Friday, August 31, 2012

Spokane's Amber Alert

Indianapolis Animal Care & Control Director Amber Myers is speaking out to WRTV's Kara Kenney after a firestorm erupted over news that she has been involved in a romantic relationship with her supervisor, former Public Safety Director Frank Straub, who was forced to resign after the City-County Council made clear that it would not approve his reappointment. Myers, like Straub, is sticking to the story that the two never became involved in a romantic relationship until after he announced in April that he would be stepping down by August. Myers subsequently tendered her resignation effective September 15 after news reports revealed her affair with Straub. From WRTV:

"Frank and I were not in a relationship previous to him resigning," said Myers. "So, no, I wasn't given any opportunity that I didn't deserve."
Before she was appointed chief, Myers served as deputy chief under then administrator Teri Kendrick, who left to take a job with the state toxicology department.
"Teri and I came at the same time, and shared a lot of responsibilities and so it was a natural progression for me to step up when she left," said Myers.
Myers said she was appointed months before she started dating Straub.
"I was in my position (as deputy chief) here at Animal Care and Control before Frank came to Indianapolis," said Myers. "I make the exact same salary as the chief before me." 
Myers, who is an attorney, said working in animal control is far from glamorous.
"There wasn't anyone else that was stepping up to take the chief position," said Myers . . .
Myers and Straub may be ready to begin a new life together in Spokane, Washington, but is Spokane going to welcome them? Straub's appointment is still subject to city council approval. An Amber Alert has gone up in the city after news of their affair leaked out, which would have been barred under that city's employment policies. A columnist for the Spokesman Review takes a dim and rather humorous view of the revelation not disclosed during Straub's interview process:

Spokane’s new police chief hasn’t even been sworn in yet and already his administration is under the fog of an Amber Alert.
Amber Myers, that is.
Myers is the fiancee Frank Straub mentioned in his City Hall press conference the other day. And I’m sure she’s a lovely and charming lady.
But she also was the head dogcatcher that Straub supervised in his previous incarnation as director of public safety back in Indianapolis.
OK. Myers’ title was actually chief of Animal Care and Control.
But why quibble over kibbles and bits?
The larger point is that boss/underling relationships are a no-no under the rules of Spokane and a lot of other cities with sane policies on managerial behavior.
Did Straub mention this nugget while being interviewed for the Spokane job?
That would be a NOPE . . .

Anyway, I still can’t fathom that Straub was the best carp we could haul out of the pool of chief candidates.

We all know what happened, of course. From the very beginning it was clear as gin that Spokane Mayor David Condon had handpicked Straub for the job.

Boy mayor met Straub at some meeting. Condon personally invited Straub to apply for our vacated chief’s position.

And guess what?

Straub prevailed despite being a law enforcement panel’s third choice of a group the panel wanted to toss back.

Now comes this hiccup and Condon is predictably rushing to the defense, pointing out that Framber didn’t start until AFTER Straub had submitted his resignation in Indy.

You know, like he just resigned and then thought …

“Hmm, I wonder if that cutie over in animal husbandry whom I’ve never, ever chatted up and is really a complete and utter stranger other than work would marry me?”

Oh, I’m sure everything was on the up and up.
Indianapolis city officials say that the city's current employment policies don't bar romantic relationships between supervisors and employees; however, police sources say that Straub would not have been allowed to supervise Myers if he was a uniformed police officer or firefighter. Apparently the rules to which Straub held members of the police and fire departments don't apply to him. The mayor's office tells WRTV that they are working on a new policy that would apply to all city employees.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Property Values In Indy's TIF Districts Plummet More Than 30%

Fellow blogger Pat Andrews has obtained a newly-released report from the Marion County Auditor's Office that portend a financial calamity for local government funding next year as a consequence of too much of the county's tax base, approximately 10%, being placed in TIF districts for economic development-related uses. The new data indicates that the base assessments of all TIF districts for taxes payable in 2013, which represents that portion of the assessed property which is allocated among all taxing districts, have plummeted $490 million from $1.56 billion to $1.07 billion, a decline of more than 30%. In the two previous years combined, the tax base declined by $44 million due to declining property values within the TIF districts. That precipitous decline of property assessments within TIF districts contrasts sharply with the total assessed valuation of the county, which increased slightly less than 1%.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ryan Rocks

Three words to describe Paul Ryan's speech tonight at the Republican National Conventiont: credible, convincing and charismatic. I almost feel sorry for Joe Biden, who the Seal Team 6 guy aptly describes in his new book as "someone's drunken uncle at Christmas dinner." Obama must be thinking about this point "why can't this guy just die already."

Fall Creek Place Plagued By Home Break-Ins

Wake up, Councilors Vop Osili and Joe Simpson. Your own neighborhood is under siege from home break-ins, while you're cutting deals with Mayor Greg Ballard that will deprive our police of the funding they need to provide adequate protection in our neighborhoods. WRTV's Jack Rinehart reports on what I've been hearing for months from friends who live in Fall Creek Place, a redeveloped neighborhood on the city's near northside represented by Councilors Vop Osili and Joe Simpson.

Osili On TIF Vote: "I Ain't Got A Nickel In That Dime"

Councilors Vop Osili and Joe Simpson went on Amos Brown's WTLC radio talk show this afternoon to defend their votes in favor of the downtown mafia's massive extension of TIF districts that is designed to bankrupt IPS and put the squeeze on limited tax revenues that fund basic city services in order to divert tens of millions of new dollars into the hands of private developers who have bankrolled the politicians, including Osili and Simpson. Osili opened by saying, "I ain't got a nickel in that dime," in response to questions about whether he will financially benefit himself from the deal he cut with the Ballard administration. Is that deja vu or what? Yep, those were the exact same words the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson used when she came under fire for a plan by her protege', former Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, to put a bar in the Julia Carson Government Center, a planned hatched in secrecy that included well-heeled insiders like Lacy Johnson, Bill Mays and Monroe Gray as investors.

Ben Quayle's Congressional Career Halted After One Term

Ben Quayle (left) with David Schweikert (right)
U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) lost his bid for re-election to U.S. Rep. David Schweikert after the two were thrown together in the same district as a result of redistricting. Schweikert was leading Quayle 53%-47% when Quayle called Schweikert to concede. The race has been negative from the beginning. Schweikert repeatedly raised questions about Quayle's fitness for the job, reminding voters that he had once written racy columns for an adult-oriented blog, "Dirty Scottsdale," using the handle "Brock Landers." In one direct mail piece, Schweikert was accused of inferring that Quayle was bisexual because he "goes both ways" on the issues. Quayle fired back, calling Schweikert a "professional politician" and "professional liar." Quayle's fate may have been sealed when it was revealed last week that he was among a group of freshman congressional Republicans who went for a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee during which U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) swam nude while on a congressional trip to the Middle East last August.

Straub's Amber Obsession Didn't Violate City Rules

Are you kidding? There aren't any rules in the Ballard administration for the people "on top." The Star's Jon Murray follows up on his story yesterday about how former Public Safety Director Frank Straub named his girlfriend as the head of Animal Care & Control and how she is now running off with him to his new job in Spokane to get married to him. Although Straub claims he didn't start poking Amber Myers until after his forced resignation was announced in April, it wasn't against city rules:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ben Hunter Meets The Guy He's Been Looking For All Along--Himself

Do you remember the episode of Seinfeld when Jerry meets a character played by Janeane Garofalo who he falls in love with because she's just like him? That's the thought that came to mind when I read Matt Tully's latest column making a pitch to Mayor Greg Ballard to appoint Councilor Ben Hunter as his next public safety director. The Mayor's office tells Tully that they've interviewed candidates from all over the country but they can't find the right person. Tully meets with Ben Hunter and finds that he's the best candidate for the job. During a 90-minute interview of Hunter about his prospects of being appointed to a job he claims he's not seeking, Hunter manages to convince Tully that he possesses the range of skills required for the job--policing, vision, politics and community relations. Best of all, he's hated by the FOP, even if he is a former police officer. After finishing his interview with Hunter, Tully asks Ballard's Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn why he hasn't hired Hunter for the job. Vaughn responds, "He hasn't applied." Yet Hunter made clear to Tully that he would accept the job if offered it. Psst. Hey, Matt. Did Ben tell you that he gave Ryan's wife an executive assistant's job in the Butler President's office a few months back? Don't tell anyone.

