Thursday, July 24, 2014

Group of Remaining USS Indianapolis Sailors in Indy to Commemorate 69 Years of Survival

USS Indianapolis (CA-35)
Indianapolis is the home of many conventions and reunions in the summer, but there is one happening starting today at the Hyatt Regency that is just that much more remarkable.

Most of you know the story of the USS Indianapolis by now.  The ship carrying our city's name delivered the final components of the atomic bomb "Little Boy" and then was on its way home.  A Japanese submarine delivered two torpedoes into the ship's hull tossing those that were not killed in the sinking into the shark-infested Pacific Ocean.  That day was July 30, 1945.

Of the approximately 900 survivors that ended up in the ocean without lifeboats, 317 ended up being picked out of the ocean four days later.  Nearly 69 years later, only 36 survivors are still alive and only 15 will be in town. The Indianapolis Star's Will Higgins penned this article about the reunion, which is due to run through Sunday.  If you want to help out these veterans continue their reunions, here is a link to their website.

The USS Indianapolis Memorial on the Canal
Sadly, the obituary pages are filled these days with the stories of World War II veterans.  We are losing these veterans at the rate of 555 per day.  By this time next week, there will be almost 3,900 fewer veterans of World War II than there are today.  By the end of this year, we will go under 1,000,000 surviving veterans of WWII.  I don't tell you this to depress you or to make you do anything other than think.  We are losing our living history...one person at a time.  If you're a World War II veteran and you're reading this, thank you.

Back to the Indianapolis.  Those men that did survive on that awful July day back in 1945 survived somehow against the odds because of who they were.  They beat the heat and the sharks and the fear.  In our city, 15 of them will gather to commemorate their own survival and their lives in the 69 years since.  To all these veterans and those survivors that could not make it to the reunion, I say I'm glad you're still here to tell the story that none of us should ever forget.  Many of you survived to have families and to contribute in your own ways to our our great nation.  It hasn't been easy.  It's probably been harder than I can ever imagine.  I salute you all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Resolution to Stop Coal Burning at Harding Street Station Moves On

IPL's Harding Street Station
The City-County Council's Community Affairs Committee heard the proposal for a resolution that would urge IPL to stop burning coal by 2020.

In front of a packed house, the committee heard from residents and interest groups across Marion County.  IPL also had a chance to speak about its efforts to clean up pollution in the community.

Last Monday, a bi-partisan group of City-County Councillors announced efforts to bring the use of coal to an end at the IPL plant. Republican Jefferson Shreve, who sits on the Community Affairs Committee, voted no last night as the four at-large Democrats (Zach Adamson, John Barth, Pam Hickman, Leroy Robinson) voted yes passing the resolution on to the full Council by a 4-1 vote.The proposal for the resolution will now be debated in front of the full City-County Council.

Environmental activist group, the Sierra Club, released the results of a poll that was conducted in Marion County of voters.  Sixty-nine percent of those polled support the end the use of coal and improvement of the air and water quality in Indianapolis.  Even 51 percent of Republicans are on board, according to the poll of 400 registered voters.

Shreve voted against the proposal saying that it had no teeth and he did not believe it was feasible for IPL to phase out coal in the timetable given in the resolution.  Adamson rebutted Shreve's justification for voting against passing the resolution out of committee.  Councillor Jeff Miller had a prior commitment and couldn't attend the committee meeting. and fellow Republican Christine Scales was absent as well leaving the vote on party lines.

It should be noted that this is just a resolution.  IPL is not compelled to do anything, and they pretty much said they weren't in the hearing last night.  Fred Mills of IPL said, "If this Council wants to pass a resolution asking IPL to stop burning coal by 2020, that is YOUR prerogative."  He added emphasis on YOUR as if to say, come at us...if you dare.

Off to the full Council for this one!

UPDATE:
Please the comments section for an update from Councillor Scales on her removal from the Community Affairs Committee.  The City-County Council's website is incorrect on the membership of the committee.  I regret the error.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Adamson Elevated to Chair of Public Works Committee

Councillor Zach Adamson
Photo from indy.gov
City-County Councillor Zach Adamson announced on his Facebook page this morning that he had been offered and had accepted the Chair of the Public Works Committee of the City-County Council.

On a personal note, as someone that sat on Adamson’s campaign committee and has seen his political career move from neighborhood activist to City-County Councillor, I could not be more thrilled. Zach has worked hard for this position, and it’s a big moment for him and for many in the community.

