Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blog posting

As I'm sure you all have gathered, I won't be posting until at least after January 1, 2010 due to family, social, and professional commitments. Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kudos to Mayor Ballard and the Indy Land Bank

Kudos to Mayor Greg Ballard in a rare display of transparency. As reported by The Indianapolis Star via the Indiana Law Blog:

Public access television cameras will be invited back into Animal Control Board meetings after Mayor Greg Ballard on Wednesday overruled an attempt to keep the monthly meetings off the air.

"If I have to carry a camera in there myself and televise it, we'll do that," said Chris Cotterill, the mayor's chief of staff. "That's how strongly the mayor believes in transparency."

In another note, I've written multiple entries about the former Winona Hospital site and the neglate it has suffered since the city took ownership. A couple months ago, the Indy Land Bank took ownership of it. I stopped by the day before they took ownership and noted the condition it was in. I drove by a couple weeks later and it looked much better. Not only did they take care of most of the graffiti, but even cut down the overgrown bushes which basically reached the first story windows. It's still an eyesore, but at least it won't be as attractive to squatters and gangs.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Grandfather, City-County Councilman Gordon Gilmer

As I said in yesterday's post, one of the series of articles I want to write is finally making headway. Tonight, I get to share what this series will be about.

My grandfather was Gordon Gilmer, who served on the Indianapolis City-County Council from 1972-1999. However, I was born in 1986, and didn't really start to understand and get into politics until well after his death in 2001. I often cite him as one of the inspirations I have for getting passionate about politics and following the news. But I don't believe I have a good grasp of Gordon Gilmer, the politician. So I've decided to do just that by interviewing people who he worked with over the years.

There are several people I want to interview, and with some assistance of Matthew Tully at The Indianapolis Star, I was able to schedule a phone interview with former Mayor Bill Hudnut. I'll be conducting the interview Wednesday afternoon, and hope to have the audio up within the week.

While the titles of the blog entries for this series may vary, they will all have the blog label "Series One". This will make it easy to find entries from just this series, even if other tags are used.

To my readers

A couple of notes:

I have recently installed an add-on to this blog to track the traffic. It is from, which seems to be fairly popular among other Blogger users. It's interesting to see where my readers are coming from, or even that I have readers at all. Thanks you everyone for reading, and I hope you continue to do so.

With this blog, I not only want to utilize it as a soap box for myself, but also so that I can help promote other sites that I think are great resources. My Blogger profile page lists all of the blogs that I "follow"/read, but the links you see to the right of this page are sites that I think are truly worth reading. They may (many certainly do) have their own biases, but they do not play loose with the facts. If you see one just making crap up, please notify me by leaving a comment on any of the entries, send me an e-mail, or contact me via Twitter. I will investigate it and, if the allegation is true, remove it from the blog list on the right.

A brand new year is approaching, and considering the reader response I've gotten from my reporting on the demise of the Sagamore/start of IUPUI Student Media, I might have to do a follow up on that.

I also have a series of interviews that I'm about to start, and I'm very excited about presenting it to all of you. I'll hopefully have the first interview done by the end of the week, and I plan to make the audio available if at all possible.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just a note for those readers who expressed interest in the class action lawsuit

The attorney for the suit is Paul Ogden. His blogger profile is here and his e-mail address is

Traffic Court lawsuit: Abdul's blog

Apparently, I made the front page of Indiana Barrister today. I was even directly quoted. Well, kind of:

And before I forget, one of Ogden’s clients was fined $25 for not wearing a seat belt. The client says he didn’t want to challenge the ticket because he “heard about the court policy regrading additional fines.” Maybe the client should have made a call because he would have found that a seat belt violation is $25 regardless if you challenge it and there are no additional fines, unlike other traffic offenses.

Yeah, I wasn't fined "for not wearing a seat belt." As the complaint itself states (and as I have multiple times), I was fined for not wearing my seat belt properly. It was under my arm (but still going over my body).

In addition to that, Abdul wasn't the first one to suggest calling the court. Kim King of Fox 59 made the same suggestion. Well, I just called the court now to see what it is like now compared to several months ago. After selecting the 4 transfer options after the automated answer, I get a busy signal.

Also, the quote Abdul attributes to me is something I never said, and it isn't even a direct quote from the complaint. I guess one could make the case that it's a summary of line 33 in the complaint, but then you wouldn't put it in quotes.

And just to be super-certain, I even went back and re-watched the Fox 59 segment I was interviewed for. Nothing there either.

So, who did say that quote?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Class Action Lawsuit against Traffic and Parking Court filed

I am a part of a class action lawsuit, filed by attorney Paul Ogden, against the unconstitutional actions of the Marion County Traffic Court and the soon-to-be opened Parking Court. You can view the filed complaint here. Details will be posted soon, but for now, you can review my story with the Traffic Court in this entry.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Media roundup on Parking "Court" controversy

First off is the Indiana Law Blog, which has made three entries on the subject, the latest one raising these concerns:

My questions continue with today's story. Don't "courts" require judges with some sort of authority even if they are not lawyers, rather than these employees of the contracted parking ticket company? And what kind of procedural rules apply?


Sec. 103-59 deals with procedure on denial of violation, failure to appear, or failure to pay. If a person fails to timely admit the violation and pay the civil penalty, then under Sec. 103-59, "the violations clerk shall report such circumstances to the city prosecutor for appropriate administrative or judicial proceedings against such person." In other words, the ordinance violation bureau does not appear to be the forum to contest a parking ticket.

Paul Ogden at Ogden on Politics has an entry also, which the ILB links to:
Translation of that second to last paragraph? If you dare exercise your right to a trial over your parking ticket, the City is going to ask that your fine be increased up to $2,500. How's that for an incentive to pay?

The Marion County Traffic Court is doing the same thing. When defendants go into court they are warned by the bailiff, the prosecutor and the judge that if you take your case to court and lose, you can be fined an additional $500. Judge William Young lives up to that promise, imposing an additional fine of $400 or $300 on litigants who are unsuccessful.

Make no mistake about it. The Traffic Court fine and the City's threat of an up to $2,500 fine for parking tickets, are not fines for their respective offenses, but rather fines imposed on people for going to court. Most people I've talked to believe that fining someone for exercising their right to go to court, a right protected by the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions, is highly offensive. The practice may also be illegal. Stay tuned.

The Indianapolis Star, however, has been little more than a mouthpiece for the city. Their two articles on the subject (linked to in yesterday's post) offered no opposition view, citizens' view, or question the need for a parking "court" in the first place.

Good going bloggers. We need you when the Star misses the ball.

"Parking Court" follows in the unconstitutional steps of Traffic Court of Marion County

I put "Court" in quotes because some are questioning if it actually is a real court or not. But we'll get to that later.

First, Mayor Greg Ballard issued a press release, which you can read here:

INDIANAPOLIS – On December 1st, the City of Indianapolis will pilot a parking citation court in an effort to improve the way the city collects revenue from parking citations. The court will hold hearings at the former Guardian Home facility and will be managed five days a week to give violators an opportunity to pay outstanding citations.

"We have seen a significant lack of collections with unpaid parking citations and feel this is a way to increase revenue while working under our Six Sigma process to manage the program with greater efficiencies," said Manuel Mendez, Deputy Controller.

Using Six Sigma process improvement strategies, it is estimated that under this program the City may collect an additional $352,000 to $520,000 in parking citation revenue over the next 12 months.

The parking citation court will be managed by T2 Systems, which currently oversees the City’s collections and software for parking tickets. The court, which will hold hearings on a daily basis, will allow violators increased opportunities from the currently run system which holds hearings every two weeks.

"Our goal with this program is to assist the City in collecting parking citation revenue. Working together with the City, T2 Systems also offers payment options over the Internet, mail or IVR to make paying citations as easy and convenient as possible," said Jim Zaloudek, Chief Financial Officer for T2. "This allows us to fulfill our role of helping the City’s parking operations be as profitable and efficient as possible."

If citations are not paid prior to their scheduled hearing, the City may request a fine of up to $2,500 per citation. Upon receiving a judgment for an unpaid citation, individuals responsible could be subject to collections actions or having their vehicle registration suspended.

The citation court opens Tuesday, December 1st from the hours of 9am to 3pm at the Guardian Home located at 5751 University Ave.

Ok, so this "court" has no actual judges, or anything resembling a court. It is being run by a for-profit company, T2 Systems, which just so happens to be the same company that manages the collection of parking tickets and the software used to assist in the process. In other words, they have a vested interest in making sure these kingpins of, average citizens, pay their parking tickets.

