Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Silence of the Democrats

As the Ballard administration lobbies to increase taxes to fill the enormous hole in the Capital Improvement Board budget, one group of city politicians remains mysteriously on the sidelines. I'm not talking about the the Republicans on the Indianapolis City-County Council. While they can be faulted for not exercising leadership on the CIB issues, at least they have the excuse that their silence is a strategic, albeit misguided, decision to support the Mayor. I say "misguided" because in the end their silence is enabling to a Mayor to go down a road that gives him no chance to win re-election and dooms any chance the Republicans have to continue being in the majority on the council.

Democrat Council members should feel no such constraint regarding the CIB. While Mayor Ballard's missteps has given them loads of ammunition to fire in 2011, no more potent issue exists than than this administration's complicity in continuing the corporate welfare schemes that have enriched wealthy insiders at the expense of the Indianapolis taxpayers. Yet rather than stick up for the little guy against the the big corporate interests, Democrats members of the Council are on the sideline.

But, alas there is a reason for the constraint. Democrat politicians are as tied into the elite corporate power structure in Indianapolis every bit as much as the Old Republican Guard, those country-club Republicans who immediately seized control of the transition and have run the Ballard administration ever since. Both Democrat Fred Glass and Republican Bob Grand fall all over themselves to enter into deals favorable to their corporate benefactors at the expense of taxpayers. The same mindset extends throughout Indianapolis politicians on both sides of the aisle.

What is surprising, however, is the reluctance of other Democrats who aren't elected officials to criticize the corporate welfare schemes that dominate the politics of Indianapolis. Recently a prominent Democrat blogger was asked to condemn "corporate welfare." He refused to answer the question, claiming it was "irrelevant." Not sure why he thought it was "irrelevant," but it is positively astonishing that he would not bring himself to taking a stand against taking money from lower and middle class folks to make the rich richer. The only Democrat blogger I've seen who has come close to criticizing corporate welfare is Jen Wagner, and she doesn't ever criticize the concept of corporate welfare, only the Mayor's handling of the questions relating to the issue. For example, I've never seen her criticize the sweetheart deal Fred Glass negotiated or demand that the Colts make concessions to help close the CIB budget gap

Democrats, who claim to be defenders of the "common man," demonstrate an enormous amount of hypocrisy when they can't bring themselves to criticize taking money away from hard-working men and women to give it to billionaires like the Simons and Irsay. The silence of the Democrats provides an enormous opportunity for a more populist-oriented Marion County Republican party to forge coalitions that could eventually bring the GOP back to dominance in the county. But, alas, those who run the Marion County GOP and call the shots on the 25th Floor, are about as far from being populists as one could be. They are part of the problem and the reason why the Republicans are missing a golden opportunity made possible by the Silence of the Democrats.


Gary R. Welsh said...

Why would Jen Wagner criticize any Democrat? She was the paid spokesperson for the state Democratic Party. Her husband was a Deputy Mayor under Peterson and Peterson named him to run the CICP. She knows who butters her bread. The state party relies heavily on the Simon family for political funding and her husband's business interests make it impossible for her to support anything but a bailout of the CIB.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Yeah, Gary, but just maybe I'm hoping SOMEONE would stand up and show a little intellectual integrity. Is that too much to hope for?

Jon said...

I'm not a lawyer so forgive my naivete but isn't most of the state in violation of article 13 of the Indiana Constitution?


Section 1. No political or municipal corporation in this State shall ever become indebted, in any manner or for any purpose to an amount, in the aggregate, exceeding two per centum on the value of the taxable property within such corporation, to be ascertained by the last assessment for State and county taxes, previous to the incurring of such indebtedness; and all bonds or obligations, in excess of such amount, given by such corporations, shall be void: Provided, That in time of war, foreign invasion, or other great public calamity, on petition of a majority of the property owners in number and value, within the limits of such corporation, the public authorities, in their discretion, may incur obligations necessary for the public protection and defense to such amount as may be requested in such petition.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Someone has brought up this provision before. I haven't yet had a chance to look into it. But here are some quick observatiions.

First, it looks like to me it only applies to cities. Cities are incorporated. Counties, towns, etc. are not. It wouldn't apply to the state either...just the cities within the state.

It looks like to me that the debt loan of the city can't exceed 2% of the assessed value of the property within the city. It may not have ... I don't know. You'd have to look at the entire value of all the assessed property in the particular city versus the debt. I don't know the numbers for each.

Then again, maybe there is a violation. It wouldn't be the first time a statute or law was violated for years and nobody pointed it out. It's amazing - it happens all the time.

Gary R. Welsh said...


To get around the constitutional debt limit, municipalites like Indianapolis began creating separate entities, such as the Capital Improvement Board, a Public Works Board, Library Board, Airport Authority, etc. Each of these entities have separate authority to tax and borrow. Although these entities are indirectly controlled by the City, their debt doesn't count against the City's constitutional debt limit based on court interpretations. I think that interpretation flies completely in the face of the original debt limit, but it's the reason local governments have been able to borrow such money.

Citizen Kane said...

The Democrats like to get their free tickets and suites just like all of the others. They want their downtown playground as much as if not more than the Republicans. They will never say a word about it.

And those municipal corporations also allow the city to have their vaunted AAA bond rating, because they don't count all of that other ridiculous debt. But as we know that is how rating agencies work; anyone with any sense would know that Indianapolis debt has increased to obscene levels over the last several decades financing the downtown Ponzi scheme.

Diana Vice said...

When the state constitution was written, I doubt the authors had these loopholes in mind. School corporations get around this debt limit provision by creating holding corporations so they can surpass the intention of the constitutional limit on indebtedness. We fought against this in Tippecanoe County when the county school district went on a big spending spree at the expense of future generations. Since the holding corporation actually owns the schools, and the corporation is merely a lease holder, they can borrow and spend, borrow and spend, borrow spend, borrow, spend, spend, spend, spend.....After all, it's for the children!!!! Did you hear my sarcasm?!

Patriot Paul said...

Creating separate entities to get around the Constitutional debt limit? This ought to be another item on the Revolt At the Statehouse agenda.
Equally troubling is today's Star front page article "House votes to restrict voters' say", an OUTRAGE that would void last year's school voter referendums by the People.
Now the Democrats want to silence we the people.

M Theory said...

Fort Wayne is gunning to set up their own CIB right now. We need to expose this at the REVOLT.