Tales From Tampa

Mayor Greg Ballard with lobbyists John Hammond (standing) and Bob Grand (bald guy)(Howey Politics Photo)


Pence Sees Marble Hill And Fukushima In Indiana's Energy Future

Maybe Mike Pence is better off not talking about the issues between now and election day. Apparently he sees a future for nuclear energy in Indiana, never mind PSI's Marble Hill financial debacle or last year's meltdown at Fukushima, Japan that's left vast areas of Japan unsafe for habitation. From the Journal-Gazette:
Nuclear power generation in Indiana got a boost Tuesday when Mike Pence – the GOP candidate for governor – said the time has come for it to be part of the conversation regarding Indiana’s future energy needs.
He said he has had some discussions with Indiana utilities about possible modular nuclear plants.
Pence said this new type of technology is not the same magnitude of a full-scale nuclear plant and “may well be an easier to sell to Hoosiers.” . . .
Pence recalled when the troubled Marble Hill nuclear plant was abandoned in Indiana in the late 1970s and also the recent meltdown in Japan.
“We want to go into this process carefully and thoughtfully but when you look at much of the industrialized world today the technology, the safety record of nuclear energy is one that I think Hoosiers ought to be willing to look at. In addition to developing all of our traditional sources of energy and our renewable sources of energy,” he said. “We ought to look at adding nuclear energy to our portfolio if it’s economically feasible and keeps our energy costs low.”

Straub To Wed Employee He Hired And Supervised

It looks like former Public Safety Director Frank Straub was doing more than just screwing dedicated Indianapolis police officers during his reign of terror. The Indianapolis Star is reporting that the woman Straub hired to run Animal Care & Control, Amber Myers, and whom he supervised, has resigned her city post to run off with Straub to Spokane, Washington where he is set to take the reins as that city's police chief and get married to him. From the Star's Jon Murray:

Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Chief Amber Myers submitted her resignation late Monday and will depart the agency Sept. 14, a spokesman confirmed to The Indianapolis Star.
While the spokesman provided no further information, Myers reportedly is engaged to former Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub -- who was named police chief in Spokane, Wash., last week. Their relationship wasn’t publicly known in Indianapolis. But last week, a Spokane TV news report showed Straub arriving at the airport before the announcement with Myers at his side. The reporter referred to her as Straub's fiancĂ©e.
Several times in recent days, The Star asked Myers and ACC spokesman Adam Garrett about Myers’ engagement and to address whether Myers planned to stay at the agency.
Each time, both declined to discuss those issues or Myers’ status at ACC. Neither disputed the Spokane TV report.
Garrett sent a brief email Monday night that said Myers had resigned.

Interestingly, Myers isn't the only woman Straub supervised that he had been romantically linked during his tumultuous tenure in Indianapolis according to gossip circulating around the City-County Building. No wonder he had his own personal shower installed in his suite of offices as part of a costly remodeling project he demanded be undertaken to make his accommodations more pleasing for his personal tastes. Straub told the Star that the city had no policy that prohibited him from having a sexual relationship with employees he supervised. Murray reports that Straub recoiled when asked about his relationship with Myers. “I’m not commenting on my personal life,” he said.

Ballard Administration Makes Payoffs To Minority Businesses To Move TIF Plan Forward

Councilor Vop Osili
We've told you all along how the Ballard administration has fabricated lie upon lie about how certain economic development projects will not occur unless property is added to downtown TIF districts that could permanently remove in excess of one hundred million in assessed valuation from the property tax rolls that would otherwise benefit other taxing districts. The real purpose of the expansion is to divert property tax revenues in order to finance multi-million dollar subsidies to pay-to-play contractors who have lavished campaign contributions, jobs and gifts on those who support their corrupt efforts. Democratic councilors have been shaking down the Ballard administration for their fair share of payoffs if the expansion occurs. Councilor Vop Osili, a minority business contractor who got rich off government contracts doled out to him simply because of his MBE status, won payoffs to minority businesses in order to secure passage of the measure. The approval came after Councilor Osili brought up the measure, even though it was not on the council's agenda. Councilor Steve Talley, who chairs the committee, adjourned the meeting, but the remaining corrupt councilors, who have all been bought off by the pay-to-play contractors, voted to move the measure to the full council. From the Star's Jon Murray:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Frank Straub Blames Retired IMPD Officers For His Problems In Indy

Gregg Takes More Rational Approach To Health Care Exchanges Than Pence

One of the most pressing issues facing Indiana's next governor when he takes office next year is how the state will deal with health care exchanges, which provide a marketplace for consumers and business owners to shop for health insurance policies, mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act. U.S. Rep. Mike Pence says he doesn't want the state to set up a state-run health care exchange using federal grant money because he doesn't like Obamacare and believes its legal certainty is in doubt. In the absence of a state health care exchange, federal bureaucrats will tailor a plan for Indiana's citizens to its liking. His Democratic opponent, John Gregg, takes a more rational approach to the issue in suggesting the state should adopt some hybrid approach in conjunction with the federal government. Quoting Howey Politics, Gregg said Pence's approach would put Indiana "at the mercy of the federal government." "I want to make this clear, it does not matter whether you support the Affordable Care Act or not," Gregg said. "Whether you love it or hate it, it is the law of the land. My job as governor will be protect the best interests of the people of this state and enforce the law in a way that will benefit all Hoosiers and makes healthcare more affordable and more accessible for all Hoosiers."  Gregg accuses Pence of "abdicat[ing] his responsibility and throw[ing] Hoosiers under the federal bureaucracy bus." Here's how Gregg suggested Indiana should confront this issue:

Mass Ave Business Owners and Residents Tell Grow Mass Avenue Where To Go

I've previously written about how an organization called "Grow Mass Ave" was concocted by real estate developers and city contractors anxious to get their hands on tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies for their private development projects in the booming Mass Avenue business district if they get their way and gain approval for a new TIF district, which not only includes undeveloped land, but also already successfully developed projects on Mass Avenue. In addition to creating the TIF, these self-dealing insiders are also trying to get property owners along Mass Avenue to assess a new property tax within a newly-designated taxing district under the state's Economic Improvement District law. In order to gain approval of the EID, the proponents must obtain approval of a majority of the property owners within the proposed district who represent a majority of the assessed valuation within the taxing district. The EID tax would be imposed at the rate of $240 for each $200,000 of assessed valuation. I've told you that my discussions with Mass Avenue business owners led me to believe that many do not feel there is a need to create a new TIF district, let alone an EID. Given the reaction of residents and business owners at a recent meeting, my assessment was dead-on.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Consequence Of Eliminating The Homestead Credit

The Ballard administration has proposed eliminating the homestead credit provided to residential property owners in Marion County as a way of closing a $50-60 million budget deficit it claims the city-county government is facing in 2013 by about $8 million. Opponents of eliminating the homestead credit were perplexed when the Ballard administration claimed they would need to find $13 million in additional budget reductions if the homestead credit was not eliminated. Eliminating it will save $8 million, but keeping it will cost $13 million. Are you confused? I was. You will even be more confused when you learn who wins and who loses from the elimination of the credit.

