Sunday, April 20, 2014

Indianapolis Residents Will Pay Dearly For Ballard's Dim Bulb Plan For Electric Car Sharing

Mayor Greg Ballard, who will never be accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed, came up with this bright idea of launching an electric car-sharing plan in Indianapolis after visiting a similar one in Paris, France during one of his many overseas junkets funded by his campaign contributors, also known as city contractors. The French electric car company, Bollore, plans to invest about $35 million to launch its electric car-sharing plan for Indianapolis, which operates similarly to the recently-launched bike share program Mayor Ballard backed and to which Ballard awarded the naming rights to the Pacers after they contributed a paltry $20,000 towards the program. Hey, it's the least the Pacers could do after we've agreed to pay out more than $200 million to their NBA team over a more than 10-year period.

As with every bright idea forwarded by Ballard, there's lots of money to be made for his campaign contributors at the cost of Indianapolis residents. Indianapolis Power & Light is asking permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to hike rates by $16 million to cover installation and other costs it expects to incur to establish Bollore's electric car-sharing plan, which as envisioned would include 1,200 charging stations at 200 locations. This is not unlike the stupid solar farm idea Indianapolis ratepayers are subsidizing out at the Indianapolis International Airport. The private investors/campaign contributors invested about $35 million to build their solar farm on airport-owned property. Any electricity generated by the solar farm is purchased by IPL at 8 times the published rate it typically costs the electric utility to provide electricity to ratepayers and is passed on to consumers. The campaign contributors make off like bandits at the expense of electric ratepayers.

That's not all. The car-sharing stations will crowd out a number of metered parking spaces that will cut revenues to the City's private parking meter operator, ParkIndy. Under the terms of its 50-year lease agreement with the City, the private operator must be reimbursed for any parking meters the City takes out of operation. So guess what? The City will have to pay ParkIndy dearly for Ballard's electric car-sharing plan. According to the IBJ, the City will have reimbursed ParkIndy $16.9 million by the time the electric car-sharing plan is fully implemented. That's on top of the more than $300 million the private operator will pocket over the next several decades that could have gone into city coffers to pay for basic city services, such as hiring police officers and fixing city streets and sidewalks.

So Ballard's bright idea will cost Indianapolis taxpayers as much as the French company will invest to offer shared electric cars to Indianapolis residents. Mayor Ballard doesn't support any initiative unless there is some payoff to his campaign contributors. That's because all of his policy ideas are invented and written by his campaign contributors. The guy never had an original idea in his life. "The obstacles right now are peoples' perceptions," Ballard proclaimed when he first announced his electric car-sharing plan. No, the obstacle is your dim bulb and your inability to discern the difference between the public's interest and that of your campaign contributors. Seriously, how many Indianapolis residents are going to drive their cars to an electric car-sharing station and park their internal combustion engine cars so they can pay to drive an electric car? No, it's all about the perception of visitors to the city. How can we be a world class city unless visitors to our city have the option of driving electric cars?
“The obstacles right now are peoples’ perceptions. They used to think these were toy, box cars, but in the last three or four years, this has changed dramatically,” Ballard said.

Read more:

“The obstacles right now are peoples’ perceptions. They used to think these were toy, box cars, but in the last three or four years, this has changed dramatically,” Ballard said.

Read more:

“The obstacles right now are peoples’ perceptions. They used to think these were toy, box cars, but in the last three or four years, this has changed dramatically,” Ballard said.

Read more:

“The obstacles right now are peoples’ perceptions. They used to think these were toy, box cars, but in the last three or four years, this has changed dramatically,” Ballard said.

Read more:


Friday, April 18, 2014

Internal Memo: IMPD Failed To Act On Police Officer's Stalking Concerns For The Past Year, IMPD Says Prosecutor's Office Dropped The Ball

The finger pointing begins in the wake of last night's tragic murder-suicide involving two IMPD police officers. An internal memo obtained by WRTV suggests that IMPD brass was too slow to act after Officer Kim Carmack repeatedly complained about concerns that her ex-husband, Sgt. Ryan Anders, was stalking her over the past year after she filed for divorce last April. Yet IMPD officials are pointing the blame at Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry's Office, which they say failed to act on their request to arrest Sgt. Anders on multiple criminal charges.

