Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Blog Business Updates

On the right hand side of this page, you'll see a new section entitled "About this Blog." I'll be using this for a few things I've wanted to put up since this blog got started. A policies page is already up, as well as a contact page. The contact page also lists my Twitter feed and personal Facebook profile.

In the works in the same section is an About Me page and another page detailing various methods of contacting elected political officials. Contacting elected officials isn't like it used to be. In addition to telephone, snail mail, and e-mail, offices as low as Clerk and Assesor and as high as United States Senator are using a variety of social media to promote what their office does and keep in touch with constitutents. I'll be listing ALL methods of contact that I can find. When I can, I'll note the official's preferred method of contact as well.

While I've been a bit unmotivated to write much lately (with academics and work picking up), Pat Andrews at Had Enough Indy? has two excellent pieces here and here. The first deals with some funny math that the municipal corporation known as the Capitol Improvement Board put out. The CIB, after crying poverty for a good chunk of 2009 and 2010, has increased their 2011 budget by about $10 million, which is just about the same that they've agreed to give for a Pacers bailout over the next few years. The second deals with a crime prevention grant that the tourism not-for-profit Indianapolis Downtown Inc got in 2009 and how payments were handled.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bisard Protest/Rally IV: What's the Goal?

This past Friday was the fourth time in two weeks that a large group of bikers gathered somewhere in Indianapolis to vent their frustration at the alleged mishandling of the case involving Officer Dave Bisard.

But what was different this time? Well, not much. The location was the same as it was the past two Friday's, as was the goal. And from what I'm reading on Facebook, even though the news media was there, apparently it didn't get much air time in the evening news.

So what should these citizens do to get their voices heard? Well, like it or not, this city is responding in baby steps and the changes they need to make involving police policy (like what pundit Abdul Hakim-Shabazz outlines here) is likely to take time.

What these folks need to do is start talking to their General Assembly representatives. It's ultimately the law that they crafted that resulted in the blood test results being thrown out. And as much whining some in the news media do about the General Assembly, I was impressed at their speedy action on a number of pieces of legislation during their 2010 session.

This handy tool will let you find all of your elected representaties. Start contacting them now.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Afternoon Suicide Downtown

I was having a late lunch at Jimmy John's at Meridian and Washington around 3pm when I noticed all the Jimmy John's employees started leaving. The first part of an IMPD squad was arriving due to reports of gun shots from the Dennison parking garage on South Meridian. Before the dozens of additional law enforcement and media swarmed onto the area, there was a clear line of sight from the corner I stood at and where the body of the murder victim was. I later learned that the victim fell from one of the parking garage floors and landed on the sidewalk, almost hitting a pedestrian.

I first started getting reports via Twitter and word-of-mouth that the shooter killed himself, but I could still see a law enforcement officer with a firearm pointed to the parking garage. I later saw a LEO run into the garage. It was only about 20 minutes later that a Fox 59 reporter confirmed that the shooter shot himself.

As for the number of shots, the firearm used by the shooter, and other details, they are all under investigation. Reports from Twitter and from people I talked to at the scene all revealed different details. Hopefully the evening news casts will have a more full picture.

UPDATE: WIBC has a pretty good summary of what happened, including confirmation of the use of two handguns by the shooter.

UPDATE II: Wish-TV is reporting that it is a suicide and that there was no homicide at the scene. The man fired random shots then jumped. Earlier in the week, someone else committed suicide in a very public manner as well.

What's interesting is that there is a body in Hendricks County that police say is connected to the suicide that happened in downtown Indianapolis today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Take-Home Cars and the City-County 2011 Budget

I haven't had the time to delve deeply into either the ACS Parking contract, or the 2011 proposed budget for the city-county. However, one aspect that has been talked up was the take-home car policy.

Councilor José Evans (D-District 1, also a mayoral candidate on the Democratic side) issued a press release announcing that Mayor Greg Ballard's proposed budget would eliminate the take-home car program from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Two blogs (here and in the comments section here) have raised doubts on what exactly the plan is going forward.

We are facing tough times within the city-county, and it isn't unexpected. Cities across the United States, from coast to coast, have slashed budgets, sometimes cutting into vital city services. And take-home cars seem like a luxury.

But, in general, I'm supportive of take-home cars for city-county law enforcement, which in Marion County, is IMPD.

So let's look at take-home car programs in other city-county departments, including the Sheriff's Department. The Marion County Sheriff and his deputies are in charge of the jails, securing the City-County Building, maintaining the sex offender's list, and a few other administrative duties. To me, there isn't a whole lot of emergency situations that could arise in the daily tasks that the Sheriff's Department handles, so their take-home car program should be one of the first on the chopping blocks. That also goes for every other non-IMPD department that has a take-home car program (which hopefully, isn't that many).

IMPD's officers will need to get to emergency situations often, and if that means providing them a working car, so be it. Now, if they live outside of the county, maybe some regulation or some type of fee might be permitted.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Second Motorcyclist Rally on the Ongoing Dave Bisard Saga

The rally is currently ongoing as I type this, but I have evening plans.

The rally is expected to me much larger than last week's rally, and this was indicated by five IMPD vehicles at the event. This is in contrast to last week's event, where I didn't witness a single police vehicle.

The motorcyclists are continuing to collect signatures to petition the judiciary to force the case to be investigated by a non-local body.

