The Newsletter for December is out! Click Here to download or scroll below to read!
Citizens for Common Sense Has a Forum! Scroll to the bottom of the Newsletter content below for more information!
Two reasons to attend this Tuesday’s
(Dec 15) County Council meeting:
1. Do we reward departments that go over budget?
The County Health Department is asking for funds from the Rainy Day Fund or General Fund excess to make up for $500,000 (yes, that’s a half million ) they went over their budget. Why? Was there some emergency? $200,000 of it was for yet another study of Granger water – when study after expensive study shows the same thing: the nitrates in Granger soil are natural — NOT coming from septic systems.
2. Will we let transparency in County contracts be blocked?
In a surprise move, our County Council just voted (unanimously!) to approve an ordinance requiring that businesses who contract with the County must report who in particular is getting paid and at what rate. In an equally surprising move, two of our three County Commissioners voted to veto it. Thankfully, the Council responded (again unanimously!) to over-turn the veto. But is our newfound transparency safe? Or will the Commissioners seek to block its implementation? And will they use taxpayer dollars to do it?
Come to the St. Joe County Council
Hearing on Health Dept. spending / Speak on transparency
Tues, Dec. 15, 6pm
County-City Building, 4th floor, 227 West Jefferson, South Bend
(Corner of Jefferson and Lafayette)
County Health Department seeks
$500,000 for budget over-runs
Our County Council sets a budget each year for each department of county government, and department heads live within that budget. If they spend more than they are budgeted, should we reward them by giving them more?
Effective management policy says No – unless there are compelling special circumstances. Before every department starts putting forward special circumstances, we need to take a careful look at each such request and err on the side of frugality and living within our means.
The St. Joseph County health department is requesting $500,000 – yes, that’s half a million dollars – for its current cost over-runs. What could put them that far over?
We have noticed that every time the health department wants to go over budget, it starts lamenting the quality of the water in Granger. Most recently the Tribune ran an editorial supporting another $200,000 for yet another health department study of Granger water.
Those of us who live in Granger are tired of the County Health Department’s repeated expenditures of our tax dollars to look for a problem we are NOT having. In 2011, their meddling resulted in 4-5 Granger businesses forcing over 225 residents and other businesses to pay for access to a system the rest of them neither wanted nor needed (The residents had hired a soil scientist who documented that all four of the arguments being put forward to justify the project were FALSE) – and we taxpayers coughed up $4.1 million to pay for this atrocity.
Then two years later, in December of 2013, we taxpayers paid for yet another study of Granger water, this one by Roberts Environmental Services of Goshen. While their conclusions hint at contamination of well water by septic systems, their own data clearly show that this is not the case. Except for 2-3 isolated shallow wells (e.g., built outside County code), their analysis of nitrate isotopes shows that the source of the nitrates in Granger water is not indicative of human waste, but rather points to being naturally occurring in the soil. (Granger is former farm land. Nitrates are naturally present in farm produce such as tomatoes and carrots.)
WHY would we want to pay $200,000 for yet another study of Granger water? Sadly, it would appear that our County Health Department, with interesting connections to the vendors who put the sewer in Granger, has already spent the $200,000 even though they did not have it – and that is why they are now asking for that and more.
Should we taxpayers be paying for health department over-runs including repeated studies of a problem that has repeatedly been shown not to exist?
Please contact your County Council members and/or
come to the hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 15 to speak out!
JOSEPH COUNTY COUNCIL
Robert Kruszynski Corey Noland Jamie O’Brien
26440 Sandpiper Ct. 19024 Glendale Ave. 15822 Cedar Ridge Ct.
S.B., IN 46619 S.B., IN 46637 Granger, IN 46530
287-1754 273-0603 247-0070
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Rafael Morton Diana Hess Mark Telloyan
325 N Studebaker 1301 Norwich Ct. 19177 Edinburgh Dr.
S.B., IN 46628 S.B., IN 46614 South Bend, IN 46614
232-7190 267-3931 287-7690
Mark Catanzarite Robert McCahill Mark Root
2022 Oak Park Dr. 749 S. 34th St. 10737 Chelsea Dr.
S.B., IN 46617 S.B., IN 46615 Osceola, IN 46561
232-9112 289-8909 674-9125
The Story on the
Transparency in County government is something that Citizens for Common Sense has been pursuing for over 20 years. We have repeatedly done our own research to uncover connections between vendors receiving county contracts and campaign contributions to the elected officials that award those contracts.