The Indianapolis Star published two articles. Both are pretty much a slight variation of the press release from the city, but the second had one sentence that I long suspected:

T2 Systems, a private contractor that runs parking ticket collections and software for the city, handles the additional court operations. Those costs will be covered by revenues from parking tickets.

Yep, that's right. The for-profit company in charge of the court and in charge of collecting fines is going to be financed by...well, the fees it collects.

"But Matt, how is any of this unconstitutional?" I'm glad you asked. Article I, Section 16 of the Indiana Constitution has this to say:

Excessive bail or fines, Cruel and unusual punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required. Excessive fines shall not be imposed. Cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted. All penalties shall be proportioned to the nature of the offense.

In addition to the above, Traffic Court is also closed to the public, where the Constitution makes it very clear in that "All courts must be open." I imagine Parking "court" follows a similar rule.

Add this on top of the broken promises of Mayor Greg Ballard. He's pushed for higher taxes to cover his buddies at the Capitol Improvement Board, supported the Health and Hospital Corporation's scheme of a new hospital (and used city resources to promote it), supported the hike in water rates, and has failed to get enough money to hire the 50 new police officers his budget promised.

He has gone out of his way to support his well connected country club friends and screw the average citizen. It is a huge disappointment.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

IUPUI Student Media allegedly responds, maybe?

I say "maybe" because it's an anonymous comment, and I make it a policy not to claim knowing who anonymous comments really are:

As a member of the IUPUI Student Media staff, I just want everyone to know that we are working on the new platform. It's been a challenge having to lose the Sagamore due to funding issues and the fact that newspapers are dying. A group of students came together and dedicated our entire summer to finding out what the campus needs and better our coverage.

So don't loose hope on ISM. Please remember we are students, we are all learning, and we are all spending so much time trying to make the student publication the best it can be--and a printed publication isn't even it.

There are quite a few students who would be pretty heartbroken to read this after all the work we've done. We are working so hard.

There is a lot more put into this than you may even realize. Don't be quick to judge. And just keep your eyes out, this system will be running smoothly soon.

If the objective of ISM is to do what the Sagamore did but "better our coverage", then nothing has changed. If ISM continues to be a mouth piece for IUPUI's administration, then ISM has already failed.

As a former journalism student (at IUPUI) myself, I know that the journalism program is a very small program. I remember one graduating class had maybe a dozen students. Compare that to IU-Bloomington's journalism program, which had a few hundred graduates during a graduation ceremony that my family attended a while back.

I also understand that, as a student, everyone has other commitments. As I'm sure fellow bloggers know, sometimes we need to choose family or the job that pays us rather than use our free time to write a blog entry or spend a few hours doing research for one. But I'm also a firm believer to not publicly show a project that's only partially finished. ISM may be growing, but that is no excuse for a broken search engine, links that all lead to the same place, and some poorly designed HTML.

I can see the reliance of AP articles in the beginning, but again, it's a tradition carried over by the Sagamore. They could at least put the wire stories in their own section and not hide the ISM original stories at the bottom.

As for some being heartbroken if they read this, criticism is part of the news business. Get over it. The criticisms I've posted are hardly huge hurdles. The website issues are minor, and simply prioritize original stories over wire stories. Finally, be an independent voice for the student, and not PR for the IUPUI administration. In other words, don't follow the tradition set by the Sagamore, and you'll be at least on the right path.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Homicide Rate: What's the real number?

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz tweeted that the murder rate is at 88. Bart Lies, one of the many websites created to throw out former Mayor Bart Peterson (and one of the few that is still up and running), has a different number.

Throughout the year, Bart Lies has kept track of each homicide that happens in this city. It has it at 92, with a full list of names for 2009 as well. He explains in this post that the homicide rate seems to get shortened by 4-5 each year. He says in the comments section that he doesn't specifically blame Mr. Shabazz, he just so happens to be the first to put the number out.

The reason these numbers are so important is because every single mayor says that public safety is #1. And this is something that average citizens can wrap their heads around. More importantly, it's something that politicians can't spin. The number is the number, no getting around that.

It's strange that even in the simple task of counting, two people can come up with different results.

Now would be a good time to remind readers (and myself) that homicide strictly refers to the act of one human taking the life of another. Homicide is not always illegal, and homicide and murder don't always go hand in hand. Justifiable homicide (self defense, for example) and a gang shooting a rival gang member (murder) both are different in the legality and what can/can't happen due to those acts. But both acts are still homicides.

Eventually, though, the media outlets will pick up the homicide rate, and they're far more likely to publish a source along with it. I'll update as needed.

EDIT: I misreported that Shabazz said homicide rate. After double checking, he did indeed use murder rate. My apologies. He also said his number came from Mayor Ballard's interview earlier today.

Friday, November 27, 2009

IUPUI's Sagamore is no more. In other news...

As someone who actually attends IUPUI and spends a lot of time on campus outside of the classroom, I had absolutely no idea that IUPUI's Sagamore (the student run newspaper) had ceased publishing. Unfortunately, for at least since I started attending, the Sagamore has not done much actual reporting. Instead, it has served as an "independent" body to promote IUPUI's policies and certain school events, mainly sports.

In my two years inside the journalism school at IUPUI, teachers rarely promoted the Sagamore and I don't recall an editor or anyone coming into a class to promote it. Now that's just a strange experience to ponder over. It doesn't prove anything about the Sagamore other than possibly their lack of self-promotion.

But in my freshman year, I somehow got involved in a small controversy surrounding the Black Student Caucus. I talked to a few activists on both sides of the issue, and was even interviewed by a reporter for a story she was writing. But the reporter was from the Indiana Daily Student, IU-Bloomington's student paper. This reporter was able to pitch a story to her editor about an issue that is happening an hour north of them, that had no direct impact on IU-Bloomington. But she wrote the story and got it published.

But The Sagamore was not managed like the Indiana Daily Student. IDS, and ideally every student-run newspaper, should strive to be like every other news publication. But the Sagamore, in my four years of reading it, rarely covered anything outside of the IUPUI campus, and the issues they did cover weren't covered very well.

Anybody who visited the Sagamore's website while it was up and running often would run into broken images, and links that led to nowhere. That tradition has carried on to the IUPUI Student Media website, where "About Us" and "Contact Us" leads you right back to the main page. Doing a search for...well, anything, will turn up zero results.

Their reporting chops aren't much to brag about either. The top story on the main page, Entertainment, and Food are from the Indianapolis Star, Rolling Stone, and the AP. Clicking on several stories, including the top story under Military, had several misaligned boxes making it hard to read some parts at the end of the article.

Oh, and try doing a search for "Wishard" on IUPUI Student Media. Even though the new hospital's construction will drastically affect student parking for a long time, there is not a word written about it on their site. So much for informing their audience of the events happening in their community and getting their thoughts on those types of matters.. If only there was some avenue that could be used to do such a task...

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Art of Polls (or you might as well make the numbers up)

Over at Indiana Barrister, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz posted some interesting poll results. He doesn't cite what the poll asks, what the numbers are, who did the poll, or anything like that. But still, even without silly stuff like a "source", it's still worth a read:

And speaking of polling, incumbent Greg Ballard is polling about 50-percent in the African-American community, a key constituency for Democrats.

I find that any Republican polling that high among African-Americans could very well be a sign of the Apocalypse.

Abdul has an extensive background in the news business, as well as politics. Any first year journalism or political science major can tell you how easily the poll itself can be manipulated in who you survey, the question asked, how the question is asked, answers to choose from, etc... And even the numbers themselves can be manipulated, such as when Mayor Ballard recently "tweeted" that Indianapolis was one of the top 40 safest cities, where really we're really #38/40 on the list of the 40 biggest cities in the US.

As I commented on Abdul's blog, if you're not going to bother to cite a source and examine it, you might as well make the numbers up. It has about the same level of credibility.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IMPD denied grant money for new officers: I hate it when I'm right

When Mayor Greg Ballard presented his budget to the City-County Council, one of the points he highlighted was that IMPD will be getting a budget increase, mainly to hire 50 new police officers. He said that federal money will be used to the tune of $11 million over three years. The budget also specified that another portion of it ($1.7 million) would be from a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to cover cars, pagers, and various other costs.

Today, Fox 59 broke the story that the grant application was rejected:

Fox59 News has learned IMPD has been rejected for a $1.7 million dollar grant to buy 50 new police cars. And, it appears more advance discussion with Indiana Criminal Justice Institute officials about restrictions for equipment would have let city leaders learn months ago they never had a chance to get grant money for cars.