I was mainly at the event to gauge how the motorcyclists are feeling a week afterwards. A few hours before last week's rally occurred, the defense attorney for Officer Dave Bisard mentioned the possibility of the tested blood not being admissible evidence. Fast forward one week later, and that came true, along with all the alcohol related charges being dropped.

Several of the people I talked to mentioned their respect for those working in law enforcement, and one even said he had a son working in law enforcement, but they all felt that Bisard is getting special treatment and that a normal citizen would've been treated differently. One of the people I talked to said he was convicted of a DUI, and when his license was revoked before the trial, he didn't even have to appear in court.

Generally, the mood hasn't improved among the cyclists. In a week, it's gone from "disgruntled" to "pissed off." More than one of the dozen or so people I talked to think a mass firing/resigning of IMPD and Public Safety is needed.

Finally, the last gentleman I talked to had an update on the injured victims. He said he talked to Mary Mills' ex-husband on the phone. The gentleman inquired as to how Mills was doing, and the ex-husband responded "Evil Knievel," meaning nearly every bone in her body is broken. According to the ex-husband, Kurt Weekly, the other injured motorcyclist, is still in a coma.

The lawyer types can debate amongst themselves if what happened in the handling of Bisard's case was done in any special way. As I said before, I don't think it has been, but there's still a lot missing from the puzzle. But regardless of what I think, or anyone else thinks, there is a perception that Bisard is getting special treatment. Mayor Greg Ballard, the Department of Public Safety, and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department would be wise to have some outreach to the motorcyclist community and see how they can fix this perception and build a bridge. Because right now, the bridge might be burning.

Information Wanted: Were You Listening to Greg Garrison around 11am?

Did anyone else hear Greg Garrison at the start of the 11am hour say that "motorcyclists are basically pedestrians" when talking about the accident involving Officer Dave Bisard? I was in the car and couldn't write it down, but that quote absolutely shocked me. Greg Garrison is an attorney, and a former prosecutor, and should be well aware that motorcyclists (And bicyclists as well!) are vehicles and have equal access to the road, just as much as cars and trucks do.

As I've noticed (and Gary Welsh as well, multiple times), Garrison is so focused on national issues, spouting off whatever the right-wing meme of the day is, that he dedicates no meaningful time to local issues. And when he does have local politicians on, he has never asked them a single hard hitting question. The closest he came was when he asked Mayor Greg Ballard about the proposed so-called "guns-in-parks" legislation by Councilor Ed Coleman (Libertarian-At Large), which Ballard had come out against. Besides that one incidence, he has never even come close to holding a local Republican official's feet to the fire. And I say Republican because, unlike his competitors Amos Brown and Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, he does not want to hear dissenting views.

Praise for Newly Opened Dunkin' Donuts

A new Dunkin' Donuts opened up over in my neck of the woods, and it's first day of business was today. I was informed that there was free breakfast until 9am, but I missed the mark on that. I decided to get a late breakfast anyway.

I used the Drive-Thru, ordered, pulled up to the window, and handed the employee my credit card. He told me that the credit card machine was down, and I mentioned I didn't have any cash on hand. I was about to pull away, but the employee informed me that it was on the house as long as I come back again for another meal.

That is excellent customer service, and they've earned my loyalty.

Now if only the Dunkin' Donuts here could make a decent Boston Kreme like they do at the Dunkin' Donuts out east...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Brizzonater is Back!

After managing to stay out of the headlines for several months, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is back, and back with a vengeance. Previously, Brizzi was under fire from his fellow Republicans, including former Marion County Prosecutor and former Public Safety Director Scott Newman and Marion County GOP Chairman Thomas John, with calls for him to resign due to multiple alleged conflicts of interest and plea-bargains the prosecutor's office offered in several cases, as well as his business relationship with defense attorney Paul Page and alleged Ponzi schemer Tim Durham.

Brizzi is now under fire for a plea deal in a drunken driving case that is supposed to be offered on Friday, August 20th. The story doesn't make it clear what exactly the initial charges were, but does note that the crash resulted in a death. Strangely enough, the story doesn't name Brizzi specifically, and doesn't mention the several other cases where Brizzi is alleged to offer lenient plea deals when personal relationships with the prosecutor come into play.

I have been hesitant to call for Brizzi's head in the ongoing case of Officer Dave Bisard and the situation surrounding the accident that resulted in one death and two severe injuries. In my view so far, Brizzi seems to have been the one left out in the cold. However, two frequent commentators on blogs, Indy4u2c and Brizzonator, are harshly critical of Brizzi in the comments section of Gary Welsh's latest post, and both bring up good points. What they're saying though is that even though Brizzi might not be actively participating in a cover-up, his office slacked off and could've prevented this evidence from being thrown out.

Regardless of what the facts might be, the perception of Brizzi being this corrupt guy who lets drunks (with connections!) get away with murder isn't helping a prosecutor whose last year has been scandal-ridden.

Officer Dave Bisard Keeps Driver's License

At least for the time being. Fox 59 is reporting that Officer Dave Bisard, who is alleged to be behind the death of one motorcyclist and the injury of two others in a horrible car accident, will be able to keep his driver's license.

Fox 59 is also reporting that Bisard's attorney, John Kautzman, is pushing to have the blood test thrown out, claiming that his client wasn't told that it might be used in a criminal investigation and thus didn't give the proper consent. The blood test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.19, over twice the legal limit of 0.08.

More on this as it develops. Fox 59 will likely have some interviews to go along with their evening version of the story.

