McCarthy: Booster Alert, Indianapolis Business Journal

June 26, 2018

by Fred McCarthy

There are four separate stories in the current issue of the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) with some relation to the city’s use of tax dollars. We’ll cover them by headline in the order they appeared:

“IndyGo Rethinks Electric Bus Buy” — We’ve been told in years of media hype about the planning that has gone into transit generally and the Red Line specifically. Now, quite suddenly, a lengthy story tells us that other cities that have used the same type of electric buses have reverted to diesel because of unsatisfactory results with the electric ones. How did all that study, research and planning happen to miss that information?

But even now IndyGo is going to plunge ahead and purchase them while at the same time buying more standard diesels as replacements. Previously, the question was raised as to the eventual possibility of handling these electric behemoths on streets not sufficiently prepared. No official response.

The penultimate paragraph gives further cause for wonder. Here’s the wording: “. . . one possibility is that they could be put into service on other routes and other IndyGo buses could serve the Red Line.”

Really? Just for starters, what will it cost to buy new or retro-fitted standard diesel buses to be accessible from either side, from raised platforms in mid-street as well as curb level, for space to include bicycles inside the vehicle and for electronic control of stop lights for blocks ahead? All proclaimed as advantages for the Red Line.

“City-County Council Rejects Mile Square Tax Proposal” — This was a proposal for a new tax district in the Mile Square. It did have the advantage of having given those property owners a vote up or down on the deal — admittedly a novel approach in this city. In response to opposition to the idea, we got this kind of specific information: Out of a projected annual revenue of $3 million, $585 thousand would go to “enriching user experience.” Eliminating panhandlers, perhaps?

“City to Pay $1.5M to Review Downtown Real Estate Needs” — We’re only going to question one sentence in this item, “The city will use money available from its Consolidated Redevelopment Allocation Fund to pay . . .” What is the source of these dollars? Is this a budgetary item approved by the city’s legislative body? Or is this what we are now calling the TIF slush fund being handed out by the Redevelopment Commission?

“City Officials Must Address Perceptions about Downtown” — An editorial demanding action from city officials, primarily in response to the tax rejection item above, has a clincher for its last paragraph: “Maybe the Mile Square taxing district wasn’t the right answer to address the problems. But we’re eager to find out what is. City officials: Let us know soon what you have in mind.”

In summary, we’re pretty sure about only one thing. If any of the problems mentioned are to be handled, new and increased taxation will be involved. And we’re equally sure that the paper, editorially and through its “news” columns, will be unquestioning and supportive.

Once again, there will be no review of, nor recommendation to reduce other expenditures to finance these additional dreams (nightmares).

Fred McCarthy, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and editor of the blog indytaxdollars, 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.


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