"The equipment grants we give out are typically for $10,000 or less," said Neil Moore, executive director of the Justice Institute. "If you look at what we funded in the past you will see we don't fund cars for large police agencies."

IMPD was requesting $1.3 million for cars. The total request was $1.7 million dollars. The money is needed to match Federal money the city's taking to cover salaries for 50 new police officers in 2010. By taking the federal money the city has to guarantee it can buy equipment for the new police and cover their salaries after three years.

"We were a little surprised, we were counting on it," said Valerie Washington, CFO for public safety.

Interestingly enough, I questioned these numbers sounded in the first place. The city-county budget, by cutting every department except for IMPD, ended up with a $15 million surplus. Now why Mayor Ballard and the CCC use that to fund IMPD, or the permanently increased County Optional Income Tax to do so, who knows?

In fact, two die-hard Ballard supporters had no problems with IMPD funding when the budget was proposed as seen here.

While I did misspeak and call it stimulus money, the fact is federal money is never a guarantee. Eventually, it'll be gone and the city should be able to stand on it's own two feet. We should at least be able to provide the necessities without federal assistance. Unfortunately, some of my conservative friends don't see it in the same light.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Look who is a supporter of Wishard!

Over at WRTV6, they reported this:

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard celebrated with hundreds of supporters Tuesday night, announcing news that the Wishard Memorial Hospital referendum had passed.

Did this guy say a single word on the referendum? Shouldn't he have held a press conference, shown some leadership?

EDIT: A Indianapolis Star story noted Ballard as being one of the first supporters of the referendum. I'm going to take them for their word at the moment, but he sure has been silent about it for a while.

Found a story with Ballard issuing a press conference in July. True, he has supported it since early on. It just seems strange that he didn't bother to take a stand on the smoking ordinance, and has been largely silent on Wishard in the past few weeks.

Why I voted no on the referedum

My initial title was "Why I voted against Wishard", but that would be misleading. That would imply that enough "No" votes would prevent them from building the new hospital. But the vote wasn't on if the Health and Hospital Corporation should fund a new facility, but if it can take out bonds backed by property taxes which would get them the lowest rates possible.

First, let's study the referendum itself. It never mentions building a new hospital, or the cost, or where the new building will go. It doesn't mention how it will be financed, and what taxes back that financing. It doesn't mention the size of the new hospital (it'll have 50 less beds than the current one), or what will happen to the current one. It is basically a one-sided referendum, written by Health and Hospital, to purposely mislead people on voting "Yes" to a new hospital, even though it isn't mentioned.

Out and about, officials from HHC have said this won't raise taxes, that the revenue from HHC owned nursing homes will cover it. But HHC doesn't actually own nursing homes, but only owns them on paper so they can bill the federal government twice. The health care bill running through the national Congress is going to gut the funding for the over-payment of government owned nursing homes. And even if that doesn't happen, HHC is scamming the feds, and eventually they'll find out.

Moreso, if a public option does pass, then people will have the ability to go to a variety of hospitals and won't have to use Wishard. What will happen then?

And once that money runs out, where is it going to come from? Property taxes.

(Read this post by Gary Welsh for more of this)

Now, besides that, HHC is also in charge of enforcing various health code laws. They claim that Wishard is "dying" and "falling apart." If that's true, where are all the health code violations? If a new hospital is needed, then why is the Wishard campus in constant (re)construction, adding new office buildings, parking garages, and even a new restaurant?

Honestly, I'd probably have voted for the referendum if it was presented honestly, during a regularly scheduled election, so that this county could have a healthy debate on the city funding a hospital for the less fortunate among us. We would also have a clearer picture of what type of health care reform will happen in DC and make appropriate modifications. But right now, this stinks to high heaven, and seems to be a new construction project because hey, it's been a while since we've built a new palace.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You aren't really all that anonymous on the Internet

As someone who writes a blog that nobody reads, I don't get very many comments (it's okay, I don't expect them. Any I do get are a welcome bonus). And those that I do get are usually anonymous.

I make it a point to make sure that I'm never hiding behind a screen name. I publish my Twitter with my real name, have my real name on this account, and comment on various blogs either using the same screen name or linked to my Facebook or Twitter. I don't believe in hiding behind a screen name. I believe that those who exercise their right to free speech should also be able to handle the rights of everyone else to respond to their speech.

So I received an anonymous comment on the short piece I did on Councilor Minton-McNeill, who I believe should resign. It's been 9 weeks and counting since she's done any business on the council, including missing meetings on the city budget and the expanded smoking ordinance. This comment looked to be from some Internet defender of her, but this person is posting these messages elsewhere under the name "Charlie Stewart", as in here.

Mr. Stewart's comment on my blog left no real information to go on and I did not go out and search for his name. I regularly read Indiana Barrister and that entry has gotten a lot of attention.

Mr. Stewart says he is a neighborhood president and, due to the information he claims to know, an insider with Minton-McNeill. Surely he would know that the hush-hush attitude she's been keeping with the public can't be good for her political future. My advice to him: Stop hiding behind anonymous Internet accounts and get your pal to speak up, do the right thing and resign. There's no job in the real world where you can take 9 weeks off with no public explanation and expect to still have it when you get back. Council seats should be no different.

That being said, there are situations where if she has a legitmate reason for being absent, she should keep her seat. But considering Minton-McNeill is not saying ANYTHING, let's just say I have faith in my fellow citizens and I hope she proves me wrong by making her situation public.

Seperation of powers? Who cares? Not Mayor Ballard.

According to Matthew Tully at the Indianapolis Star and Terry Burns at the Indianapolis Times blog, Mayor Ballard met with the Republican caucus before the City-County Council meeting Monday night. This was the same night where the only major piece of legislation was making a more wide smoking ban. Mayor Ballard has been silent on the issue. Normally, I'd be more wary of something coming from the unofficial mouthpiece of the Marion County Democratic Party. But Mayor Ballard is strangely silent and isn't big on publicly voicing his opinions, and Tully's report pretty much confirms it.

My contention with this isn't to score political points, like Mr. Burns is. Nor is it even because I'm for or against the proposed legislation, such as Mr. Tully. My problem is that Mayor Ballard (or someone from his office) meeting with the Republican council caucus is not an uncommon site, something that Paul Ogden has talked about. And in this case, Mayor Ballard made it clear he didn't want to veto the bill, because that would cause him to break another campaign promise, according to Tully.

Our system of government is set up so that we have three separate branches, each having specific duties, and certain checks and balances so that no one branch can usurp the other branch's power. Someone from the executive branch (especially the head of it) should not be a normal presence at either party's closed door caucus meetings before City-Council business. If Mayor Ballard wishes to meet with any council members on his own time, he's free to do so. But legislative bodies are not there to just rubber stamp whatever the executive branch wants.

Ironically, by all reports from the politically connected, it didn't look like the new smoking ban would pass anyway, due to a number of absences and councils abstaining from the vote. Even if it passed, it would've needed 15 votes to go to the Mayor's desk or be completely defeated. It was 13-13, so it's indefinitely tabled.

Mayor Greg Ballard is someone who camapaigned on very specific platforms. Since then, he's clammed up and only expresses opinions behind lock and key. I'd rather elect someone I disagree with who's willing to take a public stand, than someone I agree with but keeps it hidden. Unfortunately, Ballard falls into neither camp, because I have no idea what he stands for.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

City sets double standard for itself and private property owners.

Guess who gets the pass?

WRTV6 tonight had a story talking about graffiti on abandoned homes, deliquent properties, etc... While the city will try to get out to do something about it (wasn't public safety priority #1 for Ballard?), they'd like the neighborhood to take care of it.

What isn't too focused on in the story is that the city owns properties that they have let go to pot, graffiti, asbestos, and all. The site of Wianona Hospital has been owned by the city for years, used by it in Dec 2008 to train SWAT teams, and then forgotten about. Has the city gotten a fine for it? Has the Parks department gotten a citation for letting Busch Stadium go to crap?

Doris Minton-McNeill can't be bothered to do her job

Over at Indiana Barrister, Abdul reported that Minton-McNeill abstained from voting that night. This implies that she was actually there to vote. But she hasn't been at council meetings in a number of weeks, pretty much ever since a run in with a neighbor happened.

But make no mistake, she didn't abstain from voting. She wasn't there. Abdul says in the Comments section that she sent in a note saying she would've abstained from voting if she was there.

Not only could she not be bothered to show up, but if she had, she informed her constituents that she won't take a stand.

