Monday, September 22, 2014

Active Shooter Training Planned For Indianapolis International Airport This Week

A training video for an active shooter is being filmed at Indianapolis International Airport this week according to the AP.
Travelers passing through Indianapolis International Airport this week might encounter the filming of a training video for active shooter incidents by the Transportation Security Administration.
The airport says the filming will occur Monday through Sunday in locations throughout the airport. It says those locations will be cordoned off and controlled and should pose little if any impact to travelers.
It says TSA and airport employees also will be posted at areas of high foot traffic to inform incoming and outgoing passengers of the filming. Signage also will be posted throughout the public areas.
The training video will be used to train TSA personnel and others nationwide on how to respond and react to active shooter incidents.
Remember LAX.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Indianapolis Star Management And Opinion Staff Threatening Council Members Who Don't Support Higher Taxes For Pre-K Education

The management and opinion staff of the Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star think they know what's best for the rest of us and if our elected public officials don't toe the line, it's now bullying and threatening them with negative news coverage and editorials until they comport to their demands. Councilor Angela Mansfield, who chaired a committee meeting this past week that tabled a proposal to eliminate the homestead property tax credit, is learning that fact the hard way. They've met with the corporate leaders of Eli Lilly, Wellpoint and Cummins in private meetings, and they all agree that the City will collapse unless tens of millions of city dollars are invested in pre-K education spending over the next several years.

Their answer for funding pre-K education is to eliminate the homestead property tax credit that will raise taxes on Marion County homeowners and, ironically, cut funding for our public schools by millions at the same time. Never mind that municipal government is neither constitutionally nor statutorily charged with providing education in this state; if you don't support it, we will use our opinion and news pages to punish you. Here's a brief response I posted on the Star's website in response to the threats and bullying they are now engaged with our elected officials:
It's not leadership or sound public policy to threaten and bully members of our city council the way the opinion and management staff of the Star is doing to force them to fund something city government is not constitutionally or statutorily charged with funding.  
Who are you to meet in private with the city's most powerful corporate leaders to decide what you think is in the best interests of this city and then dictate public policy to the rest of us to suit your self-serving ends, no matter how many laws or ethical improprieties are committed along the way?  
Your readers only need to understand one basic fact--the constitutional responsibility for public education rests with the state's Department of Education and the public school districts established throughout the state to help carry out the charge to offer free public education to our state's children. Nowhere does our state laws charge municipal government with that responsibility, which many of us believe is failing already at its job of providing basic city services. 
This newspaper must accept partial blame for that because of your misuse of your position in the community to bully and pressure elected officials to support crony capitalism for the benefit of private real estate development and sports team owners to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars annually, while short-changing the funding of basic services. Your answer is always to demand that we pay higher taxes to get what we want, and when we do, we find that the bulk of the higher taxes we pay go for something other than what we were told it would be used. 
Given the way your newspaper has treated some of its best employees over the past several years, I don't expect you to get it because at the end of the day you really don't care about what the little people think and feel from the ivory tower where you sit and feast with the city's most wealthy and self-serving citizens.
In the last mayoral campaign, Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy pushed the idea of using Rebuild Indy funds from the sale of the water and sewer utilities to fund pre-K education, a plan denounced by Mayor Ballard, who said the neighborhoods of Indianapolis had spoken out loud and clear about how they wanted the money spent and that was rebuilding the city's streets, sidewalks, bridges and other basic infrastructure needs. He opposed raising taxes to fund pre-K education, which is precisely what he said would occur if we used ReBuild Indy funds and created a funding cliff for the program when those funds were depleted. Last year, he proposed eliminating the homestead property tax credit to fund more police officers. Now he wants its elimination for the very purpose he correctly observed in 2011 was something that should be funded by the state, not local municipal governments. See his comments in a mayoral debate with Kennedy below:

