Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pat Andrews to Run for City-County Council

Pat Andrews, who writes the Had Enough Indy? blog and has extensively worked with several organizations including the Marion County , has announced that she plans to run for City-County Council in the 2011 municipal elections.

Andrews has resigned the posts she holds in non-partisan organizations in preparation for this run so as not to bog the organizations down in partisan politics.

Andrews, a Democrat who lives in District 22, hasn't decided if she'll run for the District 22 nomination or an At-Large position.

District 22 is currently represented by Republican Robert Cockrum. Cocukrum has previously said that this term will be his last one. No Republican has yet publicly expressed interest in the seat. Christopher Jackson, who used to write for the Indy Democrat blog, was seeking the nomination earlier in the year until he got accepted to an out-of-state law school.

As for my unsolicited thoughts? Andrews would do well to see the District 22 nomination. For better or for worse, there is a Democratic incumbent for the At-Large seats in Joanne Sanders, along with at least two strong At-Large candidates in Zach Adamson and Annette Johnson. There's a third candidate, John Barth, who I'm not very familiar with but he's been campaigning just as long as Adamson and Johnson. That's four candidates right there. It would be hard to squeeze into that full field.

Good luck to Pat Andrews. She would be an excellent District 22 nomination for the Democratic Party in 2011. She attends just about every council meeting anyway, and now she can put her extensive knowledge to good use if she's elected.

EDIT: It's been mentioned to me that Decatur Township leans Republican. It seems Pat Andrews might have an uphill battle in either race. Either way, best of luck to her. We need more people like her on the council.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Overhearing Conversations

While I was out and about earlier tonight, I couldn't help but overhearing two ladies talking about local politics. The Capital Improvement Board, the water utility sale, and the Affiliated Computer Services parking scam were all bought up.

I walked over and introduced myself to them and we had a nice chat on various topics.

I know us bloggers can be a bit obsessive about local politics. But its nice to be reassured that the concerns we have also exist in the "real" world amongst ordinary citizens.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving/Black Friday

It's strange how things evolve.

I've been in journalism, in some form or another, since high school. I started out at Y-Press and stayed there until the end of high school. At some point, I got in touch with some folks from the local music scene and started writing for a website called Indianapolis Music Net. During my first two years in college, even though I didn't work on any type of newspaper, I was in the IU School of Journalism taking classes and doing well. When I switched out of the School of Journalism, I lost that creative outlet that I needed.

Since then, I've thought that maybe journalism, as a profession, might not be right for me. The industry is going through a transition period, and nobody has a safe job. The job I used to dream about at The Indianapolis Star likely doesn't exist.

But just because the industry is screwed up doesn't mean I can't do this on my own.

So in the middle of 2009, while I was going through some personal issues, that's how this blog came to be. As an outlet to keep me writing and keep my craft in form.

And it's been well over a year since I started writing, so I guess the plan has expanded.

If you look at the earlier entries, I think they're a bit more personal than I like. At some point, I figured that I only have a limited amount of stories that can be introduced into the news cycle to be relevant that have ME as the focus. I also decided I wasn't all that interesting to write about anyway, and I don't like the spotlight.

So now I do a combination of straight reporting and commentary. It's mostly commentary, since I do this in my spare time. But I love writing original news pieces when I can. And I enjoy observing the media in this town, which is really an interest of mine that I haven't focused much on.

I also like to think that I provide something a bit unique in the local, political blogosphere. Many of the political bloggers are either media pundits or people who work within the two party system as ward chairman or precinct committeemen or similar positions.

So I like to think that I, as someone who isn't tied to a single political party, give a bit of a unique perspective.

I want to thank anyone reading this. I never imagined anyone outside of my immediete family and close friends ever giving a damn about what I write. And while I still mostly do it for myself, it helps to know that there are people who read who care.

Thank you all. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and stay safe on Black Friday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More on the TSA and What We Can Do Locally About It

If you haven't read my post from yesterday, do so. I updated it several times, added some more Obama bashing, and linked to some other posts and news articles that I thought were interesting.

The Transportation Securities Administration maintains a blog and actually has a really good social networking system as far as government agencies go. Most just issue press releases and interact very little with those that read the social networking accounts.

So in response to an airport out in Orlando considering switching to a private security firm, the TSA blog clears up some points of confusion in this post. It basically says that even if a private security firm does the actual screenings, the TSA is still in charge of making the regulations.

In addition to supporting Congressman Ron Paul's legislation mentioned in yesterday's post (have you called your US Congress and Senate representatives yet?), I need to do some digging to see what legislative body would have the authority to hire a private security firm locally at the Indianapolis International Airport. Would it be the City-County Council or the Indianapolis Airport Authority?

I'll do some asking and report back later.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Has The Public Finally Woken Up to the Corrupt Practices of the TSA?

