Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hillary Loses It: Accuses Sanders Campaign Of Lying About Her Record

Hillary Clinton took strong exception when a Greenpeace activist asked her about rejecting campaign money from fossil fuel companies. Clinton went off on the activist, pointing her finger in her face and accusing the Sanders campaign of lying. She says she only accepts money from people who work for fossil fuel companies, not the companies themselves. Does it make a difference if the contributions come from the executives running the companies as opposed to the corporations?

Court Of Appeals Allows Evidence Of Plaintiff's Undocumented Status For Purposes Of Awarding Damages

In a divided opinion, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that evidence of an undocumented alien's status is admissible for purposes of determining a worker's work-related damages for lost future income. The ruling severely limits the amount of money Noe Escamilla will be able to recover in a personal injury action he brought against the general contractor for the work site where he was working at the time he was injured.

Escamilla worked as a masonry laborer for a subcontractor, Masonry By Mohler, which was performing work on a construction site where Shiel Sexton acted as the general contractor. Because of the injuries Escamilla suffered after falling on ice, he is no longer able to work as a masonry laborer. He sued Shiel Sexton because the construction contract covering work on the site held the general contractor responsible for maintaining the work site free of hazards to laborers working on the job site.

The problem for Escamilla in recovering lost future wages is his status as an undocumented alien. The facts in the case indicate that Escamilla never obtained work authorization to work in the United States; rather, he used false documentation to secure his employment. The case doesn't address whether his employer knew he was using false documentation in order to work, which I personally think is a factor that should be taken into account. Most employers know whether their employees are using false documentation because they get a no-match response when they file their payroll taxes.

Shiel Sexton argued at the trial court level that evidence of his undocumented status should be admitted because his future earnings must be based on his earning potential in Mexico rather than the U.S. since he cannot work legally in the U.S. presently. Obviously, Escamilla's attorneys wanted that evidence kept out not only because of its prejudicial effect but because future earnings in Mexico would be less than if calculated based on employment in the U.S. The facts indicate Escamilla has spent his entire adult life working in the U.S., albeit illegally.

Judge Melissa May was joined by Judge Cale Bradford in affirming the trial court's decision denying Escamilla's motion in limine barring evidence of his undocumented status or offering expert testimony based on employment in the U.S. rather than in Mexico. The majority opinion believed the prejudicial effect of that evidence didn't outweigh its probative value. Judge John Baker filed a dissenting opinion, believing the majority failed to properly account for the evidence's prejudicial effect. He also thought, if the evidence is allowed, the defendant should have to show that Escamilla faced imminent deportation from the country, which the facts don't support.

During the oral argument, Escamilla's attorneys offered evidence that he has a pending adjustment of status case before USCIS based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen, which has a strong likelihood of approval. The Court of Appeals struck that evidence from the record because it had not been offered at the trial court below. The majority opinion notes, however, that if Escamilla is able to obtain legal status with work authorization by the time of trial, it directed the trial court to re-evaluate the probative value of the evidence of his undocumented status and whether his future wages should be based on potential earnings in the U.S. as opposed to Mexico.

Hat tip to Indiana Law Blog.

IPS Officials Still Silent On Discipline For Failure To Timely Report Child Abuse

WRTV's Kara Kenney checked in with IPS officials to determine what, if any, disciplinary actions the school district has taken since it became aware a half dozen school officials, including the school's superintendent, neglected to follow a state law that required them to immediately notify state child welfare workers or law enforcement after learning a school counselor had engaged in sexual relationships with students. Those officials waited six days before reporting sexual abuse allegations against Shana Taylor, who was quickly arrested by police after the report was made.

Kenney was unable to find any evidence of any official being discipline yet. The school's principal, Mark Cosand, who was out on medical leave at the time of the incident recovering from a stroke, resigned his position but he's still eligible for other employment with the school district according to Kenney's report. IPS board president Mary Ann Sullivan assured Kenney that disciplinary actions are "in process." Sullivan assured Kenney that the board is taking the matter "so seriously." The Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office told Kenney the matter is still under investigation when she asked if other charges would be filed in the matter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Indianapolis Businessman Netted $2.9 Million Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana announced that a 41-year old Indianapolis businessman has agreed to plead guilty to cashing more than 800 fraudulent income tax refunds. Angel Marchena Suazo owned Don Angel Multiservices, LLC, which claimed to provide legitimate tax and check cashing services.

“When someone files fraudulent tax returns, in essence, they steal from all Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler. “This office will always pursue tax thieves and as the deadline approaches for all of us to pay our taxes, those who choose to steal Treasury funds should be watching over their shoulder.”

What the U.S. Attorney's Office intentionally omits from its news release is the fact that con men like Sauzo use undocumented immigrants as pawns in this scheme to prepare and file fraudulent tax refunds. There's no indication in the press release that any of the persons who pocketed the funds stolen from the IRS after Sauzo took his 15% cut of the fraudulent refunds were charged with any crimes.

These guys typically use stolen social security numbers to file these returns, which innocent taxpayers discover when they file their tax returns only to learn someone else has already filed and claimed a refund using their social security number. Sauzo didn't always rely on others. He also submitted about 100 fraudulent returns to directly benefit himself from which he pocketed $21,000 of the $227,000 in claimed refunds before the IRS caught on to his scam.

A U.S. Treasury's Inspector General memo from the week of June 9, 2014 prepared for the White House noted the arrest of Sauzo and a woman, Jacqueline Chavez Barragan, for violation of conspiracy, false claims, theft of public funds and aggravated identity theft. Virtually the entire background report on their arrest was redacted from the document. The Office of Inspector General, the IRS and the Secret Service executed search warrants and arrested Sauzo and Barragan on May 29, 2014. "Numerous treasury check images, identification documents, debit card images, and lists of personal identifiable information were recovered from the search warrant locations," the memo read. The U.S. Attorney's Office press release makes no mention of Barragan.

Suazo has agreed to pay full restitution for the $2.9 million stolen from the federal government. He faces a maximum prison sentence of ten years and a $250,000 fine.

Indiana State Chamber Of Commerce Endorses Young

The Indiana State Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support in the Republican primary Senate race to U.S. Rep. Todd Young over U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman. Here's the full statement released by the business organization:
The Indiana Chamber is endorsing Congressman Todd Young (R-IN, 9th District) in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The announcement was made today at a press conference at Indiana Chamber headquarters in downtown Indianapolis.
“We believe Todd Young is the most qualified and most economic-minded individual running for the Senate seat,” said Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “He has repeatedly demonstrated sound fiscal policy and prudent decision-making on issues that are vital to jobs and economic growth.”
Brinegar further emphasized Young’s engagement with the business community and his focus on economic, fiscal and regulatory issues.
“After he was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee, the congressman sought substantial feedback on potential federal tax reforms and what would have the most impact on Hoosier companies and their employees. He listened to our members – through personal conversations and a survey – using their insights to help form his pro-economy agenda.”
The Indiana Chamber’s nonpartisan congressional action committee, comprised of volunteer business leaders from around the state, determined Young’s endorsement.
At both the state and federal levels, Indiana Chamber endorsements are driven by vote scores on pro-jobs, pro-economy issues. For state endorsements, the Indiana Chamber relies on its Legislative Vote Analysis report. Congressional endorsements are based on a combination of the U.S. Chamber’s own vote scores and an analysis of votes on Indiana Chamber federal policy positions.
Representatives of the U.S. Chamber, which also is supporting Young’s campaign, joined the Indiana Chamber for the press event.
Does the Chamber's endorsement help or hurt Young?

Local Pastor Pleads Guilty To Federal Charges Related To Spice Drug Ring

There are new developments in that very strange spice drug ring that involved a host of local characters. An Irvington pastor, Robert Jaynes, Jr., has pleaded guilty in a federal court in St. Louis to producing more than 100 tons of synthetic marijuana known as spice used in a multi-million dollar drug ring. Jaynes faces up to 12 1/2 years in prison for his crime and forfeits $41,000 and 800 pounds of "silver colored" bars and coins. Jaynes' brother-in-law, Kirk Parsons, pleaded guilty to the same charges.

The two men were among 13 individuals from multiple states charged in what authorities describe as an international drug ring according to the Indianapolis Star. Jaynes founded a church in Irvington in 1998 and involved several church members in his enterprise. That included a married pair of deputy sheriffs in Hendricks County, Jason and Teresa Woods. Jaynes was also tied to Russell Taylor, the former executive director of Jared Fogle's foundation who is now jailed on his role in producing and distributing child pornographic materials.