Here's something Republicans throughout the state should take note of as well. Indiana Republican State GOP Chairman Tim Berry sent out a mass e-mail over the weekend in which he chastised Indianapolis Democratic council members for tabling the elimination of the homestead property tax credit to fund Mayor Ballard's pre-K initiative. Incredibly, he used a Robin Hood analogy to claim that Democrats were robbing the poor by refusing to take money from homeowners to pay for early childhood education instead of funding basic city services, which is the actual purpose of the municipal government. Yes, the Indiana Republican Party has now stepped into the fray and is demanding that property taxes be raised on Marion County residents to fund something the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor has failed to date to fund statewide. Berry's message is that we should send a message to Democrats by voting them out of office for refusing to raise our property taxes. Don't forget that message fellow Republicans as you go to the polls. I won't.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

As Indiana Toll Road Operator Fails, Indiana Media Ignores The Obvious About Illiana Expressway

The private operator of the 156-mile Indiana Toll Road is filing for bankruptcy on Monday because the vehicle traffic and tolls paid by motorists and truckers proved insufficient to make the business of running the toll road a profitable enterprise. Meanwhile, Indiana and Illinois officials are moving ahead with plans to construct yet another toll road, the Illiana Expressway, further south of the ITR to connect I-65 in Indiana with I-55 in Illinois just outside the southernmost edge of the Chicago metropolitan area.

Illinois and Indiana are relying on a private operator to build the toll road under a public-private partnership agreement (P3). The highway is expected to cost $1 billion to build, or about $2.8 billion dollars less than the private operator of the ITR paid to lease and manage the toll road for 75 years; however, Illinois is kicking in a minimum of $250 million upfront for the project, while Indiana will kick in up to $110 million. The goal of the Illiana Expressway is to alleviate heavy truck traffic on the I-80/I-94 corridor. The Indiana leg of the 47-mile road is 14 miles, while the Illinois segment spans 33 miles.

One of the chief complaints of critics is the lack of traffic and revenue studies to establish the viability of the highway. Illinois Department of Transportation officials assume toll rates will need to be substantially higher than the current rates charged on other area toll roads to generate sufficient revenues for the P3 operator. It is unclear why motorists and truckers would pay more to use a toll road farther outside the metropolitan area. Unlike the leasing of the ITR, the P3 agreement for the Illiana Expressway places all of the financial risk squarely on the backs of the taxpayers of Indiana and Illinois. If traffic and tolls fail to generate enough money to guarantee a minimum income stream for the P3 operator, the respective states have to make up the difference, which would mean fewer highway dollars for projects elsewhere in the state.

Not surprisingly, a national research organization, PIRG, has placed the Illiana Expressway on its list of top highway boondoggles. PIRG says the $1 billion estimated cost to construct the road could wind up costing three times that much. PIRG believes traffic will be too low due to high tolls, leaving taxpayers in both states having to chip in at least $1 billion in additional subsidies to maintain the required revenue stream for the P3 operator. According to PIRG, road travel has leveled off and is declining in many areas, making new highway projects even more dubious.

Despite great cause for concern, Indiana media has been all but silent on the project, while the project has received far more attention in the Illinois press, which has largely been negative. It doesn't help that Gov. Pat Quinn's transportation agency is embroiled currently in a patronage hiring scandal that has become a major issue in his re-election campaign this year. Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, who played a key role in negotiating the bi-state agreement with Indiana for the Illiana Expressway, was forced to resign earlier this summer over the growing scandal.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Indiana Toll Road Operator Filing Bankruptcy

The foreign operator of the Indiana Toll Road has confirmed its plan to file for bankruptcy on Monday. ITR Concession Co. tells the AP it has a pre-packaged bankruptcy plan that has the support of creditors and lenders. That plan may include a sale of its long-term lease of the toll road or a refinancing of its debt. The Indiana Finance Authority sent a letter to ITR late last month pursuant to its 75-year lease agreement giving the vendor a 90-day notice to demonstrate that it could fulfill its lease obligations. The IFA's notice was triggered after it learned ITR had failed to pay its debt obligations in June.