UPDATE: The Indianapolis Star is reporting that all of the alcohol related charges will be dropped. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi had this to say after learning that Bisard will be able to keep his license:

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi today blasted the way police handled Bisard’s investigation. Brizzi said the fact that other officers didn’t suspect Bisard of being intoxicated at the scene and didn’t conduct any breathalyzer or field sobriety tests is having a direct bearing on the case now.

“I have serious concerns about the way this case was investigated at the scene,” Brizzi told The Indianapolis Star after the hearing. “Obviously, one of the things that created this situation we have today is that probable cause was not articulated (early enough).”

Brizzi later told a group of reporters outside the courtroom: “Someone on the scene should have recognized that officer Bisard was drunk.” A few minutes later, he elaborated, saying: “Yes, I am questioning their work on the scene. I am frustrated that there is an appearance — there is an appearance, whether it is accurate or not — that something was amiss that Friday. ..... Now we’re dealing with the aftermath.”

Blood drawn about two hours after the crash showed Bisard's blood-alcohol content was 0.19, more than twice the 0.08 level at which Indiana drivers are considered intoxicated. It led to felony charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and reckless homicide, filed last week by Brizzi.

After today’s hearing, Brizzi declined to say whether he was worried about the validity of the blood test in the case.

“As prosecutors, we have to deal with the evidence that is given to us. ..... I don’t want to speculate on how the evidence is going to play out,” Brizzi said, adding that he sees the issues involved in today’s ruling and any future defense attempt to suppress the blood test as “apples and oranges.”

He said the state’s implied-consent law should be fixed to allow a license suspension in a case like Bisard’s.

The Star also has a Starfiles on the case, which you can read here.

UPDATE II: The Star is now reporting that the blood sample won't be admissible at all in court. The FBI will be working in conjunction with IMPD on an internal investigation:

The FBI also will join an internal investigation of Indianapolis police's handling of the case, and Public Safety Director Frank Straub has removed a commander from overseeing the multi-agency Fatal Alcohol Crash Team because of shortcomings in the investigation. But Straub said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's Professional Standards Division -- internal affairs -- will be expanded to all Public Safety agencies and will retain its commander as a sign of his confidence in the internal watchdogs.

The dismissal of officer David Bisard's six counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated -- leaving intact a reckless homicide charge and two newly filed criminal recklessness counts -- is rooted in a fatal flaw in the case, Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said. Brizzi said a lab tech who drew Bisard's blood sample at an occupational health clinic was not certified under Indiana's DUI laws to do such work for a criminal case.

Straub is later quoted as saying "The system failed." You can't possibly say that enough.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WNOU/Radio Now 100.9 DJ Allegedly Goes On Anti-Bicyclist Tirade

UPDATE: To be clear, this is all according to one source, who I agreed to give confidentiality to so I could report this. I was not able to confirm this with a second primary source before publishing. What you see after the "banner" is the story as it was originally published.


Local pop-music radio station WNOU 100.9 (better known as Radio Now) hosts the Scotty Davis Show, which is the station's morning show. A listener of the show e-mailed me concerning some comments Davis made about the bicycling community. In the end portion of a segment called "I Demand an Apology", where callers call in to rant about topics, Davis took to the airwaves to demand an apology from the city's bicyclists.

Davis demanded an apology from the city's bicyclist because they're "riding in the middle of the road, they have trails for that" and that he has "places to be." He goes on to say that he'd like to get behind a bicyclist while on a road, set his cruise control at five miles per hour, and yell at the cyclist such witty comments as "I have air conditioning" and "I spent my money on a car."

While there are some trails around the city, these trails are multi-use trails and only allow travel to certain points around the city. Furthermore, bicyclists and motor vehicles are supposed to share the road and follow all the same rules. This includes traveling in the middle of the lane, which is widely accepted to be the safest way for bicyclists to travel along with the motorists. This practice allows the bicyclists to assertively maintain his or her position, while a motorist can turn into an adjacent lane and pass the bicyclist if the motorist so desires and is able to safely

While there are legitimate complaints against some bicyclists, such as those that don't obey traffic light/sign stops, criticizing them for using the roadways properly is absurd and is not conductive when the city of Indianapolis is attempting to make the city more bicycle friendly.

I'll certainly let some of the bike friendly businesses I frequent know about this on-air tirade, and would appreciate them not advertising on WNOU.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Some Tuesday Evening Humor

I don't know if any of you have been following the odd case of South Carolina's Alvin Greene (seriously, is there something in the water? How many screwed up politicians can come from one, single state?), but this video is absolutely hilarious. To think that a candidate for the United States Senate can make it to the general election with only giving one word answers to questions and acting like this is downright confusing, and a little bit funny.

Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project is Moving to Washington D.C.

Bil Browning, founder of The Bilerico Project, announced his move to Washington D.C. His move to D.C. will leave a void in the Indiana blogosphere on LGBT issues that won't be easy to replace. I wish him well and hope he brings some Hoosier common sense to our nation's capitol, and maybe some will even rub off on our elected officials.

The Public Overwhelmingly Supports Satellite Voting

The Marion County Election Board met earlier today to hear testimony from the political parties, organizations involved in the political process, and the general public on the possibility of continuing satellite voting. Satellite voting differs from voting centers in that satellite voting is for early voting and held county wide, whereas voting centers are county wide centers used on Election Day. The only current in-person method of early voting is voting at the Marion County Clerk's office within the City-County Building.

