Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dickerson: Give Back The Playground

Rep. Julia Carson's Republican opponent, Eric Dickerson, is demanding that Center Township and city officials give back the playground they took away from the Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood to make way for a parking lot for a bar which is to be located in the Julia Carson Government Center. Dickerson and other Republican candidates will conduct a press conference at the government center at 300 E. Fall Creek Parkway this morning at 11:00 a.m according to a press release sent to AI early this morning. They will join neighborhood parents and children to call for restoring the playground equipment and more importantly to cancel plans to open a nightclub inside The Julia Carson Government Center, which houses offices for Carson's district office as well as Center Township government offices.

According to an earlier Star report, the business entity seeking to open the bar in the government center involves Lacy Johnson, III and several other unknown investors. Johnson is the son of Carson's long-time campaign manager, Lacy Johnson, II. Johnson's father is also a partner at the law firm of Ice Miller where he and the firm have performed legal work for Center Township, raising potential conflict of interest questions. Did Johnson's law firm assist the township with its rezoning petition before the Metropolitan Development Commission? Johnson's father also serves as chairman of the Airport Authority Board, a position he was appointed to by Mayor Bart Peterson (D), who formerly worked with Johnson as a partner at Ice Miller before he was elected mayor.

Lot of unanswered questions here folks. The mainstream media should be doing a lot more digging on this story. If the truth is told, this nefarious deal will be stopped in its tracks as it should be.


Anonymous said...

I like greenspace, especially playgrounds for children. I like good, clean government without graft and cronyism. But, I think this controversy is misguided and much ado about very little.

A children's playground with shiny new equipment is nice. There is a much larger park just two blocks west of the Carson Center. It is not bounded by all the busy traffic of the tangled intersection of Fall Creek Parkway, Washington Boulevard, 28th, Delaware and Pennsylvania Streets. It has some exisitng amenitites and could use some new equipment and a spruce up. Maybe even a new name.

The cozy relationship between the Johnsons and our Congresswoman may appear unseemly to some, but the overlapping layers of civic, political and business involvement inevitably happen and transcend party affiliation. The high-Republican panacea of privitization is most often nothing but a thin fig leaf for such conflicted interests. The crime there is that public monies are used to enrich private interests. I don't see a public expenditure in this circumstance that will improperly benefit anyone. If anything, it appears to be an entrepreneurial effort in a part of the city that could use it. An upscale bar/restaurant might draw more people to that area especially as the regentrification occurring south of Fall Creek spreads north.

Furthermore, it is an unfortunate fact of life that the financial wherewithal within minority communities to make such neighborhood economic investments is more limited than in others. Why then would we want to criticize and question leaders attempting to revitalize an otherwise moribund area of our city?

Lastly, I am amused by this sanctimonious sputtering about a bar housed in a government building. What a typically small-minded, conservative, blue-nose attitude. Horror of horrors that our elected officials might come into contact with demon alcohol. Afterall, booze doesn't flow like water at political functions. Our state legislators must certainly abstain from drink while attending the many receptions held during the annual sessions of the General Assembly. There are no bars or liquor stores located next door or across the street from the Statehouse, the City-County Building, Republican or Democrat Party headquarters. Forget that the Sons of Liberty organized and met in taverns. Forget that early legislative assemblies at all levels of government often met in such places. Forget that the manufacture and sale of liquor is regulated by the State, which enjoys hefty revenues from taxes on sale of the stuff. For better or worse, alcohol is everywhere in our society and snippy tut-tutting about public officials being in proximity to it is silly hypocrisy.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The larger park up the street to which you refer is a gathering place for much older kids who play some pretty tough pick-up basketball games. Parents don't find this park suited for their smaller children. Polin Park was unique in that it was specifically for smaller children.

As to the bar, Carl Drummer didn't bother to seek any public comment on this project. Had he done so, the project would have never gotten off the ground. People find it offensive that he would say this bar is for "professional African-American", as if other folks aren't welcome. As Center Township Trustee, he represents all of its residents. This is a very diverse neighborhood surrounding the government center; it is no longer an African-American only neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Doug: this is about a raw and arrogant abuse of power.

A playground is only a partial casualty. The bigger loss is the public's right to know.

This whole thing is cozy...way too cozy.

The decision to place a bar in a government building isn't the big deal.

The big deal is: this was done with little or no public comment. The petition to rezone the building was indeed filed by the center township attorney firm. With public dollars paying those fees, I'm assuming.

To try to run under the radar, the application mis-stated the petitioner's name. At the hearing, the petitioner's name was correctly changed to the Landlord (Center Twp.). That is a violation of Devleopment Commission ruiles, but it was done anyway. (A remonstrator has the right to know, in advance, who the petitioner really is.)

