Forming a Regional Development Authority is a Bad Idea

Forming A Regional Development Authority is Not in Our Best Interest

MUNCIE, Indiana BLOG – When Governor Mike Pence announced his Regional Cities Initiative last April, we immediately began to read the pros and cons for this program. We’ve read many articles from around the state speaking about this unfunded program offered by our governor. Locally, the Foundations put together a steering committee with Advance-ECI holding two local brain-storming sessions to gather potential regional projects. The goal is to make East Central Indiana an attractive place to live and work. These quality of life issues are extremely important for urban centers across the country, so most Mayors are already going down this path.

Progressive communities are adding quality of life components to attract the creative class to our community. Under the leadership of Mayor Dennis Tyler, we have made tremendous steps forward.

While Advance-ECI promised “sky is the limit” propositions, our local county officials have proceeded cautiously with the concept, if not reluctantly. According to activist writer Rick Yencer, “We have become the County of No!”

We disagree with Rick and side with our reluctant government officials. In this case, there is very good reason to tell the state, “Thanks, but no thanks!”.

Based on our many discussions, here are a few of the bullet points gathered over the past several months:

  • East Central Indiana has no chance to receive monies from the state.
  • The Regional Cities Initiative wasn’t fully supported by lawmakers who cut funding from $84 million to $20 million, with the rest of the monies coming from a Tax Amnesty program.
  • Governor Pence won’t get reelected in 2016 so this program will disappear.
  • The powers given to the RDA Board are too broad.
  • Of all the original counties who participated in Advance-ECI, only Henry County has agreed to join the RDA.
  • The decision to join is being rushed.
  • Our county has to do something.
  • If the state thinks this is important, why not just give ED dollars to each county.
  • Delaware County needs to lead this “collaborative” project.

Delaware County Council was informed that the Regional Development Authority (RDA) would be proposed by Terry Murphy from the Chamber several weeks ago, but once County Council members read the proposal, they told Terry not to waste his time.

ICYMI; The private RDA document was leaked to Larry Riley several weeks before the scheduled presentation, meaning a local County official forwarded it to Larry for review. Now, you can guarantee there are NO democrats forwarding private documents to a government critic/Ball State employee.

After several weeks of “tweaking” by local lawyers, the County Council agreed to a Special Meeting last Thursday. Let’s be clear, the special meeting was required so the RDA could be heard and approved prior to the expiration date of August 31st. It was a political accommodation, yet not everyone was bending over backwards – it narrowly passed, 4-2.

The discussion between Terry Murphy, lawyers and our county council members were cordial and focused primarily on money which the RDA fund could spend/commit. Remember, the Advance-ECI committee was comprised of local Philanthropists/Banksters – most of them living in Yorktown. They aren’t after the people’s money.

Our primary concern is the board composition and the powers granted to it. It’s a “power grab” – straight up.

The RDA would be directly connected to the Governors private corporation, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). The IEDC is another private corporation which has no accountability to the people and is not required to abide by Sunshine Laws – no Freedom of Information requests are honored.

We’ve written ad nauseam how power has become concentrated in the hands of few people in this country, and the only solution is more transparency and democracy. This RDA is quite the opposite.

The “executives” of the RDA appoints board members who have the following qualifications:

QUALIFICATIONS. A member appointed to the Board of Directors: (i) may not be an
elected official or an employee of a member county or municipality; and (ii) must have knowledge of and at least five (5) years professional work experience in at least one of the following: (A) rail transportation or air transportation, (B) regional economic
development, (C) business or finance, or (D) private, nonprofit sector, or academia.

Why exclude our elected representatives from this board?

We’ve listed the actual powers granted to the RDA for your review. The one exception to all these powers is the board is NOT allowed to pursue the Mounds Lake Reservoir project.

We recommend reading the powers carefully. If this is about developing a list of doable projects and receiving state monies, then why does this entity require all these powers?

The only way for this RDA to have governmental powers is to give it to them – we recommend not creating this unaccountable beast in the first place. Here are the powers granted to the hand-selected board of five:

a. Finance, improve, construct, reconstruct, renovate, purchase, lease, acquire, and equip land and projects that are of regional importance.

b. Lease land or a project to an eligible political subdivision.

c. Finance and construct additional improvements to projects or other capital improvements owned by the development authority and lease them to or for the benefit of an eligible political subdivision.

d. Construct or reconstruct highways, roads, and bridges.

e. Acquire land or all or a part of one (1) or more projects from an eligible political
subdivision by purchase or lease and lease the land or projects back to the eligible
political subdivision, with any additional improvements that may be made to the land or

f. Acquire all or a part of one (1) or more projects from an eligible political subdivision by purchase or lease to fund or refund indebtedness incurred on account of the projects to
enable the eligible political subdivision to make a savings in debt service obligations or
lease rental obligations or to obtain relief from covenants that the eligible political
subdivision considers to be unduly burdensome.

g. Make loans, loan guarantees, and grants or provide other financial assistance to or on
behalf of the following:

  1. A commuter transportation district.
  2. An airport authority.
  3. A regional transportation authority. A loan, a loan guarantee, a grant, or other
    financial assistance under this clause may be used by a regional transportation            authority for acquiring, improving, operating, maintaining, financing, and supporting the following: (A) Bus services (including fixed route services and flexible or demand-responsive services) that are a component of a public transportation system; or (B) Bus terminals, stations, or facilities or other regional bus authority projects.
  4. A county.
  5. A municipality.

h. Provide funding to assist a railroad that is providing commuter transportation services in a county containing territory included in the Authority.

j. Provide funding to assist an airport authority located in a county containing territory
included in the Authority in the construction, reconstruction, renovation, purchase, lease,
acquisition, and equipping of an airport facility or airport project.

k. Provide funding for intermodal transportation projects and facilities.

l. Provide funding for regional trails and greenways.

m. Provide funding for economic development projects.

n. Hold, use, lease, rent, purchase, acquire, and dispose of by purchase, exchange, gift,
bequest, grant, lease, or sublease, on the terms and conditions determined by the Authority, any real or personal property.

p. With the approval of both the fiscal body and executive of a local political subdivision
where real estate sits, acquire such real estate by condemnation.

q. With the approval of both the fiscal body and executive of a local political subdivision
where real estate sits, and after giving notice, enter upon any lots or lands for the purpose of surveying or examining them to determine the location of a project.

r. Make or enter into all contracts and agreements necessary or incidental to the performance of the development authority’s duties and the execution of the Authority’s
powers under this section.

s. Sue, be sued, plead, and be impleaded.

t. Design, order, contract for, construct, reconstruct, and renovate a project or improvements to a project.

u. Appoint an executive director and employ appraisers, real estate experts, engineers,
architects, surveyors, attorneys, accountants, auditors, clerks, construction managers,
and any consultants or employees that are necessary or desired by the development authority in exercising its powers or carrying out its duties under this section.

v. Accept loans, grants, and other forms of financial assistance from the federal government, the state government, a political subdivision, or any other public or private source.

w. Use the development authority’s funds to match federal grants or make loans, loan guarantees, or grants to carry out the Authority’s powers and duties under this section.

x. Except as prohibited by law, take any action necessary to carry out this section.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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