Mayor Ballard’s Land Bank Scandal

Required reading:

11-03-2012 IBJ-Cory Schouten: City bans bulk land-bank sales after lopsided deal with not-for-profit

05-21-2013 IBJ-Cory Schouten: FBI searches City-County Building, makes multiple arrests in Land Bank probe

05-21-2013 IBJ-Cory Schouten: Feds used wire tap, undercover agent in Land Bank probe

05-21-2013 Indy Star-Dan Carpenter: Indy Land Bank indictments may be too late for neighborhoods

05-21-2013 Indy Star-Matthew Tully: Your scandal is here, Mayor Greg Ballard – but you’re not

05-23-2013 Sheila Kennedy: Ship to Shore
Apologies to Sheila for quoting such a large chunk of her article (please read the whole thing):

The only thing worse than a chief executive who knows very little is a chief executive who knows very little but thinks he knows a lot.

We had a chance last year to replace Ballard with someone who actually knew what a city was, but for a variety of reasons (including but not limited to gender) we re-instated Mr. Clueless.

So we have a Mayor who is absent from the legislature when that body is debating issues of great importance to Indianapolis. We have a Mayor who sees no reason to communicate with the City-County Counsel (conveniently, his cronies in the General Assembly have now relieved him of that obligation).

We have a Mayor who relishes traveling with an outsized entourage but who can’t be bothered to supervise—or even understand—what city departments are doing.

We have a Mayor who hires people who are too young and inexperienced to know what they’re doing, or to recognize what their boss doesn’t understand.

We have a Mayor who insisted on controlling all public safety personnel, but then lost interest in the hard work of actually providing for the public’s safety–a child Mayor who has ignored a soaring crime rate while focusing on fanciful (and costly) projects like Cricket fields. (China Town didn’t pan out.)

We have a Mayor who is selling significant pieces of the City–making complicated deals with implications he clearly doesn’t understand—deals that benefit clients of cronies at the expense of taxpayers.

We have a Mayor who is not being held accountable for any of this, because local media is effectively AWOL.

So while Ballard sells the city off, unsupervised city employees are selling the city out.

Continue ReadingMayor Ballard’s Land Bank Scandal

All hail Greg Ballard, our new Mayor King

Greg Ballard, Mayor King of Indianapolis

It’s official – Governor Pence signed SB 621, the bill that drastically reworks Indianapolis city government to take power away from the Indianapolis City-County Council and hand it over to the Mayors office. If you want to understand a bit more about what this bill does, read more about it here: [The Brutal Republican Power Grab of Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)]

Congratulations, folks. We now have a Mayor King. You don’t need to worry about what’s going on in city government, because you won’t be able to change it anyway. Your council districts are so gerrymandered that only Republicans can get elected in Marion County, and so much power has been redirected to the Mayors office that the city council and other public offices are rendered impotent anyway.

Also, the rules about how long you have to live in Indianapolis before running for office have been relaxed drastically – so it’s now easy for the white folks who live in Carmel and Fishers and rural areas to “hop the line” and “reside” in Marion County just long enough to get into office and control politics, without actually having to live for very long next to the poors and the blacks and the Mexicans. Because god forbid rich white folks might have to mix with the great unwashed. Rule them via imperial fiefdom – yes. Live next to them? Certainly not.

Continue ReadingAll hail Greg Ballard, our new Mayor King

Greg Ballard: We can’t afford sidewalks (but we can afford a cricket park)

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard

In a Wish-TV news story on a fatal hit-and-run car/pedestrian accident, Mayor Greg Ballard was asked why there are no sidewalks on those streets where there is considerable foot traffic and where this accident and several other pedestrian fatalities have occurred over the years. In response, he said that we need about $800 million dollars worth of work on sidewalks in Indianapolis, and that the city “just doesn’t have enough money to put sidewalks everywhere we want them.”

As I mentioned in a previous post [Mayor Ballard wants cricket venue in Indy, but can we afford it?] Ballard is diverting $6 million dollars from the Department of Public Works funding that fixes broken bridges and crumbling infrastructure to build a cricket facility on the eastside of town, despite the fact that the Indy Parks system has failed repeatedly to maintain basic maintenance on the public parks we already own. But this cricket thing has been a fixation for Greg Ballard since he originally took office, so it’s not surprising that what the Imperial Mayor wants, he gets.

According to the Indy Star, contracts have already been awarded to begin building the controversial park.