Fellow blogger Pat Andrews inquired about this discrepancy in the savings versus cost of providing the homestead credit. It turns out that the cost of the homestead credit is paid off the top of the revenues the consolidated city collects from the county option income tax (COIT), which raises about $155 million annually, so as not to shortchange taxing districts on property tax revenues. The consolidated city gets about 88% of the remaining COIT revenues, while the balance is distributed among the excluded cities and the townships. You may recall that the Ballard administration last year opposed efforts to divert part of the COIT revenues to the Indianapolis-Marion County library to prevent cuts in its budget it was faced with making. Ryan Vaughn, then-President of the City-County Council, claimed that diverting the money to libraries would shortchange public safety funding, which gets the lion's share of the COIT revenues. The library district gets 80% of its revenues from the property tax. Eventually, the legislature approved giving the library district a share of the COIT revenues, which amounted to about $150,000 a year, and the council transferred close to $300,000 from other funds to the library. The library district had wanted about $3 million.

Here's where it gets interesting. Because homeowners' property taxes will increase as a result of the elimination of the homestead credit, a number of homeowners who have not yet reached the state's 1% property tax cap will see their total tax bills reach the cap. According to preliminary numbers Andrews has been able to get her hands around, higher property tax bills bumping against the cap will cause taxing units dependent on property tax revenues to collectively lose about $9 million. [Note these are merely preliminary estimates at this point] Schools could be hit with a loss of at least $3.5 million in property tax revenues. The balance of the property tax losses would be shared by townships, the consolidated city, the excluded cities, the Health & Hospital Corporation, IndyGo and, yes, the library district. So what the library district gained in additional COIT revenues could be lost entirely as a consequence of eliminating the homestead credit. The only taxing district that gains from the elimination of the homestead credit is the consolidated city. As Paul Harvey used to say, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Amos Brown Seeking Answers On Indy's MBE Contracts

The administration of Mayor Greg Ballard claims it has awarded contracts totaling nearly $500 million to minority-owned business enterprises. Radio talk show host Amos Brown has been doggedly trying to pry out of the Ballard administration a breakdown of how that money was spent among different minority groups. Remarkably, city officials responding to a public records request from Brown claim that the the city does not track how much was spent by group, including African-American, Asian and Hispanic. Brown is convinced the city is hiding something from the public in the numbers. Because many minority-owned businesses doing business with the city are also state-certified, Brown searched the state's records and uncovered some anomalies he described as follows in a column he writes for the Indianapolis Recorder:
I downloaded the State of Indiana’s database of certified minority-owned and women-owned businesses. The database is very detailed and includes the classification for the race and/or ethnicity of the 51 percent-plus owners of those certified businesses. Of course, those Indiana certified businesses are also certified by the City of Indianapolis.
The state’s minority business database contains at least 592 African-American-owned businesses – from all around the state, but mostly from here in Indianapolis.
Examining the database, I noticed a few weird things.
An alleged minority-owned business which touts on its website that it is “a minority owned company whose combined heritage goes back over 80 years” is nowhere to be found on the roster.
I found another major business, that has received tens of millions in city contracts, certified as a minority-owned business. But the owner’s race/ethnicity is listed as “Other.”
To my knowledge, the owner of this major contracting and developer business is not African-American, not Asian, not Hispanic, not any race or ethnicity delineated by the federal government or Indiana state government qualified to be a certified minority business enterprise.
The business Brown describes as receiving "tens of millions in city contracts" that has been certified as a minority-owned business by the state under the category "Other" is likely Ersal Ozdemir's Keystone Construction since that is how his minority certification is shown on state records. Ozdemir is a Turkish immigrant. So why would his business qualify as a minority-owned business? In my past research I uncovered the fact that Turks might qualify as minorities for contracting purpose depending on which part of the country they're from. Some parts of Turkey are considered to be part of the Middle East and thus are accorded minority status. It's really splitting hairs and is just further proof of how nonsensical MBE classification has become. Brown is going to try to find the number he wants by requesting every contract included in the city's $500 million figure it says was spent on minority businesses and cross-referencing them with the state's records.

Minority contracting is one of the most abused and corrupt areas of public contracting. Many minority-owned contracts are total shams. Persons who supposedly own a majority interest are mere pawns for politically-connected non-minorities who are simply looking for another leg up over competitors in the public bidding opportunities. The FBI has uncovered this happening with some frequency in Chicago. It happens here in Indiana as well. It's just not investigated. Indiana also doesn't limit minority preferences to disadvantaged businesses. DLZ, an engineering firm that lavishes campaign contributions on politicians all over the state of Indiana and which does business all over the Midwest, is a perfect example. It's classified as a minority business because its majority owner is Asian-Indian, but it is in actuality more advantaged than many non-minority owned engineering firms. Granting preferences to businesses like DLZ or Mays Chemical, which is owned by Bill Mays, is a total sham. These businesses have sales reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars a year. If they can't stand on their own reputation after growing into businesses that large, then something besides the owner's status as a member of a minority ethnic group is wrong.

New York Police Criticized For Shooting 9 Bystanders While Taking Down Gunman

New York police were unquestionably justified in shooting at an armed gunman who had just shot and killed a former co-worker on a busy street outside the Empire State Building, but some of the bystanders who were shot by police in the process are criticizing the responding police officers for shooting randomly at the armed gunman, who never fired any shots. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken opponent of gun rights, admitted that some of the nine bystanders who were shot may have been hit by shots fired by police. It now turns out that all nine victims were struck by bullets fired by police. From the Guardian:

Another Lake County Official Found Guilty Of Public Corruption

A federal jury found Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot (D) guilty of three counts of mail fraud and two theft counts for taking bonuses from a federal child support fund he administered while he previously served as Lake County Clerk. From the Gary Post-Tribune:

A career Lake County politician, who’s served three terms as coroner and two as county clerk, Philpot now faces prison and hefty fines.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated about three hours before reaching the guilty verdicts in the U.S. District Courtroom of Judge James Moody.
The jury found that Philpot took more than $24,000 in bonuses from the child support fund he supervised as county clerk. A state law forbids elected officials from enriching their salaries with supplemental pay. The government successfully argued that Philpot willfully committed the crimes, despite defense arguments that the state law was “obscure” and Philpot was unaware of it.
Philpot becomes the second coroner this week to be forced from office after a felony conviction. Hancock Co. Coroner Tamara Vangundy is being forced from office after she pleaded guilty to official misconduct, along with drunk driving charges, arising after she was arrested by police for showing up drunk to a death investigation scene. Philpot based his defense on the fact that an attorney hired to represent his office by the county had advised him that taking the bonuses was legal. The attorney testified that he had given that advice to Philpot, but that Philpot had not provided him all of the relevant facts that would have led him to advise him not to take the bonus income.

Friday, August 24, 2012

No Joking About Birth Certificates

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There will be no joking about birth certificates, Gov. Romney. That's the message from the Omedia. Speaking to a home town crowd today in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Romney told the friendly crowd that his wife was born in Henry Ford Hospital and that he was born in Harper hospital. "No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate--they know that this is the place where we were born and raised," Romney quipped. Actually, that's not entirely true. The Chicago Tribune made a point of publishing Mitt Romney's birth certificate to make the point that his father, George, a former Michigan governor and one-time Republican presidential candidate, was born in Mexico, but that was fair game. News media hounding of his father's natural born status, egged on by leading Democratic politicians at the time, led his father to drop his 1968 race for the Republican presidential nomination rather than defend against a legal challenge to his eligibility. MSNBC talking heads immediately denounced Romney as a "racist" and "birther" for joking about the birth certificate issue, even as the Obama campaign hocks coffee mugs on its campaign website emblazoned with Obama's birth certificate with the slogan, "Made In The USA." The Obama campaign released this statement:

"Throughout this campaign, Governor Romney has embraced the most strident voices in his party instead of standing up to them. It’s one thing to give the stage in Tampa to Donald Trump, Sheriff Arpaio, and Kris Kobach. But Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.”
Yeah, I'd say Obama and his defenders in the media are a bit thin-skinned. They better toughen up real quick because it's only going to get worse in the coming weeks as the American people are finally educated on who this mystery man really is, the media be damned.

