Friday, November 30, 2007

Well-Wishers Gather To Pray For Carson

Nearly 500 well-wishers gathered with close friends and family in front of the Indianapolis home of Rep. Julia Carson (D) tonight holding candles and sharing in prayer. Clergy representing a cross-section of religious denominations participated in tonight's nearly hour-long prayer vigil. A few local politicians were sprinkled throughout the crowd. The past as represented by Carson's predecessor, former Rep. Andy Jacobs (D), and the future as represented by her grandson, Andre Carson, addressed the crowd.

Hamilton Center In Big Trouble

Terre Haute Mayor-elect Duke Bennett (R) may or may not have violated the Hatch Act by running for mayor when his employer, the Hamilton Center, received federal funding for its Head Start program. It is quite clear, however, that the Hamilton Center violated Internal Revenue Code regulations barring it as a 501(c)(3) organization from participating in campaigns. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star has a bombshell story today disclosing $19,200 the nonprofit has donated to various political campaigns since 1998, including $1,000 donations this year to Bennett and his Democratic opponent, Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke. Arthur Foulkes reports:

Hamilton Center, a nine-county behavioral health system, may have violated federal tax law by making political contributions to Terre Haute mayoral candidates Kevin Burke and Duke Bennett.Hamilton Center Inc. donated $1,000 to Burke’s campaign in the Democratic party primary for Terre Haute mayor in February 2007.

After the May primaries, the mental health corporation made a pair of $500 donations to the general election campaign fund of Republican Duke Bennett.

Burke and Bennett reported these contributions in campaign finance reports filed with the Vigo County Clerk’s Office earlier this year. All the contributions are marked as “direct” as opposed to “in-kind” donations.

“They are just not allowed to do that,” said Steve Weissman, associate director for policy at the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, D.C. The CFI is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research and education institute associated with George Washington University.

Hamilton Center Inc., based in Terre Haute, is designated as a 501(c)(3) organization under the federal tax code. Such organizations can accept tax-deductible contributions but are prohibited from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign … for elective office,” according to information provided by the IRS in Washington.

“There is an absolute prohibition against any political campaign intervention [by 501(c)(3) organizations],” Weissman said. “It’s in the tax code. It’s in the law and it’s in regulations. So that’s illegal.”

According to the Indiana Election Division, between 1998 and 2006, Hamilton Center has donated $19,200 to candidates for state offices. Recipients of that money include area Democrats Rep. Dale Grubb, Rep. Clyde Kersey, Rep. Vern Tincher, Rep. Alan Chowning, Sen. Mark Blade and Sen. Tim Skinner, as well as Lt. Gov. Katherine Davis, Gov. Joe Kernan and Gov. Frank O’Bannon. Republican recipients of Hamilton Center contributions include Gov. Mitch Daniels, Auditor Connie Kay Nass and the Vigo County Republican Central Committee.

What is shocking is the Hamilton Center's claim that its attorneys and accountants told it the contributions were permissible. "Galen Goode, Hamilton Center’s CEO, said that he has asked the mental health system’s attorneys and accountants in the past whether such activity is permitted." “Their response has always been that the dinners and golf events and things of that sort have typically been public events that we take the position of marketing,” Goode said. “By the time you subtract the cost of these events, etc., the remainder is not material.” The organizations attorney didn't have much to say to the Tribune-Star reporter. "An attorney for Hamilton Center, Richard Shagley Sr. of Terre Haute, said he was not authorized to comment on behalf of Hamilton Center," the story reports.

I simply can't believe a nonprofit could be making political contributions to all these different campaigns this many years and nobody has raised any questions about their legality. Suffice it to say, the Hamilton Center's problems have only just begun. And all of these campaign committees listed in today's story better get busy writing out checks to the Hamilton Center returning all of these illegal campaign contributions.

Prayer Vigil For Carson Planned Tonight

Family and friends of Rep. Julia Carson are conducting a prayer vigil outside her home on North Park Avenue this evening to which the public is invited. The vigil is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. outside her home at 25th & Park Avenue. Organizers of the event from Light of the World Church are asking anyone who wants to attend to bring candles to the home.

Bopp Seeks Supreme Court's Intervention In Terre Haute Mayoral Recount

The attorney for Mayor-elect Duke Bennett (R), Jim Bopp, is asking the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by a Vigo County Superior Court judge ordering a recount in the Terre Haute mayoral race. Bopp is arguing a very technical point in this case, but he claims it is based on rulings handed down by judges in other recount cases based upon the plain language of the recount statute. The AP reports:

Bennett's attorney, James Bopp Jr., this week asked Vigo Superior Court Judge David Bolk to throw out the recount request and the election challenge on a technicality.

Bopp argued that the paperwork did not include Bennett's full name, including his middle initial, as it appeared on the ballot as required by law. But Bolk denied his motions, and Thursday Bopp asked the state Supreme Court to intervene.

"It's fatal to the case because it's jurisdictional," Bopp said. "The court does not have jurisdiction over this matter unless it's properly done."

Burke's attorney, Ed DeLaney, is none too pleased with Bopp's maneuver. The story reports, "Attorney Ed DeLaney, who represents Burke, said that Bennett's side doesn't want a recount or challenge, "and they want to stop Judge Bolk from doing that over the letter 'A'." DeLaney deflected attention away from his technical error in filing Burke's recount to his belated attempt to disqualify Bennett from serving as mayor under the Hatch Act. "They do not want to ever explain how Mr. Bennett complied with the Hatch Act," DeLaney said. "There is no circumstance under which they are willing to answer that question." Of course, DeLaney fails to mention that the same circumstances existed with Bennett's employment when he ran for mayor against Burke four years ago as they did this year. Burke never raised the issue until after he lost the election. Burke did, however, level a Hatch Act challenge at his Democratic primary opponent this year, who was a law enforcement officer.

Many To Blame For Tajanay's Death

The Star has an excellent editorial focusing attention on who is to blame for the tragic death of Tajanay Bailey this past week at the hands of an abusive mother and her live-in boyfriend. As the editorial discusses, there are many fronts to cover.

TaJanay was failed by Indiana's child protection system. The decision to return TaJanay to her mother's care was made over the objections of the little girl's foster mother and despite evidence of abuse that occurred during a home visit last year.

If police and prosecutors are right, TaJanay was "systematically tortured'' over the course of several days last week. Conditions in the apartment appalled police, who encountered rodents, roaches and an overwhelming odor. Why did someone in the Department of Child Services decide to return TaJanay to such an environment? Did no one monitor the little girl during the trial reunification? Why, as Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has asserted, didn't state workers notify police of the abuse discovered by an emergency room doctor in 2006?

TaJanay was failed by federal and local governments that for decades have allowed crime and squalor to fester at the Phoenix Apartments, where the child's mother lived. The 4100 block of Edgemere Court, where the apartment is located, has recorded the city's highest number of violent crimes in a residential area year after year. Federal subsidies pay the rent for most Phoenix residents. A succession of landlords, including out-of-state companies, have profited from the subsidies. City officials had largely forgotten the Phoenix Apartments and Edgemere Court until last month, when The Star's Matthew Tully documented the horrid conditions at the complex.

TaJanay was failed by all of us who call this community home. We have come together to build a vibrant Downtown, world-class stadiums and a shining new library. Yet, thousands of children in this city live in fear and poverty every day. TaJanay's story is exceptional only to the degree of abuse. In fact, a state spokeswoman said one reason child protection workers may not have reported the earlier abuse to police is the sheer volume of cases handled. How will this community turn its outrage over TaJanay's death into action to better protect other children?

The parents failed, the system failed, governments on various levels failed, the community failed. And a little girl is dead.

There is one part of the editorial to which I take exception. "[A] state spokeswoman said one reason child protection workers may not have reported the earlier abuse to police is the sheer volume of cases handled." You need to look no further than this case I highlighted yesterday. DCS worked diligently over a three-year period to involuntarily terminate the parental rights in a case involving no reported physical abuse. The parents in that case were put through hell because they didn't maintain a "tidy and uncluttered environment" for their children. Based on Matt Tully's reporting this summer on the Phoenix Apartments where Tajanay's mother lived, it is hard to understand how child care workers could not have known of the squalid living conditions to which Tajanay was being exposed, let alone the physical abuse which had occurred on previous occasions. Blaming Tajanay's death on a high volume of cases just won't cut it in this instance. This case should have been a top priority from day one for any child services worker.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who Won This Election?

My frustration with the people Mayor-elect Greg Ballard has chosen to lead his transition team is reaching the boiling point. The bottom line is that the same old crowd who has been calling the shots in this town are completely in charge of the transition team. I can't begin to express my disappointment at how quickly the people who won this race for Greg Ballard have been tossed to the curb. A report by WTHR's Kevin Rader shows how badly his transition team has gotten off track. Let's look at this bit of his report:

"I think he has called on very capable people with experience, decades of experience in government," said John Cochran, transition chairman.

