Saturday, August 27, 2005

GOP = Tax & Spend

I thought the time was right to compile some articles showing that the trend I have chronicled here- tax & spend Republicans- is not merely a Hamilton County phenomenon.

Item: Fox News, the conservative news channel itself, ran Radly Balko's critique on GOP spending at the Federal level. This is not Ronald Reagan's GOP anymore.

Item: Washington Post article, "In Congress, the GOP Embraces Its Spending Side".

Item: Mark Tapscott's article "Has the GOP Lost Its Soul" appears on, and discusses the pork-barrell spending and Bush's lack of veto.

Item: The Daily Kos describes Alabama's new governor's flip-flop on taxes. Alabama actually has a GOP chair, though, who spoke in frustration on this situation instead of toeing the line. Has three links to additional items.

The Cato Institute: Cato has about 30 or so articles on this topic. Here's the link to the main page on Federal spending. Cato's 20-page study in pdf format, "The Grand Old Spending Party".

There are hundreds more. You get the picture: The GOP has abandoned fiscal conservatism. Only the Libertarian Party opposes tax-and-spend anymore.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Colts Negotiations Failings

As someone who has conducted negotiations for a paycheck, I have marvelled for months at the tremendous gaffe the governments side has allowed to float along.

The Colts haven't signed anything.

This is Negotiation 101. One party should never begin to act and to commit resources unless and until the other side has committed to do so as well.

The government side has been so eager to act, they didn't bother getting the Colts to agree to the $3/ticket tax, or even to sign a lease. Touchdown Colts! This did not stop the Central Indiana counties from passing a 1% increase in their food & beverage taxes. Touchdown Colts!

So, the Colts are completely in the driver's seat. The governments have no leverage (Field Goal Colts!) beyond the hope that if the Colts play hardball, the public will resent it. That's a bad bet, because the governments were betting that the public would not resent a raise in taxes to support the team and a new stadium. Touchdown Colts!

In fact, the Colts never even issued the threat of leaving Indianapolis. The pols- Mayor Peterson, Governor Daniels, Senator Kenley- have all made it out that the Colts put that item on the table. Perhaps the team did behind closed doors, but no team spokesman has ever said this on the record. Touchdown Colts!

Score: Colts 31, Governments 0

Today's Indy Star report makes for amusing reading, if one is amused by three governments that fumbled into the waiting arms of team owner Jim Irsay. So, it makes for irritating reading.
Peterson said he understands the ticket tax is no longer part of the deal because the stadium can be paid for without it. Chuck Schalliol, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget and Gov. Mitch Daniels' chief financial official, said Thursday the tax is not essential.

This is called Giving Away The Store. Had I done something like this when negotiating on behalf of utility companies, I would have been fired before the conclusion of the negotiation.
Kenley said the legislation did not fund the authority without a lease agreement to safeguard public money. Without a deadline, there would be no pressure to finish the lease, he said. Nearing construction within months of the session's May ending is extraordinary, he added.

"Why commit that kind of money without a lease?" Kenley said. "It takes all three parties to get the resources."

Why indeed, Senator Kenley! We already have committed the money without a lease. The Republican County Councilors in Hamilton and other doughnut counties have voted for the tax increases. The taxes are already being collected by restauranteurs in some jurisdictions. Bottom line: the lease should have been signed before a single tax vote was even taken. Alas.

No part of this project has yet begun to look like anything positive for this region. This is tax & spend crony capitalism at its worst, and on display for all to see.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bus Blues Reprise

This is a re-post from 2003. My sentiment is entirely the same today.

Great gravy, has school resumed already? I've had to stop in traffic, seeing the yellow busses with the railroad crossing-quality warning signals flashing ahead, letting kids on and off.

Every year, I get to thinking about the costs of busing kids to school. This is absolutely not a complaint about desegregation busing. This is a complaint about busing kids at all.

With all of the charges of childhood obesity and poor physical condition, the bus looks like yet another enabler of that condition. Let the kids discover that they have legs, and that those things below the waist do a remarkable job of propelling from A-to-B.

