Sunday, September 30, 2012

DLGF Report Finds Indianapolis and Carmel Awash in Debt

A report recently issued by the Department of Local Government Finance shows the massive debt Indianapolis and Carmel is carrying.

The report, which reviewed the debt situation of several thousand local government entities including cities, counties, towns, townships, school districts, libraries, etc., found that the Marion County (Indianapolis) Airport is ranked No. 1 in debt with $2.135 billion.  The City of Indianapolis placed second in overall debt at nearly $1.9 billion dollars. Third was Marion County Health and Hospital at $1.34 billion, while fourth was the Indianapolis Public Schools at $903 million.

The DLGF report ranks the City of Carmel fifth in local government units with $895 million of debt.  Carmel placed first in debt among cities in Indiana.  (Indianapolis being a consolidated city was not included in the "civil city" ranking.)

The Capital Improvement Board ranked eighth overall in debt at over $576 million.

Probably 1/2 of the local government units examined by DLGF were shown as not having any debt whatsoever.  The DLGF report contains this disturbing finding:

"Payments on local government indebtedness consume a significant portion of property taxes.  For property taxes payable in 2012, 26% of the certified levies were attributable to debt service funds. Statewide, debt service levies represent $1.6 billion of the $6.3 billion in certified levies."

Thanks to John Accetturo, Former Carmel City Councilman, who alerted me to this report.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Not Let Next Indiana Governor Decide Whether to Privatize Lottery Management?

The Indiana Lottery Commission appears to be intent on plowing ahead with the privatization of the management of the Indiana Lottery.  An article this week in Bloomberg BusinessWeek News reported:
The State Lottery Commission postponed a vote on outsourcing most lottery operations to a private business that had been scheduled for Wednesday so members could have more time to digest proposals from two possible vendors behind closed doors. Chairman William Zielke said the vote would be taken Oct. 3. Officials expect to decide by Nov. 1 whether to sign a contract or leave lottery operations as they are.
Zielke said the commission had to "consider whether that's the right answer for us or not."   
Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, who has been critical of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' privatization efforts, said any proposal would have to be carefully scrutinized to determine whether it was to the state's benefit.
...
Indiana officials announced in July that they would seek a  10-year contract for lottery marketing, sales and distribution services. But Executive Director Karl Browning said Wednesday that the proposals were for 15-year contracts that could be extended based on "extraordinary performance."
The vendor also could earn a $1 bonus for each dollar by which it exceeds a revenue threshold set by the state, but would have to pay the state dollar-for-dollar if it falls below that benchmark, he said. He did not say what that threshold was. He did say that the vendors believed they could increase the revenue returned to the state by as much as 20 percent, though they did not think that increase would be sustainable.
...   
"It doesn't seem that different from what we have today," said commission member Jennifer Alvey.  Browning said part of the increased revenue would come from a plan to "broaden the player base."
"We're not out to expand gambling," he said. "We just want to attract people who don't necessarily play today."
But asked after the public session how the state could attract more players without expanding gambling, Browning replied: "That depends on your definition of expanding gambling."   
It is not clear why the Lottery Commission, with members appointed by Governor Daniels, seems intent on tying the hands of the next Governor.  The next Governor will assume office within three months.  Yet the Commission will be entering into a 15 year contract with a vendor.  If it is a bad deal, the next Governor is stuck.  Bad deals have in fact happened.  Illinois' effort at lottery management privatization is now tied up in the court, a disturbing reminder of Indiana's failed Medicaid privatization effort that resulted in litigation costing the State's taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

I have not seen where either gubernatorial candidate has discussed specifically the lottery privatization.  On the campaign trail, Republican Mike Pence, in general, has expressed stronger support for privatization than Democrat John Gregg.  Pence though has said the merits of privatization would be something he would have to look at closely on a case by case basis. 

Pence, if given a chance, may well opt against privatization for an important political reason.  He is a favorite of Christian conservatives, a constituency that strongly opposes the expansion of gambling in Indiana.  That constituency may well not support the privatization of the lottery management, which is premised on a hope, if not a requirement, that gambling in Indiana be expanded to get new players.

Why not hold off until early next year so that the Governor can decide such an important topic?   At the very least, Pence and Gregg should have input on a decision that will tie their hands for the next four years.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fiscally-Liberal Council Republicans Show Lack of Concern About Taxpayers as They Support More Public Subsidies of Private Development

I watched part of the Municipal Corporations Committee meeting last night.  Earlier in the week, I caught much of the Economic and Metropolitan Development Committee meeting.  Both committees dealt with several issues where taxpayers had been asked to subsidize development approved by government.  In every instance the Republicans on the committees stood firmly for corporate welfare and government deciding which developers should win and which should lose.
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
The only councilor who consistently asked tough questions was Democrat Brian Mahern who isn't a member of the MEDC and didn't have a vote on the measure which passed the committee unanimously.

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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

If Romney Loses Florida and Ohio, Winning Becomes Virtually Impossible

Looking at the electoral map tonight.  Polls released over the last ten days show Obama opening up decent-sized leads in both Oho and Florida.  The polls below are listed from newer to older.

Ohio
CBS Poll - Obama 10 pts
Washington Post - Obama 8 pts
Gravis Marketing - Obama 1 pt
Ohio Newspapers - Obama 5 pts
Purple Strategies - Obama 4 pts
Fox News - Obama 7 pts
Caddell/McLaughlin (R) - Obama  3 pts

Florida
Florida Times/Union - Obama 3 pts
CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac - Obama 9 pts
Washington Post - Obama 4 pts
ARG - Obama 5 pts
Miami Herald/Mason Dixon - Obama 1 pt
PPP (D) - Obama 4 pts
Purple Strategies - Romney 1 pt
WeAskAmerica - Obama 3 pts
Fox News - Obama 5 pts
Graivs Marketing - Romney 1 pt
Caddell/McLaughlin (R) - Romney 4 pts

Romney has to win either Ohio or Florida, but preferably both.  If he loses both, then Romney has to run the table on batleground states winning Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin.  Still Romney would be short 284-254 in the Electoral College.  Pulling off an upset in Minnesota wouldn't do it.  He'd have to win Michigan to win the EC 270-268, and recent polls show Romney behind by double figures in that state.