Previously in one of her absences, she was reported as receiving treatment of some kind. I fully support anyone who's attempting to get better and have no problem with a public official having a private life. But if that private life intervenes with their job performance, they either need to swiftly deal with the personal issues, or they need to resign. It doesn't matter if they're guilty as sin or innocent as a baby. Public officials should not be skipping their job and (presumably) getting pay checks while dealing with personal issues.

You know, I wouldn't even be that bothered by this if Minton-McNeill has been open about it. But outside of Democrat Party insiders, I doubt anyone knows what's REALLY going on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CIB fires 11 low paid employees, wants more money for ICVA

The Capital Improvement Board continues their manufactured PR campaign to seem like they are REALLY tightening their belts by firing 11 employees. The Star reported that the first 9 would save $325,000, but didn't specify how much the other 2 would save a few days later.

Doing the math, 325,000/9 gets us to about $36,000 a year. Add that twice into $325,000 and we're up to $361,000. Divide that by 11 and we're just below $33,000 a year.

Mr. Ogden over at Ogden on Politics makes a reasonable assumption that the total cost-saving also includes benefits. So we're really talking about jobs in the $20,000-30,000 a year range. These are not well paying jobs, but are jobs that normal folks do.

What should also be said is that, earlier this year, WTHR reported that the CIB gave across the board raises to almost every employee except Barney Levengood. These raises range from the standard 3% cost of living, all the way up to 14%. Don't worry about Mr. Levengood, he makes $221,000.

As I originally reported back in August, I overheard a CIB board member before a board meeting say "Fire half of those union employees and it'd save us tons of money." Looks like they're going forward with this plan.

Mr. Ogden also writes very in-depth about how Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association is lobbying for more money, despite most of it being wasted on salaries.

Fortunately, since municipal corporations are "separate" from the overall city-county budget, Mayor Greg Ballard can continue to say that nobody has to be fired due to cost cutting measures. I guess they also aren't counting the huge budget slash at the parks department, Doug Rae and two other animal control workers. Great job, Mr. Mayor!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yours truely gets trashed by gay rights activists...for supporting gay rights

Let me preface this by saying that, I know that when I get into the "comments" section of a blog, news site, etc..., I know the logic to lunatic ratio is going to be very heavy on one side. I tend to keep my comments to blogs with a fairly small audience as far as commentators go, with many of the same people using the same or similar screen names across numerous blogs.

Over at Indiana Barrister, I made a number of comments, advocating equal rights and specifically, a repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act due to an infringement on states' rights. In a discussion, I said DOMA and other laws restricting benefits and marriage are discriminating against "homosexuals."

And that set off a storm from a handful of liberal partisan hacks.

Calling gays and lesbians "homosexuals" isn't going to help your cause or political organization amongst gays and lesbians. In fact, quite the opposite.

It's kinda like calling an African-American or Black a "Negro". Gays and lesbians have similarly rejected that word "homosexual" -- it's simply the current political reality.

Fact Checker:
Matt, Matt, Matt.....this is 2009....If you cannot use the accepted terminolgy, what other outdated ideas are you clinging to your breast? Should slavery be abolished? Should women be allowed to vote? Should we return to prohibition?

Ironically, Fact Checker has few concerns with facts if they can't be twisted to support his view.

Fortunately, one of the new non-partisan posters there came to my defense, saying that "homosexual" is a term that perfectly describes the discriminated people and is not judgmental. The same poster also pointed out how invalid a comparison the homosexual-Negro comparison is.

And even though that these comments came from the Internet, from two people hiding behind screen names, this type of behavior is not limited to the Internet. Partisan hacks on both sides want to dictate to their party members exactly what to say, how to say it, and how to act. And anything less than that is discouraged. Just look at Ed Coleman, who refused to toe the line for the Republicans that the Capitol Improvement Board was a-okay and needed more money. He left, and became a Libertarian.

And in the final irony, if Fact Checker or Wilson bothered to read my posts, they'd know that I'm in agreement with them. But to people like them, partisan politics and trashing "the other guy" is more important than anything else, including equal rights.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Star hides owner of Wanona Hospital property

Published in today's Metro section of the Star (based on this blog post of theirs), the Indianapolis Star finally reports on the long neglected property of the former Wanona Memorial Hospital, now owned by the city of Indianapolis.

What they don't publish is that the city of Indianapolis is the current owner. What they do say is it's "legally abandoned" and no one would pay the $2 million in taxes during an auction. And the Indianapolis Land Bank will take ownership on Oct. 16. What they don't say is the city purchased it for $1 in 2007.

As WRTV reported in July, the city has ignored the property since they stopped training SWAT teams there in late 2008, and declared it unusable due to asbestos poisoning. They didn't even bother locking the doors or boarding it up. The building has obvious signs that people are sleeping there, and before the story hit, it was infiltrated by a citizen and he took pictures.

When I visited the property a few weeks after the story hit, the doors were locked and ground entrances were boarded up. But I found a crowbar near one of the entrances, and the overgrown shrubs easily reached the broken windows, providing a clear entrance. The building is not secure, and if this was owned by a private citizen, they'd be written up by the city for not maintaining their property.

But it is a very clever strategy. Let this building, which housed sick people (and cured them!) until 2004 deteroriate so that it has no possible use as a medical facility, bulldoze it, and put in a brand new project that some well connected contractor will get. Because we've gotta keep those construction jobs in the city!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Privatization" of Chicago's parking attracts lawsuit

Something that has greatly interested me in recent months is the mismanagement of the "privatize it" talking point. That if the government lets private companies handle government functions, "market values" will be applied rather than government values, and implying that it'll be a better deal. Since the private company has the motivation of making a profit, they have an incentive of keeping costs low.

That usually doesn't happen.

Chicago recently privatized their public parking, giving a 75 year contract, and later showed that the city undersold by about $1 billion. Surprise surprise, the rates went up. Also, humoursly, the higher rates caused meters to fill up quite fast, making it impossible to pay for a spot.

Now, the city is being sued. Apparently, Chicago police are still writing tickets for fining vehicles at expired meters. The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization claim that police funded by tax dollars have no authority to enforce something operated by a private company and thus don't have to pay. Failure to pay the fine can cause the Secretary of State to revoke your license, which again they contest the secretary doesn't have the authority to do because it's done at a private meter.

So not only does this privatization result in higher rates for citizens and visitors, but public resources are STILL being used.

Now, one may ask why those in Indianapolis should be concerned about this. Because our city is thinking of doing the same. Rates were quoted to be going to $1.75, and possibly extending the time the meters run. The idea of meters that use credit cards or charge-by-phone was also floated in the Indianapolis Business Journal and Indianapolis Star articles on the subject.

Now, let's review recent privatization efforts, or "public-private partnerships" as the governments likes to call them:

IBM running FSSA has resulted in FSSA being run WORSE than it already was. They recently got over $1billion extra to fix the basics that they screwed up. And as previously reported, Daniels is never going to cancel the deal.

The Indiana Toll Road quickly raised rates after being privatized.

Indianapolis' residents might be seeing another increase after a recently approved 11% increase for their privately run water company.

Almost all of these have 10 years or longer in their contracts, and anyone who has ever taken a high school econ course knows that the economy can change quickly in much less time in 10 years. While citizens have some control over government agencies via their elected legislative representatives, they have little recourse if a private company screws up the work of the government. And it gets even worse when it's a government function that handles the work associated with the poor, sick, or imprisoned, because it's much more likely to be swept under the rug.

I think Indiana Republicans and Democrats need to learn what privatization actually is. Giving someone a decade+long contract with little chance of being fined/cancelled is a government deemed monopoly, not privatization

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Small Claims Court Ignores Constitution, News at 11

As if we all didn't know that the state constitution is routinely ignored by politicians all across the state, apparently now the courts are doing the same. The Indiana Law Blog reported on an interesting story published by the Evansville Courier & Press on what's going on down in Vanderburgh County's Small Claims Court:

Valisha Fleming couldn't believe what she saw happening recently in Vanderburgh County's Small Claims Court: A disabled woman with three children at home was sentenced to 30 days in jail for falling $110 behind in court-ordered payments on a debt.

Deputies were called into the courtroom, handcuffed the crying woman, patted her down in the hallway and were going to take her away. She did not have an attorney.


The judge in the case, Superior Court Magistrate Richard D'Amour, said Carter was not sentenced for failing to pay a debt, but for failing to obey an earlier court order to pay it. "It may appear to you to be a fine line," D'Amour said, "but it makes a difference."

Other Vanderburgh Superior Court judges said they agree. They contend the court is allowed to sentence and threaten to sentence people to jail if they fail to comply with court orders to pay their debts.

