Thursday, September 30, 2010

Will Just Cookies and Would Be Customers Work To a Positive Resolution?

For those not in the know, there are links at the end of this post to other blog posts on this subject. They can direct you to the relevant news reports.

The summary is a representative of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis wanted to purchase cupcakes from Just Cookies, a business located in the publicly owned Indianapolis City-Market. The would-be customer must have mentioned it was for an organization on campus honoring National Coming Out Day. "Coming out" or the more full term "coming out of the closet" is when those who identify as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community reveal it to others, such as family and friends. Maybe the business owner noticed payment with an IUPUI credit card, or maybe it was bought up in casual conversation. The news reports don't really say how the subject was breached, but it was.

The business owner then said that he objects to the cause on a moral basis, citing his family and two daughters.

Later news reports describe Get Equal, an organization advocating for LGBT equality, attempting to buy chocolate chip cookies, and also had their business declined.

News reports and comments on blogs have also mixed reports of if the initial IUPUI student asked for cupcakes, cookies, or something else after one was rejected.

The initial news story is here.

So, what are my thoughts?

As a political observer, I find it interesting that the city is looking into terminating the lease for Just Cookies. While Indianapolis does have a city ordinance banning the discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, I haven't read it myself and am unsure of how it would apply. Based on my limited knowledge, I don't know if a lease could be terminated unless discrimination based on sexual orientation was explicitly banned in the lease. Apparently, JC is on a monthly lease, so they can be evicted any time for any reason at the end of the month anyway.

As someone who has worked in customer service for several years at various levels, I think the employees of Just Cookies need to watch a video called Just Give Em The Pickle. The Pickle Principal states:

When something happens with a customer and you’re not sure what to do? “Give ’em the Pickle!” Do what it takes to make things right!

The pickle philosophy has evolved from there as it’s been put into practice at various businesses. It may be about going the extra mile to make customers happy or putting your own personal stamp on customer service that sets you apart from your competition. At my favorite tire store they literally run to greet me when I step out of my car in the parking lot. I’ve met garbage collectors who stop to start lawn mowers and coffee baristas who add a heart or other designs in the latte foam. Those are all pickles. What are yours?

I served on all kinds of people while at Panera Bread, and never once did I see my co-workers refuse to help a customer because of some ideology an individual employee didn't agree with. And I can't imagine why anyone would do that. And 99% of the time, these things don't come up anyway.

Now, as someone who has been discriminated against, I sympathize with these would-be customers. It's not an experience that I'd wish on anyone. Though in the times it has happened to me, it's usually some clueless low-level employee or a security guard. The absolute worst time was when it actually was the owner of the store. To this day, I don't patronize that business anymore.

Finally, I think eviction is a bit harsh. I think if the city could make something positive out of this horrid situation, it'd be much better for all.

Other views:

Bil Browning of The Bilerico Project has his latest post on the subject here. Click on the appropriate tags to see prior posts.

In a dissenting view, lawyer and blogger Paul Ogden weighs in here.

Jon Easter of Indy Democrat posts his thoughts here and here.

Ruth Holladay reflects on how well Just Cookies must be doing financially, since they're able to reject customers at-will here.

UPDATE: Gary Welsh was blogging back in the day when the Human Rights Ordinance was originally passed. He weighs in and includes the text of the HRO, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in this post.

The portions of the ordinance that Welsh cites are as follows (emphasis is his):

The council finds that the practice of denying equal opportunities in employment, education, access to and use of public accommodations, and acquisition of real estate based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service veteran status is contrary to the principles of freedom and equality of opportunity and is a burden to the objectives of the policies contained herein and shall be considered discriminatory practices . . .
To provide all citizens of the city and county equal opportunity for education, employment, and access to public accommodations without regard to race, religion, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, or United States military service veteran status
The exclusion from or failure or refusal to extend to any person equal opportunities or any difference in the treatment of any person by reason of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, disability, age, or United States military service veteran status . . . Every contract to which one (1) of the parties is the city or the county, or any board, department or office of either the city or county, including franchises granted to public utilities, shall contain a provision requiring the governmental contractor and subcontractors not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment in the performance of the contract, with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment, because of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, and United States military service veteran status. Breach of this provision may be regarded as a material breach of the contract.
It seems to be clear that Just Cookies violated this ordinance. I still am hoping for a positive outcome to all this. Nothing good can come from shutting down a business in City Market, which is struggling for customers and is often almost abandoned after the 11am-1pm lunch "hour" is over.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on the ACS Parking Deal or Why Committee Meetings are a Waste of Time

Last night, I attended the City-County Council's Rules and Public Policy committee meeting. The big-ticket item on last night's agenda was the ACS Parking deal and further discussion. But the most productive time I spent was the several minutes before the meeting, where I chatted with Aaron M. Renn, author of the Urbanophile blog, and Deputy Mayor Michael Huber.