A former Libertarian candidate for state senate and local businessman, Doug Sloan, has been accused of selling the illegal drug and laundering the proceeds through a business called Beautiful Cars. Charges against one of Sloan's partners were dropped after a Carmel man, David Neal, committed suicide while being held in a jail in Seattle, Washington. Neal had been accused of buying more than $240,000 worth of spice from Jaynes. Jason Woods is awaiting trial in Hendricks County on charges of bribery and assisting a criminal in connection with the drug ring. Woods' wife, Teresa, pleaded guilty to unrelated charges. Jason Woods is accused of using his job as a deputy to provide security for the spice-production operation in New Palestine.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Surveillance Video Released Showing Shooting Of Off-Duty Indianapolis Firefighter

WISH-TV obtained surveillance video of the shooting of Indianapolis Firefighter Kevin Gill, who also doubles as a deputy coroner for the Marion County Coroner's Office. If the surveillance video is any indication, it's pretty obvious what caused the shooter to go after Gill. The 37-year old male, Jerry Glover, who police identified as the shooter, is still at large. Police originally said Gill stopped by a home in the 2200 block of E. 38th Street to pick up some food when he was shot while returning to his Corvette parked in back of the home. Glover was described by police as a neighbor of the woman Gill had visited. Gill supposedly wasn't able to provide police a motive for Glover firing shots at him. Is IMPD still claiming it doesn't have a motive for the shooting?

Special Prosecutor Investigating Monarch Beverage Campaign Contributions

This is a campaign finance story that has been brewing for some time, and it appears a special prosecutor is now investigating it. Monarch Beverage, which is a corporation, a number of years ago set up a limited liability company, Vision Concepts, whose primary mission seems to be to make campaign contributions to candidate and party committees its affiliated company is barred under Indiana's campaign finance law, which places a $22,000 cap on corporate contributions.

Indiana's campaign finance law establishing limits on corporate donations was written before the law allowing the creation of limited liability companies existed. Mindful of the omission, state lawmakers knowingly chose not to amend the campaign finance law's corporate donation caps to apply to limited liability companies. This has resulted in a major loophole in the law that allows businesses to skirt the contribution cap. Monarch's Vision Concepts, LLC has made $1.5 million in campaign contributions over a period of years according to the Indianapolis Star. The Indiana Beverage Alliance filed a complaint with the Indiana Elections Board last year accusing Monarch Beverage of breaking Indiana's campaign finance law.

To nobody's surprise, the Elections Board never investigated the complaint. The Indiana Beverage Alliance then took its case to the Indiana State Police and Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry. How it happened isn't clear yet, but the Indianapolis Star is now reporting that former state Inspector General David Thomas has been appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate Monarch's campaign contributions. Monarch's CEO, Phil Terry, insists Vision Concepts is a legitimate business entity and not a sham company created just for making campaign contributions. Presumably, Curry requested a special prosecutor because he's been a past recipient of campaign contributions from Vision Fleet.

This is not an isolated issue. In last year's mayoral campaign, what appeared to be a phantom business, Indy Project Venture, LLC, sprung into existence and one week later made a $50,000 campaign donation to Mayor Joe Hogsett's campaign. After media inquiries seeking to learn the identity of the campaign donor were initially turned aside by a representative of the company, Scannell Properties eventually fessed up to creating the new business to support its interest in public safety and education. The firm denied it was interested in developing a new criminal justice center after the Democratic-controlled City-County Council followed Hogsett's lead in coming out against the private consortium chosen by the Ballard administration to develop a privately-operated criminal justice center. It was a peculiar move by Hogsett because his law firm's lobbying arm was being paid by the Ballard administration to lobby the council for passage of the deal.

Nationally, public interest groups have complained for a number of years that phantom businesses are being set up to make large campaign contributions to SuperPACs, PACs and other campaign committees. This has raised questions about whether campaign finance laws prohibited foreign contributions in federal elections is being circumvented by the use of phantom firms. Congress has shown no interest in reforming campaign finance laws to address these concerns just like the Indiana General Assembly has shown no interest in amending Indiana's campaign finance law to close this big loophole. Against that backdrop, I would be very surprised if Thomas chose to seek charges in this case.

IPS Board President's Husband Has Financial Stake In Outcome Of Coca-Cola Property Sale

Mary Ann Sullivan (left) with WRTV's Rafael Sanchez (WRTV Photo)
It's quite amazing what our local news media failed to disclose when it obtained copies of bids submitted to the Indianapolis Public Schools by competing developers to purchase and redevelop that valuable Coca-Cola property on Mass Avenue. Thanks to a tip from a reader, buried in documents made available on the IPS' website we discover that Shiel Sexton is listed as the general contractor on the two alternative bids submitted by Milhaus Properties.  Brian Sullivan, who is the managing partner of Shiel Sexton, is married to IPS Board President Mary Ann Sullivan. None of the news stories reported by our local mainstream media have once mentioned the financial ties Sullivan's husband has to the prized development project on the board's agenda. Sullivan has no choice but to recuse herself from this decision, although I'm sure prior acts by the board have ensured her wishes will be carried out.

Milhaus Properties submitted two of the six proposals the IPS board will consider after getting a recommendation from a Real Estate Advisory Committee the board established to review the proposals. Under proposal A, Milhaus is offering to purchase the Coca-Cola property for $15 million for a $121 million investment. It is seeking a $6.5 million public subsidy from the City of Indianapolis for that proposal. Under proposal B, Milhaus is offering to purchase the property for $17.5 million for a $217 million investment. It wants $25 million in public subsidies for its alternative proposal. In addition to Shiel Sexton, Milhaus is partnering on its two proposals with Core Redevelopment, Ratio Architects, SHK, Shrewsberry & Associates, High Alpha (i.e., Scott Dorsey) and Nextech.

The real estate advisory committee making recommendations to the board consists of Maria Quintana (Bose McKinney), Bill Taft (LISC), Hope Tribble (City of Indianapolis), Bud Myers (IHA), Andy Hine (ARC Design), Lisa Jeff (L'Acquis' Ventures), George Tikijian (Tikijian Associates) and Maury Plambeck (Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center). The tangled web of conflicts these individuals have makes it impossible for them to objectively evaluate these competing bids, but hey, who's asking any questions anyway? The committee was originally supposed to recommend a preferred bidder at the board's March 17th meeting but a vote was delayed until next month after board members requested more time to review the competing proposals. It's not clear which bid proposal the advisory committee favors at this time.

According to the IBJ, Abbe Hohmann of Site Strategies, LLC is coordinating the bid process for IPS. In addition, IPS hired a former mayoral staffer in the Ballard administration, David Rosenberg, who seemed to play some role in almost all of the controversial, illegal transactions in which the prior city administration was involved, including Vision Fleet, Blue Indy and the aborted Criminal Justice Center project. He gets a key role in this project after he was hired by the board as IPS' new director of operations despite the fact he lacked any of the qualifications the posted job opening required applicants to possess, a fact of no interest or consequence to our useless local news media. Obviously, IPS has no authority to make any decision over what subsidies the City of Indianapolis plans to offer for the project, but Rosenberg told the IBJ he had discussed the subsidy question with city officials and that he didn't think the request for subsidies "would kill the project." Of course not. The politicians won't bite the people greasing their palms regardless of how much it costs the lowly taxpayers.

Brian Sullivan, incidentally, penned a column in the latest edition of the IBJ promoting the passage of the quarter percent increase in the local income tax to fund a bus rapid transit system that could cost taxpayers upwards of $1 billion. Sullivan's construction firm will no doubt get a piece of that action as well if it comes to fruition. All of the firms which pay off the politicians with large campaign contributions always seem to be on the winning bid teams.

Columbus City Council Member Forgets To Close Shades, Charged With Indecent Exposure

Columbus City Councilman Dascal D. Bunch
Indiana State Police say a Republican member of the city council on three different occasions exposed himself when he stood next to windows in his home unclothed without the shades pulled. Dascal D. Bunch has been charged with one count of indecent exposure based on three separate incidents reported by Bunch's neighbors, which took place in March and November of 2015 and a third time in January according to the Columbus Republic. Columbus Police turned the complaint over to ISP to investigate after determining the accused was a city council member.

The charges were brought by Jennings Co. Prosecutor Brian Belding after Bartholomew Co. Prosecutor Bill Nash, a Republican, requested the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the case. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Coriden, also a Republican, has said she intends to recuse herself from the case and request the appointment of a special judge. The criminal complaint alleges that Bunch positioned himself in front of the uncovered windows so people could easily view him through his uncovered windows. Assuming for the sake of argument that Bunch was doing nothing more than standing in front of his windows naked and not exposing himself to minors, do you think he committed a crime? I ask the question because I've heard people frequently joke about their neighbors forgetting to pull their shades.

