Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Channel 16's Coverage of Council Committee is Cut as Councilors Consider TIF Proposals; Did Councilors Violate a Rule that Committee Chairs Have Absolute Control Over Agenda?

Councilor Steve Tally
Last night's Indianapolis City-County Council's Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee meeting was drawing to a close.  It had been a rather uneventful meeting.  Chairman Steve Tally indicates that he is ready to adjourn.  A minute or so later, Councilor Vop Osili, an architect and "developer of urban properties" (according to his campaign website), says he has some business not on the agenda, he wants to untable two ordinances dealing with the creation of two new TIF districts (or an expansion of the downtown TIF depending on how you look at it).  Councilor Tally said he wouldn't recognize the motion.  Councilor Mary Adams seconded the Osili's motion.  Tally, who supports TIF reforms that would stop their abuse and make them more transparent, said it wasn't on the agenda and wouldn't be considered.  He left the room. 

What happened from that point on is not clear except to those who were present of which I wasn't. Channel 16's video went black. In the background you could hear councilors discussing if they could proceed without Tally.  Eventually Councilor Cain asked Republican Attorney Jonathan Elrod if they could proceed without Tally.  Elrod gets ready to answer and the audio is cut.  (Additional video has since been added though there is still a gap.)

Councilor Vop Osili
Apparently Elrod's answer was that the remaining members of the committee could proceed.  According to published reports, the Talley-less council committee passed the two TIF expansions by a 5-1 vote.   Over at Indy Barrister, Abdul (who is clearly on the administration's payroll) praised the council action, continuing with the  line that the problem for the budget shortfall is there is simply not enough taxpayers and expansion of TIF districts will fix that problem. The line is either borne of profound ignorance about how TIF districts work or simply administration spin. 

The Indianapolis Star has a story discussing how the key votes of certain councilors were bought off by the administration:
But the ice thawed Monday after the administration reached an agreement with Democratic council members Vop Osili and Joseph Simpson. They represent districts near those proposed new development zones. 
In a newly released memo outlining the agreement, Deron Kintner, Ballard’s new deputy mayor for economic development, commits to tapping $13.5 million from city economic development funds for three loan and workforce training programs.
The committee also amended the proposal to require some local hiring by contractors on new projects and to promote minority employment.
“It adds opportunity for all participants in the community,” Osili said after the meeting, including for workers who could benefit from new jobs if they received proper training.
The article does not mention that Vop Osili's own firm might benefit from any development.

Over at Indiana Barrister (a misnomer since Abdul isn't licensed to practice law in Indiana), Abdul flippantly declares that "[a]lthough Committee Chairman Steve Talley had said the meeting was adjourned, there was no second and no vote, so there is no question about the legality of the proposal."

Not so fast.  I don't know council rules, but I know in most legislative bodies the chair of a committee has absolute power over what is heard in the committee.  Even if everyone on the committee wants to hear a bill, if the committee chair refuses to do so, the bill is dead.  The way around the recalcitrant chairman is to: 1) ask that legislative officer empowered to assign bills to committee, assign it to another committee with a more favorable chair; or 2) a discharge petition is filed to have it heard by the full legislative body.  There is no option of holding a meeting without the committee chair and vote on the bill in his absence, even if the committee has a quorum.  I'm a little surprised that Elrod didn't raise that point since he used to be in the Indiana General Assembly and that's the rule in that legislative body.  It's unlikely Elrod would have had the time to look up to see if the Council has a different rule than what he experienced in the General Assembly.

Regardless, I have to admire Councilor Tally's willingness to stand up to people who want to continue funnelling our tax dollars to politically-connected developers at the expense of schools, libraries, parks and public safety.  As is well-documented, the Indianapolis TIFs have become a slush fund for the administration to hand out money without council oversight. (Some of the TIF property taxes ended up being funnelled to the Pacers through the CIB.  Undoubtedly this practice will continue.) Now apparently that some Democratic councilors are seeing some of this money in their districts, they are willing to vote for the administration's proposal and against the best interests of the public.

Councilor like Tally and Brian Mahern understand the abuse of the TIFs and are insisting that safeguards and transparency be put in place before new TIFs are created or existing TIFs are expanded.  That frightens a lot of the city's public and private power brokers who have long depended on TIFs as a way of having the public assume the risk for private downtown development.  Tally was right to stand up to members of his own caucus who were seeking to rush the TIFs through before rules protecting the public from TIF abuse can be enacted.

Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy has an excellent take on these developments as does Gary Welsh over at Advance Indiana.


Ben said...

Really Paul,,,now your going after Osili?

