Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Guess Fox 59 Works for Mitch Roob Now

When the "paper of record" has become a shell of it's former self, the public has to turn to other forms of media to find out what's going on with our tax dollars. And one of the media outlets that have been doing quality reporting for the entire year is Fox 59. With Russ McQuaid, Fox 59 was the outlet that broke the various scandals that involved Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. McQuaid has also been on top of Doctor Director Frank Straub and his war of words against the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

So it's sad to read that Fox 59 has published this news story touting the job numbers being claimed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. IEDC has been under investigation all year by WTHR's Bob Segall in his award winning report "Reality Check: Where Are the Jobs?". Segall has learned that getting any real answers from Governor Mitch Daniels and Roob is like pulling teeth. At one point in the story, Daniels walks out of the room as Segall questions him. And when Roob finally does give Segall documents, they're contained in dozens of binders that seem to have little rhyme or reason, and often have a lot of redacted information. Roob claims that exact job numbers and salary information is confidential, and that it gives employers an edge on their competition. But each of our neighboring states, including Illinois, makes salary information and job numbers and titles public information, some even putting it on their state web site.

Shame on Fox 59. I honestly expected better.

Mitch Daniels to Speak at CPAC? Will His Truce Still Stand?

The state GOP community in the Twitterverse has been atwitter lately because the rumors are that Governor Mitch Daniels will be speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (source). CPAC is held by the American Conservative Union and is billed as the largest gathering of conservatives and conservative activists held annually.

Governor Daniels was quoted in The Weekly Standard that the next President would have to call a "truce" on social issues. This set off some on the far-right into a frenzy, and Daniels might've done a little back-pedalling as well, but generally stayed by his comments. Link

How does Daniels' "truce" relate to CPAC?

In 2010, one of the groups in attendance at CPAC was GOProud. GOProud is a group for LGBT Republicans that is largely seen as a poor man's Log Cabin Republicans, focusing mainly on economical issues and other issues of general interest rather than specific LGBT legislation.

And even though GOProud promises not to push too hard on social issues, their presence at CPAC has caused an outrage among social conservatives. A speaker at CPAC 2010 was booed off stage when he condemned CPAC for allowing GOProud to attend. And due to GOProud being listed as a co-sponsor of the event, several organizations have said they will no longer be attending CPAC.

Among those organizations are the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Concerned Women for America have all announced their intentions not to attend CPAC 2011. Coincidentally, all three of these organizations were named as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

So will our man Mitch keep to his word on his truce? Will the non-attendance of these organizations make CPAC seem lacking? Or will people just barely notice and move on?

UPDATE: Alex Blaze of The Bilerico Project weighs in as well. Blaze says Liberty University, the university founded by Jerry Falwell, won't be attending CPAC either. He also lists a few other orgs that have chosen not to attend.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Precinct Committeemen to Come Out of the Shadows?

I don't agree with the good folks at Hoosier Access a whole lot. They tend to be more socially conservative than I care for, and sometimes they're little more than a mouthpiece for Representative Dan Burton (R-5th CD) and the old guard of the state and local GOP. But as the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and I find myself agreeing with Josh Gillespie in his latest post.

Gillespie discusses Senator-elect Jim Banks (R-17th) proposed legislation that would require county parties to file lists of precinct committeemen and ward chairs with the local county election board. Banks says that his proposed legislation will require these lists to be open to the public.

Banks says that it can be quite difficult for independent voters to find out who their elected or appointed precinct committeeman is. He cites cases he's heard from voters who align themselves with the Tea Party movement. But I'd say that it'd also benefit more than just independent voters, but potential candidates and the actual precinct committeemen as well.

Bil Browning, an LGBT activist who started the blog The Bilerico Project, was a precinct committeeman when he resided in Indianapolis, and took part in the Marion County Democrat's party caucus to elect a representative after Julia Carson passed away in 2007. Browning reports in this post that the lists of precinct committeemen were different for several of the candidates who wanted to serve out the remaining time in Carson's term. Browning also was not able to cast a vote despite being an appointed precinct committeeman at the time, and he says several others were not able to participate as well. Ultimately, Julia's grandson, André Carson, won the caucus vote to fill out Julia's term, and went on to win the special election against then State representative Jon Elrod (R-Indianapolis), the crowded Democrat primary in May for the general election 2008, and the general November election against Elrod.

And that's just the one case we know about. There's no doubt in my mind that the shenanigans Browning reported are common during slating conventions in Marion County among the two major parties.

And a word of advice to the political parties in this state: Don't oppose it. In fact, start complying with this legislation before it passes, or do so even if it doesn't. Post lists on your county party's so that citizens interested in becoming active in a political party can contact someone to get started.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Doctor Director Straub Should Thank Vernon Brown

I had a source of mine tell me several weeks back that Vernon Brown (D-18th) would be voting to re-confirm Frank Straub as Director of the Department of Public Safety. However, Brown voted against Straub during the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee meeting. I noted, at the time, that Brown didn't ask a single tough question. Brown did a 180 last night when he voted for Straub in a 16-13 vote.

Brown is a battalion chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department, which falls under the umbrella of the Department of Public Safety. The Chief of the Fire Department, Brian Sanford, showed up at the aforementioned committee meeting and publicly voiced his support for Straub.

To me, that comes across as Brown was voting on behalf of his employer. It wasn't the deciding vote, since two other Democrats joined him. But he should've abstained, especially since the Chief of IFD took a public stance during Straub's confirmation hearing.

Ethical lapses have been vast on the Republican side, and have been the focus of critics of the City-County Council since they have the majority, but the Democrats haven't necessarily become any more ethical since 2007.

Doris Minton-McNeill (15th) was MIA for several weeks in 2009 with no explanation as to her whereabouts after a neighbor alleged that Minton-McNeill was driving erratically and almost hit her daughter. It was later announced at a council meeting that she was receiving medical treatment. During the time that she missed on the council, she sent in a note and informed everyone that she would've abstained from voting on the proposed extended smoking ban. That makes me wonder why she chose to abstain from voting (had she been there).

Jackie Nytes (9th) hasn't been able to keep her name out of the local politicosphere for quite a while, having voted several times against the majority of her own caucus, including this vote to confirm Straub's nomination. Gary Welsh recently discussed, on both his blog and in The Indianapolis Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column, how she might be violating the Little Hatch Act. The act, a federal law, prohibits employers who receive a large amount of federal funds from running for and holding partisan political office. Nytes has decided not to run for re-election, where she was expected to get challenged in the slating process.

I could go on, but I can't spend the rest of my day writing about ethical lapses of the Democrats sitting on the City-County Council.

But what can really be done about it? "Throw the bums out" only seems to give us new bums. I think municipal government here needs a complete overhaul, and I hope to detail what some of my ideas would be by year's end.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Posting

I recently started a new job. I'm sure those of you who follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook know that I work Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day. And on top of a heavier work schedule, I have social and family obligations to attend to as well.

Expect blog postings to basically crawl to a halt after December 21st, which is the day after the City-County Council has their final full meeting for the calendar year.

Stay safe and have fun during this holiday season.

"Special Rights" and The End of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

While I haven't exactly been keeping up with the news cycle in the aftermath of the United States Senate overwhelmingly voting to repeal the policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I can imagine that many on the fringe right are harping on about "special rights" being granted to gays and lesbians who are serving in our nation's military.

Over at Gay Patriot, there is an excellent post that addresses this issue. Read the whole thing. But there's one section that struck me. They quoted this section from the military's report on ending DADT:

We do not recommend that sexual orientation be placed alongside race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, as a class eligible for various diversity programs, tracking initiatives, and complaint resolution processes under the Military Equal Opportunity Program. We believe that doing so could produce a sense, rightly or wrongly, that gay men and lesbians are being elevated to a special status as a “protected class” and will receive special treatment. In a new environment in which gay and lesbian Service members can be open about their sexual orientation, we believe they will be accepted more readily if the military community understands that they are simply being permitted equal footing with everyone else.
This is what many who fall on the right end of the political spectrum, but still support LGBT equality, have to constantly explain. We believe everyone is entitled to equal rights and equal treatment under the law.

