Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do We Need Another Lobbyist From a Big Law Firm, a Certified Insider on the Council?; Choice in Fourth District is Clearly Christine Scales

Kostas Poulakidas
 Anyone who reads my blog knows I have been very critical of fellow Republican Council President Ryan Vaughn.  Vaughn is an attorney/lobbyist with Barnes & Thornburg, a major Indiana law firm which dominates the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.  B&T represent numerous government and government contractor clients and measures affecting those clients are constantly before city elected and appointed officials for consideration. Conflicts of interest, or appearances thereof, are inevitable given Vaughn's day job.  The most obvious example of the conflict was when the Council was taking a vote on awarding ACS, a major Barnes & Thornburg client, a contract that would give the company 70% of the City's parking meter revenue for the next 50 years.  Vaughn lobbied for and cast the tie breaking vote for the measure.

The fact Vaughn isn't a Barnes & Thornburg partner and doesn't have an equity stake in any fees ACS paid, doesn't change the fact that ACS is an important client to B&T.  Vaughn's job would undoubtedly be in jeopardy if he started voting against the interests of law firm clients like ACS.

The Democrats though have a candidate who could easily exceed Vaughn's conflicts.  Kostas Poulakidas is a partner at Krieg Devault, a major downtown law firm that does business with the City.   According to the law firm's website, Poulakidas represents an assortment of commercial clients who want advice on such things as tax increment financing (TIF), economic improvement districts (EID), tax abatements, economic development incentives, and property taxes.   These are all things city government officials, including councilors, deal with on a regular basis.  Yet Poulakidas is also an attorney dealing with those issues for clients. How is he going to keep those two roles apart?

Poulakidas' wife had been employed as business developer at Develop Indy, those wonderful folks who brought us the LiteBox fiasco.  According to Linkedin, she quit working for Develop Indy in 2011 but is still involved in marketing and advertising.

Poulakidas is a partner at a law firm doing businesses with the City.  If Krieg's share of business with the City increases or if private clients flock to the law firm due to the newly elected councilor's influence in city hall, Poulakidas is directly financially benefited.  At least with Vaughn, since he is not a partner, the incentive to act in a manner that benefits Vaughn personally was indirect.  Poulakidas' incentive is direct.

Christine Scales
The last thing this city needs is another insider on the council, someone who puts corporate interests ahead of taxpayers and the best interests of hard-working Indy residents who continue to suffer through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Yet Poulakidas promises to be exactly that type of councilor.  Recently the Democrats sent a postcard on his behalf that pretended to be from Scales discussing how she voted against a 'bipartisan"  (an incorrect usage of the term) job proposal measure that would benefit 66,000 people.  What the postcard does not say is that the vote referenced was for a tax increase to bail out the Capital Improvement Board from an alleged deficit and that tax increase gave Indianapolis the highest combined hotel/sales tax in the country.  Also, that supposed "bipartisan" vote was only one Democrat joined with the remaining Republicans to vote for the CIB tax increase at the behest of Mayor Ballard. 

Of course, the notion that 66,000 jobs were in jeopardy was a joke then and still is. Poulakidas' 66,000 figure actually originates with Mayor Ballard when the administration was lobbying the legislature for tax increases for the CIB.  The number is actually a reference to hospitality workers in Central Indiana area.  It is not even a Marion County number, much less representing the number of downtown Indianapolis workers (working part-time, often seasonal jobs) who might be affected by the hypothetical loss of sporting events.  Of course as any economist will tell you, any lost downtown spending on professional sports is simply discretionary spending that moves to another part of the Indianapolis metro area.  The money doesn't go away.

Scales is one of the hardest-working members of the Council, someone who attends neighborhood events on a regular basis and has a near perfect attendance record on the council.  Scales also has shown independence from the Mayor, willing to say "No" when Mayor Ballard's proposals have put corporate insiders ahead of what is in the best interests of the people.  

Would Kostas Poulakidas stand up to his corporate clients and fellow big law firm partners?  Extremely doubtful.  In his attack piece, Poulakidas has makes it clear that he puts the downtown fat cats feeding at the public trough ahead of the people of the 4th District.  If the issue is whether to raise taxes to pour more money into the CIB or to demand accountability and that the Board be fiscally responsible in its decisions, Poulakidas would clearly choose the former.  More money for the insiders.  I guess he feels the people of the Fourth District can always take a second job if our taxes, due to this City's penchant for corporate giveaways, gets too high.  The choice in the 4th District is a no brainer.  Christine Scales.

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