PALLADIUM PALAVER

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I never cease to be amazed at the unintended humor in our civic monuments. I’m not just talking roundabout sculpture here. Think, a moment, about the Palladium.

Originally a shrine dedicated to a nymph named Pallas, the Palladium housed an idol carved by Athena, goddess of wisdom, handicraft and warfare. It memorialized her playmate, Pallas, accidentally killed when the two played war.

That palladium guarded Troy and, later, Rome from disaster, legend had it. Troy fell 13 times before being abandoned about the Year 500. You know how it worked out for Rome.

Today, our Palladium website boasts:  “The Palladium will last 500 years or more, creating a legacy that will be passed along to our children and grandchildren for generations to come.”

The 91 percent idle edifice “offers a timeless elegance and an unparalleled setting for attending world-class entertainment.”

This year’s timeless elegance features the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at prices of $89 and up to fill 1,600 uncomfortable seats. An on-line shopping service offers a new MP3 player for $3.70 and the 50th anniversary album for $14.98. Shipping could be extra.

But, for those with more dollars than sense, you’ll have lots of company in the Mausoleum of Music, by my reckoning. Scott Hall, Palladium press contact, recently objected to “mausoleum.” He said it insult to the good folks with whom he works. Point taken. Mausoleum workers have thin skins.

Okay, then, it’s the Stonehenge of Song. Either way, the $175 million eyesore could have been replaced by the Mt. Rushmore Memorial ($1 million in 1940) and the St. Louis Arch ($13 million in 1965), or $17.8 million and $104 million, respectively.

That would leave $ 53.2 million to pay off Palladium debt and a whole bunch of MP3 players and CDs “that will be passed along to our children and grandchildren for generations to come.”

One final note:

Palladium is also a chemical element, No. 46. It is rare, lustrous and part of the (pricey) platinum group. Its prime use is in catalytic converts to make exhaust fumes less harmful.

Be careful around it, though. It is poorly absorbed by the human body and high doses could be poisonous.

HOTEL COMICAL

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I wondered who will enjoy the $40 million Hotel Carmichael the city plans to shoehorn between the Palladium and another sore thumb of a structure at 126th and Rangeline (or Range Line, depending on which signage you use).

Fortunately, the Carmel Redevelopment Commission (CRC) spend $309,319 for hotel branding and development last year. Some went for market research into the active traveler set.

That research shows prospects will blend leisure with business and are, in the vernacular of the elite, “the Bleisure Set” (BS).

The MMGY Global Portrait of Business Travelers claims the BS consists of millennials and boomers. “The modern business traveler looking for different things in their stay,” the highly suspect on-line survey says.

BSers allege they are from 12 to 18 percent more willing to pay more for luxury in lodging, to pay full price for quality/service and to enjoy being treated like very important persons.

They didn’t indicate how lax their employers’ expense account audits were.

BSers says travel holds a very special place in their lives and hearts. They confess they are more demanding, have very specific tastes and look for different things in their stay. How precious are they!

With such findings it is understandable why it has taken the private segment of the public-private hotel project since November to find financial backing.

Maybe lenders don’t like the BS.

One city council person assures me funding is on its way, however, and the hotel will be built.

On opening day, I suggest they string a banner across the front of the place:

“Welcome BS”

ROUNDABOUT RUNAROUND

Setting aside personal opinion, facts tell us the Carmel roundabout discussions focus on a non-issue.

 If the purpose of roundabouts is to improve traffic safety, the impact of roundabouts is non-issue.

 Carmel’s injury accident rate in 1996 was 5.6 per 1,000 residents. In 2007, after 47 roundabouts were built, it was 2.6 and has remained there ever since (2.2 last year).

 But, total accidents tell a different story. In 1996, the accident rate was 19.7 per 1,000 Carmelistas. Last year, 24.8. By City Hall logic, roundabouts caused an increase in accidents.

 All of this ignores the larger context. Better education, enforcement and engineering, the experts say, reduced both the injury rates and the accident rates 25 percent in the last 20 years. Better vehicle and road design, air bags, sensors and warning systems will only improve those numbers.

 Apologists for roundabouts ignore this evidence and say roundabouts save fuel, save time and are pretty. Apologists offer no evidence only their opinions. Can’t evaluate that. When I asked the City Engineer for any pre- and post-roundabout data on fuel or time savings, he went mute.

 And, when I asked any elected official how much each roundabout costs (with bond money since city revenues are spent on other things), more silence.

 So, a rational person wonders, what’s really around (other than official run-around)? What’s the issue? Or, non-issue?

MINISTRY OF SILLY SCULPTURE

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I stumbled across a $100,000 invoice from an Indianapolis vendor who has sold a $100,000 sculpture for the Monon Boulevard.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Monon Boulevard, it’s an expensive swath of abandoned railroad right-of-way that crosses congested Main Street in the heart of Carmel: A City To Experience (as City Hall propaganda puts it).

