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.