After the other items were dealt with, Renn spoke to the committee first. Knowing that most of the council members have read his blog entries pertaining to the parking deal, he went through a summary of the most important points. He noted that parking meters' purpose isn't to make money, but to utilize curb side real estate in an efficient manner. He believes this contract hampers the city unnecessarily if they want to change from parking meters to an alternate function in the future, or remove them altogether, either on an individual neighborhood basis or city-wide. He believes it would be a great challenge if public transportation would become a viable option in central Indiana, or if electric car chargers would ever be needed. Or even, on a smaller scale, if a restaurant wants to expand to the curb, or if an economically depressed area wants to encourage visitors by removing meters entirely.

Some of the councilors asked that there is a high need for infrastructure funding, and what would Renn's plan be. Renn noted that he is only speaking out against this deal, and he isn't against the actual goal, just the way it's getting there. He doesn't work in city government, but noted that revenue bonds have been mentioned as possibilities, which allow the city to retain ownership, modernize parking itself, and keep profits.

I think it's important to note that while all profits from parking meters go to infrastructure in the surrounding areas where meters are placed, they are there as a supplemental revenue stream, and not a primary source of revenue for street maintenance and repair. As Renn noted himself, the $35 million received upfront is a mere fraction of what was received in the water utility privatization deal.

Afterward, Michael Huber, a deputy mayor in the Ballard administration and the architect of this deal, spoke. I'll just let you read Pat Andrews' analysis of that portion, since I couldn't stay for the whole thing.

Which brings me to my final point. These committee meetings are a huge waste of time for those of us who work during the day or in the evening. They're structured so that by the time 8pm or so roles around, everyone is ready to go get a bite to eat and doesn't want to stay that long. This usually means a very limited amount of time for public comment, which is always saved as dead last on any agenda item. It certainly doesn't help that 95% of the testimony I've seen during committee meetings is information that has been previously presented either via the city's website or in public forums. For city employees and lawyers that attend these things and get paid (and I'm guessing that the four Ice Miller attorneys at this committee meeting each billed the city for several hours, even though only one of them did about two minutes worth of talking), these things are a goldmine.

I'll still do my civic duty and keep in touch with my council representatives via e-mail and other methods of communication, but I am done attending these meetings.

The most productive time I spent during this horrid meeting were the minutes before the meeting where I talked with Deputy Mayor Michael Huber. I asked him about the rumors that the city is quietly renegotiating the deal. He told me that while he wouldn't say they're renegotiating, he said the city is very "flexible" on the deal. It's worth reminding readers that the council has full oversight of this, and can re-write the contract as they see fit. I also asked him about the lack of public meetings that have been held since the deal was announced, which is in stark contrast to the several dozen public forums held during the water/sewage utility privatization deal. He said that they aren't scheduling forums, but the city is attending events at individual organization's requests.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Indiana Equality PAC Endorses Candidate Kurt Webber (R-District 86)

Indiana Equality PAC has announced several endorsements for the 2010 election cycle, which includes the General Assembly's House of Representatives. One of the endorsements is for Kurt Webber, a Republican running in House District 86 against Democratic incumbent Ed DeLaney.

I sat down with Kurt earlier in the summer for lunch, after discovering that he might've been the only Republican (candidate or elected) attending Indy Pride. He confirmed what I heard, and expressed to me that he didn't see Pride any differently than the several other festivals and parades that take place downtown. He saw it as an opportunity to reach out to possible voters at a big event.

I specifically asked him how he would vote on a proposed Marriage Protection Amendment if it came to a vote. He said he'd vote no. He said that he doesn't believe the government really should have a place in defining marriage, but as long as it does do so (and provides benefits to married couples), it should be open to all.