Former City-County Council member Toby McClamroch is leading Ballard's public safety transition team. Pat Kiely is leading the Capital Improvement Board team and former state Secretary of Commerce Mickey Maurer is leading the waterworks committee.

"High profile individuals who add immediately add credibility," said Joe Loftus, former deputy mayor during the Goldsmith administration, is the transition director which includes 24 teams and 150 volunteers.

Let's take a look at some of these folks:

  • Toby McClamroch is a former Republican city-county councilor who is the managing partner of Bingham-McHale. His law firm has made millions off its legal work for the City of Indianapolis the past eight years. Its largest contract is providing legal services for the Capital Improvements Board of Managers. Yes, it played an intricate role in that lousy lease negotiation with Jim Irsay and the Colts, which is costing the taxpayers dearly. While McClamroch's firm raised lots of money for Peterson's re-election, it did absolutely nothing for Ballard's re-election, and that includes McClamroch. On election night, as a commentator on a local TV station, he dismissed Ballard's chances of pulling an upset.
  • Pat Kiely is a former legislator from Anderson who is president of the Indiana Manufacturers Association. He is lobbying hard against efforts to repeal property taxes. Ballard pledged to support a repeal of property taxes during the campaign. Kiely is also against proposals like Gov. Daniels', which might require businesses to pay more taxes to reduce the burden on homeowners. His big corporate buddies are all in favor of taxing the little guy to finance stadiums for wealthy team owners on the backs of the little guy so they can entertain their business friends in luxury at sporting events. Does anyone recall Kiely advocating Ballard's election as mayor?
  • Mickey Maurer, although he served as Gov. Daniels' Commerce Secretary, is a Democrat. He was viewed as a supporter of Mayor Bart Peterson's re-election like many of Indianapolis' leading business figures. Maurer is the owner of many businesses, including large real estate holdings in the city. His business dealings often require approvals from various agencies of city-county government. As Daniels' Commerce Secretary, he was a proponent of big government handouts to businesses in the form of direct subsidies and tax breaks, which helped contribute to the huge tax shift in Marion County from business to homeowners over the last several years.

The bottom line is that it's business as usual. The same people who have called the shots in this town are still calling the shots. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Mayor-elect Ballard, I ask of you, why are you turning your back on the people who worked so hard to elect you?

Even Mass Avenue Can Be Dangerous

If you're down on Massachusetts Avenue during the after hours, you may want to keep an eye over your shoulder. A patron of one of the many bars along the Avenue learned it the hard way last night. As he returned to his car parked in front of Agio's at about 11:30 p.m., he was approached by two black males, held up at gun point and then struck over the head with the butt of a gun after the assailants made off with his wallet. This is just another example of the escalating crime problem in our city. Even the places we think are safe can be dangerous.

A Case Of Misplaced Priorities?

If you were upset about child service workers mishandling of Tajanay Bailey's case and the deadly results for the three-year-old, you will be even more upset when you learn about another case where the Marion County Department of Child Services (DCS) was actively working to involuntarily terminate the parenting rights at the same time it twice returned Tajanay to the custody of her mother. What is so outrageous about this other case is the fact that it involves no allegations of the parents being physically abusive towards their children. Yet, DCS twice initiated parental termination proceedings against the parents in this other case for essentially failing to maintain "a tidy and uncluttered environment" for their children.

Newly-appointed Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford delivered an 11-page-opinion in Termination the Parent-Child Relationship of D.J., K.P. and K.R.; Teffany Reaves v. Marion County Department of Child Services (NFP) in which he rebukes Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores for rendering a decision to terminate the parental rights of the Reaves over three of their children because her trial court decision was so devoid of adequate findings of fact that it "hindered effective judicial review." According to Bradford's decision, DCS removed two of the Reaves' children from their home after an inspection based on an anonymous tip discovered "deplorable and unsanitary conditions" in their home. The record indicated the Reaves complied with "most, if not all, court-ordered services" subsequent to their children's removal and the birth of a third child. DCS, nonetheless, petitioned to terminate their rights but the juvenile court turned down its request. For more than two years, the parents were allowed only supervised visitation of their children when DCS once again petitioned to terminate their parental rights. After a two-day hearing, the trial court terminated the Reaves' parental rights based on the "cleanliness of the home and the safety of the children as main concerns."

Bradford's decision notes that termination is "intended as a last resort" and "is the most extreme sanction a court can impose." "The purpose of terminating parental rights is not to punish the parents but to protect their children," Bradford said. By statute, DCS is required to prove by convincing evidence that "the conditions that resulted in the child’s removal or the reasons for placement outside the home of the parents will not be remedied", or "the continuation of the parent-child relationship poses a threat to the well-being of the child." The findings in the trial court's record simply didn't pass muster according to Bradford. He focused, in particular, on these three findings of the trial court:

Although the parents may be looking for a larger home, the current residence has two bedrooms. It remains a cluttered and unsafe environment for the children. Hazardous choke items are available and cleanliness is an issue. The "Baby Gate" recently acquired would not keep the eldest two children in one room. Safety plugs for wall sockets have been suggested for a long period of time. Parents have moved items of furniture to cover the sockets instead of acquiring plugs . . .

Mother is inconsistent in her interaction with the children. Mother and Father have a new baby born in November 2006 on which Mother provides her main focus. Mother genuinely cares for her children but lacks the skills to appropriately interact, redirect, and provide a safe environment clear of hazards as well as proper supervision . . .

Father was not present for a majority of the visitation sessions, possibly due to work. During [the] times he was present, he would often not be in the room with the children or would sleep. Father exhibits minimal engagement.

Bradford noted the findings made no mention of "filth or unsanitary conditions" in the Reaves home. "[The evidence] showed in the light most favorable to the judgment, that the home was occasionally untidy and cluttered," Bradford wrote. He found equally lacking any evidence that the Reaves lacked parenting skills. "While there was ample testimony pertaining to the varying parenting techniques, none of the evidence made a showing that [the mother] lacked the skills necessary to care for her children so as to warrant the termination of her parental rights," Bradford wrote. "Upon review of the record, it is clear that all evidence relating to Father’s absence from services relates to Father’s absence from home counseling sessions, and there is no evidence in the record suggesting that Father was absent from visitation sessions," Bradford added. He concluded, "[T]he evidence, at most, showed a pattern of an inability to maintain a tidy and uncluttered environment, but the evidence failed to establish that the untidy or cluttered conditions posed any threat to the children’s well-being, and no additional evidence was presented that even alleged that there were reoccurring unsanitary conditions in the home."

What particularly bothered Bradford was the fact that the trial court's decision simply recited the statutory provisions for terminating parental rights and contained "no explanation of how the juvenile court’s factual findings support its judgment." "As such, we are unable to determine whether the juvenile court mistakenly violated the Reaveses’ parental rights." The court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to "enter factual findings that are fully supported by the evidence and to include an explanation as to how its factual findings support its judgment." I would be remiss if I didn't include this damning footnote Judge Bradford included with his opinion:

At trial, the DCS worker assigned to this matter testified that, pursuant to DCS policy, DCS would automatically initiate a CHINS proceeding with regard to T.R. if the juvenile court terminated the Reaveses’ parental rights to the three children at issue even though the home-based counselors contracted by DCS to work with the family testified that the Reaveses were sufficiently caring for T.R. and that they would not recommend T.R. be removed from the Reaveses’ care.

We observe that one of the cornerstones of the judicial process is that each individual case must be decided on its own merits. We are sure that DCS would agree that, in the interest of justice, each individual case must be decided on its own merits and, as such, we are inclined to disbelieve that DCS would employ a seemingly contradictory policy.

Can you believe it? The DCS' own home-based counselors gave a stamp of approval to the Reaves' parenting of a child still in their custody at the same time DCS was petitioning to terminate their parental rights to three other children. And DCS planned to terminate their parental rights to that other child once it got court approval for the other children in spite of the finding of its home-based counselors that the Reaves were sufficiently caring for their other child.

So the juvenile court judge terminates the Reaves parental rights with evidence in the record that they failed to maintain "a tidy and uncluttered environment" for their children. Compare that to the conditions police found in Tajanay Bailey's home, who had twice been removed from her mother's custody and placed in foster care under circumstances involving physical abuse of the child:

Police called to investigate Tajanay’s death were appalled at the condition of the apartment, in the 4100 block of Edgemere Court. It was strewn with food and dirty dishes, said Marcus Kennedy, an IMPD homicide detective. There were cockroaches and mice, he said, and a rank odor that caused investigators to breathe deeply once they emerged into the fresh air.Even the couple’s pet snakes were in bad shape, said Ty Holder, an officer with Indianapolis Animal Care and Control who was called to the scene by police. Holder hauled away two 3-foot-long Ball pythons. Kennedy said he saw lying on a chair in the apartment a certificate indicating Green had recently completed a parenting class sponsored by the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Now, are you as outraged as I am? This is simply inexcusable. How could someone conclude it was okay for Tajanay to return to this home? Someone has to be held accountable for a string of bad mistakes which led to the killing of Tajanay Bailey at the hands of an abusive mother and her boyfriend.

