Thursday, April 17, 2014

Market East Coming to Indy

In a coordinated announcement with Indy Downtown and others, Mayor Ballard rolled out the newest name for Indy’s newest commercial district.

Market East, which encompasses the City-County Building, the City Market, the soon-to-be-built Market Tower, and the upcoming Cummins facility plus the surrounding area, brings an identity to an area of town that sorely needs it especially since July 1999 when Market Square Arena became a pile of twisted metal and rubble.

The Mayor also announced a contest to revision the City-County Building’s plaza and the footprint of the long forgotten Marion County Courthouse that used to sit on it. The city rolled everything out on a nice website, It’s really something to look at.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Mayor Ballard put the same kind of effort into ending the rash of violence in the city? I give him credit for trying, but Market East won’t be anything spectacular without a safe city around us.

Perhaps I’m being unfair, but it seems like we have misplaced our priorities sometimes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Humor: SNL Spoofs CNN

Even as hope dims, CNN has kept with the Malaysian Air Flight 370 story.  It was only a matter of time before Saturday Night Live spoofed their devotion to the story which has had little new news to report since it broke but also cable news in general.  What a pleasant surprise SNL has been this year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 Primary Season Eerily Quiet

Here we are, it’s just a few weeks out from the 2014 Primary Election, and there’s really not much to talk about.

I’ve been sitting here wracking my brain for interesting stories to put here on the blog for days, and there's just not much interesting on the ballot for Primary '14.

This is not 2008 when a hotly-contested Presidential race brought folks out. It’s not 2010 or 2012 when there were serious primary challenges for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. This is gentle 2014, and there’s just not much to talk about.

This time, you have judicial candidates fighting for their jobs on the bench.  House District 91 has been interesting. The band of candidates that have come out of the woodwork to challenge Congressman Carson could provide some wacky copy. If the Treasurer of State race were something Primary voters voted in , I could see the three-way race between Wayne Seybold, Don Bates, Jr., and Kelly Mitchell on the Republican side as a knockdown drag out. That will be fought at the Republican Convention in Fort Wayne.

So, why even have a primary? Why not let the parties choose their candidates…as the Libertarians do at a convention...and save taxpayers a few dollars? Thankfully, not every year is like this.

As a Democratic Party voter, I like to have a say in who represents my party. Maybe that’s the best answer. Primaries do, from time to time, produce upsets. In some communities across Indiana, the primary is the only election, and it’s the general that’s a snoozer.

I think 2014 is just an anomaly, and we'll be back to hotly contested primaries next year. I just wouldn’t expect a ton of voters to turn out on Election Day. Call my cynical, but I’m struggling to find reasons to go to the polls that day myself, but I'll be there. It's my civic duty.  I have friends on the ballot, and it's good to support all those people that gave up a day of their lives to work the polls.

It is all the more reason to think the status quo will prevail on May 6. Party loyalists will go to the polls and likely select the same candidates they have always selected, and we’ll go to the General Election when the real fun starts. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scott Needs GOTV Effort, Help from Teachers to Beat Behning

Michael Scott
Teachers will have not one, but two chances to vote against Bob Behning this election season.  Behning must be just a little concerned.

The Republican Chair of the House Education Committee is facing Republican Michael Scott in the May Primary.  Scott has some TV commercials running.  Like spring dandelions, the florist's yard signs have popped up all around Decatur Township including some of the huge variety.  Some of the biggest signs are along the road on the Richard Lugar Farm on Mann Road.

Bob Behning
I have yet to see a Scott sign, but we still have a couple of weeks.  Scott is a Lunch Pail Republican who ran against Behning in 2012 after the Decatur Township Republican voted for the virulently anti-union right-to-work legislation.  That year, he didn't fare too well against the veteran legislator.  Now, he's reaching out to teachers, too.

It's a smart ploy.  I had a chance to speak with House 91's Democratic nominee, Patrick Lockhart.  Lockhart says that he's been speaking with lots of teachers, and they seem united against Behning.  Lockhart says teachers have had enough of Behning and are ready to brush him aside in 2014.

