Another Ballard Tax Increase Takes Effect Today

Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to make more than a billion dollars for one of City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn's clients moves a step closer today. ACS, the politically-connected firm that Ballard awarded a 50-year lease for the City's parking meter business, begins collecting higher parking fees and charging for extended hours of use today. Persons parking at metered spaces downtown and in Broad Ripple will be charged to park an additional 5 hours during the week as hours are extended from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m at the rate of $1.00 an hour. Additionally, the City will charge them to park those same hours on Saturdays for the first time in city history. The rates will jump to $1.50 an hour beginning in January, 2011, double the current rate.

The Star's Jon Murray misleads the papers readers on a bit of bait-and-switch ACS and the Ballard administration engaged in when it sold the City on the deal. Individual meters mounted on the existing poles were to be replaced by multi-space pay boxes; however, when ACS began switching out the meters, it instead installed electronic meters on the existing meter poles, not even bothering to replace the rusty old poles. The Star, which endorsed the corrupt 50-year deal, tries to explain it away:

Beginning in late spring or early summer, ParkIndy will install multispace pay boxes to replace about two-thirds of the meters.

ParkIndy has drawn criticism for leaving rusty meter poles and bases and replacing only the heads. Lou Gerig, a spokesman for ParkIndy, said that as pay boxes go in, leftover meter parts that are in good condition will be used to replace older hardware on remaining individual-space meters.

The multi-space pay boxes were the cornerstone of what councilors were sold when they approved the deal last year. ACS is installing the electronic meters on the poles for now, which are actually used meters that were removed from another city where they were previously used. By installing the older technology now, ACS is getting immediate access to revenues it will generate from the 50-year lease that includes the higher rates and extended hours. ACS will use those revenues to finance the cost of installing the more costly multi-space boxes over time for most but not all spaces. ACS plans to use newer poles already purchased by the city to put on the remaining parking spaces where it intends to use its used electronic meters. In other words, ACS and the Ballard administration flat out lied about how much money ACS would invest up front to install new parking meter technology.

There are many signs that ACS has used insiders with ties to the company to expand its business operations in state and local government in Indiana. ACS played a key role in the botched privatization of FSSA's welfare services that cost taxpayers more than a half billion dollars. The administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels blamed the entire mess on IBM when it terminated IBM's contract but kept in place ACS. IBM partnered with ACS in order to win the contract originally because then-FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, a former executive with ACS, initiated the privatization effort. Gov. Daniels then named another former consultant for ACS, Michael Gargano, to run the agency, who is married to another former ACS executive, Ann Lathrop.

ACS has long used the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg as its hired gun lobbyist to win government business in Indiana. The firm lobbies both state and city officials on behalf of ACS. Its chief lobbyist at the firm, Joe Loftus, is also paid as a key adviser to Mayor Greg Ballard. Lobbying records also showed City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn lobbied the state on behalf of ACS as a lobbyist for the firm; however, when this blog reported on his registered status as a lobbyist for ACS, Vaughn claimed a paralegal at his law firm registered him with the state in error. Vaughn also twisted arms of councilors to ram the deal through the council and voted in support of the 50-year parking meter lease despite his obvious conflict of interest.