Councilman, Jamie O’Brien, who is an attorney and CPA, recently wrote a thorough Transparency Ordinance to make that information automatically reported. Incredibly, on Nov. 10 a County Council that frequently splits 6-3 along party lines, UNANIMOUSLY approved the Transparency Ordinance.
Then equally incredibly, the Commissioners vetoed the ordinance a week later. What made this astounding was that the Board of Commissioners, for the first time in several decades, is controlled by Republicans – people who ran on promises of transparency.
Commissioner Deb Fleming, a Republican, did the right thing and voted NOT to veto the ordinance. Commissioner Dave Thomas, a Democrat, voted to veto. The big surprise was Commissioner Andy Kostielney, a Republican, who also voted FOR the veto.
Commissioner Kostielney reported to the South Bend Tribune (11/22) that he felt such contract procedures should be initiated by the executive branch (the Commissioners) rather than the legislative branch (the Council). While we are sensitive to separation of powers, we feel the over-arching issue here is transparency.
Actually, Kostielney should probably have recused himself from this vote. His full-time employer is the University of Notre Dame whose bond attorney Phil Faccenda is the same Barnes & Thornburg attorney whom the Tribune (11/22) identified as being paid $450/hour by St. Joe County for a total of $108,000 on the 911 center project.
On Dec. 1, our County Council, again by a unanimous vote, over-rode the veto and put the transparency ordinance back into effect. But it may not be over.
According to the Tribune (12/3), Kostielney is consulting with attorneys about options to block the ordinance, which could include suing the Council. As Councilman O’Brien reflected to the Tribune, “I hope the idea of continuing to fight this ordinance doesn’t include spending taxpayer dollars to figure out a way to keep taxpayers from knowing how their money is spent.”
JOSEPH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
County Commissioners Andy Kostielney, Dave Thomas, and Deb Fleming
227 W. Jefferson 235-9534
South Bend, IN 46601 firstname.lastname@example.org
Attend the St. Joe County Council
Hearing on Health Department spending
PLUS opportunity to Speak on transparency
Tues, Dec. 15, 6pm
County-City Building, 4th floor, 227 West Jefferson, South Bend
(Corner of Jefferson and Lafayette)
News Shorts – – –
Marlin Stutzman for Senate
Now that Senator Dan Coats is retiring, there are three Republicans running for his Senate seat.
One of them, Marlin Stutzman has a record of conservative votes far higher than the others and most other members of Congress. At a time when the Heritage Foundation is rating the average House Republican at 64% and the average Senate Republican at 63%, Marlin’s conservative score is 87%. Best of all, Marlin is straight-talking. What you see is what you get.
At the recent St. Joe County Republican Women’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the Morris Park Country Club, Congressman Stutzman was asked why the House and Senate don’t pass bills that they know the President will veto.. He said that is exactly what he and others hope to do now that the House has a new speaker.
Outsider for President
It is becoming increasingly apparent to many, that something happens to the people we send to Washington. All too soon, they are backing down unexpectedly and moderating their votes, to preserve committee appointments, or, worse case, keep special interest donors happy.
That’s the main reason so many people are excited about Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina; they are NOT Washington insiders.
But here’s the deal. How do we know what they would be like once they were inside?
That’s why many of us like an already tried and tested insider, like Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz has been in Washington for 3 ½ years with open Tea Party support and he is still fighting for Tea Party values like following the Constitution, securing the borders, reducing government spending, freeing businesses from regulation, and strengthening national defense.
Don’t we want a PROVEN outsider?