North Carolina Government Busybodies Take Aim at Free Speech

George Will has an interesting column today on the efforts of a North Carolina government agency to monitor a blogger writing about nutrition.  It raises some interesting First Amendment issues.  My guess is that the busybodies are going to lose this one:
Steve Cooksey

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina is giving Steve Cooksey some choices. He can stop speaking. Or he can get a Ph.D. in nutrition, or a medical degree, or a bachelor's degree in nutrition and then pass an examination after completing a 900-hour clinical internship. Or he can skip this onerous credentialing, keep speaking, and risk prosecution.
He has chosen instead to get a lawyer. His case, argued by the libertarians at the Institute for Justice (IJ), will clarify the First Amendment's relevance to an ancient human behavior and a modern technolgy. 
Four years ago, Cooksey was a walking -- actually, barely walking -- collection of health risks. He was obese, lethargic, asthmatic, chronically ill and pre-diabetic. The diet advice he was getting from medical and other sources was, he decided, radically wrong. Rather than eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, he adopted what he and other enthusiasts call a Paleolithic diet, eating as primitive humans did -- e.g., beef, pork, chicken, leafy green vegetables. Cooksey lost 75 pounds and the need for drugs and insulin. And, being a modern Paleo, he became a blogger, communicating his dietary opinions.
When a busybody notified North Carolina's Board of Dietetics/Nutrition that Cooksey was opining about which foods were and were not beneficial, the board launched a three-month investigation of his Internet writings and his dialogues with people who read and responded to them. The board sent him copies of his writings, with red pen markings of such disapproved postings as: "I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can."   
"If," the board sternly said, "people are writing you with diabetic specific questions and you are responding, you are no longer just providing information -- you are counseling -- you need a license to provide this service." This had the intended effect of chilling his speech; his self-censorship stopped his blog. By saying his bloggings will be subject to continuous review, North Carolina hopes to silence him in perpetuity.
IJ's Jeff Rowes notes that Cooksey's speech "involves no sensitive relationship (as in psychological counseling), no uniquely vulnerable listeners (as in potential legal clients forced to make snap decisions), and no plausible presumption that the listeners are unable to exercise independent judgment." That presumption is, however, the animating principle of modern regulatory government. North Carolina is uninterested in the fact that Cooksey's advice is unpaid, freely solicited and outside any context of a professional-client relationship. The state simply asserts that Cooksey's audience is "a uniquely vulnerable population," which is how paternalistic government views everybody all the time. 
Were Cooksey blogging for profit to sell beef and other Paleolithic food, he would be free to advise anyone to improve their health by buying his wares. So his case raises two questions:   Is an individual's uncompensated advice, when volunteered to other individuals who seek and value it, constitutionally protected? And does the Internet -- cost-free dissemination of speech to spontaneous, self-generated audiences -- render many traditional forms of licensing obsolete? 
...
Did Ann Landers and Dear Abby conduct 50-year crime sprees by offering unlicensed psychological advice? ... 
To see the rest of Will's article, which discusses the various legal review standards used, click here.

To see Mr. Cooksey's blog, click here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Recent Battleground State Polls Show President Obama Opening Up Significant Lead


Yesterday turned out to be a very bad day for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Polls from nine battleground states were reported on Real Clear Politics.   All showed President Obama with a significant lead, some outside the margin of error:

Colorado (PPP) Obama +6
North Carolina (Civitas) Obama +4
Nevada (ARG) Obama +7
Iowa (ARG) Obama +7
Florida (ARG) Obama +5
Michigan (Rasmussen) Obama +12
Wisconsin (WeAskAmerica) Obama +12
Pennsylvania (Mercyhurst University) Obama +8
Minnesota (Star Tribune/Mason Dixon) Obama +8

The bad news continues today with three polls of Florida and Ohio voters: 

Florida (Washington Post) Obama +4
Ohio (Washington Post) Obama +8
Ohio (Gravis Marketing) +1 

While polls of Arkansas (Romney +21) and Montana (Romney +9) voters in the last couple days showed Romney in the lead in those two states, those are states in which Romney should be leading.
 
NOTE:  My recent analysis of the effect of the undecided vote in the states was done before these latest state polls which would have changed my calculations.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mike Pence's Political Dilemna: Balance Support for Governor Daniels While Distancing Himself from Administration Problems

Over the weekend, the story broke about Judge Jim Payne, Director of Department of Child Services, involvement in his department's handling of a case involving his grandchildren. The Star opines that Judge Payne crossed ethical lines which Judge Payne and his Department vehemently deny.
Judge Jim Payne, Director of the
Department of Child Services

I was more interested in the responses from the gubernatorial candidates.  Democratic candidate John Gregg called for Judge Payne's ouster.  Meanwhile Mike Pence responded by deferring to the Governor. The Governor's office claimed no knowledge of the controversy.  Of course, if that is true, it begs the question, why not?  While I am a big supporter of Governor Daniels' policies, I have pointed out that his Achilles' heel is administration.  He has not seem interested in supervising chiefs that he appointed to the various agencies.  Inevitably many of them have ended up doing things that end up embarrassing the Governor, things that could have been easily nipped in the bud with better supervision (to steal Barney Fife's catch phrase) before they got out of hand.

This isn't the first time DCS has made the state's biggest newspaper, putting Governor Daniels' administration in a bad light.  DCS has been a troubled agency from the first day Governor Daniels appointed Judge Payne nearly eight years ago.  Very early on under Judge Payne's leadership, then Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi announced plans to investigate the agency's handling of a case that result in a death of a little girl, Tijuana Bailey. The investigation was quickly and mysteriously dropped.

Things have gotten so bad that the Republican majority in the House and Senate, bucked the Governor, and voted to hold a study committee reviewing the DCS's practices.

This is not the first time that Republican legislators took the lead in challenging Republican Governor Daniels on problems at the state's agencies.  In January 2009, following the 2008 landslide win for Governor Daniels, Republican State Representative Suzanne Crouch and Republican State Senator Vaneta Becker introduced a bill to to suspend the FSSA's Medicaid privatization rollout.  At the time, Governor Daniels was furious, suggesting Crouch and Becker were not being good Republicans.  Crouch and Becker refused to buckle and eventually Gov. Daniels had to concede his privatization effort had failed.

Nobody, even Republicans, understand why Daniels has for years refused to change the leadership at DCS. 

