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Friday, May 24, 2024

The Ballard Administration silent on bids, ROC

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What are they hiding?

That’s the question, that’s been hanging out there concerning the refusal of Mayor Greg Ballard’s Administration to provide timely, public information on key city projects, initiatives and issues.

What are they hiding about the “ROC” Center?

The ROC is the “Regional Operations Center”, a public safety facility the city built, largely with federal dollars, in the run-up to the 2012 Super Bowl. Because of the looming game, then Public Safety Director Frank Straub pushed to construct a master command center where police, fire, emergency services and top officials would exercise command and control in the event of a major emergency.

Some said the ROC facility should be located downtown; but for reasons yet unknown, Straub pressed for it to be in the largely vacant, former Eastgate Shopping Center six miles east of downtown.

Time pressure before the Super Bowl caused the ROC’s lease to be hastily created and signed. The center opened just before Super Bowl activities and it looked great on TV.

But mere months after the Super Bowl, serious questions arose about corners cut, procedures not followed, extra costs incurred and safety compromised.

In a series of damning reports, WTHR/Channel 13 Investigative Reporter Sandra Chapman reported that required work to prepare the ROC hadn’t been done; the building didn’t meet fire safety codes and therefore required an Indianapolis firefighter to be on site at a cost of nearly $44,000 yearly.

Chapman’s revelations and those contained on Democratic and Republican blogs led City-County Council members to start asking hard questions.

Instead of offering reassurances, Ballard Administration adapted a Don Corleone style, bluntly refusing to answer questions from media or councilors. They were backed by a “no” chorus of Republican councilors.

The stonewalling behavior led Council Democrats to first demand records and testimony, then a lawsuit to compel the information be provided through a subpoena.

As of press time, the Mayor’s minions continue to stall, stonewall and refuse to produce information about the ROC Center deal.

So, just what are they hiding?

Three companies are supposedly “bidding” over whether and how they would help Indianapolis build a new Justice Center that would contain the County Jail, Criminal Courts and offices for prosecutors, probation, community corrections and other justice functions.

However, instead of responding to a public, written Request for Proposal (RFP) like normal government agencies do, the three bidders are conducting their work in secret.

This administration has callously refused to make the Justice Center RFP public.

When the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) requested it back in July, the city dogged them out so bad, IBJ complained to Indiana’s Public Access Counselor, which mediates disputes on access to Indiana public records.

The city’s response is they don’t have to make the Justice Center RFP public because it includes bidders’ “trade secrets”.

That’s baloney because state law says “trade secrets” can be withheld or redacted from a document’s public disclosure.

What is it that the city and the Ballard Administration doesn’t want us to know? Is it that a cartel of companies are carving up the bids to create a public boondoggle of waste and potential fraud that could be staggering!

The pathological refusal of the Ballard Administration to release basic information and to violate state laws leads any reasonable person to conclude that the Ballard Administration is hiding something. What is it?

What I’m Hearing in the Streets

Last week, a silent voice in Indy’s preschool debate was finally heard. Before quality preschool was cool, Head Start was providing it for children from poor, working poor families.

The folks who run Indianapolis area Head Start locations appeared on WTLC-AM (1310) “Afternoons with Amos” with a unique perspective.

Seven of Indy’s nine Head Start locations are United Way Level 4 and one is a Level 3 quality preschools. But Head Start locations also must meet tough federal education standards.

Head Start said they were brought in late into the conversation with the Mayor’s office. However, they have been at the table from the start with the Gov. Pence’s preschool expansion experiment in Marion and four other counties.

Head Start serves some 2,009 students currently. And they have an extensive waiting list. Because they’re federally funded, they can’t do any fundraising themselves, but do accept contributions.

Which begs this question, why hasn’t Head Start been promoted as one of the preschool options by the city and the business community?

For many African-Americans, Head Start is the example of quality preschool. Many received their initial nurturing education through Head Start these last 50 years.

Yet Head Start’s visibility in our community seems almost non-existent.

Given their track record, longevity and credibility, why the Ballard Administration and United Way hasn’t openly talked up Head Start as one of the key pillars of any preschool expansion is another mystery.

Campaign cash. Yes, I did it. I threw out the unspoken question in this year’s IPS School Board race.

Two years ago, IPS winners Sam Odle, Caitlin Hannon and Gayle Cosby raised $207,689 combined in campaign cash. An unprecedented sum.

At a candidate forum at Martin University, I asked the candidates to outline their current campaign funds. Already three candidates, Kelly Bentley, Mary Ann Sullivan, and Dr. David Hampton have raised some $76,000. A fourth candidate expected to have oodles of cash is relatively unknown Black candidate, Lanier Echols.

Expect the issue of money and outside business interests to be raised as the IPS Board campaign heats up.

See ‘ya this weekend at the Circle City Classic.

You can email comments to Amos Brown at ac-brown@aol.com.

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