Outrage has been posted by both the left and the right on the new Transportation Securities Administration's standards for flights that take off within the United States. These new include a full body scan or an "enhanced" pat down which goes into regions normally considered private by most of society.

The full body scan is exactly what it sounds like. It takes an image of your entire body, and a TSA agent in a separate room views it. Some concerns have been made about the amount of radiation it gives off. And my understanding is that, for most travellers who fly infrequently, it's negligible. But for frequent travellers or anyone who works behind the security checkpoint of an airport, it could be cause for concern. The images are also more identifiable than people make them out to be. One TSA agent got angry after co-workers made fun of his genitalia after a test screening.
The "enhanced" pat downs have likely caused the most outrage, mostly because the TSA has shown that it's not able to follow it's own rules. A video I've seen frequently on CNN shows a TSA agent sliding her hand between a woman's breasts in a sideways, swiping motion. But that isn't what happened to a woman who was forced to remove her prosthetic breast (which she has because she's a breast cancer survivor). Ironically, TSA standards say you won't be asked to remove a prosthesis and that you shouldn't even voluntarily remove it.

Another case that arose is when a traveller who has to wear a urostomy bag, a survivor of bladder cancer, alleges that the TSA agent that touched the bag and broke the seal on it. The seal break caused the bag to leak, leaving the traveller with urine soaked clothing which he couldn't change out of until after boarding the flight. I imagine he didn't want to miss his flight, and it might take several minutes longer for him to change clothes due to the urostomy bag. The article ends saying that the TSA is in touch with an advocacy group for people with disabilities, hoping that they'll have policies rolled out soon to deal properly with these situations. You would hope they'd have all their ducks in a row BEFORE they roll out these enhanced screening procedures, not after.

And to top it all off, President Barack Obama seems to have some of the same advisers as Mayor Greg Ballard who seem to be intentionally destroying any credibility either politician has by pushing them in front of unpopular issues. In a politically unwise move, Obama has defended the new policies, saying it's a "tough situation". But Obama goes so far to say that these new policies are the only ones they consider to be effective to prevent another Christmas Day underwear bomber episode. Someone should remind Obama that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded the plane in Amsterdam and there was no way the TSA could've prevented it. So much for having a self-described "student of history" in the White House when he can't even remember what happened less than a year ago.

Maybe President Obama would feel differently if he had to go through these procedures and the agents were unaware of his status? Maybe he'd feel differently if his daughters, ages 12 and 9, were felt up by the TSA like this young man here or this 3 year old here.

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has introduced legislation that will require all federal officials to follow all laws regarding sexual contact and taking of pictures that anyone else would have to follow, and that they aren't exempt from them just because of their job. It would effectively end the practices of the enhanced pat downs and the full body scan. I am in full support of this legislation, particularly because these policies were decided by TSA bureaucrats rather than our elected officials, who we elect to make informed, educated decisions on our behalf.

Paul's legislation is House Resolution 6416. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Most reading this likely reside within the 7th Congressional District of Indiana, so I'll list all possible ways to get in touch with Congressman André Carson and Senators Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar.

If you decide to call, make sure to ask for someone who handles legislation in the DC office. In this specific case, homeland security would be the topic.

DC Phone: (202)225-4011
E-mail: See this page.
Facebook: Personal page and Congressional Fan Page.
Youtube: Here.

DC Phone: (202)224-5623
E-mail: See this page.
Facebook: Personal page and Fan page.
Youtube: Here.

DC Phone: (202)224-4814
E-mail: See this page.
Facebook: Fan page and personal page.
Youtube: Here.
Twitter: Here.

UPDATE: And here's what happens when the TSA does,in fact, investigate an allegation. It clears the agent and says they acted appropriately.

Swift says they told her she was singled out because she was wearing a skirt. She says the search earlier this month was very rough and left her in tears.

"The female officer ran her hand up the inside of my leg to my groin and she did it so hard and so rough she lifted me off my heels," she says. "I think I yelped. I was in pain for about an hour afterwards. It just felt excessive and unnecessary."

It's worth noting Swift did not choose the enhanced pat-down, but was singled out and chosen by the TSA.

Among other sites:

While there are several posts at the LGBT site The Bilerico Project on the subject of the new search procedures (such as this one), to the best of my knowledge, no official LGBT organization has taken a position on these procedures. One of the comments in the aforementioned post links to an ACLU site that is collecting complaints based on the TSA searches which you can go to here.

For another take on the subject, Jon Easter of Indy Democrat has a post you can view here. The comments section is also worth a read.

Erick Erickson of Red State throws in his two cents here. This story concerns several of our own troops, including Indiana National Guard members who stopped in Indianapolis, Indiana's international airport to drop off the guard members.