Food for Thought Book Club!
Citizens for Common Sense is happy to report a “Food for Thought” Book Club that has been started by some of our supporters.
Ted Koppel’s Lights Out
(about surviving a national
Rose Quest Nutrition (sitting room)
410 Lincolnway East, Mishawaka
Sunday, January 17 at 2pm
Contact State Reps about Special Protection Status for Sexual Preferences
While we need to be careful about giving religious beliefs priority over other laws (e.g., supporting Sharia law for Muslims), which is a potential negative side effect of RFRA laws, one thing that is very clear is that we should not be creating special protection status for people for their sexual preferences.
Arguably, the United States has reached a point where NO groups need Special Protection Status. Do Blacks, women, or Hispanics need special rules any more to assure that they get equal protection under the law?
But even if your answer to that question is yes, it’s not clear why we would want to create yet another protected class for sexual orientation.
Contact your State Reps now as the legislative session is just starting:
Indiana Senators — at State House: (800) 382-9467
Joe Zakas – email@example.com John Broden – s10@ iga.in.gov Ryan Mishler – firstname.lastname@example.org Jim Arnold – email@example.com
Carlin Yoder – firstname.lastname@example.org
Indiana House Reps. — at State House: (800) 382-9842
Dale DeVon – h5@ iga.in.gov B. Patrick Bauer – h6@ iga.in.gov
Dave Niezgodski – h7@ iga.in.govRyan Dvorak – email@example.com
Tim Wesco – firstname.lastname@example.org Curt Nisly – email@example.com
Wes Culver – firstname.lastname@example.org
A Race to the Bottom
by Barry Keating, Ph.D.
The tallest and most prominent building in South Bend is the Chase Tower. The Tower is also known for inoperable elevators and a crumbling façade; the occupancy rate is about 50 percent. The Summit Club, once located on the Tower’s top floor, was considered the most elite restaurant in town. Now the building is only a sad reminder of a better past, but soon it could be an even more painful reminder.
The South Bend Common Council is considering a tax abatement to the company that bought the Tower out of foreclosure. A tax abatement forgives or partially reduces property taxes for a period of time. Most states award abatements of up to 10 or 12 years. The maximum abatement permitted in Indiana exempts all taxes due in the first year to finance any improvements, followed with reductions in subsequent years such that in the 11th year no deductions remain.
Tax abatements have become a staple device for local governments seeking to attract businesses. However, the effectiveness of abatements or the interest of the general public is seldom considered. My Common Council apparently makes decisions based on the recommendations of the local economic development authority and pressure from vested interests.
For cities like South Bend, abatements are likely a zero-sum game in which cities compete in offering the largest and longest abatements to potential business entrants. The only real beneficiaries are the businesses themselves and possibly the government officials granting abatements. This process truly earns the label of “corporate welfare.”
When governments subsidize businesses in this manner they subvert the normal operations of a free market. Instead of firms making decisions about where to locate based upon the economic attractiveness of a location, businesses are led instead to base their decisions on which municipality offers the largest abatement package. Decision-makers, underestimating the real comparative advantages offered by the locality to particular industries, are most likely to offer abatements. And, it is precisely those firms, controlled by managers with short-term personal considerations, that will be enticed to accept abatements as opposed to locating where they could be most productive.
It is astonishing that cities actually look forward to post-abatement time when these businesses will begin paying property taxes. Ironically, these firms also look forward to the expiration of the abatement: It represents an opportunity for the firm to “go shopping” again and see what other localities might offer in terms of incentives. There is some evidence that tax abatements actually increase the likelihood that firms relocate. In addition, a University of Michigan study indicates that “a significant number of abatements have been given to companies that have gone out of business.”
So, if tax abatements are so ineffective, why do we still use them? The answer clearly lies in examining the winners and losers totax abatement. City officials are desperate to attract, or appear to attract, business activity of almost any nature. They perceive abatements as a means of competing with other towns, and thus a necessary cost. City and development officials, as well, like to believe or make others believe that they possess unique leadership ability and special insight in awarding benefits to certain industries.
