Friday, April 24, 2015

Bayh Tantalizes Dems with "An Important Announcement" E-mail

Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh
Yesterday, Democrats around the state received an e-mail from Evan Bayh with the subject line, "An important announcement."

As I waited for the e-mail to load on my phone, I anticipated what it might be.  Perhaps the former Senator had reconsidered his refusals from last month and was running for Governor or for Senator.  It's the only kind of "important announcement" I could think of from Bayh.

Finally, the announcement opened up, and it started out well.  Bayh wrote, "Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton formally announced her campaign to be our next President.  Now it's time to make an announcement of my own."

The announcement?  "She has my full support, I’ll do everything I can to help her, and I hope you will, too."

I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed.  Kind of like this...(mild language)

Visions of retaking the Governor's Office and two Democrats in the Senate seats danced in my head until the let down.  As my friend Dan Foreman pointed out, a fundraising ploy from a man with millions of campaign cash in the bank kind of fell flat, too.

One thing's for sure...Bayh has to be in the VEEP derby if Hillary is the nominee.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hogsett Announces Teen Job Initiative

Joe Hogsett
In one of his first major policy initiatives, likely Democratic nominee for Mayor, Joe Hogsett, announced a plan to pull together Indy employers to provide summer employment for teens to keep them busy and off the streets in the critical summer months.

Hogsett's pledges to work towards a goal of 1,000 available jobs for teens at corporate employers and non-profits to work alongside the current "Your Life Matters" initiative started by Mayor Greg Ballard.  The hope is to provide young people something to do so they aren't just off doing anything possibly committing crimes or hanging with the wrong crowd.

“With no additional cost to taxpayers, our city has the capability to start a comprehensive summer jobs initiative next year that will give hundreds of young people job experience, useful skills, and productive alternatives to crime and gangs,” Hogsett said. “I learned as federal prosecutor that the best ideas don’t require more bureaucracy – they just require leadership that can harness the kind of energy and commitment that our city’s corporate and non-profit partners showed with last week’s release of the Your Life Matters action plan.”

From the campaign:
Rather than adding another layer of government bureaucracy, Hogsett will convene the diverse groups already working to employ our youth and direct those energies toward a comprehensive summer jobs initiative. As Mayor, Hogsett would also oversee further policy development, raise funds from individual and corporate partners, secure job commitments from employers, and seek to grow the initiative each year. 
Beginning in the summer of 2016, these jobs will be available to young people in Marion County. Participating organizations and employers will offer positions that range from 20 to 25 hours per week with wages of at least $8 per hour for six weeks during the summer. 
In addition to providing valuable life experience and meaningful income to the program’s participants, the City of Indianapolis would also work with participating organizations and employers to ensure that every young person receives job skills training that will equip them to be full participants in the local economy.
These skills would include résumé building workshops, job fairs for post-summer employment, and easily accessible information on the diverse educational and employment opportunities available for young people who may have different paths to individual achievement.
For 2016 and 2017, the estimated cost will be approximately $3 million – none of which will come from new tax revenues. Much of this funding will come from the corporate or non-profit partners, while additional funds from philanthropic organizations and federal grants will support positions with properly vetted non-profit or faith-based organizations.

Hogsett's plan harkens back to initiatives of the past when summer jobs provided by the city were available to young people in the parks and across the city.  It also reveals some "outside of the box" thinking we're just not used to over the last seven years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

McQuillen Takes One for Mayor Ballard in Council Vote

Monday night, the City-County Council voted 28-1 to override Mayor Greg Ballard’s veto of a
Councillor Mike McQuillen
public safety proposal to spend $4.7 million on upgrades for IMPD equipment and upgrades and repairs at the aging police academy. It seems to have been an historic evening for the Council and an infamous one for Mayor Ballard.

Longtime Council observers can’t seem to remember the last time a Mayor’s veto was overturned, so there’s really no script for this sort of thing.

The margin was extra shocking.

The original proposal had passed the Council by a vote of 24-4, and many thought that if the Mayor’s veto were to be overturned it would be along those lines or even closer to the 20-vote margin necessary to overturn the Ballard action. I don’t think anyone, including Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillen could have thought it would be 28-1.

Suddenly, he was all alone, and McQuillen’s vote certainly stood out like a clichéd sore thumb. It was, however, almost a vote he had to make. As the leader of the Republicans on the Council, it is kind of his job to carry the water for the Ballard Administration along with balancing the concerns and needs of his constituents. Seeing as this vote was likely headed for an override anyway, his vote was less important and he could vote to support the Mayor’s position without putting the passage of the bill in danger.

It’s something that happens in Congress all the time. Sometimes the party’s leadership votes against their own proposals for procedural or other reasons. As a party leader, McQuillen was doing the loyal thing for his party’s Mayor and likely thought he wouldn’t be alone. When some of his caucus changed their votes…suddenly it was just him and the Mayor.

