Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mayor Ballard Speaks on Pacers, Colts and CIB Bailout; Shows He is No Friend of Indianapolis Taxpayers

This weekend I saw a Channel 16 video of a Washington Township Mayor's Night held on March 19, 2009, where Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was asked by the moderator, Broad Ripple Village Association President Elizabeth Marshall, about the Pacers' demand for more money from taxpayers. If you watch Marshall hesitate as she gets into the question, it appears she had made a mistake and was actually supposed to ask another question on the card. Nonetheless, the Mayor went ahead and answered the question...okay he didn't really answer the question, but he did go on for about 4 minutes talking about the importance of the city's convention business, not the situation with the Pacers.

Since there is so little out there where the Mayor answers a question about the CIB publicly, I thought I would make a transcript for people to read. You can check out the video here. The question is about 54 minutes in.
Marshall: “There have been recent news that the Pacers have had a difficult time paying their bills, how do you see the situation resolving?"

Mayor Ballard: “
The CIB and the Pacers, this is not about the Pacers. And this is not about the Colts. This is about downtown. Pacers and Colts are players in the story but they are not the protagonists, here. Downtown is the protagonist. People have been working for 30 or 40 years to make the downtown what it is and there is a reason for that. People talk about life sciences, they talk about advanced manufacturing, they talk about motor sports, they talk about logistics, they talk about technology, they talk about all of that. But what they leave out of this is the convention business, which is really one of our industry clusters also. Well over $3 billion a year. A lot of money. Downtown was planned a certain way a long time ago and conscious decisions were made to get to a certain point.

And don’t look at downtown as a neighborhood. Downtown is an economic engine for the city and it is a HUGE economic engine for the state. That’s what it is. Okay, so if you think the care and feeding of downtown has been too much, I would disagree because over the 30 or 40 years, that’s a HUGE economic engine. People know Indianapolis, people come to Indianapolis, because of our downtown. Conventions come to Indianapolis and spend money, not your money, their money, and they help you, because of the downtown of Indianapolis, because they can bring their convention here and walk around. The NFL combine comes in here specifically ever year and spends a load of money because they don’t have to drive 30 miles to a stadium and then 40 miles to a restaurant, it is all right downtown and they spend a lot of money and it helps you, it helps the state, so that’s the short version of

And I’m very candid about this, we do not want to set up a row of dominoes in downtown Indianapolis and then just have them all go down. We are in an economic downturn right now. If we start saying, oh those guys over here or these guys over here, forgetting the bigger picture which is downtown, HUGE economic engine for Indianapolis, HUGE convention business, one of the big, big drivers of money into the city. You know that just being mad at this team over hear or this team over there, that’s not really the story. That’s not really the story. Downtown was planned a long time ago a certain way to be a HUGE economic engine and it is, and it is. The tax dollars that the State receives out of there is big and the city gets a fair chunk of change out of it also.

That’s what is happening. So some care and feeding needs to go downtown, I don’t think there’s any question about that. That’s like asking Eli Lilly to not have much land, why? You want them to grow jobs, right? You want that to happen and that’s what’s happening. There is 66,000 hospitality workers in central Indiana, 66,000 and that is based mostly on our convention business. And we do not want to set up a row of dominoes to knock that down because we’re going to pay a price for a long, long time if we do that.
The Mayor's response is so disingenuous, I don't know where to start. The question concerned whether the city is to turn over $15 million more to the Pacers. Ballard dodged it, then lumped in the issue of public support for professional sports into the convention business. No one argues that convention business is not profitable for the city. People from outside of Indianapolis travel to the city to spend their money. That's not the same with professional sports. The fans are from the central Indianapolis area. The money they spend is simply money that would have been spent someplace else, going out to dinner, a movie, etc. There is no net gain. The academic studies do not show spending taxpayer money on professional sports teams is a good investment for a city. Some studies even show that professional sports teams have a negative impact on the local economy. But academic studies do not slow down the advocates of giving more of our hard earned money to billionaire sports owners. They just ignore them.

