Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mayor Ballard Plays Race Card, Democrat Paul Bateman Picks It Up

This past Saturday I finally met Mayor Greg Ballard. I had just finished a segment on 1310 AM - The Light, during which I criticized the Mayor’s parking deal. He was waiting outside the studio, so I introduced myself and shook his hand. He glared at me like I’d walked on his lunch.

Never would I have imagined how badly he’d walk all over himself politically during the sixty minutes that followed, or that it would be a Democrat who would be coming to his rescue tonight.

The Mayor's radio appearance was calamitous. He used condescending phrases like, “Let me tell you something” while alternating between lecturing and being dismissive. When one man, obviously picking up on what the rest of the world was sensing, actually said that the Mayor sounded arrogant, the Mayor’s response was, “I have no idea what that is about.”

Oh, we know, Mr. Mayor.

But that’s no excuse for the racial demagoguery he is employing to sell the ACS fifty-year parking meter lease.

Being painfully objective, I am duty-bound to say that race in Marion County is ever-present in politics, especially in my party. Race gets harnessed frequently, and on occasion, abused. (See Al Sharpton, appearance on November 17).

But usually when people stoke a racial fire, they are trying to mold others’ perceptions or interpretations of events, and you can’t objectively say they’re right or wrong. Is Mayor Ballard indifferent to the bruises of Brandon Johnson or does he care deeply while being saddled with a tough Merit Board decision? A race-based appeal (pointing out that a white dude might not care all that much) might move people to the former view.

But what the Mayor is doing now isn't race-based persuasion; it's deceit in the form of omitting an unshakeable fact.

The Mayor asserted that his parking lease would make minority-business enterprise (MBE) Global Parking System, Inc., a national player and help it grow it’s 60% plus minority workforce. Repeating what he had said previously on Amos in the Afternoons, the Mayor quizzed with incredulity, “I don’t know how somebody could be against that!”

You get it, black folks? The Mayor is really looking out for you by specifically looking out for one company. If you are against this deal, you must be against Hal Darring, Global's CEO, which means you must be against black people.

But here’s the Mayor's obvious deceit through an even more obvious omission. If the City of Indianapolis was as psyched about Hal as the Mayor claims, it could pay for new meters itself (using bonds if necessary, as suggested by Bill Hudnut), make additional millions by cutting out ACS as the middle man, and still make Global its primary contractor.

Nobody could think the only way Hal gets more city work is by ACS fleecing the taxpayers on this deal, right?


Democratic (and African-American) City-County Councillor Paul Bateman, whose district cuts through most of Lawrence Township, is going to vote for the Mayor's deal for one reason: to help Global Parking and Hal Darring. Given that an awful lot of this administration's marquee deals were designed to reward particular businesses and/or individual's, who can criticize Bateman's motive?

But in supporting this deal, Bateman has bought into the disingenuous, racial crockery the Mayor is selling.

But wait! Say you're ACS and you want this deal badly. Maybe you sell it to Paul Bateman by letting him know that if ACS scores, it'll let Global come along when it rolls its pro-privatizatized monopoly, parking meter cabal into the next city. Maybe the real value for Global isn't gaining the experience or increased scale, but rather, the distinction of being ACS' go-to MBE subcontractor.

Fair enough. But if ACS is really interested in Global as a subcontractor, that interest shouldn't fall off just because ACS doesn't get an Indy deal, should it, Councillor Bateman? So who is really getting played?

In addition to tossing out the race card, the Mayor also implicitly admitted his administration's incompetence and political cowardice during his radio interview.

Ask the Mayor why the City can’t handle its own parking, and he’ll tell you parking “isn’t a core competency,” and he’ll tell you how meters stayed bagged too long, and the city loses revenue. First of all, as the Mayor admitted on air, we already have a private company doing the collections and ticket writing. That means there are two possible parties who are screwing up the bagging of meters: (1) the city; or (2) the contractor. If it’s “the city” that means YOU are admitting, Mr. Mayor, that you don’t know how to manage people. Make me manager for a day, and I'll tell every employee that any meter I find bagged for more than two hours more than necessary will result in the firing of the employee who was responsible for the meter. Problem solved.

Now, if the bagging problem is the the contractor’s fault, you are admitting, Mr. Mayor, that you don’t know how to manage a contract, so the idea we’d hand you a long-term one is pretty bananas, wouldn’t you say?

Friends, this is real simple. Over the next fifty years, meter users in Indianapolis will pay an estimated $1.0-$1.5 billion. If we take the Mayor's proposal, ACS will get between $400-$800 million of that money. If we don't take the Mayor's proposal, we'll get an additional $400-$800 million minus the costs of the equipment, upgrades, and management expenses.

Now, you'll all say, "Yeah, but it's ACS' management savvy that's getting that $1.5 billion. Not at all. This isn't ACS capturing greater market share with innovative product lines. The new money will come from increases from adding new meters, raising the rates, and technology that reduces "spillover," those situations where patron B uses the remaining time left on a meter from Patron A's change. Under this new contract, you won't be able to do that.

