Thursday, October 27, 2011

SPIN CITY: Coasting in Noblesville Part IV

In recent mailers funded by the Republican Party, Mayor John Ditslear crows about having brought 53 new businesses to Noblesville last year. Like so many of the fluffy, feel-good numbers that accompany City Hall press releases, the numbers just don’t add up.

What’s more, the numbers are presented, in this time of concern about unemployment, as if they’re proof of somebody really taking care of business – though many of the line-items on the list represent no new jobs and many of the jobs that are real are something no town would brag about. And the numbers are so blatantly spun, you’d think Distlear’s City Hall believes they could say just about anything and get away with it.

The list of 53 new businesses starts out shaky when you notice the 4 seasonal businesses – Halloween City and 3 locations of USA Fireworks. If you count new businesses like I do, 3 locations of one business, and 1 Halloween shop, all of which were only open approximately a month doesn’t strike me as solid, new job-creating businesses.

Ditslear’s nose starts to grow when he lists businesses already out of business. So he’s taking credit for bringing businesses to town that were history by the time he was bragging about it. That would include places like Burrito Joe’s and Martin Jay’s Butcher Shop.

And the Mayor outright fibs when he lists businesses that were already here. PNC Bank is listed as a new business, but they simply bought out National City. Take down the old sign, put up a new sign, and like magic - a new business located in Noblesville. And Aspire Indiana just moved from Cumberland Road to 150th Street, both in Noblesville, but they too magically count as a new business. I found another on the list, actually a client of mine who’s been doing business in town for years. They changed locations last year, and they also make the list as a new business.

And Mayor Ditslear’s pants catch on fire when he names Donato’s Pizza as a new operation. Donato’s is a minimum wage employer who has been here for years but was struggling in their stand-alone restaurant location in front of Wal-Mart, so they downsized to a much smaller, primarily delivery/pickup location. Still, in the City Hall spin-zone, they get counted as a new business.

That’s how bad news gets spun as good news by the Ditslear campaign. When you’re coasting downhill, hands laced behind your head – feet crossed on the handlebars, you’ve gotta spin pretty hard to create the impression of actually accomplishing something.

Did any of our local newspaper outlets like The Times point this out to their readers? Nope. They just keep dutifully printing city hall press releases.

Then there are the out of town employers who truly did establish new businesses, but only brought minimum-wage jobs to town. In fact, a majority of the list are retail or medical service providers who are primarily minimum wage or low wage job creators.

And an even deeper look reveals yet more to be disappointed with. Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory makes the list, but they’re no factory. They’re a retail candy store at Hamilton Town Center – and a minimum wage employer. That mall is in a Tax Increment Financing district (TIF), which means any new property taxes paid for that location don’t help fund schools, police, libraries, etc. for years into the future. Instead the new tax base gets skimmed off by the city to pay for the infrastructure we taxpayers built out there to lure these minimum wage employers to town. So we get a new candy store, minimum wage jobs, and no tax-base help in paying for city services.

Impressed by Mayor Ditslear’s phony list?

Me neither.

Hey, times are tough. Lots of cities all over the state are struggling. So why would you fabricate fantasy lists and peddle ho-hum accomplishments as a gold medal performance? You do it because you think nobody will notice. You think that you can say what works, cut the ribbon at the opening, smile for the cameras, and nobody will know the truth.

But sadly, even that isn’t where the Mayor’s bogus job creation numbers end. Lately he’s been bragging about the City’s Economic Development Department generating 2,200 new jobs in the past 10 years. Problem is, I can’t find proof of how many jobs were actually created.

As best I can figure the Mayor gets that 2,200 number from the City’s Tax Abatement Ledger – a list of the businesses he gave tax breaks to for agreeing to come here or stay here or just buy new equipment. The ledger is a projected tally of jobs the businesses originally claimed they would bring to town. It appears there is no follow-up done to verify those jobs actually were created.

That’s a little odd, because we can verify without a shadow of a doubt that the businesses got the tax break. When was the last time you paid for a product but never looked to see if you actually received it? Well, it appears that’s exactly what Ditslear’s City Hall has been doing. And then bragging about it.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my patience with Washington politicians who peddle false numbers is wearing pretty thin. And when it’s done by a politician in my own town with a smile and a handshake, I will not forgive it when I vote.

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