ABDUL-HAKIM SHABAZZ: Indy Works, part deux (the sequel)

Keywords Government / Real Estate
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As someone who enjoys a good film, I always worry when Hollywood tries to produce a sequel. The producers figure they raked in millions on an idea, so they run it again and again until it’s run into the ground.

Mayor Bart Peterson is hoping to pass Indianapolis Works ’06 through the Indiana General Assembly this session. How successful will this sequel be? Let’s look at all the players and find out.

Last session, GOP lawmakers gave the mayor police consolidation as well as the power to control the budgets of all citycounty offices. There was a check and balance included, with the city comptroller writing the checks and the county auditor signing them. The mayor suffered defeat and then victory when the City-County Council first turned down, but later passed, police consolidation combining the Indianapolis Police Department with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. A committee will create the new department over the next year. Its success or failure is an unknown.

There is a dispute, and the last time I heard possible litigation pending, between County Auditor Marty Womacks and the Mayor’s Office. In the past, Womacks has accused the mayor of writing checks and including her signature stamp without her permission. As far as combining budgets go, 2006 is not going to be pretty, so stay tuned.

So, that’s the old movie; now, the sequel.

The mayor may come out a winner in the next film. Too many external forces are coming together that will make the mayor a much stronger proponent in this battle.

First, the mayor and his allies are much more organized than their opponents. The mayor not only has put together a coalition of the business, real estate and other communities, but his primary opponent-the Marion County GOP-was recently weakened following an intra-party dispute over who would replace former State Sen. Murray Clark (now head of the Indiana Republican Party). And while the party recently completed some reorganization at the top, there is a major internal struggle going on between the GOP forces of change vs. those representing the status quo. Ammunition.

In addition, Gov. Mitch Daniels in his State of the State address has lambasted Indiana’s layer after layer of government and has called for the elimination of township assessors. A related bill is working its way through the Legislature. More ammunition.

One of the pieces of legislation that could have brought the mayor’s agenda to a screeching halt is on hold. Sen. Mike Young’s “Indy Works Better Together” legislation has an uncertain future in the Senate. And had it not been for the practical-thinking committee chairman, the bill would have died at the hands of several other Republican lawmakers, who saw it as anything but making government more efficient. More ammunition.

Other Indiana communities, burdened with high taxes and layers of government, are also eying consolidation. And throw in the fact that this spring Hoosiers could face some pretty hefty increases in their property-tax bills. And with the inventory tax about to disappear, several major industrial communities are about to take a major hit.

If you want lower taxes, the first step is to have less government. If Peterson is reading this column, he’ll take my advice and include Indy Works ’06 literature when this spring’s property-tax bills go out.

Now the mayor will have to address the fact that, even with Indy Works ’06, Marion County will be $22 million to $30 million in the hole because of police pension obligations. So if the guys and gals on the 25th floor of the City-County building are smart, they’ll drag out a plan soon to take care of that and silence their critics once and for all.

Of course, they could always include that in the third and final portion of the trilogy: “Indy Works ’07, The Year We Seek Re-election.”

His column appears monthly. He can be reached by email at ashabazz@ibj.com.

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