We also discussed Indiana's public records laws. We agreed that the laws themselves are quite strong, but there is almost no punishment for government agencies that fail to provide government documents unless one wants to hire a lawyer and sue for it. A bill recently failed in the General Assembly strengthening public records laws, and Kurt said he'd certainly be open to proposing or sponsoring similar legislation.

Finally, I asked him what his political ambitions are. He flat out told be "None." He believes that part-time legislative bodies should compose of citizens, and after a few terms, he'll step aside and let someone else run for the office if he does get elected and re-elected. That's a refreshing attitude, one I wish more politicians would adopt.

Unlike some candidates that I've interacted with, Kurt Webber was open to every question I had and answered them without hesitation. If you have a question visit his website and e-mail him. I got a response within a few hours of e-mailing him.

In a separate piece, the LGBT blog The Bilerico Project published this post by one of Indiana Equality PAC's board members explaining their take on the endorsement. What struck me as unusual was DeLaney's attitude toward marriage equality. Which is basically, there shouldn't be marriage equality. This attitude completely baffles me, and it's that kind of attitude that will keep our state backwards on social issues such as LGBT equality.

Good luck to Kurt Webber. I suspect we'd be a bit better off if we had more men like him involved in state government.

City Council Takes Up Parking Deal TONIGHT!

The Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council will once again be dealing with the ACS Parking deal in the Rules and Public Policy Committee. The meeting will take place at 5:30pm in Room 118 at the City-County Building downtown. The agenda for the committee notes that it is for "informational purposes only. Final action is not expected at this time."

The committee is chaired by Robert Lutz (R-13th District). Lutz loves to have city insiders and the downtown elite speak for hours on end, showing meaningless Powerpoint presentation and spouting off talking points. And when it comes time for "public comment", he's known to use a buzzer to make sure the public doesn't get more than a minute or two of input into a deal that could potentially last half a century. I don't live in Lutz district and don't know the man personally, but the way he has chaired this committee has been absolutely horrible. I pledge to any Democrat or Libertarian that runs against him in District 13 that I'll support both financially and with my time as a volunteer. This man does not deserve to represent the people of Indianapolis.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some Pondering on the Sheriff's Race

I'll admit, I haven't followed the local offices up for election in November too closely, so here's to me making up for lost time.

This is a campaign ad from John Layton, a colonel in the Marion County Sheriff's Department (MCSD). And that ad makes me question if Layton actually understand what the Sheriff's Department does, or if he's trying to capitalize off of the public's ignorance.

I think it's the latter. While people like myself and most of my readers know that MCSD has no law enforcement duties, the general public might not. After all, it wasn't all that long ago that the consolidated police department ended up with current Sheriff Frank Anderson in charge. So I can see where the confusion might be.

But let's be clear. MCSD has few law enforcement duties. They manage the jails, handle the sex offender registry, and a few other administrative duties, as seen here. And I think Layton is capitalizing on that ignorance.

A few days ago, fellow blogger Jon Easter of Indy Democrat wrote a post praising Layton and trashing his opposition, Republican nominee Sergeant Dennis Fishburn. And while Jon isn't a partisan hack like some on the Democratic side are, he missed the mark on this one. Something I found odd was that he criticized Fishburn's lack of in-depth explanation on the issues, as seen in these admittedly brief comments made on Fishburn's Youtube channel.

In contrast, Layton had a website that had little more than a picture, an embedded Youtube video, and a quote. Oh, and an annoying GoDaddy! banner at the top informing the viewer that the site was hosted for free. They've since cleaned up the site and made it look slightly better, but you can still see the old, Geocities-era style site here in the Google cache.

And it really doesn't make Layton look better once the site comes back online. His "The Issues" portion of the site consists of two issues.

So let's be honest. There really isn't a whole lot of issues we really need to talk about and go into detail on. We assume that the MCSD will continue to carry on the required duties such as investigating into gang activity and managing the sex offender registry. But what can be done differently and more efficiently?

And that's where Layton fails as a candidate. Layton recently said "You're not going to be protected on the cheap, folks. . . . There is no fat on the Marion County Sheriff's Department."** This is absolutely appalling, especially since the MCSD has recently acquired brand new cars and motorcycles and, as I've noticed, is giving their hand-me-downs to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. I guess deputies really need motorcycles to...transport inmates from their cell to a court room, or to race to the City-County Building for an emergency data entry into the sex offender registry! If you want a MCSD that spends frivolously despite less duties, Layton is your man.

