Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That Public Opinion Poll on 50 Year ACS Parking Deal; What Will Be the Political Fallout to Council Republicans?

On a 15-14 vote last night, the Indianapolis City-County Council passed the highly unpopular 50 year contract with ACS to modernize the City's parking. As a result of the deal, ACS, a client of Barnes & Thornburg and the Mayor's attorney, Joe Loftus, stands to make as much as $1 billion dollars. During the debate last night, Council President and Barnes & Thornburg attorney, Ryan Vaughn, refused to give up presiding over the meeting and immersed himself deeply in defending the sweetheart deal for his law firm's client.

Like the agreement to give $10 million of taxpayer money to the Indiana Pacers, the public was outraged over this deal. Yet, despite political warning signs, Vaughn and the administration continued to push the highly questionable proposal. In the end, only one Republican councilor, Christine Scales, was willing to stand up and say it wasn't a good deal for the public.

What are the political ramifications of the vote? Over at Indianapolis Times, blogger Terry Burns published the results of a poll showing that 70% of the people opposed the deal, while only 20% supported it. Opposition to the proposal cuts across all demographic groups and was unpopular even in heavily Republican areas, like Franklin Township and Perry Township, where 71% of the residents were opposed to the measure. Republicans were the most supportive of the measure, but even Republicans opposed the plan by a 52% to 33% margin. Fully 23 of 23 subgroups in the poll opposed the ACS deal.

I have to wonder where this polling information came from. A line is redacted from the bottom of the document. Other pages of the document are not included, probably because they have identifying information on them. Unless I'm to believe the document was simply created out of thin air, which I don't believe, I have to wonder who was doing polling and then decided not to release the result.

The news media often polls. Obviously if the news media did this one it would have been released. So they're scratched from my list of suspects. That only leaves two suspects left: the Democrats and the Republicans. Democrats are a possible suspect, but it doesn't really explain why the poll wasn't shared until the day of the vote.

Burns in one line suggests where the poll came from:
The poll, which was conducted last month among more than 400 county voters, was given to the Indianapolis Times by a former supporter of Ballard's ill-conceived parking meter deal.

Translation: The poll was done by the Ballard people and leaked to the Indianapolis Times. Undoubtedly part of the deal for publicizing the poll was that the source information be redacted and that Burns not reveal the source. That's typical media practice when you're protecting a source who has agreed to provide confidential information.

Why wasn't the poll made public? The obvious answer lies in the results. Supporters of the deal did not want Council Republicans to know how incredibly unpopular their vote would be. I have no doubt that Republicans like Council President Ryan Vaughn, Mayoral advisor and ACS lobbyist Joe Loftus, and Marion County Republican Chairman Tom John, were well aware of this polling information. They were more than willing to let Council Republicans go off the political cliff in order to help a politically-connected company make a billion dollars off taxpayers. As a reminder, Tom John was one of the Ice Miller attorneys that drafted the contract, netting the firm $500,000 of our tax dollars.

Back to the 70% to 20% poll result. The 50 year deal is unlikely to be a voting issue for that 20% who support that deal. That 70% though is plenty ticked off and they are unlikely to forget come election time. Certainly the Democrats won't hesitate to remind voters of Council Republicans' vote on this issue as well as the Pacer vote and other unpopular measures.

The way Council Republicans are proceeding reminds me so much of 2007 when Mayor Peterson and Council Democrats decided public opinion simply did not matter and there would be no political consequences whatsoever for pursuing unpopular measures. The Democrats were taught a lesson in 2007 about the folly of ignoring the wishes of the public. Is there any doubt that Mayor Ballard and Council Republicans will be bounced from power in 2011 because of their own arrogance and their decision to set aside the wishes of the public in order to make political insiders wealthy at the expense of taxpayers?


Christine Scales said...

What is the world coming to when Democratic rhetoric as was on display at last night's Council meeting, makes more sense than what the Republicans have to say?

Didn't Republicans learn anything about how the public responds when an administration crams policy initiatives down their throats. Arrogance and pride goes before the fall.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I was thinking the same thing. The Democrats were being responsible. They read the contract and accurately conveyed what was in it. Councilor Bob Lutz flat out lied when he said the contract allowed the City to borrow money to pay the termination fee. Ryan Vaughn lied when he said the 200 jobs was in a "separate contract." He knows perfectly well that ACS letter is not a contract.

Cato said...

