Saturday, April 30, 2016

I'm a delegate...(to the State Dem Convention)

Apparently not enough people filed in my state delegate district so I won by default.

This will be the first time I've ever attended one of these things and even though none of the state-wide offices on the Democratic side are contested, I still am kind of excited. I really feel like this is where I belong if I want to help change the state of Indiana in a positive way.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Municipal Money and Salaries

The topic of the day is the proposed raises for the Indianapolis-Marion County City County Council and the Indianapolis Mayor. The proposal, sponsored by outgoing councilor Mary Moriarty Adams, would boost the pay of councilors to about $16,000 and the mayor to about $120,000. The proposal has a short life span if it isn't acted on quickly, as the council will only have one more full meeting this calendar year. And any measure that doesn't make it out of the full council by the end of the year dies as the term of this council ends on January 1, 2016. According to IndyPolitics, outgoing Mayor Greg Ballard declined to say if he supported it or not, saying he hasn't seen the specifics of the proposal.

Several news reports have mentioned that councils and/or mayors in other Indiana cities, or cities in neighboring states, have much higher salaries. In fact, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and the Carmel City-Council voted raises for most city employees themselves and Brainard earlier this year. Carmel's elected officials voted on those raises as part of the city's budget, after the 2015 Republican primary in May, which is the de facto election in Carmel and most of Hamilton County.

Social media commentary on local news' Facebook pages have been almost universally negative on this action.

So what do I think?

I think the salaries for mayors and councils across the state have a huge pay gap. And I honestly don't see why. I wonder if one party control in some of these cities (particularly Carmel, Westfield, and Gary) might make it easier to slip these pay increases in. Many of these communities have been one party control for decades, but it is only within the last 10 years that Democrats have really had the same kind of success that they've long had in Gary, or Republicans have had in Carmel.

I think proposing this after an election, where this wasn't an issue that was talked about publicly, reeks of backroom deals. I suspect that this has been talked about in caucuses and informal meetings for quite some time.

I think putting this before a lame duck council, with several members not returning, and a lame duck mayor, is attempting to circumvent political backlash, hoping that people won't remember or won't care in four years.

I honestly don't have a problem with council raises. A good councilor does a lot of work. Some treat it as a full time or nearly full time job in addition to their actual full time job and other responsibilities. The ones doing the hard work, I have much less of a problem giving it to them. The do-nothings, I have more of an issue with.

As for the Mayor, I think the perks more than make up for whatever salary he doesn't get.

Ideally, I'd like to completely revamp our legislative body. I think we're a big city and we should have a big-boy, full time council. Cut it down to 11 or 13 members, give them a decent salary, make it their full time job. Put restrictions on other work they can do so conflicts of interest don't arise.  Microsoft's Board of Directors is only 10 people so there's no reason we need 25 cooks in the kitchen.

Failing that, I really think the Indiana state legislature and look at the disparity in pay between city and county councils and Mayors of cities and towns and take the politics out of it. Establish a salary for elected officials based on the type of city (class 1, etc...) or county, set the salary, index it to inflation. I really can't think of a good reason the Mayor of Gary or Westfield should be paid more than the Mayor of Indianapolis. I'd like similar rules to be established for the county wide offices, but many of those offices might be supported by specific fees they charge and the fees collected in a more populated county will obviously be more than in a more rural county.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indiana: Where Our State Parks Aren't Free And Don't Have Trash Cans

A friend of mine recently moved to Indianapolis and overall has enjoyed her time in the city. But her top gripe is that the closest state park, Fort Harrison State Park, charges admission or requires an annual membership.

We took my dog, Quest, out on a hike through the park today. Along the way we noticed several signs saying dogs must be on a leash at all times and that owners must clean up after their dog. As a good citizen, I did so when my dog made a mess.

As our hike ended and we returned to the parking lot, we looked for a trash can and found none. There are several picnic tables, and even picnic areas presumably meant for large gatherings. But not a single trash can was around. Both restrooms also did not have trash cans.

We did, however, encounter signs saying that group picnics must clean up after themselves.

As we left the park, I kept an eye out for a trash can, any trash can, any where, only to find none.

My friend mentioned that the Department of Natural Resources also runs the nearby Fort Harrison State Park Inn and Golf Resort. She complained that she has to pay admission to the Ft Harrison State Park but it seems unable to provide even basic levels of service in return for membership. She also wonders if her membership fee for the park is subsidizing the Inn and Golf Resort.

