Friday, October 29, 2010

So Many Topics, So Little Time

While I usually relax my blogging during the weekend, this is the weekend right before an election.

I've chatted with the two challengers in the Pike Township Trustee race, Erik Morris (LP) and Robert McDonald (R). I'm going to shoot off an e-mail tonight to the incumbent, Lula Patton (D) and ask her the same questions, and write up a bit about each candidate and their views.

On that note, I'm trying to educate myself on these township judges, and am having no luck at all. If anyone has any tips on how to get information about these guys (I'm in Pike Township), shoot me an e-mail at mamstone AT firehawktechnologies DOT com.

I got an interesting tidbit in my Inbox today about Public Safety Director Frank "Call Me Doctor" Straub earlier today. What is interesting is that some commenter on Abdul's blog (here) is raising a fuss as well. It's strange. Every time The Good Doctor's name comes up, people start coming out of the woodworks with their stories. And even though half of it might be exaggerated or false, you have to wonder, how does The Good Doctor's behavior reflect on Mayor Greg Ballard?

Finally, I tweeted that I had some information on the Sheriff's race that I'd like to share. I still have that information, but life got in the way. I'm going to work on verifying that and see if I can't get it posted before Monday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Capital Improvement Board Budget Passes Council

Just a quick note for those that didn't tune in to the Council meeting on Channel 16.

The Capital Improvement Board was the main point of contention in the budget hearings tonight. It passed 15-14, mostly along party lines.

Christine Scales, a Republican, voted no. Jackie Nytes, a Democrat, voted yes.

This was similar to what happened a year ago, where Ntyes and Scales were in a similar position over the CIB bailout which raised the hotel tax and let the CIB take a $27 million loan from the state of Indiana.

Terry Burns, who posted about FIVE Republican council representatives who might vote no, ended up being off about all except Scales. This is rare, because Burns, though partisan, is usually pretty dead-on as far as predicting votes.

Some posts on Twitter and Facebook noted a packed room. I'm guessing the Unite Here pro-union crowd turned out most of that crowd. They're good with that, and I find it odd that liberals and fiscal conservatives can align on this issue. It's good, but still odd.

More on Why I Can't Support Mark Massa

Mark Massa, the Republican nominee for Marion County Prosecutor, released this ad last week. It's a negative ad that slams Terry Curry, Massa's Democratic opponent, for defending an alleged child molester (I say alleged because I'm not familiar with the case the ad is talking about). The not-so-subtle message is if Curry can defend a man accused of sexual crimes against a child, how can a county prosecutor's office led by him be trusted to convict sexual offenders?

This ad, similar to several ads for the Sheriff's race (both during the general and primary), play on the public's fears and ignorance.

One of the hallmarks of our justice system is that everyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. That the prosecuting form of government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did what they are charging. And, even if the guy was caught red handed, what's the rush? The accused has the right to a fair and speedy trial to make sure he is charged with appropriate charges that fit the crime, and that his sentencing fits what he is convicted of, IF he's convicted.

So with this ad, Mark Massa is saying he doesn't give a damn about our justice system. His ad does not presume innocence, and may God help you if you ever end up in court for a crime you didn't commit. How far will Massa's office, if elected, go if they can't prove that the alleged did the crime?

I didn't think Mark Massa's campaign would sink so low. This really disappoints me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why I'll Not Vote for Prosecutor Candidate Mark Massa

After the disturbing articles that the Indianapolis Times and Gary Welsh have posted about who Mark Massa, the Republican nominee for Marion County prosecutor, has chosen to surround himself with, I've went from an enthusiastic Massa supporter to a non-voter. I'm not saying that Terry Curry, the Democratic nominee, has my vote, but as long as nothing as scandalous comes out about him, I think I know how I'll vote. Do you?

Which Democrats Will Vote For the ACS Parking Scheme?