Both Advance Indiana and Indy Democrat discuss DADT's repeal as well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

IMPD vs Doctor Director Straub Continues

Two YouTube accounts (here and here) have been created in the past few days, uploading one video each. The videos are highly critical of Paul Ciesielski, Chief of Police of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and Frank Straub, Director of the Department of Public Safety.

YouTube played a role in the last municipal election allowing people to upload videos quickly to respond to relevant issues bought up during the campaign, and for politicians and political parties to post campaign ads without having to pay for television or radio air time. It's also worth noting that candidates often don't take down these campaign YouTube accounts even after they lose or set up a new one account. Ballard's old campaign commercials, for example, can still be found here. Sir Hailstone, a long time blog commenter, still has his account open here. And the anonymous themchammer still has his up here. Most official YouTube channels of campaigns and parties can be found easily through their official web sites.

Below are the videos concerning IMPD:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tell Senator Lugar to Support the Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The infamous "compromise" policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been a burden on our armed services for a good portion of a decade. The original policy completely prohibited gays and lesbians from serving in the military. Now, the military can't ask and the individual enlisted shouldn't tell. Somehow, I suppose not too many have been discharged for asking, but I digress.

Don't Ask Don't Tell's repeal was something President Barack Obama ran on during the 2008 election. Originally, DADT's repeal was attached to a military budget bill as an amendment, but it failed to pass. A few hours ago, the House of Representatives voted and approved DADT repeal as it's own bill. 15 Republicans joined 200+ Democrats in voting for repeal.

The repeal now has to pass the US Senate. And by my count, there are 58 Democrats who will vote for cloture (one Democrat Senator is dead set against voting for DADT repeal). One of the Maine Republican Senators is voting for it as well. That means DADT repeal needs one more to vote for cloture so it can get a floor vote.

In my analysis, it seems that time is really against DADT repeal. I wish the proponents of this legislation the best of luck.

If you want to get updates throughout the day, I encourage you to check out The Bilerico Project. They'll certainly be keeping track of this much more than I'll be able to.

Contact Senator Richard Lugar. Here is every possible way to contact him. Make sure to tell his office that repeal is important, and shouldn't be tied to the passage or failing of any other proposed legislation.

Facebook Fan Page
Facebook personal profile
E-mail contact form
Office locations, including phone numbers.

Finally, I apologize for this shoddy posting. But I wanted to get the information out there.

Library Supporters Start to Organize

The group Sustainable Library Citizens Coalition sent a mailer out on Facebook and set up a Facebook event urging their membership to attend the City-County Council meeting on December 20th, 2010. According to the mailer, the full council will be voting on a special resolution urging the General Assembly to grant more control over how the County Optional Income Tax can be used.

The mailer makes it's case for the special resolution by pointing out that Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library currently receives no money from COIT revenue, while 28 other counties do use COIT revenue to fund library systems.

I called the number listed in the mailer and spoke to one of the organization's representatives. She told me that Jackie Nytes (D-9th) will be introducing the special resolution. Unlike Ed Coleman's (LP-At Large) resolution on the Transportation Securities Administration, this special resolution will be introduced AND voted upon at the full council meeting rather than being set to committee.

I have mixed feelings on this. I think the Coalition's heart is in the right place, but I fear they're going about it in the wrong way. Currently, the COIT funds are already dedicated, with the most recent increase in 2007 being aimed at funding public safety.

This means two things:

  • They could cut funds out of the current COIT revenue
  • Or they could increase the COIT.

Neither of those options are very appealing. The first could easily be spun as a cut in public safety, or whatever other services the current COIT revenue funds. And an increase in COIT during the 2011 municipal election cycle could lead to a repeat of what happened in 2007 to whoever supports it.

My hunch is there are other funds that could be re-directed, such as the property taxes that are currently being funnelled to the Capital Improvement Board. Maybe the Coalition could talk to my friend Pat Andrews. If anyone knows where the city is blowing money away, she does.

Full disclosure: My first job was as a page (book shelver) at IMCPL Outreach Services.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

GOP Chairman Election Thoughts

As I type this, precinct committee reps of the Marion County Republican Party are meeting to elect their newest chairman. The choice is between Kyle Walker and Gary Conner. Conner is a sitting City-County Council member in the town of Lawrence. Walker is a former Executive Director and worked on the Mark Massa for Prosecutor campaign earlier in the year.

As I'm short on time juggling two jobs and social and family obligations during the holiday season, I'm going to be lazy and link to what I think is a unique take on what the next GOP chairman needs to bring to the table.

Derek Trovilion hosts his blog over at Hoosier Access. I met him during the GOP primary for Senate earlier in the year when he was working for Marlin Stutzman. He is focusing now on municipal elections, and he lays out a good direction for the GOP in this excellent post.

His points can be boiled down to this: A political party's inner organization should be representative of what kind of government they would run should they be the ones who are voted into power.

Take the time to read his post. It's well worth thinking about, and some could even apply to the county Dems as well.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Could Ronald Reagan Make It In Today's Republican Party?

I had lunch with a political associate of mine downtown this afternoon shortly after attending Mayor Greg Ballard's re-election announcement. We covered a lot of topics, but when we started talking about our families and our political histories, the topic of the late Ronald Reagan came up.

Earlier in the conversation, my associate expressed his support for former of Massachusetts Mitt Romney in the 2008 primary. He felt he was the right pick for that year, and that he was moderate enough in his political beliefs that he'd be able to attract voters that wouldn't normally vote for a Republican for President. As we all know now, Romney didn't make it out of the primary. John McCain won the nomination, and went on to lose to President Barack Obama.

I noted Romney will always have difficulty of getting out of a primary on the national state. Even with his backtracking on issues such as abortion, his record as Governor of Massachusetts still existed. He was too far left for the Republican voters who participate in the primaries and caucuses (or more aptly, the primaries and caucuses that matter). So I asked him if President Reagan could win a primary in today's Republican party?

My associate, without hesitation, said one word: "No."

And I wasn't surprised at that answer.

In fact, I'd even entertain another thought: That Reagan, despite all the love letters he gets from GOP pundits nowadays, would have no place at today's national Republican party.

Ronald Reagan was a proud, card carrying member and leader of his labor union, the Screen Actors Guild. Today, unions are openly demonized by conservatives (with an exception for police and fire fighter unions, of course).

Reagan, in his first term as Governor of California, signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act. This legislation was aimed to curb so-called "back room abortions". Because of the success of the law, more abortions were performed, but in a sanitary environment.

Reagan ran against a sitting President in a Republican primary in 1976, and almost won. Maybe you can get away with that on the state and local level, but it just doesn't happen on the national state.

Any one of these moves, alone, would crush the possibility of that Republican winning the GOP nomination to run for President of the United States. Reagan did all three. And probably more too.

So what do you think? Could Ronald Reagan make it in today's Republican Party? Is there a Democrat from the past who just wouldn't be accepted in today's Democrat party?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just Cookies and Discrimination: Another View

The business Just Cookies has reached an agreement with the city's Equal Opportunity board to continue operations within the publicly owned Indianapolis City Market. The owners of the business refused an order for an LGBT group based out of the IUPUI campus. When questioned by media why the order was refused, owner David Stockton cited his two young daughters and the family values they strive to teach them. This set off controversy that alleged that Just Cookies discriminated against the LGBT group on the basis of sexual orientation, which would violate the municipal Human Rights Ordinance passed in late 2005.

The LGBT community was "helped" when several members of Indiana Equality published an editorial in The Indianapolis Star saying that the HRO was never meant to prevent private establishments from discriminating. Two of the authors of the article, Jackie Nytes and Scott Keller, are current and former City-County Council representatives, respectively, and were sponsors of the HRO.