While Carmack filed for divorce from Anders in April 2013, and the couple's divorce became final last October, the internal affairs document indicates that Carmack had repeatedly complained about Anders' stalking her while on duty, continuing long after their divorce was final. She had even made allegations that that he had sexually assaulted her. IMPD did not take official action on Carmack's concerns until five weeks ago when she sought a protective order against him in which she stated under oath that she feared for her life. "Internal investigations looked into this matter and sat down and talked to both parties," said IMPD Chief Rick Hite. "And understand there were several issues and challenges on both sides."

A subsequent internal affairs investigation included interviewing more than 30 people familiar with the couple's rocky relationship. After Carmack obtained a protective order against Anders, IMPD brass placed him on administrative leave and confiscated his department-issued weapons. The department reassigned Carmack, and even took the step of placing her in a safe house on the west side where they believed she would be safe from Anders. Carmack's weapons were also taken from her during her administrative reassignment. Police also placed a GPS tracking device on Anders' car so they could continuously track his movements. Police say Anders evaded their detection when he went to Carmack's west side home by borrowing a friend's car.

A March 27 internal affairs memo obtained by WRTV indicated that police had enough evidence to arrest Anders on multiple charges of stalking, criminal confinement and burglary weeks ago. The memo emphasized that Carmack was at great risk of harm from Anders. Despite the evidence police had gathered, a deputy prosecutor in Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry's Office wanted to take more time to obtain Anders' phone records before executing an arrest warrant. For reasons that are unclear, Carmack was removed from the safe house and returned to her home "against our better judgment", in the words of IMPD Chief Rick Hite, where she was hunted down and killed by her ex-husband yesterday evening. WRTV reached out to the prosecutor's office for their reaction to the allegation by IMPD that their delay in arresting Anders resulted in last night's tragic murder-suicide but had not yet gotten their response as of this evening's 6:00 p.m. news broadcast. In the meantime, you can bet that Chief Hite has launched a witch hunt to track down the person who licked the internal memo so that he can retaliate against him or her with all his might.

History Has A Way Of Repeating Itself: Public Safety Tax Increase To Hire 500 New Officers Is Another Bait-And-Switch

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The IMPD Staffing Commission is about to wrap up several months of work after reaching the conclusion it was charged with reaching the moment it came into existence and the make-up of its membership was named. Every member of the commission to a fault came into this task with the preconceived idea that IMPD is grossly-understaffed, and that the only way hundreds of new police officers can be hired is if Indianapolis' individual taxpayers buckle down and agree to cough up tens of millions in additional taxes annually to hire the 500 additional full-time officers the Commission recommends be added to the current force of over 1,500 officers, an increase of nearly one-third in the number of full-time sworn officers patrolling Indianapolis streets.

The Commission has patched together a hodgepodge of revenue enhancements to pay for 500 new police officers. There's a 42% increase in the public safety income tax from 0.35% to the maximum rate allowed under state law, 0.50%, that will generate another $24 million a year, $15 million of which will go into a dedicated fund to support IMPD's budget. There's an increase in property taxes for some homeowners through the elimination of the homestead property tax credit that will generate $7.5 million dedicated to IMPD. By playing with the levy, seeking additional COPS grant funding from the federal government for hiring new officers, a paltry share of the money from the CIB's new taxes on car rentals and admissions (less than $1.5 million) and perhaps by charging a service fee to organizations which sponsor large special events that tax IMPD's resources, the Commission may be able to round up another $5 million a year. By my count, that's a little more than $25 million a year. Does anyone honestly believe that amount of money will fund 500 new police officers on a permanent basis? If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

During a presentation at the last meeting of the Commission, City Controller Jason Dudich laid out the most rosy scenario possible using this funding approach. Dudich candidly told the Commission members that this was only a temporary funding solution with a viable life span of four to five years. Even then, he acknowledged that city budget-makers would have to adjust the number of new hires to stay within budget. Dudich concedes that IMPD's spending will already overtake revenues by 2018 if all of his proposed revenue enhancements are enacted by the council. Dudich told Commission members they would then have to sit down and have this same conversation all over again to discuss how to find revenues to support IMPD's budget. Under the current budget deal pieced together last year, IMPD's budget we're told has a structural deficit of $15 million, and the City's overall budget faces a $40 million structural deficit going into the 2015 fiscal year. Those immediate problems we're told will magically disappear if these new tax increases are enacted.