The original scheme that the city and Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) hatched to hand over public parking management to a private vendor initially was criticized by the blogs, and it was only later that traditional media picked up on the criticism. One of the often quoted critics was Aaron M. Renn, an urban planner who runs the blog The Urbanophile. In recent news articles, Renn has discussed the new plan ACS and the city have hatched and Renn notes correctly that the terms of the deal have only changed in the most mild fashioned. The city can now opt out of the deal every 10 years while paying a penalty fee to ACS, and it's a bit easier to move and/or bag meters. That's about where the difference ends. You can read a thorough analysis over at Advance Indiana.

Barbara Malone (R-At Large) believes that this will be able to pass the council, but the Republican caucus has had a few unreliable members in the past. Malone herself voted with the Democrats in several votes when her term first began. Christine Scales (R-4th District) was the lone Republican who voted against the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) bailout. And Benjamin Hunter (R-21st District) introduced a smoking ban proposal that was unpopular within the Republican caucus. With a handful of unreliable support from these three councilors and Republican-Turned-Libertarian Edward Coleman (LP-At Large), who can Mayor Greg Ballard (R) grease the palms of to support this backroom ACS parking scheme?

The answer lies in the prior major legislative initiative, the "sale" of the water and sewage utilities from the city to Citizens Energy Group, and before that, the tax increases and budget borrowing approved by the City-County Council for the CIB.

Paul Bateman, Jackie Nytes, and Mary Moriarty-Adams all voted for the utility sale, even though their votes weren't needed. Nytes also was the only Democrat who voted for the CIB bailout. Adams has previously irritated Democrats within the county with her votes against the Human Rights Ordinance, which passed in December, 2005, and bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I think Nytes has completely checked out and has become a stooge of the Ballard administration. Sure, she might publicly speak poorly of the parking scheme just like she has of the CIB, but in the end, she'll support it. She was doing nothing but rattling off talking points at this week's Municipal Corporation committee meeting to give the false sense that she was really doing this with a held nose, but she couldn't be more proud to vote for these backroom deals. The real question is why.

As for Bateman and Adams, I don't know as much about them as I do Nytes. Maybe they can be swayed. Do you live in their districts? Start writing and e-mailing and calling them NOW. You can look up who your City-County Council representative is here.

Shred-It To Host Multiple Events to Protect from Identity Theft

Several locations throughout central Indiana will participate in an event to help protect from identity theft. For $5 per box, you can shred documents. Goodwill will also be taking electronics, including computers. Police will also be on hand to dispose of unused, unwanted, or expired prescription medications.

The locations are:

  1. Carmel Police Headquarters, 3 Civic Square
  2. Lawrence Police Headquarters, 9001 E. 59th Street, Boone Village Shopping Center, 67 Boone Village
  3. Greenwood Park Mall, 1251 US Highway 31 North
  4. WTHR-Channel 13 Studios, 1000 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis
  5. Speedway Police Headquarters, 1410 N. Lynhurst Drive

I will try to get in touch with WTHR to find out exactly how Goodwill will use any computers if they are donated, and to what extent the computers will be wiped clean. From those who better understand the hardware of computers than I, I've heard that simply formatting a hard drive doesn't really "erase" everything on it and information on the drive can still be recovered. There are more extensive methods for hard drives to be completely wiped, but they take more time. And if I can't find information on it, you can still donate computers, but just take out the hard drive.

On an somewhat related but interesting note, an IT technician I was talking to a few weeks ago says his company literally destroys old and faulty hard drives because it's the most efficient way at protecting the data stored on them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Get Ready to Hear About the 80 Gazillion Hospitality Jobs...Again

One of the figures that is often cited when discussing the Capital Improvement Board and corporate welfare for the Indiana Pacers is the 66,000 jobs related to the hospitality industry, the implication is that the Pacers being there help draw people to use the facilities that employ these people and thus keep them employed. And that without the Pacers, many of these jobs would just up and vanish.

I have difficulty accepting that premise on two fronts.

Last night, I talked to a few hospitality workers who are with Central Indiana Jobs with Justice and Unite Here, both organizations that are pro-union and are currently attempting to organize at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. I asked them about the 66,000 jobs figure, where these jobs exactly are, and how they feel about them being cited by politicians.

