MAYOR SOLAR

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I was delighted to see our one-and-only mayor join 215 other mayors in calling for more solar power. That’s 1.1 percent of the nation’s 19,429 mayors and city managers.

As Associated Press dispatch of Nov. 15 indicated the mayor said, “Even as Carmel continues its substantial growth, our city is working aggressively to reduce our carbon footprint well below what it was several years ago, when we were a smaller community. Solar plays a major role in that effort.”

Where? Christkindlmarkt sports no solar panels. Examining the specifications for the $800,000 roundabout art sculptures proposed for the Palladium corner, and Pennsylvania and Old Meridian, I saw no solar panels. Ditto for the Bloomin’ Idiot (err, Blooming Blossom) at 96th and Westfield Blvd.

As for the 40 black boxes lining the Rangeline Obstacle Course, narry a photon of solar stuff.

The mayor claims to be a moderate Republican, a fiscal conservative, joined 24 Republicans and 190 other (presumably Democrat) mayors in this utopian idea with no practical evidence, no price tags, and blissfully unaware of other stories making new in the last few days.

The mayor, 64 and a former cab driver, said, solar power is a “no-brainer” for every city to consider. Others with brains at NASA global reported average temperatures dropped by 0.56 degrees Celsius — the biggest two-year drop in the last century.

As for no-brainers, an alarming study claiming global warming of Earth’s oceans was based on a math error. Instead of a 60 percent increase, the oceans warmed from 10 to 70 percent — a range brainy scientists say makes the findings meaningless.

Unimpeded by facts, 1.1 percent of the nation’s mayors want more solar. The only other Indiana mayor to agree was Mayor Phil Jenkins of Nappanee. Ed Malloy in Fairfield, Iowa; Reginald Tatum of Opelousas, La.; Amanda Edmonds of Ypsilanti, Mich., and Josh Maxwell of Downingtown, Pa., also agreed, among others — including the aptly named mayor of Kansas City, Mo., Sly James.

When 80 percent of your voters don’t show up to re-elect you time after time after time, why worry that 98.9 percent of the other mayors seem to know someting we don’t.

 

PUTTING INFO INTO INFRASTRUCTURE

When feebly trying to justify Carmel’s $1.4 billion indebtedness, the mayor and the City Hall elite claim it’s all for “infrastructure.”

The Oxford dictionaries say “infrastructure” is the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

Today, that means:

  • $880,000 for landscaping three new roundabouts on Gray Road;
  • $800,000 for two artsy structures and facilities made of recycles beer cans and LED-lit plastic panels at Pennsylvania and Meridian, and abutting the Palladium (itself a $175 million basic physical and organizational structure);
  • $125,000 for a bocce ball court;
  • $45,000 for a shuffleboard court;
  • $12,500 for a ping-pong table set-up and,
  • $417,118.75 for playground stuff ($300,000 for a “Luckey Climber”/ $17,500 for a slide)

Meanwhile, take a stroll in the older part of town and examine the sidewalks.

Fellow non-mayors, just ask neighbors with damp basements or backed up sewers or pot-holed streets about infrastructure.

And then ask those making less than $170,000 a year how they would define basic structures and facilities Carmel needs for operation the Big Political Machine. (The highest-paid mayor in Indiana gets 170 large next year.)

THANKSGIVING

This Thanksgiving, let’s express gratitude for how the Good Lord has lavished blessings on us.

Think about these:

In the last 30 years, the worldwide extreme poverty level shrank 74 percent to 10 percent — virtually all of it in countries ruled by tyrants.

Sulphur dioxide levels, down 80 percent; dust and particulate matter, down 40 percent.

The number of wars, down 64.7 percent; nuclear weapons, 83 percent.

The last century has seen per capita auto deaths down 95 percent; injuries from falls, 59 percent; airplane crash deaths, 99 percent; murder rates, 88 percent; fire deaths, 92 percent, and on-the-job fatalities, 95 percent. (All this according to Steven Pinker, “Enlightenment Now.”)

Author Matt Ridley wrote, “(T)his generation of human beings has access to more calories, watts, lumen-hours, square feet, gigabytes, megahertz, light-years, nanometers, bushels per acre, miles per gallon, food-miles, air-miles and dollars than any that went before.” (“The Rational Optimist.”)

