Saturday, January 31, 2009

To Plow...or Not to Plow...That is the Question

When Indianapolis was blanketed with 12.5 inches of snow this week, Circle City residents found out that snowblower you keep passing up at Menards, Lowes, or Home Depot might just be worth it. As I shoveled my driveway, I found muscles that I didn't know I had...and they all ached. I found myself sleeping in until 11:30 a.m. the next day. My driveway is not the issue.

What is the issue are city streets and residential areas that are still covered with an increasingly gross goulash of snow and ice. Residential streets populated by taxpayers that now are on their own to get rid of nature's wrath.

I understand the policy. I understand the reason why the city can't plow all the streets. There are some streets that simply can't be accessed by the city's snow plows or by contractors. The city, however, did not explain this very well in the television reports that I saw on Thursday night on Channel 8 or 13. In the reports, the DPW spokespeople essentially said, "You're on your own," and since both stories were essentially the same, I guess that's what DPW and their boss, Mayor Ballard, want us to know.

It's another example of how this current administration is completely unaware of potential pitfalls and deficient in public relations. The PR here is not that we are "on our own." We know that, and I get why. Some folks don't.

It should have been Mayor Ballard out there explaining in his best empathetic voice saying...bear with us...we are doing what we can, but we may not get to all of you. Perhaps he should have come out and said that it might be possible to hit some neighborhoods if there were specific needs and inviting folks to call the Mayor's Action Center. Even if it was just lip service, it would have given us the idea (however true or untrue) that the Mayor cares and that DPW is doing its best to get to everyone.

Thank goodness 12.5 inches of snow doesn't come all at once in this town under typical situations. Makes you wonder if it had been 16 or 24 inches or if this Mayor was faced with the Blizzard of '78 how he might have responded. Instead, Mayor Ballard pokes his head out of the 25th Floor to tell us he's sponsoring INDY WORKS...er...Unigov 2.0. What an amazingly unoriginal idea! Didn't the last guy get politically shanked for that? Makes you wonder whose popcicle stand it is right now...doesn't it?

If your street didn't get plowed, call the Mayor's Action Center at 327-4MAC and let him know how you feel. You can also visit him at one of his Mayor's Night Out presentations and get your question answered directly from the Mayor's mou...Advisers.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Obstructionist Politics without the Obstruction

It's hard to determine what the Republicans are trying to do these days, but I think they are playing the odds and not looking to gain anything in the 2010 midterms.

You see, the Republican Party (with a few exceptions) has become a red state and red district only party. It seems like they've decided to side with the base of the party and not do any outreach towards Democrats at all. Sitting by while the economy goes up in flames sure isn't working, and when Barack Obama put some concessions towards the right in the $821 billion economic stimulus plan that hardly any of his base wanted, it sure makes him look like the bigger entity.

That's because Obama is the biggest fish in the pond right now. He's got historic approval ratings for a new President. It's easy to build up those historic ratings given what we've had for the last eight years. Still, he's provided some substance to explain some of the high ratings. He's delivering on some campaign promises, and people see that the White House's policies are not just dictated by multi-national corporations under the Obama Administration.

The right, on the other hand, has headed for the nuclear shelter. Rush Limbaugh is talking about how he wants Obama to fail, and the Republicans are accusing Obama of being a wild liberal. The Republicans had the nerve to call their unanimous rejection of the stimulus plan in the House a "bipartisan rejection" of a partisan bill. Unbelievable.

Republicans have work to do to rebuild their party, but I don't think this is the way to start to do it. Wouldn't it be better to appear to be working with Obama now? Even Newt Gingrich worked with Bill Clinton. Who will extend the olive branch? One way or another, this is not a time for politics.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day One-Good, Bad, and Ugly

Barack Obama hit the ground running today in Washington and made many distinctions between his Administration and the Administrations of the past.

Obama froze the salaries of his senior White House staff citing the belt tightening necessary in government. Obama took steps to lock the revolving door between lobbyists and government. Obama also made sure he was legal re-taking the Oath of Office today in the Map Room of the White House. Right-wingers on Fox News (ahem...Chris Wallace...ahem) had raised the question as to whether Obama was the President or not. Let the record show that Roberts screwed up the oath's order, and that the Constitution says that Obama was President at noon yesterday with or without the Oath. Smart man. Also smart, Obama is expected to sign an order tomorrow closing Guantanmo Bay's Detention Center within a year. Not bad for a first day.

Bad and ugly-John Cornyn...Senator from Texas. Despite calls from Senator John McCain to confirm Senator Clinton and let her get to work as Secretary of State, Cornyn wants to play Obstructionist-in-Chief. As the tenuous situation in the Gaza Strip rolls on and the North Koreans are rattling sabres, Cornyn wants to obstruct Clinton for no fault of her own and play politics. Grrr. Cornyn also is obstructing the confirmation of Attorney General Eric Holder. Way to play your cards Repubs. Throw that ego around. It's worked so well for eight years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History

The book is closed for now on the long, cold, sorrowful history of George W. Bush's failed administration. Today, we move forward into the light of a new future knowing that, whatever happens, President Bush can do no more harm. He can mis-speak no more as President.

As the President left office today giving way to President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., I thought it was somewhat ironic that one of the architects of this failed eight years was rolling in a wheelchair. Former Vice President Richard Cheney...I'm going to type that again because it felt so good...former Vice President Richard Cheney leaves office looking more like Montgomery Burns than the neo-con lion that he once was. Cheney and Bush may not know it, but the American people know that you can't put anymore lipstick on that pig of an Administration. Sorry to insult pigs.

