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Keeping Your Head Above Water

After Monday night’s Council vote on the proposed transfer of the city’s water and waste water facilities to Citizens Gas I walked over to Nikki Blaine’s for a quick martini before calling it a day.  While I was there I met a guy named Ron.   He works as a server downtown.  I asked him what he thinks about the city.  I was interested in his opinion because he was an average person who doesn’t operate in the political fishbowl.  He told me he thoughts things in Indy were good, despite the economy, however he thought the roads could be better.  Imagine that.

I chuckled at that statement based on what had happened earlier at the City-County building.  it was part of a stream of chuckles because all I could do was laugh on the inside at the behavior of the Democratic Caucus on the Council.  The whining, the moaning and gnashing of teeth over the proposed water deal got to be a bit much.   What was more laughable though were a majority of the Democrats who voted against the deal and publicly lambasted it were on the phone earlier and sending the Mayor’s office e-mails asking to have road projects in their districts funded.  Heck, I found out even State Representative Bill Crawford secretly supports what the Mayor is doing.

The biggest joke of the night was Doris Minton-McNeil who argued incoherently against the proposal and then after it passed complained about road and infrastructure projects in her district that weren’t getting funded.  Although I am also told she needed city help in figuring out what projects were actually in her district.

The true profiles in courage Monday night were Jackie Nytes and Mary Moriarty Adams who put politics aside and did what they thought was in the best interest of the constituents.  Nytes, who I have a different philosophical approach on issues, made one of the best sound policy arguments for the water deal, saying that by using rates instead of property taxes to pay for streets, property that is not on the tax rolls will now contribute to pay for projects that are now the sole burden of property taxpayers.  It’s very simple, effective logic rate payers and tax payers are not necessarily the same.  Nytes also pointed out that tax payers have made it clear that they don’t want to use property taxes to pay for government nor is Indiana General Assembly going to be any help.

I give Nytes major props for consistency and intellectual honesty in the face of getting the threat of having Ed Treacy throw her a primary opponent.  Which I have to note by the way, if you’re going to get rid of one of your members you may not want to go after one of your smartest members.

  • nick

    You nailed it on Jackie Nytes. She is smart and does have a good moral compass. The Democrats should be happy to have her.

  • nick

    I do respectfully disagree with Jackie that shifting road construction from property taxpayers and road users to water customers is wise policy.

    Roads improvements are paid for with user taxes like fuel tax, tire tax, in addition to property taxes, income taxes, etc..

    Water/Sewers are generally self funded by user fees on our monthly water bills based upon how much we use them, Not property taxes.

    Mixing up the formula because your short on cash for roads and many other things is not enough justification to raise rates(taxes) on a essential and vital resource (water) since it is the most regressive form of taxation and diverts resources from the true problem(lack of water/sewer infrastructure investment)

    Raising road user fees would be more appropriate for road/sidewalk improvements if cost containment alone isn't working.

    I suspect she voted for it because:

    A) She thought government officials are hopeless in fixing the water companies problems.

    B) She knows that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor will not tolerate the Mayors diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars away from water sewer infrastructure on top of the crazy increases in water/sewer bills.

  • Taxpayer 834512

    I like Nytes point that this gets more participants involved in funding than usual- but the secondary recipients of the funding are a slippery slope. Sidewalk repair and tearing down abandoned housing are innocuous compared to the influence of a perceived need to save our pro sports. Part of the idea of health “reform” was reducing costs, before too many interest groups and too few taxpayers changed things behind closed doors.

    When Mayor Ballard says he's got to pay $15M a year for Conseco whether the Pacers are in it or not, that doesn't account for whatever lesser dates CAN be booked, the fact that we then aren't locked into paying for yet another stadium we can't afford, and we then don't take a symbolic thrashing in favoring sports over libraries.