A big hat to Indiana Law Blog for catching this decision.

Holladay: Star Acting As Carson's Enabler

Former Star columnist Ruth Holladay defends blogs like this one for seeking for more than a year now to expose the truth about Rep. Julia Carson's health, which she and her staff have gone to great pains to hide from public, and she criticizes the Star for acting as Carson's enabler in hiding the truth from the public. Holladay takes notable exception to Star columnist Dan Carpenter's absurd suggestion in his column yesterday that the blogs have been vicious towards Carson on this point. Carpenter would have fit right in with the reporters in the 1960s who covered up all the Kennedy scandals in the name of protecting Camelot. She writes:

I like and admire her a great deal. So it is painful and troubling to know that she is now sick with lung cancer, and that she has that battle to fight from her bed.

But since Dan Carpenter in the Star yesterday referred to the "often vicious" treatment Rep. Carson received from bloggers, I feel a tiny obligation to enter the fray.

The blogs were in fact the only early and consistent truth-tellers about Carson's repeated health problems. The blogs addressed concerns, which now we know were valid, that she was extremely unwell. Before there were blogs, it was readers who called the Star, demanding coverage of the fact that Carson missed, at various times, so many votes in Congress. It was readers who got that story out in the open, not the Star's Washington bureau.

A friend has referred to the treatment Rep. Carson has received at the hands of her many "supporters" as elder abuse. Carson, my friend says, was kept propped up by a staff and others who, it seems, may have had their own best interests at heart -- keeping the machine going, staying in power.

I don't know if that is true. Far be it from me to discern the workings of either Rep. Carson or those who love her.

I do, however, absolutely believe that the Star has been negligent in covering Rep. Carson's efforts to do her job in Congress. I do believe that the newspaper has been her enabler. It is one thing for longtime friends and staff to protect the congresswoman, and quite another for the state's largest newspaper to continually print positive spin without taking a hard look at the facts.

If the blogs were vicious, it was, perhaps, only because they were trying to do the job the Star should have done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Child Services Failed Tajanay Bailey

When a child services worker fails to do his or her job, the results can be deadly. Despite the pleas of three-year-old Tajanay Bailey's foster mother, Janice Springfield, Child Protective Services returned Tajanay to her mother and her live-in boyfriend in the dreaded Phoenix apartments last month. "I told Child Services that mom was no good, and that boyfriend was no good,” Springfield said. A month later the little girl is dead after allegedly being beaten to death by her mother and her boyfriend. "She was systematically tortured over the week of Thanksgiving by her mother's fiance and by the mother," [Marion County Prosecutor Carl] Brizzi said. "We believe both of the defendants actively participated in the abuse." An autopsy found Tajanay died from blunt force trauma to her head, neck and abdomen.

Ironically, Tajanay's death came on the same day the Daniels' administration received an award from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for reforming the state's child welfare system. The squalid conditions police described in her mother's apartment after the girl's death should have given any child services worker pause. As described by the Star:

Police called to investigate Tajanay’s death were appalled at the condition of the apartment, in the 4100 block of Edgemere Court. It was strewn with food and dirty dishes, said Marcus Kennedy, an IMPD homicide detective. There were cockroaches and mice, he said, and a rank odor that caused investigators to breathe deeply once they emerged into the fresh air.Even the couple’s pet snakes were in bad shape, said Ty Holder, an officer with Indianapolis Animal Care and Control who was called to the scene by police. Holder hauled away two 3-foot-long Ball pythons. Kennedy said he saw lying on a chair in the apartment a certificate indicating Green had recently completed a parenting class sponsored by the Indiana Department of Child Services.
It is extremely troubling to learn that Tajanay had been removed from her mother's home twice for abuse and neglect. The last time she was taken from the home Springfield described physical injuries she had suffered. "[S]he had bruises around her neck, and it looked like somebody took a belt to her behind,” Springfield said, "adding that she urged Child Protective Services not to return Tajanay to her mother as recently as last month." Brizzi complained that there was no police report on the abuse Springfield described when Tajanay was last returned to her custody. I don't know what kind of reforms the Daniels' administration implemented, but they sure as hell didn't help this helpless little girl.

Vigo County Judge Orders Recount In Terre Haute Mayor's Race

No big surprise here. Vigo County Superior Court Judge David Bolk ordered a recount as requested by losing Mayor Kevin Burke (D). Mayor-elect Duke Bennett's (R) attorney, Jim Bopp, had asked the judge to dismiss Burke's complaint for a recount based on the fact that Burke's complaint omitted Bennett's middle initial, "A". According to Bopp, the recount statute requires a complaint for a recount to identify the candidate as his name appeared on the ballot. Specifically, I.C. 3-12-6-3 reads: "The name of each candidate for the nomination or office as set forth on the ballot for the election and the address of each candidate for nomination or election to the office as set forth in the records of the county election board or election division." Bopp said other courts had dismissed complaints in the past because the candidate's name was not identified in the complaint exactly as it appeared on the ballot.

In addition to seeking a recount of Bennett's 107-vote win over Burke, DeLaney is asking Judge Bolk to rule that Bennett is disqualified from serving as Terre Haute's mayor because his employer, the Hamilton Center, receives a federal grant for its Head Start program. That, according to DeLaney, violated the federal Hatch Act. “I’m not asking him about his love life,” DeLaney told the Tribune-Star. “I’m asking him if he’s qualified for mayor, and I’m hearing a deafening silence.” Bennett maintains that none of his responsibilities or his salary is tied to the federal dollars. Interestingly, Burke raised the same Hatch Act argument against his opponent during the May primary but didn't mention a word about the issue against Bennett until he learned Bennett had beaten him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rev. Baily: Carson Knew She Had Cancer A Year Ago

A WRTV report about all the well wishes pouring in for U.S. Rep. Julia Carson after she disclosed over the weekend she has terminal lung cancer contains a quote from Carson's minister, which is seemingly being ignored by all the media. WRTV attributes the following to the Rev. Jonathan Baily, Carson's personal minister:

The Rev. Jonathan Baily said he was with Carson when doctors told her she had cancer about a year ago. He said the doctor finally told her that she had just days to live recently. "She asked the doctor, 'How long have I got?'" Baily said. He said, 'It's not our thing to tell you how long, just make you comfortable.'"

According to Rev. Baily, Carson's doctors informed her that she had cancer about a year ago and that he was present when she learned this news. Now contrast what Baily told WRTV to the statement her congressional office released over the weekend:

In the late summer of 2007, Congress granted me a leave of absence because of my leg infection. My wonderful doctor cured the leg, and I went into rehabilitation, planning to be back in Washington shortly. Then the second shoe fell -- heavily. My doctor discovered lung cancer. It had gone into remission years before, but it was back with a terminal vengeance.

The statement claims she didn't learn about the lung cancer until after she had been treated successfully for her "leg infection" in September, not a year ago as claimed by Rev. Baily. Who is telling the truth? Rev. Baily or Carson's congressional office? You might recall a quote in the Star the other day from Ann DeLaney observing the noticeable decline people had observed in Carson's health over the past year. And during her interview with Amos Brown the day before the election earlier this month Carson attributed her coughing to a case of bronchitis. She also complained about having bronchitis at one point during her re-election campaign last year against Eric Dickerson.

This is just a continuation of the pattern of deception practiced by Carson's congressional staff and the close advisors who surround her, including former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs (D). Given the fact that the local news media is completely unwilling to ask the tough questions of them, I guess they figure they can get by telling as many lies as they want. The media is too busy bestowing sainthood on Rep. Carson to bother with any of the facts. The savvy Carson supporters know all the media attention on Carson will only enhance the candidacy of her grandson, Andre, to fill her seat. Carson's supporters are planning a prayer vigil outside her home Friday night led by Andy Jacobs. You have to hand it to Rep. Carson, even in dying she knows how to play the local media like a fiddle.

Taxpayers Foot $10 Million For Lucas Oil Scoreboards

Scoreboards for the new Lucas Oil Stadium will cost $11.4 million, and close to $10 million of your taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for them. That generous Colts' owner Jim Irsay will kick in a measly $1.75 million. I guess the $125 million deal Irsay struck with Lucas Oil for the naming rights on the new stadium didn't cover that cost. It is simply an outrage that this cost should be picked up by taxpayers when the scoreboards are nothing more than an advertising revenue bonanza for Irsay's Colts. I can only hope that Mayor-elect Greg Ballard will choose people to sit on the Capital Improvements Board of Managers who actually look out for the taxpayers' interest as opposed to Jim Irsay's interest. The decision to purchase the $11.4 million scoreboards, however, was made by the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, which Gov. Mitch Daniels indirectly controls. The Authority's Chairman, David Frick, is a Baker & Daniels partner with Fred Glass, the CIB Chairman who negotiated the worst stadium lease in NFL history from the standpoint of taxpayers.

