Local Tea Party group takes aim at Carmel mayor

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Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has faced his share of political challengers, none of whom have come close to beating the four-term Republican.

But as he runs for a fifth term this year, he’s expected to face new opposition from a local branch of an increasingly powerful national force: the Tea Party. A new Carmel-based Tea Party group, the Constitutional Patriots, has set its sights on Brainard as a target.

Members—mostly residents of the upscale Southwest Clay section of the city—take issue with Brainard’s spending.

That includes, in particular, the $170 million Center for the Performing Arts, and another roughly $230 million in debt issued through the city’s redevelopment commission. That money will be paid back through property taxes generated by businesses in the area of new development, and residential taxpayers are backing up about $80 million of the total should those commercial taxes not come through. 

The Patriots think their efforts to campaign against the popular incumbent will play well against a backdrop of debate over the national deficit and federal spending.

“It’s a silly way to spend money when the rest of the country is going bankrupt,” said Dwight Lile, the group’s 62-year-old founder who owns an automotive store in Zionsville. “It shows a complete lack of sensitivity.”

Brainard isn’t brushing off the threat, but he’s confident that once the Tea Party folks hear his side of the debate, they’ll support him.

He said spending on projects such as the arts center is an economic development investment that benefits the city’s tax base. That will allow Carmel to keep tax rates—which he touts as among the lowest of major cities in the state—down in years to come, he said.

“We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t think it were good for the economics of the city,” Brainard said of the performing arts center. “I think most people who are concerned about fiscal responsibility are going to vote for us.”

For now, though, the Patriots are strategizing the best method to campaign against him. They haven’t endorsed either of Brainard’s opponents, Marnin Spigelman and John Accetturo, who plan to challenge him in the critical Republican primary in May. But Lile says the group is still in its nascent stages.

Lile and his wife, who worked on Tea Party candidate Richard Behney’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid, started the Constitutional Patriots in October as part of an effort to expand the party's statewide reach. So far, the group's 12 members have mostly found the Patriots through word of mouth, since the group has operated without a website or other publicity. But once they start recruiting, Lile said, he expects “the thing to balloon.”

Local political experts aren’t so sure.

A New York Times/CBS News poll last spring showed Tea Party backers are wealthier and more educated than the general public, not unlike Carmel’s population. But Brian Vargus, a political science professor at IUPUI and longtime observer of Carmel politics, said he doesn’t think the Tea Party message will resonate enough in the suburban community to gain serious traction—or overshadow Brainard’s popularity in Carmel.

“There are always rumors about Brainard getting beat, but he always survives because he can point to a fairly impressive record,” Vargus said, noting the attention the arts center has drawn. “I would be surprised if [the Tea Party] got very far with it, but they’ll make noise.”

Lile isn’t letting the prospect of failure deter him.

The group’s core mission is bigger than unseating Brainard: It aims to bring all local elected leaders in line with the limited government that Lile said is mandated by the state Constitution.

“We figure this is a lifelong commitment,” Lile said. “Even if we lose some small battles, we’re going to create awareness.”


