UPDATE

As official non-mayors of Carmel, we read interest the mayor’s announcement of a balanced City budget for 2019 as his proposal to the City Council. Or, at least part of it.

His press release said the General Fund Departments total is $102 million plus $14 million for streets and engineering. That would total $116 million.

The current budget is $142 million. And the total city budget request is $149 million, according to the Sept. 25 city budget request.

None of the above reflects the big business of the Carmel — the $1.4 billion total outstanding debt obligation as listed by the city in its mandated reporting to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (IDLGF). That report showed principal owed about double that of neighboring Fishers, and interest and projected lease payment revenues about 4 times greater.

Council person Bruce Kimball, asked for comment on this piece, suggests “when discussing the dity’s debt that to not confuse the public that the principle be used (sic).” Debt, according to IDLGF, now runs at $299 million.

Carmel’s debt total obligation, nevertheless, was 3.3 times larger than Fishers as of Sept. 29. U.S. Census Bureau estimates describe Carmel and Fishers as pretty much the same size — 91,065 and 90,130).

But I digress. What about the missing budget data? What about paying off the debt?

The only debt service data generally available indicates Carmel last year paid $20.8 million on bonds and other interest. That would pay off principal and interest in about 21 years, assuming all things remain unchanged.

But, things change. And, how the city’s convoluted finances play out remains to be seen.

For comments or corrections, contact me at bill@gatea.com.

MINNESOTA, HATS OFF TO THEE

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I was pleased as punch to learn the official mayor was featured Sept. 13 on Minnesota Public Radio.

The city’s $10,000 a month New York press agent arranged for uninterrupted comments in the broadcast by our mayor discussing how warmer temperatures are making Hurricane Florence worse, according to the bill he sent us.

The mayor was timely. Provocative. Part of the city’s spare-no-expense program of attracting big corporations to relocate to Carmel. The press agent’s fees are paid, of course, by the Carmel Economic Development Commission.

Hurricanes are as rare in Minnesota as they are in Carmel, but that didn’t prevent the mayor from drawing on his vast training and research into climate. After all, he served with distinction on one of then-President Obama’s climate change task forces.

Even as you read this, Minneapolis is abuzz with boards of directors busily planning a great exodus to Carmel.

Who will be first? 3M? General Mills? Or, the Minnesota Vikings?

To discuss these and other matters, invite me to your next club, association or study group meeting. I work cheap. A cup of coffee and a comfortable chair will do. bill@gatea.com is all the address you’ll need.

SING ALONG WITH ME

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I couldn’t let National Roundabout Week go by without offering my bit.

Despite the debt and heightened traffic accidents caused by roundabouts on 116th Street and elsewhere, roundabouts offer an endless variety of conversation starters. Bored at a party, just ask anyone about their experience walking, biking or driving in and through roundabouts.

But, hey, let’s don’t be negative. I propose to fill a huge gap in the roundabout reputation arena. Roundabouts need a song. I’d offer it on the city’s website, but I’ve probably been banned there, too.

So, with apologies to the late Harold Arlen, here is “That Old Black Magic” Carmel style:

    That roundabout has got me in its spell. I drive the loops and I don’t          feel so well.

     The dicey drivers racing by my side, Put fear and terror into every             ride.

     The same old tingle that every bump I hit, On Range Line where bikes       and pedestrians fit.

     And round and round I go, spin-cycled, as you know, lke a leaf that’s         caught in the tide.

     I should stay away, but what can I do? I gotta shop, I need the food.

     Aflame with such a burning desire, To get the store and not bust a            tire.

     But, you’re the driver and I’ve waited for, as scared and loopy as a             matador.

     And every time you’re veering around, baby, you’re hearing the sound,

     Of the driver’s scream, as their fine machines, smash bikes to                     smithereens,

     Under that old black magic called . . . .

      In a spin, hating the spin we’re in, under that old roundup magic                called . . . (Fill in the blank and submit to bill@gatea.com for final judging)

YOUR HELP NEEDED

I need your help.

The top brass of Current in Carmel have banned my writings.

Being banned in Boston used to be a badge of honor for radicals. Being banned in Carmel is . . . what?

That aside, friends and strangers have asked why they no longer see the official non-mayor of Carmel musings in print. Now you know.

They now appear at www.non-mayor.com and in Facebook form at the Non-Mayor page. My motto has always been: Don’t raise the bridge, lower the river.

That said, the cause for disallowing Non-Mayor in the Current is, in the words of the Interdict E-mail:

Your and other letter writers’ pieces have been challenged for factual accuracy in recent months. We haven’t the manpower to fact check each submission. The letters/guest columns are supposed to be subjective, but they also are to be rooted in fact. Are we able to tell you which passages are disputed? No, we are not; we would have to search diligently through email, and, truthfully, we do not have the time to do so.You and others may write guest columns as long as what you present is, indeed, vetted fact.

