Thursday, January 31, 2008

Anderson-Ballard Truce

A joint memorandum to Indianapolis police officers from Sheriff Frank Anderson and Mayor Greg Ballard earlier this month suggested relations between the two weren't as bad as at least one person tried to make it out as. Today, the two confirmed the cooperative spirit by agreeing on the terms under which Mayor Ballard will assume control of IMPD under a proposed ordinance in front of the City-County Council. "Public Safety is job one," Mayor Ballard said in a statement. "This agreement is only the beginning of a process that will result in a new level of coordination and new capacities in public safety. It is truly a win-win for the citizens of Marion County, and I thank Sheriff Anderson for making a true beginning in building the consolidated law enforcement team we all deserve." Who will he (Abdul) have to blame now?

No Second Chance For Gary Jennings?

At last Monday's City-County Council meeting, Proposal No. 24 was introduced by Councilor Ryan Vaughn to appoint Gary Jennings as a member of the Citizens Police Complaint Board. CCC President Robert Cockrum notified Jennings, a grassroots supporter of Mayor Greg Ballard and Republican council candidates in the past election, that his appointment could not go forward because of a 14-year-old DUI conviction. Jennings asks, "Didn't Mayor Ballard say everyone deserves a second chance in defending the appointments of Olgen Williams, a convicted felon and admitted drug user, and Randall Tobias of DC Madam infamy?"

Meanwhile, the Council appears poised to appoint two Libertarians to the Board of Zoning Appeals, Brad Klopfenstein and Timothy Maguire. Klopfenstein is a lobbyist for the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association and ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for the council in 2003. Maguire was an unsuccessful Libertarian at-large candidate in this past November's election. Some would argue that the vote Maguire won in that election cost at-large Republican candidate, Michael Hegg, what would have been his seat on the council instead of Joanne Sanders. Sanders should be the one sponsoring Maguire's appointment.

If Jennings' 1994 DWI conviction creates a conflict of interest for him in serving on the Citizens Police Complaint Board, will the Council believe that lobbyist Robert Grand should be disqualified from serving on the Capital Improvement Board because his law firm represents Simon family interests? And will the Council have to stop short of appointing Klopfenstein because of the conflicts of interest likely to arise when members of his organization come before the Board of Zoning Appeals?

Update: Jen Wagner at Accidental Mayor reminds me of my old post on one of our judicial candidates here in Marion County who drove drunk as a teen-ager and struck and killed another man.

Pay To Play

Mayor Greg Ballard called a black tie, high-priced gala at the Indiana Roof ballroom last night a "celebration for the City of Indianapolis." Former state GOP Chairman Mike McDaniel described it as "amnesty" for all the lobbyists and fatcats who contributed to Bart Peterson and dismissed Ballard's candidacy last year. Describe it how you like, the $500 a pop event was not about the grassroots campaign which elected Ballard. The message is loud and clear. You have to pay to play to be a part of the Ballard administration. Why else would a candidate elected to his first political office ask people to contribute to his campaign less than 30 days into his new administration and nearly four years away from the next election? More business as usual. The Star has a video clip of last night's affair, which you can view by clicking here. Hat tip to Accidental Mayor.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Contribute To Jon Elrod

Come out and join friends and supporters of Jon Elrod for Congress at the Lockerbie Glove Company at 430 N. Park Avenue in downtown Indianapolis on Tuesday, February 12, 2008 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. A minimum contribution of $50 is requested. Checks should be made payable to Beverages and refreshments will be provided. You can RSVP and find out more information about the event by clicking here. Hope to see you there.

Miller Throws Down Gauntlet To Long

As lobbying successes go, Advance America's Eric Miller should be pretty pleased with the results he's gotten in Senate President Pro Tempore David Long's Senate. He got the Senate to once again unnecessarily pass SJR-7, the gay marriage amendment. The Senate passed legislation which is intended to drive Hispanic workers from our state. There was a bill passed to further regulate abortions, and another bill made its way to the House which allows pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions, such as birth control, with which they morally disagree. The Senate even passed a number of Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax reform proposals, including an amendment to cap property taxes on homeowners. But none of that matters to Miller. Long dared to defy Miller by sending his proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the property tax to a study committee rather than to an immediate vote, and now Miller is declaring war against Long.

Miller unleashed on Long unlike anything I've seen him do in the past in an e-mail alert to his followers today. Sen. Long allowed a hearing on SJR-8 earlier this month, but at a second hearing in the Senate Rules Committee, which Long chairs, members of the public were not allowed to speak. It was at this meeting that Long announced the proposal would be sent to a study committee for further study instead of being voted on this year. "Senator Long abused his position as the Chairman of the Rules Committee and refused to allow any of the more than 20 citizens who came to the hearing to testify on Senate Bill 100," Miller wrote. "I have had the privilege of working with both Republican and Democrat Committee Chairmen in the House and Senate for over 25 years," Miller continued. "I have never seen a Committee Chairman do what Senator Long did on January 22nd!" Miller goes on to accuse Long of engaging in "politics as usual" and to say that Long only denied a vote on SJR-8 because he knew it would pass if the members had been given a chance to vote on it. Anyone see the irony here? Isn't this sort of the same thing that's happening over in the House between Miller and House Speaker Pat Bauer over SJR-7, the gay marriage amendment?

Miller warns Long that the "battle isn't over." He promises to find another home for SJR-8 elsewhere. As Advance Indiana earlier reported, Miller's supporters in the House deliberately killed Gov. Daniels' property tax cap amendment, HJR-1, by trying to tack the gay marriage amendment and Miller's property tax repeal amendment to it. "We will continue to work with Republican and Democrat Legislators to add language dealing with the Repeal of Property Taxes to another Resolution moving through the Legislature," Miller promises. Miller plans a State House rally on Friday, which has created quite a dust up with other tax activists because he's tying his push for the gay marriage amendment to his property tax repeal push, a move not supported by many tax activists. Some of the tax activists are promising some drama during the rally over these differences. As for Long, it's hard to have sympathy for him. He got in bed with Miller on all these other issues. Now, he has fleas. And probably a primary opponent in his Fort Wayne Senate district to boot if Miller has anything to say about it.

Wedge Whacks Point Fingers After Killing Property Tax Amendment

After spending their week throwing as much you know what into the proverbial fan over at the State House, our favorite wedge whacks are now pointing fingers while they're still trying to wash off the mess on their faces. “I am shocked that the House Democrats killed both the elimination of residential property taxes and the defense of marriage amendment last night and adjourned,” Rep. Jackie Walorski decried (R-Lakeville). “I feel bad for Hoosiers, who have the right to vote on these issues. When I was in the majority, I never killed a bill just because of an amendment. I don’t understand why they are afraid of having a discussion. Since the session isn’t over yet, I’m hopeful, but not confident that both these issues can be revived.”

It was actually Assistant Republican Leader Eric Turner (R-Gas City) who was trying to tack on the gay marriage amendment to Gov. Daniels' property tax cap amendment for homeowners when House Speaker Pat Bauer decided to pull the amendment. Walorski was too busy filing amendments about abortion and other needle-in-the eye amendments to the hate crimes bill, HB 1076, which proved successful in killing that bill for the second year in a row. "House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said House Republicans were trying to destroy the Republican governor's proposal," the Star's Bill Ruthart writes. "House Minority Leader Brian Bosma argued Bauer should have allowed discussion on the possible changes," Ruthart added.

Meanwhile, the driving force behind these wedge whack issues, Eric Miller, is out recruiting new, fundamentalist fanatics to run for the State House. Miller, head of the so-called Advance America organization, sends out an e-mail to his brethren this week reminding them that all 100 House members are up for re-election and one half of the Senate's 50 seats will be on the ballot. "We have prepared an extensive manual on how to run a successful campaign as well as a set of DVD’s that include presentations by a number of Republican and Democrat elected officials," Miller writes. "This manual and DVD set normally sell for $134." "For a limited time, we are able to offer the manual and DVD set for only $99," he adds. Let's see, D.C. Stephenson offered a hood, bedsheet and "naturalization papers" for $26 to join his order back in the 1920s. It made him a millionaire and helped him to elect the best legislature money could buy for his "Americanization" agenda. Miller is a little smarter than Stephenson. He creates a nonprofit organization so all his followers can take take deductions for their contributions to him, and he pays himself and his law firm six-figure sums year after year. How little things have changed in our Hoosier state.

