Thursday, January 31, 2008
Meanwhile, the Council appears poised to appoint two Libertarians to the Board of Zoning Appeals, Brad Klopfenstein and Timothy Maguire. Klopfenstein is a lobbyist for the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association and ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for the council in 2003. Maguire was an unsuccessful Libertarian at-large candidate in this past November's election. Some would argue that the vote Maguire won in that election cost at-large Republican candidate, Michael Hegg, what would have been his seat on the council instead of Joanne Sanders. Sanders should be the one sponsoring Maguire's appointment.
If Jennings' 1994 DWI conviction creates a conflict of interest for him in serving on the Citizens Police Complaint Board, will the Council believe that lobbyist Robert Grand should be disqualified from serving on the Capital Improvement Board because his law firm represents Simon family interests? And will the Council have to stop short of appointing Klopfenstein because of the conflicts of interest likely to arise when members of his organization come before the Board of Zoning Appeals?
Update: Jen Wagner at Accidental Mayor reminds me of my old post on one of our judicial candidates here in Marion County who drove drunk as a teen-ager and struck and killed another man.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Miller unleashed on Long unlike anything I've seen him do in the past in an e-mail alert to his followers today. Sen. Long allowed a hearing on SJR-8 earlier this month, but at a second hearing in the Senate Rules Committee, which Long chairs, members of the public were not allowed to speak. It was at this meeting that Long announced the proposal would be sent to a study committee for further study instead of being voted on this year. "Senator Long abused his position as the Chairman of the Rules Committee and refused to allow any of the more than 20 citizens who came to the hearing to testify on Senate Bill 100," Miller wrote. "I have had the privilege of working with both Republican and Democrat Committee Chairmen in the House and Senate for over 25 years," Miller continued. "I have never seen a Committee Chairman do what Senator Long did on January 22nd!" Miller goes on to accuse Long of engaging in "politics as usual" and to say that Long only denied a vote on SJR-8 because he knew it would pass if the members had been given a chance to vote on it. Anyone see the irony here? Isn't this sort of the same thing that's happening over in the House between Miller and House Speaker Pat Bauer over SJR-7, the gay marriage amendment?
Miller warns Long that the "battle isn't over." He promises to find another home for SJR-8 elsewhere. As Advance Indiana earlier reported, Miller's supporters in the House deliberately killed Gov. Daniels' property tax cap amendment, HJR-1, by trying to tack the gay marriage amendment and Miller's property tax repeal amendment to it. "We will continue to work with Republican and Democrat Legislators to add language dealing with the Repeal of Property Taxes to another Resolution moving through the Legislature," Miller promises. Miller plans a State House rally on Friday, which has created quite a dust up with other tax activists because he's tying his push for the gay marriage amendment to his property tax repeal push, a move not supported by many tax activists. Some of the tax activists are promising some drama during the rally over these differences. As for Long, it's hard to have sympathy for him. He got in bed with Miller on all these other issues. Now, he has fleas. And probably a primary opponent in his Fort Wayne Senate district to boot if Miller has anything to say about it.
It was actually Assistant Republican Leader Eric Turner (R-Gas City) who was trying to tack on the gay marriage amendment to Gov. Daniels' property tax cap amendment for homeowners when House Speaker Pat Bauer decided to pull the amendment. Walorski was too busy filing amendments about abortion and other needle-in-the eye amendments to the hate crimes bill, HB 1076, which proved successful in killing that bill for the second year in a row. "House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said House Republicans were trying to destroy the Republican governor's proposal," the Star's Bill Ruthart writes. "House Minority Leader Brian Bosma argued Bauer should have allowed discussion on the possible changes," Ruthart added.
Meanwhile, the driving force behind these wedge whack issues, Eric Miller, is out recruiting new, fundamentalist fanatics to run for the State House. Miller, head of the so-called Advance America organization, sends out an e-mail to his brethren this week reminding them that all 100 House members are up for re-election and one half of the Senate's 50 seats will be on the ballot. "We have prepared an extensive manual on how to run a successful campaign as well as a set of DVD’s that include presentations by a number of Republican and Democrat elected officials," Miller writes. "This manual and DVD set normally sell for $134." "For a limited time, we are able to offer the manual and DVD set for only $99," he adds. Let's see, D.C. Stephenson offered a hood, bedsheet and "naturalization papers" for $26 to join his order back in the 1920s. It made him a millionaire and helped him to elect the best legislature money could buy for his "Americanization" agenda. Miller is a little smarter than Stephenson. He creates a nonprofit organization so all his followers can take take deductions for their contributions to him, and he pays himself and his law firm six-figure sums year after year. How little things have changed in our Hoosier state.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
As a candidate for mayor, Ballard promised to enact a tough ethics reform law. One of his proposals would have barred lobbyists or other persons with a financial interest from serving on any commission or board that directly affects or deals with their lobbying or financial interests. Candidate Ballard said, "Taxpayers are being asked to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in government spending ranging from huge construction projects to outside personal contracts. But there are virtually no rules governing the conduct of business or local government in such dealings," said Ballard. "It's time to restore ethics and public accountability to our local government," Ballard said then. Mayor Ballard took office without enacting an excutive order to carry into effect some of the reforms he promised as a candidate. Candidate Ballard complained about former City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah accepting a trip to last year's Super Bowl and refusing to disclose who paid for the trip. Yet, Ballard's two children told a Star reporter how much they enjoyed the perks of their father being mayor, including the great tickets they wre receiving to the RCA Dome where the Colts play and Conseco Fieldhouse where the Pacers play. Who's paying for those tickets?
