Thursday, June 10, 2010

Water Deal Topic of Interest at UWTDC Meeting

By Jon E. Easter

I attended the United Wayne Township Democratic Club meeting at the United Steelworkers Union Hall on Tuesday night. In the audience were about 30 members and candidates for office.

The speakers were City-County Councillors Maggie Lewis and Joanne Sanders. Councillor Doris Minton-McNeil was apparently invited to speak, but she did not attend.

Sanders and Lewis spoke forcefully against the Ballard Administration's plan to transfer the water utility to Citizens Energy Group in exchange for money Mayor Ballard says will be used for infrastructure repair and the removal of abandoned houses in selected areas of the city.

Sanders, who called Ballard's plan the "perhaps the largest transfer of assets in the history of municipalities," pointed out that the numbers don't add up and that rate payers will actually be paying for the infrastructure improvements rather than Citizens Energy's money in the sale/transfer. She said that the city should hold on to its assets instead of placing them into the Citizens Trust where they can essentially never be removed. Sanders cited the Star article saying that this was, in fact, a tax increase because the bond issue the Council recently passed for the road and street improvements will be paid back by rate payers.

Lewis said that the Mayor's claim that there was no coercion to get Councillor's votes for the project is not correct. She said specific Councillors were pulled aside and given a list of projects that would allegedly happen in their district if the transfer is successful.

Both Councillors criticized the Mayor's shortsightedness on the issue of getting rid of a major city asset. They also criticized the Mayor on his claim that this transfer is not about politics. "It's completely about politics," said Lewis. Sanders said that this infrastructure improvement plan will be paying for in rates is something Mayor Ballard can use as a central theme in his campaign for reelection.

Sanders said that the Waterworks Board is the only entity that can negotiate a deal such as the utility transfer, but they failed to give the city that authority by a 3-1-1 vote. Four votes were needed to pass. This gives the caucus members against the transfer until July 26 to try to continue to beat the drum against the transfer. The city can't move forward. Sanders urged those people interested to call the Mayor's Office at 327-3601 continually between now and then to tell him not to transfer the city's most precious asset to Citizens.

Other candidates/officeholders in the crowd included:
Jeb Bardon, State Representative
Anna Peay, Wayne Township Advisory Board
Bill Newman, Wayne Township Constable
Larry Ryan, Center Township Advisory Board
Judge Steve Eicholtz, Marion Superior Court
Brett Voorhies, candidate for Indiana House District 92
Pete Buttigieg, candidate for Treasurer of State
Tom McKenna, candidate for Secretary of State
Terry Curry, candidate for Marion County Prosecutor
John Layton, candidate for Marion County Sheriff
Annette Johnson, candidate for City-County Council At-Large
Represented by surrogates:
Brad Ellsworth, candidate for U.S. Senate and Zach Adamson, candidate for City-County Council At-Large


guy77money said...

It's the debt! Doesn't anyone get it! OK here's the problem, under city ownership they ran the debt on the water company to over 950 million dollars. Pure and utter insanity. Yes I know Ballard is playing politics with the new roads and abandoned housing play. It's not like Peterson didn't do the same thing when the city bought it for over 1/2 billion dollars. So the Democrats want the city to keep the water company and keep running the debt thru the roof in bad infrastructure decisions. It's time (the water compamy should have been under the gas company trust back the first time) intelligent spending (minus the politics) decisions be made by the gas company management. Sanders and Lewis are nuts for wanting the city to keep control of the water company. If the city keeps control it will keep making bad spending decisions dictated by politicians. This isn't the best deal that could have been put on the table and maybe it could be modified to keep the cost down. It doesn't make sense to have 3 levels of management to operate the sewer plant and the water company. In fact why aren't Lewis and McNeil complaining about this very problem. Could it be politics! They know who's toes not to step on. Jon this deal is going to happen and as always the rate payers will pay. If the democrats want to play politics they should let Ballard go ahead with the deal and then hang his ass with it. I truly wish I would have been there because I would have loved to ask both these lady's some pointed questions.

Jon E. Easter said...

Guy, then why not just give the asset to Citizens instead of this ruse of transferring it? That way, it takes the debt off the books and allows us to start fresh.

Why run the dog and pony show to disguise a tax increase and then claim it's a roads and sidewalks effort? It's not. It's a reelection plank for Ballard. Plain and simple. We lose the asset AND we pay for the sidewalks and streets.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Thanks for this reminder from Sanders, that we need to be calling the Mayor, about our opposition. Will do. I promise.

Indy Student said...

Guy, part of the water utility sale is Veolia and United get to keep their contracts at least for the duration. And to my knowledge, the exact contract that lets this happen is kept under wraps due to attorney-client privilege.