Friday, June 20, 2014

World Sports Park Controversy About Fiscal Responsibility

Shariq Siddiqui
Photo from Indiana Forefront
Local non-profit leader Shariq Siddiqui raises an interesting point in his post on Indiana Forefront.  He comes at Mayor Greg Ballard's World Sports Park controversy from a different angle.

When the Democrats announced their Fix Our Neighborhoods Now! Plan the other day, apparently someone in the news conference called the plan, "Cricket-Proof."

This wording offends Siddiqui who writes:
Marion County Democrats are making a mistake by attacking the new World Sports Park. As an Asian-American – I am offended by their characterization of their new infrastructure plan as being “cricket proof.” I think they are playing towards a an anti-foreigner sentiment that may garner votes and attention in the short-term put challenges the “big tent” values of the party and makes Republican Mayor, Greg Ballard, seem like the “open-minded” one in this debate.
Let me first say to Mr. Siddiqui, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry that you were offended by the terming of the Democrats plan as "cricket-proof".  It probably wasn't the wisest choice of words, and it underlines something that I heard Dan Parker actually speak about back in May at the Decatur Township Democratic Club.

Parker, who may run for Mayor, said in his talk that Democrats need to be careful in how they frame the argument on the entire World Sports Park controversy.  He said that there is actually a very vibrant immigrant community on Indy's South side and in other pockets across the community that actually do play lots of cricket.  He warned that too much cricket bashing could cause offense.

Clearly, in the case of Mr. Siddiqui, he was correct.  I do think Mr. Siddiqui is wrong in his larger point.  The World Sports Park kerfuffle has less to do with being anti-foreign and more to do with being fiscally responsible.

Here's what we're talking about, though.  We aren't talking about the kind of investment or economic impact of the Colts, or the Pacers, or the Indy Eleven, or the Indy Fuel.  We're talking about a neighborhood park that has been converted to a World Sports Park.  The reason it was done, pure and simple, was to draw the National Cricket Tournament here as sponsored by the USACA.  That organization had a horrible reputation before ink was placed to paper, but the Mayor of Indianapolis went ahead and spent between $4.9 and $6 million (number keeps changing) of Rebuild Indy money to build a World Sports Park for one event.  An event with hardly the kind of economic impact of the Indy 500 or of the political conventions the Mayor passed on.

News reports go back to 2009 on this, and I have e-mails upon e-mails from City-County Councillors on both sides of the aisle warning the Administration and predicting exactly what happened.  The National Cricket Tournament went kerplunk here in Indy.  That infrastructure investment which would have likely brought literally hundreds of cricket fans to our city is done...but someone's road didn't get paved or sidewalk didn't get fixed.  We also didn't address our crime problem.

The investment in that park gives us pretty much nothing back, so it becomes an expenditure.  How many spray parks could we have put up?  How many potholes could we have filled?  How many sidewalks could have been fixed?  I have nothing against cricket or gaelic hurling or rugby or any kind of world culture in our city, but the streets are crumbling.  The sidewalks are, too.  What is the priority?

The City-County Council Democratic Majority and some on the Republican side too have had every right to question this park, the motivations behind it, and the way forward from here.  Perhaps the wording was wrong at the news conference, but overall need for fiscal caution and to make sure that Rebuild Indy funds are appropriately managed is exactly why we have a City-County Council.

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