Transperancy in Muncie, Indiana government-a commentary

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Mayor Tyler and the City of Muncie is in the news again.  This time it’s over the city’s refusal to release attorney fees.  Freedom of Information request was denied.  City’s spokesperson, Sarah Beach,  on behalf of the city,  claimed it was “privileged” information.  The state’s public access counsellor disagreed.

Four days later after the letter was released in the paper, and not without public criticism, Mayor Tyler held a one-minute press conference.   That’s all the time needed to discredit the letter.   The city’s feeble attempt at damage control.  Again.

You know the letter Beach submitted to the newspaper was approved by both the city attorney and Mayor Tyler.   Now Dennis Tyler is saying it was inaccurate.

Tyler said Friday that the city “has always and will always be transparent to its citizens.”

So, let’s look at the transparent government.

In 2012 the City’s building commissioner re-opened his business and immediately received city contracts.  It wasn’t until Walls & Ceilings was fined by OSHA the public became aware.  (It was rumoured Nichols was doing work.)

The city’s Neighborhood Investment Committee (NIC) program birthed in 2015.  For this program, the city buys and sells properties to revitalize neighbourhoods.  Some of you may remember East Central Reinvestment Corporation (ECRC) funded with federal dollars.

East Central Reinvestment Corp., a pioneering local CHDO founded in 1986, went under after defaulting on mortgage payments on 13 houses in 2008. ECRC spent more than $3 million to improve more than 80 properties before HUD cut off funding to it in 2006 after an investigation of conflicts of interest and other complaints. Muncie to prop up housing rehabbers with HUD 4-1-2011

What’s happening with the NIC program?

Last week we learned Delaware County gave the city  215 properties and not one has been put back on the tax rolls.  Where is the transparency?  Does anyone know the status of these properties?  Nope.

Or the status of the Village?   Or the transparency of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission?   Did we know city money was filtering into the building commissioner’s wallet?   Did we know Mayor Tyler was preparing to pass a 43% income tax?   The press conference on Nichols’ arrest, was Mayor Tyler transparent?

Or that Tyler and Donati were board members of Sustainable Muncie? (Both said they resigned and Beach went on to say Tyler’s involvement was as a “figurehead” only).  Of course.  At the final hour, Tyler said there would be a job training program.  Transparency.

The night he won a second term, he declared to followers “I will never lie to you.”  Cheers.  Every time the city gets caught they blamed it on someone else.  The increased tax levy in ’12.  McShurley’s fault.  Traffic lights not synced, blight program delayed, no paving grant?  The State’s fault.

Do you ever wonder why the former MRC president resigned right after Donati lost the election?  Perfect timing.  Or how about bid specifications written specifically for the companies the city favours?  The building on Walnut, Wilson School, VAT.  Was the Mayor transparent or distressed when MSD purchased the building for $300,000 based on an inflated appraisal?  Did Mayor Tyler or Todd Donati give any indication the city was buying the Rutter Building?  Or how much rental revenue?  Do we know?

Woe to those who increase their wealth on the backs of the people they were elected to serve.  The readers may not agree with this statement, but they are to be pitied.    Lacking integrity, greedy, and they will not enjoy the fruits of their labour.  It’s tainted fruit. It has soured in their bellies.  But then again, if one is void of honesty, integrity, empathy and virtue they will think they are the victims of unjust circumstances.

City refuses to release legal fees

City denies withholding information

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.  The most important political office is that of the private citizen.  Louis Brandeis

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The punches just keep comin’

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Muncie City Seal copy
City of Muncie Government Seal

Mayor Tyler claims his administration is transparent.  If this is so, why is it that citizens learn of events after the fact?

Take Halteman Village Pool for example.  A little background, if I may.  Halteman Village is a subdivision in Muncie.  The mayor and two city council members live in the subdivision.  It has a private pool.

Two years ago the City of Muncie gave Halteman Pool $10,000 for repairs.  Later we found it was in lieu of swim lessons.  The pool closed.  We have a public pool and for some unknown reason (Mayor Tyler seems to have forgotten) why swim lessons could not be offered at the beautiful Tuhey Pool. (Tuhey  had $2 million and more invested and yet the mayor chooses to finance repairs on a private pool? – let it sink in.)   A former board member stated after receiving the $10,000 the pool closed three days later.  Do the math….$3,333/day for swim lessons.