They explained to me that they do believe that these 66,000 jobs are a downtown Indianapolis figure and not a regional figure. But they also noted that these jobs are low wage jobs, mostly paid by the hour with probably some tip-based jobs mixed in as well. Many workers who are employed in these types of jobs work two or three jobs to get by, and their concern is that these figures are heavily inflated. Even City-County Council representative Barbara Malone (R-At Large) said, during the council meeting:

"I agree that there are not 66,000 jobs in the hospitality industry. If anything, its 22,000 working 3 jobs"

The hotel workers didn't really seem to like being held up as talking points to support political actions that seem to work against their self-interests. I mentioned to them that a group of hotel workers were in attendance at a meeting I attended about a year ago as representing the 66,000 jobs, and they didn't seem pleased.

If you ask me, this is something that libertarian minded folk and the pro-union crowd can agree on. We need to stop subsidizing everyone with a few million bucks in their pocket and just let these hotels stand or fall on their own two feet.

The other premise I have trouble accepting is that these jobs would be negatively affected by the lack of the Indiana Pacers in Conseco Fieldhouse.

Personal economics teaches us about disposable income. This is money that people earn that is not being paid to a necessity such as utility bills, shelter, food, and so on. It is money that they'll spend, save, or invest. But they will use it in one way or another. The vast majority of the Pacers' audience are local residents. So if the Pacers do vanish as an option for one's entertainment dollar, it'll simply be spent elsewhere in the city. A small fraction of those who travel in from the donut counties to see the games might be a loss, but a small loss.

The other assumption is that if the Pacers leave, Conseco Fieldhouse will essentially be boarded up and vacant. Several companies responded to a recent request from the CIB asking for outlines of who would be interested in managing the CIB's various facilities, but the plans to push for privatization were abruptly dropped. Though I can't find the article, I remember one large concert promoter and venue manager seemed excited about managing a venue such as Conseco Fieldhouse. He obviously saw a lot of potential. This means that if the Pacers do leave, there will be more room available for events such as concerts. Most of the normal National Basketball Association's regular season occurs during colder months where outdoor music venues such as Verizon Wireless Music Center in Noblesville and the Lawn at White River State Park are not viable. Freeing up a large indoor venue would make it easier to schedule musical tours, among other events. It is not at all uncommon to look through a musical act's tour schedule and notice that they'll criss-cross the Midwest but all too often will skip over Indianapolis, and sometimes the entire state.

And before someone talks about the $57 million in economic impact the Pacers have, that number is even disputed by the unofficial cheerleader of Mayor Greg Ballard, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz. Shabazz says in this post that the number seems to be based off of when the Pacers had a winning record. Based on his conversations, there isn't much of an increase in business on game nights nowadays.

For those that haven't had the chance to see the tape from last night's committee meeting, Pat Andrews had several excellent public comments. Just fast forward to that. Everything else is just the council self-congratulating for a band-aid well patched in relation to the "fixed" budgets of the library and IndyGo.

On an unrelated note, kudos to Francessca Jarosz. Jarosz was the local government reporter for The Indianapolis Star until recently where she started at the Indianapolis Business Journal. She was the only one in the traditional media to show up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

City-County Council's Municpal Corporation Approves CIB Budget 5-2

The City-County Council Muncipal Corporation Committee voted to approve the City-County Council's budget with a do-pass recommendation 5-2. The votes were as follows:

Chairwoman Barbara Malone (R-At Large)
Angel Rivera (R-At Large)
Robert Lutz (R-13th District)
Jeff Cardwell (R-23th District)
Jackie Nytes (D-9th District)

Dane Mahern (D-19th District)
Maggie Lewis (D-7th District)

To Mr. Lutz's credit, he asked in a joking manner if the committee could pass it without a do-pass recommendation. He has previously voted against CIB budgets.

I will write about the meeting more in depth later in the week.

At-Large Councilor Angel Rivera will also be posting a counterpoint to my open letter. That will be posted Thursday morning.