With all of the budgetary shortfalls school administrators endlessly wail about, consider how many more books, computer labs, athletic items, and heck, roof repairs, could be had, if not for the expenditures related to busses:

The bus itself
Fuel for the bus
Maintenance for the bus

A bus barn
Property on which the bus barn sits
Security for these facilities

The salary of the bus driver
Benefits for the bus driver
Matching taxes- social security, workers comp., etc, for the driver
Ditto these three for the maintenance staff
Ditto these three for security

Insurance on the bus itself
On the bus barn
On the property on which the bus barn sits
On the bus driver
On the maintenance staff
On the security

I think of all of the fuel wasted in traffic as cars sit while mommies fuss one last time before the kid gets on the bus. I think of it in terms of lost money and gained pollution. I think of the time lost. I think of the lost opportunity for a nice, brisk, one-mile daily walk in the morning. I think of property released for other uses, generating tax revenues in so many ways. I think of new books, repaired roofs, new tubas, and new athletic gear. Get rid of the busses!

Certainly, the savings would be enough to put one copy Atlas Shrugged in every teacher's lounge, and a copy of The Road to Serfdom on the School Board President's desk.
Get Over It!

I was listening to Abdul In The Morning on WXNT 1430-am today, and was disgusted to hear discussion on Daylight Savings Time. Enough already! This is hardly the most pressing issue facing Hoosiers today, and yet, so many treat it as though it is.

If you're a farmer and concerned, I understand. If you own a drive-in theatre, I understand. Otherwise? Good grief! Look at this list of issues. Can you honestly tell me with a straight face that remaining outside of DST is more crucial?

Safety Issues - Fire, Police, Emergency Response Facing Budget Cuts
Transition From Manufacturing
Fair Elections / Paper Trail Voting Systems
Ever-Higher Taxes
Competitive Elections / Gerrymandering of Districts
Methamphetamine Plague
Underperforming Educational System

Reality check, folks. If the average Hoosier put as much energy into any one of the above issues as into fighting DST, we would be on the road to a better, more secure future.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

If The Dollar Store Can Do It...

... Why can't Indiana?

Leave it to our state government to fail to do what any retailer will do effortlessly: produce a receipt you take home with you.

Buy something completely innocuous- sweat socks, disposable diapers, any Al Franken book- and you'll get a receipt. You'll have eternal proof of how much money you spent, where you spent it, when you spent it, and what you spent it on.

Exercise the most precious right of American citizenship and vote, and you'll walk away empty handed, and unsure that your vote was definitively counted.

Was there petulant, ponderous resistance among retailers when the time came for them to install machines in their stores that would produce purchase receipts? Not among the intelligent retailers. These machines actually helped them track their inventory better, which allowed them to become more efficient while serving their customers better.

In the same way, intelligent governments should eagerly obtain the sort of voting machines that at once produce a detailed receipt for the voter and tally the votes.

Indiana's voting machines currently lag some 25 years behind the cash register at Wal-Mart. It's time to rectify that situation, and make a paper trail for votes as important as a paper trail for purchases of kitty litter.
Good News That Is Kinda Stinky

Congratulations to the City of Noblesville for finally landing an actual tenant in the Noblesville Corporate Campus, in the area of I-69 & SR 238. Simon will be developing an enormous shopping area in the Campus.

While that's obviously great news for Noblesville and Hamilton County, the development is also representative of a sort of failing on the part of the City.

The Corporate Campus was touted as the future key location in the I-69 "Life Sciences Corridor".

For those who need the nudging, a shopping mall is not exactly life sciences. Again- it's great news, but hardly part of the plan, which has only had false starts, and nothing in the way of results. The eager reception by the City smacks of desperation. From the Indy Star:
City Council members here smiled and nodded through a presentation Tuesday night for the Hamilton Town Center -- an expansive retail project that could become the largest open-air shopping center in the metro area.

Then council members piled on the compliments, with some proclaiming the vast retail project would forever change the historic Hamilton County seat.

The way the Campus was developed is objectionable and incorrect.

Hamilton County is not the kind of place that is desperate for development, requiring prodding and pleading in order to draw it. No, Hamilton County is the fasting growing County in the state of Indiana.