At the "hearing" on this variance, the hearing officer, Judy Conley, promptly ruled in favor of the applicant. The case should've been continued, with nontice to the proper parties, because the applicant's name was changed.

Judy Conley is the wife of the Council Majority Leader. This is not her first controversial decision. She has apparently only a passing knowledge of the statutory requirements for rezoning. The Mayor and council members have heard complaints about her for quite some time. She should have recused herself: her husband and the township trustee are political allies.

I couldn't give a fig about a playground, to be honest. And I'm not a prude about bars. Drink yourself silly--in a properly-zoned establishment.

And, if this private bar will generate profits, do taxpayers see a piece of that?

Liquor isn't the issue. Race (a "black professional meeting palce") isn't the issue. Process is the issue, Doug. This was ram-rodded and needs some light of day shined on it.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Incidentally, the "Doug" who posted at 11:18 is not Doug Masson of Masson's Blog, who many of AI's readers are familiar with. The timing of the comment lines up with a person who logged in from's the domain address of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Anonymous said...

I assure you that this Doug is the original posting party and that I am a private citizen of Indianapolis, not a congressional staff person, public official or anyone who stands to benefit from the proposed Carson Center project.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It's easy enough to go log in from a different computer. You logged in from: 75.22.78.# (Unknown Organization)to make this post.

Anonymous said...

I could have, but I didn't. I'm not that clever! I'm just a regular Joe sitting here in rainy Indianapolis offering my two cents worth.

I certainly appreciate the points you and Anonymous have made. It seems sadly unnecssary that the process wasn't handled more above-board because there doesn't appear to be anything to hide. I just don't view this as a nefarious enterprise, but rather a good idea.

Anonymous said...

So. Ms. Carson's protestations to the contrary are perhaps untrue. She has told people she doesn't know why Carl Drummer went ahead with this bar. She's against it, she has told several people. Ditto Councilman Abdullah.

It seems to me, the mainstreamers ought to directly ask the good Congresswoman if she favors this enterprise in a building named for her, and which houses her Congressional office. I have heard that her federal government rent check floats about half the mortgage on this building, which I think is owned by Center Township citizens.

The whole "we need it here because no ordinary private enterprise would do it" argument is silly. Actually, it's insulting. Government should not be in the business of quietly soliciting private enterprise operations, of any kind, away from scrutiny. With publicly-paid attorneys.

It involves a rezoning because it's a serious departure from the intended use of the building. Duh.
Architects of the zoning ordinances didn't anticipate the City Council Leader's wife would be the one making a decision. It probably isn't a conflict in the strictest sense of the law. But it sure smells. The fact she didn't recuse herself is frighteningly arrogant and stupid.

This mess in the litter box won't be covered up until Ms. Carson, Mr. Drummer and others do so, publicly. Way too stinky otherwise.

Anonymous said...

There you have it--directly from Rep. Carson's office (11:18): the park two blocks away will be renamed Polin Park soon. And get some new playground equipment.

All to allow some of her friends to make money. In a government building.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

I hope you're not suggesting that my 11:18 post was from Congresswoman Carson's office. That was our chief blogger's insinuation and isn't reality.

And, while I tend to agree (in most circumstances, e.g. the Indiana Toll Road) with your statement that government shouldn't be in the business of solicitng private enterprise, much bipartsian governmental action these days focuses on exactly that.

Wilson46201 said...

that viewing by somebody at the Congressional office was probably because I saw the story here and wanted to give them a heads-up about the ambush Dickerson was planning. I Emailed them a link and it looks like they checked it out...

Anonymous said...

everything comes to a logical conclusion

Dickerson ambush? What's an ambush about the truth? Please enlighten me on that one.

I'm certainly not a fan of Mr. Dickerson, and true, he used this to political advantage, but this deal should've seen daylight long before it did. From beginning to current, it's all smelly.

Boot the bar. Return the swingsets. Watch the trustee. ANy public servant who doesn't understand ahead-of-time that this is suspect, just doesn't get it.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Wilson--thanks for sharing that, but unless you can tell me you were the "Doug" post, it appears to me the comment came from someone logging in from the House of Representatives e-mail server. As to the ambush, I don't know how it could have been an ambush when the information was furnished to me in advance, knowing that I would post it. I know you speak to Julia often Wilson. I hope you encourage her to lean on Carl and Lacy to undo this dirty deal.

Anonymous said...

Well said, AI.

A lot of moeny has evidently been spent on this booondoggle already, tho.

I'm betting a lot of pride is on the block.

None of the individuals mentioned thus far, back down easily.

Anonymous said...

Doug said

"Lastly, I am amused by this sanctimonious sputtering about a bar housed in a government building. What a typically small-minded, conservative, blue-nose attitude."

I guess you can add Julia Carson to that same list since she is now against having the bar in the building.