**I originally linked to the Indy Star article in this place, but the URL was screwed up, so I changed to a link to Gary Welsh's blog that covers the quote.

However, if you want a MCSD who is knowledgeable about the waste within the department, Dennis Fishburn is worth listening to. I had the opportunity to meet with Fishburn at IUPUI's Political Palooza. And to my surprise, he was as knowledgeable as I was about the issues I bought to his attention, and enthusiastic into implementing change. I told him that I was a Bart McAtee supporter in the primary, but he had nothing but good things to say about his former opponent. I went into that conversation thinking I'd be casting an anti-Layton/Anderson vote on November 2, but I think I'll be casting a pro-Fishburn vote instead.

For a "lower ballot" office, he and his campaign workers were very enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and were quick to address questions and concerns.

He's not the perfect candidate. His support for the Wishard referendum isn't a positive for me, but he isn't running for a spot on the Health and Hospital municipal corporation's board. He's running for Sheriff, and he has an open mind on bringing the MCSD into an era where fiscal discipline is a necessity for the entire city, something that Colonel Layton is adamantly opposed to.

For some excellent reading on the type of practices Layton is supporting and Anderson has carried out, Paul Ogden has written a series of articles on Anderson and the management of the jails as well as some budgetary issues. Here is the Google search of it.

One final thought. Can Fishburn win? I'm not certain. It's a Democratic county, but Republicans have overcome that hump before. I'm sure us politicos will be getting a better feel for the county races as we get closer to November.

Yes, Virginia, It Is a No-Bid Contract

The ongoing drama that Mayor Greg Ballard is creating by selling every municipal asset he possibly can seems to have hit a wall during the current scheme where his administration is attempting to sell off the city-county owned parking lots, meters, and garages. The city has created the illusion of competition in the bidding process when they asked for Request of Qualifications (RFQ) from those that are interested in running this asset. Even though the city has repeatedly referred to the RFQ submissions as “bids” in both the RFQ (here) and press releases (here), that is a mistake at best and a flat-out lie at worst.

If you view any of the RFQs, you’ll notice there is a start contrast between the RFQ and the final contract, which you can view here. Let’s take the so-called “winning bid” of Affiliated Computer Services/Dennison Parking and compare it to the contract that is currently being debated.

The RFQ that ACS/Dennison submitted does not resemble a “bid” in any way, shape or form. There are no hard numbers, no overall plan, or really anything that resembles a proposed bid or contract. Instead, it’s exactly the type of document that would be submitted for an RFQ. It explains why the two companies are qualified to manage the asset. It is, in short, a puff piece that makes ACS and Dennison look really good. The 15 other RFQs are also similar.

I have looked over every document at the Indy Gov Parking website and see no evidence of any type of bidding process. While Deputy Mayor Michael Huber claims to have been working on this scheme for several months, I believe it was a huge waste of time and tax payer dollars if he did. It seems like the city picked ACS/Dennison out of a pool when the other competitors weren’t seriously considered.

It’s important to keep in mind that the goal of privatization is to drive down the cost and improve the quality of service, which happens by introducing market competition. Competition is a key component in privatization efforts because when the government manages an asset, there is none. But conducting the illusion of a bidding war that results in a 50 year contract being handed to a politically connected company is not privatization, will not introduce market competition, will not reduce cost, and won’t improve the quality of service. Instead, it is just a monopoly that the government has blessed. And to think that there was any honest competition when a registered ACS lobbyist who also serves as Ballard's advisor (Barnes and Thornburg's Joe Loftus) is pure lunacy.

And finally, an update of sorts. I typed this post out earlier this morning. And before I clicked "Publish Post" on Blogger, I checked the Indy Gov Parking site to see two other bids from other companies. Apparently, the administration has learned that people don't inherently trust it. Kudos to the city for posting them. But they should've posted these bids the moment they paraded the ACS contract out, not several weeks later.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Former Republican Councilman/IMPD Charged in Federal Indictment

I just received a news update e-mail from 93.1 WIBC-FM. Former City-County Councilman Lincoln Plowman, a Republican who resigned amidst controversy, has been named in a federal indictment. He is charged with one count of attempted extortion and one count of bribery.

