Wednesday, March 31, 2010

GOP Blocks Early Voting Satellite Centers

Though highly popular and very successful, the lone Republican on the Marion County Election Board voted to stop satellite voting sites by manufacturing a ballot counting issue where none had ever been reported before.

Patrick Dietrick, the lone GOP representative on the three-member board that includes Marion County Clerk Beth White, told the Indianapolis Star that he saw problems in the way ballots cast at the voting centers were counted in the 2008 election. Because of this, he says he can no longer support them though he agrees with the principle.

Deitrick to the Star's Francesca Jarosz:
"I'm a huge proponent of satellite voting, but we need to get it right," Dietrick said. "The process I observed (in 2008) was not great."

You can read the full article here.

I used the early voting sites in 2008 and in 2009 (for the Wishard Referendum) and both times I cannot say the process went any easier. I found them to be organized and running like well-oiled machines. Any complaints about the way the ballots were counted were never brought to least I hadn't heard any of them, and there are plenty of sources out there that would have pounced on the Clerk's methods at the sign of the smallest problem. You would think that the sites wouldn't have been used again in 2009 if they had not worked in 2008...right?

I guess that, in an election year, the Marion County GOP is just trying to create an issue to run on versus Beth White. I mean if every election had gone like her first one then it would have been easy to see her defeated this time, but the fact is that she has been a highly effective and innovative public servant. White has done a spectacular job and has gotten even better with each successive election. I just can't figure out why this one GOP foot soldier has decided to block what clearly voters wanted.

The Star article pointed out that 53 percent of the ballots cast in person in the 2008 General Election were cast at the early voting satellite sites. The article also states that number had risen to 65 percent for the Wishard Referendum in 2009.

Now, anyone wanting to vote early will have to go to the City-County Building and go through the dehumanizing security experience to get in. I avoid the CCC like the plague because I don't want to take off my shoes and my belt and put all my belongings in a little tub. When you combine this with the fact that Indiana also possesses one of the most restrictive absentee ballot policies in the country, and the Voter ID bill is still enforced while its validity is being challenged in court you start to wonder if they really want you to vote at all. Satellite voting centers were just one way that made it easier and more convenient to vote.

Like always it seems, the Republican Party has no interest in making it easier for you to cast your ballot. The results weren't good for them with the satellite centers open, so this may just be a way to suppress Democratic turnout.

Let's hope that Dietrick can be convinced to support satellite centers before November rolls around.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brian Williams Statement on Water Transfer Deal Meeting

Democratic candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis, Brian Williams, released this statement by e-mail regarding the public information meeting on the proposed transfer of the city's water and waste water utilities to Citizens Energy Group. Here is the statement...

Last night I attended the public meeting on the proposed sale of the water company. I was expecting a town hall type meeting. Instead the meeting was more like the old Politburo meetings, a scripted and controlled format designed to convey an open and democratic process. Most important were three comments made regarding the financial underpinnings of the proposed deal. First, Citizen's Gas stated that it would borrow the entire $170 million the city would receive at closing. A few years ago this type of borrowing led to a disaster in the housing market today. Second, Citizen's Gas stated that their "financial models" clearly demonstrate that the ratepayers were better off under their proposal than any other. A few years ago, "financial models" on Wall Street were so sophisticated that we would never face an economic recession. Third, neither the Mayor or Citizen's Gas articulated what discount the City was willing to accept to allow Citizen's Gas, its preferred vendor, to be the sole negotiator with the City for the purchase of the assets. The more this transaction is discussed the more concerned I become about the financial viability of the deal. If this proposal is to move forward, Citizen's Gas and the Mayor need to be forthcoming on the financial models used to develop a value and purchase price, the source and use of funds and the governance structure and performance metrics.

Water Deal Meeting Creates More Questions Than Answers

Somewhere between I would say 100 or 125 people gathered on at the Aldersgate Free Methodist Church wanting answers from Mayor Greg Ballard on the proposed transfer of the waste water and water utilities from the city to Citizens Energy Group, and many, including me, left with more questions. It was a puzzling hour and half full of contradictions and defensiveness from Mayor Ballard and Citizens CEO Carey Lykins. At times, it was just plain odd.

As meeting-goers entered the sanctuary of the church, they were asked to sign in and were given a white folder from the City of Indianapolis. Inside was an assortment of news releases from the city, slick information pieces touting the so-called benefits of the transfer and a profile of Citizens Energy Group. Also, there was a sheet included asking for feedback as well as a card for questions.

After a brief introduction from former WTHR reporter and anchor Roger Harvey (who now is a Senior Vice President for Bose, McKinney & Evans Public Relations), Ballard stumbled and stammered through an explanation of the events that led to the "memorandum of understanding" between the city and Citizens that now sits ready for a final deal and then approval of the two city boards, the City-County Council, and the IURC.

Ballard claimed that the city had provided opportunities for public input in the process through the Infrastructure Advisory Commission meetings and that taking the feedback into account, it became clear that the roads and sidewalks of the city needed to be fixed. He said he didn't want to raise taxes to do it, so that birthed the idea of spinning off city assets to raise the money. So, essentially for $425 million to work on those infrastructure projects, Citizens Energy Group takes over the city's water and wastewater utilities.

At two points during the presentation, Ballard read his own quotes nearly verbatim off the screen.

Lykins, for his part, just explained Citizens Energy's history and how, despite your rates rising over time, that the rates will actually be lower than they would be otherwise because of the public trust that Citizens is. Essentially, you aren't paying shareholders dividends. He also explained that the transfer would save $40 million due to the consolidation of operational and administrative expenses (but somehow no current employees would be laid off...probably...maybe...possibly...).

Then the Q&A began. Questions were screened by a screener and asked by Harvey. Not one of the questions were what I considered to be easy. It became very clear that the people asking the questions did not trust Mayor Ballard's judgement and did not accept his premise that the public had been included in the construction of the deal.

Several questions dealt with Lykins' claim that the vast majority of people working at United and Veolia Water would be retained. Lykins kept saying that the day-to-day operations side of taking care of your water and wastewater would continue to operate with essentially the same staff as it does today. "We don't have water people stashed away in our basement," said Lykins. "You can't run a water company with gas people."

But, Lykins finally conceded that some people in the administrative area of the company might have to find new work. He used the example of billing and how much the companies spend in logistically getting out your bills. That cost would be cut as one company. Mayor Ballard was quick to point out that the $425 million to spend on infrastructure would create jobs.

Let's examine that for a minute. If Citizens needs less people because billing is consolidated, then these people are going to go out and build the sidewalks and resurface the streets? That makes no sense. I can just imagine that single mother in billing right now going out and running an asphalt spreader. Yep.

Another question asked the mayor why he wasn't taxing businesses in the city in order to offset rate increases and pay for infrastructure improvement. Ballard responded, "You want me to raise taxes? Really?" A couple of people in the audience responded, "You already are!"

Ballard was also asked why the city thought this was necessary. He was asked specifically why the city could not provide consistency and predictability in utility rates (a major reason Ballard said that it was necessary to make this transfer), Ballard said, "Because of short term political decisions."

Essentially, "I can't be trusted to make the right calls, and I don't want to make here Citizens."

So, the city takes a big risk because its mayor doesn't believe he is up to the task or he's unwilling to take it on. This is the type of leadership we can get from Mayor Ballard? We can do better.

Far smarter people than I have been dissecting the water deal. I personally saw Democratic Mayoral candidates Brian Williams, Jose Evans, and representatives from Melina Kennedy's campaign in the audience. Williams did a long dissection of the issue here. Evans commented on the issue here. Nothing official has come from the Kennedy campaign, but I was at a breakfast put on by Kennedy's campaign, and it's clear that the water deal is front and center for them also. I have heard nothing yet from Ron Gibson on the situation.

From my perspective, I don't understand the deal. I don't understand why the city needed to make the deal, and I don't understand how Citizens Energy Group can keep staff and still cut costs. The whole deal seems to have been done and, as one questioner said, "the horses are five miles down the road" on this one.