TSA agents allegedly hate the new rules as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Help Save Y-Press

I got my start in journalism in part due to the dedicated folks at Y-Press. Y-Press is a news bureau run by and aimed at the audience of those under age 18, covering angles of stories from a youth perspective. With the younger kids conducting the interviews, the older middle and high school aged children writing the stories and doing a lot of the editing, and the adults juggling interview schedules and providing transportation, it was at times a hectic experience, but always rewarding.

You might remember seeing Y-Press, or Children's Express as it was known earlier, on the third floor of the Children's Museum in the 1990s. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but at some point, Y-Press relocated shortly after The Indianapolis News folded and took over it's office space on one of the upper floors of The Indianapolis Star's building. In late 2009, Y-Press moved again, this time to the former photo department area still within the Star's building.

According to Ruth Holladay, Y-Press is having financial troubles. They had a recent $10,000 donation to keep them afloat through this month, but they need more to keep things going. Please consider donating to them. Here is a direct link to their donation page. You can give through Google Checkout or you can mail them a check.

UPDATE: They also have a Facebook fan page. Sometimes, they have deals with local businesses where a percentage of the proceeds for a day's business will go towards Y-Press.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Journalism 101

As someone who has worked in journalism since high school, I like to keep track of how the field of journalism functions, and how different it operates from how I was taught during my years in Y-Press and in the IU School of Journalism at IUPUI.

One particular nitpick I've had in recent months is the use of formal titles, specifically the term "Doctor", often shortened to "Dr." According to the Associated Press Stylebook (which is basically The Bible for journalists), the term "Dr." should only be used for those in the medical or dental professions that hold the proper qualifications. In recent years, as alternate treatment such as osteopathic and chiropractic have become more acceptable, it's become appropriate to even use the "Dr." term for those in alternate medical fields as well.

But people with a doctorate of philosophy degree should fall under a different title. There is a bit of a differing viewpoint as to what the proper view is, but it's generally accepted that "Dr." shouldn't be used.

Writing, of course, differs based on who you're writing for. The Department of Health and Human Services have posted how their web writing and press release writing differs from the AP Stylebook here. But when writing as a journalist for a news source, let's stick with identifying what the PhD is in rather than using the term "Dr."

One of the more humorous examples of this abuse of the term "Dr." comes from Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. In the regular segment "Cheating Death", Colbert identifies himself as "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA", then reminds the audience (humorously) that he isn't a medical doctor. The DFA stands for Doctorate in Fine Arts, which is an honorary degree he received a few years ago. With the amount of honorary degrees some people receive, you could stretch their title probably for a paragraph or two.

And what originally pushed this to the front of my mind so much so that I had to write about it?

When is the local media going to stop using the "Dr." title when referring to Public Safety Director Frank Straub?

Monday, November 15, 2010

City-County Council Ignores Will of People. How Will This Play in 2011?

Once again, the City-County Council rushed through a controversial proposal with little deliberation, and it barely passes. And due to passing by one vote, it will be with us for the next 50 years. Some of you older folks reading this will be dead by the time the Affiliated Computer Services' contract to manage the public parking asset comes up for an actual renewal.

You can follow a blow-by-blow account of my thoughts either on Twitter or on Facebook, so I won't bore you with the details of the actual meeting. Jon Easter also has an excellent write up over at Indy Democrat.

The vote to pass this was 15-14. Paul Bateman (D-11th) voted with 14 Republicans to pass. Christine Scales (R-4th) and Edward Coleman (LP-At Large) voted with 12 Democrats to oppose it. There was also a vote to send it back to committee, which I believe fell along similar lines.

It's interesting to hear what the Democrats are saying, because they can really use this issue in the upcoming election. Public parking is something that is real and is often used regularly by the average citizen. It's not something as abstract as transferring a sewer utility to a not-for-profit public charitable trust, or funnelling more money to the Capital Improvement Board from a different revenue stream. Those are a bit harder to grasp. But "meter rates go up, lobbyist's clients get sweetheart deal" is a fairly easy message to communicate. This will be an interesting topic in 2011, since it's likely the last major initiative the Ballard administration and the GOP council can shove through before the election cycle begins.

But it's also interesting to see the difference in attitude between Democrats, or just those that generally lean left politically, react to tonight's vote differently than those who are firmly entrenched in the Democratic party. Adam Kirsch, the Executive Director of the Marion County Democratic Party, is portraying City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn (R-Barnes and Thornburg) as the "deciding vote". And I understand that those who work within the party, especially employed by the party, cannot publicly speak ill of another Democrat. It's an interesting piece of spin, but I don't buy it, simply because very few on the council take those ethics rules seriously. The council, for decades, has had lax or no rules regarding vote abstaining and conflicts of interest, and now it has mere window dressing. Vaughn was never going to vote against it, and if the shoe was on the other foot, more than a few Democratic council representatives wouldn't vote against their own self-interest either.