An Open Letter to the City-County Council's Municipal Corporation Committee

Editor's note: It is my understanding that this committee won't be taking public comment at tonight's meeting. If you would like to add your thoughts and want them heard, or more precisely, read, then post yours in the comments section. I'll be printing them out and I'll attempt to get them in the packets the council representatives get when they go to committee meetings.

According to blog comments, Central Indiana Jobs with Justice and Unite Here will be rallying at the City Market at 5pm. The meeting takes place at 5:30pm in 260 of the City-County Building.

Other posts on the same subject:
Advance Indiana: Councilors Wave Magic Wand And Find $2.5 Million For Libraries And IndyGo
Pat Andrews at Had Enough Indy? Weighs In.

Chairwoman Malone, my council representative Maggie Lewis, and to all others sitting on the Municipal Corporation Committee,

My name is Matthew Stone. I've been periodically attending City-County council meetings since about this time last year. Tonight, you'll be taking up an item that relates to the main agenda item of the first committee meeting I attended: the Capital Improvement Board and it's budget.

Early in 2009, the CIB cried poverty. The numbers seem to fluctuate between $30-something and $47 million that was needed to cover a huge hole in their budget, and it was never quite certain exactly what was included in those numbers. Their story seemed to change often, specifically in regards to if this projected deficit included $15-18 million (another fluctuating figure) in operating costs for Conseco Fieldhouse, which by contract is supposed to be covered by the primary tenants of the Fieldhouse, the Indiana Pacers.

So they rushed off to the General Assembly and several plans were proposed and went nowhere. In the budget drama that was ongoing in the General Assembly, the CIB got permission to ask the council to raise a few taxes and take three $9 million dollar loans over three years from the state, because I guess the state has enough money to spare. In the subsequent board meeting where the CIB accepted the first loan, it was admitted that the loan wasn't needed to cover their budget at that time but they were going to take it anyway. Of course, no plan was proposed on how to pay back the loan in a few years since it is, after all, a loan and not a gift.

Since then, the CIB has slashed several jobs and claims they've really toned down their expenses. When I've attended CIB meetings, they often have the lights in the hallways dimmed or turned off. Man, it really looks like they're trying to pinch every single penny!

So what's the first thing they do when the CIB is finally on it's way to not losing a ton of money?

They fork over $30 million (in operation costs and capital improvements) to the Indiana Pacers over a period of three years, including a shiny new scoreboard. And in typical boneheaded CIB fashion, they let the Pacers keep all non-game revenue made from concerts and other events hosted at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Since this whole drama started in early 2009, you often see the headlines juxtaposed in an interesting fashion. In one article, you might read about the CIB asking for taxes to be raised or detailing the new contract between the Pacers and the CIB or the Pacers getting a new, shiny scoreboard. And in another article, you'll read about our city-county libraries reducing hours for employees and branches, or the worst bus system in the entire country struggling to keep what little they have going.

And yes, I understand that taxes are used in different ways and often in Indiana, city-county legislative bodies can't easily re-direct revenue to feed into different services. But they CAN go to the general assembly and ask for more flexibility in how they direct these funds.

In the worst economy since the Great Depression, I recognize that all government services and programs will probably take a hit. I'm just asking that all programs are treated fairly. Because right now, it seems like our public transit and libraries are taking most of the burden, while the sports stadiums get every request they demand.

It is for this reason that I urge you to vote down the Capital Improvement Board's budget. The Indiana Pacers had a contract that they knowingly signed that requires them to pay operational expenses and in return they get 100% of all revenue from games and non-game events. If they're losing money (and I say "if" because they've never provided any proof that they're losing money) and can't afford the expenses, then too bad. The public has had to make sacrifices these past few years, and they should as well.

-Matthew Stone

Firehawk Technologies



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tea Party Rally Butchers Pledge to Score Political Points

I stopped by the Tea Party rally that was held earlier today in downtown Indianapolis. I was at the Kill the Bill rally earlier in the year, and generally felt that it was a well organized event. This one was much more low key, and I had several informational conversations with groups that had tables set up, and I left shortly after the first speaker started. But what stuck in my mind after I left was what happened during the Pledge of Allegiance.

