To see the rest of Welsh's post, click here.
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.
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.