Mayor Dennis Tyler
Warning: It’s a long study.
Also, coming up is Mayor Tyler’s State of the City address. Visit the City’s website here. Hoping for a large turnout in support of DCEMS. The City website still has the housing study which was discredited because of the false data.
May 7th – Muncie City Council meeting @7:30 PM.
Friends and readers of Muncie Politics,
We will be taking a short break. We have been asked to help in a research project totally unrelated to politics. This is a change for us! Of course, we will update any new developments in the political world of Delaware County.
It has been an excruciating wait for the results of the City of Muncie FBI investigation, Bracken vs. Muncie and Stewart vs. Muncie lawsuits and of course what is happening with Delaware County EMS. Let’s hope Mayor Tyler and Muncie City council rule with cool heads and consider the ramifications of a city-run EMS. For once we may actually see People Before Party. Sigh.
Don’t forget Muncie City Council 1st Monday of the month 7:30 PM. City Hall.
See you soon, please don’t forget us!
Lots of things have been happening in good old Muncie, Indiana. Some have been not so good and some has been very good. Not so good for our local administration very good for the people of Muncie.
Let’s begin with Halteman Village.
Halteman Village is where the Mayor of Muncie as well as two City Council members live. It has been near and dear to Mayor Tyler, so much he donated $10,000 to fix Halteman Pool. $10,000 city tax dollars, that is. Oh, it was to pay for swim lessons, except the privately-owned pool permanently closed a few days later. We have a nice public pool, it’s called Tuhey Pool. It was quite a battle to get Tuhey Pool up and running. Questioning the Mayor why Tuhey Pool wasn’t used for the swim lessons “I don’t remember” he replied.
Halteman’s pool and clubhouse went up for tax sale and somehow the city acquired the property. The city has been maintaining it and spokesperson for the city, Sarah Beach, said the city didn’t want to see the neighborhood run down. Hmmm. Not sure where it’s at today.
Muncie Community Schools closed Mitchell School (in Halteman Village) and put it up for sale. It became quite complex because the city, as well as Ball State University, submitted offers. The city was higher and the university pulled back. The City of Muncie with the Muncie Redevelopment Commission wanted to demolish the school and build condos. As you can imagine, that didn’t please the residents of Halteman or city taxpayer who financed a remodel of the school about a decade past.
Next, we found the city had commissioned a housing study, citing the need for new housing to draw people to Muncie. Muncie Redevelopment director, Todd Donati, posted on his Facebook page “all the facts were in” and all the facts were based on this one study. Michael Hicks the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University examined the city’s housing study. The Muncie Star Press reported the City’s Study was based on incorrect data.
The city is no longer interested in building condominiums on the Mitchell School land. Todd Donati in charge of Muncie’s economic development was cited several times in State Board of Accounts audits for years 2014-15. Donati used a study calling it “facts” to push millions into the condo building project. Fortunately, for the stakeholders of Muncie, his plan fell through. Something else will come down the pike, count on it. He’s more than willing to spend money on pie in the sky ideas.
Besides the ongoing FBI investigation, the Bracken, and Stewart lawsuits against the City of Muncie we have one pressing issue that is still on the table and at anytime Mayor Tyler can direct his City Council to proceed. And the City Council Democrat majority will proceed simply because they have never denied Mayor Tyler or their political party anything.
Delaware County EMS is hanging in the balance.
You see, Mayor Tyler wants to start his very own EMS claiming it will bring revenue into the city. No, it won’t. This administration has gone over budget at Prairie Creek Reservoir, nearly $100,000 over budget for Tuhey Pool, increased the city’s tax levy every year and passed a 43% income tax in 14 days back in 2015. And just look at Halteman Village as proof they have no idea how to be fiscally responsible. Really, you could list other items of senseless spending and budgeting of this administration.
City Council member Alison Quirk and city attorney Megan Quirk have used the wear and tear of firetrucks when they go on a first responder call as leverage for city-run EMS. For six years the trucks have been used to run errands, go out to eat and grocery shopping and not a bit of concern was shown on “wear and tear” until the city wanted an EMS of their very own.
Not to mention the council’s attempt to schedule a City Council meeting on New Years Day. Oh, on the advice of the city council’s attorney, which just happened to find a 40-year-old city code requiring all council meetings to be held on the first Monday of the month. I’m sure the council was hoping for a low turnout on a holiday.