Vangundy Ineligible To Seek Re-Election

You read it here first. I questioned how Hancock Co. Coroner Tamara Vangundy could plead guilty to a felony charge of official misconduct that was to be reduced to a misdemeanor as part of her plea agreement and seek re-election to the office this November after resigning under Indiana's candidate disqualification statute. Apparently the Hancock Co. Republicans and Vangundy's attorney now agree with that view. From the Star's Bill McCleery:

Vangundy, 49, had planned to leave her office but remain on the ballot this fall after pleading guilty   Wednesday to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, and official misconduct, a felony. A judge, however, downgraded the felony charge to a misdemeanor-level penalty, which Vangundy's attorney, Carl Brizzi, believed enabled the Republican coroner to seek re-election.

A closer reading of state law, however, showed that an elected official is not eligible to remain in office when found guilty of a felony offense even if a judge reduces the charge to a misdemeanor, said Janice Silvey, chairwoman of the Hancock County Republican Party.

Brizzi has acknowledged the oversight, Silvey said. Vangundy said today she does not foresee pursuing the matter further.

"I wanted to give the citizens a chance to decide," she said, adding that she believes voters might have been willing to forgive her for an isolated error in judgment.

Former Lawrence Township Trustee Mike Hobbs found himself in a similar situation a few years back when he mistakenly believed that by pleading guilty to a felony theft charge for borrowing $500 from a nonprofit account under the control of his office to pay his rent, which would be reduced to a misdemeanor, that he could continue to hold office. Hobbs was forced to step down and Russ Brown was appointed by Democrats to take his place.

A meeting of the Hancock Co. Election Board is scheduled this afternoon to determine how Hamilton County Republicans can deal with Vangundy's vacancy on the ballot. Two Republicans are already running  for the office as independents according to McCleery's report, including Deputy Prosecutor Dan Devoy and former Greenfield Fire Chief Joe Fortner. Democrat Crystel Myers is also a candidate for the office.

Small Crowd Turns Out To See Michelle Obama

What a difference four years makes. Indiana is not in play and crowds to see one of the Obamas speak have become small. Only a few hundred die-hard Democrats showed up to see Michelle Obama at a fundraising event held at Lucas Oil Stadium. From the Star's Chris Sikich:

Several hundred people attended the event, held in a curtained-off concourse at the football stadium. “Forward” images adorned several flat-screen TVs. A diverse group, people gathered on a blue Colts-themed carpet and watched as several speakers gave warm-up speeches, including Congressman Andre Carson.
But when the First Lady arrived, the applause turned thunderous. Dressed in a sharp black and purple dress and black cardigan and speaking in front of Indiana and U.S. flags, she said it was wonderful to be back in Indianapolis.
She and her husband made several trips to Indiana in 2008 — a state where they pulled off a historic win. They haven’t campaigned nearly as aggressively this year.
Have you ever noticed that reporters can't talk about Michelle Obama without admiringly discussing the clothes she's wearing? Maybe it's because she never wears an outfit more than once before discarding it. Who knows who's paying for her expensive wardrobe, and God forbid any reporter inquire as they did incessantly when Nancy Reagan, a former Hollywood actress, was First Lady.

Ballard Signs Domestic Partner Benefits Ordinance

Mayor Greg Ballard signed an ordinance extending benefits to the domestic partners of city-county workers, which the city-county council had passed on a bipartisan 20-8 vote. Ballard had privately communicated to Democratic councilors who sponsored the measure that he might veto the measure unless the Democratic-controlled council moved forward with his proposal to include vast new areas of downtown and other parts of the city in a TIF district, while publicly communicating his concern that the benefit would provide an incentive to city workers not to marry. Ballard did not send out a press release or hold a press event to sign the measure. Instead, he posted a message on Twitter that said, "I just signed all 33 ordinances and resolutions passed by the city-county council last week." Gay rights advocates hailed the new measure. From the Star:

“This is a victory,” said Rick Sutton, president of Indiana Equality. “It’s not everything we want, but it’s what was before us now. Cities that make progressive moves like this are noticed all over the country.” . . .
Ballard’s approval was especially heartening, Sutton said, as Indiana Equality and other advocates gird for a larger battle looming next year.
The new ordinance's life could be short-lived. The legislature is poised to approve a constitutional amendment next year that would make it unconstitutional to extend the benefits of married couples to unmarried couples. The constitutional amendment, if approved, would go before voters in the 2014 election. If it becomes law, domestic partner benefits like the one signed into law by Mayor Ballard could be declared unconstitutional. The Indiana Family Action Network, which is pushing the constitutional amendment, had harsh words for Ballard:
“The Buck has indeed stopped with Mayor Ballard. He signed domestic partnership ordinance 213 today. Cementing his RINO (Republican-in-name-only) status. Conservatives need to remember that Mayor Ballard’s signing of this ordinance shows that he is neither a fiscal nor social conservative and should not be trusted to act according to conservative principles going forward.”
Ballard and his wife Winnie are just returning from an all-expense paid junket to China. Next week, they will both travel to the Republican National Convention in Tampa as a delegate and alternative delegate, respectively, a trip that will be paid for by his campaign committee. Ballard's biggest pay-to-play benefactor, Ersal Ozdemir, and Indianapolis' shadow mayor, Bob Grand, will also be on hand as delegates to make sure that Greg and Winnie don't have to pay for anything out of their own pocket during the all-expense paid trip.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hancock County Coroner Resigns After Guilty Plea: Can She Still Run For Re-Election?

Hancock Co. Coroner Tamara Vangundy agreed to plead guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated and official misconduct. Vangundy's arrest occurred after she showed up for a death investigation noticeably under the influence of alcohol. She was sentenced to one year of probation. According to news reports, Vangundy will resign her elected position; however, she will remain on the November ballot for re-election and, in effect, re-interview for her old job. News reports of her plea deal are conflicting. The Star report indicates that Vangundy's guilty plea included one felony charge of official misconduct, while other news reports indicated that she pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, including official misconduct. Indiana's criminal code, however, makes official misconduct a class D felony. I couldn't find a lesser crime defined as a misdemeanor in the criminal code. If she pleaded guilty to a felony, she would appear to be disqualified as a candidate under I.C. 3-8-1-5. According to her attorney, Carl Brizzi, the intention of the plea agreement reached by Vangundy and a special prosecutor appointed to handle the case was for her to plead guilty to two misdemeanors. Can the court re-classify a crime defined under Indiana law as a felony as a misdemeanor to avoid the operation of I.C. 3-8-1-5 so she can remain eligible for re-election? I would be interested in hearing the thoughts of others.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some Illinois Prosecutors Refuse To Enforce Illinois Gun Laws

Indiana permits gun owners to be licensed to carry a concealed firearm on their person outside their homes. Our neighbors to the west in Illinois have a law making it illegal to carry a firearm outside your home. Some prosecutors in the Land of Lincoln believe the law is unconstitutional and have put the public on notice that they will not prosecute persons charged with violating the no-carry law. McLean County State's Attorney Ron Dozier issued a press statement announcing his position against enforcing the state's no-carry law and other gun laws that make mere possession of a firearm a crime. From the Bloomington Pantagraph:

In a four-page statement, Dozier said his office will not file charges against law-abiding citizens who possess weapons.
“We will no longer use the power and authority of our office to criminalize and punish decent otherwise law-abiding citizens who chose to exercise their rights granted under them by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and their families,” said Dozier’s statement.
Dozier, who was appointed in December to fill in as state’s attorney until a new chief prosecutor was elected, said he has been “quietly changing our policies to bring them in accordance with the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
At the same time, Twin City police officials said they will not change their enforcement policies because of Dozier’s new directive.
Dozier cited a 2008 case that held citizens — not just the military — have a right to possess guns for personal defense, and a 2010 decision that held states have a right to make their own gun laws.
Dozier said his office will no longer prosecute violations of state laws related to Firearm Owners Identification Cards, unlawful use of weapons and aggravated unlawful use of weapons and other statutes that appear to be in conflict with two other Supreme Court decisions on gun ownership. The use of weapons laws punish people “for merely possessing (not using or threatening to use) a firearm in the wrong place or wrong kind of container,” said Dozier.
In determining if charges will be filed, Dozier said he will consider: whether drugs or alcohol are involved; the reason the person was carrying a firearm; if the gun was used recklessly; and, if the person is not an Illinois citizen, whether the gun was possessed or carried under the terms of his state’s regulations. An individual’s possible connection to gangs and a felony conviction record also will be taken into account when charges are reviewed, said Dozier.
Edward's County State's Attorney Michael Valentine echoed Dozier's sentiment regarding the enforcement of the state's gun laws and says that his policy of non-enforcement is shared by other counties, including his county. “It’s a policy I know several counties in Illinois, including Edwards, now follow,” he said. Prosecutors like Valentine and Dozier are making their views known because of the refusal of Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois lawmakers to update the state's gun laws to reflect recent Supreme Court decisions affirming the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.

