We’ve arbitrarily decided to go with what we consider an upside down “guest column” in this morning’s paper headed “Pothole hell and the tax debate.” In a sort of roundabout way it discusses financing street repair. We were struck by a couple of specific statements.
In the fifth paragraph of a presentation of about 23 column inches we find this statement. “Indianapolis has enjoyed five decades of excellent mayoral leadership from both parties.” When considering the local policies for decades, one wonders how this statement matches up with one about six inches from the very end of the column, to wit:
“In truth, local governments in Indiana leave well over one-and-a-half billion dollars a year on the table in wasted economic development incentives....” The author doesn’t tell us how many of those misspent half billion dollars are blown away right here in Indianapolis.
In a sort of “bookend” fit with this column, the current weekly business paper gives us this front page headline: “Downtown TIF’s huge surpluses have dried up.” Based on some charts presented, we are assuming that the official term “unrestricted cash” is what the headline is calling “surplus.”
Among other things, we are given a list of “unrestricted cash” expenditures over a four year period, (2015-2018) and told the total is “more than $66 million,” plus an annual payment to Visit Indy of $8 million. That Visit Indy deal would add $32 million, making the four year outgo $98,000,000. That’s the amount sometimes referred to as the mayor’s slush fund. Over the same four year period, we have used $211.5 million for actual debt payment. $309 million divided by four gives us a pretty good share of the half billion dollars statewide waste mentioned above.
Let’s put it plainly. The article tells us the downtown TIF district has a debt total of about $730 million, expended for “economic development” purposes and projects. As a result of that three quarters of a billion dollars commitment, we have the current mayor telling us that the municipal finances are in a decades long “deplorable” condition. Can "development" really be applied to a negative?
What the city of Indianapolis has is the predictable result of using public finances with an eye on political results, combined with the failure of any attempt to use the word “priority” concerning actual city needs.