McCarthy: ‘Free’ Rides to the Bread and Circus
by Fred McCarthy
Are we about to see just how gullible local taxpayers are? The morning paper tells us “Voters may get say on bus plan” in Indianapolis. The big spenders on the City-County Council there must put a tax referendum on the ballot this fall.
As usual, the pitch will start with intentionally misleading referendum wording so the voters “can have their say.” After 56 words of blather about more taxes needed for “improving,” “establishing,” “connected network” and so on, we get the final sentence: “. . . and implement three new rapid transit lines.”
Is there anyone else who thinks it is strange that the first construction priority, the Palladium-to-Stadium line, falls among those “afterthoughts” mentioned in the referendum?
The truth is Indianapolis might get access to nearly $100-million “free” federal transportation bucks (to put the carrot out front). But after that amount is blown, the local taxpayer will be told on cue by the medias: “It would be foolish to stop here; get out your wallets.”
When the dollars fall short, who is left standing on the curb looking for needed transportation? Certainly not the individual who, along with professional sports, benefits by the presence of new rapid transit directly to the front gate of the football field and basketball court.
Why else does the route come nearly downtown on College Avenue and then veer to the west to wind up at Capitol Avenue and Maryland Street? Will the bus then backtrack toward College Avenue to find its way to the multi-million dollar bus station (or fieldhouse?) before heading further south?
The odds are against a realistic transit system that would benefit those who really do need it. The poor guy/gal still standing on that corner does not have funds to buy a ticket to the ball game, much less make the necessary political payoff that has become standard operation in Indianapolis.
Nor should it be forgotten how frequently tax revenues sold to the public for one program wind up in another pocket. The referendum wording does not mandate the use of the funds only to transit. Will that and other significant questions ever be asked by the media?
Fred McCarthy, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, represented various taxpayer and business organizations before the Indiana General Assembly for 40 years, being awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash by two governors along the way.