Sunday, August 20, 2006

Tully Gets It Half Right On Bar In Government Center

Matt Tully mentioned while he was guest hosting Abdul in the Morning on Friday that he would be writing in his Sunday column about the restaurant/bar political insiders were being allowed to open in the Julia Carson Government Center. AI commented on Friday that Tully should bone up on his facts concerning the issue a little better than he sounded on the radio. Judging by his column in today's Star, he did not.

Tully gets the fact that political insiders are behind the effort to open the restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center, and that they intended to pave over the Polin Park to make use of the land as a parking lot to serve the business. He also gets that Rep. Julia Carson holds the power in her hand to halt the deal. "Because in Democratic circles, Carson reigns, " he writes. "If she speaks up, the bar plan will crash before one drink is served."

What is disappointing is the critical information Tully omits from his column. He makes no mention of the fact that the restaurant/bar was constructed before Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, as the landlord of the building, sought any rezoning or variances which were required to permit this particular use of the property. He also omits the fact that the construction of the restaurant/bar occurred without any building permits being obtained, and that the construction itself violated numerous state and local building code requirements. Drummer only sought to rectify these problems after the Department of Metropolitan Development visited the site and issued a stop work order and cited the township for the building code violations. Never mind that DMD did not issue any fines for the gross violations and that its hearing officer, Judith Conley, rapidly approved their rezoning/variance petitions.

Tully also goes out of his way to protect one of his political sources, Lacy Johnson. Tully notes, "Its backers include Lacy Johnson III." "He's the son of attorney and general power player Lacy Johnson, who has made political contributions to Drummer, Gray and other Democrats," he adds. Tully leaves out the fact that Johnson has been Carson's long-time campaign manager/key advisor, and, more importantly, that his law firm is deeply involved in this matter. As AI has reported, two attorneys from Ice Miller petitioned for the rezoning/variances which were filed after the restaurant/bar was already constructed. Johnson and his law firm have performed legal work for Center Township in the past as well. However, AI found from an entry on DMD's online permit history for the work that Lacy Johnson was listed as the tenant contact at Ice Miller's address. The conflict of interest apparently didn't catch Tully's eye.

Tully does manage an admission of involvement in the deal from city parks director Joe Wynns. "This has mushroomed into something unbelievable," Wynns told Tully, who agreed it happened without a public hearing to let Drummer pour asphalt over the park land. Tully writes, "Wynns said the park land on East Fall Creek Parkway is underused and in a dangerous, high-traffic area." "Still, he regrets Indy Parks got involved." Tully, however, makes a dubious assertion in his column. He writes, "And bar investors last week scrapped the parking lot portion of their plan . . . So the park land is safe. But the bar is coming."

It is true that Ice Miller's attorneys withdrew their rezoning petition to allow for off-street parking on what was the former Polin Park's land. However, the petition to rezone the land from park use to commerical use remains on the table. The playground equipment for the park is long gone, and there has been no commitment from anyone to restore the land to its former use. Tully mentions that the bar's investors "wouldn't return phone calls" to him. It would have been better had he bothered to share with us who, other than Lacy Johnson's son, is an investor in the deal.

Tully reluctantly acknowledges the role of bloggers in bringing this story to public bear. "A story ran, prompting radio hosts and bloggers and residents to ridicule the plan," Tully writes. To AI's knowledge, Ruth Holladay's blog is the only other blog besides this one to focus attention on this issue. Presumably, Tully has read what was written here and on her blog prior to writing his column. It is disappointing that he couldn't have put as much effort into writing his column today as his fellow bloggers have devoted to this story. His readers would be a little better informed had he made the effort.


Anonymous said...

Typical Tully, sadly. He misuses the power of the state's largest paper, but mimicking his editor, and being too cozy to sources to report toughly on them. Both of them love their stature and do little else except admire their own reflections in the mirror.

The Sunday Tully column was a waste of ink.