Gregg this campaign season has been like an NFL running back with a bad offensive line.  Every time he gets the ball, there is no daylight for him to run to.  Now he seems some daylight with the DCS-Judge Payne flareup.  Pence is put in a position of having to defer to the Governor.    I believe I long ago argued that Gregg's best political strategy was to put Pence in a position where he has to defend the Governor on administration problems like the Lottery Commission's lavish spending, the failed Medicaid privation, DWD unemployment compensation troubles, several million dollar accounting errors, and state agencies paying millions of dollars in late fees on their bills. 

In the end, it might make the most political sense for Pence to look for a middle ground - while not criticizing the Governor's leadership and alienating some Republicans, emphasizing that he intends to do a thorough review of the operation of the various government agencies and make changes where needed. The first place he should start is at DCS.

But regardless of the political strategy in the gubernatorial race, a Governor Pence or a Governor Gregg needs to be more active in administration oversight than Daniels has been.  The next Governor needs to surround himself with staff who will impose oversight and demand accountability from the agencies and those chosen to lead them.  That unfortunately hasn't been the case under Governor Daniels.

Electoral Analysis Shows Handful of Ohio Voters Might Decide the Outcome of Presidential Race

What role will undecided voters play on the outcome of this year's presidential race?  It appears a very significant one.

I spent hours crunching the numbers to try to find out.  I looked at poll numbers in each state as well as how many people were undecided about the outcome.  I then employed a well-known concept in political analysis, namely that, when there is an incumbent in the race, the undecided vote on election day goes disproportionally to the challenger.  The amount of undecided vote the challenger receives runs from 60% on the bottom end to 80% on the top end.  Occasionally you have elections where that model doesn't hold true, but the vast majority fall within the 60% to 80% range.

I reviewed the Real Clear Politics average of polls in each state.  There were a handful of states were there had been little polling and thus no average.  In those states I went with the latest poll.  Then there were a few states where there had been no reported polling.  Those states are so solidly Republican or Democrat there wasn't any reason to poll.

In the first screen, I used 67% of the undecideds going to Romney calculation.  Here is who won battleground and their percentage.  Electoral votes are in parenthesis:

Obama (67% of undecided vote to Romney)
Colorado (9) 50.18%
Florida (29) 50.05%
Nevada (6) 50.25%
North Carolina (15) 50.05%
Ohio (18) 50.94%
Virginia (13) 51.35%
Other Obama States:  Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10) were also in Obama's column.

*These "other" states are battleground states, but not quite as close as the others.  A detailed analysis was not needed to determine which column they would land in even when undecided vote figure was adjusted from 67% to 72%.)

Romney (67% of undecided vote to Romney)
Iowa (6) 50.26%
New Hampshire (4) 51.3%
South Carolina (9) 50.7%
Other Romney States:  Missouri (10)

Electoral College Result:  Obama 337 - 201.

But when the undecided split is moved to 72%, still well within what can be expected, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and North Carolina all move to the Romney column and the Electoral College race closes to 278-260 in favor of President Obama.

Ohio, which would let Romney flip the Electoral College result of 278-260 to his favor, falls just short at 49.38% when the 72% figure is applied to the undecided votes.

How many votes is that?  Ohio cast 5,295,486 votes in the 2008 presidential election.  Applying 49.38% to that figure means that 32,833 voters (65,665 vote difference divided by two) switching their vote from Obama to Romney in Ohio would give him the Electoral College win.

Investors Want the Indianapolis Airport Authority Audited

Creditors of the Indianapolis Airport Authority are upset over the lack of audit to ensure the building's biggest tenant is paying its fair share. The Airport and the tenant, AAR Company, provide a response that I paraphrase as:  "Trust us, ARA's profits have never hit the level which would require profit sharing under the lease."  But when pressed, ARA won't provide financial documentation to back up the claim.  And the Airport Authority won't hold ARA to produce the documentation.

The Indianapolis Star reports:
The Indianapolis Airport Authority's massive maintenance facility has lost money for most of the past 10 years, yet it has only conducted one audit to ensure the building's biggest tenant is paying its fair share.
The lack of audits is a sore spot for bondholders who helped finance construction of the $600 million aircraft repair center in the mid-1990s. Bondholders haven't been paid since a bankrupt United Airlines abandoned the facility in 2003, and are still owed $170 million plus interest from the $220 million bond issue.
The airport's biggest tenant today is AAR Corp., an Illinois-based aircraft maintenance firm. The airport signed a 10-year lease with AAR for 10 of the maintenance center's 12 hangar bays in 2004.   
The lease includes a profit-sharing arrangement that requires AAR to turn over to the airport a third of its operating profits that exceed 9.25 percent of gross sales at the facility. The lease also allows the airport to audit AAR annually to make sure it's following the profit-sharing arrangement.   
Airport and AAR officials say the company's profits have never met the profit-sharing threshold. 
Chris Mason, a spokesman for AAR, declined to provide The Star with financial information about the facility, but said the Indianapolis maintenance center is more costly to operate than any of the company's other facilities. 
"As such, we have never met the annual threshold for operating profit or as a result owed payments under the provision," he said.
But some bondholders are suspicious of that claim. Scott Connelly, a California investor who owns about 500 bonds, points to AAR's corporate-wide financial statements. Since it began leasing the Indianapolis facility in 2004, the firm's overall revenues have shot up 217 percent, from $652 million to $2.1 billion. The company's financial statements also show that in 2008, its operating margin exceeded 9.25 percent.
The article then goes on to discuss the one audit that was done, five years ago and that that audit does not comply with governmental or public accounting standards.

Sound familiar? It's the exact same situation with the CIB and the Pacers. The Pacers claim to be losing money but won't provide the documentation to back up the team's claim. Meanwhile the CIB doesn't demand that the documentation be produced.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why I Hate Fall

Today, at 10:49 am, Autumn officially arrived. Yuck.  Not a fan.

The bad thing about Indiana is that it is filled with people who actually like this season. They talk about the chill in the air, being able to put on a sweater, have a cup of cocoa, and watch the leaves turn.

To me it is the season of death, a time when everything that was alive and growing over the Spring and Summer is starting to die.  Fall months are filled with cold, overcast, gloomy days. It is the rare Fall day when the sun is shining bright, warming everything up.  It doesn't help that, growing up, the bad things in my life - my father's illness and his passing away, and my mother's illness (from which she thankfully recovered) all happened in the Fall.  I associate the Autumn season with bad things happening.

But what about Football?  Sure I like watching the NFL, but the end of Summer also ushers in the end of my favorite sport, baseball.  Although the baseball playoffs occur in the fall, by the time they end it is generally on the verge of snowing.  Baseball is a great Summer game.  But it is a miserable game to play and watch when it is cold.

