Saturday ramblings: More on TIF

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Larry bringing to light the reason for consolidating TIF districts.

TIF consolidation for health, safety, morals

The referendum November 5th

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Misguided referendum and $45 million additional taxes.

Just the facts, please.

Very simply put. Why MCS would consider cutting transportation and then wage a full campaign on safety for the children, creating a PAC and raising taxes when the transportation money is available already, is questionable.

After all the time and effort invested in the town hall meetings and the plans that clearly show a savings, the tax is is still needed? With the health clinic expecting to save 15-30%, still need a tax?

If one truly was concerned about the safety of the children, one would should first look at who initiated the busing cuts and why. The capital fund should have been the first line item reduced, not transportation.

The town hall meetings could still have been held and plans to consolidate could have begun. Added cost for a special election in an off year is suspect, too.

Of course asking for money to just spend went over like a lead balloon and so the “emotional” campaign went into high gear.

When a school system with decreasing enrollment and one which receives more funds than the state average wants an additional $45 million or else there will be NO buses, you must look at all the factors, figures and ramification.

Yes, we know the decisions to consolidate schools and streamlining will be difficult. Yes, we know that people are already gearing up for the “Save My School” fight, and it will be nasty. Most of the board members have served more than one term and should have been aware of the difficulties and tough decision which are needed.

While we have been focused on the safety of children, and the false information the buses will end in 2013, we completely ignore all the budget and funding information. We misrepresent the laws, disregard the DLGF information. We don’t consider the $45 million will place the city at the top for the highest taxing city in the state. We don’t consider the economic impact this will have, and quite frankly, we don’t care.

Next year and the years to come, we’ll go back to crying about jobs and costs when we allowed it to happen. We’ll have another war on the closings and MCS will say they have enough money to operate and will put the decisions off, again.

The fact that nearly $55 million has been invested in buildings when the direction should have been consolidation back in 2008. The MCS board had all the data and instead chose to spend on costly remodeling projects.

2014 Budget adoption

$55 million school remodeling project completed 2008

$6.5 million

Detroit’s One Man Show – George Will

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Detroit’s One Man Show – George Will

I read with interest George Will’s current column on Detroit’s plight and couldn’t mistake the parallels to Delaware County.   Although Delaware County’s financial problems are minuscule compared to Motor City, the resemblance is striking.

In March, Detroit’s City Council agreed to 21 stipulations needed for reform.  The city council ignored it.

In June,  Delaware County was handed a $25,000 study with suggestions to bring the budget in line with revenue streams.  It has been largely ignored.  One item in the study was acted on,  a move towards additional taxes.  Fortunately, that was shut down quickly.

Detroit is also in a pickle with their pensions.  Delaware County has never really gotten a handle on the sheriff’s pensions.

Detroit has bonds, so does Delaware County.  We owe.  Will’s column touches on the cost of those bonds should Detroit’s creditors receive pennies on the dollar.  It’s possible that future bond issuances may come to municipalities at a higher financial cost.

Detroit has layers of bureaucracy, so does Delaware County.  Delaware County, has a population of 120,000 or the size of an average city.  Last year voters  soundly rejected an attempt to reorganize the county, decrease the layers of government.  A campaign of misinformation by both party headquarters was amazing in and of itself.  The current mayor donated $5,000.00 out of his campaign coffer to help defeat  modernization.  His position would have been eliminated.  $5,000 from donors is a small price to pay to retain $72,000 salary plus benefits and control over millions of dollars.

Kevyn Orr, appointed to oversee Detroit’s bankruptcy observed “the fact that people had gotten used to the city like this — people were tolerating the abnormal.”

So goes, Delaware County.

I would like to believe the voters would refuse to allow the county to continue in this financial decay, yet every council member retained their positions.  One exception, Commissioner Todd Donati was ousted from office, but quickly hired by the City of Muncie.  Within months of his appointment, he has indebted the city close to $10 million dollars.    When you vote, you’re are not just voting for the person.  You are also giving the elected official the power to place people in positions to oversee millions of dollars in spending.

Is it like this everywhere?  Possibly.  Our neighboring county, Henry, advertises  their appointments and interested parties must submit resumes.    Take that procedure for what it’s worth.

Public Question and Delaware County 2012 Ballot

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Public question: Shall Delaware County, Indiana and City of Muncie, Indiana, reorganize as a single political subdivision?

Supporting consolidation and modernization, vote Yes.

So, here we are at the brink of voting for reorganization and modernization in our county.  After nearly five years, it’s on the ballot.

