Friday, April 30, 2010

Looking Beyond and Inside the Polling Numbers - Understanding the Republican U.S. Senate Poll

As we near the election, we finally have a poll laying out the Republican field for the U.S. Senate nomination. Survey USA conducted a poll by the Mike Downs Center, located in Fort Wayne. The results show the spread as follows:
Coats (36%)
Hostettler (24%)
Stutzman (18%)
Bates (6%)
Behney (4%)
Undecided (13%)

It is important to not just look at the raw numbers but to consider them in their broader context of what polls are about, the limitations of polls and problems one encounters when trying to predict voting.

First the poll has a 5% margin of error, a stastistical measurement of how far the numbers could be off which is related to the size of the sample. (The more people polled, the lower the margin of error. A normal margin of error for these candidate polls is about 4%.) In other words, Coats could be at 31% and Hostettler at 29%...even within this particular poll. So Coats lead is just outside the margin of error.

Second, occasionally you get problems with the wording of the poll. How a question is worded is the No. 1 way of inserting bias into a get a particular result. The people who wrote the Wishard and Guion Creek referendum know this when they inserted "hot button" language in the questions to try to skew voters to vote for the referenda. This particular bias generally isn't a problem in an election poll. It sometimes though is used to create certain results when candidates commission the poll themselves- the candidates want a particular result they can show supporters and contributors.

Third, with regard to the Senate poll, you have to ask what "population" was the "sample" taken from. If the population was ALL Republicans who are registered to vote, several people will be polled who may not show up on Election Day. The more expensive (and better) polls will use a "likely voter" screen to get a more clear snapshot of who will likely vote on Election Day.

Fourth, getting a good "sample" has grown increasingly difficult. When a person conducts a poll, you can only talk to the person who has been selected to participate. If someone else in the household is home, you can't just ask that person the question. To get the precise sample needed often becomes very difficult in this era of cell phones, caller ID and voice mail. One has to wonder if the people who do pick up their phone to respond to a poll is truly representative of the ones who do not. Right now pollsters struggle to adjust polls so as to not undercount young people with cell phones only whose phone numbers do not not show up on polling lists which are generally land lines.

Fifth, and this is the big kahuna when it comes to problems with trying to accurately poll election results accurately, polls cannot measure intensity. Intensity is what motivates voters to go to the polls. A classic example is 1980. Right before the presidential election of that year, polls showed Reagan with only a slight lead over Carter, within the margin of error. On Election Day, Reagan had a blow out win. Why? Intensity? Reagan's voters were enthused about him. Carter's voters were lukewarm about the sitting President. Reagan's voters showed up to vote while many Carter voters stayed home. As a result, not only did Reagan win a big victory, Republicans across the country who were trailing in the polls ended up winning, including Dan Quayle who defeated Sen. Birch Bayh even though Quayle was double digits behind in pre-election polls.

What is to be made of these Senate poll results? First, I would strongly suspect that Dan Coats' supporters are not that intense in their support of the former Indiana Senator while I would bet that Hostettler and Stutzman's supporters feel much more passionately about their candidate. That would mean you should expect that some of the people that poll for Coats won't show up on Election Day. That closes the gap between Coats and Hostettler/Stutzman. I think it will be tough though for Hostettler and Stutzman to prevail, when they, and the other candidates, are splitting up the anti-Coats vote which is undoubtedly a significant percentage of the Republican primary vote. I still lean toward thinking Coats will win the primary (and lose the general election), but it should be very close.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pro-Guion Creek Referendum PAC Received Nearly 90% of Contributions From Companies That Benefit From New Construction

Previously I had complained on this blog about the pro-Guion Creek referendum group, Pike Taxpayers for Better Schools, not having filed their finance report which was due on April 16th. Today the report showed up on-line with a date stamped April 19, 2010. I had gone to the Clerk's Office the middle of last week and was told they still had not received the report and PTBS wuld be fined $50 a day.

It appears the report was hastily put together. The PAC was misidentified by the treasurer as "Taxpayers for Better Schools" (or "TFBS") which may explain why the form wasn't located when I asked for it.

Interestingly the report lists four expenditures totalling $8605.85. While codes are listed for the contributions, no recipient is listed nor is there an explanation what the expenditures are for.

Flipping forward to the contribution section, it is most noteworthy that despite the appearance of strong public support, the PAC only raised $2310 from ten sets of individuals, including Superintendent Nathanial Jones ($200), Pike administrator Linda Searles ($100), School Board member and education consultant Larry Grau ($200) and Guion Creek Elementary Principal Pam Conley ($200).

Companies that stand to benefit from the Guion Creek and other construction projects in the district were much more generous, giving $19,200, more than 89% of the total dollars raised by the PTBS. These contributions are as follows:

Summit Realty......................................... 200
Dallman Contractors..................................500
Blakley Corporation .................................2000
Open Control Systems............................. 1500
Validated Custom Solutions................... ....3500
Summit Construction ...............................1000
Schmidt Associates Architects...................2500
JLFox General Contractors........................2500
Bill Lawrence Company............................. 500
G3 Technologies...................................... 1000
REI Construction........................................500
Henry C. Smith Roofing Co.........................1000
Connor Fine Printing ................................ 1000
Old National Insurance............................. 1500
TOTAL ...............................................19,200

Most of the above business entities are corporations. Some of the contributions appear to be in excess of the confusing aggregate limit imposed by Indiana law. Regardless, the way these companies have banded together to support a referendum that will line their companies' pockets at taxpayer expense, is more than a little troubling. We need to have school board members who will ask questions about these construction projects and whether taxpayers are actually benefiting from them. The construction industry's enthusiasm for this project certainly raises a red flag.

Et tu, Scott Newman?

I'm trying to get caught up on my reading. One passage from Gary Welsh's Advance Indiana blog caught my eye:
"What really caught every one's attention in the gaming investigation was a subpoena Newman's office issued to Bob Grand as the managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg's Indianapolis office. Newman sought billing records for a client of the firm, which was part of the gaming company that was awarded the Lawrenceburg riverboat. Peter Rusthoven of Barnes & Thornburg represented the gaming client. I suspect his relationship was tied to the gaming company's William Cellini, the powerful Illinois political broker who engineered the awarding of the first riverboat license in Illinois for Argosy. Cellini is currently facing a public trial in Chicago this summer for public corruption charges, along with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

I distinctly recall attending a fundraiser for Newman at Rick's Boatyard Cafe a short time after Newman's office issued the subpoena to Grand's firm. I recall being taken aback when Bob Grand entered the fundraiser rather late and pulled Newman aside for a lengthy conversation. The investigation of the firm's client and the Lawrenceburg riverboat license by Newman's office faded and no subsequent charges were brought. When Newman left the prosecutor's office after eight years a short time later, he emerged as a partner at Barnes & Thornburg. Later, Newman and several other local business leaders, including some Barnes & Thornburg partners and the chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, founded a new start-up company that specialized in DNA testing. Not surprisingly, the company got a jump start when it quickly won contracts with the Indiana State Police and Marion County's forensic lab.