Read his column again. It could've been written in 15 minutes at your klitchen table. It had nothing new at all, except, obviously, he talked briefly with Wynns.

Lazy reporting. Again.

The real story here is that this bar was constructed with no permits at all. And, subsequent to a stop work order (subsequent by, I believe, eight or nine weeks) July Conley approved the variance.

So, let's get this correct: the DMD's own heairng officers found difficulty with the lack of permits and construction techniques. Little things like no lighted exit signs. Duh. And the same DMD's hearing officer, Ms. Conley, weeks later, rules in favor, with nary a mention of the earolier violations.

Rotten. To the core.

Anonymous said...

I've had readers of my little blog contact me wondering where the Star was/is on this issue. Given the ballsiness of the power grab by these highly-placed crooks, to say nothing of the illegalities that AI has meticulously detailed, it is amazing to me that the state's largest newspaper has not produced one drop of editorial ink on it. Matt is just rehashing what was already reported in AI and my blog; like anonymous says, the only news was his comment from Joe Wynns.
In this instance, the Star has had its lunch eaten. It was good, too.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Right on Ruth and anonymous. It probably went something like this. Matt calls Lacy. They meet for lunch or coffee. Lacy drops a bug in Matt's ear about the prospects of casino gambling in Indianapolis to deal with money problems. You see, he lobbies for gambling interests and has made a lot of money in the process. Matt thanks him for the tip. Takes the bait and writes a column last Sunday touting a casino for Indianapolis. As anonymous points out, Tully does little other than place a call to Wynns. Adds one new item to what had already been reported in Will Higgins report a couple of weeks ago and scratches out today's column in about 15 minutes. He only has to write 3 columns a week! It really is disappointing. He's capable of so much better. But like so many mainstream political reporters, he's gotten too cozy with the folks he covers.

Anonymous said...

Good Job AI and Ruth.

The one thing Matt did get right was to acknowledge Clarke Kahlo for being at the first meeting and protesting it so it got out to the public.

He did not acknowledge the protest at the building and the subsequent TV media coverage it got.

Everyone is right - he barely scratched the surface of this with so much information on our own Indy Gov web site pointing people to more detail on what is going on.

We need to make sure the city council members know what is going on under their noses between now and the next meeting of the MDC on Oct. 4th. If the zoning request for the park to change to commercial that opens the door wide open for the bar to stay.

What is the legal distance a bar has to be from a public designated park zoned area ?

Contact and email address for the city council can be found at this link.

Anonymous said...

And I love how he ends it.

But the bar is coming.
Unless Carson stops it, that is.

Is she the only person we can rely on ?

It seems to me the power of the people have driven it this far - it will be the power of the people who will end it.

Anonymous said...

No Pulitzer Price-winning material from Tully. Bring back Dick Cady!

Anonymous said...

nice job all around on this blog and Ruth's.

11:51 is right--Clark Kahlo did a good job on this one. He was, sadly, alone. And not many listen to him at the CC Building. He's become the little boy who cried wolf. On this one, he's right.

I'd forgotten all about Dick Cady. Talk about throwbacks to the past.

AI's little commentary on how it probably went is exactly right. Phone call, coffee or lunch, drop a tip, write a column.

So pathetic and sad.

Come on,'re letting blogs eat your lunch? You oughta be ashamed.

Dig a little. There's more there.

Anonymous said...

Good job Bloggers! I love this! Did Tully spend more than 15 minutes on this column? He is the Bob Kravitz of the political news world...just sitting back at his desk, plenty of shoe leather on his sole, commenting...and coming up with little news or original ideas. At least Bob goes to the games!!!

Tully...pretty soon the Star/Gannett will just be linking to local blogs...

Anonymous said...

LOL 3:50 Bloglinks

Wilson46201 said...

some wag (not me) on Taking Down Words blog suggested that a good compromise would be to put the restaurant/bar into Eric Dickerson's failed auto dealership on Keystone . . .

Gary R. Welsh said...