You might be asking, why do I support consolidation?  I believe it will usher in a smaller and more transparent government.  Currently, there are 47 separate taxing entities in the county.  Most can’t recite even four.  I can’t.  Nevertheless, we have on the table a plan for reorganization.

To give you a little background.  The reorganization began in 2007, when a group of citizens garnered over 2200 signatures to get the ball rolling.  From there it was voted up, voted down, board disbanded and new appointments made, until the finished plan was completed in 2010.  From there it sat gathering dust for nearly a year, as neither Muncie City Council or Delaware County Commissioners bothered to meet and modify the plan.  One wonders if they even read the plan.   I know members of City Council were asked their thoughts on the reorganization, and they sat  looking blankly at the citizen.  Where’s the Democrat handlers when you need them?

Finally, Linda Gregory spoke and defined the plan perfectly.  She would as she spent time explaining the plan to citizens at her monthly meetings.

But today, we have a wealth of misinformation being circulated by those that have never even bothered to read the plan.  You ask how I know this?  I’ve been out and about listening to people explain why they are voting No.  So, I wonder, are these elected people ignorant of the plan or does their agenda include spreading as much false information as possible?  Don’t know.  Either way, it does the citizens a disservice.

To make it fun, let’s discuss some of the things being said.

“Public safety is in danger and we won’t have a sheriff.”  No, public safety won’t change.  Muncie will still have MPD and the County will still have Sheriff Department   The sheriff position is in the constitution, so this position is here to stay.

“Dennis Tyler will control the county.”  No, the mayor position will be eliminated and Dennis Tyler isn’t qualified to be the county executive.

“Your taxes will go up.”   That may be a possibility and really has nothing to do with reorganization.  Remember, your property is capped, so you do have a level of insurance.

“They just want to get rid of the elected officials.”  I’m not sure who “they” may be.  Consider this, the reorganization began in 2007 and there has been a turn over of elected officials.  Realizing the comment lacked credibility, it was continued to single out along-time city council member.  Yep, we spend all our time on modernization and consolidation to rid ourselves of Mary Jo Barton?

Some of the reasons are comical, as the Barton one, some are serious accusations with no basis in fact.  I would suggest you read the plan, if you haven’t already and decide for yourself.

I’ll leave you with this opinion piece from the local newspaper.

Learning from Nashville Experience

Vote Yes For Reorganization

Dis-FUNctional – Are we having fun in Delaware County or what!

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Delaware County is so political, it takes the fun out of being dis-FUNctional.  It  doesn’t matter what the topic, or flavor of the day,  it’s political.  Payback can be good or a detriment, depending on what side of the “dis-FUNction” you sit, stand or walk on.  Sometimes you get a job, or your truck paid off or even a construction contract.

Case in point.  The Muncie Sanitary District and Mayor Dennis Tyler.   Mayor Tyler claimed at the mayoral debate, he was able to work across party lines, he just can’t seem to do it.  Supporters of the mayor never said a word about Economic Development Income Tax funds going to pay for a law firm just so Mayor Tyler can gain the last bit of control over the $168 million dollar storm-water project.  So, the political games continue and the taxpayers and citizens will be forking over more money.  That’s the way it has always worked.

First we had the Justice Center, talk about the political football!

With the political appointments made to the Board of Supervisors (BOS) was filled to over-flowing with party supporters.  By the time it was all said and done, Delaware County was on the hook for additional bonds (covering the cost overruns), purchased a boat-load of  Bull computers…and even got to pay for storage of the dis-FUNctional pieces of modern technology and a lawsuit in which one attorney lost his license to practice.  The County Commissioners, even gave the poor unemployed attorney a pass on his fines.  Later he won his appeal on a technicality getting his license reinstated.  Witnesses for the prosecution were placed in the same room…that’s a no-no.  He was good to go.

We made national news on that one.  Along with the lady who shot her toe off because she had a corn.  No, I’m not making this stuff up.

Are we having fun yet? Read the rest of this entry »

Somewhere over the rainbow…

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Coming up Wednesday May 30, 2012, there will be a special meeting of Delaware County Council.  Some of the topics and decisions to be had will be, returning the pay and hours back for the county workers,  bond issues and amending the salary ordinance.

