Wednesday, February 16, 2011

North of South Project Advances to Full Council; Members of Redevelopment Commission Put City's Taxpayers on the Hook for Nearly $100 Million

Today I sat down and watched on streaming video the Economic Development Committee as it considered the North of South project.

The No-So is a proposed project near the Lilly downtown campus which Buckingham Companies would develop. When every lender backed out of funding Buckingham's project of a mix of retail, hotel rooms and apartments because the project was too risky, Buckingham hired then Republican County Chairman Tom John and Republican activist Lesa Detrick to lobby Mayor Greg Ballard's office to have the City's taxpayers back the proposal. That lobbying effort resulted in a proposed deal that was considered tonight, a commitment from Indy's taxpayers of nearly $100 million dollars while the private companies that benefit, such as Lillys, only have to invest a few million.

The measure passed out of committee 6-1. What I found most interesting was when Councilor Joanne Sanders (who isn't a member of the committee but came to speak) and a member of the public decried the low paying, minimum wage nature of the service industry jobs that would be created. Republican councilors Mike McQuillen and Aaron Freeman responded that any job is better than no job.

As a conservative Republican I would wholeheartedly agree with McQuillen and Freemen IF the private sector was creating the jobs. Once we taxpayers are asked to put nearly $100 million on the line, we have a right to demand better than minimum wage jobs in return for our investment.

Fiscal conservatives would find the comments tonight by Republican Councilors Mike McQuillen, Aaron Freeman and Jeff Cardwell to be nothing short of repugnant. The three praised the idea of taxpayers being the financial guarantor for a private sector development that was too risky for any private lender to undertake. Fortunately McQuillen will be gone after this term. I can't say the same for big spending liberals Freeman and Cardwell who are in safe seats.

With the exception of Doris Minton-McNeil, the Democrats who were on the committee barely spoke during the debate. She was the only Democrat who voted against No-So. Perhaps Councilors Paul Bateman and Jose Evan were persuaded by the fact that 15% of the jobs would go to MBEs. Or perhaps they were persuaded by the phone calls that former mayor and current Lilly executive Bart Peterson has apparently been making to reluctant Democrats. Regardless, it was not a bright shining moment for the Democratic caucus either.

While I respect Joanne Sanders, I don't think it's a stretch to call her one of the most liberal members of the Council. It speaks volumes about what is wrong with the Mayor's Office and the Republican-controlled council that it was Sanders lecturing Republicans on the committee about fiscal responsibility and the need to stand up for taxpayers.

1 comment:

Downtown Indy said...

I keep hearing how deficitg spending is the only way for the country to get out of it's depressed economic state.

Indy has been doing deficit spending for at least 30 years and we still haven't turned the corner -- newer and bigger taxes and fees keep coming fast and furious.

And still, they keep doing the same old thing. They won't be satisfied until taxes and cost of living in Indy are just as unbearable as it is in NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, etc., etc.