As part of the agreement, Just Cookies has to post signs indicating they won't discriminate. Stockton, when questioned by the media, refused to comment and referred the reporter to his lawyer.

If I was Stockton or a higher up at the struggling City Market, I couldn't have asked for a better day filled with big news items to make sure the local story gets buried on news web sites and in the morning's newspaper. The piece of garbage that held Elizabeth Smart hostage for nine months was convicted despite an attempt at an insanity plea. Several stories have been extensively covered that are coming from the so-called "lame duck" session of the United States Congress with pieces of legislation the Democrats wanted to pass before the new Congress takes over in January. Fox 59's home page has the story listed last on their front page area of latest news stories, and it doesn't seem like any of the other news media web sites have a story up*

From what I've learned of the Stocktons since this story broke, I doubt that they've learned anything. It's really sad, because I think many in the LGBT community would've wanted this to be a learning experience and to advance LGBT equality rather than to hang Just Cookies and the City Market out to dry. Instead, the Stockton's lawyered up and are doing the bare minimum to cover their ass. I doubt anyone from the IUPUI group that was originally discriminated against or anyone from the LGBT community was involved or even talked to throughout this process.

Another wasted opportunity to advance Indianapolis' corner of the world, and another example of how many laws in this town aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

*Update: When I originally published this story, Fox59's web page had their story on Just Cookies on their front page. I can no longer find it there only a few hours later.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

City-County Council Committee Reapproves Straub as DPS Director

The City-County Council Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee took up several appointments and reappoints to various boards and departments this evening. Several were all grouped together and voted on as a package. What I found interesting was that Paul Page was being reappointed to the Marion County Public Defender Board. Paul Page, who is a criminal defense attorney, made headlines earlier in the year for a series of deals he struck with Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Some alleged that those deals were very lenient and were done because of Page's and Brizzi's business relationship. They own a piece of property together in Elkhart, Indiana that is rented out to the state of Indiana. The Democrats usually jump at connecting Brizzi to Republicans, and I'm surprised no one mentioned the controversy surrounding Page.

The other major piece on the agenda was Frank Straub, who was chosen by Mayor Greg Ballard to be reappointed as director for the Department of Public Safety.

Straub testified to the council, only facing tough questions from the Democrats, most of whom weren't members of the committee. He regularly took several minutes to ramble on and on and on to answer relatively direct questions. I also felt Straub's tone with the committee sounded like he was leading a lecture at an academic institution rather than answering questions being asked by a legislative body. This is a problem that some PhD holders have. They spend so much time in academic institutions studying and talking to associates who have similar or higher degrees, and they forget that the rest of the world isn't a classroom.

Public comment was moderated by a time limit of two minutes with a buzzer that goes off after the two minutes. Fortunately, this wasn't enforced, but it was still nonetheless annoying. Surprisingly, despite the Fraternal Order of Police encouraging officers to contact their council representation and testify at committee, few chose the option to testify. A few retired officers and clergy members testified in favor of Straub. The Chief of Police, Paul Ciesielski, and one other officer testified in favor of Straub. Outside of FOP President Bill Owensby, only a few of the other members who took advantage of public comment testified against Straub.

In the crowd were several City-County Councillors and at least one At-Large candidate, Annette Johnson (D). Several members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department attended the meeting in uniform but stayed silent during public comment. Several from the Indianapolis Fire Department attended as well.

Now that I've got the reporting of the layout out of the way, here's my editorial.

Frank Straub is not a police officer. He is a director of the Department of Public Safety. His duties are basically an administrator. He handles the budgets of the respective departments, makes sure they are exchanging information with each other and ensures communication is open between the departments of the Mayor.

Despite some police scandals happening while Straub's predecessor, Scott Newman, was in charge, you didn't see Newman on television very often. In fact, you probably see Newman on TV more often NOW than you did while he was the director of DPS.

Straub has not only gone beyond his authority, but has used it to tarnish IMPD officers. Officer Jerry Piland, who was accused of brutally beating Brandon Johnson, was cleared by the Police Merit Board. The Merit Board heard over 24 hours of testimony and found that the evidence against Piland was poor and seemed like Piland acted properly. They even thought that another officer's actions were worth investigating, but their scope was narrowed to Piland's actions.

Despite the Merit Board clearing Piland of any wrongdoing, Straub was on camera the following morning convicting Piland in the media. Mayor Ballard and Chief Ciesielski made similar statements. They all said it was police brutality and he should've been fired. Oh, and Ballard and Straub didn't attend the Merit Board's meeting for a single second.

Maybe this is just me, but if your boss, the CFO and the CEO all publicly said they thought you sucked and deserve to be fired, that could create the situation for a hostile work environment. I'd talk to a lawyer about a possible slander lawsuit.

Speaking of defamation, a former IMPD assistant chief is planning to sue over his demotion. He claims the treatment of Straub and others violated his civil rights, caused him to lose income, and humiliated him.

My gut is telling me that the tug-of-war between the rank-and-file/FOP and Straub isn't so much Straub's ideas are bad. But he comes off as very arrogant and seems to charge into situations shooting first and not asking questions. This can be seen perfectly in the situation with Officer Piland. Straub stuck by the original report (which really seemed bad for Piland)despite that evidence, over time, pans out and evolves. After the original report was completed, additional evidence was gathered that simply didn't support the original police report's conclusion. And Straub's failure to adapt to the evidence is just simple arrogance.

I was talking to someone at the meeting and I told them I come from the world of politics. And there's two schools of thought when it comes to the two-party system. You can change from within and support who you like and be part of the big tent, or you can leave the two party system and basically have very little influence on the political landscape.

The situation with Straub is that Straub is on the outside trying to change a body that he isn't a member of. I suspect if Chief Ciesielski was the one pushing these changes, we wouldn't be seeing half of this tug-of-war that we're currently seeing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pat Andrews Decides on At-Large for City-County Council

Pat Andrews, author of the Had Enough Indy? blog and long-time (now former) vice-president of the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, has decided to run for City-County Council for one of the four At-Large seats. Before the general election, she'll have to go through slating with the Marion County Democrat Party, which is in February.

She has a website, where you can learn more about her, here.

The Democrats hold one At-Large seat on the current council with Joanne Sanders, who is presumed to run for re-election. Andrews joins Annette Johnson, Zach Adamson, and John Barth, all running for the At-Large nomination. There are four At-Large seats on the City-County Council.

The best of luck to Pat in this endeavour. If anyone has earned a seat at the council, she has.

Doctor Director Straub Caught Sprucing Up Homicide Rate

The inspiration for "Bart" to start the Bart Lies! website was that every year, near the end of the year, it seemed like the homicide rate would get manipulated and would be reported lower by a few homicides lower than the actual homicide rate. Usually, media figures or some politicians would reduce the numbers by taking out any police-action homicides or self-defense figures. In other words, they use the murder rate. Which is fine, as long as they report it as such, and it usually only reduces the number of homicides by 0-5.

I noted last year that Prosecutor Carl Brizzi identified the number as the "homicide" rate and used a number that matches the number found at Bart Lies!.

But Doctor Director Frank Straub, the director of the Department of Public Safety, threw quite a curve ball my way when Bart pointed out that he said there have only been 89 homicides committed in Indianapolis this year. That's right, 89. And yes, he said "homicide", not "violent homicide" or "criminal homicide" or "murder". You can listen to the audio here.

Now, even if you don't accept Bart's count of 106, maybe you'll accept The Indianapolis Star's count of 102.

I'm still scratching my head on how you arrive at that number.

Several months back, The Star published an article where certain public officials were hoping that they'd get another year of less-than-100 criminal homicides. They list the number of non-criminal homicides at 8.

If you take the 102 number, and subtract 8, we're down to 94. Take away the two police action shootings, we're down to 92. Even if you take Eric Wells, who died after an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer ran into his motorcycle with his K-9 police vehicle, off the list, it only brings the number down to 91.

So how did Doctor Director Straub arrive at this number?

I'd sure like to know.