Thomas John, Chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, was the only speaker who spoke out against satellite voting. John mentioned the disastrous irregularities that occurred during White's first election (I wasn't covering politics at the time, but you can read about the situation here and here), and mentioned several other alleged irregularities that occurred outside of the 2007 primary election. He mentioned the fiscal cost of satellite voting, and mentioned the looming $50 million shortfall in tax revenue the city of Indianapolis is facing. I got the overall impression that he didn't like Clerk White all that much and just flat out didn't trust her. John mentioned that he first bought up satellite voting himself in 2007 as a way to solve the problems presented in that election, but now doesn't. I'll be honest and say his explanation for his flip flop made absolutely no sense to me.

John's Democratic counterpart, Ed Treacy, tried hard to politicize this non-partisan issue even more than John did, and I think he might've succeeded in doing so. Treacy rambled about Mayor Greg Ballard and a lot of other things before I lost interest.

Then the general public got a chance to speak. There was a very diverse crowd ranging from private citizens and several representatives from organizations, including those from the Baptist Ministers Alliance, the Concerned Clergy, and United Auto Workers. Many spoke of their use of satellite voting in prior elections. Some with disabilities noted their difficulties in getting into the City-County building today or in previous attempts to vote. And several citizens expressed that even though they could vote absentee, they want to be able to go to an actual polling place and participate in the process. Seeing your ballot deposited provides a measure of safety that putting into a mailbox doesn't fulfill.

Adam Kirsch, Executive Director of the Marion County Democratic Party, and pundit Abdul Hakim-Shabazz were also there. You can see their thoughts on their respective Twitter accounts here and here.

My thoughts? The precinct system we have set up right now is incredibly broken, but that type of change won't happen between now and November 2. In-person early voting is a great service, and I've personally seen the long lines at the County Clerk's office during general elections. Then think of the difficulty in finding parking in the area of downtown that the City-County Building is in, let alone the time to do all this during normal business hours, and you can see how difficult early voting can be. Satellite voting can ease the burden and make it much easier.

As for the cost, sure, it might cost money, but as a speaker today pointed out, the value of making it easier to vote can't be measured in dollars and cents.

Two more thoughts: Similar to Indy Pride, the Marion County GOP seems to be handing this issue to the Democrats, and the Democrats are using it as a rallying point. Several city-county council members were present at the meeting, including José Evans, Minority Leader Joanne Sanders, Monroe Gray, and my representative Maggie Lewis. Secretary of State candidate Vop Osili was also in attendance, and André Carson gave a big speech about it in a rally yesterday. To oppose an issue quietly and work against it is one thing, but for your party chairman to come out and literally be the only opposition to an issue that an overwhelming majority of the public supports is a monumentally dumb move, and the county GOP should hope that voters don't remember this in the fall. To add insult to injury, I saw much of the media in attendence rush to John after the meeting ended, so not only was he the only opponent of satellite voting at the meeting, but now his views will be put on the evening news as well.

Finally, kudos to WRTV's Norman Cox. While media personalities like Shabazz and The Indianapolis Star's Matthew Tully (who was also present) regularly stay for the entire time a meeting is scheduled for, it's a rarity for that to happen with journalists working in television. Cox and his cameraman stayed the entire time, and because of that, RTV6 will be providing a great public service.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More on the Officer Bisard Case

A well placed source has informed me that he's heard that the Fraternal Order of Police is ordering a DNA test of the blood sample that had the 0.19 BAC level to make sure that it is Officer Dave Bisard's blood. Previously, union president Bill Owensby questioned if the blood vials were mixed up, as reported by The Indianapolis Star.

My source also goes into detail of what happened in the previous weeks, and how these events could play out as far as being used as evidence in a trial.

My source says that the blood test was done at the Marion County Crime Lab rather than the State Department of Toxicology which he says is the standard test lab for BAC testing. The source also adds that no one at the Methodist medical center, including medical staff, noticed any indication of intoxication. He says one arm was swabbed with alcohol prep wipe rather than bedidyne, then subsequently the other arm was swabbed with bedidyne and the blood sample then drawn. He says alcohol prep could contaminate the blood sample, and also could cause it's evidence in court to be questioned.

My source also went into detail on how the blood draw could be used, depending on if it was for an internal investigation or criminal, and how the consent was gotten. This was largely confirmed by a WISH-TV report which you can read here. He also adds that the blood has to be collected into a special type of tube, and the wrong container for the blood could cause it to be thrown out as evidence.

My source says that this is one of the messed up cases he's ever seen, I have to agree. There are still so many unanswered questions, and I can only hope that we'll get the full, complete story at some point.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Asset Forfeiture Rule Not Being Followed Despite State Constitutional Requirement

The Indianapolis Star has an excellent story today on what happens with assets that are seized from criminal investigations. What is supposed to happen is, after recovering costs of the investigation and prosecution, law enforcement is supposed to send a check to the state of Indiana for the Common School Fund. The story quotes fellow lawyer and blogger Paul Ogden and details that only five counties in all of Indiana are even sending money in. Not surprinsgly, county prosecutors seemed to be reluctant to talk, and officials who might be in charge of enforcing this rule were playing the blame game, saying it's some other department's responsibility.

Marci Oddi of the Indiana Law Blog has an excellent write up of what the story doesn't mention, and links to previous entries Oddi has written as well to other resources

While I was reading the story, I thought this issue sounded familiar. Paul Ogden covered this topic in a blog post in July, and the Common School Fund is mentioned twice in the Indiana Constitution (Article 2, Section 3; Article 8, Section 2).

