Time for Ballard to Go

The City of Indianapolis is seeking bids for a massively expensive Justice Center. This huge and complex project–which makes a lot of sense, conceptually–is being headed up by a twenty-something administrator on behalf of the Ballard Administration.

The Indianapolis Business Journal requested a copy of the Request for Proposals the City issued in July. Its request was denied, and the excuse for that denial was so ridiculous that even the Pence Administration’s public access counselor has protested.

The City is claiming that the information in a Request for Proposals is confidential. Think about that.

An RFP is supposed to be publicly distributed to any and all developers or development teams that might conceivably be interested in bidding on the project. By definition, the information it contains is public, and the IBJ–not to mention members of the City-County Council who have also been kept in the dark–are entitled to see it.

Marc Lotter, the Mayor’s spokesman, responded that the RFP was released to “three qualified bidders,” and that it would not be made public until after a successful bidder has been chosen.

Why would an honest, aboveboard administration hand-pick three bidders, and proceed to share information only with those developers? Why would it keep the terms of the proposed project secret until the City is legally committed to proceed?

The whole purpose of an RFP is to cast a wide net; to encourage genuinely competitive proposals from anyone or any team qualified to perform. “Pre-selecting” those who will be permitted to respond undercuts the entire purpose of the exercise.

At best, pre-selection of a small group of developers makes it likely that responses will be less competitive and the project will be more expensive. At worst, secrecy and pre-selection are intended to ensure that the “right” people get the City’s business.

The Justice Center is estimated to cost over $500 million dollars. Quite a plum project. When that much tax money is being spent, the need for transparency–the need for public assurance that the project is being handled ethically and in a fiscally-responsible manner– is obvious.

The City says that the RFP contained “trade secrets” necessitating secrecy. As the public access counselor noted, “If an RFP sent out into the marketplace does indeed contain trade secrets, it stands to reason that the secret is out once it goes to potential contractors.”

Unless, of course, those “secrets” are only going to one’s cronies.

Up to this point, I have attributed the many ethically dubious decisions of the Ballard Administration (the 50-year lease of our parking infrastructure, the garage no one uses in Broad Ripple, etc.) to those advising our “accidental’ Mayor, who has always seemed in over his head.

Maybe I  have underrated him. Maybe he really does know what he’s doing.

Either way–puppet or puppet master–he needs to go.


  1. Gary Welsh has been on this for a long time. One of his main objections is that it is likely to fill in space in the abandoned original indy Airport site. While that is a great location for many purposes, in this case it is likely a poor one. All the main lawyers, bondsmen, etc. are downtown, and people without cars can (well, in terms relevant to Indianapolis) easily get downtown.

  2. This Justice Center deal smells like a herd of dead, rotting, bloating carcasses. The public has a right to know exactly what is being bid on, since in the end this involves public funding. This will be the Crown Jewel of Crony-Capitalism in Marion County.

    Ballard was in over his head from the day he was first elected. Instead of relying on an Ethical Base of Values, and find people to advise and help him run the City, he turned on a dime in favor of Crony-Monopoly-Capitalism. Ballard is a willing puppet and he knows it. I do not think he will run for the Mayors Office again. His Ego is far to big (A Legend in His Own Mind) to risk nearly certain defeat.

    The Democrats in the Council and the Mayor Wanna Be’s have been Silent on this deal. I would think at least a few of them would be pounding the table to force Ballard to defend this deal.

    The Democrat Silence is explained by Eugene Debs – “The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.”

  3. I can only hope that some progressive lawyers can tie this thing in knots until our lame duck mayor is gone. I really don’t want to see our city spend 500 Million on a white elephant that will make more millions for Republican donors. Please Legal folks: Bury this mess in law suits.

  4. They process by which large capital projects get engineered, bid and executed is well known by people in the competitive business of project management. I would be surprised if there are any such people who work for the city.

    As in many fields today, the people who haven’t spent their lives learning that have no choice but to rely on those who have.

