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Economic Development

Larry Riley – January 12, 2020

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Six months before The Star Press discontinued my services as a twice-weekly columnist in 2016, I became concerned that the newspaper was growing more enchanted with the Dennis Tyler city administration in Muncie. The mayor himself had long complained to me personally that I was too critical of him. I had to remind him that when I thought he had done something good, I was quick to acknowledge and congratulate.
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One such issue was the downtown hotel, the new Marriott Courtyard. While I disagreed with underwriting the financing of the hotel by the city and committing the Food & Beverage Tax for 20 years to the parking garage, I still wrote that Tyler single-handedly deserved credit for bring the hospitality giant downtown. I even told the mayor I got flak from readers who said I shouldn’t be applauding the mayor, but I told them they were wrong.
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Yet the mayor kept complaining, not just to me, but to the top editor at The Star Press, repeatedly, and once asked the editor to come to the mayor’s office so Tyler could air his grievances. Around that time, one of my columns got spiked—newspaper parlance for getting pulled from publication. The column was an important one about the difference between municipal “bids” versus “quotes” for a public project.
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The difference is that bids on a project are open to any vendor who wants to compete for the work, while quotes are only from “selected” businesses—including firms that don’t even do the type of work the project calls for. That’s one of the problems that brought the city into the FBI’s sights and a major transgression I first brought to light.
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Tyler’s Building Commissioner, Craig Nichols, son of the retired firefighter mayor’s good friend and fellow MFD retiree and fellow former Democratic Party chairman locally, had submitted bills from his private business for demolishing houses on properties where, for starters, no houses had stood. But he got the contract because the only other business quoting the work didn’t even do demolitions and had quotes higher than Nichols, hence Nichols won. Quotes were rigged.
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But the newspaper’s top editor killed my column because I had quoted a city employee, Gretchen Cheeseman. The editor had evidently become convinced Cheeseman was the bad guy in an ongoing battle—playing out in public—in Muncie’s Community Development office. The editor didn’t want me to use Cheeseman as a source. I said I could rewrite the piece without quoting Cheeseman, and later did. Cheeseman, whom the administration wanted out of the way, got dismissed on trumped-up accusations.
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Spiking my column did make me think The Star Press’s was leaning more and farther into the administration, buying into the mayor’s complaints. Four months later, the newspaper jettisoned me. Yet the FBI’s investigation into city wrongdoing intensified, since resulting in indictments of two high-level Muncie Sanitary District officials and three contractors, all on charges of fraud and kickbacks. And a conviction of that crooked Building Commissioner. And, of course, the indictment of former Mayor Tyler himself, on charges of accepting a bribe to steer business to a contractor.
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And Gretchen Cheeseman was as honest as anybody in the city’s employ. In fact, she was the only obstacle between Community Development’s $4 million federal house demolitions grant and the shell corporation of Tyler’s cronies aiming to siphon that largess into their pockets. The principal crony will spend most of this year in prison. Cheeseman, meanwhile, is new Mayor Dan Ridenour’s Community Development director, replacing the woman who wrongly fired her. Delicious irony.
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One new piece of evidence arose last week that continues my theory about the newspaper as chief apologist for the Tyler administration: the lead for the front-page story about the Muncie City Council’s refusal to appropriate money for fire department equipment purchased by Tyler last year without legal authority. A reporter wrote that Council members “refused to sign off on what they considered a mistake by the old administration.”
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“Mistake”? What? No, this was no mistake, this was a crime, and that’s what Council members thought. If you rob a bank, you won’t be arrested for “making a mistake.” Spending city money without authorization was no mistake. The Tyler administration purchased $1.5 million in equipment without approval. To their credit, the new City Council refused to abet the crime

Is Muncie the new Love Canal?

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If you have been following the development of the old Indiana Wire and Steel property here is an updated site with quite a bit of information from those who are living in the neighborhood.

