When it was revealed on Fox59 News that Mayor Greg Ballard handed out big pay raises to his inner circle of advisors without informing the city county council, Democratic council member Brian Mahern led the charge, claiming such hikes were, “unconscionable.”
Now the mayor is accusing Mahern of blocking major redevelopment projects downtown...using Twitter to do it.
“I was very disappointed to learn that the mayor’s contribution to this very important debate about economic development was a 140-character Twitter personal attack against me of personally holding up jobs and investment,” said Mahern.
Council Democrats and Republicans, along with a member of the mayor’s staff and financial analysts, completed a study of how Indianapolis utilizes Tax Increment Financing (TIF). They came up with some recommendations to change the system, get it back to its roots and avoid debt that stretches on to infinity.
“TIFs should be temporary,” said Mahern. “The downtown TIF should be sunsetted. Have TIF focus on redevelopment, not economic development. If there’s economic development, we should leave that to the private parties and the free market to develop that.”
Mahern said that TIFs, which restrict tax revenues to the immediate district and divert them from library and school districts, were intended to support blighted areas but are now being used to benefit developers who he says would build their projects downtown regardless.
“This is a smoke screen. This is a smoke screen,” Mayor Ballard said on Fox59 Morning News when asked about council criticism of the raises he handed out to his staff. “They will not pass TIF ordinances. They’re holding up development on Mass Ave. They’re holding up 16 Tech. On and off throughout the whole city we have hundreds if not thousands of people who should be working right now in construction jobs that are not because Brian Mahern is holding all this up. That’s what all this is. It’s a smoke screen because they will not advance development within the city.”
“We’re not even in a position to know if those figures are correct,” said Mahern, referring to the Mass Ave development, estimated between $30 million and $50 million, including the movement of the Indianapolis Fire Department’s headquarters. “Much of the work that has been done to establish a TIF on Mass Ave is secret. They have not released what their plan is. They have not released what the cost would be to relocate the fire station.”
The TIF debate comes days before the mayor is slated to send his 2013 budget to the council for approval.
Ballard once estimated the plan would result in a $60 million deficit. That figure has been cut in half and a source says even that deficit may be further reduced as a retired budget analyst, Jim Steel, controller during the Stephen Goldsmith administration in the 1990s, has been brought back to tackle the city’s spending plan.