Plowman was also an officer within the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. IMPD was conducting an internal investigation before he resigned, and stopped the investigation once he did.

This is the first major federal action against a local politician ever since it became known that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into corruption among local politicians last year.

You can read Abdul Hakim-Shabazz's investigation into what exactly Plowman did here. What he wrote was largely confirmed by a The Indianapolis Star report filed a couple of weeks after he published his post.

This is the most significant action taken by federal authorities since last year's raid on Tim Durham's office in downtown Indianapolis. Durham has so far not been charged with a crime and has been able to avoid court orders to freeze his assets.

UPDATE: Wish-TV is also reporting the story with a few more details. Plowman was allegedly helping a "developer"/undercover agent in obtaining licensing and all that good stuff for a new strip club in return for bribes and campaign contribution.

Advance Indiana has the entire press release up.

UPDATE II: The 25th floor takes to Facebook to speak out:

Earlier this year, IMPD’s Professional Standards Division investigated former Officer Lincoln Plowman on concerns of wrongdoing. Shortly before the conclusion of that investigation, Mr. Plowman retired from IMPD & resigned from the City-County Council. Though Mr. Plowman is due his day in court, today's announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office supports IMPD's concerns.

Furthermore, we hold all of our public, elected officials to the highest standards and expect them to conduct themselves with integrity in a manner in which they never abuse their power or influence.

I honestly wasn't expecting them to say anything about it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stan Solomon, Marvin Scott's Campaign Manager, Resigns.

Stan Solomon, a controversial talk radio host, has resigned his post as Marvin Scott's campaign manager. Scott is running against incumbent André Carson (D-7th) for the House of Representatives.

Solomon has been under fire from those in the blogosphere, as well as the state and national Stonewall Democrats, for controversial comments he has made under his Twitter account. His comments contained many slurs and offensive remarks against gays and those of the Islamic faith. Some of those comments were "Gay stands for Got AIDS Yet?" and remarks encouraging the bombing the city of Mecca, considered a holy place of the Islamic faith.

If only the county GOP put some effort after slating Carlos May, maybe this all could've been avoided. May might not have won in a center-left district, but I do believe he would've avoided controversy such as this.

More on Marvin Scott Continues to Evade Responsibility

In yesterday's WISH-TV news story, controversial talk radio host and Marvin Scott's campaign manager Stan Solomon came under fire by several bloggers and the Indiana Stonewall Democrats for making comments highly derogatory of LGBT and Islamic peoples. Scott called Solomon a "loose cannon" and said he would take action.

Marvin Scott on his Facebook profile has posted that "Mr. Solomon has apologized."

Whoa there cowboy! Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater! Slow down there!

Give me a break.

As I predicted, Scott has decided, once again, to evade responsibility. He's acting as if he's a political newcomer, and that his staff's controversial actions and Internet postings do not reflect upon him. Political campaigning 101 basically states that you are a reflection of the candidate. If Solomon and people like Robert Croddy, who have worked in politics for quite some time, have no grasp of that concept, then there is little hope for Scott's campaign. And that's ignoring the issue that he is entirely unelectable in the 7th Congressional district.

Blog roundup:

The Bilerico Project
Indy Democrat (here and here)
Advance Indiana

Monday, September 13, 2010

Marvin Scott Campaign Incites Controversy, Continues to Evade Responsibility

Marvin Scott is the Republican nominee for the 7th Congressional District of Indiana. He beat the slated candidate, Carlos May, during the primary. But even at that time, he was facing controversy within his own party, and things have not improved.

Brian Jessen of Indiana's Conservative Hardball reported that his comments were repeatedly deleted on Marvin Scott's "Fan" Facebook page. Jessen was inquiring if Scott still believed in taking people who are poor living within the city and forcing them into rural areas. Gary Welsh mentioned this idea of Scott's in this blog post, and Scott called it "recolonization."

Jessen also mentions in his post that Scott, in his 1996 campaign, used names of a few conservative icons that he claimed supported him. It was later uncovered that these claims were baseless.

