CIB deal: something is not right

Dateline: Thu 02 Apr 2009

Starting with the assumption that we all want the Colts and Pacers to remain in Indy, a quick look at the deal brokered and offered by Sen. Luke Kenley yesterday raises more red flags than a 10-car pileup at the Speedway.

First, there was the quote from the Star, reported by Mary Beth Schneider and Brendan O''Shaughnessy today:

"'We feel that somehow everybody should have skin in the game," Kenley said, "(but) we haven't reached any final agreements with them.'"

The "them" Kenley references are the Pacers and the Colts. The Republican legislator suggested that the teams and owners too should feel the pain, along with taxpayers and the restaurant, liquor and hospitality industries -- all being asked to pony up. But since neither team has uttered a comment or pledged a red cent --- only met in private negotiations with Kenley -- it's hard to believe that they really have any "skin" in the game.

Anthony Schoettle's story in the Indianapolis Business Journal today is more pointed. "Kenley gets pushback on CIB tax plan," is the headline.

Among those expressing major concerns:

Sen. Lindel Hume (D-Princeton), who, Schoettle reports, "said he would refuse to vote for the measure until he had more information - especially regarding the Pacers' financial situation.

"At one point," (Schoettle writes) "Hume asked (Pacers chief financial officer Rick) Fuson about wayward guard Jamal Tinsley and demanded to know how much the Pacers were paying him not to play. Fuson said he didn't have those figures...."

Hume also called for "detailed financials" on operating Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse.

Hard as it is to believe, we are expected to swallow this deal without those numbers.

To top it off, Mayor Greg Ballard -- who has shown no leadership in this mess -- admitted he was "scared to death ... of killing our convention business, the very thing that we're all here trying to support." He's talking about the proposed sales tax hike for the hotel industry, which would make our innkeepers' tax the highest in the nation, as well as food and beverage increases.

The Star also quoted attorney Paul Ogden, who pointed out that the process has been secret all along. The public is being cut out.

Not good. Still, the Star now reports that a Senate committee today rubber-stamped Kenley's deal.

Mary Beth Schneider reports that some Indiana senators "gushed about their support for the teams" and did not ask tough questions of either Bill Polian, general manager of the Colts, or Fuson, both of whom were at the Legislature today.

In a classic disconnect, people from the service industry -- waiters, those who run restaurants and breweries -- expressed their criticism of the plan.

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