There are two more chances for you to put in your input on this deal and ask the tough questions of the Mayor. Here they are:

April 13, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Nu Corinthian Church's Family Life Center, 5935 W. 56th St.
April 20, 5:00-6:30 p.m., Divine Savior Lutheran Church, 7315 E. 75th St.

You can also visit the city's page on the deal at

About the New Look...

Welcome to the new Indy Democrat Blog. I hope you like the new look. Everything's still in the same spot. The sidebar side is flipped, but I don't think anything has been moved or removed.

I'm still technically on vacation through next Monday, but, as you can see, when the juiciness of Marion County, Indiana, or national politics bubbles up, I have to post! See you back full time on April 5. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the new look. Like it? Hate it? Don't care? Let me know! Leave comments on what can be improved (other than the content, Republican friends).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Zoeller To Sue; Carson Reacts

No one is surprised that Governor Mitch Attorney General Greg Zoeller has decided to sue the U.S. Government over the health care reform bill. Congressman Andre Carson, who voted for the landmark legislation, has released a statement in opposition to the suit.

INDIANAPOLIS – Congressman AndrĂ© Carson released the following statement today reacting to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s decision to join a lawsuit challenging the new health care reform law.

“I have great respect for our Attorney General Greg Zoeller, but I completely disagree with his decision to join a suit challenging the new health reform law.

“The Constitution gives broad authority to Congress to regulate activities that substantially impact interstate commerce, and this authority has been further defined and strengthened through case law via the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no question our health care system affects our national economy—it accounts for nearly 16 percent of our GDP.

“Furthermore, the new law’s requirement for shared responsibility among people to carry health coverage is similar to many state laws requiring auto insurance. The health reform law simply uses the tax code to incentivize Americans to have health insurance to prevent passing on their emergency medical costs to the broader tax base.

“The fact is we’ve had this debate for more than a year, and I believe the American people and Hoosiers are growing tired of the continuous political posturing on this topic.

“Our state leaders should be focused on ensuring every Hoosier can take full advantage of these historic enhancements to our health care system—not wasting taxpayer money to fight and eliminate these health benefits for small businesses, middle-class families and seniors.”

Please Pardon the Dust

While I'm taking a few days off, I thought I might take a few days to try some new layouts with the blog. Please be patient. Thanks!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Ok...I'm taking a few days off as I said in yesterday's post. I plan to post only if there is breaking news or if something strikes my fancy. I will return to the regular posting schedule on Monday, April 5.

YES WE CAN!!!! Even if John Boehner Says No

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's Friday so Here's a Hodge Podge of Information

OK...I won't do this much, but I got in late last night from watching the Butler game, so here us a hodge podge of things for your Friday.'s a what?

Taxpayers Short?
The Indianapolis Star published a very tough article by Heather Gillers on the actions of Washington Township Trustee Frank Short. The article talks about how Short spent $20,000 in taxpayer money fighting against paying a poor relief claim of $758 by a single mother. Short is the slated Democrat in the race for Trustee. Daniel Flack, a deep-pocketed and well-connected Democrat, is also running for the seat. I don't know Short that well, but it does raise questions about how much money the township should spend fighting claims like these with money so tight now. It also shines light on the spending of township governments at a time when they have been under scrutiny at the State House. I withhold further judgement here because I don't know all the facts.

John Barnes Fundraiser
On March 31, State Rep. John Barnes will be feted with a Beech Grove fundraiser at O'Gara's Irish Pub, 522 Main Street. Several Beech Grove mainstays are listed as sponsors along with Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, Beech Grove Councillors Buddy Templin and Ed Bell, and Marion County Surveyor Debbie Jenkins. It runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg will speak. Suggested contributions begin at $50.

Burns for Constable Fundraiser
Fellow blogger Terry Burns is making a run at Lawrence Township Constable. He has a fundraiser coming up on Thursday, April 8 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Ambrosia Centro, 15 E. Maryland, in downtown Indianapolis. The host list? Well...try these names out for size: Ed Treacy, Sheriff Frank J. Anderson, Billie Breaux, Jean Breaux, John Bartlett, Melina Kennedy, Russell Brown, Frank Short, Carl Drummer, Kip Tew and J.C. Welch. Not bad huh? Donation levels start at $25.

Carson Speaks
Andre Carson will speak at the Walker Theater on April 19 as part of the Steward Speaker Series. The event runs from 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. that evening with Carson speaking at 7:00 p.m. Tickets start at $20 for the lecture only and at $40 for the lecture and dinner. Find more information here.

Putting the D in Decatur
Decatur Township Trustee candidate Alexis Skirloff James is trying to unseat incumbent Steve Rink and recently held her first fundraiser at the Gaslight Inn. This is good news for Democrats. Despite many efforts, no Democrat filed in time to run for Trustee four years ago. With much experience in many different fields and a hard working attitude, James will be formidable as an opponent for Rink, who has to be one of the longest-serving GOP elected officeholders in Marion County.

Steve Terrell, who received 47 percent of the vote in 2006, is considering a run for Small Claims Court Judge. He can fill the ballot vacancy in June.

There are a couple of potential Constable candidates as well which means that the Decatur Dems may field a full slate for the first time on the Democratic side in years.

The Cost of Repeal
With the major Republican U.S. Senatorial candidates here in Indiana signing on to the "repeal" bandwagon when it comes to the new health care bill, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put out a news release to show what the cost of this action would be to the citizens of Indiana.

If Health Reform were repealed in Indiana: A dismal picture

· An immediate $250 rebate to for the roughly 170,000 Hoosiers who will hit the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ this year would be revoked.
· 821,000 seniors will see higher Medicare premiums and have to pay more for preventive health care.
State Budget:
· $8.2 billion in affordability tax credits to 508,000 Hoosiers would be forfeited*
· $1.8 billion in federal Medicaid funding would be lost*
Small Businesses:
· 76,800 Hoosier small businesses will not get tax credits to help them afford coverage for their employees this year.
· Insurance companies will continue to deny coverage to the estimated 108,935 Hoosiers with a pre-existing condition.
· Family insurance premiums would increase by $1,530 - $2,190**
Children & Young Adults
· Insurance companies will still be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions
· 598,178 young adults who would have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans this year would now be denied coverage.
*over 5 years
**by 2016

Spring Blog Break
With that, I will be taking a few days off for a nice Spring Blog Break. I will not be going anywhere special, but it will be a much needed moment of recharge after an interesting few weeks. The blog will resume daily updates on April 5. Check in though, I will be reserving the right to update periodically and weigh in on any, as our Vice President says, "Big f*cking deal(s)."

As always, thanks so much for your readership. It means so much!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Day In the Life of Governor Daniels...

(Please be aware that the following blog entry is for entertainment purposes only, so it's likely that I'm lying.)

Through a freedom of information act request, I have gotten access to Governor Mitch Daniels' top secret journal. Viewer discretion is advised.

6:00 a.m.-Alarm went off. I rolled out of bed to a ringing cell phone. It was (State School Superintendent Tony) Bennett. He asked if it was ok if he let the dogs out. I gave him permission.

6:05 a.m.-Hopped in the shower. Hot water wasn't working, so I did it quick.

6:10 a.m.-Started working on today's comb over.

6:45 a.m.-Finished working on today's comb over. Looks great.

7:00 a.m.-Hopped in RV 1 for ride to Governor's Mansion. Drove to 82nd and Meridian and then got on the the motorcycle for the last few miles.

7:30 a.m.-Arrived at the Governor's mansion. Cell phone was ringing. It was (Attorney General Greg) Zoeller. He wanted to know what he could have for breakfast. I told him go for eggs. He asked poached or fried. I told him fried. He wanted to know if he could have some hash browns, and I said he could. I gave him the freedom to pick his own drink.

7:32 a.m.-Zoeller called back to ask if he thought he should have milk or orange juice. I reluctantly told him orange juice.

