Monday, August 10, 2009

Council Republicans Vote to Give Indianapolis Highest Hotel Tax In the Country; Council Republicans Concede 2011 Election To Democrats

I wish I can say I was surprised. The CIB bailout vote happened exactly like I thought it would. I have said all along if the Republicans were a few votes short, the Democratic leadership on the Council will slip Republican Council President Bob Cockrum enough votes, from safe Democrat districts, to make sure the measure passed. Why? Because smart politicos like Minority Leader Joanne Sanders and Jackie Nytes know they have a winning political issue with the the CIB tax increases and that a tax that passes is much better political fodder than one that is voted down.

As an example, I cited was then Gov. Evan Bayh's attempt to raise taxes early in his career, which Republicans in the General Assembly shot down. The Republicans success allowed Bayh to campaign successfully for re-election and ultimately for the U.S. Senate as the Governor who did not raise taxes.

As she said she would, Republican Councilor Christine Scales voted against the bailout proposal. That left Republican leadership one vote short. Democrat Jackie Nytes came to the rescue to put the measure over the top, 15-14.

With that one vote, Republicans gave up any hope of retaining control of the Council in 2011. Certainly Republican at large councilors Kent Smith and Barb Malone are dead in the water.

Don't for a second buy the nonsense that these tax increases, starting with the hotel tax, are just "visitor" taxes that nobody will care about. I can't think of a single example in which voters made distinctions between particular types of taxes. What voters do, however, look at is what the tax money is going to be used for. And the CIB tax increases are perceived, quite correctly, as going to subsidize the CIB's giveaways to professional sports teams. In that regard, the 2007 COIT increase for public safety, for which the Democrats paid dearly, pale in comparison to the perceived reason for the CIB tax increases. So the Republicans think tax increases for public safety was a good issue in 2007 but tax increases for billionaire professional sports team owners in 2009 won't be something the public will be concerned about? Wanna bet?

Some other observations. I thought it rather telling regarding the character of Ryan Vaughn that he did not recuse himself when obviously he had a conflict. Vaughn's boss is Bob Grand, the President of the CIB. Vaughn's law firm represents the Simons who own the Pacers and who are trying to get the CIB to pick up $15 million in operating costs on Conseco Fieldhouse. Vaughn's vote, which put the measure over the top, will be very helpful to his law firm's client. He clearly had a conflict. While Councilors Cockrum and Sanders arguably also had conflicts, Vaughn had a very direct conflict...and he ignored it.

Vaughn's speech was dripping with partisanship and not well-received. Of course, the Democrats pointed out that Vaughn was a hypocrite in opposing the COIT increase for public safety and now supporting the CIB tax increases, much of which will end up in the pocket of billionaire sports owners.

Likewise Councilor Lutz continues to come across as arrogant and out-of-touch. Whether he does or not, clearly Lutz seems to have a great deal of disdain for the ordinary folk who attend hearings and council meetings. His handling of the CIB committee meeting was a travesty. Opponents of the tax increase were shuffled to the end of the meeting, four hours after it started, undoubtedly knowing that people would stop listening by that point. Lutz has also ticked off many of his Speedway constituents with his support for the insider SpeedZone Project, ignoring the fact that many Speedway residents, although not opposed to redevelopment, are opposed to self-interested insiders making all the decisions about the project.

Certainly the Republican councilors, absent one, deserve blame for their votes. But what I find most troubling are people like Joe Loftus, Bob Grand and other Republicans insiders like them, who are pulling strings with many, if not most, of the Republican councilors. They do not care one bit whether the Republicans retain their majority on the council in 2011. What they are doing is cashing in now on the Republican majority and are selling out the future of the Marion County Republican Party in the process. It is disgusting. After the 2011 election, these Republican country club types need to be banished from ever controlling the party again.


Downtown Indy said...

Our city's political 'house' bears great similarity to that house on N Rochester Ave that the Dept of Health was sanitizing today due to the rats, feces, roaches, and basement filled with raw sewage.

Downtown Indy said...

Hmmm, an intriguing thought - sell off all the city courses to fill the CIB coffers?

Paul K. Ogden said...


Do we really want to "fill the CIB's coffers?" I'm pretty sure they would mispend the money.

Indy Student said...

Lutz' behavior was absolutely appalling. For 20-30 minutes, he read the talking points presented to him during the committee meeting from the pro-tax crowd suits. He makes several snide remarks on the committee meeting, such as saying it went on "what felt like forever."

