Mayoral foe: Utilities sale money should fund 'human capital'

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Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy unveiled a proposal Friday to set aside $150 million in proceeds from the sale of the city’s water and sewer utilities to fund early education, crime prevention and job training.

Kennedy, in a speech to the downtown Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis, drew sharp distinctions between her agenda and that of incumbent Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, whom Kennedy is challenging in November’s election.

Ballard plans to use money unleashed from the sale of the utilities to not-for-profit Citizens Energy Group—roughly $425 million—for projects such as demolishing abandoned houses and rebuilding roads, sidewalks, bridges and other infrastructure.

The sale was finalized earlier this this month following approval from state utility regulators, and the city already has begun deploying about $150 million of the funds, which were appropriated by the City-County Council last year, toward infrastructure projects.

Kennedy said she would deploy about $250 million—or $100 million after what already has been spent is taken into account—for those kinds of public works initiatives. But she advocated the need to put some of the money toward “things that invest in people and the society they belong to.”

“Today, while city leadership toils to pave roads, it ignores that we are at a crossroads of an opportunity to cater to broader and more important priorities,” Kennedy said. “We cannot expect to become an extraordinary city—a quality-of-life capital—solely by paving roads.”

Megan Robertson, Ballard’s campaign manager, said the mayor’s investment in infrastructure has made Indianapolis a more attractive place for companies to locate, and she touted the city’s job-commitment record under Ballard’s tenure.

She also raised questions about Kennedy’s proposal to spend the funds on programs that Robertson said would require more than the cash infusion could cover.

“As usual, Melina Kennedy is ready to spend large amounts of money with not a lot of details,“ Robertson said. “Using a one-time funding source for ongoing programs is completely irresponsible. It will result in tax increases when the money dries up.”

Kennedy said in her speech, however, that she would not raise taxes to address her spending priorities.

Kennedy, an attorney and deputy mayor for economic development under former Mayor Bart Peterson, did not specify in her speech exactly how the $150 million would be spent. But she discussed goals as part of what she called her “2021 Vision”—a reference to Indianapolis’ bicentennial year.

Among them are pushing for all Indianapolis students to achieve reading proficiency by third grade; addressing crime, in part by restoring $5 million annually for crime-prevention grants; and funding job-training programs while making small businesses the focus of her job-creation strategy.

The $150 million would be put into an endowment, Kennedy said, and the city would work to grow it by raising additional funds through grants and philanthropic contributions. While Kennedy said she has reservations about Ballard's decision to sell the city utilities, “that decision has been made.”

“The money is on its way to city accounts,” Kennedy said, “and let’s resolve to make the best public use of it.”

Over the next several weeks, Kennedy said she plans to announce detailed proposals to address more specific initiatives for addressing education, crime and job creation.

Kennedy also said she would announce a plan to reorganize how the city provides services to neighborhoods and how it determines where money for infrastructure improvements will be spent.


  • Funding
    Comments suggesting that more money will be needed down the road are absolutely correct; whether spent on roads/sidewalks or on social programs. Spend money on social programs, though, and you'll never fix the roads/sidewalks. At the same time, selling city uttilities or other assets for quick fixes is a problem waiting to happen. First, the money will get used up. Then, more money will be needed to again repair the same streets/sidewalks or money spent on social programs. The real problem, once the buyers of the utilities or assets involved get the opportunity, they will raise rates with or without city approval. So, more money will be needed to continue to fund the projects we're spending on now, and our utility rates will increase. Oh yeah,
    city-county council approval will be needed, but they'll approve the increases; don't they always?
  • Poor On Purpose
    Dems & Reps need to understand some people just have a mindset and behavior to be poor. We need a better filtering system. We need to evaluate why people were fired or cannot find a job. We're they geniunely laid off or were they just lazy? I've tried to help many people. I gave a person a job and he came 2 hours late and asked if I could give him $20. (Of course, I told him to get out.) This is the mindset of many people the government is supporting and we need it to stop. As a business owner, both their plans are short-term and will not help the city at the core root: People. Melina is a dreamer, Ballard is personally detached. We have enough programs, we have enough money, we don't have enough people who really want to stop cheating and living off the system. I KNOW; I SEE EVERDAY!!!! Are there exceptions, yes. But we have to have a better system.
  • Right on KAW
    KAW hit right on the head. I believe in helping the next guy but when they don't want to put forth any effort but reaching hand that does not work for anyone. Throwing more money at schools is not the answer. It is parents who need to change and make sure their children go to school each day and stay out of trouble. Some private grade schools have done great things with little money because parents are involved. Having good sidewalks and streets are what government is for not raising childern.
  • Rebuild Indy
    Why I don't agree with all of Kennedy's proposals, Ballard's use of the utilities money has been completely irresponsible. How is Citizen's paying for the "sale price?" By taking out a loan for 30 years. Who has to pay that money back? We do - Citizen's is a public company that we own. Ballard is taking that money and repaving roads, which might last 5-7 years tops. The money should be used for long term infrastructure improvements, not improvements that Ballard thinks will buy him an election.