UPDATE: It appears complaints about Bunch have extended back to at least 2011. A neighbor complained in 2011 that children out on the street were able to see a pornographic movie Bunch was viewing from a TV mounted on his living room wall. Columbuzz reported on several incidents over the years that neighbors believed were not being properly investigated by police. One neighbor, Michelle Geron, even took pictures of the incidents and shared them with police. Read the past reports by Colubuzz here.

FBI To Interview Hillary Clinton: Media Yawns

The Clinton campaign obviously turned to a friendly news publication, the Los Angeles Times, to leak news of pending interviews by FBI agents of Hillary Clinton and other top aides who worked for her regarding her handling of classified information while serving as Secretary of State. The story is replete with cautions about not reading too much into the interviews because Clinton's nuanced denial of sending or receiving classified information on her private e-mail server is based on the fact it wasn't marked classified at the time it was sent or received. Of course, communications that originate from top government officials are never marked classified at the instant of their creation; rather that's determined after the fact when archiving the documents and determining what, if any, can be released to the public. Because of the nuances of how Clinton and her top staff mishandled classified information, the LA Times assures us there is little, if any chance, she will face any criminal charges. The infighting between Republicans continue to dominate the news coverage of the presidential race as opposed to Clinton's repeated and continued wrongdoing while in public office.

Chicago Charter School Goes On Spending Spree At Taxpayers Expense

CEO of UNO Juan Rangel and Mayor Rahm Emanuel before the mayor announced a new Welcoming Ordinance, at Little Village High School 3120 S. Kostner, which will make Chicago a more immigrant-friendly city. Tuesday July 10, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
UNO's former Supt. Juan Rangel (left) with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Sun-Times photo)
It's the kind of reporting we could only pray the media would offer to us in Indianapolis. The Chicago Sun-Times' Watchdogs exposes the gross misuse of public dollars by a major charter school player in the Windy City. The culprit is United Neighborhood Organization ("UNO"), a nonprofit community organization that serves Chicago's Hispanic community that turned into a clout heavy entity with close ties to Chicago political power brokers once it entered the charter school business.

Although UNO's charter schools are funded with public dollars, Sun-Times Watchdogs had to take legal action to force UNO to release its financial records. What the Sun-Times learned was that the UNO charter schools superintendent, Juan Rangel, and members of his staff were spending taxpayer money like drunken sailors at pricey restaurants and on out-of-state travel, in addition to a plethora of clout heavy lobbyists and consultants who helped the organization snag funding for its charter schools.

According to the Sun-Times, UNO's charter schools received $87 million of the total $91 million in revenues it received during a recent year from state funding. In the year before, Rangel was forced out of his $275,000 a year job after it was learned UNO spent $98 million in state-provided construction dollars for new schools on firms that were owned by Rangel's top deputy and other school officials. In a two-year period alone, Rangel spent over $60,000 on 31 out-of-state trips to places like Nicaragua, Mexico and China, as well as other cities around the country. He also billed over $60,000 on his American Express platinum card as some of Chicago's most expensive restaurants. The school billed a total of over $80,000 for meals at expensive Chicago restaurants. Rangel even billed concession expenses he incurred while attending Chicago Fire major league soccer games at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

A clout heavy law firm was paid more than $650,000 to lobby officials to obtain funding for UNO. A law firm that contributes heavily to House Speaker Mike Madigan's campaign was paid close to $1 million. An insurance firm that employs the Speaker's son was paid $72,000. A politically-connected PR firm got paid $65,000. UNO spent about $150,000 on a grand opening ceremony for a new charter school that included fireworks, a laser light show and a mariachi band. Another $11,000 was spent busing demonstrators to rallies in support of charter school funding. Gift cards for spa treatments were purchased to give away to employees.

We badly need this kind of reporting in Indianapolis where the media fawns all over the charter schools and the education profiteers behind them who are getting very rich using our tax dollars with virtually zero oversight on how the money is being spent. I don't know about you, but I'm getting sick and tired of the media here spending so much time looking at petty corruption by small-town government officials while they turn a blind eye to the stealing of our public tax dollars by the tens of millions of dollars. The self-dealing going on at these Indianapolis charter schools by these profiteers has got to be exposed.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Heavily-Subsidized Ash Project In Fort Wayne Hailed As Making Market More Competitive

So Fort Wayne used its downtown TIF and Legacy Fund to heavily subsidize the construction of a 9-story, $98 million mixed use commercial development in the heart of downtown. The city's investment in the project is about $39 million, which included construction of a parking garage, land acquisition, site preparation, streetscape improvements, utility upgrades and other project enhancements. A story in today's Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reports the new development is filling up face with new tenants and "creating a more competitive market for commercial space." A closer look at who is leasing space in the development gives a clearer picture of who actually benefits from this major public investment:

  • Ash Brokerage, the developer of the project, is relocating its Fort Wayne headquarters into the building.
  • DuCharme McMillen & Associates is relocating its offices from the city's north side into the Ash Skyline.
  • Barnes & Thornburg is moving its offices down the street in the Indiana Michigan Power Center into the project. That building is owned by Hanning & Bean, which was supposed to invest $30 million in an apartment project as part of the Ash Skyline project until it pulled out of the project.
  • Other tenants include a Lake City Bank branch, a fine chocolate store, a YMCA branch and a restaurant.
The question not asked by the Journal-Gazette is how the city's $39 million public investment in the project benefits the public. What happens is that taxpayers who don't reside in a TIF district wind up being higher taxed to make up for the tax dollars being cannibalized by the TIF district's projects. As can be seen by this project, there's no net development benefit for the greater Fort Wayne area. Jobs and money are just being moved around. So yeah, Ash's building is getting new tenants, but it's coming at the expense of other landlords. I guess you can call that increased competition. I call it picking winners and losers. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Albuquerque Approves Bus Rapid Transit Over Strong Public Opposition

Debate over Albuquerque's proposed bus rapid transit system dubbed "ART" has been going on for several years and has developed strong opposition from business owners along the Central Avenue corridor where the two dedicated center bus lanes and about 20 bus stop stations will be built as part of the public transportation system its proponents say will attract over 15,000 daily riders. The city council approved the $119 million project at a contentious council meeting this past week by a 7-2 vote after a 4-hour debate where the word "boondoggle" was uttered repeatedly by the many opponents who showed up to testify against its approval.

Albuquerque's ART is being touted as a "catalytic project" that will drive over $900 million in new development along its Central Avenue business corridor according to its supporters. Albuquerque already had in place a rapid ride bus system that it invested in several years, which will be scrapped to make way for the new federally-funded project. Albuquerque officials are relying on about $100 million in federal grants to build the new bus rapid transit system. The city will kick in just $18 million for the project and no new taxes are planned to operate the system.

Opposition from business owners has been fixed on the loss of two lanes of traffic on one of the city's most busy streets, along with the loss of the ability to make left turns at many intersections along the route. Business owners are also concerned about the loss of business they will suffer during the drawn-out and grueling construction process that will be required to complete the project. The focus on the benefits has been driven by what the so-called millennial residents expect in a livable city. The meme is that these younger residents don't want to own automobiles and want to live where they can easily commute short, quick distances to work.

The arguments seem very similar to the arguments behind the first phase of Indianapolis's Red Line, a 13-mile bus rapid transit line that will initially run from 66th Street in Broad Ripple on the north south, down College Avenue to 38th Street where it will jog over to Capital and then south all the way to Washington Street over to the new central bus station. From there it will head down Virginia Avenue and then south on Shelby Street all the way to the University of Indianapolis campus on the south side. Like Albuquerque's ART, the Red Line will feature north-south, dedicated bus lanes with 28 bus station platforms to allow boarding in the middle of the street where the dedicated bus lines will run. Left turns along the route will be the exception once the line is completed.

That's just the first phase, which IndyGO officials claim will only cost $98 million. City officials plan to tap a $75 million federal grant to cover most of the Phase 1 construction costs, with the rest coming from TIF funds and IndyGO's reserve fund. It's curious that the Red Line's costs come in below Albuquerque's ART, which has more than a quarter fewer permanent bus stations that will be built. It's also very doubtful that construction costs in general would run less in Indianapolis than they would in Albuquerque where there is an abundance of cheap immigrant labor that generally drives down wages, and the infrastructure there isn't as old and is less costly to update than Indianapolis' infrastructure. Indianapolis is also anticipating about 11,000 daily riders on the Red Line, or nearly one-third less than Albuquerque's ART.