Kudos to Oddi and Ogden for doing the job that our "paper of record" isn't willing to do. But I can't blame the employees of the paper. If what Ruth Holladay says is true of the paper firing staff left and right and outsourcing much of the work, I'd be hard pressed to find enough time and resources to do a thorough job as well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thoughts on the Monument Circle Biker Rally and Memorial Service

I arrived at about 6:30pm and stayed for about an hour. During that hour, I talked to about 20 different people, and they almost all said the same thing: the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is not fit for this investigation.

The rally was held for two reasons. One was to collect signatures on two separate petitions. These petitions would go to the state Supreme Court and (I think) Marion Superior Court. The petitions ask that the court order that a separate body not affiliated with the city/county to investigate. Most of the people I talked to, both organizers and attendees of the rally, felt that Indiana State Police would be a qualified body that would be able to handle the investigation. A few of the people I talked to also didn't trust Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to handle the prosecution due to the ongoing Tim Durham saga and other scandals Brizzi has been involved in.

The other reason was simply a memorial service for the biker that died, Eric Wells, and the two injured, Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly. Wells was the biker who died last Friday in the accident. Some of Wells' family were there, but my understanding is that they were relatively quiet to most requests to talk to media.

Unlike other rallies and protests I've attended, this one was organized on short notice and largely spread through word of mouth and Facebook. I've long since learned I suck at estimating the size of a crowd, but it was a much larger crowd than what is usually there on a Friday night at 7pm. A number of bikers I talked to mentioned others coming from out of town just for the rally, and one gentleman I talked to hadn't ridden his motorcycle with the group for several years until today.

Something else that was unusual was the lack of police presence. Police were heavily present at the union rally I attended, and there were a few state troopers at the NOM protest as well. I didn't see a single officer near Monument Circle at the time of the rally.

In other news, the defense attorney representing Officer Bisard is saying the BAC measure might not hold up in court. I am not a lawyer, so I don't know how valid his comments are. Gary Welsh does mention that what happens in the criminal prosecution will have little effect on civil prosecution, and all but Wells' family have notified the city that they intend to file tort claims.

Public Safety Advisory Board: Bad Idea

The announcement of a public safety advisory board and the hiring of Rick Hite for the position of Deputy Director of Public Safety for Training and Strategic Initiatives has been the talk of the blogosphere the past day or so, so I thought I'd give my thoughts. I'll admit, I have changed them a bit since reading these various points of views.

As I've previously criticized the Summer Celebration "task force" being an idea from the hell of middle management, this seems like a similar situation. Instead of our elected and appointed officials taking a leadership role and doing their job, we get an appointment of an outside body.

Furthermore, as Gary Welsh has written in numerous posts, I'm concerned about the expansion of the Department of Public Safety. DPS seems to be acting as a buffer between the various agencies such as Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the 25th floor, rather than representing them. And as others have expressed to me (both from within and beyond the blogosphere), many even question the need for DPS. Why the heads of the respective departments such as IMPD, animal control, etc... don't just report to Mayor Ballard is something I've been wondering for a while, and apparently I'm not alone.

The selection of the advisory board members also concern me. Regardless of if Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an Indiana resident or not (I personally am not knowledgeable enough to discern if he is), he does maintain residence in Illinois, practices law there, and votes in that state's elections. While Shabazz is certainly qualified for the position, I question how hard Mayor Ballard and "Call me Doctor" Frank Straub looked to find someone with similar qualifications but who also can vote in Marion County.

But as far as Shabazz's and Brown's being media personality goes, I don't see a conflict. These men are opinion men. As long as they're open and honest about serving on it (and they aren't being paid, and the board is voluntary), I don't have a problem. I think it might bother some people who might still think these two have any sense of objectivity, but pundits can't exist in a empty void.

Jon Easter of the Indy Democrat blog noticed that the advisory board's two council members are both Republicans, and publicly questioned DPS on their Facebook page why no Democratic council representatives are on the board. DPS responded, saying that the board members were chosen for their professions and backgrounds, and not political positions or influence.


The press release identifies Ben Hunter and Angel Rivera as "Councilor" and "City-County Council, At-Large" and makes no mention of their full time employment. While Hunter and Rivera may have qualification beyond being on the City-County Council, they were certainly appointed because of their political position.

On another note, Hunter represents District 21. The intern who wrote that press release needs to brush up on his/her local government.

I'll be covering the rally today at Monument Circle at 7pm. It concerns last Friday's crash that left one dead and two injured. I guess they're collecting signatures to show support for the victims. I'll have more on that in the evening.

Other blog entries on the same subject:
Indy's Political Stock Exchange: Also weighing in on the subject is Amos Brown in the comments section. Brown is also a member of the advisory board.
Advance Indiana (and related post here)
Indy Democrat (and related post here)
Indiana Barrister

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rally downtown tomorrow?

According to commentator Marycatherine Barton, and other comments I'm seeing posted on The Indianapolis Star's site and Facebook, there will be some rally at 7pm. Both Monument Circle and the City-County Building are mentioned as rallying points. It's focus is to collect signatures to pressure IMPD into doing a thorough investigation.

Details are scarce, and it's always tricky relying on random commentators on web sites, which are just one step above anonymous sources. If anyone has any information that they can provide or verify, please leave a post in the comments section or e-mail me at mamstone@firehawktechnologies.com.

Did Officer Bisard Get Special Treatment?