Rumors Fly About Howard Senate Seat

Advance Indiana is picking up rumors that Sen. Glenn Howard (D-Indianapolis), who has missed the entire legislative session to date this year due to an undisclosed illness, will not be filing for re-election. State Rep. Carolene Mays (D-Indianapolis), who earlier launched a bid for the 7th District Democratic congressional seat of the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, will abandon those efforts and run for Howard's seat according to a source. City-County Councilor Cherrish Pryor, who was just elected to the council after being appointed to fill the vacancy of former CCC member Greg Bowes last year, has already filed to run for Mays' House District 94 seat. Speculation is that the Center Township Democrats are trying to keep the public in the dark as to Howard's intentions in order to prevent others from entering the race. State Rep. David Orentlicher is so far the only Democrat who has filed to challenge Andre Carson in the 7th District race.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ballard Taps Simon Lobbyist To Run CIB

It's one of the most important appointments an Indianapolis mayor can make--Chairman of the Captial Improvement Board of Managers--the quasi-governmental entity which owns and manages our city's great public improvements, such as Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center. Mayor Ballard chose Barnes & Thornburg Managing Partner Robert Grand, the man who headed up his transition team, to take over for former Baker & Daniels' Partner Fred Glass. Grand, who is a public finance and government affairs lawyer, is a registered lobbyist for Simon Property Group, the shopping mall giant founded by Herb and Mel Simon, who also own the Indiana Pacers.

As a candidate for mayor, Ballard promised to enact a tough ethics reform law. One of his proposals would have barred lobbyists or other persons with a financial interest from serving on any commission or board that directly affects or deals with their lobbying or financial interests. Candidate Ballard said, "Taxpayers are being asked to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in government spending ranging from huge construction projects to outside personal contracts. But there are virtually no rules governing the conduct of business or local government in such dealings," said Ballard. "It's time to restore ethics and public accountability to our local government," Ballard said then. Mayor Ballard took office without enacting an excutive order to carry into effect some of the reforms he promised as a candidate. Candidate Ballard complained about former City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah accepting a trip to last year's Super Bowl and refusing to disclose who paid for the trip. Yet, Ballard's two children told a Star reporter how much they enjoyed the perks of their father being mayor, including the great tickets they wre receiving to the RCA Dome where the Colts play and Conseco Fieldhouse where the Pacers play. Who's paying for those tickets?

Grand's potential conflict of interest doesn't end with the Simons and their Pacer team. His law firm is also a registered lobbyist for many other clients, which raise additional concerns. The company which manages Jail II for the county, Corrections Corporation of America, is a client as is the Marion County Prosecutor and its Superior Courts. The Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County is a client. The Indiana World Skating Academy, which is being forced to give up its space at the PanAm Plaza to make way for new development, is a client. And CIB neighboring corporate giant, Eli Lilly, is a client. Indiana Lobby Registration Commission discloses dozens of clients for which Grand's firm is registered to lobby. If Ballard had enacted the ethics reform he promised as a candidate, Grand would have been barred from taking the job as CIB Chairman.

Along with Grand's announcement, Ballard carried through on the appointment of Randall Tobias as head of the Indianapolis Airport Authority. Tobias is the former CEO of Eli Lilly and Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush administration. Tobias also holds the distinction of being the only government casualty of the D.C. Madam scandal after he admitted he had used the escort services of the woman government prosecutors claimed was running a high-end prostitution service in the nation's capital. “The citizens of Indianapolis are fortunate to have men of this caliber answering the call to public service,” Ballard said today in making these two important appointments. “I have no doubt that both Bob and Randall will do an outstanding job of serving our citizens in this capacity and I look forward to working with them throughout their tenure here.”

And did I mention that the Indiana Pacers are trying to re-negotiate their lease on Conseco Fieldhouse with Mayor Ballard beginning this year? The team's owners, Mel and Herb Simon, are lamenting the fact that their franchise is losing money and attendance at their games is dead last in the NBA. I'm sure Mr. Grand will put the taxpayers' interest first in those negotiations. Don't you?

Anti-Immigrant Push By Senate Has Consequences

An anti-immigrant push led by Sen. Mike Delph will have consequences on Indiana's economy many business leaders are warning, but the desire to embrace D.C. Stephenson's "Americanization" agenda from the 1920s is just too politically attractive to lawmakers representing largely white districts who want to play political football with Hispanic workers in the state. The Star's Dan McFeely writes:

While the legislation is welcomed by some as a way to crack down on illegal immigration, others say the loss of up to 85,000 undocumented workers would have
a far-reaching impact on Hoosiers.

"Ag jobs are often ones that are not the first jobs people will take," said Kent Yeager, public policy director for Indiana Farm Bureau. "A lot of people in this country are just not willing to do that work."

Without a reliable immigrant work force, Yeager said, producers of fruits and vegetables, livestock and dairy will be forced to look elsewhere to find workers -- and may even shift their operations to other countries.

"If you don't like being dependent on foreign oil, how will you like being dependent on foreign food?" Yeager said.

That is a message state lawmakers are hearing from opponents -- chambers of commerce, manufacturers, home builders, restaurant owners and Hispanic leaders -- as they debate Senate Bill 335, which would crack down on business owners who knowingly hire illegal workers. Hiring and harboring illegal immigrants is already a federal offense. Violators can be jailed and heavily fined.

McFeely's article focuses on the economic impact of Delph's legislation, but the impact on Hoosier families could be much greater. It threatens to tear apart many U.S. citizen families. Thousands of U.S.-born Hoosiers are married to Hispanics who are in the country illegally. Many of those households have American-born children. If one of the spouses is unable to work, it will wreak economic havoc on these families. Some opponents would argue that is the ulterior motive behind the legislation. About 5% of Indiana's population is Hispanic. It is estimated that there are at least 85,000 undocumented workers in Indiana, most of whom are Hispanic. It's funny that the same people who are always talking about family values are backing legislation which is so anti-family for some Indiana residents.

Government Reform Legislation Diluted

Senators who are more concerned about protecting political fiefdoms than saving the taxpayers money ruled the day yesterday. Three key changes were made to the bill, which contains many of the recommendations of the Kernan-Shepard Commission to streamline local government. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider identifies these changes the Senate made:

  • Township assessors would remain in place in 44 townships in Indiana, including all nine in Marion County.
  • Marion County's small claims courts would remain intact, rather than being merged into the county's Superior Court system.
  • County commissioners -- who would have been eliminated and replaced with a single county executive -- will remain in place unless voters choose to change their county government in a countywide referendum in 2010.

As if to insult our intelligence, Sen. Lawson argued that it was important to preserve township assessors in the larger townships, including all of Marion County's nine township assessors, because the county assessors would be overwhelmed by too much work. Her original amendment would have omitted Decatur Township, but Sen. Mike Young took care of that with another amendment. These people simply do not get it. Throwing them out of office is the only solution to arriving at real change in this state. By the time we get to the end of the session, these lawmakers will have the government reform bills watered down so much that you may as well just flush it down the tiolet. That's about how much it will be worth.

Monday, January 28, 2008

House GOP Kills Property Tax Amendment To Advance Gay Hate

The House Republican caucus led by Rep. Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) has chosen to kill a constitutional amendment proposed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to limit property taxes on homesteads to 1% of the gross assessed value, HJR-1, by choosing to file an amendment to it to bar same-sex marriages and the recognition of any of the legal incidents of marriage for unmarried couples, whether straight or gay. The mean-spirited, discriminatory amendment has been filed by a member of Bosma's leadership team, Assistant House Minority Leader Eric Turner (R-Gas City). It contradicts an earlier claim by Bosma that property taxes would be given the highest priority this session.

The filing of the amendment by Turner has effectively killed Gov. Daniels' proposed constitutional amendment to permanently cap property taxes for homeowners. House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) and his House Rules Committee Chairman Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) announced earlier this session that the House would not be hearing SJR-7, the controversial gay marriage amendment which the House Rules Committee voted down last year. House Republicans have placed a higher priority in writing discrimination into our state's constitution than in writing into it permanent tax relief for the state's homeowners.