  • It is so poorly done
    I used to live in Carmel and recently came back for a visit. What they have done to the downtown area was so poorly done, that I could hardly believe it. Someone has bad taste.
  • Carmel Founed By Quakers
    Hey Scared Stupid, maybe you should study some local history before making generalizations. Carmel was founded by Quakers that moved from North Carolina to get away from slavery, and was a major stop on the Underground Railroad on the way to Canada. Have you ever driven past the farmhouse at Rangeline Rd and 98th St.? The small brick building next to the farmhouse has a basement where escaped slaves were sheltered on their way north. Have you ever noticed the various churches around town with the word "Friends" in their name? Those are Quaker churches that have been here for over 150 years, and their congregants were some of the original abolitionists. To generalize the people of Carmel as racist is simply uninformed ignorance.
  • CCC
    Not to mention free rent and other perks to tenants of the CCC.
  • Empty Buildings in Carmel
    Drive around and look at all the empty buildings in Carmel, office buildings, Merchant Square, the Arts District. Taxes are going up. Better get your checkbook out. Ma and Pa business does not last. A company with more than one location survives in a tough economy. A bunch of artist who don't really have any local sales (most art is sold on the Internet) will not be around for long. Better watch your assessed value on your property too. If your tax rate does not go up, then your assessed value will be more than what your property is worth. Look at all the empty condo's for sale in Carmel.
  • Re: Jerry V's "OK"
    Jerry: You sound pretty well informed and I don't doubt you're right about the facts you cite. On the other hand, you seem to have a very nicely developed community in Carmel, wouldn't you agree? Does that come free, Jerry? And do you see all the better off constituents in Clay Township up in arms about paying towards it? No, I don't think so. And, as far as your implication that Mayor B. is getting away with something, the State Board of Accounts watches that and, as we've seen, they've called a foul or two on him but no charges of malfeasance or misfeasance. Finally, the Tea Party line about spending is getting pretty old and more just a rant than anything productive. Your community is growing in virtually all respects, and your tax base will grow over time to absorb currently incurred expenses. Carmel's not about to fall off the map from debt, and you know it. So, Jerry, take a pill and someone will come along and tell you when it's finally safe to leave the house.
  • Racism History Lesson Cute but Faulty
    Nice try, but you fail to acknowledge that migration from cities was and still is more motivated by folks' natural predilection to move to the suburbs based upon their desire to go where there's "green grass, fresh air, and Protestants". Increased income, of course, is the means by which they do it, too. And don't forget, people often like larger housing and bigger yards whenever they can afford them, too, and they can't always accomplish that in the city. So, let's not just lump suburban migration into the category of "White Flight".
  • Opinions are a dime a dozen
    To "Carmel Taxpayer": Seems to me you've got a mayor who makes things happen and his constituents apparently agree with him - unless, of course, you think they've been totally duped. Unless you've got something to really complain about, it makes little sense to say, "Yeah, but maybe we could do better" unless, of course, someone comes along who offers real promise of something better. And if you think you can do better, maybe you should put your money where your mouth is and fun for mayor yourself.
  • "Get Real"
    Sally: After reading your comment, why would anyone aspire be your mayor? You sound like a bitter, ungrateful constituent to me, and real short on understanding. Tell us how tough things are up there in Carmel, why don't you?
  • "Is That All"?
    Lynn: Gee, sounds like a real scoundrel. Things can't be all that bad in Carmel if that's the worst you can say about the guy. Why don't you write again when you've really got something to complain about or, better still, save it for when you someday end up with a mayor who lacks the leadership and courage of the one you've got now.
  • Chicken Little?
    John: I respectfully suggest your "what if" train of thought is unproductive and you should've stopped after your first sentence in which you acknowledged the Mayor's accomplishments. I think he has operated as a public official doing things both for and WITH the citizens of Carmel and in public view. I also believe Carmelites are not up in arms about their local government, certainly not poised for a rebellion against their mayor, and those who try to incite rebellion should probably spend a day on the job with Mayor Brainard. Working for the public is truly a thankless job and a man like yourself big enough to acknowledge Brainard's efforts is surely big enough to reflect upon the subject some more and come up with more reasons to support him than to tear him down. Finally, the world isn't about to come to an end, especially in Carmel, so let's not get overly Tea Partyish.
  • Find Something Else to Do
    Seems to me that Mr. Lile probably has too much time on his hands.
  • Spending
    I am on board wiht the movement to unseat Carmel Mayor. His work has been outstanindg but time has come to make a change. He advocates (TIF) (Tax Increment financing) district support for all the redevelopment commissions spending. that is great in an upward moving economy, but with teh new state tax caps and higher than normal vacancies in properties with those commercial and industiral properties producing less revenue how can he conttinue to beleive the well will not run dry and teh tax burden will fall on residential. He aslso advocates that these are the lowest tax rates. Yes that is true but what will happen to appraised values. Will they continue to be stable or will we see a rise in values to accomodate higher taxes even though the rate may be low. That still means increased property taxes for residential.Higher appraised values mean higher taxes even with a low rate. If property values decrease then the revenue will also be down for other services. Hamilton county has the sorts right now and are proposing to stop arresting certain violators and issuing summons instead due to rising costs of supporting the incarcerated. Fiscal budget balancing is now a national issue and CArmel need not be and is not immune.
    • Racist?
      Why is it that every word written can be turned into a racist statement. Wouldn't dawn on anybody to see the Tea Party in this light but a black racist.
    • really?
      Carmel is wonderful. One of the most wonderful things about my neighborhood is the vast amount of diversity. I (unfortunately) had to overhear a group of my neighbors discussing how "afraid" they are that the "Palin Tea Party" is going to ruin the lives they have built, and their bigotry is going to trickle down into the schools and cause their children to be bullied, etc. The tea party is using the mayor as a way to attract attention to their "cause" and gain ultra-conservative, white supporters. Until recently I thought this country and Carmel was moving in the right direction (or rather left direction). Now I see that some in our community are wating to move backward.
    • Carmel taxes should be lower
      Brainard is really a democratic disguised as a Republican. He is the biggest spending mayor in the State, and had the Redevelopment Commission buy Shapiro, Party time, build an office building, a health club (monon), and now is involved in the entertainment business.
      Now he has stolen a tenant for the office building from a another building in Carmel that pay taxes. He has financed and financed to keep debt off the books until he leaves office.
      • That city was built on racism
        If you look at the history of the US, and how the suburbs were built through the codification of red lining in FHA lending standards, it is easy to see how white flight from Indianapolis happened, and why the tea party "ideals" are more acceptable in carmel.