Former GIPC Executive Director Sentenced To Four Years For Embezzlement

Matthew Hendrix, the former executive director of Indianapolis' shadow government known as the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, accepted a plea agreement today that will require him to serve a 4-year sentence in a community corrections program in Vigo County with two years suspended. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss 22 of 26 forgery counts and one theft count against Hendrix in exchange for his agreement to plead guilty to four felony forgery counts. Hendrix was also ordered to repay $126,356.37 to GIPC as restitution.

Hendrix was accused of stealing $96,000 from the nonprofit agency housed in the City-County Building near the mayor's office by making numerous payments to fictitious vendors at the time charges were filed against him in May. Hendrix was accused of spending the money he stole on strippers and to feed a gambling addiction. GIPC's chairman, J. Murray Clark, Jr., fired Hendrix in March only weeks before he faced criminal charges. Clark told reporters at the time that GIPC officials were unaware Hendrix had stolen money when his services were terminated. Hendrix received a severance payment of $17,000 from GIPC, which probably was the minimum amount he needed to pay as a hefty retainer fee to his high-profile criminal defense attorney, Jim Voyles. It was later revealed that a $5,000 credit card charge had been the cause of Hendrix termination in March.

Eric Turner Plans To Resign Following Election

The announcement comes after it's too late to replace him on the ballot, but the ethically-challenged State. Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) announced today that he will resign his seat in the Indiana House of Representatives after the November elections. House Speaker Brian Bosma recently announced he had bounced Turner from leadership due to his role in lobbying against legislation that could have cost his family's nursing home business at least tens of millions of dollars. A real estate investment trust controlled by Turner family was recently sold for $2.3 billion, a sale that was in the works while Turner lobbied to block the proposed moratorium on new nursing home construction. Turner plans to take a job with a Christian group in Atlanta, of course.

His announcement means that voters in his district will either have to choose between electing his Democratic opponent, Bob Ashley, or cast a vote for Turner in order to choose the candidate hiding behind door number two who would be chosen by Republican precinct committeepersons in District 32 after the November elections. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know? By making his retirement announcement ahead of the election, Turner effectively delivered a middle finger to Speaker Bosma and his Republican caucus members by providing his Democratic candidate the biggest pre-election boost he could have asked for.

California Attorney Faces Suspension For Photoshopping Herself With Celebrities

Svitlana Sangara believed she could bolster her L.A. law practice by photoshopping her image into photos with various celebrities and politicians and posting them on her firm's website. The California State Bar was not amused. It's seeking to suspend her from the practice of law for six months for deceptive advertising according to TMZ. Whoever did the photoshopping work was pretty good, if not for the poor taste in some of the celebrities and politicians chosen to promote her practice.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Two Brownsburg Council Members Forced To Repay Money Earned For Service On Redevelopment Commission

Two Brownsburg town council members have been found in violation of state law by drawing additional pay for service on the town's Redevelopment Commission in addition to their pay as town council members. Rob Kendall is repaying $2,400, while Gary Hood is repaying $700. A special prosecutor, Todd Meyer, made the finding following an investigation of whether Kendall violated Indiana's constitutional prohibition against dual office holding following a WRTV Call 6 investigative report by Kara Kenney. Meyer blamed Brownsburg's Clerk-Treasurer for inadvertently making the double dip payments to Kendall and Hood. Here's Kenney's updated report on Meyer's findings:
“The State does not believe any criminal offenses were committed in this matter,” read the report filed with the Hendricks Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.  “(I have) been assured by representatives of the Town of Brownsburg that measures have been implemented or will be implemented that will keep this issue from arising again in the future.”
Meyer said the Brownsburg Clerk-Treasurer inadvertently made payments to both Kendall and Brownsburg Town Councilman Gary Hood, totaling $3,100.
The law allows for compensation to be paid to members of the RDC, but only to members who do not otherwise hold a lucrative or paid public office, such as the town council.
Kendall and Hood have repaid the money they should not have received, according to the report.
Citizens contacted Kenney to complain about Kendall drawing pay from four paid government positions, including membership on the town council , redevelopment commission, town advisory plan commission and county solid waste management district, in addition to his full-time state job as executive director of the Indiana Board of Pharmacy. According to the Attorney General's manual on dual office restrictions, an officeholder is deemed to have resigned his first office once he accepts appointment or election to a second or subsequent lucrative office. Kendall and Hood could only legally serve on the redevelopment commission as long as they weren't paid.

