Thursday, March 31, 2011

Indiana state Rep Suggests Women Would Falsely Claim Rape to Get Abortions

State House Representative Eric Turner (R-Cicero) has suggested women would falsely claim being raped or the victim of incest to obtain abortions. This was in response to an amendment a state representative offered to a restrictive abortion bill for an exemption for victims of rape, incest, or those whose life would be in danger if the pregnancy continued. The video has gone viral within the past 24 hours.

The first I read about it wasn't on an Indiana blog or news site, but on legal scholar Jonathan Turley's blog.

This isn't Turner's first trip to the rodeo, as far as controversy goes. He's previously pushed for anti-immigrant legislation and has been one of the principal proponents in the Indiana House of a constitutional amendment that would define marriage between one man and one woman. Turner's son owns a building located in Marion, Indiana where Affiliated Computer Services rents, and Turner has an investment in the building (a financial interest Turner never disclosed). This building is where ACS runs their call center for the Family and Social Services Administration.

I support the state Republicans on a variety of issues, including a good chunk of their reforms for education. However, when those such as Turner speak, I cringe a little bit, and it makes me more reluctant to vote for any Republican.

UPDATE: Some politicos on Facebook are saying Turner has apologized for these comments, but I haven't been able to verify this supposed apology.

UPDATE II: Abdul-Hakim Shabazz reported that Turner apologized for these comments on the House floor the day after the comments were made.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More on Proposed Marriage Amendment, or Direct Democracy Sucks

No surprise to anyone, but the General Assembly's Senate passed the proposed amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage between one man and one woman. You can see the roll call here.

Everyone's favorite local political AM talk radio host (which pretty much narrows it down to one person, but I digress) has spoken out in support of the system we have to get proposed amendments on voting ballots. But I disagree with most efforts of direct democracy, including this one.

Even though various polls have indicated that attitudes to LGBT peoples are changing along generational lines, that's a generational change, and isn't likely to factor into political decisions within the next several years.

It's no secret that young people, who probably have some of the most open attitudes when it comes regarding marriage , are not big on voting. This gives proponents of the proposed amendment a huge advantage, simply because the age demographics of current voting trends are on their side.

Social conservatives have shown that when their issues aren't addressed in campaigns, they simply won't vote. And when their issues are addressed, they come out in droves. There's another advantage to the proponents.

Finally, I think it's easier to be "for" something rather than against, especially when it comes to voting. Those who are for this proposed, discriminatory amendment likely place this high up on their issues of voting. Whereas opponents of the amendment might be opposed to it, but there are issues they prioritize over it.

The opponents of this proposed amendment will have a lot of work cut out for them. It could mean driving people, particularly young people, to the polls in an off-year election. It could mean having to suck up to some of the big corporations that have spoken out against this amendment. They've got a few years to work on a strategy, but you'll need more than rallies at the Indiana Statehouse to defeat this.

EDIT: It has come to my attention that there is some confusion on how a joint resolution becomes an amendment to the Indiana Constitution.

A proposed amendment has to pass two separately elected legislative sessions. This means that the legislators who were voted into office November 2010 can pass a joint resolution in either the 2011 session or 2012 session, and then have to pass an identical resolution in 2013 or 2014. If it passes, it goes to a popular vote as a referendum. If it passes the referendum process, it becomes part of the state constitution. The soonest it could be on the ballot is 2013, though I find it hard to imagine that they'd want to hold it in an off-year election where not even municipal elections would be held. Thus, the likely vote on this, if it makes it to the referendum process, would be the 2014 November midterm elections.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Politics of Smoking Bans or Some Advice for Smoke Free Indy

Smoke Free Indy, along with several other similar organizations, have been pushing for an expanded smoking ban in Indianapolis/Marion County and a state wide smoking ban in the state house. Personally, I thought the timing for their state smoking ban was odd. It comes after the state GOP made huge gains in both houses of the General Assembly, with 60 seats in the House and a quorum proof majority in the Senate. On top of that, many of the Republicans elected were supported by various Tea Party groups, and I just don't think most Tea Party people would support a state wide smoking ban.

To my surprise, the smoking ban has made it passed the House, and looks like it has a good chance of passing the Senate as well. However, it's progressed with amendments. It exempts bars, casinos, tobacco shops and legion halls.

But the proponents of the ban are having none of that. Yesterday, I received a press release from Smoke Free Indy saying they'll be holding an "emergency press conference" on Monday, March 28 at 10:30am at the Little Red Door Cancer Agency. They want the bill amended to remove these exemptions.

