Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ballard Reacts To Peterson's Negative Attacks

Direct mail pieces were arriving in mailboxes around the city today from the Peterson for Mayor campaign accusing Greg Ballard of negative attacks. The mailer is a complete lie. In fact, Mayor Peterson is the first and only candidate in the race for mayor to air negative attack ads against his opponent. A new ad from Peterson's campaign lifts words from a Star editorial endorsing him to suggest Ballard is unqualified to be mayor. Ballard actually has far more management and leadership experience than Peterson had when he first ran for mayor eight years ago. Ballard, reacting to Peterson's negative attack, is offended at what he sees as Mayor Peterson's denigration of his military career. Peterson never served in the military. Ballard said:

"In my twenty-three year military career, I held numerous positions that called upon the same kind of skills one would utilize as mayor. I am sure that I am more prepared now than Mr. Peterson was when he first ran for mayor eight years ago and I am certainly prepared to lead Indianapolis today.

"But the worst part of Mr. Peterson's ad is that it implies that service or a career in the military just isn't good enough and it tells Hoosiers in the military that they are not qualified for public service," said Ballard. "History, of course, says otherwise. Our nation's veterans have historically used their military training and leadership to become some of the best leaders in politics, business, and their communities."

Ballard concluded, "Mayor Peterson and I have disagreed a lot about our city's problems and the solutions, especially taxes, spending and crime. But I have not questioned his personal abilities and I am disappointed that the Mayor's campaign has taken a different course."

Ballard also launched his first TV ad with less than a week to go before the election, which features he and at-large council candidate Kent Smith. You can view it by clicking here. Another ad with Ballard alone is running. It can be viewed by clicking here. Unfortunately, Ballard's absence from TV, radio and direct mail to date has allowed Peterson to define Ballard, even if by dishonest means. I'm not sure if Ballard will have enough of a media presence to counter the negative Peterson barrage hitting mailboxes and airwaves this week. These ads were simply thrown together on the cheap without any thought about a message that will resonate with voters in a memorable way.

UPDATE: The Peterson campaign is launching yet another negative attack ad on Ballard. If the Peterson campaign were selling a product, it would be charged with consumer fraud. Using the $3 million dollars he shook down from city contractors, employees and businesses, Peterson is spreading intentionally false information on the airwaves and in your mailboxes about Greg Ballard, who has no financial means to respond to these false and misleading ads. Tell your neighbors what Bart Peterson is doing in desperation to hold on to power for Indianapolis' ruling elite.

Carson Watch

Today is the expiration of U.S. Rep. Julia Carson's second request for a leave of absence from her duties in the House of Representatives, which began more than a month ago. I contacted Rep. Carson's office to ask for the latest update. The lady answering the phone told me there would be an announcement, but she refused to say when it would be coming. Stay tuned. Maureen Groppe should have something soon.

UPDATE: The AP is reporting Carson will not be returning to work until at least mid-December while she continues to recover from an alleged "leg infection." The statement read: "If you are frustrated about this, imagine how I feel! In the meantime, I continue to work from home on the people's business. Unfortunately, healing sometimes takes longer than anticipated, but I'm working hard to be able to travel back to Washington by mid-December. My goal, of course, is to be back much, much sooner."

And I suspect the news media will buy into that crap. At what point do we say enough of these lies from Carson's staff. You aren't leveling with her constituents, and you haven't been leveling with them from day one. If the person to whom her staff has attributed this statement today is indeed planning to return to Washington by mid-December, then why is one of her closest supporters calling around lining up support for a candidate who is close to him to replace her as I write?

Ryerson Apologizes For Biddle's Blog Posts

Star editorial writer RiShawn Biddle returned to the blogging scene this week after a several-month hiatus and immediately landed himself in hot water. Today, Star Editor Dennis Ryerson posted this public apology at Expresso:

Recently comments on this blog were posted by a Star staff member, which included offensive, insensitive and wholly inappropriate words in reference to Indianapolis/Marion County City-County Council President Monroe Gray. Those comments have been removed. These comments absolutely did not meet the standards of The Star. I apologize to Council President Gray, and to all communities who with good reason were highly offended by the remarks.

The most offensive comment Biddle made in a diatribe against the city's African-American leaders was a comparison of City-County Council President Monroe Gray to Zip Coon, a negative caricature of black men dating back to the days of slavery. Biddle eventually removed that reference from his blog posting, but the balance of the post, including a comparison of the actions of black Democratic leaders over the last several years to something right out of "Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat", remained online. With Ryerson's announcement today, all of Biddle's posts have been scrubbed from Expresso. It is unclear what, if any, other actions have been taken against Biddle by the Star.

Ruth Holladay has more here.

UPDATE: Abdul Hakim Shabazz is reporting that the Star fired Biddle today. "Indianapolis Star Editorial writer Rishawn Biddle was fired this afternoon for comments seen as racially charged that appeared in his blog Expresso," Shabazz writes. "Sources inside the Star say Biddle's job as a columnist was to bring the community together, but instead divided it when he criticized a number of Black Politicians in Marion County."

They Endorsed Ron Gibson?

If you're looking for a good laugh this morning, you have to check out the Star's endorsement of at-large city-county councilor candidate Ron Gibson. It starts out with "Ron Gibson has been smart, energetic and effective since taking office eight years ago." Is this the same guy who butchers the English language whenever he speaks, shows up drunk in public places and disrespects a police officer--a female police officer at that? But don't worry about that. As the Star's editors put it, "a special prosecutor dropped the charges." That would only be after a couple of key witnesses changed their testimony right before the case was scheduled to go to trial.

"A former executive director of the state charter schools association, he is building support for charters in the black community," the editors write. I suppose the operative word here is "former." The editors give Ron a little bitch slap for not standing up to Monroe Gray. "Gibson needs to stand up to the antics of council President Monroe Gray," they write. "By failing to publicly confront Gray on his disregard for ethical conduct, Gibson diminishes his own stellar work." Based on the scene at the city-county building where Gray and Gibson could be seen giving each other a big bear hug after the criminal charges against Gibson were dropped, I wouldn't count on that happening.

Folks, any one of the Republican at-large candidates--Ed Coleman, Michael Hegg, Barb Malone and Kent Smith--would make a better choice than Gibson. The Star only endorsed Smith at the expense of Lonnell "King Ro" Connelly (D). The GOP didn't help matters for itself when it made it clear it had thrown all but Smith to the curb in its determined effort to ensure Peterson is re-elected and Democrats remain in control of the council. For heaven's sake, don't listen to the Star on this one. Ron Gibson must go.

If you hadn't noticed, Mayor Bart Peterson is airing the first negative campaign ads this election year. Words are being lifted from the Star's endorsement of Peterson, which are both inaccurate and uninformed. Give the editors a big thanks for playing their part in spreading some more of Bart's lies this election year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Will He Fool Us A Third Time?

With less than a week left to go in the Indianapolis mayoral race, somebody at Mayor Peterson's campaign woke up and decided he needed another plan to justify his re-election to a third term. They give us Peterson Plan III. If you remember the first two plans, you aren't missing out on anything. Let's see, Mayor Peterson wants more police officers on the street. Sound familiar? He wants more charter schools. Sound familiar? Peterson wants to "build stronger neighborhoods". He wants to create more jobs. And he wants to make Indianapolis greener. If you think the city is better off than it was 8 years ago when Mayor Peterson took office, you should vote to re-elect him and get all that you deserve. If you're being honest with yourself, you've figured out Mayor Peterson is simply a big bag of wind who needs to be airlifted out of the Mayor's office before he inflicts more harm on our city than he already has.

Star Gets It Wrong On Bosma Prayer Case

The Star is currently running a blatantly inaccurate headline on its website concerning the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision overturning Judge David Hamilton's decision in the Indiana House of Representatives' prayer case. The headline reads: "Court overturns ban on Ind House Prayer." First, no ban was overturned by the court because Judge David Hamilton never banned prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives. He simply said the sectarian prayers delivered day-to-day in the Indiana House, which were shown by the plaintiffs in the case to be largely Christian prayers singing the praises of "Jesus Christ", amounted to the establishment of religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Hamilton emphasized in his opinion, non-sectarian prayers are not a problem. Secondly, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision based solely on the issue of the standing of the plaintiffs. It's decision is not based on the merits of the plaintiffs' complaint.