IndyGo Ends Express Bus Service To Airport

The Star's Jon Murray has a story about IndyGo's decision to end its express bus service from the downtown hotels to the airport. IndyGo used to receive a $3 million federal grant to pay for the subsidized cost of the Green Line, which costs $7 per trip. Without the subsidy, the service cost about $700,000 for about 170,000 riders annually. The Green Line is primarily used by visitors to the city who stay in the hotels downtown. My question is why the CIB, which is all about promoting the convention business, would not step up to the plate and cover the annual cost as an added benefit for convention visitors. From Murray's story:
As Joe Wescott mulled how to get to Downtown Indianapolis from the airport’s terminal Tuesday, a security guard’s suggestion made his choice easy.
He boarded IndyGo’s Green Line express bus, paying $7.
“It’s a marvelous service,” said Wescott, 53, who arrived early from Raleigh, N.C., for the American Legion’s national convention that begins Friday. Offering a more comfortable and quicker ride than a regular IndyGo bus, it saved him from shelling out $40 for a cab.
Fear not, Murray tells us. The express bus line will be back soon enough if proponents of a $1.3 billion mass transit gain approval for their lofty plans.
Advocates pushing that plan say a more robust transit system, which they hope to put before voters next year, should include fast and inexpensive public transit to Indianapolis International Airport.
The Central Indiana Transit Task Force struck out in the General Assembly this year but will return early next year to press its case for authorizing a referendum. Voters in Marion and Hamilton counties then would decide whether to boost income taxes by three-tenths of 1 percent to pay for it.
If the plan were to win voters’ approval, the 10-year program would double IndyGo bus service and would add train service from Noblesville to Downtown Indianapolis.
Don't even think you're going to get voters to approve an income tax to pay for mass transit. And $1.3 billion won't come close to covering the cost of their mass transit plan. That's a mere down payment.

John Gregg Comedy Act, Part II

I suppose if it's inevitable you're going to get your ______ kicked, you might as well lay back and enjoy it. I'm not sure who the joke is on here. Maybe it's your message they're not interested in hearing.

Ballard Takes Another Overseas Junket

By my count, Mayor Greg Ballard has now racked up more than a half dozen overseas junkets during the less than five years that he's been in office. Ballard always claims the purpose of the trip is to promote trade, but the real purpose is simply an excuse for Ballard and his wife Winnie to take all-expense paid trips around the world. Ballard's latest junket is to China. As with all the other trips, pay-to-play contributors to his campaign are accompanying the Mayor on his junket. Here's the full list accompanying Ballard on the junket, which doesn't include the IMPD officers who provide protection to him:

1. Mayor Greg Ballard
2. Mrs. Winnie Ballard
3. Jane Gehlhausen, Director, International and Cultural Affairs, City of Indianapolis
4. Michael Young, Project Director, Develop Indy
5. Mike Dilts, President, Shiel Sexton
6. Brian Sullivan, Vice President, Shiel Sexton
7. Tony Steinhardt, President, Ratio Architects
8. John Watson, Managing Member, Core Redevelopment, LLC
9. Sherry Dong, President, Hangzhou Sister City Committee
10. Charlie Cai, President, Westfield Outdoor Inc.
11. Mia Morrison, Director of International Admissions, Marian University
12. Jin Li, Associate Principal, Ratio/SMDP

Walorski Hits Mullen On His Three D.C. Homes

Second District congressional Republican hopeful Jackie Walorski launched ads attacking her Democratic opponent Brendan Mullen for owning three homes in Washington, D.C. where he and his wife actually reside. From the South Bend Tribune:
Walorski's ad begins by showing images of Washington landmarks while anarrator says, "Washington, D.C.: Home to President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and D.C. insider Brendan Mullen.
"Mullen likes Washington, D.C., so much he owns three homes there," the narrator continues. "Washington liberals recruited him to move from D.C. to Indiana to run for Congress. They've showered Mullen's campaign with huge special-interest contributions, because Mullen supports their liberal agenda, including Obamacare.
Mullen claims the three homes in D.C. are merely investment properties that he rents out. The fact is that he and his wife made their home in D.C. before they decided to move back to Indiana's Second District for the sole purpose of running for Congress. His wife worked for House Speaker John Boehner, while he worked as a military consultant of some sort. Mullen is a West Point graduate who spent five years in Iraq and the Korean Demilitarized Zone. I'm betting that Mullen is actually a CIA contract employee. He would never admit it if he is, but the CIA is increasingly filling up the halls of Congress with its contract employees. A law should be passed requiring any person seeking federal office to publicly disclose any employment relationship they've had with the CIA or any other federal intelligence service. The American people would be shocked if they learned how many members of Congress and presidents of recent past and present have been on the CIA's payroll.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ben Quayle Speaks Out On Sea Of Galilee Frolick

U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle was interviewed today about his involvement in the late-night swim he and a group of other Republican freshman congressmen took in the Sea of Galilee during a trip to the Middle East last August. Yesterday, after Politico broke the story reporting that one of the congressmen, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), stripped and swam nude and that alcohol may have been involved, Quayle put out a statement through his wife that left the impression that he was not a part of the group that swam briefly in the lake.
"Ben and I and our daughter Evie were there together that evening in the Holy Land, although I was eight and a half months pregnant with her," Tiffany Quayle said in a written statement provided by Quayle's congressional office. "We were neither party nor witness to any of the inappropriate behavior described in the article, nor were we a part of, or aware of any inquiry. We did return to Arizona with some water from the Sea of Galilee to baptize Evie after she was born."
That statement is at odds with what he tells Fox News' Bill Hemmer. Quayle admits to going for a swim in the lake after dinner, and he admits that he had consumed a glass of wine "maybe that." He says he swam for only about thirty seconds in "proper attire," but he claims that he did not witness Rep. Yoder swimming in the nude as Yoder has admitted he did. Yoder says his nude swim only lasted about ten seconds. The Politico article indicated that other participants either partially disrobed or swam in their clothes. You'll have to determine what Quayle meant by "proper attire" for swimming, but it clearly didn't involve wearing a swimsuit. He gives the impression that nobody at the time saw anything wrong with what occurred, although he admits that Rep. Eric Cantor asked the congressmen the next day to "refocus on what the trip was really about," whatever that means. Politico reported that Rep. Cantor admonished the members for their bad behavior the previous night.

Quayle's comments are a little too much like his initial denial two years ago that he wrote for a racy blog, "Dirty Scottsdale", using the name Brock Landers. Later he admitted to writing for the blog to help a friend out in driving traffic to the website without specifically admitting to writing any posts attributed to Brock Landers as the website's owner claimed. In one of those posts, Landers wrote that his "moral compass is so broken I can't even find the parking lot." Quayle lashed out at his primary opponent during his interview with Hemmer. Quayle called U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, who was also on the same trip, a "professional liar." Schweikert has made an issue of Quayle's poor judgment, including his racy blog posts for "Dirty Scottsdale." Schweikert has said that he believes that Quayle is an "embarrassment" to Arizona and has questioned his fitness to serve in Congress. Quayle appears to blame Schweikert for the incident just now becoming public a little more than a week before the Arizona primary election.

