It wasn't a verbal donnybrook, like some of the Republican presidential debates, or a back-alley knife fight or a prizefight.
Instead, viewers of the first Indianapolis mayoral debate watched a political pillow fight.
Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican Chuck Brewer scarcely laid a glove on each other in a half-hour debate Friday evening. They agreed on the need for better mass transit and more police. Neither wanted to short-circuit the city's electric car-share program or throw away the city's single-source recycling plan.
The general agreement on almost all issues followed the mold of most of the community forums in which the two have participated during this campaign. Except here, the time was more compressed and the questions from moderator Jim Shella of WISH-8 came rapid-fire, with limited time to answer and no chance of rebuttal.
The closest the two came to friction was on the plan for a new criminal justice center proposed by Republican Mayor Greg Ballard that was scrapped when Democrats on the Indianapolis City-County Council objected to the cost. Brewer blamed Hogsett for helping to kill it by publicly coming out against the proposal after contracts were awarded and it neared final approval..
"It was stopped at the 1-yard line because of politics," Brewer said . . .
Both candidates said they thought a controversial electric car sharing program, BlueIndy, was worth preserving because of the long-term benefits to the environment and its contribution as an alternative mode of transportation.
"I would inherit it and honor the contract and make it work," Hogsett said, adding that there should have been more "transparency" by the Ballard administration on how many city resources would be needed to roll out the program. "My obligation (as mayor) would be to make sure it works."
Brewer said BlueIndy would be a good program in the long run.
"The bottom line is the city has already entered the contract, and to get out of it would require a lot of skin in the game," Brewer said.Tuohy neglected to mention the only newsworthy item that came out of last night's forum when Hogsett said he couldn't comment on the City's controversial, one-sided recycling contract with Covanta because his law firm, Bose McKinney, represented the recycler in a deal that benefits only the private contractor as with virtually every privatization scheme this corrupt administration has concocted the past eight years. The Ballard administration, which in typical form entered into the contract without any competitive bidding process, sold its value based on a similar recycling plant in Montgomery, Alabama that abruptly shut down earlier this month because of changes in commodity prices for recycled goods.
The only point of disagreement noted between the two candidates was the controversial privatization of a new criminal justice center proposed by the current administration, which the council rejected after this blog published a series of damning reports on the deal and what it would mean to Indianapolis taxpayers. The Star and the rest of the media in this town beat up on council members for rejecting the deal because they have a problem whenever any public officials block deals intended to defraud taxpayers in order to financially reward a handful of downtown insiders they favor.
Actually, Hogsett had a glaring conflict on that deal as well. His law firm had been hired by the Ballard administration under a $750,000 contract to lobby the council to approve the criminal justice center deal, an amount that pretty much covered the salary and benefits the law firm will have paid Hogsett from the time he left the U.S. Attorney's Office last year and when he takes office as mayor on January 1. Hogsett draws his big six-figure salary free of any billing requirements like other attorneys while he campaigns virtually full-time for mayor. If he had a real opponent instead of a fall-guy opponent like Chuck Brewer, he would have been accused of accepting a bribe from the law firm. The Ballard administration abruptly cancelled the lucrative contract with his law firm after Hogsett announced his opposition to the criminal justice center deal.
Hogsett's good buddy, Evan Bayh, followed the same path during the two-year period he ran for the U.S. Senate after he left the governor's office. He received about $1 million from the Baker & Daniels law firm while he devoted all of his time running for the Senate without any billing requirements. Everyone knows why guys like Hogsett and Bayh are given high-paid jobs at law firms for no work. Their employers know they will be rewarded with no-bid contracts and favored treatment of their clients once they take office. It is bribery by any other name. In Bayh's case, his law firm lobbies Congress. Hogsett's law firm both lobbies city government and has been a reliable recipient of no-bid contracts for legal work. His firm is guaranteed to be sitting in the driver's seat when he becomes mayor.
Watching Hogsett dismiss any problems with the blatantly illegal and criminal contracts the Ballard administration entered into with Blue Indy and Vision Fleet is evidence of a man who is too bribed up to represent the public's interest, not of the tough prosecutor he falsely portrays himself as in his bid for mayor. During his time as U.S. Attorney, he covered up rather than prosecute major public corruption events occurring on his watch. Those who benefited from his failure to prosecute public corruption are lavishing campaign contributions on his mayoral campaign, which is out-raising and out-spending Brewer's campaign by a 4-1 margin.
Those disgusted by Hogsett's self-dealing ways have little choice in Brewer. The guy only moved to Indianapolis about four years ago to open up a fast food restaurant. He has no family here, and he has no prior association with the Republican Party. I've yet to be able to discern a single Republican view he holds. He's in the military reserves where he is subject to be called up for active duty service on a moment's notice that could force him to abandon the mayor's office for months at a time.
The story goes that Marion Co. GOP Chairman Kyle Walker stumbled onto Brewer while dining at his Potbelly sandwich shop on the Circle. Brewer started providing free meals to Walker and other party workers when they came into his sandwich shop. This led to Walker asking him about his interest in running for the City-County Council. There was only one problem. Brewer lived in a downtown condo far from the south side council district where Walker wanted him to run. Brewer missed on the first attempt to find an apartment address in the south side district before finding another apartment in a complex owned by the politically-connected J.C. Hart within the district. Called out by this blog for voting somewhere he didn't live, Brewer had no choice but to sell his lovely downtown condo and live in an apartment he had no desire to live.
When Walker failed to find a candidate willing to run for mayor, Brewer stepped up and ran. The guy had never even attended a single city council meeting at the time, let alone have any knowledge of our City-County government. But the decision would financially benefit Walker, whose wife, Jennifer Hallowell, is getting paid $10,000 a month by Brewer's campaign to run a lousy, uninspiring campaign, even if the Republican Party and the city's residents were denied a legitimate candidate for mayor of the state's largest city.
If you choose not vote in this year's municipal election as a form of protest, it is totally understandable. It's not like your vote is going to make any difference. The same handful of downtown insiders will continue operating their organized crime syndicate and defrauding us out of our precious tax dollars while neighborhoods across the city crumble and fall further in decline as downtown continues to thrive and prosper from the disproportionate investment of billions of our tax dollars within the mile square. Your taxes will continue to go up as you get fewer services in return. It's why so many have thrown in the towel and moved to the suburbs where taxes are lower, schools and services are better and crime is lower.