Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Kennedy Stumps For Votes At Indy Rainbow Chamber

I just returned from a monthly mixer for the Indy Rainbow Chamber at the Damien Center. Marion Co. Democratic prosecutor candidate Melina Kennedy was this month's guest. Let me begin by saying that Kennedy makes up for what she lacks in prosecutorial experience with a confident, well thought out message. While her Republican opponents have tried to portray her as an empty suit, she comes across to her listeners as anything but that.

Kennedy has her message down pat. She wants to refocus the 168-odd attorneys working in the prosecutor's office towards a neighborhood approach. Rather than focusing attorneys on specific crimes, they would instead be focused on particular neighborhoods that would better familiarize them with the offender group and the victims who are adversely impact by these offenders. She says this approach has worked well in other communities.

Kennedy will target the office's resources towards putting away career criminals, getting in a slap at Brizzi's policy of not using the habitual offender statute when the crime involved is a misdemeanor. That policy, she urges, allowed one of the accused in the Hamilton Avenue killings which left seven family members dead to be on the street. But won't the invocation of that law unfairly target African-American males she is asked by Black Pride President Robert Ferguson? It must be used to get career criminals off the street she insists, but she will utilize the diversionary program offered by the special drug court to reach out to at-risk offenders with an effective treatment program to get them on the right track. Prevention she urges goes hand-in-hand with prosecution. At the same time she clarifies that the habitual offender statute is not the same as three strikes and you're out--a harsher sentencing law that puts away repeat offenders for life. Instead, it allows for tougher sentencing in proportion to the offender's previous convictions she explains.

Kennedy also hits hard at Brizzi's record in addressing the growing domestic violence problem. Conviction rates for domestic violence cases have dropped precipitously from 33% to 9% on Brizzi's watch. Is there a rational explanation for the numbers? Perhaps. But this was Kennedy's turn to speak, and the numbers sting. Statistics cut both ways, but when they cut against your opponent, they can and do effectively elevate your argument.

Tailoring her message a bit to the group, Kennedy emphasizes her support for a hate crimes law in Indiana, which would include bias crimes committed against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Indiana is just one of four states in the country without a hate crimes enhancement law, a distinction Kennedy doesn't think our state should be proud of. How will she accomplish it? Well, she will begin by using evidence of bias to seek enhanced penalties relying on current case law. But that isn't enough she urges. She believes a statutory law is needed, and she pledges to urge the General Assembly to enact a law. Brizzi made a similar pledge last year, but he abandoned those efforts without fanfare when GOP leaders told him to forget it.

Brizzi will get his chance to address the Indy Rainbow Chamber next month. Nobody should be dismissing Kennedy's chances. Brizzi faces an articulate opponent who is in command of the facts when she has the floor, despite attempts by his supporters to portray her otherwise. Add to that the fact that Marion Co. is trending Democratic, and that puts Brizzi in the fight for his political survival. His re-election is doable, but he can't afford any missteps between now and election day, and he's going to have to step up his game a bit to get the job done.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand Robert Ferguson's question. Habitual offenders are habitual offenders. I don't care what color they are, they should be put away. Am I missing something here?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Statistically, the harsher sentencing scheme will adversely affect more African-American male offenders because they represent a disproportionate share of the number of offenders, which means more of them will be spending longer terms in prison. I think that's his point. If you accept that the disproportionate numbers are reflective of economic circumstances--the argument goes towards focusing on reducing poverty instead of harsher prison sentences. I'm not advocating that latter argument, but that's the point that is often made.

Anonymous said...

That point, ala Amos Brown, is tired and overdone.

Anonymous said...

Actually, in my opinion, Robert Ferguson's point is not over-made.

I've been in a position in the past manufacturing to hire kids out of North Central's J. Everett Light Career Center, all of them African American kids, all of them good responsible kids. I recall one of them having to go get his old rickety car out of impound because he had wracked up a bunch of violations. When I asked what the violations were: Failure to signal adequately in advance of an intersection, and a host of other violations that everyone commits every day.

When you are a white kid driving a nice car you attract no attention in the suburbs and these silly little infractions pass by unnoticed. When you are a black kid driving a beat-up automobile, every little infraction is an opportunity to pull you over and make sure you're not up to something.

As one who writes disability insurance for major insurers, I also note that major insurers (MetLife for instance) don't test for Marijuana use, though they do for nicotine and hard drugs. This is telling, because insurers aren't charities, and they will adjust rates or refuse coverage for anything that they think leads to disability. The fact they don't care about marijuana indicates that on an actuarial basis marijuana use doesn't correlate to workplace dysfunction. Some of the most impressive professionals that apply for coverage will own up in the past to having used marijuana. White citizens aren't getting pulled over for "failure to signal adequately in advance of an intersection" and their nice cars searched and their marijuana found. I believe black youths are getting "habitual offender" records for actions that are common among white professionals and which insurers find to be inconsequential in terms of predicting functionality.