Some of you may remember last fall when Delaware County  voted to close the County Building on Friday and decrease the pay by three hours as a cost saving measure.  I haven’t heard the savings and one wonders if the county has suddenly found itself solvent since last year. Read the rest of this entry »

A word on consolidation

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 COMMISSIONERS VOTE FOR MERGER: Vanderburgh County Commissioners have taken one of the final steps needed to place a question on merging city and county governments before for the voters next year (Gootee, Evansville Courier & Press). During their meeting Tuesday night, Commissioners Marsha Abell and Lloyd Winnecke supported the resolution which enables a referendum in November 2012, while Commissioner Stephen Melcher voted against it. Now for the plan officials have spent the last five months discussing to get onto the ballot, the Evansville City Council must approve the exact same resolution as the commissioners. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Sept. 26. Melcher’s lone dissenting vote came as no surprise after his own proposal adding a so-called voter threshold died without a vote after neither Abell or Winnekce seconded it. Under a threshold, city voters and those who live outside city limits would have had to give separate majority approval for the two governments to merge. The proposal being considered requires a simple countywide majority from voters at the polls for the new government structure to take effect in January 2015.

In Larry Riley’s column Sunday(11-20-11) he mentions a brief conversation with Delaware County Commissioner Todd Donati.  

Dismissively waiving his hand, Donati grinned and suggested, “We don’t need to vote on consolidation.”

The allusion would be to the referendum next November on completely reorganizing Muncie and Delaware County into one political unit, something Donati and fellow Democrats do not want to see

With both City and County under the control of one political party, the consolidation as alluded by President Donati will be one that will not include the voters or citizens of Delaware County.  In fact, the vote has already been tainted by the 67% threshold.

As with the proposed animal control in 2010, which combined services, it was not in the best interest of the city residents.  E911 is another interlocal agreement which has been fuzzy for at least a decade.  One that has not been favorable to…city residents.  I believe the law suit should go to the finish line.  If the city is favored, we can be assured the truth has been revealed.  If the city doesn’t prevail, we can be assured the truth has been revealed.  Let’s dispel any doubts and go into the new administration with a clean slate.

Can Delaware county do it?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Where the county imagines possibilities

Animal Control-What’s it all about?

Upcoming Program at The E.B.& Bertha C. Ball Center 11-11-11

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Short notice, and I apologize. 

Upcoming Program at The E.B.& Bertha C. Ball Center

Topic: Proposed Government Reorganization
Speaker: Dr. Eric Kelly, Ball State Professor of Urban Planning and Chairperson of University Senate
Date/Time: Friday, November 11, 10:00 a.m.
Place: The E.B.& Bertha C. Ball Center, 400 N. Minnetrista Parkway, Muncie, IN 47303
Fee: No fee, but reservations required. Please call 285-8975

Dr. Kelly chaired the seven-member Muncie-Delaware County Government Reorganization Committee that has proposed a consolidation and restructuring of the functions of local government. The proposal will be on the ballot in 2012 for voter approval

Update: Muncie During Mayor McShurley’s Administration

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A few weeks ago a blog entry titled “Not Getting Along With Anybody” I promised to expound on some of my favorite things.  Well, time has certainly flown by, so don’t believe it will be done before November 8th!

What I will offer you, is the original list of 45 things which happened during her administration updated with additional events.   Information on the Madison Street Project (#38) is at the end of this post.

I have always supported Sharon McShurley.  After doing this research and pulling together the information, I gained a new appreciation for the Administration, Department Heads and City Employees.  Folks, this is a real team of people, dedicated, hardworking and willing to move our city forward even under the most trying times.  This is my THANK YOU!  You have all been great!

Let’s keep our city moving forward, as you can see it has been progressing.  Don’t allow the naysayers to tell you different. 

1. HUD funds restored/off federal monitoring list

2. Prairie Creek self-sustaining-major improvements

3. Canan Commons

4. Tuhey Pool

5. Progressive Rail

6. Indiana Stamping

7. Brevini

8. Hamilton County officials & Mayor meet with Senator Bayh to retain 700 jobs

9. Wheel Tax spent wisely

10. Ivy Tech Downtown

11. Brought city through major budget crisis without raising taxes

12. Building Commission-self-sustaining

13. Presented before legislatures as representative of IACT (Indiana Association of Cities and Towns)

14. MAP

15. Implementation of HPG (High Performance Government paid with a grant)

16. Vetoed 67% threshold vote on Consolidation

17. Invited on economic development investment venture, paid for by private funds

18. Energy Grant –replace traffic lights, heating cooling high-efficiency unit

19. 3 year street painting (nothing done prior to 2007)