Grand's potential conflict of interest doesn't end with the Simons and their Pacer team. His law firm is also a registered lobbyist for many other clients, which raise additional concerns. The company which manages Jail II for the county, Corrections Corporation of America, is a client as is the Marion County Prosecutor and its Superior Courts. The Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County is a client. The Indiana World Skating Academy, which is being forced to give up its space at the PanAm Plaza to make way for new development, is a client. And CIB neighboring corporate giant, Eli Lilly, is a client. Indiana Lobby Registration Commission discloses dozens of clients for which Grand's firm is registered to lobby. If Ballard had enacted the ethics reform he promised as a candidate, Grand would have been barred from taking the job as CIB Chairman.
Along with Grand's announcement, Ballard carried through on the appointment of Randall Tobias as head of the Indianapolis Airport Authority. Tobias is the former CEO of Eli Lilly and Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush administration. Tobias also holds the distinction of being the only government casualty of the D.C. Madam scandal after he admitted he had used the escort services of the woman government prosecutors claimed was running a high-end prostitution service in the nation's capital. “The citizens of Indianapolis are fortunate to have men of this caliber answering the call to public service,” Ballard said today in making these two important appointments. “I have no doubt that both Bob and Randall will do an outstanding job of serving our citizens in this capacity and I look forward to working with them throughout their tenure here.”
And did I mention that the Indiana Pacers are trying to re-negotiate their lease on Conseco Fieldhouse with Mayor Ballard beginning this year? The team's owners, Mel and Herb Simon, are lamenting the fact that their franchise is losing money and attendance at their games is dead last in the NBA. I'm sure Mr. Grand will put the taxpayers' interest first in those negotiations. Don't you?
While the legislation is welcomed by some as a way to crack down on illegal immigration, others say the loss of up to 85,000 undocumented workers would have
a far-reaching impact on Hoosiers.
"Ag jobs are often ones that are not the first jobs people will take," said Kent Yeager, public policy director for Indiana Farm Bureau. "A lot of people in this country are just not willing to do that work."
Without a reliable immigrant work force, Yeager said, producers of fruits and vegetables, livestock and dairy will be forced to look elsewhere to find workers -- and may even shift their operations to other countries.
"If you don't like being dependent on foreign oil, how will you like being dependent on foreign food?" Yeager said.
That is a message state lawmakers are hearing from opponents -- chambers of commerce, manufacturers, home builders, restaurant owners and Hispanic leaders -- as they debate Senate Bill 335, which would crack down on business owners who knowingly hire illegal workers. Hiring and harboring illegal immigrants is already a federal offense. Violators can be jailed and heavily fined.
McFeely's article focuses on the economic impact of Delph's legislation, but the impact on Hoosier families could be much greater. It threatens to tear apart many U.S. citizen families. Thousands of U.S.-born Hoosiers are married to Hispanics who are in the country illegally. Many of those households have American-born children. If one of the spouses is unable to work, it will wreak economic havoc on these families. Some opponents would argue that is the ulterior motive behind the legislation. About 5% of Indiana's population is Hispanic. It is estimated that there are at least 85,000 undocumented workers in Indiana, most of whom are Hispanic. It's funny that the same people who are always talking about family values are backing legislation which is so anti-family for some Indiana residents.
- Township assessors would remain in place in 44 townships in Indiana, including all nine in Marion County.
- Marion County's small claims courts would remain intact, rather than being merged into the county's Superior Court system.
- County commissioners -- who would have been eliminated and replaced with a single county executive -- will remain in place unless voters choose to change their county government in a countywide referendum in 2010.
As if to insult our intelligence, Sen. Lawson argued that it was important to preserve township assessors in the larger townships, including all of Marion County's nine township assessors, because the county assessors would be overwhelmed by too much work. Her original amendment would have omitted Decatur Township, but Sen. Mike Young took care of that with another amendment. These people simply do not get it. Throwing them out of office is the only solution to arriving at real change in this state. By the time we get to the end of the session, these lawmakers will have the government reform bills watered down so much that you may as well just flush it down the tiolet. That's about how much it will be worth.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The filing of the amendment by Turner has effectively killed Gov. Daniels' proposed constitutional amendment to permanently cap property taxes for homeowners. House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) and his House Rules Committee Chairman Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) announced earlier this session that the House would not be hearing SJR-7, the controversial gay marriage amendment which the House Rules Committee voted down last year. House Republicans have placed a higher priority in writing discrimination into our state's constitution than in writing into it permanent tax relief for the state's homeowners.
Sadly, two other members of Bosma's caucus, Rep. Jeff Thompson (R) and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), have effectively killed proposed hate crimes legislation, HB 1076, by filing killer amendments to the bill. The bill's chief author, Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis), has refused to call down HB 1076 because of the controversial amendments the two lawmakers have filed to the bill at the request of religious right leaders Eric Miller of Advance America and Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana. Continuing opposition from the fundamentalist extremists is based on bogus claims that the legislation will create "special rights" for "homosexuals and cross-dressers" by allowing a court to impose harsher sentences on persons who commit crimes against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that it will impede the "free speech rights" of ministers to speak out against homosexuality. Indiana is one of only five states in the nation without a hate crimes law, putting our state in the sad company of Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia and Wyoming.
O'Shaughnessy's list for Elrod surprises those of us who attended the 7th District caucus because some of the people O'Shaughnessy lists were actively working for Elrod's opponent, Tom Rose. O'Shaughnessy lists GOP Chairman Tom John; attorney David Brooks; Superior Court Judge David Certo; state party Chairman Murray Clark; and Elrod's former campaign manager, Robb Greene. Yes, Robb Greene has always been a close adviser to Elrod and a good one at that. Most local Republicans are chuckling, though, at the notion that either Murray Clark or David Brooks are doing anything to help Elrod. At the same time, O'Shaughnessy suggests those two and Tom John are helping him, he writes, "Elrod, a member of the state House, so far has not received any money or promise of help from the party's fundraising apparatus." The state party is allowing space for Elrod's campaign to work in the state headquarters so I guess Clark is doing something to help him. Don't worry, the rest of us fighting to win back the 7th District for the people will take care of the money for Elrod.