State law requires that a member of the Brownsburg Town Council also serve on the Hendricks County Solid Waste Management Board; however, the statute creating the solid waste management district does not allow for the payment of compensation to its members. Kendall was paid by the town for his service on the county's solid waste management district instead of the county, which Meyer deemed made the payments legal. I didn't quite follow his reasoning for allowing Kendall to keep that additional compensation. Similarly, he found that his appointment to the town's advisory plan commission was not a "lucrative office." The state's personnel director claims that Kendall's state job is not an appointed job, although his job is statutorily-created, and he serves at the pleasure of the governor. Yet Meyer still concluded that the job was just a regular state job. Here's the part former Secretary of State Charlie White will love. The receipt of compensation that neither Kendall nor Hood were legally entitled to receive didn't constitute theft because the payments were authorized by the clerk-treasurer. Sorry, Charlie. You're a class of one.

The $3,100 repaid by Kendall and Hood is of little solace to the taxpayers who filed their complaint against Kendall, who believe he should have been forced to at least resign his seat on the town council. The same town council on which he serves awarded a $10,500 contract to former Marion Co. Prosecutor Scott Newman to conduct a duplicative investigation in tandem with the investigation conducted by the special prosecutor, a complete waste of taxpayers' money. Newman arguably was acting as Kendall's personal attorney, not the town's attorney since the town already has its own legal counsel and it was Kendall, not the town that was under investigation by the special prosecutor. Newman told Kenney earlier that he was working with Meyer to get to him whatever information he needed. It was Newman who first claimed to Kenney that the payments to Kendall and Hood were made in error by the town's clerk-treasurer. Kendall refused to speak to Kenney.

Ballard Administration Claims It Can't Release RFP For Criminal Justice Center Because It Doesn't Exist

Indiana state law could not be more clear on this point. Indiana's Public-Private Agreements Act, the statutory authority on which the Ballard administration is relying to enter into an agreement to build, operate and maintain a more than half billion dollar criminal justice center, requires a Request for Proposal subject to the state's public notice requirement. Incredibly, the naïve pretty boy tasked by the Ballard administration with this daunting task told members of the City-County Council's Rules & Public Policy Committee this evening that it had no "final" Request for Proposal the administration supposedly issued to three bidders on April 25 it chose during earlier secret discussions conducted during a Request for Information process last year.

According to mayoral assistant David Rosenberg, there is no final iteration of the RFP that the administration has been discussing with the three bid groups for the last five months despite the fact that it plans to choose a winning offer in November and present a final 35-year agreement to the council for approval by February of next year. We're to believe that the RFP is being drafted on the fly in a collaborative process with the bidders as the secret discussions with the bidders take place. Rosenberg assured council members this process, while lacking in transparency, protected the public because of the alleged "competitive tension" created by this unique, if illegal public bidding process.

The council's counsel, Fred Biesecker, saw the legal explanation offered by Rosenberg and Ballard's new Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Adam Collins, as the hogwash it was. Even more interesting was Biesecker's discussion of a memorandum prepared by an attorney at Bingham Greenebaum Doll, one of the law firms awarded a multi-million legal contract to work on the deal in violation of state law because the council never appropriated money in this year's budget for the criminal justice center project. In the August memorandum, Biesecker said the attorney at Bingham had claimed that state law allowed the administration to withhold the RFP from the public until the discussions with the bidders was concluded. In fact, the law provides the exact opposite.