Based on these series of events, I was not at all excited when Mayor Greg Ballard named Newman as his first public safety director. I believed that he had used his position as prosecutor to parlay a lucrative legal career for himself in a less than above board manner. Ironically, Newman is now calling on his successor to resign from office for doing the very same thing. Newman has good reason to want Brizzi to resign. His own ties to Brizzi crony John Bales are raising some eyebrows. Interestingly, it is Newman who is acting as Bales' attorney defending him against findings of an IBJ investigative report by Cory Schouten. It is Newman who Brizzi pointed out initiated what some are calling a sweetheart deal with Bales on his way out of office eight years ago to procure office space for the
prosecutor's office. That deal helped launch Bales' meteoric rise in the real estate world. It also appears that Newman invested in a failed company with Brizzi, Bales and others to invest in troubled real estate assets in Florida.

Newman is currently acting as chairman of Mark Massa's GOP prosecutor campaign. While Massa has sought to distance himself from Brizzi and called on him to resign, he may want to consider his relationship with Newman. He carries the same baggage as Brizzi carries, notwithstanding the fact that he no longer works in the public sector. '
While Welsh's observation doesn't come as a surprise, it is still disappointing to read this about former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman who I think we all had hoped against hope was one of the good ones. It appears he started out strong - as someone who wanted to address political corruption. Then Newman received a visit from politically-connected Barnes & Thornburg partner Bob Grand at a fundraiser...after he had served B&T a subpoena for billing records related to a gaming client of theirs under investigation. The criminal investigation of the B&T client fell by the wayside and when Newman leaves office he becomes a Barnes & Thornburgh partner. Later
Newman and other B&T partners start up a DNA testing lab that quickly won contracts. Newman was also the one who not only made Carl Brizzi the heir apparent as prosecutor, he also negotiated the sweetheart deal with real estate developer John Bales for office space as he was going out of office.
Welsh suggests that Massa might be wise to distance himself from Newman who is chairman of his campaign. That might well be good advice, especially considering the inevitable federal investigation will likely implicate not only Brizzi, but several people around him. I though would go further than that. Massa needs to avoid any appearance of impropriety and that includes distancing himself from people like Bob Grand who live to buy political influence with campaign contributions, money I might add which originated as taxpayer dollars and found their way to B&T through government contracts for legal work received because of political influence. Massa hasn't done that though. He, in fact, inexplicably, allowed Bob Grand to co-host a fundraiser for him. I would add that Grand has contributed money to both Bart McAtee and Dennis Fishburn in their race for Sheriff.
Today's IBJ contains a story about how the Marion County Prosecutor's Office failed to file notice of forfeiture in the Omnisource case and as a result may have to return hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Star's headline this morning is that the Prosecutor's Office would not pursue any cases against IMPD officers who worked at Omnisource. Late last year, the U.S.. Attorney's office suddenly dropped a federal forfeiture case against financier Timothy Durham suddenly being dropped after being filed only days earlier. What is the common thread on all these cases? Barnes & Thornburg partner Larry Mackey represented the Defendants. Either Mackey is the greatest attorney ever, or he and his firm have extremely powerful political influence in the Marion County Prosecutor and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Even though the storm clouds of political scandal are forming on the horizon, some people continue to operate as if it is not going to rain. Time to grab an umbrella, folks. We are in for a downpour.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fifth Congressional Race - Who to Support?

I saw a Dan Burton ad tonight. It was a good ad.

Not that what I think matters, but I don't want to see Burton returned to Congress. He's grown out of touch and lost his effectiveness. He's become the butt of jokes. That leads me to consider his opponents.

Luke Messer is someone I would rule out immediately. He's a lobbyist and works for a politically-connected law firm that feeds at the public trough. His appearances on Indiana Week in Review shows he has a strong affection for corporate welfare and wants the City to pump more money into subsidies for the wealthy corporate interests, many of which, of course, his law firm, Ice Miller, happens to represent. The decision to not support Messer is a no brainer.

John McGoff lost my support with his unwavering support for the Wishard referendum. I have no problem with McGoff supporting building the new Wishard hospital. My problem is that McGoff never said anything while Wishard supporters wrote a biased question and lied about how taxes could be tapped to fund the project. In fact, Wishard supporters repeatedly lied about what they were doing and how it would be funded. They even hid how they spent millions of dollars in campaign expenses by funnelling payments through a PR firm. Yet not once did McGoff stand up and criticize the dishones practices of those supporting the referendum. If Dr. McGoff won't stand up for an honest referendum election, how can we count on him to stand up for honest government in Congress?

That leads me to Brose McVey. I recall when he ran for Congress from the 7th Congressional District located in Indianapolis. He was a good, energetic candidate. I don't recall him though being that philosophically grounded. At the very least I don't know him well enough to support him.

If I had to vote, I'd cast my vote for Rep. Michael Murphy. Murphy briefly served as Marion County GOP chairman. Murphy has been a good legislator and has strong conservative views. However, Rep. Murphy also isn't afraid to stray from traditional GOP positions. He was one of the early Republicans to emphasize the need to reach out to Latinos. I quite honestly can't say anything bad about Rep. Murphy. He has also always been encouraging and supportive of me, which is more than I can say of GOP chairmen John Sweezy, John Keeler, and the current chairman, Tom John.

It will be tough for anyone, including Rep. Murphy, to defeat Dan Burton in this multi-candidate race. But a change is definitely needed in the district. A Congressman Mike Murphy would be a definite improvement.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Is the Construction Industry Funding the Pro-Guion Creek School Referendum Effort?

The deadline for filing pre-election finance reports was Friday April 16th. Ten days have passed and the pro-referendum political action committee "Pike Taxpayers for Better Schools" still has not filed its pre-election report. Meanwhile PTBS is sponsoring phone calls, has yard signs throughout Pike Township and is sending out slick mailers.