Previously, I was told the mayor was paying a call on the publisher and editor-in-chief. No word was given on the discussion. Nor were the names of the anonymous “challengers.”

The last Non-Mayor letters printed called for an apology from City Hall to the local art teacher whose $18,000 contract for a mural was rescinded, upped to $34,525 and awarded elsewhere. The letter was based on published reports and ended by quoting an April 15, 1995, flyer quoting a candidate for mayor vowing to cut out waste. The flyer was “Paid for by Friends of Jim Brainard, Berry Krauss, Chairman.”

The one before that described two Carmels: Carmel A – legal, by-the-book, balanced-budget, full-disclosure; and Carmel B – lawyer-built, off-the-books, deeply in debt, non-disclosure Carmel. Real-world examples were provided.

Two Thomas Jefferson quotes fit the situation:

“Experience has shown that, even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

And: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Camelaks live in one of the most liberty-rich cities in the world.

Your help? Share this with friends and neighbors for their opinion. And, E-mail  write info@youarecurrent.com or The Current, Current, Publishing, 30 South Range Line Road, Carmel, IN 46032.

Oh, and don’t forget to ask those running for local office about it when they call between now and next May.

RETIREMENT

The Kiplinger organization posted its ranking of states in which to retire (https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/retirement/T006-S001-worst-states-for-retirement-2018/index.html).

Indiana– 38th — boasts a cost of living 15 percent below the U.S. average, Kiplinger found. But, Indiana also is “the least tax friendly for retirees.”

Why? Most retirement income other than from Social Security is taxable as ordinary income. Relatively high sales taxes and hidden taxes combined with reitree household income 21.4 percent below the UI.S. average sticks us down there behind 37 other sovereign states.

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A panel of Hoover Institution economists observed that the length of the last recession was prolonged by a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  1. High taxes threatening to go higher.
  2. A business-unfriendly government in Washington and many state and local capitals.
  3. High unemployment which meant high worker’s compensation payments for employers, further dampening demand for new hires.
  4. Uncertainty, on a week-by-week basis, as to what the Administration in Washington would do next.

Not actively in business in Carmel, I cannot say how many of these factors are at work here.

Are business taxes high and threatening to go higher?

In a full-employment economy, do businesses here have to pay more to attract workers who might choose a lower-cost-of-living community?

Is there any uncertainty associated with the $1.4 billion total outstanding debt obligation Carmellodians bear?

I would love to discuss these questions with you at your next club, association or neighborhood gathering. My fee? A cup of coffee and a comfortable chair. (bill@gatea.com)

 

RESPONSE TIME

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I find city officials to be less than forthcoming on certain topics.

While City Hall issues press releases at the drop of a roundabout as the city’s named one of the top 10 places in America to eat meatloaf, and such, a wave of laryngitis infects the place at other times.

I asked the city attorney for a copy of the oath of office local servants of the people swear to. It took 25 days but I got the oath. (They swear to support the U.S. and Indiana constitutions and to faithfully do their work to the best of their abilities — so help them God.)

In certain areas the Big Fella isn’t helping so much.

the city attorney was silent when I asked him and the top dog of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission (CRC) about a statement the mayor made in a speech not long ago. He observed the city granted 80-90 percent property tax refunds to developers of public-private structures as an inducement to include underground parking. (I thought only the county granted property tax relief.)

Asking Palladium folks about income and expense data resulted in a startling discovery. The Palladium, I was told, is a private, non-profit organization not required to release that stuff.

I was referred to GuideStar.com, which says it “was founded to promote nonprofit transparency and to provide a central repository of nonprofit information that donors could use to guide their giving decisions.”

The most recent data on the Center for the Performing Arts? Year 2015 when it received government grants of $3.5 million (38 percent of revenue). Asked for later data, the functionary told me GuideStar did the updating. Funny. GuideStar publishes IRS Form 990s non-profits file. And the IRS is loath to share filings for a number of reasons. Carmel commissars would have to give permission, in other words.

I thought my city council persons could help. I wrote Bruce Kimball, Ron Carter and Woody Rider for help getting something more fresh than 2015. Kimball repeated the non-profit line and referred me to the city attorney. Back to square one.

Sue Finkam, a council person, asked when and for how much Carmel issued its first Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bond, and how much tax revenue that property paid in 2017, said she’d get back to me.

City engineer Jeremy Kashman has yet to answer a June 13 plea for any pre- and post-construction studies of fuel savings associated with the roundabout program. The city attorney was equally mute when asked for either fuel or time savings data — or both.