No one on the CCC has more integrity than Osili,now your calling him out saying that his firm will benefit from this action? Paul, you have sunk to an all time low. I once considered you a decent person with a gift,but obviously that is no longer the case

Osili got on the CCC for one reason, to serve the people of his district,which is more than you will ever do.

Maybe if you spent some time not being a little bitch and actually do something good for our city,people would respect you .It's blogs like this that take you into the gutter,,You have just trashed the name of a good honest man,you might want to take a lesson or two from him. He has the respect of all that know him,its pretty obvious to me that you have never met the man...Your search for blogger fame, is a joke.

Until you change your tune to a more positive one, you will always be considered joke.

artfuggins said...

I wonder how Osili got Channel 16 to quit airing several minutes of this illegal meeting. I like Vop but I am so disappointed that he would be the ringleader of last's circus. The citizens of Indy deserve better than a lights out illegal meeting to do the citizens' work. I expect that there were be lawsuits over the legality of the actions and the renegade meeting.

Ben said...

art...thats a pretty strong accusation concerning Osili. Are you willing to back it up? Vop Osili is well liked by both sides of the isle.Lets see your proof that Osili had enough power to tell the city of Indianapolis to stop broadcasting...If you really knew Vop, you would know that he is above all of this petty Bulllshit.

In his heard Paul knows better also..

artfuggins said...

I said I wonder ....who gave the order to cut televising the meeting until the illegally reconvened meeting was in progress. Someone made the call and it is obvious that there was a secret meeting before the committee meeting to orchestrate this foolishness. Ben, what is your explanation of the gap???? Was Rosemary Woods present?

Paul K. Ogden said...
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Paul K. Ogden said...
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Paul K. Ogden said...


I'm not the one sitting on the council, pushing a measure to take tax dollars away from schools, libraries, parks and public safety and instead putting that taxpayer money in the pockets of private developers. That would be Vop Osili. Further, Osili's firm makes money off of downtown development, does it not? Are we're supposed to just look the other way on that?

Pat Andrews documented in great detail how most of these TIFs are used as slush funds, how they raid money from the property tax base to fund failing TIFS and how we taxpayers end up propping them up. She also documented how the Mass Avenue TIF is about ten times bigger than the actual area they claim they want to develop. Did you not read that?

I'm not sure why you think Vop Osili is widely respected on the council. Brian Mahern, Steve Tally and Christine Scales clearly have more integrity. Vop Osili has only briefly been on the council and the only interest I've seen him display thus far is in taking our tax dollars and giving them to private developers. That's not exactly leadership. I wonder how much of the expanded TIF dollars gets handed over to the billionaire Simons for the Pacers. Want me to guess which way Osili will vote on giving hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to the Pacers?

I don't know what happened to the video and you'll notice that I never said a particular person was behind it. There's more video up now, though there is video missing. It may well have been some sort of glitch, though the timing was curious.

Veracity said...

Art, you are very brave to post nasty comments under a pseudonym. Good thing we know who you are. Vop's friends will make sure to let Vop know the false accusations you have made against him.

And Paul, Ben is right. Your cheap shot is beneath you. I also fear that you may have lost some perspective if you believe that Tally and Mahern are filled with integrity.

And finally, the council committees follow Robert's Rules of Order. The chair cannot unilaterally determine what goes on the agenda in the face of a motion to add to the agenda or to adjourn the meeting without a motion and vote.

artfuggins said...

Council rules adopted by the entire council do allow a chairperson to adjourn a meeting. This meeting was adjourned then an illegal meeting ensured. Most of which was mysteriously off camera. I have a call into Vop and will tell him my thoughts. I am not hiding from anyone.

Veracity said...
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Veracity said...

Veracity said...

Gee, Art, if you are going to tell a lie then at least tell one that cannot be verified. 151-55 of the Municipal Code governing procedure and decorum of council meetings, including committee meetings, specifically references motions to adjourn. 151-158 provides that anything not covered by the council rules is covered by Roberts Rules of Order.

I also seriously doubt you are telling the truth about contacting Vop.

artfuggins said...

You are so misinformed. I know Vop and I supported Vop. He is my friend. I received a voice mail where he returned my call. He and I will talk and we will share our concerns and views. Who are you to call me a liar or to doubt what I am saying. Screw you.

Citizen Kane said...

I know VOP also. So, what. If the account of this meeting is remotely accurate, then an abhorrent violation of the public trust occurred, just so additional taxpayer dollars can be transferred from the pockets of the many to the wallets of the few. No final action should ever be taken on non-agenda items. Having a discussion about a non-agenda item is fine; acting on one is a crime against the public trust. Anyone who participates in this kind of nonsense does not have the public's interest at heart.