But the leaves are turning different colors...they are so pretty!   Let's drive to Brown County and see the leaves!.  Bah, humbug.  I grew up in southeast Indiana, in a county that has a landscape much like Brown County.  I know what Fall leaves look like.

But what about Halloween...isn't that a great holiday?  I loathe Halloween.  (See my Halloween! Bah Humbug! column of a couple years ago.)  I'd rather have a root canal than dress up and go to a Halloween Party.  I generally find "scary movies" to be boring.  But the worst thing of all is when children, complete strangers, come knocking on my door demanding "treats" lest they play a "trick" on me.  That is called extortion and it is a crime.  Get off my lawn, kids!

The worst thing is that Fall is the gateway to snowy, bitterly cold Winter which I detest even more..  But at least with Winter, unlike Fall, you have the promise of Spring just around the corner. 

I love Spring. The season represents new beginnings.  All of nature greenery that died in the previous seasons is reborn in the Spring.  Things that happened good in my life - new jobs, new opportunities - almost all happened in the Spring.  So I associate the season with favorable personal experiences.

I also love Summer.  Even the extraordinary heat this year didn't bother me.  I'll take a 100 degrees over zero any day of the week.  Love hot weather. There is a reason that people move South to retire versus going North.  As you get older, you appreciate the cold weather of the Midwest less and less.

Yeah, Fall is here. Big whoop dee doo.  My Autumn plans  are to watch my Reds win the World Series then go into hibernation until spring training starts in the Spring.  As far as the Fall and Winter seasons, wake me when they're over.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Press Release: Attorney for Community Activist Announces Plan to Continue Lawsuit Against Downtown TIF Proposal

Contact Person:         
 
Paul K. Ogden, Attorney at Law
317-297-9720

Date:   September 21, 2012
 
On Monday, the Indianapolis City-County Council, at the encouragement of Council President Maggie Lewis, voted to send Proposal 15, the controversial downtown TIF expansion proposal, back to the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee ("MEDC). 

This action was taken following a lawsuit filed on Monday by community activist Clarke Kahlo claiming the proposal was untabled after a six month deadline for doing so had passed, the proposal was not properly amended in committee, and the public was denied the chance to speak on the proposal. 

Today, public notice was issued that the MEDC plans to take public testimony on Proposal 15 on Monday, September 24,at 5:30 pm in the City-County Building, Room 260. 

Counsel for Plaintiff Kahlo, Paul K. Ogden, responded to the public notice, indicating an intent to proceed with the lawsuit should the committee attempt to hear the measure in violation of the law: 
 
"While we deeply appreciate the leadership of Council President Lewis as well as the support of those who voted to send the proposal back to committee, the fact remains that Proposal 15 has been tabled for more than six months and cannot legally be considered by the Council," said Ogden.   Rather than proceed with Proposal 15 that will be, at best, in legal limbo until a Court rules, the right and legal thing to do is to re-introduce the measure as if it were a new proposal.  No one is above following the law, including Councilors Osili and Simpson." 

To review the timeline of events, Proposal 15 was introduced by Councilors Vop Osili and Joseph Simpson at the January 9, 2012 meeting of the council   At a February 6, 2012 meeting of the MEDC, Councilor Osili successfully moved that the Proposals 15 and 16 (the latter is a proposed TIF district in the Meadows area) be tabled.   

Section 151-30 of the Revised Municipal Code states: 

If a proposal is tabled by a committee and no action is taken to remove it from the table or to reassign it during a period of six (6) months, the proposal shall be deemed postponed indefinitely and shall be removed from the calendar of pending proposals.

That six month deadline to consider Proposals 15 and 16 expired on August 6, 2012, a full three weeks before MEDC explicitly voted, pursuant to Councilor Osili's Motion, to take Proposal 15 off the table at the August 27, 2012 meeting of the MEDC. The lawsuit alleges that Proposal 15 is dead and should be removed the calendar of pending proposals.  The legal complaint also notes that Proposal 16, which is in the identical status as Proposal 15, has been removed from the calendar of pending proposals pursuant to Section 151-30. 

Proposal 15 seeks to expand the consolidated downtown TIF in two directions - to the east by 112 acres for the purported purpose of financing development on 0.8 acres on Massachusetts Avenue and to the west by 604 acres to finance the development of a couple acres near the old Bush Stadium. 

Kahlo's lawsuit notes that many of the 45 TIF districts in Indianapolis are underperforming and take property taxes away from schools, libraries, parks and public safety.  The lawsuit also discusses that the TIF Study Commission found that there is little transparency and oversight when it comes to the Indianapolis TIF districts.  

            **                    **                    **                    **                    **                    **

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What is Going on With This Week's Mysterious Stock Surge by Angie's List?

Very odd.

Angie's List stock over the past week is up 18%.  The stock which had only recently been as low as $8.94 a share earlier this month had risen as high as $12.15 

The stock which had opened at $18 a share in its initial public offering in November 2011, reached its high point of $19.82 in late March of 2012, before beginning a steady decline this summer.  Now, as Fall beckons, the stock suddenly surge.

When the stock rapidly fell in August there was an explanation.  On the 14th of that month all the company's stock became freely traded and the additional stock flooding the market caused it  to go lower.  So that explained the sharp August decline, albeit not the more long term decline.

I looked for the breaking news that would explain the sudden September surge and couldn't find anything.   I did find this article on the IStockAnalyst blog from today that is positive on Angie's List. suggesting that the company could deliver multi-year EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.).  Yeah, good luck with that.  The company has lost money for 17 consecutive years and is based on an outdated business model.

Interestingly MSN Money has six analysts who rate Angie's List as a "strong buy," another rates it as a "moderate buy" while only one analyst suggests selling, i.e. is a "strong sell."

Battle Brews in Broad Ripple: Arts Community Wants to Make Historic Central Canal Towpath an "Arts Destination"


The proposal is called Arts2Arts. The idea is to place public art along the Indianapolis Canal Towpath, that scenic trail that runs along the canal through midtown Indianapolis, in order to make it a "destination" for the arts. The Canal Towpath has been a popular spot for joggers, dog walkers and bike riders who live in the Broad Ripple area. 

The proposal has sparked a battle pitting the Indianapolis arts community versus nature preservationists and history buffs. The latter groups want the canal protected. 