Katherine Rybak, attorney with Indiana Legal Services in Evansville, has long argued that the court's practice is unconstitutional. "No imprisonment for debt means no imprisonment for debt even when the debtor has the ability to pay," she said.


In the Perry County case, Circuit Judge M. Lucy Goffinet ordered a man to pay $25 a month on a debt or go to jail. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed her ruling, saying that in such cases, "Even the threat of imprisonment is erroneous."
Just in case anyone needs a reminder, Article 1, Section 22 of the state constitution is fairly clear about all this:

The privilege of the debtor to enjoy the necessary comforts of life, shall be recognized by wholesome laws, exempting a reasonable amount of property from seizure or sale, for the payment of any debt or liability hereafter contracted: and there shall be no imprisonment for debt, except in case of fraud.

I would highly encourage you all to read the Indiana Law Blog. It is a great resource to keep up on what's going on across the state.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cops on the Beat II: Media Bias

I believe that one of the inherent problems with how local media is run is the concept of beat reporters. A reporter is assigned to a specific group (police, fire, mayor, etc...) and they attend the press conferences all the time, collect information, and eventually become very chummy with the people they are supposed to be objectively covering.

This right here is a great example of media bias. In this case, the article is completely buying into the police side of the story, hardly gives the other guy any room to tell, and then there's the image.

Contrast the image of the deceased police officer with the truck driver, likely the picture taken while at the police station.

Now, the summary of the story is that the police officer was blaring down the road at well over 100+ miles an hour without his lights or sirens on, crashes into a truck, and dies. Police arrive at the scene, and surprise, the truck driver is kind of dazed and confused. Maybe it's because a car just plowed into his truck at 90+mph? Oh, yeah, he gets arrested and charged with a DUI and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

Which brings me to the finale. After someone sees the unflattering photographs, they read "The man accused of killing a Metro police officer..."

He was never charged with anything remotely resembling murder, killing, or anything of the sort. The officer drove into his truck.

Not only is that medi bias, but the truck driver could sue that news agency for defaming him.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cops on the Beat: Take One

This time, I'm getting a little national.

Over in Georgia, a group of tri-county police officers in plain clothes shot at and killed a local pastor during a failed drug sting. The pastor, Jonathan Ayers, had given a ride to a woman who police say was the target of the investigation. But her name hasn't been released, no statement from her has been issued, and she was not at the scene of the crime.

WNEG has the video taken from a gas station security camera. In it, you can see Ayers walk into the gas station and you see a big, black van pull up. Ayers gets in his car and a bunch of people pile out of the car in jeans, and one is dressed in a wife-beater. Eye witnesses say they heard the plainclothes cops shot "Police, stop!" but who knows if Ayers could hear that, or if he'd even believe it.

I mean, cmon, when people pile out of a dark car, with no identification, guns pulled, and shot "police!" do you really think you'd believe them?

Ayers gets in reverse and barely taps an officer. He later went to a hospital to be treated for injuries, but you can clearly see him CHASING AFTER AYERS. His partner shoots twice and Ayers is wounded, crashed into a telephone pool, and dies in surgery.

His brother-in-law reports that Ayers asked paramedics "Who shot me?".

This article says the cops LIED TO HIS WIFE and said he was involved in a traffic accident, then changed to a drug scene, then she learns at a hospital that he was shot by the police.

A few quotes from the brother-in-law and a few other facts are here.

There are tons of other articles floating around. From what I hear, the CNN and AP articles are buying the police are innocent hook, line, and sinker, though I haven't read them yet. One I read even said Ayers was part of the drug investigatio. And another (this one) heavily implies that he's not innocent.

Now, I could care less about him being a pastor. This guy could've had a gram of crack, or gotten oral sex from a prostitute. That is not justification for shooting and killing a man, at all.

From my research, apparently this part of Georgia is pretty much the middle of nowhere. Do they really have a drug problem there?

Ayers' blog is located here:

A great summary, with a bunch of links I left out, is here:

Oh, and yeah, police opened fire in a gas station. Sounds like they got their training from Rambo.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Potential Democrat challengers to the 2011 Mayor race? GOP response: lol

This morning's Indianapolis Star details some of the confirmed and speculated Democratic candidates for Mayor of Indianapolis in 2011. While only a few are confirmed, they are all at least well known names, most having held elected positions before or, in the case of my city-council representative, currently do. It's not unusual for a primary race to have many candidates, or at least those interested, early on. Primary elections help decide what that party is going to run on, what the public cares about, and who is best at representing those issues. Even candidates with no realistic chance, such as Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul in the Republican primaries for the 2008 POTUS election, arguably had a long lasting affect on McCain's campaign and the positions he took.

But now, I guess having a few candidates is a bad thing. Tom John, the Marion County Republican Chairman, likens them to "a bunch of clowns" and "a joke." John seems to think this administration is nearly untouchable. Of course, you'd have to:

  • ignore the tax increases he supported (and the ones he did support but wasn't able to pass)
  • the "balanced budget" which is balanced by Peterson-era tax increases being made permanent and more money from the feds
  • infringing the rights of gun owners
  • and generally just doing everything what previous administrations
This isn't to say that Ballard is vulnerable. Any single one of these issues could occur in a mayor's administration and the public could ignore it. But this is all in the first two years. Ballard's still got two years of country club politics to go, to cut backroom deals, raise taxes, and give out corporate welfare, and he'll be VERY vulnerable to eager candidates from both major parties.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

City-County Council passes panhandling ordinance, again

So, maybe I don't know how this whole legislative process works. But I was under the impression that when the full legislative body votes to send an amendment to an ordinance back to committee, it means that they support it, but have concerns with the wording. So that the committee, which in theory has members that are most familiar with the issues they handle, can re-design it so the full legislative body can pass it.

Last night, the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee voted 5-1 to advance the amended panhandling ordinance as amended to the full council with a recommendation to pass. Not a single word was changed, so unless those lobbying for the ordinance can twist some arms, I don't see why they think it's going to pass this time around.

On and on, citizens and those invited by the council talk about how panhandlers aren't really homeless and are using it on drugs, alcohol, or just collecting tax free money. But that shouldn't be the city's concern. Tax evasion can be handled by the appropriate federal, state, and county agencies. And if they are properly filing taxes, they aren't doing anything illegal.

Public safety was used to justify this a lot, but it sounds more like a fear tactic. There are already laws on the books concerning "aggressive panhandling" from the state, as well as threats, verbal and physical assault, carjacking, rape, and so on.

One of the councilors not on the committee jokingly suggested to make giving money to panhandlers illegal. Many seemed to dismiss it as a stunt, but it doesn't sound like a bad idea. It's not just illegal to sell drugs and to prostitute, but it's also illegal to solicit prostitutes and buy illegal drugs.

Maybe this could pass constitutional mustard if there was anything to protect political speech. But there isn't. Protestors outside of the city county building, the infamous tea parties, those standing outside Planned Parenthood offices, and the pro-life chain that happens downtown every year could all be potentially written up in violation of this ordinance as amended. As amended, a McDonald's by a stoplight could get a fine for having a drive-thru.

It's too bad not a single council member questioned Mr. Vaughn, the councilor proposing this, as to why this is needed to an already existing panhandling ordinance. As reported on Indiana Barrister, arrests for panhandling are up from the previous year, and it's only August!

The sad thing is, this will probably pass. And just like those curfew laws, when some actual poor homeless guy with nothing left to loose, or a pro-life protester or Ron Paul supporter is fined and goes to get their legal defense and sues the city, it'll cost us millions in litigation, and we'll be worse off than if we never did this in the first place.

The solution to the CIB is to throw more money at it. The solution to panhandling is to write more laws and ignore those pesky little rights. But while we're dealing with these supposedly important matters, Indy Parks is facing a $6 million budget cut over 2 years (here) and Winona Hospital and other abandoned buildings still look like crap.

Shows our priorities, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wanona Hospital Site Still Not Secure

If it wasn't for the few places where the name "Wanona Memorial Hospital" is still visible/readable over on Meridian and 30th, you'd almost never figure it was a fully functional hospital until a few years ago.

The city purchased the site in 2008 and used it to train emergency service personnel, such as police. But in December of 2008, the site was deemed a health hazard due to asbestos.

Since then, the city has apparently forgotten it's even owned the land. It's covered with graffiti, litter, and whatever else you'd find when you just let a building go to pot. WRTV visited the site on July 14, 2009, after hearing complaints that homeless were using it. Surprisingly, they just walked right on in and had a look around. Many of the hospital beds were still in their rooms, and medical equipment was found still sealed in bags. But it was also very obvious that people have been using the building.

