Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remembering Hurricane Katrina: 5 Years Later

Five years and two days ago, Hurricane Katrina swept ashore near Bay St. Louis, Louisiana. It gave New Orleans a glancing blow from its full effects. That's what most of us were told on August 29. The focus early was on the Gulf Coast between eastern Louisiana and Alabama. The devastation there was unimaginable.

On the morning of August 30, 2005, it became clear that the early reports of New Orleans being spared major damage were incorrect. The levees were breaching and water was pouring into the city. By today, five years ago, 85 percent of New Orleans, Louisiana was under water. A major U.S. city had been brought to its knees by a hurricane and shoddy construction of its levee and pump defense system.

Americans were just now coming to grips with the video of people on the roofs of their homes or their apartment balconies or in the hallways and common areas near the Convention Center fighting for life. The story of what happened and what was happening inside the Superdome was coming to light. As hundreds of thousands of people unable to evacuate baked in the sunshine and humidity with death and destruction all around, we were wondering how this could happen in our own country. Certainly, this could not have been America.

It was today, five years ago, that President Bush decided to cut his vacation in Crawford short and return to Washington. It would still be a few days before he would be on the ground in New Orleans. Perhaps in a failed effort to reassure Americans that he felt their pain, the Bush Administration released this photo of President Bush safe and dry in Air Force One looking out over the devastation in New Orleans.

Little did we know at the time that the man chosen by Bush and Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff to lead the relief effort was FEMA Chief Michael Brown. To say he was in over his head would be an understatement. On September 2, 2005, President Bush would tell him that he was doing a "Heck of a job." Of course, he would be removed as the head of the relief effort by September 12.

Since the time, New Orleans, leaner (by about 100,000 people) and perhaps meaner than it was before, has dusted itself off and has moved forward. The wounds on the Gulf Coast from Alabama to New Orleans are still there. Insurance companies, the federal government, and other agencies have dropped the ball on the rebuilding and recovery effort.

This spring, the area took another shot when the Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded and sunk killing 11 and spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That oil devastated the sensitive wetlands of the Louisiana coast, killed animals and sea life, scared people away from the beaches, and eviscerated much of the Gulf fishing industry.

Again, I think the region will get up and dust itself off. We have seen the resilience of the Gulf Coast region.

That may be true, but you wonder, if another Katrina happened, if our government is any more ready to deal with it today than we were on August 29, 2005. You just wonder.

Monday, August 30, 2010

IMPD Morale, Confidence in Straub Low

I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is an IMPD officer the other day. It was after the Bisard accident (chronologically...not literally).

My friend expressed concern about a new City-County Council proposal spearheaded by Mayor...er...Public Safety Director Frank Straub and supported by Benjamin Hunter and Ryan Vaughn that would require a college degree to apply to the department or receive a promotion within the department. My friend was concerned that this might effect IMPD veteran officers who have served in various roles within the department that don't have college degrees. He said no one has answered this question for him and how it will effect those veterans.

He told me that morale is at a true low right now, and that the good police officers continue to do their jobs while the bad incidents and officers get the majority of the press and the majority of the attention. He pointed out a recent situation where an IMPD officer went into a burning house to save someone. That got reported, but it didn't get the attention he felt it deserved.

There are also lingering issues left over from the merger. In the proposal that merged the department, former Sheriff's Department deputies were supposed to be more included in the command structure of IMPD. Currently, those levels that were in the original proposal are not being met.

In short, there are a lot of issues facing this department, and it's also clear that many of the rank-and-file officers do not have much faith in the leadership of Frank Straub, the Public Safety Director. I'm glad, though, that my friend continues to do his job in IMPD and do it well.

Here's to all the good people working hard for us everyday that get no credit. For you, I have this quote.

"Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition." --Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tragedy at Indianapolis

A 13-year-old rider in one of the warm-up races was killed today after falling from his motorcycle and being struck by another rider.

Peter Lenz became the first racer to die at IMS since Tony Renna died during testing at the facility in 2003. The death also cast a dark shadow over what has become a popular event at Indianapolis.

We can debate rather or not a 13-year-old should have been out there on the track riding a bike, but, as his father said on his son's Facebook fan page today, "Peter passed away early this morning when he was apparently struck by another rider. He passed doing what he loved and had his go fast face on as he pulled onto the track. The world lost one of its brightest lights today. God Bless Peter and the other rider involved. #45 is on another road we can only hope to reach. Miss you kiddo. - Dad"

According to news reports, even though he was just 13, Lenz had a six year racing career that included 125 wins and nine national titles. He was, as Rich Nye put it on Channel 13, apparently "very qualified" to be on the track.