One has ask the obvious questions - who is funding PTBS and why does the political action committee continue to violate Indiana law by failing to file its report? Is it because the PTBS trying to conceal from the voters that the PAC is funded by the construction industry?

That the proponents of the Guion Creek Referendum have not approached voters honestly with was first evident with the question that was written. Rather than right a straight-forward question presenting the issue honestly, the School Baord placed "hot button" words in the question to try to skew the result. Thus voters see confusing references to "revenue neutral," "equity" and "providing our teachers with the tools needed to offer quality education to all of the children in our community" in what should have been a straight forward, honest question about whether to build a new school.

Even in its literature, PTBS continues to spin untruths about the referendum. In a mailer, it claims repeatedly there will be "no tax rate increase." The Department of Local Government Finance disagrees and required that the referendum language include that the project "is estimated to increase the property tax rate for debt service by $0.2375 per $100 of assessed value..." That translates to $237.50 per $100,000 of assessed value.

PTBS also fails to mention that the $237.50 is completely outside of the property tax cap thus there is no way the referendum supporters can promise that individual taxpayers won't see a tax increase. In addition, in minutes from the December Pike School Board meeting, there was a lengthy paragraph explaining that there is a four year overlap in the bonds and that the project would necessitate a tax increase so the school district which would allow the school district to pursue other projects. While the School Board later "corrected" this paragraph as being wrongly transcribed, it is inconceivable that the person transcribing the notes simply made a mistake as to an ENTIRE lengthy paragraph.

I guess we should not be surprised by these tactics. Pike administration officials are using its website to promote the referendum and there are apparently posters in every Pike school promoting the Guion project. Both are in clear violation of the law prohibitng school districts from using taxpayer resources, directly or indirectly, to promote a referendum.
The Pike administration and PTBS seem to have a problem with following the law and presenting the referendum to voters honestly. Pike taxpayers deserve better.

Observations from the 2010 Political Primary Season:

Some random observations from the political primary season:

Mass Mailings: Once the favorite of candidates, this form of communication is drying up. Postage has gotten too expensive for even well-funded candidates. It used to be the norm that candidates would flood residents' mailboxes with campaign pieces prior to an election Supposedly it takes three mailings to have any sort of impact. This season, I haven't gotten a single campaign mailing and it's eight days out. Candidates are struggling to find alternative ways to communicate with voters that are cheaper than mailing.

Turnout: Expect the turnout in Marion County to favor the GOP with the U.S. Senate and the Sheriff race driving Republicans to the polls.

Healthcare Issue: By November 2010, this issue will be fading. Republicans need to be aware of that and have an agenda ready to go. They can't just be the "anti" party. Republicans have to stand for something.

Curry-Bowes Prosecutor Race: I have still yet to see a Terry Curry yard sign. I hear Greg Bowes has yard signs out but I haven't seen them. One wonders if Curry is taking it for granted that the Democratic party workers will put him over the top. He shouldn't be. Name ID is a very powerful thing and he has very little. Bowes on the other hand has name ID even if he doesn't have the money. While Curry probably will still pull it out, it's going to be a lot closer than he and a lot of Democrats are probably expecting.

McAtee-Fishburn Sheriff Race: I still haven't seen a Fishburn yard signs on the north side, though I understand they are out on the southside. Yard signs would be critical to Fishburn given his lack of name ID. I think Dennis Fishburn has no idea what he was getting into when party leaders convinced him to run.

Mark Massa: Politics 101 is that there are "windows" before the primary and after the general election in which voters are paying attention. That's when advertisements and other communications are most effective. Massa should have burned some of his money in the primary window to up his name ID and spin a favorable impression of himself while he's uncontested. It would have been a great investment. Missed opportunity.

Republican Senate Race: I still say if the Republicans nominate Dan Coats, they will very likely lose the Fall election. Those carpetbagger and lobbyist issues are issues that will keep on giving for the Democrats. They are easy issues to explain and exploit. It's not a done deal that Coats wins the primary though. I rate his chances only a little over 50-50.

School Board: I've always said that politics is played the same way whether it is running for Condo President or U.S. President. My nearly three decades of experience has confirmed that observation. At least until this year. Having entered the Pike School Board race , I found a new kind of politics I have never experienced before. There is a viciousness to non-partisan school board politics I've never witnessed on any partisan campaign trail. People take things very personally and even expressing a contrary position to the status quo is treated as an act of treason.

School Board Race in Pike: Thirteen candidates are running for three seats. Only one incumbent is running for re-election. Ten of the 13 have yards signs up. Only one candidate appears to not be very active. It's a wide open race.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Will Hamilton County Republicans Actually Nominate a Scandal-Plagued, Brizzi Wannabe as Their Prosecutor Candidate?

Once again, David Wyser makes news and, again, it is not good news. To refresh your memory, Wyser is the chief deputy prosecutor in the Marion County Prosecutor's Office headed by Carl Brizzi and is a candidate for Hamilton County prosecutor.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Wyser's opponent, Lee Buckingham, Wyser called him up and threatened to fire him if he stayed in the race and Wyser run. Wyser doesn't deny the allegation but simply says the discussion was about a personnel issue he wouldn't elaborate on. Meanwhile the Star quotes an ill-informed law school professor who says that once elected Wyser is free to hire and fire anyone he wants.

It hasn't worked that way for years. Even though Buckingham as a deputy prosecutor is an at-will employee, you can't fire even an at-will employee for political reasons. The only employees a newly-elected Wyser can replace are those in a policy-making positions, upper level supervisors in the office. He can't just replace anyone in the office, no more than Attorney General Greg Zoeller could have done the same when he was elected.

Meanwhile, an even more serious allegation about Wyser rears its head. It seems the then spokesman for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, Mario Massillamany called Hamilton County attorney Tim Stoesz (brother and law partner of then GOP candidate Steve Stoesz) and suggested that if Steve Stoesz didn't drop out (the drop out deadline had not yet passed) that the Stoesz brothers' criminal defense practice would suffer because a Wyser-led Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office would not offer plea deals to the Stoesz's clients. Massillamany didn't realize he was being taped and now claims it was merely a "joke." Tim Stoesz though wants a special prosecutor to be appointed to see if the intimidation statute was violated. Steve Stoesz ended up dropping out of the race.

It appears that Wyser's involvement in Marion County politics has taught him how Indy political leaders operate. Job threats and intimidation have been standard fare when Republicans dare challenge the hand-picked candidate of local party leaders. The goal is to eliminate the competition before the primary, which appears to be exactly what Wyser and his people tried to do in Hamilton County.

