Saturday, August 29, 2009

Potential Democrat challengers to the 2011 Mayor race? GOP response: lol

This morning's Indianapolis Star details some of the confirmed and speculated Democratic candidates for Mayor of Indianapolis in 2011. While only a few are confirmed, they are all at least well known names, most having held elected positions before or, in the case of my city-council representative, currently do. It's not unusual for a primary race to have many candidates, or at least those interested, early on. Primary elections help decide what that party is going to run on, what the public cares about, and who is best at representing those issues. Even candidates with no realistic chance, such as Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul in the Republican primaries for the 2008 POTUS election, arguably had a long lasting affect on McCain's campaign and the positions he took.

But now, I guess having a few candidates is a bad thing. Tom John, the Marion County Republican Chairman, likens them to "a bunch of clowns" and "a joke." John seems to think this administration is nearly untouchable. Of course, you'd have to:

  • ignore the tax increases he supported (and the ones he did support but wasn't able to pass)
  • the "balanced budget" which is balanced by Peterson-era tax increases being made permanent and more money from the feds
  • infringing the rights of gun owners
  • and generally just doing everything what previous administrations
This isn't to say that Ballard is vulnerable. Any single one of these issues could occur in a mayor's administration and the public could ignore it. But this is all in the first two years. Ballard's still got two years of country club politics to go, to cut backroom deals, raise taxes, and give out corporate welfare, and he'll be VERY vulnerable to eager candidates from both major parties.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

City-County Council passes panhandling ordinance, again

So, maybe I don't know how this whole legislative process works. But I was under the impression that when the full legislative body votes to send an amendment to an ordinance back to committee, it means that they support it, but have concerns with the wording. So that the committee, which in theory has members that are most familiar with the issues they handle, can re-design it so the full legislative body can pass it.

Last night, the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee voted 5-1 to advance the amended panhandling ordinance as amended to the full council with a recommendation to pass. Not a single word was changed, so unless those lobbying for the ordinance can twist some arms, I don't see why they think it's going to pass this time around.

On and on, citizens and those invited by the council talk about how panhandlers aren't really homeless and are using it on drugs, alcohol, or just collecting tax free money. But that shouldn't be the city's concern. Tax evasion can be handled by the appropriate federal, state, and county agencies. And if they are properly filing taxes, they aren't doing anything illegal.

Public safety was used to justify this a lot, but it sounds more like a fear tactic. There are already laws on the books concerning "aggressive panhandling" from the state, as well as threats, verbal and physical assault, carjacking, rape, and so on.

One of the councilors not on the committee jokingly suggested to make giving money to panhandlers illegal. Many seemed to dismiss it as a stunt, but it doesn't sound like a bad idea. It's not just illegal to sell drugs and to prostitute, but it's also illegal to solicit prostitutes and buy illegal drugs.

Maybe this could pass constitutional mustard if there was anything to protect political speech. But there isn't. Protestors outside of the city county building, the infamous tea parties, those standing outside Planned Parenthood offices, and the pro-life chain that happens downtown every year could all be potentially written up in violation of this ordinance as amended. As amended, a McDonald's by a stoplight could get a fine for having a drive-thru.

It's too bad not a single council member questioned Mr. Vaughn, the councilor proposing this, as to why this is needed to an already existing panhandling ordinance. As reported on Indiana Barrister, arrests for panhandling are up from the previous year, and it's only August!

The sad thing is, this will probably pass. And just like those curfew laws, when some actual poor homeless guy with nothing left to loose, or a pro-life protester or Ron Paul supporter is fined and goes to get their legal defense and sues the city, it'll cost us millions in litigation, and we'll be worse off than if we never did this in the first place.

The solution to the CIB is to throw more money at it. The solution to panhandling is to write more laws and ignore those pesky little rights. But while we're dealing with these supposedly important matters, Indy Parks is facing a $6 million budget cut over 2 years (here) and Winona Hospital and other abandoned buildings still look like crap.

Shows our priorities, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wanona Hospital Site Still Not Secure

If it wasn't for the few places where the name "Wanona Memorial Hospital" is still visible/readable over on Meridian and 30th, you'd almost never figure it was a fully functional hospital until a few years ago.

The city purchased the site in 2008 and used it to train emergency service personnel, such as police. But in December of 2008, the site was deemed a health hazard due to asbestos.