Carson is using a D.C. consultant, Alex Zwerdling, to run his campaign. Zwerdling is former union organizer for the Hotel & Restaurant Employees union. Elrod's campaign is using Kyle Kasting, who works with the local consulting firm known as Maverick Strategies. Elrod says he hopes to raise $300,000 for the special election effort alone. "I think I come across mostly as an outsider," Elrod said. "I'm not as well-connected in my party as he is in his." The DCCC has targeted the 7th District race, unlike the Republicans. Elrod cites that as evidence the Democrats believe Carson is highly vulnerable.
The most humorous part of O'Shaughnessy's story is Carson's contention that he is prepared for the job. "In less than six months, Andre Carson has gone from being a State Excise Police officer to a City-County Council member, an engineering firm marketing executive and now a candidate for his grandmother's congressional seat," O'Shaughenssy writes. That says it all. Working on his grandmother's campaign is hardly the experience 7th District voters are looking for in a candidate. O'Shaughnessy notes Elrod's flair for drama. "In a recent tryout for a community theater production, Jon Elrod won the part of Felix, the neat and organized half of 'The Odd Couple,'" O'Shaughnessy writes. "He thought he could have played Oscar, the sloppy character, but cast members and directors thought he fit the bill for the tidy and methodical role."
There's some talk of issues, as well. The story provides this very brief discussion of how the candidates feel on some issues:
What's your position on a withdrawal timetable for Iraq?
• Democrat Andre Carson: I support a responsible redeployment plan to end the war in Iraq and bring our brave men and women home with honor. It is time for the Iraqis to take responsibility for their security, with benchmarks for Iraqi military and political success along with a responsible timeline to bring our troops home.
• Republican Jon Elrod: Like everyone in America, I want our troops home as soon as possible. I do not support an arbitrary timetable. I will listen to the generals on the ground.
What should we do about illegal immigration?
• Carson: America's immigration system is broken and nothing has been done in Washington to fix it. In Congress, I will fight to secure our borders and make sure the laws on the books are enforced. Employers who break the law must be held accountable. I am against amnesty and believe that consideration of how undocumented immigrants can earn the opportunity to become citizens must include paying a fine, paying all back taxes, and not having an advantage over those who have entered this country legally.
• Elrod: I support enforcing the laws on the books. If the nation needs more labor, the solution is to increase quotas; not amnesty or guest worker bills.
What's the best way to get the health care problem solved?
• Carson: In Congress, I will take the lead to create and invest in solutions that would make sure every American has access to affordable, quality health care. This includes ensuring that all children have health care by expanding programs like the State Children's Health Insurance Program, passing a prescription drug plan that truly works for our seniors, and working across the aisle, and with states, to invest in pilot programs to find out what works best to lower costs and increase coverage.
• Elrod: Our third party-payer system has caused the ever-increasing health care costs. The long term solution is to create competition through health savings accounts, non-profit insurers, and public pricing.
What would your economic stimulus plan look like?
• Carson: Between property taxes, gas prices and health care costs, the working families of Indianapolis are not able to keep their heads above water right now. We need to figure out ways to put cash back into the pockets of working Hoosiers. The first thing I will do is to create real tax relief for the middle class, rolling back the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and companies that send jobs overseas, and putting these savings into tax cuts and rebates for working families. I would also like to see an increased investment in job creation for our state and nation, including a focus on the new energy economy and national security, which would bring good jobs back here to Indianapolis and create long-term stability.
• Elrod: I support a tax cut, paid for with spending cuts, that would lower the business and personal tax rates to below the average European tax rates.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Murray notes that Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi referred to the killings as an "act of domestic terrorism." After reading Murray's story, you can't help but ask who is truly the responsible party for terrorizing our neighborhoods. Is it the repeat offenders who keep committing heinous crimes so soon after they are released? Or is it the persons' running our criminal justice system who keep letting out these thugs after they serve such a short amount of their original sentence for repeat crimes who are responsible?
Many engineering and architecture firms make donations to candidates from both parties in a political campaign.
But one set of donations stood out among all others made in the last mayoral election, both for its size and the timing.
Keith Lochmueller, president of the Evansville-based firm Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates, gave $10,000 to former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson on Sept. 20, about six weeks before the election.
Three weeks after the election, Lochmueller gave the same amount to Greg Ballard, the surprise winner.
"We normally give to both parties," Lochmueller said. "I was going to give to Ballard before the election, but I never got around to it."
What cemented the donation, he said, was that Ballard took the head of his Indianapolis office, Paul Okeson, to be the mayor's new chief of staff. Lochmueller said he made the donation as part of attendance at the mayor's upcoming inaugural ball on Wednesday, where a gold sponsorship gets you 10 tickets, plus five photos with the smiling mayor.
Lochmueller said the firm does not donate in order to receive government contracts. "To have good government," Lochmueller said, "you need to support the candidates that will do the most for the city, the county and the state."
Okeson, who is a resident of Fishers, should have never been offered the job in the first place, but it is simply a complete abandonment of any sense of ethics to accept a contribution from a firm which does so much business with the city and hire one of its key employees at the start of your administration. Unfortunately, this is not the first indication of a lapse in judgment by Mayor Ballard when it comes to ethics. The Star's Susan Guyett caught Ballard's children off guard at last weekend's luau with these comments about the "perks of office." "I don't think it's changed too much for us, except we enjoy some of the perks," Erica said. Greg, Jr. agreed, saying they have access to great seats at the RCA Dome and Conseco Fieldhouse. So should any of us be suprised to learn that Mayor Ballard is making it a top priority in his administration to work on a Super Bowl that the City might be able to host many years into the future and is considering a more generous public subsidy for Pacer owners' Herb and Mel Simon because they're team is reportedly losing money on the books after disenchanted fans have stopped attended their games?
