Monday, December 31, 2007

Predictions for 2008

Okay, here's my best shot at 10 predictions for 2008:

1. Marion County Democrats will slate Andre Carson in the January 12 Democratic caucus to fill his grandmother's seat, turning back a challenge from Rep. David Orentlicher, Rep. Carolene Mays, Dr. Woodrow Myers and Marion Co. Treasurer Mike Rodman. Carson's slating will leave many in the Democratic Party disgruntled.

2. Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi will jump into the race for the 7th District congressional race once he realizes Andre Carson is the Democratic choice in the special election. He figures Carson carries with him all of his grandmother's baggage and little of her good will, making him a perfect opponent in the Democratic-leaning district. Jon Elrod steps aside and Brizzi wins the Republican slating.

3. Rep. David Orentlicher decides he's going to run in the May primary, notwithstanding the fact that Andre Carson is slated to run and taps into the anti-Carson sentiment. Democrats and Republicans agree to delay the special election to the May primary. Democrats figure it will allow the party to unite behind a single candidate in a single election, rather than risk having the winner of the special election having to fight it out with a strong opponent in the May primary. Republicans figure the dual election in the May primary will cause mass confusion and infighting among Democrats, helping the ultimate Republican victor.

4. Brizzi will win the Republican nomination and the special election, but he will be defeated in November by the Democratic winner in the primary, Rep. David Orentlicher. It's a Democratic district and both the Democratic presidential candidate and gubernatorial nominee will handily carry the 7th district and Marion County.

5. The Democrats will nominate Jim Schellinger to run for Governor over Jill Long Thompson. Why? Because he's a wealthy, white man just like about all of their gubernatorial nominees over the last several decades.

6. Gov. Mitch Daniels will be re-elected with less than 55% of the vote. Schellinger's engineering firm's ties to costly school construction projects will prove his undoing.

7. The legislature will pass with the support of Gov. Daniels a comprehensive property tax reform package this year, which will include relief taxpayers will see on their 2008 property tax bills. Efforts to repeal the property tax will fail. Very little of the ideas floated by the Kernan-Shepard Commission will be enacted into law in 2008. The legislature will, however, agree to do away with township assessors and pave the way for the elimination of township governance in Marion County. SJR-7, the same-sex marriage ban, will die this year, forcing proponents to start the 4-year process anew.

8. The battle for control of the Indiana General Assembly will include at least a dozen hotly-contested races in the House. Republicans will pick up 2 seats, leaving a 50-50 tie. Because Gov. Daniels will be re-elected, Republicans will get to elect the new Speaker. Democrats will blame the rash of legislative retirements for their loss of control. The Senate will remain safely in the hands of Republicans as it has for many decades.

9. Dr. John McGoff will upset U.S. Rep. Dan Burton in the May Republican primary.

10. Mayor Greg Ballard will stumble in the early months of his administration because his senior advisers are ill-prepared for the task of assisting him, coupled with his own political inexperience. Look for at least a couple of senior staff departures before the administration hardly gets its feet wet. Ballard will be handed a big gift from the Indiana legislature. As part of the property tax plan, look for state help with Indianapolis' pension liability and/or a larger share of COIT revenues for Marion County as part of the plan. This will allow a significant portion of the COIT tax increase revenues to be used for property tax relief instead of new spending. It will also insure the permanency of the COIT increase because its elimination would force higher property taxes. Expect at least 2-3 dissenting Republican councilors to create problems for the Republican-controlled council and the new mayor.

As a bonus prediction suggested by an Advance Indiana reader, CCC Counselor Aaron Haith will be disciplined in response to the complaint filed against him for a conflict of interest in representing individual council members, such as CCC President Monroe Gray, with ethical and legal problems while representing the council.

The prediction I'm most likely to get wrong is the 7th District congressional race. It really is completely up in the air, even though we are two weeks away from the Democrats' caucus. Republicans are clearly holding up on setting a date for their caucus in order to see who the Democrats will nominate. Many, including State Rep. Jon Elrod, believe the party is behind him. If it was truly behind Elrod, it would quickly be setting a date for its own caucus and declare him the party's candidate so he can start raising some serious bucks. The fact it hasn't set a date tells me that the party leaders are playing a wait and see game. If the Democrats nominate a strong candidate for the special election, they'll let Elrod be the sacrificial lamb. If Andre Carson is the nominee, they'll convince a better-known and better-financed GOP candidate like Brizzi to run. Having said that, I still believe Elrod would make a very formidable challenger without the baggage a candidate like Brizzi carries.

How I Fared With My Predictions

Reflecting on the predictions I made on this same date one year ago for 2007, it's pretty much a mixed bag. I completely nailed five of my ten predictions correctly. Those included:

  • Democrats will pick former Peterson chief of staff Mike O'Connor to succeed Ed Treacy as Marion Co. Democratic chairman.
  • Republicans will pick attorney Tom John to replace Mike Murphy as GOP chairman.
  • Governor Daniels will fail in his efforts to privatize the Hoosier Lottery.
  • Governor Daniels will succeed in passing a bipartisan initiative to provide health insurance for the uninsured, which will be funded by an increase in the cigarette tax.
  • Governor Daniels' popularity will improve as the year progresses, largely because he must adopt a more bipartisan approach in his governing style.

Democrats will no doubt quarrel with that last prediction, but I think on balance Daniels' popularity has improved, although it is still low enough to make him vulnerable in next year's election.

On U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, I had it right that she would step down from Congress, but I predicted it would be because of her resignation due to health problems rather than death. Here's what I predicted:

Rep. Julia Carson will resign her seat in Congress due to her worsening health problems, triggering a special election, which could be timed to coincide with the city's municipal elections. This will set off a scramble among Democrats to choose her replacement, which will take place at a district convention. Carson would like to see her grandson, Andre Carson, take her place. His chances are better in an election of Democratic committeepersons than an open primary at which any Democratic voter could vote. Mike O'Connor and other Democrats likely will favor someone other than Carson, which is the reason he may have opposition in his bid to become county chairman. My betting is the Democrats, if this scenario plays out, will choose someone other than Carson. Republican Eric Dickerson will make another run for the open seat, but he'll need the support of his party to get on the ballot this time. The candidates chosen by each party at a district convention would face off in a special

Think about it. If Rep. Carson had resigned in September as her health really began to fail, and had a special election been scheduled to coincide with the mayoral election, Bart Peterson may have been re-elected, assuming the Democrats had slated an African-American candidate for the open congressional election. Some Democrats have blamed a low turnout in the African-American vote last month as the reason for Peterson's loss to Greg Ballard. I honestly believed Carson would time her resignation to help Peterson's re-election. I'm sure many Democrats wish she had done that, including Peterson.

These four predictions I missed completely, primarily because I didn't see the property tax crisis coming one year ago, although I think I was entirely correct about the deal between Gov. Daniels and Mayor Peterson. Those predictions included:

  • Mayor Bart Peterson will undeservedly be re-elected to a third term as mayor--by default. Peterson and Gov. Mitch Daniels enjoy a good relationship, and they both want re-elected to their respective jobs. A lot of Democrats think Peterson is their best candidate to defeat Daniels in 2008. My instincts tell me a deal has been cut. Daniels and a few key Republicans will make sure that Peterson does not face a serious, well-funded opponent for mayor. In exchange, Peterson will not challenge Daniels in 2008. To those of you who scoff at the suggestion such a deal could happen, I can only say you don't know much about politics.
  • Republicans will nominate City-County Councilor Isaac Randolph as their sacrificial lamb in the 2007 mayoral election. He will lack the money and organizational effort necessary to win.
  • Democrats will retain control of the City-County Council. I believe they will pick up at 1-2 seats. The Bradford seat will likely change to the Democrats. Randolph's seat will also likely flip to the Democrats. Republicans' lack of organization, good candidates and general disarray will contribute to their losses.
  • Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi will have a busy year handling problems with other public officials, including the coroner and Center Township Trustee's office. Brizzi will be successful in his efforts to get Indiana to adopt a hate crimes law.

Who knew Brizzi would spend his year lining up a questionable ownership in a restaurant/bar and a new radio talk show gig with WIBC instead of combating public corruption. I didn't anticipate Ike Randolph's "personal and family issues" he cited for pulling out of the race for mayor, but I did correctly predict his seat would switch to the Democrats. Also, the property tax crisis helped seal a big victory for Ryan Vaughn in retaining Jim Bradford's seat.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ballard Press Secretary Is A Former Pastor

Mayor-elect Greg Ballard's choice to serve as his press secretary, Marcus Barlow, worked as a pastor before getting into politics according to a story in last year's The Hill newspaper. "A pastor, a caseworker at a homeless shelter and a press secretary — it’s not a typical career path for someone on Capitol Hill, but Marcus Barlow wouldn’t have it any other way," Karissa Marcum writes. "At 27, he serves as press secretary to Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.). And he seems to live life with a go-with-the-flow, carefree attitude rare these days on Capitol Hill."

