EDITORIAL: Hardball tactics put City Market tenants in a bind

 IBJ Staff
November 21, 2009
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IBJ Editorial

Mayor Greg Ballard can’t have it both ways with City Market. On one hand, Ballard wants to withdraw utility subsidies for the restaurants, food stands and other tenants as part of his overarching policy of eliminating city assistance.

On the other hand, he wants tenants, many of whom complain they’re losing money, to continue operating while the city decides on a new vision for the historic downtown landmark.

The city either should continue the subsidies, in effect keeping the building open, or continue cutting subsidies and let the tenants leave peacefully while the city dreams up the vision.

As it is, the city is playing hardball with tenants it claims are behind on rent by hauling them into court or threatening to do so. The city counters that a contract is a contract: Pay up or get out.

Problem is, if the tenants are forced out, there’s little reason to keep the doors open.

City Market bustled with restaurants and food stands for a number of years after its 1970s revitalization added momentum to the renewal of downtown. Now, though, the very success of the downtown has siphoned away customers to other restaurants and shops.

City Market’s board has suggested closing the building for three years to buy time for another renovation and to rethink its mission.

Ballard instead wants to keep the market open while collecting ideas from the public and soliciting proposals for alternative uses for the mostly vacant east and west wings.

It’s understandable why Ballard would want to save money while keeping a key building open. But doing both doesn’t seem feasible.

The market should close—temporarily—or the city should acknowledge the precarious situation tenants are in and cut them some slack.

A competent public servant

As Indiana secretary of state, Todd Rokita doesn’t let much grass grow under his feet and perhaps he will have more to offer after his second term ends next year.

Rokita, 39, is drawing criticism for prosecuting Stifel Nicolaus and Co., the St. Louis financial advisory firm accused of securities fraud. Some observers think he should have chased other cases with his resources because Stifel has promised to repay investors and because the problem was triggered by the global financial meltdown.

Still, Rokita deserves praise for aggressively pursuing securities violations. And he has shown resourcefulness by increasingly funding the office with revenue from fines. If only the nation’s watchdogs, who are crucial to maintaining the trust that’s so critical for a market economy like ours, had been as vigilant.

Rokita has also offered a reasonable plan for redrawing the state’s hopelessly gerrymandered legislative districts in a way that would restore competitiveness to districts around the state.

If the young secretary of state continues offering solutions to the state’s many problems, he’ll be worthy of the mention he’s gotten recently about being a candidate to replace Mitch Daniels when the Republican governor finishes his second and final term in 2012.•


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