A big difference between the two bus rapid transit systems is that Indianapolis' is driven by a desire to connect the city's rapid transit system with the suburban counties to the north and south. Indianapolis taxpayers are being asked to pay a quarter percent higher income taxes to support the operation of the Red Line, which works out to about $120 a year in higher taxes for the average household. Part of Indianapolis taxpayers' expenses will be spent reimbursing the private parking meter operator for lost revenues, which stands to lose a considerable number of metered parking spaces along the planned Red Line route during and following construction, a problem Albuquerque doesn't face. Both rapid transit lines are based on the transit-oriented development ("TOD") model as opposed to a user-driven system. Build it and they will come is the expectation of attracting more riders and development in an area where the buses run quicker and more frequently so commuters have shorter wait and commuting times, or so they claim.

Connections to Hamilton and Johnson Counties won't come until subsequent phases dependent upon voters in those counties imposing income tax increases to pay for the suburban connections running as far north as Westfield and as far south as Greenwood. Officials in those counties are taking a wait-and-see approach, allowing less affluent residents in Indianapolis to shoulder the risk of developing the system it's leaders are driving to allow low-income workers to commute daily to jobs in their communities where they shutter at the thought of investing in affordable housing that might attract "those people" to their communities. They want only higher-income earning residents making their homes in their communities.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Should National Enquirer's Ted Cruz Mistress Scandal Be Taken Seriously?

National Enquirer interior pages, accusing Ted Cruz of five extra-marital affairs.
The National Enquirer hit news stands this week with explosive allegations that Sen. Ted Cruz has carried on extra-marital affairs with as many as five women. Although the Enquirer didn't name the mistresses, it gave titillating hints of who they were (a sexy school teacher, a D.C. lawyer, a foxy political consultant, a hot babe and a $1,000 a night prostitute) and included pixelated images of the women. The names of the alleged mistresses named in the tabloid story have surfaced in some media reports and a couple of those identified have offered general denials.

Sen. Cruz gave mainstream media an excuse to talk about the alleged affairs when he spoke to reporters today to blast the rumors as "tabloid garbage" and accused Donald Trump and his hinchmen of planting the story, an accusation Trump denies. The National Enquirer is actually owned by an old Clinton political crony, Roger Altman, and other reports have suggested that allies of Sen. Marco Rubio have been peddling the story of Cruz' alleged affairs for months.

Interestingly, one of the identified mistresses is a former Cruz campaign worker who now works for Donald Trump's presidential campaign as a spokesperson. Trump's former, long-time political adviser, Roger Stone, has peddled the story, but he separated from Trump about the time he kicked off his presidential campaign to promote his new book, "The Clintons' War On Women."

Amanda Carpenter, Cruz' former spokesperson, and Katrina Pierson, a former Cruz campaign worker now working for Trump, both denied having an affair with Cruz when their names were identified as two of the women named in the Enquirer report. Sarah Isgur Flores, another former Cruz campaign worker who most recently worked on Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign, has also been identified as one of the alleged mistresses. Some news sources are suggesting there may be something untoward about a $500,000 campaign contribution made to Fiorina's campaign by a super PAC supporting Cruz about the time Flores joined her campaign,

Whoever is the source of the story, the allegations can't be summarily dismissed just because it was reported by a tabloid newspaper like the Enquirer, particularly one that has broken news of several other high-profile affairs, including former Sen. Gary Hart, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Tiger Woods and John Edwards. All of those reports were met with initial denials, only to be later confirmed as true. The messiness of it all has to be music to the ears of Hillary Clinton and Democrats who are just sitting back and watching the Republicans cannibalize their own.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pence Courts RFRA Redux: Signs Anti-Abortion Bill Into Law

Gov. Mike Pence signed into law an anti-abortion bill supported by pro-life groups. It provides that a woman cannot terminate her pregnancy because she discovers the fetus she is carrying will produce a child with a birth defect, such as Down Syndrome, because of the child's sex or race. There are already signs this could ignite another nationwide debate not unlike last year's controversy over the governor signing Indiana's version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Here's his signing statement explaining why he signed it into law.
“Throughout my public career, I have stood for the sanctity of life. HEA 1337 is a comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life, which is why I signed it into law today.
“I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn. HEA 1337 will ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child's sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry, or disability, including Down syndrome.
“Some of my most precious moments as Governor have been with families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome. These Hoosiers never fail to inspire me with their compassion and these special children never fail to move me with their love and joy.
“By enacting this legislation, we take an important step in protecting the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother. I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families.”
Indiana law generally restricts abortions after twenty weeks. Pro-choice groups will no doubt file a lawsuit to contest the constitutionality of the law since it would appear to encroach on her constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks under privacy and liberty rights the Supreme Court says are guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment.

Pence later issued a signing statement for another bill he signed into law that replaces all male-specific pronouns in the Indiana Code with gender neutral pronouns. "I’m proud to sign it into law and hope it serves as a source of encouragement for future generations of women leaders here in Indiana,” Pence said. Do you think that will be enough to placate his detractors? Probably not.

State Education Board Member's Wife Rewarded Executive Job With Nonprofit Boosting Education Choice

Jennifer Wagner is the former spokesperson for the Indiana Democratic Party and she currently owns her own PR consulting firm, Mass Ave PR. She's also married to Gordon Hendry, a real estate broker for CBRE and an appointee of Gov. Mike Pence to the Indiana State Board of Education where he's been a constant thorn in the side of Democratic State Education Supt. Glinda Ritz. Some are now questioning whether a new job Wagner has taken with a nationwide nonprofit education group should require Hendry to resign from the state's education board.

Wagner announced on her Twitter account today that she's becoming the Vice President of Communications for the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice beginning on April 4. The Friedman Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis that was founded in 1996 to advance school choice for all children throughout the United States. Its CEO, Robert Enlow, has served on the conservative ALEC organization's education task force, and he also serves as a board member of the Carpe Diem privately-operated charter school within the IPS district and Hoosiers for Quality Education. One of IPS' current board members, LaNier Echols, has served as a top administrator at Carpe Diem.

Wagner's new job continues to raise the specter that board members who are supposed to be serving the public's interest are in fact being financially rewarded for ties to outside actors with a vested interest in their decision-making authority. Advance Indiana has pointed out that several IPS board members, in addition to Echols, have outside roles with the education profiteers that conflict with their roles serving the public school system. Wagner served as a paid consultant to several current members of the IPS board and, following their election to the board, those same board members rewarded her by creating a contracted PR position serving the board members, which paid her firm $2,800 a month, even though the school district already had its own full-time communications director. Is the Friedman Foundation hiring Wagner because of her experience as a spokesperson for the Indiana Democratic Party, or because of the role her husband plays advancing their agenda on the state education board?

Hogsett Taking A Crack At Toughening Indy's Ethics Ordinance

A proposed ordinance backed by Mayor Joe Hogsett would take some steps to put some teeth in the toothless ethics ordinance written by former City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn and his former law firm on behalf of former Mayor Greg Ballard, who never delivered on the ethics laws he promised when he first ran for mayor. The Star's Brian Eason discusses some of the changes included in Proposal No. 146, which include:
  • Annual reports filed by lobbyists would require disclosure of gifts worth $25 or more made to an official, appointee or employee to include "other things of value" in addition to food, drink, honoraria, travel expenses and registration expenses.
  • The annual reports filed by lobbyists would have to identify the actual official, appointee or employee who received the gift.
  • Lobbyist and lobbying firms found to have committed repeated violations of the registration and reporting requirements could be banned from lobbying and contracting with the city, in addition to the small penalties the law provides for violations.
  • Current officials, deputy mayors or other individuals with appointment authority to an agency will not be allowed to accept second employment with a firm that has a contract, agreement, purchase or other arrangement to provide supplies, real property or services to a city-county agency unless it's another governmental entity. 
  • Former employees will be subject to a one-year cooling off period for lobbying activities related to an agency or an official as a substantial responsibility of their employment or contractual relationship.
Eason's story talks about the proposal creating a "Disclose Indy" portal where information can be obtained online, including contracts, campaign finance reports, crime stats, budget and spending information and audits. Actually, that's already a requirement under the existing law. It's just that the information is scattered currently on the city's existing website and extremely difficult to navigate.

I notice the proposal does not in any way strengthen the ethics reporting requirements of officials, including city-county council members, appointees and employees. The current reporting requirements are useless and provide no serious penalties for non-compliance. That's one of the reasons few lobbyists bother complying with the current registration and reporting law. Eason's story notes there are only 28 persons currently registered to lobby city-county government and nobody has ever been penalized for violating the law. 