The Hill story traces Barlow's roots as the son of a preacher, who first became a pastor in an Assemblies of God church in Highland Park, Michigan before converting to Catholicism. Barlow worked as a caseworker at a homeless shelter in South Bend when he started volunteering for U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola's campaign and eventually became his press secretary. "It’s fortunate that Barlow agrees with most of Chocola’s stands on the issues, and he says he has never compromised his religious beliefs for his career," Marcum writes. He offers an example: “My boss is pro-life, so I don’t have to write releases that I don’t agree with.”

Interestingly, Rep. Chocola staked out decidedly anti-immigrant and anti-gay positions in Congress. Does Barlow agree with his former boss' position on those issues as as he did with his position on abortion? And will his current boss' position clash with those views? As a candidate, Mayor-elect Ballard stated he would not support efforts to repeal Indianapolis' human rights ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Ballard is also married to an immigrant and may face tough questions about his new appointee as Director of Latino Affairs. Barlow's job in the coming months will no doubt be very challenging and quite different from his experience as Chocola's press secretary and more recenlty as a spokesman for FSSA.

Library Board Scofflaws Get A Pass

According to the Star's "Behind Closed Doors", nothing will become of the fraud Library Board Chairman Louis Mahern and other board members allowed to occur when the Board refused to seat Elsa Kramer, the county commissioners' appointee to the Board in place of Peter Pizarro, an earlier appointee who subsequently moved out of state but continued to illegitimately hold a seat on the Board. The Board allowed Pizarro to cast a deciding vote on the selection of Laura Bramble as the Library's new CEO. Last week, political columnist Matt Tully confirmed what Advance Indiana reported more than a month earlier--that Pizarro had accepted a new job in Ohio and moved out of state earlier this year. The column writes today:

Marion County Auditor Greg Bowes said he's concerned about the way the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Board picked its new CEO last month.

Still, he said it's likely time to move on after the board picked Laura Bramble over his preference, City-County Council member Jackie Nytes.

The controversy started when Bowes, as a county commissioner, tried to appoint a new Library Board member.

Bowes had learned that board member Peter Pizarro would vote for the new CEO despite evidence that Pizarro no longer resided in the county, making him ineligible.

The Library Board denied Bowes' effort to name Elsa Kramer to replace Pizarro based on appointment documents showing that Pizarro's four-year term should have come to an end before the Nov. 15 meeting. Pizarro's vote spelled the difference in a 4-2 tally. Kramer would have made it a tie.

Bowes said there's enough evidence for a viable lawsuit, but he isn't sure it's worth the effort, money and disruption it would cause.

But he said others, including possibly library employees upset about the process, might feel differently.

Bowes, meanwhile, wants to make sure the commissioners' three board appointments are properly done in the future.

"Ironically, I think we picked the wrong date for Elsa Kramer's term expiration," Bowes said. "It's for four years, but the transition was so messed up, it's hard to tell exactly when she started."

It's disappointing that not a word of complaint has been spoken by our new Mayor-elect or any members of the Republican City-County Council about this gross violation of the law. Could it be the fact that Pizarro is a Republican that they choose to remain silent on this subject? Or could it be they're just happy Democratic City Councilor Jackie Nytes didn't get the job and that's all that really counts, the law be damned?

Year Of Violence Continues In Indy

A 25-year-old Indianapolis man was found shot to death in an eastside neighborhood yesterday. Police arrested a man yesterday who is suspected of killing a 48-year-old woman and then dumping her nude body on the city's near northside. It's a continuation of what has been another year of an excessive amount of violent crime here in Indianapolis. By one count, there have been 122 murders to date in the city this year. That's well below the number of homicides last year and an all-time record of 162 homicides set back in 1998 when Steve Goldsmith was mayor and Scott Newman, the man chosen by Mayor-elect Greg Ballard to be the city's new Public Safety Director, was county prosecutor. Indianapolis' murder rate had steadily fallen beginning in 1999 until it shot up last year to 153 homicides. Do murder rates run in cycles like the weather, or are they more directly related to the performance of the persons in charge of law enforcement efforts? It seems when the crime rates are falling, the answer is the guys in charge are doing a good job. If the crime rates are on the rise, the folks in charge typically attribute it to a natural wave nationally or blame it on a bad economy.

Let's Clear The Air On Carolin Requiz Smith

As readers of this blog know, I have expressed great disappointment with the people Mayor-elect Greg Ballard chose to exclude from his transition--namely the grassroots folks who won this past election for him, and the people he has chosen to fill key posts in city government. If he had remembered those who won this election for him, I suspect he would not have fallen down so badly on the latter. The fierce opposition to one of his appointees in the blogosphere, however, is deeply troubling to me. I am, of course, referring to Carolin Requiz Smith, the person Ballard tapped to serve as Director of Latino Affairs. The venomous attacks on her legal status have been nothing short of appalling.

Let me begin by saying that I'm extremely upset that the new administration has chosen to waste taxpayer dollars by creating a make-work position for the sole purpose of pandering to an ethnic constituency. Ballard has also named a Director of minority business development. There is already an agency within city government which handles minority business certification and contracting matters, and we don't need to duplicate those efforts by creating an entirely different layer of bureaucracy. The Deputy Mayor of neighborhoods should be an articulate person with the ability to reach out to people of all socio-economic backgrounds. Ballard's choice for that position, unfortunately, fails on both counts.

Now, back to Requiz Smith, attacks on her center on allegations that she once lived and worked in this country illegally, that she is currently a permanent resident card holder (commonly referred to as a green card) and that she is not an American citizen. As an immigration attorney, this is a subject I know a little bit about. I'm not familiar with Requiz Smith's past circumstances, but what I do know is that our immigration laws have in the past and continue to permit aliens, who may have been present in the U.S. unlawfully at one point, to attain legal status and eventually become American citizens. I assist people who are deemed to be in the U.S. unlawfully every day in my practice who become eligible for permanent resident status based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen. The law permits such persons under certain circumstances to adjust to a legal status, notwithstanding past unlawful time in the U.S. and any unauthorized work in which the person may have engaged. After the passage of the requisite period of time, such persons may also become naturalized citizens. Our own Mayor-elect's wife, Winnie, an immigrant from the Philippines, went through a similar process of first becoming a permanent resident and later a U.S. citizen. What should matter to us is whether Requiz Smith is a green card holder. As a green card holder, she is entitled to seek and obtain employment in the U.S. like any other American citizen.

The only legitimate question which is worthy of consideration is whether a person who is not an American citizen should be hired for key positions in government. It is my strong belief key positions in government should be limited to U.S. citizens. I'm not sure Ms. Requiz Smith's position qualifies as a key position in government, and as I stated earlier in this post, I don't think it's even a position which should exist in city government. Having said that, I think Ballard would do well to put questions about Requiz Smith's status to rest as soon as possible. Nobody is served well by allowing this issue to continue to fester, not the least of which is Requiz Smith.

The question of illegal immigration is an issue to which all of our elected officials need to be sensitive. It is estimated there are at least 12 million persons in the U.S. illegally, and I suspect that includes close to 50,000 here in the City of Indianapolis. Many working class Americans believe they are losing out to job opportunities because of the large influx of undocumented workers in the country. This problem is exacerbated in cities like Indianapolis where the high-paying manufacturing jobs are rapidly disappearing. If you look at the color-coded map the Star published after this year's election, it is not hard to figure out what demographic carried the election for Ballard. Unmistakably, his victory came as a result of the overwhelming support he received from working class white neighborhoods. Ironically, this demographic has been completely ignored in the shaping of his new administration--a mistake which will most assuredly seal his fate as a one-term mayor if not quickly corrected.