Meanwhile, Sen. David Long's short tenure as President Pro Tempore continues to take hits on the ethics front. Recall that he and his members recoiled from public demands that it end the generous health insurance for life perk for retired senators and their spouses but eventually came around as public pressure grew. Now, the body has killed a proposal to implement a cooling off period after legislators retire before they can lobby their colleagues simply for spite. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider writes, "Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, the Goshen Republican who controlled the bill's fate as chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, said he killed the proposal because he and other senators were angered by comments that 'we're taking money under the table. That's the interpretation we had.'"
As her report indicates, more than 30 Indiana lawmakers are now registered to lobby their former colleagues. Two lawmakers, Robert Kuzman and Matt Whetstone, left the legislature last year shortly after the House adjourned. Both lawmakers were key lawmakers on the legislation which legalized slots at the state's two horse race tracks. Coincidentally, both went to work for law firms which represented the horse racing interests which benefited from the new law. A quote in Schneider's story from Ed Mahern would be funny if it wasn't so absurd and insulting. "I've never seen a situation where I thought an individual legislator behaved a certain way during his term in hopes that he'd be employed by somebody afterwards," said Ed Mahern, a former Democratic state representative from Indianapolis.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Some folks are looking for answers as to why Mason was released and why he was represented by a public defender when he clearly had funds available to pay for his own attorney. This is an absolute worst case scenario of the consequences of what happens when our criminal justice system fails to appropriately deal with offenders. I think our Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Judge Pierson-Treacy are going to face some tough questions in the coming days about this case. What a tragic and sad loss for the family of Teresa Webb. Best wishes to the family of Carolyn Fox. The cause number for the case is 49F19-070-CM-054365.
UPDATE: The Star reports today that Mason was supposed to serve a 30-day sentence for violating the terms of his probation, but the court decided to give Mason until February 1 to begin serving his sentence.
By the numbers, Obama won more than 80% of the black vote. If Sen. Clinton's and her husband ex-President Bill Clinton's desire was to polarize voters in their hard-hitting attacks on Obama, they certainly succeeded in South Carolina. Obama managed to collect 25% of the white vote, while Clinton appeared to get a small win among white voters over Edwards. The attacks on Obama energized black voters to come out in large numbers today. They represented at least one-half of the voters in the primary. The polls going into today's vote clearly under-counted Obama's strength. He was averaging just below 40% in polls leading up to the election. By comparison, Clinton and Edwards are finishing about where they stood in the most recent polls.
If you look ahead to the next states on the presidential calendar, Clinton leads in states like Florida, New Jersey and California. I suspect the under-counting of African-American voters in the polls makes those races closer than they appear. Also, I expect the polarization of voters will make Obama the victor on Super Tuesday in southern states with a large percentage of black voters, such as Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Obama will crush Clinton in his home state of Illinois on that same day. At this point, there is every reason to believe that Obama's chances of success in this race are just as good as Clinton's.
I would also offer some advice to Obama the next time Clinton decides to hit him for his relationship with Democratic fundraiser Tony Reczko. Remind voters that Clinton's old Arkansas pals, the McDougals and Webster Hubbell, all did time in jail because of shenanigans she cooked up to enrich she and her husband. As Hubbell put it, he "rolled over" for her. How many of Obama's friends went to jail for his misdeeds?
On one other note, the Clinton campaign used robocalls in recent days in South Carolina targeting Edwards for what it claimed were trade policies he supported in the U.S. Senate which cost the state textile jobs to China. What a phony claim. The Clintons are the ones who've been repeatedly caught illegally raising money from Chinese nationals. And President Clinton implemented the very trade policies which led to the exporting of those jobs to China. In a turn on Bill Clinton's own words, what a fairytale. The Clintons are once again proving themselves to be the dirtiest people in American politics.
The Indiana Pacers have hit rock bottom.
This month, the team slipped into last place in average home attendance among the 30 National Basketball Association teams, falling behind the New Orleans Hornets, a team that is selling tickets in an area still ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The Pacers’ average home attendance through 19 games is 12,068. New Orleans is averaging 12,159 through 21 home dates.
The attendance slump and two consecutive years of financial losses have stirred speculation the franchise will ask for city assistance.
The situation is so bad, said league insiders, NBA Commissioner David Stern is keeping an eye on it.
“It’s one of a handful of clubs the NBA is concerned about,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp Ltd., a firm that works with several NBA teams on business operations. “This is something no one foresaw three or four years ago.”
Scott O’Neil, NBA senior vice president for team marketing and business operations, said, “We’re putting a little extra time into the Pacers at this point.”
NBA account managers have come to Indianapolis to help with marketing, branding and sales, O’Neil said. “This is not a five-alarm fire,” he said. “Our mind-set is, let’s get the ship righted.”
Frankly, I could care less whether the Pacers are doing well or not. Given the criminal recklessness displayed by about half the team's players in the past few years, they haven't earned the support of their fans. But here's the part of Schoettle's story that bothers me. "The situation has some wondering if Pacers officials will approach the city to seek financial assistance," he writes. "New Mayor Greg Ballard said he met with team officials and has been apprised of the situation." "He said he will meet with Pacers coowner Herb Simon within a week or so, but Ballard called that a 'get-to-know-you' kind of meeting."
Nobody should be surprised that the Simons are already making a fast move on Mayor Ballard. Schoettle notes that they had already been having discussions with Mayor Peterson about their financial woes. Immediately after Ballard was elected, Barnes & Thornburg attorneys Robert Grand and Joe Loftus seized total control of Ballard's transition team with complete ease, although neither had contributed much to his campaign prior to his election. The two blocked the participation of anyone on Ballard's transition who couldn't be controlled, which many grassroots supporters, including myself, saw as a complete slap in the face by Ballard. Coincidentally, Barnes & Thornburg represents the Simons and their Pacers basketball team.