I wonder if they have trash cans at the golf resort?

Monday, July 27, 2015

LA Starts Electric Car Sharing Program for $1.6 million Vs BlueIndy's $49 million

NBC Los Angeles reports that the state of California has awarded a $1.6 million dollar grant for Los Angeles to launch an electric car sharing program. The program will launch in some of its more diverse and low-income areas, including South LA and Koreatown. The pilot intends to add a fleet of 100 cars, with residents being able to sign up and pay a monthly membership or pay on a per-hour basis. While exact rates are still being worked out, officials are saying they hope it to be lower priced than car sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

For reference, Los Angele's base uber fee is $0 bae, $.18 per minute, and $1 per mile. Indianapolis' Uber fares are $1.25 base, $.18 per minute, and $.95 per mile.

While the report doesn't specifically say what type of electric car infrastructure that LA already has, I'm going to guess the answer is little to none. You can see some shots of charging stations being constructed in the background if you watch the news report clip on NBC-LA's web site. All in all, this works out to about $16,000 per car.

In contrast, the electric car sharing program BlueIndy is costing nearly $50 million for 500 cars. That cost likely doesn't take into account the millions of dollars of lost revenue when Dictator Mayor Greg Ballard (R) unilaterally removes hundreds of parking spots from public use to turn them over to the exclusive use of a for-profit company. Or the massive fines ParkIndy, the private operator of our public parking meters, will levy upon the city for the permanent removal of the parking spaces. Despite the $6 million dollar in help from city taxpayers, don't expect that to make it any cheaper to rent one of these cars. A 2014 estimate puts the estimate at $15 for an hour, or membership fees at $10-15 for a week or an annual membership costing about $15 a month.

Total costs work out to about 98,000 per car.

Had enough Indy?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Governor Pence Throws Gaming Commission Under Bus

The Indiana Gaming Commission has gotten into some hot water for sending out a letter to a Muncie-based assisted living home concerning a Euchre game that has a small betting pool and modest prizes. The commission's letter said it would require a charity gaming license to continue hosting this Euchre game.

In later reports, Governor Mike Pence (R) has ordered the agency to use "common sense" and specifically to leave the Muncie-based assisting living home alone. The WIBC report also says the gaming commission used a form letter, probably something they've sent out dozens, if not hundreds, of times. It is probably something they are fairly certain they can legally do.

I don't want to end up defending the Indiana Gaming Commission. I am no fan of legalized gambling, and really am disheartened that gambling seems to be seeping into our culture more and more. I don't think it adds any societal value. And in practice, gambling (Both casinos and the like as well as lotteries) disproportionately target poor and minority communities and little to no revenue from the taxes collected on gambling end up helping the populations it prays on.

But to me, it seemed like the Indiana Gaming Commission was just doing its job. Governor Pence has a law degree and probably has a few juris doctorate holders in his administration, and a few lawyers on speed dial. If the problem is the law, Governor Pence could've attempted to address it during the legislative session earlier this year.

But that wasn't important to Governor Pence then, and he shouldn't get to ignore the law now just because it isn't politically convenient.

For an opposing view, see Ogden On Politics.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

IMPD, We Need To Have a Talk

Last month, the latest officer from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was arrested with an allegation of drunk driving. At least seven other IMPD officers have been arrested for similar charges since 2013. Other recent headlines show that an IMPD officer is on administrative leave due to accusations of spousal abuse. And there's the strange case of an IMPD officer found dead in a home, the same home that another man died in after an ingestion of chloroform.

IMPD, we need to have a talk.

When I was writing this blog on a more regular basis, I had several people within IMPD, officers and others, who would come to me as sources. When I ran for council in 2011, I was the only non-major party candidate endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 86. I've also had Rick Snyder from the FOP on the former podcast Civil Discourse Now. I'm not listing these things to brag, but to show that this is coming from someone who respects law enforcement and is sympathetic to how difficult the job can be, especially with the current occupants of the 25th floor.

But I'm finding it more and more difficult to defend IMPD in cases like these.

In her weekly column in the Indianapolis Recorder, Shannon Williams recounted an experience she had  when she reported an officer's behavior to the Citizen Police Complaint Board. Williams, the President of the Recorder Media Group, had called dispatch to file a report because her dog was struck in a hit and run. She was able to file a report, and she had no problems filing the complaint with the board, but the official report on the officer uncovered the officer's side of the incident.