Since then, the city has apparently forgotten it's even owned the land. It's covered with graffiti, litter, and whatever else you'd find when you just let a building go to pot. WRTV visited the site on July 14, 2009, after hearing complaints that homeless were using it. Surprisingly, they just walked right on in and had a look around. Many of the hospital beds were still in their rooms, and medical equipment was found still sealed in bags. But it was also very obvious that people have been using the building.

The city responded with "Wow, really? Our bad." and got a crew out there right away to board up the doors and broken windows, and the IMPD said they'd have officers patrol the area.

I visited the site earlier today and question if anything was actually done. Some of the doors have locks on them now, but none of the boarding seems like quality (or recent) work. There are tons of broken windows on the first story, or at least that are reachable. The only signs warning about towing or trespassing were probably there when the hospital was still up and running. In one of the delivery hallways, there was a crowbar stashed by a blanket, and looks like someone had been trying to break open a door. It probably doesn't need too much more of a push to get open.

Though I was only there for an hour, I can't imagine too many officers putting it in high concern.

Another interesting note, a few days before WRTV did this story, this was posted on a website dedicated to exploring abandoned buildings.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Disabled in Indiana: Part III

In fairness, here is a comment from the first DI entry, from the owner of Boogie Burger:

If I may offer my side of the story?

Working in the back as I was, my view from the wall of the "pass" is obstructed. What I saw was you entering the store with a dog on the lease. I could not see that the dog was a service animal. Being in BR we've had to deal with people coming in with dogs (not service) shirtless, shoeless, drunk, etc. From my vantage point all I could see was the leash.

I asked you to please take the dog outside and you began your tirade about the service animal. It wasn't until I came around to the front that I could see what type of dog it was. You still continued shouting at the top of your lungs, and believe me I was as unsettled by this as you! Immaturely, we both used bad language.

Your being asked to leave had nothing to do with the your dog. It was you being beligerent (sp?) and making a scene. My only option is to call the police in these situations. I did, and then hung up the phone, realizing how ridiculous this whole thing was becoming.

I apologized to you no less than 3 (three) times which you didn't accept. My wife comped your order. You still continued with the scene. And told me basically to get out of my own store! Sat there, and kept on another five minutes.

Understand that we will not be yelled at, harrassed or threatened by anyone. We treat all of our customers with respect and expect the same. This is the way adults behave.

You and your dog (and I have one too.) are always welcome in Boogie Burger - and I have seen that you've been back. I haven't even had the pleasure of meeting you and getting your name. My name is Mark Radford and I look forward to putting this behind us.

(I'm only posting this as "anon" because it won't let me put my name.

I'm posting this in fairness. My original entry was responding to this, but it's mostly re-stating the true account I posted earlier.

I think Mr. Radford is describing a very different situation. Though it's important to note that he early on recognized it was a service dog, but still tried to either kick us out of the restaurant or get us to leave after ordering.

And yes, I have been back since the incident, once. I've also eaten at Mr. Dan's, another local burger joint, several times, times I could've gone to Boogie Burger but didn't.

I'm currently in touch with Senator Richard Lugar's constitutien services, and they'll put in a request to the Justice Department to determine if action needs to be taken against Boogie Burger or my other entry with Sheriff Harden.

Rich, well connected, white men ask for more money; city contemplates selling golf courses

Not even 72 hours has passed and the Indianapolis Star publishes a "woo-is-me" from the CIB, saying that the ICVA and the Pacers need more money.

The ICVA is the not-for-profit corporation in charge of promoting the convention center. The head, Don Welsh, makes a ridiculous $350,000 a year, and their tax filings reveal they have tons of money in investments. What's more is that they get tons of tax payer money, so it's all going to their ridiculous overhead.

The Pacers just can't afford to stay in Indianapolis unless $15 million or more is picked up. Give me a fucking break. The Simons purchased the Pacers for a complete steal. lists them as very profitable.

The weird part is, Republicans will fight tooth and nail for this, even though the Simons are one of the biggest backers of Democrats.

And in the mean time, Ballard ordered an across the board cut of 5% for all non-police/fire departments in the city. Early in his administrtion, he contemplated selling a number of city parks. Then decided they didn't need to be maintained. And now we're thinking of selling the city-owned golf courses.