This also isn't the first time Schoettle has written about the Simon family's plan to extract more subsidies from Indianapolis for its ailing NBA team. A little more than a year ago, Schoettle wrote about how the Simons thought that the Colts' Jim Irsay got a better shake from the city than they had gotten. As he wrote then, "Pacers executives won't discuss the Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium lease, but sources close to the team say the executives are irked by the deal and think theirs pales in comparison," Schoettle added, "The lease states that if the Pacers experience 'significant net cash flow loss for any NBA season in or after the eighth year of the initial (20-year) term,' the team the next year could begin the process of seeking early termination of its lease." He concluded, "Because the upcoming season is the Pacers' eighth in Conseco Fieldhouse . . . that provision could open the door to renegotiation as early as next year . . ."
I'm telling you, folks, that Mayor Ballard has surrounded himself with folks who are in the pocket of the city's corporate elites. You can bet that there is going to be a concession granted to the billionaire Simons to ensure they can buy more $25 million homes in Malibu. The groundwork had already been laid. As Schoettle's articles notes, "City officials haven’t completely closed the door on the idea of helping the Pacers financially." "There are provisions in the Fieldhouse lease that would allow the city to subsidize the Pacers to help make up financial losses." He quotes insider Pat Early (son of former state GOP Chairman Rex Early), "This relationship has to be a win-win for the Pacers and the community, and you always look for ways to make that happen,” said Pat Early, a longtime member of the Capital Improvement Board, the city government agency that owns Conseco Fieldhouse. "Early stopped short of saying he’d support subsidizing the Pacers, something the city did before the franchise moved to the Fieldhouse." “Obviously, the solution is not to build another arena, and a subsidy would be difficult,” he said. “But if we can sit down and get the right people in the room, we can get creative.”
"We can get creative." You bet they can. This is already a done deal. The Simons supported Mayor Peterson's campaign with big contributions. They gave nothing to Ballard. But isn't that the way it's been since Ballard's election? Everyone who did nothing to help get him elected is reaping all the spoils of his victory. We'll find more money to subsidize the billionaire Simons, but we have no money to provide basic services to improve the quality of life for the people who actually live in this city and need our city's help in saving their neighborhoods from higher taxes, crime and blight.
The Star's John Strauss wrote today about the joint memorandum you read about on Advance Indiana on Tuesday. In a separate story, the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy writes about the efforts of Councilors Paul Bateman (D) and William Oliver (D), along with a group of black pastors, to get the Mayor to reconsider the move because of the racial tensions they believe are created by the move at this time. Bateman conceded to O'Shaughnessy that it would probably be best in the long run to put the police department under the mayor, but he thinks the move should at least wait until Sheriff Anderson's retires in 2010 out of respect to him. "Bateman said handing control from a black sheriff to a white mayor would 'polarize the community' along racial lines," O'Shaughnessy writes. Regardless of how folks on either side think about the issue, it appears certain the Republican-controlled council is going to give control of IMPD to the mayor's office. That means Public Safety Director Scott Newman will soon be calling the shots. He's already planning the transition according to Strauss' report.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Last year, an Allen County grand jury indicted Fort Wayne GOP mayoral candidate Matt Kelty for failing to disclose the source of a six-figure loan he received from three supporters. Instead of reporting the names of the three supporters, Kelty reported the money as a loan to his campaign committee from himself after the individuals loaned him the money. That according to special prosecutor Dan Sigler violated Indiana's campaign finance law.
Similarly, the state's campaign finance law requires candidates to itemize aggregate expenditures to any person or business exceeding $100. That same law allows the expenditure of political contributions to defray any expenses reasonably related to the person's campaign, continuing political activity or activity related to the person's service in an elected office. If a candidate can simply transfer the bulk of his political contributions to a campaign consultant's firm to expend on behalf of his campaign, how can it be determined if the requirements of the law are being fulfilled? Why not just make every expenditure for your campaign using a VISA credit card and show every expenditure of your campaign as a payment to VISA?
A strong argument can be made that what is taking place with the expenditures of Brainard's campaign is the exact same thing in reverse as what happened in Matt Kelty's campaign. Clearly, the spirit of public reporting of both campaign receipts and expenditures, if not the letter of the law, was undermined by both campaigns. The public has no way of knowing what Stakeholder, Inc. did with all the money paid to it by Brainard's campaign. How would the public know if funds weren't being given to Brainard, for example, instead of being spent for direct mail expenses, advertising and other campaign expenditures permitted under Indiana law? Brainard's campaign, despite reporting more than $551,000 in campaign contributions, reports a $20,000 loan from Brainard. Critics also point out that Stakeholder, Inc.'s owner, Allan Sutherlin, bankrupted another consulting firm he operated during the 1990s, leaving his employees and creditors unpaid.
Matt Kelty amended his campaign finance forms to show the true source of all of his receipts after the public learned what he had done. That wasn't enough to save him from an indictment. Jim Brainard at least owes the public an accounting of how all the money his firm paid to Stakeholder, Inc. was spent at a minimum. Perhaps the Hamilton County Election Board should consider whether more action is required.
A big hat tip to Ed Feigenbaum of the Indiana Legislative Insight for noting the irregularity in Brainard's campaign finance report this week. Feigenbaum had warned during the Kelty investigation that this very problem could arise on the expenditure side of campaign finance reports. Little did he know how soon his warning would become reality.
- Michael Cohen, professor emeritus, science and environmental education, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
- Leona Frank, attorney, Frank Law Office.
- Elizabeth Gore, retired USAirways reservations supervisor.
- Cheryl Hall-Russell, chief executive officer, Indiana Youth Services Association.
- Leroy Robinson, teacher, Lawrence Township Schools.