Jessen then reported that he received a call from Marvin Scott, hoping to clear the air on Jessen's post. Jessen questions why his posts were deleted on Facebook, and Scott initially denies it, but then admits that he doesn't maintain the day-to-day operations of his Facebook fan page. Robert Croddy does. And this practice of deleting anything that isn't downright praise-worthy of Marvin Scott continues to this day. Croddy continues not just to delete posts, but block people who come from across the political spectrum, including yours truly.

And today, the Indiana Stonewall Democrats have called for the resignation of Stan Solomon, Scott's campaign manager. Solomon is a talk radio host, formerly of WIBC, but now hosts on the Internet. His messages on his Twitter feed have come under controversy, including encouraging the bombing of the holy Islamic city of Mecca, and saying that "Gay stands for Got AIDS yet?".

Scott, when confronted with Solomon's hate-speech, gives a fairly evasive response.

Let's be clear: Marvin Scott does not believe in answering questions to the voters he is supposed to be communicating with. Croddy has evaded responsibility in communicating with voters, and months later Scott has done nothing to correct Croddy. I suspect the same will happen to Solomon.

Of course, by alienating the LGBT community, Scott is alienating a growing portion of the Indianapolis/Marion County area. As I noted, a pro-marriage rally only draws a few dozen demonstrators, and much more counter-demonstrators. Scott, running on big government conservatism including supporting Arizona's controversial immigration law and supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment, is doing just that, and is only alienating voters with these positions.

Don't worry, my liberal friends. Carson has this seat in the bag. Do what I did, and ignore the world according to Marvin Scott. He'll be teaching in Butler again when the Spring semester starts up. Maybe, one day, the 7th will have an actual, competitive race.

Bil Browning of the LGBT site The Bilerico Project weighs in as well, and contains screen shots of some of the controversial tweets.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reaction to Aaron Renn's Criticism of ACS-Indy Parking Deal

I'm leaving for a day trip to Bloomington soon, and I told myself I wouldn't post anything overtly political today out of respect for the lives that were lost nine years ago.

On that note, Jon Easter of Indy Democrat has an excellent post up.

So I decided, instead of posting my OWN thoughts, I'd post other people's. Sounds like a workable compromise.

Aaron Renn's post on the ACS-Parking deal has attracted quite a lot of attention. He also has a follow up post which deals with the parking deal a bit more.

Amos Brown of WTLC-AM was the first within the more traditional media to pick up on Renn's criticisms and booked him for an interview. You can listen to the interview here.

The city responded via Michael Huber, one of the several deputy mayors, and the one who has been in charge of the public parking deal. I have hosted it on Google Docs, which you can view as an online PDF or download it to your hard drive. You can find it here. You should be able to download it even without a Google account. Hat tip to Abdul, who originally posted the documents onto his blog, Indiana Barrister.

Have a good and save weekend. If you are interested in attending a service of some sorts for 9/11, The Indianapolis Star has a list of events here. A couple are in the evening, so it isn't too late.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Still More on the Ongoing Officer Bisard Case

Fox 59 continues their (as Gary Welsh puts it) game changing coverage of the ongoing incident involving Officer Dave Bisard. Bisard, a K-9 officer within the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, was responding to a request for assistance on a misdemeanor warrant. During the trip to assist, he crashed into two motorcycles, leaving one dead and two severely injured. He was originally charged with multiple alcohol related and fatality related charges, but those charges were dropped after the results of the blood draw were claimed to be not admissible in court as evidence due to the location of the blood draw and the individual who performed it.

The Fox 59 story reports that changes in state law expanded on the definition of where and who can perform a blood draw, though the state law fails to be more specific other than that the previous law is not a limitation.

As I reported earlier, a source has told me that the prosecutor's office didn't write down the blood alcohol content result correctly. It was actually 0.019, but was written down as 0.19. If this is true, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi could once again be the focus of the story and prove further that his office is corrupt and needs a house cleaning.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Aaron Renn to Discuss ACS-Parking-Indy Deal on Amos Brown Today!

Tune into Amos Brown today at 1pm. Brown will have Aaron Renn to discuss the ACS-Indy parking deal. This is likely due to Renn's excellent blog post discussing the parking deal, and the comparisons to the infamous Chicago parking deal.