But sell off Conseco Fieldhouse, ditch the Pacers, and give Lucas Oil Stadium back to it's rightful owner, the state? Heaven forbid.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quick thoughts on CCC meeting + CIB meeting

The CIB meeting was generally uninteresting and no one without a press badge (or being on the board itself) would have a point in actually going. Unfortunately, my observation of the news media only leeds me to conclude that most are out of touch with what being a journalist is about. One reporter (not a commentator or anything like that, an actual reporter), in a conversation with Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, triviliazed the situation with "What's the big deal?", not getting that the CIB's solution to debt is to borrow more money, and that they'll have even LESS revenue in the future than they do now. As mentioned in the meeting, they sold off the parking lot where Market Square Arena used to sit.

After Don Welsh left the room, one reporter threw him a softball to so he could trott out the talking point of the supposed horros that could befall this city if taxes aren't raised and more money isn't thrown at the proble...err, CIB. The question was "What kind of devastating effects could this have on the city if the council doesn't pass the tax increase?"

Another interesting note was that they had the numbers for the rejected tax increases on hand at the CIB meeting (alcohol tax, car rental tax, etc...). I'd bet a breakfast at The Donut Shop that those same taxes will be proposed again, and soon.

The same tired line of "no formal discussions" concerning the $15 million to the Pacers was again trotted out, despite the IBJ reporting that the $15 million was on the table, the CIB confirming it verbally at the Pike Township townhall meeting. It's not in the annual budget, which is factually true, but there is nothing stopping that proposal from moving forward. As it is now, the $15 million is in the same place it was in January: Talked about, not voted on, and nobody in authority (legislature, CCC) has done anything to ensure it won't be proposed. Of course, I don't see the current makeup of the CCC rejecting a gift to the Simons. I think they could easily get all Democrats plus a few Republicans to give it to them.

Abdul asked where the revolutionaries/activisits/coffeehouse crowd was, in reference to the 2pm CIB meeting. While I know there's no secret club (and I've never even met a number of them), I understand that they all probably have jobs that keep them busy 9-5. I have a job that's flexible enough with hours, and Abdul has a job that actually pays him to go to these things. He responded with "the revolution doesn't sleep" or something like that. Yes, I was the lone "activist" he referred to via Twitter.

One last thing, the CIB really made a case of "poor me". The lights were shut off in most places, and the air conditioning wasn't turned on in many of the rooms, including the last minute switch to the larger room. I overheard one board member before the meeting say "Fire half of those union employees and it'd save us tons of money." We all can go back and forth about the unions and their place in today's business world, but to suggest that those working at the facilities should be pink slipped while every CIB member got a fat raise (except Levengood, who got a 30+% raise last year) this year is ludicrous.

The CCC meeting was surprising on so many levels. The city's attorney, who doesn't look much older than me, clearly had no idea what he was talking about in regards to Constitutional law and First Amendment rights, in relation to the proposed panhandling ordinance.

Councilor Lutz introduced the CIB bailout. During it, he read the summary of the talking points he was presented with during the committee meeting. With snarky comments referring to the committee meeting running four hours long ("what seemed like forever"), it's almost like Lutz forgot that 3.5 of those 4 hours were from suits lobbying for the bailout that HE scheduled himself. He also made sure to list every single supporter of the CIB bail out, but didn't mention a single member of the public who voiced their opposition to the bailout.

Of course,who could blame him? He put the comments from the public dead last on the Rules and Public Policy Committee. I was barely listening, and I was at the microphone stand for 2 minutes. I'm sure Lutz wasn't listening at all.

Both Democrats and Republicans used the panhandling ordinance and the CIB bailout to take cheap political shots. I kind of got the feeling that MAYBE the votes against the panhandling ordinance were made, overall, for the right reason (questionalbe legality, though "is this really necessary?" would've been nice too). But it's clear that the Democrats weren't in opposition to the tax increase on principal, and the Republicans wouldn't have been either if the shoe was on the other foot. Both were doing it for politics and the downtown elite. It's just that those who voted for it, it'll come back to haunt them.

Larry was dressed in black face. And just as I suspected when I first met him July 28, he's an Alex Jones follower. Nevertheless, I understand that he's logged endless hours at council meetings, and for that he should be applauded. If only a fraction of our fellow citizens were as passionate and dedicated as Larry, our city would be better off.