But it isn't too hard to find Democrats who are greatly disappointed in Bateman's vote. Chris Worden probably presents the best case, even going as far to say that Bateman is buying into race card politics. I'm sure Terry Burns, who runs The Indianapolis Times blog, will have a post in the next day or two questioning Bateman's future in the Democratic party.

Did I mention Bateman, the deciding vote, went on Amos Brown earlier today to shill for the ACS parking contract? This is in stark contrast to his reaction when Mayor Greg Ballard's campaign sent out a press release touting Bateman's vote in the wastewater utility sale touting Bateman's vote as bi-partisanship, where Bateman was not pleased with his vote being used as a political tool.

My two cents? Bateman won't get slated in 2011. If he still manages to win the primary, the county party won't provide support for Bateman, and might even try to recruit a Green Party candidate to ensure he won't get elected.

I'm not intimately familiar with the council districts and the party lines within them, but at least three of the four At-Large seats will go Democratic, even if Ballard wins re-election (and I doubt he will, but that's for another post). The Democrats have at least two candidates who have been running for the better part of this year in Zach Adamson and Annette Johnson, for the At-Large seats.

Joanne Sanders will retain her seat and become the next President of the City-County Council.

Coleman, who ran as a Republican in 2007 but switched parties, has an uphill battle in retaining his seat. The Libertarian Party of Marion County, Indiana, and probably the national party, will likely dump money into this race because Coleman is arguably the highest ranking Libertarian as far as elected public offices go. The Libertarians will need to rely on the general low voter turnout that municipal elections tend to attract as well as a dispirited Republican base, and a good chunk of those Republicans that do show up to vote Libertarian instead. In my uneducated, unwanted, and unasked for opinion, I give the LP a 20% chance at retaining the seat.

It remains to be seen how big the Get Out the Vote effort will be among county Democrats and how involved Representative André Carson (D-7th Congressional District) is with it. Carson's GOTV drive is largely credited as the reason Marion County avoided the GOP tidal wave that swept most of the state and nation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Indianapolis' Failed Panhandling Ordinance

I don't know if it's just not being enforced, or it's an unworkable ordinance, but I don't think the revised panhandling ordinance* is being enforced.

What this does is expand the ordinance so as to cover a variety of activities that can't be done 50 feet from an intersection that has a stop sign or traffic signal between a pedestrian and a person in a vehicle. Everything from advertising, holding signs, soliciting, selling, and so on is banned.

I spoke out against the ordinance as it was proposed because I felt regulating signs was ridiculous. I felt it didn't leave enough room for political and social free speech, which I value highly. A lot of the other stuff I'm personally fine with being in there.

But since then, I've noticed it really hasn't helped the problem.

I have a client on the east side of Indianapolis, and I often take 38th Street to get to the location. This leads me to the intersection of 38th and Fall Creek, where I often see a few men from one of the nearby religious organizations waving some type of newspaper or pamphlet and distributing it to people in vehicles. That's not much of a problem, but I've also seen them stand in the median and walk into the middle of lanes and converse with people in vehicles, often still being inbetween a bunch of cars when the traffic signal turns green. One of these days, these young men are going to get run over or cause a traffic jam.

So I've called the non-emergency police dispatch number (327-3811) and made several reports within the past week. I'm assuming the police showed up and told the men to scram, but I saw the men out and about again on Friday, November 12th.

I believe the problem is the law is both too broad and that there are no specific punishments law enforcement can charge panhandlers with outside of telling them to leave. In the case of panhandling at highway exits and busy intersections like 38th St and Fall Creek, it is a public safety issue. Written warning the first time, and a fine that gets higher as the offences pile up. Maybe fine the employer as well if they're on the clock with a church or mosque in the area. And I bet these men will stop what they're doing after a few checks to the city are written.

*Note: Amazingly, this ordinance is still available despite it being voted on in 2009. Please let me know if it goes down and I'll re-host it on my Google Docs account.

EDIT: Please see my post in the comments section that clarifies a bit about the different types of panhandling.

Call and E-Mail Councillor Bateman and Tell Him to Reject the ACS Parking Scam!

Paul Bateman (D-11th) may become the deciding non-Republican vote to make up for the fact that Christine Scales (R-4th) refuses to go along with the scam that the Ballard administration and Affiliated Computer Services are shoving through the City-County Council. Just as Mayor Greg Ballard (R) did with the water utility sale, one or two votes will be touted as bi-partisanship.

The question isn't the action of the vote, but why is Bateman even considering voting for it? Does he honestly think this is a good deal? Has he read the entire contract and understand the full ramifications?