Enlightened, educated, informed Americans are the most curious, innovative, inventive, disruptive humans on the planet. Also the most free to be even more enlightened, educated and informed.

Blessed with a moral compass and gigantic doses of common sense, Americans travel the world to learn, observe, compare, contrast and, sometimes, fight and die for others.

Our armies seek no territorial gain. Our teachers and ministers seek no monopoly on secret knowledge with which to dominate.

Oh, yes. Much for which to be thankful.

Humbling, isn’t it?

OF PLASTIC HUTS AND SACRILEGE

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, you join with me in awe-struck wonder at the second incarnation of Christ and how city elites celebrate it.

 

Christkindlmarkt derives its name from the Greek for “the anointed one” (Christ) and the German for “child” (kinder as in Kindergarten). Markt is cutesy for “sell, sell, sell.”

In Carmel, Christkindlmarkt consists of small, $20,800 each, plastic huts in which pricey items are sold and a three-story Gluhwein Pyramid at some exorbitant price to serve a variety of mulled wines. This artificial Little Town of Babylon surrounds a $6 million artificial ice rink. All of this bought, set up, taken down and stored at taxpayer expense. (And, the $6 million was borrowed without taxpayer approval, of course.)

Great irony abounds. The American Civil Liberties Union routinely sues municipalities for erecting nativity scenes depicting the coming of the anointed one. The Union is strangely silent about Christkindlmarkt.

The Carmel Interfaith Alliance, which rightly condemned defacing a synagogue with Nazi symbols, has yet to explain if the term “sacrilege” should be used when City Hall commercializes a name held sacred. “Sacrilege” also means the stealing of anything consecrated to the service of God, according to an on-line dictionary I consulted. “Stealing” might be too strong a word for the mere allocation of a name for crass mercantile purposes.

The mayor boasts more than 150,000 people flocked to the Christ Child Market and The Ice at Center Green last year to spend $1.4 million. How much of that went to retire the loans floated to erect those objects of awe and wonder remains a mystery.

But, $1.4 million is about $10 per flock member last year — not quite the market value of 20 pieces of pure silver.

Sacrilege has been punished by death in many cultures around the world.

In Carmel, where Prophet means profit and the Great Commission is 50 percent more on the net sales revenue, sacrilege is rewarded.

Ask your priest or minister about this. I am no theologian. Just a lowly non-mayor and a sinner badly in need of redemption. I am told the price has been paid.

80-90 PERCENT

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I wondered at a mayor’s YouTube speech in which he said the City refunded 80 to 90 percent of property taxes paid by developers of city-private projects,.

It was Carmel’s way of persuading reluctant developers to put underground parking garages in their projects. They would be compensated for the extra expense that way, the mayor intimated.

I thought the county levied, collected and refunded taxes, not the city. Asking for clarification with county and city officials got me nowhere. Then, not long ago, a gleam of light shone from the Dark Hole of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission (CRC).

Perusing the Government Finance Officers Association website, I chanced on an article laying out best practices for governments using public funds to help create incentives for private economic development projects. Noting incentives involve substantial risk and scarce funds sometimes could have better uses elsewhere, the article noted.

However, the best practices can avoid risk a bit — establishing appropriate measurements and a solid development incentive policy, it suggested.

So I wrote the city council person assigned to the CRC, as well as its executive satrap. Referring to the article, I asked what incentives and measurements they use.

Jeff Worrell, city council member for the southeast district and CRC participant, said, “We rely on the built environment to attract new business to Carmel and, in very limited cases (11 currently), personal property tax abatements spread over 10 years.”

Translation: Our $1.4 billion total outstanding debt obligation rests firmly on the hope new business will come and, when necessary, we sweeten deals with tax kickbacks.

Note, too, he avoided talking measurements. That would have begged the question: What do the measurements tell you?

An amateur in these matters, I only know that the first Tax Increment Funded (TIF) project in Carmel 20 years ago — Merchants’ Square — boasts 22 empty storefronts and isn’t what I’d call a poster child for Economic Development. Nor, I would add, do I think it’s a poster child for Economic Decline.