7:35 a.m.-Got in the vehicle to go downtown to the State House.

7:39 a.m.-Zoeller called back and asked if he could wash the dishes. I gave him permission. He asked if he could do it by hand because he was out of dishwasher soap, so I said ok.

7:55 a.m.-Arrived at the Governor's Office. Played Farmville for a half an hour.

8:25 a.m.-(State Senator Luke) Kenley called asking if it was okay for him to drive to work this morning. I told him that he should walk. He said ok. So, I told him that I was kidding and he said ok.

8:45 a.m.-First phone call from (Indianapolis Mayor Greg) Ballard. He wanted to know what the phone number was for the Mayor's Action Center because he needed to report a pothole. I told him that he was the mayor. He said, "Oh yeah," and hung up.

9:22 a.m.-Phone call from Becky Skillman. She was in the checkout line at Marsh. She wanted to know paper or plastic. I told her to take paper.

9:48 a.m.-Zoeller called again asking if he should use blue or black ink to sign documents in his office. I asked him if had a red pen, and he said yes. I told him not to use the red pen but to stick it up his nose while using the black one. He said that he would do it.

10:30 a.m.-(State Treasurer Richard) Mourdock called to ask me if it was ok for him to sue someone. I told him no.

12:00 p.m.-Lunch with [redacted]. Discussed selling off the state name "Indiana" to latest fly-by-night company that might or might not deliver jobs to the state.

1:00 p.m.-Finished up lunch. [Secretary of State Todd] Rokita called and asked me if I could let him borrow the car this weekend. I told him he could.

1:00-3:00 p.m.-Played Mafia Wars in office. Stopped in time to take call from Zoeller again. He wanted to know if he could have his secretary water the office plants. I told him yes but not to water the cactus.

3:45 p.m.-Decided to try to slip out, but I got cornered by Bennett. He asked if it was ok to increase the number of school days to 500 per year. I shook my head and tried to explain why it would not work. I had talked him down to 399 days when his brain gave out and he fell asleep on the floor.

4:32 p.m.-Got back in the car for the ride to the Governor's Mansion. Took three calls from Becky Skillman about the running toilet in her office. I told her to shake the handle and file a work order.

5:00 p.m.-Arrived back at the Governor's Mansion and actually briefly thought about staying there. Decided not to. Drove back to RV-1 and went home.

5:55 p.m.-Arrived home. Incoming call from Tim Durham...didn't answer.

5:56 p.m.-Incoming call from Carl Brizzi. Answered, but I pretended that I had a bad signal.

5:57 p.m.-Incoming call from Carl Brizzi. Didn't answer.

6:00 p.m.-Finally back in the easy chair. Text from Bennett..."I Can Haz Cheezeburger? LOLOLOLOL ROFL" Geez...why did I give that guy my number.

6:30 p.m.-Planned 2012 Presidential Campaign with Rove on Conference Call. He said we should run on the "My Man Mitch" slogan and should have W. campaign with us.

7:45 p.m.-Disappointed to hear 3,000 jobs promised weren't going to happen. Decided not to revise statistics. (Like anyone will find out...good thing Bob Segal isn't out there)

9:45 p.m.-Played Chat Roulette. Ran into some crazy kids.

10:57 p.m.-Ready for bed. The Governor has had a long day.

11:37 p.m.-Phone call from Rokita. He asked if he should wear the red tie or the blue tie tomorrow. I told him, "Go bolo tie." He said ok.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Zoeller Lawsuit Would Cost Double

Indiana's Attorney General is currently considering filing a lawsuit (no doubt at Mitch Daniels request) against the United States following the passage of the health care reform package and the reconciliation bill. The State of Indiana has spent millions of taxpayer dollars fighting the Obama Administration, and it's rather transparent where it's coming from.

Last year, following Chrysler declaring bankruptcy, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock sued to try to get the Chrysler bankruptcy halted. Eventually, the bankruptcy went through, but Mourdock's failed attempt to play a political game cost the state millions in legal fees.

This time, it's Greg Zoeller who is considering suing the Feds over the health care bill. At press time, Zoeller has only said he's considering filing suit over the constitutionality of the bill and how it makes it compulsory for those who can afford it to buy health insurance. Now, 10th Amendment advocates will tell you that there is a difference, but this would seem to be a high hurdle to climb to me since it's actually a requirement in Indiana to buy car insurance to drive. It would be an easy argument for the feds to make, and since we require insurance to drive a car, then why should it not be a requirement to buy health insurance? After all, we all pay when someone who doesn't have health insurance cannot or will not pay. If you can afford it, it's irresponsible to not have insurance just like it's irresponsible to risk wrecking a car without insurance.

Unfortunately now that the states are suing, the federal government will have to shell out millions fighting these battles now while the states shell out millions fighting their cases. That's a double whammy to the taxpayer. If Zoeller decides to file, that's state funding that could be going to roads, to schools, to parks, to salaries, to a myriad of other things. Rather than continue to fight this, wouldn't it make sense just to figure out how to implement it?

I don't know if these suits were actually the work of Mourdock or Zoeller alone, but I kind of doubt it. Governor Daniels may have tipped his hand when he came out on Monday and condemned the bill so strongly. Daniels has a great deal of control over all the Statehouse right now except for the Indiana House. Is it too much to assume that Zoeller may be getting his marching orders from Mitch? Makes perfect sense I think...I mean who might be challenging President Barack Obama in 2012 for the Presidency? Hmmm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Debate Moves to Senate; House Wounds Linger

Last night, when the U.S. House passed landmark legislation on health care, it had an air of finality, but the fight is only halfway done.

Now that bill the so-called "Reconciliation Bill" the House passed moves on to the Senate. The Senate can add amendments to the bill or pass it as is. If the bill passes, then reconciliation worked. If it does not, the House has to take action up on that reconciled bill. It's a confusing process, and, frankly, I don't even understand all of it.

The long and short of it...while Nancy Pelosi has proven to be one of the best Speakers of the House in history, Harry Reid has been a weak Senate Majority Leader. He too often allows the minority in the Senate to have an undue influence at times, in my opinion. You know the Republicans will sharpen their amendment pencils and go to work just to delay this bill even longer.

Plus, the rancor from the House debate is not yet settled. I was appalled by the lack of decorum showed by members on both sides of the aisle on Sunday night, but I though John Boehner came off particularly poorly. His "Hell No" speech sounded more like the crazy guy on the corner that yells at everybody when they walk by. It was not the kind of decorum someone would expect from the Speaker of the House, which Boehner could potentially be if (heaven forbid) the Republicans regain House control.

Then, there was the "baby killer" comment from Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican, which was yelled out as Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat from Michigan, was smacking down a Republican attempt to derail the bill on abortion grounds. That was just sickening, and politicians on both sides of the aisle are condemning it.

All of this doesn't give me much hope that the Senate fight will be much better. You can bet that Mitch McConnell and the Republican caucus will be at its rhetorical worst when the bill comes in front of them this week. They will yell and scream, but it's important to remember that much of what they are countering with is made up or overblown.

With Republicans now attempting to run on a repeal health care position, is it time to pull together a proposed Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing everyone the right to quality health care? Am I out of line here? I mean, that's what the Republicans do when a law is passed that they are afraid of being repealed.

Well, I've been rambling a bit here. Let's hope that the debate goes well, and, in the end, we end up with a bill we can all be proud of from the Senate.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Does Carlos Agree?

From Carlos May's Facebook Page...these are comments to the picture to the right. If you are a Facebook member, click here to see it for yourself.

