Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ballard Supports Tax Increase He Won't Pay

One of the few points Mayor Greg Ballard has now made clear on how he intends to deal with the CIB's colossal financial mess is his support of a ticket tax increase on admissions. It's an easy choice for Ballard and other politicians because they don't pay the tax. He and other politicians who will decide this issue get free tickets to Colts and Pacers games. They are invited to luxury suites while attending the games where they can eat all of the food and drink they want for free. Attendees are already paying a 6% admissions tax on the tickets they purchase. The Pacers claim they eat the cost of the tax rather than pass it on to their fans according to the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy, a claim which should be doubted. He notes that the Colts oppose an increase in the tax. The tax increase won't come close to erasing the CIB's $43 million deficit (that's the number we're working with today). A 1 percentage point increase generates just $1.5 million.

Ballard is saying he wants a thirty to forty-year solution for the CIB, which means he plans to tap other revenues sources to close the funding gap. Asking Irsay and the Simons to contribute to solving the problem is obviously out of the question as far as Ballard is concerned. As I mentioned in my previous post, Mayor Ballard was asked about the CIB's financial woes last night at his Mayor's Night Out for downtown neighborhoods. His staff altered a written question I submitted prior to the event to pose it as a pro sports team question, boasting of the contribution of the two sports franchises to downtown. Ballard suggested to the audience that they chose to live downtown because of the Pacers and Colts being here, and that downtown development would have never occurred without them. In noting his support for the ticket tax increase, he posed a false negative for those of us who oppose making taxpayers pay higher taxes to pay for the CIB's financial woes. If you oppose bailing out the CIB through higher taxes, Ballard suggested you want the Colts and Pacers to leave town. Again, as has been every case in the past when the City has negotiated with these two teams, a gun is held to our heads and we're told to pay up or our city will lose them. Ballard's staff is already spreading rumors that there is a real danger of the City losing the Pacers to Seattle and the Colts to L.A. if this bail out is not accomplished on the backs of taxpayers.

The bottom line is that Ballard, like his predecessors, has been bought off by the Simons and Irsay and those who lobby for them, with campaign contributions and free tickets. Ballard appointed the Simons' own lawyer, Bob Grand, to run the CIB and is allowing him to lead the bail out discussions despite his direct conflict of interest and a promise he made when he appointed him that he would be walled off from participating in any matters that represented a conflict of interest. Ballard seeks no input from the public on this question because he takes his orders from people working on behalf of Irsay and the Simons.


M Theory said...

The mayor is wrong. People don't pick living downtown because of the Colts. If he talked to us more these days, maybe he would know that.

I lived downtown for 12 years back in the 80's and 90's. I didn't live downtown because of sports! I lived downtown cause I like historic buildings and walking to work, nightlife, and restaurants.

Once I dated a business owner who took me to a suite at the old dome. The people were snooty and the experience bored me.

I'm a former downtowner who loathes the NFL. These days I turn down tickets to go.

Gary R. Welsh said...

People who live downtown value things like the canal, White River Park, Monument Circle, the American Legion mall, the theaters, a wide variety of restaurants and pubs from which to choose and, yes, Circle Centre Mall. It's actually a pain in the ass for downtown dwellers when there is a sporting event going on because of the added traffic. Mall business is actually harmed when there is a Colts game because of the difficulty in finding a parking space; non-game attenders avoid the area. Go in the mall sometime when there is a game being played and see how quiet it is.

Patriot Paul said...

I guess I'm alittle weary of all the sniping and parsing.
We wouldn't have this problem if the Goldsmith days to the present had done a reasonable job. Declaring us at that time the Amateur Sports Capitol of the U.S., it later set it's eyes on Professional Sports. The fact remains that when the State took over the Stadium without factoring in the operational costs, then it's just another symptom of a bigger problem. And crashing MSA and RCA was foolish. But even worse, the City was (and is) starry-eyed about being a big player in national sports that it sold our birthright to gamesters who convinced us to build palaces at our expense, tear them down without paying them off, and then build bigger & better ones, always under perpetual threat. This is what happens when star-dazed blurry-eyed political misfits try to tool a business which is not the responsibility of government. Our local & state government hi-jacked free enterprise and now we're stuck with their blunders.
Putting the blamegame on a Mayor just 1 yr.& 2 months underway strikes me as unproductive when what we really need are viable solutions and I don't blame him for waiting on the State's suggestions to complete his options. Do I like his appointments? No. Do I like punishing citizens with a higher tax on tickets? No. Do I like creation of TIF districts? No.Lessons to be learned are several, but Ballard doesn't get into the blamegame; he just needs viable solutions.

Downtown Indy said...