Straub's nomination is up for a vote in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee in the City-County Council on Wednesday at 5:30pm.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fred Karger Forms Exploratory Committee for Possible Presidential Run

Fred Karger is the first Republican to form an exploratory committee to explore the option of running for President of the United States. Karger would be the first openly gay presidential nominee if he wins the nomination. Karger has never held elective office, but was an aide to Republican President Ronald Reagan. More recently, he has formed the Californians Against Hate group, focused on working against Proposition 8 which effectively banned same-sex marriage in California.

Karger has little name recognition, but that hasn't stopped him from visiting Iowa and even putting out a campaign commercial.

If you want to hear more from Karger, he'll be appearing on the Alan Colmes' Show tonight. The show airs locally on WXNT 1430-AM between 10:00pm-1:00am EST, or you can listen to the online stream at Fox News Radio.

Doctor Director Frank Straub up for Reappointment, Will He Meet Any Opposition?

A bit more of an add on to my previous post, but thanks to an anonymous commenter on Indiana Barrister, I found a link to this letter authored by Bill Owensby, president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police.

In the letter, Owensby informs the FOP's members that Doctor Director Frank Straub has been renominated for the position of Director of Public Safety. The committee meeting is Wednesday at 5:30pm in room 260 of the City-County Building, and the full council takes it up on December 20th. While Owensby is careful not to come out for or against Straub's nomination in this letter, it's no secret that the FOP has been feuding with Straub throughout the year. Most recently, the FOP released a survey showing very low morale between the rank-and-file and the leadership. It'll be interesting to see how the FOP's members react to this.

It'll be interesting to see how council members react. Mary Morarity-Adams (D-District 17) is married to a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Benjamin Hunter (R-District 21) is a former officer of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Jack Sandlin (R-District 24), who was recently appointed to the council to replace Representative-elect Mike Speedy, is a former member of the Indianapolis Police Department and is a private investigator.

Both Moriarity-Adams and Hunter have a history of bucking party leadership. If the council wanted to fit in one more close party line vote, this would be it. Could Moriarity-Adams provide a crucial vote for Doctor Director Frank Straub? And could that impact her chances at slating, which is only two months away?

Fraternal Order of Police Vote to Pay Officer Bisard's Legal Fees

As has been reported in various media outlets today and yesterday, the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police will be paying Officer David Bisard's legal fees. The union president, Bill Owensby, has defended the decision, saying it was a democratic decision put up for a vote and that Bisard is in good standing with the FOP.

Bisard, months ago, was speeding with his lights and siren on to assist in serving a felony warrant for marijuana posession. At an intersection with stopped vehicles present, he swerved to avoid them but ended up hitting a group of motorcycles. One of the motorcyclists, Eric Wells, died on the scene. Two others, Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly, suffered traumatic injuries. Two hours later, Bisard was taken to a medical clinic to be treated for some injuries and his blood was drawn to be tested for intoxication, standard in any vehicular accident that involves injury or death. The blood alcohol content has been repeatedly reported to be 0.19, over twice the legal limit. The police report that was released last month stresses that dozens of law enforcement officials, medical personnel, and other people saw him during the time between the crash and the blood draw and claim he had no indication of being intoxicated. Drunk driving charges were originally filed, but later dropped, supposedly due to the technician who drew the blood wouldn't legally be able to do it in a criminal investigation.

As I reported earlier, I have a source that told me the lab somehow wrote down the wrong number, and the BAC was actually 0.019.

Since this happened, tensions have been tense between the general public and the police department. The Bisard case was only the latest in a long line of officers over the past several years that seem to be constantly in the news. Several protests concerning Bisard and the alleged beating of Brandon Johnson were held in warmer months, and Al Sharpton has made appearances in Indianapolis twice. Any political analyst would advice the rank-and-file of IMPD to stay far away from Bisard at this point.

So why would members of the police union overwhelmingly vote to pay for this guy's legal fees?

Bill Owensby, the president of the Indianapolis FOP, said during an interview with talk show host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, that Officer Bisard is entitled to due process.

I agree with that. But what he isn't entitled to is having the FOP pick up the tab. Especially since, as Abdul has pointed out, the FOP is under no obligation to do so. They have passed on representing police officers in court in recent years.

So why do they feel the need to represent Bisard?

I have no idea.

But the FOP is tying their reputation now with Bisard. And I fear that if the FOP's reputation goes in the toilet, it'll only make it harder for the rank-and-file to be trusted by the public. And if the public feels they can't be trusted, then the rank-and-file won't be able to do their job of to protect and serve.

Please see this post at Indiana Barrister to listen to the Owensby interview Shabazz conducted this morning. It runs about 12 minutes long.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Welcome Back, Kotter...I mean, Worden

The author of Indy's Painfully Objective Political Analysis, family law attorney Chris Worden, posted that he'd be taking a sabbatical back in June. It seems like the November 2 elections have bought Worden out of the woodworks and he had 12 posts throughout the month of November.

Welcome back, Chris. I hope he sticks around for the 2011 municipal election. He provides excellent analysis and offers incite into the local and state Democratic party that is hard to find in the blogosphere and impossible to find in the mainstream media.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pat Andrews to Run for City-County Council

Pat Andrews, who writes the Had Enough Indy? blog and has extensively worked with several organizations including the Marion County , has announced that she plans to run for City-County Council in the 2011 municipal elections.

Andrews has resigned the posts she holds in non-partisan organizations in preparation for this run so as not to bog the organizations down in partisan politics.

Andrews, a Democrat who lives in District 22, hasn't decided if she'll run for the District 22 nomination or an At-Large position.

District 22 is currently represented by Republican Robert Cockrum. Cocukrum has previously said that this term will be his last one. No Republican has yet publicly expressed interest in the seat. Christopher Jackson, who used to write for the Indy Democrat blog, was seeking the nomination earlier in the year until he got accepted to an out-of-state law school.

As for my unsolicited thoughts? Andrews would do well to see the District 22 nomination. For better or for worse, there is a Democratic incumbent for the At-Large seats in Joanne Sanders, along with at least two strong At-Large candidates in Zach Adamson and Annette Johnson. There's a third candidate, John Barth, who I'm not very familiar with but he's been campaigning just as long as Adamson and Johnson. That's four candidates right there. It would be hard to squeeze into that full field.

Good luck to Pat Andrews. She would be an excellent District 22 nomination for the Democratic Party in 2011. She attends just about every council meeting anyway, and now she can put her extensive knowledge to good use if she's elected.

EDIT: It's been mentioned to me that Decatur Township leans Republican. It seems Pat Andrews might have an uphill battle in either race. Either way, best of luck to her. We need more people like her on the council.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Overhearing Conversations

While I was out and about earlier tonight, I couldn't help but overhearing two ladies talking about local politics. The Capital Improvement Board, the water utility sale, and the Affiliated Computer Services parking scam were all bought up.

I walked over and introduced myself to them and we had a nice chat on various topics.

I know us bloggers can be a bit obsessive about local politics. But its nice to be reassured that the concerns we have also exist in the "real" world amongst ordinary citizens.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving/Black Friday

It's strange how things evolve.

I've been in journalism, in some form or another, since high school. I started out at Y-Press and stayed there until the end of high school. At some point, I got in touch with some folks from the local music scene and started writing for a website called Indianapolis Music Net. During my first two years in college, even though I didn't work on any type of newspaper, I was in the IU School of Journalism taking classes and doing well. When I switched out of the School of Journalism, I lost that creative outlet that I needed.

Since then, I've thought that maybe journalism, as a profession, might not be right for me. The industry is going through a transition period, and nobody has a safe job. The job I used to dream about at The Indianapolis Star likely doesn't exist.

But just because the industry is screwed up doesn't mean I can't do this on my own.

So in the middle of 2009, while I was going through some personal issues, that's how this blog came to be. As an outlet to keep me writing and keep my craft in form.

And it's been well over a year since I started writing, so I guess the plan has expanded.