In today’s “We Are City” newsletter is this little gem that appears to be promoting this cricket park:

Four? Six? or Out? Even though this is how most Americans view cricket, there are an increasing number of people who view cricket a little differently, and even as an American sport. Perhaps that’s why the Indianapolis Board of Public Works is moving ahead with plans for a 50-acre world sports complex on the far eastside. The complex would eventually include facilities for gaelic football, rugby, hurling, and cricket. / tag: sports, international / JB

That little write up gives me pause about “We Are City” and makes me want to take a closer look at who the folks involved in that group are, and how their bread is buttered.

Continue ReadingGreg Ballard: We can’t afford sidewalks (but we can afford a cricket park)

Mayor Ballard wants cricket venue in Indy, but can we afford it?

Taggart Memorial
Taggart Memorial Disrepair, courtesy zoesdare, CC license.

In a move that recalls his repeated “We need a chinatown in Indianapolis” public gaffe from early in his first term, Greg Ballard told business leaders in India today that he wants to build a cricket venue in Indianapolis [Ballard wants cricket venue in Indy, he tells business leaders in India., Indianapolis Star]:

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has told business leaders in India that he plans to build a cricket “stadium” in the Circle City and make the city a prime venue for international cricket events, according to an article today in The Times of India.

But the mayor was referring, a spokesman says, to an existing cricket field and plans to develop a $5.8 million, nearly 50-acre World Sports Park on the city’s Far-Eastside by fall 2014. The plans don’t include permanent seating, but temporary bleachers could seat thousands for events.

“Cricket is not exceptionally strong in the U.S. right now,” Ballard said in India today, according to the Times story. “I need to change that. When people around the world think of cricket, I want them to think of Indianapolis.”

As Louis Mahern helpfully points out, “During the Ballard administration spending on Indy Parks has fallen by 34% and he wants to build a cricket venue. What sort of alternate universe does this guy occupy?”

Indeed – among the many problems with the Indianapolis public park system, during the last few years, Indy has closed a popular public skating rink in Ellenberger Park, allowed an historical monument to an important Indianapolis public figure – Taggart Memorial in Riverside Park – to fall into disrepair and to land on Indiana Landmark’s 10 Most Endangered List, and repeated let the city parks fall behind on (2009) general upkeep of basic services like mowing (2012). We had a heck of a time getting a commitment from the Parks Department to repair the boathouse roof last summer at the Indianapolis Rowing Center, and there are undoubtedly dozens of other examples that could be provided by city residents who make common use of our public parks throughout the year.

So why would we suddenly spend this money on a sport that not many Hoosiers are actively engaged in?

Continue ReadingMayor Ballard wants cricket venue in Indy, but can we afford it?

The Brutal Republican Power Grab of Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

This is an Indiana Senate Bill targeted at Indianapolis and designed to take away a great deal of political voting power of Indianapolis residents. If you are a resident of Indianapolis proper, READ THE TEXT of this bill and see the direct impact this bill has on you. Hell, even if you’re not an Indianapolis resident (Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville) you should be opposing this bill. The bill has passed the Indiana Senate and is poised to go through the Indiana House of Representatives, so contact your Representative. Contact info for your legislators is at the bottom of this post.

I’ve mentioned this bill before in another post, but let me break it down more completely.

It does several really heinous things:

1) removes “at large” city county council seats
The goal of this is clear – to reduce Democratic representation on the city-county council. Indianapolis’ city council districts are gerrrymandered like CRAZY. There are far more Democrats than Republicans in Indianapolis, but Republicans have rigged the districts so well (?) that they keep council seats election season after election season. The only way that Democrats get on the city-county council is through “at large” seats where voters can finally put the people they actually want to represent them in office. Eliminating these “at large” seats is terrible for both parties and serves no justifiable purpose from a pure government point of view, but it definitely helps the Republicans continue to have unfair respresentation in Indianapolis city government. (And a side note – there’s also some serious homophobia driving this. Zach Adamson getting elected to an At-Large City Council seat in Indianapolis really terrifies Republicans, so much so that they are trying to eliminate his seat altogether.)

2) makes changes to the Indianapolis goverment roles
The paragraphs about county treasurer, county auditor, and county assessor and controllers are hard to parse – essentially it gives the mayor a lot more power and removes power from other officials and from the city-county council, which means you have less representation.

