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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

What now, pet?

A lot of people feel like the members of the power structure in Fort Wayne and Allen County do just whatever they want to regardless of what the taxpayers think, and Harrison Square is frequently cited as the prime example. And many suspect that pertinent facts and figures aren't always shared with us. But it could be worse -- we could be treated the way Carmel's mayor treats his citizens:

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard wants the City Council on Monday to approve $28.5 million to keep construction rolling on the Keystone Avenue project -- an infusion the mayor has said is necessary because of an unforeseen rise in construction costs.

But documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star reveal that Brainard -- and the City Council -- knew months ago that the project could cost much more than the $90 million price tag Brainard pitched to the public.

In fact, a preliminary construction estimate in February 2007 -- completed before Brainard touted the $90 million cost in his re-election campaign -- estimated the price tag at $112 million to $138.6 million.

Brainard says he never intended to low-ball the cost to his fiscally conservative constituents.

[. . .]

But others see a pattern as it relates to Keystone and Brainard's other multimillion-dollar pet project, the Carmel Performing Arts Center: In both cases, they say, the powerful and popular four-term mayor strategically waited until money was running out before he came clean with the public about the true financial picture of the projects.

A lesson to take from this -- other than the obvious need for vigilance in tracking down what the politicians don't want to tell us -- is in that phrase "pet project." Whenever politicians let their egos start taking over completely, when they begin obssessing about their "legacy" instead of just taking care of the public's day-to-day business, that's when we need to start going to meetings and speaking up and guarding the purse strings zealously. Elected officials who want to "leave something behind" often do -- a big mess that we have to clean up.


Bob G.
Mon, 12/01/2008 - 1:34pm

Brother, have you got THAT right!

(bigger shovels for ALL the people...they're gonna NEED 'em)