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May 02, 2009
Indianapolis cuts arts funds to subsidize stadiums
The Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board voted yesterday to start plugging its $47 million a year operating deficit by suspending all grants to arts and tourism groups. The CIB also voted to look at renegotiating its union contracts and selling some of its assets.
The budget gap, you'll recall, was created in the first place by the city's sweetheart lease deals for the Colts and Pacers, compounded when the CIB agreed to let the Pacers stop paying $15 million a year in operations costs, either out of the goodness of their hearts or a sudden fear that the team would move to Kansas City otherwise. Next time someone tries to argue that stadium costs don't cut into the money available for other public spending, remember this moment.
The CIB is an appointed board; six members by the mayor, two by the city council and one by the majority party in Marion County.
One of the problems with the CIB is that there isn't any transparency, they aren't audited by the state board of accounts as would any other state or city governmental agency. Because of the lack of transparency the taxpayers weren't apprised that the CIB has been in the red since 1999. The fact that the CIB has been bleeding money wasn't known until the city built a new arena for the Pacers and a new stadium for the Colts. Conseco cost an estimated 183 million and Lucas cost in excess of 720 million.
There are definite conflicts of interests; the current chairman of the CIB is a managing partner in the law firm that represents the Simons who own the Pacers. The Pacers play in a field house built by the CIB and receive 100% of the revenue from that facility.
The CIB dropping funds for the arts is unfortunate but the deals the Pacers and the Colts received borders on criminal.