I notice the dual employment ban included in the ordinance doesn't apply to city employees like Vernon Brown and Steve Talley. Brown earns over a $100,000 a year as a battalion chief for IFD and is also paid over $50,000 a year to serve as Warren Township Trustee. Talley makes about $53,000 a year in a make-work civilian job at IMPD and also earns about $42,000 to serve as Lawrence Township Trustee. It also permits the arrangement that we recently discussed following the shooting of an off-duty firefighter, Kevin Gill, who is also employed by the Marion Co. Coroner's Office as a deputy coroner. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Scales: Proposed Red Line Bus Rapid Transit Favors "Choice Over Need"

The following is a guest column by Third District City-County Councilor Christine Scales

Public Transportation can be a ride out of poverty. So why are the very first miles of the proposed Red Line Bus Rapid Transit System being constructed along a route running through trendy Broad Ripple and the high property value neighborhoods of Arden, Forest Hills and Meridian Kessler?

Access to transit in impoverished areas offers the promise of economic and educational mobility. Expanded opportunities for better jobs, schooling, and services are made available for people in efficient and affordable ways through quality public transportation.

Initial construction of the Red Line Bus Rapid Transit route with a northern starting point at 66th and College exposes the Regional Mass Transit Plan’s misplaced priorities. First in line to buy tickets on the Red Line won’t be those hungering for a better life. They will be those already enjoying the good life that is sought by current IndyGo riders. Still finding themselves at the back of the line, on the back of the bus-will be those whose concerns about their environment relate more to reducing gun violence, than reducing carbon emissions.

The bus fares purchased on the first and northern most BRT route will be by riders living in the 46220 zip code area. There, median yearly household incomes hover at $62,000.00 and unemployment runs at 6.5%. Contrast those statistics with residents living in all but one adjacent zip code located to the south, east, and west of 46220. Unemployment in those areas runs from 13.3% to 26.7% and median incomes range from $26,000 to a high of $39,000.00.

Marion County Transit Groups from IndyGo, CIRTA and MPO assert that funding for Phase 1 of the transit plan, the Red Line, has been secured. A special ordinance introduced at Monday’s City County Council meeting authorizes a referendum seeking funding for subsequent phases of a 5-year public transportation plan through an income tax increase. With implementation of future phases dependent on the outcome of the referendum, the question must be raised. Why aren’t the first BRT routes being constructed in neighborhoods populated with particularly low income wage earners and high unemployment rates who are totally dependent upon public transit to access employment and services?

It appears that the goals of officials and civic leaders promoting the current Red Line BRT route have shifted by prioritizing service to the “haves” rather than the “have-nots”. Recently unearthed notes taken during my first meeting with IndyGo Executive Director Mike Terry in 2007 are titled with a quote from him, "Choice vs. Necessity". By Mike’s own statements, the Purple Line running across 38th Street and Washington Street’s Blue Line were to be designated highest need and highest priority in allocation of transit enhancement dollars. It was from Mike I learned that 70% of IndyGo riders are categorized as transit dependent households. The costs for car purchase, maintenance, and insurance is so high that home maintenance costs become secondary to car expenditures in a majority of low income households. For that reason, a lack of reliable public transportation is considered a contributing factor to urban blight. Need, or necessity is why the very first implementation of a major BRT line beginning at 66th and College is a questionable allocation of scarce transit funds.

IndyGo's first priority is to serve "the least of these" among us-those who have no other alternative means to travel to work other than public transportation. Instead, "Choice" appears to supersede “need” in the redesigned transit plans that emerged around 2012. In the city’s publicized attempts to attract its share of Millennials as a place to call home, Millennials must be catered to and provided transit choices. However, the Millennials Indianapolis hopes to attract to live and work here are being recruited for professional positions with salaries that will pay enough to support the purchase and maintenance costs of a car. Their marketable talents allow them to afford rent or purchase housing in high cost living areas such as Downtown, Broad Ripple and Meridian Kessler. With "SoBro" now reaching as far south as 46th and College, the majority of North College Red Line users daily tough choice will be car or BRT-while 70% of their fellow IndyGo riders might choose between groceries or bus fare.

The initial mass transit routes focusing on the Green, Purple and Blue lines were supported by countless studies and recommendations made by the major transit groups and blessed by the Indy Chamber. Many transit grant dollars paid for publications showing graphs, maps, and economic wonder potential to sell the public on the need for light rail and BRT on those particular routes. Now, different routes are being espoused as "the best" based on more money spent and more studies undertaken. Which of the recommendations should the public believe are the "best"? The preferred routes change, as does the preferred mode of transportation, changing from light rail to BRT? Or simple express bus service?

Answers from IndyGo asking why the shift to Choice over Need by constructing the city's first BRT line on N. College centered on”TOD”-transit oriented development. TOD has been touted as one of the primary goals and benefits that will result from the current recommended mass transit plan. The up side-there are great promises of return on investment to be had-for developers. For proprietors of multi-generation owned restaurant and retail establishments located on North College Avenue-they foresee vanished parking spots for customers driving cars as leading to their demise. There's also the possibility that bus stop placement will not be located a walkable distance to certain existing businesses. The upside to this-investors will be able to snatch up those 1 and 2 story properties for a song and convert them to the multi story retail/ housing density mix being counted on for the Red Line’s future ridership numbers. Does North College Avenue need the artificial stimulation to prompt economic development? Or- is it already occurring there “organically”, as some nearby residents insist it is?

The greater need and opportunity for “TOD” is along the socially and economically hurting Blue and Purple routes rather than along the northern Red Line corridor. Abundant vacant and inexpensive land is available all along E.38th and Washington Streets to fit high density, affordable rent apartment complexes. An uptick in available, modern housing will serve as a catalyst to attract more quality businesses. Consider how improved access to jobs and an uplifted quality of life in these neighborhoods might also lower crime rates-making our city safer for all.

Scarce city budget dollars too often are allocated towards spending that reflects choice vs. necessity. The Midtown TIF which benefitted Meridian Kessler, Broad Ripple and Butler Tarkington neighborhoods was approved quickly by a Council vote. The Avondale Meadows TIF-sought to attract a grocery store for an impoverished food desert community, languished for years before receiving approval. Upscale, downtown high rise condos and apartment developments receive speedy, unanimous votes of Council approval while many affordable housing projects fall by the wayside.

Mega millions in city tax dollars are sent along to billionaire sport team owners so that more luxury suites can be added to a stadium already paid for by taxpayers. Yet-our first responders who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis, are cheated out of the 3% salary increases promised them in their contracts. Now, the citizens in greatest need of efficient public transportation are taking a back seat in the bus system so that higher income riders can be the first to access wi-fi equipped buses.

Indy Go’s slogan for years has been, "People you depend on, depend on IndyGo". Never has that been truer than now. Seventy percent of current IndyGo riders are depending on leaders in transit and the city to make their rides to improved jobs and lives more dependable. An enhanced, modern, comprehensive county wide transit plan should reflect old-fashioned transit principles placing need before choice.

Voters shouldn’t allow transit and city leaders to rationalize placing transit choice ahead of need. Before a referendum seeking increased taxes to pay for an enhanced mass transit appears on any ballot, let those who love this city, show they love their neighbors as themselves. Transforming our transportation system must first focus on transforming lives and neighborhoods so that our city, and all who are in it might have the opportunity to flourish.

Christine Scales
Indianapolis City County Councillor District 3

South Bend Reaches Agreement With Indian Tribe On Casino Project

Indiana's only federally-recognized Indian tribe, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, has reached an agreement with South Bend to develop a casino on land it plans to take into trust for the tribe on the city's southwest side to develop a casino. The tribe had no legal obligation to enter into an agreement with South Bend, but the tribe saw it in its interest to reach an agreement with the city that benefited both the tribe and local residents.

According to the South Bend Tribune, the Pokagons have agreed to share 2% of the annual net casino revenues with the city, which will not be less than $1 million if the casino has between 850 and 1,699 games, and not less than $2 million has 1,700 or more games. The Pokagons have also agreed to share $5 million in donations over a 5-year period for a diverse list of projects, including South Bend schools, a newborn intensive care unit at Memorial Children's Hospital and more than $2.2 million to make improvements to Howard Park along the St. Joseph River downtown.

The Pokagons were prepared to build a casino in St. Joseph County two decades ago after the tribe attained its federally-recognized status, but state and local opposition and lobbying by other casino interests blocked the tribe from reaching an agreement to build in Indiana. Michigan officials in 1998 jumped at the opportunity to negotiate a compact with the tribe under which it developed its highly successful Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, which has wreaked havoc on casino revenues of other northeastern Indiana casinos since its opening in 2007.