Amos Brown's show is broadcast on 1310 AM on your radio dial. There is a live streaming feed over at their website, Praise Indy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More on Parking Privatization Article Roundup

Apparently, Urbanophile's excellent post has made the rounds and a number of pundits have weighed in, including Paul Ogden, Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy?, and Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana.
Marci Oddi of the Indiana Law Blog also weighs in. Her post contains a link to the several entries her blog has done over the years concerning the Chicago parking privatization.

Finally, "Bart" from Bart Lies! posts his thoughts. His entry also contains a side-by-side comparison (in PDF format) of Chicago's parking contract and Indy's proposed contract. He brings up an excellent point in that those of us who went to school have had it hammered into our head that plagarism of any sorts is ethically bad and you'll at least get an F on a project, and might even get tossed out of school. But that's not quite how it works in the real world. More on that in a separate entry.

Again, I encourage you to read the entire original blog post here. Posting the highlights just doesn't do it justice.

Parking Privatization Article Roundup

While I initially thought that I could read through the deal between the City of Indianapolis and Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) for management of publicly owned parking spaces and garages within the city, I was wrong. It is full of legal mumbo-jumbo and is frankly not something I can read through and have a full grasp of. For this, I'll be mainly relying on what others who have read the deal are saying.

Lawyer and blogger Paul Ogden* of Ogden on Politics has written several articles with more to come. In this post, he documents (with page numbers) specific points of the proposed deal. Among those are that Dennison Parking and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers will still be playing their role as they are now, but ACS will be who they answer to. This concerns me a bit, since ACS is basically handing over a chunk of change per year and keeping the rest, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with law enforcement officers essentially working for a private company increasing their profit margin while having a paycheck cut by taxpayers.

Also, remember a couple of years ago the formerly great The Indianapolis Star published an exposé on how city employees were abusing permits for free parking in metered spots? A bunch of city employees lost these privileges, and ever since then they've been trying to work around it. Well, it looks like this benefit is coming back, since the contract allows the city to set up special street parking for city, state, and federal employees. And even though the city still owns the parking spaces under this deal, it'll have to fork money over to ACS.

Finally, just like with the Indiana Pacers, the city will rely on ACS to be honest and upfront to provide numbers on finances. There are several parts of the deal that rely on profit margins, and ACS could potentially manipulate these numbers to get the "best" parts of the deal in their favor.

And while defenders of the deal will say "The council still controls meter rates!", it's worth noting that the contract essentially sets out how meter rates should increase. And if the council fails to act, ACS will be compensated.

Finally, Aaron M. Renn has written about similarities between the infamous Chicago privatized parking deal and Indianapolis' deal over at his The Urbanophile blog. Renn, who praised the water utility transfer as "privatize with yourself", is very critical of the ACS contract.

First, he plays with some numbers from the Indianapolis Business Journal to determine how much profit will actually be made versus how much ACS will actually have to spend. He points out the current cost of parking is $845,000 annually, and ACS is estimated to make between $724 million and $1.2 billion over the 50 year contract. I am not a numbers guy, so those that are can go look over his math, but I find the end result quite disturbing.

Second, he notes that the city is not receiving any independent financial advice. The advice they are receiving is from Morgan Stanley, one of the beneficiaries of the Chicago parking boondoggle.

One of the most disturbing points Renn brings up is he claims that the ACS deal is almost a Save As-Copy-Paste edit of the Chicago deal, and that where the deals diverge, it is actually WORSE for Indianapolis.

I've read his whole article several times and am still digesting it, and I suggest you do the same. Jackie Nytes, one of the City-County Councilors on the Democrat side, left a comment thanking Renn for writing this up. I plan to forward the article, as well as Ogden's series of articles, to my representatives and encourage you to do so as well.

In the weeks to come, I'm certain more of the local pundits will weigh in. I gave the city the benefit of the doubt when they held those public meetings a month or so ago. That doubt is now gone. The only aspect of parking that is broken in this city in the lack of it. In much of the deal, the city is taking something that isn't broken and breaking it just for the hell of it.

Finally, some personal insight: Could the city have written a one-sided deal and chosen some other vendor besides ACS? I know Governor Mitch Daniels is enamored by all things Mitch Roob (Roob is a former employee of ACS, and helped ACS score the gig with the failed privatization of the Family Social Services Administration with IBM), I just don't know why people in this state keep going to him for everything. The man led a failed privatization effort with FSSA and is under fire on the lack of public records being published under his management of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Failure seems to follow his projects around, and yet our elected officials keep going back to him for advice. Mayor Greg Ballard didn't even consider ACS' involvement with the failed FSSA privatization and seemed puzzled when questioned about it. Do his political advisors just don't know about being judged by the company you keep, or do they not care?