UPDATE: The Daily Caller's sources say Quayle's opponent is at least partially responsible for planting the story Politico broke:

Three different high-ranking Republican staffers on Capitol Hill have told The Daily Caller of a growing consensus that at least part of a Sunday article by Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan was planted by Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert in order to damage his primary opponent, Rep. Ben Quayle.
Schweikert’s office denies the charge, but a campaign spokesperson would only say that the congressman never “gave” or “provided” the entire story to the Virginia-based news outlet. Quayle’s involvement in the saga, while embarrassing, was relatively minor.

Steve Goldsmith And Wife Are Divorcing

Steve Goldsmith and his wife, Margaret, have separated and are planning to divorce according to WISH-TV's Jim Shella. Last year, the couple made news when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired Goldsmith as his deputy mayor after learning of Goldsmith's arrest at the couple's Washington, D.C. home after Margaret called police and filed a complaint of domestic battery against her husband. Goldsmith denied he laid a hand on his wife, and she later recanted the story she gave to police after placing a 911 call on July 30, 2011 after a verbal altercation between the two allegedly turned physical. The police later dropped the charges against Goldsmith after his wife refused to cooperate in the investigation.

Among the criticisms Goldsmith faced as Bloomberg's deputy mayor was the fact that he continued to commute between Washington, D.C. and the Big Apple long after he had taken a job in Bloomberg's administration. Shella reports that the couple now plan to return to Indiana where Goldsmith has been very active behind the scenes working on privatization deals within state government and Indianapolis city government as a private consultant. Goldsmith played a key role in the botched privatization of the Family & Social Services Administration's welfare services and the City of Indianapolis' parking meter assets. Both deals benefited ACS, a politically-connected IT company for whom Goldsmith had worked as a high level executive following his service as Indianapolis mayor. Mayor Greg Ballard has admitted in the past that he confers weekly with Goldsmith on city matters, although Goldsmith never registered to lobby the Ballard administration as required by a city ordinance.

Indianapolis Has Been Bailing Out TIF Districts For Years

Fellow blogger Pat Andrews unearths a revelation from the City of Indianapolis' past budgets that other tax resources, including property taxes, have been tapped to the tune of tens of millions of dollars to cover shortfalls in the cost of maintaining TIF districts. If you exclude the downtown and airport TIF districts, revenues from elsewhere had to be found to cover a nearly $30 million shortfall in the remaining TIF districts in the city. While the cost of operating these TIF districts was $80 million, the TIF districts generated only $53.3 million in revenues. So where did the money come from to cover this huge shortfall? According to Andrews, the City tapped several sources, including property taxes collected from outside the TIF districts, including:
  • $1.2 million from local option income taxes;
  • $6.1 million from city-owned parking garages;
  • $16.6 million transferred from the downtown and airport TIF districts; and
  • $16.6 million from property taxes paid by property owners outside the TIF districts.
"It bears repeating, property taxes OUTSIDE the TIFs was raised to cover costs associated INSIDE the TIFs, in addition to income taxes and transfers from two better performing TIFs," Andrews writes. Shockingly, the Ballard administration is demanding that the city-county council approve six new TIF districts, including areas like Mass Ave that are already booming with economic activity at the same time it is asking city agencies that provide basic city services, including police and fire, to find ways of cutting their budgets to close a $50-60 million deficit the city is facing in its 2013 budget. Andrews further learned that the Economic Development Bonds Fund was suppose to end the 2012 budget year with a $5.3 million positive balance. Instead, it is now projected to end this year's budget with a $2 million negative balance, which will grow to $6.7 million by the end of the 2013 budget year. "What happened to cause a $7.3 million swing in the 2012 budget for a fund whose annual costs amount to only $4 million?" Andrews asks.

Per the usual, if you want to know the truth about the city's true financial state of affairs, you will have to turn to the blogs as your news source. The Ballard administration is lying to the public, and the mainstream media is simply parroting the administration's propaganda that further TIF district expansions are necessary to sustain economic development in Indianapolis. The only reason for expanding TIF districts is to continue this shell game of redirecting tax dollars away from the funding of basic city services towards economic development projects to allow the transfer of hundreds of millions of public dollars directly into the pockets of the developers who have bought and paid for the politicians we elected to represent the people, who will tell us that we have to choose between paying higher taxes or accepting fewer city services. Crony capitalism is job one for the Ballard administration, and the mainstream media has become its number one cheerleader.

Pence Opposed To Implementing State Health Care Exchange

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence has decided after receiving a briefing from Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration that Indiana should not implement a state health care exchange, a key component of the federal Affordable Care Act. The purpose of the state-run health care exchanges is to provide a mechanism for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance coverage that is mandated under Obamacare. Essentially, it would allow individuals and small businesses to compare insurance products and shop for a health insurance plan which they can afford and which best meets their needs. A basic plan would have to provide comprehensive health insurance and prescription drug benefits. Subsidies or tax credits are made available to those with low or moderate incomes to purchase health insurance.

According to Pence's statement, his view is that Obamacare "erodes the freedom of every Hoosier" and "will increase the cost of health care and cripple job creation in our state." As a consequence, he thinks "Indiana should take no part in this deeply flawed healthcare bureaucracy." Pence claims that it would cost the state $50 million per year to set up a health care exchange and that it will raise health care premiums. He also doesn't like the fact that Obamacare raises taxes on businesses, which he says will cost the state jobs. He also cites uncertainty regarding the ACA, even though the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality earlier this summer. He seems to be banking on the election of a Republican president and Congress to repeal the Act. Pence also "hailed the Healthy Indiana Plan as an innovative, consumer-driven model that will increase access to health care and drive down the cost."

Even if you are opposed to Obamacare, it seems to me we might be biting off our nose to spite our face not to move forward with setting up a state-run health care exchange. In the absence of state action, the federal government will assume responsibility for setting up exchanges for people in states without state-run health care exchanges, which seems to be the opposite thing people who oppose the federal law dislike so much. Indiana already administers enrollment for Medicaid, CHIP and HIP so it would seem to be in a better position to tailor a plan suited for our state's needs than a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington. The federal government is providing grants to the states to set up and administer their state-run exchanges.

Former Black Panther Leader Was On FBI Payroll

People who doubt our own government's responsibility for the violent actions of so-called radical groups in the U.S. should look no further than the case of Richard Aoki, who was one of a few Asian-Americans to rise to a prominent leadership position within the radical Black Panther Party. We now learn that he was all along working for the FBI during the years he rose to prominence in the 1960s as a militant leader within the Black Panther Party in California. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training - which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s - was an undercover FBI informer, according to a former bureau agent and an FBI report.
One of the Bay Area's most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Capitol.
Aoki went on to work for 25 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator at the Peralta Community College District, and after his suicide in 2009, he was revered as a fearless radical.
But unbeknownst to his fellow activists, Aoki had served as an FBI intelligence informant, covertly filing reports on a wide range of Bay Area political groups, according to the bureau agent who recruited him . . .  
Aoki's work for the FBI, which has never been reported, was uncovered and verified during research for the book by this reporter, "Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power." The book, based on research spanning three decades, will be published Tuesday by Farrar, Straus and Giroux . . .

Harvey Dong, who was a fellow activist and close friend, said last week that he had never heard that Aoki was an informant.

"It's definitely something that is shocking to hear," said Dong, who was the executor of Aoki's estate. "I mean, that's a big surprise to me." 
The family of Aoki, who was Japanese, was interned during World War II. He was recruited by the FBI while he was a sociology student at UC-Berkeley. While the Chronicle's story mentions that Aoki provided firearms and weapons training to members of the Black Panther Party, it doesn't mention that he spent eight years in the U.S. Army as a medic and infantry member before heading to Berkeley. Several Oakland police officers were shot or killed in clashes with the Black Panther Party members who Aoki trained while working as an informant for the FBI. Aoki also gathered information for the FBI on the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party.