While I have mixed feelings on smoking bans, I do have strong feelings on smoke, and I do my best to reduce my exposure to smoky bars when I do go out with friends. We tend to go to bars and other places that aren't packed to the brim, so even if there are smokers, the smoke isn't overwhelming. Or we might go during the off-hours when there just aren't as many people there. And there's always smoke-free venues, like the wonderful Radio Radio in Fountain Square.

My advice to the proponents of this bill? You're lucky to be getting this ban at all. I'd take what you can get, and if you think you have the political capital at another time, than work on expanding it. Because right now, you're at risk of getting no smoking ban instead of a partial ban.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two Education Reforms No One is Talking About

A week or two ago, there was an event held called Five Mayors. Mayor Greg Ballard and his four immediate predecessors (Richard Lugar, Bill Hudnut, Steve Goldsmith, Bart Peterson) gathered at the University of Indianapolis and answered questions about the city's past, present, and future. One of the things that I noticed was Peterson plainly stated that Indianapolis Public Schools, the school corporation that serves within the old city limits, should be under control of the Mayor's office. If I recall the news reports correctly, several of the other mayors agreed with his sentiment.

I'd go a step further. Let's put all township schools within the Marion County limits, and IPS, under the purview of the Mayor's office and the City-County Council.

One of the most important services municipal government provides to it's citizens is basic K-12 education. And to hear that the head of city government, and your representatives on the county legislative body, has very little to do with that service is just astounding. Currently, school boards are not accountable to the citizens, so we need a firewall to prevent school boards from going out of control.

Speaking of school boards, there's the other action we can take, right now, and at least improve awareness. Right now, school boards are non-partisan elections held every 4 years in the "off" year election (between Presidential elections) during the May primary. On top of that, you have to request a separate ballot.

So not only is it held in a low turnout year, but it's held during a primary, which makes it even lower in turnout.

We need to move these school board elections to the general election, and somehow find a way to put it on the same ballot. This will at least increase involvement and awareness. It might even get some of these political or interest groups that host meet-the-candidate forums to get involved and host some involving school board members and candidates.

Sure, I have opinions on vouchers and school choice and all that garbage. But why be the thousandth dude in the room to give the same opinion when the simplest actions haven't been taken?

In Defense of Rebecca Black

The Internet has been taken by storm by a 13 year old aspiring singer, Rebecca Black. Her song, "Friday", has had over 35 million views on YouTube. And a little more than a week ago, the views were in the hundreds.

What is the fascination with Black? Her parents spent roughly $2,000 to pay a music studio for a song and a music video. The song has very simple lyrics, and many of the people featured in the video are her actual friends and family. Maybe it's a mix of how bad pop music has gotten, or people love watching a train wreck.

For those not too familiar with the music world, there are now tools that can make just about anyone sound like an amazing vocalist. I know, back in the day, Milli Vanilli just hired other people to do the singing, but now you don't even have to do that. But Rebecca really isn't that bad of a singer, as seen in this acoustic version of "Friday" from ABCNews. She's by no means an amazing vocalist, but she's decent, and has some potential.

And hey, isn't this the American dream, or at least a small sample of it? That you have a passion, you put effort into it, and maybe you can "make it".

Finally, Rebecca seems to be a good kid. I'll close with this excerpt from a Rolling Stone article:

She is a total sweetheart. While it would be perfectly reasonable for any 13-year-old to emerge from a week of sudden fame and intense, often cruel scrutiny with a total nervous breakdown, Black comes off as a well-adjusted, happy and grateful kid. According to the Daily Beast, Black intends to donate a large chunk of her profits from the sales of "Friday" on iTunes – where it is currently at Number 31 and is said to have sold over two million copies since Tuesday – to school arts programs and relief efforts in Japan.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ballard's "transient" workers comment pisses me off too

Melina Kennedy, the presumed mayoral nominee for the Marion County Democrats, has put Mayor Greg Ballard on the hotspot when it comes to the smoking ban. Kennedy has stated she supports a full smoking ban. What is a full smoking ban? It probably means getting rid of several of the exceptions in the current ordinance. Ballard, however, has repeatedly said he would veto this proposed legislation if it reached his desk. While being grilled on the subject by The Indianapolis Star's political columnist Matthew Tully, Ballard referred to service industry workers who work in smoky bars and taverns as "transient" workers.

I think Ballard has been spending a bit too much time at the three country clubs he has memberships at, and not enough in the real world. Next time he orders his dinner at The Columbia Club, he should ask the "transient" server how many years he's been working in the dining industry. My guess would be that establishments that cater to the well-off hire servers and bartenders that have a decade of experience, if not, more. These people make it their careers to please people, and largely rely on tips for their income. These aren't low skill labor jobs where the "tricks of the trade" can easily be taught, and these high-end restaurants and bars know that loyalty is valuable.