Maureen Nelson Faul If he stood any more on her heels he would have trampled her
Yesterday at 11:57pm · Report

Bradford Moulton Vote Him Out!
Yesterday at 11:57pm · Report

Kyle Bradley I hope she gets hit by a bus....
Yesterday at 11:58pm · Report

Dave Warren In November the people will speak their minds!
17 hours ago · Report

Roger Moody
17 hours ago · Report

Carlos May Please all spread the word about our campaign. Suggest this page to your friends by clicking on the "Suggest to Friends" link below my picture in the upper left hand corner! Let's build the team.
16 hours ago · Report

Does Carlos May agree with poster Kyle Bradley? He certainly did not denounce the claim, and he had the opportunity. Shouldn't we expect better from a Congressional candidate...even if he doesn't agree with the Speaker of the House or his opponent on issues? Is this the kind of politics we can expect in the 7th District race?

I ran into Carlos May at the Decatur Township Civic Council meeting tonight. After exchanging pleasantries, he complimented me on my fair portrayal of his comments regarding attacking Andre Carson's integrity and qualifications for the job of Congressman.

I asked him if he had seen my blog today, and he said that he had not. Apparently, he said that he had not been on the computer in a few days and that the comment after the "bus" comment on Nancy Pelosi did not come from him personally. I'm willing to cut him a break. Many times, campaign staffers log on as the candidate. I've done it, and I'm sure other candidates do it.

He said, "Obviously, I do not endorse violence whatsoever." He promised to update his post on Facebook to include something to that effect. As of update press time (9:16 p.m), users are still waiting for this update.

Historic Health Care Legislation Passes

Ted Kennedy is smiling today.

It's not perfect by any means, but it's a good first step forward. The United States just took a major step to joining most of the civilized world in providing its population with health care.

This was an example of doing what was right and not necessarily what was popular. The easy thing to do for President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress was to just kick the can down the sidewalk a little further. However, the Democrats in the 111th Congress drew the line and said, in effect, "It's time to act."

So, while there are problems with this bill, the great news is that 32 million more Americans will be covered. People with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage, or people that get sick cannot just be dropped when their benefits run out.

I wish the bill was more progressive. I wish that it created an actual public option health care plan that you or I could buy into just like the private insurance we have now. I wish that it held insurance companies even more accountable. I wish the roll out of the plan was not over four years. I wish that it could extend to 100 percent the number of people in our country covered by insurance. We need a hybrid system along the lines of many European countries that still preserves some private options along with public plans. They lead the world, and we should follow.

That's the next step we should take. For now, let's stand and applaud the work of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will go down as one of the great Speakers of the House, President Barack Obama, and everyone else on the Democratic side in Congress. They have pushed this bill forward. I also take my hat off to Congressman Brad Ellsworth, Congressman Andre Carson, Congressman Pete Visclosky, Congressman Baron Hill, and Congressman Joe Donnelly. All of these men are putting their careers on the line in voting for health care legislation. They understand that doing what's right can sometime cost you your job.

Now, the work begins again in the Senate.

Let's move forward.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Donnelly Now Will Vote Yes on Health Care Reform

Here is the statement from (Timothy Dalton lookalike and Indiana's Second District Congressman) Joe Donnelly's House website:

“From the beginning of this debate, I’ve remained consistent in fighting for the principles I believe should be a part of health insurance reform. We need to prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to folks who suffer from serious illnesses and we need to extend the life of Medicare. We need to lower the costs of health insurance that are squeezing families and small businesses and we must allow people to keep the insurance they have—if that’s what they want to do. We need to ensure that any reforms prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion-related services and do not add to the national debt. The House bill, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, which I voted for in November, did all of these things. The legislation in front of the House today, in tandem with the executive order that will be signed by the president today, also meets the principles I’ve talked about since the beginning of this debate.

I expressed opposition to the Senate bill over the past few months because it did not meet my standard for prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion-related services. Unfortunately, the Senate has refused to pass language I helped pass through the House last year to maintain traditional prohibitions against federal funding for abortions. Today, the president will sign an executive order that increases the protections in this bill to make sure that the Hyde Amendment, our current law, is upheld throughout the entire health insurance reform bill. The executive order will ensure that no tax credits or cost-sharing reduction payments will be used for abortion-related services in the insurance exchange and ensures that federal community health center funding is subject to the Hyde Amendment. As a pro-life congressman, I will continue to act according to my deeply-held beliefs and those of my constituents. I believe that means opposition to abortion as well as improving access to health care for all people.

I will be supporting health insurance reform today because we need to level the playing field between Hoosier families and insurance companies. Back home in Indiana, some of our friends and neighbors have been hit recently with skyrocketing premium increases as high as 51 percent. Currently, insurance companies deny coverage to cancer survivors, folks with diabetes, and children with epilepsy. Right now, insurance companies cap the amount of money they will spend on a person’s health care benefits, leaving many families to face bankruptcy as a result of catastrophic illness. The legislation I will vote for today would put an end to these practices.

It would also improve the health care system in this country by making coverage more affordable for those with insurance and by extending coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured. Starting today, children with preexisting conditions like epilepsy or juvenile diabetes would no longer be denied coverage. Seniors would experience immediate savings in name-brand drugs as we close the Medicare “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage. Out-of-pocket health care costs would be capped so no more families face bankruptcy because of health care costs. For the first time, someone who lost their job through no fault of his or her own would be able to get insurance for their family.

Perhaps equally important in these challenging economic times is getting our fiscal house in order, and the bill I will support today does just that. This bill helps our fiscal future because it would not add to the national debt. In fact, it would reduce our deficit $138 billion over the next 10 years and $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years.”

Personal Prerogative: My Political Future (for now)

Friends and loyal readers:
I know may seem to some like a completely egotistical thing to do, but I want to make an announcement here.

I am not seeking elective office in either 2010 or 2011. I will not be running for the City-County Council seat in District 22 or At-Large. A few people have inquired about what I plan to do and running for elective office is not in my plans at this point.

Instead, I do plan to continue to concentrate on my day job. I plan to continue to blog here, and to continue to work in whatever way I can to get Democrats elected in Decatur Township, in Marion County, in Indiana and across the country. At this point, a run for office might derail me from any of these things.

Someday, I may seek elective office again, but I do not feel this is my moment just yet. Thanks though to everyone that has inquired and asked me about this. It's quite flattering and humbling to think that you think so highly of me and my views that you think I might make a good candidate for public office. Your support is appreciated.

Best Regards,
Jon Easter

Plowman Replaced

I have not followed the Lincoln Plowman fall from grace as much as several other bloggers in town have, and that's pretty much the reason I haven't. Anyway, there really has not been that much to follow other than rumor and innuendo since he resigned, and the details have been fairly slow coming from authorities. It appears now, according to the Star, that details are starting to emerge. I will let you read the article on your own here.

Regardless, the GOP PCs in Franklin Township have chosen attorney Aaron Freeman to replace Plowman in District 25. There were reportedly four other candidates for the job. Freeman is the President of the Franklin Township GOP Club and is a former Deputy Prosecutor. He works for the firm Ladd, Thomas, Sallee, Adams & Freeman.

Unfortunately, Freeman becomes the latest Councillor to join the body after a resignation or ousting. Gone are the days of Rozelle Boyd and Beurt SerVaas who both served years and years on the Council. In fact, of all 29 seats on the Council, only five are filled by Councillors seated prior to 2004. Those include Mary Moriarity Adams (1988), Monroe Gray (1992), Bob Cockrum (1996), Jackie Nytes (2000) and Joanne Sanders (2000). Cockrum has announced his retirement from the Council after his term ends, and is the only Republican to be seated in the 20th Century still on the Council.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jackson Leaves District 22 Council Race

The race for City-County Council District 22 seat just flew wide open as the Democrat running for the slot, Christopher Jackson, has pulled out of the race. Jackson announced his move today in a letter to supporters on his website. Here is the release:

Loyal Friends,

First, I would like to thank all of the supporters, many of whom have worked tirelessly during the past year to support my candidacy for the Indianapolis City-County Council, District 22. Without all of your support, I would have never made it this far into the race.