Ballard's openness to diversity should be welcomed. Mayor Bart Peterson offered us the most diverse administration in the city's history. As this past election demonstrated, however, diversity for the sake of diversity can easily become a double-edged sword. People first and foremost want competent and dedicated persons working in government. If you simply place a person in a particular position for the sake of pandering to a particular race or ethnicity, you are going to damage morale within the ranks of your workforce. As a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Marines, Ballard should be more sensitive to this observation than most people.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Scott Newman Is Public Safety Director

Well, the disappointment continues. Mayor-elect Greg Ballard announced to a group of supporters at the Indianapolis firefighters hall on Massachusetts Avenue that he had named former Marion Co. Prosecutor Scott Newman as the Director of Public Safety, giving him line authority over the police and fire departments. You may recall a previous post about how well a DNA testing firm, of which Newman is a part-owner and CEO, called Strand Analytical Laboratories was doing in snagging government contracts, including those with state and local law enforcement agenices like the Marion County Forensic Services Agency. The firm has won generous tax abatements and other government benefits. If I'm not mistaken, that agency would fall under the direction of the Public Safety Director. A source tells me that reporters quickly pounced on that question at Mayor-elect Ballard's announcement, and he was assured Newman would be taking steps to ensure an arms-length business relationship continued, if it ever existed.

On another note, Newman took no action as Marion County Prosecutor to shut down the illegal pea shake houses. Yesterday, Ballard named Rev. Olgen Williams as Deputy Mayor of neighborhoods. Williams kept close association with members of the black clergy, who weren't to be heard clamoring for a shutdown of the illegal gambling establishments which plagued many troubled black neighborhoods. Does anyone still believe anything is going to change under the new mayor on the issue of pea shake houses?

Here's what the Star is reporting on how Newman plans to deal with his obvious conflict of interest with his business:

Newman is stepping away from the daily operations of his laboratory business, including giving back profits derived from local government, and putting his stock in the company in a trust to avoid any conflict of interest.

"I've lived my life to go where I think I can do the most good, and I think I can do the most good here," he said. "I like to win. Mayor-elect Ballard likes to win. And we are going to win this war on crime."

And Mayor-elect Ballard confirms the police chief will report to Newman and not him if he gets his way. As explained in the Star:

The public safety director position has been criticized in the past by several Republicans for not having much power, especially in regard to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Some questioned whether there was a need for the position.

However, Ballard said Saturday that he believed there is a need for the post, and he plans on asking the City-County Council to place operation of the Police Department under the mayor's office, with the police chief reporting to Newman.

Abdul's Hypocrisy Reaches New Heights

Radio talk show host Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is taking up the race-baiting mantle of the man who is typically his nemesis, competing radio talk show host Amos Brown. Shabazz suggests that a post on Advance Indiana reminding readers that Deputy Mayor-designate Olgen Williams participated with a group of black ministers earlier this year in demanding that Mayor Bart Peterson cough up $25 million for their "youth programs" to combat crime in the city was a racist attack on Williams. The hypocritical Shabazz writes:

I am all for fair criticism of public officials however to the new “loyal opposition” I might caution you to temper your criticism with common sense. The latest attacks
on Williams could easily be construed as racist, as Amos Brown of AM 1310 pointed out on his radio program Friday. Anyone who knows Amos and me, knows we don’t agree on much, but we both think the only things that were missing in the attacks on Williams were white sheets and burning crosses.
Shabazz, who Amos Brown has often referred to in the past as a "black hating black", fails to mention that he was all over the issue on his radio talk show at the time the ministers' demand was made, and IndyUndercover weighed in with an edgy take on the issue as well, alleging CCC President Monroe Gray had used the "N" word in describing the ministers' action. Of course, Shabazz has conveniently deleted the entire blog entry at IndyUndercover so you can no longer read the truth for yourself. In the interest of full disclosure to your listeners, Mr. Shabazz, do you care to share with us exactly what work you perform for the Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John's law firm for that "Of Counsel" title you hold there?

UPDATE: An avid Advance Indiana reader found this tame version of the $25 million dispute with the black ministers which Abdul wrote about some time ago at Indiana Barrister. Of course, the edgy version over at IndyUndercover has disappeared. Notice the talk of the $5 million over 5 years and the fact that Peterson's tax increase supposedly set aside $5 million for faith-based initiatives. This begs the question, will it be Olgen Williams job to make sure that money gets doled out and is that a wise use of our tax dollars? Check out what Abdul wrote then and take note of his little dig at people who blog anonymously:

Normally I don’t write pieces that are too speculative in nature unless I have some facts to back them up. I’ve been following some items for a couple months now and have been able to piece a few items together. It makes for an interesting read, although I’ll be the first to admit it sounds like something that would show up in an anonymous blog. Luckily, anything I write, I put my name on it because my ego is just that big.

There is quite the internal struggle going behind the scenes involving the Mayor, Council President, the Sheriff’s Department and the Black Pastors. Here’s the deal. The Mayor and Black pastors have been at odds for a while concerning funding for programs. The Pastors wanted the mayor to help raise $25 million over five years for programs they would administer. The meeting went south faster than K-Fed’s career. So now the Council President, Monroe Gray, is negotiating with the Pastors to find them their money. Quite a reversal for a man who reportedly dropped the n-word regarding them a while back. By stepping in, Monroe builds a bridge between the Mayor and Pastors.

Why is this important? There is talk that the newly merged Metropolitan Police Department could go back under Bart Peterson. To accomplish that, the Democrats would have to vote for it. Gray and his chief lieutenant and fellow councilor Vernon Brown are already upset because their “juice” doesn’t fly with the new department. They’ve been told to back off several times by Frank Anderson’s right-hand men. In part, they complain Anderson has appointed no Blacks to his upper echelon. There have been quite a few private conflicts between the two parties.

So here’s the connection, by making peace with the Pastors, the councilors increase their pull, which has come under fire lately for a number of missteps. Secondly, the Mayor gets the Police department back. Gray and Brown stick it to Anderson and his staff. And if Gray can find the money, he’s a hero to the clergy and gets them off the Mayor’s back. I’m still confused about all this, but this is what’s been going on behind the scenes. Now you’re just as confused as I am.

Another Advance Indiana reader managed to find these archived posts from IndyUndercover on the subject of the black ministers' demands. I suspect someone wishes they no longer existed. Here's what they offered on the subject:

God to Mayor; "$25 Mil or Else!" Four Horsemen Mount Up for Trip to Indianapolis!:

Indyu laughed this morning when it read the Indianapolis Star. Not for the usual reasons, but because the 25th floor is now officially, and evangelically, screwed! Indyu told you the preachers were already mad at the County Democrats, now they want $25 million from the city for programs to help stop violence (which makes our lives easier by the way). The city doesn't have the money so the pastors won't see a thing. They get pissed and tell their flock to stay home, or vote for someone else. The political Apocalypse ensues. Famine, death, pestilence and plague run wild! Indyu is ready for the rapture! How about you?!

Then there is this gem from Nov 8, 2006 at 12:06pm entitled Does Sweet Pea kiss his mother with that mouth?:

Sweet pea, Sweet Pea, Sweet pea. You should be ashamed of yourself. When those pastors stopped by the Mayor's office a few weeks ago Indyu thought you would have been a little nicer to them. Indyu had no idea your response would be "Who let those n----- in here?!" Don't deny it! You know you said it! You should be ashamed of yourself! You're already going to hell, do you really want to speed up the trip?

Then there was the post from November 20, 2006 at 9:16pm entitled Peterson takes on God:

Fresh off major victories in Marion County (except for the one race with Meliar that mattered) Bart has decided to go after God, or at least his agents here on earth. Peterson has decided to go after the local Black preachers who gave him an earfull during their meeting a few weeks ago. You remember the one where Sweet Pea called them a word that rhymes with "triggers." Peterson is going to use code enforcement and other city ordinances to discredit the Pastors. Indyu may not agree with them asking for money, but even Indyu isn't brave enough to screw with God. Next thing you know we'll be beset with a plague of locusts.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Daniels Wants To Delay Special Election to May Primary

If Gov. Mitch Daniels has his way, he'll delay holding a special election for the 7th District congressional seat until the already-scheduled May primary to minimize costs to the taxpayers. In a letter dated today to GOP Chairman Murray Clark and Democratic Chairman Dan Parker, Daniels seeks a consensus from the two parties on the best date to hold the special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Rep. Julia Carson (D). Daniels' counsel, Mark Massa, writes:

As you are aware, the passing of the Honorable Julia Carson has created a vacancy in Indiana's Seventh Congressional District, necessitating the need for a special election to select a new U.S. Representative for the district to serve out the remainder of the term. Various provisions in the Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Code delegate to the Governor the authority and duty to call a special election by issuing, via Executive Order, a Writ of Election directed to the Clerk of the Court in the counties comprising the congressional district.

