LEAPS OF FAITH

After another conversation with an elected Carmel official, the subject of Carmelonic debt arose.

Again, the representative of the people asked why I couldn’t swallow the Party Line. He wondered why I thought $1.4 billion was excessive.

The Party Line is available via Facebook (Jim Brainard for Carmel Mayor page, April 28, 2015 at 10:06 pm). To wit:

Mayor: “Carmel is in great shape. all the experts agree . . .  My friend Ron Carter has provided the information below.”

Carter: “We have total outstanding debt principal of $598 million. (Rival Candidate) wishes to add in interest so he can drive that number up to his $1 billion figure. . . (But) debt is paid back at varying times and at varying rates. (Hence, adding interest to principal is not the way to think of debt.)

“One penny of your residential property tax rate goes to pay the debt you are responsible for as a homeowner.”

He then itemized the percentages involved in the debt repayment formula the City uses. Business property taxpayers were on the hook for 52 percent; utility rate payers, 25 percent; County allocation of taxes, 16 percent, and capital leases, 1 percent (lease payments for police and fire vehicles).

What?

You only pay residential property tax? You don’t pay utility  taxes? You didn’t pay the taxes the county returns on a pro-rated basis? Businesses don’t pass along all their costs  — including taxes — in the prices you pay for goods and services?

Who is fooling whom?

In Econ. 101, we learned of the Greater Fool theory. The price of an object is not derived from its intrinsic  value, but by irrational beliefs and expectations. In the Mayor-Carter Great Fool Corollary, one may pay a foolishly low price because a greater fool is paying elsewhere.

In a future blog, I will share what I’ve learned about (a) how to spot a Ponzi Scheme, (b) why people withhold information and (c) why using good words to hide bad deeds got us into big trouble in the 20th Century.

Stay tuned, Carmelats.

PURE FOLLY

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I have always enjoyed Monty Python, the Three Stooges and Roadrunner comedy.

But, for pure zany folly, nothing beat a few minutes with Jim Brainard for Carmel Mayor, a Facebook funny well worth reading.

Take this zany, boffo exchange:

Mayor: “Carmel is in great shape . . .If you want to delve more deeply into the numbers, my friend Ron Carter has provided the information below.”

Carter: ‘We have a total outstanding debt principal of $598 million. (X) wishes to add in interest so he can drive that number to his $1 billion figure. . . In practice you do not do that because debt is paid back at varying times and at varying rates.

“The debt that has to be paid from Property Tax is just 3 percent of the $598 figure.” He then coyly notes business property tax is 52 percent; county-allocated income tax; 16 percent, utility taxes, 25 percent, and so on.

If you’re diagramming it, A relates to B; C relates to D. Therefore, don’t worry about debt because you can borrow 3 times your income and your property taxes (presumably $17.9 million) pay down debt but not much.

The profound absurdity is too obvious. But, let me risk insulting your intelligence my merely noting:

  1. Truth in Lending requires (note that word) lenders to inform borrowers not only of principal but also of interest over the life of the loan. Lenders also want to know how much a borrower already owes. That’s why Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s raised warning flags and lowered bond ratings recently.
  2. Income to total outstanding debt for the City now is $130 million to $1.4 billion — a ratio of 10.6 to 1 (versus the Federal ratio of 6.29 to 1 or $21.4 trillion debt to annual $3.4 trillion income).
  3. Who pays? You. Not only personal property tax but income tax and utility taxes directly, and every penny of business property indirectly in cost of goods and services. Faith, hope and wishful thinking cover the balances.
  4. Implied are an end to any further borrowing, a sustained economic growth (the China model of growing your way out of debt), the sustainability of deficit spending and the morally questionable subsidies infecting the whole system.

Note, too, the learned lecture failed to include the larger questions:

Why borrow money without the consent of the governed?

What civic needs do the borrowed funds meet?

And, though he couldn’t have answered then, “Why borrow millions for a music hall for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 2018?”

Or, “Why more roundabouts when the new ones do nothing to lower traffic accident or injury accident rates?”

NEW NUMBERS

Should the $15,120 per capita share of Carmel’s $1.4 total outstanding debt obligation now impress you, try this:

The City says there are 28,997 households in Carmel.

That would be $47,480 per household.

That’s 47 and a half large, as they say in New Jersey.

Pretty soon we’re talking real money.

And, we learned last week the City plans to spend it (in part) on the Monon Boulevard to buy a $125,000 bocce ball court; a $45,000 shuffleboard court; a $12,500 ping-pong table set-up, and a $300,000 “Luckey Climber” and a $17,500 slide as part of $417,118.75 worth of playground stuff.

Oh, and don’t forget $150,000 for an irrigation system.