They don't care, Paul. They're looking to cash out.

I figured they looked at the demographics of Indy and figured this was their last best shot to make a buck off everything the public owns or controls.

When Baker and Daniels gets elected, next year, Ballard will have left them a charred remnant of a governmental structure.

Carlos F. Lam said...

Come on, Paul. I trust pollsters very little -- remember that September SUSA poll showing Rand Paul up by only 2 points with a likely voter model of 51% Dem? -- and I have NO trust in a poll whose provenance I cannot identify. The _Times_ should release the source of the poll; otherwise, there's no reason for me to trust it because I don't know where it comes from.

Cato said...

When the Democrats get control of the Council, next year, will they open an investigation into Vaughn and impeach him?

Vaughn went ugly early in his career. Out in the bright red areas, they don't care much about ethics, so he can run for statewide office if he stays there, but I don't see a future for him in Marion County.

riped off taxpayer said...

no cato he will have no use for the council after mayor numnuts is out of office.he will be a partner at b&t they just cant have him as a partner now. but it is a sure bet once they have taken all they can from this city and lined there pockets with as much of the taxpayers money and there is nothing left bingo mr vaughn will be a partner.right now they need a puppet to help steal all they can while our mayor looks to cash in after he losses the election.just wait his new title will be vice president of operations for acs much like running a px.we only have our selfs to blame for not standing up as a collective group of citizens.we must hold this council responsible for the rape of our city assets come election time.so mr vaughn dont get to comfy in that role you are in now because you wont be there when the citizens go to vote next year.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Certainly you don't doubt the parking deal was unpopular. I think the question we all want to know is how unpopular it was. I don't think the poll that showed 70-20 percent against is out of line from what I expected it to be.

He probably can't release the name due to how he got it in the first place. You can't sell out your source.

Carlos, I have a lot more faith in polls than you do. I think the problem is not the poll itself, but how people insist on misusing or misinterpreting the poll result.

A poll result for a political race is simply a snap shot of public opinoin at the time it is taken. It is not to be used for what the result will be on Election Day. I think most people knew Rand Paul's supporters were a lot more motivated than his opponent's supporters and that explains the difference in the result on Election Day versus what the polling showed.

There is some problems with the science of polling. (Cell phones, people not picking up their phones, etc.) But a far bigger problem is the misuse of polling information.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I really don't think Vaughn has the personality to take his political career much beyond where he's at now. You saw how to be Senator Schneider positively smoked Vaughn despite the fact the county chairman was filling the district with mummy dummies to vote for Vaughn.

riped off taxpayer said...

ryan vaughn hard to say the name without wipeing the vomit from my mouth.mr ogden vaughn is nothing more than a yes man for b&t.the taxpayers will not forget this come election time.ethics complaints must be filed. my q. to you is who to file the complaint with.when the fox is watching the henhouse. we are just going to have to lay down and take it till election time.vaughn says he does not profit directly. but you can bet he does profit from the deals he has forced down the taxpayers necks.and it just makes me sick how they whitewashed the termination clause on the parking deal as good for the city to terminate.seems pretty iron clad for acs and bad for the city.not one republican councilman can look the taxpayers in the face and say that this is a good deal without there nose growing in front of them.vaugns strong arm tactics have finally come to light and the people will make sure mr vaughn has run his course. as he said last night he will take the heat for this and you can bet he will eat those words. goodbye mr vaughn mr ballard mr straub.hope the next psd. enjoys his nice plush office because frank you will not be in it. thanks mr .ogden for the work you do for the city to keep these crooks in check we will not forget come election time it is just to bad we have to wait ten years to undo this and we will have to undo this.merry xmas mr vaughn enjoy your xmas bonus im sure you you will need a armed guard to help you take that check to the bank.because you may not say you profit from this rape of the taxpayer but behind closed doorsyou are getting paid from someone under the table.

Cato said...

Ripped Off:

You're probably right. What's really disgusting is that we're always told that making partner in a major law firm comes from winning stirring courtroom victories.

The reality is that you make partner by using whatever means you can to advance your client's interests.