By way of disclosure, I worked at Bingham many years ago and specifically worked on the drafting of the Public-Private Agreements Act for the City of Indianapolis so I know a little about what this law requires. The day of the first hearing on the legislation, a young reporter for the Indianapolis Star-News, Cam Simpson, walked into the committee room and held up a copy of the latest edition with a front-page headline for a story he authored blaring words to the effect, "Bill Would Let Mayor Negotiate Privatization Deals in Secret." Suffice it to say that the Hoosier State Press Association's attorney, Stephen Key, became very involved in drafting changes to the law, one of which specifically required a public RFP process. How an attorney at Bingham could now argue the law means something entirely different now is probably something only an attorney billing at an exorbitantly high billable rate at taxpayers' expense could explain.

Allow me to explain the provisions written into the law to specifically address the Hoosier State Press Association's concerns.
  • Any governmental body entering into a Public-Private Agreement MUST request proposals. I.C. 5-23-5-1.
  • Proposals SHALL be solicited through a request for proposal process, which must include: the factors or criteria used in evaluation proposals; a statement concerning the relative importance of price and the other evaluation factors; a statement stating whether the proposal MUST be accompanied by evidence of financial responsibility; and a statement concerning whether discussions may be conducted with the offerors for the purpose of clarification to assure full understanding of and responsiveness to the solicitation requirements. I.C. 5-23-5-2
  • Notice of the request for proposals SHALL be given by publication in accordance with I.C. 5-3-1. I.C. 5-23-5-3.
  • Discussion with the offerors are permitted during the RFP process for the purpose of clarification to assure full understanding of and responsiveness to the solicitation requirements. I.C. 5-23-5-4.
  • Eligible offerors MUST be accorded fair and equal treatment with respect to any opportunity for discussion and revisions of proposals. I.C. 5-23-5-5.
  • A governmental body MAY refuse to disclose the content of PROPOSALS while the RFP process is underway. There's nothing in the law allowing the withholding of the RFP document itself. I.C. 5-23-5-6.
  • A governmental body SHALL negotiate the best and final offers of responsible offerors who submit proposals that are determined to be reasonably susceptible of being selected for a public-private agreement. I.C. 5-23-5-7.
  • After best and final offers are negotiated with the offerors, then the governmental body either makes a recommendation to whom a public-private agreement will be awarded or terminate the RFP process. I.C. 23-5-8.
  • If a recommendation to award a public-private agreement is being made, notice of a public hearing on the recommendation SHALL be provided. I.C. 23-5-9.
  • Finally, a copy of the proposals and a written statement describing the basis upon which the recommendation to make an award is being made SHALL be made available for public inspection and copying. I.C. 23-5-10.
The law is clear as day. The RFP MUST be made available to the public when the RFP process commenced, not at the tail end of the process when the administration is ready to choose a winning offer. It is absolutely beyond me why the media in this city remains silent and takes no legal action to compel the administration to comply with the law its trade organization demanded be written into the law when the Public-Private Agreements Act was enacted. The only reason the Ballard administration would not publish a final RFP at the outset of the process is if it is resorting to subterfuge to hand the winning proposal to one of the three finalists under consideration, which means it knew when it secretly chose the three eligible offerors to compete in the RFP process which one would be awarded a final offer. That's precisely the tactic employed by Mitch Roob when he was Secretary of FSSA to ensure that his former employer, ACS, was awarded the welfare privatization contract. Roob made his intentions so clear in advance that nobody bothered to compete in the end against the offer made by the IBM-ACS team. And we all know how well that turned out. If the RFP is not made public at the outset, there is no way of ensuring that the competing offerors are being accorded "fair and equal treatment" as mandated by the law.