Patrick Lockhart
As Tony Bennett found don't mess with teachers.  If Scott can bottle the angst that Ritz did against his opponent, then he might have a good chance.

In many ways, a house district race is tougher than a statewide race.  It shouldn't be, but it is.  People know less about local races than state races, and those voters that would be needed to buck Behning's loyal primary-goers stay at home until the fall or until a Presidential year.  Scott has to motivate these folks to get out.  I'm not sure a few weeks of walking right before the primary will help.  That's why it's going to take the same kind of phone calls to people in HD91 to beat Behning that teachers made to help beat Bennett.

Certainly, I wish Scott the best.  If Behning loses, it's a good thing for education across the state.  Of course, I'm in the tank for Patrick Lockhart.  I think he's awesome and will make a tremendous House District 91 State Rep.  Since Lockhart is unopposed now, I'll be working hard against whatever Republican wins the May Primary.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Teachers Again Targeted by Reformers

Indiana Rep. Bob Behning thinks that the teacher evaluation numbers were unrealistic.

State Board of Education Member Gordon Hendry believes that the teacher evaluation system failed.

A florist and a businessman walk into a bar…

That may be unfair, but I would ask the florist (Behning) and the businessman (Hendry) what percentage of teachers they believe should have failed their evaluation? 

As it stands, just under three percent of Indiana teachers rates as “needs improvement” or “ineffective”. Eighty-seven percent of those teachers evaluated rated in the top two categories of the four category teacher evaluation system which looks an awful lot like model legislation pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC.

To me, that would be cause to celebrate. Instead, Behning wants to use the data to further push his reforms, and Hendry is talking failure.  Both seem to be pushing for drastic measures.

Behning in particular is the scariest one.  He's talking things like removing local control from parts of the evaluation process and expecting more of a bell curve of results.

I’m willing to say that the system needs some tweaks, but I’d like to see what they want to tweak and why they want to tweak it. If the tweak is made so that more teachers fail their evaluations unfairly, then I would think that there will be a great amount of push back during the next General Assembly session.

All I know is that I have a lot more confidence in an educator like Glenda Ritz to make reforms than a businessman like Hendry or a florist like Behning. Ritz at least knows what it’s like to be on the inside of a public school classroom. I will also agree that what needs to be done is what's best for the students that walk through the door into our classrooms.

What they will find is that most teachers are effective and that successful schools require more than just an highly-effective teacher and administration.  The school can do everything right but still fail if all stakeholders are not on board.  I know that's not what the florist or the businessman want to hear, but that's the truth as I see it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In Memoriam: Mickey Rooney (1920-1914)

Mickey Rooney
Photo courtesy

Earlier this week, Mickey Rooney passed away at the ripe old age of 93.  

He was a tremendous actor who once did an Indianapolis Motor Speedway-themed movie called The Big Wheel back in 1949.  His career extended over 70 years from his days of child stardom to more recent times.  

Rooney's personal life was also up and down, but his indomitable spirit kept him moving forward through all the personal tragedy and strife.  He made us laugh and smile.

Even in death, Mickey Rooney still found a way to keep us smiling.  Jimmy Kimmel compiled several news clips together for this one.

Mickey himself (and maybe even Andy) would probably have laughed at that montage.  I'll just wish him the best.  Mickey, I didn't forget you.  Thanks for the laughs.  Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Clinton Drops Huge Hint about 2016

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton told a group of tech conventioneers yesterday that she is "thinking about" running for President in 2016.  It was, as many political observers point out, Clinton's biggest hint so far that she might be running for President of the United States.

The fact that she's thinking about running doesn't really surprise anyone.  It's just now that she's openly admitting it.  She's moved from the, "I don't know what opportunities may come my way in the future or I'm taking time to see how I might serve the country the best way" to the, "I'm thinking about running" stage.  Next is the forming an exploratory committee stage followed by the all out run for the office.