Of course, these allegations all come on the heels of the news that Wyser received and later returned $2500 contribution from Indianapolis businessman Harrison Epperly, whose daughter, Paula Willoughby, was serving two jail sentences for murder. Wyser agreed to a modification agreement to allow her out of jail early. Also an attorney involved in representing Willoughby threw a fundraiser for Wyser. It is these allegations that prompted challengers to Wyser.

One thing I do not understand is why Hamilton County Republicans haven't already kicked David Wyser to the curb. Have they not learned anything from what Indianapolis Republicans are currently going through with Prosecutor Carl Brizzi? Do Hamilton County Republicans really want to nominate a Brizzi wannabe, a scandal-plagued candidate who would be so damaged that the Democrats might actually have a chance to win that office in November? Do they really want to spend the next four years dealing with a prosecutor who has already displayed questionable ethics and poor judgment?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Conventional Wisdom Regarding Mayor Ballard Running for Re-Election: Could We All Be Wrong?

The conventional wisdom is that Indianapolis Mayor Republican Greg Ballard will seek re-election in 2011. That same convention wisdom existed as to Senator Evan Bayh when he suddenly, at the last minute, dropped out of the race. So maybe we should not assume too much regarding Ballard's plans for 2011.

I have long written on these pages that Mayor Ballard has no chance of re-election. He's deeply alienated his own Republican base as well as set the Democrats up on issue after issue which any well-funded opponent could easily exploit. Taxes, junkets, lack of or poor leadership...he repeatedly has put the ball on the tee for the Democrats all but asking them to hit it out of the park. Certainly the Democrats will do just that in 2011 should Ballard seek re-election.

I've always assumed that 1) Mayor Ballard's advisers are complete idiots when it comes to political strategy; or 2) The political advice is good but the Mayor is too stubborn to listen to it. While I believe No. 1, I still have trouble imagining anyone making a living handing out political advice telling the Mayor that he doesn't have to worry about the tax/fee increases...that he can explain them away by a nifty commercial. Likewise with the junkets. The public is going to quickly tune out the explanation that these aren't taxpayer dollars paying for the trips.

But what if neither No. 1 or No. 2 is correct and Mayor Ballard has decided against running for a second term. His administration seems to be about catering entirely to the City's elites rather than pursuing a more populist agenda that would position him for re-election. What if Mayor Ballard has no plans for re-election, but is instead enjoying the perks of his office (Exhibit A the exotic trips) and catering to the powerful to get a good position in the private sector come the end of his term on 1/1/2012?

Side Note: I'm not one of those who think the elites are purposefully sabotaging Ballard to get a stronger candidate for 2011. Any new Republican mayoral candidate would still have to carry the Ballard baggage and that would most likely doom his or her candidacy in 2011. It's the same reason why Mark Massa is highly unlikely to win this year. He's carrying Prosecutor Brizzi's baggage, like it or not.

The Ballard one term and out is a plausible theory which would explain why the unpopular Mayor isn't worried that he has permanently damaged his re-election chances. Still I cast a reluctant vote for No. 1 - that Ballard has political advisers who are completely clueless and have no idea how impossible re-election will be given his performance the first two years in office.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mayor Ballard Off On Another Junket, This Time to India

From the Indianapolis Star:
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is leading an economic development trip overseas to India that departs today and is scheduled to visit Mumbai, New Delhi and a new sister ity.

The $33,000 cost of the trip is being borne by private donors, with the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee acting as the fiscal agent, said Paula Freund, spokesperson for the mayor's office.

The 14-person delegation includes the mayor's wife, Winnie Ballard; two security detail members; and a team of Indianapolis businessmen, businesswomen and attorneys. The team is traveling to India to create economic, social and cultural relationships, Freund said.

The delegation will work to create partnerships with India-based technology and engineering firms, life science and pharmaceutical companies, agricultural schools and research organizations to build on India's and Indianapolis' reputations as leaders in information technology innovation, she said.

Ballard also will establish a sister-city relationship via a memorandum of understanding with the Indian city of Hyderabad, which has an established IT sector
To read the rest click here.
Does anyone really believe these exotic trips actually produce enough business that they are worth the cost? I'm sure that it will be pointed out that the taxpayers aren't paying for the trip but instead the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee is footing the bill. Someone help me out here...didn't GIPC receive a substantial grant of money in 2009 or 2010 from the City? So instead of the City paying for the trips directly, the City gives taxpayer money to GIPC which then pays for the trips. Now who is this shell game supposed to fool?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Anonymous" Donors to Sheriff Candidate Dennis Fishburn's Campaign; Pike Pro-Referendum Group Fails to File Pre-Election Report

Skimming through Sheriff candidate Dennis Fishburn's campaign report, I notice 12 contributions listed as "Anonymous" for a total of $2,376. Eleven of the twelve contributions are for $200. Since when can candidates take contributions and list them as being from "Anonymous?"

Also, Fishburn has an in-kind contribution for "6 signs, rental space" for $3,400 from Midwest Sports Complex, Inc. Corporations can only donate an aggregate total of $2,000 in local campaigns.

Meanwhile, the political action committee set up to promote the Guion Creek school referendum "Pike Taxpayers for Better Schools" has failed to file its pre-election finance report that was due by April 16th. The PAC, which has purchased yard signs and supposedly set up phone backs and is doing mailings, obviously has raised and spent a considerable amount of money. Voters and the public deserve to know who has contributed money to the campaign and how that money has been spent.

Here's the hitch. When I called the Marion County Election Board I was told that anyone late with a report is incurring a $50 a day fine and will be notified by the Election Board that its report is late after the fine reaches the $1,000 cap on such fines. Of course that $1,000 cap isn't hit until 20 days passes, putting the notification of a campaign law violation after the campaign is over. In short, for a $1,000 fine the Election Board is allowing the PAC and other candidate committees I'm sure, to avoid disclosing finances prior to the election. Given the history of the Marion County Election Board, I'm sure the Board will greatly reduce the PAC's fine or waive it completely.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Will Pacers Deal Be Final Nail in Mayor Ballard's Political Career?

It appears that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and the Capital Improvement Board are dead set on handing over to the billionaire Simons family $15 million more of Indianapolis taxpayers' money even though the Simons have no leverage to renegotiate the contract. Actually, that's not quite accurate. Most likely any deal struck will involve an extension of the contract, the CIB, i.e. the taxpayers, picking up the $15 million operational costs for Conseco, AND the CIB giving non-Pacer revenue on the building to the Simons.