When a criminal situation occurs, or something that looks like it could be a criminal act, law enforcement officers have the duty to fully investigate the crime scene and what took place there. That includes detaining those accused of committing the crime for questioning, witnesses for testimony, and so on.

Officer David Bisard was involved in an accident involving two motorcycles. One of the motorcyclists, Eric Wells, died. The other two motorcyclists, Kurt Weekly and Mary Mills, are in stable condition but have suffered severe injuries.

Bisard was not detained at the scene, and his BAC wasn't taken until two hours after the accident occurred, and he drew a 0.19, more than twice the legal limit. An initial report from WTHR a few hours after the incident quoted Officer Brian Dixon implying that it was the motorcyclists' fault for not getting out of the way:

"Witnesses say the motorcycles kind of just stood still, not sure of which way to go, and the officer struck the motorcycles in the rear while trying to avoid this," said Officer Brian Dixon.

The lane the motorcycles were in also had a car in front driven by Tim Griffith, according to The Indianapolis Star. It is entire unrealistic to expect four vehicles to move to the side of the road while stopped at a traffic light.

If you or I drove our car as Bisard is alleged to and got into an accident involving several vehicles, there is no doubt in my mind that any other person would've been hauled to jail to be detained for questioning for a few hours at the very least. It took until Wednesday for Bisard to get to that point, and he didn't even spend a full hour in jail. Additionally, normal citizens don't get the benefit of a spokesperson to play the blame game.

That being said, I am not a "police state" believer. I don't believe, as Griffith's lawyer seems to, that there was a conspiracy at hand to shift the blame, and any failure to administer field sobriety tests can be attributed to the lack of obvious signs of impairment. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi filed several charges in relation to this case, including operating a vehicle while under the influence causing death and reckless homicide. And The Indianapolis Star is reporting that his license may be suspended, which makes me feel a bit easier since he is out on bail. While there was some things that did happen in the early part of the investigation that, in my opinion, shouldn't have happened, the process seems to be working now.

On a final note, please keep Kurt Weekly, Mary Mills, Eric Wells, and their respective families, in your prayers.

UPDATE: While writing this, it turns out I'm not the only one who had questions about how this all worked out. The Indianapolis Star has an article with some quotes from some of the victims' families. Police union president Bill Owensby is raises the possibility that blood vials might have gotten mixed up. This article also explains that two hours for a BAC test is normal, so now I feel a bit better about the initial investigation.

Overall, I believe that law enforcement didn't intentionally give him special treatment. But the fact that he was an officer led them to handle this case less aggressively. Owensby's and Dixon's comments and defenses certainly don't help police relations in this city, and it has NOT been a good summer for IMPD as far as community relations go.

And anyone can see this coming from a mile away: The families of the injured and dead are going to sue. I hope the city is putting away money right now, because not only will a long, drawn out legal battle be a drain on city resources, but it'll further tarnish our city's image.

The low price of bail also concerns me. Wasn't the mother who's neglect led to her child's death set at $200,000 bail?

UPDATE II: I heard an interview of a DUI lawyer this afternoon on WIBC. He said that, as far as the media reports go, there are two possibilities of how someone can have 0.19 BAC and not be noticeably drunk. He said that if someone drinks alcohol the night before and sleeps, their body will still register a BAC the next day for some time.

The other possibility is that, at some point after the accident, the officer left the scene, got wasted, and went to the hospital where he got his blood drawn.

Either situation seems very unusual and, until the investigation and trial reveals more information, seems to raise more questions than answers.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Colts Player Found in a Ditch, Charges with Public Intoxication

WTHR reports that Colts player John Gill, 23, was found in a ditch on Lafayette Road on the city's northwest side. He was found without shoes, and his clothes were described as "disheveled and soiled." The report goes on to say that officers claim he fell several times while attempting to stand, reeked of alcohol, and his speech was slurred. Gill was released and charged with pubic intoxication.

So will this finally put an end to the "Pacers are thugs, Colts are saints" talking point that is often mentioned when comparing the two? Also, how will Prosecutor Carl Brizzi handle this? Brizzi has a professional relationship with Colts player Peyton Manning. They are both investors in the restaurant/bar Harry and Izzy's.

Why Elvis Costello Owns

When a talent like Elvis Costello can just jump into a band as radically different as the Beastie Boys and pull off a classic performance of "Radio, Radio", you know you are viewing four extremely skilled musicians.

For those that don't know the history, Elvis Costello and the Attractions were invited to perform on Saturday Night Live in 1977 while they were touring North America. The scheduled performers, the Sex Pistols, had trouble getting visas in time due to the various criminal records among the members and couldn't make the commitment.

Costello's debut album, My Aim is True, wasn't yet available in North America, and his record label wanted him to perform his song "Less than Zero." "Less than Zero" is essentially a response to British politician Oswald Mosley. So when the time came to perform, Costello and the Attractions play a few bars, then Costello interrupts his own performance and says "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here." He then launches into "Radio, Radio." "Radio, Radio" is basically a rant on record companies, radio stations, and their poor treatment of musicians. The powers that be weren't pleased about this, and Costello was banned from SNL for over two decades.

This performance was included on an SNL DVD during the show's 25th anniversary. In that same year, Costello literally sabotages the Beastie Boys' performance of their own song, "Sabotage", and launches into "Radio, Radio." That is the performance you see in the above clip.