Wilson, It's interesting that the Democrats want to drag Dickerson's personal business matters into the race. When Republicans tried to make an issue of Carson's past problems paying her property taxes and refusing to tear down a run-down crack house she owned on Park Street, leaving it to taxpayers to foot the bill to tear down the house and clean up the property, they were accused of being racists.

BTW, I notice there's been no response from the Democrats over at Taking Down Words to a bar in the Carson government center. Seems to me that's a little more newsworthy than Dickerson's personal finances.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Wilson, I should add that Democrats cried foul when Rep. Chris Chocola's campaign recently tried to make an issue of Joe Donnelly's personal financial problems.

Wilson46201 said...

when you are campaigning as a successful businessman and your business implodes in the middle of the campaign, it's worthy of notice, don't you think? It's kinda like Katherine Harris boasting of being a great personnel manager ...

but I do think putting the restaurant/bar in Eric's soon-to-be empty building is a good compromise...

Wilson46201 said...

fwiw, that "crackhouse" that infects the fevered imagination of some GOP folk was sold on contract to a young married couple who were to be responsible for the taxes. The marriage busted up and they defaulted. In 1996 Ms.Carson was single-mindedly focussed on the election campaign and let personal matters slip. Yes, that house was demolished and Ms.Carson paid the City in full for the work. It cost the taxpayers nothing.

Anonymous said...

I emailed all members of the city council and got the following from Scott Keller:

I'm guessing that today's "Indpls Star" article killed the deal. Although I'm not against bars per se, I certainly am against back-door deals and building construction violations! Thank you. Scott

Huh??? As it has been pointed out so beautifully by so many before me, what did Tully say???

Anonymous said...

Pardon me for a second, but before some of you proclaim that The Star is being beaten by blogs on a story, don't forget that all of this began with the stellar work of my news side colleagure Will Higgins, who mapped out the entire matter in his story on the bar and park fiasco earlier this year. While AI and others may have done some digging since then, there wouldn't be anything to dig if not for Higgins.

And let's not forget some of the other stories blogs in this town haven't nailed or kept digging at: Problems at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center; the state's dropout crisis and the related lack of clear disclosure of those problems by state and local officials; the wastefulness of township government.

When it comes to the question of keeping up on an story or an issue, it cuts both ways. Nobody can stay on every issue all the time -- the economics of time and space dictate that -- and just because you think an issue is important doesn't mean that everyone agrees. That's why it's called news judgment.

Gary R. Welsh said...

RiShawn, I don't think anyone is criticizing Higgins' story; it was a very good start. There was enough there to indicate more digging on the story on the Star's part. Much more has been brought to light by the blogs. People were disappointed that Tully didn't add anything beyond what Higgins reported 2 weeks ago, particularly given the gravity of those newly-discovered facts.

Anonymous said...

Well-spoken, AI. Will's story was good. It was short. There was a mountain of information there, and he hit on the very tip.

What we expected from Tully, RiShawn (and we should've known better), was more in-depth reporting. The first post or article on this huge story, was followed by a great deal of info and tips which needed checked. Tully made one or two calls, judging from his column. And each was to a hack.

We expect more from the state's largest paper. Much, much more.

And if Will's story was brilliant (it was OK, not brilliant), where were his followups? Huh? He's had two weeks.

Anonymous said...

To AI's knowledge, Ruth Holladay's blog is the only other blog besides this one to focus attention on this issue.

Besides Holladay and AI, RiShawn Biddle posted about this at Expresso.

Anonymous said...

Now Gary, you're sidestepping the overall point I'm making here. It's not about the merits of Tully's column; I take no position on it and won't. The criticism I make is that there is this argument being made that your blog, along with others, have done all the spadework when in reality, you wouldn't have had any material to work with in the first place if not for The Star. Let's not forget this. To simply take credit for an reporting that didn't begin with blogs, but with the so-called mainsteam media (as if to ignore all all the crossover between blogs and other media operations) is rather rich.

