As official non-mayors of Carmel, we hear repeatedly from City Hall elites that information about how our tax money is being spent is, alas, secret.
Stonewalled, we wonder what’s going on. Oh, we have reams of press releases and reports of all the good things that have happened, all the fun times the city has for us, all the free entertainment and for-sale entertainment.
Regulatory requirements force the city to report some financial data. But, not all. Certainly not when it comes to the multi-million-dollar building programs transforming a bedroom suburb into a congested nightmare.
Experts says there are several reasons for secrecy:
- National security.
- Police investigations prior to charging evil-doers.
- Medical information.
- Power and manipulation.
- Guilty knowledge and a bad conscience.
In Carmel, where two governments exist side by side, there is easy access to information about traditional city services — police, fire, ambulance, sewers and water, parks and recreation — paid annually and recorded in a balanced budget.
There is a second government of $1.3 billion debt, subsidies, over-runs, missed deadlines, waste and arbitrary decision. The Carmel Redevelopment Commission uses loopholes in the law. Creating shell corporations and non-profit entities, civic czars side with Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men.”
“You can’t handle the truth!”
How’s that working out? Acres of vacant land. Scores of empty offices. Unknown occupancy and vacancy rates for stores, offices and living quarters that have so saturated the market no private developers dare tread on Carmel soil.
Challenged on the economics of Tax Incremental Finance bonds, the mayor argues they are actually a gift for future generations — claiming infrastructure built now will make life dandy in the sweet bye-and-bye.
Who is he trying to kid?
Ironically, he lets information slip now and then in misguided attempts at informing the public. For example, he boasted the Center for the Performing Arts drew 840,000 patrons to 1,800 events. Wowser! Except for a bit of long division. The average event drew just 467 patrons.
And, he claimed roundabouts reduce traffic fatalities 90 percent, injury accidents 80 percent and overall accident rates 40 percent. He forgot to say “elsewhere,” because — when I asked for the source of his data — he referred me to a dozen studies conducted all over the globe. Most were cherry-picked best examples to make the roundabouts-are-good thesis.
In Carmel, traffic fatalities remain constant — one or two a year; injury accidents and overall accident rates are dead-level for the last 10-plus years at 0.24 percent and 21.3 percent, respectively.
In Carmel, then, there is a sixth category of secrecy: embarrassment.