And even among the low-end jobs such as cashiering, dishwashing, and food prep in less-than-high-end establishments, there are people that work in these industries for decades, usually between two or three jobs. In a city that heavily relies on conventions (IE visitors coming in and spending money), there will always be a need for people making coffee, preparing sandwiches, and checking people into hotel rooms, and so on.

This doesn't change my opinion on the smoking ban itself. I think the current ordinance, as is, is fine. But it's comments like these that could put Ballard's future in jeopardy. If he honestly believes these service-industry employees are "transient", then he's more out of touch than I thought.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Evening Political Mashup featuring LGBT Protests and Brizzi Unleashed

Tonight's post will be about a bunch of events that I found interesting that happened throughout the week that I just didn't find time to write about on their own.

It's not often that the world of politics crosses over into the world of my personal life. But last week, it did. Indiana Equality organized a protest at the State House this past Monday, and one of the featured speakers was my friend, Dorothy Vanore. I've known the Vanore family for years, and for many of the years, Dorothy was just my friend's younger sister. But she's become much more than that. You can see a video she made about her day leading up to her speech here. It's my understanding that she was part of the delegation from Indiana Youth Group, an organization that caters to the needs of LGBT youth.

Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's weekend radio show on 93.1 WIBC-FM apparently lit up with phone calls this week concerning the indictment of Brizzi's drinking buddy, Tim Durham. Both Diana Vice and Gary Welsh have accounts of this. According to their accounts, Brizzi went off on a caller asking about his lavish stock portfolio and the multiple real-estate deals he's a part off. Vice points out that slander is held to a much lower standard when it comes to private individuals, and brings up that Brizzi might've put Emmis Communications (the company that owns WIBC) in legal jeopardy. Maybe Brizzi should go to a political image consultant, and maybe the struggling WIBC should let Brizzi go.

Speaking of WIBC, has anyone noticed the quality of advertisers have dropped quite a bit? It's understandable that Rush Limbaugh and Coast to Coast AM bring their own unique sponsors to the station, but I'm hearing crazy radio ads even beyond those time slots, particularly the Income At Home "program"/scam and the End of America 38/44 ads. Are the internal struggles at Emmis Communications between their shareholders making it harder to sell adspace? They still haven't hit the low grade quality of advertisers that 1430 WXNT-AM (mostly government departments and programs advertising their services with few exceptions) attracts, but they're catching up pretty quick.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Praise for Rep. Justin Amish

I ran across a post from a friend of mine on Facebook that talked about Representative Justin Amish's (R-MI) innovative use of Facebook. It's not unusual for politicians to utilize social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LikedIn, but Amish is taking it to new levels. He seems to post about every single vote he casts. His most recent vote posted on his Facebook page was on the bill that would "defund" National Public Radio. Some in the House-controlled GOP caucus say this is a cost cutting measure in a time where we're still in an economic recession and the federal government is $14 trillion in debt, but Amish disagrees. Amish, correctly, points out that this proposed legislation doesn't cut a single dime out of the budget. What it does is bar the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from giving funds it controls to NPR. CPB will still have these funds to give to some other entity. Due to this, Amish only voted "present" but the bill did pass out of the House of Representatives.

It's not uncommon for politicians to use social media to talk about their votes, but most don't do it to the extent Amish and his staff do. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), who is running for a 7th term, tends to only post about votes on bills which he supports and that also pass out of the Senate. Lugar's social media outlets were pretty quiet on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which he opposed, but it ended up passing. Similarly, his social media didn't talk much about the proposed DREAM Act, which he supported, but it didn't pass out of the United States Senate. He did, however, post a lot about his support of the START Treaty, which did pass the Senate.

Kudos to Representative Amish. I hope our other Congresscritters will take a look at what Amish and his staff are doing, and more will follow in his footsteps.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Music is an Art Too

I got my start in journalism by reviewing concerts for IndianapolisMusic.Net. At the time, I had no significant exposure to local music and very little experience in writing outside of my classroom. I'll be eternally grateful to folks like Matt Fetcher and Steve Hayes who gave me a chance to voice my (at the time very) uninformed opinion and let me hone my craft on their website.

I remember, at the time, then-Mayor Bart Peterson talked about making this a city for the arts. But I guess Peterson didn't consider music an art. Because throughout his time in office, the city had a very contentious relationship with the all-ages crowd that attended concerts and events at venues like Festivillia, the Emerson Theater, and Solidarity Books.