Parents do everything to let their children live their dreams. That's what this family was doing for young Peter.

Why Weren't Democrats Told?

WXNT radio host and fellow blogger Abdul Hakim-Shabazz took a turn in the dunk booth at the Feast of the Lanterns Festival yesterday.

Here's my question: Why weren't the Democrats told? Was it a cover-up?

Ok...I got nothing...just enjoy the picture from Wilson Allen.

Dr. King's Last Speech

Yesterday, it was the 47th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

This speech was delivered the day before Dr. King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. He was standing up for sanitation workers that day, but his words still ring through my head.

Listen to the words. I ask the same question as I asked yesterday. Where are we today?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

47 Years After Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech: Where Do We Stand?

Today is the 47th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's soaring "I Have a Dream" speech. He stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave, what many call, the greatest speech of all time.

As we listen to his words today, think of the progress we have made, but think of the progress we still have to make. If you don't think we still have progress to make, consider that the poster of the speech on YouTube had to shut down the comments because of racist and hurtful comments. I've seen them, too, on other postings of the speech.

We live in a polarizing society today, still. Sure, the opportunities have changed, and we have made progress. We still aren't to full realization of Dr. King's dream, still. That's why the dream will live on.

P.S.-I'm not even going to address Glenn Beck's stunt. Ok...there, I just did.

Saturday Humor: Jon Stewart Follows the Money and So Does Stephen Colbert

This is from Monday's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Apparently, Fox News hasn't been so forthcoming with a little piece of very convenient information about the whole New York Lower Manhattan Mosque Non-troversy.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Well, Stephen Colbert had his own take on the situation.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Terror Bunker 5200
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Hodge Podge: Kennedy Speaks Out; Johnson Holds Fundraiser; Sullivan Pounds Pavement

It's Friday...time for another Friday Hodge Podge!

Kennedy Breaks Relative Silence
Melina Kennedy has come out swinging the past two weeks. First of all, she took on Mayor Greg Ballard's lack of leadership on satellite voting. In 2008, Ballard was on the record as being for satellite early voting. Now, he is hiding from the issue while the party he supposedly heads continues to fight against it. Kennedy spoke strongly in an Aug. 18 news release. Here's a portion:

Ballard is quoted this morning as saying that he will leave the decision about satellite voting locations "to the political guys." That decision is ill advised and contrary to the will of the people in our community. As just one example, out of the 28 people that testified about satellite voting in the Marion County Election Board's public hearing yesterday, 27 were in favor of satellite voting. The only person opposed was Ballard's political lieutenant, Marion County Republican Chair Tom John. So, it is clear where the Mayor's "political guy" stands on this issue, even though it is equally clear from tens of thousands of Marion County voters who used satellite voting over the past few elections that it is "popular and convenient" – a point that the Republican member of the Election Board conceded in news accounts this morning.

As I meet with citizens and study issues in my effort to be the next mayor of Indianapolis, it is clear to me that Mayor Ballard and I will have some disagreements about the direction of the city. But I had thought that access to voting at satellite locations was an area of agreement between us. In 2008, Mayor Ballard stated that satellite voting was "a win for the voters and a win for Marion County." But now the mayor has relegated this important measure to merely a "political" issue. Let me be clear that I do not consider voting, as the mayor does, to be a purely political question. For me, and I would think for most people in our country, voting is as a fundamental right that we must continue to nourish as we encourage our fellow citizens to take an active role in our democracy. And as just one timely and poignant example, let's give thanks to the leaders who pushed for the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 who thought more of women's suffrage than as just a "political" issue.

As mayor, I would push for expansion, not contraction, of opportunities to make voting more convenient for all voters and more accessible for elderly and disabled voters and those who have employment or transportation issues that are a barrier to getting to the polls during normal voting hours on Election Day. I call upon Mayor Ballard to reconsider the value he is placing on the right to vote and to instruct his political chairman to do the right thing and support satellite voting in the 2010 general election.

Then, after scandal after scandal in IMPD, Kennedy went on the record with the Indianapolis Star to urge for Public Safety Director Frank Straub to be fired.

Looks like Kennedy is stepping out now and speaking out. None too soon, it's time to ramp up this campaign.

With this week's news release faux pas by Jose Evans, Kennedy has had a good couple of weeks and is seen by many as the official frontrunner for 2011. Has anyone seen Ron Gibson lately?