Referendum Language For Income Tax Increase For Mass Transit

Some readers have expressed concern about the wording of the referendum proposed for the November election which would allow Marion County's local income tax rate to be raised another quarter percent, or a little more than 14%. The referendum language was set out in the state law requiring the referendum procedure. Here's its wording:
“Shall Marion County have the ability to impose a county economic development income tax rate, not to exceed a rate of 0.25%, to pay for improving or establishing public transportation service in the county through a public transportation project that will create a connected network of buses and rapid transit lines; increase service frequency; extend operational hours; and implement three new rapid transit lines?”
Here's an important point to keep in mind regarding the financing of this Red Line. Indianapolis officials have already decided to tap federal money to begin work on the first phase of implementing the planned 37-mile bus rapid transit line known as the Red Line that would extend from Westfield south to Greenwood before awaiting approval of the income tax increase. IndyGo plans to use a $75 million grant included in President Barack Obama's budget to build a 13-mile leg of the Red Line from 66th Street in Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis on the south side.

The 13-mile leg of the Red Line would cost at least $96 million to build. IndyGo plans to tap TIF funds, the Department of Public Works budget and its own reserve fund to make up the $21 million difference. Without the income tax increase, building additional segments of the Red Line and paying for its estimated annual $6 million operating costs are problematic. The $6 million figure seems a bit too low.

The connectivity to Hamilton and Johnson Counties is highly speculative as well. Neither of those counties have any plans in the next few years to make funding available for the Red Line or to place a referendum on the ballot to increase their own income tax rates to pay for it. It's also my understanding that the Red Line will not have dedicated bus lanes outside Marion County so Carmel and Greenwood residents won't face the traffic disruptions that will be felt across the Marion County.

Unhinged Trump Haters Keep Stealing Supporter's Yard Signs

A Broad Ripple resident complained to WTHR that he's had a dozen Trump signs he purchased stolen from his front yard in recent weeks. He placed a security cam in his home that captured eight separate thefts of his signs. The unidentified Trump supporter says he's filed police reports for all of the thefts and police nabbed one of the thieves, although WTRH doesn't name the thief. "Since I've had the signs, I have been yelled and cursed at by multiple drivers who have passed me in my front lawn near the trump sign," the unidentified man said. "The insults have ranged from being called a 'racist' to being called 'a disgusting human being," he said. Media reports last year complained that people were stealing the "Pence Must Go" yard signs some Indianapolis area residents placed in their yards after Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

John Gregg Turns Back On Labor

Prevailing wage and right to work may be hot button issues with organized labor, but they are not issues Democrat John Gregg plans to take up if he succeeds in defeating Gov. Mike Pence this year. He won't try to repeal right to work or reinstate the prevailing wage law. The Indianapolis Star says Gregg made those comments to the newspaper's editors during an interview last week. That comes as a surprise to his union backers since they are his largest campaign contributors.
“I’m a realist,” Gregg said. “I’m going to have a (Republican) supermajority in both chambers. The right-to-work issue — that was settled two years ago. There is absolutely no way that is going to be repealed.”
When asked if the common wage issue would be on the table if he was elected, he said, “No, none of that stuff is with the numbers we’ve got.”
Those comments came as a surprise to some of the union leaders who are helping to bankroll Gregg’s campaign.
“To be honest with you, I’m a little shocked,” said David Frye, business manager for the Indiana Laborers District Council. His organization spent more than $370,000 on TV ads to combat the common wage repeal effort last year and, along with its affiliates, has contributed more than $450,000 to Gregg’s campaign.
It sounds like Gregg is taking his labor vote for granted and is speaking more to the chamber of commerce folks. Is it a winning strategy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Gannett Can't Stop Trump In Arizona

In the Ohio Republican primary held last week, the Gannett-owned Cincinnati Enquirer went all in for Gov. John Kasich and lambasted Donald Trump at every turn. Kasich succeeded in denying Trump a win in his delegate-rich home state with a winner-take-all rule. Tonight, Trump rolled to an easy victory in Arizona in spite of the full-court press by the Gannett-owned Arizona Republic put on to deny Trump a win in another winner-take-all state. It urged the state's voters to back Kasich. It looks like the hard line on immigration enforcement trumps the open borders position taken by Gannett in this border state.

Trump collected all of Arizona's 58 delegates, capturing about 47% of the vote, more than 20 points higher than Ted Cruz' distant second place finish. Kasich received just 10% of the vote. What's particularly interesting about Trump's win in Arizona is that his winning percentage almost matches what Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney each received in this state when they were on the way to winning the Republican nomination in 2008 and 2012, respectively. McCain and Romney each received about 47% of the vote. It's McCain's home state, and it has a large Mormon population. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton smashed Bernie Sanders in Arizona, winning better than 60% of the vote.

Republican and Democratic voters are also caucusing in Utah tonight. Ted Cruz is expected to win Utah easily, one of Mitt Romney's home states with a large Mormon population. Romney urged Utah Republicans to support Cruz. There are 40 Republican delegates at stake in Utah. Democrats are also caucusing in Idaho tonight. Even if Sanders managed to pull off wins in Utah and Idaho tonight, he's too far behind to catch Clinton's insurmountable lead.

UPDATE: Sanders easily beat Clinton in the two caucus elections in Idaho and Utah with 78% and 80% of the vote, respectively. Cruz won the Utah caucus vote with 69% of the vote. Kasich and Trump got just 17% and 14% of the vote, respectively. Interestingly, Marco Rubio got a larger share of the vote in Arizona than Kasich despite the fact he has dropped out of the race. Rubio came in third with 13% of the vote.

Here's how the delegate count stands now:



Albuquerque Business Owners Fighting Bus Rapid Transit Line

It looks like Albuquerque officials are ramming a bus rapid transit line it's calling ART down the throats of its city residents just because there's a pot of federal money available for the project like Indianapolis officials are doing to us. At least Albuquerque residents have some media that will allow a fair hearing on the pros and cons. Here in the Soviet Republic of Indianapolis, there is no room for discussion other than what is being pitched by the proponents, who all seem to have a vested financial outcome in seeing it built.

It also appears that affected business owners in Albuquerque are more clued in to how badly their businesses are going to be damaged along the route. Make no mistake about it. Probably half of the current businesses along the College Avenue corridor between 50th and Broad Ripple Avenue will go out of business following the completion of the line, if not before, which is exactly what the proponents want to see happen. As businesses fail, developers will sweep in and buy up their property on the cheap, level their building and construct cheap, high-density apartment buildings all along the corridor, ruining the tight-knit neighborhoods that currently exist there.

Read more about community opposition in Albuquerque  to the bus rapid transit system by clicking here. Also, check out how business owners in San Jose, California complain that they are being put out of business just enduring the disruptions caused by the long, drawn-out construction process for installing a rapid bus transit line there by clicking here. People had better wake up here in Indianapolis. The bus is already pulling out of the station, and those who will be impacted most by it are still clueless what dramatic changes they are going to see for the worse.

Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Dies From Cancer

The world's most entertaining, if scandal-plagued mayor, Toronto's Rob Ford, succumbed to cancer. Ford's diagnosis with a rare form of cancer caused him to abandon his controversial bid to seek re-election in 2014 after efforts to force him to resign from office were unsuccessful. Many funny things have been said of Ford. My personal favorite was the comparison made between Ford and former actor/comedian Chris Farley. Some conspiracy theorists actually claimed Farley faked his death in 1997 and re-emerged as Rob Ford, who won his first bid for elective office as a Toronto council member that same year.

Fort Wayne Panel Says New Downtown Sports Arena "Desirable And Necessary"

That didn't take long. Billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers acquired Fort Wayne's Mad Ants, a minor league basketball team, just last year. The city commissioned a study by Hunden Strategic Partners, the same consultant that told Indianapolis' Capital Improvement Board how critical it was that Indianapolis taxpayers start paying tens of millions of dollars in annual subsidies to the Pacers, which naturally recommended a new arena. That's followed by a mayoral committee to study a new arena and, surprise, the committee tells Fort Wayne taxpayers they need a new downtown arena.

The arena committee's chairman, Sweetwater Sound CEO Chuck Surack, announced at a press conference yesterday that his committee found that a new downtown arena was "desirable and necessary" if the city wants to be able to attract the "best and brightest." According to Surack, businesses are just sitting back and waiting to see if Fort Wayne is willing to make investments in "quality of place amenities" before making a decision whether to locate in Fort Wayne. Surack assured Fort Wayne residents that if a new arena is built downtown, it will attract follow-along investments of 7-10 times, none of which I'm sure will require massive public subsidies like all of the rest of Fort Wayne's recent downtown development projects.