Sadly, two other members of Bosma's caucus, Rep. Jeff Thompson (R) and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), have effectively killed proposed hate crimes legislation, HB 1076, by filing killer amendments to the bill. The bill's chief author, Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis), has refused to call down HB 1076 because of the controversial amendments the two lawmakers have filed to the bill at the request of religious right leaders Eric Miller of Advance America and Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana. Continuing opposition from the fundamentalist extremists is based on bogus claims that the legislation will create "special rights" for "homosexuals and cross-dressers" by allowing a court to impose harsher sentences on persons who commit crimes against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that it will impede the "free speech rights" of ministers to speak out against homosexuality. Indiana is one of only five states in the nation without a hate crimes law, putting our state in the sad company of Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia and Wyoming.

Swastika Appears On City's Northside

Someone painted this Nazi swastika symbol on a utility box on the city's northside near 61st and Cooper. A hat tip to Mike Bowman for passing the photo along to me.

Star Takes A Crack At 7th District Race

It's a front page story and it takes up a lot of column space, but if you're looking for a good, substantive analysis of what his happening in the 7th District's special election you won't find it in Brendan O'Shaughnessy's story in the Star today. Not surprisingly, the Star is censoring any mention of Democrat Andre Carson's ties to the controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who endorsed Carson's candidacy during his grandmother's funeral at which he was invited to speak by the Carson family. Carson's list of advisers, according to the story, include Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis; county Auditor Billie Breaux; state party Vice Chairwoman Cordelia Lewis-Burks; and Melissa Lear-Fisher.

O'Shaughnessy's list for Elrod surprises those of us who attended the 7th District caucus because some of the people O'Shaughnessy lists were actively working for Elrod's opponent, Tom Rose. O'Shaughnessy lists GOP Chairman Tom John; attorney David Brooks; Superior Court Judge David Certo; state party Chairman Murray Clark; and Elrod's former campaign manager, Robb Greene. Yes, Robb Greene has always been a close adviser to Elrod and a good one at that. Most local Republicans are chuckling, though, at the notion that either Murray Clark or David Brooks are doing anything to help Elrod. At the same time, O'Shaughnessy suggests those two and Tom John are helping him, he writes, "Elrod, a member of the state House, so far has not received any money or promise of help from the party's fundraising apparatus." The state party is allowing space for Elrod's campaign to work in the state headquarters so I guess Clark is doing something to help him. Don't worry, the rest of us fighting to win back the 7th District for the people will take care of the money for Elrod.

Carson is using a D.C. consultant, Alex Zwerdling, to run his campaign. Zwerdling is former union organizer for the Hotel & Restaurant Employees union. Elrod's campaign is using Kyle Kasting, who works with the local consulting firm known as Maverick Strategies. Elrod says he hopes to raise $300,000 for the special election effort alone. "I think I come across mostly as an outsider," Elrod said. "I'm not as well-connected in my party as he is in his." The DCCC has targeted the 7th District race, unlike the Republicans. Elrod cites that as evidence the Democrats believe Carson is highly vulnerable.

The most humorous part of O'Shaughnessy's story is Carson's contention that he is prepared for the job. "In less than six months, Andre Carson has gone from being a State Excise Police officer to a City-County Council member, an engineering firm marketing executive and now a candidate for his grandmother's congressional seat," O'Shaughenssy writes. That says it all. Working on his grandmother's campaign is hardly the experience 7th District voters are looking for in a candidate. O'Shaughnessy notes Elrod's flair for drama. "In a recent tryout for a community theater production, Jon Elrod won the part of Felix, the neat and organized half of 'The Odd Couple,'" O'Shaughnessy writes. "He thought he could have played Oscar, the sloppy character, but cast members and directors thought he fit the bill for the tidy and methodical role."

There's some talk of issues, as well. The story provides this very brief discussion of how the candidates feel on some issues:

What's your position on a withdrawal timetable for Iraq?

• Democrat Andre Carson: I support a responsible redeployment plan to end the war in Iraq and bring our brave men and women home with honor. It is time for the Iraqis to take responsibility for their security, with benchmarks for Iraqi military and political success along with a responsible timeline to bring our troops home.
• Republican Jon Elrod: Like everyone in America, I want our troops home as soon as possible. I do not support an arbitrary timetable. I will listen to the generals on the ground.

What should we do about illegal immigration?

• Carson: America's immigration system is broken and nothing has been done in Washington to fix it. In Congress, I will fight to secure our borders and make sure the laws on the books are enforced. Employers who break the law must be held accountable. I am against amnesty and believe that consideration of how undocumented immigrants can earn the opportunity to become citizens must include paying a fine, paying all back taxes, and not having an advantage over those who have entered this country legally.
• Elrod: I support enforcing the laws on the books. If the nation needs more labor, the solution is to increase quotas; not amnesty or guest worker bills.

What's the best way to get the health care problem solved?

• Carson: In Congress, I will take the lead to create and invest in solutions that would make sure every American has access to affordable, quality health care. This includes ensuring that all children have health care by expanding programs like the State Children's Health Insurance Program, passing a prescription drug plan that truly works for our seniors, and working across the aisle, and with states, to invest in pilot programs to find out what works best to lower costs and increase coverage.
• Elrod: Our third party-payer system has caused the ever-increasing health care costs. The long term solution is to create competition through health savings accounts, non-profit insurers, and public pricing.

What would your economic stimulus plan look like?

• Carson: Between property taxes, gas prices and health care costs, the working families of Indianapolis are not able to keep their heads above water right now. We need to figure out ways to put cash back into the pockets of working Hoosiers. The first thing I will do is to create real tax relief for the middle class, rolling back the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and companies that send jobs overseas, and putting these savings into tax cuts and rebates for working families. I would also like to see an increased investment in job creation for our state and nation, including a focus on the new energy economy and national security, which would bring good jobs back here to Indianapolis and create long-term stability.
• Elrod: I support a tax cut, paid for with spending cuts, that would lower the business and personal tax rates to below the average European tax rates.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Revolving Door Justice To Blame For Hovey Street Killings?

The Star's Jon Murray takes an in-depth look today at the criminal record of Ronald "Action" Davis, the man accused of killing two mothers and their infants at a Hovey Street house known for drugs and gambling. Davis had been out of jail only three months when he allegedly carried out the brutal massacre at Hovey Street. At 17, Davis was sent to the boys school for dealing cocaine. At 19, he was convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover cop. He was sentenced to 10 years but after he was released after serving half of his sentence, he was sent back to prison on a conviction for battery and criminal confinement. He was released three years later but thrown back in prison after another arrest a few months later.

Murray notes that Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi referred to the killings as an "act of domestic terrorism." After reading Murray's story, you can't help but ask who is truly the responsible party for terrorizing our neighborhoods. Is it the repeat offenders who keep committing heinous crimes so soon after they are released? Or is it the persons' running our criminal justice system who keep letting out these thugs after they serve such a short amount of their original sentence for repeat crimes who are responsible?

What To Do With Our Unethical Politicians?

A couple of stories in today's Star provide more alarming proof of just how unethical our politicians have become in Indiana. Despite running on a pledge of enacting ethics reform as mayor, Greg Ballard took office with no self-imposed ethics rules on himself and his appointees. When he appointed Paul Okeson as his chief of staff, Advance Indiana was the first to tell you that the engineering firm which employed Okeson, Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates, had strong ties to Mayor Bart Peterson, having donated $10,000 to his re-election and having appeared at the grand opening of the firm's new offices in Indianapolis last year. Not surprisingly, the firm does a lot of business with the City of Indianapolis. The Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column reports this morning on a $10,000 contribution Ballard's campaign accepted from the firm shortly before he announced the hiring of the firm's branch manager as his chief of staff:

Many engineering and architecture firms make donations to candidates from both parties in a political campaign.

But one set of donations stood out among all others made in the last mayoral election, both for its size and the timing.

Keith Lochmueller, president of the Evansville-based firm Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates, gave $10,000 to former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson on Sept. 20, about six weeks before the election.

Three weeks after the election, Lochmueller gave the same amount to Greg Ballard, the surprise winner.

"We normally give to both parties," Lochmueller said. "I was going to give to Ballard before the election, but I never got around to it."

What cemented the donation, he said, was that Ballard took the head of his Indianapolis office, Paul Okeson, to be the mayor's new chief of staff. Lochmueller said he made the donation as part of attendance at the mayor's upcoming inaugural ball on Wednesday, where a gold sponsorship gets you 10 tickets, plus five photos with the smiling mayor.

