Tell ya whut, Gregg: I follow local politics a little, and the time we voted for The Enormous Football Barn escapes me. Ditto Conseco Fieldhouse, the new Victory Field, the demolished Hoosier Dome or Market Square Arena, the two revised lease agreements we've signed with Jim Irsay, or the $10 million annually we're now donating to the Mall-of-America Simons. There's no fucking way any of this was ever getting near a referendum. There's no fucking way a public outcry would stop it, either.Typical example: the gleaming new Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts perform, was funded by $615 million from Indiana taxpayers and $100 million from the NFL, yet all profits generated in the stadium are converted to the private luxury of the Irsay family, the Colts' owners.If Indianapolis or California or other state taxpayers are, through their elected representatives, foolish enough to allow their money to be used to build sports facilities where all profits are converted into private luxury, then taxpayers have only themselves to blame.
It's true that voters in the seven doughnut counties did get to choose whether to participate in the "luxury" taxes that fund the place (Indianapolis did not), and six of them did. But the state had to sweeten the deal to let them keep 50% of the revenue.
It's also true that in the late 60s the state gave the city of Indianapolis the right to create a "public-private" corporation--the Capital Improvement Board--which has the right to raise levies without ever facing voters. They're the ones who've been funneling much-needed cash to the Simons, who're now in their 29th season of refusing to open their books in exchange for public largess, as required by law. (The cash is "much-needed" because it's what's required to shut the Simon family up about how much better the deal the Colts got is than the one the city kidnapped their children and made them sign.)
The current Mayor, proto-Teabag revolutionary and retired Marine Looney Bird Gomer F. Ballard, hasn't built any stadia (yet), but he was the point man on the PR campaign convincing the public the Simons had a secret clause in their 20-year lease which reduced it to ten if they wanted more money. This was while the Simons were making noise about how they'd just up and move to some city that appreciated them if they couldn't get more of what was rightly theirs. Maybe they learned this from former NFL President Paul Tagliabue, who told the citizens of Indianapolis, on more than one occasion, that the NFL desperately needed a franchise in Los Angeles by the following Friday, and wouldn't Payton Manning look good in front of some palm trees? At some point in there (I've lost track) Major League Baseball dropped in to say it would be condemning our fine old copy of Wrigley Field unless we replaced it.
I can go on and on (and on) about this, but the simple fact is that the people with the money get their way. Big fucking surprise. I'm not sure whether voters would have stopped the Lucas Oil giveaway had they had the chance; there was fire on both sides. But voters had no choice. The citizenry could have risen up forty years ago and torn all these people limb from limb. Since then, no.
• Jim Shella, the Dean (Broder) of Indiana political reporters, gets a last make-out session with Mitch Daniels:
His eight years of service have been marked by constant change and history may well remember him as the best governor in a generation.
Honestly, what kind of fool talks like that?
We've had nothing but two-term governors in Indiana since 1972, which is when the single term limit was lifted. So at best "in a generation" means a choice of Daniels over Evan Bayh and Frank O'Bannon, who died in his second term. Economically the state was better off under either. (I'm not saying that's the way to judge a governor. I am saying that's the way Mitch Daniels says we're supposed to judge a governor, and he was the only one of the three who had the Magic Rand Beans, so his numbers should be vastly superior.) But I dunno; History does seem to have a selective memory. Maybe she prefers "constant change", corporate boondoggles, rampant cronyism, billion-dollar IOUs, and peddling off state property in order to build half a highway.
You wanna be a Daniels fanboy, fine. That shouldn't include taking the same casual attitude toward evidence that Little Big Man has. Daniels' legacy will include the 20% cut (for starters) in public education, to save money we didn't have until we looked in the other pocket seven years later, "Right to Work", that highway we didn't need he found half the money for, the funny stuff with public accounts, and the coal gasification plant we're obliged to make profitable. With any luck--that is, if it's not left to our current crop of political reporters--there'll be an accurate accounting of the state's books, too, including the $2 billion we owe the Feds, just to see how he stacks up against that $2-500 million "deficit" he's been claiming he inherited. If nothing else, maybe History could hold her water until all the facts are in. Justice is the one that's blind, right?
•Meanwhile, Richard Mourdock is blaming his Senatorial defeat on "the liberal media". The great thing about that is, everybody laughed in his face when he said it. Even Jim Shella.
• This week Daniels announced several thousand more imaginary jobs that won't be created by his latest round of tax giveaways (History, I'm sure, is keeping a scorecard), and relayed the concerns of his corporate buddies over the proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages and civil unions. That would be the amendment which passed its first hurdle in 2011, back when Mitch Daniels was governor. You know, the guy who crows about how he never was a lame duck.