How will Fort Wayne pay for the $65 million arena? There could be a new 1% tax on food and beverages. Money from the Legacy Fund could be tapped. Some funding from Fort Wayne's capital improvement board, which would likely issue bonds to finance construction of the 4,500-seat arena. The proponents say the new arena could host college and high school sporting events, musical entertainment and more, in addition to becoming a new home for the Mad Ants to play. According to Surack, having the new arena will free up other events to be hosted at Fort Wayne's Memorial Coliseum, a 13,000-seat multi-purpose arena that was built in 1951 and extensively renovated in 2002 at a cost of $35 million. About $4 million was spent on upgrades at the Coliseum in 2013.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bipartisan Council Members Sponsoring Referendum Question To Hike Income Taxes For Mass Transit

A bipartisan group of Indianapolis City-County Councilors want a referendum placed on this November's ballot which would authorize yet another increase in the local income tax rate to finance an expanded mass transit system intended to connect the existing bus system operated with IndyGo to the suburban counties which spend nothing on mass transit. Suburban counties will benefit at our expense from a costly bus rapid transit system that would allow low-paid workers from the inner city that the suburban counties don't want living in their communities to travel to and from jobs across the county line into the neighboring counties.

This tax increase comes right on the heels of a 10% income tax hike that took effect on January 1, about which taxpayers were once again lied and told would be used for public safety. In reality, it's being used to finance more giveaways to the politicians' campaign contributors from the ever-increasing percentage of property tax revenues being siphoned away by the TIF slush funds.

Marion County property taxpayers are already financing IndyGo to the tune of more than $65 million a year and will get no relief from the higher income tax to support the boondoggle spending planned for a $1 billion bus rapid transit system to benefit yet more of the politicians' campaign contributors, most of whom ironically live in Carmel or other suburban communities where they avoid Indianapolis' higher taxes.

Proposal No. 145 would authorize a quarter-percent increase in the local income tax, increasing the current rate by more than 14% from 1.77% to 2.02%, pushing the tax rate to the highest income tax rate in Central Indiana and one of the highest in the state, and giving Indianapolis residents further reason to flee the county to escape higher taxes. Indianapolis' income tax rate would be double the current rate paid in wealthy counties like Boone and Hamilton.

Councilors sponsoring the proposal include: Lewis (D), Adamson (D), Fanning (R), Scales (R), Robinson (D), McQuillen (R), Coats (R), McHenry (R), Miller (R), Osili (D), Johnson (D), Mascari (D), Evans (D), Kreider (R), Pfisterer (R) and Ray (D). That's more than enough votes to pass the full council. It just goes to show that there is no reason to elect Republicans to the City-County Council because they are as eager to raise taxes and spend like drunken sailors as their Democratic counterparts.

UPDATE: Advance Indiana has been advised by Councilor Scales that she never authorized her name to be included as a sponsor of Proposal No. 145 and requested her name to be removed from it. Scales indicated that Councilor Coats' name was similarly added to the proposal without his permission. ''

The Star now has a story online, which is naturally pro-tax increase.
 “I think it is absolutely the right thing to do to allow the voters to have their say in this,” Council President Maggie Lewis said. Sixteen of the council’s 25 members, including Democrats and Republicans, signed on as co-sponsors of the proposal. Two other council members, Jack Sandlin and Jared Evans, said they would have signed on as co-sponsors if asked.
Councilman Jeff Miller said the many co-sponsors were intended to show strong support for putting the measure on the ballot. “We don’t want this to be something that limps over the finish line,” Miller said.
Although Miller supports the bus rapid transit plan, he said backing the referendum only signals support for letting voters decide what they will pay for. “Then it comes down to its supporters selling it. But there should be no reason not to put this on the ballot,” Miller said.
I was hoping Jack Sandlin's name not being on the proposal was a smart political decision, but it appears it was left off by omission because he, too, supports the tax increase. The folks who want this passed all support his Senate primary opponent, Jefferson Shreve, the Democrat from Bloomington masquerading as a Republican.

By the way, don't let any politician tell you that their support of this proposal is only to let voters decide. They want this tax increase, and they know the referendum will pass by hook or crook if it appears on the ballot. When both political parties agree that something should pass, there is no fair vote on our computerized voting system. The voting software will be rigged to ensure it passes, and there's no independent voice to stop that from happening when the two political parties are colluding to get something done and so much money is at stake for their political benefactors.

According to the Star, the suburban counties plan to sit back and watch what Marion County does for a few years before deciding on whether to put a referendum on the ballot to fund any part of the mass transit boondoggle. By that point, another 50,000 Marion County residents will have fled to the suburbs.

Illinnoyed Ad Creator Goes To Work For Illinois

The vice president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Kelly Nicholl, is best known for creating the "Illinnoyed" ad campaign targeting Illinois businesses to relocate to Indiana. Nicholl has now gone to work for the Illinois Business and Economic Development Corporation as its new marketing director according to Crain's Chicago Business. "I guess I'm going to have to try to undo part of hard work in Indiana," Nicholl told Crain's Greg Hinz, but she does not expect that will be much of a chore. Nicholl maintained her condominium in downtown Chicago even after going to work for the state of Indiana so she's not really relocating. It's interesting that IEDC goes to such great lengths to protect its supposed "trade secrets" under an exception to the Indiana Access to Public Records Act it carved out for itself. Yet someone holding the palace keys is not bound by a non-compete agreement?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Todd Young And Erin Houchin Join Secretive Conclave Of Anti-Trump Billionaires In Palm Beach

It seems that U.S. Rep. Todd Young, who is seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Sen. Dan Coats, and State Sen. Erin Houchin, who is seeking the 9th District Republican nomination to succeed Young, are down in Palm Beach, Florida this weekend attending a conclave of anti-Trump billionaires. According to Politico, the event was organized by New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer and Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, both of whom have contributed heavily to SuperPACs spending heavily on negative advertising in an effort to stop Trump from getting the Republican nomination.

Politico reports that House Speaker Paul Ryan dined with Singer, Ricketts and other heavy-hitting donors at a pricey French restaurant Thursday night at the secret two-day conclave for what is "being viewed as a pivotal moment for the big-money effort to block Trump from the Republican presidential nomination. The donors described as anti-Trump have varying views on Trump going forward, with some supporting Cruz or Kasich, while others have remained open to the possibility of supporting Trump. Singer and Ricketts, however, want Trump stopped by any means possible.

Politico says the secretive event took place in a "tony resort hotel secured by guards wearing gold trident lapel pins." House Speaker Paul Ryan isn't commenting on his role at the event, although he's been especially vocal in espousing anti-Trump rhetoric. Ryan has so far proven to be as unreliable when it comes to pursuing conservative principles as his predecessor, John Boehner, who said after endorsing Kasich in the Ohio primary that he now wants Ryan drafted as the GOP nominee at what these establishment folks hope will be a brokered national convention. Ryan shot down his interest in being drafted as the GOP nominee this year.

Why exactly Young and Houchin were invited to attend the event of all of the candidates running for either the Senate or House this year is unclear. Politico says they were both scheduled to speak to the group of wealthy donors on Friday, along with U.S. Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada. Neither Young nor Houchin would respond to questions asked of them about their appearances at the event. "Sources familiar with the gathering said the politicians likely would stand to benefit from fundraising by members of the American Opportunity Alliance," Political reported. "It is a loose coalition of some of the richest pro-business GOP donors in the country, and it has helped raise money for select Republican candidates who mostly support hawkish foreign policy stances, and sometimes are moderate on social issues."

This seems to suggest to us that Young and Houchin have sold their souls to the elitist billionaires who are determined to plunder this nation for their benefit and to the detriment of the shrinking middle class. Perhaps they're signing on to the Gannett pledge to disavow Trump in an effort to get financial support from these elitist billionaires and at the same time try to weaken support for Trump ahead of Indiana's Republican primary, which may be consequential for one of the first times in many decades. One thing is clear is that none of  these people could give a damn about what is in the best interest of ordinary Hoosiers. Republican voters should be asking Young and Houchin why they're attending secretive meetings in Palm Beach with the nation's wealthiest billionaires while pretending to represent the interests of ordinary Hoosiers.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ozdemir Relieved As Airport Board Cancels Medical/Sports Complex Deal

The Indy Eleven's Ersal Ozdemir no longer has any worries about that half-billion dollar development project planned for the old airport terminal site, which included an 18,000-seat stadium its developers planned to use to lure a major league soccer team. The Indianapolis Airport Authority Board, now controlled by Mayor Joe Hogsett appointees, voted unanimously this morning to nix the medical complex Athlete's Business Network planned to develop at the site, along with that new soccer stadium according to the IBJ. If the development had gone forward and the stadium constructed, it would have dealt a death blow to Ozdemir's efforts to get a publicly-financed stadium downtown for his minor league soccer team.