Lochmueller said the firm does not donate in order to receive government contracts. "To have good government," Lochmueller said, "you need to support the candidates that will do the most for the city, the county and the state."

Okeson, who is a resident of Fishers, should have never been offered the job in the first place, but it is simply a complete abandonment of any sense of ethics to accept a contribution from a firm which does so much business with the city and hire one of its key employees at the start of your administration. Unfortunately, this is not the first indication of a lapse in judgment by Mayor Ballard when it comes to ethics. The Star's Susan Guyett caught Ballard's children off guard at last weekend's luau with these comments about the "perks of office." "I don't think it's changed too much for us, except we enjoy some of the perks," Erica said. Greg, Jr. agreed, saying they have access to great seats at the RCA Dome and Conseco Fieldhouse. So should any of us be suprised to learn that Mayor Ballard is making it a top priority in his administration to work on a Super Bowl that the City might be able to host many years into the future and is considering a more generous public subsidy for Pacer owners' Herb and Mel Simon because they're team is reportedly losing money on the books after disenchanted fans have stopped attended their games?

Meanwhile, Sen. David Long's short tenure as President Pro Tempore continues to take hits on the ethics front. Recall that he and his members recoiled from public demands that it end the generous health insurance for life perk for retired senators and their spouses but eventually came around as public pressure grew. Now, the body has killed a proposal to implement a cooling off period after legislators retire before they can lobby their colleagues simply for spite. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider writes, "Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, the Goshen Republican who controlled the bill's fate as chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, said he killed the proposal because he and other senators were angered by comments that 'we're taking money under the table. That's the interpretation we had.'"

As her report indicates, more than 30 Indiana lawmakers are now registered to lobby their former colleagues. Two lawmakers, Robert Kuzman and Matt Whetstone, left the legislature last year shortly after the House adjourned. Both lawmakers were key lawmakers on the legislation which legalized slots at the state's two horse race tracks. Coincidentally, both went to work for law firms which represented the horse racing interests which benefited from the new law. A quote in Schneider's story from Ed Mahern would be funny if it wasn't so absurd and insulting. "I've never seen a situation where I thought an individual legislator behaved a certain way during his term in hopes that he'd be employed by somebody afterwards," said Ed Mahern, a former Democratic state representative from Indianapolis.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

OWI Parole Violator Released On Friday And Kills Hours Later

Parole violator John Mason appeared in Marion Superior Court Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy's courtroom on Friday according to a court observer I spoke to tonight for failing to comply with terms of probation on a prior arrest for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Mason reportedly failed to complete an alcohol awareness program, provide urine samples and pay court fines imposed against him from his prior OWI conviction and had been jailed. Mason was released after his appearance in court with a public defender instead of being sent back to jail. At 10:30 p.m. last night, a drunken Mason slammed his car into another car at a high rate of speed at 34th & Keystone, killing 52-year-old passenger Teresa Webb and critically injuring the 52-year-old driver of the car, Carolyn Fox. The court observer tells me that the probable cause affidavit indicated that Mason had $1,870 on him at the time of his arrest at the scene for suspected drunk driving.

Some folks are looking for answers as to why Mason was released and why he was represented by a public defender when he clearly had funds available to pay for his own attorney. This is an absolute worst case scenario of the consequences of what happens when our criminal justice system fails to appropriately deal with offenders. I think our Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Judge Pierson-Treacy are going to face some tough questions in the coming days about this case. What a tragic and sad loss for the family of Teresa Webb. Best wishes to the family of Carolyn Fox. The cause number for the case is 49F19-070-CM-054365.

UPDATE: The Star reports today that Mason was supposed to serve a 30-day sentence for violating the terms of his probation, but the court decided to give Mason until February 1 to begin serving his sentence.

Obama Crushes Clinton In South Carolina

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will become the first Democratic candidate for president to win a majority of the votes cast in this presidential primary season. Early projections show Obama will collect about 51% of the vote in South Carolina's Democratic primary today compared to a distant second place finish by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) with less than 30% of the vote. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) will finish third with about 20% of the vote. This is a critical win for Obama leading into Tuesday's Florida primary and the Super Tuesday primary on February 5 the following week.

By the numbers, Obama won more than 80% of the black vote. If Sen. Clinton's and her husband ex-President Bill Clinton's desire was to polarize voters in their hard-hitting attacks on Obama, they certainly succeeded in South Carolina. Obama managed to collect 25% of the white vote, while Clinton appeared to get a small win among white voters over Edwards. The attacks on Obama energized black voters to come out in large numbers today. They represented at least one-half of the voters in the primary. The polls going into today's vote clearly under-counted Obama's strength. He was averaging just below 40% in polls leading up to the election. By comparison, Clinton and Edwards are finishing about where they stood in the most recent polls.

If you look ahead to the next states on the presidential calendar, Clinton leads in states like Florida, New Jersey and California. I suspect the under-counting of African-American voters in the polls makes those races closer than they appear. Also, I expect the polarization of voters will make Obama the victor on Super Tuesday in southern states with a large percentage of black voters, such as Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Obama will crush Clinton in his home state of Illinois on that same day. At this point, there is every reason to believe that Obama's chances of success in this race are just as good as Clinton's.

I would also offer some advice to Obama the next time Clinton decides to hit him for his relationship with Democratic fundraiser Tony Reczko. Remind voters that Clinton's old Arkansas pals, the McDougals and Webster Hubbell, all did time in jail because of shenanigans she cooked up to enrich she and her husband. As Hubbell put it, he "rolled over" for her. How many of Obama's friends went to jail for his misdeeds?

On one other note, the Clinton campaign used robocalls in recent days in South Carolina targeting Edwards for what it claimed were trade policies he supported in the U.S. Senate which cost the state textile jobs to China. What a phony claim. The Clintons are the ones who've been repeatedly caught illegally raising money from Chinese nationals. And President Clinton implemented the very trade policies which led to the exporting of those jobs to China. In a turn on Bill Clinton's own words, what a fairytale. The Clintons are once again proving themselves to be the dirtiest people in American politics.

Simons Whining To Ballard Already About Their Poor Pacers

The IBJ's Anthony Schoettle began setting the stage for what we all know will be the next move by Herb and Mel Simon, owners of the Indiana Pacers: We Need Help! Schoettle opens his story today:

The Indiana Pacers have hit rock bottom.

This month, the team slipped into last place in average home attendance among the 30 National Basketball Association teams, falling behind the New Orleans Hornets, a team that is selling tickets in an area still ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The Pacers’ average home attendance through 19 games is 12,068. New Orleans is averaging 12,159 through 21 home dates.

The attendance slump and two consecutive years of financial losses have stirred speculation the franchise will ask for city assistance.

The situation is so bad, said league insiders, NBA Commissioner David Stern is keeping an eye on it.

“It’s one of a handful of clubs the NBA is concerned about,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp Ltd., a firm that works with several NBA teams on business operations. “This is something no one foresaw three or four years ago.”

Scott O’Neil, NBA senior vice president for team marketing and business operations, said, “We’re putting a little extra time into the Pacers at this point.”

NBA account managers have come to Indianapolis to help with marketing, branding and sales, O’Neil said. “This is not a five-alarm fire,” he said. “Our mind-set is, let’s get the ship righted.”

Frankly, I could care less whether the Pacers are doing well or not. Given the criminal recklessness displayed by about half the team's players in the past few years, they haven't earned the support of their fans. But here's the part of Schoettle's story that bothers me. "The situation has some wondering if Pacers officials will approach the city to seek financial assistance," he writes. "New Mayor Greg Ballard said he met with team officials and has been apprised of the situation." "He said he will meet with Pacers coowner Herb Simon within a week or so, but Ballard called that a 'get-to-know-you' kind of meeting."

Nobody should be surprised that the Simons are already making a fast move on Mayor Ballard. Schoettle notes that they had already been having discussions with Mayor Peterson about their financial woes. Immediately after Ballard was elected, Barnes & Thornburg attorneys Robert Grand and Joe Loftus seized total control of Ballard's transition team with complete ease, although neither had contributed much to his campaign prior to his election. The two blocked the participation of anyone on Ballard's transition who couldn't be controlled, which many grassroots supporters, including myself, saw as a complete slap in the face by Ballard. Coincidentally, Barnes & Thornburg represents the Simons and their Pacers basketball team.