The Arts2Arts proponents have a glossy presentation on-line about the proposal. Ironically the presentation provides so many wonderful pictures of nature along the towpath as well as detailed history that it actually undercuts the concept. Reading that, I have to wonder why anyone would want to clutter the Canal Towpath with "public art." 

Not surprisingly, the Broad Ripple Village Association, which supported the elimination of two lanes of traffic on Broad Ripple Avenue in favor of barley used bike lanes, supports the idea.  It is a wonder that the good people of Broad Ripple do not run BRVA out of the village since the group seems to care so little for the people who actually live and work in the Village.

Meanwhile the Arts2Arts idea has flagged opposition.  A group called Save Our Scenic Central Canal has been formed to oppose the idea and has a website up and running.  Just this month, SOSCC released a statement on the Arts2Arts idea:

Case Statement for Preserving the Canal and Towpath for Future Generations

by Save Our Scenic Central Canal
September 4, 2012

Save Our Scenic Central Canal was formed in the summer of 2012 to oppose a plan that would fundamentally alter the nature of the Indianapolis Central Canal and towpath. The plan, dubbed Art2Art, would create an “arts walk” along the towpath, nominally linking the Indianapolis Arts Center to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The plan envisions architectural installations, sculpture, painted and digital media, interactive media, functional design elements, and new access points to adjacent property in order to “make the trail more enjoyable and more of a destination.”
Far from making the trail more enjoyable, we believe the Art2Art plan is a threat to the towpath’s preservation as a recreational trail, historic landmark, and place of scenic beauty. Henry David Thoreau said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” By sharing the following reasons for opposing Art2Art, we seek to build support for our position that the canal and towpath should be left alone so that future generations can enjoy it as it is today.
1. The natural beauty of the towpath deserves protection from development, including art installations. People visit parks, forests, trails, and yes, even urban greenspace, for its natural scenery. There are fewer and fewer such places.
2. Art along the less traveled areas is bound to attract vandals and graffiti artists, thus further spoiling the landscape. Unauthorized graffiti tagging of sculptures, monuments, and public art is a growing problem across the country.
3. Elements of the Art2Art plan would affect wildlife habitat. For example, the plan recommends the removal of some streamside vegetation in order to open up the view. Clearing of vegetation and increased traffic that would occur along the towpath would threaten the habitat of frogs, turtles and birds, including the great blue heron.
4. The canal and crushed-limestone towpath are rare historic artifacts that should be preserved to the extent possible as they appeared in 1839. The Canal Society of Indiana notes, “This stretch of canal, with the exception of bridges and streets which have been erected over and adjoining the canal, remains close to that which was originally dug in Indiana.” Placing art along the towpath would diminish its historic value.
5. There is no public demand for art along the towpath. No survey has been conducted that would suggest support for the idea. Instead a small group of “art movers and shakers” proposed the plan and are advocating for its implementation directly to Citizens Energy Group, which owns the towpath. The public needs ample opportunity to voice opinions about this project before it is foisted upon them.
6. Acts of creating places of “destination” often create unintended consequences for neighbors. As one local example, zoning variances granted for the retail corner at 49th and Pennsylvania streets boosted economic activity as intended, but led to significant overloading of parking on residential streets and increased traffic volumes and speeds. We can expect similar unintended consequences if the towpath becomes an art corridor. Not only would parking be problematic, but those who use the towpath for hiking, biking, and dog walking would face new obstacles and risks from the additional usage.
7. Recent news and editorial coverage in The Indianapolis Star spotlighted the relatively poor ranking of the Indianapolis Parks system nationally and the deterioration of park facilities and lack of maintenance. Public art requires maintenance, and, eventually, removal and restoration of the site. Public art installations would possibly become an added responsibility for the city or Citizens Energy. Fiscal resources would be better spent on maintaining the aging park facilities that we already have.
8. The canal has functioned for many generations as one of the city’s most important water sources, carrying water from the White River to the water treatment plant where it is purified for customers. It is also currently enjoyed by the community as a place for quiet repose and reflection. There is no compelling reason to diminish or eliminate that by making it “more of a destination.”
9. In the eyes of many, the canal towpath is already art and cannot be improved upon, and certainly not by the installation of “public art” over which there is no critical public review process. The siting and character of public art is almost always controversial because quality is in the eye of the beholder. It’s notable that plein air painters regularly use the unadulterated scenic canal for their work. One of their favorite locations would be altered by the addition of public art.
Instead of intrusive public art, we support the continued preservation of greenspace and the scenic and historic qualities that make the Central Canal towpath a special place in Indianapolis. We would consider supporting selected basic towpath enhancements, such as safety features and native plantings, which do not distract from the bucolic setting and provided that they would be submitted for public review.
Public art is a vital and inspirational element in any civilized society. However, undisturbed nature, especially in an age of unbridled development, is even more vital and inspirational. Indianapolis has many other locations for public art that are more appropriate than the towpath. To learn more about Save Our Scenic Central Canal, visit savecentralcanal.wordpress.com.
***                            
An Arts2Arts supporter offered the comment on the SOSCC blog suggesting that the group wait until after there is a formal proposal to offer opposition to Arts2Arts.  Hopefully SOSCC won't take the bait.  The way things are done in this city is that deals are cut and projects developed behind closed doors.  By the time a project like Arts2Arts is presented to the public for a "dog and pony show" it is a done deal. The wheels will have been greased and time for any real opposition will be over.

The SOSCC needs to fight this dumb proposal NOW. 

Hmmm, a fight between our elitist local arts community, which always has its hand out for more of our tax dollars, versus nature buffs and history preservationists. It is not a hard figuring out which side I am going to support.

John Gregg's Folksy Ads Are Not Working

As I worked all day on a federal court brief, other bloggers began to weigh in on Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg's latest ad, a spot with "rain" being poured on an umbrella he is holding to symbolize his allegation that his opponent, Mike Pence, wants to cut into the Rainy Day Fund.



Some challenged the ad's veracity while others questioned whether the folksy approach in Gregg's ads is working.  Given my brain is fried from a full day of work (got that brief filed by midnight...thank you federal court electronic filing), I'll concentrate on the easy one - whether the ads are working.  They are not.

When I saw Gregg's first folksy ad (by my count he is up to four such ads now), I thought it was a mistimed attempt at humor and that he would move on to more serious commercials.  Weeks later I am still waiting for that first serious ad.  I don't begrudge Gregg trying to make viewers laugh while selling his political message.  I think humor is an overlooked tool for a candidate to use when hitting an opponent with a negative spot, while hoping to avoid the backlash that inevitably comes with such an attack.