The 7th Circuit decision relies on recent case law curtailing taxpayer-initiated lawsuits on standing grounds. Under the rule enunciated in the recent Supreme Court decision in Hein, which involved a taxpayer challenge to President Bush's faith-based programs, federal taxpayers are not permitted to lodge constitutional challenges to legislative appropriations, except in the narrow circumstance where there is an established link between the taxpayer's status and the type of legislative enactment being challenged, and that link must be a direct one. In the Indiana prayer case, the Court noted the legislative prayers as carried out are not mandated by statute but rather as a matter of tradition. The Court further pointed out that there are minimal public funds spent on legislative prayers and the plaintiffs are unable to point to any specific public appropriation funding them. "The plaintiffs have not tied their status as taxpayers to the House’s allegedly unconstitutional practice of regularly offering a sectarian prayer," the Court writes. "They have not shown that the legislature has extracted from them tax dollars for the establishment and implementation of a program that violates the Establishment Clause." The Court concluded, "We are well aware of the time and energy that the parties and the district court have expended on the merits of this matter." It continued, "However, '[i]f a dispute is not a proper case or controversy, the courts have no business deciding it, or expounding the law in the course of doing so.'"

It looks like the plaintiffs in this case would have been able to overcome the standing issue if they had simply stuck to having the House's only Jewish member, Rep. David Orentlicher (D-Indianapolis) as the principle plaintiff rather than involving taxpayers in the lawsuit. It is important to remember that Brian Bosma did not win this case on the merits. This is strictly a procedural decision today which in no way decides whether it is appropriate for the Indiana House of Representatives to conduct Christian-only prayers as a matter of course.

Shocker: Gay Newspaper Backs Ballard

Indiana's largest GLBT newspaper might be expected to endorse Mayor Bart Peterson (D) for re-election because of his support for the Human Rights Ordinance, but The Word editor Ted Fleischaker is planning to vote for Republican Greg Ballard and urges his readers to do likewise. Fleischaker, who also publishes the Up Down Town, lambastes Peterson for failing to see "Rome burning" the past 8 years. "The current administration has failed downtown and other local residents when it comes to keeping up basic infrastructure, looking out for residents' needs, tackling guns and violent crime and making sure we can pay for those services at an affordable price." Peterson allowed "massive amounts of taxpayer cash to pay for an over-priced book palace and a stadium which will mostly serve one privately-owned football team" he adds.

In the end, economics is driving Fleischaker's decision in this year's mayoral race. "Do we feel the party of Greg Ballard will do us any better as gay and lesbian citizens?" he asks. "The record has shown probably not. But we at The Word feel the need to get our towns finances back in order, our streets safer (for all residents--gay and straight) and our city back on track far, far outweigh any feel-good laws which are (let's face it) basically cosmetic." On that latter note, I would add that the city has not documented a single case of discrimination since the passage of the HRO. Put it simply, his office never enforced the human rights ordinance on the books prior to the passage of the gay rights ordinance and nothing has changed since its passage.

Fleischaker should be applauded for setting aside political correctness and peer pressure to jump in lockstep with so much of the gay community which blindly backs Democratic candidates year in and year out. It is worth noting that Fleischaker was the first person to publicly call for Rep. Julia Carson (D) to retire during last year's congressional election. He backed Kris Kiser, the first openly gay candidate in Indiana history, over Carson in the Democratic primary. Fleischaker was excoriated by many in the GLBT community for the move, but he admittedly proved himself prophetic. At least Kiser would have been able to show up and vote.

Political columnist Rick Sutton, who managed Kiser's unsuccessful congressional campaign, criticizes Carson and her staff in the November edition of The Word for its recent handling of her work absence because of her ongoing health problems. Sutton writes:

At this writing, U.S. Rep. Julia Carson is recuperating in a rest home from illness which began over three weeks ago. By any measure, that's not a good report. Her office has been brief, incomplete and tardy in its public updates on her condition.

Indianapolis voters deserve to know how well she is (or isn't). She retroactively requested one medical leave from the office of the Clerk of the House. Such requests are routinely granted. She renewed and extended that request and there is no official return-to-work timeframe from her office.

Like Fleischaker, Sutton knows all too well the political retribution this crowd heaps on you when you cross them. Sutton's candidate saw scandalous and defamatory stories posted about him on gay blog sites. Both Sutton's and Kiser's cars were vandalized during the campaign. How often has someone cut the brake lines on your car? Not your typical Halloween pranksters. Months after that primary campaign, Kiser told me his reputation had been damaged so badly by the primary race against Carson he was finding it extremely difficult to find employment.

Hey Look, It's Elton John

Woops, my mistake. It's Colts owner Jim Irsay announcing today on the Circle a fan contest, which will be offering five, genuine Super Bowl rings as a prize to the winners. Benefits from the contest will be donated to central Indiana charities.

Star Council Endorsements Make No Sense

After I posted yesterday complaining about the Star's endorsement of a Democrat in an open Republican seat and the difficulty of Republicans regaining control of the council if the party loses any of the seats it currently holds, I learned a bit of information which doesn't lend much credence to the Star's endorsement policies. Republican councilor candidate Christine Scales tried unsuccessfully to talk to the Star's editors about their endorsement process before it took place. Yesterday, the Star endorsed her opponent, Carey Hamilton, without ever interviewing Scales. An incensed Scales reached editor Tim Swarens after the publication of yesterday's endorsements. Swarens offered her only a weak apology. How can you make endorsements if you've never even bothered to speak to the candidates in person?

There is more evidence the editorial staff doesn't even bother to interview these folks. Take for example the paper's endorsement of Councilor Vernon Brown (D) for re-election. Of his Republican challenger Adam Longworth, the editors write, "Longworth lacks the experience needed to serve effectively on the council." Obviously, the editors haven't attended any council meetings as of late. Longworth has appeared and testified frequently on issues of importance to the constituents in his district. What I've seen in Longworth is a very thoughtful, articulate and well-studied young man in stark contrast to a bombastic and inarticulate Vernon Brown. The fact that Brown sponsored and supported the income tax increase was enough for the Star's editors. Let's just forget the fact that Brown had a personal stake in that tax increase as one of the highest paid members of the Indianapolis Fire Department. Like Gray, his fellow firefighters complain he is often doing council work or other extra-curricular activities during regular work hours, raising additional concerns of ghost employment.

I'm no fan of Sherron Franklin, but how could you endorse Brown and not endorse her? The Star's editors claim she hurt the city by voting against the police merger and causing the ouster of Steve Talley as council president in favor of Monroe Gray. Excuse me, but Talley only became council president in the first instance because Franklin joined a rump group of Democrats and Republicans and elected Talley president. I don't believe Franklin deserves re-election either, but the editors should at least get their logic straight in offering reasons not to re-elect an incumbent councilor. Republicans need her seat to regain control of the council, but as I pointed out earlier, if Hamilton beats Scales, it's going to be next to impossible for Republicans to take the council.

The Star's editors endorsed Andre Carson (D), who is running unopposed in my district. It's obvious the editors didn't interview him. "Carson, an investigator with the Indiana State Excise Police, is the grandson of U.S. Rep Julia Carson," the editors write. If they had bothered to consult either Brendan O'Shaughnessy or Jon Murray on their news staff, they would know Carson quit his job as an excise officer a couple of months ago to accept a new marketing job with Cripe, an architectural/engineering firm which does business with the City of Indianapolis, raising serious conflict of interest concerns.

The editors offer no surprises in endorsing the re-election of Councilors Scott Keller and Dane Mahern, both of whom face stiff competition in their re-election bids next week. It's hard to find a common theme in the endorsements here though. Keller voted in favor of the county option income tax increase, while Mahern voted against it. Keller supports more subsidies for downtown development, while Mahern wants to curtail the subsidies.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Council Finally Approves Investigation of Monroe Gray

After weeks of parliamentary maneuvering by City-County Council Democrats to block an investigation of Council President Monroe Gray's ethical problems, Democratic members relented to public pressure and adopted Proposal 182. Councilor Sherron Franklin (D) offered an amendment establishing a 4-member panel of two Democrats and two Republicans to look into allegations raised by an Indianapolis Star investigation concerning work a concrete company owned by Gray performed on city-financed public projects, which he failed to disclose on his statement of economic interest. The council approved the resolution 28-0 with Councilor Gray abstaining.

Meanwhile, an editor for the Indianapolis Star, is raising eyebrows by a blog post he made today at Expresso. RiShawn Biddle, who has been absent from the blogging scene for many months, published a post today entitled, The "Indianapolis Black Democrat Minstrel Show", which is highly critical of the city's African-American Democrats. Biddle likened Monroe Gray's tenure as the Council's President to Zip Coon, a derogatory, racial slur on black men dating to the days of slavery. The post makes some very salient points on the state of Democratic black leadership in the city right now, but most would agree the Zip Coon analogy is way over the top. The pertinent passage reads:

Then there's the embarrassing spectacle that is Monroe Gray, whose tenure as city-county council president is being marked by a lack of decorum during council sessions, the videos of himself on YouTube and responses to allegations of corruption that wouldn't be acceptable to a child who claimed his dog ate the homework. His act, more Zip Coon than honorable statesman, epitomizes the lack of seriousness some Black politicians show in their work; it's just inexcusable.