This also isn't the first time Schoettle has written about the Simon family's plan to extract more subsidies from Indianapolis for its ailing NBA team. A little more than a year ago, Schoettle wrote about how the Simons thought that the Colts' Jim Irsay got a better shake from the city than they had gotten. As he wrote then, "Pacers executives won't discuss the Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium lease, but sources close to the team say the executives are irked by the deal and think theirs pales in comparison," Schoettle added, "The lease states that if the Pacers experience 'significant net cash flow loss for any NBA season in or after the eighth year of the initial (20-year) term,' the team the next year could begin the process of seeking early termination of its lease." He concluded, "Because the upcoming season is the Pacers' eighth in Conseco Fieldhouse . . . that provision could open the door to renegotiation as early as next year . . ."

I'm telling you, folks, that Mayor Ballard has surrounded himself with folks who are in the pocket of the city's corporate elites. You can bet that there is going to be a concession granted to the billionaire Simons to ensure they can buy more $25 million homes in Malibu. The groundwork had already been laid. As Schoettle's articles notes, "City officials haven’t completely closed the door on the idea of helping the Pacers financially." "There are provisions in the Fieldhouse lease that would allow the city to subsidize the Pacers to help make up financial losses." He quotes insider Pat Early (son of former state GOP Chairman Rex Early), "This relationship has to be a win-win for the Pacers and the community, and you always look for ways to make that happen,” said Pat Early, a longtime member of the Capital Improvement Board, the city government agency that owns Conseco Fieldhouse. "Early stopped short of saying he’d support subsidizing the Pacers, something the city did before the franchise moved to the Fieldhouse." “Obviously, the solution is not to build another arena, and a subsidy would be difficult,” he said. “But if we can sit down and get the right people in the room, we can get creative.”

"We can get creative." You bet they can. This is already a done deal. The Simons supported Mayor Peterson's campaign with big contributions. They gave nothing to Ballard. But isn't that the way it's been since Ballard's election? Everyone who did nothing to help get him elected is reaping all the spoils of his victory. We'll find more money to subsidize the billionaire Simons, but we have no money to provide basic services to improve the quality of life for the people who actually live in this city and need our city's help in saving their neighborhoods from higher taxes, crime and blight.

Mixed Signals On Anderson-Ballard Relationship

Earlier this week, Advance Indiana published a joint memorandum which Sheriff Frank Anderson and Mayor Greg Ballard sent to IMPD officers to reassure them the two were working together to fight crime despite their differences over who should ultimately run the department. A couple of days later, notorious pot stirrer for all things related to police relations in this city, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, accused Sheriff Anderson and his legal counsel, Kevin Murray, of playing the race card behind Mayor Ballard's back. "According to my sources, both Anderson and Murray have gone so far as to even drop the “n-word” on several occasions in their attempt to accuse the Mayor and the Marion County Republicans of wanting to take power away from the 'Black Sheriff,'" Shabazz wrote. "If I were the Mayor, I would not trust Anderson and his cronies half as far as I could throw them," Shabazz adds.

The Star's John Strauss wrote today about the joint memorandum you read about on Advance Indiana on Tuesday. In a separate story, the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy writes about the efforts of Councilors Paul Bateman (D) and William Oliver (D), along with a group of black pastors, to get the Mayor to reconsider the move because of the racial tensions they believe are created by the move at this time. Bateman conceded to O'Shaughnessy that it would probably be best in the long run to put the police department under the mayor, but he thinks the move should at least wait until Sheriff Anderson's retires in 2010 out of respect to him. "Bateman said handing control from a black sheriff to a white mayor would 'polarize the community' along racial lines," O'Shaughnessy writes. Regardless of how folks on either side think about the issue, it appears certain the Republican-controlled council is going to give control of IMPD to the mayor's office. That means Public Safety Director Scott Newman will soon be calling the shots. He's already planning the transition according to Strauss' report.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What Is Jim Brainard's Campaign Hiding?

A campaign finance report filed by the campaign of Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is raising a lot of eyebrows for what it's missing. In his winning re-election campaign last year, Brainard's campaign spent over $547,000. His campaign disclosure form, however, itemizes very few expenditures. More than $481,000 was paid to Brainard's campaign consultant, Stakeholder, Inc., a firm owned by Allan Sutherlin. That's 88% of his total expenditures!

Last year, an Allen County grand jury indicted Fort Wayne GOP mayoral candidate Matt Kelty for failing to disclose the source of a six-figure loan he received from three supporters. Instead of reporting the names of the three supporters, Kelty reported the money as a loan to his campaign committee from himself after the individuals loaned him the money. That according to special prosecutor Dan Sigler violated Indiana's campaign finance law.

Similarly, the state's campaign finance law requires candidates to itemize aggregate expenditures to any person or business exceeding $100. That same law allows the expenditure of political contributions to defray any expenses reasonably related to the person's campaign, continuing political activity or activity related to the person's service in an elected office. If a candidate can simply transfer the bulk of his political contributions to a campaign consultant's firm to expend on behalf of his campaign, how can it be determined if the requirements of the law are being fulfilled? Why not just make every expenditure for your campaign using a VISA credit card and show every expenditure of your campaign as a payment to VISA?

A strong argument can be made that what is taking place with the expenditures of Brainard's campaign is the exact same thing in reverse as what happened in Matt Kelty's campaign. Clearly, the spirit of public reporting of both campaign receipts and expenditures, if not the letter of the law, was undermined by both campaigns. The public has no way of knowing what Stakeholder, Inc. did with all the money paid to it by Brainard's campaign. How would the public know if funds weren't being given to Brainard, for example, instead of being spent for direct mail expenses, advertising and other campaign expenditures permitted under Indiana law? Brainard's campaign, despite reporting more than $551,000 in campaign contributions, reports a $20,000 loan from Brainard. Critics also point out that Stakeholder, Inc.'s owner, Allan Sutherlin, bankrupted another consulting firm he operated during the 1990s, leaving his employees and creditors unpaid.

Matt Kelty amended his campaign finance forms to show the true source of all of his receipts after the public learned what he had done. That wasn't enough to save him from an indictment. Jim Brainard at least owes the public an accounting of how all the money his firm paid to Stakeholder, Inc. was spent at a minimum. Perhaps the Hamilton County Election Board should consider whether more action is required.

A big hat tip to Ed Feigenbaum of the Indiana Legislative Insight for noting the irregularity in Brainard's campaign finance report this week. Feigenbaum had warned during the Kelty investigation that this very problem could arise on the expenditure side of campaign finance reports. Little did he know how soon his warning would become reality.

Relaxing Friday

Conley And Gibson Don't Make Short List For IPS Board Seat

You can all breathe a little easier now. Six finalists have been named for the IPS Board seat being vacated by Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams and former CCC members Lonnell Conley and Ron Gibson aren't among them. The new member will be chosen at a meeting of the full Board next Tuesday. The six finalists include:

  • Michael Cohen, professor emeritus, science and environmental education, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
  • Leona Frank, attorney, Frank Law Office.
  • Elizabeth Gore, retired USAirways reservations supervisor.
  • Cheryl Hall-Russell, chief executive officer, Indiana Youth Services Association.
  • Leroy Robinson, teacher, Lawrence Township Schools.
  • Tim Streett, associate director, Shepherd Community Church.

House Passes Daniels Property Tax Plan With Few Changes

While the Indiana Senate spent its day wedge-whacking the gay marriage amendment, the House devoted its time to weightier matters, namely Gov. Mitch Daniels' comprehensive property tax reform package. The House passed HB 1001 on a vote of 93-1, Rep. Craig Fry (D-Mishawaka) was the lone dissenter. It was quite refreshing to see the House work in a bipartisan fasion on an important topic for a change. The Star highlights some of the changes the House made to the Governor's plan. Some are good, while others are really bad. Here's what they changed:

  • Freezing property taxes for Hoosiers 65 and older who earn less than $35,000 per year and whose home is valued at less than $200,000.
  • Reducing the cap for property taxes on agricultural land to 2 percent from 3 percent of assessed value.
  • Doubling the renter's deduction on state income taxes to $5,000 from $2,500.
  • Making referendums apply only to school projects that include recreational facilities such as stadiums and swimming pools.
  • Placing the proposed homestead deduction in Daniels' plan on a sliding scale, giving less relief to owners of higher-priced homes.
  • Increasing the earned income tax credit for the working poor to 9 percent from 6 percent.