3) reduces the amount of time someone must reside in Indianapolis before running for elected office.
There’s never good justification for reducing the amount of time someone should live somewhere before running for political office there. In Indianapolis we have a carpetbagger problem with Republicans who don’t live in Indianapolis moving into the city (sometimes from Hamilton County and other surrounding wealthier counties, but also from outside central Indiana) specificallly to try to get elected office in Indianapolis, where they can try to influence politics for Democrats who have been living in Indianapolis all of their lives. It’s a “have your cake and eat it too” win for Republicans, who don’t want to actually live in Indianapolis, but who want to control the politics here.

4) makes counting absentee ballots more difficult in key counties and eliminates ballots from being counted after polls are closed.
Those three counties in the last paragraph are listed for a reason – they’re heavily Democratic. Forcing absentee ballots to be counted in a central location makes it more likely that ballots will be eliminated, and helps the Republican party.

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Here is the full text of the bill:

Local government issues.

Provides that the consolidated law enforcement department of a county having a consolidated city is a division of the department of public safety under the direction and control of the director of public safety.

Eliminates the requirement that the city-county council approve the director and deputy appointments of the mayor of the consolidated city.

Eliminates provisions that allow the city-county council to require the capital improvement board of managers to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) for deposit in the consolidated county fund.

Allows the mayor of a consolidated city to appoint two additional members to the metropolitan development commission, and eliminates the appointments of the county board of commissioners (consisting of the county treasurer, county auditor, and county assessor).

Allows the controller of the consolidated city and county to allot amounts appropriated to an office, department, or agency of the consolidated city or county.

Effective January 1, 2016, reduces the membership of the city-county council from 29 to 25 members by eliminating the members elected at large.

Requires a candidate for mayor of the consolidated city to reside in the city for at least one year (instead of five years) before taking office.

Requires a candidate for member of the city-county council to reside within the council district for at least one year (instead of two years) before taking office.

Provides that if the division of the county into city-county council districts is reviewed by a panel of judges, the clerk of the court must keep a record of the method and process of selecting the panel and make the record available for public inspection and copying.

Provides that in Marion County, a township board consists of five (instead of seven) members. Provides that members of the initial five member township board are elected at the November 2016 general election.

Requires absentee ballots in Marion, Lake, and Allen counties to be counted at a central location unless the county election board unanimously adopts a resolution that: (1) requires absentee ballots to be counted at individual precincts; and (2) states the county election board’s basis for adopting the requirement.

1) To figure out your district and state legislators visit this link: District Look Up and enter your address. Contact information – usually a phone number and the legislator’s website – is listed. Call their 1-800 number, or visit their website and find contact information for an email.

2013 Update: This bill was passed by the Indiana State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.

Continue ReadingThe Brutal Republican Power Grab of Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Bill introduced in the Indiana State legislature this week:

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

The analysis of this bill by Indy Democrat Blog: “Where to begin? It’s pretty easy. Almost everything in this bill is designed to reduce the power of Democrats in Marion County. From reducing the power of the County Commissioners (the Marion County Treasurer, Assessor, and Auditor) to deleting the At-Large seats on the Council, this bill would, as it stands now, reduce the power of the City-County Council in one majorly blue county.”

This was a bill requested by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to try to control the city-county council. It significantly tilts the balance of power in city government to the mayor and gives them unprecedented and unnecessary control of the city. It’s out-of-bounds.

1) Spread the word: Make sure your friends and family know about SB 621 and how it hurts our city by eliminating the independent power of the City-County Council and the elimination of the four at-large Council seats.

2) Call the Mayor: Media reports have made it clear – Mayor Ballard requested this proposal. Call his office and let him know that you oppose SB 621. His number is (317) 327-3601.

3) Call your state representative and senator: This bill will be heard in the Indiana General Assembly – call your state rep at (317) 232-9600 and senator at (317) 232-9400 and tell them you oppose SB 621.

2013 Update: This bill was passed by the Indiana State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.
Continue ReadingIndiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Indianapolis’ disastrous downtown parking meter deal

This has been a hot topic on facebook and with local blogs for the last couple weeks or so. Mayor Ballard had come up with a deal to privatize parking meters downtown and in the Broadripple Area that basically gives away the baby with the bathwater. The deal is a 50-year contract with a private company to install and maintain the meters, and they will reap the profits from said meters over that time. Prices on the meters will go up. Free nights and weekends will go away – you’ll pay at the meter from 7 am to 9 pm. Residents in Broad Ripple will be required to buy parking permits to park in front of their homes.