Solidarity Books Collective was a hangout for various groups, including the Green Party and members of the hardcore music scene. In August, 2003 it was raided by the Indianapolis Fire Department, Indianapolis Police Department, the Seattle Police Department, a bomb squad, and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The SPD and the ATF agents were in town because the National Governor's Association were being held in downtown Indianapolis. IFD claimed they had a tip on some minor fire code violation, but found nothing. IPD and SPD proceeded to search the entire building, including the rooms on the second floor where several people lived and had their personal belongings stored. Of course, without a warrant.

IFD issued citations for stuff like a lack of fire extinguishers, and later, IPD claimed they were looking for "weapons and chemicals", even though Solidarity Books promoted non-violent forms of protest.

Solidarity Books sued the city with assistance from the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, but I'm unaware of how the lawsuit was resolved. What I do know is that Solidarity Books is no longer around. And sadly, that's a reoccurring theme in this town when someone provides a safe, drug-free environment for young people to hang out in.

The Emerson Theater had a run-in with IPD in 2004. The all-ages venue allowed smoking at the time, so it was common for people who wanted a breath of fresh air to go outside in front of the venue to get a breath of fresh air. This crowd would often increase when a band wasn't performing. One night, IPD officers ordered about a dozen people back inside because they were chasing a few kids who reportedly stole from a nearby restaurant. A few minutes later, a band ended their set and about 200 people started piling out of the venue: some to leave, some to get some food from the nearby McDonalds, and others to get fresh air. A few IPD officers noticed this and, remembering the order to stay inside the venue from earlier, ticketed over 200 people for loitering. Among those people was Matt Fetcher, who was the editor of Indianapolis Music.Net. Even though the prosecutor's office dropped the charges after a few weeks, it sent a chilling message to hundreds of youth: you aren't welcome in this town. The Emerson Theater now doesn't allow re-entry to any of their patrons unless they're over 21.

And these are just the stories that were picked up my mainstream media (though at the time, I remember reading most of the coverage in NUVO rather than The Indianapolis Star).

While the art galleries and exhibits and events that are found in areas like Massachusetts Avenue and Fountain Square are certainly deserving of our support, so too are the efforts of the local music community, especially when it comes to those under the age of 21. Often, these music venues cater to a crowd that doesn't have a lot to do, and don't live in the best of neighborhoods. And if the powers-that-be in this town would just leave them alone and let them go about their business (or heaven forbid, actually support them instead of throwing money away to some of the more useless endeavors we support), it would help tremendously. And if young people in this town had positive experiences to remember, maybe they wouldn't be so eager to move out of this city or state at the first possible chance.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some Mindless Thoughts

Despite the title of this blog, I haven't been in school for quite some time, but hope not to fall into the trap of all the people who say they're "taking a break" but never actually make a real effort to go back to school.

So today, I took the step to fill out the FAFSA, which is the federal student aid something or other that lets me qualify for federal government grants and loans and all that jazz. But to do that, you also have to file your taxes. And being a 20-something year old male with no notable assets (well, I do have a really cool vinyl record collection) and a measly amount of income, it takes a lot of time answering "no" to all these questions of shit that I don't own and thus, won't pay taxes on. No, I don't have stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, nor am I transferring money to foreign bank accounts, and on and on and on. But I did finally finish my federal taxes and am getting a good chunk of change back from Uncle Sam, so that was worth it.

Filing my state taxes though (which, by the way, you might qualify for free e-filing for your state return here), even though I answered a similar amount of mind-numbing questions, resulted in a a whole dollar of a return. That was fun.

And finally, I go to fill out my FAFSA. And I log onto their site, and I'm hit with a "browser not compatible" page. Yeah, I use Google Chrome. It's the new, cool kid on the block and I guess the feds only want you using Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. I remember the White House IT department went out of their way to make sure was compatible with the iPad's browser by the iPad's launch date, but I guess they haven't gotten around to compatibility for Chrome when filling out government forms.

And finally, about my only political thought for today. An e-mail landed in my inbox announcing the formation of two new Indiana Tea Party organizations, one in Boone County and one in Marion County. Their call out meeting will each be held at public county library branches. I guess the irony of meeting in a government owned and operated building (likely with a free or cheap meeting place) is lost on them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Where Have Ballard's Backers Been?

Last weekend, Hoosier Access had this entry on the top of it's page for most of the weekend. In it, contributor Mark Warner praises Mayor Greg Ballard and all he has done for the city.