The change I most dislike is the big hole Democrats carved out of the referendum requirement on school construction projects. I don't like the idea of placing the homestead deduction on a sliding scale as the value of the home increases. The bill, as amended, also freezes property taxes for some senior citizens. While the overall plan will no doubt lead to lower property taxes, at least in the short run, these types of changes to the property tax system undermine the fairness of a tax which is already unfair. On to the Senate. Let's see what happens there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Amos Brown: Carson Must Address Farrakhan Issue

Folks in some quarters think Advance Indiana is being "Rovean" in raising issues about the decision of the late Rep. Julia Carson's family, including her grandson Andre, to invite controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak as an honored guest at the congresswoman's funeral, and to accept the endorsement of Farrakhan during the services as the person who should replace her in Congress. But even WTLC's radio talk show host Amos Brown agrees it is an issue Carson must confront in his campaign to win the 7th District special election on March 11 to fill her vacancy and earn the right to be elected to serve out a full term. Brown wrote in a recent "Just Telling It" column in the Indianapolis Recorder:

Many whites are suspicious of Andre’s religion. Andre and his wife are Muslim — regular Muslim, not Nation of Islam. But some white Democrats were nervous and skeptical of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s speaking at Julia Carson’s funeral. Elrod will make Andre’s religion an issue. Andre must address the religion issue and his patriotism and inclusiveness.
To hear Brown describe it, only whites are concerned about the appearance of the anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist Farrakhan at Carson's funeral. I can't imagine a respected white radio talk show host making a similar assertion about white supremacist David Duke without hearing public outrage ala Don Imus. Brown proudly poses with Farrakhan in this photo displayed on WTLC's website, where Farrakhan is referred to as the "Honorable." Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) recently repudiated Farrakhan after it was disclosed by the Washington Post's Richard Cohen that Obama's church had recently bestowed an honor on Farrakhan. Obama's minister claimed Farrakhan "truly epitomizes greatness" in honoring him. "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan," Obama said. Judging from the comments reacting to the attempted hit piece on Advance Indiana and the campaign of Jon Elrod at the liberal Democratic blog, Blue Indiana, this issue is as much of a problem among Democrats for Andre Carson's campaign as it is among Republicans and independents. This issue will not die as much as Carson's campaign wishes it would. Carson's defense, according to his campaign treasurer Erin Rosenberg, is that it was his grandmother's dying wish that Farrakhan speak at her funeral. Rosenberg, incidentally, was the only person to walk out on Farrakhan's speech during the funeral.

Beat That Dead Horse

Because they have no better or more important business to conduct on behalf of the people of Indiana, the Senate's Judiciary Committee wasted a half of a day debating a constitutional amendment, which has already been declared dead this year, simply to show how much fun they have attacking gay people. The Committee passed SJR-7, the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages and the recognition of any legal incidents of married for unmarried straight or gay couples, on a 5-4 party-line vote.

Today's action was completely superfluous because the Indiana Senate already fulfilled its constitutional requirement to amend Indiana's constitution when it passed SJR-7 for the second, consecutive General Assembly last year. The House killed the proposal in committee last year, and the same House Rules Committee Chairman, Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City), has already declared that his committee will not take a vote on the unnecessary and mean-spirited amendment.

In case you were wondering, yes, same-sex marriages are still illegal in Indiana just as they have been througout the state's history. Nothing about that is going to change as a result of the failure of this amendment to be written into our constitution.

Meanwhile, over in the House, a couple of the more whacky legislators, Rep. Jeff Thompson (R)and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), have once again filed killer amendments to Rep. Greg Porter's and Rep. Jon Elrod's hate crimes legislation, HB 1076, to prove to the world just how much they hate gay people. Maybe Harrison Ullman was right about our state having the worst legislature in the country.

Misplaced Priorities Continue Under Ballard

Indianapolis' elite establishment has convinced Mayor Ballard that one of his number one priorities in the opening months of his administration should be the landing of a Super Bowl for our city at some date years off into the future. The Star's John Strauss reports:

Mayor Greg Ballard is expected to announce the city's plans for a Super Bowl bid next week. And Mark D. Miles, whose sports experience includes the 1987 Pan Am Games and 15 years as head of the ATP Tour, a men's professional tennis circuit, has been talking to the mayor's team . . .

Miles said exact roles were still being worked out, but a member of Ballard's transition team said Miles will lead the effort.

"He's an outstanding choice," Melissa Proffitt Reese said. "His connections here are so deep and varied that he's a natural choice."

Ballard spokesman Marcus Barlow said the mayor likely would have an announcement regarding the Super Bowl bid next week, possibly Tuesday . . .

Backers secured $25 million in private pledges. But there is no guarantee how much of that money will be available for a new bid. And the NFL has changed the bid requirements, which now say the host city must accommodate a fan and community event for 50,000 people.

Recall that the NFL Commissioner specifically promised the State of Indiana and the City of Indianapolis that it would be given the opportunity to host a Super Bowl at the soonest possible date if taxpayers would only pony up $700 million to build a new palace in which the Indianapolis Colts could play. Our state and city foolishly fell for the promise and learned last year that the NFL owners care more about their own personal greed than keeping promises. The City's bid lost out to Dallas because it is building a new stadium which holds more people than Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium.

Beyond the NFL's greed, this is simply a misplaced priority of the worst order. With the City of Indianapolis' neighborhoods afire from rising taxes and out of control crime, it is simply unimaginable that a group of elitist would have the audacity to expect us to ignore these more pressing problems so they can plan a party years off into the future to which 99.9% of Indianapolis residents will not be invited. Super Bowl plans calls for creating a Green Zone around Indianapolis' downtown area ala Baghdad for the exclusive party and shutting everyone else out.

If these business people have $25 million in their pockets which they are just itching to spend, why not donate that money to the City to combat the growing problem of abandoned homes? Indianapolis has close to 10,000 abandoned homes scattered throughout its neighborhoods, creating blight and pockets of high crime activity. That's more than the City of Chicago, a city several times our size. Our residents are having to resort to self-help to deal with this growing problem because the City of Indianapolis doesn't have the leadership or the money to deal with this problem. Many people are simply giving up and moving out to the suburbs. Let's get our priorities straight, Mayor Ballard. We voted you into office for change. Cowtowing to Indianapolis' elite establishment is no way to endear youself to the people who worked hard to elect you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Eric Miller Launches Bigoted Assault On Hate Crimes Bill

Advance America's Eric Miller has returned to the Indiana legislature this year with an anti-gay bigoted message to lawmakers to kill HB 1076, hate crimes legislation authored by Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jon Elrod (R-Indianapolis). "Should homosexuals and cross-dressers get special protection," Miller rhetorically asks in an e-mail to his followers entitled, "URGENT LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!!". The e-mail warns that "the bill establishes a very dangerous precedent because it would create two classes of victims and punish someone more because of their thoughts." It goes on to list these reasons for opposing HB 1076:

  • This bill sets up different standards for victims of crimes. For example, if a man walking out of a gay bar is mugged this would constitute a more severe crime than a grandmother who is mugged while walking down the street.
  • This bill represents an attempt to give special protection to homosexuals and cross dressers by stating that a crime against them is to be treated with more severity than a crime against a senior citizen, a child or a pregnant mother.
  • This bill represents a step in the wrong direction with regard to free speech. Will the next step be to prohibit speech that someone views as hateful? For example, will legislation be introduced to prohibit pastors from speaking out against the homosexual lifestyle?
  • All crimes involve hate and ill will toward their victim. All crimes, regardless who the victim is, need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Once again, as Miller did last year, he provides blatantly false information about HB 1076 to his followers to work them up in an anti-gay lather. Miller attempts to convey to his followers that the bill would allow different treatment of criminals who commit crimes against a gay person as opposed to a senior citizen, child or pregnant mother. In fact, current Indiana law already allows a criminal defendant to be punished more harshly when his or her victim is a senior citizen, a child or pregnant mother. Indiana's criminal statute provides a whole list of aggravating circumstances which support harsher sentences. This is nothing new.