The city responded with "Wow, really? Our bad." and got a crew out there right away to board up the doors and broken windows, and the IMPD said they'd have officers patrol the area.

I visited the site earlier today and question if anything was actually done. Some of the doors have locks on them now, but none of the boarding seems like quality (or recent) work. There are tons of broken windows on the first story, or at least that are reachable. The only signs warning about towing or trespassing were probably there when the hospital was still up and running. In one of the delivery hallways, there was a crowbar stashed by a blanket, and looks like someone had been trying to break open a door. It probably doesn't need too much more of a push to get open.

Though I was only there for an hour, I can't imagine too many officers putting it in high concern.

Another interesting note, a few days before WRTV did this story, this was posted on a website dedicated to exploring abandoned buildings.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Disabled in Indiana: Part III

In fairness, here is a comment from the first DI entry, from the owner of Boogie Burger:

If I may offer my side of the story?

Working in the back as I was, my view from the wall of the "pass" is obstructed. What I saw was you entering the store with a dog on the lease. I could not see that the dog was a service animal. Being in BR we've had to deal with people coming in with dogs (not service) shirtless, shoeless, drunk, etc. From my vantage point all I could see was the leash.

I asked you to please take the dog outside and you began your tirade about the service animal. It wasn't until I came around to the front that I could see what type of dog it was. You still continued shouting at the top of your lungs, and believe me I was as unsettled by this as you! Immaturely, we both used bad language.

Your being asked to leave had nothing to do with the your dog. It was you being beligerent (sp?) and making a scene. My only option is to call the police in these situations. I did, and then hung up the phone, realizing how ridiculous this whole thing was becoming.

I apologized to you no less than 3 (three) times which you didn't accept. My wife comped your order. You still continued with the scene. And told me basically to get out of my own store! Sat there, and kept on another five minutes.

Understand that we will not be yelled at, harrassed or threatened by anyone. We treat all of our customers with respect and expect the same. This is the way adults behave.

You and your dog (and I have one too.) are always welcome in Boogie Burger - and I have seen that you've been back. I haven't even had the pleasure of meeting you and getting your name. My name is Mark Radford and I look forward to putting this behind us.

(I'm only posting this as "anon" because it won't let me put my name.

I'm posting this in fairness. My original entry was responding to this, but it's mostly re-stating the true account I posted earlier.

I think Mr. Radford is describing a very different situation. Though it's important to note that he early on recognized it was a service dog, but still tried to either kick us out of the restaurant or get us to leave after ordering.

And yes, I have been back since the incident, once. I've also eaten at Mr. Dan's, another local burger joint, several times, times I could've gone to Boogie Burger but didn't.

I'm currently in touch with Senator Richard Lugar's constitutien services, and they'll put in a request to the Justice Department to determine if action needs to be taken against Boogie Burger or my other entry with Sheriff Harden.

Rich, well connected, white men ask for more money; city contemplates selling golf courses

Not even 72 hours has passed and the Indianapolis Star publishes a "woo-is-me" from the CIB, saying that the ICVA and the Pacers need more money.

The ICVA is the not-for-profit corporation in charge of promoting the convention center. The head, Don Welsh, makes a ridiculous $350,000 a year, and their tax filings reveal they have tons of money in investments. What's more is that they get tons of tax payer money, so it's all going to their ridiculous overhead.

The Pacers just can't afford to stay in Indianapolis unless $15 million or more is picked up. Give me a fucking break. The Simons purchased the Pacers for a complete steal. lists them as very profitable.

The weird part is, Republicans will fight tooth and nail for this, even though the Simons are one of the biggest backers of Democrats.

And in the mean time, Ballard ordered an across the board cut of 5% for all non-police/fire departments in the city. Early in his administrtion, he contemplated selling a number of city parks. Then decided they didn't need to be maintained. And now we're thinking of selling the city-owned golf courses.

But sell off Conseco Fieldhouse, ditch the Pacers, and give Lucas Oil Stadium back to it's rightful owner, the state? Heaven forbid.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quick thoughts on CCC meeting + CIB meeting

The CIB meeting was generally uninteresting and no one without a press badge (or being on the board itself) would have a point in actually going. Unfortunately, my observation of the news media only leeds me to conclude that most are out of touch with what being a journalist is about. One reporter (not a commentator or anything like that, an actual reporter), in a conversation with Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, triviliazed the situation with "What's the big deal?", not getting that the CIB's solution to debt is to borrow more money, and that they'll have even LESS revenue in the future than they do now. As mentioned in the meeting, they sold off the parking lot where Market Square Arena used to sit.

After Don Welsh left the room, one reporter threw him a softball to so he could trott out the talking point of the supposed horros that could befall this city if taxes aren't raised and more money isn't thrown at the proble...err, CIB. The question was "What kind of devastating effects could this have on the city if the council doesn't pass the tax increase?"

Another interesting note was that they had the numbers for the rejected tax increases on hand at the CIB meeting (alcohol tax, car rental tax, etc...). I'd bet a breakfast at The Donut Shop that those same taxes will be proposed again, and soon.

The same tired line of "no formal discussions" concerning the $15 million to the Pacers was again trotted out, despite the IBJ reporting that the $15 million was on the table, the CIB confirming it verbally at the Pike Township townhall meeting. It's not in the annual budget, which is factually true, but there is nothing stopping that proposal from moving forward. As it is now, the $15 million is in the same place it was in January: Talked about, not voted on, and nobody in authority (legislature, CCC) has done anything to ensure it won't be proposed. Of course, I don't see the current makeup of the CCC rejecting a gift to the Simons. I think they could easily get all Democrats plus a few Republicans to give it to them.

Abdul asked where the revolutionaries/activisits/coffeehouse crowd was, in reference to the 2pm CIB meeting. While I know there's no secret club (and I've never even met a number of them), I understand that they all probably have jobs that keep them busy 9-5. I have a job that's flexible enough with hours, and Abdul has a job that actually pays him to go to these things. He responded with "the revolution doesn't sleep" or something like that. Yes, I was the lone "activist" he referred to via Twitter.

One last thing, the CIB really made a case of "poor me". The lights were shut off in most places, and the air conditioning wasn't turned on in many of the rooms, including the last minute switch to the larger room. I overheard one board member before the meeting say "Fire half of those union employees and it'd save us tons of money." We all can go back and forth about the unions and their place in today's business world, but to suggest that those working at the facilities should be pink slipped while every CIB member got a fat raise (except Levengood, who got a 30+% raise last year) this year is ludicrous.

The CCC meeting was surprising on so many levels. The city's attorney, who doesn't look much older than me, clearly had no idea what he was talking about in regards to Constitutional law and First Amendment rights, in relation to the proposed panhandling ordinance.

Councilor Lutz introduced the CIB bailout. During it, he read the summary of the talking points he was presented with during the committee meeting. With snarky comments referring to the committee meeting running four hours long ("what seemed like forever"), it's almost like Lutz forgot that 3.5 of those 4 hours were from suits lobbying for the bailout that HE scheduled himself. He also made sure to list every single supporter of the CIB bail out, but didn't mention a single member of the public who voiced their opposition to the bailout.

Of course,who could blame him? He put the comments from the public dead last on the Rules and Public Policy Committee. I was barely listening, and I was at the microphone stand for 2 minutes. I'm sure Lutz wasn't listening at all.

Both Democrats and Republicans used the panhandling ordinance and the CIB bailout to take cheap political shots. I kind of got the feeling that MAYBE the votes against the panhandling ordinance were made, overall, for the right reason (questionalbe legality, though "is this really necessary?" would've been nice too). But it's clear that the Democrats weren't in opposition to the tax increase on principal, and the Republicans wouldn't have been either if the shoe was on the other foot. Both were doing it for politics and the downtown elite. It's just that those who voted for it, it'll come back to haunt them.

Larry was dressed in black face. And just as I suspected when I first met him July 28, he's an Alex Jones follower. Nevertheless, I understand that he's logged endless hours at council meetings, and for that he should be applauded. If only a fraction of our fellow citizens were as passionate and dedicated as Larry, our city would be better off.

I haven't had the time or the energy to look through Ballard's budget yet, but I question how balanced it really can be. Federal stimulus money ($11 million) is being used to hire new police officers. I don't have the exact # to be hired, but where is this money going to come from after the fiscal year? If my memory is correct, that 50 new officers will be hired, that's $220,000 per officer. The average IMPD salary certainly isn't $220,000, so where is the rest of that money going? Is training really that expensive (Assuming they aren't rookies)?

