Ballard Administration, Part 2

After my post yesterday, I got an email from a former Republican who is evidently no fan of our Accidental Mayor.

He had read the recent IBJ article–which he characterized as a “puff piece”–in which the reporter uncritically repeated the administration’s claim that the parking meters are “netting” additional revenues since they were privatized in a 50-year deal  with ACS.  As he wrote, the claim doesn’t hold up under even cursory scrutiny.

The IBJ wrote, in part:  “Total revenue from meter operations grew to $1.7 million in the quarter ended June 30 from $1.3 million in the same time frame a year ago. The city’s share of that revenue totaled $498,273, compared with $108,265 it made from meter operations from March through June a year ago—a whopping 360-percent increase.”

As my friend pointed out in his email, the IBJ simply ignored a number of issues, most significantly that these numbers were “apples and oranges” and accepted the 360% “increase” at face value, without noting the following: (1) Hours were increased from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM every night  and ACS added a day to the week (it used to be Mon.-Fri., now it is Mon-Sat.); (2)  the rate increase by $0.25/hour in Broad Ripple and most of downtown.  Clearly, these increases would yield substantially more revenue whether ACS or the City had increased hours and raised rates–and if we hadn’t privatized the meters, the City would keep all of the increased revenues after the relatively modest investment in new meter technology.

The final point made in the email was that the math makes no sense: As he wrote, “According to the IBJ, the administration claims that revenues increased a total of $400,000 (from $1.3MM to $1.7MM) – which is a total increase in revenues of 30% ($400K over $1.3 million) TOTAL; however, the IBJ reports that the City’s revenues went from $108K to $498K – something doesn’t add up here… I think the IBJ is comparing apples and oranges (i.e., comparing (A) the City’s old “net-of-all-expenses” revenues after all costs and before increases in rates and hours, against (B) the City’s gross revenues under the ACS deal after increases in rates and hours that they could have instituted without sharing revenue with ACS), and even more significantly, (B) not asking what in my mind is the most pertinent question: HOW MUCH HAS THE CITY HAD TO CREDIT OR GIVE BACK TO ACS DUE TO BAGGED METERS?   Do the “totals” reported exclude the amounts the city is contractually obligated to remit to ACS as compensation for bagging meters under the terms of the contract?. ”

The email raises some pretty important questions, to which I’d add another. There is a rumor floating around that in addition to control of our parking meters, the City also handed over to ACS the collection of past years’ parking fines that remain uncollected. Does anyone know whether this is true, and–if it is–whether receipts from those collections are part of the reported numbers?

I do wish Indianapolis still had real reporters covering government……