IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Open the Market Square Arena process

 IBJ Staff
May 25, 2013
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IBJ Editorial

Mayor Greg Ballard should reverse his decision to keep the redevelopment proposals for the former Market Square Arena site under wraps. Opening the process to the public, thus sourcing the crowd, would increase chances of a better fit for the neighborhood and the city.

Much speculation is swirling around the six proposals under consideration by the administration, particularly one for a 52-story tower that would eclipse the tallest building in the state, Chase Tower, by four floors. The size of the project is probably a pipe dream, but that’s why it’s generating plenty of intrigue, as IBJ reporter Scott Olson writes in a story on page three this week.

This is about a lot more than satiating inquisitive minds, though. It’s fundamentally about the principle of open government. Ballard shouldn’t need reminding that citizens have the right to know what their government is thinking, and this alone is sufficient reason to pull back the curtain.

Ballard also is mistaken in believing the city can wrangle a better deal by interviewing developers outside of public glare. By the time the winner is announced and enters the regular approval gauntlet, it’s too late to integrate major changes.

Opening a government process to sunshine always draws silly, uninformed comment. But it also attracts keen observations from people who know the city, the market, the industry, the neighborhood. The few people in city hall sifting the proposals, however savvy they might be, are more isolated than necessary from the considerable knowledge and experience of dozens of outside experts who might weigh in. The city needs those perspectives.

Transparency is also a reasonably effective antidote to hubris, as outside accountability has a way of stopping imprudent decisions before they get put in writing. The more that government officials, or anyone in the private sector for that matter, think they can handle a complex decision like this one by themselves, the more cause for caution.

Beyond these reasons, opening the process helps build trust and confidence in government. Decisions made behind closed doors are decisions easily second-guessed.

And openness on the MSA site might help blunt fallout from the Land Bank scandal that broke wide open last week. The last thing Ballard needs now is a bungled selection process.

The parking expanse that once was the Indiana Pacers palace has been spruced up with landscaping, but it still separates the vibrant downtown from neighborhoods immediately east, communicating a message that the city can’t attract quality redevelopment, can’t get its act together.

Ballard made the right call to take another run at filling the space. It’s time to move ahead.

But he should recognize that the project he green-lights will alter the skyline, the neighborhood, the movement of people and the city’s reputation. The decision is too important to rest with a small klatch of people.•

Send comments on this editorial to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  1. I am not by any means judging whether this is a good or bad project. It's pretty simple, the developers are not showing a hardship or need for this economic incentive. It is a vacant field, the easiest for development, and the developer already has the money to invest $26 million for construction. If they can afford that, they can afford to pay property taxes just like the rest of the residents do. As well, an average of $15/hour is an absolute joke in terms of economic development. Get in high paying jobs and maybe there's a different story. But that's the problem with this ask, it is speculative and users are just not known.

  2. Shouldn't this be a museum

  3. I don't have a problem with higher taxes, since it is obvious that our city is not adequately funded. And Ballard doesn't want to admit it, but he has increased taxes indirectly by 1) selling assets and spending the money, 2) letting now private entities increase user fees which were previously capped, 3) by spending reserves, and 4) by heavy dependence on TIFs. At the end, these are all indirect tax increases since someone will eventually have to pay for them. It's mathematics. You put property tax caps ("tax cut"), but you don't cut expenditures (justifiably so), so you increase taxes indirectly.

  4. Marijuana is the safest natural drug grown. Addiction is never physical. Marijuana health benefits are far more reaching then synthesized drugs. Abbott, Lilly, and the thousands of others create poisons and label them as medication. There is no current manufactured drug on the market that does not pose immediate and long term threat to the human anatomy. Certainly the potency of marijuana has increased by hybrids and growing techniques. However, Alcohol has been proven to destroy more families, relationships, cause more deaths and injuries in addition to the damage done to the body. Many confrontations such as domestic violence and other crimes can be attributed to alcohol. The criminal activities and injustices that surround marijuana exists because it is illegal in much of the world. If legalized throughout the world you would see a dramatic decrease in such activities and a savings to many countries for legal prosecutions, incarceration etc in regards to marijuana. It indeed can create wealth for the government by collecting taxes, creating jobs, etc.... I personally do not partake. I do hope it is legalized throughout the world.

  5. Build the resevoir. If built this will provide jobs and a reason to visit Anderson. The city needs to do something to differentiate itself from other cities in the area. Kudos to people with vision that are backing this project.

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