Saturday, November 03, 2007

Football games (and the Indy mayoral race)

So, tomorrow's the Big Game: Colts versus Patriots, 4:15pm in the Hoosier Dome. It's a big enough game that I might even watch some of it. Even though I've picked up an appreciation for the game from Laura, I rarely consider it the best use of my time; I've hit the point where I consider football a decent-enough social activity, but not really something I'd do on my own. Laura's not watching the game, but she'll be listening on the radio. She's convinced, with a superstitious fan's certainty, that if she watches the game she'll jinx it and the Colts will lose. I'm giving the Colts even odds: the game is between probably the two best quarterbacks in the sport today, and we've got a history of getting our ass handed to us by the Patriots. Even when we've won, it's been very close; the Patriots are a great team to watch, even while they're pummeling the Colts, and Tom Brady is on a course to break Manning's single-season pass record. On the other hand, the game's in Indy, and we're statistically a city with a strong home-field advantage. So I'm giving us even odds tomorrow. But, since it's traditional to give a prediction, I'm going to guess the final score at 38-31, Patriots.

And, the other football game: Indy's mayoral race. We've got Bart Peterson, a strong incumbent with a strong base, but with a large constituency that's pissed off at him, running against Steve Ballard, a challenger with nothing special to offer other than that he's Not Bart. These races always end with the incumbent staying in power (remember the last presidential race?), but they're always close. Ballard has no real concrete ideas about what he'd do differently (other than cutting arts funding, which I'm naturally opposed to); his whole campaign is built on the slogan "Had enough?". But Mayor Peterson has amassed a huge pile of enemies. A partial list of his problems:
  • The biggie: Indy's enormous property tax increase. Not so much the mayor's fault, as that of the representative body that decided to eliminate the business inventory tax and make up the lost revenue by increasing property taxes. This, coupled with a court decision that changed the way property values are assessed, saddled a lot of people with a tax bill close to double last year's. Again, people seem to lose sight of the fact that this is a problem the mayor didn't create. But the mayor definitely could've handled the situation better.
  • Also big: Indy's getting a new stadium and keeping the Colts, but at an enormous short-term and long-term cost. Peterson and his team negotiated away absolutely everything to keep the Colts. We get a new stadium and convention center, but we didn't even keep the non-football revenue from the new stadium; the Colts get 100% of the money made by the stadium, even from motocross races and band competitions. The city assumes all debt and liability and keeps none of the revenue stream. And the citizenry got a substantial tax increase to pay for it. Really, the city had no negotiating leverage; the Colts threatened to leave Indy if they didn't get everything they asked for, so the "negotiating" was mostly a matter of the city bending over for Jim Irsay and handing him a bottle of Astroglide. Still, the city gave away things that shouldn't have even been on the table. And the stadium's over budget -- by how much, nobody's saying, but people are talking about the problem that the convention center budget is the de facto slush fund for the stadium. They'll be paying the stadium's true construction cost either by cutting an enormous number of corners on the convention center (the city's only actual asset in this deal), or by making the second bond issue they promised would never happen. Again, Peterson didn't have a lot of negotiating room here, but the city's getting screwed hard on this deal, and Peterson's the one ultimately responsible.
  • Also pertaining to the stadium, people started doubting the city's plan for paying off the construction debt when it was revealed that the city still owes $75 million of the original $45 million we financed for the current stadium. They're expecting to pay off the Hoosier Dome's 30-year debt from 1984 in 2021, 13 years after it's scheduled to be torn down. Nice. Peterson's team is responsible for some of that refinancing; it doesn't give one much faith that the new stadium will be paid off on time or on budget.
  • On a related note, a large number of downtown merchants have expressed anger at the city's policies about downtown management and parking. Essentially, downtown "event parking" rates stick it to people who come downtown for games, and incidentally hammers customers of downtown businesses any time there's a Colts or Pacers game, or anything classed as a special event (Indy hosts a lot of these). This one falls squarely at the mayor's feet, as do the stories of regulatory agencies being used as enforcers of strong-arm tactics to quiet these complaints. I've personally heard several downtown restaurant and small business owners and managers complain about event parking and traffic policies, and also say that if they complain too loudly or publicly, within a few days they'll find themselves being inspected with the proverbial fine-toothed comb by every city agency with the authority: food and beverage, health, fire, wiring, immigration, etc.
  • A lot of people are inexplicably angry about the police merger. When the Marion County Sheriff's Department merged with the Indianapolis Police Department, absolutely nothing bad happened that I could see; our shitty police service didn't change noticeably, and it saved a pile of cash. But the mayor's still receiving grief for it.
So that's the mayor's race in a nutshell. It's Peterson's race, even factoring in all of the above, unless a surprisingly large pile of people from the "Had Enough?" camp decide to actually vote in a midterm, local-office-only election....

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