Personally, I think Mayor Ballard's re-election goose was cooked long ago. He's set the Democrats up on issue after issue so much so much so that even if Jill Long Thompsons' campaign professionals were employed to help the eventual Democratic nominee for Mayor, the Democrat would still easily defeat the Mayor.

This is what I predict will be the Democrats' campaign themes against Mayor Ballard should he be the Republican nominee in 2011:
  1. Taxes. Candidate Greg Ballard promised not to raise taxes and even promised to roll back the increase in the local income tax. Mayor Greg Ballard though has proposed raising numerous tax and fee increases and has not rolled back the local income tax increase as promised. (I would shoot the video of him making the promise to hold the line on taxes on the 2007 campaign trail then freeze the video with a long list of Ballard's proposed tax and fee increases scrolling across the video.)

  2. Junkets. Mayor Ballard promised to end country club politics and instead has taken those politics to new heights. He clearly has come to like the perks that come with being Mayor...the trips, the country club memberships, etc. (I would make this a humorous spot tying in all the places Mayor Ballard has traveled to while in office.)

  3. Lack of/Weak Leadership. This has the advantage that it fits into a pre-existing belief about the Mayor, namely that he is a weak and indecisive leader who is pushed in various directions by advisers. (I would use street testimonials (with real Indy voters) along with newspaper/magazine headlines and quotes that have painted a very negative view of the Mayor. This would include the Indianapolis Monthly and several Star articles.)

Now the Mayor is prepared to deal his political reputation one final fatal blow by giving away $15 million plus to a billionaire sports owner at the same time that libraries and parks are being cut?

Can an officeholder commit political suicide if his political career is already dead?

Ohio Actors Endorse Congressman Dan Burton for Re-Election

Yesterday's Indianapolis Star brought an interesting article about how a Dan Burton campaign paid for a commercial with people endorsing him and speaking highly about him. The only trouble is those people were actors from an Ohio talent agency.

It's not an unsual practice according to IUPUI political science Brian Vargas
But Brian Vargus, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said "it's not unusual" for candidates to use paid actors in their ads -- even when they're giving testimonials for a candidate. He said media companies or advertising specialists often use actors to portray people who are diverse in age and race.

"In making ads for campaigns at all levels, the specialists who have been hired want the people in the ad to look a certain way," Vargus said. "Frequently, those people will be asked to portray themselves as if they are constituents of whoever is the candidate. I don't find it unusual at all."
Vargas might not think it is "unusual" but the fact that these "constituents" are Ohio actors and not Hoosiers was a red flag that any halfway decent political strategist should have been able to spot. Rep. Burton is facing several well-funded political pros in a congested primary. Of course, they were going to jump on the issue.

The Ohio actors pretending to be Burton constituents is also an issue which would have resonance with voters. It's easy to understand and fits into a pre-existing belief about Rep. Burton - namely that he's grown out of touch with Hoosier voters.

Burton though has one ace card up his sleeve, namely that the anti-Burton vote is gong to be so split that he will coast to renomination come May. Fortunately, he won't have to rely on his political strategists who were asleep when this TV ad was approved.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Press Release - Filmmaker to Address IPS Board Meeting Tonight

Contact: Steve Gunn, communications director
Phone: (231) 903-5585

Filmmaker to address IPS
board meeting tonight
EAGF VP will address school staff actions, Public Access complaint

MUSKEGON, Mich. - Kyle Olson, vice president of the Education Action Group Foundation, will address the Indianapolis school board tonight regarding the legally-questionable eviction of an EAGF film crew from a school board budget meeting on March 24.

Tonight’s school board meeting is at 7 p.m. at the school district administration building.

EAGF, a Michigan-based 501(c)(3) non-profit, is currently producing a feature-length documentary film on American public education, focusing on Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Our film crew, comprised of Olson and videographer Don VanderKooi, was attending the March 24 IPS public budget meeting as part of that project.

Unfortunately our crew was only able to attend about 40 minutes of the meeting, because School and Community Relations Director Mary Louise Bewley suddenly ordered them to leave, with police escort, claiming they were there for "disingenuous reasons." Other members of the audience, including at least one working reporter, were allowed to stay.

The entire episode was captured on film and is available on YouTube here.

After the incident, Olson filed a formal complaint with the Office of Public Access Counselor, citing the denial of our right to attend a publicly advertised meeting. A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Olson plans to call for more transparency and will seek to obtain the opinions of the school board members on the situation.

He will be available for comment after the meeting.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brainard Administration to Ask Carmel City Council to Bail Out "The Palladium"

Just when we think municipal government could not be any more irresponsible than Indianapolis and its plan to hand $15 million more in taxpayer funds to the Indiana Pacers, Carmel shows it is as equally reckless when it comes to handling taxpayer money. The Indianapolis Star reports that the administration of Mayor Jim Brainard is going to ask the Carmel City Council for a $2 million taxpayer subsidy for the Carmel Arts Center, with the pretentious name "The Palladium." According to Mayor Brainard, the building will always need a government subsidy. Of course that was not at all what Mayor Brainard said when he originally pitched the $150 million arts center.
Council President Rick Sharp urged passage of the proposal and said the city can't afford to let the nearly complete arts center fail.
Once again we have a legislative body, in this case the Carmel City Council, that did not do due diligence in asking questions and demanding answers from the Brainard administration before voting to build this white elephant. A better name for the building would be "The Albatross" because it will certainly be a financial burden around the neck of Carmel taxpayers for years to come. Carmel residents only have themselves to blame for continuing to re-elect a Mayor who spends taxpayer money like a drunken sailor. My apologies to drunken sailors everywhere for the comparison.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Paul Okeson Fights to Give Away Taxpayer Money to Billionaire Simons; Time to Show Okeson the Door

Following Paul Okeson's departure from Chief of Staff to Mayor Ballard, he went to city contractor Keystone Construction and was also appointed to the CIB, where he currently heads up the Pacer negotiations.
I have gone back and forth between thinking Okeson is either completely incompetent or is intentionally disingenuous when it comes to negotiations with the Pacers.
First, Okeson reportedly has never even checked out the Pacers' finances. He is simply willing to accept it on faith that the team has been losing money, even though the Pacers won't allow an audit of their books.
Second, Okeson continues to misrepresent the Pacers contract. The contract does not say the Pacers can pick up and leave after 10 years. It says the contract can be terminated if the team is losing money, the Simons are selling the team and the team is moving out of state. The 10 year termination provision has not even been triggered.
Third, Okeson apparently is telling reporters that there is an offset in the contract, namely that the Pacers would be entitled to reimbursement for losses that would offset the penalty. The only thing is, nobody can find that provision in the contract. Okeson, who is not an attorney, is either making it up or is blissfully ignorant.
As I have discussed in these pages, the penalties are enormous. The penalties for terminating the contract after 10 years would be over $150 million dollars. Yet Okeson wants to ignore that fact.
I'm not sure why the CIB and the City is even negotiating with the Pacers. But if they are going to negotiate, they need a better negotiator than Paul Okeson. Whether Okeson in his public comments is completely incompetent or being disingenuous, it is clear that he doesn't care one whit about Indianapolis taxpayers. He needs to go.