20. Blight tackled (Contracts for 39 more buildings including deconstruction awarded October 2011)

21. Governor Arts Walk

22. Muncie Police Department software upgrade, partnering with Ball State on crime mapping

23. Cable Commission active again/working to provide private funding for PAC and create an account to deposit the funds

24. Improved snow removal

25. One of three cities nationally to win “Green City Award”

26. U.S. Attorney, Joe Hogsett, toured Muncie giving “high marks” for building deconstruction program

27. White River Blvd. paved more for less

28. Paving of several streets, including Mock, 18th, 12th, Centennial, Tillotson, Bethel, Willard, Main, Jackson (list is not exhaustive)

29. Walk of Fame Heekin Park

30. Paved Tillotson Fire station parking lot

31. Restored Deputy Fire Chief position

32. Completed Muncie Parks Five Year Plan

33. Completed inventory on City of Muncie owned properties (found properties forgotten)

34. Improved City website

35. Engaging citizens in volunteerism (MAP & government)

36. Vetoed City Council’s animal control ordinance giving all city assets to a county facing severe financial problems

37. Working on design to eliminate congestion at Chadam & Clara lane vicinity

38.  Madison Street Signal light project to begin in 2012(see below for more detail)

39. Received funds to improve railroad crossings through downtown

40. Monthly meetings with citizens (Chat with the Mayor)

41. Appointing qualified and experienced department heads

42. Madison intersections 26 & 29th upgraded

43. City administration not requesting line of credit to meet budget

44. Whiteley Community Council and administration working together on neighborhood fire station (this station will receive remodeling and Buley Center a grant)

45. Gift of $30,000 from Muncie Endurathon for PCR playground equipment

46. Sidewalk on Madison and Washington replaced

47. Park improvements to McCulloch Park, parking, playground equipment and updated basketball court

48. 2011 will end with a financial reserve

49. Mayor McShurley invited to speak at Progress Rail’s open house

50. Submitted a 2012 budget which includes staffing public safety at current levels

51. Creating a Parks Program Director (possible by combining two park jobs)

52. Downtown master plan initiated (Muncie Action Plan driven)

53. Proposed bonus for employees (city employees and department heads have helped make the city run more efficiently, this will be a minimal amount from the reserve) Contrary to popular belief this was addressed last summer at a Mayor’s Chat.

54. 30 projects funded by state and federal dollars dormant prior to 2008 were organized (paperwork was sparse)

55. Benchmarked the city to measure city’s progress

56. 2009 Street Department – used mixture of beet juice and salt on ice and snow

57.  City Hall updated landscape to “Dry” landscape.  Less water and less maintenance=less expense.

58. Member of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, which meets monthly (see #13)

59. $150,000 grant to implement bike trails at Prairie Creek. 

Madison Street Project

The project entails improving ADA accessibility and installing new traffic signal equipment at the intersections of Madison Street that have signals from Wysor Street south to 29th Street. The upcoming construction will improve Madison’s intersections with Wysor, Washington, Adams, Charles, Kirby, Willard, Ninth, Memorial, 15th and 18th, and remove the signal at 21st street due to lack of need. (Press release 9-13-2011)

People Before Poltics ~ Part One

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Current incumbent, Alison Quirk’s new mailer. quirk flyer 2.

In her mailer it states she learned Muncie moves forward when we all work together.  She is correct.   With a city council filled to the brim with  Democrat party loyalists we haven’t seen much moving forward. (Not including Linda Gregory, as she is the only Democrat which has shown any willingness to work for the people.)

So without much ado,  here is a short list of how they moved the city forward:

