Huston: Indy Soccer Stadium
by Tom Charles Huston
Insofar as the proposed soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven is concerned, don’t believe a thing you are told by its proponents or their mouthpieces at the Indianapolis Star. They are in a Putin frame of mind, and if you are inclined to believe that the Legislature has the slightest interest in protecting taxpayers from the rapacious grip of Ersal Ozdemir and his fellow schemers, you have lost contact with reality.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday adopted an amendment to the stadium-authorizing legislation offered by Democrat Ed DeLaney that requires a limited guarantee of public indebtedness incurred to finance the stadium. His stated intention is that the public not be “left to foot the bill for an underused or empty stadium.” Actually, his proposal won’t do any such thing because it incorporates no requirement that the guarantor possess assets of a minimum amount. Unfortunately, DeLaney has spent his legal career as a litigator, and he doesn’t understand the fine art of theft through public-private deal-making.
As to these statements, I simply blanch in embarrassment for my friend and former law partner: DeLaney said he didn’t ask for a 100 percent guarantee because he wanted a “fair and measured approach . . . I’m trying to be realistic and make sure there’s a substantial commitment without saying one party to the transaction — be it the state, the owner or the league or the city — is stuck with all the responsibility.”
Studiously avoiding any argument why the state or the city should be stuck with any responsibility for a stadium designed solely to benefit private interests, DeLaney is oblivious to the reality that the only obligor/guarantor who is going to be of interest to buyers of bonds issued to finance the stadium is the deep-pocketed Capital Improvements Board. Any guaranty from others will be simply window-dressing for boobs.
The assurance by the bill’s sponsor of transparency in financing the proposed soccer stadium rings hollow to anyone who hasn’t been asleep or on the take for the past seven years. Mayor Greg Ballard has refused to turn over documentation relating to either the special-operations center lease or the financing structure for the proposed criminal-justice center (both multi-million dollar deals) and has conducted as much of the public business in secret as his handlers thought he could get away with.
I gather from the Indianapolis Star report that taxpayers are expected to sleep better knowing that the legislators orchestrating this hand-out to special interests are committed to “making sure state taxpayers are at mitigated risk.” This is typical no-doze for idiots, but why taxpayers should be at any risk or who profits from this assumption of risk are not questions that interest a Star reporter.
I am undecided whether those pushing this scheme are in on the action or are simply reading from a script prepared by the lobbyists (which, incidentally, include every major lobbying outfit in Indianapolis).
Take, for example, the amendment that prohibits stadium money from going toward Ozdemir’s hotel. Since no one has ever suggested the diversion of money for this purpose, the amendment makes as much sense as one providing that no stadium skybox tickets may be given gratis to Tom Huston, his heirs or devisees.
The hotel in question is that planned by Ozdemir for the to-be-rehabilitated Illinois Building, which is located a half block west of the Circle (and is far removed from the site of the proposed soccer stadium). It fits into the stadium picture because the authorizing legislation provides that the hotel will be included in a special taxing district, which will be one of the sources of repayment of the bonds. Under this legislation, property-tax revenues from the hotel otherwise available for public safety and education purposes will be diverted to finance Ozdemir’s stadium, and the amendment does absolutely nothing to change this.
So phony is this amendment that it gets the flow of cash ass-backward: The problem isn’t money going from the stadium to the hotel; it is tax revenue going from the hotel to the stadium.
The scope of the conspiracy to hoodwink the public is much broader than merely the plan to finance a soccer stadium for private benefit. The creation of the new White River Revitalization District, which would encompass the land west of the river currently occupied by the former GM Stamping Plant (and the proposed site of the Criminal Justice Center and a Dave Lucas concert venue), and the expansion of the Downtown TIF District to include a large area surrounding Lucas Stadium, will effectively transfer millions of dollars in property taxes to a slush fund controlled by the mayor. Taxes from new development in this vast area will not be available for customary uses such as paying for police and fire protection or for the education of children, but for further payoffs to the special interests that currently control and profit from downtown development.
It is certainly true that the measure before the House is merely “enabling” legislation: It will enable Ozdemir and his cronies to continue the rape of taxpayers that Mayor Ballard has enabled over the past seven years and that, apparently, the new Democratic administration of Joe Hogsett intends to also facilitate. Millions of dollars in fees and commissions will continue to flow to favored law firms and their engineering and construction company clients. In the meantime, the legislators who expedite this fraud upon the public will continue to profess their commitment to free-market principles.
Lady Liberty weeps.
Tom Charles Huston, A.B., J.D., an adjunct scholar of the foundation who resides in Indianapolis, has written and lectured extensively on real-estate law and practice. Huston is prominent in the historic-preservation movement, and served as an officer and director of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana and Historic Indianapolis Inc., a director of Preservation Action and a member of the Board of Advisers of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.