I haven't had the time or the energy to look through Ballard's budget yet, but I question how balanced it really can be. Federal stimulus money ($11 million) is being used to hire new police officers. I don't have the exact # to be hired, but where is this money going to come from after the fiscal year? If my memory is correct, that 50 new officers will be hired, that's $220,000 per officer. The average IMPD salary certainly isn't $220,000, so where is the rest of that money going? Is training really that expensive (Assuming they aren't rookies)?

And just looking at all the media reports shows how confusing the CIB has made it to see how much in debt they are. The Star has $47 million, the same figure quoted during the beginning of the year that includes the $15 million to the Pacers. Last week the Indinapolis Business Journal said they'd be $5 million in debt, and that does not include the Pacers' gift. At no point has it been suggested to find out how we got into this debt in the first place (not counting the $20 million cost for Lucas Oil Stadium and the aforementioned Pacers gift).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Disabled in Indiana: Part II

Before I move on to the full re-cap of today's CIB meet and the CCC full council meeting, I have a new entry (unfortunately) for my Disabled in Indiana series.

I've been to the city-county building dozens of times, a handful of which after I had my cardiac pacemaker implanted. As per doctor's orders, I can walk through the metal detectors at what are generally used at retail outlets, but places such as airports or government offices usually use metal detectors that can be harmful to the pacemaker. Every time I've gone to the city-county building, I inform whatever security (Sheriffs?) on staff at the moment, they direct me around the metal detector, I empty my pockets, wave me down. I usually don't even have to show my "I have a cardiac pacemaker" card, though I always offer to.

It's usually a relatively painless process and I've never had a problem at the city county building, and it isn't nearly as humiliating a procedure as the idiots at TAS over in the airport put me through. But today was a different story.

Upon my first entry to the city-county building at 4:50pm, it went as it always does. When I got there again shortly before 7pm, it was a different story.

I went to the side and verbally communicated to the sheriffs that I couldn't go through and would like to be waved down with a wand. Sheriff Harden said I had to go through. I replied I have a cardiac pacemaker. He said I'll be fine. I inform him that I'm not supposed to go through them per doctor's orders and again requested to be waved down with a wand, noting that I had done so before, even as early as a couple hours ago. He told me to come to him and "stop giving him lip." and started searching me with the wand, as if I should be gracious that he's letting me get away with it. He said I should be going through the metal detector no matter what happened before. He then waved his wand repeatedly over my pacemaker and said "Does this hurt you?"

I was absolutely appalled at that action, knowing it was completely unnecessary and did not help him conduct his search and secure the building in any way, shape, or form. I shouldn't be TOO surprised that this comes from the Sheriff's office, but that doesn't justify it.

I'm sure this will get nowhere when I talk to the Sheriff's office tomorrow, but I'll be ready to file this complaint to the Justice Department along with the event at Boogie Burger.

CIB Meeting: just a few quick notes

I attended the CIB meeting at the Convention Center and left a bit over an hour after the meeting started.

Let me just say that, when one attends a meeting where not a single person is elected, where little to no oversight is exerted, it's basically all show.

The budget numbers were the same manipulations we've heard at the CCC and the legislature for months. The CIB used the same vague language implying that the Pacers' $15 million gift wasn't on the table. Which directly contradicts what the IBJ reported and what the CIB said during the Pike township townhall.

The only worthwhile part of it was hearing what people say when they don't think others are listening. But that deserves a full non-blackberry entry

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Disabled in Indiana: Part I

To make this short and for a full understanding of what I'm about to post, I have a handicapped placard for my car due to a cardiac pacemaker I have implanted. I use it mainly on campus or wherever else I have to use a backpack, since I can't carry it around both shoulders. I also have a service dog from a regional agency. He has a vest clearly identifying him as a service animal, and identification (even though, from what I've heard, service animals in Indiana aren't required to wear a vest).

For the most part, I've had relatively good experiences bringing my service dog, Quest, out in public. He has treats in his vest so people can give him one before they pet him, he follows my commands, pays attention, and is fine with waiting while I eat or read. Most of the time, employees of businesses just ask "Is that a service dog?" and leave it at that, just to make sure. Many of the businesses I frequent (usually in Broad Ripple) know Quest by name. And the times I've had confrontations, it's from some idiot manager at a fast food restaurant or a rent-a-cop.

The restaurant I went to on Wednesday night (August 5), Boogie Burger, has by far the best burgers in town for a great price. Friendly staff, locally owned, and Quest and I have been there before. I've dragged friends and family there and they've all loved it.