Bateman is a mystery to me. I don't know why he'd vote for it, but the cynic in me might lead me to think he's been promised some type of benefit for his district. It probably isn't related to the parking deal and the monetary "beneft" though. By state statute, money made from public parking has to go back to areas where meters and lots are located. And Bateman's district isn't likely to have many, if any at all, metered areas.
I could type up a few paragraphs about how the point of public parking is to manage downtown and make it an efficient place to live and work and manage curbside space rather than to make a few bucks, but I feel that would be wasted effort.

Please contact Bateman. This is an important vote, and this deal, if implemented, could very well outlive many who read this.

Bateman's e-mail is pbateman@indy.gov.

The City-County Council's office number is (317)327-4242.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guess what happened at that OTHER committee meeting last night?

Several events were scheduled around the city last night. Indy Connect was hosting a forum at the Julia Carson Government Centre, Mayor Greg Ballard (R) was hosting a Rebuild Indy forum with City-County Councillor Paul Bateman (D-11th), and two City-County Council committees met. The Rules and Public Policy Committee met, which I've already covered. In addition, the Committee on Committees also met.

The Committee on Committees consists of the President of the Council, Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader and assigns committees. It's agenda has no detailed explanation of what is actually being done at the meeting besides "Committee Assignments" and, according to a reliable source, Channel 16 doesn't record this committee's meetings.

My understanding is that Christine Scales (R-4th) was taken off of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice committee and wasn't reassigned elsewhere.

Why Scales? She has bucked the administration twice in the recent past on the Capital Improvement Board, both voting against the new taxes levied to support it and it's most recent budget which included a bailout for the Indiana Pacers. She voted for the water utility sale, but is rumored to once again buck the administration on the ACS deal if it comes up for a vote next week. With these controversial proposals and a razor thin majority on the council, Ballard and Council President Ryan Vaughn have come to rely on several wild cards, including Bateman, Jackie Nytes (D-9th), Mary Moriarity-Adams (D-17th) and Edward Coleman (LP-At Large).

Jon Murray of The Indianapolis Star is reporting today that she sent an e-mail to her caucus asking caucus leaders to table the proposal so as to have more time to deliberate on the proposal itself and explore other options.

It seems Scales honestly wants a good piece of legislation passed and wants to do good for her fellow Republicans. Unfortunately, they aren't willing to listen.

LinkTerry Burns of The Indianapolis Times has previously openly wondered about a primary challenge for the three Democrats who voted for the water utility sale (Nytes, Adams, and Bateman). So the question here is, will the Marion County GOP do the same to Scales? Or maybe they just won't support her in her re-election attempt since she's already facing a Democratic opponent?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fun Facts About ACS And the Parking Deal!

Here's some more Fun Facts!(TM) about the ACS-City parking deal.

  • Did you know that Park Indy isn't just some cool term Michael Huber, Deputy Mayor of economic development, coined? It isn't! Park Indy is an actual limited liability corporation (LLC) that consists of Affiliated Computer Services, Denison Parking, and Evans Time. Park Indy LLC is located in Delaware. Why Delaware? Well, all the cool kids know that Delaware has some pretty nifty benefits for businesses that incorporate there even if they don't operate in Delaware.
  • Did you know these 200 jobs that are promised are completely separate from the actual parking contract? Not only that, but an ACS rep came out and said they are only committing these jobs for seven years. And to the best of my knowledge, there's no guarantee those jobs will actually be in Marion County. They could be in Marion, Indiana, where ACS runs their Family and Social Services Administration call centre for the state of Indiana. Paul Ogden has more on how unenforceable and toothless the jobs agreement is here.

More of these fun facts will come forward as my brain processes them.

On another note, The Indianapolis Star's Jon Murray e-mailed me earlier today and got my thoughts on this scam. He was at the committee meeting, so look for his article in tomorrow's Star.

How Will Council Votes Pan Out on the ACS-City Parking Scam?

Attending City-County Council meetings can be a dull task. You sit there for hours for the one item on the agenda you're there for, and then you see a Power Point presentation you've seen already that takes five minutes to go through but somehow takes about an hour to do so.

But going to council meetings means you get to hear things that you wouldn't when watching it on Channel 16.

The committee, predictably, voted along party lines, 5-3, with a do-past recommendation. Joanne Sanders (D-At Large) wanted to propose a "Do Not Pass" recommendation but was shot down.

Jackie Nytes (D-9th district), who doesn't sit on the committee, was very vocal in her criticism and sounded much different than her political posturing during the Capital Improvement Board's budget vote, which she cast the deciding vote in favor of it.

Edward Coleman (LP-At Large), also not sitting on the committee, asked questions on behalf of his constituents. During the meeting, I thought he was offering timid support of the deal, and wanted to know why the city was rushing to get it through the council. But according to others at the meeting, he said that unless they delay the vote so he can sort through the issues, he'll be voting against it.