I don't have the numbers at my fingertips as does Controller Dudich, but simple math tells me that from the outset there isn't anywhere near enough revenues in this tax increase proposal to support the hiring of 500 new police officers, let alone 100 new officers. A starting officer's salary is currently $39,000. Conservatively, I estimate that it costs at least $100,000 a year to employ a new police officer at that pay grade when you toss in all of his benefits, training, equipment, uniform, car, fuel and other expenses it takes to support each new police hire. That means at least $10 million to hire a class of 100 new officers. By the third year, new police hires alone would more than consume the amount of new revenues without taking into account the inevitable growth in IMPD's budget from the new police contract the FOP will insist upon to guarantee immediate and future pay raises over a several year period for all officers, and the increased health care, car, fuel and other costs that can't be avoided.

Completely missing from this discussion is what happens if Mayor Greg Ballard gets his way and all of our criminal courts, prosecutors, public defenders, jail and all other criminal justice-related functions are relocated into a new criminal justice center the Mayor envisions being built within three years and leased back to the city-county government. Mayor Ballard boasts that his plan will allow us to get a new criminal justice center on the dime of private investors, but at what cost? The private investors will expect a nice return on their investment for providing a build-to-suit all-equipped criminal justice center. It goes without explanation that the new outlays in the budget to pay rent, maintenance, utilities and other expenses on that new criminal justice center will totally wipe out any gains from this tax increase. In fact, I would argue that the tax increase proposed is really in contemplation of meeting those future budget outlays, and that the promise of using the money for hiring 500 new police officers is nothing more than a ruse to fool the public into accepting another bitter pill.

If I've learned anything from watching past budget debates of the Indianapolis City-County Council, it's that things are never as they first appear. I first began paying close attention to Indianapolis budget discussions in 2007 when then-Mayor Bart Peterson, in the midst of a spike in the city's homicide rate, began pushing for a 65% increase in the local income tax rates from 1% to 1.65% to provide at least $85 to $90 million a year in new spending for public safety, which the Democratic-controlled council approved largely along party lines. Mayor Peterson promised that his plan would put 100 new police officers on the streets. At the time, the City was also faced with a half-billion dollar unfunded public safety pension liability. Peterson had planned to issue bonds to cover the unfunded liability and commit at least $20 million a year from the new tax revenues to pay debt service on those bonds.

Some of us at the time hadn't forgotten that Mayor Peterson's so-called Peterson Plan on which he ran when he was first elected 8 years earlier had promised 200 new police officers, none of which he delivered upon. He did, however, enact another food and beverage tax increase to pay for the $700 million Lucas Oil Stadium and find $20 million to build the Conrad Hilton and another $25 million to build a new corporate headquarters on a public park across the street from the State House for Simon Property Group, along with a free parking garage courtesy of the taxpayers. Peterson also engineered the merger of the Indianapolis Police Department and Marion Co. Sheriff's Department's law enforcement functions in a move that he promised would save Indianapolis taxpayers $9 million annually, savings I would remind you never materialized. He also gave up control of the police department to the sheriff as part of the original merger agreement.

At the time, we saw the city's overall budget jump from about $700 million annually to about $1 billion, helped along at the time by rising property taxes before the bottom fell out of the housing market and the firestorm erupted over the sticker shock from the switch to the fair market value assessment of real property that sent many homeowners' tax bills through the roof. The 2007 property tax protests and anger over the lack of transparency in how Mayor Peterson and the Democratic-controlled council in pushing through their public safety tax increase ushered in a new mayor, Greg Ballard, who promised to make public safety job one, along with a Republican-controlled council, most of whom had ran on the promise of not raising taxes during their campaign.

