Why I'm Serving
Like most Carmel residents, I love living here and am very proud of our city. Also like most Carmel residents, I had little or no knowledge about the inner workings of Carmel government until I attended my first City Council meeting in July 2017. I had read a Current in Carmel story about $101 million in bond proposals, which was an attention-getting number. As I read the article many of the projects being financed in the proposals seemed questionable, but most glaring was $5 million in funding for an antique carousel and $18 million to fund a city-owned luxury hotel.
When I attended the City Council meeting I made a brief public statement (also a first) about the general need to carefully consider spending proposals. What I emphasized was the law of diminishing returns- that given the amount of spending to date on infrastructure and amenities, any additional spending would yield less benefit and therefore needed more, not less, scrutiny. I then sat through the mayor’s presentation on the bond proposals, and although I personally like him, I was unimpressed by what little rationale he offered.
My turning point came after the meeting when I stayed to talk with the City Council members. While council member Tony Green thanked me for attending and for making a statement, the response from others ranged from indifferent to indignant (a council member was offended that I questioned their decision making process). Most aggravating was a council member who was frankly dismissive, noting that only two citizens bothered to show up about the bond proposal so it was essentially a non-issue. Not wanting to let that comment go, a friend suggested a petition to garner citizen support. That lead to my starting a petition on change.org (another first) to see if other citizens agreed that the carousel and luxury hotel were not worthy of taxpayer funding.
You can read the press stories here, but the short version is that over 1800 citizens signed the petition and the carousel was defeated. Unfortunately, the luxury hotel passed easily because of heavy backing.
Since CarouselGate, as the incident became known, I have become a more keen observer of Carmel politics and the inner workings of Carmel administration. My assessment is that carousel and luxury hotel were simply high profile examples of systemic issues within Carmel government.
- There is a clear need to balance spending priorities across a range of more worthy areas, including police and fire, streets, and parks.
- There is a general lack of citizen involvement for a growing number of debt and spending decisions, which is particularly concerning since much of the debt is financing amenity projects that are chosen by a few but paid for by all.
- The administration continues to support any and all high density projects, but does not seek public input or detail how they are guarding against the downsides of overcrowding and congestion.
- Our schools are increasingly challenged to meet their financial needs while the administration spends tens of millions on pet projects. Mechanisms need to be created to indirectly and directly support our public schools.
In summary, I believe there is a need for more accountability, transparency and stewardship demonstrated from our elected officials, and my intent is to do what is within my power as a council member to bring those core principles to city government.