Several Democratic council members were present in the audience but chose not to sit in the seats for the committee's guest councillors. Some in the audience included my representative, Maggie Lewis (D-9th) and Dane Mahern (D-19th). Barbara Malone (R-At Large), a co-sponsor of the parking privatization ordinance, also sat in the audience.

After the meeting, there were two groups that left the City-County Building. Several members of the Democratic caucus were seen outside of the committee room. From what I hear, they're having dinner as a caucus to see where all the votes will fall. I hear Paul Bateman (D-11th) is considering voting for the proposal. Bateman, along with Nytes and Mary Moriarity-Adams (D-17th) crossed party lines to vote for the water utility sale. On the other side of the isle, Christine Scales (R-4th), who has bucked the party line several times, is considering voting against it. That makes Bateman's Coleman's votes very important to Mayor Greg Ballard and the GOP caucus.

The other group was almost everyone who was at the meeting besides the citizens and council members seemed to be people working on the deal in some form or another. I saw Michael Huber, Deputy Mayor of economic development, shaking hands with several people who weren't council members and didn't speak but attended the meeting anyway. But that doesn't surprise me. After you took the city insiders, the Democratic caucus, and the few citizens out of the room as soon as the parking deal discussion was over, the room was empty except for the actual committee.

I'll chime in more about the meeting itself in a later post.

What Happened to Indy's Political Stock Exchange?

I've often commented on the Indy's Political Stock Exchange blog and found it to be unique in a sea of political pundits, most of whom are either media figures or workers within the county or state political parties.

We often see the "death" of a few blogs around the post-election season, but they didn't even make it that far. Their last post was dated October 2, 2010.

But I certainly understand taking some time off. Writing can be hard, and writing as a group can lead to unique challenges even though at first it seems like it'd make writing and reporting easier. Hopefully my friends over at IPSE are just getting their act together for the 2011 municipal election. It'll be one hell of a ride, and I'd love to have them along.

Maybe if we all send them a friendly e-mail at ispe00@yahoo.com they'll let us know what's up?

Monday, November 8, 2010

City-County Council Takes Up Revised ACS Deal Tuesday

The Rules and Public Policy Committee will meet at 5:30pm Tuesday in room 260 of the City-County Building. The ACS-City revised deal to privatize publicly owned parking is on the agenda and is by far the most significant item on said agenda. I encourage anyone and everyone who has a passionate opinion on this to attend the meeting.

You can see the full agenda here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More on the ACS Parking Scam or Be Wary of the Dollar Sign

I attended the forum last night hosted by City-County Councillor Ed Coleman (LP-At Large) on the revised Affiliated Computer Services-City Of Indianapolis parking deal. Michael Huber, the deputy mayor who is heading this project, was the main presenter. He was supported by one representative each from the following groups: Indianapolis Downtown Inc, Evens Time, and ACS. In attendance also were several members of the Libertarian Party, including Timothy Maguire, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Marion County. Pat Andrews was there, as were about a dozen other people.

The presentation was pretty dull and didn't consist of a lot of information that I hadn't already seen before. You can view it for yourself here. One slide did stand out, and led to my first question once Huber started taking questions from the audience.

I noticed that the projections that the city would get were approximately $300 million under the old deal and $600 million under the new deal. Knowing that the financial advisers to the city, Morgan Stanley, estimated much lower, and knowing that these amounts were ACS' estimate, I asked what the differences were and how Huber arrived at these numbers. He offered to send me the exact numbers and I've since e-mailed him and am awaiting his response.

I then expressed my concern that, over the course of the next 50 years, public transportation could change within central Indiana. Indy Connect has several events planned within this month, and if their goals are ever accomplished, this long term lease could cause us problems that the donut counties don't have. Huber bought up the 200 meters that are allowed to be removed from the system without penalty, and said that Indy Connect was working with them at some point to put that into the contract.

I also asked how the long term lease would affect T2 Systems and their parking "court". The "court" would still be working directly for the city and not ACS.

The 200 jobs were also a topic of a few questions, and Huber and the ACS representative made no secret that the 200 jobs were in a separate contract and weren't necessarily related to the management of parking. There's nothing in that separate contract that specifies what these jobs are, how much they pay, and so on.

One of the more emotional testimonies was given by a resident who lives within downtown but outside of the central area where all the businesses are located. His neighborhood has several parking meters all along the sidewalks of his and his neighbor's homes. Even though he says that no businesses are even near his home, they are still ticketed as if they were. He's made peace with the fact that, unless he wants to feed the meter outside of his own home, he has to be out the door by 7am and home no earlier than 6pm. But it puts an inconvenience when he has days off, or friends and family come over. He told of one story where on the day after Thanksgiving, he wakes up to find a ticket on his vehicle left at 7:01am. He called the city to complain, but the city wasn't open for business that day. But Denison Parking and it's meter maids certainly were.