"Weird Al" Yankovic also will perform a straight cover of "Radio, Radio" during concerts if something goes wrong during a show. If a video clip doesn't run or he forgets the lyrics or some other mishap, he'll say "I'm sorry ladies and gentleman, but there's no need to perform this song" and launches into a cover of "Radio, Radio." Several clips can be found on YouTube.

I had the pleasure of seeing Elvis Costello open for Bob Dylan during IU-Bloomington's homecoming celebration a couple of years back. Costello performed by himself, and honestly stole the show. His songs are captivating, and unlike many acts, his b-sides are just as good as his singles. Unfortunately, Dylan was having an off-night, and my friend and I left before he finished his performance.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Congratulations, Indy! We've made headlines across the nation!

Unfortunately, most of the headlines have been bad. Glenn Beck used the allegedly staged fighting incident at Municipal Gardens in one of his segments to rant about...whatever he rants about. Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana noted that the recent shooting that left two dead and six in the hospital made headlines in cable news and at the Associated Press. Similar headlines were also made during the shooting that occurred during the final Saturday of Black Expo. Many of these stories also made it onto The Drudge Report as well.

This isn't something an awesome PR campaign from the likes of Indianapolis Downtown Inc can cure, and shoveling money to professional sports won't do anything to help fight and reduce crime. Real or perceived, you can't overlook these stories and what it makes our city look like to outsiders. It makes one wonder if there is perhaps something better we could be spending tax dollars on rather than professional sports

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz and "Confidential Facts" Part II

Pundit Abdul Hakim-Shabazz has a knack for taking easily verifiable factual data and posting it without a source, and then using the "confidential facts" from an alleged political poll to back up his opinions.

As I've previously reported (as well as others questioning various postings that Shabazz has written here, here, and here), he has cited polls saying Mayor Greg Ballard was polling high among African-Americans, and that Ballard's poll numbers are similar to Governor Mitch Daniels. He has reported these factual statistics without citing the poll, or disclosing any of the methodology surrounding the poll.

Today he posted that Daniels' approval rating is 70%, again without citing the poll. As I discussed in my previous post, polling methodology is important. It lets you see how the poll was conducted, what the sample was, how demographics break down, and so much more. Without this information, statistics cited from polls are little more than random numbers that hold no weight in discussion.

Furthermore, the National Council on Public Polls requires all members of it's organization to at least disclose the following information:

Level 1 Disclosure: All reports of survey findings issued for public release by a member organization will include the following information:

  • Sponsorship of the survey
  • Fieldwork provider (if applicable)
  • Dates of interviewing
  • Sampling method employed (for example, random-digit dialed telephone sample, list-based telephone sample, area probability sample, probability mail sample, other probability sample, opt-in internet panel, non-probability convenience sample, use of any oversampling)
  • Population that was sampled (for example, general population; registered voters; likely voters; or any specific population group defined by gender, race, age, occupation or any other characteristic)
  • Size of the sample that serves as the primary basis of the survey report
  • Size and description of the subsample, if the survey report relies primarily on less than the total sample
  • Margin of sampling error (if a probability sample)
  • Survey mode (for example, telephone/interviewer, telephone/automated, mail, internet, fax, e-mail)
  • Complete wording and ordering of questions mentioned in or upon which the release is based
  • Percentage results of all questions reported

Member organizations reporting results will endeavor to have print and broadcast media include the above items in their news stories.

Member organizations conducting privately commissioned surveys should make clear to their clients that the client has the right to maintain the confidentiality of survey findings. However, in the event the results of a privately commissioned poll are made public by the survey organization the above items should be disclosed.

In the event the results of a privately commissioned poll are made public by the client, the survey organization (a) shall make the information outlined above available to the public upon request and (b) shall have the responsibility to release the information above and other pertinent information necessary to put the client's release into the proper context if such a release has misrepresented the survey's findings.

Shabazz is a talented writer, and sometimes I might even agree with him. But he has a poor history on reporting, honestly and openly, on polling statistics and other easily verifiable facts. It's just lazy journalism at best. As I said before, these polls he cites might as well be made up.

This should not be taken as going against Daniels. Some of my family have connections to Daniels, and I've met the man and voted for him twice, and would gladly vote for him again. I wouldn't be surprised if his poll numbers were between 65-70%. This is, after all, a solid red state. But even a fact as obvious as "red state governor has high approval ratings" should still be sourced. There is just no reason not to have a source.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The "Activist Judge" Ruling on "Traditional Marriage" Will Ruin Society As We Know It

At least, as far as society as the religious right/moral majority crowd knows it. They put out press releases, wrote blog posts, and took to the airwaves and the pulpit to explain how Judge Vaughn R. Walker's ruling on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage is ruining this country's fabric.

What is interesting is that the ruling indicates that the defenders of Proposition 8 had very few legal arguments that they presented. One was that civil marriage is to promote procreation. Strangely enough, I don't think they suggested nullifying all the marriage licenses of couples who may be sterile, the elderly, or just don't want to have children.

And among the blog posts and Internet Commentators, I can't help but notice that all of those who are against same-sex marriage keep bringing up religious beliefs to back up their side of the debate. There's nothing wrong with religious beliefs. I believe my Catholic faith has led me to many of my political beliefs, but when that's all you can resort to, I don't think it's something that's been thought out very well. And I also don't believe legislation is the proper place to push a religious world view.

It's been a few years since same-sex marriage has been used as the wedge/fear issue. But observing how the GOP Senate primary race went, with all candidates (except one) supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment, this ruling will put the marriage issue squarely on the political map for now. And my instinct is it'll still be on the electorate's mind come November 2010.

