Letter: Blind faith in government allows illusions to seem real



Hamilton County is my home. My family lived in a historic log cabin in Carmel. During my childhood, we moved to a National Historic Landmark in downtown Noblesville. When I decided to have my own family, we moved to Westfield, where I already owned a retail business in downtown Westfield. I have my Indiana Teacher’s License for Social Studies, including U.S. History. It is my experience as a business owner and commercial property owner which made it clear that the citizens of Westfield are denied the opportunity to be represented by an open, truthful and competent city government.

When requested by citizens, the current administration is unwilling or unable to produce basic financial documents including the budget, contracts and eminent domain acquisitions for Grand Park and Grand Junction. Todd Burtron, our city chief of staff, reported there are nearly 200 city employees for a city of under 34,000 people and the estimated city budget for 2015 is $32,879,110. It is unacceptable that a basic request for information is referred to the city attorney, Brian Zaiger. His written response was, “your request is burdensome and appears to request documents that may not be in existence.” The current administration lacks the capability to successfully manage private business. We do not need a CEO who competes with private enterprise, but a mayor who is accountable to the taxpayers.

The 2013 State Audit for Westfield is not completed and will not be finished before the primary, although the other major cities in Hamilton County are completed. The candidates must put the pieces of the financial puzzle together to analyze what the administration and council are doing. A small group of politicians control access to the information to avoid oversight and questions from the citizens who pay the taxes. As witnessed in the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum, the current city councilors are inconsistent about the financials for the city, contradicting each other. The council candidate for District 5, insurance actuary, Brian Ferguson, pointed out that three of the current councilors gave three different numbers for the same question. As the puzzle builds, the picture is disturbing.

Mic Mead’s recent Letter to the Editor accused a “few detractors” of using “fictional math.” Mead claimed that Grand Park had “almost a million visits” in its first partial season. During a recent bench trial in a case filed against the City of Westfield, Jim Ake, at-large city councilor, was called to testify under oath. When pressed on how he came to the number of 500,000 “visits” for Grand Park, he admitted it could be 300,000 or 100,000, he did not know. Although Ake led the committee involving the Holladay Properties agreement, was a member of the Finance Committee, and was President of the Westfield City Council, he could not recall any basic information related to the contract or agreement, including the dollar amount and length of the lease. Participating in groups and committees appears to be productive, but the deficiencies in our current councilors are obvious.

It is the legal responsibility of each elected city councilor to oversee the financial well-being of our city. This election is about a city council who voted to give Andy Cook the power to sign contracts for the city in Ordinance 14-48, without the oversight of the city council. Every councilor who voted yes to this ordinance must be replaced. They have failed the citizens and followed a leader who has asked them to cast votes, which use the general fund to prop up a failing Grand Park project. When will the $6 million dollar loan be repaid? If the city did not need the $6 million for the Grand Park shortfall, would citizens have paid less in property taxes? Will the mayor request more money from the general fund for projects, such as the towers along U.S. 31? And how could the councilors agree to the use of the general fund as a guarantee for the Grand Park indoor facility lease? In this deal, the taxpayers have all the risk and the “private” partner has none. At the LWV Forum, it was announced by a current councilor that the Grand Junction has no funding in place. These councilors allowed 100% of the recapture from the TIF areas in Westfield to go to the Redevelopment Commission. Instead, part of the funds could have been shared with the general fund to provide services inside the TIF areas. Large debt without the tax revenue to pay for it is dangerous business.

Development is inevitable, due to our location along the 31/32 corridor. However, our elected officials have failed to understand the importance of what infrastructure really means. The city government has proven they are very good at spending now on risky projects and creating large debt for the future, meanwhile they hide the true numbers. As citizens, we must not fall for the promises made by this administration and his councilors. They created an illusion of success, which is not supported by any financial documentation. Cook repeatedly mentions Return on Investment. But if it is a positive return, then why did the city loan $6 million dollars to the Grand Park? Clearly there is a problem. It is time to challenge those who are controlling the city finances, and celebrate the efforts of so many new candidates running for office. They are truly concerned about what is happening in our city.

It is time to replace these “yes” men with candidates who will do the job for which they are elected. All Republicans are not the same. We must protect the quality of our schools and city services from the current administration and his team of councilors who lack the will to question. This primary has strong, independent candidates willing to do the job with integrity and the seriousness needed at this critical time. These candidates are sacrificing their time and money to expose the wrong which has been done and to prevent it in the future. Todd Burtron, recent founder of Conrad Consulting & Training LLC, is our city chief of staff. He wrote on his Conrad blog, that “political adversaries – who are woefully academically anemic – will use buzzwords such as corrupt, nontransparent and misleading”. Todd found the correct words to fit our city government. This comment shows a complete lack of respect for the political process and proves his true attitude toward anyone who disagrees or questions the administration. They lack a connection to the average Westfield resident. They are desperate to create a legacy for themselves, no matter what the cost. The administration must hide the financials. If the citizens had complete access to the real numbers and contingencies, they would replace these politicians immediately.

A 2014 New York Times article assessed the last midterm election and listed Indiana with the lowest voter turnout of all 50 states. Break the cycle of voter apathy. Every registered voter, no matter which party they voted in the last election, is eligible to vote in this election. It is time to take our city back from the politicians chosen by PAC money and replace them with an experienced, diverse group of candidates who will create a check and balance with the administration. We have one councilor willing to stand up and question the administration. She needs your help to elect a responsible city council with members who will do what is best for the city and not blindly follow a leader who has taken too much power. You can be one of the many citizens committed to bring decency back to our city by casting your vote on May 5th. We need a fresh start in our local government.

Molli Cameron

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