Basically the deal is done but will require the city-county council to approve. That has suddenly become more difficult due to some analysis by urban planning guru Aaron Renn of Urbanophile, who looked closely at the details of the deal and wrote two articles, one about how the deal is bad public policy: Parking Meters and the Perils of Privatization

And the other is how this particular deal sucks so bad:

Indy’s “Son of Chicago” Parking Meter Lease to Be a Disaster for City
Lots more detail in both those articles on how everything shakes out. Post the articles which have been circulating widely among policial wonks, many more people have contacted the city-county council to complain about the deal, and they were forced to postpone a discussion in the Rules Committee about it in order to address some of the complains with a response. Downtown businesses are starting to realize how deleterious the affects will be on their business, according to the Indiana Business Journal.

There will apparently be a hearing on September 20th after the regular city-county council meeting.
The city’s “response” to Urbanophile’s articles, which doesn’t offer any arguments of substance and mostly picks nits about the level of detail Aaron got into in his articles, is here:

PDF download – Parking Meter Modernization Will Improve Infrastructure and Spur Economic Activity

Thankfully, Aaron Renn assessed the response and picked that mother apart as well:
Indianapolis Parking Meters – The City’s Response

Contact information for the City-County Council, should you be interested in registering your opinion.

Continue ReadingIndianapolis’ disastrous downtown parking meter deal

Mayor Greg Ballard’s Many Tax Increases

Now that campaign season is rolling around our Mayor Ballard — whose original campaign charge was all about repealing property taxes in Indiana — is hauling out one of his favorite talking points: claiming he held the line on new taxes. Ballard was whipped into office on the froth of the anti-tax rabble after Governor Mitch Daniel’s repeated property tax bungles statewide.

In reality? Not at all true on the “holding the line” claim. The Indianapolis Times puts together the facts, with the help of an observant letter-writer (Melissa De Groff) to the Indianapolis Star:

The statement in the editorial “Recycling beats trash talking,” March 27, that Mayor Greg Ballard has held the line on tax increases simply doesn’t hold water. Ballard was elected on widespread anti-tax sentiment, vowing to repeal the bipartisan-supported income tax hike enacted to fund 200 additional police officers, and promising no new taxes during his administration.

It looked good in the paper. But more than two years into Ballard’s term, Indianapolis residents are still waiting. Instead of a full repeal of the income tax, Ballard delivered a fraction of his promise. Instead of no new taxes, Ballard has solicited 30 tax increases: one sewer rate hike, two water rate hikes and 27 user-fee hikes (“Indianapolis wants to boost user fees,” Dec. 23, 2009). And instead of “holding the line” on city spending, each of Ballard’s budgets have increased the property tax burden on residents.

World-class cities need to push forward continuously, like Eli Lilly and EnerDel do in the corporate world. That’s why additional recycling opportunities merit additional exploration. But “holding the line” won’t cut it, especially when Ballard hasn’t earned the praise.

Continue ReadingMayor Greg Ballard’s Many Tax Increases

Save Public Funding for the Arts

I believe I may have mentioned Mayor Chinatownz recent decision to cut public arts funding 100% over the next 3 years. The city is, unfortunately, running a massive deficit – primarily because Our Man Bitch shifted the burden of many state taxes to local governments to balance the state’s budget (see: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul). Chinatownz ran on a platform of “cutting $70 million in fluff out of the city budget” AND he also unwisely ran as the “law and order candidate” at the same time. Given the recent spike in citizens murdering one another, Chinatownz now has to deliver on his impossible promise if he wants to keep his job. So out come the scissors to snip, snip — and you know what’s going first. Anything that will make our town look like one o’ dem ‘elitist snobs’. The arts budget is a tiny drop in the city budget bucket, but out it has to go, lest it look like we’re one of those limp-wristed, soft on crime cities, or something.

There is a local arts blog asking for signatures to save Indianapolis’ arts budget. Go sign here to add your name. More info from their site:

According to the IBJ and other sources, Indianapolis’ arts funding is in for a great big hit – down to zero in the next three years. For a world-class city such as Indianapolis, I find this unacceptable.

City funding for the arts is largely symbolic; $1.5 million out of a $1.2 BILLION-dollar budget in 2008 (yep, that equals 1% for the arts). But it still is an important symbol of all that is important, or should be, to Indianapolis. The arts represent diversity. Education. Thoughfulness. Creativity. Enrichment. Dialogue and debate. The arts make us think. The arts make us laugh, cry and shout out in protest. Some, like the Arts Council of Indianapolis, can point to studies that link the arts with increased graduation rates and decreased crime.

Continue ReadingSave Public Funding for the Arts