Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Indianapolis Refuses to Provide Public Records Relating to Winning Super Bowl Bid

So Indianapolis city government is refusing to provide public records related to its successful Super Bowl bid. Considering the tradition of city leaders giving away the public's money to corporate interests, it leaves one suspicious that the reason for refusing to allow public scrutiny is that it probably was not that good of a deal for the public and would not stand up to scrutiny.

Below is Mr. Clarke Kahlo's letter:

Re: Comment on DPW's proposed IRTIP Amendment- Des. 0900281— Monument Circle Pedestrian and Circulation Study for the 2012 super bowl- $328,300

Dear Mr. Cunningham and other City and MPO officials,

This is to express my opposition to this proposed expenditure for the NFL’s super bowl.

The principal reason is that neither the City of Indianapolis (Mayor’s Office) nor the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership), despite a total of five requests since August of 2008, has seen fit to publicly disclose the records pertaining to the city’s bid (and, more particularly, the specific public commitments made) to host the NFL-sponsored football game and related commercial festivities in 2012. My requests to the city were initially directed to Mayor’s Office Communications Director Marcus Barlow. He declined to disclose, citing his opinion that the bid package and associated subsequent agreements are not public records. He was subsequently succeeded by Robert Vane who received my written public records request in late December of 2008. Mr. Vane initially acknowledged that the requested materials are indeed public records and that he would search and disclose them. However, that has not yet occurred.

Such lack of transparency and apparent secrecy is an affront to the citizens and taxpayers, especially in the current context of the imminent fiscal collapse of the Capital Improvements Board caused in part by the under-estimation and under-reporting of the true operating costs at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the resultant on-going deliberations about how to capture additional revenues from the public to close the CIB's budget crisis.

If the City is unwilling to publicly disclose the complete agreement with the NFL (and all other parties), I believe that any studies and other costs of planning and preparation should properly by born by the private entities (e.g. the NFL, the CICP, the ICVA, the Indiana Sports Corporation, the hospitality industry, and perhaps others) which are planning and sponsoring the event.

Last August during budget review, when I commented to the Metropolitan Development Committee about the excessive, and perhaps duplicative, public monies (more than $1 million) proposed to support the budget of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., I was advised by Councilor Jackie Nytes that it is very impotent for Indianapolis to be able to demonstrate that it is a “super bowl-worthy city”. Yet the likely majority of Indianapolis residents are fed up with the high level of subsidy, and apparent mismanagement of funds associated with the promotion of private sports corporations at publicly-funded venues. They also believe the city should be just as livable and accommodating for the residents as it is being made for the tourists, sports fans, and conventioneers.

Relatedly, there is academic authority that the projections of municipal revenue from super bowl games are highly inflated. The following (in bold text) is a public comment which was posted recently on The Indianapolis Star. If the conclusion is accurate, we should be more carefully scrutinizing all proposed pblic costs.

http://www.tracer2.com/admin/uploadedPublications/178_tlmrexpert0301.pdfAcademic economists have undertaken independent estimationsof the economic impact of the Super Bowl. Philip Porter suggeststhat practitioner bias, measurement error, and local constraints on(hotel) capacity may cause the actual net economic impacts to bezero. Robert Baade and Victor Matheson find the actual economicimpacts of Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami were approximately onetenth that predicted before the event. They speculate that the netimpacts of the Super Bowl generally range from $21 million to $32 million.

http://www.williams.edu/Economics/wp/mathesonSuperbowl.pdf%20TThis study says that since 1970 the Superbowl has a negative sum ROI. It also states the SB is 90% likely to provide zero economic impact or actually cost the host city. Both basically say at best the ROI of the SB is 1/10th of what is claimed. The NFL inflates #'s to get cities to bid and build new venues.4/5/2009 10:40:48 PM

A final comment pertains to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Considering that the City sees fit every year to turn the Monument into a giant (“world’s tallest”) holiday lighting display, perhaps we shouldn’t be overly concerned with the issue of trivializing the Monument, which is operated by the Indiana War Memorials Commission. Nevertheless, it would be troubling for this citizen (one of whose family antecedents is memorialized at the Monument) to see a high level of NFL or other commercial advertising and adornment on the property. Please note that there’s also a constitutional prohibition (in Article 15 of the Indiana Constitution, as follows ) against sale or lease of the property which should be honored.

"...Section 9. The following grounds owned by the State in Indianapolis, namely: the State House Square, the Governor's Circle, and so much of out-lot numbered one hundred and forty-seven, as lies north of the arm of the Central Canal, shall not be sold or leased..."

Thank you for your consideration of the above.

Clarke Kahlo


jabberdoodle said...

This public record should be released immediately. In addition, the public should be told how much money has actually been collected from those businesses who pledged money for the Superbowl extravaganza. I would not be surprised to find that the City taxpayer is on the hook for any insufficient funds. I'd just like to know what our limit of exposure is.

Jon said...

It sounds like most of downtown needs a batch of subpoenas!

Downtown Indy said...

Hmmm, any lawyers out there willing to go to court to seek an order for release?

Since when can they refuse an FOIA request (assuming that is what this was)? (yeah, I know the standard practice is to stall ad infinitum)