On October 22, 2017, citizens found Halteman Pool was deeded to the city in August.  Who knew?  A quit-claim deed was filed,  now the City of Muncie owns another pool and in Mayor Tyler’s neighbourhood.    But, here is where it gets good.  Halteman Pools was  $16,000 in delinquent taxes and a mortgage of $30,000 (according to the paper).

So why was the property deeded to the city in the first place?  You’re going to love this explanation from Sarah Beach spokesperson for the City of Muncie.

“The property was given to the city of Muncie because the owners were no longer able to maintain and operate the property,” Beach said. “The owners did not want the property to become overgrown and donated the property to the city. The city accepted it so that we could maintain it and prevent it from becoming an overgrown eyesore and devalue the neighborhood.”

But ya know, there are many properties in neighbourhoods which are run down, why is this property special?  Because the mayor and two city council members live there?

The property has was been sold in the tax sale last month.

I’m glad the mayor has his best interest in mind.  To avoid his neighbourhood from going to pot, he’ll just gobble up property with city money.   And then he’ll have the city mow and maintain it.   And then we’ll take the property off the tax rolls.  And then Mayor Tyler will come to us with his proverbial hat in his hand and cry about how the caps are hurting the city.  And then he’ll devise a way to increase or implement new fees like he did with the landlord ordinance.

If all this doesn’t stink to high heaven and just scream of improprieties….

Read the full article here.

From Gearbox to Madjax – history tells a story

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Muncie City Seal copy
City of Muncie Government Seal

Sometimes the best way to see the future is to dig up the past.

Larry Riley predicted the outcome of Gearbox now Madjax.  His column appeared in the local paper on January 30, 2016.  One community member claimed Riley was biased in this column, although Riley did provide compelling arguments.

the organization has no revenue stream, no signed tenants, no record of accomplishment Source: Gearbox vs Greenspace Muncie Star Press 1-30-16

Sustainable Muncie hasn’t been around as an organization long enough yet to file its first required annual financial report, having been organized only in December of 2014. Source: Gearbox vs Greenspace Muncie Star Press 1-30-16

Another minus to Gearbox is the cost: $1 million, now guaranteed by the city (if Sustainable Muncie can’t make existing or future loan payments this year, then the city’s money kicks in, but the organization is to pay back the city by the end of this year … how?) Source: Gearbox vs Greenspace Muncie Star Press 1-30-16

So involved was Mayor Dennis Tyler no other ideas could be considered.  In fact, he was silent about another proposal,  Tom Bracken’s greenspace.  Which makes one wonder why he dismissed other ideas and put Gearbox to the feasibility test.  Or Bracken’s proposal for that matter.   Mayor Tyler brought only one idea to the public.

And that’s the end of that.

Let’s look at what has transpired since Riley’s column.  At the time, City council passed an ordinance backing $1 million to be paid back by the end of 2016.

Tyler told The Star Press he wanted to loan $1 million in EDIT revenue to the group rather than just give it to Sustainable Muncie to create an obligation to be repaid. The loan is supposed to be repaid by the end of 2016.

http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2016/01/04/city-council-split-1m-gearbox-loan/78135796/

We know for a fact the money was not paid back.

“The city has not issued any money as it related to this line of credit,” officials replied through city human resources director Sarah Beach last week. Donati, who is also a Sustainable Muncie board member, told TheStar Press that the board was “trying to decide what direction we want to go with” the funding for Madjax, including the original $1 million line of credit. “Eventually, something will have to be done with it. … It’s totally Sustainable Muncie’s responsibility to pay that back and they’re looking at how to get that done.”   Source: Star Press June 6, 2017

After resignations, Madjax plans the way forward

Two months after this article appeared in the paper, the citizens of Muncie were looking at a $4.5 million dollar bond.    The bond was passed with the promise of no property taxes and a training program.  But, in June, Donati and Tyler were already considering bonding for this project, we just didn’t know about it.

Interesting to note:  The City Council had little financial information in 2016 and just a smidgeon more in 2017 yet, they still voted a big fat YES in both instances.