The legislation does not in any way impede a person's freedom of speech or religion as Miller falsely suggests. A person's guilt is determined by an underlying crime, not the bias which motivated the crime in the first instance. The bias the criminal exhibited in choosing to target his or her victim may be considered by a judge, among other aggravating circumstances, as a reason for imposing a harsher sentence. And as always, while the legislation covers a number of possible bias motives, including race, religion, ethnicity and sex, among other, Miller only singles out a person's sexual orientation as a basis for opposing the legislation. Miller's bigotry for gay people once again raises its ugly head.

Last year, Miller and his religious right followers were successful in loading down the legislation with hostile amendments pertaining to abortion and other unrelated issues as a way of killing the bill before it could be voted on third reading in the House. Miller's alert this year urges members to vote no on HB 1076 "because we should not give special protection for homosexuals and cross-dressers." It is about time someone in the legislature stood up and called Miller out for spreading blatant lies to defeat this legislation as he does year after year. Registered lobbyists should be required to comply with a code of conduct, which would prohibit them from disseminating false information to citizens of this state in an effort to lobby members of the Indiana General Assembly to vote a certain way on pending legislation. Let's call it what it is: fraud.

House Democrats Strip Referendum Requirement From Tax Bill

The people in charge of re-electing a Democratic majority in the Indiana House of Representatives are going to have a tough time with a party-line vote which took place during the second reading debate on HB 1001, the comprehensive property tax reform proposal recommended by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Amendment Number 72, offered by Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend), exempts most school construction projects from a public referendum requirement. Unlike most states, Indiana allows local governmental bodies, such as school districts, to approve bond issues funded by property tax levies without first obtaining the approval of the voters through a referendum.

Niezgodski claimed during debate that necessary school buildings would not get built if the proposal remained in tact according to the Star's report on the deliberations. "Do you think the people we serve are stupid or dumb?" Rep. Jeff Espich asked Niezgodski. Of course, Niezgodski replied, "No." Nonethless, this vote could quite effectively be used against Democrats in tight races this November. I'm surprised House Democrats strung their members out on this vote. At least Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jim Schellinger, whose architectural firm has made millions off school construction projects, can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that the House Democrats are fighting to preserve his bottom line.

Elrod Hopes To Reach Independents And Moderates

Republican 7th District GOP hopeful Jon Elrod tells Star columnist Matt Tully he hopes to reach independents and moderates in his uphill battle to win the Democratic-leaning congressional district's special election on March 11. He plans to run a congressional district office which provides constituent services like no other. "You hear that type of talk from many candidates every election cycle," Tully writes. "But you have to take everything you hear from Elrod more seriously." "After all, he's built a reputation as a thoughtful, hard-working Republican who can win races in Democratic territories in Indianapolis."

"Congress has a 19 percent approval rating for a reason," Elrod said. "People are tired of the games. They're tired of the wedge issues. They're tired of the fighting." "I'm going to run my campaign on my issues," Elrod said. "I'm more than willing to tell you where I stand on other issues and why I stand for them. Not everyone is going to agree -- not everyone in my party and not everyone who is a Democrat -- but I think they can agree with my priorities. That's what it comes down to: priorities."

Elrod tells Tully that the GOP is energized by his candidacy. He'll visit with national GOP folks later this month about support for his campaign. Sen. Richard Lugar, who never lifted a finger to help out with Greg Ballard's mayoral campaign, will lend a hand to Elrod. He'll be participating in a fundraiser scheduled for next month.

Tully plans a story on Andre Carson next week. Anyone want to bet there won't be any tough questions about the support Carson's campaign has received from the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan or just exactly what qualifies Carson to run for Congress other than the fact that his last name is "Carson" and he's the grandson of the late Julia Carson?

Less Than Half Of IPS Students Graduate

Looking at the remarkably low graduation rate for IPS students, it is no surprise that so many inner city youth turn to a life of crime. New figures released by the state show that IPS has a graduation rate of just 46%. The state rate, while considerably higher, is still only 76.5%. Northwest High School turned in the lowest rate in Marion County at 40%. The highest rate among traditional high schools was a 90% graduation rate turned in by Speedway. The Star's Andy Gammill reports that changes implemented at IPS to turn the graduation rate around are expected to take hold in three years according to school officials

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Anderson And Ballard Send Memo To Reassure IMPD Officers

Mayor Greg Ballard and Sheriff Frank Anderson sent the following memorandum to members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to show the two are united in their resolve to combat crime in our city despite their differences over who should control the police department. The memorandum reads:

To the men and women of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, it is our privilege to address you in a single, joint memorandum, because we are of one mind on the issues we address here.

Much has been made in the media and elsewhere in recent days of a supposed rift between the Indianapolis Mayor and the Sheriff about which elected official should primarily be responsible for law enforcement in Marion County. The truth is that each of us has the respect of the other, we treat each other accordingly, and we both want to arrive at a law enforcement configuration that conforms to the justifiably high expectations of the people we serve.

In short, we share a common commitment to providing the citizens of Marion County with the absolute best lineup, leadership, configuration, efficiency, and effectiveness in the realm of public safety.

True, we do have some straightforward differences at to which elected official should be responsible for law enforcement in Marion County. The Mayor believes authority should rest with the Mayor's office; the Sheriff believes the same authority should rest with the office of the Sheriff.

We also have different opinions as to how this question should be resolved. The Mayor believes this decision should rest with the elected representatives of the City-County Council, while the Sheriff believes it should be put to a referendum by the people.

We both agree further that all of you, as well as the public we serve, deserve a definitive answer to this question, and soon. An ordinance filed on behalf of the Mayor two weeks ago, seeking to transfer authority for IMPD to the Mayor, is currently scheduled to be heard on January 30 in the City-County Council's Public Safety Committee. We encourage all of our citizens to participate in the legislative process involving the Committee and the full Council.

For our part, we pledge civility in this discourse and encourage our respective administrations and supporters at all levels to follow suit. This means that we all must continue to put public safety and public confidence above politics, and agree that your efforts and your bravery must be strongly supported as you continue in your important work.

The outrageous and heart-rending events of this past week on Hovey Street--the cold-blooded slaying of children while in their mothers' arms--remind us of the challenges and the evil we must successfully confront together. Our commitment to punish and eliminate this evil means we must stand firm, stand together, do our jobs with all our energy and all our hearts, respect the chain of command as it exists today unless a change becomes law, and continue to forge successfully a single law enforcement department that deserves its place among the best in the nation.

United we will stand against crime, divided and distracted, we cannot be effective. As the Sheriff has said, IMPD is in a "war" to maintain--block by block--a safe, sane, decent, orderly and caring community. With your dedication and commitment, it will prove to have been a war that can be won.

With our thanks and admiration for all you do, we remain.

Hon. Greg Ballard, Mayor
Hon. Frank J. Anderson, Sheriff,

Hovey Street All About Drugs

Judging from the probable cause affidavit Indianapolis police filed in connection with last week's quadruple homicide on Hovey Street, a few hundred pounds of pot just acquired by the home's owner, James "Dick" Walker, was what led the four men in police custody to the home on the night of the killings. They were hoping for an easy robbery with only the two women and children in the home. When they arrived and found the pot missing, one of the intruders, Ronald "Action" Davis, allegedly fired 10 shots at the women as they clutched their babies in their arms on the floor in the bedroom.

I was somewhat surprised some of the names in the probable cause affidavit weren't redacted before it was released to the public. I hope no person's life is in danger because of the disclosures. At one point in the affidavit, it discusses the men being at an apartment building at 16th & Park. Twelve blocks away is a little too close to home for me. The four accused are scheduled to be in court Wednesday morning.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the confusion over the correct address is probably responsible for the men escaping from the crime scene. Police were dispatched at 10:31 p.m. on that Monday night and were near the scene at 10:34 p.m., but they didn't located the correct address until 10:56 p.m., fifteen minutes later. As the police first responded, the black SUV, which served as the get-away vehicle, was backing north a few blocks north of the house, while another one of the co-conspirators walked passed police on the street a few houses away.