With the extended time of the meters to 9pm and Saturdays, it seems like this gentlemen will essentially be kicked out of his home for several hours more than he already is. Even though he has met with Huber and ACS previously, it doesn't seem anything was changed to address his neighborhood's concerns.

When Coleman asked what the audience thought, I told him my story of the utility sale to Citizen's Energy Group, which Coleman supported. I, along with several bloggers and representatives of the Libertarian Party, met with Citizens Energy Group's lawyers in a meeting hosted by Councillor Christine Scales (R-4th District). Gary Welsh and I both questioned how Citizens would attain the savings they could,and Welsh specifically pointed to the Veolia contract that has been criticized as a one-sided deal. Citizens' representatives told us that Veolia and United Water's contracts will have to be bought in as the vendors at least for the remainder of their contract. And a week or two ago, we learned that Veolia was going to get a huge buy out because apparently, Citizens can't work efficiently with them.

My concern to this deal was similar. That there is something down the road that we aren't looking at now, and we'll be forced to spend a whole lot of money to get out of this deal or improve it at a later date.

I talked with several people after the meeting, and I suspect I ran into the stereotypical libertarian mindset of "privatize everything" and "sell everything that isn't nailed down". Some had made the assumption that the government doesn't do anything well, so why shouldn't we sell off this asset? What I say to them is that the day-to-day management isn't even going to be done by ACS. It'll be performed by Denison Parking, the same people doing it now. And personally, I think they're doing a fine job. Why add two more layers of bureaucracy?

I think some people are getting fooled by the huge dollar amounts shown. What is lost upon them is that the purpose of parking meters isn't to raise a huge amount of money, but to encourage turnover and make efficient use of curbside space. The minimal amount of money raised by them is just supplemental to whatever taxes are normally imposed for the maintenance of roads and sidewalks.

This deal is rotten to the core, there's no other way to put it. This introduces no free market principals to the mix, and is just a 50 year government approved monopoly on parking. At the very least, we should start this process over again, like other cities have when they rejected the initial parking proposals.

Additional views:

Advance Indiana: here and here.
Pat Andrews: here and here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Traffic Court Drama in Beech Grove, Mayor Backs Hypocritical Judge

Deanna Dewberry of WISH-TV has been reporting about the immoral and hypocritical activities of a part-time judge in Beech Grove, Indiana. Charity Bryan, who has a disabled placard for her car, recently got a ticket for it not being visible. Her husband and her say it must've fallen off the mirror it was hanging on and fell onto the dash. They tried to appeal to the judge of the Beech Grove traffic and parking court, a retired lawyer who hears one case a month, and he had no sympathy for Bryan at all. As Dewberry writes:

And that's where they went. But Bryan says what happened behind the closed doors of the Beech Grove Traffic Court was a farce.

"The judge was rude. He wouldn't let me talk," said Bryan.

She says the judge gave far more weight to the officer's testimony that her placard wasn't where it was supposed to be. It didn’t matter that she was paralyzed, or that she legally had a placard. In the end, the judge lowered her ticket cost from $75 to $10.50 but tacked on $114.50 in court costs, bringing her ticket cost to $125.

Bryan says the judge didn't sympathize with her plight at all. And what surprised her most is that the honorable Charles Hunter uses a wheelchair.

"He came out in a wheelchair and I thought, 'OK, he'll understand and he'll dismiss it,'" she said.

No such luck. I-Team 8 wanted to know why, so we decided to visit the judge.

"I'm an old timer," Hunter said laughing as he adjusted his microphone.

His self-description is accurate. Judge Hunter is 87. Local GOP leaders brought him out of retirement in 2007 to run for judge of Beech Grove's newly-created traffic court. When we asked him about Charity Hunter's case, the judge said he didn't remember it.

Judge Hunter hears cases once a month and it's been just 14 days since he presided over Charity Bryan's trial, but he has no memory of the case. So we pose a hypothetical scenario.

We asked if someone could indeed prove that they had a handicapped placard and they were indeed disabled, even if the placard wasn't where it was supposed to be, would he dismiss the ticket?

"If they actually were disabled and they had a placard I wouldn't find them guilty, no," he said.

That was interesting considering the fact he had done so in the Bryan's case. I-Team investigators asked the judge to take a second look at the case, and he agrees.

After a week Judge Hunter promised to take a second look at Charity and Robert Bryan's parking ticket. It's back to court, and this time I was there to watch. The proceeding is, by my clock, 2 minutes and 48 seconds. When Bryan argues she is paralyzed and her handicapped placard had fallen off her rear view mirror, Judge Hunter dismisses the argument with a wave of his hand.

"I believe this is how they make their revenue, their money," said Charity Bryan after leaving court.