The practical effect of the election statutes direct that a date be chosen not sooner than 60 days from today, to give the two major parties time to caucus and select a candidate, to allow election officials to plan and organize a special election, and to give third party candidates time to fulfill ballot prerequisites, as well, should they so desire. Before the writ issues setting the date for the special election, the Governor has asked me to canvass the leadership of the two parties in an effort to achieve bipartisan consensus, if possible, on a date acceptable to all. The Governor is prepared to select any date that the parties can agree is fair and workable to all. The Governor is prepared to select any date that the parties can agree is fair and workable but has asked that I inquire about holding the special election on Primary Day to minimize taxpayer expense.

While Gov. Daniels waited almost two weeks from Carson's death before bothering to seek input from the state's party leaders on the special election, the Democrats aren't wasting any time. They have already announced a district-wide caucus on January 12. State Democratic Chairman Dan Parker tells the Star he is unsure who will run for the seat at the caucus. Candidate filings for the caucus open next week. The only Democratic candidate who has filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC is State Rep. David Orentlicher. On the Republican side, both State Rep. Jon Elrod and probation officer Wayne Harmon have declared their candidacies. Counting 60 days from Gov. Daniels letter today, the earliest possible date for a special election would be late February. By delaying the election until the primary, 7th District voters would be without representation for five months.

A decision to delay the special election to the Primary Day in May may work to the advantage of some candidates and to the disadvantage of others. In addition to Orentlicher, State Rep. Greg Porter and State Rep. Carolene Mays are both interested in the 7th District seat. If these state legislators are not slated for the special election, they might forgo a run in the May primary and, instead, seek re-election to the respective House seats. By setting the Democratic caucus so early, Democrats are clearly trying to force the party to quickly unite behind a single candidate. A losing candidate in slating, however, could still challenge the slated special election candidate in the May primary. Carson grandson, Andre Carson, told reporters today he was seriously considering a run for the seat, which should come as a surprise to nobody. His grandmother supposedly made a death bed endorsement of his candidacy, and he's already sewn up the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan.

On the Republican side, State Rep. Jon Elrod is considered the early favorite, although rumblings persist that others might throw their hats into the ring, including Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, Sen. James Merritt, former 7th District candidate Marvin Scott, attorney Milt Thompson and Jerusalem Post publisher Tom Rose. Elrod would likely step aside if either Brizzi or Merritt jump into the race; otherwise, his candidacy will not be deterred by the entry of others.

More On Ballard Appointments

The Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy reports that Mayor-elect Greg Ballard will name Paul Okeson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Todd Rokita, as his administration's chief of staff. Marcus Barlow, currently spokesman for the state's Family & Social Services Administration, will become his communications director. Radio talk show host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz also reports this morning that Chris Cotterill, who is currently in charge of the Indiana Office of Technology, will become the city's corporation counsel. Cotterill has been admitted to practice law for five years according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys. Also, John Cochran, an attorney at the law firm of Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John and Ballard's second campaign manager, will serve as a special assistant to the mayor. And small business owner Greg Wilson will direct the city's minority business development efforts, while Carolyn Smith will direct Latino affairs.

In an interview with Shabazz this morning, Rev. Olgen Williams, Ballard's choice to serve as Deputy Mayor in charge of neighborhoods, defended himself from news first broken on the Accidental Mayor site that Marion Co. Treasurer's Office records show Williams and his wife pay no property taxes on their home. If I understood Williams' explanation, he took advantage of a tax exemption available to disabled veterans for the first time and, when added to his other exemption, it reduced his tax bill to zero. Williams, who currently serves as executive director of Christamore House, earlier in life served one year in jail for a theft which he committed while he was working as a postal worker. Williams said he stole the money to help feed a drug habit he developed in his early 20s. Williams described himself as a "hater" and a "revolutionary" during that period of his life during his interview with Shabazz this morning. In recognition of his many years of community service and staying out of trouble. President George W. Bush pardoned Williams in 2002, which allowed him to run for the IPS school board. In today's Star, Williams said he would like to continue serving on the IPS board while working as Deputy Mayor, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be kosher.

Yesterday, I noted that Mayor-elect Paul Ricketts' swearing-in ceremony would feature as its master of ceremonies Abdul Hakim-Shabazz. The part-time stand-up comedian, who resides in Springfield, Illinois, said on air this morning he will also serve as master of ceremonies at Mayor-elect Greg Ballard's swearing-in event next Tuesday. Shabazz recently sparked controversy when he announced Indianapolis police had attempted to execute a search warrant at his home to obtain his home computer and laptop. As it later turned out, a probable cause affidavit prepared by police indicated that police were investigating the leaking of the identity of a confidential police informant in last summer's arson investigation on the city's southside, and that, according to Internet service provider documents, Shabazz acted as the moderator for the IndyUndercover blog, which outed the informant's identity. According to the affidavit, the 8-month-pregnant informant was compelled to relocate because she feared for her personal safety.

The blog, before being deleted from the Internet just weeks ago, often featured very colorful but pointed criticism of Marion County Democrats. Democrats were often referred to as "Democraps." Sheriff Frank Anderson was dubbed "Bling Bling", and CCC President Monroe Gray was called "Sweet Pea." A photo the site showed depicting Mayor Peterson, Anderson and Gray in monkey suits drew a rebuke from then-mayoral candidate Greg Ballard. Shabazz maintains he didn't run the blog, but admits he suggested the idea to a group of disenchanted police officers. [Correction: Abdul e-mailed me to note that the controversial monkey suit photo originated on the Bart Lies site and not IndyUndercover.]

UPDATE: Rev. Olgen Williams has announced he will resign his seat on the IPS board next week. He is required to resign it by law when he assumes his new job as Deputy Mayor. Also, a note on Chief of Staff appointee Paul Okeson. His most recent job is with Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates, an Evansville-based engineering firm. The firm has strong ties to the Peterson administration, holding several contracts with the Department of Public Works. A recent newsletter put out by the firm featured a photo of Mayor Bart Peterson appearing at an open house for its new offices in Indianapolis. If that isn't enough to infuriate you, how about the fact that Okeson lives in Fishers. That's right, the administration's chief of staff is not even a resident of the City of Indianapolis.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Williams Participated In Black Ministers Shakedown

Do you remember that outrageous shakedown attempt earlier this summer when Indianapolis' black ministers were demanding Mayor Bart Peterson give them $25 million to help fight crime in the city? Well, guess who was standing front and center next to Bishop Thomas Garrot Benjamin asking Mayor Peterson to give your hard-earned tax dollars to these churches? Yes, that is Rev. Olgen Williams standing next to Benjamin. He is the first person Mayor-elect Greg Ballard has appointed to his administration. Williams will become Deputy Mayor of neighborhoods. Will Williams now be able to fulfill his goal of handing out public tax dollars to churches? Recall that after the passage of Mayor Peterson's 65% increase in the local option income tax, it was learned that $5 million of the tax increase had been set aside for faith-based initiatives related to fighting crime. Indiana's constitution specifically prohibits the expenditure of public funds for religious purposes.

Williams has another big question to answer. As the Accidental Mayor blog site has already noted, Marion County Treasurer's office records show Williams and his wife pay no taxes on the home they own at 741 N. Sheffield Avenue. County property tax records indicate the home is assessed at $51,700. It is unclear why the Marion County Treasurer's records show no taxes being paid by the Williams because it is not listed as tax-exempt property. The home is, however, located adjacent to property owned by the Victory Tabernacle Apostolic Church at which Rev. Williams is listed as an elder and church treasurer. Mr. Williams owes us an explanation immediately. At a time when most of us are still reeling from record property tax increases, and city voters elected a new mayor in large part because of their desire to curb government taxing and spending, it seems rather ironic the mayor's first appointee would not be paying taxes on his home like the rest of us.

UPDATE: Speaking on behalf of Rev. Williams, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz offers this explanation for no taxes being paid by the Williamses:

I already checked on the tax bill, Olgen and his wife pay their tax bill through their mortgage. They got an exemption this year they hadn't taken advantage of in the past so they overpaid. They had the amount they owed applied to their future bill so they didn't owe anything.

I, too, escrow my property tax payment with my mortgage. The information on the Marion Co. Treasurer's website typically shows how much your tax bill is and the amount of any unpaid taxes. You may recall that's how I discovered earlier this summer that many Marion Co. elected officials were delinquent in the payment of their tax bills. Accidental Mayor, responding to Abdul's explanation, writes, "According to Lexis, Williams has a homestead exemption, a veteran's exemption, a disability exemption and a miscellaneous exemption on his property." Is it possible you can be eligible for so many property tax exemptions you can reduce your tax liability to zero?