Friday, April 16, 2010

CIB and Ballard Administration Appears Ready to Cave Into Pacers' Threat, May Offer Simons Sweetheart Deal on Conseco Fieldhouse

Apparently the Capital Improvement Board is considering a Lucas Oil Stadium style sweetheart deal to bail the Pacers out. The Star reports in part:
Paul Okeson, former chief of staff for Mayor Greg Ballard, said the city is "seriously
thinking about" taking over the operation from the Indiana Pacers. Okeson is handling the city's negotiations as a member of the Capital Improvement Board, which oversees the city's sports venues.

It's not entirely clear how the CIB, which has faced its own financial struggles and is funded primarily by tax dollars, would pay for it.

Negotiations between Indianapolis and the team have been ongoing for months. Although city leaers have said they want to keep the Pacers in town, they have been quiet about their specific intentions.

Some criticized the potential deal as a taxpayer bailout for Herb Simon, the team's billionaire owner. Simon cited the Pacers' $200 million in losses when he first asked the city for help paying for Conseco's operations last spring.

City officials emphasize they would not be writing the Pacers a check.

"If they leave, it's going to cost us roughly $15 million to run this place, and that doesn't include the losses that come along with them going," Okeson said. "In no way is it giving money to the team."

The Pacers' current 20-year contract provides a clause that allows the team to negotiate the lease's terms after 10 years but includes a termination fee -- estimated in the tens of millions -- if the team were to be sold and move.

Under the contract, the Pacers pay for the operating costs of Conseco, while the CIB is responsible for larger capital improvement projects. The team, in turn, keeps revenue from basketball games and other events at Conseco.

It's possible, Okeson said, that even if the city assumed the operating costs at Conseco, the Pacers still might receive revenue from concerts and other events there.

Also unclear is whether the Pacers would agree to such an arrangement. Greg Schenkel, a spokesman for the team, declined to comment Thursday.

"We're not in a position to discuss the situation any further at this time," he said.

On Tuesday, Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Jim Morris said that if a deal couldn't be reached by June 30 to remove the $15.4 million burden from the Pacers, the team would consider all options, including leaving town.

Okeson said the CIB will remain open to other options while the board figures out ways it could pay the extra operating cost with its funds, which come from taxes on things such as hotels, food and beverages, cigarettes and auto rentals.
I have spent hours studying the Pacers Conseco contract. The termination provision is one single-spaced paragraph that stretches over three pages and is extraordinarily difficult to follow. (It's been suggested that this may have been written so lay people can't interpret it. That's worked as virtually no one in the media even attempts to challenge the claim that the provision lets the Pacers walk away from Conseco after 10 years while paying little if no penalty.)

The Pacers do have a right to terminate the contract after 10 years. But that right is only triggered if: 1) the team losing money; 2) the team being sold; AND 3) the team is being relocated out of Indianapolis.

The Star reporter Francesca Jarosz said the penalties are estimated in the "tens of milions." No, the penalty would be much higher than that. The contract has two penalty formulas, and you take the lowest one that applies. The first formula is based on how much the team sells for. The second one is a structured liquidated damages provision. Both penalty provisions decline as the Pacers get more deeply into the second ten years of the contract.

Assuming the team sold for $300 million, the penalty provision would be about $165 million by my calculations. The other penalty provision renders a penalty of $234 million. According to the contract you take the lowest penalty, so it would be $165 million; the penalty would be lower if the team sells for less than $300 million which is what Forbes had previously estimated the franchise to be worth. (Under the first formula you multiply the sales price by 50% and add in an amount the Pacers still owe from Market Square arena).

For a more lengthy interpretation of the contract, see a post I wrote last August:
Friday, August 21, 2009: Dispensing With the Lies Told About the Simons' Right to Terminate the CIB-Pacers Conseco Fieldhouse Contract
I'd be the first to admit that I could be wrong about the interpretation of the contract. Even though I spent a couple hours mapping out the termination provision and how the penalty provisions work, it's an extraordinarily convoluted and poorly written clause in the contract. I could have missed something. But no one from the city or from the CIB has ever challenged my legal interpretation. They are content just repeating the spin that the Pacers under the contract have a right to pick up and move the team to another city. They know that reporters aren't going to dig into that three page, mind-numbering paragraph to challenge the false assumption that the City and the CIB claims requires them to negotiate with the Pacers.

Regardless, almost certainly the Pacers do not have a right to terminate the contract and move the team out of the city. The termination provision only is triggered if the team is sold and being relocated out of the city. And the penalties the Simons would have to pay would be enormous.

Frankly, I don't think the City/CIB cares about what they contract says. They are bound and determined to give away more taxpayer money to the Simons. The fact that Okeson actually suggested that the CIB might take over the operations of the building, while still giving the Pacers revenue from the building, shows how completely incompetent the locals are when it comes to negotiations and how to operate the CIB in a business-like fashion. Haven't we learned anything from the Lucas Oil Stadium sweetheart deal that nearly bankrupted the CIB?

It's time the Indiana General Assembly dissolved the CIB and took the management of sports facilities away from the irresponsible and incompetent political leaders who continue to want to give away taxpayer money with misguided deals. If not, the General Assembly can expect that the CIB will be back in a year or two asking for another bailout for another misguided deal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Desperate "Raoul" Spreads Rumors About Yours Truly

What a class act. (Sarcasm alert.) Apparently he's out of intellectual ammunication because now "Raoul" is stooping to making up stuff about me and publishing it on the internet. Apparently now I am a "stalker" or at least have been hauled into court on "stalking allegations." (My mother would be so proud!) Read the comments section of his latest post.