Adamson has drawn bi-partisan praise for his work on the Council. He certainly has a point of view, but he also has been one of the most dogged advocates for neighborhood issues along with a handful of other Councillors. In short, it’s not just me that has seen what an awesome Councillor he has been.

From a political standpoint, this is not good news for Mayor Greg Ballard. Vernon Brown was the previous Chair of the committee. Brown, a former majority leader on the Council, is the favorite to be elected Warren Township Trustee in November. Brown did an admirable job as the Chair of this committee, but Adamson’s knowledge of Marion County as an At-Large Councillor and his advocacy for neighborhoods not only on the Near Eastside but all around Indy will be welcome in the position.

It’s an especially critical position as the Council continues to debate Mayor Ballard’s infrastructure plan vs. the infrastructure plan the Democrats on the Council have proposed. With a couple of swing votes on the Council in Brian Mahern and Christine Scales, the work that the Public Works Committee does will certainly be critical.

I wish the best of luck to Adamson as he takes on this new challenge. He’s going to need it!

Merchant's Attack Falls Flat Quickly

GOP candidate Duane Merchant came out of hiding for an attack on Prosecutor Terry Curry's ethics, according to Jim Shella of WISH-TV.

Curry calmly sidestepped the attack and went about his business.  See below.


If it doesn't load, go here.

Yeah, I'd say that one is to bed, and Shella kind of took the wind out of Merchant's sails with his commentary at the end regarding Carl Brizzi's tenure as Prosecutor.  Nothing to see here.  Please disperse.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dungy's Galling Comments Send Wrong Message

Tony Dungy
Picture from Facebook
Tony Dungy has succeeded on his own terms over the years becoming the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. Long before his team won the Super Bowl, Dungy waited for a long time and was passed over many times for coaching positions despite the fact that he was one of the best assistants in the league. 

Eventually, he got his chance with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and turned that franchise around. He picked up where Jim Mora left off in Indy, and the Colts became one of the most successful franchises in history.

Dungy knows about being a trailblazer.

Through all of this, Dungy has advocated for men to be responsible fathers. He has never been afraid to speak out, and I commend him for that. He’s also been very up front about his faith, and I also have no problem with that.

On the negative side, Dungy has headlined fundraisers for organizations that actually work against equality for LGBT Americans. He was a very public backer of Indiana’s amendment banning same sex marriage.

The Tampa Tribune published an article about changes the NFL is making in the expected conduct of players, and Dungy was a prominent individual interviewed in the piece. Dungy made it clear that he would not have taken openly-gay player Michael Sam as the St. Louis Rams did, in his words, “…Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”
“It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.”

I’d be happy to take Coach Dungy at his word. He’s an honest man, but I can’t help but wonder if some of that desire to not deal with an openly-gay player in his locker room is informed by his understanding or lack of understanding about what it means to be gay. The Tribune writer, Ira Kaufmann, leaves it like this. Even in a news conference-type atmosphere, I certainly would have nailed him with a follow-up had I been writing that story to clarify what “thing” might happen to Sam.

What is particularly galling about Dungy's views is that he's one of the individuals that staunchly defended Michael Vick's return to the league.  He even mentored Vick as the convicted felon was brought back into the NFL.  To be honest, I didn't have a problem with Vick getting a second chance.  In fact, I think most everyone deserves a second chance.  What Vick did was awful, but he served his time in prison.  While Dungy advocated for him, he's going to turn his back on Sam because of perceived "things" that might happen?  That's just hard for me to take.

Dungy’s comments were disappointing. It is refreshing to hear that he believes Sam deserves a chance to play and excel in the NFL, but it’s a bit disheartening to hear the rest of his opinion on the subject.  It sends the wrong message about LGBT people and their acceptance into the workplace...even a workplace like the NFL locker room.

It sounds as if Sam landed with the right coach and the right team in St. Louis. Coach Jeff Fisher said in the article that any coach that isn’t going into the locker room these days is not going to be a coach in the league for long.

Didn't More Eyes, Police on Streets Help Keep Indy Safe on Saturday?

The Ballard Administration and its defenders keep telling folks in Indianapolis that the answer to less crime and safer streets is not more police officers on the streets.  Their actions, on the other hand, say something different.

Take this past weekend for example, Indiana Black Expo's second Saturday again went off without a hitch downtown, and that's honestly a tribute to the entire public safety community and, yes, even Greg Ballard's Administration.  