Easily the biggest drawing card for people living downtown was the canal. And it was built for a tiny fraction of what the stadiums are costing us.

It pains me to think how much money went into those buildings instead of furthering the concept of the canal, walkways, trails and other areas where people can entertain themselves instead of relyng some kind of pro sports to do that for them.

Our system of trails could have been 10x expanded for a small fraction of what these two buildings (and their two predecessors) have cost us.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, The Mayor has bought into the whole argument advanced by those in the past so he can take all of their baggage as far as I'm concerned and put them in charge. He's already declared that he won't assign blame for the mess and he can't. The people who are controlling all of these decisions in his administration are the same people who made those blunders. The bottom line is that nothing has changed in his administration. And, please, stop blaming the State. The City of Indianapolis knew if it went forward with an agreement reached with the Colts before it even figured out how it was going to pay for the agreement it was going to be millions short. It recklessly went ahead, knowing that it would force the issue back into the laps of the state legislature to impose new taxes on Marion County. Of course, the legislators are more than happy to accommodate the request as long as it doesn't involve more state dollars. The state, Paul, is kicking in $16 million a year in diverted income tax revenues for this stadium.

Patriot Paul said...

You have a point, AI., and I ran across this updated from last night on the Wthr site:

"We have to figure out ways to get revenue," said Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville).

Kenley said another option being discussed is extending the entertainment tax to other venues such as the Indiana Repertory Theatre and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

"We're trying not to do that but we may be forced to, maybe on those (venues) within a mile of (the stadium). Those with activities related to conventions," he said.

If the State gets it's way, 16 million isn't enough. Everything involving entertainment within a mile radius will be taxed more, from theatres to plays. Besetting these punitive actions on Hoosiers just for going downtown may be good for the destined superbowl crowd, but what about before & after?
And asked about letting the teams go with only our concrete left in hand, Kenley said:
"That's so unlikely we'd ever get to that point. The city wouldn't let that happen, the mayor wouldn't allow it. We have too much regional pride to go there,"

The question is two-fold:
how much is our pride worth
what are viable solutions

Sean Shepard said...

The problem with the ticket tax is that it doesn't even begin to really cover the costs and they might try to attach to tax to things events either (a) that would have gone on whether new stadiums were built or not and (b) have nothing to do with the stadiums (IMS, Murat, etc...)

Just do the math (using approximate figures).

41 regular season home games x 13,000 attendance = 533,000 tickets

8 regular season home games x 60,000 attendance = 480,000 tickets

Just to prevent sniping let's throw in 'pre-season' (4 Pacers? 2 Colts?) so there is another 172,000 tickets.

1,185,000 Total tickets divided by $43 million is $36 per ticket.

If that has to be paid by taxpayers instead of event attendees, that is an additional subsidy (just to cover the deficit - not the other stadium construction and financing costs and such) ... but an ADDITION SUBSIDY of $360 per Colts season ticket and $1,620 per Pacers season ticket.

Of course, that kind of increase in ticket costs would cause a decline in sales and revenue. As long as they can bury it with the taxpayer they can continue to run their unprofitable endeavors as a welfare case.

I like the Colts and Pacers. I enjoy them being here in town, but cities and states across American need to start understanding the real costs. Perhaps these folks need to make do with one less $15 million player or something, not tax poor people to give money to wealthy ones.

Wilson46201 said...

Cool it about the canal! Anybody with the faintest knowledge of Indiana history would not bring it up as an example of wise public financing... if anything, canals could be used as a cautionary tale!

Citizen Kane said...

How often do you hear anybody from LA crying about not having an NFL team? It wasn't going to happen under Peterson and it won't happen under Ballard. The few people in LA who want a team want to control the team, which means no Irsay. Since Irsay has no other life but the Colts and prescription pill addictions, there is no way he sells the team to an LA consortium and walks away.

There are several cities desperate for an NBA team, including Las Vegas, Kansas City and Anaheim, with Las Vegas being the likliest candidate of all even with the gambling issue. Seattle would be an also-ran and Las Vegas would be the front-runner. But if the Pacers leave, so what. Who would really miss them at this stage?

The whole myth that sports gives a city anymore than a fleeting identity needs to be squashed. I am an ardent Steelers fan, yet I have to remind myself that they won the Superbowl this year. And I am just as pissed that the State of Pennsylvania etc. built new Stadiums for the Steelers and the Pirates as I am about the mis-allocation(to put it mildly) of resources to construct stadiums and arenas here in Indy.

The City would be better off without the Colts and Pacers, so that city officials could focus on the core city issues instead of these peripheral, inconsequential (well not with respect to the amount of money stolen from taxpayers) matters.