        Post WWII the first wave of white people left the city for the suburbs. Shortly after, the banks decided that they were done lending in "red lined" neighborhoods (those with minority populations), and would only lend in "green lined" neighborhoods (whites only). So now if you were a racist OR non-racist white person you could only get a loan in a white neighborhood, and if you were a minority, you just couldn't get a loan. The sterile whites only suburbs expanded, leaving cities to the poor. The urban cores broke down and most of what people now call the intercity "ghetto" was created. The racists and the banks worked to keep the black families out of the suburbs for as long as they could until race relations reached a boiling point around the 1960's ultimately culminating in the civil right act of 1968.

        Due to the history of the suburbs in the US, they are typically more white, conservative, and racist. Hamilton county has a long history of being a haven for racism, along with many other "sundown towns" in Indiana. I know that many will object to this history lesson, and I am not saying that everyone in carmel is racist, just that it is a product of the racism of a past generation. I am also saying that because that was only a generation ago, it is easy to see why a movement like the tea party is more acceptable there than it is in major metropolitan areas.

        • Real Patriots for Brainard
          As a result of Mayor Brainard's initiatives, we have a vibrant community that is wonderful for families AND business. He invested into the future of this city with the arts. Our taxes are ridiculously low when you compare them to communities with schools around the country on par with the excellence of Carmel's schools. Our city is safe, we have great schools, there are so many activities for young and old, etc. Seriously, these tea partiers should just go take a hike and move to Alaska.
        • No Kidding!
          Carmel has an "Urban Core?" Who knew? (That is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time.)
        • Who are you??
          Who are you. Why should I listen to you. Lady (assuming you are a "lady" named Sally. I really don't think you know what you are talking about. Are you sure your name isn't Michell B something or other?
        • Leave him alone!
          Whatever you want to say about Carmel's mayor, go ahead and get it off your chest. The fact remains that he has, and continues to be innovative and progressive in managing the City of Carmel and it remains the shinning star in Indiana if you're looking for a place to live. The Round-a-bouts are and will continue to get national attention. He is one of the best things about Carmel!
          Let him alone. He'll take care of business.
        • The more the merrier !
          Brainard is probably recalling Brer Rabbits retort: "don't throw me in the briar patch". Three opponents will dilute the vote and Brainard will return for a fifth term!
        • Reading the Tea Leaves
          I find with amusement how an announcement of one disgruntle citizen who just became annexed suddenly becomes a whole movement.

          Using Lile's logic Governor Daniels would be another disappointment come tea time. After all Daniels approved Lucas Stadium and unlike Carmel, raised taxes on must of us in Central Indiana. Daniels is also spending mega $$ Billions on Major Moves.

          Don't fret Mayor Brainard, anyone with an open mind can read the tea leaves and see that community investment is the driver that is keeping Carmel taxes low.
        • Big Government
          Mayor Brainard is no fiscal conservative and doesn't believe in the Constitution. He found loopholes in the law and unilaterally created $150 million in debt. He is a big government, big spending Mayor and doesn't like to follow the law. He just wants the power do do what he wants. He represents himself not the people.
          • Drink Your Kool-Aid
            Before anything, I like downtown Carmel. I enjoy living down here as a matter of fact..
            However, I was just stating a third option is better than just the same ol option of whats behind door #1 or door #2.
            However go ahead Mr. BS and drink your Kool-Aid, Juice, or whatever your lactating about.
            People don't like change as yourself I can clearly tell.
            So go ahead and continue running in your hamster wheel (which is exactly what our country has been under the same two political parties we have been stuck with for so long); and I will listen to what a third opinion may have to say and not be close minded as yourself.
            Next thing I know your going to be telling people what they should and should not be listening to. Now that is some BS!!
            • Investing downtown is forward-thinking.
              Carmel has done a good job of developing its urban core, which it makes it well suited for an era of increasing energy costs, and the growing demographic that prefers urban living. I hope a small group of 12 eccentrics won't undermine that progress.
            • Never Fails
              Good old "Main Street," the number one P.R. guy. What is it that word you have used to describe members of the Tea Party on another discussion forum?