There was a police officer, make that officers, on practically every block downtown.  Downtown was blanketed with police officers, and they were ready to respond to anything that might develop to prevent what happened in 2010 from happening again.  Downtown was safe because the peacekeepers, excellent organizations like the Ten Point Coalition and others kept it that way.  The good people of this city should be commended as well.  It was a team effort, but I would say more eyeballs on the streets of downtown and good police work help keep the city safe.

Now, we can't blanket every inch of this city with a police officer.  That's true.  Good police work will never prevent every crime from happening.  If there are more eyes on the street...if there are more people working on prevention...more police out there walking the beat...doesn't it stand to reason that crime might go down?  Isn't it a major part of the equation?  Just wondering.  

What do you think, Mr. Mayor? 

Friday, July 18, 2014

My View: Ballard Will Run for Third Term

Mayor Greg Ballard
I'll say it here.  I disagree with my good friend Paul Ogden.  Paul thinks that if Joe Hogsett enter's the Mayor's race that Ballard won't run for reelection.  As for me, I believe there's absolutely no way Greg Ballard doesn't run for Mayor in 2015.

Ballard gives Republicans their last best chance to keep the office.  While he doesn't owe the Republican Party anything as they did not support him in 2007, I just can't imagine what's left of the Marion County Republican Party will let him walk away.  He's excellent as a fundraiser, and people like him.

That's why he keeps winning.  Despite his propensity to make some really bad ideas reality, Ballard is a bit like a teflon candidate.  Nothing sticks to him.

When his high dollar campaign contributors get contracts with the city, it doesn't stick.  When people in his administration get indicted, it doesn't stick.  When he recklessly spends city money on pet projects, it doesn't stick.  When he admits dodging the Council because he knows it will take some heavy lifting and some compromise to get his proposal done, it doesn't stick to him.  Bart Peterson and Melina Kennedy found out that running the wrong campaign against Greg Ballard sends you to defeat.  It's up to Frank Short, Ed Delaney, or Joe Hogsett (if he runs) to make it stick.

If Ballard decides to not run for reelection, he's leaving with the job undone.  He told us for seven years now that public safety is job one.  With our city in the midst of a crime wave, the last thing a Marine is known for is running away.  Since it's such a part of his brand, I don't think Ballard will do that.  I think he will try to make the case that he's the man to solve the problem.

I clearly disagree with that notion, but that's another blog post.  I see Ballard running for a third term, but, like Bart Peterson before him, third time won't be a charm.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Study: Merger Creating IMPD Short on Savings

Former Mayor Bart Peterson
The merger that brought about the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was back in the spotlight again today.

Fox 59's Russ McQuaid reported on a study commissioned by the City-County Council that showed no savings came from the merger of the Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department Patrol Division.  It also showed that the merged department was about 100 employees short of its 2006 strength.

I supported the merger, and I took then-Mayor Bart Peterson and his administration at its word about what would happen in a merged department.  I thought the merger made sense from a logistical standpoint.  I guess I was wrong.

What also needs to be part of the story but was not reported by Fox 59 is that Mayor Peterson was in charge of merged IMPD for exactly zero days.  Under his version of the merger, IMPD was originally supposed to be under the responsibility of a three person panel (including the Mayor).  When that attracted criticism, the proposal was changed to put IMPD under the control of Sheriff Frank Anderson.

Sheriff Anderson had control of IMPD for about a year until Greg Ballard became Mayor.  Mayor Ballard, as one of his first acts in office, wrested control of IMPD back from Sheriff Anderson and put it back in his office under the control of the Public Safety Director.

Blame Bart if you wish, but Mayor Ballard has been in charge of IMPD since early 2008.  If you're going to blame Peterson for IMPD's shortcomings, then you have to blame Ballard.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Will IPS Be Forced to Foot Someone Else's Bill?

A few years back, Arlington Community School was failing.  It still is.

Under reforms pushed by then-Governor Mitch Daniels and then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, the school ended up being taken over by the state, and it was placed under the control of a charter school operator called Ed Power to be reorganized and improved.

Unfortunately, the charter school operator could not fix the school.  It is still listed as a failing school under the state's unfair and awful letter grade system.
Instead of sticking around to fix the problem.  Now, Ed Power says it doesn't have enough money to run the school and is looking to the State Board of Education for help.

Can you imagine if a large public school would have thrown up its hands and said, "I'm sorry.  We just don't have the money to educate the kids in our school.  We're going to have to close."

The state would laugh and say, "Do more with less."