Lawrence Swearing-In Ceremony Should Be Entertaining

Lawrence Mayor-elect Paul Ricketts has chosen radio talk show host and part-time stand-up comedian Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, a Springfield, Illinois resident, to serve as master of ceremonies for his swearing-in and that of city council members this Friday at the Lawrence Government Center at 6:00 p.m. Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford will administer the oaths of office to Ricketts and the council members. Shabazz, along with Kris Butler of the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, will present distinguished service awards to former council members.

Williams Is Ballard's First Pick

An African-American minister and ex-con is Mayor-elect Greg Ballard's first-announced member of his administration. Rev. Olgen Williams, the executive director of Christamore House, has been named as Deputy Mayor in charge of neighborhoods. Williams, who turned his life around after being convicted earlier in his life on theft charges and leading a life of drugs, currently earns $55,000 a year running the nonprofit organization which provides a safe haven for troubled youth. Mayor-elect Ballard has stated his intention to resurrect former Mayor Steve Goldsmith's Front Porch Alliance, a neighborhood outreach effort which involved a partnership with faith-based organizations. Presumably, Rev. Williams' new role will include that task. More announcements are expected Friday morning.

Daniels Stalls 7th District Announcement

By law, Gov. Mitch Daniels is required to call a special election to fill a vacancy in an Indiana congressional district within 60 days of a congressional member's death. Eleven days after the death of the late Rep. Julia Carson in Indiana's 7th congressional district, his office has still not scheduled a special election, which is expected to take place by early March. Party leaders are expected to meet as soon as mid-January to slate a candidate for their respective parties in the special election. A call to Gov. Daniels' office this morning yielded no clues on when he will make an announcement. Daniels is obviously stalling his decision for the benefit of someone. Just who it is isn't real clear.

The scenario playing out is going to make for a very compressed election schedule. Observers think there's a lot of backroom maneuvering taking place within both the Republican and Democratic parties right now over who their respective candidates will be in the special election. Special attention is being paid to achieve an outcome least likely to lead to a divisive primary battle in May to run in the general election. Don't be surprised if perceived front-runner candidates are pushed to the side in favor of alternative candidates. Interestingly, not a single candidate has filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC despite the fact that there are declared candidates in the race. Any serious candidate is going to have to raise some big bucks real fast if he or she is serious about winning this race. Federal law requires a candidate to file with the FEC within 15 days of raising a paltry sum of $5,000.

UPDATE: State Rep. Jon Elrod (R) tells Advance Indiana he has filed his statement of candidacy, although it has not yet appeared on the FEC's online database.

UPDATE II: State Rep. David Orentlicher (D) has filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC for the 7th District race, as has probation officer Wayne Harmon (R).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

City Brokers Empty Promise From Hotel Developer

City taxpayers will subsidize the construction of a new, 1,000-room J.W. Marriott Hotel next to the Indiana Convention Center to the tune of at least $50 million. In return, the hotel's developer is kindly sharing its profits with the city, or at least that's what the city and the developer thought they could fool us into believing. As the IBJ reports, the profit sharing agreement will probably never generate a return to taxpayers:

City officials have agreed to pay $48.5 million of the $300 million cost of building a 1,000-room JW Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis, but a profit-sharing agreement that is part of the deal isn't likely to yield payments for the city, a hotel industry expert said.

Developers of the convention hotel signed a final deal with the city Dec. 20. The contract calls for the city to receive 25 percent of adjusted profits--but only after the developers make at least a 16 percent return on all development costs.

That means the developers, Merrillville-base White Lodging Services and Indianapolis-based REI Real Estate Services, can cover their expenses and make about $48 million in profit before passing anything along to the city--a situation that certainly won’t occur anytime soon, if ever, said Rob Hunden, president of Chicago-based hotel consultant Hunden Strategic Partners.

“It’s a nice gesture,” but probably only a gesture, he said of the profit-sharing requirement.

Is there ever anyone in the room looking out for the taxpayers when these deals are brokered? You hear me bitch about it all the time, but it's a point I keep making when you put in key positions of government people who are totally beholden to the city's largest law firms and key business interests. The best interest of the public as a whole will always take a backseat to the interests of a select few who believe our government operates for their benefit first and to the public's benefit secondarily. These one-sided deals have got to come to an end. Our city is financially broke. If we were a business, we would have to declare bankruptcy. As a governmental entity, the city will simply tax and borrow more to make up for these bad decisions.

Remember who is behind this deal for the J.W. Marriott. It involves the billionaire family of Dean White. It also involves Michael Wells, a close adviser to former Mayor Steve Goldsmith. The old Goldsmith gang is moving in quickly to take control of the new Ballard administration. People should never forget the smoke and mirrors budgeting of the Goldsmith administration, which saddled us with more than a half-billion dollars in debt for which we will be paying for many years to come. Mayor-elect Greg Ballard would be wise to read up on the Goldsmith Myth before biting off too much of the governing ways that old gang will most assuredly try to sell him on in the coming months.

No Franklin For Lawrence

Lawrence Mayor-elect Paul Ricketts (R) put to rest rumors that he might name Sherron Franklin as the city's new police chief today. According to a press release Ricketts released himself today, retired Indianapolis police Captain Paul Whitehead will become the city's new police chief. In making this appointment, Ricketts noted, “Paul Whitehead has the experience, integrity, and enthusiasm to make Lawrence safer. I look forward to working with Chief Whitehead in implementing my comprehensive crime plan.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Helping The Needy

This year, my family decided to adopt a family in need of a hand and buy Christmas presents for them instead of each other. Through a social worker, my sister was able to identify a young couple with three children in my parents' hometown of Marshall, Illinois. As Christmas approached this past weekend, my sister ran into a snag in trying to deliver Christmas joy to the family when she discovered the family's telephone had been disconnected, and it appeared the family no longer lived in their house. Upon further investigation, my sister learned the three children had been removed from their parents' home days earlier by child protective services and placed in foster homes. The social worker put my sister in touch with the children's grandparents. Last night, my two sisters delivered the presents to children's grandparents' home with the hope the gifts would reach the intended recipients. The grandparents said nothing about the circumstances of the family, only that they would be seeing all of them and make sure they received the presents.

According to the social worker, the family had on four separate occasions in the past year removed the children from local schools to move to Tennessee, only to later return to Marshall. Surprisingly, the children's teachers say the children do well in school when they are enrolled. As I think back on my life growing up in Marshall, I can say that I spent every single Christmas with my family, and I have continued to return home every Christmas since I left home. I can't imagine spending Christmas apart from my family voluntarily, let alone by the hand of someone else because my parents were deemed unfit to parent me. I can only hope the future turns brighter for this family we chose to adopt this holiday season, or at least they were able to enjoy a little holiday cheer from the unexpected gifts we gave them.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why Carson Chose To Die In Office Rather Than Resign

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I've been highly critical of the late Rep. Julia Carson for her decision to hold on to her seat rather than resign once it became clear she was unable to perform her duties in office. Many people speculated about her reasoning for denying the people of the 7th District a representative in Congress by staying on rather than resigning. After all, she and her staff lied for many months about the state of her health, a fact conveniently overlooked by our local media. Her decision not to resign has resulted in our district being without representation. I think the Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column answers that question for us today. If Carson had resigned from office, an important death benefit would not have been available to her heirs. By dying in office, her heirs can divvy up $165,200 between them, an amount equal to her one year's pay as a congressperson. The column item reads:

The $555 billion spending bill Congress approved before adjourning for the year includes $165,200 for heirs of the congresswoman, who died this month from lung cancer.

It's a tradition in the House for the heirs of lawmakers who die in office to receive one year's salary. Her survivors include two children and two grandchildren.

Despite all the tributes you've heard to Rep. Carson this past week, the truth is that Julia has always taken care of Julia and her family first. She always made sure that there were government jobs for family members, including her grandson, Andre, who we are told she wants to anoint from the grave as her successor. When she ran a clothing store in Claypool Court, she believed she didn't have to pay rent to the Simon family because she was a prominent African-American state senator, and so she didn't until she was evicted and sued for the back rent. She used her relationship with the Center Township Trustee to force needy residents to purchase clothing from her store at inflated prices. Her supporters boast about how she took away benefits from unqualified beneficiaries as Center Township Trustee, but they don't tell you she was successfully sued by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union because she made decisions in her office which ignored a pesky little provision of our constitution called the due process clause. Taxpayers also had to pay to settle lawsuits against former employees she unlawfully fired because they didn't support the candidate she backed for township constable. Her supporters boast about her efforts to clean up her Fall Creek neighborhood, but ignore the fact she allowed buildings she owned to fall into disrepair and failed to pay property taxes she owed on them. One of her buildings became a public nuisance as a neighborhood crack house. Taxpayers were forced to pay to tear down the building and clean up the vacant lot. She refused to reimburse taxpayers until the media turned up the heat on her. And as her last act as Center Township Trustee, she personally arranged to have the 300 East property unnecessarily purchased at taxpayers expense named in her honor.