Support For Gay Marriage Ban Drops Below 50%

Even Hoosiers are getting fed up with the religious right's use of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages as a divisive wedge issue. According to a Indianapolis Star/WTHR poll, support for the amendment has fallen below the fifty percent mark for the first time since the issue has been surveyed in Indiana. "The poll, based on the responses of 600 people statewide, found that 49 percent of Hoosiers supported the amendment," the Star reports. "That number is down from 56 percent in a March 2005 survey by The Star."

This really should come as no surprise to Indiana politicians. People are far more concerned about taxes, schools and health care than adding an unnecessary amendment to the constitution for the sole purpose of discriminating against a disfavored minority group. Yet, the twice-married and childless proponent of the amendment is determined to whack away at this wedge issue. "There will be more than adequate time to deal with property taxes and pass an amendment protecting marriage,” said [Eric] Miller, founder of Advance America, a conservative activist group. "Miller said the poll still shows more Hoosiers favor the ban than oppose it and deserve the opportunity to vote on the measure."

If House Republican Leader Brian Bosma has any hopes of salvaging his declining stature in Indiana politics, he will say enough with this issue and move on instead of pretending to be some modern day messiah who was put on this earth to deliver us from evil. I just wish Bosma could hear what many of the state's top Republicans have quietly told me about their feelings towards him for his continued flogging of the marriage amendment and prayer issue. Or even better, I wish they would tell him the same thing they tell me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Frank Anderson Does Not Live In The 7th District

The latest rumor in the 7th congressional district saga surrounding Rep. Julia Carson's pending departure from Congress is that Sheriff Frank Anderson (D) may be asked to step in as a consensus candidate to head off a civil war within the Marion County Democratic Party over Carson's successor. If it matters to anyone in the Democratic Party, Sheriff Anderson resides in U.S. Rep. Dan Burton's district and not the 7th District. Remember, he has the million-dollar home on Geist. Ed Feigenbaum add this bit of information over at the Indiana Daily Insight:

The plot thickens in the political soap opera surrounding the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D). After disclosing over the weekend that she was suffering from terminal lung cancer, her office announced officially what most had expected anyway: that she would not be a candidate for re-election. What we picked up Monday in the already bizarre CD 07 political kabuki dance is that Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson (D), who is likely to see his powers emasculated under the new City of Indianapolis administration, may be the beneficiary of a frantic behind-the-scenes effort among Democrats to find a consensus candidate whose candidacy would be acceptable to all factions of the local party and forestall a party civil war . . .despite the fact that he doesn't actually live in the district, and would have to suffer through a 50% pay cut if he were to run and win. New Indianapolis City-County Councilmember Andre Carson (D), his grandmother's likely preference for a successor, is seen as not likely to want to make a bid for the seat if he has to fight for it and further splinter the party. Complicating things: a potential special primary caucus and election should Rep. Carson decide to step down or is unable to fill out her term . . . and the reprecincting that should be completed soon, changing some of the players in such a caucus (and potentially in a special election, as well).

With all the attention on the Democratic side, few are paying attention to what is happening on the Republican side. The only serious, announced candidate is State Rep. Jon Elrod. There have been rumblings that Bruce Henry, the District 1 loser in this November's City-County Council race, might enter the race. I'm not sure how a losing council race positions one to run for Congress. Last year's GOP candidate, Eric Dickerson, is sending out no signals of interest in making the race. Some GOP observers believe the Republicans should nominate an African-American to run for the seat if the party wants to seriously contest the race without hurting the party's county-wide candidates next year.

Closer Scrutiny Of Daniels' Judicial Appointments

While Gov. Mitch Daniels' critics have plenty to keep them busy with the multiple initiatives he has undertaken during his first three years in office, nobody is paying much attention to the judicial appointments he has made. Yet, the people he appoints to the bench will be wielding decisions for ten, twenty or more years after he leaves office. As governor, he appoints trial court judges statewide whenever a vacancy occurs, and he fills vacancies on the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The long-term impact of his judicial appointees far exceeds the impact of most other decisions he makes while in office.

Disappointingly, Gov. Daniels to date has preferred persons with strong, Republican partisan credentials as opposed to candidates with proven experience. Daniels has appointed only one appellate court judge, Cale Bradford, a Marion Superior Court judge from a family with long-term ties to Marion County Republican politics. As a trial court judge, Bradford saw a number of his decisions overturned by the Court of Appeals. In one highly-publicized decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that Bradford exceeded his authority when he instructed parents in a child custody matter not to expose their child to their Wiccan religious beliefs. On another occasion, the Indiana Supreme Court criticized Bradford for failing to recuse himself in a City-County Council redistricting case which directly impacted a council district represented by his brother.

The Judicial Nominating Commission is now considering seven finalists for another vacancy on the Court of Appeals to replace Judge John Sharpnack. The Commission will recommend three finalists to Governor Daniels. Included on the list of seven finalists for the vacant position is Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford). Based on his earlier appointments, it is not beyond the realm of speculation that Steele will wind up being Daniels choice to fill Sharpnack's vacancy. A Steele appointment would be quite troubling, although it would be music to the ears of the religious right, which is determined to stack our state courts with judges who will legislate their extremist agenda from the bench.

As a long-time state lawmaker, Steele has shown particular animus towards minorities. He has consistently opposed hate crimes legislation, which would allow for enhanced sentencing of persons convicted of committing crimes against a person or their property because of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sex or sexual orientation. He opposed the enactment of Indiana's hate crimes reporting law. He has supported legislation aimed at denying certain benefits and government services to undocumented immigrants. He supported Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act, which bars same-sex couples from marrying. And he is an outspoken proponent of SJR-7, a proposed constitutional amendment to bar the recognition of the legal incidents of marriage for any unmarried couple, straight or gay.

The question people need to be asking is how many judges with the ideological bent of a Bradford or Steele will Daniels have to appoint to the appellate courts before earlier precedents protecting minorities from discrimination are overturned? It is after all opinions of our appellate courts which have prevented trial court judges from discriminating against parents in child custody disputes and adoption proceedings because of their sexual orientation. The Indiana legislature has never passed a law to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. It has, however, tried unsuccessfully to bar them from adopting children or being foster parents.

As Daniels prepares his re-election bid next year, the last thing he wants is a primary opponent. Although the religious right blasted Daniels earlier in his administration for supporting an EEO policy of non-discrimination, which included protections based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, and for writing a letter of support for an Indianapolis gay pride event, Daniels has subsequently retreated and towed the line on many of the demands of the religious right. Already struggling with low public approval ratings, Daniels wants to avoid a potentially costly and divisive primary battle against Eric Miller, his 2004 primary opponent, or someone else from the religious right. Daniels may use his judicial appointments to appease the religious right. Appointing Steele to the Court of Appeals may be one way of satisfying the religious right.

People need to start paying closer attention to the people Daniels appoints to bench or soon it will be the courts and not the legislature which poses the greatest risk to the rights of disfavored minorities in this state. Instead of writing Gov. Daniels about Major Moves, Lottery privatization or property taxes, you might want to consider writing a letter to him letting him know how you feel about the people he appoints to serve as judges.

Bring Back Ed Treacy?

A reliable source tells me that Democratic African-American leaders are urging the replacement of Marion County Democratic Chairman Mike O'Connor with his predecessor, Ed Treacy. As news of Rep. Julia Carson's impending resignation swirls about, these leaders want Treacy at the helm when the wheels are set in motion for slating a candidate at a special election, which could by called by Gov. Mitch Daniels as early as February. Treacy enjoys a much closer relationship with Carson and the people who make up her organization than O'Connor has with these folks. The source tells me things could get pretty wild at the Democrat's slating convention. Believe it or not, the Marion County Democrats have no formal rules. The rules are whatever the sitting chairman says they are.

UPDATE: The Star reports the obvious, which is being played by all the local TV stations as breaking news: Rep. Carson will not seek re-election.

Hoosiers Favor Sales Tax Increase To Reduce Property Tax

An Indianapolis Star/WTHR poll says more than 60% of the respondents support an increase in the state sales tax as a means of reducing Indiana's property tax burden. "The poll of 600 Indiana adults found 62 percent are willing to pay more in sales taxes, while 27 percent oppose a higher sales tax and 11 percent are undecided," the Star reports. The biggest beef opponents have against a sales tax increase from 6% to 7% is that it will make Indiana's sales tax among the highest in the nation. There's only one problem with that claim. It's not true.

