Tag Archives: sweetheart deals

Ballard’s Brand of Socialism

This morning, Matt Tully criticized Melina Kennedy’s campaign for recent, negative ads. Essentially, he said that she had already demonstrated that she was the superior candidate, and that the ads were beneath her–that Ballard, whatever his deficiencies, is a decent guy and didn’t deserve the negative characterizations.

I agree with Tully about negative ads, which are never nuanced arguments about policy. I don’t watch much live television, and thanks to TIVO, rarely watch campaign ads, but I’ve seen distasteful stuff from both campaigns, and we all know why: they work. That’s not an endorsement of the tactic, just a recognition of reality.

And the reality that the Kennedy campaign has not–and probably cannot–address is that, yes, Ballard is a decent guy, but so clueless that he is not really running the city. From what my remaining friends in the GOP tell me, soon after his surprising election, the “usual suspects” swooped in to “help” the neophyte and not-so-incidentally help themselves at taxpayer expense.

I’ve written before about the parking meter fiasco that enriched ACS (a company closely tied to the Mayor’s closest advisers), and I won’t belabor that fifty-year giveaway again (although from my point of view, it is reason enough to vote for Melina Kennedy).

I haven’t previously examined the equally scandalous deal struck for the parking garage in Broad Ripple. As Paul Ogden has amply documented, this is yet another example of what I’ve come to call “Ballard socialism.” The basic story is that taxpayers are paying to build a garage that the city then simply gives to the developer. We pay 6.35 million for a facility that will be owned 100% by Keystone Development (where Paul Okeson, former Deputy Mayor in the Ballard Administration, now works). The developer gets 100% of the parking revenues and 100% of the rent from the commercial space.

As Ogden points out, there is no requirement that the developer put a single penny into this deal.

Why do I call this “Ballard socialism”? Socialism is a term that simply means spreading the cost–we share costs of such services as police and fire protection among all of us, via taxes; we pool the costs of automobile accidents via insurance. But in the Ballard Administration, as a disillusioned Republican friend of mine recently complained, we turn this time-honored approach on its head. We socialize the risk–but we privatize the profits.

I am perfectly willing to believe that Greg Ballard does not understand the details of these sweetheart contracts. But he’s the Mayor, and it is not unfair to hold him responsible for the actions of his administration–actions that will cost the city dearly in an era of diminishing resources.

Cynics will say that city government has always operated to benefit political insiders, and it’s true that people who know people always have an edge. But I’ve lived in Indianapolis my whole adult life; I’ve been involved in both Republican and Democratic politics since I was twenty, and I have never seen anything on this scale. Whether it’s corruption or ineptitude, we need to clean house.