If you look at the earlier entries, I think they're a bit more personal than I like. At some point, I figured that I only have a limited amount of stories that can be introduced into the news cycle to be relevant that have ME as the focus. I also decided I wasn't all that interesting to write about anyway, and I don't like the spotlight.

So now I do a combination of straight reporting and commentary. It's mostly commentary, since I do this in my spare time. But I love writing original news pieces when I can. And I enjoy observing the media in this town, which is really an interest of mine that I haven't focused much on.

I also like to think that I provide something a bit unique in the local, political blogosphere. Many of the political bloggers are either media pundits or people who work within the two party system as ward chairman or precinct committeemen or similar positions.

So I like to think that I, as someone who isn't tied to a single political party, give a bit of a unique perspective.

I want to thank anyone reading this. I never imagined anyone outside of my immediete family and close friends ever giving a damn about what I write. And while I still mostly do it for myself, it helps to know that there are people who read who care.

Thank you all. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and stay safe on Black Friday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More on the TSA and What We Can Do Locally About It

If you haven't read my post from yesterday, do so. I updated it several times, added some more Obama bashing, and linked to some other posts and news articles that I thought were interesting.

The Transportation Securities Administration maintains a blog and actually has a really good social networking system as far as government agencies go. Most just issue press releases and interact very little with those that read the social networking accounts.

So in response to an airport out in Orlando considering switching to a private security firm, the TSA blog clears up some points of confusion in this post. It basically says that even if a private security firm does the actual screenings, the TSA is still in charge of making the regulations.

In addition to supporting Congressman Ron Paul's legislation mentioned in yesterday's post (have you called your US Congress and Senate representatives yet?), I need to do some digging to see what legislative body would have the authority to hire a private security firm locally at the Indianapolis International Airport. Would it be the City-County Council or the Indianapolis Airport Authority?

I'll do some asking and report back later.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Has The Public Finally Woken Up to the Corrupt Practices of the TSA?

Outrage has been posted by both the left and the right on the new Transportation Securities Administration's standards for flights that take off within the United States. These new include a full body scan or an "enhanced" pat down which goes into regions normally considered private by most of society.

The full body scan is exactly what it sounds like. It takes an image of your entire body, and a TSA agent in a separate room views it. Some concerns have been made about the amount of radiation it gives off. And my understanding is that, for most travellers who fly infrequently, it's negligible. But for frequent travellers or anyone who works behind the security checkpoint of an airport, it could be cause for concern. The images are also more identifiable than people make them out to be. One TSA agent got angry after co-workers made fun of his genitalia after a test screening.
The "enhanced" pat downs have likely caused the most outrage, mostly because the TSA has shown that it's not able to follow it's own rules. A video I've seen frequently on CNN shows a TSA agent sliding her hand between a woman's breasts in a sideways, swiping motion. But that isn't what happened to a woman who was forced to remove her prosthetic breast (which she has because she's a breast cancer survivor). Ironically, TSA standards say you won't be asked to remove a prosthesis and that you shouldn't even voluntarily remove it.

Another case that arose is when a traveller who has to wear a urostomy bag, a survivor of bladder cancer, alleges that the TSA agent that touched the bag and broke the seal on it. The seal break caused the bag to leak, leaving the traveller with urine soaked clothing which he couldn't change out of until after boarding the flight. I imagine he didn't want to miss his flight, and it might take several minutes longer for him to change clothes due to the urostomy bag. The article ends saying that the TSA is in touch with an advocacy group for people with disabilities, hoping that they'll have policies rolled out soon to deal properly with these situations. You would hope they'd have all their ducks in a row BEFORE they roll out these enhanced screening procedures, not after.

And to top it all off, President Barack Obama seems to have some of the same advisers as Mayor Greg Ballard who seem to be intentionally destroying any credibility either politician has by pushing them in front of unpopular issues. In a politically unwise move, Obama has defended the new policies, saying it's a "tough situation". But Obama goes so far to say that these new policies are the only ones they consider to be effective to prevent another Christmas Day underwear bomber episode. Someone should remind Obama that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded the plane in Amsterdam and there was no way the TSA could've prevented it. So much for having a self-described "student of history" in the White House when he can't even remember what happened less than a year ago.

Maybe President Obama would feel differently if he had to go through these procedures and the agents were unaware of his status? Maybe he'd feel differently if his daughters, ages 12 and 9, were felt up by the TSA like this young man here or this 3 year old here.

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has introduced legislation that will require all federal officials to follow all laws regarding sexual contact and taking of pictures that anyone else would have to follow, and that they aren't exempt from them just because of their job. It would effectively end the practices of the enhanced pat downs and the full body scan. I am in full support of this legislation, particularly because these policies were decided by TSA bureaucrats rather than our elected officials, who we elect to make informed, educated decisions on our behalf.

Paul's legislation is House Resolution 6416. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Most reading this likely reside within the 7th Congressional District of Indiana, so I'll list all possible ways to get in touch with Congressman André Carson and Senators Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar.

If you decide to call, make sure to ask for someone who handles legislation in the DC office. In this specific case, homeland security would be the topic.

DC Phone: (202)225-4011
E-mail: See this page.
Facebook: Personal page and Congressional Fan Page.
Youtube: Here.

DC Phone: (202)224-5623
E-mail: See this page.
Facebook: Personal page and Fan page.
Youtube: Here.

DC Phone: (202)224-4814
E-mail: See this page.
Facebook: Fan page and personal page.
Youtube: Here.
Twitter: Here.

UPDATE: And here's what happens when the TSA does,in fact, investigate an allegation. It clears the agent and says they acted appropriately.

Swift says they told her she was singled out because she was wearing a skirt. She says the search earlier this month was very rough and left her in tears.

"The female officer ran her hand up the inside of my leg to my groin and she did it so hard and so rough she lifted me off my heels," she says. "I think I yelped. I was in pain for about an hour afterwards. It just felt excessive and unnecessary."

It's worth noting Swift did not choose the enhanced pat-down, but was singled out and chosen by the TSA.

Among other sites:

While there are several posts at the LGBT site The Bilerico Project on the subject of the new search procedures (such as this one), to the best of my knowledge, no official LGBT organization has taken a position on these procedures. One of the comments in the aforementioned post links to an ACLU site that is collecting complaints based on the TSA searches which you can go to here.

For another take on the subject, Jon Easter of Indy Democrat has a post you can view here. The comments section is also worth a read.

Erick Erickson of Red State throws in his two cents here. This story concerns several of our own troops, including Indiana National Guard members who stopped in Indianapolis, Indiana's international airport to drop off the guard members.

TSA agents allegedly hate the new rules as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Help Save Y-Press

I got my start in journalism in part due to the dedicated folks at Y-Press. Y-Press is a news bureau run by and aimed at the audience of those under age 18, covering angles of stories from a youth perspective. With the younger kids conducting the interviews, the older middle and high school aged children writing the stories and doing a lot of the editing, and the adults juggling interview schedules and providing transportation, it was at times a hectic experience, but always rewarding.

You might remember seeing Y-Press, or Children's Express as it was known earlier, on the third floor of the Children's Museum in the 1990s. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but at some point, Y-Press relocated shortly after The Indianapolis News folded and took over it's office space on one of the upper floors of The Indianapolis Star's building. In late 2009, Y-Press moved again, this time to the former photo department area still within the Star's building.

According to Ruth Holladay, Y-Press is having financial troubles. They had a recent $10,000 donation to keep them afloat through this month, but they need more to keep things going. Please consider donating to them. Here is a direct link to their donation page. You can give through Google Checkout or you can mail them a check.

UPDATE: They also have a Facebook fan page. Sometimes, they have deals with local businesses where a percentage of the proceeds for a day's business will go towards Y-Press.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Journalism 101

As someone who has worked in journalism since high school, I like to keep track of how the field of journalism functions, and how different it operates from how I was taught during my years in Y-Press and in the IU School of Journalism at IUPUI.

