Really. We do not find it amusing or particularly pleasant to be carping at the media constantly. It’s just that there always seem to be questions about why questions are not asked of those in charge of disbursing public funds.
Maybe it is because we are getting so used to hearing about numbers of dollars in the trillions that a few millions seem unworthy of comment. But we still do think some questions ought to be asked.
Buried deep in an extensive article in the morning paper about the latest budget deal under a sub-head "Other components" we find this wording.
"The CIB will pay $5 million to the Department of Public Safety this year as reimbursement for police and fire protection of its facilities. That money is budgeted for repair of the Capital Commons parking garage, which instead will be paid for by the Downtown tax-increment financing district."
Frankly, this looks suspiciously like money laundering. Property tax money will be used to cover a CIB budget item, while the same amount comes out another spigot as just plain old money which the CIB can spray in any direction it chooses.
We’ve been told for years - decades? - that the TIF slush fund is dedicated to the point that it cannot be used for public safety, parks, libraries, schools, etc.. In other words, for legitimate municipal functions which subsist primarily on property tax revenues.
But now, by virtue of the magical transformation accomplished by running dollar bills through the CIB washer/dryer budget procedure, we can use "equivalent" funds to further subsidize the primary users’ operations of CIB facilities.
As we said, it was a fairly extensive article. We tried to read it thoroughly, but we certainly could have missed something. One thing we know we missed was any question from the author about the propriety of this kind of fiscal charade.
We assume that the deal falls within the law. But couldn’t there be a question of the logic and the ethics? Does this really fall within the parameters of "transparency" which was the subject of a recent editorial?
Or is $5 million just too little to care about?