Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Republican Councilors Refuse to Allow Public Testimony on Controversial Appointment to Zoning Board

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana details the latest outrage involving a Republican-controlled council committee blocking public input:
Councilor Janice McHenry
chairs the Metropolitan
Development Committee
Four years ago, Greg Ballard and the Marion Co. GOP council candidates railed against the Democratic-controlled council over the manner in which it trampled on the rights of the general public to testify at public committee hearings. Today, the Metropolitan Development Committee chaired by Councilor Janice McHenry ruled community activist Clarke Kahlo out of order when he attempted to offer public testimony on the nomination of Richard Kraft to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Other Republican councilors, including Councilor Caine and Councilor Cardwell, backed up McHenry's refusal to allow Kahlo to offer testimony. They falsely claimed public testimony had never been allowed from members of the public on nominees. McHenry and the GOP councilors are pissed off at Kahlo because he mounted an effort to block the reappointment of Jennifer Ping, a lobbyist for a law firm whose clients include those with an interest in alcohol permits, to the local alcohol board because she had treated members of the public so rudely when they remonstrated against the reissuance of problem alcohol permittees or the issuance of new alcohol permit applications. Ping's husband, a state employee, chairs the Metropolitan Development Committee.

Not surprisingly, the Republican councilors were thrilled to offer up Kraft's appointment to the BZA. He works for an engineering firm which does business with the City and helps fill the campaign coffers of the re-election campaign of Greg Ballard. In a laughable moment, Kraft said with a straight face under questioning by Councilor Brian Mahern that he would face no conflicts of interest serving on the BZA. Yep, he earns his living from government contracts, but he will have an open mind on matters that come before the BZA. Candidate Ballard four years ago promised to enact a city ordinance to bar city contractors and lobbyists from serving on the boards and commissions. As with virtually every other promise he made four years ago, he has not kept it. The Republicans have refused to appoint any of the people who actually played a role in their election four years ago to any boards or commissions. Some of us will gladly play the game of pay back this November for their disloyalty to us.
To see the rest of Welsh's post, click here.

Kahlo's experience reminds me of one I had last year.  The issue of the taxpayer $33.5 million gift to the Pacers was before the Municipal Corporations Committee, chaired by Republican Councilor Barb Malone.  CIB representative and former Deputy Mayor Paul Okeson had just finished his presentation urging the committee to bestow the millions on the Pacers claiming that otherwise they could break the contract and move. The committee began taking public comments.   After a couple people made statements, I stood to explain how the financial penalties in the contract worked and that those penalties were actually in the neighborhood of hundreds of millions of dollars, disproving the claim the Pacers could simply pick up and move.  When Malone saw that I was going to destroy Okeson's fraudulent presentation, she immediately reversed direction and refused to let me address the committee  Over on the Democratic side I saw Councilor Jackie Nytes shaking her head in support of Malone's decision to silence me, a fact that belied Nytes' alleged concerns about the deal.

The council's silencing of community activist Clarke Kahlo is equally appalling, especially since Republicans railed against the Peterson administration and the then Democratic majority for shutting out the public at committee meetings.  The appointment of Kraft, who is the principle at an engineering firm that does business with the city, is indeed a controversial one.  During his presentation, Kraft gave effusive praise to the North of South project, a project that the City put taxpayers on the hook for to the tune of $100 million when no private lender would back the risky deal.  Of course Kraft's fellow engineers benefited from that move.

It is disgusting that instead of the City appointing an ordinary citizen interested in public service to serve on the zoning board, the City reached out to an engineer, part of the downtown elite which have been profiting at the expense of taxpayers.  Why are we to believe Kraft will suddenly put taxpayers first when serving on the zoning board?

Bottom line, if the committee chair Janice McHenry and the rest of the committee are so concerned about Kraft's appointment that they close the door on public comment, then perhaps it is an appointment that shouldn't be made.  Republican councilors need to remember their complaints during the 2007 campaign about lack of public input.  As far as the Democratic councilors on the committee, it is time they stood up and start decrying these insider appointments that inevitably are against the best interests of Indianapolis taxpayers.


marksmall2001 said...

Free speech and public input are archaic and inefficient. We need more unelected technocrats involved in, and with primacy over, the letting out of contracts. And just stop before you characterize the pin-money ($30million? Charles Barkley blows that on Keno while at dinner) the Pacers received as a "gift." Remember the NBA championship they brought to Indy last month!

Ben said...

Im a little surprised at Cardwell. McHenry,no so much, she is a rubber stamp for Ballard. But since Cardwell was behind the North/South deal I gees that it makes sense.

There is nothing good about what is going on in Indy right now.the Mayor has but the stop notice on all information coming out of his office.Perfect example is the Broad Ripple Garage deal.

A lot of good people have been thrown away by the Ballard people.Very sad, I really did believe him when he was running for Mayor. I also believed Cardwell and others on the CCC.But they lied to us.For being such a strong Christian man, I surprised that he did this.But then again he is a politician.

As for McHenry, well..what you see is what you get,

Paul K. Ogden said...

Ben, I am utterly stunned about Jeff Cardwell. I knew him to be an independent mind who stood up against the Goldsmith Republican establishment types who ran our party into the ground.

Then Cardwell gets on the Council, and he could not be more of a rubberstamp for Ballard's hairbrained, big spending schemes. He hasn't shown the first sign of independence on the council. Some people suggest he was bought off by city business being sent his way. I have trouble believing Jeff would sell his soul like that. I don't know if that's the explanation, but there has to be some explanation for his 180 degree turn from the person he was before he was elected.

Ben said...

Paul, Jeff Cardwell is not the same man that was elected. He like Ballard have lost their way to the big bucks.As for McHenry, well she lost her way years ago and has never had real street credibility anyway.Vaughn says jump and she asks how high.Never once have I heard her mutter an original thought. Its all Ballard party line crap.