It's no secret to regular readers of this blog that my opinion of Ballard's administration is fairly low, and I have been public in that criticism. I've attended City-County Council meetings, political events, protests, and so on. I've sat down and talked with people who would be affected by the stricter parking regulations that Affiliated Computer Services will enforce, and have talked with normal citizens who, months later, were still fuming about the outright sale of the water utility.

So my question to those of Mark Warner and the others at Hoosier Access, who will inevitably be schilling for Ballard's re-election, where have you been?

I performed several Google searches of Hoosier Access for key words such as "ACS" and "water" and didn't find a single post advocating for the ACS parking scam or the water utility sale. I similarly didn't see the good folks at Hoosier Access at public forums or council meetings advocating for these two major initiatives that Ballard and his City-County Council pushed for. In fact, Mayor Greg Ballard has been a rare topic of conversation at Hoosier Access ever since he was elected in 2007.

And not to beat up on only Warner. No one, besides paid lobbyists and lawyers working on the deals themselves, showed up to those public forums and council meetings to advocate for these aforementioned deals. The citizens that did often were lukewarm on the deals at best (feeling they were rushed through and lacked a proper understanding and explanation from their representatives), and flat out against them at worst (from those who felt they fully understood what was going on).

So I guess this is the roundabout way of saying this, but welcome back, Mark Warner and Hoosier Access to the world of municipal government. We'd love it if you'd stick around after the municipal elections are over, and continue debating the issues with other blogs, readers, and the public. Municipal government, after all, doesn't go away after elections are held. It's always there, often being the form of government that affects average people the most.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Time To Go, Charlie

Secretary of State Charlie White was indicted on several charges today, including allegations of voter fraud. White has been battling these allegations since the election season, but he benefited from...well, most people don't really know what a state-level Secretary of State does, anyway.

I am not a fan of politicians who stay in office while they fight with their legal or personal drama. If this takes away even one hour of his duties as Secretary of State, he should resign and seek employment that allows him the flexible schedule he'll need to deal with his legal problems. If he is found innocent, he can run for office again. Until then, he should resign.

I think it'll be interesting to see how the higher-ups in the state GOP will react to this. It has not been a good week for Democrats in the headlines, and this is just what they need right now. Will Governor Mitch Daniels and his buddies get White to resign quickly, or will they allow this to drag on?

I also find it funny and quite ironic that some people are always complaining and harping on voter fraud in Marion County and Lake County, but all too often never gather evidence to press charges. And yet, the most high profile voter fraud case in this state's history might be from a guy who voted in the town of Fishers!

UPDATE: According to Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, White has said he has no plans to step down and is innocent of all charges. This is in contrast to what Governor Daniels said a couple of hours ago where he said White should step down, and said the same feeling was shared among all state-wide elected officials.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thoughts on Councilor Evans and "North of South" Project

It shouldn't come as any surprise that the so-called "North-of-South" proposal passed the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council. What is interesting is who voted for it.

Democrat council representatives Jackie Nytes and Paul Bateman, both of whom are not running for re-election in 2011, have supported several of Mayor Greg Ballard's major initiatives and often "made up" for Republican council members who would occasionally defect and not toe the party line. In my conversations with Democrat loyalists, I do not hear many positive thoughts on Nytes or Bateman.

But the vote that caught my eye was José Evans, who represents District 1 and encompasses a chunk of northwestern Pike Township. Evans was a candidate for mayor of Indianapolis until shortly before the Marion County Democrats held their slating convention, where he announced he was halting his mayoral campaign, endorsing Melina Kennedy, and running for his council district seat instead.

Evans often touted a need for a mayor who is concerned with neighborhoods as much as one is concerned with downtown. So his vote here seems a bit odd, since it's a project that only helps a small section of downtown.

Has Evans been seduced by the promise of a certain percentage of Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) being contracted for the construction work, or that minorities will be a certain percentage of the 2,800 job "commitments"?

Or does he genuinely think that adding a second YMCA and another hotel to the downtown area will be beneficial? Zach Adamson, a downtown business owner and a candidate for Council At-Large on the Democrat ticket, doesn't think so. And I tend to agree. It seems like we have over-saturated the downtown area with hotels which will only be in full use during the largest of events (IE the Superbowl). During smaller events, these hotels will be competing for smaller slices of the pie. My fear is that, without constantly getting these big events, these hotels will start to lose money and will be back before the City-County Council or the state legislature looking for a bailout.

I wonder if this will become a pattern of sorts for Councilor Evans. Will he become the new Paul Bateman of the council?

For more information on the North-of-South project, please see Pat Andrew's blog (also a candidate for Council At-Large on the Democrat ticket), where she's written extensively on it.