It's pretty much been forgotten, but when Mayor Ballard took office, he promised a top-to-bottom review of the City's budget and promised to reduce the City's budget by at least 10% during his first term in office or not run for re-election, neither of which occurred, unless you believe the Mayor's fantasy that he provided us a huge windfall and all kinds of savings by selling off the water company to Citizens Energy. The only real promise he kept was taking back control of the police department from the sheriff before quickly passing off control of it to his public safety director and thereafter washing his hands of all things related to public safety.

He also headed over to the State House and asked dumbfounded members of the House Ways & Means Committee to repeal the property tax. The Indiana General Assembly and Gov. Mitch Daniels instead gave us a comprehensive property tax reform law that capped property taxes at a percentage of fair market value (1% for homeowners, 2% for rental property and 3% for commercial property). In exchange, the state increased the state's sales tax rates, picked up entirely the cost of Indianapolis' half-billion dollar unfunded pension liability and assumed a substantial part of local schools' budgets that had previously been funded by property taxes. Ballard later agreed to shave a fractional percent off that 65% increase in the local income tax rate, which saved Indianapolis taxpayers a few million dollars a year, and kept the rest of the money as he boasted about his "honestly balanced" budgets. We never saw those 100 additional new police officers, and the City relied upon a COPS grant from the federal government that was supposed to fund new 50 new police officers that in actuality was used to fund existing police officers' salaries.

In due course, Ballard turned his attention to his true number one priority--downtown. To hear him speak, the greatest crisis facing the city during his tenure was the purported insolvency of the Capital Improvement Board posed we were told by the failure of the prior administration to include at least $20 million a year that would be needed to operate the Lucas Oil Stadium once it opened in 2008. A higher hotel tax, new annual subsidies from the state, a $29 million state loan and a one-time transfer of millions from the downtown TIF district were all required, according to Ballard, to return the CIB to solvency. Repeatedly folks asked if any of the new revenues were going to be used to provide new subsidies to the Pacers, and each time the public was told that none of the new money was earmarked for reaching a new, long-term deal with the Pacers.

Well, we've since seen two new tax increases for the CIB on auto rentals and admissions, and new agreements between the Pacers and the CIB that provide for more than $200 million in new subsidies to the NBA franchise over a 10-year period. While the city struggles with a $40 millions structural deficit, the CIB kicked off the 2014 budget year with a surplus of about $90 million to support its annual budget of about $150 million compared to the city's more than billion-dollar budget. In his infinite wisdom, the Mayor also decided to auction off our parking meter assets with our council's blessing for a paltry sum in exchange for, at best, a couple of million dollars a year more in revenue and a $20 million upfront fee after more than doubling parking rates and extending the hours that motorists must pay to park at metered spaces in downtown and Broad Ripple to evenings and weekends. He gave away a third of the upfront payment to a large campaign contributor to build a mixed use retail and parking garage in Broad Ripple. Not one dime has being used to pay for public safety. The private vendor can be expected to pocket more than $300 million over the 35-year life of its parking meter lease agreement with the City.

Once you understand that the City's budget is and has always been nothing more than a shell game, you learn to look skeptically upon any new proposals to raise taxes. There are inherent costs of funding government that can't be avoided. The problem always comes in how we pay for government services and how we prioritize the funding of those services. The priority of the current mayor and all of his recent predecessors, along with successive councils controlled by both political parties, has been spending on downtown to support the professional sports teams, convention industry and real estate development. It doesn't matter how much we raise taxes to support public safety or other essential city services. As long as we continue to erode the underlying tax base by diverting an increasing share of our tax revenues to TIF districts and by granting tax abatements to businesses like candy, we're only shifting a greater share of the burden of financing those priorities onto the backs of the vast majority of individual taxpayers and businesses who gain little from them, while leaving less money to fund what the majority would consider essential services that require a higher priority.

TIF districts consume nearly $120 million a year in property tax revenues; tax abatement consume a much larger amount of the property tax base. The revenue erosion is set to escalate in future years due to the recent expansion of the downtown TIF district and the massive new, Mid-North TIF district that encompasses the booming Broad Ripple Village business district. At least two new TIF districts are on the drawing board, including one that includes the entire Madison Avenue business corridor on the City's south side. We've handed out nearly $60 million for construction of the J.W. Marriott Hotel, at least $15 million in subsidies for the Artistry apartment building, close to a $100 million for City Way, $20 million for a new parking garage and grocery story development downtown, more than $6 million for a cricket sports park on the City's east side and $23 million for a high-rise luxury apartment building downtown. There are plans for tens of millions of dollars more to publicly-subsidize real estate development projects in Broad Ripple and an office building downtown on the very site where Mayor Ballard said during his 2007 campaign should be set aside for the site of a new criminal justice center.