              You might want to stay out of this discussion as your opinion of Tea Party members is not a good one and is well known.
            • Change needed in ourcountry but not in Carmel
              Carmel is a fabulous place all do to Brainard's vision. I used to not like him because of the good old boy attitude in running the city of Carmel but he does get things done unlike the dem's and republican's country wide. This country is not set up to progress or win because the only thing important to "the leaders" is that their party prevail! It isn't about what the right thing to do is- it is now ONLY about winning in the next election! WE need to change the system or we will be stuck in neutral forever! The Tea Party concept is at least a step in the right direction-
            • Just the Facts
              Evidently Hoosiermike doesn't live in Carmel or he would know that property taxes are less than 1/2 of the city's revenue.

              Of the property taxes collected, nearly 30% come from commercial buildings. The strong commercial base that has exploded in the last decade in Carmel also is a major reason Carmel gets double the County Option Income Tax (COIT) as Fishers does.

              The Tea Party will have a difficult time showing that the present vision isn't a good return on investment.
              • OK!
                It sure didn't take long for the Mayor's paid political consultants to post comments on this story. They are everywhere so it is hard to tell whether the poster is a real citizen or a paid P.R. person.

                Mr. Libman of the PAC has stated that for the PAC to break even the seats for performances would have to be $150 each. Carmel taxpayers are subsidizing every ticket sold. The PAC has no endowment. Their only source of funding is begging for money from the Carmel City Council.

                For a community of Carmel's size spending nearly $200 million of public money on the PAC is unprecedented. We still don't know how much is being spent on the PAC - the Mayor has stated this fact - there was no budget for this project and the Mayor was not able to raise any significant funding for the PAC.

                Add in the fact that an $80,000,000 bond is backed with property taxes and if the CRC cannot continue to pull the rabbit out of their hat (they were about out of money but "sold" the energy center, which was financed by debt, to gain some much needed cash. That's right they sold it TWICE!) there will be an automatic tax levied on every Carmel property owner (personal and business) to make the bond payment.

                Carmel has racked up untold debt and the CRC will not let anybody look at the books. In fact they now have their own accountant and have cut the Cler Treasurer our of the loop so they can keep their situation under wraps. Some have estimated Carmel's debt to be between $500,000,000 and 1,000,000,000. For a community of some 75,000 this is crazy.

                Funding all of this has been easy for the Mayor as he's abusing the spirit of the TIF law to create a slush fund for pet projects. Soon there will be a new State law that will not allow projects like the PAC to be funded by pseudo-TIF areas. Carmel is pulling commercial tax revenue out of West Carmel to pay for the PAC. The first plan (the new downtown) didn't work out so the slush fund had to be expanded.