Long term, this could, of course, hurt McQuillen. While he has no opponent in the upcoming primary, he most definitely has an opponent in Ray Biederman in the general election in November. I’m sure IMPD officers and the FOP will take note of McQuillen’s vote. 

I’m not making excuses. The vote stands for what it was.

It’s a difficult road being in party leadership sometimes, but it is one that is chosen. During the victory lap, it’s great. When you’re on the other end of things, well, it’s Hell.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Battle for Indiana's 2016 U.S. Senate Seat

Tom LoBianco took a look at the Indiana U.S. Senate Race in the Indianapolis Star yesterday.

His work is here, but I think you can see among our state's Congressional Delegation who's building a possible war chest for a run if you look at their financial affairs as reported by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz on his Indy Politics website.

Two of our sitting Congressional representatives have over $1,000,000 in their campaign war chests in really non-competitive districts.  Todd Young has $1.11 million on hand, and Todd Rokita has $1.04 million on hand.  This easily puts them well ahead of the declared candidate, Eric Holcomb who has $125,000 in his account.  Marlin Stutzman has been mentioned as a possible candidate as well with $423K in his campaign account.

Of course, all of these candidates could hold off to 2018 as well.  Joe Donnelly is up for reelection that year though it would seem that their chances might be better in an open seat year.  That would be 2016.  The negative is that by declaring for Senate that they would have to give up their House seat.  To me, it just seems peculiar that both Todds would be holding on to this kind of campaign cash without any kind of purpose behind it when they likely will not need it in a tight reelection fight.

As far as Democrats who might run, Baron Hill's name is still being bandied about along with State Representative Christina Hale who seems very interested in a run.  She could be a wild card.  Hale has served a potential swing district in the Indiana House and has prevailed in two pretty tough election fights.  She has been a champion of women's issues in the state legislature.  Hale is the General Assembly's only Latino legislator.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Council Slaps Down Mayor Ballard Public Safety Veto, 28-1

Mayor Greg Ballard
Photo from Facebook
When Mayor Greg Ballard vetoed the $4.7 million that the City-County Council set aside for new cars, equipment, and police academy upgrades for IMPD, he made it clear that he was blaming the Democrats for being less than thrifty.

He went out of his way to mention "Council Democrats" in his veto statement in negative terms.

Well, Mr. Mayor, tonight the City-County Council made sure your veto was overriden by a 28-1 margin.

Enough of a bipartisan message for you, sir?  The only vote you received was by your Council leader, Mike McQuillen, and his vote, I'm sure, was more symbolic than anything.

If the Council leadership had just held the 24 votes that originally passed Proposal 47, then it would have been a message, but they gained four including the vote of a very sick Aaron Freeman who talked about how recent events and a discussion with the wife of an IMPD officer had changed his mind on the issue.

On some things, it's hard to separate out the politics from the proposal.  Mayor Ballard got caught playing politics with public safety.  The Mayor...not the this one wrong, and the Mayor was embarrassed by his own caucus that couldn't even hold all the original no's.

If this had been an NBA slam dunk, he would have just gotten posterized by the Council.

Ballard Camp Drops $400K on Brewer

Friday was the deadline for campaign finance reports to be turned in prior to the May Primary of the 2015 election cycle.

I'm sure everyone clamored to find out that I have $182 and some change in my campaign account.  It's a work in progress.  In reality, most were looking to see how much money each of the Mayoral frontrunners had raised in their campaign accounts.

Democrat Joe Hogsett heads into the post-primary season with $2.33 million raised and $2.16 million on hand.  In this year alone, Hogsett has raised over $955,000.

On the Republican side, slated candidate Chuck Brewer has raised an impressive $671,730 this quarter and has over $657,000 on hand.  When you dig deeper, you'll see a contribution from Mayor Greg Ballard's campaign committee in the amount of $400,000.  None of the other Mayoral candidates have raised much...if anything.

On one hand, you have to give Brewer some credit.  He got a late start, and he has raised some cash quickly even without the huge gift from the Ballard campaign.  You also have to applaud Ballard's campaign for writing the check.  I guess this should signal that Ballard is not looking to run for anything else.  He still has some money in the bank.

For Hogsett's campaign, this is extremely impressive.  $2.16 million cash on hand is formidable for any local race.  It means he can run pretty much the race he wants to run right now and the money will still keep flowing in.

As Bart Peterson will tell you, money isn't everything in a local race, and that much is true.  We know it's going to take more than cash to win, but I think Joe Hogsett as a favorite to win is extremely formidable because Joe's usually used to running from behind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cardwell In Tough Spot

Jeff Cardwell, I almost feel for him...almost.

The new Indiana Republican Chair took the seat at a trying time for his party. Noticeable cracks are beginning to show between the social conservative wing of which Pence and Cardwell are members and we’ll call it the Mitch Daniels wing of the party. That’s not to say Mitch isn’t conservative, but it just seems like the battle lines are being drawn.