One particularly telling comment in Biddle's post today was this one about Rep. Julia Carson (D): "Last year, we had Julia Carson's mudslinging, her protestations of physical competence despite all-too-clear signs of declining health, and the spectacle that was 300 East." If there were "all-too-clear signs of [Carson's] declining health", then why pray tell did the Star's editors endorse Carson for another term in Congress? Other parts of Biddle's post are equally stinging to black Democratic leaders. Summarizing various events over the past couple of years, Biddle writes:

If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes over the past three years, I would have thought they came straight out of "Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat." I don't know any powerful Black people like that. Do I? Sadly, we do. Before our eyes stand men and women charged with serving the citizens of this city behaving badly, awfully, arrogantly, as if they didn't receive any home-training. They have been given power for which they could do plenty for the poor Black neighborhoods which they represent. But for them, their jobs offer them chances for self-enrichment, opportunities for petty foolishness and the possibilities of grandstanding on public access television so they can use their 'juice.'

Meanwhile residents in Martindale-Brightwood fear for their lives, Haughville homeowners see the aluminum siding snatched off their houses and Mapleton-Fall Creek residents watch abandoned homes burn down. Those driving around Lafayette Square hit potholes; sewers continue to overflow on the Southside. Simply put, the very services they expect government to provide fall by the wayside.

Even worse, the proverbial tap-dancing of Gray and Company is aided and abetted by folks who know better. They understand that many in this town fear the day that a Black man or woman will become mayor, scared that as soon as that happens, Indianapolis will finally be the New Detroit in all its squalor. These blatant, random acts of stupidity deserved to be called out. Those who know better, however, turn away and let the silliness go on.

Unlike the Downtown vagrants, the politicians aren't mentally ill, fighting addiction, are simply laxy or have failed to learn middle-class behavior. And unlike the performers on "I Love New York," they aren't shuckin' and jivin' for fame or fortune. It's bad enough that they don't attend to their politically-appointed tasks. They could at least live down the stereotypes, not live up to them.

Biddle should be applauded for saying what needed to be said on behalf of African-Americans. However, I worry that his stridency will get him in a lot of hot water with more than a few of the city's African-American leaders.

UPDATE: Biddle's post at Expresso has been updated to remove the comparison of Monroe Gray to Zip Coon.

Just Another Morning In Indy

An eastside couple were awakened early this morning to three armed intruders demanding drugs and money. The armed men shot husband and wife, poured a flammable liquid throughout the house and then set it on fire. The couple luckily escaped the home and are being treated for their gunshot wounds at Wishard Hospital. Don't let Mayor Peterson fool you. Crime isn't going down in this city, and in particular the district of City-County Councilor Scott Keller (R) where this attack occurred, as Peterson falsely claims. It's getting worse.

Star Wants Democratic Council Without Gray

The eggheads on the Star editorial board once again prove how pathetic they are when making recommendations to their readers on which political candidates to support. The Star endorses CCC President Monroe Gray's Republican opponent, Kurt Webber. That's easy enough. The district is about 72% Democratic and Webber has a snowball in hell's chance of winning. Meanwhile, the Star wants voters to hand a currently held Republican seat to the Democrats. They want Carey Hamilton (D) instead of Christine Scales to take the seat of retiring council member Scott Schneider in District 4. If voters followed their advice, the Democrats will most assuredly win control of the council again as it will be nearly impossible for the Republicans to regain control if the party loses any of its currently-held seats. And guess who will still be CCC President? Real bright. I can't wait to see the rest of the Star's council endorsements.

Perhaps unable to separate all the money Mayor Peterson's campaign is throwing their way these days with paid advertisements, area news media have imposed a blackout on any coverage of Mayor Peterson's desperate killer phone calls. It seems his campaign is calling up households all over Marion County and telling voters complete lies about Greg Ballard to scare them into voting for four more years of Peterson's failed and corrupt leadership.

Folks, if you want to take back your government, you're going to have to take matters into your own hands. The establishment has circled the wagons, and the big corporate media is doing all it can to ensure they remain in power. They want to continue operating our city/county government as a kingdom unto themselves where your role is limited to that of mere servant. You have to make sure all your family and friends get out and vote next Tuesday to end the rule of this city by the elitists.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Star Wants Four More Years Of Lies And Corruption

I said months ago the Star's editorial writers had already made up their minds to endorse the failed leadership of Mayor Bart Peterson for another four years. While the eggheads who make up the Star's editorial board will nitpick from day-to-day about the many problems with this administration, at the end of the day, it is far more important to them to have an inviting seat at the table of the ruling elite in this town who operate government as if it were their own personal kingdom and the rest of us are mere servants to them. The fact that you face a future of higher taxes, more crime and unbridled corruption is of little concern to them.

Mayor Peterson has hardly made a case for his own re-election, but the Star ticks off a list of what it sees as accomplishments supporting four more years of him:

  • "He is fixing the antiquated sewer system." Response: He has no choice. It's called the Clean Water Act, a federal law which is holding a gun to his head. The largest cost of rebuilding the system is being shouldered by the working class.
  • "He has created a charter school system that provides families with a valuable alternative for educating their children." Response: Charter schools have been awarded to political cronies of the mayor, while IPS, the public school system which serves many of our most in need citizens continues to rank as one of the worst public school systems in the nation.
  • "He negotiated agreements that are leading to a midfield terminal at the airport and a major expansion of the Convention Center." Response: Check out the mayor's campaign finance reports. It's replete with contractors making bucco bucks off this project. If the feds would bother to investigate, a number of folks would go to prison. The RCA Dome, on which we still owe $75 million of the original $75.8 million construction cost will be torn down to make room for an expanded convention center. Smart deal?
  • "He helped forge a deal that kept the Colts in Indianapolis." Response: At what cost? A $700 million stadium built on the backs of taxpayers with no funding stream to operate the damn stadium. Absolutely no other NFL team owner made off better at the expense of taxpayers than this one-sided deal. Jim Irsay's gain is a huge burden on the city's taxpayers, which could bankrupt the city before it's all over.
  • "He promoted government efficiency by merging the Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department." Response: He gave up control of the police department in the midst of a crime explosion and didn't produce a dime's worth of savings for the taxpayers, his phony claims notwithstanding.
  • "He is pursuing consolidation of township fire departments with the Indianapolis Fire Department, a move that will save money and improve service." Response: He allowed a government consolidation plan to fail because he wouldn't force the most corrupt township in the state of Indiana, Center Township, to be eliminated.
  • "He helped shepherd deals that led to major Downtown construction, including the Simon headquarters and the Conrad Hotel." Response: Again, he gave away more than $50 million in public funds to the area's most wealthy citizens, not to mention eliminating a city park facing our State House in the process.

All of the strengths identified by the Star point up serious flaws in his administration of this city for the past 8 years. While giving Peterson a complete pass, the Star raises the bar in its evaluation of Greg Ballard. "But Ballard is a rookie when it comes to politics," the editors write. "His inexperience has often shown during the campaign." Translated, that means Ballard is an unknown to the ruling elite and can't be trusted to carry out their orders. "Ballard hasn't shown a sufficient understanding of the city's problems or of potential solutions," the editors continued. "[H]is inability to recruit support from his own party calls into question how he would fare as mayor in rallying people from various backgrounds to help his initiatives succeed." In other words, as long as the ruling elite vetoes you, you will never earn the endorsement of the Star.

Why don't these Star editorial writers just hang up writing editorials altogether. It makes no sense to harp day in and day out about the multiple problems which plague this city if you're simply going to conclude that the voters should re-elect the same people who have been responsible for dealing with those problems for years. And don't forget, these same eggheads urged you to re-elect Julia Carson to Congress for another two years last year. She has one of the worst attendance records in Congress because of her poor health and, when she does show up to vote, we don't know even know if she has a mental capacity to cast a vote because one of her colleagues or staff members must cast her vote for her. Thanks a lot, Star editors, for once again failing your readers miserably.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Souder's Bigotry Rears Its Ugly Head

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, which recently passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (H.R. 3685). The purpose of ENDA is to end workplace discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. Based upon Souder's actions and statements during ENDA's debate, he is incapable of hiding his anti-gay bigotry. Let's begin with Souder's attempt to amend ENDA. He offered three amendments to the legislation to:

  • prevent retaliation against people of faith in the workplace;
  • respect the right of each state to preserve its definition of marriage; and
  • remove language covering acts of discrimination based on a person's "perceived" ssexual orientation.