                All of this is my perception of what has happened so check this stuff out for yourself and see if I'm right. If I am then there are a lot of unanswered questions as to the state of Carmel's finances. If I'm wrong then everything is just peachy!
                • Hank
                  I think they are from Kokomo
                • Magnificient Obsession
                  He brags about our tax rate being low and he hasn't raised taxes but that's only because of the enormous increase in appraisal values and that runs down/out soon and then guess what happens? Brag no longer. Tea party attention may force the explanation and clear the air - no question Carmel has benefited from his vision and 'forgiveness is easier than permission' leadership. It would be reassuring to know it's covered financially.
                • But who is uninformed?
                  According to Scared Stupid, Tea Partiers are "uneducated oafs." According to the article "A New York Times/CBS News poll last spring showed Tea Party backers are wealthier and more educated than the general public." Perhaps SS is falling back on stereotypes and has never investigated the movement him/herself. If SS is indeed providing unsupported opinions then perhaps he/she is no better than those he condemns (and calls names).
                  • At last the Tea party does something worthwhile!
                    Can't say that is what they usually do.
                  • first time voting for Brainard
                    I have not voted for Brainard in the past, but the Keystone and Palladium projects, amoung others, shows me he has good vision. He will get my vote this time.
                  • Low Taxes
                    I would like to know what community Mr. Lile would use as his model in which to brew his tea. Carmel taxes are substantially lower than Zionsville, an upscale community that has prospects of even higher taxes
                  • sales tax
                    Your real estate taxes are lower today because the legislature has raised the sales tax three times in efforts to lower the property taxes. If you calculate what your extra sales tax payments are and then add that to the property taxes, I think you will see you are paying a lot more than 20 years ago. There is no free money, you are and will pay for all this spending.
                  • Carmel Mayor
                    Sounds like a Tempest in a Teapot. With 12 members, they have a long way to go to overcome all the positive things that Mayor Brainard has done in Carmel.
                  • All Hail
                    As long as Ceasar puts on games and throws bread to the masses, they will continue to elect him.
                  • relax a little
                    it seems to me that the reactions to Mr. Lile are over the top. Are we so scared of a different point of view. Mr. Lile says he wants to create awareness...what a terrible idea!! Maybe if Brainards croonies stop writing these comments there can be more positive interactive dialog.
                    • Sign me up
                      It would be nice if there were a way to get in touch with this group. I'd love to join.
                      • Carmel Improvements
                        I like all the improvements. We can drive up Keystone without a traffic light, the Monon Center is great and the Palladium is fantastic. The quality of life has dramitically improved since Jim Brainard took office. I don't expect all this to be free after all what is in life. I think most are grateful and the few that complain make the press. Isn't the tea party less than a dozen?
                      • Brainard has Great Record
                        I suspect that Brainard is right and most who want fiscal responsibility will support him. My property taxes are a fraction of what they were when he took office in the 90s and Carmel is attracting businesses left and right. The performance hall should bring in far more investment than what is spent and the building should last for several thousand years. I love to hear Brainard speak--he truly understands how to make government more efficient and how to avoid wasteful costs leaving plenty of funds available to investment in things that attract business and keep our taxes down. The tea partiers should be embracing Brainard.
                        • A third, more crazy option! Oh Boy!
                          A third option would be nice if it were at all well reasoned.

                          Hypothetical: You are thirsty. You can have juice or milk. You have always had this option. Now someone offers you battery acid. Yummmm! Here there are three choices, one is ridiculous though. Don't choose battery acid because you are tired of juice and you are lactose intolerant.

                          Civil discourse is acceptable. Falsehood and manipulation under the guise of standing for American values is unacceptable.

                          I know what American values are, and they are more nuanced, thoughtful, compassionate, and intellectual than the arguments of the tea party.

                          Fear tactics lead to brutalist archaic policies, not sound effective policies.
                          • ...
                            Well said "Scared Stupid." just like unions and the ACLU it was a great idea to begin with but they cannot bring themselves to sit down and pat themselves on the back. Instead they relish in the power and begin to over-use it until they destroy their good name.
                          • Third Option
                            Why are people so against a third idea. As if Democrats and Republicans have done such magnificent job with our country in the past 40 years. Nothing in our society is easy as black or white; or left or right.
                            So why do we sit and accept the thought maintaining only two unreliable parties is the right way to run our country? Which it is clearly evident (look at where we are at now) it doesn't work any longer.
                            Just a little common sense to chew on...
                          • Breath!
                            Constitutional Patriots - many of us share your concerns. But please, take a breath, dialogue with the Mayor, focus on the difference between consumptive spending versus investment, and constructively apply your good energies and intentions!
                          • Grandiose language is only a ploy
                            Just because you name your group the "Constitutional Patriots" does not mean that you (1) understand the Constitution or (2) are, or embody, what it means to be a patriot.

                            I actually find it quite insulting that someone with such uninformed and extreme views counter to reality chooses to pilfer words so closely related to the ideals of all Americans.
                          • No edjumication leads to bad policy
                            The tea party is not a movement based in reality. It is a movement based on fear and misinformation. The basic premiss is a good one: Smaller more efficient government is better. The actual rantings of the tea party are not. Our president is a US citizen. Immigration is a problem that can't be solved with guns and fences. There is no state right to secede from the union (it is a declaration of civil war). The second amendment is not in jeopardy. There is separation of church and state. The word czar is not a strictly communist word, it is a concept.... the list is miles long.

                            So take the only good premiss and apply it to the legitimate parties that don't stand for racism, bigotry, and strict punitive consequence (compared to result based policy). Stand up for what you believe in, but don't abandon all morality for a bunch of small minded uneducated oafs.

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