Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Democratic Councilors Should Apologize

Several Democratic councilors during last night's council meeting displayed an incredible amount of disrespect to their Republican colleagues. Majority Leader Vernon Brown constantly interrupted Councilor Robert Lutz while Lutz was discussing one of the tax increases up for a vote last night. Later in the evening, At-Large Councilor Leroy Robinson and Councilor William Oliver interrupted Christine Scales while she was discussing a proposed TIF.

Lutz was taking issue with several Democrats' language in how Mayor Greg Ballard issued a line-item veto of several county agency budgets, all agencies held by elected Democrats. Lutz took issue with phrases such as "being held hostage". While I agree with the Democratic description, Lutz has the right to take issue with it. Brown interrupted him and accused him of "filibustering."

Later, Robinson interrupted Scales several times over while Scales was discussing two proposed TIFs and why two standards are set up for two different areas. Robinson was also acting as time keeper for Scales' testimony, even though no one asked him. Robinson's behavior was encouraged by Councilor Oliver, who spent a lot of time repeating phrases over and over again.

The entire Democratic caucus wasn't on bad behavior last night. Council President Maggie Lewis was doing her best to keep them in line and act in a respectful manner.

Councilors Robinson, Oliver, and Brown should issue a public apology at the next full council meeting for their obnoxious behavior. They should remember that they are there to work on behalf of the people, and the behavior displayed last night does nothing to advance that.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Council Complications

Much has been written about the newest member of the Indianapolis City-County Council, Jefferson Shreve. Shreve has had his residency question, won a GOP caucus vote to fill in for the remainder of Jeff Cardwell's term. Cardwell has stepped down from the council to serve in Governor Mike Pence's administration.

Much has been written about Shreve, and the political establishment in this town has lined up defending Shreve. Their defense is that Jeff Cardwell is an honorable man, and by proxy, Shreve is honorable as well and how dare you even question what happened.

I call bullpucky.

I don't know Cardwell personally, but I have no doubt to believe that he isn't a decent, honorable man. I'm sure he'll be a great asset in Governor Pence's administration.

But that doesn't mean that one can't criticize the wheeling and dealing politics that go on in these precinct committee caucus meetings. Just because Cardwell is an honorable, decent man doesn't mean everyone surrounding him is.

And finally, I'd like to write about the man Shreve beat in the GOP caucus, Michael Kalscheur.

Kalscheur is a long-time south side GOP activist. He ran as one of four At-Large council candidates in the 2011 municipal election.

During that election, I sat down with him and had lunch. Though we were candidates running under different parties and had disagreed on some issues, we had a frank discussion about the state of politics in this city. He expressed deep reservation about some of the taxes that had been passed under Mayor Ballard's first term, and said told me he'd be against any tax increases that came before the council.

Throughout the campaign, we kept in touch via e-mail and social media. I found him to be a decent and honorable man and thought he'd be an asset to the Republican caucus.

My final thoughts on this matter are I can only hope that Councilor Shreve will be as effective, independent, and hard-working as a councilor that I believe Michael would've been.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Snow-Day Tully Column Close to Recognizing Real Problem

The Indianapolis Star's Matthew Tully recently penned a column that criticized the city's efforts, or lack thereof, of plowing and salting the city's many "side" streets. According to Tully's Twitter feed, he has gotten push back from political supports of Mayor Greg Ballard (R), including Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker. Tully talks about the minimal cost of this problem while the benefits to it are obvious.

And I think Tully is right in this area. In my neighborhood in Pike Township, I was absolutely shocked that my streets were plowed and largely assumed that other neighborhoods experienced the same thing. Later, I learned that the neighborhood association paid for private plow operators to come out and plow and salt the streets.

On New Years Eve, I visited Broad Ripple and was stunned at how bad the neighborhood streets are while Kessler and College were cleared up just fine. Because there was a very light snow fall that day, the Broad Ripple neighborhood streets were essentially a thin lair of ice topped by a thin layer of fresh snow.

Tully's column ends with this

Clearing the streets is a basic service, not a luxury.
In many cities, the ice left behind would be a political scandal. But here, defenders argue that a road not cleared is valuable money saved, a worthy tradeoff in a tax-averse region. To those, I suggest reading up on the city's decision to once again write the Pacers a check for $10 million. Or to give huge pay raises to top officials in the mayor's office. Or to upgrade the convention center.
When this city wants to find the money it needs, it finds it. So find it -- yes, even if that means telling those of us who live here that we will have to chip in a little more.