The paper hasn’t been reporting much if any, and certainly, the City of Muncie and the Redevelopment Commission has not brought forth any updates.

IDEM was at the site on Thursday (April 13, 2017) and so far there has not been any information on their findings from that visit.

So you may be thinking, “Not my concern” but if the concrete is contaminated and it stands to reason it is, the particles can be airborne.

So, take a look at the Facebook page if you feel so inclined.  A video has been posted on April 12th showing the condition of the property.

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1123293014418066/

Saturday Ramblings: April Fools Day

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Good morning.

Muncie is always in the news.  If it’s not the Muncie Community Schools, it’s the City of Muncie.    Necks are hurting from all the shaking of the heads or SMH for short.

Muncie is in a perpetual state of April Fool’s Day and the joke is on those living within the boundaries.  We at Muncie Politics thought it would be fun and challenging to bring to remembrance some of the more funnier jokes.

  1. 2012 Muncie’s tax levy was increased.  The city controller blamed it on the previous administration for not considering insurance increases.  Seems they forgot Muncie City Council did not approve the ’12 budget.   On a side note: the tax levy has increased every year since ….go figure.
  2.  Consider a private pool located in Mayor Tyler’s neighborhood and his family frequents receiving $10,000 city tax dollars for repairs while the city pool operates at a $96,000 deficit.
  3. The previous mayor, McShurley, promised enough money was available to fund public safety and she left the city with over $8 million in funds to support her claim.  Mayor Tyler assured us that he also had enough money for public safety.  But, in 2015 he passed LOIT and an income tax increase in a mere 14 days. (43% increase)
  4. Mayor Tyler promised living wage jobs but it appears the only person seeing an income increase was his building commissioner.  I mean, how many people get paid for work never performed?  It’s a good gig if you’re inclined to pick the pockets of taxpayers.
  5. In 2016 the Mayor encouraged his street superintendent to run for county commissioner.  Meanwhile, they were attempting to get paving funds yanked from the county.  The State of Indiana said no, it was a minor error which the State did not catch in the approval process.   The State would not punish the county.  Funny how Mayor Tyler can sniff out a county issue while his administration is hosting FBI agents investigating city corruption.
  6. The State of Indiana awarded the City of Muncie $4 million for demolitions of blighted property.  It took the city a few years to get started and Mayor blamed the late start on the State.  Never mind other communities were ahead of the game.  If they were making headway with the funds, why is Muncie so far behind?
  7. The City of Muncie approved to forgive $10,000 in delinquent property taxes for a community garden.  I don’t know if the State said yes because there has been no follow-up and no community garden, either.  Considering the land housed an old factory…was polluted anyway.
  8. Of course, who could forget the Muncie Redevelopment Director, Todd Donati, asking for a tax reduction on his personal condo claiming it was economic development.   City Council voted no, but Donati vowed to return with his request when people were more “open” to the idea.
  9. Muncie has also ventured into the real estate business.  Putting out a request to bid on a privately owned downtown building throwing in a city-owned parking lot.  The requirements were stringent and no bidders came forth.  So, the city is planning on “loaning” over $7 million to the owners.
  10. After Mayor Tyler won, he said both the county and the city was controlled by one party and there would be no excuses.  However, there are excuses.  If it’s not the State of Indiana it’s the previous mayor’s fault…oh well.

It’s been a perpetual April Fools Day since January 1st, 2012, and the joke is on us.

Muncie Community Schools – What is going on?

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Muncie Community Schools has been dominating the headlines in the local newspaper.  Did the school district fall into sudden disrepair financially and physically?  Has the proverbial can been kicked down the road?

Questions like these have divided the district.  Some opting to believe the signs were glaring while others believe it is the fault of the current administration.  Whatever road you’re traveling it’s coming to an abrupt end.

