Even the densest of us can start connecting the dots when they get close enough together. At least enough to start wondering about what’s going on.
We went on the net today and picked up the IBJ story that a City-County Council (CCC) committee had approved a proposal for development of the old Market Square Arena property. In itself that was good news. We had complained for some time that this valuable property had been left vacant for way too long. But in reading through the story, we found disturbing items.
The first of these dots was the fact that the committee finds it appropriate for the taxpayer to finance nearly 30 percent of the estimated cost of the project - $23 million of $81 million.
The city’s deputy mayor for corporate welfare claims that the 25-year bond required will be paid for by the estimated $1.3 million property tax revenue to be gained. That’s a total of $32.5 million, which sounds about right for covering debt cost, plus additional funds for the TIF-type slush fund.
Of course he also admits that this is similar to TIF operation but it is not really TIF because the property is not actually within a TIF district. But that’s OK because it does what a TIF district would do, so who’s going to nit-pick a little thing like the property being in the wrong place? Especially with the possibility of the "extra" revenue. And besides, maybe as an afterthought, we'll just extend the present district.
As we have commented before, the project will include about 500 parking spaces. We continue to wonder about the consistency of advocating the use of public mass transit while subsidizing additional parking facilities.
Which brings us to another dot. The winner of the assignment from the CCC committee is the same firm which is the beneficiary of other municipal generosity. They’re working on a project a few blocks west of Meridian Street which includes a parking building gift from the city to the tune of $12 million.
The third dot in this infernal triangle is a casual note in this story referring to commercial occupation in the new building suggesting that a "specialty grocery" would be preferred for the ground floor.
Strangely enough, we’re told, the firm awarded the contract is "...pursuing Whole Foods as a tenant." We found it intriguing that this be the case so soon after we are publicly told by the mayor’s chief of staff that nothing will be done for Tarkington Park if the Whole Foods subsidy in Broad Ripple is not approved first. "If we don't get ours, you don't get yours."
We know it is not evident, but we really do try to minimize our cynicism. However, when the dots are close enough to start elbowing each other, we must ask.
What the hell is going on in this city, Mayor?