Monday, September 7, 2009

Mayor Ballard to ICVA: No Need for Accountability Or Responsibility Before Getting Millions More In Taxpayer Money

During the debate over the bailout of the Capital Improvement Board, the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard failed to demand any sort of accountability or reform before handing the CIB yet more taxpayer money. In a story in today's Indianapolis Star in which $400,000 a year professional panhandler Don Welsh, CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitor's Association, demands more taxpayer money, the Ballard administration demonstrates that its approach to the CIB is its normal way of operating.

Paul Okeson, chief of staff for Mayor Greg Ballard, is quoted in the article:

"The data is irrefutable. There is no questioning the value of the funds that go to the ICVA. Finding the additional money for the ICVA is the right thing to do - there's no debating that. The question is where do we get the money from?"
Okeson's completely irresponsible statement, which presumably originates from Mayor Ballard himself, demonstrates that the Ballard administration is not about to take a look at the operations of the ICVA and/or demand reform before handing out more taxpayer money. As has been reported on this blog, the ICVA pays out lavish salaries to executives and top employees. According to the Star, Welsh proposes adding yet more six figure salaries including sales people to his staff. Normally sales people exist chiefly on commissions earned by increasing business. In the ICVA's world though, sales people are paid by taxpayers.

Despite the fact that the ICVA promotes the hospitality industry, very little of its revenue comes from the very hotels, restaurants and other businesses that benefit from the ICVA's promotion. Again, it is taxpayers that fund the ICVA. Neither the Mayor or the Council has demanded any sort of accountability from the ICVA. Instead, they simply listen to slick presentations from the ICVA and pat the organization on its back for doing such a wonderful job.

As Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana points out today, and has on previous occasions, the ICVA is using tax money to buy down the price of hotel rooms for conventioneers. Raising Indianapolis' hotel tax rate to 17%, the highest in the country, will only make those tax-payer funded subsidies more common. Like Gary Welsh, I would question why taxpayers are funding the promotion of the ICVA instead of the hospitality industry it is supposed to help.

The Star's article appears very one-sided, with no attempt to voice the position of those who oppose yet more taxpayer money going to the ICVA. As further example of the one-sidedness, a side bar to the Star article lists how much the ICVA spends compared to similar organizations in other cities. But it fails to consider is how much of the money spent by these organizations to promote the hospitality industry originates from the hospitality industry itself. In Indianapolis, almost all of the ICVA's budget is funded by taxpayers.

But this blog is about politics. I note that once again Mayor Greg Ballard has turned his back on Republicans and other supporters to whom he promised the end of country club politics on Election Night. He apparently has no intention of demanding fiscal responsibility or accountability from the elites who run this city. As a now card-carrying country club member of the elite, Ballard has forfeited the chance he had to run for re-election as a new kind of Marion County Republican, one who can reach out to working men and women who might otherwise be inclined to vote for the Democratic candidate. Instead he's turned his administration completely over to professional panhandlers whose only interest is stuffing their money with as much taxpayer money as they can during Ballard's four years in office.


Downtown Indy said...

Why do those folks start out every speech with 'how great it is' and always end up with 'this is how much it's gonna cost you?'

If any segment of the city-run operations ought to be outsourced, the convention-hawking ought to be. Let some genuinely-savvy busniess people tackle the negotiations for convention business and have their revenue come from a percentage of the 'take.' Sort of a TicketMaster for the convention bix.

But putting that aside, isn't the big selling point our presumed ability to host really big conventions that very few other places can do or do as well as Indy?

How much marketing does that really take?

Jon said...

Anytime I see the phrase the data is irrefutable I immediately doubt the data.

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