The trouble is John Gregg never introduced himself to the voters. While many politicos at the Statehouse know Gregg as the former Democratic Speaker and like him, the average person has no idea who he is.  Then their first introduction to him through the folksy ads leaves voters with the impression that he is a country bumpkin who perhaps is not terribly smart.  Of course, that is not accurate.  John Gregg is a very smart and successful politician and attorney.  But the ads don't tell people that.  Voters want to support someone for Governor who is smarter and more successful than they are.  Gregg has yet to show that he is.

John Gregg should have introduced himself to Indiana voters as a serious candidate, someone with the intellect and ideas necessary to be a successful Governor.  Then along the way he could have dabbled in some humor to take the sting off negative attacks against his opponent. (Though appearing as the narrator in a negative ad against an opponent as Gregg does in these spots is at best a questionable strategy.)  But folksy, and not terribly clever or funny, ads certainly should not have been the medium by which he introduced himself to Indiana voters.

I would add one other thing.  The ads could be interpreted in a far different way than Gregg intends.  One could look at those ads and say Gregg is representing Hoosiers as simple, backwards folks.  Insulting people from Indiana is not a way to get their vote.  While I don't believe for a second that is what he intends, that is the way a lot of Hoosiers are going to view the ads.

I don't normally say an election is over with six weeks, an eternity in the political world, left to go.  But for Gregg to succeed, he would to dramatically change his strategy, completely redefine himself, define his opponent, and then sell the voters on his vision...all in six weeks on a shoe string budget. I don't see how will be able to do that.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Romney Follows in Obama's Footsteps in Making Statement Ridiculing Average Americans

William Kristol of the Weekly Standard pens an article noting the similarity between Mitt Romney's statement that 47% of Americans who don't pay income taxes are dependent on government and wouldn't support him anyway with a statement then presidential candidate Barack Obama made four years ago in which he ridiculed Democratic voters who might vote for his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who had a much stronger appeal to blue collar workers:
Mitt Romney
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Obama's statement at the time was rightly seen as a gaffe as is Romney's.  Both displayed an ignorance of who their potential voters might be.  For Romney, many of those 47% he managed to insult would, and still may be, his voters on November 6th.  There are a lot of senior citizens, the unemployed who can't find jobs, students getting an education to improve their chances in the economy, who are Republicans but are not now paying income taxes.

The fact is both Obama and Romney are elitists, candidates who do not have a strong appeal to working-class Americans.  That Romney would make a gaffe is nor terribly surprising.  He spent the primary season stumbling from one gaffe to another, despite facing an extraordinarily weak field of opponents.  Romney's real weakness is that he is firmly entrenched in the old-line GOP establishment.  His 47% statement is the antithesis of the populist principles represented by Tea Party Republicans and Reagan Democrats.

The GOP missed a golden opportunity to nominate a Republican who could appeal to average working Americans.  In the most populist era in decades and facing an opponent who could have easily been cast as someone out of touch with working class Americans, Republicans managed to nominate maybe the least populist Republican in America.  And you know what?  Romney may still win. At the end of the day, this election is about President Obama and the economy. 

Cutting Indiana's Sales Tax: A Columnist's Good Idea

Andrea Neal of the Indiana Policy Institute pens an excellent column criticizing the gubernatorial candidates' tax cut proposals then suggesting one of her own:
Gregg wants to permanently eliminate the state sales tax on gas at a savings to taxpayers of $540 million a year. He figures that rising gas prices are pinching family budgets, and they could use the break.
Pence suggests cutting the state individual income tax by 10 percent, to 3.06 percent, which would save Indiana taxpayers $530 million a year. He says that's a good way to give their money back to taxpayers when the state is collecting more than it needs.   
Both proposals seem off the mark if the goal is to deliver across-the-board relief.   
An impact study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington, D.C., concluded that 12 percent of Hoosiers would "see no benefit" from the Pence plan. Those are lower-income families who don't pay income taxes at all, but do pay sales taxes on most things they buy, groceries and medicine excluded. 
Also, an income tax cut at the state level results, somewhat ironically, in Hoosiers sending more money to Washington. That's because taxpayers who itemize on their federal returns can deduct state and local income taxes. According to the institute, Pence's plan would erase $50 million in itemized deductions.
Gregg's plan suffers from a similar flaw. It would give immediate relief to motorists; yet many of the lowest-income Hoosiers don't own cars and would get no benefit. Plus it gives unwarranted benefit to all those tourists passing through Indiana on their way to elsewhere.
Neal then proceeds to suggest a compromise, a cut of Indiana's sales tax of 7% to 6.5%.  She notes that the cut would cost about the same amount of revenue, yet help all Hoosiers.  Indiana has the second highest sales tax in the country with only California, at 7.25%, being higher. The sales tax now makes up 47% of the revenue for state government.  What Neal doesn't mention is that many local governments have started adopting local sales tax to make that burden even higher.  In Indianapolis, the cost of paying for the sports teams and the convention center drives sales tax up an additional 2% in local restaurants for a total of 9%.

Perhaps the state sales tax could be lowered still further to 6% if sales taxes were gathered on on-line sales.  Contrary to many people's belief, on-line purchases are subject to sales taxes now, it is the just the vendor, unlike with brick and mortar stores, doesn't have to collect them.  Instead Hoosiers are supposed to pay them a "use tax" on Internet purchases at the time they pay their state income tax, but virtually no one does.  Is it a tax increase if you're simply changing the collection method for the tax?  I don't think so.

Neal has a good idea.  Here column is worth a read.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Community Activist Files Lawsuit to Stop TIF Proposal Being Considered in Violation of City Ordinance


Press Release

Community Activist Files Lawsuit to Stop TIF Proposal
Being Considered
in Violation of City Ordinance
 

Contact Person:          Paul K. Ogden, Attorney at Law 
                                     317-297-9720 (office);  pogden297@comcast.net
Date:                              September 17, 2012

Private citizen Clark Kahlo today filed a lawsuit asking that a Court put the brakes on the expansion of the Downtown tax increment financing district.