And just looking at all the media reports shows how confusing the CIB has made it to see how much in debt they are. The Star has $47 million, the same figure quoted during the beginning of the year that includes the $15 million to the Pacers. Last week the Indinapolis Business Journal said they'd be $5 million in debt, and that does not include the Pacers' gift. At no point has it been suggested to find out how we got into this debt in the first place (not counting the $20 million cost for Lucas Oil Stadium and the aforementioned Pacers gift).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Disabled in Indiana: Part II

Before I move on to the full re-cap of today's CIB meet and the CCC full council meeting, I have a new entry (unfortunately) for my Disabled in Indiana series.

I've been to the city-county building dozens of times, a handful of which after I had my cardiac pacemaker implanted. As per doctor's orders, I can walk through the metal detectors at what are generally used at retail outlets, but places such as airports or government offices usually use metal detectors that can be harmful to the pacemaker. Every time I've gone to the city-county building, I inform whatever security (Sheriffs?) on staff at the moment, they direct me around the metal detector, I empty my pockets, wave me down. I usually don't even have to show my "I have a cardiac pacemaker" card, though I always offer to.

It's usually a relatively painless process and I've never had a problem at the city county building, and it isn't nearly as humiliating a procedure as the idiots at TAS over in the airport put me through. But today was a different story.

Upon my first entry to the city-county building at 4:50pm, it went as it always does. When I got there again shortly before 7pm, it was a different story.

I went to the side and verbally communicated to the sheriffs that I couldn't go through and would like to be waved down with a wand. Sheriff Harden said I had to go through. I replied I have a cardiac pacemaker. He said I'll be fine. I inform him that I'm not supposed to go through them per doctor's orders and again requested to be waved down with a wand, noting that I had done so before, even as early as a couple hours ago. He told me to come to him and "stop giving him lip." and started searching me with the wand, as if I should be gracious that he's letting me get away with it. He said I should be going through the metal detector no matter what happened before. He then waved his wand repeatedly over my pacemaker and said "Does this hurt you?"

I was absolutely appalled at that action, knowing it was completely unnecessary and did not help him conduct his search and secure the building in any way, shape, or form. I shouldn't be TOO surprised that this comes from the Sheriff's office, but that doesn't justify it.

I'm sure this will get nowhere when I talk to the Sheriff's office tomorrow, but I'll be ready to file this complaint to the Justice Department along with the event at Boogie Burger.

CIB Meeting: just a few quick notes

I attended the CIB meeting at the Convention Center and left a bit over an hour after the meeting started.

Let me just say that, when one attends a meeting where not a single person is elected, where little to no oversight is exerted, it's basically all show.

The budget numbers were the same manipulations we've heard at the CCC and the legislature for months. The CIB used the same vague language implying that the Pacers' $15 million gift wasn't on the table. Which directly contradicts what the IBJ reported and what the CIB said during the Pike township townhall.

The only worthwhile part of it was hearing what people say when they don't think others are listening. But that deserves a full non-blackberry entry

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Disabled in Indiana: Part I

To make this short and for a full understanding of what I'm about to post, I have a handicapped placard for my car due to a cardiac pacemaker I have implanted. I use it mainly on campus or wherever else I have to use a backpack, since I can't carry it around both shoulders. I also have a service dog from a regional agency. He has a vest clearly identifying him as a service animal, and identification (even though, from what I've heard, service animals in Indiana aren't required to wear a vest).

For the most part, I've had relatively good experiences bringing my service dog, Quest, out in public. He has treats in his vest so people can give him one before they pet him, he follows my commands, pays attention, and is fine with waiting while I eat or read. Most of the time, employees of businesses just ask "Is that a service dog?" and leave it at that, just to make sure. Many of the businesses I frequent (usually in Broad Ripple) know Quest by name. And the times I've had confrontations, it's from some idiot manager at a fast food restaurant or a rent-a-cop.

The restaurant I went to on Wednesday night (August 5), Boogie Burger, has by far the best burgers in town for a great price. Friendly staff, locally owned, and Quest and I have been there before. I've dragged friends and family there and they've all loved it.

But on Wednesday, I had a vastly different experience.

I walk in to Boogie Burger to order a milkshake. Immediately, I am told from someone working in the back that dogs aren't allowed in and I have to take him outside. I informed him, very clearly, it was a service dog. An employee up front also mentioned it was a service dog. But the man in the back kept saying I had to take the dog outside because it was a health hazard. I refused to do so, and I asked who he was. He responded that he was the owner, and came out of the kitchen and stood behind the counter while I was on the other side of it.

I kept informing him that I would not leave because, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, my service dog has every right to be where I can be. After some more back and forth of this, he said "Sir, get the fucking dog out of the restaurant." I refused, again reiterating that it was a service dog. He then asked "What type of service dog is it?". Knowing full well that it is specifically prohibited to inquire what the service dog does or what one's disability is, I said "None of your fucking business."

After being yelled at, scolded, and trying to be outshouted, he said "Sir, I'm going to ask you to leave." He then points to the sign that says that they have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. I once again refused. He talked about how no one should curse at him in his restaurant and goes on about how out of control I am. I told him that he first cursed at ME, and that I'm doing nothing other than fighting for my right as a consumer. He then said he'd call the cops if I didn't leave this instant. I said "Go ahead." He picked up the phone, dialed 911, then hung up a few seconds later.

At this point, pretty much all business has stopped due to this back and forth between me and the owner. Customers and employees are staring at us. After his almost-cop call, this woman leans him over and whispers into his ear. She says to me "Sir, I apologize for this, what can I do to make it up to you?" I asked who she was, and she said she was also the owner. I said I wanted an apology.

The male owner completely backtracks, lies, and manipulates what had just happened. He says "I'm sorry, but I couldn't see the dog's collar from the kitchen". I said to him that that is an excuse, not an apology. I continued on saying that while what he said might be true, an employee noted it was a service dog, and I continually mentioned it was a service dog, mentioned the ADA, and he himself inquired what type of service dog it is. I mentally noted that he was a fairly tall guy and would have no problem seeing over the counter to where my dog was. I demand an actual apology, but he feeds me the same bullshit line that I quoted. Again, this turns into another back and forth, and he tries to "call it even", saying that we both got out of control. I refused this, saying that his faults should not be shifted to me. Eventually, he goes to the back and he disappears for a while.

Somewhere in this whole mess, I decide to enjoy my milkshake in the store and unravel a bit. I'm not what I would call a very aggressive person, and after all this huffing and puffing, my voice was shaky, my legs were tired, and my throat was dry. I sat in the restaurant for about 20 minutes hardly touching my drink and wondering what my next course of action would be.

The male owner once again came out and was talking to the female clerk, apparently not realizing I was still there. He apologized to her, and was about to say something else (probably an explanation shifting the blame onto me rather than him) but then noticed I was still there. He repeated the line he had been giving me to a while now, and said "What do you want me to do?". I said "I want you to go to the back and leave me alone." He said "I can do that." and did so.

Since then, my mind was been dissecting this event. Why did the other employees stay silent, even though one of them clearly noted it was a service dog. Why did the female owner stand in silence during the entire back and forth? Did those regular employees think I was some asshole for putting up such a scene? What about the customers that were waiting behind me? Would the male owner, who happened to be black, do what I did if someone tried to kick him out due to his race even if it was thinly covered up by a "you're being unruly, get out" excuse?

Maybe the male owner is afraid of dogs, or has a personal backstory. But as someone who has been on the "other side" of the cash register, I know that when you go to work, you put your personal biases and phobias and whatever else away. You treat your customers, your clients, with the utmost respect. And when you realize you've crossed the line, you stop, you apologize (no excuses) and you do whatever you can to make up for it. And when you can't handle a situation in a calm manner, you let someone else take over. That didn't happen here.

And while I'm still personally struggling with the full impact of this situation, and am doubting that I'll ever go to one of my favorite restaurants ever again, I've been assured by multiple people that what I did was right. And I hope that when someone tries to violate your rights as a human being, that you fight like hell for them too. Remember, laws do not give you rights. State and national constitutions don't either. They are INHERENT rights that all humans are born with. They just so happened to be spelled out in respective constitutions.

I titled this Part I, because I might post about my past experiences, or there may be follow up. And I'm sure there will be more incidents in the future, either about me or others.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

City County votes against citizens, Constitution; for millionaires and taxes

My grandfather, Gordon Gilmer, used to represent most of Pike Township on the Indianapolis City-County Council years ago. This was the first time in a long time I’ve been inside that room for a council meeting, and arguably the first one I attended where I had enough knowledge to recognize what was going on.