I'm a believer that the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem should generally be done in a respectful manner, with the bare minimum being to use the respective anthems as written without adding additional words.

I wasn't surprised when the reciter of the Pledge mentioned a court case where the phrase "Under God" was challenged and the speaker emphasized how it doesn't harm religious liberty. And that, I'm fine with. He said it before the Pledge started. But when he got to "Under God", he stopped, said a few sentences about the phrase's importance to him, and then instructed everyone to shout "Under God" two or three times as if it was some sort of sports cheer. I found them very disrespectful, and it was a stark contrast to the very well done National Anthem that preceded the Pledge.

I enjoyed the time I spent at the rally and found it different than the standard anti-Obama/Pelosi/Reid ones that tend to get media attention. But next time, maybe the organizers should have a rehersal to make sure the Pledge and the National Anthem are done in a respectful manner. And if Patriot Paul wants to talk about the Pledge, give him a speaking slot. Don't do it in the middle of the Pledge.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Candidate Marvin Scott (R-7th CD) Continues His Lies

Marvin Scott has gotten into quite a few controversies during his campaign against Democrat André Carson. And this one isn't something he can blame on staff or volunteers or "the media."

On an October 12th appearance on Greg Garrison's radio show on WIBC, Scott claims he has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaksa and Republican Vice Presidential candidate in the 2008 presidential campaign. This Sarah Palin blog doesn't have Marvin Scott's name in their list, which was updated the day before Scott appeared on Garrison's show. Scott seems to have made this up in a pathetic attempt to bolster his cash strapped campaign.

Scott has a history of doing exactly this. In his 1996 campaign in the then 10th Congressional district, Scott sent out a fundraising letter claiming that former President Gerald Ford, former Governor of Indiana Robert Orr, and former Department of Education Secretary William Bennett were chairman of his campaign. Believe it or not, the media challenged him on this claim, and he was forced to fess up.

If you ever need a good laugh, head on over to his Facebook page. He held a "money bomb" in September with a promise to post the results in 48 hours. Those results never came. He's holding one now, and I expect similar abysmal results. He keeps saying he's a "Tea Party candidate", but the Indianapolis Tea Party doesn't endorse candidates and I'm unaware of other regional Tea Party groups that have provided endorsements.

Hat tip to Wilson Allen, who posted about this latest Scott controversy over at Indiana Barrister and his Facebook page.Link

Monday, October 11, 2010

Outing Anonymous Commenters or Why Get Equal Needs to Get Real!

The Bilerico Project's Alex Blaze posts a picture of two Twitter messages posted on the account of Get Equal. Get Equal is a nationwide LGBT advocacy group, who was also one of the organizers for today's rally outside of the Indianapolis City Market. In the messages, the organization's director and co-founder Robin McGehee, wants to know the identity of a blog commenter. The commenter, AndrewW, often posts on LGBT blogs anonymously. And I guess his comments have hit a nerve with McGehee so much that she wants to know man behind the screen name. For what reason, I have no idea.

If this is the type of professionalism that Get Equal believes in, count me out. Indiana already has enough LGBT advocacy groups that do their work half-assed, and it doesn't need dirt diggers to add to the mix. If the largest companies and organizations spent all day replying and worrying about anonymous commenters on the Internet, they'd never get anything accomplished.

If AndrewW is reading this, you're safe here. I allow anonymous commenting because I believe in opening the lines of communication as much as possible. And while I might glance over the data provided by SiteMeter, I'm not going to do any serious dirt digging into finding out WHO it is. Most blogs practice similar methods because not everyone is comfortable with posting publicly for whatever reason.

My advice to the Get Equal crew? Take down those two tweets and move on. It seems your organization is relatively new, so just chalk it up to a rookie mistake.

Why I'll Vote No on Constitutional Property Tax Caps

The Indiana Constitution, more so than the federal Constitution, firmly recognizes our rights. In fact, it says our rights come from "almighty GOD." While readers may assign whatever (or no) deity they wish, the point is that rights come from our humanity. In addition to recognizing our rights, the Indiana Constitution goes in depth into setting up municipal and state wide government.