Let’s take a look at the stark picture:

A Brief Review of School Financing, Performance and Enrollment in Delaware County Indiana (PDF). Delaware County School Data Mar 1 2017-1

State aid to Muncie schools drops

Certainly, there are other factors which come into play.  For the purpose of this blog entry, we will be focusing on the review and newspaper article.

Muncie’s Debt, Delaware County Tax Levy

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Amortization is an accounting term that refers to the process of allocating the cost of an intangible asset over a period of time. It also refers to the repayment of loan principal over time.

Muncie amortization schedule as of 3-5-17. Enjoy.

muncie-unit-debt-3-5-17

If you want more, here is the tax levy for 2017 for Delaware County which includes Muncie City.

delaware-county-2017-certified-budget-order

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

Saturday ramblings: Looking @ HB 1018

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House Bill 1018
Introduced House Bill (H)

Authored by Rep. Robert Cherry.

DIGEST

Tax increment financing. Provides that if a redevelopment commission adopts a declaratory resolution or amendment after June 30, 2015, that establishes, renews, or expands an allocation provision or area, the base assessed value used to determine the amount of allocated tax proceeds for the redevelopment district must be increased each year so that the incremental assessed value is 50% of the incremental assessed value in the allocation area without the increase. Provides that for the allocation area in Marion County that is identified as the Consolidated Allocation Area, the expiration date for the allocation area is June 30, 2026, or the last date of any obligations that are outstanding on July 1, 2016, whichever is later.

Follow HB2018

Fiscal impact statement

You may be asking why the dislike of Tax Increment Financing.  Used properly, it has the potential for economic impact.  Unfortunately, too many Redevelopment Commissions have abused the funds. Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday morning ramblings: What’s happening? Local politics and how it works for you.

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Muncie Politics

The Road to Prosperity

September began with a bang when the State of Indiana levied fines of $12,500 on a local construction company for work being done at Muncie’s City Hall.  The city’s building commissioner, who is the owner of the company, Advanced Walls and Ceilings, said he took a hands off approach when his business was awarded a contract and knew nothing about the violations, as well as Mayor Tyler.   Mayor Tyler plans to appeal  to the State of Indiana.

Advanced Walls and Ceilings violation report

SOS Advanced Walls and Ceiling business filing history

Last week the Muncie Star Press newspaper reported the Building Commission tagged the headquarters of Team Democrat candidates for code violations.  There was no construction or remodeling going on, and no other units received violations.

The initial implication of the red-tagging was that the dissidents — who prefer to be considered the mainstream Democrats now, as was noted in an earlier W/R column — had been targeted by appointees of Mayor Dennis Tyler, the standard-bearer of the mainstream Democratic Party.

Source: W/R REPORT: Dissident Dems red-tagged by city Star Press 9-7-14

 The building commissioner could not be reached for comment. The mayor however did comment.

“No, absolutely not,” Tyler said. “I will not allow them to be treated any differently than any other organization.” Source: W/R REPORT: Dissident Dems red-tagged by city 9-7-14

Well, O.K. Let’s move on. Read the rest of this entry »

Governor Daniels, Mayor McShurley & others working for Indiana!

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Governor Mitch Daniels is on his way to China and Japan to seek out new jobs for The State of Indiana. Traveling along with the Governor and 38 other Hoosiers from around the state, is Sharon McShurley, Mayor of Muncie.

Muncie should be proud that Mayor Mac has been chosen to represent the City of Muncie. It is quite an honor as Indiana is filled with well-deserving mayors and communities. Mr. Terry Murphy, Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance, was instrumental in securing 650 jobs for our area. The announcement was made last week. Indiana Economic Digest has the full story.

Here are a few snippets I picked up while perusing the net for more information on the trip. Enjoy!

How many Hoosiers are employed and how many companies in Indiana?