And generally, when a developer selects a location for conversion from farm ground to commercial space, the developer provides the infrastructure, building the roads and sewers, and then transfering it all as a gift to the City.

The City of Noblesville built the infrastructure here. Roads to nowhere have occupied the Noblesville Corporate Campus area for two years. Sewers conveying nothing have been in the ground for the same time. This infrastructure is not a gift to the City. It is a gift to the developers, paid for by the City. Unnecessarily. At taxpayer expense. This goes way beyond mere zoning, which tries to plan and dictate what kind of development goes where.

According to a Noblesville Daily Times article that the City has maintained on its website, Noblesville spent $60 million on this infrastructure. That's an enormous amount of money to lay out on a project that has had roads to nowhere for two years, especially in light of the budget issues area governments have faced.

Again, the Simon development will be a wonderful thing. It's just that Simon should be preparing to foot the bill for the infrastructure right about now.

One other thing reported in the Star article is noteworthy:
"Since I became mayor two years ago, I've wanted to get the Corporate Campus off to a real strong start and not just take the first business that came along," Mayor John Ditslear said. "But never did I think we'd hit a home run like this with a Simon mall."

He's right about not taking the first business to come along. This is the second. Whatever happened to Helmer? Wasn't that the start to this regional development? We haven't heard much about Helmer lately, and that is curious. The idea behind the Life Sciences Corridor was to attract excellent, high-wage jobs. Helmer's website offers no news about the creation of its new headquarters in the Corporate Campus. A shopping area is great, and has the City drooling over projected tax revenues. But as for job creation? Give me all the Helmers we can find.

Then, lets get back to letting developers be developers, footing the bill for their projects.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Joke That Rings True

While walking down the street one day a Republican Town Councilor is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see an elected official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in," says the man.

"Well, I'd like to but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose were to spend eternity."

"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the Republican Town Councilor.

"I'm sorry but we have our rules."

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a club and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. It's the Elephant Open. Or is it the Commissioner's Outing?

They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne. Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that, before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises.

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
"Now it's time to visit heaven."

So, 24 hours pass with the Republican Town Councilor joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

"Well then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."

The Republican Town Councilor reflects for a minute, then answers: "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."

So, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

"I don't understand," stammers the Republican Town Councilor. "Yesterday I was here and there was the Elephant Open... or was it the Commissioners Outing? We ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now all there is a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"

The devil looks at him, smiled and said, "Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted. Our policies are a little different than our campaign promises."

"But you know all about that."

The next opportunity for seeing this joke played out on the people of Hamilton County comes Monday, August 29, at 7pm, when the Town of Fishers votes on its 1% food & beverage tax.

That is, unless you act to convince them otherwise. They seem not to have much in the way of principles, and open to blowing whichever way the breeze takes them. Give them a strong anti-tax gust by email or in person at the meeting at Fishers Town Hall.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A House A Mess

It's a sort of trouble in paradise for the Republican Party here in Hamilton County. On the one hand, they are the dominant party here. On the other, they are coming unglued in embarrassing ways. Matt Tully's column in the Sunday Star.
The battle is being fought by a pair of Hamilton County's top political names -- new county GOP Chairman Charlie White and longtime County Commissioner Steve Dillinger.

White calls Dillinger an annoying "Boss Hogg" who is too friendly with firms doing county business. Dillinger counters that White has betrayed former allies and doesn't have the trust of many county Republicans.

Concerns over this battle are spilling beyond Hamilton County's borders. Gov. Mitch Daniels won the GOP stronghold by nearly 50,000 votes last year, and state Republican leaders fear a party split heading into the 2006 elections.
That suits me very well. Throw in the Libertarian strategy of exposing the tax-and-spend ways of the Hamilton County GOP, and voters turning up their noses at these childish, amateurish displays, and we may well see the whole thing come apart, with voters going Libertarian.

They're only a heartbeat away right now. Certainly several small business owners -restauranteers mainly- are making the jump. That will happen so long as the GOP abandons its fiscal conservative side in favor of toeing the line for the Governor, or in balancing budgets through tax increases.

The next chance to see the GOP step on their tails is when Fishers votes on a 1% food & beverage tax, Monday, August 29.