Today, I am announcing my withdrawal from the race for City-County Council. I am withdrawing in order to pursue my legal education from the Michigan State University College of Law. I feel that MSU Law is the best fit for me and will provide me with the best education possible. After graduating from MSU Law, I intend on returning to Indianapolis to practice law and to continue my activism in the Indianapolis community. While at MSU Law, I plan to remain active in College Democrats and Indiana Young Democrats and will continue to support Democratic elected officials and aspiring candidates in Indianapolis. Again, I appreciate all the support that you have proved me with during the past few months. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Christopher Jackson

Chris is one of my best friends, and, while I'm sorry to see him leave the race, I am truly excited for him as he begins this new chapter in his educational quest. Plus, I doubt if this is the last time we'll have a chance to elect Chris to office. After all, Congressman Carson's nickname for Chris is "The Governor."

Best of luck to you buddy!

*Full Disclosure: I was Chris' campaign manager...

Baron Hill To Vote Yes on Health Care

Statement from his House website:

“Throughout my congressional tenure, I have heard countless stories of how our current health care system has failed hard-working Hoosier families, and how insurance companies have engaged in unconscionable practices not deployed by any other industry. By voting for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I’m putting such words into action, and choosing to stand with those that have been shortchanged for far too long.

My concerns about the welfare of my constituents are matched by my concerns about our nation’s deficit. This reform version covers more uninsured Americans than the respective House and Senate bills, while also reducing the deficit more effectively. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the revised bill reduces the deficit by one hundred and thirty eight billion dollars during the first ten years of the program, and reduces the deficit by more than one trillion dollars in the second ten years, effectively making it the biggest deficit reduction legislation since 1993.

The health reform legislation, strengthened by the reconciliation bill, finally puts an end to insurance companies denying coverage to the ten thousand Southern Indiana residents with preexisting conditions. And immediately, the bill prohibits insurance companies from dropping people when they get sick, while also eliminating lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on coverage.

Regarding abortion concerns, I have thoroughly reviewed the language prohibiting federal funding of abortion services and my conscience is clear that both reform bills accomplish the same goal — no taxpayer funds can be used to pay for elective abortions.

When the roll is called, I will proudly cast my vote in support of a bill that covers thirty-two million Americans, allows all Americans to access a private insurance exchange similar to the one offered to me and my colleagues, stops the abusive practices of insurance companies, and accomplishes those goals in a fiscally-responsible manner.”

Saturday Humor: Obama Does Thriller

From the mind of Alphacat comes a parody of epic proportions...the target: our friends at FOX News to the tune of Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Cost of Inaction

Elllsworth to Vote Yes on Health Care Bill

Mark him down as a yes. This afternoon, Congressman Brad Ellsworth from Indiana's 8th Congressional District announced that he would vote for the health care reform package this weekend. A vote is expected on Sunday.

Concerned Democrats can now hope he moderates his views on LGBT issues.

Here is a statement from his Congressional website.

“Like most Americans I was frustrated by this process throughout. Unfortunately many in both parties made snap judgments on whether or not they would support this bill based on politics, not policy. I was sent here to look at all sides of the argument in a thoughtful manner and I knew that the status quo was no longer acceptable. I needed to answer only one question when deciding whether to support this reform: will this bill benefit Hoosiers? Put simply, in my core I know it does.”

“There is no issue more important or more personal to every single Hoosier than our health and well-being. My job is to look beyond all the political games, study the bill carefully, and do my best to make the right decision for Indiana.”

“After months of meetings and conversations with thousands of Hoosiers, health care experts and pro-life advocates, I am confident supporting health care reform is the right decision for Hoosiers.”

“Starting this year, children with pre-existing conditions will never again be denied coverage. Indiana small businesses will get the tax breaks they desperately need to reduce their health care costs and invest those savings in growing their businesses and creating jobs for Hoosiers. And our seniors will see significant savings on their prescription drug bills as we start to close the Medicare Part D donut hole.

“As a pro-life Hoosier, one of my central concerns has been preventing federal funding of elective abortion. Throughout my brief time in Congress, I have held firm to my pro-life principles, even when it meant going against my party, and I am proud of my 100% pro-life voting record on abortion-related issues. I have spent time listening carefully to constituents, pro-life leaders, policy experts and reading all the details of every bill. After assurance from the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Nuns and pro-life advocates I am confident in my heart that this bill meets my pro-life principles and upholds the policy of no federal funding for elective abortions. More than that, it invests $250 million in support services for women facing unplanned pregnancies and over a billion dollars to help families afford adoption services. These investments will reduce the number of abortions in America.”

“In addition to meeting my pro-life principles, the plan reduces costs, improves access to affordable insurance options, covers pre-existing conditions, and does not add one penny to the deficit – my five principles for health care reform.”

New Feature! Friday Open Comments

OK, here's your chance to share with the world what's on your mind. It's time for the first weekly edition of Friday Open Comments. What's on your brain? Got an opinion? Want to tell me to fold it five ways and put it in my rumbleseat? Whatever, comment below.

Yes, this is a gimmick, but readership has been down (I'm hoping because of Spring Break), and I want to hear what you have to say. Keep it clean! I also, as always, reserve the right to not publish a comment.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

We Need Health Care Doggone It

In Farmington, New Mexico, a strange patient showed up at the San Juan Regional Medical Center on Saturday night. I'll let Farmington Daily Times writer Elizabeth Piazza pick it up from here:

Hospital staff and patients were surprised when the automatic doors opened and a dog with blood on its nose and paw and a puncture hole in its rear leg walked inside.

"The irony of the situation is the dog wasn't doing well," said Robin Loev, animal control officer and park ranger. "He was drooling and appeared to be sick."

Loev responded to the emergency room at about 9:15 p.m. and found people gathered around the animal.

"The patients were giving him a cup of water when I showed up," Loev said.

The animal, a German Shepherd mix about 7 to 8 years old, did not require veterinary care.

Loev couldn't find the source of the blood and it didn't appear the dog was hit by a car. He suspects the puncture wound is from another dog bite, but it wasn't significant enough to call the veterinarian.

Loev took the dog to the Farmington Animal Shelter, where it was vaccinated and given water and a warm blanket.

"He's doing fine," said Patrick Jake, an employee at the shelter. "Everything was minor. He didn't really need immediate attention."

Loev is thankful the dog was kept inside the emergency room until he arrived.

Often people chase animals back into the street, scaring them and making it harder for animal control
officers to catch them, Loev said.
Shelter officials are uncertain if someone owns the dog, which is neutered and well-behaved.

"He seems very intelligent, very smart and calm and looking like he needed help," Loev said. "I guess he went to the right place."

Shelter officials often pick up animals that wander into the hospital.

"Every so many months, we get dogs walking into the emergency room because of the automatic doors," Biesecker said.

This situation was unusual because the dog was injured, Biesecker said.

The animal did not have tags but was wearing a green collar. It will be available for adoption Wednesday unless someone claims him.

"Some of these situations that come up make you wonder just how intelligent these animals are," Loev said.

So, basically, it sounds like this dog got the same treatment as someone without insurance would get. He was taken into the emergency room and made comfortable until he could be dumped off on another agency. It's sad.

Hopefully, we can get some real health care reform this weekend. Health care reform that includes a real public option. Health care reform that covers everybody. Health care reform that is fair across the board but that concentrates on those most in need. Health care reform that will replace the drug companies and the insurance companies as the final arbiters of care in this country.

The time has come and the time has began to pass. It's time to provide this country with a new national health care system. It needs to be a health care solution that is more like the House bill than the watered-down Senate bill. People, call your Senators and Congresspersons and tell them that we have their backs on health care. Don't let the Republicans and the tea partiers carry this day.

As President Obama said during the campaign, "We are the ones we have been waiting for." The time is now. Let's change the course of history when it comes to health care, and, if it costs us our majority, at least we can say we did something to improve people's lives. That Democrats made a difference when they were in power. Sometimes you pay the price for that.

One of My Favorite Times of the Year Begins Today!