But on Wednesday, I had a vastly different experience.

I walk in to Boogie Burger to order a milkshake. Immediately, I am told from someone working in the back that dogs aren't allowed in and I have to take him outside. I informed him, very clearly, it was a service dog. An employee up front also mentioned it was a service dog. But the man in the back kept saying I had to take the dog outside because it was a health hazard. I refused to do so, and I asked who he was. He responded that he was the owner, and came out of the kitchen and stood behind the counter while I was on the other side of it.

I kept informing him that I would not leave because, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, my service dog has every right to be where I can be. After some more back and forth of this, he said "Sir, get the fucking dog out of the restaurant." I refused, again reiterating that it was a service dog. He then asked "What type of service dog is it?". Knowing full well that it is specifically prohibited to inquire what the service dog does or what one's disability is, I said "None of your fucking business."

After being yelled at, scolded, and trying to be outshouted, he said "Sir, I'm going to ask you to leave." He then points to the sign that says that they have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. I once again refused. He talked about how no one should curse at him in his restaurant and goes on about how out of control I am. I told him that he first cursed at ME, and that I'm doing nothing other than fighting for my right as a consumer. He then said he'd call the cops if I didn't leave this instant. I said "Go ahead." He picked up the phone, dialed 911, then hung up a few seconds later.

At this point, pretty much all business has stopped due to this back and forth between me and the owner. Customers and employees are staring at us. After his almost-cop call, this woman leans him over and whispers into his ear. She says to me "Sir, I apologize for this, what can I do to make it up to you?" I asked who she was, and she said she was also the owner. I said I wanted an apology.

The male owner completely backtracks, lies, and manipulates what had just happened. He says "I'm sorry, but I couldn't see the dog's collar from the kitchen". I said to him that that is an excuse, not an apology. I continued on saying that while what he said might be true, an employee noted it was a service dog, and I continually mentioned it was a service dog, mentioned the ADA, and he himself inquired what type of service dog it is. I mentally noted that he was a fairly tall guy and would have no problem seeing over the counter to where my dog was. I demand an actual apology, but he feeds me the same bullshit line that I quoted. Again, this turns into another back and forth, and he tries to "call it even", saying that we both got out of control. I refused this, saying that his faults should not be shifted to me. Eventually, he goes to the back and he disappears for a while.

Somewhere in this whole mess, I decide to enjoy my milkshake in the store and unravel a bit. I'm not what I would call a very aggressive person, and after all this huffing and puffing, my voice was shaky, my legs were tired, and my throat was dry. I sat in the restaurant for about 20 minutes hardly touching my drink and wondering what my next course of action would be.

The male owner once again came out and was talking to the female clerk, apparently not realizing I was still there. He apologized to her, and was about to say something else (probably an explanation shifting the blame onto me rather than him) but then noticed I was still there. He repeated the line he had been giving me to a while now, and said "What do you want me to do?". I said "I want you to go to the back and leave me alone." He said "I can do that." and did so.

Since then, my mind was been dissecting this event. Why did the other employees stay silent, even though one of them clearly noted it was a service dog. Why did the female owner stand in silence during the entire back and forth? Did those regular employees think I was some asshole for putting up such a scene? What about the customers that were waiting behind me? Would the male owner, who happened to be black, do what I did if someone tried to kick him out due to his race even if it was thinly covered up by a "you're being unruly, get out" excuse?

Maybe the male owner is afraid of dogs, or has a personal backstory. But as someone who has been on the "other side" of the cash register, I know that when you go to work, you put your personal biases and phobias and whatever else away. You treat your customers, your clients, with the utmost respect. And when you realize you've crossed the line, you stop, you apologize (no excuses) and you do whatever you can to make up for it. And when you can't handle a situation in a calm manner, you let someone else take over. That didn't happen here.

And while I'm still personally struggling with the full impact of this situation, and am doubting that I'll ever go to one of my favorite restaurants ever again, I've been assured by multiple people that what I did was right. And I hope that when someone tries to violate your rights as a human being, that you fight like hell for them too. Remember, laws do not give you rights. State and national constitutions don't either. They are INHERENT rights that all humans are born with. They just so happened to be spelled out in respective constitutions.

I titled this Part I, because I might post about my past experiences, or there may be follow up. And I'm sure there will be more incidents in the future, either about me or others.