Many educators thought this would be a problem when takeover academies were proposed by Tony Bennett.  They asked the questions, and, clearly, the state has no answers. What happens if the takeover doesn't work?  What happens to the school then?  Furthermore, after the takeover runs its course, what happens to the school?  Unfortunately, there are no answers.  There was really no prescription on what should happen if the school were to stay open, be improved, and returned to some sort of control on its own..

With school set to open in many districts in just a few weeks, parents who were going to send their children to Arlington will now be left with a choice if the building is forced to close its doors.  This is always my concern with the proliferation of charter schools.  We keep opening them without funding them.

IPS has a willingness to absorb the buildings back within the district, but the State Board of Education is unlikely to make it that easy on the district.  I say give Arlington back to IPS.  Dr. Lewis Ferebee seems to be charting a much different course for the district, and he isn't going to simply take it back and bail it out.

Will the State Board of Education and the Indiana General Assembly force IPS to fund the charter school's efforts to run Arlington?  This story will bear watching.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guest Post: Frank Short on Crime in Indy

From time-to-time, I open up my blog to guest posts.  This one is from Washington Township Trustee and candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis, Frank T. Short.  It was written on Friday of last week, and I received it yesterday.
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My View
Frank T. Short
Washington Twp. Trustee

By Frank T. Short, July 11, 2014

It’s job one of any government, the first and foremost obligation of the social contract: keeping our citizens safe.

And it’s a job where our City is failing us.

This city’s latest spasm of violence last weekend that claimed the life of a police officer and put bullets into the bodies of seven more of our neighbors rightly shocks the conscience. Our hearts break for the victims and those who love them. But it’s only the latest evidence of a disturbing trend that’s running deeper – a city that’s not getting the job done on its most basic task. It’s costing us the lives too many of our citizens, and costing all of us the basic peace of mind we deserve.

After the work of a generation to reduce the high levels of crime that plagued our city and our nation, we see that progress beginning to slip away – and see the risk of a vicious cycle where people are fearful of going out or even sitting on their porches, increasingly leaving our shared public spaces empty, and in turn abdicating those spaces to criminals.

More crime leads to less public activity leads to more crime.

Simply put: we can’t be a great city if we can’t keep ourselves safe.

I've represented our men and women in blue as their advocate for years working with the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police. I have worked tirelessly to make sure they have the resources to perform their duties and we have strengthened the laws to assist them as they protect us. I have also served as a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Indiana Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission. And I’ve worked with the Hundred Club, an organization that provides assistance for families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Anyone who’s listened to the police could have seen these problems coming years in advance. We have a city government whose poor choices and wrong priorities have left us with too few cops on the beat, not enough resources for law enforcement to keep on top of the latest challenges, and too many excuses from this administration whose proposed solution is for all of us to adjust downward our basic expectations about public safety.

A City who leaves its police woefully outnumbered is a City who’s not taking crime seriously, no matter how many “serious” sounding press releases they may produce.

Also, cops themselves are the first to tell you that real efforts to promote public safety take place long before police get involved. Catching and punishing criminals after the fact is important work, but it’s preventing crime in the first place – preventing criminals in the first place – that really makes us safer.

Being serious about crime means being smart about crime prevention. The good news is that we know exactly what that entails: Real investments in summer jobs. Real partnerships between law enforcement and church and civic groups. A real effort to keep guns out of the hands of people like criminals and domestic abusers. Real opportunities for vulnerable populations to participate in the growth of our city.

In short, crime prevention works. Unless you shortchange it.

The bad news is this administration cut crime prevention grants to some of our most effective agencies, with cuts in some fiscal years running as high as 50%. A City who has always been able to find the cash to pay for special priorities and special deals – a certain cricket field comes to mind – somehow can’t find the money to cover the basics. And, of course, we have left in place a relationship with the state legislature that’s left us a net donor county to the rest of the state to the tune of $350 million dollars per year.

And the long term consequences are with us.

I don’t promise that an additional $350 million to fund key priorities like police officers and crime prevention programs would restore Indianapolis’ sense of public safety. But I’d sure like us to be able to find out.

If talking tough were enough to restore our city’s public safety, our current approach would be fine. But making our city safe again is a matter of making smarter choices – having better priorities and the commitment to implement them. Cops are as tired as the rest of us seeing these obvious needs going unmet.

The answers for making our city safer are in front of us. I will be a Mayor who’s committed to them.
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You can contact Short at info@shortformayor.com.

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