No, today we turn the page. Now the next great question hits...now what? An Inaugural Address that set a new course for America was refreshing, and there's no question that it looks like change has come to America. I think there are many things that concern me as I look into the haze ahead.

While there is a hint of sunshine showing through, I worry about how much our government has gotten away from disciplined spending. Now, it appears Obama wants to spend much more to get this country rolling again. I worry about tax cuts at a time of war even though I know this may be too enticing for Republicans on Capitol Hill to pass up.

The fierce urgency of now has arrived, and I don't know where we will go from here. I doubt I will agree with everything the man I voted for proposes, but I'm much more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

All the policy stuff aside, I'm so proud of my country. It's not the first time, but it is the first time in a long time. It's just hitting me now as I watch the day back over again on the boob tube. I'm proud because the country took a risk on a guy with a funny name and picked the smartest candidate. It picked the candidate that was talking ideas and not talking just talking points. America picked a man of African descent to lead this country forward.

So, when people ask me how I feel. I feel hopeful. I feel encouraged. I feel cautious. Just because we finally have the candidate many of us as Democrats wanted, we need to continue to speak up in our own way for change. We need to stay on our President and our Congress. Real reform can and will come.

Today is a day when every cliché fits...but for real. It is a new day in America! Welcome to history Mr. Obama. We've been waiting for you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just Seat Burris

As of today, Roland Burris is the appointed Junior Senator from Illinois. Unfortunately, Harry Reid and his pals in Washington are interested in the three-ring circus that has surrounded this nomination ever since it was made.

When Governor Rod Blagalakjflkajd;klakdfich (okay...Blagojevich) appointed him, it was his appointment to make. Even though Burris may not have been the most qualified candidate nor was the person that appointed him in the best standing, the ridiculous way most states pick Senators creates situations like this one.

Thus, it's time for Democrtic Senate Poobah Harry Reid to follow fellow Democrat Diane Feinstein's advice and just seat the guy all ready. After seating him, the course of natural events should be allowed to play out. If Burris runs again in 2010, then the Demos can run a candidate against him that's perhaps more palatable to the Democrats and the Democratic Party.

Make no mistake that Roland Burris is one character. His Wikipedia page lists a couple of major controversies as well as the fact that he has all ready purchased a cemetery plot and tombstone for himself that calls him a "trail blazer" and leaves room for future accomplishments under those of the past.

Regardless, Burris' appointment to the Senate could be the spark that starts something leading to Special Elections for all vacant or vacated Senate seats. We can see what the power this decision gave Blagaoajalkdjalkdjdich did. For a time, we apparently had a Senate seat for sale to the highest bidder.

So, Blago got one off before he's certainly sunk. Burris should be seated, marginalized and opposed (if he runs in 2010). Congress should also be advocating states to make sure that a direct special election is the way to fill these seats in the future. That way it takes folks like Blagokjalkjda;kdja;dkajf;dlkafjda;kldjfich out of the equation.

I say...seat Burris to end this antiquated practice.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Indianapolis Star's $64,000 Question

This morning on my visit to the Indianapolis Star's website, the Star poses a curious question. What should Mayor Ballard's vision for Indianapolis be? That may not be exactly the question, but it's very similar to what they are asking. This begs the question...entering his second year on the job, shouldn't we KNOW what Mayor Ballard's vision for the city is?

Ballard's predecessor Bart Peterson set a sweeping vision for the city, and he paid for it at the ballot box in 2007. Peterson's vision made enemies and friends, but, in the end, it was his decision to pass a controversial tax hike through the City-County Council that helped end his run as Mayor. By anyone's definition, Peterson got things done. He helped pass proposals through the CCC that helped to update the city's sewer systems. Peterson was a friend to the arts and oversaw the continuing transformation of Massachusettes Avenue into the city's cultural hub. Peterson also helped to continue that Republican initiative that's called...what was it called...oh yeah...UNIGOV by advocating first for the elimination of township assessors, trustees, and constables.

And he paid for it...

Seems to me that Mayor Ballard has enjoyed the benefits so far of his predecessor's work. A failed 2007 bid for the Super Bowl in 2010 led to a successful 2008 bid for the Super Bowl in 2011. Peterson's efforts to keep the Indianapolis Colts here (although many will remember that his plan to pay for Lucas Oil Stadium was not accepted in favor of the Governor's plan) have built a beautiful new stadium and convention center that will continue to pay dividends and ensure Indianapolis attracts concerts, conventions, sporting events, and many other revenue-generating blockbusters into the future.

You have to really look to see what Greg Ballard has done, frankly. Let's see. He may have balanced the budget, but the math is maybe a little screwy there so he may not have balanced the budget at all. Oh yeah...he cut the throat of American-made hybrid cars to go with more expensive foreign cars. I know...I know...he says the cars will pay for themselves over time, but it's bad PR right now especially in a state and a city that still has much to do with the auto industry. Let's see what else...oh yeah...he put the chief back in charge of IMPD. Uhhhh...hmmm...cut the arts...errr.........benefited from the state legislature's property tax reforms...talked too much so his staff had to hit him with a gag order...banned people from talking to certain radio hosts in town before reversing that....er....uhhh...Well, I can't really think of anything else that pops into my head.

So, that goes back to the question the Star is asking. Mayor Peterson's vision was clear. You could agree or disagree with it. It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that Mayor Ballard's own vision is cluttered or non-existent. So much so that it's difficult to identify exactly what it is. It seems like Ballard doesn't have a real vision thus the Star feels abliged to ask the $64,000 question.

Hopefully, the Democratic Party won't engage in the tactics we saw during the 7th District Congressional free-for-all. In 2011, the Mayor's Office should return to our party because Mr. Ballard has no record to run on that is his own.

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