Shining Moments! It's NCAA Basketball Tourney Time!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Butler Misses Boat in Rejecting Roberts as Speaker

According to an Indianapolis Star report by Vic Ryckaert from March 13, the faculty at Butler University has voted down a student-led effort to get Chief Justice John Roberts to speak at their commencement this year. A Butler faculty member cited a long-standing tradition of avoiding "political divide" as the reason for not allowing Roberts to speak.

While I disagree with John Roberts on several of the issues on which he has ruled, Butler's faculty has deprived its student of a potentially once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the most powerful and successful people in the United States Government.

John Roberts wields the biggest gavel of the nation's biggest court. The case could be made that he is the most powerful person in government along with his or her eight colleagues on the bench. I don't need to probably run down the Supreme Court's Constitutional responsibilities for any loyal reader of this blog, but the fact that the Supreme Court is charged with reviewing decisions of the President and the Executive Branch and legislation of the Judicial Branch should be enough. Add in that pretty much any court case can end up in front of the Supreme Court and that any decision can set a precedent for decisions to come after, and it's easy to see the power of the nation's highest court.

Plus, we all know what happened with the Bush v. Gore case in 2000. Yeah, I'm still smarting from that one, too. Let's put that aside for a minute because that was the Rehnquist Court.

Theoretically, the Chief Justice is a jurist and is part of the judiciary and should not be considered a politician. Practically, we all know this is not true. Most generally, the person appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court reflects the political views of the sitting President of the United States and/or the majority party in Congress at the time of the appointment. Like his predecessor, William Rehnquist, Roberts is a conservative jurist, and that disagrees with the reported political positioning of the Butler staff.

If this is the liberal vs. conservative "political divide" that was considered in making the decision on inviting Roberts, I would offer that it's a weak foundation on which to build a case. A good friend of mine is a Democrat, and he got a chance through his job to meet Republican President George W. Bush. When he met the President, he shook his hand and thanked him for allowing him to come to the event. He said to me that there was no way he wasn't going to go because how many times do you get a chance to meet a sitting President of the United States?

Regardless of party, the President is the President, and he is your President. So, for the countless people that dress up in patriot regalia and attend tea party protests, President Barack Obama is your President. He is the leader of the country, and he should be respected as such.

The same goes for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. John Roberts is your Chief Justice, and I don't think slapping him in the face is the right thing to do. This is no different than when Arizona State University refused to offer President Obama an honorary degree and refused to have him as a speaker at its commencement. Your commencement speaker, in my view, should be someone that inspires the audience to be successful.

That would seem to me to be John Roberts. Roberts was born in New York, but his parents moved to Northern Indiana when he was just a youngster. The son of a steelworker, Roberts has had the opportunity to attend some of our greatest schools and has turned that into a highly successful career as a lawyer and a judge. Whether or not you agree with him politically would seem to be a secondary point.

Now, according to the Star, Roberts was never contacted as a possible speaker, but his niece is in the graduating class. Who knows if he would have been able to attend or would have accepted the invitation to speak? It's quite possible that this argument could have ended before it began if he was unable to speak. It just seems to me that, even as a liberal Democrat, I would have supported this measure to bring such an important person to my campus. I think the Butler faculty has done a disservice to its students by not even allowing the effort to get the Chief Justice to Indianapolis forward.

Incidentally, the speaker for commencement will be, according to the Star, Rev. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Watkins, a Butler graduate, made headlines when she became the first female to deliver the sermon at the National Prayer Service which follows the President's inauguration on Jan. 21.


Don't forget your green! This is the one day that we are all Irish! Happy St. Patrick's Day!!! Have fun, but, remember, DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Evans Speeds Pace of Mayoral Marathon

So far, Brian Williams, Melina Kennedy, and Ron Gibson have been sort of playing it nice when it comes to the race for the Democratic nomination for Mayor of Indianapolis in 2012.

Williams did ruffle some feathers with his attempt at a coup on the Marion County Democratic Party. Positive or negative results will not be known for quite some time to see if Williams has epic failed or succeeded in bringing in new voices loyal to him into the party fold.

Kennedy has been quietly plugging along releasing endorsement after endorsement after endorsement after endorsement of major players in the community, the Democratic Party and in the union organizations. She's been working with the existing Ward Chair and PC structure to maintain contact. So far, we haven't heard much policy talk from Melina as she seems to be trying to stay out of the way of the candidates duking it out in the critical 2010 elections.

Gibson just entered the race a few weeks ago, and his exploratory committee has just really started to get moving. Not much has been heard from the former At-Large City County Councillor since his announcement.

Jose Evans, however, has hit the ground running. His announcement last week coincided with the launch of a great looking website that pretty much laps the field so far in comparison to Gibson's website, Williams' website and Kennedy's website.

Yesterday, Evans fired a shot across the bow of Kennedy, Williams, and Gibson. In an e-mail to supporters soliciting donations, Evans accused his opponents (including Mayor Greg Ballard) of being subservient to the highest bidder. Here is the text of the donation e-mail:

Everyone knows that Washington is a slave to lobbyists and corporate special interests.

So is city hall. As a City-County Councillor, I've seen it with my own eyes. Downtown developers and big business interests bankroll politicians on both sides of the aisle. In return for their investment, the politicians do their bidding.

City hall is broken beyond repair. It's time to take it back. I'm running a different kind of campaign for mayor - a people powered campaign that relies on you. I've put up a goal on the front page of my website, With your help, I need to raise $5,000 by March 31st from everyday people to power our campaign. If everyone who receives this email gives just $10 or $20, we'll revolutionize the way politics is done in the city and give power back to the people.


My opponents are all peas from the same pod - even the Democrats. They're all backed by downtown interests who want to continue with business as usual at City Hall.

I'm exploring a run for mayor to shake up city hall. I believe we need a real Democrat leading us and fighting for our neighborhoods - not another Democrat that bows before the downtown fat cats. If you agree with me, I hope you'll help us revolutionize politics in Indianapolis. Invest in my campaign by March 31st.


After you contribute, go to my website,, and, watch the racecar speed around the track toward our $5,000 goal. Your contribution is powering the racecar and my campaign.

Thanks so much for your time and support.

Jose Evans

I have contacted Williams, Kennedy, and Gibson for a response to the charges levied in Evans' e-mail. At press time, no candidates have responded.

It looks like that, while Evans took his time to announce, he has put together a nice early campaign strategy and has decided to fire the first shot at his opponents on both sides of the aisle. It has been a notable campaign roll out so far, but I didn't expect Evans to begin attacking this soon.

I guess he feels like he needs to make up for lost time and attempt to take the race into the dirt early. So far, front runners Kennedy and Williams have half sparred with each other as Gibson gets his campaign's sea legs. Evans felt the moment was right for an attack, and he delivered.

It's a quick and easy pivot though for the three candidates that Evans launched his volley at (if they decide to engage him this early). Kennedy and Gibson haven't been in public life for at least a few years, and Williams is making his first run at an office.

In contrast, Evans is the current sitting City-County Councillor, and he's the only one sitting in a city/county elected office. It should be fairly easy to examine his record as a Councillor and member of the Council's Ethics Committee to see what action he's taken to end this type of activity in city-county government.

I don't know if Evans' tactic will be successful or not, but it makes for a little early rough and tumble conversation as the Mayoral Marathon continues.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Teacher Writes "Loser" on Student's Paper Enraging Parent

OK, I never intended the last few days to be on the subject of education here at the Indy Democrat blog, but it appears that I am doing it again.

AOL News writer Michelle Ruiz reports that a teacher in Buncombe County, NC wrote the word "loser" as a comment on a sixth-grader's paper. Here is the story:

(March 14) -- The mother of a sixth-grader in Buncombe County, N.C., is upset about name-calling in her daughter's classroom -- but the students aren't the ones slinging the mud.

Patty Clement is debating other parents in Candler, N.C., over Rex Roland, a teacher who writes the word "loser" on the assignments of his 11- and 12-year-old students.