Kahlo's lawsuit claims that a city ordinance requires that tabled motions be removed from the table within six months or they are considered dead and have to be removed from the list of pending proposals.  Proposal 15, the downtown TIF expansion proposal which includes Massachusetts Avenue, was tabled by Councilor Vop Osili at the February 6, 2012 meeting of the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee ("MEDC") and not taken off the table until the August 27, 2012 meeting of the MEDC. The lawsuit alleges that the Proposal is dead and that it is a violation of the ordinance for the full Council to consider the Proposal at tonight's meeting.

The lawsuit also notes the MEDC failed to hold a vote on an amendment to the Proposal 15, which amendment reflected a backroom deal to gain the support of additional counselors for the expansion.

Attorney Paul Ogden, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Kahlo, noted the short period of time before the Council's meeting tonight saying:  "I hope that Council President Lewis will do the right thing and pull the proposal from consideration.  In light of the City's ordinance limiting tabled motions to a life of six months, if the Council passes Proposal 15 the measure will be in legal limbo.  The right thing to do is to remove the measure from consideration and have the councilors supporting it to reintroduce it if they so choose."

Proposal 15 seeks to expand the consolidated downtown TIF in two directions - to the east by 112 acres for the purported purpose of financing development on 0.8 acres on Massachusetts Avenue and to the west by 604 acres to finance the development of a couple acres near the old Bush Stadium.

The lawsuit notes that many of the 45 TIF districts in Indianapolis are underperforming and take property taxes away from schools, libraries, parks and public safety.  The lawsuit also discusses that the Indianapolis-Marion County Tax Increment Financing Commission found that there is little transparency and oversight when it comes to the Indianapolis TIF districts. The Commission's several recommendations regarding the creation of TIF districts are on the agenda to be introduced at tonight's meeting.
 
            **                    **                    **                    **                    **                    **

Brian Mahern and His Challenge to the Both Parties' Support of Corporate Welfare

This Sunday the Indianapolis Star published an article on Councilor Brian Mahern and his uncle Ed Mahern, who now heads the Metropolitan Development Commission.  The thrust of the article is that the Maherns are wielding more and more influence and much of that is in opposition to the Mayor Ballard's pro-downtown development agenda.

Anyone who has been around Indianapolis any length of time is familiar with the Mahern surname.  In addition to Brian and Ed Mahern, Ed's son (and Brian's cousin) Dane Mahern served a couple terms on the Council before being defeated in 2011.  Also, Louis Mahern, Brian's father, served as state senator from Indianapolis.

Councilor Brian Mahern
During the summer of 2007, Republican mayoral candidate Greg Ballard's star ascended. as Mayor Ballard's fell.  Ballard campaigned as a populist, someone who would end the downtown-centric philosophy of the Peterson administration (and previous Republican administrations) and put neighborhoods and taxpayers first.  He even seemed cognizant of the schism in local Republican Party between the populist/conservative wing of the party, of which he was a part, and the smaller GOP establishment wing who had long controlled Marion County GOP politics.  On Election Night, Ballard claimed his election brought an end to "country club Republican politics" in Marion County.

Ballard was allowed to campaign as a different type of Republican and argue for a change in course in the City's priorities because, frankly, the GOP establishment, i.e. those country club Republicans that have long run the party, didn't think he had a chance to win until the very end.

Election Night was the last anyone ever saw of the populist/conservative Ballard.  Witnesses at the victory celebration saw Marion County GOP insiders corner the Mayor on Election Night.  A few days later driving to Southern Indiana to Southern Indiana, Ballard was in the back seat between two Republican attorney insiders who were trying to persuade the mayor-elect they should run things in his new administration.   Although on the outside during the election, the GOP establishment types immediately seized control of the Ballard transition team and have run the Ballard administration ever since.  Not only did Ballard not bring an end to country club Republican politics in Marion County, he has taken it to new heights during his administration.

Democrats, who found themselves in the minority on the council following the 2007 election, failed to attack Ballard where he was most vulnerable - the populist/conservative issues Ballard was elected on but quickly abandoned.  Then with the Council Democrats failing to lay the groundwork for 2011 mayoral campaign, the Democrats nominated a candidate, Melina Kennedy who failed to attack Ballard on things like the 50 year parking meter deal, the giveaway of the taxpayer-funded Broad Ripple Parking Garage, the $33.5 million gift of property taxes to the Pacers, the lavish junkets Ballard was taking with the dubious claim of economic development, etc.

Upon reflection, Kennedy's failure to address those issues should not have been surprising.  Indianapolis politics is dominated by a group of business, legal and political insiders who have long profited off of taxpayer subsidies, regardless of party.  Kennedy, a former candidate for Marion County Prosecutor who came from a big law firm that benefited from the status quo, wasn't willing to win the election if the cost of victory was to challenge the Indianapolis elite who runs things.  Some might say she was, and still is, part of that elite.

A Democratic mayoral candidate who is willing to say that we need to change direction, that we need to stop subsidizing downtown developers and instead put that money toward school, parks, libraries, public safety, and the neighborhoods, would have enormous appeal to not only Democrats but also to fiscally conservative Republicans who are sick of City leaders' love affair with corporate welfare and the giveaway of our tax dollars to downtown developers.  The trouble Carmel has with its TIF districts and the debt those districts have wrought in the name of development, is the future of Indianapolis.  For anyone who has read bloggers Pat Andrews' numerous stories exposing the problems with Indianapolis' TIF districts and compare it to the budget shortfall, some might say the City's long time practice of misplaced priorities are the proverbial chickens starting to come home to roost.

Enter the picture Councilor Brian Mahern.   For those of us fiscal conservatives unhappy with the constant giveaway of our tax dollars by Indianapolis Mayors to private developers, Mahern, even though a Democrat, is a breath of fresh air, someone who appears willing to take on the downtown establishment that has long controlled Indianapolis politics regardless of which party has the Mayor's office.  His most recent venture is challenging the out-of-control TIFs which have become a drain on funding municipal services.  Worse for conservatives is that the expansion of TIFs inevitably leads to budget shortfalls and more taxes.

Mahern is acting as a responsible steward of our tax dollars, something we conservatives should applaud.  I hope the Democrats nominate him for Indianapolis Mayor in 2015. I likewise hope Republicans nominate someone who will commit to stopping the corporate welfare policies of this administration and previous administrations.  Being a Republican does not mean giving our tax dollars to private developers.  It means responsibly funding services like public safety and cutting taxes whenever possible. 