One particular nitpick I've had in recent months is the use of formal titles, specifically the term "Doctor", often shortened to "Dr." According to the Associated Press Stylebook (which is basically The Bible for journalists), the term "Dr." should only be used for those in the medical or dental professions that hold the proper qualifications. In recent years, as alternate treatment such as osteopathic and chiropractic have become more acceptable, it's become appropriate to even use the "Dr." term for those in alternate medical fields as well.

But people with a doctorate of philosophy degree should fall under a different title. There is a bit of a differing viewpoint as to what the proper view is, but it's generally accepted that "Dr." shouldn't be used.

Writing, of course, differs based on who you're writing for. The Department of Health and Human Services have posted how their web writing and press release writing differs from the AP Stylebook here. But when writing as a journalist for a news source, let's stick with identifying what the PhD is in rather than using the term "Dr."

One of the more humorous examples of this abuse of the term "Dr." comes from Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. In the regular segment "Cheating Death", Colbert identifies himself as "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA", then reminds the audience (humorously) that he isn't a medical doctor. The DFA stands for Doctorate in Fine Arts, which is an honorary degree he received a few years ago. With the amount of honorary degrees some people receive, you could stretch their title probably for a paragraph or two.

And what originally pushed this to the front of my mind so much so that I had to write about it?

When is the local media going to stop using the "Dr." title when referring to Public Safety Director Frank Straub?

Monday, November 15, 2010

City-County Council Ignores Will of People. How Will This Play in 2011?

Once again, the City-County Council rushed through a controversial proposal with little deliberation, and it barely passes. And due to passing by one vote, it will be with us for the next 50 years. Some of you older folks reading this will be dead by the time the Affiliated Computer Services' contract to manage the public parking asset comes up for an actual renewal.

You can follow a blow-by-blow account of my thoughts either on Twitter or on Facebook, so I won't bore you with the details of the actual meeting. Jon Easter also has an excellent write up over at Indy Democrat.

The vote to pass this was 15-14. Paul Bateman (D-11th) voted with 14 Republicans to pass. Christine Scales (R-4th) and Edward Coleman (LP-At Large) voted with 12 Democrats to oppose it. There was also a vote to send it back to committee, which I believe fell along similar lines.

It's interesting to hear what the Democrats are saying, because they can really use this issue in the upcoming election. Public parking is something that is real and is often used regularly by the average citizen. It's not something as abstract as transferring a sewer utility to a not-for-profit public charitable trust, or funnelling more money to the Capital Improvement Board from a different revenue stream. Those are a bit harder to grasp. But "meter rates go up, lobbyist's clients get sweetheart deal" is a fairly easy message to communicate. This will be an interesting topic in 2011, since it's likely the last major initiative the Ballard administration and the GOP council can shove through before the election cycle begins.

But it's also interesting to see the difference in attitude between Democrats, or just those that generally lean left politically, react to tonight's vote differently than those who are firmly entrenched in the Democratic party. Adam Kirsch, the Executive Director of the Marion County Democratic Party, is portraying City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn (R-Barnes and Thornburg) as the "deciding vote". And I understand that those who work within the party, especially employed by the party, cannot publicly speak ill of another Democrat. It's an interesting piece of spin, but I don't buy it, simply because very few on the council take those ethics rules seriously. The council, for decades, has had lax or no rules regarding vote abstaining and conflicts of interest, and now it has mere window dressing. Vaughn was never going to vote against it, and if the shoe was on the other foot, more than a few Democratic council representatives wouldn't vote against their own self-interest either.

But it isn't too hard to find Democrats who are greatly disappointed in Bateman's vote. Chris Worden probably presents the best case, even going as far to say that Bateman is buying into race card politics. I'm sure Terry Burns, who runs The Indianapolis Times blog, will have a post in the next day or two questioning Bateman's future in the Democratic party.

Did I mention Bateman, the deciding vote, went on Amos Brown earlier today to shill for the ACS parking contract? This is in stark contrast to his reaction when Mayor Greg Ballard's campaign sent out a press release touting Bateman's vote in the wastewater utility sale touting Bateman's vote as bi-partisanship, where Bateman was not pleased with his vote being used as a political tool.

My two cents? Bateman won't get slated in 2011. If he still manages to win the primary, the county party won't provide support for Bateman, and might even try to recruit a Green Party candidate to ensure he won't get elected.

I'm not intimately familiar with the council districts and the party lines within them, but at least three of the four At-Large seats will go Democratic, even if Ballard wins re-election (and I doubt he will, but that's for another post). The Democrats have at least two candidates who have been running for the better part of this year in Zach Adamson and Annette Johnson, for the At-Large seats.

Joanne Sanders will retain her seat and become the next President of the City-County Council.

Coleman, who ran as a Republican in 2007 but switched parties, has an uphill battle in retaining his seat. The Libertarian Party of Marion County, Indiana, and probably the national party, will likely dump money into this race because Coleman is arguably the highest ranking Libertarian as far as elected public offices go. The Libertarians will need to rely on the general low voter turnout that municipal elections tend to attract as well as a dispirited Republican base, and a good chunk of those Republicans that do show up to vote Libertarian instead. In my uneducated, unwanted, and unasked for opinion, I give the LP a 20% chance at retaining the seat.

It remains to be seen how big the Get Out the Vote effort will be among county Democrats and how involved Representative André Carson (D-7th Congressional District) is with it. Carson's GOTV drive is largely credited as the reason Marion County avoided the GOP tidal wave that swept most of the state and nation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Indianapolis' Failed Panhandling Ordinance

I don't know if it's just not being enforced, or it's an unworkable ordinance, but I don't think the revised panhandling ordinance* is being enforced.

What this does is expand the ordinance so as to cover a variety of activities that can't be done 50 feet from an intersection that has a stop sign or traffic signal between a pedestrian and a person in a vehicle. Everything from advertising, holding signs, soliciting, selling, and so on is banned.

I spoke out against the ordinance as it was proposed because I felt regulating signs was ridiculous. I felt it didn't leave enough room for political and social free speech, which I value highly. A lot of the other stuff I'm personally fine with being in there.

But since then, I've noticed it really hasn't helped the problem.

I have a client on the east side of Indianapolis, and I often take 38th Street to get to the location. This leads me to the intersection of 38th and Fall Creek, where I often see a few men from one of the nearby religious organizations waving some type of newspaper or pamphlet and distributing it to people in vehicles. That's not much of a problem, but I've also seen them stand in the median and walk into the middle of lanes and converse with people in vehicles, often still being inbetween a bunch of cars when the traffic signal turns green. One of these days, these young men are going to get run over or cause a traffic jam.

So I've called the non-emergency police dispatch number (327-3811) and made several reports within the past week. I'm assuming the police showed up and told the men to scram, but I saw the men out and about again on Friday, November 12th.

I believe the problem is the law is both too broad and that there are no specific punishments law enforcement can charge panhandlers with outside of telling them to leave. In the case of panhandling at highway exits and busy intersections like 38th St and Fall Creek, it is a public safety issue. Written warning the first time, and a fine that gets higher as the offences pile up. Maybe fine the employer as well if they're on the clock with a church or mosque in the area. And I bet these men will stop what they're doing after a few checks to the city are written.

*Note: Amazingly, this ordinance is still available despite it being voted on in 2009. Please let me know if it goes down and I'll re-host it on my Google Docs account.

EDIT: Please see my post in the comments section that clarifies a bit about the different types of panhandling.

Call and E-Mail Councillor Bateman and Tell Him to Reject the ACS Parking Scam!

Paul Bateman (D-11th) may become the deciding non-Republican vote to make up for the fact that Christine Scales (R-4th) refuses to go along with the scam that the Ballard administration and Affiliated Computer Services are shoving through the City-County Council. Just as Mayor Greg Ballard (R) did with the water utility sale, one or two votes will be touted as bi-partisanship.