I believe if a reporter really dug deeply he would learn that Barack Obama's American terrorist mentor, Bill Ayers, was also working for the government as a paid informant while he and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, were working for the Weather Underground terrorist organization in the 1960s. I'm sure the Chicago Eight, including Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, who were tried for inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, would like to know which side Ayers was actually on. Ayers and Dohrn escaped prosecution for their crimes because the CIA had illegally spied on American citizens and evidence gathered by the FBI against them was deemed inadmissible. Like Aoki, Ayers pursued a career in education after leaving the Weather Underground. He is a tenured professor for the University of Illinois-Chicago. Dorhn has worked at a prominent Chicago law firm. Ayers is believed to be the ghost writer of Obama's "Dreams From My Father," which has been proven to be chocked full of inaccuracies and falsehoods. It now appears likely that Barack Obama, Sr. wasn't even Obama's biological father. According to Joel Gilbert's new documentary, "Dreams From My Real Father," Obama's true biological father was Communist Party leader Frank Marshall Davis. Perhaps even Davis was a paid informant who was ratting out his comrades like Aoki. We already know that Obama's first employer after graduating from Columbia, Business International, was a front company for the CIA. Like father like son?

Hear the Chronicle's Seth Rosenfeld explain how he learned of Aoki's identity and his interview with him two years before Aoki committed suicide when he confronts him with the fact that he has uncovered his role for the FBI in the video below:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

In a rare White House press conference orchestrated to permit President Barack Obama to take scripted questions from friendly reporters, The One had the audacity to lecture Mitt Romney about being more open with his personal records. Obama has kept virtually every detail of his personal life under lock and key, expecting the American people to believe the fairy tale biographical narrative he concocted out of whole cloth that has not withstood even the modest of attempts at investigating and fact-checking. He has kept more of his life's records a secret from the American public than virtually any other president in American history. Yet not a single member of the White House media took him to task when he hypocritically criticized Romney for not sharing a decade's worth of personal tax returns.

Congressman Swam Nude In Sea Where Jesus Walked On Water; Ben Quayle Embroiled In Scandal

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
In 2011, freshman U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, who represents a suburban Kansas City district, was voted one of the hottest members of Congress. Today, he's just a member in hot water (no pun intended). During a fact-finding trip to the Middle East last August, Rep. Yoder and a group of freshmen Republican lawmakers decided to go for a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee where Jesus once walked on water according to the Bible's New Testament after a night of carousing. While the other lawmakers only partially disrobed, Yoder chose to strip completely and swim nude. The Kansas City Star reports on the story broken by Politico, which says the FBI investigated the incident:

Yoder, 36, admitted he dove into the sea "without a swimsuit."
Christians consider the Sea of Galilee a holy site; it is where the Bible says Jesus walked on water.
"Part of the reason I made that decision at that moment was there was really nobody in the vicinity who could see me," he said. "I dove in, hopped right back out, put my clothes on and, regardless, that was still not the behavior people expected out of their congressman."
He said it was dark out with visibility limited to only a few feet, and said he was in the water for about 10 seconds before climbing out.
Politico said Yoder was the only person to remove all his clothes. His wife, Brooke, accompanied him on the trip, but she did not swim.
The trip, said to have been open only to those 18 and over, was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, according to a database of travel records maintained by The trip lasted from Aug. 13 to Aug. 21 last year, the record show, and cost the foundation $20,087 for Yoder and his wife's travel, lodging, meals and other expenses.
The foundation, a charity, says its mission is to provide grants for educational programs and conferences and to "help educate political leaders and influentials about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship through first-hand experiences in Israel."
The foundation is connected with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is connected with many conservatives in Congress.
The trip that included 20 Republican lawmakers and staff was led by House Majority Leader U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, who was livid over the incident. Cantor was not among the five lawmakers who went for the late night swim, which included U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle, son of former Vice-President Dan Quayle. Quayle is facing a difficult primary race this month against another incumbent Arizona congressman, David Schweikert. It is unclear why the story is just now surfacing less than three months before an election, but it could cost Yoder his re-election, and it could seal Quayle's defeat. Quayle was quick to deny any improper conduct through a statement released by his wife:
"Ben and I and our daughter Evie were there together that evening in the Holy Land, although I was eight and a half months pregnant with her," Tiffany Quayle said in a written statement provided by Quayle's congressional office. "We were neither party nor witness to any of the inappropriate behavior described in the article, nor were we a part of, or aware of any inquiry. We did return to Arizona with some water from the Sea of Galilee to baptize Evie after she was born."
Quayle's opponent quickly took advantage of the news. "I am disappointed but not surprised by Ben Quayle's behavior in Israel," Schweikert said. "Two years ago he embarrassed Arizona with his involvement in an adult website and now, as a congressman, he embarrasses both the institution of Congress and Arizona with his completely inappropriate behavior that calls into question yet again his fitness to be in Congress." Schweikert is referring to the former "Dirty Scottsdale" website where Quayle posted a number of racy columns using the handle "Brock Landers." Rep. Schweikert and his wife were on the very same trip, but he says he and his wife retired to bed early before the drinking and swimming occurred.

Will Privatized Toll Roads and Bridges Be Daniels' Lasting Legacy?

There is no doubt that the well-connected law firms and investment bankers who make a lot of money putting together privatized toll road projects see the benefit of this approach, but the public's benefit is not as clear. The Northwest Indiana Times' Dan Cardin takes a look at the approach to the Cline Avenue bridge in East Chicago. Gov. Mitch Daniels refused to make funding available to rebuild the Cline Avenue bridge, which left northwest Indiana officials with the choice of losing a major transportation artery or putting together a privatized toll road. East Chicago chose the latter, but Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott tells Cardin that he doesn't think the community should have been forced to make the choice given that INDOT builds and replaces bridges elsewhere in the state. That's not entirely the case. Two new bridges being built over the Ohio River at Louisville will become toll roads that Indiana commuters will disproportionately pay compared to the neighboring Kentucky residents. Gov. Daniels is very proud of forcing the privatization deal on the Northwest Indiana.
"It's just a different way of paying for it," Daniels said. "Frankly, the idea that the users pay for a very specific facility or service I think is a very fair one, instead of charging people who will never use the bridge for it."
The Republican governor said he won't be satisfied with the Cline Avenue situation "until we have a bridge that's working to the benefit of the community." But, he said, "I'm very hopeful and I'm encouraged that what looked like a problem without a solution, it appears has found one."
Once the paperwork is finalized, Daniels said he expects fast action on a new bridge. The estimated cost of the bridge is $150 million.
"This company has every incentive to build a good bridge and build it quickly, so they can start trying to get their money back," Daniels said.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, who is running to succeed Daniels in the governor's office, shares Daniels' positive opinion on using public-private partnerships to build new infrastructure.
"Innovative financing is the best, most cost-effective way to do large projects now and into the future," Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault said. "Given dwindling state and federal revenues and eroding gas taxes, Mike Pence plans to move Indiana forward by working with partners in the private sector."
Denault said Pence believes roads ought "to the best extent possible be paid for by those who use them." She said he lauds East Chicago "for finding a way to work with the state and a private developer to come up with a forward-thinking way to build a multimillion-dollar piece of infrastructure for their community."
Given that Pence appears to be poised to adopt Daniels' approach, this should be an issue on which John Gregg  can capitalize.  "If I were governor, that bridge wouldn't have been closed this long, and the reality of it is, were that a bridge from Indianapolis into one of the (nearby) counties, it would have been fixed right away," Gregg said. "It shows the bias this current administration has toward Northwest Indiana." Actually, I think Gregg is wrong that this approach will not eventually happen in the Indianapolis area. That is precisely how proponents of mass transit will likely rely to finance their ambitious plans.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Star Editors Will Back More Subsidies For Pacers