    Ballard's 3 1/2 years in office has been nothing except raising taxes and engaging in reckless spending. I'm sad to say I voted for him and worked for him in 2007. Never again.
  • Resuface Indy
    Isn't infrastructure repair an ongoing expense, since you would presumably have a certain amount of money you spend each year as you repair/rebuild those assets with the greatest need? Speaking of rebuilding, would it make more sense to actually rebuild some of these roads, rather than simply tearing off the top inch of asphalt and laying down another fresh coat, which is usually over top of a deteriorated base? I realize it would be a lot more expensive, but I would think that it might be a better investment if a rebuilt street lasts 30 or 40 years compared to a resurfacing that deteriorates within a few years. Haven't several downtown streets like New York and Michigan been resurfaced three times in the last five years?
  • Not again
    Social programs baloney. That is what this nation continues to suffer from is all the expensive social programs. Our infrastucture,and true city needs are neglected for social programs and this is why we have the deficits today. Always these folks wanting to give it away for some social program. I believe we need sound fiscal management not more social programs
  • What???
    Actually, using this opportunity to fund streets(not saying they didnt need it done)that only have a shelf life of 10 years and has zero net return versus job training that will have a continual return on the investment that can be used for streets and other infrastructure. Job training is very important.
  • Opportunist
    Like IndyGuy I tend to vote democratic also, but this town needs some real fixing up, and I really don't want to see tangible improvements get replaced by some nebulous, feel good social programs. I want the damn pot holes fixed.
  • O'Bama Democrats Love to Spend!
    Sure, let's give the money to the teachers Unions and other "re-training" grants to laid-off Union members.... The federal dollars are gone so let's use local dollars for more Union welfare great idea Commrade Kennedy!
  • Freebies
    Why do we think that we always have to hand money to people. How about paying down debt or providing programs to get jobs back to the coummunity. Use it to make real change for the whole community, not just a select few.
  • with gravy!
    LOL! there is some angry 8th grade logic for you!

    mayor ballard has done an exceptional job of fixing the city's problems. Kennedy is just trying to buy votes as usual...just her typical rhetoric...
  • Not thrilled
    Personally -- and I typically vote Democrat - I'd rather see the money spent on infrastructure. I'm not thrilled with the idea of throwing more money at social programs and education. Just my opinion.
  • Same old politics
    Ms Kennedy has shown her hand once again. The city has been in serious need to infrastructure repair for some time. Who amoung the last five mayors have done anything about? None. Mayor Ballard said he would and he is doing that in a responsible way. Will this have to be re-addressed in the future? Yes. Immediately? no. Kennedy's plan will have to raise taxes. Show me a social program started by the city that was given one time funds and sustained itself without any taxpayer money. It is not realistic. This is not a republican versus democrate issue. It is a green issue. How well we can position our city for more new companies and more new jobs is the responsiblity of the city. Everything else sounds nice and there are several NPOs that are well suited to handle it.
  • It never ceases to amaze me...
    Smashed Taters - I don't know what you do for a living (assuming you work), but I pray it has nothing to do with the financial sector. Social programs that are proposed by Mayoral Candidate Kennedy are a continous expense, which should therefore be funded by a continuous stream of revenue. Road repairs are a "one-time" capital expense, to be funded by a one-time source of revenue, which is what is happening now. Of course they will not last forever and will have to be reapired again, down the road - say 10 years from now. Nevertheless, that does not constitute an "ongoing expense" unlike social welfare programs. Finally, for your benefit as well as that of Ms. Molina's, additional welfare programs will do nothing to highlight Indianapolis as a "quality of life capital." It will, however, promote the Welfare State, which, by definition requires higher taxes to sustain and those higher taxes will prevent businesses from moving here and hiring our citizenry, getting them off the public teet, making them responsible, tax paying members of society. Why the heck is this so hard for people to understand? It is so unbelievably obvious. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!
    • It cuts both ways...
      Megan Roberston says, “Using a one-time funding source for ongoing programs is completely irresponsible. It will result in tax increases when the money dries up.”

      The same goes for road repairs, Ms. Robertson. Using your same argument, a one-time funding source for ongoing infrastructure needs is completely irresponsible. Where will the money come from to repair the hastily paved streets and shoddily constructed sidewalks - putting lipstick on the proverbial pig - when they need repair after the Mayor's "Stupid Bowl" party is over? We can't sell the utility company or parking meters again.

      The answer? You guessed it: Taxes.

      This Mayor's plan will also require future taxation to support it, unless some of the windfall from the utility sale is being set aside to take care of those repairs.

      That this is the brightest bulb that the Mayor Dullard's office can shine on this matter should be frightening to anyone with an 8th grade education.

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