Dewberry goes on to write that the judge, Charles Hunter, hears one case a month and is paid $42,000 a year. Operation expenses outside of the judge's salary total over $120,000, but the court only brings in $85,000 annually. Ironically, the city-county treasurer for Beech Grove, Chris Duffer, admits that the court was started to be a revenue stream for the city.

After the second hearing, the WISH-TV cameras found the judge's car and found that his disabled placard wasn't displayed either. Yet he had no sympathy slapping someone guilty of the same offense with over $100 in court fees.

Dewberry follows up where the mayor of Beech Grove, Joe Wright, completely backs Judge Hunter and also has no sympathy for Bryan or other possible defendants who've been wrongly convicted and excessively fined in the court room that Hunter runs. It's not uncommon for municipalities, especially smaller ones, to look to traffic and parking citations as a source of funding. New Rome, Ohio, a former town (now dissolved) had 60 residents and had as many as 14 police officers, and earned infamy for being a speed trap (here and here). As I've documented before, Indianapolis' Parking "court" (separate from the traffic court) is run by a private company, T2 Systems. T2 Systems is also the manufacturer of the software the court uses to manage the parking citations.

Out in Keen, New Hampshire, where the Free State Project takes place, some "Free Staters" have had success stories of getting out of parking and traffic citations or being given permission to pay to a charity rather than the municipal government.

One of these days, people are going to realize that these courts that micromanage our lives are just a backdoor tax. It's the equivalent of what the IRS does every day but on a smaller scale, and these schemes rarely get the attention that the feds do. Kudos to Dewberry for paying attention.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Got Questions About the ACS Parking Deal? Public Forum on Thursday.

I will be attending a forum on the proposed deal for Affiliated Computer Services to manage the city's public parking. The forum is being hosted by Edward Coleman (LP-At Large). I imagine there will at least be a few representatives from the 25th floor in attendance. If you have questions and can't attend, please feel free to leave your question in the comments section and I'll try to get your question answered. You can also use Twitter or Facebook to contact me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Winners and Losers of Indiana 2010 Elections

Here is my uneducated, reactionary reaction to the election results.

The Winners

Governor Mitch Daniels and the state GOP: The Indiana GOP ran a heavy slate, running electable candidates in districts, some they haven't tried to seriously take in several election cycles. And Daniels used his muscle with his Aiming Higher PAC promoting these candidates. The state GOP and their respective county partners also ran competitive candidates in several congressional districts and managed to nationalize these elections, which paid off big.

Ambassador/lobbyist/former Senator/Senator-elect Dan Coats: As Paul Ogden has written, Dan Coats ran in a primary and it gave him a practice run and momentum for the general election, momentum that never left him. He held onto the Republican wave that 2010 presented him, with only a few Republicans upset enough about his carpetbagging to vote for Libertarian candidate Rebecca Sink-Burris.

The Libertarian Party of Indiana: Due to a mixture of more exposure from media and a better ground strategy, and two really bad candidates on the part of the GOP in the case of US Senate and Secretary of State, the LPIN might get more votes than they ever have before. Now let's see how many they can retain in future elections.

The Losers

Representative Brad Ellsworth: He didn't go through a primary, and stayed out of the public view for too long. His lack of name recognition hurt him, and he didn't get much support from the current office holder, Senator Evan Bayh, and the national party seemed quick to give up hope. However, this isn't a total loss for Ellsworth. He's normally the type of Democrat Hoosiers like. He's down, but he doesn't have to be out.

Thomas John and the Marion County Republicans: The strategy of the county GOP seems to concentrate on one race and hope the rest benefit from a trickle down effect. In 2007, the only At-Large council race the GOP supported was Kent Smith, even waving his slating fee. This time, the county GOP put all their chips in with the Prosecutor's race. Being the first to go negative hurt, and Massa never seemed to recover from that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote Mike Wherry for Secretary of State

It is unfortunate that the two major party candidates come with baggage. The Republican nominee, Charlie White, is accused of voter fraud. And it's likely that he'll be at least charged with it. Vop Osili, the Democratic nominee, has been toting that his office would be involved in job creation, but that doesn't past the smell test to me. There's also been reports that Osili has had some irregularities in his campaign reporting.

So what is a Hoosier to do, especially since many probably don't know a whole lot of what the Secretary of State's office does?

Do yourself a favor and vote for the Libertarian Party's candidate, Mike Wherry.

In Indiana, the Secretary of State's race is what parties have to do well in to maintain ballot access. At 2% of the vote, they get ballot access but do all of their nominations through the convention process. At 10%, they become a "major" party and go through the primary process.

While I don't agree with the Libertarian Party of Indiana on everything (though I do forgive them for supporting the utility sale, no one is perfect), they deserve the chance to offer Hoosiers an alternative to the two parties currently in power.