Nancy Heck, who directs for community relations and economic development for the city, has yet to tell me how many businesses came into the city and how many left in 2017. Nor would Heck send me a text of one of the mayor’s intriguing speeches. Or, copies of a vision statement or communications messaging plan I could see to learn just what it City Hall was trying to communicate. Or, to include me on the e-mail distribution of city press releases. Zero response.

The granddaddy of all runarounds came when I asked Ron Carter, a 24-year council person and officer of the Carmel City Center Community Development Corporation (CCCCDC) how it differs from the newly formed Downtown City Center Development Corporation (DCCDC).

Carter said he couldn’t speak for the DCCDC. Odd, since I didn’t ask him to speak for the DCCDC. He volunteered that he was under no obligation to do my research for me.

While I don’t know where these folks missed learning common courtesy, I do know where all the C and D students went after leaving school.

 

 

BLEISURE SET

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I wondered who will enjoy the gaudy Hotel Comical (or, Carmichael, to be more precise).

Fortunately, as the Carmel Redevelopment Commission (CRC) spent $309,319.56 last year to find out, we yeomanry have the benefit of market research into the active traveler set.

Research shows prospects blend leisure with business and are, in the market researcher’s words, “The Bleisure Set) or BS, for short.

I didn’t make that up, Carmelute. The MMGY Global Portrait of Business Travelers did.

Its research claims BSers are millenials and boomers, noting, “The modern business traveler (is) looking for very different things in their stay.” The highly suspect on-line survey indicated 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, presumably, quality service) and enjoy being treated like very important persons.

BSers say travel holds a very special place in their lives and hearts. But, they are more demanding when it comes to lodging and have very specific tastes. They are looking for very different things in their stay. What they are isn’t specified.

BSers obviously work for firms that never audit expense accounts. BSers will stay in a hotel built with money borrowed without your permission.

Someday, the CRC might survey what taxpayers think before spending borrowed cash.

But, take heart, Carmelaks. When the luxurious, BS-friendly hotel is finished, we can string a banner across the front facade announcing:

HOTEL CARMICHAEL: WELCOME BSers

(For the faint of heart: BS is a common English expletive, Wikipedia says, and is mostly a slang profanity term meaning “nonsense.” As an antidote, Italian programmer Alberto Brandolini offers his rule of asymmetry: the amount of energy needed to refute BS is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” Our work is cut out for us.)

 

THE PALLADIUIM SPEAKS

Earlier, I had reported what the Palladium statement and the booking agent said about the erstwhile Bill Murray appearance planned for Oct. 5.

It is reproduced below (including the allegation of schedule conflict). The booking agency, as noted, claimed in an e-mail, “There is no tour date scheduled for New Worlds on Oct. 5. We look forward to more dates becoming available soon, and ask that you keep up with the tour at NewWorldsMusic.com.”

Unemcumbered by facts, The Palladium flack, a Scott Hall, objected as follows:

As Director of Communications at the Center for the Performing Arts, I have responded in good faith to Mr. Shaffer’s repeated requests for information. We strive to be as transparent as reasonably possible in our dealings. Time and again, however, his careless disregard for facts – on his blog and in his letters to the local newspaper – proves that he is not the investigative journalist he fancies himself to be.

My colleagues and I have remained largely silent as he has publicly insulted us and the Center’s supporters with baseless claims that nothing happens in our venues, which hosted more than 100,000 ticket-buying patrons last season. Now that he is impugning my personal integrity, I feel the need to speak up.

The New Worlds performance by Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends was announced to great response, rapidly selling hundreds of tickets and prompting several news stories and interview requests. We were disappointed that the performance had to be postponed because of a conflict in the artists’ schedules, but we hope to reschedule the event in early 2019. We immediately informed ticket buyers and news media about the postponement. That’s what I told Mr. Shaffer.

The fact that the Oct. 5 date remains unfilled on the New Worlds tour schedule does not contradict the facts we have presented – just the opposite – nor does any information obtained from third-party ticket brokers, who have no inside knowledge of the Center’s business dealings.

Every community can benefit from having “official non-mayors,” concerned citizens who raise legitimate questions about how business is done. Mr. Shaffer’s ongoing parade of easily disproven falsehoods and innuendo provide no such benefit to the residents of Carmel.

Scott Hall

Director of Communications

The Center for the Performing Arts


As an official non-mayor of Carmel and avid Cubs fan, I was mildly upset when the Palladium announced Bill Murray and Jan Vogler New Worlds Tour had cancelled its Oct. 5 appearance because of scheduling conflicts.

VividSeats.com still was selling tickets (in the $140 each range), and I wondered if things had been re-scheduled.

So I wrote the booking agency, Dorn Music, for clarification. I asked if the Tour had a conflict and, if so, where it would be Oct. 5 so I could take a special person there as a birthday present.