Wrong again. Guaranteed the message was broadcast on every form of social media and the meeting would have been a packed house. Proving once again, the only people in favor of city-run EMS would be the Mayor, the Fire Chief, and the six Democrat Headquarters’ council members and anyone who was concerned about losing their city positions, party support or city contracts.
Make no mistake, the Mayor has been able to systematically remove anyone who hinders his personal and political agenda. And without a doubt, DCEMS is caught in the sights of a political agenda and the collateral damage will be the people of Muncie and Delaware County.
Self-serving are they.
Yesterday at 5:26pm ·
I still meet regularly with “the informants,” the people who touched off the federal investigation of the Muncie city administration, those persistent folks who doggedly kept pestering the FBI until agents concluded they were, indeed, onto something.
Since November of 2015, FBI agents talked to them dozens of times and until perhaps summer of last year continued to solicit information from at least one of them. As recently as six weeks ago, the FBI still was interviewing other people.
Provided that one day the investigation ends – hopefully with more indictments – I will ask permission to name the informants. They are heroes in my book and deserve the gratification of an entire community. Their relentless tenacity, perhaps obstinacy is a better word, won out.
I just found out about another development that I have to suspect is connected to the FBI’s investigation: as of two months ago, Arron Kidder is no longer part of the Dennis Tyler city administration.
Arron Mathew Kidder went to Elkhart Memorial High School and came to BSU, where he majored in political science and graduated December of 2012. While still in school, he interned for Brad Bookout’s consulting company and got involved in the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission. When Tyler took over the mayor’s office in 2012, Bookout did some consulting for the new administration and hired Kidder, who eventually handled most of the city’s grant-writing work. A year later, Kidder spun off his own consulting firm, Hawkins Consulting Inc., and contracted with the city to write grants.
In 2014, he earned $35,000 from the city, his only consulting client, who gave him an office next to the mayor’s. Kidder began assuming more and more duties that typically would have gone to a deputy mayor, a position Tyler has not filled. The next year, 2015, with a whopping contractual increase, Kidder earned more than $60,000, and in 2016, he got $55,000, an amount in excess of the salaries of all but a couple city department heads.
Kidder sat in for the mayor on a handful of boards. He regularly attended Muncie Board of Public Works meetings as the mayor’s emissary, bringing contracts Tyler wanted approved and other matters before the three-member panel, who exist to do the mayor’s bidding. Several times I recall Kidder telling the board that the city needed to tear down condemned houses under emergency conditions and that the administration had obtained quotes from two companies to do the work. The lower quote would invariably be from the private firm owned by the city’s Building Commissioner, Craig Nichols, who would have condemned the houses in the first place and declared the emergency.
I first wrote in February of 2016 that some of those houses Nichols’ firm was paid to demolish hadn’t existed: they were phantom demolitions. The administration quickly created a cover story claiming that all the addresses were mere clerical mistakes, but by then, the FBI, already probing into Muncie Sanitary District, had added Nichols’ billings to their investigation.
Six months later, The Star Press pulled the plug on my column-writing. Four months after that, the FBI raided the city building commissioner’s office and seized records. A month later, February of 2017, Nichols was indicted on 33 felony counts, almost all related to work he did for the city, including the phantom demolitions and the attempted cover-up I wrote about.
Kidder certainly was a rising star in the Tyler administration. Tyler put him on several local boards, including the Aviation Authority. Kidder lived in a house he rented from the vice-chair of the Delaware County Democratic Party and he involved himself in party activities. Last September, The Star Press wrote a glowing profile of Kidder in a section on up-and-coming Muncie leaders.
Then, two months later, Kidder was suddenly gone. No announcement.
Through November when he got his last check, Kidder had received $66,000 from the city in 2017.
Not many Ball State graduates in their first position out of college knock down $60,000-plus annual salaries, and I can’t imagine many young people in their mid-20s simply walking away from that kind of money. Not without a whole lotta motivation, that is.
Please share this with any Muncie people still hoping justice prevails.
Have you ever wondered about Muncie’s finances or how the people on the city’s finance committee figure how to spend it? I know, it’s a mystery, right? Well, not any longer. Now you too can be a pseudo city controller. It’s easy. We’ll show how simple it can be. And it’s free.
The new report format is not as fancy as the older reports. Not as detailed, either. Nevertheless, it tells a story of Muncie from 2011-2017 in a clean, easy to read and understandable format. Muncie Politics has prepared two reports for you to review.