More than 42,000 Hoosiers are employed by more than 200 Japanese companies in the state. Those companies have investments here of more than $9.8 billion. Since last year’s trip, China-based Y.K. Furniture announced plans to establish a $24 million U.S. headquarters in Marion and lithium-ion battery maker EnerDel announced an agreement with Wanxiang, the largest auto parts producer in China, which EnerDel says will rapidly accelerate its business plan. The governor met with officials from Y.K. Furniture and Wanxiang during his 2009 trip to China.

The governor will meet with officials from Wanxiang, Geely, Dongfeng and other auto companies while in China. Officials from those companies visited Indianapolis earlier this year for the first-ever U.S.-China Advanced Technology Vehicle Summit. He will also pay respects to executives from Honda, Toyota and Subaru as well as other companies with Indiana operations while in Japan.

What is the cost of the delegation?:

The cost of the state delegation is being covered entirely through private donations to the Indiana Economic Development Foundation; no tax dollars will be used. In addition to Governor Daniels, the state will be represented by Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob. The IEDC has two offices in China and one in Japan, and representatives are assisting with trip arrangements.

Sources: Inside Indiana Business Office of the Indiana Governor
www.in.gov

And there is more….

Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Joe Kelsay, says this visit’s focus is different. “We’re looking to attract investment to Indiana,” he told HAT. “We’re meeting with potential investors on how we can add value to the rural, urban and suburban places here in Indiana, as was the mission on the last trip. The thing makes it a bit different is a much smaller group, so it’s a bit easier to be very focused and very specific about the areas and the meetings that we setup.”

That small group includes Mark Henderson representing Indiana Corn and Soybean. There will also be discussion of “hardwoods. Our hardwood opportunities there are very vast and we’re already doing some level of trade with China when it comes to hardwood when it comes to raw timber and veneers and finished furniture, as well as the investment that can be made back here. It’s been announced there is a furniture manufacturer here in Indiana from China and we think there’s more opportunity for that.”

The June China mission revealed solid opportunities for the Indiana meat sector. Kelsay says that’s a focus too. They’ll be exploring “trade of meat produced here in Indiana and then making its way to China, and how that can happen. Then with Mark’s connection to the grains sector and China being a big trade partner in grains, there will be some discussion in that area as well.”

Source: Hoosier AG Today

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight will join Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on a trade delegation to China next month, Goodnight announced Monday.

“Just by going, I think it sets us apart from some of the other cities in Indiana and the Midwest, and hopefully they recognize we’re on the right path,” Goodnight said. “Second, we can start building relationships and making those contacts, and making sure Kokomo’s on the radar screen.”

Members of the delegation will meet with government and business leaders in both countries and will host business receptions for potential investors. The delegation is expected to have about 40 members.

Daniels and others will meet with officials from Wanxiang, the largest auto parts supplier in China. Meetings with other Chinese auto companies are also planned.

The governor met with officials from Y.K. Furniture and Wanxiang during his 2009 trip to China. Since then both companies have made multi-million dollar investments in Indiana. Y.K. Furniture is manufacturing in Marion, and Wanxiang is investing in Indianapolis-based battery manufacturer EnerDel.

Source: Indiana Economic Digest
Still more…

Logansport mayor joining governor on 11-day trip to China and Japan

Kevin Lilly, Pharos-Tribune News Editor

Logansport Mayor Mike Fincher will join Gov. Mitch Daniels next month for an 11-day trip to China and Japan.

Fincher will be among several mayors from across the state joining the governor on the trade mission. The trip, to be funded by the Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation, will be Fincher’s fourth excursion overseas as a spokesperson for Logansport and Cass County.

Critics have accused the mayor of wasting money on the trips, but Fincher has insisted that the contacts he makes are worth the expense.

“It’s all about building relationships,” he said.

Though he acknowledged that none of the trips to date had resulted in any jobs, Fincher said such efforts needed time to develop.

“This does not happen overnight and the longer we wait the further behind we get,” he added. “If we do nothing, that’s exactly what will happen.”

You will find the names of the member of the delegation and the Governor’s itinerary here.

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