Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mayor Greg Ballard Selling Indy on Payday Loan With Water Deal

I hate payday loan companies.

They sell people on getting "money fast," but they never talk about how they're hosing futures by making people give up an insane slice of future earnings. A typical payday company will charge $25 per $100 borrowed, even though they'll get their money back in two weeks in most cases. Even if they gave you 30 days to pay back the loan, you would still be paying an annual percentage rate of 455%.

So why do people do it? Because they're desperate. You give them a whiff of money, and they can't say no.

Welcome to Greg Ballard's new strategy for getting support for the sale of the city's water and wastewater facilities to Citizens Gas!

The website for the City of Indianapolis lists "public meetings" to be held on this deal. They are:

March 29 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Aldersgate Free Methodist Church, 9035 E. 21st Street

April 13 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Nu Corinthian Church's Family Life Center - 5935 West 56th Street

April 20 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Divine Savior Lutheran Church - 7315 East 75th Street

But what intrigues most are two quotes by the Mayor:
Public involvement and accountability are imperative to the success of this transfer. This process began more than one year ago with the formation of the Infrastructure Advisory Commission and will continue with transparent study and public deliberation.

Mr. Mayor, you say you will "continue public deliberation," but when did the public ever get to weigh in on how much money the City would receive, when, and in what form?

As I've said before, my criticism (and most I've heard), is not on whether Citizens' charitable trust structure makes the most sense going forward. Rather, this is about the deal's terms, and you won't entertain thoughts that you're making the city take a payday loan from Citizens Gas. Here, instead of giving away a huge chunk of a future check, you're giving away our city's most valuable resource permanently.

When you talk about "the sucess of the transfer," it's clear your mind is made up. So why even have these public meetings?

First, because the terms of the deal were crafted in secret. Yes, people knew the Mayor had solicited expressions of interest (EOI) on how to do things better, but nobody save the Mayor's people, the parties, and a slew of big downtown law firms have had any say on the deal's terms. So now you have to engage in this after-the-fact exercise so your critics cannot attack your process.

But there's more, and Mr. Mayor, you are so very crafty. Unfortunately, you tipped your hand when you said:
As we move forward with due diligence and explore how to invest the $425 million earned through the transfer, we want to hear from residents, who live in the neighborhoods with crumbling streets, curbs and sidewalks, about their infrastructure investment priorities.

Will Marion County residents really fall for this? The Mayor wants you salivating over the new streets, curbs, and sidewalks, and he wants you to "buy in" by "putting you in charge" of what gets done. This way you'll tell your city-county councillor to go along. You won't think about the absolutely crappy terms he has negotiated for you, and more importantly, there will be a psychic link between you and that construction truck you see pouring new sidewalk. You'll think, "This sidewalk brought to you by Mayor Greg Ballard."

Feel free to revel in that euphoria. But remember that when you see nothing's left of the city's paycheck when it comes in the future, I told this would come to pass.

The Mayor won't.



varangianguard said...

Those in charge never change (or learn). The question is, have the citizens learned anything about being treated in this fashion by the Old Guard Republicans?

Andrew "Boxy" Troemner said...

It actually sounds more like Monopoly to me. "Crap! I'm running low on money. Let's see... what can I sell off to get more money? Oh, I know! The water company! Now let's buy some more hotels..."

Bulldog said...

The real question we shoud be asking is whether Indianapolis taxpayers deserve a say in the choice to have a tax increase to pay for streets and sidewalks. That's what this really is, higher taxes in the form of rate hikes to pay for infrastructure.

Maybe people will agree that they want to pay higher taxes for improved streets and sidewalks - maybe they won't. One thing's for sure, the city needs to tell it to the people straight up and admit what they're doing.

If an issue were ever ripe for a referendum, this is it.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Thanks for this comparison of Mayor Ballard's Water Deal to a Payday Loan. I am hoping that my councillor, Oliver, won't buy it, but...