Sunday, July 5, 2009

Indianapolis Star Gets It Wrong on Mayor Ballard and the CIB Bailout

This morning's Indianapolis Star contains an editorial critical of the Mayor's handling of the bailout for the Capital Improvement Board.

The Indianapolis Star cites two errors in the Ballard/CIB legislative strategy. What the Star fails to grasp is that these "errors" were part of the only strategy that was possible to pass the measure. The Star opines.

First, he waited until only two weeks were left in the legislature's regular session to lay out his set of proposals to close a projected $47 million budget deficit.


Ballard's second error was that once he released his plan he then repeatedly shifted his position on the best means of a bailout for the CIB. The mayor's original proposal, released April 13, included four tax increases and $5 million in contributions from both the Colts and Pacers.
First, of all, waiting to release the CIB proposal publicly was part of a definite legislative strategy. The CIB's lobbyists knew that the bailout proposal was highly unpopular and would generate a great deal of opposition from legislators from outside Indianapolis who saw the proposal as benefiting Indianapolis to the exclusion of areas outside of Marion County. The City/CIB lobbyists knew quite well that a stand alone CIB bill had no chance of passing the legislature. Their plan all along was to get it inserted into another bill that would make it difficult for opponents to target the CIB proposal for defeat.

Introducing the measure early, would not have gotten the public behind the measure (which was in the beginning and, still is, incredibly unpopular with the public). Nor would it have garnered legislative support. The CIB bailout proposal introduced at any other time was still a CIB bailout proposal using higher taxes that was never going to be popular. The CIB lobbyists used the Politics 101 strategy for getting an unpopular measure passed. And they did succeed in getting a bailout measure passed, though it did not include everything they wanted.

Second, the Star's editorial faults the Mayor for changing his position on the CIB bailout. What the Star fails to grasp is that the Mayor's original proposal was extremely unpopular with the public and non-Indy legislators. That's why they changed direction - they were trying to come up with something that would pass. But the changes in direction were marginal at best. The Mayor and the CIB lobbyists simply tried putting a new set of clothes on the old tax increase proposals and trying to fool the public and the legislators. Nobody was fooled.

The Star's editorial not only missed the mark on the two points raised and discussed above, but also missed the mark in what it failed to address. Some relevant questions are as follows:
  • Why is the Star not demanding that the Mayor order a complete accounting of the CIB and an investigation into how it got in the shape it did.
  • Why is the Star not demanding that the Mayor ask for the resignations of those on the CIB who got us in this hole?
  • Why is the Star not pointing out the obvious conflict of interest Grand has as head of the CIB and attorney for the Simon Brothers, the owner of the Pacers, and asking for his resignation?
  • Why is the Star not demanding that the CIB be more accountable and open in how it operates? The Board kept from the public for 10 years the deficit the CIB was running.
  • Why is the Star not questioning the plan of the Mayor and the CIB to have taxpayers pick up the $15 million in operating expenses at Conseco, a building on which the Pacers get 100% of the revenue? The Pacers are not going to pay the $50 million to $125 million breakup fee to break the Conseco contract early. They have no leverage.
  • Why is the Star not calling the Mayor out on his lie that the bailout has nothing to do with subsidies to our professional sports franchises? He keeps saying that this is about the convention business, while at the same time agreeing to hand the Simons $15 million more of taxpayers' money for the Pacers? We are in the hole because of professional sports subsidies. He should be honest about it.
  • Why is the Star not questioning the Mayor and the CIB's assumption that more investment in professional sports is a good idea? All the studies show pro sports subsidies generate little if any return. Yet the Star has never questions this.
  • Why does the Star let the Mayor continue get away with his 66,000 hospitality worker figure? Those include workers in Central Indiana. Very few of those workers work downtown, many don't even live in Marion County. Only a fraction of the 66,000 jobs are related to events happening downtown.
  • Why is the Star not questioning the Mayor's assumption that raising taxes on visitors will not have a negative impact on the convention business and will in fact "save" it?

I can't end without addressing the following claim made by the Star:

"One of the mayor's strengths is that he's surrounded himself with a good team of aides. But he must listen to them."

The Mayor's administration from Day 1 has been characterized by one boneheaded maneuver after another. There seems to be no interest in this administration in standing up for taxpayers and there is a disturbing penchant of theMayor falling on the sword for misdeeds of his Democratic predecessor. The Mayor has also taken on one Republican group after another...from battling taxpayer groups to taking on gunowners. He has alienated virtually all of those people who supported him when he was given no chance to win the Mayorship. Ballard has positioned himself where he has no chance of winning re-election and he is going to take his own party down with 2011.

And we're supposed to believe that the Mayor's advisors are not responsible for any of this? That it was all the Mayor's own doing? Robert Vane is a quality communication director, but outside of that, I don't see any strong advisors. Most are very young and very inexperienced. The ones who aren't....the unofficial advisors, such as Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, care only enriching themselves or their clients. They have sold out the Republican Party by pursuing selfish goals knowing they would render Ballard a highly unpopular one term Mayor and cause the Republicans to lose their majority on the council.

Yep, the Star missed the mark on this editorial.

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