"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 governmentTranslation: 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.