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Former GM plant endorsed for criminal justice complex

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As leaders’ support tentatively coalesced around a preferred site for a new Marion County Jail and Criminal Justice Complex just west of downtown Indianapolis, they got an earful from neighbors opposed to the plan.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced March 13 that the former General Motors Stamping Plant south of Washington Street and west of White River was the preferred site for the long-envisioned facility. The announcement was a reversal of sorts, because an earlier city-sponsored market survey identified an airport location on the far western edge of Marion County as the preferred location.

While the Indianapolis International Airport site remains a possibility according to city officials, its remote location less than a mile from the Hendricks County line has drawn criticism from judges and attorneys. A new study also shows that some residents who use mass transit would face bus rides of more than two hours each way to get to court at the proposed airport site.

gm-complex002-15col.jpg Scrap at the former General Motors Stamping Plant on Indianapolis’ west side is a result of ongoing demolition at the preferred site for a jail and criminal justice complex that could cost $400 million or more. (IL Photo/Dave Stafford)

On March 21, Marion Superior judges gave a grudging endorsement to the former GM site, but not before sending a message to Ballard that where courts are located is their decision.

Ballard senior policy adviser Kurt Fulbeck made a brief presentation to the Marion Superior Executive Committee during which he asked for the judges’ recommendation of a preferred site. Ballard prefers the GM site, but the city has left open the possibility of a site at the Indianapolis International Airport.

“Who do you think makes the ultimate decision on this?” Marion Superior Judge James Osborn asked. Fulbeck responded the City-County Council and project shareholders.

“With regard to where the courts are located,” Osborn said, “that’s our decision. … Nobody gets to tell us where to go.” Osborn said he was reluctant to offer an endorsement because he didn’t want to suggest the courts were ceding their authority.

But the executive committee did vote to express a formal preference for the former GM site over the airport. Marion Superior criminal judges had previously viewed a presentation March 18 on the project but withheld their comments during the public portion of that meeting.

“I think everyone said we don’t want to go to the airport,” Judge John Chavis said of the judges’ views of the two sites. Executive Committee Chairman Judge David Certo said, “We are not interested in pursuing the airport site.”

At the March 18 meeting of criminal court judges, David Rosenberg, director of enterprise development for Indianapolis, said, “We don’t think there’s been any pushback on the need” for a criminal justice complex.

But there was pushback later that day when Rosenberg presented an overview of the complex to about 35 residents who live near the former GM plant. The meeting devolved into a quarrelsome, unmoderated back-and-forth between Rosenberg and several angry residents. Those who spoke out said that they opposed a jail in their backyard and complained they had received little notice of the meeting.

“We’ve got elderly folks who’ve moved out because they’re scared to death they’re going to put a jail there,” neighborhood resident Brittany Laux said after the meeting. Laux said she planned to organize a petition against the proposal, and residents said they were worried about crime, safety, traffic and other issues.

After the meeting, Rosenberg said he believed the outspoken residents were a minority whose concerns were based on misperceptions. He said the project stands to be an economic development engine with modern facilities and a greater police presence.

Rosenberg said the investment of at least $400 million would likely be accompanied by another estimated $100 million in ancillary development. He said it would bring more than 3,500 daily visitors – 2,500 of them employees and professionals. Along with the jail, the facility also will house criminal courts; prosecutor, public defender and probation offices; community corrections; the clerk’s office and other agencies.

The favored site would allow the criminal justice complex to be built on what’s considered the least desirable third of the stamping plant site, Rosenberg said, leaving 60 to 70 acres for possible riverfront redevelopment. A justice complex proposal would require the approval of the RACER Trust, a court-appointed entity charged with environmental cleanup and redevelopment of the former industrial property.

Rosenberg told judges the stamping plant site also would allow the complex to be built at a cost of 10 to 15 percent less than the airport location. The city plan calls for the developer it chooses to design, finance, build and maintain the facility in exchange for guaranteed, long-term multi-million-dollar annual tax payments. Officials say the financing structure, consolidation of services and efficiencies created by eliminating duplication will allow the complex to be built without raising taxes.

Studying access

Meanwhile, data from a study conducted by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute at the request of Marion County judges bolsters the case for the stamping plant site. The study data further argues against the accessibility of the proposed airport site along Washington Street just east of Raceway Road.

The study looked at where court users – criminal justice employees and people who are arrested – are situated in Marion County. It also examined travel times and distances to various locations the city identified in its market survey. Among the findings:

• The former GM site would be an average one-way commute of 8.19 miles. Among sites the city considered, that’s the second-most centrally located. The Citizens Coke Plant at 2900 E. Prospect St. would be closer, about 7.4 miles away on average, but not quite as accessible by bus.

• For bus riders, the stamping plant has the lowest average commute time – 68.4 minutes each way, followed by Lafayette Square and the Citizens Coke Plant, both at just over 69 minutes.

• The average one-way distance to the airport site for all court users is 15.3 miles – more than twice the current average distance to courts at the City-County Building. For residents of Lawrence or Warren townships, the average one-way trip to a court located at the airport site would be 23.8 miles. By contrast, the longest average commute to the City-County Building is 13.7 miles, also from Lawrence Township.

• Countywide, a bus trip to the proposed airport site would average 98.7 minutes, but riders from Lawrence Township would spend an average of 122 minutes each way.

• No site proposed in the city’s market survey and analyzed by the Public Policy Institute would provide a location as central to criminal court users as the current location at the City-County Building. The current average one-way commute for all court users countywide is 7.04 miles.

• The mean center for all Marion Superior criminal court users is in the 600 block of Tecumseh Avenue on the near-east side, about four blocks directly east of Arsenal Technical High School.

The Public Policy Institute findings did not measure access from the mean center for all court users to what turns out to be the closest site the city identified in its market survey. That would be the former RCA/Thomson Consumer Electronics plant site being demolished at 604 N. Sherman Drive, roughly a mile east of the 600 block of Tecumseh. The city’s market survey listed the chief weakness of that site: “Not centrally located within City.”•

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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