All of Souder's amendments to ENDA were defeated. Souder, who opposes ENDA, claimed his amendments were necessary to protect religious freedom. Bear in mind that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already protects people from discrimination on the basis of their religion. As proposed, ENDA also provides a broad exemption for religious organizations. Yet, Souder had this to say after his amendments were rejected and the committee passed ENDA:

“In their quest to grant special rights to homosexuals, Democrats are trampling on the religious freedoms of all Americans,” said Souder, a senior member of the Education and Labor Committee. “If this legislation is enacted into law, there will be a proliferation of lawsuits against Americans whose religious beliefs do not condone homosexuality. This would be a radical change in the law, and its effect would be felt far and wide.” “Liberal Democrats are so anxious to promote the homosexual agenda that they would force businesses and organizations, including Christian bookstores, colleges and camps, to hire homosexuals,” Souder added. “Group homes wouldn’t be able to have marriage standards. The Boy Scouts and Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs couldn’t have their own sexual-behavior guidelines. This is an outrageous assault on religious freedom in America.”

"Special rights to homosexuals?" "An outrageous assault on religious freedom in America?" "C'mon, Mark. Why is it a special right to protect gay people from discrimination but not a special right for the law to protect Christians from discrimination? The real purpose behind Souder's attempt to amend ENDA was his desire to allow an employer accused of discriminating against gay and lesbian employees to avoid liability by simply claiming he was practicing what his religious faith tought him. I have a hunch a lot of employers would suddenly find their religion if Souder's approach to ending discrimination in the workplace was adopted.

Souder suggests ENDA would redefine state laws defining marriage between one man and one woman. Nothing could be further from the truth. What ENDA does not permit is the conditioning of a person's employment on the basis of their marital status or their ability to marry. Employers will still be able to offer married employees benefits not offered to unmarried employees. ENDA specifically provides that "nothing in this Act shall be construed to require a covered entity to treat a couple who are not married, including a same-sex couple who are not married, in the same manner as the covered entity treats a married couple for purposes of employee benefits."

It's one thing for Souder to oppose ENDA. It is quite another thing for him to deliberately misrepresent what ENDA does. It's hard to describe his words and actions as anything other than an attempt to engage in gay-bashing to stir up the religious right. He has plenty of company in his gay-bashing ways over at the American Family Association of Indiana, which has come under fire this past week for running gay-bashing radio ads against Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Tom Henry to boost the troubled campaign of the indicted Matt Kelty.

According to the AFA, "Souder took a valiant stand in defense of religious freedom and freedom of association and of thought when he offered three amendments to openly homosexual Congressman Barney Frank's ENDA legislation in the House Education and Labor Committee." The AFA describes ENDA as "a bill that would grant special and sweeping rights to people engaging in homosexual behaviors as if such changeable and even risky actions are the moral and legal equivalent of one's race, gender or skin color." Notice as usual the AFA omits the word "religion" here. You see, their opposition to protecting a person from discrimination based on sexual orientation is premised on their misguided belief that a person chooses their sexual orientation. Of course, a person can choose which religion he desires to practice but we still don't permit discrimination based upon a person's religion simply because it's a personal choice.

Leave it to the religious right to claim an infringement upon its rights when it wants carte blanche to discriminate against anyone with whom it disapproves.

Desperate Peterson Resorts To Negative Push Polling

After a Star poll released on Thursday showed a dead heat in the race between Mayor Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard, Peterson's campaign manager Mike O'Connor said Peterson would not be changing his re-election strategy. He lied. Peterson's campaign is conducting negative push polling in the final days of the campaign to smear Ballard. Callers for Peterson's campaign are telling voters Ballard intends to eliminate basic city services like trash collection and sidewalk repairs if he's elected mayor. Relying on the old Democratic favorite of scaring senior citizens, the callers are telling people Ballard will end meals on wheels.

“It’s a shame that Bart Peterson would resort to scaring senior citizens. But we’ve seen this before,” said Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John. “Lifetime politicians like Bart Peterson will say or do anything when they realize that voters are about to hand them their pink slip.” John added, “I call on Bart Peterson to apologize to the voters of Marion County for engaging in these despicable tactics.”

You can bet that Mayor Bart Peterson's internal polls are showing results similar to the Star's poll or he would not be resorting to negative push polling to shift voters' opinion. The local news media owes it to the public to call out the Peterson campaign on these desperate lies.

Star Endorsements Begin Tomorrow

The Star used its editorial space today to defend its poll showing a dead heat race between Mayor Bart Peterson (D) and Greg Ballard (R) and to announce the newspaper's endorsement in the race for mayor and council races will begin tomorrow and run through Thursday. "[A] poll that shows an "unbeatable" mayoral incumbent in a statistical dead heat with a neophyte challenger who doesn't have a fraction of his funding counts for something serious," the editorial reads. "When that same poll shows less than one-third of voters supporting City-County Council Democrats, who won their first council majority in history just one election ago, it's rather difficult to discount it," it adds.

The editorial is dismissive of complaints by Peterson's campaign and other local Democrats that the poll is unreliable because it allegedly under represented black voters. "[P]eople are angry, regardless of party affiliation, and the deluge of saccharine commercials financed by Peterson's fat war chest has not exactly spread happiness around the city," the editorial replies. "His administration's accomplishments -- and they are considerable -- cannot eclipse persistent problems."

But the real question is whether the Star will endorse Ballard over Peterson. There's a hint in today's editorial with this question posed to readers: "Can the personable but quiet candidate offer a hungry electorate more specifics and more forcefulness about reducing taxes and cutting spending than he has so far? " That reads to me that we're going to pick up our Sunday newspaper and read an editorial that slaps Peterson around before giving him the nod, concluding that Ballard hasn't made the case he could do a better job. I could be wrong and I hope I am, but after the newspaper's endorsement of Carson for another term last year when the editors knew there were obvious signs of her declining mental and physical health, I'm not holding out much hope they will do the right thing and endorse Ballard this year.

A story today on the news pages tells us Ballard cut a new TV ad yesterday. With only a little more than a week left to go in the campaign, it's hard to imagine any meaningful TV buy that's going to make much difference in this campaign. Hell, I saw a TV ad for city-county council candidate Dane Mahern run a couple of times yesterday on WTHR. I will simply never excuse state and local GOP leaders for intentionally setting out to throw this election to Mayor Peterson based upon some backroom deal that's supposedly going to hand the office of mayor to state GOP Chairman Murray Clark in four years. This is an election where the people can take back their government from a small group of elite insiders who see our existence as nothing more than mere servants in their kingdom.

Friday, October 26, 2007

7th Circuit Derails Bopp's Effort To Politicize Indiana Judges

Religious right attorney Jim Bopp and his Right to Life organization want to force Indiana judicial candidates to declare their position on hot button social issues like abortion and gay marriage as a means of controlling the outcome of cases and controversies before Indiana courts. Their thinking is that if judicial candidates are forced to declare their position like legislative and executive branch candidates, in a conservative, red state like Indiana only persons to their liking would get elected to the bench. This will advance the efforts of the religious right to impose fundamentalist Christian laws on all of us. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals halted for now Bopp's and Right to Life's latest attempt to exert further sectarian control over our civil laws.

The Northern District of Indiana agreed with Bopp and Right to Life that one of Indiana's judicial canons violated judicial candidates First Amendment rights. That canon prohibits judicial candidates from making "pledges or promises" or making statements that "commit or appear to commit" the candidates on cases, issues or controversies likely to come before the court. The 7th Circuit reversed the district court opinion and ordered the lower court to dismiss the case, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a suit challenging Indiana's judicial canons.

The opinion details how Bopp went out of his way to manufacture a case he could litigate in the courts, which is apparently something he has become very good at doing all over the country as of late. Bopp and Right to Life baited the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications to enforce the judicial canon after it sent out a questionnaire to judicial candidates asking them to declare their position on abortion in 2004. But as the 7th Circuit opinion found, the Commission didn't take the bait. Judge Evans writes:

Viewed somewhat skeptically, the situation is a chess game. Candidates may not want to answer the questions and would perhaps be happy to have the Code as a reason to decline. When that is true, Right to Life, while ostensibly asserting the right of candidates to speak, may, in fact, be acting against what the candidates see as their best interests. And probably much to Right to Life’s dismay, the Commission, by taking no action against candidates, is simply not playing. The voters? One can hope that they can discern when a candidate is ducking a legitimate question and when she is legitimately refusing to become a pawn. Perhaps because of the strange alignment of interests, the plaintiffs have a problem showing that there is a case or controversy . . .