Our city's leaders have their priorities, and the people have their priorities. Our priorities are only considered when there is a discussion about the need to raise taxes. No sooner do we start paying those higher taxes than we learn that the money we thought would be there to fund our priorities no longer exists, but the money needed to fund their priorities is always there, carefully dedicated and earmarked, we're told, so that it can't be legally spent on our priorities. Fool us once, shame on them. Fool us twice, shame on us. Will you let them fool you again by enacting yet another tax increase when all evidence in advance already points to the fact that it can't possibly be used for its intended purpose?

And even if the rosiest of scenarios came true, and the City is able to hire 500 new police officers, does anyone honestly believe that hiring more police officers will reduce crime? The City of Detroit has more than 2,700 full-time police officers for its 680,000 residents compared to Indianapolis' 1,500 plus police force for its more than 830,000 residents. Not even 1,200 more police officers to police a much smaller city has resulted in less crime for Detroit's residents. Think about that. Or at least remind Mayor Ballard that he's constantly been telling us that crime has been down appreciably every year since he's been in office without hiring a single additional police officer. You owe him that.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two IMPD Officers Dead In Murder-Suicide

A narcotics officer for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has shot and killed his estranged wife, who is also an IMPD officer, this evening in a home on the city's west side before fatally shooting himself according to WTHR.
The IMPD SWAT team was requested to a home in the 2400 block of Inishmore Court around 6:30 p.m. Thursday. That location is near W. 21st Street and Country Club Road.
Eyewitness News has learned that a narcotics officer on the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department reportedly shot and killed his estranged wife, also an IMPD officer, and then turn the gun on himself Thursday evening.
Sources tell Eyewitness News the couple was in the process of a divorce, which he was not taking very well. The shooting happened at the woman's west Indianapolis home on Inishmore Court near W. 21st Street and Country Club Road.
Sources say the narcotics officer cut the home's security system before kicking in a door and shooting his wife.
IMPD has not released the names of the victims at this time. Those who know the female victim say her love for police work spilled over into the family, where she currently has a son on the police department as well.
Mayor Greg Ballard and public safety officials will hold a press conference to address the situation later Thursday evening.
A live press conference is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. The story will be updated following the press conference.

This is a very tragic event. My deepest sympathies to the families of these two officers. I just hope that Mayor Ballard and other self-serving individuals have the common decency not to step in front of the cameras for the purpose of exploiting this tragic event by blaming it on IMPD being under-staffed and telling the public it needs to rally behind their push for a major tax increase this year to support the hiring of 500 additional police officers as they have with other recent, senseless killings that had nothing to do with the number of police officers working for IMPD.

UPDATE: The IMPD officers have been identified as Sgt. Ryan Anders and Officer Kim Carmack. The couple were divorced last year. Karmack reportedly had a protective order against Anders, who allegedly forced his way into his ex-wife's home and shot and killed her before killing himself. Sgt. Anders had been recently placed on administrative leave. Neighbors tell reporters that there had been a number of domestic disturbances involving Anders and Carmack. IMPD Chief Rick Hite said that the department was aware of the situation and had made efforts to keep Carmack and Anders safe. "Forced entry was made," Hite said. "That speaks volumes." In response to a reporter's question, Hite asserted that Sgt. Anders' department-issued equipment, including weapons, had been taken from him following the issuance of the order of protection against him. Hite repeatedly told reporters, "We will not lie to you." WRTV's Rafael Sanchez stated during his questioning of Chief Hite that he had heard from police officers who complained that Hite and the Department had done too little to protect Carmack in light of the threat Anders posed towards her. Hite reiterated that it was still an ongoing investigation without directly addressing Sanchez' question. Hite told reporters that Anders cut the wires to a surveillance camera system outside the home before forcefully entering it. Officer Dustin Carmack is Carmack's son. He was shot in 2011 in the line of duty by a 19-year old gang member.
Officer Kim Carmack

13 WTHR Indianapolis
In an odd twist, a woman on the city's southside shot her husband before turning the gun on her self a short time after the earlier murder-suicide. The couple involved in that attempted murder-suicide in the 7300 block of Jackie Court have not been identified. Anyone else notice that IMPD stopped providing live 911 call data to the Indianapolis Star's website? I'm curious as to what motivated that decision.