Clinton is the odds on favorite to win the Democratic nomination should she run.  She also leads most of the major Republicans in the early polling when it comes to possible General Election matchups.  I think she represents the Democrats' best chance to hold on to the White House.

The Republicans will have a different task.  While Clinton would likely have clear sailing, there will be lots of bloodletting again on the Republican side.  The GOP would be wise to rally behind an electable candidate.

There's still a long way to go until 2016, but Clinton's announcement signaled yesterday that she just may run again for the White House eight years after her first attempt.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Political Potholes?

Mayor Greg Ballard has been playing politics with Rebuild Indy money.  That's the allegation by some Democrats on the City-County Council.

They say that since 2010, Ballard has spent, on average $6,000,000 more in Rebuild Indy repairs in Republican City-County Council districts over those districts with a Democratic City-County Councillor.

The Democrats say that Ballard's newest round of projects will make things even worse shutting out District 2, District 10, District 18, and District 20 from receiving any funding at all.  Each of those districts is represented by a Democrat.  According to the release from Councillor Maggie Lewis, District 10 has over $2 million worth of emergency repairs.  Ballard's plan doesn't address any of these repairs with one dollar.

From the news release:

The priorities for road and sidewalk improvement should not be based on the choices residents make when they are in the voting booth. 
“Unlike the Mayor, the Council will not make decisions about city services based on how residents vote - we will continue to work with this administration to identify resources for much needed repairs. However, as we proceed the Mayor must check his partisanship at the door,” said Councilor Zach Adamson. “Potholes are not Republican or Democrat."
The Council’s Public Works Committee will continue to review Proposal 90 and will address these inequities prior to passage to ensure all the people of Marion County benefit from this spending.
Just when you think Mayor Ballard can't go lower, he resets the bar.  I'm interested to see how he tries to squirm away from this one.  These are the kinds of things that voters need to be reminded of as 2015 continues to approach.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Parker for Mayor?

Dan Parker
While I was out, another potential candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis has stepped into the limelight.

Former Indiana Democratic Party Chair Dan Parker says he's interested in running for the office, and he's going to make a decision by Easter on his future.

First of all, I salute Parker for stepping up and thinking about running.  I think that with his connections and the names in his Rolodex that he should be able to raise enough money to give a credible challenge to Greg Ballard.

With that said, can he win?

Behind the scenes, some political insiders have been citing an independent poll that was done in the last month.  The poll allegedly shows Ballard with a high approval rating.  If you believe the numbers, any Democrat would have an uphill climb in 2015.

To me, it shouldn't daunt anyone that wishes to run.  Remember 2007?  At this point in 2006, everyone thought Mayor Bart Peterson was a shoo-in to get reelected.  Greg Ballard had not even been heard about.  Lots changed in 2007 that put Peterson's political future on the chopping block and that ultimately gave us Mayor Greg Ballard.  Many of those same tea leaves are in place heading into 2015.

Dan Parker's problem is different.  He's a former party boss, and he, himself, one time told me that being a party chair disqualifies one from running for office.  Being in that boat as a former party boss will make his job more difficult.  He has to mend some bridges and smooth over some wrinkles.  That starts with some in  the Marion County Democratic Party structure itself.

On the positive side, Parker knows how to run campaigns and, as I said earlier, can raise lots of cash.  Looking at the last two races for Mayor, they were actually very close.  Ballard received just over 50 percent of the vote in 2007 and slightly over 51 percent in 2011.  If enough doubt can sway a few thousand votes, Democrats could retake the 25th floor.  Is it really that hard to imagine in a blue county?  No.

If you ask me, Parker has a shot at becoming Mayor, but he has to take the first step.  He has to run.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dan Coats Shows Up at Wrong Hearing

Indiana's Senior Senator, Dan Coats, provided a moment of levity on Capitol Hill yesterday.  We'll call it a mix up and not a senior moment.

Coats had some fun at his own expense on Twitter.

It's ok, Senator.  Happens to the best of us!


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