Williams claims that:

"...aspects of the report were not only inaccurate, but some “findings” were actual lies. My words were misconstrued completely and a false stage was set in an attempt to dispute my complaint or substantiate the inappropriate behavior of the officer."

Among the specific claims that Williams found most ludicrous was that she was a victim of domestic violence, the officer claiming she never wanted a report filed, and that she lacked credibility. She also referred to the driver who hit her dog as "a gentleman", which the officer found inconsistent.

Williams' overall point was that even though this was a minor transgression, she was shocked at the length IMPD went to discredit her for an officer that she alleged to be rude and incompetent. If this is what they do when an officer is rude to a citizen, to what extent are they going to protect someone who does something beyond rude?

The last several years, rank and file officers and top brass have tried to promote a message that this is a new IMPD. Unfortunately, I can't say much has changed. A lot needs to be addressed from the top on down. I don't think the 25th floor or the top brass is going to step up to the challenge, so I hope the rank and file will help themselves out. It is going to be difficult, but it has to be done.

And it wouldn't hurt if the mayoral candidates weighed in on this as well.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I Support Councilor Mansfield and Councilor Scales

EDITOR'S NOTE: I have contributed financially to both of these candidates and will be working as a volunteer for a few hours Tuesday morning for Angela Mansfield.

I do not live in any of the districts that have contested primaries for this year's municipal election. But if I did, I would be supporting Councilor Angela Mansfield in District 01 and Councilor Christine Scales in District 3.

While both come from different political parties, both have a history on the council of independent voting, sometimes voting against their own party.

I came to know these two women in completely different ways.

When I first started following the council, Councilor Mansfield was one of the minority members on a committee dealing with some budget item from the Capitol Improvement Board. She was the only no vote on that committee. I thought that took courage, when even members of her own party would support it but she couldn't.

Legislative representatives have almost perfected a craft in talking about how hard votes are and how they really want to vote one way but just have to vote the other and on and on. Councilor Mansfield isn't like that. She's just going to come to a conclusion and stick to it. She'll listen to you if you disagree,  but I haven't seen her fold under public pressure.

She has also been one of the most articulate critics of Mayor Greg Ballard's administration within the second term. Some Democrats, on the council and off, think it is enough to say that Mayor Ballard is a Republican and thus his policies are bad. But Mansfield doesn't settle for that. She will tell you precisely what policies they are and why they're bad. She'll even have suggestions on how to fix it.

I do not want this to be construed as being against Councilor Leroy Robinson, who is running against Mansfield in the Democratic primary. Councilor Robinson and I have not always seen eye to eye. But I think he has grown into the council and it suits him well. But his perplexing strategy of avoiding candidate forums and declining to appear on Amos Brown's radio program (probably the easiest booking opportunity ever for any candidate on a ballot within Marion County), as well as the massive amount of money he is raising for this race, are causes for concern. 

The district is also roughly what my grandfather, Gordon Gilmer, represented during his time on the council. 

District 3 is also on the northside of Indianapolis (northeast rather than northwest), and it should come as no surprise that I fully support and endorse Councilor Christine Scales.

I don't know if I can recall exactly the first time I interacted with Councilor Scales directly. But several years ago, I received an invitation from someone inviting me to a meeting. I get a lot of legit looking spam via e-mail due to this blog, but I thought this sounded legit. The proposed sale of the water utility company had been proposed, and Councilor Scales was organizing a blogger round table. We were given the opportunity to directly question representatives of Citizens Energy Group on the proposed sale of the water utility. It was a very productive and informative conversation. 

Since then, Councilor Scales and I kept in touch. About a year or so ago, she was voted out of the caucus of the Council Republicans. I remember writing her shortly after about the possible switch of her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. There were some Democrats (both on the council and off) who were absolutely targeting her as a party switch, while others were working behind the scenes. I wrote to her saying that if she didn't believe in her heart of hearts that she was a Democrat, then she should sit outside during caucus meetings with pride. She is one of the hardest working council members out there and will always hear you out, even if you don't live in her district.

If you live in one of these council districts, I hope you consider supporting one of these courageous councilors. In an election where we're very likely to get more of the same from the powers-that-be, it'd be nice to send two councilors back to the City-County building who aren't bought and paid for.