First, Ballard lost an attempt to keep alive the $1.75 billion Justice Center that unnecessarily featured a third party, WMB Heartland Justice Partners, building the facility and acting as the city's landlord for 30 years. An independent analysis of the project indicated that, contrary to administration's claims, the project would be tens of millions of dollars in the red after just a few years, necessitating a tax increase. Of course, Ballard, who has pushed for 40 plus tax and fee increases during his seven plus years in office, would not have a problem with that.
Second, Ballard suffered an even bigger blow when the council voted 23-6 to sue the Ballard administration over it entering into a no bid contract with Vision Fleet to rent 425 electric vehicles. Vision Fleet would be responsible for maintaining the vehicles. The Indianapolis Star reports:
Council attorney Fred Biesecker said the city illegally entered a no-bid agreement with Vision Fleet. The contract should have been bid because it was a purchasing agreement
"The administration doesn't get to ignore state and local procurement law," Biesecker said in an email to The Indianapolis Star. "This contract should have been competed."Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana sums up concisely the fiasco involved in the execution of the Vision Fleet
The administration initially entered into a no-bid lease agreement with Vision Fleet but later entered into a second agreement masked as a services agreement with the company after it realized the original lease agreement could not be characterized as a services agreement exempt from public bidding laws. City officials backdated contract documents to make it appear the second contract had been entered into months earlier than it actually had been entered. In so doing, it failed to revoke the original contract. The Marion Co. Auditor's Office also learned that the administration had illegally tapped [$293,000 in] storm water funds to pay for some of the costs associated with the contract.Biesicker claims that the administration violated five state and local laws in its handling of the matter.
What gets lost in the shuffle of the illegality of the Ballard administration's actions, is the fact that the deal is certainly not good for taxpayers. Ballard claims that the deal saves taxpayers $8.7 million. That claim is based on an estimate that the city spends $9,010 per year per gas-operated car while the electric cars only cost $7,380 a year to operate.
These estimates are based on a claim that Indianapolis owning and operating a fleet of cars costs 75 cents a mile. This is despite the fact that the IRS standard mileage deduction for 2015 is only 57.5 cents. Meanwhile, the city claims it can lease electric cars, mostly Chevy Volts, not directly from a dealer, but from a newly-created company, which will only end up costing 65 cents a mile, assuming of course the cars are driven a considerable amount of miles per year. Because members of the Department of Safety, chiefly police officers, are amassing the kind of miles necessary to make the numbers even look plausible, they are the ones assigned the car. As we found out from the council hearings on the subject, the cars are entirely unsuitable for police work.
Bottom line is that if using electric cars was cheaper than gas powered vehicles, other cities would have gone to an electric fleet. Instead Indianapolis is the first city to attempt that transition. If the Mayor wants to sell the transition as good for the environment or a step toward reducing dependence on foreign oil, he should make that case. Instead, he chooses to continue with the false narrative that the electric cars are about saving taxpayer money. Clearly that is not true.
With seven months to go, the Ballard administration is clearly dead in the water. The best the remaining members of that administration can hope for is that the FBI doesn't come knocking on their door to talk to them about all the illegal shenanigans that have been pulled to put taxpayer money into the pockets of politically-connected companies.