 

ROUNDABOUT ROTARY PAYMENTS

Your tribunes of the people, the City Council, is sponsoring debt relief for the  Rotary Club of Carmel.

In a press release, municipal munificents announced plans to waive the $7,500 payment for the privilege of peddling $5 sparkling badges in support of the 4th of July fireworks extravaganza.

“It was a tough year for crowds, thanks to the heat, but our Rotary Club still worked hard and tried to grow and improve the event,” said City Council President Kevin Rider. “We want to show that we not only appreciate their efforts, we also don’t want a challenging year to jeopardize the future of their involvement in this celebration that has become part of the fabric of our community.”

An official involved with the Rotary since it assumed responsibility for CarmelFest in 2004, explained more than 300 volunteers and a budget of $200,000 for the day-and-a-half event is a complex undertaking. Rain the first evening, an erroneous TV news item saying things had been cancelled and searing heat the next day meant the Rotary was on the rack.

Rotarians, then, do a lot more than hawk $5 Spark Button badges to break even. There are corporate sponsorships, ExtremeZone teen activity revenues and the sale of wristbands, to name just a few of the expenses that need to be covered before there is $7,500 left over.

Traditionally, Rotarians ponied up the $7,500 each Fest to partly offset the costs of fireworks. The City would waive that this year and hope for better weather, bigger crowds and more spending-merry customers next year.

Or, as the Press Release opines:

“The claim, which will be voted on later this month, serves to waive that
reimbursement for one year so that the Club can avoid having to divert member dues and donations to make up for their loss and continue its work on the next CarmelFest. The money will come from the City Council budget.”

To summarize: The City graciously allows a service club to run a $200,000 amusement. The club is on the hook but, one assumes, enriches its coffers by hard work and salesmanship, recovering the costs of amusement plus.

Costs weren’t met so a pledge the service club made to help defray fireworks costs (which the City incurred) is waived at taxpayer expense.

Odd.

and all this is done to celebrate the sacrifice of America’s military heroes.

 

MONON-OPOLY

Great news for all you bocce ball fans.

The City of Carmel Monon Boulevard Phase 2 project that has closed the Monon for redevelopment will soon offer you a $125,000 bocce ball court.

Project plans also call for $45,000 for a shuffleboard court; $12,500 for a ping-pong table set-up, and $417,118.75 for playground equipment.

The Carmel Redevelopment Commission’s report to the City Council in April spoke of this $20-23 million project but didn’t include all the details.

Work has not been completed and those are just estimates at this point.

Stay tuned. I’ll try to update you again.

Oh, I forgot to mention the high-class, modern artwork:

A three-sided aluminum “Sail” sculpture rising 30 feet or so into the air;

Several metallic heart-shaped thingies indicating LOVE.

Folks, the hits just keep coming.

Caio.

GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I have been accused of dwelling on the negative, of criticizing my betters, of being an old curmudgeon.

I admit, I once was a young curmudgeon. If you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it. So, not discriminating on the basis of age, I am an old curmudgeon. Skeptical, yes. Cynic, no.

To prove it, here’s  a few things you might have missed on the evening news (since this stuff isn’t visual):

  1. Global poverty, which gripped more than 50 percent of humanity in the 1950s, affects just 9.6 percent of the world’s ever-growing population.
  2. In 200 years, this country has seen life expectancy worldwide has increased from 30 years to more than 80.
  3. Infant mortality is down 81 percent; wealth, up 100-fold, and spending on child care, the poor, the sick and the aged, up 24 times over.
  4. Just since 1980, homicides are down 37.6 percent; those living below the poverty line, down 72.7 percent; levels of Sulphur dioxide down 80 percent and particulate matter in the air, 40 percent.
  5. Oh, and as for the larger world, the number of wars dropped from 23 to 12 or 47.8 percent; warfare deaths, down 64.7 percent; nuclear weapon arsenals down 83 percent; oil spills down 89 percent.
  6. And in that sleepy collar community the Mayor’s propaganda YouTube flicker claims he transformed into what it is today (no argument there), traffic accidents remain constant at 2.2-2.4 percent of population (since before the first roundabout was built) and injury accidents, at 0.26 percent since the first 10 roundabouts went in.

That’s your dose of good news for the day. As the song goes, “God bless(ed) America.” That 106 roundabouts were built with no measurable effect is, well, less of a blessing.

J. RAZZO’S

John Perazzo has been rewarded for his years of blood, sweat and tears.

Heedless, mindless Government slashed revenues 40 percent for him, encouraging him to shutter an otherwise very fine J. Razzo’s restaurant in Carmel.

He fought the good fight. Wave after wave of construction frustrated and isolated one very good restaurant. How many other private, popular, otherwise profitable businesses have been scuttled by Government is beyond measure.

