Op-Ed: Political ‘Decisions’ or Scams?
by Fred McCarthy
I have written about the report that the new mayor of Indianapolis wants to jump into downtown development by taking over the disposal of the old Coke bottling plant. We were raising the question of the “tradition” of mayors showing more interest in downtown development than the wants and needs of the great majority of taxpayers
One of the options under consideration in the Coke plant deal is outright purchase by the city. We don’t know the estimated price of the building and land but it obviously will rise into the multi-million dollar financial stratosphere. We use that phrase intentionally to make a point. The business newspaper tells us that the city can afford only $3 million a year to work on sidewalk problems — 1/250th of the estimated total cost.
But also in the news is that the City-County Council has approved a preliminary step toward a tax increase for the proposed Red Line and other public transportation fixes. The same issue carries an editorial which includes this statement with regard to the Coke plant:
“Politicians who run for mayor typically prioritize neighborhood development and question subsidies for private development projects downtown. Post-election, the necessity of guiding and spurring downtown projects becomes clearer” (read “guiding and spurring” as “controlling”).
Are there any readers who have doubt about the timing of “clarity” of development projects? What becomes clear to any newly elected incumbent is the need to remember who helped financially to get him elected. It wasn’t those folks out there who put their lives in danger by traveling sidewalks and streets needing repair.
The question must certainly arise in this specific instance as to where in the current budget are these millions of dollars available to speculate in real estate. There are, of course, TIF (tax increment financing) dollars to be dealt out and contracts to be signed and grants and abatements to be approved.
It’s not hard to understand how the politician-mayoral candidate can be so “flexible” as to promise hard-to-pay-for sidewalks, for instance,but make an unbudgeted real-estate purchase and, probably, deliver millions upon millions of tax dollars to some downtown real estate developer.
The basic problem, of course, is that we keep electing the type of politician who will follow this questionable practice. Do we do so because we don’t know any better? Are we victims of misinformation? Do we really just not give a darn?
Someone needs to bring to light the amazing similarity of this long-practiced municipal tradition to the old bait-and-switch scam, that is, “sell ‘em one thing, deliver another.”
Fred McCarthy, an adjunct scholar of the foundation and editor of www.indytaxdollars.typepad.com, represented various taxpayer and business organizations before the Indiana General Assembly for 40 years.