I'm not saying that your site didn't advance on the original story; that is reality and kudos to you and others for doing so. But this argument that all the work was done by blogs is a tad disingenuous.

And let's also note my other point: While you may argue that The Star hasn't covered every one of your pet issues in the same dogged manner that you want, you cannot say that The Star hasn't covered many issues in a dogged manner. After all, it is my editorial page (and the news side) that brought to light the problems of the juvenile justice system; last I checked, no one else is doing so. Same for township government and the dropout crisis. These are important issues, even more critical in the long run than whether a bar is built in the Julia Carson Government Center. The decision to cover those issues are based on news judgment or what is considered most important given the space and time constraints given. In deciding your coverage of issues, you are doing the same thing as do other blogs. So the criticism of news judgment, while a popular exercise for those who have never worked in a newsrooom, isn't always a valid one.

Anonymous said...

So there we have it. The Star's news judgment is, they don't think the tavern story is as important as other news they print. Fair enough.

But a little haughty, RiShawn. I've liked your columns ever since Amos took off after you. Anyone who riles that self-involved puffbag has my respect.

Care to count up the column inches devoted to, say, "fluff" while Will's original story followup was extinguished? Your post on Expresso is not available to regular readers, only to those who use the online edition.

The Star is entitled to make news judgment decisions every day. No problem with that.

This issue bumps up against multiple elected officials, a city department or two whose actions are at best questionable, and a member of the U.S. House.

Still want to stick with the news judgment thing? How about a blanket admission that altho Will broke the story, and you posted about it (very nicely, too) on your Expresso page, The Star has completely dropped the ball subsequently?

Or are you required to defend this? Is it in the Gannett employee handbook?

Sir Hailstone said...

For what its worth I have the links posted to the various actions concerning the DMD and "300 East" .. unofficially known as "Carson's".

Gary R. Welsh said...

Zach, No intent to slight RiShawn. I observed his post when he first made it. My reference to bloggers were those outside the mainstream media.

RiShawn, the important point is that the most important aspect of the story has never been reported in the Star's pages. The restaurant/bar was constructed without the proper zoning/variance approvals, no construction permits were properly obtained and the construction was done in violation of numerous state and local building code requirements. After all that, the city didn't fine anyone, and quickly gave approval to the zoning/variance petitions. This raises even more serious questions than the actual act of tearing down the park to make room for the restaurant/bar in the Carson government center. Why weren't these issues addressed in Higgins' initial article or a subsequent story? Remember, this just wasn't the actions of a private contractor, this involved the people we elect to run our township government and the public property over which they oversee.

Anonymous said...

Your link, please, Sir Hailstone?

Queen916 said...

Carson was cited for having a PAC in the Trustee Office and forced employees to contribute to it. The funds were used to elect Tony Duncan, Center Township Constable. Remember the clothing store located on the corner of Davision and Massachusetts in the Center Township Building when Carson was Trustee. It was her store in the name of Louis and Doris Morse, her personal friends from 1991 - 1995. Carson had been selling clothes out of the trunk of her car after her boutique in the Claypool Courts closed and Simon properties sued her for $80,000.00 of unpaid rent. This store, Doris' Boutique provided school clothes to recipients of poor relief, most were over-priced designer jeans. They were raking in about $1 million and a half dollars between August and December each year. Carson was able to get out of debt with this sweetheart deal. Even though it was publicized, nothing was done about it. After Carson was elected to Congress the store was closed. The Trustee was allowed to redeem its own vouchers after January 1994 when the law was changed to remove the responsibility from the Marion County Auditor. There is no oversight to the financial dealings of Center Township. Carson made it very difficult to access financial records and contracts of the Trustee's office.
Former Congressman Andy Jacobs is her protector and supporter in the Party. Evidently she has the goods on him!

