Opinion: Why should you care about The Legacy project TIF debacle?

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Commentary by Luci Snyder

Recent stories in “Current in Carmel,” “The Indianapolis Star” and the “Indianapolis Business Journal” have covered the legacy tax increment financing dispute between the Carmel Redevelopment Commission and the city council.

Ho, hum … is this just another argument with the council? Is it important to me? Why should I care? Can’t everyone just get along?

Or as Hilary Clinton famously said, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

For democracy to work, it requires an informed electorate. That’s you. You need to know the truth so you can cast a meaningful vote. You need to demand the truth from your elected and appointed officials. You need to demand the truth from the press and punish those who withhold that truth or alter the facts.

In 2008 the CRC and the city council approved the legacy project at 146th Street and River Road and required that the TIF generated by development be used for road improvements.

Why so specific? Because River Road was narrow, old and unsafe, and school buses used it daily.

The development began with apartments, but it stalled in the recession and the banks repossessed it.

In 2013 a new developer saw the potential, threw his money into the mix and asked to implement the original agreement between the city council and the CRC regarding the TIF generated by the development.

This project is in Councilor Sue Finkam’s northeastern district, and she became concerned and rightly asked CRC President Bill Hammer why the CRC did not approve this simple request. His response was that circumstances had changed, causing the need for review, and that since no taxes had been generated from 2008 to 2013, it didn’t matter.

Finkam is new to the council, as are Dave Bowers and Brad Meyer to the CRC, so they cannot be blamed if they don’t remember the original deal. But Hammer and Jeff Worrell, who are still on the CRC, signed the 2008 document, as did Ron Carter, so they should have remembered. Those of us on the council in 2008, Rick Sharp, Kevin Rider, Eric Seidensticker and I, remembered the terms.

Those of you who live in the northeastern district know that the apartments have been there for several years, and only the extremely naive would assume that they haven’t been assessed or generated real estate taxes.

So why did Hammer not remember? Why did he tell Finkam that no taxes had been generated when more than $1 million in tax revenue had gone into the CRC’s coffers?

Because they spent it.

They spent the money on what they determined was the greater good. True, there was no developer, but the money was specifically earmarked for infrastructure work and the CRC should have spent that money on the bridge along River Road and on improving that dangerous road.

So why, at this point, does it matter?

It matters because they didn’t tell the truth or didn’t know what they were doing.

It matters because the road is still dangerous.

It matters to you if you and your children travel that dangerous road.

It matters because your tax dollars were then used to build a bridge instead of using the TIF funds generated for that purpose but spent by the CRC.

It matters.

Luci Snyder is the southeast district’s city council representative and the council’s finance, administration and rules committee chair. You can contact her at lsnyder@carmel.in.gov.

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