Tully comes very close to getting to the heart of the problem. What this city and its leadership has isn't a revenue problem. When there is something they want to spend it on, they find the money. They've found the money for God knows how many re-districting efforts. They've found the money to doll out bonuses to some of Mayor Ballard Acting Mayor Vaughn and his closest friends. They've found the money to subsidize parking garages and all kinds of construction projects the city deems worthy of subsidization. They've found tens of millions of dollars to directly subsidize the Pacers, as well as money to give them a fancy new scoreboard.

This isn't a revenue problem. This city has more money coming into it now than it ever has. It is a spending priorities problem. It isn't that we don't have the money. It is that our leaders are blowing it on what they deem to be priorities.

Tully's outrage on the state of the city's winter preparedness is correct. But the target shouldn't be more tax revenue. The target should be irresponsible spending and diverting that spending to something that benefits the entire community, not a connected few.

Related posts:
Indy Democrat weighs in.
Advance Indiana's thoughts

It Still Doesn't Feel Right: RIP Bush Stadium 1931-1996

I don't remember what the reason was that I was on 16th street a few days ago, but it was the first time I had driven by the former Bush Stadium and I couldn't still see the stands, the old field, and all that still made it seem like a baseball stadium. Yes, a stadium that had long past its heyday, but a stadium nonetheless.

And this is probably the first time I've been visibly forced to confront the reality: Bush Stadium is no longer going to be Bush Stadium, the former home of the Indianapolis Indians. It isn't going to be revitalized into an athletic venue for other uses. It isn't going to be rebuilt into a memorial museum that'll show the rich history baseball and sports has with this city.

It isn't going to be any of those things that might be a proper spiritual successor of Bush Stadiums.

It is going to a be a bunch of apartments.

And I'm sure the people developing the apartments are good folks and are respecting the history and whatnot.

And I know that, considering the facts at hand, apartments are probably the best bet for this part of town at this point of time. The area has businesses, it is close to downtown. But there isn't a whole lot of properties up for rent, and this provides an avenue for people to move to the west side and be close to downtown without having to pay downtown prices. 

But as a long-time resident of the northwest side of town, this still doesn't feel right.

As a kid, I was never really into sports, probably to my dad's and grandfather's disappointment. To this day, I still can't even tell you what constitutes a first down. The fact that I used a word like "constitutes" when talking about football probably tells you how much I know about sports in general. And whenever my dad or grandfather did take me to any type of sport events, they'd ask me questions like "Do you know who is winning?" and I'd NEVER know the answer.

But I did like food. Specifically, I liked the food at Bush Stadium during Indians' games. The hot dogs, the pizza, the huge sodas (remember when 32oz sodas were the large size and not small????). And during the warmer months, we got to see a fireworks show. And it was always a really big one on the 4th of July.

I remember one year, my dad and I tried to get into the 4th of July game but they were sold out. So we drove to one of the parking lots surrounding the stadium, and parked near a food-stand. I don't remember if we listened in on the radio, or if it was on television, or if we just sat outside for an hour and listened to the crowd cheered.

But what I do remember is seeing the fireworks just as well, maybe even better, as those in the stadium. In fact, quite a bit better, because I remember some of the sparks actually landing in the parking lot themselves!

As a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

And now, as an adult who has some type of grasp on what makes this community and this city tick...wow, a stadium on the west side of town sounds like the coolest idea ever.

A sports stadium outside of downtown? Without a bunch of bars for people to go get drunk at before/during/after the game? Without a bunch of hotels around? And could you imagine come Carmelites having to drive through the west side, and if they wanted to enjoy a post-game drink, the nearest bar is The Recovery Room and not some swanky expensive thing connected to the JW Marriott?

But outside of that, I started to think about the benefits of having Bush Stadium. What if it had stayed? Maybe if it got some of the same push that "The Fieldhouse" (I seriously do hate that new name) and Lucas Oil got, we'd see some of the success downtown has gotten and it'd be helping out those outside of the Mile Square. Maybe promotions could've been done to drive up use of the nearby White River Trail and that could drive up use of the Trail. Maybe that would mean resources would be diverted to the Trail and making it a bit better and more usable rather than always by-default dumping beautification projects onto The Monon?

There's a lot of What If's that surround the end of Bush Stadium. But if the Powers-That-Be want to develop the entire community, and not just one or two sections of it, we need to think big. Bush Stadium, back in the 1930s, was a big idea. Maybe we need something else like it today.

And maybe you could put it in an area that could really use the development.