I've seen this claim repeated in the Star and other media since this discussion began. The problem is that the comparisons are only being made to the state sales tax rate and ignore the existence of additional local sales taxes in other states. Let's look next door in Illinois as an example. Although the standard, statewide rate is 6.25%, local taxes push the rate much higher. In Chicago, the tax rate is 9%. Suburban Bolingbrook's population has skyrocketed with a tax rate of 8%. Even downstate cities have relatively high rates. Champaign has a 7.75% rate, Springfield comes in at 7.75% and Peoria has an 8% rate. In other states, such as Tennessee, after adding in the local rate, the sales tax is over 9%. If the media is going to bring up this claim, it ought to at least check out the facts.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Carson Admits She Has Terminal Cancer

After misleading 7th District voters for more than two months about her health condition, U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D) is now publicly acknowledging she is suffering from terminal lung cancer. Her statement reads:

In the late summer of 2007, Congress granted me a leave of absence because of my leg infection. My wonderful doctor cured the leg, and I went into rehabilitation, planning to be back in Washington shortly. Then the second shoe fell -- heavily. My doctor discovered lung cancer. It had gone into remission years before, but it was back with a terminal vengeance. Therefore, I take this occasion to express my loving and literally eternal gratitude to my friends, including family, constituents and colleagues, who have given me so much love, support and trust. God bless our beloved country.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Rep. Carson and her family. It is just unfortunate that she has been unable to be candid with the public about what everyone had pretty much already figured out on their own. A friend of the family had told me a short time after she requested her first leave of absence she was suffering from lung cancer, but anyone close to Carson who was questioned about it for the record always denied it. I'll never understand why the local news media allowed themselves to be misled about her health. And I'll never understand why former Rep. U.S. Andy Jacobs (D) felt it important to mislead us other than to hide the news to give her grandson, Andre Carson, a leg up on all the other potential rivals seeking to replace her in Congress. It is increasingly becoming apparent that a special election will take place next year, in addition to the regular election. Look for candidates to make their intentions known over the next week.

UPDATE: A WRTV report this afternoon suggests Carson's condition has deteriorated rapidly from her recent interview with Amos Brown the day before the election. The WRTV reports says she is in a hospice and barely able to speak. This is how a family friend describes her:

The Rev. Jonathan Baily Sr., of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, spoke with Carson Sunday morning and said she is on hospice care and can barely speak. According to Baily, those close to Carson knew she had cancer.

"I was there when the doctor told her she was on hospice, whether she wanted to go to the hospital or stay home," Baily said.

At the same doctor's visit, Carson asked how long she had to live, 6News' Cheryl Jackson reported.

"He said, 'It's not our thing to tell you how long, just make you comfortable,'" Baily said.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

South Bend HRO Coming Back

Charlotte Pfeifer is using the remaining days left in her term as a member of the South Bend Common Council to pass a Human Rights Ordianance which will prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The HRO narrowly lost last year after the religious right mounted a bigoted disinformation campaign to defeat it. One of the HRO's opponents, Juan Manigault, ran against Mayor Stephen Luecke, an HRO backer, and was resoundingly defeated by South Bend voters despite Manigault's strong backing from the religious right.

Pfeiffer tells the South Bend Tribune she wants to pass the HRO to honor the late Roland Kelly, an HRO backer and former member of the common council who died in May. Pfeifer tells the Tribune:

"We came so close to passing it and doing the moral and decent thing," said Pfeifer, whose term expires at year's end. "I thought I'd give the council a chance to right the wrong they did last year."

She noted it was Kelly's "number one regret" when the amendment did not pass. "It profoundly and deeply hurt Roland at the time," recalled Pfeifer, who added the late councilman did not believe in discriminating against anyone.

"If we really want to pay tribute to (Kelly) and respect him the way we say we do, we do not want the city to discriminate against anyone," Pfeifer added.

"It clearly was very important to him," Randy Kelly said of his father. "It was the one thing he mentioned in his retirement interview (with The Tribune) that he wanted to accomplish before the end of his term."

Catherine Pittman of South Bend Equality tells the Tribune supporters will keep bringing the HRO back until it is eventually passed. "There is a group of citizens in the community not protected from discrimination and a lot of individuals are concerned about it," Pittman said. She notes that the "sky is falling" rhetoric espoused by opponents of Indianapolis' HRO never materialized. "In Indianapolis, after two years with the ordinance, Pittman said there have been no lawsuits challenging it and no more than five reports of discrimination per year." "Most were resolved with mediation."

The leader of the opposition, Patrick Mangan, offers up his predictable bigoted rhetoric. "We're still exactly in the same place," he said. "We are lovingly opposing the homosexuals as it is put forward by the ordinance."We believe anyone who really loves homosexuals will oppose their behavior," Mangan added, "and help them come out of homosexuality. The truth is it's a dangerous, addictive, deadly lifestyle." "He maintains most violence against homosexuals is from their partners, not from the general public." "Citing homosexuality as a behavior-based identity, Mangan does not see that in the same light for defining discrimination as a racial identity someone is born with." Thanks for sharing, Patrick. You're a real riot.

Daniels' Support of Jones Business Ventures Under Fire

The Indianapolis Business Journal's Peter Schnitzer picks up on Taking Down Words' pointed criticism of the Daniels' administration's support of technology fund grants for certain business ventures of entrepreneur Scott Jones and questions whether the support is a quid pro quo for the big cash Jones has helped raise for Gov. Mitch Daniels' re-election campaign. Schnitzer writes:

For a preview of how Indiana’s 2008 gubernatorial election will play out, look no further than the emerging tussle over entrepreneur Scott Jones’ $4 million in awards from the state’s 21st Century Research & Technology Fund.

In September, Jones’ automatic-lawn-mower business, Precise Path Robotics, landed $2 million from the fund, which doles out awards to spur high-tech job growth. On Nov. 14, Jones announced his human-assisted Internet search engine startup ChaCha had attracted $2 million of its own from the program.

In between, on Oct. 9, Jones held a highly publicized political fund-raiser at his Carmel mansion for Gov. Mitch Daniels, generating more than $1 million in contributions for the Republican’s re-election war chest.

Indiana Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Wagner is making political hay out of the time line. Her blog,, has hosted a scathing public discussion, questioning whether there’s a connection between Daniels’ campaign cash and Jones’ 21st Century Fund awards. She also questioned whether a wealthy businessman like Jones needs this type of help, or if it should be reserved for entrepreneurs who lack his financial firepower.

Thus an election issue was born. And now it’s being test-marketed online. “Isn’t it just a bit too convenient that Jones raised a million smackers for the Guv and then got twice as much in return?” she wrote in a typical Nov. 14 post titled, “Double the Fun: A Million Bucks for the Guv, Two Million for ChaCha.”

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Nathan Feltman, whose Indiana Economic Development Corp. oversees the 21st Century Fund, bristled at Wagner’s suggestion of political favoratism. Every applicant—including Jones—has to go through the same rigorous process, one with numerous checks and balances, Feltman said. He called the idea of quid pro quo between Daniels and Jones impossible.

“From day one, we’ve operated this place as a business and never have or would make any decisions based on campaign contributions,” he said.

Until weeks ago, Taking Down Words' Jen Wagner would have been walking a tightrope even discussing this issue. Her husband, Gordon Hendry, formerly ran the Indy Partnership, in which role he would have been four square behind supporting Jones' business ventures in this manner. His recent departure from that job freed up Wagner to talk about issues of this nature without fear of retaliation against her husband's employment.

As a person who used to work as general counsel for a local IT company, I appreciate the important role state and local governments can have in developing struggling young companies. During the O'Bannon administration, I found state government to be particularly hostile to local IT companies. Almost all the contracts went to out-of-state firms, particularly anything that had to do with the state's web portal, which a single out-of state firm completely monopolized. I'm actually pleased to see the state is embedding Jones' ChaCha search engine into its web portal.

Looking at Scott Jones, he is the closest thing we have to our own Bill Gates. Given his past track record of success, the state would be foolish to turn its back on him. One of these ventures could develop into a huge success employing tens of thousands of Hoosiers in high-paying technology jobs our economy badly needs to overcome its fading role in heavy manufacturing. Personally, I don't like the government handing out direct subsidies to business, but if it is going to happen, I would rather the money stay in the hands of local businesses.

Having said that, someone in the Daniels' administration should have given some consideration to the political cronyism charge before it decided to allow Jones to host Daniels' million-dollar fundraiser at Jones' palatial home in Carmel. When Jones offered to host the fundraiser, someone should have said thanks but no thanks. Our untainted support of your business ventures is more important than a few extra bucks in our already well-stuffed campaign war chest. Instead, it is with almost certainty that Jones will become the target of 30-second attack ads by Daniels' Democratic opponent in next year's governor's race. And it didn't have to be that way.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Twisted Priorities: Marriage Amendment No. 1 Priority For Some

After a record number of mayors lost their bids for re-election this year due in large part to voter unrest about rising property taxes, the number one priority for the upcoming legislative session should be obvious to all, unless you are working for one of those religious right nonprofit groups which are constantly flaming the fans of bigotry. Sue Swayze of the Indiana Family Institute would be one of those people. After she writes about "Jesus Christ" being "back in the State House" because Sen. Dennis Kruse (R) delivered a prayer at the opening of the Senate's business invoking his name, she writes at Veritas Rex:

The marriage amendment is our priority. It has arguably more long-term impact on Hoosiers than property taxes, but both are paramount to the future- one for your pocketbook and one for your cultural norms. IFI believes that both can be devastating to Hoosier families in the wrong doses.