That will come if and when the built environment doesn’t attract and the tax abatements don’t stem the red ink tide.

WE’RE NO. 1

Filtering out City Hall propaganda in search of actual facts is a full-time job for an official non-mayor of Carmel.

Amid shouts of, “We’re Number One,” your faithful reporter has learned the liberal progressives at City Hall are:

The city’s biggest landlord.

The city’s biggest entertainment producer.

The city’s most expensive ice skating operator.

The city with Indiana’s highest paid mayor.

And the city’s biggest debtor at $1.4 billion and building — $14,000 to $15,000 in total outstanding debt obligations for every last man, woman and child within its favored limits.

Since 2011, the principal amount of our total debt increased 58 percent and our personal property taxes, 18 percent.

That won’t all fit on a T-shirt. So just wear one noting, “We’re No. 1.”

 

SCULPTURE

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I keep little scorecards of extravagances committed by our City Hall elite.

Sculptures, alone, ate $2.6 million of your tax dollars — not including maintenance and upkeep.

Here the latest rundown:

The 17 individual downtown statues — $1,374,975.

136th and Rangeline “collision of unicycles” Cyclo — $80,000

96th and Westfield   Beacon Bloom — $352,000

Monon Blvd and 2nd Ave. Sail — $100,000

Three Hazel Dell sculptures — $487,500

And that latest — Reckon — Rangeline and 4th St.  — $180,000. (Or is it “Wreckin’?”

There also is a pending request for $880,000 to landscape three new roundabouts on Gray Road.

Local historians will recall the mayor’s Contract With Carmel article 3. Cut Out Waste — “You paid $157,000 for the Gazebo on the front lawn of City Hall. I will work to cut out these types of wasteful spending.”

For the record, $157,000 is 6 percent of $2.6 million and 0.1 percent of the Palladium cost recently estimated by his honor at $175 million.

VALUABLE LESSON

Another non-mayor of Carmel, Bill Dorsch, wrote in his Nov. 6 letter to the editor of the Current regarding the Indiana Wind Symphony’s lack of support at its Sept. 23 appearance at the Palladium.

“Only some 370 patrons” showed, he said, noting he was disappointed.

Don’t be, Bill. If just 23 percent of the 1,600 seats were filled, recall that earlier in September the mayor confessed the entire Center for the Performing Arts’ 2,300 seats were occupied by just 466 persons on average since it opened in 2011.

Your 23 percent compares with his 20 percent.

I missed the Wind Symphony, spending that evening at home listening to Sergei Rachmaninoff play a number of his works accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Leopold Stokowski conducted two of them; Eugene Ormandy, the other three.

My cost was about $10 for the compact disc some years ago. I’m not sure what the Wind Symphony tickets cost.

Both the mayor of Dorsch provide vivid evidence of the unsustainability of the $175 million lavished on the Palladium without the consent of the governed.

The number of Carmel’s 93,148 residents attracted (0.5 percent per performance since 2011) nears the vanishing point in terms of sustainability.

Time was when one had to travel to the central location and pay handsomely to hear wind symphonies or the Philadelphia Symphony.

Technology has made more music available for more people at less cost than any time in history.

For Carmel to pretend to be immune from the laws of supply, demand and technological innovation seems to me to be as windy a proposition as a City Council meeting.

THE HIGH COST OF ENTERTAINMENT

As an official non-mayor of Carmel, I resist the urge to spend money unnecessarily.

Not so with City Hall, of course, and the best example continues to be the Center for the Performing Arts.

Featuring plays that attract 0.5 percent of the population and musicales attracting 1.7 percent, the Center requires annual transfusions of tax dollars from the Mayor’s budget to the tune of $2-3 million per year.

All government grants totaled $3.6 million of $8.7 million total revenues for the 2016-2017 season — 41 percent or 2 of every 5 bucks through the place.

The Center board wrestling with this snarl include the president of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, the City Attorney, and the City Director of Economic Development and Community Relations.

These three, alone, cannot direct the play. But, they could help craft a script that has a final chapter other than Chapter 11.