The first is the Muncie Tax Finance dashboard 2011-17. It’s Muncie at-a-glance report.
The next report Muncie Tax and Finance Time Comparison 2012-17 displays the tax rates and basic information in a clear timeline. Yep, the tax levy has increased every year. As well as the city payroll. 2015 wasn’t a good year for Muncie or Delaware County residents.
September 2015 the city raised a 43% income tax. From start to finish it took 14 days to pass that tax. Amazing, huh? The sad part is, no one even noticed prior to the tax increase the city finances were shaky. That’s o.k. because the city building commissioner received a nice raise and his company demolished buildings paid from the increased EDIT in 2016.
See, folks, it’s all good.
Now, if you want to explore the city’s taxes and finances all one has to do is click on the image below. Enter your favorite government agency and then choose the type of report. Bam! You are good to go!
You will be armed with enough information to make a wise decision at the polls come election time. When an elected official, an appointed “public” employee, or a candidate tell you something you’ll be able to discern if it is true or if they are just blowing smoke. A wonderful position to be: an informed citizen. A scary thing to those who lust after monetary gain for their benefit.
Why does MCS need to change? Why is it imperative Muncie Community Schools must look outside the box? It seems obvious, the old standard way of running the district is broken, it is ineffective, outdated and MCS is labeled as a “distressed district”.
Here’s what we can glean so far. Ball State University would like to manage the school district. An appointed board of seven members, two which will be appointed by the Mayor of Muncie and Muncie City Council. The board will hire a superintendent. MCS may receive additional funds from the State of Indiana, but no funds from Ball State University will be used. MCS employees will still be MCS employees. Of course, this is only a short summary and more will be available.
Listen to the interview with President Mearns on Indiana Public Radio.
We don’t want to spend much time on how Muncie Community Schools became Distressed School District with a state take-over, but we do need to have a look at the history.
The chatter on social media sites is awash with opinions and comments.
One of the issues seems to be the loss of voting for school board members. However, we had five elected board members prior to the state take-over. Today the board has absolutely no power. At the most, they’re consulted by the emergency managers, they can’t vote on anything. The superintendent is powerless, too. He’s a lame duck. State votes to take over Muncie Community Schools
Less than two months past Muncie Teachers Association and others supported relinquishing that right. Knowing the State would make elected officials ineffective and all power removed and handed over to a hired company – the goal was achieved. What’s the difference?
Muncie Community Schools has never had a solid long-term plan.
Circa 2005 the district embarked upon an aggressive improvement plan. Bonding out approximately $50 million in debt. Despite all the economic factors, such as the loss of jobs, decrease in enrollment and population, businesses shutting down the board decided to move ahead with the bond.
In 2010 the Blue Ribbon Task Force presented the administrators for consideration a plan for the district. It collected dust until 2013 when the school board voted to consolidate the two high schools. This after the referendum was defeated.
Prior to the referendum, MCS held four Town Hall meetings presenting several proposals for the district, yet at the State hearing for busing, we found the district had no plan. No one from the City of Muncie, not the mayor, not the chief of police presented a safety plan although we were told there was one. NO PLAN – let this sink in.
Doing the same thing and expecting results.
The administrators and boards have used the same plans for decades. It consisted of shutting down schools or borrowing. That’s it. They ignored State Board of Accounts audits. Ignored repeated deficit line items. The newest school sold for pennies while keeping open deteriorating elementary schools. A short-term fix was all we were offered. The $10 million bond for school repairs dumped into the general fund and used for administrative purposes. No one can say for certain how that money was spent.
Original bond information: MCS 2014 Debt bond 1-27-18
Debt summary 2013 to 2017 MCS Debt Reports 2013-16 1-28-18
Having no plans, or limited plans have proven to not do a darn thing for moving Muncie Community Schools forward. If the label “distressed” isn’t a wake-up call for change, nothing will open your eyes.
A fresh new plan:
Partnering with Ball State University, community organizations, and individuals, the school board, the elected officials in a collaborative and healthy environment will do more for our children and school district. We must set aside our political ideologies, desire for control and stop thinking about our own wants over the needs of the most important people…the students of Muncie Community Schools. A good school district will do more for Muncie then all the economic development we spend millions to produce with very little return on our investment. Larry Riley penned a column several years ago similar BSU’s proposal. Incremental steps won’t help Muncie Community Schools
Accomplishing a working environment conducive to education and economic development may be the hardest thing the area has ever had to do. Simply because it’s not in our nature to put aside our turf wars and think outside the box.