The IBJ reports the vote came after a closed-door executive meeting of the board. "We will leave our options open and continue to search for the optimal project that will provide significant benefits to Central Indiana and especially the west side of Indianapolis," the board said in a written statement. "The airport has been listening to the community’s input and will always put our community first, so the IAA has cancelled the request for proposals for the 130 acres at the former airport site," the board’s statement said. "We will also continue to engage and gather feedback from our stakeholders, including the City of Indianapolis, our neighboring communities and others."

IPS Board Awaiting Disciplinary Recommendations From Dr. Ferebee For Failure To Report

IPS' high-paid top administrator, Dr. Lewis Ferebee, knew the very day an official at Longfellow Alternative Schools learned from a parent that a student counselor, Shana Taylor, was having sex with students. Yet Dr. Ferebee took no actions to ensure IPS reported the suspected child abuse either to the Department of Child Services or even the police department the school system operates. Instead, an assistant principal took that action six days later after realizing nobody had bothered to make the report state law requires be made immediately upon discovery.

Dr. Ferebee, whom the IPS board just awarded a massive pay raise, takes no responsibility for the failure. Instead, he blames at least five other school administrators, including the school's principal, who was out on medical leave at the time recovering from a stroke. Mark Cosand says he resigned as principal effective March 7 for "personal reasons," although it was clear Dr. Ferebee blamed him for the reporting failure. Cosand had been contacted by the school's assistant principal and made aware of the allegations made by a parent against Taylor the day it was first reported but assumed either the assistance principal, Dr. Ferebee or other persons at IPS' administrative office made aware of the allegations would ensure the proper reporting took place.

According to Dr. Ferebee, he had no responsibility to report to DCS because he didn't have the "relevant facts." "I did not have age, name, text messages, photos, anything that was associated with this claim," he told The Star. "So I just want to be clear about that. If I had that type of information, obviously I would have an obligation there. But I did not have that information." "It is not in my purview to confirm every CPS reporting or to confirm every allegation or report," he said. The fact he didn't ask those questions when made aware of the allegations speaks volumes about his imcompetence. He must have had more important things to do at the time like shopping for new clothes or being wined and dined by developers seeking the opportunity to purchase and redevelop the Coca-Cola property.

The Indianapolis Star and the rest of the news media in Indianapolis have given a complete pass to Dr. Ferebee despite the fact he is the school's superintendent. The board members who hired Dr. Ferebee to dismantle the school system have also directed no blame at Dr. Ferebee. They're actually allowing Dr. Ferebee to decide who gets disciplined despite his own culpability. "Board president Mary Ann Sullivan said the board is waiting for recommendations from Ferebee," The Star reported. "When asked whether the board would pursue disciplinary action against Ferebee, Sullivan said she could not comment on a personnel matter." "He’s doing a good job," said board member Kelly Bentley when his pay raise was approved. "He’s doing what we’ve asked him to do."

IPS Privatizes Two More Schools For The Benefit Of The Charter School Industry

I've been telling you folks that the mission of the education profiteers who seized control of the Indianapolis Public Schools is to dismantle the public school system in its entirety by privatizing all of the schools and turning their management over to private operators they have a financial interest in rewarding. To that end, the IPS board approved the privatization of two more public schools yesterday.

Control of Riverside School 44 will be turned over to Global Preparatory Academy. This is a mayoral-sponsored charter school run by Mariama Carson, the wife of U.S. Rep. Andre Carson. You may recall that former Mayor Bart Peterson's Mind Trust created a fellowship opportunity for her at Global Preparatory Academy to lure her away from her job as a principal at Pike Township Schools to run this charter school. It's a dual language school catering to Hispanics.

Joyce Kilmer School 69 is being turned over to Kindezi Academy, another mayoral charter school that's set up to operate as a segregated, black-only school. Its goal is to have less student-teacher interaction and more computer-led independent instruction. Students spend their day playing merry-go-round as they move in small groups from one work station to another throughout the school day.

The profiteering opportunities are mind-boggling. IPS gives these private charter schools free use of our public school buildings, but the taxpayers get stuck footing the bill to maintain the schools and the transportation of the students. Naturally, this arrangement meets with the one hundred percent approval of our Gannett-owned newspaper, which believes a charter school performs better than public schools even though the statistics show they fare no better on average and often perform even worse than traditional public schools.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Merrick Garland Has Past History As Partisan Hack Attorney For Democrats

The media could not be more glowing of their review of President Barack Obama's choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Merrick Garland is the most eminently-qualified candidate ever nominated to the Supreme Court liberal news commentators repeated over and over again yesterday. He's a moderate, even conservative on some issues they claimed. Republicans have really boxed themselves into a corner they declared. President Obama had called their bluff and appointed the most acceptable candidate Republicans could possibly expect from President Obama.

Now let's hear the rest of the story. I told you straight up yesterday following President Obama's announcement of his appointment that Garland was a partisan Democratic attorney, and it's a fact. One need only review the questionnaire Garland completed when he was nominated by President Bill Clinton for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to learn of his past participation in Democratic campaigns, something the much-criticized Justice Scalia had never done before he joined the D.C. Court of Appeals and later won confirmation as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court following the rejection by the Senate of President Reagan's first choice, Robert Bork, also a Court of Appeals jurist.

"I provided volunteer assistance on a Presidential Debate for President Clinton in October 1992 and for Michael Dukakis in October 1988," Garland wrote in response to a question on his previous political involvement. "I did some volunteer work for Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign in 1983-84. As a college student, I worked two summers for the campaign of my then-congressman, Abner Mikva, in 1972 and 1974." Perhaps you can attribute Garland's campaign work for Abner Mikva, one of the most liberal members of Congress ever elected from the state of Illinois to a youthful indiscretion but most likely not. Birds of a feather generally flock together.

Despite being a partisan hack politician, Mikva got appointed to the federal bench and once boasted that he tried to hire Clinton as a law clerk. Mikva, of course, later served as a White House counsel for President Clinton, playing clean-up after Vince Foster supposedly blew his brains out in Fort Marcy Park. That bombing in Oklahoma City that Garland headed up occurred during Mikva's service as Clinton's White House counsel, a terrorist event Clinton gladly exploited as being caused by right-wing extremists egged on by the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Mikva may not have snagged Clinton as a law clerk, but he did snag another Obama appointee, Elena Kagan, as one of his law clerks. Mikva left the Clinton White House about the time Clinton began using Monica Lewinsky as a humidor for his cigars.

Garland's work for the presidential campaigns of Clinton, Dukakis and Mondale all occurred long after he graduated from Harvard Law School and began his professional career as an attorney. These high-paid attorneys at Washington, D.C. never really volunteer their services; there's always a quid pro quo in there somewhere for their law firm and their law firm's high-rolling clients. That work he did on the Mondale campaign specifically involved all of the financial discrepancies that arose with Mondale's running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, and her mob-connected husband. People who've been around for awhile remember how much the Wall Street Journal took Ferraro to task for her and her husband's tangled financial affairs that included New York businesses where the mob produced pornographic movies.

Garland was rewarded early on with a job in the Carter Justice Department. When Bill Clinton became president, he was hired as a federal prosecutor in the D.C. district court before Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick a partisan Democratic hack, hired him away to work at the Justice Department reporting to her. He was dispatched to Oklahoma City immediately following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City to lead up the prosecution of the bombers. As the lead prosecutor, we hold Garland personally responsible for the cover up by the federal government of other co-conspirators in the bombing. The misplacement of all of those surveillance video images by Garland's investigation team that captured Timothy McVeigh's co-conspirators was more than any concerned American can accept as an honest mistake. Thanks to Garland and his corrupt cohorts at the Justice Department, the American people never learned who was really behind the Oklahoma City bombing.

UPDATE: Oklahoma City, like Indianapolis, is plagued by a daily newspaper run out of Langley, Virginia. The local Gannett newspaper there is chastising the state's two Republican senators for failing to signal their support for Garland despite his strong connection to the city. Perhaps ordinary Oklahomans are all too familiar with how Garland's team of prosecutors covered up the role of others in the bombing by disappearing the surveillance videos other local, credible Oklahoma City reporters reported on at length at the time based on credible law enforcement officials who had seen what was on the videos and knew they proved others besides McVeigh were involved in detonating bombs that brought down about half of the federal building.

And the Gannett-owned Arizona Republic is now going after Sen. John McCain for not supporting confirmation of Garland. The newspaper has served him with notice his position will become the central issue of his re-election campaign this year.