Now will the state GOP make the state marriage amendment an issue as well? It hasn't performed too well recently, and they are trying to WIN seats in the House. Will it be too divisive, or will it bring religious voters out in droves?

Finally, there's an interesting piece over at The Bilerico Project over where Obama stands on same-sex marriage and Proposition 8. My conclusion after reading the article was that I'm now even more confused.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Parking Forum Tonight!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, there is a public forum on the future of publicly owned parking spaces and garages tonight. I'll be live-Tweeting from my Twitter account, and will summarize the events in a future post.

Parking Forum August 3, 6pm at 401 East Michigan Street

A post over at Indy Democrat by Jon Easter reminded me of a page on the Indy Gov website that I've been meaning to keep an eye on. The Ballard administration has asked for a Request of Qualification for management of the city's publicly owned parking meters and parking garages. The several requests that were filed are posted here.

Interesting note: The site says that it is looking for a "long-term concession arrangement and management contract" for the publicly owned parking meters and garages. This is different from the water and sewage utility deal, where it is a permanent sale.

WTHR also has a story on how the privatized parking worked out in Chicago, and talks about what has happened so far in Indianapolis concerning parking. What caught my attention was that the meeting I mention in the title of the post will be one of two! And the Ballard administration wants it to be finished by the fall.

I encourage you to come to this meeting and voice your concerns.

Here are my thoughts when I first heard about this deal from a previous blog post:

Over at Indy's Painfully Objective Political Analysis comments' section, I shared my thoughts on privatization of public parking meters and lots in Indianapolis. You can read about what the current city plan over at this WTHR story. I'd like to expand on what I posted over at IPOPA, and my thoughts on privatization as a whole.

First is to identify the goal of privatization of government services. The goal is to instill market value levels of cost in the service. The government doesn't have that incentive since most services are paid by taxes. Handing the service over to private companies, who have the goal of making a profit, have a built-in incentive to keep costs down. And the way you instill market values in a service is by competition. So not only does privatization mean private companies take over government services, but the government gets out of the service and opens up a level field for all interested in providing said service.

The last part is most important. When a government service is handed to a private contractor and they get a 10 year, 20 year, or 75 year contract, that is NOT privatizing the service, because it fails at both goals. With an extended decade plus long contract, the company has no incentive to keep it's costs low. They can raise rates regardless of market value because they have little to no fear of losing the government contract. Finally, government is still involved in the service, because all they're doing is handing their control of a service over to a private company, thus giving the company a government approved monopoly of said service. This shuts out any other company for the length of the contract who might be able to provide it at a cheaper price.

One really has to think hard before attempting to privatize something like the Family and Social Services Administration, because not a lot of private companies are in the business of providing welfare, probably because a lot of government services aren't meant to make a profit. And you have to wonder, when a private company is running a welfare service or running a jail and making a profit, are they doing it on the backs of the people they're supposed to serve?

So, working on my theory that many government services can't be privatized because there's just no profit to be made, there are a few left where a private company could make a profit. Trash pickup, road maintenance, and in the example I'll be talking about, public parking meters and parking lots.

Let's just work, with the theory, that government runs this service inefficiently and for too much money. I personally find that claim complete bull. 75 cents to park downtown for an hour with a two hour limit sounds reasonable to me (iPOPA says a lot of meters have changed to a one hour limit, but I'll save that for another time). The only problem with public parking is the lack of it, especially around government centers people might need to use.

Now, how to privatize parking in Indianapolis? As established, giving one company a 10, 20, or 75 year contract as happened in Chicago is just asking for the rates to be jacked up right away. Let's get that idea out of our heads.

First, we need to evaluate how much each parking meter or public lot is worth. Let's be honest: A parking meter right on Massachusetts Avenue or in the main strip of Broad Ripple is going to be worth more than a meter in the middle of Delaware, New York St, or Vermont St. Even more so if a big event is happening in Broad Ripple, Mass Ave, or places such as Conseco Fieldhouse or Lucas Oil Stadium.

So before any bid is even submitted, the city of Indianapolis needs to go out and evaluate how each meter (or really, neighborhood of meters) and public parking lots are worth. After that is done, we open up the bidding.

But instead of only letting Dennison Parking and it's competitors bid, let anyone who can afford it put in an offer. If a group of businesses that line Mass Ave want to manage some spots that are located in front of their businesses, and they make the best offer for that area, let them do that. If a church wants to use a lot near their church for their members, take them up on the offer. And if Dennson wants to get the city owned garage, then they get that. Any "neighborhood"/street of meters that don't get sold in the initial bidding can be retained by the city government. I would imagine these areas would probably be the meters that aren't right in the middle of downtown or in other areas of commerce in Marion County.

And then after these bids are put in, let them BUY (not lease, not rent, BUY) these meters and let them do what they want with them. This means no more law enforcement writing parking tickets, no more contracts for Dennison Parking, no more Parking "Court", and so on. If any area jacks up their rates beyond market value, then someone who is a block or two away can lower their prices.

There is a concern that various rates could be confusing, especially to tourists, but I don't think there's much to worry about. The several parking lots rented out in Broad Ripple all charge pretty much the same. They know that if they charge too much, they'll lose business.

If anyone from the City-County Council or the 25th floor wants to have a talk so this privatized parking can be a true form of privatization, and not just a government approved monopoly, I'm happy to sit down and have a chat.