The marriage amendment to which she refers seeks to write into the Indiana Bill of Rights a constitutional amendment to ban recognition of any legal incidents of marriage to any unmarried couples, whether straight or gay. Never mind that Indiana law already bans same-sex couples from marrying, and that Indiana courts have already ruled our constitution does not guarantee any such right to same-sex couples. If Swayze is so concerned about the state of Hoosier families, why doesn't she figure out a way to prevent an alarming number of out-of-wedlock births, record numbers of divorces and rampant extra-marital affairs plaguing our predominantly, heterosexual society? Why does she reserve all of her animosity towards a relatively small group of society which is not contributing to any of these far more important problems threatening Hoosier families?

Swayze's boss, Curt Smith, is equally obsessed with what gays and lesbians are doing in their bedrooms. Smith uses the occasion of Thanksgiving to discuss what he describes as the gay community's "narcissistic sex." Smith writes at Veritas Rex:

Go ahead. Prove me wrong on this hallowed Thanksgiving Day. As the 50-year-old on our team at the Family Institute, I've noted for my younger colleagues that the posts that get the most comments on Veritas Rex, by far, are focused in some respect on homosexual marriage/gay unions/blah, blah, blah, blah. So prove me wrong today. Show me the gay community has a life beyond absorption with narcissistic sex. Show us you are truly "gay" as in thankful and happy.

Again, I ask that these folks take a look in their own backyards. The state of the heterosexual sex world isn't as well as they might like to imagine it is. Go to the Internet and the personal ad section of your favorite weekly alternative newspaper and you will find an endless number of married couples, unwed couples and straight individuals cruising for anonymous hook-ups to satisfy their latest sexual urges. Yet, the only illicit sex Smith and Swayze see taking place is their twisted perception of gay and lesbian people out cruising parks and public restrooms for anonymous sex twenty-four hours a day. And if Smith and Swayze look a little harder, they will both find plenty of people in their own midst engaging in the very behavior they condemn with such self-righteousness.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Burke Takes Hatch Act Claim To Vigo County Court

The attorney for defeated Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke (D), Ed DeLaney, is taking his case alleging the Republican winner, Duke Bennett, violated a federal law prohibiting him from seeking public office to a Vigo County court, not the federal agency which administers the law. The federal Hatch Act prohibits employees of state and local agencies whose salaries are funded in any way with federal funds from engaging in political activities, including running for political office. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is charged with investigating and prosecuting claims charging a state or local employee with a violation of the Hatch Act. Bennett works as a manager for the Hamilton Center, a nonprofit mental health center, which receives a small amount of federal funds each year to operate a Head Start program.

What is particularly troubling about Burke's legal claim against Bennett, which if successful will have the effect of disqualifying Bennett and making Burke the winner by default, is that his attorney is bypassing the federal complaint process altogether. Instead, DeLaney is asking Vigo County Superior Court Judge David Bolk to disqualify Bennett based upon Burke's state court complaint alleging Bennett violated the Hatch Act. Bennett's attorney rightfully argues the case should be decided by the Office of Special Counsel, but DeLaney asserts his claim under Indiana law. Indiana Code 3-8-1-5(c)(6) states that a “person is disqualified from assuming or being a candidate for an elected office if” the person is subjected to the Hatch Act. Presumably, DeLaney has decided he is more likely to get a favorable determination under the federal law from a state court judge in Vigo County than the federal agency which adjudicates these cases all the time. In fact, DeLaney told the Terre Haute Tribune Star the federal agency would have nothing to do with his client's complaint against Bennett.

Burke's and DeLaney's legal tactics are not sitting well with many in Terre Haute, including some within the Democratic Party. Attorney Mike Ellis, Secretary of the Vigo County Democratic Party, blasted Burke's move in a letter to the Tribune-Star, urging him to "move on." Ellis said Burke did a disservice to the city and the Democratic Party by refusing to accept the will of the city's voters in choosing Bennett over him. Another source quotes former Terre Haute Mayor Jim Jenkins (D) as saying he thinks Burke should concede the election and give up his fight to hold on to the mayor's office.

Burke's upset defeat in this month's municipal election bears some similarities to Bart Peterson's upset loss in Indianapolis. Although Terre Haute has traditionally always been a Democratic stronghold, voters have become increasingly discontent with the corrupt and self-serving ways of some Democratic political leaders in this county. Last year, voters threw out a long-time Democratic prosecutor and elected Republican Terry Modisett to help clean up the corruption in Vigo County. Like Indianapolis mayoral race, Bennett enjoyed significant support from police and firefighters. There have already been cries of retaliation from some city employees over their support of Bennett, and at least one lawsuit has been filed against Burke over the police department's handling of new hires.

A big beef many people had with Burke is his close relationship with wealthy businessman Greg Gibson and the appearance of favoritism by Burke towards Gibson's business matters. There are several examples to which Burke's critics point. When Wal-Mart tried to build a new store on the city's northside, Burke blocked it and pushed Wal-Mart to another parcel on the city's east side on State Road 46, which coincidentally happened to be owned by a company Gibson owned. Historic preservationists were horrified when Burke turned the Terre Haute House, one of the city's most historic landmarks, over to a Gibson company for $1, which proceeded to raze the building and develop a new Hilton Garden Inn hotel on the site with Dora Brothers of Indianapolis. More recently, Gibson lobbied Burke and other political leaders, primarily Sen. Evan Bayh, to convince the federal courts not to shut down the federal courthouse in Terre Haute as originally planned. The General Services Administration just recently announced the awarding of a contract for a new, 14,000 square foot building to be constructed by a company tied to Gibson. The federal government will pay nearly $500,000 in annual rent for the space over at least 10 years, nearly $200,000 more than it pays for the current courthouse space in Terre Haute.

A week before the election, political fliers were mailed to many Terre Haute voters accusing Burke of doling out tax breaks and other favoritism to Gibson's business ventures in consideration for his political support. Bumper stickers appeared on cars this year in Terre Haute with the message, "Burke Is Gibson's Bitch." Responding to the charges, Gibson told the Tribune-Star, “Oh, I feel like I’ve been sucker-punched in the guts." "I don’t see myself as a public figure, and I think it’s rotten, below the belt." "And it’s all lies." "I don’t sit around wringing my hands about it. I probably feel worse for my family than I do for myself." In that same interview, he referred to the historic Terre Haute House he razed as "an anchor around the community's neck." He said, "I was never of the opinion that we should use millions in tax dollars to remodel that old building." "And I might add that most of the [renovation] projects that were presented were using 15 to 20 million dollars in tax money." "Now there were some federal tax credits and things, but that was all tax money." "And I did not believe that the people should spend that kind of money to rehab that hotel." "And I thought it was a bad business deal; I don’t think it could’ve succeeded." He also denied any conspiracies between him and Mayor Burke. "I know there’s all of these conspiracy theories out there, pretty much perpetuated by this group, that there was a deal in place and the mayor was involved, and it’s just absolutely not true."

Gibson is one of Mayor Burke's biggest financial supporter. Some speculate he may be encouraging Burke's election challenge for fear of losing political clout under a new Republican administration. Gibson is no stranger to Ed DeLaney and his politically-active wife, Ann. The Gibson family has contributed a lot of money to Sen. Evan Bayh over the years. Ann DeLaney worked in the Bayh administration as his chief legislative assistant. She left under a cloud after she was accused of offering legislators state jobs in exchange for legislative votes on matters important to the Bayh administration. A criminal investigation ended without any charges being brought against her. Then-Gov. Evan Bayh appointed Gibson to a coveted position on the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission.

Indianapolis should be watching Burke's Hatch Act claim against Duke Bennett very closely. Indianapolis has several city-county councilors who work for government agencies which receive federal funding, including firefighters Monroe Gray and Vernon Brown, police officers Lincoln Plowman and Benjamin Hunter and Mary Moriarty Adams, who works for the National MS Society, a recipient of federal grant dollars.

Your Choices: Dickerson And Kennedy

It's obviously a very unscientific poll of a small group of readers, but you've spoken on your Republican and Democratic choices for the 7th District congressional race to replace U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D). On the Democratic side, one half of the poll participants favor Melina Kennedy over other potential challengers. Rep. Carolene Mays came in a distant second with 22% support followed closely by City-County Councilor Andre Carson with 20% of the vote. Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer finished fourth with only 5%. There are other Democrats I didn't list for no other reason than there wasn't room to include them on the survey. Those include Marion Co. Treasurer Mike Rodman, former Democratic state chairman Robin Winston, Rep. David Orentlicher, City-County Councilor Joanne Sanders and UAW executive Terry Thurman. The winner of this online poll, Melina Kennedy, has made no public announcement concerning her intentions and it is not even clear if she is seriously considering a bid for the seat.

On the Republican side, Rep. Jon Elrod is the only serious candidate who has announced plans to run for the 7th District seat. Last year's GOP nominee, Eric Dickerson, edged out Elrod in the poll by a very small 39-38% margin. Secretary of State Todd Rokita, who Roll Call magazine suggested as a potential candidate, received the support of only 6% of the respondents. Another 15% said they preferred someone else. As with Kennedy, Dickerson has made no public statement about his intentions next year. Many observers doubt he will enter the race, although he clearly has a reservoir of support left over from his close race against Carson last year on a shoe string budget.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Will John's Firm Strike Political Payola On Ballard Win?

