It's time for the annual "look back-look forward" essay. An article in the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) dated August 7, 1995, inspired us to do the same - but to expand the time frame.
The headline on the story reads, "City begins wait for mall payoff." The sub-head says, "Making bond payments will be a close call." The third paragraph reads as follows: "The city will make about $12.5 million in bond payments in 1996. Those payments will increase to nearly $25 million in 2005..." As the reader may surmise, that last phrase particularly caught the eye.
How about it, Mayor? Just where do we stand?
There was a spate of "ain't the mall grand" reports for a time after it opened, but there seems to be a shortage of those stories in recent years.
We get a monthly report on our insignificant little portfolio. Isn't it time the taxpayers got a report on the $187 million "investment" city officials made with dollars supplied by those taxpayers?
What is the annual return the city is receiving from this deal? From what specific source(s) is the money derived? For what purpose are these funds being spent by the city?
Equally important is the look ahead. The city has just assumed responsibility for a billion dollar debt. Based on the experience of the last ten years, Mayor, how are we going to come out on that one? Of course we don't have to be too optimistic. We've already been informed by the guy who set us up that such a deal is always financial quicksand for the municipality. At least we can't say they weren't honest in that respect.
And, by the way, Mayor, we'll repeat a previous suggestion. We think it is past time for taxpayers to get an honest report on the rest of their hundreds of millions of dollars the city "invested" over the years.
For instance; What has been the NET financial result of the municipal "investment" in Union Station? Or Claypool Corners? Or One North Capitol? Or Conseco fieldhouse?
One sentence in the IBJ story, referring to the use of Tax Increment Financing districts, says, "Critics complain that they rob cash-starved school systems and other governmental entities of tax money."
Well, we certainly know now who was telling the truth on that one! These magnificent "investments" are paying such wonderful returns that municipal poverty is demanding reduction in police and fire operations.
Can't get over the feeling that something's wrong with this picture - something that will take much more than consolidation of law enforcement operations to solve!