Illinois Lawmakers Approve $100 Million For Obama Library In Chicago Despite State's Financial Plight

The State of Illinois has been running multi-billion dollar deficits by going further into debt at the same time it has socked Illinois taxpayers with billions of dollars in higher taxes. Nonetheless, the Democratic-controlled legislature has endorsed a plan to contribute $100 million towards the construction of a presidential library for Barack Obama in an effort to win the bidding for the library's location. The Chicago Tribune reports:
Madigan said it's appropriate for Illinois to commit public funds for the library even though the state is grappling with serious financial problems.
"The state of Illinois will spend over $1 billion in construction this year alone, so $100 million is not out of line,” Madigan said after the House Executive Committee threw its support behind the library funding plan in a unanimous vote. “It's clearly a good investment for the future.”
While presidential libraries are traditionally funded mostly by private donations, Madigan pointed out that "close to $100 million in state money" was earmarked for the Abraham Lincoln presidential library in Springfield. "So we have precedent for this," he said.
Three Chicago universities plan to bid for the new library, including the University of Chicago, Chicago State University and the University of Illinois-Chicago. The proposed site near the University of Chicago calls for the demolition of a historic building where the late President Ronald Reagan's family once lived during his boyhood years. Officials in Hawaii and New York may also bid for the library. The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum referenced by Speaker Madigan is located in the state's capitol city of Springfield where Lincoln had his law office and served for a period of time in the state's House of Representatives before his election to Congress and later as President in 1860. The Lincoln Library opened in 2005.

AP: Turner Made $8 Million On Sale Of Nursing Homes The Past Two Years, Will Make $1 Million On Each New Nursing Home

The Associated Press' Tom LoBianco has obtained documents that show that State Rep. Eric Turner made a sweet $8 million the past two years on the sale of nursing homes through the 38% stake he owns in Mainstreet Property Group. LoBianco is also reporting that Turner stands to make at least $1 million on each new nursing home facility Mainstreet constructs in coming years. LoBianco earlier reported that Turner stood to lose millions if the legislation opposed by Mainstreet had become law this year. Mainstreet has plans to build more than two dozen homes in Indiana over the next several years.

Rep. Turner is facing a House Ethics Committee over allegations by his fellow Republican lawmakers that he lobbied behind closed doors to defeat legislation that would have imposed a temporary moratorium on the construction of new nursing homes in Indiana. Turner had previously told his colleagues he would refrain from voting on or participating in discussions on the legislation that his son, Zeke, the CEO of Mainstreet, and his daughter, Jessaca Stultz, were both lobbying lawmakers this past session to defeat. WTHR is reporting that the House Ethics Committee will meet for its first meeting to begin its investigation on April 23.

Avon High School Video Goes Viral

It's quite a production that seems to have involved the participation of the entire student body and faculty at Avon High School. The video filmed and edited by Suketa Patel titled "Avon High School Lip Dub 2014" has gone viral on YouTube and supposedly took just one take to complete.

No Ethics Hearing Date Set For Turner Investigation

The Star's Tony Cook set out to learn when the first hearing date for the House Ethics Committee investigation of State Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) and his use of his Speaker Pro Tem leadership position to lobby on behalf of his family's nursing home business interests and came up empty. Cook rhetorically asks, "What do earthquakes, stock market bubbles, and Rep. Eric Turner's ethics hearing all have in common?" "It's not easy to predict when any of them will happen." Despite the passage of more than a month since House Speaker Brian Bosma announced the ethics investigation, no initial hearing date has been scheduled. The committee's chairman, State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon), told reporters that it would likely occur the second week of April, which never happened.

