Harris on the Record

What impacts you and the media doesn't cover. – Art Harris

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Nothing $acred At IU

Allow me to vent on the subject of naming rights by Indiana University, specifically the varsity baseball field, with which I had a memorable association in the mid-1950s.

In those years, it was known as Sembower Field, located north of the campus on Fee Lane, and named for Professor C.J. Sembower who played baseball for IU in 1891-1894.

Sembower was among the organizers of the I-Men’s Association in 1913 and served as the organization’s first vice-president. Since that time, every athlete who ever received an athletic ”I” became a member of the association. The gender reference was changed with the advent of Title 9 and is now known as the ”I” Association.

Over the years, the land where the baseball field was situated became more and more tantalizing to IU’s dreams of expansion. Thus, the call was made to relocate the field, and in so-doing came the lip-smacking opportunity for the university to solicit deep-pocket donors and naming rights.

So now, the name Sembower is no longer linked to IU baseball.  Instead, the new field and stadium is located along the Ind. 45/46 bypass, and named Kaufman Field for Bart Kaufman who played baseball in the early 1960s. Kaufman is an Indianapolis attorney.

The Indianapolis Star published a BizBuzz in its business section April 28 that Kaufman  made a $2.5 million donation to help build the new field. It also identified Kaufman as chairman and CEO of Kaufman Financial Corp. of Carmel.

Adjacent to Kaufman Field is a new softball facility named for a squeaky Plainfield car dealer.

So, what sent me on this rant?

Ernie Andres was the IU baseball coach, as well as having stellar years as a member of the varsity basketball team, as well as playing varsity baseball.

A letter from the IU Varsity Club asking for donations to recognize ”the contributions and legacy of Coach Andres” to name the IU dugout ”in his honor.” The missive was from Jim Muehling, development officer with the IU Varsity Club, who stated ”there have been some significant gifts towards the $100K goal,” which leaves the impression Coach Andres’ dugout will cost $100,000!

I doubt there are many major league teams with dugouts costing that much. Tell me more Mr. Muehling: gold plated facets?

And, of course the gifts in Coach Andres name are made payable to the IU Foundation, which will administer the funds. But, finding out how the foundation ”administers” those gifts is a state secret, despite efforts of many years to look at the foundation’s books.

So, what sent me on this rant?

My association with Coach Andres and Sembower Field dates to the mid-1950s when I was a student manager for the IU varsity baseball team. In those days, there was always a full-drawer of managers starting with six freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors, and one senior manager. Who would ascend to the next level from one year to the next was the coach’s call.

Despite one personal setback for me in my junior year, Coach Andres stayed with me and named me senior manager for the 1958 season, which gave me the opportunity to travel with the team for games with Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

And, the piece de resistance was the Spring training trip, usually south to Texas, Florida, or Louisiana, which included the senior manager, me.

Guess what? Harris’ luck held true to form — we didn’t go south, but stayed in Bloomington.

But, that’s another story, in which President Herman B Wells and our catcher Edward E. ”Eddie” Whitehead, of Madison, played starring roles.

When I got to reminiscing about Coach Andres, it brought to mind an incident involving the IU dugout during a game when I was a manager. Who we were playing is a mystery to me now, but not what happened during the game.

As he was wont to do when an IU baseballer made a bone-headed mistake Coach Andres would invariably kick the bat rack sending maple spindles spiraling all over the dugout as players ducked for cover. But, this time an IU error sent him into a small toilet at the south end of the dugout. When coach slammed the door it locked, and stayed locked. He was captive.

All he could see of Sembower Field was through a small air vent, and his range of vision was limited to the pitcher’s mound and second base beyond.

And, of course his team verbally and loudly described all sorts of phenomenal Hall of Fame plays IU made that afternoon, all of which were products of our imagination, while Coach Andres pleaded to know what was going on.

Despite our promises to send for a maintenance man to release him, as I recall it wasn’t until the game, which IU lost, was over that the locksmith guy showed up to free a humbled Coach Andres.

So, after excising my grumps, and in afterthoughts, maybe naming a dugout after Coach Andres is fitting.

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Storm on the Storm Water Board

While Boone County and Zionsville were inundated last week with storm water there was also a maelstrom on the Storm Water Board.

Zionsville Council President Jeff Papa removed all three members – Sanjay Patel, president; John Connor, and Candace Ulmer.

Papa then reappointed Ulmer as a ”caretaker” until a new members can be named.

In his letter Papa said that he would not ”allow the federal mandate to be used as an excuse to create a monster that cannot be tamed.”