The latest offense to good taste is called “Sail.” It is to be 30 feet tall and contain three 11-foot-wide panels festooned with plastic inserts back-lit by ever-changing LED lights.

This brings the debt-funded work of the Ministry of Silly Sculptures to $2.4 million ($2,429,900) — Man-on-the-Street Sculpture by a New Jersey artist, $1.4 million; 136th and Rangeline by a Los Angeles artist, $80,000; Hazel Dell Parkway sports by a Florida artist, $497,000; 96th and Westfield Boulevard by an Anderson, Ind., artist, $352,900 and Monon Boulevard by Indianapolis artists, $100,000.

The $2.4 million doesn’t include the costs of the blue-blazes dogs racing ’round the Keystone and Main Roundabout.

For non-kitsch-speaking non-mayors, “kitsch” is that genre of effort described as tasteless, vulgar, tacky, brash, loud, crummy, cheesy or outlandish artistic endeavor — the opposite of tasteful.

THE BIG CON

An otherwise sane, mature, rational Carmelista recently explained the facts of roundabouts to me.

“I like them,” the citizen of A City to Experience said, when asked about the 10 roundabouts under construction. “They are nice and unique.”

“And the cost?” I asked.

“Oh, they pay for themselves. I understand stoplight intersections cost $25,000 a year to install and maintain. Roundabouts pay for themselves in seven or eight years.”

Slow-witted as I am, I had to mentally multiply $25,000 by seven or eight. Try as I could, I was unable to come up with the $2-3 million roundabouts cost.

“What about the $175 million Palladium?”

“It’s a bargain. The music is just wonderful and I love Michael Feinstein.”

I couldn’t disagree. Music is sublime. And a Los Angeles resident who plays the piano and, in his spare time, serves as artistic director for Carmelaks is a noble person.

“And,” my friend said, “my taxes haven’t gone up in 20 years.”

Wow, I thought. What a Bernie Madoff Moment.

Something for nothing.

A confidence racket that dates from the Garden of Eden.

But, I mused, no politician would be stupid enough to try to run for public office on a con like that.

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THE NUMBERS

Total Carmel outstanding debt obligation: $1,376,786,197

Ratio of Carmel debt to annual $141 million income: 9.8 to 1.

Ratio of Federal debt to annual $3.4 trillion income: 7.19 to 1.

 

Injury accident rate per 1,000 after the first 73 roundabout: 6.8 in 1996 to 1.9 in 2010 = 72%

Decrease in injury accident rate after the first 73 roundabouts were built: 0 (10-year avg. 2.4)

Traffic accident rate per 1,000 residents since the first roundabout: 23.7 (10-year avg. 22.4)

Injury accident rate in 2017: 2.2

Total traffic accident rate in 2017: 24.3

National injury accident rate 1996-2016 = -24.8%

Three of the top four most dangerous intersections in Hamilton County: 116th St. and Keystone, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

 

Center for the Performing Arts performance schedule – 2018-2019

Studio Theater – 18 dates or 0.05 percent of the year.

Booth Tarkington Theatre – 26 dates or 7.1 percent of the year.

Palladium – 34 dates or 9.3 percent of the year.

Total – 78 dates or 21.4 percent of the year.

NON-ISSUES FOR NON-MAYORS

As official non-mayors of Carmel, we have lots of material to read and digest. But, as Ferris Bueller tells us: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The City of Carmel issued a press release last week headlined, “Mayor Brainard speaks on climate issues in Washington, DC.”

Fascinated, I went to the most recent Gallup Poll I could find on the issues. Its report was headlined, “Climate Change Not a Top Worry in U.S.” Of 15 issues rated by the public, it was 14th. But, I quibble.

The mayor described how millions of dollars (of borrowed money) had created nearly 200 miles of trails, bike paths and safe bike lanes. In May, Gallup found 69 percent of Republicans (and 4 percent of Democrats) said the threat of climate change is exaggerated. Elsewhere I read that the United States contributes about 3 percent to the carbon dioxide level increase each year. You might have better data on that.

The mayor told an audience of 100 (according to the Route 50 Clean Air Action Forum website) all about “Carmel’s story and our community’s emphasis on building a walkable and sustainable community.”

Really? With $1.3 billion in total outstanding debt obligations (as reported by the State of Indiana), the people are committed to a 3 percent gas non-issue?

In fairness, neither the mayor nor we non-mayors know. In the last election, His Honor drew 9,584 votes. That was 63 percent of the total and 15 percent of the registered vote. So, we could say he was elected by an overwhelming minority as 85 percent of the electorate didn’t vote for him.

A more disturbing poll could interest the mayor next time he wants to spend taxpayer money on non-issues.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reported “a staggering lack of faith in government, which fell 14 points to 33 percent among the general population, and 30 points to 33 percent among the informed public.” One would think elected officials would direct concerns building trust.

If you have better data, go to non-mayor.com and let me know. Or write bill@gatea.com

FOUNDATIONS

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I am amazed at how much serendipity there is in a morning’s readings.