As I previously discussed, the management of the Indianapolis Star, the IBJ and each of the television news stations all sit on the board of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, the shadow government that meets in secret and decides public policies to be pursued. Last December, GIPC unveiled the plan to build a new criminal justice center through a P3 arrangement. Only GIPC's board members know why they deemed it preferable to pursue a P3 arrangement rather than refurbish existing buildings or at least build, own and operate our own criminal justice system instead of an irrefutably costlier method of relying upon private profiteers. Incidentally, the existing City-County Building site was designed to accommodate future expansions, a fact that seems to have gone missing by those running this process. Since the unveiling last December, the local media has had nothing but glowing comments for the concept, which initially recommended a site on the far western edge of the county next to the Indianapolis International Airport, an idea since abandoned in favor of a new site at the former GM Stamping Plant due to outrage expressed by the very stakeholders the Ballard administration claims it's been consulting all along.

The most outlandish claim made to date by the Ballard administration was repeated this evening by Rosenberg--that essentially a private developer can deliver a brand new, state-of-the-art criminal justice center for not a penny more than the $122 million the administration claims we are currently spending annually to support existing facilities. Yes, you can trade your modest $100,000 home in Irvington for a $1 million home up on Geist and not pay a penny more for it. Call up your realtor and make that deal today before it's too late. As Rosenberg told the committee this evening, there is grave concern that interest rates will rise and costs increase unless the council acts the first thing next year to approve whatever it is they are currently negotiating in secret.

We're also learning more details that suggest the plan is being scaled back considerably to make that bold pronouncement about not costing a penny more. The juvenile detention center won't be included in the new site. While office space will be made available for the prosecutor's office and the public defender's office at the new center, other criminal justice-related agencies, such as forensic lab services and property control room, will continue to be maintained off-site. Discussions about the inclusion of other criminal justice agencies are still being debated. Supposedly, we're going to save a bunch of money by having a larger jail built than we really need at the new site so we can rent space to the feds for their detainees. The sheriff's department, incidentally, doesn't utilize all of the existing space in Jail II operated by CCA, which rents out the balance of the space to the feds for immigrant detainees. We're also supposed to see great savings from transportation-related costs. I'm still trying to understand why the Marion County criminal courts refuse to utilize video conferencing for inmates' initial hearings like every other modern court system does. But, hey, that would negate the argument for having the jail housed at the same complex as the criminal courts, wouldn't it?

Oh, and we got an idea of what kind of work Bose Public Affairs Group is performing for its $750,000 contract to promote the project. Lobbyist Greg Hahn appeared at this evening's hearing, well-tanned from many hours on the golf course, to introduce Rosenberg to the committee. Hahn's a Democrat. Rosenberg works for the Republican mayor who awarded the $750,000 to his former mayoral assistant, John Cochran, also a Republican who now works for Hahn at Bose. Get it? Nice job, Greg.

UPDATE: Fellow blogger Pat Andrews had disappointing news of action later taken by the Rules & Public Policy Committee to table a proposal that would have cancelled the more than $12 million in no-bid contracts the Ballard administration entered into for the criminal justice center project in clear violation of state law. Councilor Angela Mansfield, the sponsor of the proposal, voted against tabling it. Other council members were reached. When the council lacks any backbone to stand up to this unethical administration, there is nobody left to protect the public. The federal and state prosecutors in this town sure as hell aren't worth a damn when it comes to holding corrupt city officials accountable for their criminal conduct. Perhaps that was the real reason for Hahn being at the meeting--to lobby against the cancellation of his firm's $750,000 contract on our dime. Only in Indianapolis.
Video showing legal discussion of RFP process

Tully Misleads Readers Again, No Surprise

I've previously pointed out how Star political columnist Matt Tully has been the loudest cheerleader in the local news media in support of Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to raise property taxes on Marion County homeowners in order to fund a pre-K education program that is not within the constitutional or statutory framework for Indiana's municipal governments. Tully neglected to acknowledge to his readers until I took him to the woodshed that his wife works for Eli Lilly, the big corporate backer of Ballard's pre-K initiative, and also chairs the Day Nursery's board of directors, a nonprofit that stands to benefit financially if the mayor's program is approved.