Let’s recap:

  • January 2016 Muncie City Council voted to loan Gearbox $1 million with no financial information
  • December 2016 Loan not paid
  • June 2017 Donati said it was Sustainable Muncie’s responsibility to pay back the money
  • August 2017 Notice for public hearing on $4.5 million bond published
  • August 2017 Muncie City Council learned of Sustainable Muncie’s debt
  • August 2017 Donati said $200,000 has been set aside by Muncie Redevelopment Commission & others  for $348,000 annual bond debt repayment (Muncie Redevelopment Commission & others)
  • August 2017 Muncie City Council voted to introduce the ordinance
  • September 2017 Public Hearing for Madjax – Sustainable Muncie
  • September 2017 Muncie City Council voted to approve the bond

Madjax was not able to pay the interest-free loan in 2016 or make any payments in 2017.  Muncie Redevelopment has set aside $200,000 to guarantee the 2018 bond payment.

This is the transparent government of Mayor Dennis Tyler.  But I digress…

 

Updated: Muncie Debt & TIF

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Muncie, INYou may be interested in looking at the City of Muncie’s total debt as of 9-29-17.  For your reading pleasure see links below on the TIF obligations.  As you can see, TIF revenues (property tax dollars) hold a large share of the debt repayment.

Recently Muncie City Council added $4.5 million in debt and Mayor Dennis Tyler is wanting to bond another $3.5 million for Muncie Community Schools.  $8 million additional debt in less than one month.  Chew on it, baby.

The sad part is the TIF revenue is real property tax dollars.  The reason why TIF districts are so popular amongst government units is simple.  The money collected in the districts can be spent any which way.  Even a $4.5 million bond claiming it is for training purposes for a cash-strapped start-up company.  One in which the mayor and his appointed president of the Redevelopment Commission (MRC) sit on the board.  Go figure.

That’s all, folks!  See y’all soon.

Muncie City Total Debt 9-29-17

TIF Debt 9-28-17

2007 & 2011 Mayoral Elections – what’s the big deal?

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voting image

Elections are funny little creatures.  You never can be certain how the results will go.   One election which has always puzzled me happens to be the 2011 Muncie General Election. So many inconsistencies can be found – decided to pull the information together.

Let’s begin with the number of registered voters according to Delaware County Clerk’s Office.  Election results for the 2011 election are showing 60,811 registered voters.  However, the population of Muncie in 2010 was 70,085. U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts selected- Muncie city, Indiana

The Census Bureau includes Ball State Students living in the City of Muncie both on-campus and off-campus.  Roughly this would be approximately 15,000 students.

Persons under the age of 18 accounts for 17.8% of the population.  If the calculations are correct this would mean 12,475.13 were ineligible to register to vote in 2010.  Granted, some may have turned 18 in 2011 and registered and indeed did vote.  (I did, my father forced it upon me.)

Let’s err on the side of caution here.

70,085 residents  –5,000 BSU students not registered in Delaware County (assuming 10,000 is registered in Delaware County )-10,475 under the age of 18 (assuming 2,000 reached 18 making them eligible for ’11 elections) 54,610 estimated alive and residing in Muncie.

Although, we can’t have an accurate count of registered voters because the rolls are never cleaned up.  People die, people move away and their registration stays active.  Like the man who moved back to Indiana after living in Illinois for decades.  He was still registered to vote in Muncie.

Let’s go on to 2011 election results.  The ’08 Presidential election muddies the waters a little because we don’t have a break-down for city and county voters.  However, from 2007 – 2011 there was an increase of 6,137 new registrations of which 2,029 came in after the 2011 primary.

In 2007 both McShurley and Mansfield were in a dead heat.  After the recount, McShurley won by a handful of votes.  And this is where it gets interesting.  In 2011 Dennis Tyler received 1,789 more votes, in fact, more than either candidate received in ’07.   Probably due to their registration drives of which 240 didn’t bother to vote.  Good odds, huh?

Still, even with the additional voters, 2011 saw less than a 1% increase in voter turn-out from 2007.

2007 had 3992 Democrat straight tickets and 1,366 absentee ballots.

2011 had 4000 Democrat straight tickets and 1,722 absentee ballots, just 67 votes shy of Dennis Tyler’s total vote of 1,789 over McShurley.

Interesting, no?

2007-2015 election 1  (PDF)

2007 primary election results (PDF)

Delaware County Election Results 2007

2011 General Election results

City has another lawsuit

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Bracken sues city over $4.5-million

Bracken emphasizes the lack of transparency on this project.  This administration has been anything but transparent.

Not the end

 

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