As much as I disagree with his suck-up-to-the-person-in-power politics, I have never once spread rumors about Abdul's personal life. But hey, that's me. Raoul apparently lives by a different moral code.
Keeping spreading those rumors, Raoul. The fact you'll stoop that low only shows that you are losing the intellectual battle.

Throwing the Language Red Flag on "Synergy," "Patron,""Stakeholder" and "It's About What's Best for the Children"

I'm a great believer in straight, honest talk in the political/government arena. I notice though that creeping into the lexicon are meaningless or misleading words and phrases, many of which I would like to permanently ban. Here are a few.

The Mayor talks at length about "synergy" and "synergies" with regard to the water/sewer utility utility deal and even quantifies specifically savings that will result therefrom.

"Synergy" means:
"The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects."
To even begin to try to quantify dollar figures as savings from "synergy" is pie in the sky stuff. "Synergy" is a meaningless word that politicians use when their proposal is lacking in substance.

In the education arena I am hearing "stakeholder" and "patron." Schools politicians say they are looking out for "patrons" or "stakeholders" in their decisions. "Patron" basically means a "customer." "Stakeholder" refers to someone who has an interest in something. Both are terms that seek to limit to whom schools officials owe a responsibility. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. The School Board and administration's duty isn't limited the other 20% of the Pike residents who have children in Pike schools. They owe a duty to the 100% of the taxpayers and voters who live in Pike. For once I'd like to hear an administrator or school board member talk about what they owe to the taxpayers.

Staying on the education front, any variation of "It's about what is best for the children." I am so sick of those in the education field using the supposed best interest of the children to try to justify everything they do even when it's more about themselves than the children. The Pike administrators in particular are very fond of using "the good of the children" argument to try to justify their adult decisions. Be honest about the reasons for decisions are and cut out the BS claim it's always about what is best for the kids.

Speaking of which, I do have one major objection to the forum last night. The "pro" referendum side used two children in their presentation. That is absolutely unacceptable. This issue of how to vote on the school referendum is an adult matter. Exploiting children for either side in wrong. That is something I have been consistent about throughout my political life. Children simply don't have the real world experiences necessary to make the adult decision of which side to support in a political dispute. Adults should not be using children to make political points. Doing that is definitely not what is in the best interests of the children.

Did the Pike Administration Intentionally Defer Proper Maintenance on Guion Creek Elementary School to Gain Leverage on Referendum?

Tonight the Pike Township Residents Association sponsored a forum on the Guion Creek referendum. Dr. Tim Koponen presented for the "Yes" side. We gave the argument for the "No" side.

As was to be expected, the audience was dominated by Guion Creek teachers, employees and district administrators. Understandably they were in favor of a new school. If I worked at Guion, heck I'd undoubtedly want to work in a new school as well. But the new school isn't just paid for by people who work or have kids in Guion. It's paid for by all the taxpayers in Pike Township.

Today, we received an education about the problems with the Guion Creek Elementary School. There was numerous comments about the leaky roof, carpet that needed to be replaced, and AC not working properly. I have absolutely no doubt that all these complaints are true. Indeed I'd be shocked if a 39 year old building didn't need its roof and AC unit replaced. Likewise, carpet has to be replaced every few years. That's ordinary maintenance. The only complaint that speaks to more significant problems is foundation issues. But even cracks in foundations of 39 year old buildings are typical. Foundation issues are dealt with by homeowners every day. They rarely require razing the house and building a new one.

What is apparent at the meeting Wednesday night is that there has been a disturbing lack of maintenance of the existing building. Anyone who owns any building knows you cannot allow a leaky roof to continue. The consequences for a building life span for a leaky roof are devastating which is why it should be repaired or replaced immediately. It is apparent though that the administration has allowed the leaky Guion Creek roof to persist for some time.

Afterwards, I suggested to one referendum supporter that the administration may have intentionally deferred maintenance on Guion Creek Elementary to be able to better argue for a new building. I expected that she would be outraged by the suggestion. I was surprised to find that she agreed the administration had done exactly that.

Some additional thoughts. Yes, the referendum is on top of the 1-2-3 tax cap. While few properties in Pike are at the cap limit, there is nothing to stop other taxing entities or even the school district from increasing their taxing so that properties hit the cap. The tax increase caused by the referendum then will go above that 1% residential cap. $237.50 on a $100,000 ($575.00 on a $200,000) assessed value home is no small tax bill. Then you start stacking that on top of the cap and the tax increase is even worse.

Regarding renovation v. building a new Guion Creek Elementary School, the fact is the School Board and administration did not do an independent evaluation of the options. Rather they let CSO Architects and an attorney from Barnes & Thornburg provide guidance on the subject. They both make a lot more money if Pike decides to build a new building versus simply renovating the old building. CSO Architects is infamous for living at the public trough, encouraging local school districts to have taxpayers pay for unnecessary school construction. Barnes & Thornburg also lives at the public trough and regularly fleeces local government units with outrageous legal bills. (Last year, the Town of Speedway was billed several hundreds of thousand dollars by B&T, so much so that each family pays an average of $90 of their property tax in one year to pay that law firm.)

Asking CSO Architects and Barnes & Thornburg for independent advice on whether you should build a new school rather than renovate is like asking a life insurance salesman to evaluate whether you need life insurance. The answer is always going to be "yes."

With all due respect to the current board members, the bottom line is we have a school board which is far to close to the administration and which did not do its duty to act as a check on that administration. The Board should be demanding independent evaluations of options and asking tough questions. Time and time again the Board has rubber stamped proposals offered by the administration even tearing down a school barely 20 years old like College Park Elementary. The Pike School Board has forgotten that they are supposed to represent ALL Pike taxpayers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As Pacers End Season, Team Makes Grab For Taxpayers' Wallet

The Indianapolis Star this morning offers a lengthy piece of the Indiana Pacers and the threat the owners have made to leave the city if the CIB, i.e. the taxpayers don't agree to pick up the $15 million in operating costs on Conseco Fieldhouse. Here is a portion of that article:
"The Pacers signed their current 20-year lease with the city in 1999, but a clause in that contract allows the team to renegotiate its terms with the city's Capital Improvement Board after 10 years.

The Pacers, members of the CIB and Mayor Greg Ballard's administration have held behind-closed-doors negotiations on that lease, which have centered on the team's push to have the CIB pick up the $15 million operating tab.

Those negotiations now, however, have reached a critical stage.

On Tuesday, Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Jim Morris said if a deal isn't inked by June 30, Simon would have to start searching for other solutions, and nothing would be off the table.