  • pascal

    If you want your road and sidewalk dollars to go a lot further just appoint people with that view to wage setting panels. There is no good reason at all why Mayor Doofus should pay 30 to 50 % more for “labor” than the private sector pays for exactly the same work.
    I'm sure that smart folks like Nytes know how to cut these costs but play dumb for their buddies while, essentially, screwing the people who vote for them. Total repeal of Davis Bacon and Pl 217 would free up a lot of wasted tax dollars for needed public purposes.

  • IndyAries

    “If you want your road and sidewalk dollars to go a lot further just…”

    Just put people on welfare and unemployment to WORK on these sidewalks, streets, etc.

    If they are physically capable of WORKING, then put them to WORK.

    What a novel concept.

  • Taxpayer 834512

    IndyAries for Mayor

  • tired of traitors

    Time for Nytes to have a primary opponent……..she votes with ballard too much

  • Think Again

    We are Nick. We are. And we're mortally embarrassed by Ms. Minton-McNeil.

    But let's separate, please, the library arguments, the Pacer arguments…we have a horrible habit in this town, on complicated public policy issues, of lumping together too many issues. This is a singularly-important issue: sale of our water utility.

    If I were on the council, I'd have voted “yes” to allow the discussions to go forward. I didn't read the council resolution–if it contained any kind of final approval, I'd have voted “no” without hesitation. And here's why:

    This is not a simple proposition. There are many moving parts, all of which need examined. For one, regarding sidewalks, etc.: the correct public policy question ought to be: do we trade-off future (larger) water/sewer rate increases for current public works dollars? It appears the trade-off mixes potential ratepayer dollars with taxpayer dollars…a dangerous concept, if not now, surely in the future. And never forget: our sewer fix would be about one-fifth the current cost if we hadn't swept the problem under the rug for 20 Hudnut/Goldsmith “no new taxes at any cost” years.

    I heard Ballard on your show yesterday. His characterization of opponents was shamefully simplistic. Sure, the opposition camp included dunces like Doris. It also included some smart folks. And as an aside, every time I hear Ballard he sounds, well…let's just say he won't be at the next Mensa meeting.

    I had read the publicly-available documents on this deal two weeks ago. Last night, I had time to read the documents the Mayor posted last Friday.

    This deal is way too complicated for a final vote Monday night. But to proceed with discussions, I'm OK with that. And for every Doris on our side, you've got Susie Days. So don't get too high-and-mighty. There are 29 votes there…and unfortunately, no more than 12-14 adults who can intelligently talk about complicated matters. That's counting both sides of the aisle.

    We get what we elect. Often, their actions don't mean a hill of beans. Then, occasionally, along comes a water utility deal.

    (sigh)

  • joneaster

    Jackie, I'm sure, had a reason to vote the way she did. I don't agree with her position, but I respect her tremendously. There's nothing wrong with having someone on the Council that's willing to buck the party trend for something they believe in. I am sure she weighed the consequences before voting.

  • Think Again

    You clearly haven't paid close attention over the last several years.

  • Paul Divine

    Is anyone else shocked that the city has given Hirons and Company the PR contract for the water deal, as well as the Wishard referendum, the lucrative Knozone contract, and several others? Why?2 reasons: 1.) Ballard mercilessly hammered Bart Peterson for using city money on pr contracts. Google “$70 million in fluff” “Ballard” and “2007.” 2) BALLARD's SON works there. Imagine what the reaction would have been if a Carson or Peterson child were getting city business directly from the mayors office. Completely inappropriate.

  • Think Again

    Seriously? Are you SURE? That's scandalous. They're a mid-level PR company in town, not known as being good or bad…just kinda “there.”

  • Taxpayer 834512

    Hell has frozen over. I agree with Mr. Easter that anybody willing to go against the grain once in awhile must have a mind that's not sealed shut. Ms. Scales comes to mind as well.

  • http://fatloss4idiots-diet.net fat loss 4 idiots

    well, We have so little money that we can hardly keep our heads above water. It's hard to keep your head above water