Monday, December 31, 2012

More Year-in-Review Thoughts

I often appear on the Internet talk show Civil Discourse Now as a panelist. The show, hosted by Mark Small and Paul Ogden, will be joining the Indiana Talks network of radio shows next year. This means that, in addition to streaming live on UStream and uploading video to YouTube, you can listen to streaming audio at Indiana Talks. The show will also be re-broadcasted frequently in case you miss it the first go-around.

I am honored to be on the program so frequently and am stunned at the quality show Mark and Paul have managed to put out.

Also appearing on the show is Jeff Cox, author of the up-coming book Rising Sun, Falling Sky: The Disasturous Java Sea Campaign of World War II.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Time for Reflection: I Was Wrong about John Layton

I always get into a reflective mood around the end of the year as I look back not just on the past 12 months but even beyond that, and look at how my views have changed based off of what I've learned and what I've observed.

I wrote this post a few weeks before the 2010 elections. I discussed the Marion County Sheriff's race and my concern that then-Colonel John Layton was a poor choice because he may very well continue in former Sheriff Frank Anderson's footsteps. Anderson, in my view, bungled the law enforcement merger and never met a dollar he didn't love to spend. Fellow blogger Paul Ogden has written extensively about how the privatization of the management of Marion County Jail 2 has been run poorly, due in part to Anderson giving it to contractors he was connected to.

Many of my Democratic friends did not take the post very well. At the time, I stood by it.

I am glad to report that I was completely wrong in my assessment of Sheriff John Layton.

Layton has competently led the Sheriff's Department in this era and has demonstrated the role the department has in the post-consolidation era in Marion County. Two months into his first term, he was faced with a death of a female inmate in one of the privately run facilities. He launched an investigation promising reforms, much more than what his predecessor ever did. This reform ended up in closing the facility and assigning deputies to the other privately run facilities that fall under the Sheriff's supervision. Anderson said "I need to put my own people in make sure things are getting done the way I would want them to be done."

More recently, Sheriff Layton has taken the lead for the county-run agencies who had much of their budgets cut from a line-item veto by Mayor Greg Ballard. This has largely been seen as a partisan move by a Republican mayor slashing the budgets of elected county-wide Democratic officials. Recently, Layton (or someone close to him) seems to have "accidentally" leaked an e-mail he sent to much of Indianapolis' political establishment where he roasts them for using the Sheriff's Department to score political points. In these budget discussions, Layton has maturely suggested that the Sheriff's Department assist the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department by taking part in some of the more dull law enforcement work such as traffic enforcement.

I'm not saying Layton is a perfect Sheriff. He once said that there is no fat in the Sheriff's budget, and I disagree with that particularly in the case of the take-home car program (and that is a problem at the city level as well). But based on his actions and what I've heard of the man, he's someone you can have a civil conversation with on what the role is of the MCSD in the post-consolidation age and he is willing to lead and fix when something is demonstrably broken. For that, I applaud him. Other elected Marion County officials should look to him to see how a civil servant should act in their official capacity.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why is My Councilor Fundraising in 2012?

Council President Maggie Lewis has had a busy year. She worked out a bi-partisan supported budget for 2013, only for a good chunk of it to get line-item vetoed by Mayor Greg Ballard. That budget battle is still going on, and it seems like negotiations between the Democratic majority on the City-County Council and the 25th floor and Acting Mayor Ryan Vaughn have pretty much ceased. Lewis has had to work within her caucus between the go-along-to-get-along crowd and the more reform minded part of the council. This has led her to support both a $15 million PILOT against the Capital Improvement Board while simultaneously openly supporting many CIB initiatives  such as an extension of the Pacers' bailout for another year.

So why is my councilor fundraising in 2012? She is in a very safe Democratic district and her campaign has no debt to pay off. This has led to some speculation that she may be prepping for a run for Mayor of Indianapolis.

Personally, I don't buy it. I certainly think she has ambitions for higher office, but not Mayor.

I think fundraising needs to be viewed in context. When you become a leader within a party, you're expected to use your high profile to help out other candidates and causes important to your party. Lewis has an opportunity to use her profile and her stature to be a bit of a kingmaker in Marion County and in Indiana. A lot of these council races run on very little money, and a few hundred dollars from Lewis could do a lot in a council race when only municipal elections are on the ballot.

As for why I don't think Lewis is running for Mayor, I just don't think it suits her style of leadership. I've known Lewis for a few years now. And based off of what I know as a constituent of hers, and what I know about as a reporter, I think Lewis' style of leadership is that of a group leader and building coalitions. An executive level position removes you from that and instead of leading the group, you're the leader and that's about it.

I also have seen her work the ground as part of her political party on elections and work hard for her constituents and I believe she genuinely enjoys that type of work, and that a Mayoral position would remove her from that type of work.

And if I want to take a stab and just-barely-above-baseless-speculation, I wouldn't be all that surprised if some Democrats in the state house got sick of being in the minority. And I think a position there would suit Lewis' style of leadership there much more.

For another take on this fundraising activity, check out Jon Easter's thoughts.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Legislature Determined to Get Around to Substantial Issues...

And then they promise they'll get to those job creating bills, they just have to take a quick vote to define marriage and THEN the supermajorities in the state legislature promise to get around to economic issues and all the other major issues facing our state...oh and MAYBE they'll take up one of THREE creationism-as-science bills, but then they'll get right around to some actual, legitimate work.

While it is no secret that I'm not a fan of Governor-elect Mike Pence, I like to give public officials the benefit of the doubt when coming into a new political office. The campaign is over, the votes are counted, now it is time to get to work. And honestly, some of what he said on the campaign trail wasn't all that bad. There was some sort of agreement among the three major gubernatorial candidates that there needs to be a new focus on skilled labor, certification,and two year degrees for those who are not bound for a traditional four year college education. During the first gubernatorial debate, Pence spoke about rehabilitating criminals into productive members of society after they've served their time.

But as the state legislature now being organized, I have little hope of that happening.

Just a few days ago, the Indiana State Police Superintendent said he'd be in favor of legalizing (not decriminalizing) and taxing marijuana, saying that it isn't "going away" and that there is a lot of "victimization" that goes along with it. An ISP spokesperson quickly walked back that statement, and a spokesperson for Pence quickly noted that he is against the decriminalization of marijuana. That doesn't exactly fill me with a whole lot of hope that Governor-elect Pence would be supportive of criminal justice reform. Reform desparately needed because there are ex-cons who can be turned into productive members of society. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are criminal pieces of trash who don't ever deserve to be outside of a prison cell. Unfortunately, we're on the track of just locking everyone up and throwing away the key without regards to how we're going to pay for it.

Indiana Equality Action released a report detailing over 600 laws that would be affected if Indiana added the proposed marriage definition amendment to our state constitution. And the response from state legislative leaders has been deafening silence. That being said, Indiana Equality seems to have some decent leadership at the helm this time around, and I can only hope they're preparing their ground game for 2014. I sure would like some actual debate on the marriage amendment though, maybe the proponents can actually answer the questions that statehouse Democrats and same-sex marriage advocates have been asking for years, such as how will it affect current laws for unwed couples, and municipal and private sector domestic partnership programs?