See: The Pacers, Colts and the Impact of Professional Sports on Local Economies (3/15/2009)

Mayor Ballard says with a straight face that the financial crisis the CIB is in has nothing to do with the Colts or Pacers. Again, a dishonest answer. The CIB is in a financial hole because of the sweetheart deal it gave to the Colts over the Lucas Oil Stadium. That triggered the Pacers to also ask for a similar sweetheart deal for Conseco. At some point, we need a mayor who will stand up for taxpayers against these wealthy sports owners who think they are entitled to yet more of our money. Mayor Ballard sent a clear message at the Washington Township Mayor's Night out that he is not that mayor and he is no friend of taxpayers.


Gary R. Welsh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, Mayor Ballard has done a 180-degree turn on this subject since entering office. Again, I apologize to the people of Indianapolis who I convinced to support this man under the mistaken belief that he would actually govern differently than Mayor Bart Peterson. There is absolutely no difference in policy. He has reneged on almost every promise he made as a candidate. I never thought he would be so easily swayed and accept all of the freebies and money these self-serving elites are shoving into his pocket. He's more concerned about planning his next junket overseas than trying to figure out why we're in this mess. As I said in my speech on Wednesday, it's like the movie Groundhog Day where the same bad scene keeps playing out over and over again with the same sorry results. I've just about had it with the indefensible linking of the convention business with these two sports teams. They do not go hand in hand and these people know it. It's just part of their propaganda for convincing people that spending money on the sports teams will generate more conventions. It's the biggest lie ever. Ballard's political career is dead. This guy will go down as the worst mayor in Indianapolis history.

Anonymous said...

Ballard should resign. I campaigned for him and feel cheated by his lack of real leadership in this matter. I have spoken to many people about helping the Pacers and the CIB and nearly every person says let them fail. It seems that the disconnect in our city are the ones who are getting their pockets oiled by our multi-million dollar sports franchises. Ballard, if you can read, we are demanding you to cease in your actions of stealing our tax monies. If you do not, we will make you the next Peterson example.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I wouldn't say Ballard is no different than Peterson. I'd say he is actually worse. He's an embarassment to the Republican Party. Up until the last six months in office, Peterson listened to public opinion. Ballard turned his back on taxpayers and the public on day one to sell out to the elite interests in this city.

I agree with umaguama2. He needs to resign. He's become an embarassment to the Republican Party and will drag down the council Republicans with him in 2011.

Citizen Kane said...

I don't even buy that the convention business is profitable for the city. How much money have we sunk into that place, so that we can subsidize the hospitality industry where Stats Indiana shows that approximately 50,000 workers in accommodations and food service representing 2.5% of the county's earnings. This is the industry that we should subsidize. This is what a city does when it doesn't know what else to do to revive its downtown; it subsidizes the low-wage tourist industry and never stops pumping money into it and then has the nerve to call it a successful strategy.

Paul K. Ogden said...

CK, I actually kind of agree with you on the convention business, if you're talking about the new convention center. I think there are some real quesitons whether it's going to be too large and we'll be able to fill the place sufficiently.

The problem is the convention business has been drying up at the same time we've decided to expand our facilities. Maybe not a good time to do that.

Then again, don't expect to ever get honest statistics about this.

M Theory said...

This makes my stomach hurt. To think that I spent a whole summer doing what I did for Ballard only to be betrayed.
Did anyone see Ballard at the Revolt At The State House? Back when he was campaigning, he NEVER (not once) missed an opportunity to be with the grass roots activists. Nowadays, Ballard ignores us!
Ballard used the fiscal conservative activists in this city and he lied to us.

Unigov said...

Follow up on "No one argues that convention business is not profitable for the city" -

I argue the convention biz is not profitable - because conventions don't pay to use the convention center. They get to use it for free, in return for using downtown hotels.

Taxpayers pay for the convention center, which makes no money. Pretty neat, huh ?

I agree on Ballard - he should just resign, he is the Manchurian Candidate.

I know said...

All politicians in Indiana have to participate in the friends and family plan!

It is a right of passage to the good old boys club.

Cross one of them and you will be labeled a trouble maker for ever. Everyone needs a job including the Mayor when he is no longer in office.

Ask any of them and they will tell you they are in office for the people. It is just their people and not the taxpayers.

Multi million dollars sports franchise are not the only thing getting oiled in Indiana. Gaming is as well. It is all the same operation at the Indianapolis level and the State level. Get it while you can. Have many legal firms on retainer and use them all to get every dime they can get.