Sen. Glenn Howard Also Hospitalized With Unexplained Illness

Almost missing in today's news that Sen. David Ford (R-Hartford City) is listed in critical condition in a Fort Wayne hospital with an unexplained illness is a brief mention in the Star's online edition today reporting that Sen. Glenn Howard (D-Indianapolis) is also hospitalized with an illness. According to the Star, Sen. Howard has missed the entire legislative session to date. "The family really has not informed me, other than that he is in the hospital," [Sen. Richard] Young said. " I don't know what the illness is, and they have been very quiet about it. I do not know when he would return, but I hope it's shortly." The report says messages left by the Star at Howard's home were not returned. Young told the Star that Howard filled out paperwork which allows him to continue to receive his pay, notwithstanding his absence. Well wishes to Sen. Howard as well.

Sen. David Ford Hospitalized In Serious Condition

State Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) announced to his Senate colleagues this morning that Sen. David Ford (R-Hartford City) is in a Fort Wayne hospital being treated for "a very serious illness." "Kenley’s voice cracked several times while talking about what a thoughtful leader Ford has been in the Senate," the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Niki Kelly writes. “He speaks his piece,” Kenley said. “He is willing to voice his opinion during a stampede the other way.” Ford has been absent from the Senate for the past week. Best wishes to Sen. Ford for a speedy and full recovery.

UPDATE: Late afternoon reports indicate Sen. Ford has been diagnosed with cancer.

Hey, Principal, Leave That Teacher Alone

Never underestimate the ability of a public school system to unleash its wrath on any teacher who dares to step outside the box to engage her students. A 27-year veteran of Perry-Meridian, Connie Heerman, faces possible termination for utilizing the "Freedom Writers" approach to teaching which encourages her students to read and fosters acceptance of cultural diversity. Not an approved part of the school's curriculum says the school's administrators. As a consequence, Heerman faces possible termination for insubordination. The Star's Andy Gammil writes:

A Perry Meridian High School teacher’s attempt to follow the lessons in the popular movie “Freedom Writers” has ended with her saying she was censored and the district trying to fire her for insubordination.

Connie Heermann, a 27-year teacher, attended training last summer with Erin Gruwell, the California teacher who inspired the movie.

Gruwell has earned fame for sparking excitement in her apathetic students through writing. Heermann hoped to have the same impact at Perry Meridian.

So when Heermann returned from the training, she started talking with Perry Township administrators about using the lessons in her 11th-grade English class and talked of plans to use a book of diary entries from Gruwell’s students in her own classroom.

The book, which has been taught in other schools around the country, contains passages with racial slurs and some sexual content. At least one other district — in Howell, Mich. — has seen controversy over using the book . . .

The “Freedom Writers” approach encourages students to write about their own experiences, to reach out to other students of different backgrounds and to work toward a future that includes attending college and taking an active role in their communities . . .

The discussion of the book echoes a debate last year when a School Board member and local ministers protested Perry Meridian’s production of the play “Ragtime” because it contained racial slurs.

Heermann, who has been placed on administrative leave, expects a hearing before the School Board . . .

In early November, Heermann collected permission slips for students to read donated copies of “The Freedom Writers Diary,” the collection of essays by students in Gruwell’s original class.

Heermann said Principal Joan Ellis gave her the nod to go forward, and she passed the books out to students. The district says permission never was granted.“I sought their approval,” she said.

“They never told me I couldn’t until half my students had the book in their hands.”

At that point, Heermann said, a district administrator e-mailed her and said that she should not teach the book. The e-mail, she said, broke her heart as she saw students reading with rapt attention for the first time.

She continued with the lessons for a few days and then told students to turn their books in following an order from the principal. In the first class, 19 of 22 in the room refused.

Heerman's supervisors may have a point on whether she displayed insubordination in how she reacted to their order to stop teaching the material, but at the same time her frustration with her bosses' reluctance to promote and encourage teachers to step outside the box is completely understandable. You can read more about the Freedom Writers Foundation here, which promotes innovative teaching methods.

Monday, January 21, 2008

State Markets Adoptions

The Star's Tim Evans takes a look today at state efforts to boost the number of adoptions of foster kids in Indiana. Efforts the past couple of years increased adoption of troubled kids by 40% according to his report. Evans writes of the state's marketing efforts:

The Department of Child Services is using sophisticated advertising and marketing techniques that allow prospective parents to essentially shop for adoptable foster children on an Internet site and in a slick monthly magazine.

The new project, focused on finding permanent homes for thousands of Hoosier children taken from their parents by the department and left adrift in foster care, emphasizes reaching out to minority parents through churches and community groups.

It is part of an effort to speed up the process of finding safe, permanent homes for children who have been taken from their parents due to neglect or abuse and who cannot return home.

The number of children available for adoption through Indiana's child welfare system increased by more than 60 percent, from 1,959 in 2000 to 3,195 in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Most live in foster or group homes after courts have permanently cut their parents' ties through a legal process called termination of parental rights.

The whole notion of allowing potential parents to shop online for a child to adopt raises some concerns given how much the Internet has become the tool of choice for predators. The efforts are certainly well-intentioned just as long as the proper safeguards are being followed to ensure the best interests of the children are upper most in any adoption decisions.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Star Bias For Carson All Too Apparent

Well, it's happening all over again. Just like the Star showed bias for the late Rep. Julia Carson in its coverage of her political career it is now using its bias to boost the political career of Andre Carson. How many times in recent months have you picked up the newspaper and found a large, smiling photograph of Andre accompanying a news story about him? In stark contrast, the 30-year-old photogenic Jon Elrod, who earned his place the old fashioned way by working for it, is lucky to earn a tiny photograph, if any, in what scant coverage the Star has given him since he announced his candidacy for the 7th congressional district last November. Today, the Star is at it again, displaying a large, color photo of a smiling Carson holding his daughter Salimah in its "Behind Closed Doors Column" to bring us the great news:

Andre Carson is getting fundraising help and strategic assistance from the national Democratic Party for the March 11 special election to fill the remainder of the term of his grandmother, the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat who heads the Democratic congressional Campaign Committee, said Carson "will build on his grandmother's
accomplishments for the people of Indianapolis."

Democrats already have the advantage in the district, which presidential nominee John Kerry won with 58 percent of the vote in 2004.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has not announced any similar help for Rep. Jon Elrod, the GOP nominee.

The first disclosure reports showing how much Carson and Elrod have raised are due Feb. 28. In addition to helping to steer donations Carson's way, the campaign committee could decide to spend some of its own funds on the race.

The party, which has significantly more money in the bank than the Republicans, spent about $245,000 unsuccessfully trying to take over a GOP-leaning district in a special election in Ohio and spent about $80,000 to hang on to a Democratic-leaning district in a special election in Massachusetts.

Carson is one of 10 Democrats running in open seats or special elections this year that the campaign committee recently added to its assistance program.

The party last year started fundraising help for Democratic Reps. Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill.

Unlike the 7th District, those districts will all be represented by Republicans in the previous election.

The entire point of the story is to suggest that Carson will have help in raising money for his race from his party and that Elrod will have no help from his party. It's the same game the Star has been playing with us in race after race where it has already decided who should be elected to represent us and goes about covering a political race in a manner which makes its own choice become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Well, the blogs didn't let you get by with it in last year's mayoral race, and we'll be damned if you get by with it in this congressional race. Andre Carson is not qualified to hold this seat, and the blogs will make sure the public understands this in spite of the best efforts of the liberal, hand wringing Dennis Ryerson to hide this fact from the public. Andre Carson and his family brought to his grandmother's funeral the most divisive racist and anti-Semite in the country--a fact of which the Star has devoted zero coverage--to endorse Andre's candidacy. It was the defining moment for his congressional bid. He can run but he can't hide from it. We won't let him.

Police Think They Have The Killers

In just four days, IMPD has rounded up and the prosecutor has charged the four men police think carried out the shooting deaths of two mothers and their infants at a house on Hovey Street known by neighbors as a drug and gambling house. Two thirty-year-old men, Dantae Hobson and Ronald Davis, are charged with the murders. Zanumin Coleman, Jr., 21, and Jasper Frazier, 35, face robbery-related charges. I think the entire community is pleased with the rapid response of local law enforcement in apprehending those responsible for these horrific killings. My only reservation about the arrests is the early indication coming from local television reports, suggesting that police believe robbery was the motivation for the crime. Given the ties of at least two of the victims to the Haughville syndicate, I have a difficult time accepting that theory. I should point out that the Chief Michael Spears is not publicly stating any motive for the crimes yet.