more expenditures in public transportation. We would have less demand for more highways, less congestion on our highways and cleaner air, not to mention the convenience of public transportation our city had a century ago and the benefit to the many. Indianapolis, strangely, seems permanently drawn to the projects which benefit the privileged few.

Mary Jo said...

Why is Paul Ogden again Attacking Mayor Ballard?

Find out more at

Leslie Sourwine said...

Mary Jo, Mary Jo I was beginning to think you went AWOL. As for why is Ogden again attacking Ballard isn't it normal for concerned citizens to attack the actions of criminals? Wasting taxpayer money, raising taxes, ignoring taxpayer’s request for information all are typical of politician’s activity participating in pay to play schemes. We’ve seen recently what happens to politicians who operate under the table instead of in the open where taxpayers can scrutinize their actions in Illinois. I’m all for petitioning the Indiana Legislature for an amendment to the Indiana Constitution to allow for recall of Indiana Mayors who are doing to taxpayers exactly what Ballard is doing. Recall is the only remedy for city government who continue to throw away taxpayer’s money when so many are struggling to hang onto their homes and feed their families.

Leslie Sourwine insists it's time for that colon cleansing. It’s past time to start cutting out that cancerous growth going on at City Hall before the cancer eats up the taxpayers ligament interest in how their money is being wasted.

Mary Jo said...

My dear Leslie,

If you think Ballard is a criminal, I do not know how people will ever take you seriously.

Leslie Sourwine said...

Mary Jo, ...Fact: I think Ballard is criminal spending taxpayer money wastefully. I do think a lot of people consider that serious whether or not I voice my thoughts on the subject. Recall is the only solution to arrogant politicians who operate in the manner that Ballard is operating. Surely there is a provision in the Indiana Constitution that will relieve the taxpayer of a liability such as Ballard? Four years is a long time to soak up taxpayer’s dollars with no accountability as to where and why the money is going where it is.

Leslie Sourwine wonders what color Mary Jo's nose is. :)

Downtown Indy said...

The CIB board is meeting at 2 p.m. Monday to review proposed budget cuts. Room 101, Indiana Convention Center, 100 S. Capitol Ave.

Every one who reads your blog needs to be there to make a show of unity and opposition tomorrow. I plan to be there.

Anonymous said...

"Why is Paul Ogden again Attacking Mayor Ballard?"

Because you hate America.