There is still good J. Razzo’s fare to be had — up on Route 32 in Westfield.  I encourage you to go there, if only to encourage John to stay the course.

The Razzo Lesson, however, is clear: City Hall bureaucrats can be dangerous.

In their drive for design efficiency, secrecy and tyrannical authority over all aspects of community life, City Hall is fast becoming a malignant force.

But, not even machine politician can repeal the Law of Supply and Demand. Good food attracts patrons in spite of, not because of, City Hall.

Unfortunately for Carmelistas like you and me, you have to go to Westfield to find the Razzo variety. (And, downtown Indy for Shapiro’s hot pastrami. And, . . . )

You fill in the blank. Or, have someone do it for you in the car as you drive away from Carmel: A City To Experience.

John’s Experience should be instructive. (Five will get you 10 nobody at City Hall has learned Lesson One, in my humble but unerringly prescient opinion.)

We all owe John Razzo a debt of gratitude and our patronage. We already owe $15,120 each in cumulative city debt, so we can handle gratitude debt easily.

PARDON MY PROSCENIUM

Carmel’s quasi-Socialist City Hall’s latest architectural and financial fiasco comes with a lot of baggage and little sense.

It’s the Proscenium. The Oxford English Dictionary says proscenia are theater stage areas in the front of the curtain. (I had thought it was part of the dinosaur anatomy.)

But, that aside, the debt-ridden Carmel Redevelopment Commission is backing this $60 million project of 225 luxury apartments (according to the design firm) or 224 (according to the city), 140,000 square feet of office and retail space and, presumably, another 20,000 square feet of retail space plus 60,000 square feet of office space around a 1.8 acre public green space.

The Proscenium, its creators claim, reinforces existing traditional and neoclassical aesthetics in the Carmel City Center.

All that in the space in front of the theater curtain.

There is a certain lunacy of building retail space at the height of the retail meltdown and pricey apartments to go along with the pricey hotel shoe-horned in the traditional, neoclassical aesthetics of the vacant land behind the Palladium.

But, that’s now why I’m imposing on your day. It’s what’s behind the curtain that interests me.

Whenever I have politely asked for revenue/expense data, the purpose and end-game for roundabouts and other fairly innocuous stuff, I’ve been told:

  1. The information isn’t available.
  2. We aren’t required to give you that information.
  3. Go do your research somewhere else.
  4. Or, most commonly, silence.

The duly elected and appointed machine politicians of a liberal Progressive bent are using deficit spending, subsidies, $1.4 billion in debt and a host of legal shell companies – all behind the curtain.

As an old Associated Press colleague told me: “There arefive reasons for not telling the truth: ignorance, laziness, a direct order to silence, fear or something really nasty is behind the curtain.

SHEEPLE

Two wonderful items arrived on my screen this morning.

One, from a person of extreme good taste and judgment read:

“Keep up the good work. Eventually the sheeple will realize they are being fleeced. It is a shame the media doesn’t really cover this blatant governmental overspending spending.”

Flattering, yes. But, unfortunately, 100 percent accurate. When you and I each carry $15,120 in community debt, when you and I are denied access to even the most rudimentary financial data (let alone a Master Plan for eliminating it) and when you and I haven’t a clue what the end-game is — well, BAA BAA, Carmelistas. (BAA as in “blatant.)

Second was a verbatim quote from one of the machine politicians critiquing those with the gall to question the wisdom of City Hall elites:

“We have total outstanding debt principal of $598 million. (The Critic) wishes to add in interest so he can drive that number up to his $1 billion figure. In politics you can do that. In practice you do not do that because debt is paid back at varying times and at varying rates.

“But what is most important to you as a residential taxpayer is what you are responsible for. The debt that has to be paid from Property Tax is just 3 percent of the $598 figure. That is $21 million. One penny of your residential property tax rate goes to pay the debt you are responsible for as a homeowner.”

Wait. What?

Why can’t your add interest to principal to figure out what you owe? Truth in Lending requires the banks to lay it out as plainly as can be — including your monthly payment schedule. Not varying amounts at unspecified dates.

Worse is the blatant (there’s that word again) offer of something for nothing. Property Tax is all you need to worry about. Business taxes and utility taxes and the like will take care of the rest.

Who pays hidden taxes? You. Or your employer (who otherwise would increase your wages). Or your favorite store owner (passing along his tax bill since his name isn’t Santa Claus). And many Carmelaks rent their home — and pay property taxes hidden in their montly lease payment. And on and on.

The quote is real. It’s been repeated countless time by civic sycophants. It’s as illogical as a Roadrunner cartoon.

Have you read anything more zany in your life? Mel Brooks wrote zany but this is from an elected official. Who elected this clown? Carmelaks. Shame on us.