City built on leadership, cooperation is in danger

May 4, 2009
No matter how the Capital Improvement Board funding mess plays out, we're left with resentment coming from all directions and an unprecedented splintering of the long-standing bipartisan cooperation that helped propel our city forward.

I have to think that the late Larry Conrad and Jim Browning, two of the visionaries who sought to bring Indianapolis—and by extension, Indiana—to a higher level, must be spinning in their graves.

In this space and many other forums, I have lobbied that investments such as Conseco Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium and expansion of the Indiana Convention Center were necessary to the city's success in the national and international marketplace. I still believe that. But I also thought we were smart enough to figure out a way to pay for and operate them. Silly me.

Since it became apparent that the income wasn't enough to cover expenses, however, every solution has been greeted with ridicule and resentment.

Allow me to recap:

Many legislators and residents from the hinterlands resent Indianapolis, so don't dare propose an idea like a penny-on-beer state alcohol tax, which the liquor lobbyists also resented, or any kind of statewide solution.

The counties contiguous to Indianapolis resent any further regional answers to what they see as Marion County issues, even as many of their residents depend on Indianapolis for their livelihoods.

Marion County residents resent being the only ones who have to provide further funding of facilities that have parking lots crowded with cars licensed to residents of the contiguous counties.

Members of the City-County Council are already voicing resentment over the possibility of making tough decisions that may not resonate with their constituents.

The hoteliers and restaurateurs resent being asked to be hit up—again.

The arts crowd resents being overshadowed and underfunded because of all the money and attention consumed by sports.

Angry bloggers resent pretty much everything.

The Pacers, Colts and Indians resent the notion of a ticket-tax increase.

Some distant liquor lobbyists resented Colts owner Jim Irsay in a full-page ad in The Indianapolis Star even though Irsay didn't ask for a higher alcohol tax.

That, in turn, caused Colts President Bill Polian and Irsay to issue statements resentful of just about anyone who would suggest that the Horseshoes might purchase, say, $5 million worth of goodwill in the public domain.

Oh, and the Colts also are resentful for being dragged into a "Pacers" situation.

Still, there are others who resent the notion that a deal isn't a deal and a contract isn't worth the paper on which it's printed. So they resent former Mayor Bart Peterson and CIB head Fred Glass for not playing hardball with the Colts to begin with.

But then, there are those from the Peterson-Glass era who resent former Mayor Steve Goldsmith for negotiating the previous lease that put the city on the hook for millions of dollars in "make-up" payments if the Colts fell below the "median" of NFL franchise revenues.

Some resent Jim Irsay for merely being born into wealth and then spending some of it on helicopters and manuscripts.

There are those who resent the Colts and Pacers in general and who see those teams as exhibits A and 1A in evidence of misplaced priorities.

They also resent the "millionaire" athletes, although they resent the Colts less because they're winning and the Pacers more because they're losing.

Many resent the Pacers for making bad personnel decisions that caused the franchise to fall from public favor.

And what's not to resent about those "billionaire" Simons, never mind the jobs they've created or the investments they've made in Indianapolis.

The Colts and Pacers resent not being recognized for their charitable deeds and their overall impact on the community.

Finally, Mayor Ballard and CIB president Bob Grand are resented for trying to clean up a mess they didn't make.

Me? I resent the fact it's necessary to write this column to point out the lack of leadership on many levels and the absence of collaboration. Instead, it's been about agendas, finger-pointing and butt-covering.

So, so disappointing.


Benner is director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www. ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com. >
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