In a right-to-listen case, Right to Life would have standing if there are otherwise willing speakers who are constrained by the Judicial Code. Right to Life says there are. We cannot agree. No judicial candidate in Indiana has been disciplined for a violation of the canon at issue. The two candidates who answered the questionnaire in 2004 have stated that they have no fear of disciplinary action for doing so. In addition, of the remaining six who responded to Right to Life but did not answer the questions, clearly none stated that they declined to answer based on the canon. Some mentioned the canon but went on to say that they were relying on their own personal feeling as to what was appropriate for a judicial candidate to say. Right to Life attempted to put words in the candidates’ mouths by setting out a footnote to the response “decline” on the questionnaire. The footnote seems to be an attempt to indicate that the only reason for declining would be the Code. The individual responses show that is not true and negate any force that the footnote could conceivably have. In addition, the organization’s targeted, chosen speaker, Newton, turned out to be unwilling to speak regardless of the Code. Right to Life has failed to
establish standing to bring this action.

While today's decision is a victory for an independent judiciary in Indiana, Bopp's and his Right to Life's efforts to force fundamentalist Christian law on our judiciary is far from over. That is why it is all the more important for traditional Republicans to stand up and fight these extremists within the party who simply don't believe in the separation of Church and State. In this sense, Bopp and Right to Life are no different than the extremists who rule many Middle Eastern Muslim nations and who subjogate the rights of individuals to the dicates of fundamentalist intepretations of their religious faith. Their views are completely contrary to the principles upon which the party of Lincoln was founded.

Hat tip to Doug Masson at Masson's Blog, who has his own take on today's decision here.

Feigenbaum Speculates On Elrod Candidacy

Ed Feigenbaum of the Indiana Legislative Insight is reporting in the latest edition that State Rep. Jon Elrod is leaning in favor of a run for the 7th District congressional seat currently occupied by Rep. Julia Carson (D). Feigenbaum writes:

We're hearing renewed talk that Rep. Jon Elrod will be deferring a re-election bid in HD 97 in favor of a run for Congress in CD 07. Republicans saw how the absence of a credible candidate for mayor of Indianapolis cost them in what could have been a competitive race this year, and Rep. Elrod seeks to capitalize on that in 2008, or use a strong bid in 2008 to parlay him into the seat in 2010. GOP consultants were urging Rep. Elrod to run for the seat earlier this year and he would not commit, but with circumstances seemingly changing and his own legislative seat about as tough a proposition to hold on to as making a challenge for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D), he seems to be leaning to the congressional contest.

Most people with whom I've discussed the 7th District race agree that Elrod would make an attractive and strong candidate to win this seat for the GOP. While Democrats are trying to spin a message that Carson is seeking re-election, that is simply not going to be the case. Her health has deteriorated so much that a re-election bid is simply out of the question. Democrats are trying to throw off Republicans from seeking a strong candidate like Elrod in hopes a weaker no-name candidate will emerge to challenge the person Carson wants to anoint to her seat, her grandson Andre Carson. The younger Carson is no match for Elrod.

The prospect of HD 97 being an open seat is attracting a lot of interest according to Feigenbaum. "We're hearing that at least three credible Democrats--two with ties to the local business community and one related to a political family with long ties to the district--are taking a close look at running, even if Rep. Elrod seeks re-election," Feigenbaum writes.

More On Star Poll

A Star poll showing Mayor Peterson locked in a tight race with Republican Greg Ballard identifies property taxes as the leading issue. According to the poll, 44% of the respondents identified property taxes as the most important issue in this election. Those respondents favor Ballard by a healthy margin of 45%-34%. Oddly, those who identified crime as the most important issue favor Peterson over Ballard by a 44%-37% margin.

The sad reality of this poll is that Ballard requires a greater polarization of white voters in the county in order to pull off a victory. Black voters are lining up with near monolithic support for Peterson the Democrat as usual, with only 10% saying they will support Ballard. By comparison, Ballard's lead among white voters is only 47%-35%. Not surprisingly, Marion Co. Democratic Chairman Mike O'Connor is screaming foul over the poll results, claiming it under represents black voters. This is Amos Brown's cue to spend his entire radio show this afternoon telling his audience that there is a conspiracy to deprive black voters of representation in Indianapolis as a racial appeal to get black voters to come out in large numbers to support Peterson. The poll also finds a gender gap. Ballard has a lead of 44%-38% among men, but Peterson has an even big lead among women voters, who favor him by a 46%-34% margin.

Turnout will have a major impact on the outcome of the election. Ballard is favored by independent voters by a 38%-32% margin. Turnout in municipal elections is typically very low. The poll says, among those who have already made up their mind for sure, Peterson is leading 52%-45%. Unless a significantly higher percentage of voters turn out on election day than is normal, Ballard's hopes of unseating Peterson will fail. Marion Co. Election authorities have recently indicated there have been a higher number of new registrations than is normal. That might suggest a higher turnout is in the offing.

UPDATE: Sure enough, Amos Brown took the bait from Mike O'Connor and is devoting his afternoon radio talk show to explaining this big conspiracy against black voters contrived by the Star in putting out this poll on the mayor's race. What a one-trick pony.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Peterson Locked In Dead Heat Race With Ballard

An Indianapolis Star poll released just minutes ago shows Mayor Bart Peterson in a statistical dead heat with his little-financed GOP challenger Greg Ballard. The poll shows Peterson with a narrow 41%-39% lead over Ballard, with Libertarian Fred Peterson capturing 5% of the vote. UPDATE: After releasing its initial poll result, the Star has strangely updated the results to show a larger Peterson lead of 43%-39%. This editorial note has been added to the Star's website: "An earlier version of this story and an accompanying list of poll questions reported different results. Those versions have been revised to present results that more closely reflect voter turnout based on 2004 election results in Indiana."

The pollster, Selzer & Associates, explains the results:

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Selzer and Company, a Des Moines, Iowa -based public opinion research firm, conducted the poll by telephone from Oct. 21 – 24.

Peterson, who was originally expected to cruise to a large victory over an unknown and under-funded challenger, appears vulnerable, said J. Ann Selzer, the company’s

“This is a very close race,” Selzer said. “I would cast the two-point lead Peterson has as fragile.

A lot of things can happen in terms of who shows up on Election Day that can change the outcome of this race.”

Ballard draws his strength among male voters and whites, which he leads by 8% and 12%, respectively. Peterson draws his strength from female voters and black voters, which he leads by 10% and 63%, respectively. Particularly troubling for Peterson is his approval rating. He has the approval of just 49% of the voters, making him extremely vulnerable. Democratic political science professor Bill Blomquist blamed the under-representation of Democrats in the polls for Peterson's poor showing. He tells the Star that "Democrats in Indianapolis tend to be under-represented in polls, which skew toward white and upper-income voters."

There is also very good news in the poll for Republican council candidates. According to the poll, 41% plan to vote for a Republican council candidate compared to just 31% who said they planned to vote for a Democratic candidate. After reading tonight's poll results, state and local Republicans should be giving themselves a good kick in the ass for writing off Greg Ballard's campaign. He hasn't raised anywhere near enough money to purchase any money for TV ads, let alone less costly radio ads. It has become all too apparent that certain Republican leaders are quietly backing Mayor Peterson's re-election because they are being rewarded financially to throw this election.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Varvel's Bartman

Star editorial cartoonist Gary Varvel's talents aren't limited to still cartoons. His animated creation of the Bartman is one which will resonate with many of you. The guy really sums up this year's mayoral race. I suspect there are political consultants who would pay Varvel a lot more than he's making working for Gannett for the kind of talent he has.

Nuvo's Hoppe On Carson: It's Time To Look To the Future

Nuvo columnist David Hoppe is a liberal Democrat who has proudly voted for Rep. Julia Carson (D), but even he can see that it is time to look to the future and beyond Carson in light of her latest health problems. Hoppe writes, "Let’s face it: The question of whether Julia should seek another term is barking like a dog in an empty house." "It behooves local Democrats, including Julia herself, to actively consider the question of her successor," he continues. "The idea that this congressional seat is hers as long as she wants it, a sinecure perpetuated by her vaunted 'organization,' does a disservice to everyone concerned."

Hoppe is particularly upset that Carson's staff attempted to hide her health problems from the public. Hoppe writes:

Perhaps more troubling than Rep. Carson’s missing an important vote last week was the story that accompanied it. The news that her condition was initially kept secret has not been encouraging. While Julia is entitled to a private life, she is an unabashedly public figure – and a public figure with an undeniably complicated health history at that. This situation calls for greater transparency, not less. The consequence is that speculation about her ability to serve will only increase, especially in light of her declared intention to run again next year.

Isn't it time for the Marion County Democrats to put the voters first instead of Carson? First, tell us the truth about her health problems. Tell Julia she must retire in the interest of the people of her district. And then let's move on to a new era of leadership in Congress. I'm beginning to wonder if there is anyone within that local political organization left with any common sense when it comes to this particular matter.