The number one priority for the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star is to remain on the best of terms with the elite insiders downtown whose opinions it values more than the current and would-be subscribers of the newspaper. That's the only way you can explain its unswerving support of using taxpayer dollars to subsidize the billionaire owners of Indianapolis' sports franchises. In 2010, the editors pushed the meme of the elites that more than 60,000 hospitality jobs were at risk if the Indiana Pacers weren't provided a three-year, $33.5 million subsidy to pay operating expenses and make repairs to the Fieldhouse, an obligation of the Pacers under its long-term lease which gives the team exclusive control of the arena built with taxpayer dollars rent-free. Some who read the Star's most recent editorial discussing the possibility of additional subsidies for the Pacers might mistakenly think think the editors will oppose more subsidies:

The team's announcement on Thursday that it will put $16 million of its own money into a new sound system and scoreboards in Bankers Life Fieldhouse was applauded by mayoral Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn and at the same time ruled out by him as a factor in the management contract negotiations.
That does not mean, however, that the Pacers, who pleaded financiall hardship in the 2010 crisis, will not come to the table this time saying they are $16 million poorer.
Taxpayers did not know the team's fiscal condition in 2010, when it negotiated a $10-million-a-year operating subsidy for the fieldhouse, which was built with public funds and is leased to the Pacers for $1 a year. They don't know it now, either. Publicly, team executive James Morris is saying only that billionaire owner Herb Simon would hate to take the team elsewhere but cannot afford to operate the arena in a small market.
Then and now, taxpayers have known the condition of the city-county and CIB budgets, and that they are dire. The CIB's new proposed budget, recently submitted to the City-County Council for approval, does not include Pacers money. Adding it would require separate council action. CIB reserves were tapped for the current subsidy; and the board remains, as it was then, strapped . . .

The resurgence of the team on the court certainly has added to that tangible and intangible value. But reality is reality: The pantry is stretched and the line is long. The for-profit sports corporation has to give evidence of need, and has to give ground.
The fact that the editorial doesn't dismiss out of hand giving any more subsidies to the Pacers, particularly in light of the economic depression average people have been living through the past four years and the fact that the city is facing a $50-$60 million budget deficit, tells you that the newspaper's editors will find an excuse, no matter how thin, to back more subsidies for the team no matter how thin that excuse might be. They always do a lot of huffing and puffing, but at the end of the day, they always come down on the side of the billionaire sports team owners and against the public. And then they wonder why nobody wants to buy a subscription to the newspaper.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How The Carmel Redevelopment Commission Bankrupted Itself

Rick Sharp
The local media's coverage of the financial woes facing the City of Carmel and its Redevelopment Commission has been grossly understated. What you've primarily been hearing is that the CDC is facing some cash flow problems and wants to take advantage of lower interest rates to refinance some of its more than $300 million in debt. Fortunately, the Carmel City Council's President, Rick Sharp, has shared with the citizens of Carmel on his Facebook site how the CRC got in the mess in which it finds itself and why the City of Carmel must now bail out the entity funded with TIF revenues. Make no mistake about it. This is a bailout. It is not a simple refinancing to achieve better interest rates, and it should serve as a warning sign to the Indianapolis City-County Council that it had better start looking more closely at all the tangled financial webs created under the auspices of the City's dozens of TIF districts. If this sort of thing is happening in the state's wealthiest municipality, you can only imagine the unexploded landmines elsewhere around the state. Here's Sharp's straightforward, albeit frightening explanation of the CRC's disastrous borrowing practices it undertook to avoid transparency:
I am going to try to break up this explanation into digestible bites. In essence the Redevelopment Commission made two mistakes and they were made a couple of years back while Mr. Carter was President of the CRC. First they created a series of hybrid financial instruments in order to avoid bringing their proposals before the Council for review and approval. The problem lies in that without the credit rating of the City to back up their debt they got into some complex situations that include high interest rates and ballooning notes among others. We really do not know the whole story yet on these. The debt payments are eating them alive and this structure is not sustainable. Secondly, as we do this refinancing and insist they include other payments of debt currently foisted upon other entities, like the PAC Foundation, which serves as somewhat of a disguise, it begins to appear there will be little if any money avaialble to do additional projects. Completing City Center is something a majority of Council agree on but may not be possible to the extent public funds are needed.
The current situation with the CRC calls for comment. We, meaning the Council, had been advised for some months that the Commission needed to be restructured financially. We were prepared to do so to the degree it made sense. However, if the Mayor is going to continue to make statements that downplay or soft shoe the situation then it is clear to me that our help is not needed. The Council's advice and review was not wanted, in fact actively avoided, in compiling this mountain of debt and so I would say we are not needed in helping to solve what has been characterized as a "short term" cash flow problem. You do not solve a problem with this weeks paycheck by mortgaging your house!
The CRC cannot issue a Bond without Council approval. They did not want to subject their deals to public scrutiny or Council review so they created "debt instruments" but did not call them bonds. So the CRC has things called Certificates of Participation and Installment Purchase Contracts or just good old fashioned Lines of Credit. The problem is that these items are all secured by TIF repayment; they are first in line with a claim on any TIF revenue. This is where the problem comes in for you and me. The PAC bond is NOT secured by TIF. If they spend all the TIF revenue and there is not a sufficient amount left to pay the PAC bond they, the CRC, will levy a "special benefits tax", on all the real estate in Carmel, to pay for the bond. This is precisely why the Council has voiced concern for the last 3 years about the CRC's spending. We were told, by suppporters like Mr. Carter and Mr.Worrel, that we just did not understand how things worked. Turns out we understood only too well!
So now we are faced with a decision...refinance $195 million in debt racked up, unwisely in my opinion, by the CRC or allow the citizens to be taxed to pay back the $80 million PAC bond. My thought, at this point, is that we can refinance and stabilize the CRC and eliminate the threat of any tax by controlling any future debt issues. I think when we get to the bottom of this whole fiasco and we will find that they have spent all their treasure and we will have little to worry about because they will have no money left to do any further redevelopment. A sad state of affairs for one of the wealthiest redevelopment districts in the country and something for which I think their leadership should be held accountable.
The IBJ's Kathleen McLaughlin has a story today where the financial consultant at Umbaugh & Associates hired by the city to assist in the debt refinancing likened the situation to paying off credit-card debt through a consolidation loan. According to her story, the CRC has annual operating expenses of about $3 million currently, which it plans to cut to $1.1 million. The CRC has a 6-member payroll with annual costs of $462,505 and spends about $220,000 on legal and accounting services. One commenter on the IBJ's website asks about a $10 million loan the CRC owes the National Bank of Indianapolis of which the IBJ's owner and publisher, Mickey Maurer, is a major shareholder and board chairman. I haven't seen the loan disclosed in any of the IBJ's coverage of the CRC's debt refinancing.

Slouching Toward November

It seems that it's not only Republicans who think Barack Obama has been avoiding any tough questioning during this year's presidential campaign, preferring softball interviews by local TV and radio personalities around the country. The liberal Talking Points Memo has a discussion about it, which references the wacky interview Obama gave to an FM radio station on New Mexico where such topics as whether he prefers red or green chili peppers and his favorite superpower.

Breaking News: TMZ Uncovers Shirtless Paul Ryan Photo

The other day I wrote about the lamestream media's focus on Paul Ryan's lack of good taste in clothing style and how fellow blogger Debbie Schlussel was lamenting the fact that "Paul Ryan Shirtless" was one of the top Google search terms for his name and how disappointed people were that no shirtless pictures of Ryan could be found. Well, it looks like TMZ has uncovered what the lamestream media couldn't find--a shirtless photo of Ryan with his wife, Janna. Yeah, not enough important things to worry about in this election.