Today, I happened upon a passage in Matthew Arnold’s “Culture and Anarchy” in which he notes how we seem to be programmed (my term) to want the best, the most just, the good, the true and the beautiful. These always come to mind in those rare but wonderful moments of quiet solitude.

Our minds, in short, seem always to be searching.

The very next thing I pick up observes that what we do all day is prepare for tomorrow.

That is, consciously or unconsciously, our work, play, exercise, study even goofing off lays a foundation for tomorrow. Each instant, in other words, is a sort of temperal brick in a big wall we’re building.

The two merge in my repeated concerns that we Carmeloains are making a mistake in compiling a $1.3 debt obligation for the future Carmelistas to pay.

Instinct tells me it’s morally wrong to leave an inheritance of debt.

Agree? Please comment here or a bill@gatea.com

Have a good, true and beautiful day!

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Total Carmel outstanding debt obligation: $1,376,786,197

Ratio of Carmel debt to annual $141 million income: 9.8 to 1.

Ratio of Federal debt to annual $3.4 trillion income: 7.19 to 1.

ROUNDABOUT RUCKUS

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I am intrigued at the politicians’ immunity to intelligent analysis.

Comes now word that three of the four most accident-prone Hamilton County intersections are in Carmel.

All three are on 116th Street:

1. 116th at Keystone Parkway with 122 crunchers;
2. 116th at Pennsylvania Street with 107, and
3. 116th and Illinois Street with 106

The numbers come from LexisNexis Risk Solutions combine 2016 and 2017 data.

The three sites boast roundabouts built in 2010, 2015 and 2005, respectively.

Is this further evidence of the futility of $2-3 million roundabouts failing to improve safety statistics?

In 1996, Carmel’s accident rate was 23.7 per 1,000 residents. In 2017, the rate was 24.3 The last 10 years, it has averaged 22.4 even as Carmel added 63 expensive roundabouts.

Yet, City Hall savants continue boasting that Carmeloops make driving safer.

It’s called the roundabout run-around.

 

THE NUMBERS

In this blog, we turn to the fascinating world of numbers.

You’ll recall Carmelistas racked up total debt obligations of $1.2 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to the State of Indiana Gateway records.

In the first six months of 2018, that grew to $1.3 billion – an increase of $156,487,832 or 13 percent.

At that rate, we’ll owe $1.5 on Dec. 31. Nice Christmas gift – an inherited debt to give our children and grandchildren. But, most of us will be long gone when the final bills come due.

For now, we can satisfy our Carmelinian souls in knowing that, while the Federal debt-to-revenue ratio is 7.19 to 1, we over-achieving Carmelaks boast a 9.8 to 1.

Here’s a Carmelot Boxscore of data, mostly from City of Carmel sources:

 

THE NUMBERS

 

Total Carmel outstanding debt obligation: $1,376,786,197

Ratio of Carmel debt to annual $141 million income: 9.8 to 1.

Ratio of Federal debt to annual $3.4 trillion income: 7.19 to 1.

 

Injury accident rate per 1,000 after the first 73 roundabout: 6.8 in 1996 to 1.9 in 2010 = 72%

Decrease in injury accident rate after the first 73 roundabouts were built: 0 (10-year avg. 2.4)

Traffic accident rate per 1,000 residents since the first roundabout: 23.7 (10-year avg. 22.4)

Injury accident rate in 2017: 2.2

Total traffic accident rate in 2017: 24.3

National injury accident rate 1996-2016 = -24.8%

 

Center for the Performing Arts performance schedule – 2018-2019

Studio Theater – 18 dates or 0.05 percent of the year.

Booth Tarkington Theatre – 26 dates or 7.1 percent of the year.

Palladium – 34 dates or 9.3 percent of the year.

Total – 78 dates or 21.4 percent of the year.

 

NON-MAYORS OF CARMEL, UNITE!

After a dozen or so letters to the editors of both the Indianapolis Star and Current in Carmel, I’ve decided to join the 21st Century with these thoughts.

The assumption is that Carmel residents share a number of attributes to which a useful blog ought to cater:

  1. Carmelistic persons are well-educated, well-informed, well-anchored adults;
  2. An educated, informed, anchored electorate needs factual information;
  3. Statements unsupported by facts are mere opinion;
  4. We have plenty of opinions and even more propaganda — uselessly.

Thus, a promise:

This blog will first present facts and, if needed, suggest conclusions.

 

For example:

The City of Carmel owns total debt obligations of $1.2 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to the State of Indiana Gateway records.

In the first six months of 2018, that grew to $1.3 billion – an increase of $156,487,832 or 13 percent.

At that rate, we’ll owe $1.5 billion on Dec. 31.

For now,  while the Federal debt-to-revenue ratio is 7.19 to 1, we over-achieving Carmelaks boast a 9.8 to 1.

Conclusion? Well, draw your own for now.

 

Meantime  — welcome to the blog, Carmelite.