- Tim Streett, associate director, Shepherd Community Church.
- Freezing property taxes for Hoosiers 65 and older who earn less than $35,000 per year and whose home is valued at less than $200,000.
- Reducing the cap for property taxes on agricultural land to 2 percent from 3 percent of assessed value.
- Doubling the renter's deduction on state income taxes to $5,000 from $2,500.
- Making referendums apply only to school projects that include recreational facilities such as stadiums and swimming pools.
- Placing the proposed homestead deduction in Daniels' plan on a sliding scale, giving less relief to owners of higher-priced homes.
- Increasing the earned income tax credit for the working poor to 9 percent from 6 percent.
The change I most dislike is the big hole Democrats carved out of the referendum requirement on school construction projects. I don't like the idea of placing the homestead deduction on a sliding scale as the value of the home increases. The bill, as amended, also freezes property taxes for some senior citizens. While the overall plan will no doubt lead to lower property taxes, at least in the short run, these types of changes to the property tax system undermine the fairness of a tax which is already unfair. On to the Senate. Let's see what happens there.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Many whites are suspicious of Andre’s religion. Andre and his wife are Muslim — regular Muslim, not Nation of Islam. But some white Democrats were nervous and skeptical of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s speaking at Julia Carson’s funeral. Elrod will make Andre’s religion an issue. Andre must address the religion issue and his patriotism and inclusiveness.
Today's action was completely superfluous because the Indiana Senate already fulfilled its constitutional requirement to amend Indiana's constitution when it passed SJR-7 for the second, consecutive General Assembly last year. The House killed the proposal in committee last year, and the same House Rules Committee Chairman, Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City), has already declared that his committee will not take a vote on the unnecessary and mean-spirited amendment.
In case you were wondering, yes, same-sex marriages are still illegal in Indiana just as they have been througout the state's history. Nothing about that is going to change as a result of the failure of this amendment to be written into our constitution.
Meanwhile, over in the House, a couple of the more whacky legislators, Rep. Jeff Thompson (R)and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), have once again filed killer amendments to Rep. Greg Porter's and Rep. Jon Elrod's hate crimes legislation, HB 1076, to prove to the world just how much they hate gay people. Maybe Harrison Ullman was right about our state having the worst legislature in the country.
Mayor Greg Ballard is expected to announce the city's plans for a Super Bowl bid next week. And Mark D. Miles, whose sports experience includes the 1987 Pan Am Games and 15 years as head of the ATP Tour, a men's professional tennis circuit, has been talking to the mayor's team . . .
Miles said exact roles were still being worked out, but a member of Ballard's transition team said Miles will lead the effort.
"He's an outstanding choice," Melissa Proffitt Reese said. "His connections here are so deep and varied that he's a natural choice."
Ballard spokesman Marcus Barlow said the mayor likely would have an announcement regarding the Super Bowl bid next week, possibly Tuesday . . .
Backers secured $25 million in private pledges. But there is no guarantee how much of that money will be available for a new bid. And the NFL has changed the bid requirements, which now say the host city must accommodate a fan and community event for 50,000 people.
Recall that the NFL Commissioner specifically promised the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis that it would be given the opportunity to host a Super Bowl at the soonest possible date if taxpayers would only pony up $700 million to build a new palace in which the Indianapolis Colts could play. Our state and city foolishly fell for the promise and learned last year that the NFL owners care more about their own personal greed than keeping promises. The City's bid lost out to Dallas because it is building a new stadium which holds more people than Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium.
Beyond the NFL's greed, this is simply a misplaced priority of the worst order. With the City of Indianapolis' neighborhoods afire from rising taxes and out of control crime, it is simply unimaginable that a group of elitist would have the audacity to expect us to ignore these more pressing problems so they can plan a party years off into the future to which 99.9% of Indianapolis residents will not be invited. Super Bowl plans calls for creating a Green Zone around Indianapolis' downtown area ala Baghdad for the exclusive party and shutting everyone else out.
If these business people have $25 million in their pockets which they are just itching to spend, why not donate that money to the City to combat the growing problem of abandoned homes? Indianapolis has close to 10,000 abandoned homes scattered throughout its neighborhoods, creating blight and pockets of high crime activity. That's more than the City of Chicago, a city several times our size. Our residents are having to resort to self-help to deal with this growing problem because the City of Indianapolis doesn't have the leadership or the money to deal with this problem. Many people are simply giving up and moving out to the suburbs. Let's get our priorities straight, Mayor Ballard. We voted you into office for change. Cowtowing to Indianapolis' elite establishment is no way to endear youself to the people who worked hard to elect you.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
- This bill sets up different standards for victims of crimes. For example, if a man walking out of a gay bar is mugged this would constitute a more severe crime than a grandmother who is mugged while walking down the street.
- This bill represents an attempt to give special protection to homosexuals and cross dressers by stating that a crime against them is to be treated with more severity than a crime against a senior citizen, a child or a pregnant mother.
- This bill represents a step in the wrong direction with regard to free speech. Will the next step be to prohibit speech that someone views as hateful? For example, will legislation be introduced to prohibit pastors from speaking out against the homosexual lifestyle?
- All crimes involve hate and ill will toward their victim. All crimes, regardless who the victim is, need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Once again, as Miller did last year, he provides blatantly false information about HB 1076 to his followers to work them up in an anti-gay lather. Miller attempts to convey to his followers that the bill would allow different treatment of criminals who commit crimes against a gay person as opposed to a senior citizen, child or pregnant mother. In fact, current Indiana law already allows a criminal defendant to be punished more harshly when his or her victim is a senior citizen, a child or pregnant mother. Indiana's criminal statute provides a whole list of aggravating circumstances which support harsher sentences. This is nothing new.