Quickly, Anthony Acocella, associate production and artist management person at Dorn, told me:

“There is no tour date scheduled for New Worlds on Oct. 5. We look forward to more dates becoming available soon, and ask that you keep up with the tour at NewWorldsMusic.com. We have three performances at the end of the month (Bethesda, MD, Omaha, NE, and Charlotte, NC) and then will bring the show to Australia.”

I had also asked Scott Hall, Palladium press agent, how many tickets were sold for the Murray event, what penalty the contract with Murray called for and when the Center for the Performing Arts planned to provide information on Guidestar.com more current than Fiscal 2015-2016.

He replied that “the timing of the postponement was unfortunate, given that our tickets had gone on sale just a few days earlier.”

The event could be held in the first quarter of 2019, he said. Hall noted that presenting performances is competitive and “it would be irresponsible for the Center to disclose detailed sales and contract information.”

Hall claimed initial interest was strong.  Since tickets were on sale just a few days before the announcement of postponement suggests interest wasn’t strong enough to, perhaps, meet the contract requirement for a certain number of dollars in hand before New Worlds came to Carmel.

Should your club, association or radical group want to discuss these and other matters, I’m available much of the time, charging only a cup of coffee and never breaking or rescheduling appointments.

 

BILL MURRAY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

As an official non-mayor of Carmel and avid Cubs fan, I was mildly upset when the Palladium announced Bill Murray and Jan Vogler New Worlds Tour had cancelled its Oct. 5 appearance because of scheduling conflicts.

VividSeats.com still was selling tickets (in the $140 each range), and I wondered if things had been re-scheduled.

So I wrote the booking agency, Dorn Music, for clarification. I asked if the Tour had a conflict and, if so, where it would be Oct. 5 so I could take a special person there as a birthday present.

Quickly, Anthony Acocella, associate production and artist management person at Dorn, told me:

“There is no tour date scheduled for New Worlds on Oct. 5. We look forward to more dates becoming available soon, and ask that you keep up with the tour at NewWorldsMusic.com. We have three performances at the end of the month (Bethesda, MD, Omaha, NE, and Charlotte, NC) and then will bring the show to Australia.”

I had also asked Scott Hall, Palladium press agent, how many tickets were sold for the Murray event, what penalty the contract with Murray called for and when the Center for the Performing Arts planned to provide information on Guidestar.com more current than Fiscal 2015-2016.

He replied that “the timing of the postponement was unfortunate, given that our tickets had gone on sale just a few days earlier.”

The event could be held in the first quarter of 2019, he said. Hall noted that presenting performances is competitive and “it would be irresponsible for the Center to disclose detailed sales and contract information.”

Hall claimed initial interest was strong.  Since tickets were on sale just a few days before the announcement of postponement suggests interest wasn’t strong enough to, perhaps, meet the contract requirement for a certain number of dollars in hand before New Worlds came to Carmel.

Should your club, association or radical group want to discuss these and other matters, I’m available much of the time, charging only a cup of coffee and never breaking or rescheduling appointments.

 

ADOLESCENCE IS KING

ADOLESCENCE

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I wage a never-ending fracas with adolescent thinking.

First, with those hand-wringers who claim the recent tax reduction legislation benefits only the rich. This is partly true, since 50 percent of tax filers contribute less than 3 percent of income tax receipts. Most non-mayors are in the other 50 percent who pony up 97 percent; the top 5 percent, 55 percent, and, heaven love ‘em, the top 1 percent, 40 percent.

Second, the extravagant City Hall spending cries out for a simple solution, to wit: Stop buying luxuries.

Third, since civic savants at City Hall missed the troop meeting when the Scoutmaster discussed “A Scout Is Thrifty,” stop deceiving yourself and others about the safety benefits of roundabouts. The much-ballyhooed 60 percent drop in injury accidents occurred well before 2008. The injury accident rates have been flat ever since. And total accident rates, too. For ten yours and 70 roundabouts, we’ve wasted money.

Fourth, Carmel is allegedly a place for rich, snobbish, social-climbing elitists for whom the mayor yearns for the day, as his “Carmel: A City To Experience” YouTube when, exclaims “you’ll soon be able to sip drinks at the Feinstein Diner at the boutique hotel at City Center.” Carmel is 10th among Indiana places in per-capita income and, according to City numbers reported to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, each of us owe $17,386 as our per capita share of civic IOUs.

Fifth, we shudder to learn the Federal debt-to-receipts ratio is 6.29. Outrageous, both Left and Right agree. A crisis in the making. Someone even said, “Armageddon,” without having read the Biblical background, in all probability. Well, sports fans, Carmel’s ratio is 10.6 to 1.

Agree? Disagree? Write me at bill@gatea.com.

And, if your service club, church group or book club would like to discuss these matters rationally, I charge a cup of coffee and a kind word.