  1. It took three years for modernization (2008 to 2011)
  2. A span of 18 months passed with only two budget meetings (2008-2009)
  3. Introduced LOIT (Local Option Income Tax) without addressing the budget (2009)
  4. Never met with department heads (in three years 2008-2011)
  5. Fought against Prairie Creek Reservoir becoming self-sustaining (2008)
  6. Foolishly and haphazardly cut the budget – reducing the animal control to nearly closing and leaving the city in the dark (2009)
  7. Created an illegal rainy day fund (2009)
  8. Over four years to revive the Land & Traffic committee – which hasn’t accomplished much (2011)
  9. Had the opportunity to discuss railroad crossing with Norfolk Southern, and came to the meeting unprepared to ask pertinent questions (2011)
  10. Refused to entertain the possibility of Muncie receiving $4 million dollars (2011)
  11. No incentive to update the ordinances to increase revenue (2008-2011)
  12. Crafted the 2010 budget cuts without the full finance committee’s knowledge – excluding the only Republican finance committee member in the final budget (2009)
  13. Nine months to appoint a finance committee (2011)
  14. Promised a more transparent government/empower the people – never realized (2009)
  15. Supporting an animal control plan which was fiscally unsound (2010)
  16. Paid $35,000 for a late-hour fiscal study on modernization – the plan was completed for nearly a year (2011)
  17. Voted for 67% threshold vote on modernization (2011)
  18. Only two city council members attended Muncie Action Plan meetings (2010)
  19. Asked security to remove a citizen from a public meeting (2008)
  20. Used their position to publicly slander local businesses at city council meeting (2008)
  21. Officials were invited to become involved in the Reorganization by implementing an advisory board and meeting monthly with the Reorganization Committee – City Council didn’t get involved (2008)
  22. Accused the controller of having “hidden” accounts-although the same transfer of funds was done in  prior years (2009)
  23. Quirk said city council will consider an ordinance to allow quarterly accounting of probation fees – no introduction of this ordinance nothing has been done (2009)
  24. Ordinance to amend Residential zoning. Council persons Barton and Murphy had conflicting reports (should have done their homework prior to the meeting) ordinance 54-09 (2009)
  25. Council received update on Muncie Action Plan and invited city council to attend (2010-January) Only two attended.  Later Barton said she couldn’t vote on Muncie Action Plan since  she didn’t know anything about it. (2010)
  26. Council received notification a presentation would be made Feb 9, 2010 to elected official on Muncie Action Plan’s status.  (See #25-Barton didn’t attend)
  27. Council received Notice Muncie Action Plan would be holding meetings on March 16th 2010.  (See #25, #26) Ditto at the June meeting
  28. July 2010 Muncie Action Plan comes before the council in a resolution.  Barton says she can’t vote on something she knows nothing about.  Marshall said he just got the information.  Please note from January to June 2010 meeting dates and time were announced at City Council meetings.  Neither attended. (July 2010)
  29. Barton complains she has listened to taxpayer groups for years complaining – regarding the $300,000 revenue received through Comcast franchise fees of which a Public Access TV Station should be funded (2010)
  30. Franchise fees were placed into the general fund under Canan administration circa 2006.  Marshall asked where the franchise fees go?  Controller says, again ,General Fund.  He should know this as the finance chairperson and 20 years as a city council official (2010)

Alison Quirk’s next paragraph addresses how frustrated we have been.  (See all above for the source of OUR frustration.) 

Let’s examine quickly three proposals/plans.  One would be the animal control proposal.  The second would be the modernization/consolidation plan and the third is Muncie Action Plan (MAP).

In December 2008 Jerry Dishman chides a citizen for commissioning a study on county-wide animal control    Calling it a waste of money and accusing the citizen of not “knowing what she is doing”.  Jerry Dishman voted to commission a fiscal study on consolidation.  Does he or city council know what they are doing?

I don’t believe it was proper for Vice President Alison Quirk to chide the mayor, council members or the citizens because we didn’t “review” their proposal to partner with Delaware County on animal control.   We did review it, and the proposal was bad news for the citizen and taxpayers of Muncie, Indiana.  Apparently the City Council wasn’t aware of the county’s lack of revenue or looming financial crisis.  We were and this is one of the many reasons citizens did not support their plan.  We felt it was reckless to enter into a parnership, relinquish our assets, and pay a fee and taxes to an entitiy whch was broke and lacked any successful animal control.

The Modernization Plan was in the works for three years.  City council never attended meetings, and there were plenty.  The finished consolidation plan sat for nearly a year and the cover wasn’t even cracked by the council.  City council commissioned a study for $35,000 at the final hour.  City council should have been looking at the plan and making decisions.   Vandenburgh County and Evansville took just five months and 51% threshold vote, compared to Delaware County’s three years and 67% vote threshold. 

Linda Gregory was involved from the start, Polk and Conatser voted yes.

Muncie Action Plan – A citizen based, community oriented plan for our city.  One full year of articles and meetings held all over the city at various dates and times.  From January to June 2010 notice of meetings and invitations for the city council to get involved at every council meeting.  Yet, as we saw, Mary Jo Barton could not vote for the resolution in July 2010 because she didn’t know anything about it.  Marshall, like wise knew nothing and said he wanted to meet with his constituents. One wonders what the results of his follow-up showed.  He never shared it at any subsequent city council meetings.

That’s it for the evening, friends.  I hope you will consider this information and vote informed.  Muncie can not continue with this type of governing.  Not anymore.

  • Mary Jo Barton – 16 years
  • Jerry Dishman – 4 years
  • Alison Quirk – 8 years

Had enough?

Vote Informed.

Muncie Animal Control

Why Muncie Need New Chief Financial Officers

Frustration and Politics Before People

An Example of Working Together