'We've been having conversations with the Ballard administration for two years,' Morris said, 'and we're now at the point where we need to wrap this up in the next 30, 40 days.'

If that doesn't happen, he said, 'Herb would have to look at all of his options.'

Including moving the team?

"Herb would look at all of his options," Morris repeated. "
The Star simply takes it at face value what the contract says and what options the Pacers have under the contract. Previously, I spent hours reviewing the Pacers contract and wrote about it on my blog:

Friday, August 21, 2009: Dispensing With the Lies Told About the Simons' Right to Terminate the CIB-Pacers Conseco Fieldhouse Contract

It's a horribly written document - the key section is one rambling, single-spaced paragraph that stretches over three pages. It appears to have be written in such a way so that the average person could not interpret the document.

Contrary to the claim of the Star article, there is no right to renegotiate the contract after 10 years. Rather it is a right to terminate the contract. To further clarify, there are three conditions that must be met before the Early Termination Right kicks in: 1) notice of intent to relocate the team; 2) proof of financial loss; and 3) a sale of the team.

As to the Pacers' threat, there is no right in the contract for the Simons to simply pick up the team and relocate if they are not making enough money. Rather they would also have to be selling the team and relocating it outside of Indiana.

Even if the Pacers were selling the team and relocating, there would be enormous financial penalties for early termination. There are two ways of calculating the penalty in the contract. In my post, I estimated that the Year 11 penalty would be $165 million. It is only when you get to the latter part of the 20 year contract do the penalties drop enough to make early termination a realistic option.

Not surprisingly, the fact that the Pacers have no leverage to renegotiate at this point has not affected the administrations intent to give more tax money to the billionaire owners of the Pacers. In a Channel 13 rep'ort, Mary Milz offered this quote from former Mayor Ballard Chief of Staff Paul Okeson who was immediately appointed to the CIB when he took a job with city contractor Keystone Construction:
Asked if the city can afford to keep the Pacers, Okeson said, "I think the question is can we afford not to have the Pacers? We need to have them here, they're an important part of downtown."
Of course, Okeson has never been phased by "facts" when promoting corporate welfare, including the fact that his opinion on professional sports subsidies is not shared by economists who study the impact of professional sports on local economies. The Star notes that contrary opinion:
But some experts say the economic impact of NBA teams is minimal in cities such as Indianapolis.

That's because many of the people who attend Pacers games are local, and if they didn't go to a game, they'd likely be spending their money elsewhere in the local economy.

"If the city is afraid they're going to lose a chunk of their economic activity, that's unlikely to happen," said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has authored a book on the economic impact of sports teams and stadiums.
Mayoral Candidate Greg Ballard never would have agreed to give the Pacers $15 million more in tax dollars, especially to run a building for which the team gets all the revenue. Mayor Ballard though is entirely different from his campaign alter ego. The Mayor has never seen a corporate welfare measure that he wouldn't support regardless of how much it will cost taxpayers.

See also:

Monday, April 6, 2009, The Myth of the Bad Pacer's Conseco Fieldhouse Deal

Friday, April 9, 2010, Will Ballard Give Money From Water and Sewer Utilities Sale to Billionaire Simons for "Economic Development"?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Raoul" Interviews Mayor Ballard, Denies Using Citizens Gas Deal Money to Give to CIB

Gotta love "Raoul" on Twitter. Here's one of his latest gems:
AttyAbdul: Just asked the Mayor about using money from Citizens Gas deal to shore up the CIB? He couldn't stop laughing! So much for the conspiracy!
Well of course, we should believe Mayor Ballard wouldn't use the money to bail out the CIB or give $15 million to the Pacers, right? After all,, the Mayor has a history of being honest and not going back on campaign promises, right? You hear that laughing, Raoul? That's from all the the Republicans and Ballard supporters who have been betrayed by the Mayor's broken campaign promises.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pike School Board Votes to Revise History, Tries to Cover Up Guion Creek Tax Increase

The December 10, 2009 Meeting of the Pike Township School Board discussed in detail the plan to raze and build a new Guion Creek Elementary school. The minutes of that meeting include the following:

The total annual payment in terms of tax rate for the 2011 payments will be made out of the debt service working balance making a tax increase a requirement and paid out of the debt service working fund. This financing option provides the school corporation the flexibility to pursue future projects.

Those minutes were approved by the Board at the next meeting. During the last Board session though, the Board voted to review those December 10th minutes and take out the language about the tax increase. Of course, the Department of Local Government Finance still calls it a tax increase.

If you want to know why there is so much dissatisfaction with the Pike School Board that 13 candidates are running for three positions, now you have your answer. It is a Board that is completely out of touch with the voters, a mere rubber stamp for whatever harebrained proposal the administration wants to offer...such as tearing down perfectly fine elementary schools like Guion Creek, New Augusta, College Park and Eastbrook so that the administration can have shiny new buildings paid for by taxpayers.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Will Ballard Give Money From Water and Sewer Utilities Sale to Billionaire Simons for "Economic Development"?

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana raises the disturbing possibility that given a blank check to spend the money on "economic development," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard will hand $15 million of the money to the Billionaire Simon to further subsidize the Pacers:
It was just a matter of time before Mayor Greg Ballard came clean on the real reason he is pushing a sale of the water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy. He now concedes that a major priority in his plan to spend money derived from the sale of the utilities will include economic development, which of course means the Capital Improvement Board. Yes, Ballard will use that money to give a $15 million a year subsidy to the billionaire Simons so they won't take their team to another city. Ballard is already likening his sale of the utilities to Gov. Mitch Daniels' Major Moves deal. The comparison pretty much ends right there. Daniels' Indiana Toll Road deal involved a lease, not a sale of a government asset. If the deal goes south, the taxpayers still own the toll road. The toll road deal netted the state $3.8 billion. If Ballard had bothered to read his MOU he signed with Citizens Energy, he would have figured out that the City of Indianapolis will net no money in the long run from the sale of the water and sewer utilities.
I would point out that the penalties to cancel the contract and move the team would be in the neighborhood of $150 million dollars. Plus, under the contract, the Simons can't get out of the contract unless they are selling the team. The Simons have no leverage to claim an extra $15 million per year.

Nonetheless, Welsh raises a disturbing thought that Ballard will mortgage the future to hand millions to a billionaire. It never occurred to me that Ballard would do such an incredibly foolish thing. Now that Welsh raises the possibility, it occurs to me that it is indeed quite possible.