Finally, kudos to Zach Adamson. Adamson is a Democratic candidate for an At-Large on the City County Council in 2011. Adamson has been an outspoken critic of this deal. Can any of the current At-Large representatives say they've even thought about the parking deal as much as Adamson has?

Other posts on the subject:

Advance Indiana

*Full disclosure, Paul Ogden is representing me in a class-action lawsuit against Marion County Traffic Court.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

You Just Can't Trust Big Government Conservatives

One of the problems with the Republican Party nationally is that it has been hijacked by those who love big government. It's just that instead of welfare for the poor and liberal not-for-profit organizations, it's welfare for the military-industrial complex and homeland security. And both parties seem to love micromanaging the lives of every day folks who generally want to be left alone.

Why do I bring this up? It's not because Indiana's ridiculous blue laws are in the news again, but because I ran across a blue laws post in SUPPORT of blue laws over at Blogs for Victory. As I read the post, I thought the writer was just reflecting on the morality of blue laws and how he likes the idea. I was hoping he wouldn't explictly support the ones currently on the books, or new ones. But I was let down:

But we should strive for a general stoppage of work at least one day a week – and as we are a nation of deeply Christian background, the logical day for it is on Sunday. And we should do a bit of enforcing holiday closures – don’t have people’s holidays wrecked because a company decides it can squeeze out 0.01% more profit if they open up at midnight, Thanksgiving rather than waiting until 9AM or so on Friday.

These guys will go on and on about free market this and socialism that when it's about the Democrat's and President Barack Obama's agenda, but when it comes to what THEY want, and it's usually in enforcing their religious or moral beliefs, big government is their friend.

If those who think like this could remember their roots, they'd know that a free market would take care of this. Companies tend to adopt to where they locate, including the hours they operate. A business that wants to be open 24/7 won't go to an area where it won't be profitable or where there isn't demand.

And finally, I should remind the Big Government Conservatives they can always vote with their wallet and feel free to not shop on Sunday. But you choosing to do so is your decision. It should not impede by decision to make a private business transaction at the store of my choosing.

The national Libertarian Party's web site also has a very entertaining post concerning similar matters here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

More on the Ongoing Officer Bisard Case

I am working on a post on the Marion County Sheriff's race, but I've got some interesting developments on the Bisard case that I'll share.

My reliable source has informed me has told me a few more interesting tidbits on the ongoing case regarding Officer Dave Bisard, the incident itself, and the post-incident handling of the case.

My source informed me that the Lawrence Police Department officer that monitored the blood draw was a close friend of Officer Bisard. He questions if that'd be an ethics problem, and if he informed Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers/brass of this possible conflict, or if they knew and let him monitor it anyway.

My source also told me that the Marion County Prosecutor's Office has learned that the results were written wrong in regards to the blood alcohol content of the blood sample from Bisard. As has been reported before, 0.19 was the BAC that was published. My source says that the BAC was actually 0.019. The source says that BAC level is a violation of departmental policy, but not a violation of law. As I previously reported, this same source told me that the blood work was done at the Marion County Crime Lab and not at the State Department of Toxicology (see here).

My source maintains that the charges that still stand all come from the IMPD investigation, and that the alcohol charges which were the result of the work of the Fatal Alcohol Crash Team which is run out of the Prosecutor's office, were the charges that were dropped.

My source also confirms the suspicion of the "public image" of Frank Straub being an issue within IMPD. The day before the Bisard crash was when IMPD overwhelmingly voted down the proposed contract in a six to one margin. My source says the contract was voted down because Straub let it be known that he runs IMPD, and that he told Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Owensby that there'd be changes within the department, but he wouldn't announce the changes until the FOP held their elections for leadership. Apparently, Owensby didn't agree, and the contract was voted down.

Pundit Abdul Hakim-Shabazz shared the departmental policy that my source refers to over at his blog.

I have previously commented upon the good work that Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has done with this case. Now, I'm not so sure how much I believe in those words. I'm not sure if I should be surprised, really.