Nothing else has worked.
There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth
No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late
With everything that has been happening and the city in a perpetual state of turmoil, it’s difficult to stay focused. So much to watch in this crazily contradictory place called Muncie. We have a ton of facts, even more, opinions. Do we have an understanding of current events? Do we see the big and bigger picture? Are we examining the past and the present? Are we looking at personalities, self-gratification, greed? Is there an end goal of this administration we aren’t seeing? Hoping we can find answers to these questions. Even better..get our grey cells expanding and be forever watchful.
Hats off to the EMS supporters which provided information we can use. Much of the time, we don’t give EMS a thought until we need their services. One good thing which came from Mayor Tyler’s proposal: he helped to spotlight an integral branch of public safety. We’ve learned about their duties, their costs, their equipment and their dedication to their jobs. DCEMS provided clear facts, but the war is not over yet.
No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke
Mayor Tyler gave an impassioned speech asking the Muncie City Council to table ordinance 68-17. He made reference to emails from unknown firefighters which he had distributed to members of the council. His voice rose with emotion and determination at times. Three council members already a no vote, Tyler needed to convince the remaining members to approve the tabling. No doubt, the six-member party loyalists had been schooled on their vote prior to the meeting.
He needed to “correct the total unfairness to the citizens and taxpayers of Muncie, Indiana.” He went on to say “the citizens of Muncie in 40 years has received zero dollars in a program they participated in.” Mayor Canan began the first responder’s program in 2003. Not quite 40 years Mayor Tyler.
Does Mayor Tyler think our payments to the county covering a portion of EMS services is going to end with the city’s ambulance service? No, we’ll still pay the same. In fact, we will be paying for county and city ambulance services. Where is the fairness in that one, Mayor Tyler?
Mayor Tyler and Chief Bell believe this will be a profitable department. They need to borrow just to get the program off the ground. Let’s put that all aside for a minute and look at the past six years of the Tyler administration.
During the 2011 Mayoral debate, Tyler said Muncie had plenty of money. As soon as he was voted in he began to spend it, too. A “surplus” left by former Mayor McShurley to cover the cost of MFD if and when the SAFER grant ended. She campaigned on keeping the MFD staffed. Mayor Tyler, on the other hand, saw the $8 million as an open checkbook to spend. He made no effort to prepare for the inevitable loss of the SAFER grant. He had the money, he could have deposited it in a “safer” fund. It doesn’t take much to add a line item to the budget.
Or pass an income tax.
Three years into his administration, the city realizes it is coming up short. Guess no one noticed the revenue statements. The EDIT and LOIT taxes was passed in 14 days. That’s a record. Mayor Tyler, where is the fairness to the citizens of Muncie? Did you allow the citizens of Muncie time to examine the tax and question the city on their expenditures?
Mayor Tyler was it fair to the citizens and taxpayers of Muncie to filter tax dollars to Craig Nichols’ companies? Where was your sense of fairness then? How fair is it to the citizens of Muncie when MSD purchased the flea market well over the assessed value? You said, “All I know is it’s an expensive project”. It sure is, Mayor, when deals like these are brokered. Do you believe the citizens were treated fairly?
Mayor Tyler, is your definition of fairness to withhold financial information on attorney fees? Is this fair to the citizens who will be footing the bill? From State agencies to news sources to the citizens no one, except maybe Tyler, believes this is fair.
In six years Mayor Tyler has never had any department become self-sustaining. He was handed two well-organized and re-structured departments, Prairie Creek Reservoir and Building Department. Today PCR running over budget. The Building Department a cash cow for the on-leave building commissioner. Tuhey Pool mismanaged by the company Tyler hired and it lost nearly $100,000 in ’16.
And all this isn’t even the half of it.
If Mayor Tyler could truly make a department self-sustaining he would have done it by now and there would be no need for increased tax levies or 43% income tax. The environment Tyler operates in is not conducive to fairness or good fiscal management. No one in all good conscience could use these terms to describe his administration.
What is the true purpose of Mayor’s proposal? Is it political? Will he involve the citizens in his political games? Disregarding the safety and services and placing us smack dab in the middle of his childish actions? You bet he will. That’s his definition of fairness.
All Along the Watchtower is where we need to be standing. Watching with our eyes every move this administration makes.