|Councilor Jeff Cardwell|
The Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee first dealt with a proposed high end nursing home at 1635 Arlington Drive on the east side. The developer, Mainstreet Property Group, wanted the City, i.e. taxpayers, to back the financing for its project to the tune of $7.5 million. The property, believe it or not, is in the Airport TIF which means no property taxes on the building are going to go to basic services. But that is a separate issue.
Not a single Republican on the committee asked a tough question of the developer despite the fact that taxpayers would be placed on the hook for several million dollars.
Jeff Cardwell, a Republican councilor from the southside, who used to be a thoughtful fiscal conservative before joining the council, would only offer softball questions designed to buttress Mainstreets' claim for our tax dollars. Republicans Ginny Cain and Jeff Miller were likewise disinclined to raise a single tough question on behalf of taxpayers.
|Councilor Ginny Cain|
Advance Indiana wrote about the Mainstreet deal.
Then the MEDC moved to Proposal 15, the expansion of the downtown TIF by some 716 acres, for the purpose of developing .8 acres on Mass Avenue and 2 city blocks on Indiana Avenue. Mahern raised the fact that many TIFs are failing and how this expansion of the downtown TIF could cost the City much needed tax revenue for basic services. But did the Republicans chime in with tough questions on behalf of taxpayers? Nope. Cardwell did ask some questions....softballs lobbed in support of a project that results in taxpayer money subsidizing private development at the cost of reduced municipal services and higher property taxes.
Not sure when it became the business of government to pick and choose the winners in our capitalist system. Not sure when it became the job of taxpayers to subsidize the risk for politically-connected, private developers.
|Councilor Jeff Miller|
Then on Thursday, representatives of the Capital Improvement Board and Indianapolis Airport Authority came before the Municipal Corporations Committee. Mahern, who is a member of that committee, asked tough question after tough question. He asked about the $33.5 million Pacer deal and pointed out that the CIB, by owning Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse, had taken the properties off the property tax rolls in favor of the owners of the Colts and Pacers. Mahern mentioned that if property taxes are not paid for basic services, there should be payments in lieu of property taxes.
I thought Ann Lathrop, the head of the CIB, was going to have a meltdown. It is obvious she's never been to a council meeting where councilors asked tough, direct questions with followup questions. Lathrop grew visibly angry when Mahern suggested that possibly the CIB had not been good stewards of the taxpayers' money. My only problem was that Mahern's comment wasn't more definitive. Saying that "maybe" the CIB had been irresponsible with the taxpayers' money is like saying that "maybe" the Earth revolves around the Sun.
Republican councilors chimed in with questions...softball questions designed to bail out the CIB officials who were floundering in their responses to Mahern's questions. Once again, Councilor Cardwell led the way. Not a single tough question from the Republican councilors to an organization which has a horrific fiscal track record.
Next up before the MCC was the Indianapolis Airport Authority. Airport officials boasted about all the extra property the Airport had acquired when it built the new airport and how it could package and sell that property to developers. Mahern and several members of the public brought up that the Airport's acquisition had taken that property off the tax rolls. Local activist Pat Andrews talked about the lawsuit where the Airport is using public money to fight a private Park and Ride facility from locating near the Airport.
I have another issue. When the Airport acquired all that property to build the new facility it did so via eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain. Acquiring the property that way required that the property be taken for a PUBLIC PURPOSE. A public purpose is not the government entity acquiring private property for the purpose of later selling it at a profit to private developers.
Republicans, of course, have a philosophical distaste for eminent domain, especially when used improperly. So of course the Republicans on the committee jumped all over the the Airport's improper use of its condemnation power? Nope. They said nothing.
However, Republican councilors on the Municipal Corporations Committee did speak up against the Airport using the public's money to finance a lawsuit to try to block a private company wanting to build a parking facility. Just kidding. Of course, they didn't. All the Republican councilors offered were softballs to bail out the Airport officials struggling to answer Mahern's questions and the public's concerns about the Airport's waste of our taxpayer dollars.
Republican council members on the MEDC and the MCC support government picking the winners and losers in our capitalist system and they are in favor of taxpayers subsidizing the winners. Oh, and they are completely unconcerned that the diversion of taxpayer dollars to politically-connected developers, a diversion that leads to fewer services and higher taxes.
Where are the fiscal conservative Republicans on the Council? Well there certainly aren't any on the Metropolitan and Economic Development and Municipal Corporations Committees.