Wilson46201 said...

aha --- Jocelyn Tandy has seemingly logged in as Queen916 with her tired old gossip. Last I saw Jocelyn, she was sputtering about "Sodom and Gomorrah" at the HRO C-C Council vote, a real hater. She knows financial records of any governmental unit are public --- Jocelyn has already requested hundreds of pages of documents at Center Township digging for dirt. Dry hole!

Queen916 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Oh lighten up Jocelyn...Wilson isn't guilty of voter fraud.

All of us here in Sodom are way too tired working on the path to hell through the HRO, to worry ab out your fretting about Sodom, and voter fraud.

Anonymous said...

Wilson46201 - You are the hater, this discussion was about the conduct of elected officials in Center Township and their accountability to taxpayers.

You have proven by your remarks that you have logged in to monitor comments relating to Carson and Drummer now that you have retired.
Obviously, you have not retired from starting recent smear campaigns for them against their opponents.
Talk about the cover-ups and sloppy record keeping in the Trustee Office. Talk about ghost employment. Talk about all the games being paid on people who don't go along with their programs. You have injected yourself into the race for Congress attempting to smear Dickerson so Carson won't be blamed for it.

Voters and taxpayers have the right to question, to complain, to investigate, and to express their opinions regarding any public official's conduct in office. If they can't stand the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen!

Intimidation has been used to keep people from expressing their views.
So stop trying to!

As her "attack dog", where do you get your information?

Anonymous said...

anonymous- How would you know what Wilson46201 is guitly of?

Anonymous said...

"Why weren't these issues addressed in Higgins' initial article or a subsequent story?"

Here's the question Gary: Why don't you actually ask Will Higgins or an editor at The Star? Throughout all this, one thing that comes through -- and this has been an issue not only with you, but with other blogs -- is that there is the tendency to blast now, ask questions later, then get mad when editors and writers greet such pages with disdain. While that attitude isn't conducive to actually starting or maintaining a conversation or a relationship, one can understand this given the unwillingness to actually pick up the phone, make a call to any one of The Star staff -- whose numbers are easy to locate -- and then putting the question to them, then noting their response if it is one that is on the record.

A simple call beforehand would give you far more perspective on these matters than the simple blast now-ask later.

Anonymous said...

RiShawn has a point.

But Mr. Biddle, I don't think most people feel their editors and reporters are accessible. It may be a style and sensibility, or manners, issue.

If reporters and editors are truly open to that kind of dialogue, that's great.

You'll have to deal with the strange calls, but hey, we all deal with that in our jobs.

Thanks for the suggestion.

It does not, however, answer the questions regarding follow-up to Will's original story.

This is not just a bunch of shrill bloggers hollering about pet peeves. It is about some serious misuse of power.

By the time peopel get to a blog, they're usually already frustrated.

Just FYI.

Gary R. Welsh said...

RiShawn, Part of the role of bloggers is to serve as media critics. I doubt you would expect Roger Ebert to call up Oliver Stone and discuss with him the shortcomings of his latest movie before writing a bad review of it. That would sort of defeat the purpose behind being a critic wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

But there is a huge difference between reviewing a movie, Gary, reviewing the actions of political figures and taking shots at a media organization or those who work for it, especially if you're going to accuse them of "carrying water" for their sources and it is done by plenty of the best-known of them. Besides, doing so would actually give you far more perspective on news decisions than you currently have.

In any case, that's the last I'm saying on this subject. Given your most recent remarks in relationship to one of my colleagues, it's clear that you've drank too much proverbial Kool-Aid on this matter for any reasonable conversation to be had. A conversation can only be had between two or more reasonable people. And you're a long way from being reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Guess he's taking his toys and going home.

I left my kids at home this morning. Didn't think I'd have to deal with childishness in blogville.

Anonymous said...

Again, read the zoning file and look for an early permit. Then ask questions about it.

Also, someone said that the park was still being rezoned even though the zoning for the parking lot had been withdrawn. What is now pending is a variance of use petition for the "family restaurant." That petition only impacts the Carson Center building. The park property is no longer part of this petition.

You might want to talk to the planner for the case if you want more information.