The Fix' Chris Cilizza On Indiana's Congressional Races

Blogger Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post's The Fix shared his thoughts with attendees at yesterday's HPR Forum on how Indiana's 2008 congressional races are shaping up. Indiana's 2nd, 8th and 9th congressional districts were among the most expensive and closely watched races last year. Cilizza is going to be paying close attention to the fourth match-up in as many elections between U.S. Rep. Baron Hill (D) and former U.S. Mike Sodrel (R). He believes the race will be extremely close, in part, because it is a presidential election year and the district generally votes heavily for the Republican presidential candidate. Cilizza thinks Rep. Brad Ellsworth is a perfect fit for the 8th District and shouldn't have any problem getting re-elected. He also doesn't see any early signs of trouble for Rep. Joe Donnelly.

Cilizza made no mention of Indiana's 7th District, which as we now know wound up being one of the closest of the contested congressional races in Indiana last year, although the GOP candidate, Eric Dickerson, received no support from the national or local GOP. My sources tell me Rep. Julia Carson's health problems are much more serious than is being reported by her staff. For reasons that are not all together clear to me, her staff is withholding that information until after this November's election when it will be announced she is not seeking re-election. If these sources are true, it is completely unacceptable that her staff has withheld this information from the public. It's even worse that our local news media has allowed them to get by with it. I put a bug in Cilizza's ear about what is going on in the 7th. Let's see if he starts following it a little more closely.
I should add I had an opportunity to meet Nels Ackerson, Democratic candidate for the 4th congressional district challenging Rep. Steve Buyer (R) at yesterday's HPR Forum. Ackerson posted impressive fundraising results in his most recent campaign finance filing with the FEC, outpacing the incumbent. On personality alone, Ackerson has Buyer beaten by a mile. This is a Republican district, but Ackerson's candidacy should not be easily dismissed because of Buyer's increasing tendency to create his own controversies.

On Indiana's governor's race, Cilizza sees it as one of the most competitive in the country. "Daniels' job approval ratings are only so-so and Democrats believe they can build on the gains they made in 2006 by taking back the governor's mansion in 2008," Cilizza writes on his blog today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Special Prosecutor To Get Murphy Hit-And-Run Case

The pending hit-and-run case against Rep. Mike Murphy (R-Indianapolis) will be forwarded to a special prosecutor according to the Star's Jon Murray. If the past is prologue, that's just another way of saying it's been sent to a black hole.

Is It Spring Or Fall?

As the showers were ending and the sky began to clear, I captured this rainbow above the Indianapolis skyline this evening. It seemed out of place against this tree still filled with green leaves in late October because of the summer-like weather we've had the better part of this month.

Daniels Property Tax Plan

I have to say I'm disappointed in Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax reform/relief proposal he unveiled with much fanfare tonight in a live, televised addressed. It is certainly a step in the right direction, but I'm not convinced it goes far enough. Here are the highlights of what Daniels is proposing:

  • Average property tax bills would be reduced immediately by about one-third by shifting school operating costs and the cost of protecting abused and neglected children to the state's budget. This reduction would show up on your May, 2008 property tax bill.
  • A cap on property taxes would be imposed at 1% of a home's "true value". I found it odd the plan used the term "true value" since we abandoned that property tax valuation method in favor of the fair market value approach. I'm assuming that is a "scrivener's error."
  • The property tax reduction will be funded by a one percentage point increase in the state's sales tax and by tapping the state's surplus.
  • A County Tax Board would be created as a single point of accountability to review spending plans by each taxing district, including schools, libraries and fire departments.
  • Major capital improvement projects funded by property taxes will be subject to voter approval by public referendum.
  • Caps of 2% and 3%, respectively, will be imposed on rental properties and business properties. The caps would be written into the state's constitution.
  • Elected township and county assessors will be eliminated. In its place, a single, qualified assessor will be appointed by the county council to oversee a professionally trained staff.

Schellinger And Thompson Face Off

Democratic gubernatorial contenders Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson faced off today in one of their first joint appearances at the HPR Forum at the Madame Walker Theater. The two candidates were totally polite to one another as they set out to distinguish themselves as the best candidate to challenge the re-election of Gov. Mitch Daniels. They reserved their harshest words for him. Here are some highlights:
  • Schellinger unloaded on what he described as Daniels' "failed leadership." He condemned Daniels for taking away state workers right to collective bargaining in one of his first acts as governor, villifying educators, ignoring pocket book issues and polarizing the state. Both Schellinger and Thompson cited job statistics showing the state of Indiana ranked 48th among the states in new job creation. Schellinger said he had never seen the state more divided than it is under Gov. Daniels. He attacked Gov. Daniels "my way or the highway" approach to governing (a phrase I used to describe Gov. Daniels in a Nuvo column last year. "We need leadership that listens," he said. Schellinger reminded the audience of Daniels' ties to President George W. Bush. "George W. Bush was Daniels' mentor," Schellinger lamented.
  • Thompson similarly attacked Daniels for "failed policies" and "bad leadership." "Property taxes are up, home foreclosures are up, the number of uninsured are up, layoffs are up, gas prices are up and toll road fees are up" under Gov. Daniels' watch. "We can't afford four more years of Gov. Danies," she said.
  • Thompson emphasized her strong Indiana roots, growing up on a farm in Whitley County, while the millionaire architect Schellinger reminded his audience he knew what it was like to live from "paycheck to paycheck." Thompson told the audience about how her family nearly lost the family farm during the "agriculture crisis of the 1980s." Thompson was the first in her family to attend college she noted. She eventually earned a Phd. and became a college professor. Later elected to three terms in Congress from a Republican district where Thompson says she was known for "standing up and doing what was right." She reminded labor she voted against NAFTA and fast track trade authority.
  • Schellinger and Thompson both emphasized improving wages for Indiana workers as a high priority, although they both were a little bit short on the specifics of how they would achieve that goal. Both emphasized the need for creating a "world class" education system in furtherance of that goal. Again, the two weren't specific about how they would go about improving the quality of our public education system.
  • Both were asked what voters could expect in four years if either were elected. Schellinger said he would end polarization, improve education and grow our economy. Thompson said she would increase the high school graduation rate and increase pay for average Indiana workers. Thompson described herself as a "fiscal conservative" who "never voted for a tax increase" while she was a member of Congress.
  • Although both candidates were aware Gov. Daniels was prepared to announce his own property tax plan in a few short hours, neither gave much in the way of specifics about what they would do to reduce property taxes. Schellinger blamed Gov. Daniels for the current property tax mess because it happened on his watch. He said any plan he would put forward had to have a consensus, be based on a person's ability to pay and provide our schools a steady stream of revenue. Thompson said she supported raising income and sales taxes to reduce the property tax, although she emphasized she would not increase either of those taxes significantly above their current rates.
  • So who was the winner in today's joint appearance? The short answer is Gov. Daniels because he was able to completely upstage media coverage of today's event by scheduling a media briefing for his own property tax plan this afternoon during the HPR Forum. Thompson even went so far as to say she thought Gov. Daniels deliberately planned the timing of today's announcement to upstage media coverage of today's HPR Forum. That aside, if you are a Thompson supporter, I suspect you would have been pleased by her performance. She comes across very sincere and reassuring. Schellinger's delivery today was very polished--some would say too polished. He clearly had points put to memory on every topic which came up. You didn't see any spontaneity in anything he had to say today, and he didn't stumble. It should be an interesting primary race for the Democrats.
Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman put in an appearance for the Daniels' administration and delivered a positive message, highlighting the administration's successes in stark contrast to the dark picture painted by the Democratic candidates. Audience members were hoping to be teased with some of the details of Gov. Daniels' property tax plan, but Skillman didn't give anything up. Most of the media bugged out early to attend a briefing by Daniels' staff, skipping Skillman's speech.

Jill Long-Thompson Backs Civil Unions

In a surprising but bold move, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson announced this afternoon during a joint appearance with her primary opponent, Jim Schellinger, she supports civil unions for same-sex couples. Like her opponent, the former U.S. representative said she opposed SJR-7, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and other similar rights for unmarried couples. '

Schellinger told an audience of nearly 200 at today's HPR Forum he supports Indiana's current Defense of Marriage law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. He believes SJR-7 is unnecessary and sends a message of intolerance. Thompson's position sets her distinctly apart from Schellinger and Gov. Mitch Daniels, neither of whom supports civil unions.

It will be interesting to see whether this emerges as an issue during her primary bid against the better-funded Schellinger. Religious right groups, like the AFA and Advance America, will predictably jump all over Thompson for her bold announcement today. Her position could help her garner support from Indiana's GLBT community, particularly in the state's more urban regions, but it could hamper her efforts in the state's rural areas.

The candidates also staked out their position on abortion today. Thompson unabashedly stated her support for the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Schellinger's position was a little less clear. He said his faith teaches him abortion is wrong and he is against it personally , but he believes our current laws should be enforced. It's a position which gives him some wiggle room.