The question isn't the action of the vote, but why is Bateman even considering voting for it? Does he honestly think this is a good deal? Has he read the entire contract and understand the full ramifications?

Bateman is a mystery to me. I don't know why he'd vote for it, but the cynic in me might lead me to think he's been promised some type of benefit for his district. It probably isn't related to the parking deal and the monetary "beneft" though. By state statute, money made from public parking has to go back to areas where meters and lots are located. And Bateman's district isn't likely to have many, if any at all, metered areas.
I could type up a few paragraphs about how the point of public parking is to manage downtown and make it an efficient place to live and work and manage curbside space rather than to make a few bucks, but I feel that would be wasted effort.

Please contact Bateman. This is an important vote, and this deal, if implemented, could very well outlive many who read this.

Bateman's e-mail is

The City-County Council's office number is (317)327-4242.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guess what happened at that OTHER committee meeting last night?

Several events were scheduled around the city last night. Indy Connect was hosting a forum at the Julia Carson Government Centre, Mayor Greg Ballard (R) was hosting a Rebuild Indy forum with City-County Councillor Paul Bateman (D-11th), and two City-County Council committees met. The Rules and Public Policy Committee met, which I've already covered. In addition, the Committee on Committees also met.

The Committee on Committees consists of the President of the Council, Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader and assigns committees. It's agenda has no detailed explanation of what is actually being done at the meeting besides "Committee Assignments" and, according to a reliable source, Channel 16 doesn't record this committee's meetings.

My understanding is that Christine Scales (R-4th) was taken off of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee and wasn't reassigned elsewhere.

Why Scales? She has bucked the administration twice in the recent past on the Capital Improvement Board, both voting against the new taxes levied to support it and it's most recent budget which included a bailout for the Indiana Pacers. She voted for the water utility sale, but is rumored to once again buck the administration on the ACS deal if it comes up for a vote next week. With these controversial proposals and a razor thin majority on the council, Ballard and Council President Ryan Vaughn have come to rely on several wild cards, including Bateman, Jackie Nytes (D-9th), Mary Moriarity-Adams (D-17th) and Edward Coleman (LP-At Large).

Jon Murray of The Indianapolis Star is reporting today that she sent an e-mail to her caucus asking caucus leaders to table the proposal so as to have more time to deliberate on the proposal itself and explore other options.

It seems Scales honestly wants a good piece of legislation passed and wants to do good for her fellow Republicans. Unfortunately, they aren't willing to listen.

LinkTerry Burns of The Indianapolis Times has previously openly wondered about a primary challenge for the three Democrats who voted for the water utility sale (Nytes, Adams, and Bateman). So the question here is, will the Marion County GOP do the same to Scales? Or maybe they just won't support her in her re-election attempt since she's already facing a Democratic opponent?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fun Facts About ACS And the Parking Deal!

Here's some more Fun Facts!(TM) about the ACS-City parking deal.

  • Did you know that Park Indy isn't just some cool term Michael Huber, Deputy Mayor of economic development, coined? It isn't! Park Indy is an actual limited liability corporation (LLC) that consists of Affiliated Computer Services, Denison Parking, and Evans Time. Park Indy LLC is located in Delaware. Why Delaware? Well, all the cool kids know that Delaware has some pretty nifty benefits for businesses that incorporate there even if they don't operate in Delaware.
  • Did you know these 200 jobs that are promised are completely separate from the actual parking contract? Not only that, but an ACS rep came out and said they are only committing these jobs for seven years. And to the best of my knowledge, there's no guarantee those jobs will actually be in Marion County. They could be in Marion, Indiana, where ACS runs their Family and Social Services Administration call centre for the state of Indiana. Paul Ogden has more on how unenforceable and toothless the jobs agreement is here.

More of these fun facts will come forward as my brain processes them.

On another note, The Indianapolis Star's Jon Murray e-mailed me earlier today and got my thoughts on this scam. He was at the committee meeting, so look for his article in tomorrow's Star.

How Will Council Votes Pan Out on the ACS-City Parking Scam?

Attending City-County Council meetings can be a dull task. You sit there for hours for the one item on the agenda you're there for, and then you see a Power Point presentation you've seen already that takes five minutes to go through but somehow takes about an hour to do so.

But going to council meetings means you get to hear things that you wouldn't when watching it on Channel 16.

The committee, predictably, voted along party lines, 5-3, with a do-past recommendation. Joanne Sanders (D-At Large) wanted to propose a "Do Not Pass" recommendation but was shot down.

Jackie Nytes (D-9th district), who doesn't sit on the committee, was very vocal in her criticism and sounded much different than her political posturing during the Capital Improvement Board's budget vote, which she cast the deciding vote in favor of it.

Edward Coleman (LP-At Large), also not sitting on the committee, asked questions on behalf of his constituents. During the meeting, I thought he was offering timid support of the deal, and wanted to know why the city was rushing to get it through the council. But according to others at the meeting, he said that unless they delay the vote so he can sort through the issues, he'll be voting against it.

Several Democratic council members were present in the audience but chose not to sit in the seats for the committee's guest councillors. Some in the audience included my representative, Maggie Lewis (D-9th) and Dane Mahern (D-19th). Barbara Malone (R-At Large), a co-sponsor of the parking privatization ordinance, also sat in the audience.

After the meeting, there were two groups that left the City-County Building. Several members of the Democratic caucus were seen outside of the committee room. From what I hear, they're having dinner as a caucus to see where all the votes will fall. I hear Paul Bateman (D-11th) is considering voting for the proposal. Bateman, along with Nytes and Mary Moriarity-Adams (D-17th) crossed party lines to vote for the water utility sale. On the other side of the isle, Christine Scales (R-4th), who has bucked the party line several times, is considering voting against it. That makes Bateman's Coleman's votes very important to Mayor Greg Ballard and the GOP caucus.

The other group was almost everyone who was at the meeting besides the citizens and council members seemed to be people working on the deal in some form or another. I saw Michael Huber, Deputy Mayor of economic development, shaking hands with several people who weren't council members and didn't speak but attended the meeting anyway. But that doesn't surprise me. After you took the city insiders, the Democratic caucus, and the few citizens out of the room as soon as the parking deal discussion was over, the room was empty except for the actual committee.

I'll chime in more about the meeting itself in a later post.

What Happened to Indy's Political Stock Exchange?

I've often commented on the Indy's Political Stock Exchange blog and found it to be unique in a sea of political pundits, most of whom are either media figures or workers within the county or state political parties.

We often see the "death" of a few blogs around the post-election season, but they didn't even make it that far. Their last post was dated October 2, 2010.

But I certainly understand taking some time off. Writing can be hard, and writing as a group can lead to unique challenges even though at first it seems like it'd make writing and reporting easier. Hopefully my friends over at IPSE are just getting their act together for the 2011 municipal election. It'll be one hell of a ride, and I'd love to have them along.

Maybe if we all send them a friendly e-mail at they'll let us know what's up?

Monday, November 8, 2010

City-County Council Takes Up Revised ACS Deal Tuesday

The Rules and Public Policy Committee will meet at 5:30pm Tuesday in room 260 of the City-County Building. The ACS-City revised deal to privatize publicly owned parking is on the agenda and is by far the most significant item on said agenda. I encourage anyone and everyone who has a passionate opinion on this to attend the meeting.

You can see the full agenda here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More on the ACS Parking Scam or Be Wary of the Dollar Sign

I attended the forum last night hosted by City-County Councillor Ed Coleman (LP-At Large) on the revised Affiliated Computer Services-City Of Indianapolis parking deal. Michael Huber, the deputy mayor who is heading this project, was the main presenter. He was supported by one representative each from the following groups: Indianapolis Downtown Inc, Evens Time, and ACS. In attendance also were several members of the Libertarian Party, including Timothy Maguire, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Marion County. Pat Andrews was there, as were about a dozen other people.

The presentation was pretty dull and didn't consist of a lot of information that I hadn't already seen before. You can view it for yourself here. One slide did stand out, and led to my first question once Huber started taking questions from the audience.