Bill Oesterle, a former Daniels insider, stepped down from his seat at Angie’s List to, according to media sources, become more “civically involved.” Matt Tully opined that it might be to help redirect the Indiana Republican Party others have thought it might be to run for Governor.  

My blogging colleague over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh, believes Pence has been the unwitting victim of a Mitch Daniels silent takeover. He says the flames of the RFRA mess which have weakened Pence were inflamed by local media and others loyal to Daniels.
Daniels, after all, could reemerge after his stint as President of Purdue University. He could return to the Statehouse after a four-year hiatus from politics. The Indiana Constitution allows former Governors to serve two consecutive terms but allows them to return if they sit out a term. Some other folks saw Eric Holcomb’s candidacy for Senate as a signal that the party may turn back to those loyal to Mitch.

You can’t really blame the Republicans. Daniels' term seems like it was years ago after just three years of Mike Pence. While Daniels was dragged into the Right to Work battle at the Statehouse, he really tried to avoid other types of controversy when he was in the Governor’s Office. He certainly would have found a way to kill RFRA without the damage that we’ve seen doled out, and he had the General Assembly pretty firmly under his control. From day one, Pence’s relationship has not been nearly as good as Daniels’ was with the legislature. 

If the Indiana Democratic Party plays this right, they can be the big beneficiary. Dems need to be pouncing and giving Republicans an alternative before they turn back to Pence or Daniels. To me, that means begin to identify key 2016 candidates NOW and get them out and about. The Democrats at the state level have to make it a priority to chop down these supermajorities on one side of the General Assembly or another.

That brings us back to Jeff Cardwell. If I were him, I’d post “Gone Fishin” on my hardware store door and let this all play out. My feeling is that he can’t do that. He owes a lot to Mike Pence, and I think he will sink with him.

The soap opera continues!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In Memoriam: Bill Newman (1939-2015)

Constable Bill Newman
Longtime Wayne Township Constable Bill Newman passed away on April 10.  

The former Marion County Sheriff's Deputy and Chief of the Clermont Police Department was first elected Constable in 2006.  He was reelected in 2010 by just nine votes and again in 2014 by a more comfortable margin.  

I knew Bill only a little, but I haven't heard a bad word uttered about him by anyone.  Anytime I had occasion to talk to him, he was good to me.  On Tuesday, the United Wayne Township Democratic Club honored him with a Moment of Silence at their meeting. 

Constable Newman is survived by his wife, Cheryl, his family, and so many friends on both sides of the aisle.  Many hearts are hurting across the city.  Viewing will be on today at Hope Baptist Church on Girls School Road from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  With a service will follow the viewing.  There will be no graveside service.

My deepest condolences to the Newman family and to Bill's extended family of friends on this tremendous loss.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

House, Senate Keep Plugging Away at Controversy

Last week, I opined that the RFRA mess might have derailed the Indiana General Assembly from pursuing some of the more controversial measures left to deal with on its docket.

Boy, did I misjudge it.

Everything plugged on.  From the destruction of the common construction wage law today (which went through the Senate, 27-22, on third read)  to the I-69 bill to what was passed out of the Indiana House yesterday.

Yes, Senate Bill 1 passed the House.  Of course, the key provision of SB1 is the removal of Glenda Ritz, the duly elected Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction and only Democrat in statewide executive office, from serving as the chair of the Indiana State Board of Education.

The bill can either go to Mike Pence's desk for his signature or to a conference committee to work out a few of the bill's alterations, according to the Indianpolis Star.  It's a victory for the beleaguered Governor and for the Republicans who have done everything they could to marginalize Ritz thus marginalizing someone who was swept into office by angst over Tony Bennett's handling of his affairs.

The victory, however, can be hollow.  Instead of heeding my warning to stay away from controversy the rest of this session, the General Assembly continues to show signs of being power drunk.  With every bill like Senate Bill 1, it becomes more and more clear that the sobriety test of government just is likely to fail when it comes to the GOP.

Republicans really have no idea of the blue tide that's about to hit the Statehouse.  They will never see it.  That's what makes it even better.

PR Firm Hire Misses Fundamental Issue in RFRA Flap

Governor Mike Pence
In the wake of the damage caused by the consternation over RFRA, Indiana has hired a PR firm to repair its reputation spending millions in the process.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the state has hired the PR firm of Porter Novelli to do the tough task of making Indiana no longer a laughingstock across the country. The bill to taxpayers: $2 million plus more cash in advertising buys down the road.

It’s not 100 percent clear where the funds are coming from to pay the firm. Personally, I think Mike Pence, Brian Bosma, and David Long should scrape up money from their collective campaign accounts. After all, it was these three that did the damage to our state. It was their bullheadedness that didn’t allow them to see what might be the consequences of a broad RFRA action.

Besides, is this amount even enough to repair the damage? It’s not a PR problem. This is a fundamental issue of respect. LGBT Hoosiers deserve protections under our state’s anti-discrimination law. If lawmakers fix that wrong, then the reputation of our state will go a long way towards being mended.