With Greg Ballard's upset win over Mayor Bart Peterson, Tom John's law firm appears poised to cash in on his victory. The Indianapolis Business Journal's Jennifer Whitson reports that, in addition to Tom John, John Lewis & Wilkins employees Ballard's campaign manager, John Cochran, as well as Maura Hoff, Lawrence Mayor-elect Paul Ricketts' local coordinator. Whitson writes:

Three members of a small, young, downtown law firm played key rolls in Republican election wins this month, boosting the firm’s profile as it tackles aggressive growth plans that include beefing up its lobbying business. John Lewis and Wilkins LLP set up shop on Monument Circle in 2005 and since then has grown from the three attorneys to 11, including partner Thomas John and associates John Cochran and Maura Hoff—all of whom had plenty to celebrate on election night.

As chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, John directed the strategy that helped the GOP regain a 16-13 majority on the City-County Council. Cochran ran Indianapolis mayor-elect Greg Ballard’s campaign and is now leading his transition team’s executive committee; John also is a member of the executive committee. And Hoff was a local coordinator with Lawrence mayor-elect Paul Ricketts’ campaign.

“Because of the results, it looks like we’re the type of people who have a crystal ball, but they just worked hard,” said John Lewis, the firm’s managing partner.

The gregarious 40-year-old South Bend native started the firm in January 2005 to try to get back to a time “before hourly billing killed the relationship” between attorneys and clients.

The originally constituted law firm, Lewis & Wilkins, was essentially born as a result of a sweetheart, million-dollar contract the law firm landed with the Attorney General's office when two employees of Attorney General Steve Carter left his employ to work for the state agency as independent contractors. The contractual arrangement was highly criticized at the time because the former Carter employees were both working for the AG's staff during the bidding process and, critics claimed, possessed inside information which advantaged them over competing law firms. Carter claimed the contract would result in a net savings for taxpayers, but others weren't convinced the same work could not have been performed by attorneys working for the state much cheaper.

As a candidate, Ballard criticized lucrative contracts the Peterson administration awarded to favored law firms as part of the wasteful spending he intended to cut out if he was elected. Ironically, his own campaign manager is now in a position of trying to parlay Ballard's win into a major windfall for the Republican county chairman's law firm at which he works. Will it be business as usual in the new administration? Or will Ballard put a stop to political payola for campaign cronies?

Library Board CEO Controversy

There may be a question about the validity of the Indianapolis-Marion Co. Library Board's vote last week to choose Laura Bramble over Councilor Jackie Nytes for the Library's CEO position. The Board voted 4-2 in favor of Bramble over Nytes. Before the Board took a vote, Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes, on behalf of the County Commissioners, requested that the Commissioners' appointee to the Board, Peter Pizarro, be replaced by Elsa Kramer. Bowes maintained that Pizarro's appointment expired on November 7, and that Kramer had been chosen by the Commissioners to take Pizarro's place on the Board. Board chairman Louis Mahern claimed Pizarro's term didn't expire until this past Tuesday, and an attempt to seat Kramer at the Board meeting died for a lack of a second on a motion made by Jesse Lynch. When the Board voted on the CEO position, Mahern, Pizarro, Greg Jordan and Gary Meyer voted for Bramble, while Mary Lou Rothe and Jesse Lynch voted for Nytes.

A source tells Advance Indiana that Pete Pizarro resigned his position as co-manager of FC Tucker's Carmel office earlier this year and moved to Ohio to accept a new job there. Upon further investigation, the source says Pizarro's term on the Board actually expired in August regardless of whether he maintained a residence in Indianapolis. Observers believe Kramer would have cast a vote for Nytes if she had been seated at the meeting, which would have resulted in a 3-3 tie vote. Some observers believe Mahern and other board members had to know about Pizarro moving to Ohio, or at least that his term on the Board had officially expired. The source says Mahern was determined to make sure Nytes didn't get the CEO position, and he knew that outcome would be uncertain if he allowed the Commissioners to replace Pizarro on the Board with Kramer.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No Imperial Direction From Sir Andrew Needed

Occasionally, the Star publishes a letter to the editor that's worth passing along. Today is one such occasion when Richard Schmid puts former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs' attempt to anoint U.S. Rep. Julia Carson's grandson, Andre, into its proper perspective. Schmid writes:

I awoke to the local Town Crier reporting that Sir Andrew Jacobs has directed all us serfs to vote for the heir apparent to Queen Julia, Prince Andre.

His quote "that it seems appropriate for me to ask Julia's constituents to choose her grandson . . . to succeed her if and when she retires" smacks so much of the old political cronyism so rampant in this kingdom and a little bit of Merry Olde England.

Isn't it about time that we peons stand up and say to the "monarchy'' we can think for ourselves and elect someone without imperial direction? It certainly is time to take back the kingdom. It's also time for the sheriff of Marionshire and Sir Bauer of Obstructionville to go their merry ways.

Monday, November 19, 2007

State Democrats Accuse Ballard of Flip-Flopping On Property Taxes

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker is accusing Mayor-elect Greg Ballard of flip-flopping on property taxes before he even takes office. The issue is over Ballard's support during the campaign for a statewide repeal of the property tax. Lately, Ballard concedes a statewide repeal is not doable in light of opposition to a repeal from the Kenley Commission and Gov. Mitch Daniels. Ballard has expressed support for Gov. Daniels' plan to reduce property taxes by one-third by increasing the sales tax and shifting some local costs to the state, such as child welfare costs.

Fox 59 News attempted to get a response from Ballard's transition team to Parker's claim that Ballard has flip-flopped on the property tax issue. According to Fox 59 News, Ballard's transition team declined to respond to the charge. I think it's a mistake on Ballard's part not to respond. The last thing he wants the public to perceive is that he is retreating from his pledge to support a repeal of the property tax before he even takes office. Given the position of the Kenley Commission and Gov. Daniels, I agree it is a real uphill battle to achieve a victory on repealing the property tax. However, Ballard should not underestimate the impact of his own victory, not to mention the large number of lawmakers who were already on record in support of a repeal of the property tax. Those guys at the State House were mortified by the outcome of Indianapolis' mayoral election. They know they must deliver real and meaningful changes on property taxes or risk the same fate voters dealt Mayor Peterson.

I know a lot of Ballard's supporters were upset when I criticized the make-up of his transition team, but this is exactly what I was concerned would happen once the insiders who had nothing to do with his election seized control of his transition team. Most of those people were not a part of the property tax protest movement these past six months, and many of them scoff at the idea of repealing property taxes. Most of them had some role in one way or another in past failed efforts to reform Indiana's broken property tax system and simply aren't agents of change. It is unfortunate if the political insiders have already convinced our Mayor-elect his election victory really didn't mean what those of us who actually supported his campaign understood it meant. It is simply wrong to concede defeat on one of your most important campaign platforms before you've even taken office and tried to get it done. Mayor-elect Ballard needs to make clear he isn't conceding anything at this point.

On another note, Mayor-elect Ballard will have his first one-on-one meeting with Mayor Bart Peterson since the election to discuss transition items tomorrow morning.

Indianapolis Just Says No To Hate Crimes Reporting

The FBI just released hate crime reporting statistics for the nation for 2006. While the number of hate crimes reported nationally increased by 8%, Indiana's reported number of hate crimes actually dropped 28%. Say what? It seems the City of Indianapolis and Marion County decided not to bother reporting hate crime statistics in 2006. The FBI attributed the growth nationally to the fact that more than 200 additional law enforcement agencies started reporting hate crimes in 2006.

In 2005, Indiana reported 54 cases, including 32 involving race, 4 based on religion, 11 based on sexual orientation and 7 because of a person's ethnic origin. Indianapolis accounted for at least 8 reported hate crime cases in 2005. Without any reporting by Indianapolis in 2006, there were 18 cases based on race, 3 based on religion, 11 based on sexual orientation and 7 based on ethnic origin. The number of reported cases based on sexual orientation in Indiana remain unchanged in 2006 despite Indianapolis' non-reporting. Indianapolis' Human Rights Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, became law in January, 2006.

Nationally, 52% of the reported cases were based on race, which is actually down from the previous year. Almost 19% of the cases were based on religion. Sexual orientation accounted for 15.5% of the reported cases in 2006, which represented an 18% jump over the 2005 figures. National origin accounted for 12.7% of the reported cases.

Indiana is one of only five states in the country without a hate crimes enhancement law, which provides tougher sentencing for persons who commit crimes against a person or their property based on a bias towards the person's race, national origin, sexual orientation, ethnic origin or religion. Efforts this past legislative session were spearheaded by Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to bring Indiana's law into line with other states. The House of Representatives defeated the legislation after the religious right launched a highly bigoted and misleading lobbying effort against it. Mr. Brizzi might want to ask why his own jurisdiction stopped reporting hate crimes to the FBI as more and more law enforcement agencies nationwide have started reporting.