And that is the primary purpose of these documents. To recognize rights, and to establish how the government is set up. States like California and Texas, which are constantly amending their constitutions, have got it wrong. Our society of millions, with only a small fraction of those spending time on political issues of the day, is not set up for direct democracy. We are a representative democratic-republic, and the law making and administrative crap should be done by elected officials.

And it's that reason why I'm voting "No" on Public Question #1. It's my understanding that property tax caps are already written as state laws. There's no need to clutter our constitution with political issues. If it isn't to correct a serious deficit in the document, or to recognize rights that aren't being recognized, then it shouldn't be made apart of our state constitution.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

CupcakeGate Continues!

As the story has further developed since the initial story hit, there have been several points made by those who believed business owners have a supposed right to discriminate against the LGBT community. I'd thought I'd address a few counter-points. I suspect many of these same points, or similar ones, will be made if the General Assembly tries to push through a Marriage Protection Amendment in the 2011 session.

First, if the owner didn't say, on camera, that he declined a special order due to his own moral values, this would be a non-story and we wouldn't be talking about it.

One of the talking points of the past couple weeks is "it's Just Cookies, not Just Cookies and whatever!". Apparently, those espousing this talking point was made by those who have never visited Just Cookies. They had several non-cookie baked goods when I walked by on Monday, and their page on the City Market's website says they make cookies and "sweets" and take "special orders." So at the very least, asking for a rainbow decorated cookie or cupcake is not beyond reason. Several comments left on blogs have described getting special orders, including cupcakes. While one of the owners in the initial story says that they flat out don't (usually) take special orders, I'm betting they can make just about any baked good if they really wanted to.

Another group of apologists emerged in the form of the religious right. The Indianapolis Star's practice, when covering a story on LGBT issues, is to have the "other" side of the story be told by the religious right, which is done in the Star's story by Micah Clark. Clark is the head of the American Family Association of Indiana and was a speaker at this summer's National Organization for Marriage rally in downtown Indianapolis. Clark, completely ignoring the Human Rights Ordinance that he opposed several years back, offers legal assistance to Just Cookies. Clark believes that this type of legislation makes "special rights" rather than enforce equality. As someone who is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, I find this believe absolutely disgusting.

Not to be outdone by Clark, this video-blog from a local minister mentions that several people were out in support of Just Cookies' discriminatory action, and he even thanked them. According to the minister, one of the owners gladly accepted the thanks. Another blog account, which seems to have several posts that heavily focus negatively on race, religion, and sexual orientation, can be found here. I guess a sure-fire way to drum up business is to come out against the gays.

Finally, a few of the authors of the Human Rights Ordinance wrote a Letter to the Editor in The Star today explaining why Just Cookies didn't violate the ordinance. Gary Welsh explains precisely why they're wrong. I'd like to add that the HRO uses similar language in describing a "public accommodation" as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. A Democrat, like City-County Council representative Jackie Nytes, might want to be careful in what she says. This puts her in the same company as candidate for the U.S. Senate Rand Paul, who got into some hot water when he said that he doesn't fully support the Civil Rights Act and the ADA due to the regulations they put on privately owned businesses.

I also think it's quite ridiculous that the Council keeps passing laws that they have no intention of enforcing, but that's for another topic.

A couple of people from Indiana Equality also signed the letter. Indiana Equality has come under criticism from both Welsh and Bilerico Project founder Bil Browning on their respective blogs. It seems to me that Indiana Equality still might not have the best interests of the LGBT community at heart.

A big deal over a small incident? Maybe. Some, shielded by Internet anonymity, have suggested that the LGBT community should "get over it" and it's no big deal. I say otherwise. I bet the owners of Just Cookies could've made this all go away with a phone call apologizing, and a nice gift basket of baked goods and some coupons. While Just Cookies might experience some new business from the "family values" crowd for a few weeks, the people who see this incident in a negative light will tell their families and friends for months, even years.