Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pan Am Politics: How Mayor Ballard Continues to Fall on the Sword for Bart Peterson

Thanks goes to Gary Welsh for his excellent write-up of the decision in the taxpayers' favor and against the City's attempt to dismiss the Pan Am lawsuit.

I write more to discuss the politics of Pan Am. But before I do a quick summary of what happened is in order.

In 1985, the City agreed to GIVE an entire city block to the Indiana Sports Corporation for development. The only "cost" to the Sports Corporation was that they build and maintain a public plaza for 30 years, i.e. the Pan Am Plaza. If they wanted to abandon the plaza requirement and sell the property before that 30 year period ran, they would have to pay taxpayers $3 million dollars, adjusted for inflation, which in today's dollars constitutes $6 million.

By 2007, the Sports Corporation was tired of dealing with the cost of maintaining the plaza, including the fountain, and let it fell into disrepair. In late December of 2007, after Mayor Peterson had lost the election, a non-descript resolution was slipped into a batch of resolutions considered by the Metropolitan Development Commission. The resolution simply discussed reducing the size of the plaza requirement. It did not mention how much it was being reduced from and did not mention the $6 million penalty. The effect of the resolution was that it removed the significant plaza burden on the property and allowed the Sports Corporation to sell it without paying taxpayers a dime.

One would think the politics of this would be simple. This was done by the lame-duck Peterson administration on the way out of office. It benefited the Sports Corporation, led by Susan Williams a former Democratic member of the Indianapolis City-County Council. It was a chance for Mayor Ballard to point out the shenanigans of his predecessor and take a stand for taxpayers. He could have sat down and negotiated a settlement that could have recovered some of the funds for taxpayers.

Instead Republican Mayor Ballard fell on the sword, taking all the blame for the 11th hour maneuver of Bart Peterson's folks. Worse yet, his administration has expended substantial City Legal resources now in an extraordinary effort to go after taxpayers in an attempt to dismiss the action before discovery, a process that might reveal the real players behind this deal that enriched insiders and cost taxpayers millions.

The underlying political reason for Mayor Ballard's failure to defend taxpayers in the Pan Am case is that there is an elite group of insiders (corporations, non-profits, big law firms, etc.) who effectively run this city and profit at the expense of taxpayers. For the past 30 years, it has not mattered if the Mayor is a Republican or Democrat or which party controls the Indianapolis City-County Council. At the end of the day, it is the insiders who run things and profit from the decisions that are made.

But it does not have to be that way. Mayor Ballard came into office promising to be a new type of mayor, one who would bring an end to country club politics in Indianapolis. Given how his upset victory happened, he owed no one anything. Instead of taking advantage of that situation, he has turned over his administration to the city's elite probably more so than any mayor in the past 30 years. At least with Mayors Peterson, Goldsmith and Hudnut, you knew there was a strong personality on the 25th Floor who could put a stop to the insider profiteering at taxpayer expense if the Mayor wanted to exercise his political clout. With Mayor Ballard, however, you get the impression he has has completely turned the 25th Floor over to elite insiders and that Mayor Ballard is, at best, a figurehead who is trotted out to put a face on the administration.

Taxpayers deserve a mayor who will stand up for them and not always side with the corporate elites of this city. Greg Ballard has clearly proven he is not that person.

1 comment:

M Theory said...

As long as there is a Republican or Democrat in charge, we're going to have this, Paul.

Thank you for the update.