I noticed that the projections that the city would get were approximately $300 million under the old deal and $600 million under the new deal. Knowing that the financial advisers to the city, Morgan Stanley, estimated much lower, and knowing that these amounts were ACS' estimate, I asked what the differences were and how Huber arrived at these numbers. He offered to send me the exact numbers and I've since e-mailed him and am awaiting his response.

I then expressed my concern that, over the course of the next 50 years, public transportation could change within central Indiana. Indy Connect has several events planned within this month, and if their goals are ever accomplished, this long term lease could cause us problems that the donut counties don't have. Huber bought up the 200 meters that are allowed to be removed from the system without penalty, and said that Indy Connect was working with them at some point to put that into the contract.

I also asked how the long term lease would affect T2 Systems and their parking "court". The "court" would still be working directly for the city and not ACS.

The 200 jobs were also a topic of a few questions, and Huber and the ACS representative made no secret that the 200 jobs were in a separate contract and weren't necessarily related to the management of parking. There's nothing in that separate contract that specifies what these jobs are, how much they pay, and so on.

One of the more emotional testimonies was given by a resident who lives within downtown but outside of the central area where all the businesses are located. His neighborhood has several parking meters all along the sidewalks of his and his neighbor's homes. Even though he says that no businesses are even near his home, they are still ticketed as if they were. He's made peace with the fact that, unless he wants to feed the meter outside of his own home, he has to be out the door by 7am and home no earlier than 6pm. But it puts an inconvenience when he has days off, or friends and family come over. He told of one story where on the day after Thanksgiving, he wakes up to find a ticket on his vehicle left at 7:01am. He called the city to complain, but the city wasn't open for business that day. But Denison Parking and it's meter maids certainly were.

With the extended time of the meters to 9pm and Saturdays, it seems like this gentlemen will essentially be kicked out of his home for several hours more than he already is. Even though he has met with Huber and ACS previously, it doesn't seem anything was changed to address his neighborhood's concerns.

When Coleman asked what the audience thought, I told him my story of the utility sale to Citizen's Energy Group, which Coleman supported. I, along with several bloggers and representatives of the Libertarian Party, met with Citizens Energy Group's lawyers in a meeting hosted by Councillor Christine Scales (R-4th District). Gary Welsh and I both questioned how Citizens would attain the savings they could,and Welsh specifically pointed to the Veolia contract that has been criticized as a one-sided deal. Citizens' representatives told us that Veolia and United Water's contracts will have to be bought in as the vendors at least for the remainder of their contract. And a week or two ago, we learned that Veolia was going to get a huge buy out because apparently, Citizens can't work efficiently with them.

My concern to this deal was similar. That there is something down the road that we aren't looking at now, and we'll be forced to spend a whole lot of money to get out of this deal or improve it at a later date.

I talked with several people after the meeting, and I suspect I ran into the stereotypical libertarian mindset of "privatize everything" and "sell everything that isn't nailed down". Some had made the assumption that the government doesn't do anything well, so why shouldn't we sell off this asset? What I say to them is that the day-to-day management isn't even going to be done by ACS. It'll be performed by Denison Parking, the same people doing it now. And personally, I think they're doing a fine job. Why add two more layers of bureaucracy?

I think some people are getting fooled by the huge dollar amounts shown. What is lost upon them is that the purpose of parking meters isn't to raise a huge amount of money, but to encourage turnover and make efficient use of curbside space. The minimal amount of money raised by them is just supplemental to whatever taxes are normally imposed for the maintenance of roads and sidewalks.

This deal is rotten to the core, there's no other way to put it. This introduces no free market principals to the mix, and is just a 50 year government approved monopoly on parking. At the very least, we should start this process over again, like other cities have when they rejected the initial parking proposals.

Additional views:

Advance Indiana: here and here.
Pat Andrews: here and here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Traffic Court Drama in Beech Grove, Mayor Backs Hypocritical Judge

Deanna Dewberry of WISH-TV has been reporting about the immoral and hypocritical activities of a part-time judge in Beech Grove, Indiana. Charity Bryan, who has a disabled placard for her car, recently got a ticket for it not being visible. Her husband and her say it must've fallen off the mirror it was hanging on and fell onto the dash. They tried to appeal to the judge of the Beech Grove traffic and parking court, a retired lawyer who hears one case a month, and he had no sympathy for Bryan at all. As Dewberry writes:

And that's where they went. But Bryan says what happened behind the closed doors of the Beech Grove Traffic Court was a farce.

"The judge was rude. He wouldn't let me talk," said Bryan.

She says the judge gave far more weight to the officer's testimony that her placard wasn't where it was supposed to be. It didn’t matter that she was paralyzed, or that she legally had a placard. In the end, the judge lowered her ticket cost from $75 to $10.50 but tacked on $114.50 in court costs, bringing her ticket cost to $125.

Bryan says the judge didn't sympathize with her plight at all. And what surprised her most is that the honorable Charles Hunter uses a wheelchair.

"He came out in a wheelchair and I thought, 'OK, he'll understand and he'll dismiss it,'" she said.

No such luck. I-Team 8 wanted to know why, so we decided to visit the judge.

"I'm an old timer," Hunter said laughing as he adjusted his microphone.

His self-description is accurate. Judge Hunter is 87. Local GOP leaders brought him out of retirement in 2007 to run for judge of Beech Grove's newly-created traffic court. When we asked him about Charity Hunter's case, the judge said he didn't remember it.

Judge Hunter hears cases once a month and it's been just 14 days since he presided over Charity Bryan's trial, but he has no memory of the case. So we pose a hypothetical scenario.

We asked if someone could indeed prove that they had a handicapped placard and they were indeed disabled, even if the placard wasn't where it was supposed to be, would he dismiss the ticket?

"If they actually were disabled and they had a placard I wouldn't find them guilty, no," he said.

That was interesting considering the fact he had done so in the Bryan's case. I-Team investigators asked the judge to take a second look at the case, and he agrees.

After a week Judge Hunter promised to take a second look at Charity and Robert Bryan's parking ticket. It's back to court, and this time I was there to watch. The proceeding is, by my clock, 2 minutes and 48 seconds. When Bryan argues she is paralyzed and her handicapped placard had fallen off her rear view mirror, Judge Hunter dismisses the argument with a wave of his hand.

"I believe this is how they make their revenue, their money," said Charity Bryan after leaving court.

Dewberry goes on to write that the judge, Charles Hunter, hears one case a month and is paid $42,000 a year. Operation expenses outside of the judge's salary total over $120,000, but the court only brings in $85,000 annually. Ironically, the city-county treasurer for Beech Grove, Chris Duffer, admits that the court was started to be a revenue stream for the city.

After the second hearing, the WISH-TV cameras found the judge's car and found that his disabled placard wasn't displayed either. Yet he had no sympathy slapping someone guilty of the same offense with over $100 in court fees.

Dewberry follows up where the mayor of Beech Grove, Joe Wright, completely backs Judge Hunter and also has no sympathy for Bryan or other possible defendants who've been wrongly convicted and excessively fined in the court room that Hunter runs. It's not uncommon for municipalities, especially smaller ones, to look to traffic and parking citations as a source of funding. New Rome, Ohio, a former town (now dissolved) had 60 residents and had as many as 14 police officers, and earned infamy for being a speed trap (here and here). As I've documented before, Indianapolis' Parking "court" (separate from the traffic court) is run by a private company, T2 Systems. T2 Systems is also the manufacturer of the software the court uses to manage the parking citations.

Out in Keen, New Hampshire, where the Free State Project takes place, some "Free Staters" have had success stories of getting out of parking and traffic citations or being given permission to pay to a charity rather than the municipal government.

One of these days, people are going to realize that these courts that micromanage our lives are just a backdoor tax. It's the equivalent of what the IRS does every day but on a smaller scale, and these schemes rarely get the attention that the feds do. Kudos to Dewberry for paying attention.