Dated April 17, Papa wrote: In accordance with Indiana Code 8-1.5-5-4(e), I have determined that it is in the best interest of the department to remove all directors of the Department of Storm Water Management, and therefore order all three directors removed, effective immediately.

In accordance with Indiana Code 8-1.5-5-4(c), I hereby appoint Councilor Candace Ulmer as a director (board member) of the Department of Storm Water Management.

I do not take this action lightly. There are a host of outstanding objections, complaints, and compromise proposals raised by members of the public and the Zionsville Town Council that remain unaddressed. One of the most glaring is the lack of any credits or caps on the proposed fee for positive, pro-environmental behavior. Zionsville prides itself on being a park-like, environmental-friendly community. Our goal should be to encourage voluntary, positive behavior, not to utilize the Department of Storm Water Management as a vehicle to circumvent Indiana’s property tax caps. By imposing a fee (through the special taxing district, but not subject to the property tax limits) without addressing the concept of credits for behavior that reduces the impact of storm water runoff, and by noting that the revenue will be used in part for capital projects currently being funded by the town’s street department, we would do exactly that. Once a fee is established, it will be very difficult for government to give back that revenue by later establishing credits; it must be done in advance as a part of the plan.

By all accounts, Zionsville is currently in compliance with the unfunded federal storm water mandates. Until such time as further action is required, I cannot support a ”rain tax” of $568,056 or $646,056. Zionsville is an affluent community, but we should not impose additional burdens on citizens of more modest means, or for that matter, those who can easily pay it. Citizens who are currently struggling to pay extremely high water and sewer service bills in neighborhoods such as Royal Run and Stonegate need no additional burden. Without a complete plan, this fee should not be imposed on our churches, non-profits, and schools.

I am extremely concerned about creating a storm water fee collection mechanism in the rural areas. Once a vehicle for collection of such a fee is created, it will be too easy for the town to begin imposing other fees and taxes through this mechanism. Rural Zionsville residents are included in this mandate based on a technicality, and many of them – including the new residents of Worth Township – are not served by Zionsville water and sewer services. We have seen many Indiana communities impose this fee, and then almost immediately increase the fee by a large amount; one recent example was an increase of 600% in a city’s storm water fee. Furthermore, the data used to calculate the proposed rate structure appears to be quite outdated.

I am also concerned about the process. The council raised many objections at our January meeting, and the public has raised many objections as well. I reiterated these objections in a phone call with the board president several weeks ago. Both at-large councilors sent emails re-stating our objections, which were not replied to and which were only read into the board’s record after the recent vote to move forward with only a rate reduction of 29%  in the rural area. The only council member of the board [Ulmer] voted no. I sent an additional email, restating my objections after the vote of the board, which went unanswered. Now the council has received a request to formally approve the rate at our May 6 meeting. However, the board has not held its public hearing yet (scheduled for May 2). This schedule seems to assume approval regardless of public input received and over the objection of the councilor board member voting no. Beyond these reasons (or perhaps because of them), the town has been threatened with litigation over the fee – a cost we can ill afford in pursuit of defending an incomplete plan.

The hard work of the board members is greatly appreciated, and the plan has improved dramatically since its first iteration. However, the current plan continues to contain many flaws and is moving forward rapidly. A similar plan, without the small reduction in the rural rate, was defeated 7-0 by the [town] council. Using an unjust, unfunded federal mandate to circumvent Indiana’s constitutional tax caps is unacceptable. Implementing a plan that is incomplete, based on old data, and which does not encourage voluntary, positive behavior is also unacceptable. I urge the reconstituted directors. after appointment of two remaining members, to examine alternate means to comply with the federal mandate by utilizing existing revenues or examining the many compromise proposals that have been suggested in the development of a complete plan.

In the meantime, we can continue the outstanding efforts of town staff and citizens to protect the environment and reduce the impact of storm water runoff. One example is the rain garden recently constructed at town hall by our staff. A voluntary program could be established, recognizing citizens for taking positive action on their property, perhaps recognizing them for voluntary actions lie mulching leaves and grass, refraining from using unneeded fertilizer, using no-till farming practices and other mitigating activities. Recognition certificates or signs could be available for purchase and this voluntary revenue used for the storm water department.

There are many proposals for compliance and compromise. I will not allow the federal mandate to be used as an excuse to create a monster that cannot be tamed. I will be submitting a check to the town for three years worth of the full amount of the proposed storm water fee for my home. I encourage those supporting the proposed fee to join me in doing so, voluntarily.

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