I worry about unequal enforcement and about law enforcement being forced to spend time on something that may be inconsequential, or at least no more serious than alcohol or tobacco.

(I mentioned this to a drug unit officer at a wedding I attended recently and asked his opinion. His opinion? Legalize marijuand and tax the hell out of it." )

Sir Hailstone said...

Lots of feel-good liberal gibberish from Melina Kennedy. We don't need any feel-good "blame the victim, not the offender" types in the Prosecutor's office. We need someone who will kick ass and take names. We need Carl Brizzi.

Tell me AI, did you see Bart overhead controlling Melina's strings?

Jeff Newman said...

Hailstone, were you there? I was, and I don't know what in the hell you're talking about, "feel good liberal gibberish."

She stated very clearly she wanted to go after what she called "career criminals." She wants to increase the conviction rates for domestic violence cases, do conservative have a problem with that?

I will also attend next month's After Hours, and I'm sure I'll be equally impressed with Brizzi. These are two highly qualified and impressive candidates who both deserve to be heard without all of the partisan bullshit.

Sir Hailstone said...

No I was not - "rainbow" is not exactly the crowd I frequent - I'm giving my opinion of what was reported by AI. In of itself Melina Kennedy is a blatent "feel good government programs are the solution to all our ills" kind of liberal.

You obviously have no idea what the prosecution of domestics is all about. Most of the time once the alcohol wears off both sides end up not wanting to pursue the matter. Don't believe me ask most cops. Read Indy Undercover.

The fact is she's a Bart Peterson puppet being planted in the Prosecutor's office. At the state level is has ramifications that if Bart were to try to take on Gov. Daniels in 2008 he'll have his pet project in the prosecutor's office to trump up whatever Bart wants, against Gov. Daniels - or $DEITY help us - should Bart win.

Anonymous said...


"blatent "feel good government programs are the solution to all our ills" kind of liberal."???

The Brizzi brief is a massive expansion of PROGRAMS in the MCPO...

How can you seriously say Kennedy is a liberal when you (and Indianapolis) have seen how soft he is on crime, how much he can't manage a budget (its doubled!), manage an office, or...keep offering new programs...

Jeff Newman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Newman said...

Well, Hailstone, I do frequent "rainbow" crowds, and lots of other crowds, including some that have a whole lot of people like you in them (I'll try not to match your condescending tone when referring to those on the right).

I listened to and spoke to Kennedy and you did not, so all I can say is I think your partisan conspiracy theory is pretty far-fetched. She's just a smart lady who thinks she can do the job.

And for the record, I am not a partisan shill. I have voted a split ticket in every election I've ever voted in, including the last one (I voted for Mitch Daniels, and would vote for him again if he were running today).

Anonymous said...

Gary supports all rainbow causes, but you'll note that 'black' is not a color in the rainbow. Don't expect him to be very concerned about issues in that arena.

Anonymous said...

HUh? "Black is not a color in the rainbow" ?

I think the term Rainbow, in our community, is akin to "inclusive," "all cultures," etc. I believe Jesse Jackson coined that usage of the term, altho I may be wrong.

Why must this kind of discussion too often delve into the gutter, and end up slamming people based solely on color?

It's unfortunate.

Sir Hailstone said...

Jesse Jackson .. boy that's a really smart comparison. He's got that RAINBOW PUSH thing going on as long as its his black rainbow. The guy is a "reverse racist". With that logic you'd say Amos Brown speaks for blacks ... yeah and David Duke speaks for white people. I DON'T THINK SO!

Soft on crime? Considering how emasculated the LEA's are in Marion County he's working with what he's got. Can't manage an office? Seems he did pretty well when the CCC and Mayor Bart cut his budget by $800K the past 2 years. Try again. You might get it right eventually.

Anonymous said...

Hail, pay attention honey, and I'll say this real s-l-o-w:

Jesse Jackson wasn't used as a comparison. He was used as an example...I believe (but could be wrong) he inviented and/or popularized the word "Rainbow" to mean a broad collection of people from all walks of life.

I know that is a complicated subject for you, but try to stay up with the rest of the class.

Anonymous said...

Kennedy is advocating for Community Prosecution. That's great, but the MCPO already has a successful and internationally recognized community prosecution program. This program has existed since the early 1990s and prosecutors travel from all over the world to come here to study the way it is done here.