ENDA Lines Up With Republican Values

Karen Bell, President of the Indiana Log Cabin Republicans, pens a letter to the editor in today's Star reminding folks that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is consistent with Republican values in response to U.S. Rep. Mike Pence's predictable, outspoken opposition to the legislation. I should note that every GOP member of Indiana's congressional delegation voted against ENDA, while Indiana's Democratic congressmen voted for it. Rep. Steve Buyer (R) and Rep. Julia Carson (D) were both absent for the vote. Bell explains her position:

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is in line with real Republican values. Republicans have always stood for the values of personal freedom and individual liberty. It is this set of values that are reflected in ENDA. When passed into law, ENDA will protect Americans from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

ENDA would protect hardworking gay and lesbian employees who are the best candidates for the job from getting fired simply because of their sexual orientation.

U.S. Rep Mike Pence, R-Ind., recently spoke out in opposition of ENDA, as the House of Representatives voted to support it.

Pence's statements about ENDA do not represent the majority of Republicans. A June 2007 poll by GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio showed that 77 percent of Republicans believe an employer should not have the right to fire an employee based solely on their sexual orientation. ENDA is in line with Republican values. The Indiana Log Cabin Republicans commend the 35 Republican members of the House who voted in support of ENDA.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Buell Won't Seek Re-election

The Indiana Daily Insight reports that Rep. Larry Buell (R-Indianapolis) will announce tomorrow he won't seek re-election next year. This is the second blow in a week to House Republican Leader Brian Bosma's efforts to recapture the House. District 89, which includes parts of Warren, Franklin and Perry Townships has become increasingly competitive. John Barnes (D) ran a strong race against Buell last year. Republicans will also have to defend House District 97 as an open seat after Jon Elrod announced he would run for Congress after just one term in the House. Elrod defeated Ed Mahern (D) by just 8 votes, and another Mahern, City-County Councilor Dane Mahern (D), is already making plans to win the seat back for the family.

On that 7th District congressional race, Rep. David Orentlicher (D) will likely enter the race if U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D) decides to retire. Orentlicher's District 86 on Indianapolis' northside is a very competitive district, although Orentlicher easily vanquished his Republican opponent last year. Republicans might have a fighting chance of winning Orentlicher's seat if they run a moderate candidate instead of the wingnuts they've been nominating to run against Orentlicher.

Tribune-Star Doesn't Like Burke's Dirty Play

The Terre Haute Tribune-Star weighs in today on defeated Mayor Kevin Burke's decision to challenge the legality of Republican Duke Bennett's election upset by invoking the Hatch Act. An excellent point the newspaper makes is that when Bennett ran for the office four years ago against Burke, he held the exact same position with the Hamilton Center as he did when the Republicans nominated him to run against Burke this year. Yet, Burke only waives the Hatch Act issue after Bennett defeats him. The editorial reads, in part:

But we do have an overriding question about his Hatch Act strategy: Why now?

We fear there is no good answer. If there is, we’d like to hear it. But Burke’s not talking, at least not yet.

The fact is, Bennett held the same job when he won the Republican mayoral primary and lost the general election to Burke in 2003. He held the same job when he won the Republican primary last spring. He held the same job last summer when general election campaigns were being organized and planned.

If Burke had questions about Bennett’s eligibility, he had ample opportunity to seek answers or challenge the candidacy before now. Waiting until after Bennett actually won the election strikes us as poor judgment and not in the best interests of the community.

The election defeat was undoubtedly a bitter pill for Burke to swallow, given the closeness of the race and overall nastiness exhibited in the waning days of the campaign by some diverse segments of the community supporting his opponent.

Still, pulling out the Hatch Act and waving it at Bennett now does absolutely nothing to change that. It is unlikely a recount will change the outcome, but what if a lawsuit challenging Bennett’s eligibility were to succeed? What if Burke were declared the winner by default? Where would that leave us?

Terre Haute is a split community, but an ever-so-slight majority appears to have elected Burke’s opponent as mayor. If Burke was to somehow retain the job due to a legal technicality, we suspect he would always be perceived as having seized the office illegitimately.

Such an outcome for the 2007 mayoral race is undignified and unhealthy for the community.

We urge Burke to reconsider his Hatch Act strategy and accept the results of the pending recount as final.

Council Democrats Junket One Last Time On Taxpayers' Dime

What little credibility Indianapolis' City-County Council Democrats had with the public vanished with the news that nine of them, including two who were defeated in last Tuesday's election, took a junket with Mayor Bart Peterson to New Orleans this past week at a cost of $37,500. The Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column reports:

Outgoing Mayor Bart Peterson and nine Democratic City-County Council members spent much of the past week in New Orleans at a conference of the National League of Cities.

Peterson is the association's president for this year, so he could hardly have backed out despite losing the Nov. 6 election.

Council member Rozelle Boyd, who has served more than 40 years on the council, is also a committee chair for the association. Otherwise, Boyd said, he would have canceled his plans after losing in the election.

Among the other council members, majority leader Lonnell "King Ro" Conley lost his bid for an at-large seat. Ron Gibson, another at-large councilman, gave his spot at the conference to Vernon Brown after he did not retain his seat.

The conference is designed to help city leaders hear the latest and best approaches to solving the problems they typically tackle.

Attendees also were invited to a Festival Louisiana party and a jazz cruise at sunset on the Mississippi River.

The council budgeted $37,500 for conference expenses this year, though the total might not reach that amount. Still, flight costs ranged from $238 to $457 and registration was at least $375 per person, while hotel rooms run about $200 per night for the four-day event. Not surprisingly, some Republicans view these events as junkets.

"I think he (Conley) should pay for it out of his own pocket," said Councilman Scott Schneider, who did not run for re-election. "It's astounding he expects taxpayers to pay the bill when he has 45 days left in office. It speaks volumes about why Democrats lost the council."

I wish the Star had published the complete list of the Democratic councilors who attended the National League of Cities annual conference. When I used to work for the Illinois legislature, everyone always wanted to attend the NCSL conference each summer, provided it was located at an attractive designation. A lot of legislators passed on the event when it was held in Indianapolis a few years ago. While there were always plenty of very helpful seminars to attend at the conference, too many of the attendees spent their time lining up lobbyists who flock to these events to pay for their next round of golf, dinner, lunch, boat cruise, trip to the casino, etc. You can bet these Democratic councilors were presented with many opportunities to visit the casinos and the French Quarter while they were in New Orleans.

Ballard Lays Out Priorities

Mayor-elect Greg Ballard lays out his top priorities in a guest column in today's Star. Let's take a look at what he has to say:

  • Taxes and Spending: "One of the first things we will do is examine every budget item and find ways to cut costs without compromising service. We have a goal of cutting local spending by $70 million within three years, and I intend to reach that goal and, hopefully, exceed it."
  • Transparency and Accountability: "The top department heads in my administration will solicit the advice of their employees, and we will hold public meetings on a quarterly basis so that taxpayers can see how their money is being spent." "The mayor of Indianapolis does not have direct control over many public entities that have separate authority to tax or spend public funds, but I will use the bully pulpit and mayoral appointments to protect the interests of the taxpayer." "I also intend to work with Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Indiana General Assembly as they look for ways to reduce the impact of property taxes on homeowners."
  • Reducing Crime: "We will work to re-establish neighborhood efforts such as Mayor Goldsmith's Front Porch Alliance and take steps to restore the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's community policing efforts." "Let me be clear: I have no plans to "undo" the law enforcement merger, but I will ask the City-County Council to put the responsibility for law enforcement back under the office of the mayor." "It is my strongly held view that the ultimate responsibility for public safety should rest with the mayor." "To that end, all public safety agencies must be under the mayor's chain of command."

The $70 million goal he has set for reducing spending is a very aggressive goal. It will include some very tough decisions. What Ballard will learn is that you can't reach that goal unless you cut public safety spending. There is more wasteful spending in the police and fire departments than any other areas of city government for no other reason than the large percentage the two areas of spending make up in the budget. Cuts can be made in these areas without compromising public safety, but Ballard will face a lot of resistance to making those cuts from some of his most vocal supporters in this past election. If he is unable to resist that pressure, he will have a very difficult time of coming close to reaching that $70 million goal.

Ballard is correct in noting that he doesn't have direct control over many entities, such as the Capital Improvements Board of Managers, the Indianapolis Airport Authority, the Metropolitan Development Commission and the library board. That's why the people he appoints to these boards becomes so critical. I've lived in Indianapolis for 17 years now. Through Republican and Democratic mayors, its seems there are a few dozen people to whom these plum appointments are reserved. The same people who occupy all the board seats on certain local charities get all the plum appointments to city boards and commissions. They come from the same law firms, businesses and well-connected families, which have become accustomed to calling all the shots in this city. These people have interwoven ties which often leads them to make decisions based on achieving objectives unrelated to the public good. We'll soon learn whether Ballard can resist the pressure to keep power in this hands of this small group of elites by reaching out to people representing the public at large.