And therein lies the Mayor's political cowardice. One thing he also said on 1310 AM was that parking rates haven't gone up in twenty years. Notice the inactive verb? He doesn’t say “we” haven’t raised the meter rates while speaking about all the former mayors and himself. In Mayor Ballard's world, the meters are all Johnny Five's that can spring to life and adjust their own rates.

(Pssst! Mr. Mayor, raising the meter rate is your job).

At the end of the day, this is the REAL reason the Mayor wants to hand operations over to ACS. So that when rates go up, the Mayor can act like he had nothing to do with it, which is exactly what he'll be saying when our water and wastewater rates explode two years from now.



Blog Admin said...

While I know you are an informed citizen, Chris, I've got a few bones to pick, and a comment.

While it might be the Mayor's job to push for legislation within the council, the council can also indepndently propose legislation without being prodded by the 25th floor. I think this fact is often lost. The 25th floor and the council are two independent bodies, and shouldn't just be rubber stamping one another. Look at the independence the GOP Senate has exercised with Governor Daniels. So while it might be Mayor Ballard's job to ask for legislation to hike the rates, it could also be the job of Angela Mansfield, or Angel Rivera, or Benjamin Hunter.

The bagging of the meters is a complicated issue. When I issued a public records request to IMPD to get a copy of an "emergency order" that was used to block off parking on some street, I was told IMPD does not put the bags/signs up.Department of Code Enforcement does.

But a few weeks ago, I saw an IMPD officer putting up the signs around the City-Council building at the meters closest to the City Market.

And it's my understanding, and it isn't a perfect one, that Dennison Global Parking and Denison Parking are two distinct and separate companies that are only related to this parking deal. It's kind of complicated, but Gary Welsh wrote about it here.

Also, I think Joanne SAnders pointed out that the deal technically isn't with ACS, but it is with Park Indy LLC. Park Indy LLC is the collective companies of ACS, Global Parking, Evans Time incorporating themselves in Delaware.

And here I thought Park Indy was just some hip term Michael Huber coined.

Erin said...

*Applause*. Very well written and objective as always, Chris. Talk about political cowardice, indeed- the City can aggressively work to promote and include local MBE/WBE/VBE directly through city contracts, surely we don't need ACS for that to happen? I believe all it takes is the Mayor developing (with the help of those other fine elected folks, the C-C councillors) and vigorously overseeing such a contracting policy. Apparently, we need ACS to do that in exchange for how much money? Oh right, we aren't allowed to ask that either.

On another issue, my roommate this summer in the Hague was a local Dutchie civil servant who actually worked for city planning. In fact, while I was there, our neighborhood installed meters (we were one of the very areas without them which was creating a huge parking issue for residents because people were taking all the spots and jumping on the nearby tram to get into the city for work) so he and I chatted at length about the Dutch meter system. As in many places, Holland's meters are light years ahead of what is being proposed here. You not only can pay by credit card and using your cell phone, but when your meter is running out, it sends a text message to your cell and you can put more time on just by responding to the text wherever you are. Pretty cool, huh? Of course, this is because of differences in banking systems and cell phone contracting that makes it easier to set up systems like that. Point being- from what I've understood of this non-competitively bid ACS contract, we are locking ourselves in (for 20 years at least b/c the opt out fee makes the 10 year point economically disastrous for the City) to a non-innovative, non cutting edge metering system that is not very user (i.e the Indy residents!) convenient. Oh wait. I forgot who all is making cash off of ACS. Never mind, makes perfect sense.

Chris Worden said...

Indy: Thanks for your insightful comments. I agree wholeheartedly that the council doesn't have to sit back and abdicate its authority, but I hadn't heard anybody but the Mayor using the current rates as the reason to do this deal. My point is that if that's why the Mayor thinks this deal needs to get done, the Mayor is abdicating his own role.

I also agree that this deal isn't just with ACS and that's what makes this more nefarious in my opinion. We're talking about an amalgam of companies created exclusively to curry the political favor necessary to get this deal. And it looks like it's going to work.

It also belies the Mayor's claims about Global "going national." Think about that. Where else but in Indianapolis will an ACS led company with three Indianapolis-based subcontractors be able to successfully bid? That's the lie. This isn't about growing Global; it's about BUYING Global FOR THIS DEAL for the political currency it has as an MBE.

My point is that you don't need to give Frankenstein's monster a fifty-year contract just to reward the brain. You can always take it apart and start from scratch.

Jon E. Easter said...

Your experience with the Mayor didn't occur in a vacuum. He hates to be challenged. Hates it!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Don't feel bad, Chris, Ballard snubs the people like me who worked their asses off to elect him. He went out of his way to snub me at Henry Karlson's funeral by interrupting my conversation with Rep. Cindy Noe and then giving me a dirty look and walking on. The man is no politician. He's a one termer and I will glady have a Democrat as mayor over his sorry, lying ass.

On Hal Daring, you omit the connection that made all of the difference. Lacy Johnson and Hal Daring are best buds. Johnson made Global Parking by axing Central Parking's contract out at the airport and handing it to Daring. Ice Miller got paid a half million bucks to do cut-and-paste language from the Chicago contract. No doubt Johnson delivered Bateman's vote on the deal. No doubt Johnson had a hand in getting Daring in on the deal before the proposal window even opened up to the prospective vendors. This deal was locked up before Huber's RFQ even hit the street.