I guess he forgot that 3.5 of those 4 hours of the committee meeting were speakers he put there that were just all saying the same thing. And not one word of the (unanimous?) public at the meeting against the new taxes.

Downtown Indy said...

I said it was intriguing, not that it was a good idea. It no doubt would send them off on another spending spree.

Sean Shepard said...

I'm going to give Lutz some benefit of the doubt. Although I have disagreed with his tone on a few things from time to time, and keeping in mind the political aspects of all of this he did invite the libertarians to have someone speak as part of the agenda at that committee meeting and was respectful.

I think he sincerely hated voting for this dog but the fear-mongering and scare tactics rolled out by the "experts" on the councilors was just over the top.

66,000 jobs could all go *poof* if they don't do this... ummm... no.

I still don't see why, out of a $1.1 trillion budget they couldn't find a few million bucks somewhere to patch this up for six months or a year while working on a more permanent solution - like getting out of the sports complex business.


Sean, Had he not made the public wait four hours to be heard at the committee meeting, I might give him the benefit of the doubt.

However, I saw absolutely NO courage on the part of Lutz.

Lutz acted as if he was working directly at the behest of Tom John and Bob Grand. I saw no action to the contrary.

Don't give him a pass because he let you speak at the end of his orchestrated dog and pony show at that committee hearing. His invitation to you was merely an attempt to ward off public angst from a group of people that are known for our ability to organize action against these self-serving thieves.

Sean Shepard said...

I don't perceive it has him making people wait. They just had people on the agenda that are long freak'n winded and had their presentations to give. Public comment frequently comes at the end of those kinds of things. I believe they tabled all other business to discuss that one proposal that night rather than push things out further.

Even the hotel association folks got up there and said, "yeah ... we'll take the tax increase *sigh*" ... the whole city caved.

But, absolutely, the visions of padlocks on the doors of the stadiums some of these folks offered up was way over the top.

I completely disagree with the 14 Republicans and one Democrat who voted for this and am shocked that so many of them did. I just always try to look at things from all sides and understand what people might be thinking or what their motivations are rather than assume the worst. Naive, I know ... ;-)

jabberdoodle said...

I parked my car at one of the meters 'under' the old MSA. Walking to the meeting and then back to my car there was the strong stench of raw sewage. Not metaphorical, real.

This City has better things to spend its money on, that could increase the quality of life for the many AND increase tourism, than throwing good money after bad to an industry that refuses to become independent of the public teat.

Its more than unfortunate that the Councillors caved in to the 'sky is falling' lunacy that has been the halmark of the CIB bailout campaign. It does not speak well for their powers of critical thinking and that is not a plus for the citizens of Indianapolis.

Indy Student said...

Sean, I understand that public comment is saved for last. However, that doesn't excuse Lutz' behavior at the committee meeting or at the full council. He could've scheduled only ONE hours worth of suits lobbying for the tax instead of a 3.5 hour echo chamber.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Let me assure you that what Lutz did is an old political stunt that he almost certainly knew about when he held the committee hearing the way he did.

If Lutz wanted to hold a fair hearing, he would have done what many committee chairman do: 1) alternative pro and con at the hearing; or 2) hold pro on one day, con on the next.

Putting all the con speakers at the end of the program, 4 hours into it was most certainly a deliberate tactic by Lutz, just as transparent as his supposed university "expert" who Lutz said they had retained to give the committee objective guidance.

I know said...

"Let me assure you that what Lutz did is an old political stunt that he almost certainly knew about when he held the committee hearing the way he did."

Isn't it time for the old political stunts to come to an end and the rules of proper dialogue and debate be used?

The CIB has friends that have done more than political stunts to follow from. Hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and defaulted bonds have been successfully covered up to this day by very wealthy people in Indiana that have been blessed by local and state officials. They got their fun time of a 40 year contract the same way the CIB got their bailout.

Political stunts, arm bending, filing false and/or questionable reports and telling the little guys they know nothing about the real world. The CIB has been led by LAWYERS with conflicts. Boy that sure rings true with several contracts already pointed out to other lawyers.

When do they get drug out into the sunshine? Those of you in legal positions and high power are the very ones that must turn the tide. The little guy can't because he ether gets squashed or ignored when he or she knows the truth.