Lockerbie Hit By Rash Of Car Break-Ins

At least seven cars were broken into during the overnight hours in my Lockerbie neighborhood. My best friend was one of the unfortunate victims. The only item taken from his car was a Magellan GPS unit. According to a conversation my friend had with IMPD Officer M. Greene, the perpetrators were targeting cars with GPS units. Our neighborhood was hit hard by car break-ins over 10 years ago, but it hasn't been a big problem as of late.

Daniels Won't Back Repeal Of Property Tax

Gov. Mitch Daniels' long-awaited property tax plan will be announced this evening live at 6:00 p.m. Those hoping for his support for a repeal of the property tax will be disappointed. The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy writes, "Although details were not released, one thing appears certain: The governor will not suggest the elimination of property taxes, which raise about $6.billion annually to fund such things as schools and police and fire departments." A constitutional amendment in some form, however, is expected to be proposed by Daniels to control local spending and property taxes.

If you stop to think about it, when has government ever repealed a tax once it is enacted? So many people make their living off the existence of there being a property tax. I'm convinced that's why efforts to date to repeal the federal inheritance tax have failed. There are so many people in this country who make their living off the fact that people with money and property have to plan for their death because of the insidious tax, and they all lobby Congress on a day-to-day basis.

There's going to be a lot riding on Daniels' property tax plan. If he fails to get meaningful changes through prior to next year's election, he might not win another term. Will House Speaker Pat Bauer risk derailing true property tax reform this year to prevent Daniels from having that re-election card to play? Or will he prove to us his Democratic majority can deliver true property tax reform in hopes of boosting his own party's majority in the House? It should prove to be an interesting legislative session.

Kelty's Attorney: It's Free Speech

Disgraced Fort Wayne mayoral hopeful Matt Kelty's attorney is asking a judge to dismiss campaign finance and perjury charges against his client, arguing Kelty simply exercised his free speech rights and committed no crime. “Matthew Kelty has been wrongly charged by a grand jury with crimes he did not commit,” Larry Mackey argues. “Fair and impartial justice requires the pending indictment against him be dismissed.” A memorandum by Mackey argues that "campaign contributions are a form of political speech protected by the Constitution and the indictments would violate the First Amendment by preventing future candidates from ever using a personal loan to finance a campaign, according to the documents" according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Rebecca Green.

Mackey makes an argument ala Jim Bopp, which would essentially render our campaign disclosure laws meaningless. "His attorneys are arguing there is no Indiana law that says a candidate cannot borrow money from a personal acquaintance or friend, nor one that prohibits a candidate from loaning the proceeds of a prior loan to his or her campaign committee, according to court documents," Green writes. That's right. But the law is very clear on disclosing the source of any contributions, which includes loans. Under Mackey's and Bopp's interpretation of our campaign finance law, a candidate could hide the true source of all of its campaign receipts. The Allen County Election Board, on a party-line vote, bought that tortured interpretation of our law. Hopefully, our courts will not be so easily swayed.

In the more bad news for Kelty category, a Journal-Gazette editorial blasts an AFA-sponsored, gay-bashing ad promoting Kelty's candidacy today and applauds Allen Co. GOP Chairman Steve Shine for denouncing the ad. The editorial expresses disbelief to Kelty's reaction that he had never heard the ad and points out that Republicans also supported the gay rights ordinance the ad attacked Kelty's Democratic opponent, Tom Henry, for supporting. The editorial reads:

The gay-bashing radio advertisement from the American Family Association attacking Tom Henry delivers a mean-spirited, divisive and inaccurate message that desperately attempts to boost Matt Kelty's campaign. Steve Shine, the Allen County Republican chairman, was right for denouncing the advertisement despite the political risk involved.

The ad unconscionably suggests Henry, a longtime member of Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, is not a proper Christian because he “repeatedly authored legislation promoting the gay rights agenda” when he served as a City Council
member. In fact, Henry sponsored a single anti-discrimination ordinance in 2001 that makes a strong statement against discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation. Compliance is voluntary because discrimination based on sexual orientation is not included in state or federal law. The council approved it 6-3; among the supporters was John Crawford, a Republican seeking re-election whom the advertisement does not name.

The American Family Association is entitled to use its free- speech rights as it wishes, but it does little good for the Kelty campaign, other than to wave some red meat to encourage Kelty's supporters. The ad comes at a time the Kelty camp - trying to deflect attention from the criminal charges pending against the nominee and Congressman Mark Souder's rescission of his Kelty endorsement - insists it wants to focus on the issues affecting city government. Repeating that Kelty is pro-life and endorsed by Allen County Right to Life has little do to with city government issues.

Shine, for his part, has long had a record of seeking diversity within the local GOP (See Tracy Warner's column, at right.). Given the heat Shine has already felt from Kelty supporters, he risked the wrath of the party's social conservatives when he sharply criticized the ad. True to his aim for inclusiveness, he rightly took the association to task.

“I fear greatly that the AFA's radio campaign conveys a message that Republicans are willing to look down upon men and women who share our moderate to conservative value, but who differ from us in other ways,” Shine said in his letter to Kelty. “Our city is a melting pot of different beliefs, religions, cultures, races and lifestyles. We work every day with people who may not live their lives as we do, but whose philosophies about government and fiscal policy we share.”

Kelty professed ignorance when confronted with controversy, saying he hadn't heard the ad - which is easily available on the Internet. He also said he was only vaguely familiar with the ordinance Henry wrote - despite the fact that a poll commissioned and released by the Kelty campaign specifically asks about the ordinance.

Kelty cannot control the American Family Association, but he can speak out
against the ad. He hasn't.

Shine, as a political leader should, stood up for what was right rather than what was expedient, and Republicans should show their support for the chairman.

Hat tip to Blue Indiana for catching this editorial.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Stadium Financing Issue Not Being Addressed In Mayoral Campaign

It's the big elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about. While the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium is on schedule to open next year, it is far from resolved just how the city's Capital Improvement Board of Managers is going to find a nearly $10 million a year gap in paying annual operating and maintenance expenses on the stadium. Mayor Peterson earlier indicated he wanted to use tax revenues earmarked to pay down the construction debt on the new stadium, but he needs legislative authority to do that and Gov. Daniels and the legislature is opposed to using the stadium tax revenues for anything but the retirement of the construction bonds.

Gov. Daniels' position makes perfect sense. The Capital Improvement Board diverted taxes intended to be used to pay off the construction bonds for the RCA Dome. As a consequence, taxpayers will still owe about $75 million on a building it will pay to demolish next year to make way for an expanded convention center. The original cost to construct the RCA Dome was $77.5 million. Some may recall taxpayers were promised the tax increase to pay for the RCA Dome would only be a temporary tax that would go away once the construction bonds were retired.

Our local news media should make the mayoral candidates make a firm commitment on their plans with respect to paying the operating and maintenance expenses on the Lucas Oil Stadium. The truth is the deal Peterson struck with Jim Irsay and the Colts is the most one-sided, pro-team owner stadium deal in the history of modern, stadium financing. In its negotiations with Irsay, the City gave away the naming rights, as well as stadium concessions and non-football event revenues. The Colts aren't required to pay any of the costs to maintain the stadium, leaving the taxpayers holding a huge bill. Rightfully, Irsay should be required to pony up his fair share like other team owners around the country, but he earlier said he wouldn't. It is simply unacceptable to expect taxpayers to subsidize this team any more than it already has.

The next mayor is going to face a very difficult decision in his first year in office. If the state holds firm in its position that the tax revenues be used only for construction debt, Marion County will have to look elsewhere to find the money it will need to operate the costly new stadium. Voters have a right to know how Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard plan to resolve this dicey problem.

Ballard Finally Hits Stride In Debate With Peterson

By reading Bill Ruthhart's account of yesterday's debate between Mayor Bart Peterson (D) and Greg Ballard (R), it looks like Ballard is finally scoring points with voters on the key issues of taxes and crime. The focus on taxes led Peterson to pledge not to raise taxes during his next term. Ballard shot back:

Past behavior is an indicator of future behavior," he said. " . . . Now, (Peterson) says we've not spent anything more than public safety, with the exception of long-term debt. We've taken on a lot of long-term debt, so fiscal health is an issue here I would disagree with."

Then, looking straight into the camera and speaking to the television audience, Ballard invoked the wisdom of television talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw.

"As Dr. Phil would say, 'How's that workin' for ya?' " Ballard asked. "He's had eight years. All of his policies are in place. How's that workin' for ya?"