At her funeral, her supporters referred to her as "Queen Julia" just as she would have wanted it, and declared Prince Andre, a guy whose test score was too low to be hired as a state excise police officer but nonetheless got hired because Queen Julia told the man in charge of excise police, her former campaign manager, to give Andre and another one of her grandsons a job. "If you love me, send my seed,” U.S. Rep. Kilpatrick said Carson told her on her death bed, referring to grandson, Andre. As one local TV station reported, even in death, the Carson machine lives on. When my parents die, they will never receive the honors and accolades feasted upon Carson, but I will know they have accomplished more good in their lives than Carson ever thought of doing for her fellow mankind. My parents are like most people who work hard, tend to the needs of their family, pay their fair share of taxes and generously give to their church, charities and others without expecting anything in return. That's the kind of public service we should honor in this country, and not the self-serving person Carson proved she was in life and in death.

Daniels Thinks Discriminatory Marriage Amendment Is A Good Idea

While Indiana's leading employers pleaded with the legislature not to enact a discriminatory amendment to our state constitution this past legislative session, which is clearly unnecessary and goes beyond the proponents' purported aim of limiting marriage to opposite sex couples only, Gov. Mitch Daniels thinks it would be just fine if the legislature did it anyway. In an interview with the Star's Mary Beth Schneider on his re-election bid, Schneider asks Daniels, "Should the legislature vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in this session?" Here's his response:

It's up to them. As a believer in traditional marriage and a supporter of the law we have on the books now, I agree with the idea of protecting it against some creative judicial ruling in the future.

Now, Gov. Daniels' supporters will no doubt jump to his defense and split hairs in interpreting what he actually said. The fact is that he has publicly stated in the past he would support a constitutional amendment. Indiana's leading employers, including the company which made him a multi-millionaire, Eli Lilly, are convinced the proposed constitutional amendment is bad economically for Indiana, and that has not moved him to change his position. Instead, Daniels has chosen to pander to homo-bigoted religious extremists. That's his choice, but his ambivalence towards a fundamental issue of social justice can just as easily lead traditional Republicans like myself to cross over and vote for a Democratic candidate who takes social justice seriously. Former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, for example, has unequivocally said she opposes the amendment as unnecessary and supports civil unions for same-sex couples. Public opinion polls have also demonstrated the public's shifting opinion on this subject. It's too bad that Daniels, who likes to fashion himself as a forward-thinker, has chosen such a backward-thinking position on this issue.

Kelty Case Points Up Need For Election Board Reform

The special prosecutor in the Matt Kelty campaign finance corruption case has offered a stinging rebuke of the Allen Co. Election Board's handling of Kelty's blatant failure to report the source of loans his campaign received from supporters. As you may recall, before Dan Sigler indicted Kelty for felony campaign violations, the Allen Co. Election Board ruled along party lines that Kelty had not violated the law. Sigler has been particularly perturbed by allegations of Kelty's supporters that his decision to indict Kelty has been politically-driven. In opposing a motion by Kelty's attorney to dismiss the charges against him, Sigler wrote in court documents according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette:

Special Prosecutor Dan Sigler, however, took the election board to task for doing a cursory look into Kelty’s finances. In his response to a motion to dismiss Kelty’s charges, Sigler, a Democrat, wrote that the Republicans asked only one question before the board voted to find no violation. Sigler wrote that the board disregarded its power to question witnesses under oath and its power of subpoena.

“The board ignored its investigative powers and had an absolute minimum invested in examining the defendant (Kelty’s) violations,” he wrote.

By contrast, Sigler said the grand jury met for more than a week and interviewed 15 witnesses and examined thousands of pages of bank records, e-mail and other documents.

Andy Downs, Democratic member of the board, said all of Sigler’s assertions were accurate, noting he thought he asked several good questions that weren’t answered by Kelty or his attorney, Jim Bopp.

“We didn’t push the issue very far,” Downs said.

David Wright, Republican member of the board, said he still doesn’t believe Kelty broke campaign finance law and felt the board did everything it was supposed to do.

“What does he (Sigler) expect us to do?” he said. “It’s not a grand jury. We don’t go out and investigate.”

Wright said he read the statute several times and didn’t believe it was broken based on the evidence presented.

Sigler's criticism of the election board is dead-on, and this problem is not limited to Allen County. Wright's defense of the election board's actions are a complete embarrassment. In Marion County, four years ago the Board completely ignored clear evidence that City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah had blatantly misreported the source of his campaign contributions as alleged in a complaint by Libertarian candidate Brad Klopfenstein. To make a persistent Klopfenstein go away, the Board finally slapped Abduallah on the hand with a $100 fine and told him not to do it again, but amended filings by Abduallah hardly cleared up the matter. When Abduallah filed for re-election, his statement of candidacy clearly noted he lived outside his district. Again, election officials simply brushed it aside and illegally allowed his name to appear on the ballot. Only after this blogger reported on his residency issue did he finally resign his seat on the council. But election officials went on to commit another election violation by illegally placing Andre Carson's name on the ballot after the statutory deadline had passed.

This flagrant disregard for our campaign finance laws occurs because the election boards are simply comprised of political hacks who don't give a damn about anything but furthering a partisan political agenda on behalf of their respective parties. You don't get appointed to one of these Boards unless the party's leader can count on you to act as his puppet. It's time to revamp these election boards and make them accountable to the public, not to their political masters.

Library Board Vote On CEO Illegal

Advance Indiana told you about it a month ago, and the Star's Matt Tully finally got around to reporting on it today. Tully confirm that board member Peter Pizarro, who participated in a divided vote to select Laura Bramble as the new library CEO last month, had in fact moved to Ohio months earlier. Tully writes:

The latest evidence of that came out of a Library Board meeting earlier this month, when new board member Elsa Kramer asked for a statement to be read into the record. Kramer was concerned that board member Peter Pizarro had participated in a Nov. 15 vote to hire Laura Bramble as the library's chief executive.

The problem? Pizarro, who has since left the Library Board, "was no longer a resident of the library district as of at least Sept. 1," Kramer said.

While other board members kept quiet, it's hard to imagine they didn't know something was up. After all, Pizarro hadn't attended the board's September or October meetings. But he showed up in November to vote for Bramble, board President Louis Mahern's choice for CEO.

Mahern said he'd heard rumblings about Pizarro's residency before the vote. He said Pizarro told him his family had moved to Ohio, where Pizarro has a new job, but that Pizarro was sleeping at a friend's house in Indianapolis, "tying up some loose ends."

Here are a few points to consider before deciding whether that is a credible scenario:
Pizarro sold his Indianapolis home this summer. In an Aug. 1 sales disclosure form signed "under penalties of perjury," he listed his residence as Mansfield, Ohio.

The list of real estate transactions in the Sept. 23 edition of the Mansfield News Journal included Pizarro's purchase of a home in Ohio.

Pizarro, a prominent Republican who ran for City-County Council in 2003, did not vote in the hotly contested Nov. 6 Marion County elections.

The dishonorable Pizarro refused to return Tully's calls seeking clarification on his residency, and the circumstantial evidence Pizarro moved to the State of Ohio is indisputable. "The vote for Bramble as CEO was 4-2," Tully notes. As he explains, "Pizarro's replacement, Kramer, would have voted for another candidate, Jackie Nytes." "That could have resulted in a tie, making clear the importance of Pizarro's vote." The fact is that Louis Mahern, the Board's chairman, did not want Nytes to get the job and he stopped at nothing, including violating the Board's own bylaws, to make sure she didn't get the job. For his transgression, Mahern should be forced to immediately resign his seat on the Board.

