Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Will Indy go the Ferguson way and finance local government through traffic tickets?

   A people who value liberty should not allow their government to utilize court fines as a source of revenue. Elected officials would be tempted to create more laws to elicit more fines to haul in more revenue.
   Ferguson, Missouri, recently hit by riots and the national press corps after an unarmed black teenager was shot by a white police officer, derives twenty-one percent (21%) of its general revenue from traffic fines. That is one revenue source that has expanded, as others for the community have shrunk.
   Indianapolis has been beset by TIFs. Tax Increment Financing districts first were developed in California in the 1950s. This is how a TIF is supposed to work. A “blighted” urban area, where private development otherwise would not occur, is designated. The outline of the area is called a “footprint.”  The city floats bonds or otherwise borrows money to advance to developers with plans to develop in the TIF. Once the development is up and flourishes, the property taxes generated pay off the bonds. Until then, the taxes generated within the TIF—for the most part—are dedicatedto the TIF.  California, the place of TIFs were born, has enacted laws to prohibit TIFs.
   There are several reasons why TIFs do not work as planned. What seems to be a prevalent problem—as one can see in Chicago and here in the Circle City—while promoted as a panacea, the TIF concept becomes a slush fund for political leaders. In other words, the money does not go where it is supposed to go. At the same time, the area within the TIF still requires city services, such as safety, fire, schools, and streets. If the money
   An example of how a TIF can wobble off the path of development for blighted areas is the Midtown TIF here in Indy. The Meadows is the type of area for which TIFs first were developed. Areas like Broad Ripple, where development already occurs, attract such development anyway. TIF monies go to Broad Ripple. Apparently the citizens in the area of the Meadows can go to hell.
   A spokes woman for the City-County Council, at a public forum on the proposed Whole Foods development in Broad Ripple, shunted aside questions about TIFs and chuckled something to the effect that nobody understands TIFs.
   Her statement was ludicrous.
   First, if political leaders do not understand how a mechanism to fund government works, those leaders should not employ that mechanism.
   Second, a lot of people know how TIFs work.  Unfortunately, many of those people are not in Indianapolis. They live in California or Chicago, where TIFs have devastated local economies. Money Is tied up in a growing number of TIFs, and yet basic services for the city still must be paid.
   A city can make up shortfalls through several means. I do not mean Ferguson, Missouri, has been decimated by TIFs. I use Ferguson as an example because, once Greg Ballard has packed his office belongings into bankers boxes and departed office after December 31, 2015, how many TIFs will exist in Indianapolis? Our money will be gone—given to developers or paid, monthly or annually, to a foreign-based company to operate our Criminal Justice Complex at inflated rates on a contract with a lifetime of twenty or thirty years.   
   Political leaders will not want to raise property taxes or local sales taxes. To do so would be unpopular. What is left? Get Deputy Fife out there to write more tickets. Buy—through no-bid contracts with out-of-State corporations—red light cameras for intersections. Let people try and “best tickets” in a robo-court. Revenues will go up. Of course, there will be exemptions, de facto if not de jure. One such category of persons exempt from such a regime would be of people who drive SUVs with tens of thousands of dollars scattered about in the vehicle, mixed in with prescription pills. Usually such a vehicle would be subject to forfeiture—another tricky mechanism that is antithetical to liberty. If one is rich and owns a professional sports franchise, however, some matters may be overlooked, and the camera at the intersection blinks. The camera does not blink otherwise. In Ferguson it does not blink for minorities.
   This hardly is “the land of the free.”   
   This week’s Show will be at Easley Winery, on the northeast corner of College Avenue and Ohio, just off downtown. Mike and Kimann Schultz will join us to discuss wines.
   Also with us will be Democratic Party candidate for the Fifth Congressional District, Shawn Denney.

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