Clement first noticed Roland's notes in November, when he wrote "loser" in the margin of her daughter's paper. The principal at Enka Middle School assured Clement it would not happen again, but it did, recently, when Roland wrote, "minus 20% for being a loser" on her daughter's assignment.

"This is wrong," Clement told Asheville's WLOS-TV. "The techniques need to change."

Other parents defend Roland's progressive teaching methods, saying he is fond of giving nicknames to students and using the word "loser" in jest, as a way of relating to students.

"A lot of the students he has are academically gifted students, and so one of the ways that he would joke with them would be if they scored a 110, he always gave extra credit, so if they scored a 110, 120 on a paper, he would have a joke on it -- 'loser'," one parent, Kathy Andrews, told WLOS. "That's what he engages in... he gets on their level and their words and tries to relate to them."

Her son, Ian Andrews, a former student of Roland, described him as "the cool teacher that people wanted to be in class with."

Clement said the difference in opinion over Roland, a 12-year veteran at Enka Middle School, has made her daughter a target of bullying and harassment. She told The Associated Press her daughter received almost 100 threatening text messages last week, forcing Clement to keep her home from school.

Clement claims Roland's teaching style is harming her daughter's learning process.

"He threw my daughter's pencil box in the hallway and she got in trouble by another teacher for disrupting his class -- for something that she did not do," she told the AP.

Roland has apologized for using the "l-word," saying it was his way of relating to the students. But Clement continues to press for his suspension.

"I don't know what we're going to do, but I'll fight to the end," she told WLOS.

An online petition titled "Please Get Rex Roland Out of Enka Middle School" currently has 151 signatures, urging supporters to "demand justice for this little girl, anyone else he's doing this to who's afraid to come forward, and all of those who will come in contact with him in the future." It is addressed to Buncombe County School District Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin.

The school district has said the issue is a "personnel matter" that is the subject of an ongoing investigation, according to the AP. Roland could not be reached for comment.

10...9...8...7...6...6...6...6...6...ok forget it.

I go back to my own experience as a student and the teachers I had in Wayne Township. Thank goodness I went to school where I did. I can remember the loving and caring teachers that I had over the most formative years of my life. I ended up being a very good student by the time I graduated from high school, but I started out as a little likely ADD-ridden snot. It took a lot to keep me under control, and it took a few special teachers to figure me out...even though one never got me.

I remember the patience of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Nelson. Mrs. Nelson was barely bigger than I was. She was a great teacher, and, thankfully, I still see her every once in a while today. Little did she know she sparked my first interest in education. She showed a great deal of patience with the squirrels in class...of which I was one.

In first grade, I had Mrs. Trenchard, a very patient and caring teacher. Mrs. Trenchard spent extra time with me to make sure I was ready to learn. I remember her like she is standing in front of me now. As a precocious six-year-old, Mrs. Trenchard always seemed happy to see me.

Then, came the second grade...

I ran across Mrs. Thompson. Mrs. Thompson was an older woman with bright white hair. She wore it in a bowl style hair cut and spoke in a thick southern accent. I always remember her wearing skirts and she had these big bottlecap classes which seemed to make her eyes six times bigger than they were. Unlike Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Trenchard, Mrs. Thompson was old school. I know that I must have given her a few more gray hairs as I refused to finish my work and instead talk to my friends. Mrs. Thompson never seemed to have the time Mrs. Trenchard or Mrs. Nelson had to refocus me.

I never remember Mrs. Thompson yelling at me, but I do remember her locking me in the ditto room one time to try to make me do my work. On hearing this, my dad, who was also an educator, was so enraged that he made one of only two during-the-workday visits to my school to have a heart-to-heart with the principal. Needless to say, Mrs. Thompson never locked me in another ditto room. I think she ended up retiring a couple of years later. In the back of my mind, I can remember that Mrs. Thompson was the kind of teacher I never wanted to be like.

In third grade, I had Mrs. Bowman. Thank God for Mrs. Bowman. Still, to this day, she is one of my favorite all time teachers. I think I was starting to grow out of my precociousness by then, but she really seemed to make the connection for me between the work we were doing in the classroom and what she was trying to teach. Mrs. Bowman was tough, but she had a heart of gold. If not for her, I might not have succeeded in public schools.

After third grade, I had a string of teachers that I loved (in elementary/junior high/high school...Mrs. Angle, Mrs. Reid, Mr. Etienne, Mr. Ferguson, Mr. Albright, Mr. Neddo, Mrs. Rowe, Mr. Doss, Mr. McQueen, Mrs. Lincks, Mrs. McKinney, Mr. Mendenhall, Mrs. Henderson, Dr. Whitmore...and in college...Stephen Watt, Tony Ardizzone, Jonathan Elmer, Chuck Forker, Jack Dvorak, Claude Cookman, David Flinders, Abby Howard Brown, and many more I'm forgetting) and I began to feel the longing for education that my dad did when he went into it. When my dad passed last year, he left behind a journal of his thoughts and an audio tape of them as well. In his journal and in the tapes, he singled out an elementary teacher as someone that had the greatest impact on him. It was his history teacher. If you knew my dad, he was a history buff, and he states several times in the tapes and in the journal how she stoked his fire for history...specifically the Civil War.

Anyway, I'm rambling now. For me, I think it was, when I go back and really think about it, Mrs. Bowman that got me on the right path to being a better student. Something happened in that third grade classroom at Chapelwood Elementary to make me understand that education was something important and that I could get one if I was willing to work. I'm not sure that if I'd had another Mrs. Thompson if that would have happened.

My point is somewhat obvious. It is that teachers can have an amazing impact on their students. In my opinion, this teacher in the story above dropped the ball.

Now, I'm not perfect, and I know that I have failed a kid or two over the years. I know of two instances where I have gone back via the magic of Facebook and apologized to a kid that I thought I had failed. Both times, the student has accepted my apology, and I'm thankful to have a friendship with one of them now.

You see, relating to kids isn't about writing comments you think are funny on their papers. That's not getting to their level. It's never cool to insult them. By insulting them, you are insulting the profession of teaching, and I get very upset when people do this. It's a big job, and it's not for the faint of heart or the weak of character. Teaching will test everything you know about life and everything that you believe about yourself. In the end, you are responsible for the education of that child. You can't do that if you ruin the teacher-student relationship.

I have been there, and I have done it. It doesn't take much to ruin that bond. This teacher in the story above called a SIXTH GRADE GIRL a LOSER! On what planet is that right? I think he should look himself in the mirror and realize that, since he's responsible for this girl's education, by calling this girl a loser that he is in fact calling himself a loser. Maybe he should remember this quote from Henry Brooks Adams next time he feels the urge to go off on a student, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Texas Board of Education Declares War on Secularism, Thomas Jefferson, LGBT Community With Textbook Decision

Think Progress has the story.

The Texas Board of Education has been meeting this week to revise its social studies curriculum. During the past three days, “the board’s far-right faction wielded their power to shape lessons on the civil rights movement, the U.S. free enterprise system and hundreds of other topics”:

– To avoid exposing students to “transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else,” the Board struck the curriculum’s reference to “sex and gender as social constructs.”

– The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.”

– The Board refused to require that “students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.”

– The Board struck the word “democratic” from the description of the U.S. government, instead terming it a “constitutional republic.”

As the nation’s second-largest textbook market, Texas has enormous leverage over publishers, who often “craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers.” Indeed, as The Washington Monthly has reported, “when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas.”

Where to begin?

My diatribe on this one would be far too long for this blog, so I'll keep it simple. Apparently, the Texas Board of Education failed to discover that the Constitution of the United States not only guarantees people Freedom of Religion, but Freedom FROM Religion.

The Board is also removing from their textbooks the man that wrote the following words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Jefferson also said, "“Information is the currency of democracy.”