Tully's article asks no questions of the Board's legal counsel in this breach of the public trust. Marion County taxpayers have paid millions in recent years to the law firm of Greg Hahn, Tabbert Hahn, to serve as counsel to the library board. It is the job of the Board's legal counsel to make sure the Board follows the law and, most certainly, its own bylaws. As I reported last month, Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes, arguing on behalf of the County Commissioners to replace Pizarro with the Commissioners' new appointee, Elsa Kramer, provided evidence before the vote that Pizarro's term on the Board had already expired. Neither Mahern nor its legal counsel were moved by the evidence Bowes tendered to the Board. As one of his first duties as Mayor, Mayor-elect Ballard should replace both Mahern and the Board's law firm. They have breached the public's trust and should suffer the consequences.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mr. Republican Meets Blago

When I worked in Illinois Republican politics, I would often run across a major Republican power broker who lived in Springfield by the name of William Cellini. My first of several encounters came while I was a freshman at Eastern Illinois University. I was interning in a local state senator's office in 1981 when Mr. Cellini stopped by to visit the state senator. After the senator and Mr. Cellini visited for awhile, I was invited into the senator's office and asked if I wanted to be a Selective Service Board member. "Am I old enough," I asked. With that, at the age of 18, I was appointed a member of the local Selective Service Board in my area when it was reconstituted after being abolished many years earlier. It later made a headline in the Charleston Times-Courier when a reporter called me up and asked how I got appointed to the Board and I told the reporter exactly how it happened. Red-faced, I called up Mr. Cellini and apologized for the headline. He told me it wasn't a problem and not to worry about it. Later, I figured out it was exactly the kind of publicity he liked getting.

Patronage was king in Springfield and nobody had more control over it than Cellini. He also ran the Sangamon Co. Republican Party and was often referred to as "Mr. Republican." His sister, Janice, handled patronage under several Republican governors. When Jim Edgar, my former state representative became Secretary of State and later Governor, you couldn't get a job in state government without your application crossing her desk. When brother Bill wasn't lobbying for the asphalt pavement industry, he was building a big real estate empire that involved Section 8 and other government-subsidized housing projects all over the midwest. When riverboat casinos came to Illinois, Cellini landed an interest in one of the first riverboats on the Mississippi at Alton. He also talked former State Treasurer Jerome Consentino (D) into loaning him and his friends money to finance a big hotel project in Springfield, which later went bankrupt and cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Consentino went to prison years later for an insurance fraud scheme he carried out while serving as Illinois State Treasurer.

Business for Cellini was great during Republicans' 26 years of controlling the governor's office, but his ties to Democrats was equally impressive. In fact, it has proven a little too impressive in the case of Gov. Rod Blagoyevich. In U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's never-ending battle to clean up public corruption in Illinois, Cellini has been caught on tape exercising the kind of influence peddling the law deems illegal. According to federal investigators, Cellini was part of an elaborate scheme to shake down investment bankers for a piece of the Teachers' Retirement Fund investments. According to the Sun-Times:

The men tried to shake down movie producer and former investment firm owner Tom Rosenberg ("Individual J") for a $1.5 million contribution to Blagojevich, or $2.2 million for Levine, if Rosenberg wanted the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) to go forward with an expected investment of $220 million in Rosenberg's firm.

Cellini called Rosenberg and laid out the pay-to-play scheme, but Rosenberg threatened to go public and expose the extortion attempt, so Cellini, Levine and the others backed off, the proffer said.

Cellini is caught on tape telling Levine about how Rezko and Kelly had been "essentially hammerin' people for contracts, ah, contracts for fund-raising," the filing states.

I just couldn't help but think of the irony of Mr. Republican finally getting caught doing something which could land him in jail while raising political payola for a Democratic governor. Mr. Cellini is not unlike the many crooked influence peddlers who stink up the place here in Indiana. It's just that our crooked influence peddlers don't have a Patrick Fitzgerald looking over their shoulders.

Ethics Reform We Must Enact In The City Of Indianapolis

This advice will probably fall on deaf ears since Mayor-elect Greg Ballard and the Marion Co. GOP don't want any advice from people like myself, but a set of ethics reforms could help clean up city hall if anyone is interested in doing that now that the election is over. Here's my suggestions:

Anyone who is compensated to communicate or advocate on any matter to a city or county employee or official, employees and members of any boards or commissions and city-county councilors shall be required to register as a lobbyist and report semi-annually all lobbying-related expenditures, including grassroots lobbying. Attorneys and accountants and their employers shall be barred from performing services for the city-county government and its agencies if they are registered lobbyists for third parties.

All city-county officials, employees and councilors shall be barred from accepting gifts of any value. That means no free football, basketball and concert tickets, free lunches or dinners and free trips.

All government employees and persons and businesses doing business with city-county government shall be barred from making political contributions to the mayor or any other elected official. If you look at the campaign finance reports of our elected officials, you will soon discover that their campaigns are being largely-financed by contractors and government employees.

All city and county employees shall be barred from running for and serving on the city-county council. Our state constitution already provides for a similar prohibition, but our state legislature changed the law in the 1980s so city firefighters and police officers could serve on the council. Also, anyone who does business with the City of Indianapolis shall be barred from serving on any board or commission. This will end the common conflict of interest which exists when the chairman of the Capital Improvement Board or the Indianapolis Airport Authority is a partner in a law firm which also provides legal services to the City of Indianapolis. Similarly, a person should not be sitting on the Metropolitan Development Commission who works for a firm doing business with city-county government.

The statements of economic interest currently filed by officials and employees provide little in the way of disclosure. The public deserves full disclosure. The statements should be overhauled to require disclosure of meaningful information about a person's potential economic conflicts with their government work.

The current Ethics Board, which administers ethics compliance by government officials and employees, includes board members who aren't disinterested. The make-up of the Ethics Board needs to be expanded to include more members of the general public.

Some of these changes can be made locally. Other changes will require state legislation. All of these changes will lead to a cleaner, more open and honest government. Let's hope there is someone willing to take up the cause for these changes.

Ballard Explains His Transition Team

Mayor-elect Greg Ballard explaining to the IBJ why he walked away from the grassroots people who elected him to office:

Ballard calls his transition team “a combination of people with gravitas mixed in with up-and-comers.” “We wanted people who were disinterested or couldn’t have influence over the areas they were checking into,” he said. To spearhead his transition, Ballard chose Joe Loftus, former senior deputy mayor under Republican Steve Goldsmith and now a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP.
Loftus, a registered lobbyist who is a resident of the City of Carmel, represents the interest of one of the city's biggest law firms, which believes it got shut out of city business under Bart Peterson and wants to return to the glory days of former Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. Now, how's that for a "disinterested" person, Mr. Mayor-elect?

Shall I continue? He's primarily getting advice from some of the following people:

  • Lisa Dietrich--full-time lobbyist for Ice Miller, a law firm which has done multi-millions of dollars of business with the City of Indianapolis on multiple fronts. She's in charge of looking at Administration--the agency which helps hand out city contracts.
  • Gretchan Gutman--full-time lobbyist for Sommer & Barnard, which does business with the City of Indianpolis. She will be looking at charter schools.
  • Sue Beesley--lobbyist and attorney with Bingham-McHale, a law firm which has collected millions in legal fees for work on behalf of the Capital Improvement Board of Managers. She's taking a look at the corporation counsel's office. Why not, she used to run it.
  • Robert Grand--lobbyist and attorney for Barnes & Thornburg, known as the insider's insider. He's taking care of the mayor's office.
  • Toby McClamroch--lobbyist and attorney with Bingham-McHale. As the firm's managing partner, he has millions in legal business on the line to protect. He'll be looking at public safety.
  • Terry Baker--an executive with the Schneider Corporation, an engineering firm which has also done lots of business with the City of Indianapolis. He'll be looking at metropolitan development.
  • John Okeson--an attorney with the law firm of Hall Render, which represents more hospitals than any other firm in the state. He will be in charge of looking at our own Health & Hospital Corporation.
  • Pat Kiely--a registered lobbyist for the state's manufacturing industry. He'll keep tabs on the Capital Improvement Board of Managers.
  • Mickey Maurer--one of the city's largest and wealthiest landowners. He also owns IBJ, Indiana Lawyer, several radio stations and owns a large stake in the National Bank of Indianapolis, as well as other businesses. He's going to keep an eye on the city waterworks.
  • R.J. McConnell--attorney with Bose McKinney--another law firm which raked in millions doing work for the Peterson administration. He's taking care of public works.
  • Ann Lathrop--She's with the accounting firm of Crowe-Chizek, which has also billed the city of Indianapolis millions for work over the years. She's keeping tabs on the controller's office.
  • Steve Riddle--also with the accounting group, Somerset, which likes it shares of government work. One of its principles is Pat Early, former chairman of the Capital Improvement Board. He's taking a look at the Public Improvement Bond Bank.