Ruthhart's account omits Ballard's line about Peterson raising taxes 19 times during the past 8 years. It also makes it appear Peterson only raised the income tax once from 1.00% to 1.65%. The tax has actually gone up 135% under Peterson as a result of earlier increases in the income tax rate. While Peterson defended his latest 65% income tax increase as necessary to fight crime, Ballard was quick to point out it won't result in an increase in police officers on the street at any time in the near future. Ruthhart writes, "Ballard said he would pay for new police officers by cutting other areas of the city's budget." "Ballard argued that the tax increase wouldn't lead to an immediate addition of police officers and that the pension problems were not an immediate threat" "We were not going to lose any pensions, whatsoever," Ballard said. "That's what people must understand."

Ballard also scored points on the issue of creating jobs. "From 2002 to 2006, we've had a net increase in jobs in Marion County of 146." "That's not a good record." "We are not welcoming to companies right now with our crime and tax rates." Ballard also questioned Peterson on his phony claim he saved taxpayers $20 million through the police merger. "I'm not sure that there were any savings . . . I've said from day one that we need to put operational control of the police department back under the mayor's office."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hillary Dumped Socks

As an avid cat lover, I'm appalled to learn that Hillary Clinton dumped Socks the cat after the Clintons left the White House. No longer needed for window dressing, Socks was tossed aside to become a part of the Clinton's littered path like so many others. The Times writes:

AS THE “first pet” of the Clinton era, Socks, the White House cat, allowed “chilly” Hillary Clinton to show a caring, maternal side as well as bringing joy to her daughter Chelsea. So where is Socks today?

Once the presidency was over, there was no room for Socks any more. After years of loyal service at the White House, the black and white cat was dumped on Betty Currie, Bill Clinton’s personal secretary, who also had an embarrassing clean-up role in the saga of his relationship with the intern Monica Lewinsky.

Some believe the abandoned pet could now come between Hillary Clinton and her ambition to return to the White House as America’s first woman president . . . .

Clinton’s treatment of Socks cuts to the heart of the questions about her candidacy. Is she too cold and calculating to win the presidency? Or does it signify political invincibility by showing she is willing to deploy every weapon to get what she wants?

"In the annals of human evil, off-loading a pet is nowhere near the top of the list,” writes Caitlin Flanagan in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine. “But neither is it dead last, and it is especially galling when said pet has been deployed for years as an all-purpose character reference.”

The story reminds us that the Clinton's chocolate Labrador, Buddy, got run over by a car soon after the Clintons moved to New York. It's just another confirmation in my mind that Hillary Clinton is one of the most cold, evil and calculated persons in American politics. The Socks tragedy aside, folks should be paying close attention to Hillary's fundraising scandal involving Chinese nationals. Why are the Clintons repeatedly being caught trying to raise money illegally from the Chinese?

Peterson: Solving Problems At A Cost

The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy has a feature story on Mayor Peterson's re-election bid. Although I would dispute the story's headline, some might describe the story as a case for electing a new mayor. Here's a summary of some of the key points in the article:

  • During Peterson's eight years in office, the city and county budget has gone from $724 million to $1.04 billion, an increase of 44 percent.
  • Peterson has raised sewer and storm water user fees to fix the city's overflow sewer problem; increased food and beverage taxes, and car rental, ticket and hotel taxes to help pay for the Colts stadium; and this summer he pushed to raise the income tax to fund public safety operations and retire old pension liabilities.
  • The income tax had been 1 percent and was raised to 1.65 percent. For a Marion County resident who earned the median income of $41,947 last year, the tax means an extra $273 siphoned from paychecks over the course of a year.
  • Greg Jordan, his Republican opponent in the 2003 election, said Peterson did little to prepare for a property tax crisis that most public officials saw coming long in advance . . . We needed a proactive stance to minimize the impact," Jordan said. "The mayor does a great job of selling what he's done, but it's a pattern of taking the easy route rather than making the tough decisions."
  • While homicides are down this year, the violent crime rate increased 7 percent from 2003 to 2006 in Marion County, while nationally the increase was 3 percent.
  • Seven years ago, Peterson stood on the porch of an abandoned house at 49 Jefferson Ave. and said he would crack down on absentee landlords. Abandoned homes, he said, drag down a neighborhood's property values and attract drug dealers and squatters. Four years later, the house was still abandoned.
  • Peterson, 49, said he seriously considered not running for office again. But he said he wants to complete some goals that are personally important to him.
  • "Would the next mayor have the same approach to fighting the high school dropout rate, or would the charter school foundation be strong enough?" Peterson said. "We might lose the progress we've made. I can't expect the next mayor to have the same passions and priorities."
  • He considers Downtown development another success story. Downtown has especially thrived during his tenure, with a flood of new condominiums and restaurants making it increasingly attractive to live in the city's heart.
  • The mayor has relied on tax incentives to lure key job-creating companies such as Simon Property Group and the Conrad Hotel, but again, Republicans say he gave away too much in the deals.
  • Supporters say Peterson's ability to sell a compromise comes from his communication skills. Peterson said he loves the challenge of bringing people together.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bauer Wants Clinton-Bayh Ticket

House Speaker Pat Bauer tells the Star's Mary Beth Schneider he's supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton's bid to become the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee because he wants a Clinton-Bayh ticket. Quoting Bauer, Schneider writes:

“I endorsed Hillary because I want Evan Bayh to be the vice president on that ticket,” Bauer said.

He said he did so after Bayh, who recently signed on as national co-chairman of Clinton’s campaign, personally called him to encourage his support for the former first lady. Asked whether the former Indiana governor told him that such endorsements would help him become Clinton’s running mate, Bauer said: “Um, I can’t say he said that exactly, but I know that’s the case.”

“I think he said she’s going to win, and he is very close to her and they work very well together and they hope to work very well together in the future,” Bauer said.

Indiana Democrats seems to be pretty confident Clinton will choose Bayh as her running mate. Assuming she has made any confidential assurances to him in consideration for his support, it wouldn't surprise me if she had made similar assurances to others. Beyond that, Bayh doesn't seem like a good fit for her if she is playing the electoral arithmetic game. Clinton would not carry Indiana just because Bayh is on the ticket as Bauer speculates. As we saw with John Kerry's selection of John Edwards as his 2004 running mate, Edwards didn't help Kerry in the least bit in winning any red states despite being a southerner, and he is a far better public speaker than the bland Bayh. The fact is Clinton is ballot box poison in the red states. Rex Early's quip to Schneider hit the nail on the head. “I’d love it,” he said, adding with a laugh: “Please don’t throw me in that briar patch, brother fox.”

Schneider Calls Out GOP Brass

The Star's Mary Beth Schneider doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to calling out the leadership of the Republican Party for its miserable failure to support Greg Ballard's mayoral campaign. She writes in a front page story today:

GOP mayoral candidate Greg Ballard’s latest campaign finance report is remarkable for what doesn’t show up in its relatively slim 38-pages: the names of many prominent Republicans.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Marion County resident, gave nothing to Ballard from personal or campaign funds. Murray Clark, the state Republican Party chairman and a Marion County resident, also gave nothing; neither did the state party. The name of state Rep. Mike Murphy, a former Marion County GOP chairman, also was absent.

“It makes you wonder,” said Bill Blomquist, political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “Where are the Marion County Republicans?”

State GOP Chairman Murray Clark's response to Schneider when she asked why he hadn't contributed to Ballard provides all the more reason for demanding his resignation as party chairman. Clark's law firm, Baker & Daniels, has given tens of thousands to Peterson's campaign. Clark, asked why he hadn’t given Ballard any money, replied:

“I don’t know why. I don’t think he’s asked me for any, come to think about it.”

Clark, who said the state GOP has given nonfinancial help to Ballard’s campaign, said it’s difficult to raise money against an incumbent who seemed to be cruising to re-election earlier this year.

“The irony for (Ballard) now is he has a chance to win,” Clark said. “He’s doing better in debates and on the stump.”

Tom John's response to Schneider likewise doesn't cut it. "Marion County Republican Chairman Tom John noted that one reason Ballard has struggled was that so many people assumed Peterson would win," Schneider writes. “Conventional wisdom for a long time said this wouldn’t be a race because Peterson had $3.million,” he said. "He said the county party has done what it can to help." The party has done what is can to help? If this is as good as the party can do, then there is no hope for a two-party system in this county.

If you look at where Peterson's support is coming from among businesses and individuals, you will find it is largely comprised of businesses and people who do business with the city. It's a who's who of construction companies, developers, architects/engineers, road contractors, public finance/bond firms, city/county employees and attorneys. You can also match up many of the contributors to Peterson to list of firms receiving tax abatements, government subsidies and other special considerations from the Peterson administration in recent years. And who is Hoosier Trust Company? It has given more than $66,000 to Peterson. It is, to put it bluntly, government for sale. You can view Ballard's campaign finance report by clicking here.