Monday, January 9, 2012

Republican Council Majority Failed to Stand Up for Taxpayers; Will New Councilors End the Rubberstamping of Indianapolis Mayor Ballard's Corporate Welfare Projects?

I don't know when I have ever been more disappointed in a group of Republicans than the GOP majority on the Indianapolis City-County Council that presided for the last four years, a period which mercifully ended December 31st.  Never did I imagine how badly GOP councilors would turn their back on their collective responsibility to look out after the interests of taxpayers and ensure that deals entered into by local government with private business interests are in the public's best interest.

Councilor Zach Adamson
Let's look at the dismal fiscal record of the Republican council majority elected in the 2007 elections:
  • Agreed to give the Pacers $33.5 million in taxpayers money to operate Conseco Fieldhouse for three years while the team gets 100% of the basketball and non-basketball revenue on a building paid for 100% by taxpayers.
  • Approved a contract to let a private company, ACS, have 70% of the City's parking meter revenue for the next 50 years for a small upfront investment, a deal according to IBJ which will net the company as much as a billion dollars.
  • Agreed to put the City on the hook to finance $100 million for the private company Buckingham to develop North of South (now "CityWay"), a project that every private lender turned down as too risky.
  • Said nothing while the Ballard administration agreed to use $6.35 million of the public's money to build a parking garage in Broad Garage which it then will give away to Keystone Construction, which isn't required to put up anything on the project..  Keystone will get 100% ownership, 100% of the parking revenue and 100% of the rent from the  commercial space in the building; the commercial space went from 20% in the original contract to now being 35%.
  • Approved tax increases to bail out the Capital Improvement Board without asking for any accountability from the CIB.
  • Approved giving away Georgia Street to a Indianapolis Downtown Inc., with IDI getting to keep all the profits the company can make off the street fixed up with our tax dollars.
Those are only a few occasions where the Council GOP majority had a chance to stand up for taxpayers and ensure that their interests were being protected.  Instead those Republican councilors consistently chose to rubberstamp various corporate welfare schemes pushed by Mayor Ballard.

I shouldn't lump all Republicans together.  Councilor Christine Scales opposed several of the measures listed above, and caught grief for having done so.  Her Democratic opponent Kostas Poulakidas, backed by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, actually criticized Scales for not being more supportive of corporate welfare, including the CIB tax increases.

While Scales was the lone Republican voice for taxpayers, I have to give credit to the Democratic minority, or at least a number of the council Democrats, people like Brian Mahern and Angela Mansfield.  They and other Democrats questioned whether the taxpayer-funded deals were in the best interests of the public and voted against them when given the opportunity.  While Republicans claim to be fiscal conservatives, it was the Democratic councilors who were the fiscal conservatives during Ballard's first term.

Today marks the first council meeting with the newly-elected Democratic majority.   Now that the Democrats have a majority will they use their new clout to provide a much needed check on Republican councilors' reckless spending of taxpayer money on Ballard corporate welfare schemes?

I am hopeful.  Newly elected Democratic councilor Zach Adamson has shown an interest in fiscal issues and was willing to speak out the horrible parking meter deal and the outrageous Broad Ripple Parking Garage giveaway  People also speak highly of Democrats John Barth and Vop Osili as well as Republican Jeff Miller and he other newly-elected councilors.  Let's hope these new councilors do their jobs and stand up for taxpayers better than the Republican rubberstamp majority did during the last four years.

1 comment:

patriot paul said...

The items you mentioned are just symptoms of a larger problem. Why not look into 'why' they ocurred. What private interests (and conflicts of interests) led them to pass this stuff? Now that would be interesting.