And the list goes on. What does it mean? It means that the grassroots people who fought to take back our government lost after all. We elected Greg Ballard, and Greg Ballard immediately turned control of our city back to the same people who have been taxing, spending, borrowing and operating the city for their own selfish, self-interested ends. How dare you tell us you looked for a team to assist you who were disinterested or couldn't have influence over the management of the city. Don't insult our intelligence. The Mayor-elect doesn't even seem to care that many of these people don't even reside in the City of Indianapolis. That's right. People who don't even live and pay taxes in this city have more say over the future of your city than you do. Selling out the people who fought in the trenches to ensure your election is no way to start a new administration. Good luck, Mr. Mayor-elect. You're going to need it. This group will not allow you to keep the campaign promises you made--transparency in government being the least of them.

Carson Funeral Turns Into Campaign Rally For Andre Carson

I can't say I'm surprised it happened, but I saw it live with my own two eyes just moments ago during the televised coverage of the funeral services for the late Rep. Julia Carson. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI) announced to the attendees and televised audience that on her death bed, Carson told her and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs (D-OH) that she wanted her grandson, Andre Carson, to take her seat in Congress. As Kilpatrick shouted out her support for Carson in the upcoming special election, many in the audience at the Eastern Star church stood up, cheered and applauded. Rep. Tubbs' speech followed Kilpatrick's. She, too, plugged the candidacy of Andre Carson. But the moment which will be most talked about for many days to come was the endorsement of Carson's candidacy by the controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. That controversial endorsement could end Andre Carson's campaign for Congress in the 7th district before it even started.

Housing Agency Makes Quick Deal With RCM Phoenix Owners

Somebody wanted to make a pretty quick deal with the owners of Phoenix Apartments. The Indianapolis Housing Agency cut a deal allowing the owners of the troubled Section 8 apartments, RCM Phoenix Partners to repay less than half the amount the agency originally said it was asked the owners to repay. Ted Evanoff of the Star writes:

The Indianapolis Housing Agency investigated RCM Phoenix, finding the landlord had breached Section 8 rules. It had not disclosed its ownership of the property for more than a year and had leased Section 8 apartments to unqualified tenants.

The Housing Agency filed an administrative notice Dec. 5, demanding that the landlord return $318,000 in federal welfare rent payments. That led to negotiations this week with RCM Phoenix attorneys, culminating in Friday's agreement.

The deal shows RCM Phoenix agreed to return $141,749 on apartments it rented out under the program managed by the Housing Agency. It was not clear why the settlement was lower than what the agency asked for.

Hmmm. What I would really like to know is who the local investors in the RCM Phoenix are? Nobody in the media seems too anxious to share that information with us. It looks like someone wants to get this place sold and off the news pages as quickly as possible.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fitzgerald Tightening Noose Around Blagoyevich

The Sun-Times reports that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office has filed more documents in a criminal case against a former top fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagoyevich, Tony Rezko, tying the governor to a quid pro quo conspiracy to raise political funds. "Gov. Blagojevich told a prominent Democratic fundraiser that the governor 'could award contracts, legal work and investment banking to help with fund-raising,' according to a federal court document released Friday," Steve Warmbir reports. Prominent Democratic attorney and fundraiser Joe Cari has already pleaded guilty to charges in 2005. The documents claim Blagoyevich told Cari he “had a lot of ways of helping his friends and that Rezko and [Christopher Kelly] were his point people in helping his friends and coordinating fundraising,” according to the court document.

What Fitzgerald is alleging happened in the Blagoyevich administration goes on in Indiana all the time. The difference is that Chicago has a prosecutor who will prosecute cases of political corruption. In Indiana, it's simply viewed as a way of conducting government business and nobody gives a damn. If you don't want to participate in this corrupt system, you won't get very far in Indiana politics. Fitzgerald has already sent former Gov. George Ryan to prison on similar public corruption charges. It looks like Ryan will have a cell mate soon enough if Fitzgerald has anything to say about it.

Is The Fox Guarding The Hen House?

If you want a job or an appointment to a board or commission in the Ballard administration, you will have to submit your application to Ice Miller's managing partner, Melissa Proffit Reece, who is the person on Ballard's transition team in charge of personnel. A candidate for a job must disclose their social security number, highly confidential information about their current and past employment, including the amount they were paid and why they left a former job. Have an interest in a business? You'll need to disclose it as well.

Hoosiers For Fair Taxation believes potential candidates are reluctant to apply for a job in the new administration knowing their most confidential information will fall into the hands of Ice Miller. The public interest blog notes the irony of Ice Miller's role in Ballard's transition team given its involvement in so many decisions of the Peterson administration, several of which sparked public anger. It's no secret the law firm raised tens of thousands of dollars for Mayor Peterson's re-election bid. "We are wondering if Ice Miller would let anyone near Greg Ballard that will work hard and passionately to provide transparency and accountability of exactly how the city spends its money and who gets what contracts," the blog rhetorically asks.

Vigo County Judge Rules In Favor Of Bennett

Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke's win-at-all costs strategy has finally come to an end after he refused to concede his more than 100-vote loss to Republican Duke Bennett last month. Burke demanded a recount, which resulted in a slightly-larger winning margin for Bennett. And he invoked the federal Hatch Act in an effort to disqualify Bennett. But Vigo Co. Superior Court Judge David Bolk ruled in favor of Bennett today, allowing him to be sworn in as Terre Haute mayor next week.

Burke contended Bennett should be disqualified because the Hamilton Center where Bennett is employed as an operations manager receives some federal funding for its Head Start program. the federal Hatch Act disqualifies certain state and local government employees, as well as nonprofit employees, whose salaries are paid, in part, by federal funds from engaging in political activities. Bolk ruled that Bennett had not wilfully or intentionally violated the Hatch Act, although he concluded that Bennett is subject to the Act. Bolk's ruling seems a little confusing. Bennett's attorney, Jim Bopp, argued Bennett was not subject to the Act because only a de minimus amount of his salary (less than 2%) was paid out of federal funds, and that Bennett did not direct the spending of the federal funds. Bolk also found that an Indiana statute barring persons subject to the Hatch Act from running for public office did not disqualify Bennett from taking office as Terre Haute's mayor.

The Indiana Law Blog has uploaded a copy of Judge Bolk's decision, which you can find here.

Carson's Final Visit To The State House

Photos from this morning's ceremonies courtesy of Joe Miller.

Farrakhan To Speak At Carson Funeral

Controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, well-known for his racist, homobigoted and anti-semitic views. is scheduled to speak at the funeral of the late Rep. Julia Carson (D) tomorrow, along with other prominent African-Americans. Radio and TV talk show host Tavis Smiley, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D) and State Rep. Bill Crawford (D) are among them. Sen. Richard Lugar (R), former Sen. Birch Bayh (D), Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Mayor Bart Peterson (D) are also expected to speak.

A horse-drawn military caisson carrying Carson's body from her home in the 2500 block of Park Avenue to the State House rotunda where she will lie in repose began at 7:30 a.m. About 100 people joined the Carson family for the walk to the State House. Her family was joined by Mayor-elect Greg Ballard (R) and State Rep. Bill Crawford this morning.

Noticeably absent from the list of dignitaries planning to attend Carson's funeral are former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Carson was among Indiana Democrats backing Hillary Clinton's bid for president, and President Clinton had made appearances in the 7th District on behalf of Carson in the past. Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is threatened by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who is garnering significant support among African-Americans. One might have expected a Clinton to attend a funeral of such a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus given the high stakes Ms. Clinton faces in the coming weeks as the first voters go to the polls to begin the process of selecting a new president.

Ironically, the Democratic blog Taking Down Words reports rumor that Vice President Dick Cheney may attend her funeral. WTHR confirms secret service representatives have been in town making arrangements for someone's visit. Vice President Cheney would have hardly rated very high on Carson's list of favorite persons.

Funeral planners' decision to allow Louis Farrakhan to speak at the funeral could have negative implications for her grandson, City-County Councilor Andre Carson, who is expected to run for her seat in a special election early next year. Rep. Carson relied on support from Indianapolis' GLBT community and Jewish community in her many bids for elective office. "It's the wicked Jews, the false Jews that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality, [and] Zionists have manipulated Bush and the American government [over the war in Iraq]," Farrakhan was quoted as saying at a National of Islam event just last year. It is shocking that such a divisive figure would be invited to speak at her funeral.