It's these types of decisions by these types of people with these types of political agendas that are hurting our students. A public education should be SECULAR. Leave the religion to the church teaching! For goodness sakes, we aren't playing with toys here...these are the minds of our children and our NEXT GENERATION! We are teaching and raising the decision makers of tomorrow. Don't they need all the information to make the decisions they will face in the future? Unfortunately, in Texas, the answer to that question is apparently, "NO!"

Sickening. Just sickening.

The Texas Board of Education would be well served to watch Dan Brown's video, An Open Letter to Educators.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Will Marion County Assessor's Race Be Interesting?

The prevailing wisdom is that the near baseline vote of 60 percent Democratic in Marion County should easily carry through the Democratic Party county ticket of the Clerk (Beth White), the Recorder (Julie Voorhies), the Auditor (Billie Breaux), and the Assessor (Joe O'Connor) to office.

I would say that, for most of the ticket, that is correct; however, I would caution O'Connor and Democrats not to just simply write off firebrand GOP candidate Becky Williams without beating her first.

Let's get this straight, I'm not denigrating or criticizing Joe O'Connor at all here. I like Joe, support Joe, and have donated to Joe. I know and am impressed by his qualifications for the job, but I just get the feeling that Williams is going to go after him hard. Williams is not one to go quietly.

Williams was the face of the Assessors as they battled to save their jobs in the referendum that ended up eliminating them. She was vocal, loud, and seemingly everywhere as the president of the Indiana Township Assessors Association. More than anything, Williams was staunchly anti-Greg Bowes at every turn. She created waves when she claimed that, upon applying for a job in the Marion County Assessor's Office, Bowes simply told her that she would be better off working at Wal-Mart. Bowes denied that was exactly how the conversation went down, and I believe him.

O'Connor, a 16-year veteran of the assessment process in the Pike Township and Marion County offices, certainly has the impeccable credentials to run for and succeed in the office. He has also done great work as Bowes' Chief Deputy Assessor. He knows the job and will make a great assessor. He is, however, not the strongest campaigner. He's very low key.

Williams is not, and, if given the opportunity with some money might be able to turn that into some votes at the ballot box. Will people even care to do anything but vote party at that level of the ballot? I don't know. Williams is going to have to make some sort of crossover appeal to people's wallets.

She's also going to have to convince the public that O'Connor is somehow Greg Bowes and that they, together, did a bad job running the office. I don't know that she will be successful in that regard. Bowes and, later, O'Connor were delivered a very tough set of circumstances when Governor Mitch Daniels froze assessments and ordered the County Assessors to reassess all real property. This backlogged the assessments and the bills. With the help of very effective public servant, Marion County Treasurer Mike Rodman, Bowes and O'Connor have done a tremendous job catching things up. As we enter the new property tax season, things are back on schedule and running well.

It's an uphill climb for Williams, but she might be able to at least score some points along the way in a race that typically fills only the election night crawl and not the brains of the analysts and pundits. So far, all's quiet on the assessor front, but who knows what will come before November? I'm not saying that Williams will win or even make a dent. All I am saying is that I wouldn't totally discount her as a candidate. She can yell loud enough to make this thing interesting. Whether anyone will listen remains to be seen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Personal Prerogative: Mississippi School Calls Off Entire Prom Due To Homophobia

A Mississippi school has decided to cancel its prom because a student, who is a lesbian, wanted to attend that prom with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. Haven't we had enough of this?

From the Associated Press:
JACKSON, Miss. – A northern Mississippi school district decided Wednesday not to host a high school prom after a lesbian student demanded she be able to attend with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo.

The Itawamba County school district's policy requires that senior prom dates be of the opposite sex. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi had given the district until Wednesday to change that policy and allow 18-year-old Constance McMillen to escort her girlfriend, who is also a student, to the dance on April 2.

Instead, the school board met and issued a statement announcing it wouldn't host the event at Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Fulton, "due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events."

The statement didn't mention McMillen or the ACLU. When asked by The Associated Press if McMillen's demand led to the cancellation, school board attorney Michele Floyd said she could only reference the statement.

"It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors," district officials said in the statement. "However, at this time, we feel that it is in the best interest of the Itawamba County School District, after taking into consideration the education, safety and well being of our students."

The ACLU said a school policy banning same-sex prom dates violated McMillen's constitutional rights.

Kristy Bennett, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, said the district was trying to avoid the issue.

"But that doesn't take away their legal obligations to treat all the students fairly," Bennett said. "On Constance's behalf, this is unfair to her. All she's trying to do is assert her rights."

Bennett said she wouldn't allow McMillen to comment on Wednesday, saying "she's still trying to process" the district's actions. Calls to McMillen's cell phone went unanswered.

Itawamba County is a rural area of about 23,000 people in north Mississippi near the Alabama state line. It borders Pontotoc County, Miss., where more than a decade ago school officials were sued in federal court over their practice of student-led intercom prayer and Bible classes.

Anna Watson, a 17-year-old junior at the high school, was looking forward to the prom, especially since the town's only hotspot is the bowling alley, she said.
"I am a little bummed out about it. I guess it's a decision that had to be made. Either way someone was going to get disappointed — either Constance was or we were," Watson said. "I don't agree with homosexuality, but I can't change what another person thinks or does."

Other students are on McMillen's side.

McKenzie Chaney, 16, said she wasn't planning to attend the prom, but "it's kind of ridiculous that they can't let her wear the tuxedo and it all be over with."

A Feb. 5 memo to students laid out the criteria for bringing a date to the prom, and one requirement was that the person must be of the opposite sex.

The ACLU said McMillen approached school officials shortly before the memo went out because she knew same-sex dates had been banned in the past. The ACLU said district officials told McMillen she and her girlfriend wouldn't be allowed to arrive together, that she would not be allowed to wear a tuxedo, and that she and her girlfriend might be asked to leave if their presence made any other students "uncomfortable."

McMillen said she feared she would be thrown out of the prom because "we do live in the Bible Belt."

This story, to me, as a person that deals with young people on a near daily basis, is INCREDIBLY sad. What this district is implicitly saying is that we HATE what you are enough that we are going to CANCEL something dear not only to you, but to ALL STUDENTS! Because you aren't who we want you to be, we will not accept you for who you are. And these are EDUCATORS!

Am I off base?

On what planet should this type of behavior by a school district tolerated in 2010? However you feel personally, just think about what this district is telling this young person. This cuts me deep, and I don't have a dog in this fight.

Many youngsters would just drop this and move on, but it sounds like Constance McMillen is incredibly strong. It seems like she tried to do exactly what is right. She tried to approach the district first and get the policy changed. That took a great deal of courage. Still, the district chose to hold to the policy denying her rights. By canceling the prom, that district has now deprived the entire group of young people one of the traditional moments of a high school career, and the reason is so wrong.

McMillen could have gotten a dress and invited a boy, but that is just not right. Why should she be forced to conform to an image of sexuality that is not her? Last year, I chaperoned a prom where more than one girl came in a tux and where more than one boy brought a boy.

We had a blast, but I teach at a school that has an administration that VALUES its diversity. It actively seeks to make diversity an aspect of the school culture that is celebrated rather than shunned. This Mississippi school wants its students to apparently fit into a nice, neat, and clean set of so-called traditional values. In 2010, students don't fit those traditional molds like they may have 50 years ago. Thus, kids need us to celebrate who they are rather than try to make them who we want them to be.

If I were a student at this school, I'd be mad as hell, but I wouldn't be mad at McMillen. I'd be mad at the district. I'd be mad because they are not valuing ANY of us for who we are. Whether I'm gay, straight, bisexual, black, white, Asian, whatever, my rights are in danger in a school district that does this sort of thing.

Somebody needs to give the Itawamba County school district in Mississippi a calendar because it's not 1955 anymore. You would serve your students better if you meet them where they are. You would serve them better if you try to walk in their shoes. You would serve them better sometimes if you listen rather than dictate.

Hopefully, this attention will help this school district understand that this is not okay and that we have had enough of discrimination and homophobia. If school districts like this one are allowed to continue these practices, we will continue to lose kids in the educational process.