According to Cook, some lawmakers are speculating that House leadership is waiting until after the May primary election. Turner is opposed by Parvin Gillim, an architect and former Sheridan Chamber of Commerce president. Bosma and Steuerwald aren't responding to questions about a hearing date, and their spokesperson is only saying that it isn't being delayed because it has yet to be scheduled. It could be that the House Republican leadership has reached an agreement with Turner to resign his leadership position, and they don't want that news to negatively impact his primary race. Or, then again, an even bigger scandal may intervene that draws attention entirely away from this matter.

UPDATE: WTHR is reporting that Rep. Steuerwald has announced that the Ethics Committee will meet on April 23 at the State House to begin its work on investigating Turner's alleged ethical lapses.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More On Ohio River Bridge Boondoggle: Tunnel's Cost Skyrockets $78 Million

The Urbanophile's Aaron Renn has done a great job of keeping track of just how bad of a deal the administration of former Gov. Mitch Daniels brokered with Kentucky officials to build two new bridges over the Ohio River at Louisville, at least one of which was not even needed. The aim seemed to be to figure out a way to make huge payoffs to highway contractors who contributed heavily to Daniels' campaign committee regardless of how much harm it inflicted on Indiana residents.

The East End Bridge's original cost included a controversial tunnel on the Kentucky side of the river to protect a wooded area that was projected to add $260 million to the $2.6 billion project. The approach on the Kentucky side of the bridge alone was projected to cost $753 million, including the cost of the tunnel, leading Hoosiers to shoulder additional construction costs that should have been picked up by the state of Kentucky. Renn picks up on a report in the Louisville Courier-Journal that the tunnel's cost actually skyrocketed by $78 million to $338 million, even as the Daniels administration had made claims that it saved taxpayers $209 million through design changes. Renn's take on this latest development:
At this point I’d have to say it looks like either 1) INDOT created a ludicrously inflated estimate for the tunnel right before construction that was used for the purpose of generating bogus claims of savings, or 2) They were suppressing knowledge that the tunnel was vastly more expensive than they were telling the public. Take your pick.

Lake Station Mayor And Wife Indicted For Using Food Pantry And Campaign Funds To Feed Gambling Addiction

Lake StatiMayor Keith Soderquist March 15 2011. | Sun-Times Media
Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist (D)

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana announced an 11-count indictment today against Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist (D) and his wife, Deborah, accusing the couple of using at least $104,000 in campaign funds and money from the city's food pantry for personal use, including money spent gambling at casinos in Indiana and Michigan. A second complaint against the couple alleges they became accessories after the fact by aiding Mayor Soderquist's step-daughter, Miranda Brakley, in the theft of $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court. The Gary Post-Tribune has more:
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, a conspiracy between Keith and Deborah Soderquist to commit wire fraud in connection with financial transactions involving the Mayor’s campaign finance account and the Lake Station Food Pantry account. These accounts were allegedly used by the Soderquists to obtain cash for personal expenses, including gambling activities at casinos in Indiana and Michigan.
The indictment also charges both Keith and Deborah Soderquist with filing false tax returns for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to the release.
The second indictment names Keith Soderquist, 44, Deborah Soderquist, 55, and Miranda Brakley, 33, a former employee of Lake Station. Brakley is charged with theft of funds from Lake Station from Aug. 1, 2011 through July 31, 2012. Brakley is also charged with bankruptcy fraud for failing to disclose certain payments received from Lake Station on her bankruptcy schedules, the press release said.
Keith and Deborah Soderquist are charged in the second indictment for being accessories after the fact. The last count alleges that Keith and Deborah Soderquist structured a series of financial transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements under federal law, the press relase said. The indictment alleges that in December 2012, the Soderquists obtained $15,000 from an individual. They instructed that individual to write three checks in amounts less than $10,000 (the reporting requirement under federal law) and to back date two of those checks. From Dec. 8-12, 2012, those checks were cashed at different branches of JP Morgan Chase bank, the press release said.
U.S. Attorney David Capp's press release indicated that today's indictments involved the joint efforts of the FBI, IRS and Indiana State Police. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson according to Capps. Former Gary Mayor Scott King has been retained to represent Soderquist.