The best lawyers only occasionally have the top seats at the big firms.

riped off taxpayer said...

cato. could not have said it better.time and time again i have watched that smug crook get the last word and actually believe his own b.s.not one of these republican council member had the nuts to go against the stooge.it looked like mr mahern finally had enough. time and time again his attitude is so what i know i cant be touched.just to bad it had to come on the tax payers back. as long as the real people pulling the mayors strings go unchecked we are in for a long road to undo all this inept mayor has done to ruin this citys assets to line the pockets of all the barnes&thorngberg crooks.it was the mayors pledge not to raise taxes.he just left out the fact that this citys assets where for sell to the partners of b&t.b&t is the real mayor of this town and they have the best puppet to help us all wash it down our throats.conflict of intrest was not a coarse mr vaughn got high marks for in college.

Carlos F. Lam said...

Paul, I'm pretty sure that the parking deal was not "approved of" by a majority of voters. However, just taking the 70% figure on its face without asking where it came from is simply something I will not do.

You certainly do have more faith in polling than I do, but even you can't have faith in a poll that has no indication of its origin. There's as much proof of it coming from Ed Treacy's desk as there is of it coming from the 25th floor.

Again, I don't disagree that polling info is misused. However, without even knowing where a poll comes from, I question whether it should be used AT ALL.

And while we're having a discussion about polls, I'll come out & say that I don't trust outfits like Rasmussen that don't publish internals with their polls (they make you pay extra for them). This past cycle, I was pleased to see that Braun & Mason-Dixon had joined SUSA in making their internals freely available to the public so that the reliability of their polls could be checked.

Paul K. Ogden said...


You actually believe a majority of Indianapolis residents wanted the Ciy to enter into that 50 year ACS parking contract. I have to assume you're kidding about that.

Ed Coleman pointed out he had 33 emails, all opposed. Virtually every comment posted in respoonse to IBJ and Indianapolis Star articles was negative. Granted that's not scientific, but it should give you some idea how unpopular this measure is.

Outside of a handful of people, I don't know of anyone who supported this deal. I know you expressed support talking about how parking needs to be modernized. Nobody disputes that. The City just never made the case that we need to contract this out to an out-of state ompany which will make as much as a billion dollars of Indianapolis residents.

There is also no getting around the conflict of itnerest problems and the fact ACS has an abysmal history.

Any councilor who voted for this deal can expect it, along with the Pacers $10 million giveaway, to be the subject of a direct mail piece.

Blog Admin said...

I'd also add, Paul, that in addition to the people that showed up to oppose it for what I'll call "political" reasons, people who live in "District 2" showed up as well.

At the second Rules and Public Policy Committee meeting, when the proposal was still being discussed in it's original form, a woman in a wheelchair showed up with what I presume to be some sort of nurse. She works a 9-5 job and lives in the apartments above Acapulco Joe on Illinois St. She frequently needs at-home care, and part of the agreenment she makes with the company is that they she pays any parking citation they may receive while taking care of her because they can't just rush out to feed the meter.

(and while there's been all this talk about text message notifications and phone apps to alert you when your meter is low, there's been no promise of that. The vendor for the new meters hasn't even been decided).

Her concern, as well as I'm sure the concern of other downtown residents, have not been addressed.

A gentleman who lives pretty close to Deputy Mayor Michael Huber showed up at Edward Coleman's forum on the parking deal. He had previously met with Huber and ACS reps to explain his situation. He lives downtown, but not near any stores or retail outlets, but his neighborhood has meters all across it. No one but residents and visitors of a resident ever parks there. And because, unless they feed the meter, they pretty much have to be out the door by 7am and can't go back home no earlier than 6pm. They even told the story of waking up on Nov 26th, the day after Thanksgiving, and seeing their cars and their extended families' vehicles ticketed at 7:01am by a Denison meter maid. They called the city to complain, but the city was closed for business on Black Friday.

And these people are just the people who could show up to these meetings, often happening between 5-6pm when people are just getting off of work or getting home.

I'm sure many other people had these same concerns but couldn't make it.

The contract did nothing to address them. And now that it's done, you can be assured that ACS will do nothing to help them out.

Some of my Republican friends say the free market knows best, and that ACS will perform well because they want to get more of these contracts. Unlike Citizens Energy Group, which has some pretty good relations with the community, ACS has none. And I have no reason to believe that'll change any time soon.

Carlos F. Lam said...

Paul, my comment specifically noted that I don't think that a majority of voters approved of the deal.

Again, I'm not disputing that Ed Coleman got e-mails opposing the deal. My "beef" is with the so-called "poll." Absent provenance, I simply cannot agree that 70% of voters were opposed to the deal.