I have no doubt the popularity in a general election of a mayoral candidate's message that emphasized neighborhoods and a need to reset the City's priorities away from the wishes of politically-connected developers and toward the provision of basic services.  The problem though Mahern and such a fiscally-responsible Republican mayoral candidate face is getting the nomination of their respective parties with a message that challenges the status quo.   Although small in numbers, the city's business and legal power brokers exercise inordinate influence in the nomination process, helped out in no small part by the local parties "slating" candidates, a process in which the county chairmen pick over 80% of the people who get to vote on such endorsements.

I still do not  believe the parties will nominate someone like Mahern who challenges the City's longtime practice of increased public subsidies for downtown private developers in favor of concentrating on neighborhoods, funding basic services, and keeping taxes low.  I can always hope though.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Council Prepares to Violate Law to Hear Mass Ave Expansion of Downtown TIF

The City's politically-connected developers want a bigger slush fund for their projects and they're not about to let a thing like the law get in their way.

Councilor Mary
Moriarity Adams
The City-County Council's agenda for Monday includes Proposition 15, the expansion of the consolidated downtown TIF district.  Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy describes:
This is the proposal for which we know little beyond the foot print for the 112 acre expansion to the east and the 614 acre expansion to the west and a deal worked out behind closed doors between Deron Kintner and Vop Osili.
The only thing is that the proposal was dead when it was heard by the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee.

Section 151-30 of the Revised Municipal Code requires that tabled motions be heard in six months or they are considered dead:
If a proposal is tabled by a committee and no action is taken to remove it from the table or to reassign it during a period of six (6) months, the proposal shall be deemed postponed indefinitely and shall be removed from the calendar of pending proposals.
During the Committee hearing on August 27, 2012, Vop Osili moved to untable Proposal 15.   (Start at about 1:30 of the video.)  But he tabled it on February 6, 2012. That is more than six months.


Get Microsoft Silverlight


Now some are apparently trying to get around Section 151-30 by saying Proposal 15 was just "postponed" not "tabled." Two problems there. First, the definition of "table" means to "postpone." (See definition #20 in Dictionary.com.)  Second, Osili and the committee explicitly acted to "untable" Proposal 15. To try to now claim they were doing something else is incredibly disingenuous.

Another problem: Councilor Mary Moriarity-Adams, who seized control of the committee when Chairman Steve Tally left the room, screwed up.  She needed to: 1) hold a vote to untable the motion; 2) hold a vote to amend the proposal; and 3) hold a vote on the amended proposal.  She failed to do #2, i.e. the vote on amending the proposal.

If the Council proceeds to hear Proposal #15, without the proper procedure being followed, the door is being opened to a legal challenge. The best thing to do is to reintroduce it, as required by the rules, and have it sent to a committee for consideration.

Commissary Payments to Former Sheriffs and Sheriff's Law Firm Violate Indiana Law

It is good that the payments to former Marion County Sheriffs Frank Anderson and Jack Cottey are getting scrutiny.

Former Marion County
Sheriff Frank Anderson
Unfortunately, the media coverage is missing a major point.  While their employment is debatable, what is not debatable is that payments to the former Sheriffs and the Sheriff's law firm violates Indiana law.

Sheriffs Anderson and Cottey and the law firm Frost Brown Todd, who employs the Sheriff Jon Layton and former Sheriff Anderson's attorney Kevin Murray, have their salaries and fees paid out of the Marion County Jail Commissary Fund.  However, Indiana law only allows certain expenditures to be made out of the Commissary fund and payments to the former sheriffs and law firm fees are not on the list.  Allowable commissary expenses are outlined in IC 36-11-10-1(d):
(d) The sheriff, or the sheriff's designee, at the sheriff's or the sheriff's designee's discretion and without appropriation by the county fiscal body, may disburse money from the fund for: 
Kevin Murray, Partner
with Frost Brown Todd

(1) merchandise for resale to inmates through the commissary;
(2) expenses of operating the commissary, including, but not limited to, facilities and personnel;
(3) special training in law enforcement for employees of the sheriff's department;
(4) equipment installed in the county jail;
(5) equipment, including vehicles and computers, computer software, communication devices, office machinery and furnishings, cameras and photographic equipment, animals, animal training, holding and feeding equipment and supplies, or attire used by an employee of the sheriff's department in the course of the employee's official duties;
(6) an activity provided to maintain order and discipline among the inmates of the county jail;
(7) an activity or program of the sheriff's department intended to reduce or prevent occurrences of criminal activity, including the following:
(A) Substance abuse.
(B) Child abuse.
(C) Domestic violence.
(D) Drinking and driving.
(E) Juvenile delinquency;
(8) expenses related to the establishment, operation, or maintenance of the sex and violent offender registry web site under IC 36-2-13-5.5; or
(9) any other purpose that benefits the sheriff's department that is mutually agreed upon by the county fiscal body and the county sheriff.
Money disbursed from the fund under this subsection must be supplemental or in addition to, rather than a replacement for, regular appropriations made to carry out the purposes listed in subdivisions (1) through (8).
Nothing in IC 36-11-10-1(d) allows payments to the former Sheriffs or to the the Sheriff's lawyer or law firm.  Even if by some tortured reading of the statute a justification was found, the payments have to be a supplement to funds already legally appropriated for those purposes.

Unfortunately, Marion County Sheriffs have ignored the restrictions on the use of the commissary fund for years.  While abuses of the fund under Sheriff Anderson have received mainstream media coverage, no action has ever been taken to stop the abuse.   It is time that State officials step in and require our local law enforcement officials and their attorneys to follow the law.

See Ogden on Politics columns:

Thursday, October 22, 2009:  The Jail Commissary Fund, Part I: Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson Violates Indiana Law to Pay Private Law Firm

Monday, October 26, 2009:  The Jail Commissary Fund, Part II: Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson Violates Indiana Law to Pay Accounting and PR Firm Out of Jail Commissary Fund'

Wednesday, October 28, 2009: The Jail Commissary Fund, Part III: Need Money to Buy Plaques or Attend a Fundraiser? Just Dip Into the Jail Commissary Fund

See WRTV reports:

Auditors Questioned Sheriff's Donations Years Ago

Some Question Sheriff's Donations from Jail Funds

Councilor Questions Discretion Of Sheriff's Donations

There have been other media reports about the Sheriff's abuse of the jail commissary fund, but they may no longer be available on the Internet.  I did, however, find a new article about the abuse of the commissary fund in Lake County:

July 16, 2011, Lake commissary cash used for myriad functions for years with little oversight