The legislation does not in any way impede a person's freedom of speech or religion as Miller falsely suggests. A person's guilt is determined by an underlying crime, not the bias which motivated the crime in the first instance. The bias the criminal exhibited in choosing to target his or her victim may be considered by a judge, among other aggravating circumstances, as a reason for imposing a harsher sentence. And as always, while the legislation covers a number of possible bias motives, including race, religion, ethnicity and sex, among other, Miller only singles out a person's sexual orientation as a basis for opposing the legislation. Miller's bigotry for gay people once again raises its ugly head.
Last year, Miller and his religious right followers were successful in loading down the legislation with hostile amendments pertaining to abortion and other unrelated issues as a way of killing the bill before it could be voted on third reading in the House. Miller's alert this year urges members to vote no on HB 1076 "because we should not give special protection for homosexuals and cross-dressers." It is about time someone in the legislature stood up and called Miller out for spreading blatant lies to defeat this legislation as he does year after year. Registered lobbyists should be required to comply with a code of conduct, which would prohibit them from disseminating false information to citizens of this state in an effort to lobby members of the Indiana General Assembly to vote a certain way on pending legislation. Let's call it what it is: fraud.
Niezgodski claimed during debate that necessary school buildings would not get built if the proposal remained in tact according to the Star's report on the deliberations. "Do you think the people we serve are stupid or dumb?" Rep. Jeff Espich asked Niezgodski. Of course, Niezgodski replied, "No." Nonethless, this vote could quite effectively be used against Democrats in tight races this November. I'm surprised House Democrats strung their members out on this vote. At least Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jim Schellinger, whose architectural firm has made millions off school construction projects, can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that the House Democrats are fighting to preserve his bottom line.
"Congress has a 19 percent approval rating for a reason," Elrod said. "People are tired of the games. They're tired of the wedge issues. They're tired of the fighting." "I'm going to run my campaign on my issues," Elrod said. "I'm more than willing to tell you where I stand on other issues and why I stand for them. Not everyone is going to agree -- not everyone in my party and not everyone who is a Democrat -- but I think they can agree with my priorities. That's what it comes down to: priorities."
Elrod tells Tully that the GOP is energized by his candidacy. He'll visit with national GOP folks later this month about support for his campaign. Sen. Richard Lugar, who never lifted a finger to help out with Greg Ballard's mayoral campaign, will lend a hand to Elrod. He'll be participating in a fundraiser scheduled for next month.
Tully plans a story on Andre Carson next week. Anyone want to bet there won't be any tough questions about the support Carson's campaign has received from the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan or just exactly what qualifies Carson to run for Congress other than the fact that his last name is "Carson" and he's the grandson of the late Julia Carson?
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
To the men and women of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, it is our privilege to address you in a single, joint memorandum, because we are of one mind on the issues we address here.
Much has been made in the media and elsewhere in recent days of a supposed rift between the Indianapolis Mayor and the Sheriff about which elected official should primarily be responsible for law enforcement in Marion County. The truth is that each of us has the respect of the other, we treat each other accordingly, and we both want to arrive at a law enforcement configuration that conforms to the justifiably high expectations of the people we serve.
In short, we share a common commitment to providing the citizens of Marion County with the absolute best lineup, leadership, configuration, efficiency, and effectiveness in the realm of public safety.
True, we do have some straightforward differences at to which elected official should be responsible for law enforcement in Marion County. The Mayor believes authority should rest with the Mayor's office; the Sheriff believes the same authority should rest with the office of the Sheriff.
We also have different opinions as to how this question should be resolved. The Mayor believes this decision should rest with the elected representatives of the City-County Council, while the Sheriff believes it should be put to a referendum by the people.
We both agree further that all of you, as well as the public we serve, deserve a definitive answer to this question, and soon. An ordinance filed on behalf of the Mayor two weeks ago, seeking to transfer authority for IMPD to the Mayor, is currently scheduled to be heard on January 30 in the City-County Council's Public Safety Committee. We encourage all of our citizens to participate in the legislative process involving the Committee and the full Council.
For our part, we pledge civility in this discourse and encourage our respective administrations and supporters at all levels to follow suit. This means that we all must continue to put public safety and public confidence above politics, and agree that your efforts and your bravery must be strongly supported as you continue in your important work.
The outrageous and heart-rending events of this past week on Hovey Street--the cold-blooded slaying of children while in their mothers' arms--remind us of the challenges and the evil we must successfully confront together. Our commitment to punish and eliminate this evil means we must stand firm, stand together, do our jobs with all our energy and all our hearts, respect the chain of command as it exists today unless a change becomes law, and continue to forge successfully a single law enforcement department that deserves its place among the best in the nation.
United we will stand against crime, divided and distracted, we cannot be effective. As the Sheriff has said, IMPD is in a "war" to maintain--block by block--a safe, sane, decent, orderly and caring community. With your dedication and commitment, it will prove to have been a war that can be won.
With our thanks and admiration for all you do, we remain.
Hon. Greg Ballard, Mayor
Hon. Frank J. Anderson, Sheriff,
I was somewhat surprised some of the names in the probable cause affidavit weren't redacted before it was released to the public. I hope no person's life is in danger because of the disclosures. At one point in the affidavit, it discusses the men being at an apartment building at 16th & Park. Twelve blocks away is a little too close to home for me. The four accused are scheduled to be in court Wednesday morning.
According to the probable cause affidavit, the confusion over the correct address is probably responsible for the men escaping from the crime scene. Police were dispatched at 10:31 p.m. on that Monday night and were near the scene at 10:34 p.m., but they didn't located the correct address until 10:56 p.m., fifteen minutes later. As the police first responded, the black SUV, which served as the get-away vehicle, was backing north a few blocks north of the house, while another one of the co-conspirators walked passed police on the street a few houses away.
UPDATE: Late afternoon reports indicate Sen. Ford has been diagnosed with cancer.
