Taking out a park under cover of darkness

Dateline: Sun 13 Aug 2006

What a terrible irony. Just when Indianapolis is in the thick of a wave of black-on-black murder, along comes the black Center Township power structure and offs a park located in the heart of the inner city.

Making matters worse, the half-acre Polin playground area, part of Indy Parks, will be paved with asphalt and turned into a parking lot to accommodate a restaurant/tavern that will be located in the Julia Carson Government Center -- a public building.

Excuse me, but I had the quaint idea that maybe our urban kids needed a park more than the greedy, power-drunk adults need another watering hole....but apparently money talks louder than children.

Lounge investors include Lacy Johnson III, son of Lacy Johnson. Dad is best known as a longtime Dem player, lawyer and prez of the Indy Airport Authority.

The Lacys and their buddy investors deserve the "dirty hands" award for launching this deal, with the real grime reserved for Center Township trustee Carl Drummer and Judy Hawley Conley. Drummer is the kingpin in this political power structure. Conley is the city hearing examiner who chose a parking lot over a park at a July 27 meeting of the Metropolitan Development Commission.

She is also the wife of City County Counclman King "Ro" Conley. Both are pals of Drummer, who has backed this deal from the getgo and apparently thinks he owns the park rather than tax-paying neighborhoods and citizens.

U.S. Rep. Julia Carson hardly comes out smelling like a rose, either, since she had to have known this was coming down the pike. Or else she's in even worse health than speculated -- could she be blind?

That's a good question. Here are a few others:

Why was there no bidding for a public franchise to place a park in a public place?

How can legal costs for the rezoning of the park be paid for with public funds?

How can public property be used for private gain by private investors?

Where was any notice given that this was coming? (I ask that since only one remonstrator, the tireless Clarke Kahlo, Mr. Green Jeans, showed up at the initial hearing since he's a land-use kinda guy. Where was the vaunted media on this? Hello, anybody out there?)

These questions and others lead to a growing concern about the sanctity of the city's comprehensive plan -- which ain't too "sanct" since it was totally ignored in this case. The Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood and its comprehensive simply were run over.

As for Judy Conley, who kicked this off publicly, she's screwed up before, in other zoning cases. (She's the lady who gave the green light to the Whole Foods store at 86th and Haverstick, a deal that seems doomed to go south and has cost the city a lawsuit).

All this is veeery interesting, but the real question is who is running the show -- Mayor Peterson, or a group of powerful inner-city Democrats who take orders from nobody, and run havoc at the expense of children?

A lot of good Dems know that the mayor believes he is powerless to stand up to this cadre and the black City-County Council leadership, including Monroe "we got the juice" Gray. Somebody, please, say it ain't so --- show some guts, Bart.

One ray of hope: the full Metropolitan Development Commission will hear the case Aug. 16. Will there be remonstrators there? Depends on whether anybody in the inner city is still alive.

UPDATE: McANA, the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, has weigned in on this deal, says land use chair Norm Pace. Here is their position:

McANA supports the remonstrance (the one initiated by Clarke Kahlo) based on the following motion:

. It is using public assets to support private enterprise

. It is creating excessive uses when there is no primary uses for the

property

. Cutting into Kessler Park and Boulevard Plan

. Contrary to the Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood Association Comprehensive

Plan

. Moving park from neighborhood where we should be preserving park space

. Contrary to Community Value & "Pathway to Future" documents

. Taking away the Al Polin Park

E-mail me at ruth@ruthholladay.com

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