    So step 1 is for the city to hire a firm with that expertise based on the results that they can demonstrate from past projects. Typically way too early in the project to accommodate competitive fixed bidding.

    The second step is for the politicians in the city to not second guess the experts, but only describe the end product of this jail that are unique to this particular situation

    The project management company should then separate itself from the politicians and their cronies and focus only on getting all of the detail work done maximising the value proposition of cost, schedule and quality.

    Perfect distribution of work between government and private competitive markets.

  5. Just like the Recycling project .secret terms-then suit
    Not seeking of consensus . He forgot the Dems elected him.

  6. Patmcc, you don’t have to be a “progressive lawyer” to be against this corrupt deal. You only have to be an attorney who can read and interpret a statute.

    Best thing you’ve ever written, Sheila. It’s time for Ballard to leave and the era of crony capitalism to be ended. Okay, I know it won’t be ended overnight with with the next mayor as it’s part of Indy’s pay-to-play structure. But it needs to be turned down a couple notches.

  7. Can the Tax payers file Suit ? (I’m assuming its a public money project)

    Hand Picked, usually means, somebody is getting a favor.

    (Seem to remember “Mr. Clean Marine” was an offered credential when he campaigned for Mayor)

  8. Pete; you are harboring the misconception that Indianapolis is run by logical, rational, sane, thinking leaders. Tain’t so. Here I go again back to Goldsmith days; at times he contracted verbally with businesses (cronies) without a bid process and without issuing actual legal contracts. This at times became a problem when it came time to be paid for the work. Ballard has some leftover Goldsmith and Daniels dupes in appointed positions and making decisions. Hmmm; should that word be “dopes” rather than dupes?

  9. I’m assuming the inmates in this facility, while waiting for due process, will get food ?

    Unlike the Stray’s at the Animal Care Facility, who’s staff is begging for food from the general public.

    I’m also assuming that the Ballard administration has refused them a permit to beg on the city streets, since they might be mistaken for pan-handlers.

    Wouldn’t be Cricket, if they were pan-handling for dog food on monument circle.

  10. There are too many unanswered questions about the proposed half billion dollar criminal justice center and the little tested public/private partnership (P3) contracting model under which a private consortium would design, build, finance, maintain, and operate the facility in return for predetermined annual payments.

    In reviewing the Long Beach Courthouse which was the first major civic building in the U.S. developed under the P3 concept, the California Legislative Analyst’s office recommended that “a comparative analysis of a range of procurement options (including design-bid-build, design-build and P3)” be required for all future potential California P3 infrastructure projects. Has the city done such an analysis? If so make it public. If not, why not?

    The proposed new jail calls for 1,000 new beds and a 500 bed increase for community corrections. What is this proposed expansion based on? Did the city consider trends in reduced incarceration elsewhere, the possible impact of Indiana’s Supreme Court Committee to Study Evidence Based Pretrial Release, and calls by a diverse group of political leaders such as Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker for reduced incarceration for nonviolent, low level crimes? Did the city consider diverting people with serious mental illness out of jail and into treatment, as San Antonio has successfully done, and its impact on bed needs?

    What about the projected operational budget for the new jail? Has anyone seen it? Even under the P3 model the Sheriff will be responsible for running the detention facilities. The Sheriff currently oversees about 1000 inmates at Jail 1 and a private contractor, whose contract ends in 2017 and won’t be renewed, oversees another 1000 at Jail II. Sheriff John Layton reportedly thinks he will be able guard twice as many inmates, as he does now in the new jail without growing his current head count of 650 deputies. Can the Sheriff actually manage the combined bed count from the existing jails and the additional 1.500 bed capacity without an increase in staff?

    There have been suggestions that the new jail will be able to generate revenue by leasing beds to US Immigrations and Custom Enforcement and perhaps other agencies. Where are the projections? What impact will immigration reform, when it inevitable happens, have on such projections? Will Indianapolis be paying a P3 contractor for unused capacity for 35 years?

  11. Same shit, different project. Recycling facility, the so called deer management plan, justice center. Secret plans, no public input, no transparency.

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