During this meeting, the city-county members and the selfish supporters of the resolution took up the vast majority of a four hour meeting. They presented their figures about how much the CIB, and moreso, the convention industry, does for the city. The hotel management even dragged their workers to this meeting, which took up the back half of the public meeting space. In uniform. Just as Mr. Ogden predicted on his blog.

Only two were not blatantly biased in favor of the bill. A professor put together a quickly done study, ordered by Robert Lutz, that showed only 7,300 jobs are produced as a result of the convention business and the money visitors spend during those conventions. This figure is drastically different than the 66,000 jobs that the proponents cited, but Don Welsh managed to spin the professor’s independent study so it’d go along with his presentation. As for the second, a representative of the Libertarian Party was called forward to give some testimony. But he got off topic during his time, and it’s clear none of the representatives bothered to listen.

After all of that, Lutz strictly limited public input to two minutes per person. Apparently, 3 and a half hours into it and having only heard one side, he had all he needed, and didn’t need to hear about stuff like what the public thinks, or what the Indiana Constitution says, or any of that pesky non-sense.

Over at Hoosiers for Fair Tax, they mention the part of the Consitution I read during the public's two minutes per person. Article 10, Section 6, which clearly prohibits the county from using tax payer money to support what the CIB does, which is prop up the Colts and Pacers. And don't be fooled, just because the $15 million wasn't in the specific budget NOW, doesn't mean that the money won't be used for it.

But that isn't the only part of the Constitution that this violtes. Article 10, Section 12 says "nor shall the credit of the State ever be given, or loaned, in aid of any person, association or corporation; nor shall the State become a stockholder in any corporation or association."

Clear as day.

But the committee voted 5-1 against the Constitution. Against the will of the peope. And probably against a good number of no new tax pledges too.

Hooisers for Fair Tax has more about the two council members who didn't bother to show up.

A new entry will link to all the blogs covering this event, as they'll surely be updated soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Traffic Court, my experience

About three weeks ago, I was driving home from IUPUI's campus, avoiding the highway and just going via Lafayette Road. To get there, you have to go across a bridge on Michigan and turn past some railroad tracks, a hotel, and a school. As I was between the hotel and school, two state troopers pulled me over on their motorcycles.

I had noticed them already and knew I wasn't speeding.

But after "license and registration" (at the time, I couldn't produce my registration), I ended up with a ticket for "Improper wearing of safety belt". They could see how I was wearing it through my car because, well, they were really close.

Only after some looking at the law did I learn that "Click It Or Tick It" is very misleading, because it doesn't inform you on how to wear a seat belt (it's according to some federal manual) or about one of the 13 exemptions to the law, which I was under.

I have a cardiac pacemaker and the regular use of a seatbelt could be harmful to it. I've been wearing it under my arm while still strapped around my waist. Sometimes it's re-done by a plastic sealt belt adjuster.

Either way is illegal without a written doctor's note confirming it.

After remembering Paul Ogden's various entries on the traffic court, I decided to just pay the $25.

As Ogden has reported the traffic court blatantly violates the US Constitution and Indiana Constitution. Open courts and, under Indiana's, the right to not have unreasonable fines associated with a court case, are broken regularly. Multiple signs posted say that nobody besides the defendent is allowed in the court room. Other signs say that, if you lose the court case, in addition to the ticket and court fees, up to $500 can be added.

The Traffic Court's website says $1,000.

Neither are constitutional, and probably violate other laws and regulations too. Not to mention just plain common sense. In a regular day's activity, it isn't uncommon for someone to accompany you. Might be for business, for social activity, or something completely beyond your control. There's no reason to exclude them from what should be a public courtroom.

But that's not what I wanted to concentrate on, but rather, the building itself.

Nevermind that it's in an area not easily accessible by highway.

The parking situation is horrible. In the main entrance, two handicapped spaces are available. A third appears to have originally been placed in the lot too, but has almost completely faded and is now reserved for police.

As you enter, it's not clear which of three lines you should actually get into. Unless you ask, the only signs posted to explain the process are, coincidentally, by the cashier window, which would be the last stop.

The hallway is fairly small and I'd hate to see it if someone with a service dog or a wheel chair had to get through there.

And to top it all off, the first line I had to stand in ended right by a metal detector. Fortunately, it didn't appear to be on, but that's a clear violation of ADA. A building must be readily accessible to patrons, regardless of disability. It was only by luck that I was able to walk by it without my pacemaker malfunctioning.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"City is broken, options are few" says Star Editorial Board

5 billion bucks to update the most essential city services. And probably have only gotten more expensive due to the city government putting it off year after year after year.

And what are we going to do about this? Well, we won't raise taxes. We'll raise taxes for the billionaire Simon family, or give away public park land to any company that asks for it, or throw more money at Eli Lilly.

Privatization has been bought up, but that's done no good at the Indianapolis Water Company, who is also in a bunch of debt and wants more taxes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drunk driving + fatality = ???

As previously reported, an attorney that was formerly employed by both the State of Indiana's Department of Health, and Carl Brizzi's office (and worked on both Brizzi's and Mitch Daniels's campaigns) will likely only serve 11 months of his 4 year sentence.

In the short amount of time on Google I've spent, I'm not finding any other DUI cases involving a fatality, but I am finding stories across the nation.

The Chicago Tribune (no link, though it's found within and has 13 comments on it) reported a former fireman that killed a construction worker. He pled guilty and got 90 days.

Over in West Virginia, a drunk motorcyclist killed an 18 year old man, and got 10 years. Wow, that was even possible for our well connected drunk.

Some digging through archives in the Star, blog postings, and so on might be something to do in an upcoming weekend.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Powerful, connected white male gets 2 years* for killing a deaf custodian

You would think a story of corruption, of stupidity, of the "old boys club" of politics, with the end result being a loss of human life, would make national news. Some (now former) governor tried to sell a senate seat? Well my state of Indiana hired an alcoholic attorney who does the following, as reported by WTHR and WRTV :

  • Drinks himself into a stupor at a strip club, all at the late hour of...well, before 9:30pm.
  • Runs a red light at 59mph (in a 35mph zone), plows into the tuck driven by Jimmy Cash at around 9:30p.m., basically breaking it in half.
  • Lies to the police and says he only had four medium sized drinks, but refused field sobriety tests, and his blood was tested and hit between 0.15 and 0.17, about twice as much to be legally drunk in Indiana.
  • Says "I hope this guy has insurance to fix my car."
  • Oh, and Mr. Cash probably died on impact.
But how was the State of Indiana to know something like this could happen? Maybe if they did a background check...or maybe just did a Google search, they would've found this, also from WRTV:

In the early morning of Oct. 7, according to a police report, someone called 911 to report a wreck involving Record's vehicle and another vehicle in the 2200 block of North College Avenue. A police officer found the vehicles to be heavily damaged -- Record's was overturned -- and abandoned. The officer found no drivers or witnesses, the police report said.


That afternoon, according to the report, Record told the officer that he had been at a bar that night but did not take his vehicle home. He said he had last seen the vehicle where he parked it many blocks north of the wreck site, and that he had taken a taxi home from a bar early Thursday morning.


Record was not charged in the incident. But the prosecutor's office decided to fire him from his internship, which he had just started a week before, according to Helen Marchal, an office spokeswoman.

"The information we had was that Mr. Record may have been involved with a hit-and-run accident, and when (we asked him) specific questions about what happened over the weekend, we were not satisfied with his answers," Marchal said.

No surprise, he faced no charges.

So back to the crime that this guy was actually tried and convicted for. Earlier reports from various news organizations and local blogs had said he could face up to 20 years for what's basically a DUI and the death. But when the trial finally comes, the special prosecutor sought the max of 8 years.

The judge, being a temporary appointment accountable to no one rather than to the people, went even easier on him. Giving him 4 years, then cutting 2 years off of that, suspending his license for a while, $20,000 to a family, and some community service.

Fox 59 reports that he'll probably only serve 11 months of it (see video).

So a powerful, well connected white male causes death and destruction for years and it doesn't even look like he'll spend a year behind bars? My first thought is that there is no way similar cases would get such a lenient punishment. There should be research out there, and something more to write on.

As Gary Welsh over at Advanced Indiana points out:

If Terry Record had been an unemployed, down and out factory worker, you have to wonder if he would be facing a more harsh sentence. The disparity in sentencing for similar types crimes is indeed troubling.