A Perry Meridian High School teacher’s attempt to follow the lessons in the popular movie “Freedom Writers” has ended with her saying she was censored and the district trying to fire her for insubordination.
Connie Heermann, a 27-year teacher, attended training last summer with Erin Gruwell, the California teacher who inspired the movie.
Gruwell has earned fame for sparking excitement in her apathetic students through writing. Heermann hoped to have the same impact at Perry Meridian.
So when Heermann returned from the training, she started talking with Perry Township administrators about using the lessons in her 11th-grade English class and talked of plans to use a book of diary entries from Gruwell’s students in her own classroom.
The book, which has been taught in other schools around the country, contains passages with racial slurs and some sexual content. At least one other district — in Howell, Mich. — has seen controversy over using the book . . .
The “Freedom Writers” approach encourages students to write about their own experiences, to reach out to other students of different backgrounds and to work toward a future that includes attending college and taking an active role in their communities . . .
The discussion of the book echoes a debate last year when a School Board member and local ministers protested Perry Meridian’s production of the play “Ragtime” because it contained racial slurs.
Heermann, who has been placed on administrative leave, expects a hearing before the School Board . . .
In early November, Heermann collected permission slips for students to read donated copies of “The Freedom Writers Diary,” the collection of essays by students in Gruwell’s original class.
Heermann said Principal Joan Ellis gave her the nod to go forward, and she passed the books out to students. The district says permission never was granted.“I sought their approval,” she said.
“They never told me I couldn’t until half my students had the book in their hands.”
At that point, Heermann said, a district administrator e-mailed her and said that she should not teach the book. The e-mail, she said, broke her heart as she saw students reading with rapt attention for the first time.
She continued with the lessons for a few days and then told students to turn their books in following an order from the principal. In the first class, 19 of 22 in the room refused.
Heerman's supervisors may have a point on whether she displayed insubordination in how she reacted to their order to stop teaching the material, but at the same time her frustration with her bosses' reluctance to promote and encourage teachers to step outside the box is completely understandable. You can read more about the Freedom Writers Foundation here, which promotes innovative teaching methods.
Monday, January 21, 2008
The Department of Child Services is using sophisticated advertising and marketing techniques that allow prospective parents to essentially shop for adoptable foster children on an Internet site and in a slick monthly magazine.
The new project, focused on finding permanent homes for thousands of Hoosier children taken from their parents by the department and left adrift in foster care, emphasizes reaching out to minority parents through churches and community groups.
It is part of an effort to speed up the process of finding safe, permanent homes for children who have been taken from their parents due to neglect or abuse and who cannot return home.
The number of children available for adoption through Indiana's child welfare system increased by more than 60 percent, from 1,959 in 2000 to 3,195 in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Most live in foster or group homes after courts have permanently cut their parents' ties through a legal process called termination of parental rights.
The whole notion of allowing potential parents to shop online for a child to adopt raises some concerns given how much the Internet has become the tool of choice for predators. The efforts are certainly well-intentioned just as long as the proper safeguards are being followed to ensure the best interests of the children are upper most in any adoption decisions.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Andre Carson is getting fundraising help and strategic assistance from the national Democratic Party for the March 11 special election to fill the remainder of the term of his grandmother, the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat who heads the Democratic congressional Campaign Committee, said Carson "will build on his grandmother's
accomplishments for the people of Indianapolis."
Democrats already have the advantage in the district, which presidential nominee John Kerry won with 58 percent of the vote in 2004.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has not announced any similar help for Rep. Jon Elrod, the GOP nominee.
The first disclosure reports showing how much Carson and Elrod have raised are due Feb. 28. In addition to helping to steer donations Carson's way, the campaign committee could decide to spend some of its own funds on the race.
The party, which has significantly more money in the bank than the Republicans, spent about $245,000 unsuccessfully trying to take over a GOP-leaning district in a special election in Ohio and spent about $80,000 to hang on to a Democratic-leaning district in a special election in Massachusetts.
Carson is one of 10 Democrats running in open seats or special elections this year that the campaign committee recently added to its assistance program.
The party last year started fundraising help for Democratic Reps. Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill.
Unlike the 7th District, those districts will all be represented by Republicans in the previous election.
The entire point of the story is to suggest that Carson will have help in raising money for his race from his party and that Elrod will have no help from his party. It's the same game the Star has been playing with us in race after race where it has already decided who should be elected to represent us and goes about covering a political race in a manner which makes its own choice become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Well, the blogs didn't let you get by with it in last year's mayoral race, and we'll be damned if you get by with it in this congressional race. Andre Carson is not qualified to hold this seat, and the blogs will make sure the public understands this in spite of the best efforts of the liberal, hand wringing Dennis Ryerson to hide this fact from the public. Andre Carson and his family brought to his grandmother's funeral the most divisive racist and anti-Semite in the country--a fact of which the Star has devoted zero coverage--to endorse Andre's candidacy. It was the defining moment for his congressional bid. He can run but he can't hide from it. We won't let him.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Gov. Mitt Romney scored a caucus win in Nevada, but it doesn't come close to matching McCain's two big primary state wins. Remember, Nevada is one of the few, big Mormon states and nearly half of Romney's votes in Nevada came from Mormon voters. There are no states on the horizon where he is leading in the polls. His campaign is alive, but not by much. If it is a two-man race at this point, it is McCain versus Romney.
And I still maintain that the fat lady is singing for Rudy Giuliani's campaign. He had one of his worst showings tonight, finishing sixth place behind Ron Paul with about 2% of the vote in South Carolina. Polls now show him trailing McCain in Florida's January 29 primary and California's February 5 primary. McCain is tied with Giuliani in his own back yard in New Jersey's February 5 primary. I don't see how Giuliani can afford to lose any of these states and remain viable. His problem is that he has absolutely no momentum on his side, unlike McCain and Romney.