Today, Tully is bashing Angela Mansfield, the chair of the Administration & Finance Committee, because she entertained a motion to table a pending proposal regarding the Mayor's pre-K education at the end of a lengthy committee hearing where pressing budget matters consumed the committee's work. To read Tully's column, you would have no idea that the council has previously debated the pre-K proposal recently at length and took public testimony before stripping it from the proposal that increased the local income tax rate 10% to benefit public safety. Procedurally speaking, a motion to table is not debatable. Thus, there was no debate by members and no public testimony. Tully describes Mansfield's actions as "arrogant" and "disturbing." He described the actions of Mansfield, who is perhaps one of the least partisan members of the council, as displaying "the most cynical behavior I've written about in 23 years in this business" and treating her constituents "with contempt."

Really, Matt? How selective your memory has become. Have you already forgotten the contentious budget debate back in 2007 when the council approved a budget with blank line items and raised our local income taxes 65%, stifling debate by dissenting members of the public at every turn? That was the kind of contempt and cynical behavior that led to the ouster of what had been a popular two-term mayor and a Democratic-controlled council. It's quite obvious that the personal agenda of your wife's employer and nonprofit she runs is clouding your judgment a bit yet again.

Tully could have stopped there, but he didn't. He had to produce a victim of Councilor Mansfield to demonstrate her lack of "respect for the shrinking group of people who engage in local government issues."
So that was going to be the entirety of my column.
But then I talked to Justin Ohlemiller, a former aide in Democratic mayor Bart Peterson’s administration, who now runs Stand for Children Indiana, a group that works to get parents more involved in education debates. Ohlemiller’s group has helped organize parental support for the preschool proposal; several parents in the audience at Tuesday’s meeting have gone through Stand training.
“The tragedy of what happened,” Ohlemiller said, “is that it meant parents who desperately care about this issue did not get the chance to talk about the impact quality preschool has on children.”
He mentioned Ashley Thomas — an IPS parent who sat in the room for three hours Tuesday evening with her 3-year-old daughter by her side. She had hoped to testify but never got the chance.
Mansfield’s actions were far beneath what should be expected of an elected official. But Ohlemiller was right when he insisted that what is more important than the toxic politics surrounding this debate is the positive impact preschool would have on many at-risk children. He was right when he said that the focus should be on the opportunity for the city to do something momentous. The focus also should be on parents such as Thomas, who has become so active in IPS schools that Ohlemiller recently hired her to work with other parents.
So what would the 32-year-old Eastside mother have told committee members if they had given her the courtesy of an audience? She had with her that night a short and eloquent speech. In it, she urged the council to find a way to support a program that could change the lives of thousands of children. Her 392-word speech told of the financial struggles that prevented her from sending her son, now 6 years old, to a good preschool. The heartbreak in her words races off the page as fast as a child at recess.
“I feel like I failed him,” she wrote. “I won’t let that happen again with my daughter.”
Thomas wrote that she hopes the councilors can focus on what’s important. By that, of course, she meant those children who too often arrive at kindergarten already far behind their peers and on a path toward failure.
“Children shouldn’t be penalized for being born into families who cannot afford quality preschool,” she wanted to say Tuesday night. “Or for having parents who may not know how to teach them the important skills needed for kindergarten. It is the responsibility for all of us as a community to ensure that every child is placed on the path to success at an early age.”
Thomas and others had important words to share with their elected representatives. Those words were not partisan, divisive or angry. Instead, they focused on the only thing that should matter in this debate: The next generation of children in Indianapolis.
Poor Ashley Thomas. She waited nearly 3 hours only to have the door slammed in her face by that mean Angela Mansfield. Don't reach for a Kleenex just yet. It turns out that Thomas was actually a paid witness. That's right. That parent mentioned by Justin Ohlemiller of the nonprofit organization, Stand For Children, which is bankrolled by the same powerful corporate interests that are waging war on American workers (i.e, Walton family members, Bill Gates, et al.) and a spin-off of Hillary Clinton's Children's Defense Fund, is an employee of Ohlemiller's organization. Yes, Thomas is in charge of Family Engagement and Organizing, a lobbyist by any other name, for Stand for Children. Have you no shame, Mr. Tully?