The problem, of course, is that in granting exceptions to paying property taxes they make citizens and existing businesses poorer yet. Abatements actually shift the tax burden to local households and firms. Tax abatements starve municipal budgets that depend upon property-tax receipts to provide critical public services such as street maintenance, police and fire protection. In addition, they erode the parks, libraries, and community centers that form the “social cement” of a town.
Property taxes are generally thought to be regressive, i.e., those with little income pay a larger percentage of that income in property taxes than do wealthier citizens. Thus, abatements shift the tax burden to the least wealthy. In Philadelphia, which is regarded to have the most generous tax abatement program in the country, the Pew Trust reports that 36 percent of residents indicate that they would “definitely/probably leave” in the next five to 10 years.
A public school official expressed surprise at the amount of unpaid property taxes in Indiana as compared with districts in other states with which he was associated. This writer is unaware of studies researching this issue, but noncompliance is a reasonable hypothesis to consider when so many exceptions have been made in releasing some from property taxes.
Is there an alternative to this race to the bottom?
Sixty years ago, Zug, one of 26 cantons in Switzerland, was one of the poorest areas in the country. But Zug lowered both its corporate and personal taxes; it lowered them until its taxes were about 50 percent below the Swiss average. The canon also made building permits easy to get. What happened? Businesses moved to Zug; corporate headquarters were moved to Zug. The number of firms doing business in Zug skyrocketed; jobs rose 20 percent in just six years.
Perhaps Indiana cities should at least consider that the answer to their ills might be less government (a lot less) rather than more of what has caused so much pain in the past.
Barry P. Keating, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame. He was an expert guest at the foundation’s Dec. 3 seminar on local economic development.
Reprinted from 12/7/2015 Indiana Policy Review Backgrounder
Rights are not collective
by Curt Nisly,
The American Republic was unique in the history of nations in that the government was chained down by law in a written contract that has endured for more than 200 years. It has been a model for the constitutions of the 50 states and for written constitutions throughout the world.
The U.S. Constitution echoes the theme of the Declaration of Independence, which notes that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights and that the proper role of government is to secure these rights.
The people of the United States acted together through their founders to establish the government. In a similar manner, the people act together through their representatives to pass local, state and federal laws.
However, the rights secured by the Constitution are individual rights and not collective rights. This is a critical point.
Again, from the Declaration: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights of individuals. A collective cannot pursue happiness because this would require everyone to have the same exact definition of happiness. The Declaration was pointing out the rights of individuals.
The U.S. Constitution, likewise, is geared to the rights of the individual. The Bill of Rights spells out many rights for individuals, such as rights to freely exercise religion and speech, to keep and bear arms, to be secure from unreasonable searches and to own private property.
The Indiana Constitution follows this model as well. Article I, Section 3 of the Indiana Bill of Rights states that, “no law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions or interfere with the rights of conscience.” Like other rights protected by the Indiana Constitution, this is an individual right.
There is a current attempt by some members of the Indiana General Assembly to downgrade the right of religious expression by making it a collective right in which certain groups such as churches would enjoy more rights than individuals. The proposed measure is called Senate Bill 100 and you can read it here.
Senate Bill 100 represents a wrongheaded and dangerous attempt to carve out a few certain instances in which property can be exchanged through voluntary mutual consent. In all other cases, government would force interaction between two parties in Indiana. Property would be exchanged through the force of the state.
It is wrong to allow collective freedom over individual freedom in Indiana. People have different beliefs based on their own individual moral conscience. I do not believe that individuals should blindly accept control of their freedom because of the whims of the state.
The real push for SB100 is coming from individuals who seek preferential treatment in Indiana based on sexual preferences. Those who advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual lifestyles have every right to their beliefs. But they do not have the right to force those beliefs on Hoosiers who hold differing personal views. That, my fellow Hoosiers, is called freedom.
Reprinted from Elkhart GOP online newsletter Dec. 6, 2015