Johnson Holds Fundraiser
District 15 City-County Council candidate Blake Johnson held a fundraiser downtown at the Elbow Room. The young educator is hoping to gain party support in the 15th District, a seat currently held by Doris Minton-McNeil. Johnson teaches at the Julian D. Coleman Academy, an IPS alternative school. Minton-McNeil has not yet revealed her plans for 2011.

There were about 35 people at the fundraiser.

Sullivan's Campaign Pounds Pavement
State Representative Mary Ann Sullivan continues to amaze me with her energy and enthusiasm for her district and job as a state legislator. If you live in the 97th District, the chances that your state legislator has knocked on your door are probably higher than any other district in the state of Indiana.

Sullivan's campaign is out and walking with the candidate herself in a race that should probably be fairly safe against Wes Robinson. Still, Mary Ann is taking nothing for granted and continues to be a one-of-a-kind representative, in a good way.

My representative, for example, Bob Behning, has never once knocked my door or stood on my doorstep. He's barely seen at community functions or in the district. This would have to be a foreign occurrence in Mary Ann's district. She's everywhere!

Advance Indiana Takes Low Road in Reaction to Death of Joe Miller

Gary Welsh over at Advance Indiana decided to take one last jab at Joe Miller while reporting his death.

Low...even for you Mr. Welsh.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sad News Confirmed from Bilerico: Local LGBT Community Icon Joe Miller Dies Suddenly

I heard this earlier tonight, but I could not independently confirm anything. Bil Browning at the Bilerico Project is now reporting that local LGBT advocate and activist Joe Miller has died suddenly.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of Joe's family and friends who will be mourning his loss.

I only met Joe a couple of times, but he made it a point to tell me that he enjoyed reading this blog and read it regularly. I hear that this type of support was just his way. I talked to a friend of his tonight, and the devastation was clear. It was a shocking loss.

Here's to Joe!

With Sheriff's Race Somewhat Decided, Massa vs. Curry Remains Big Ticket This Election Season

On Friday, I looked at the lower profile races for Marion County offices, and there really is not any reason to believe that a Democratic sweep is in order there. I just can’t see the Republicans overcoming the voter registration gap in a county that’s likely around 55 to 60 percent Democratic -- at least not with the cast of candidates on the GOP side of the ballot.

In one of the higher-profile races, I think you can go ahead and pencil in John Layton as the next Sheriff of Marion County. Dennis Fishburn is a nice fellow, but I’ve been talking to moderate friends and even some Republican officeholders who believe he likely will lose to Layton. There’s not a lot of confidence in Fishburn’s campaign against the more experienced, more qualified, and more equipped Layton.

Layton has a significant army of ground troops he can dispatch across the county to prop up his campaign, and he has had some really good returns in areas where you normally wouldn’t think Democrats might do well.

My advice to Colonel Layton would be to continue beating the path and continue working hard and things should go well.

The other county race is by far the most interesting…the battle for Marion County’s Prosecuting Attorney. Like the Sheriff’s race, there is no incumbent in the fight, but, unlike that race, the Republican candidate is qualified and has strong backing from the GOP. Republican Mark Massa vs. Democrat Terry Curry and the battle for the Prosecutor’s Office remains the county race to watch as we continue to count down to Election Day.

Unlike many of the other races, both candidates appear to have good qualifications and pedigrees. Both have served other Marion County Prosecutors as Deputies. Both have extensive courtroom and litigating experience. Both have the backing, financially and otherwise, of their own political party’s machinery.

For Massa, his close contact with Governor Mitch Daniels and the money it brings with it are beneficial. For Curry, the backing of André Carson, Ed Treacy, and the rest of the Marion County Democratic Party has been instrumental from almost the beginning of his campaign.

Massa’s even up on TV with a slick resumé ad (which I have yet to see other than on YouTube), and it’s clear that the GOP is putting all of its chips on this race and this candidate in Marion County. That should say a lot about the Republicans.

Curry's campaign has had more substance so far with the candidate hitting the Republicans hard on the ethics front. Sure, Massa challenged Carl Brizzi to resign a few months ago, but he has been largely quiet except for the ad. Curry's been pounding the pavement with his volunteer army and hitting the phones with his plan to quell gang activity in Marion County and to restore ethics to an office that has really lost it over the last 16 years.

I think it's too close to call at this point. Massa's got to put some meat out there with the potatoes or else he's going to just be seen as "Mitch's boy" running for Prosecutor. Curry has to continue to fight like he's never fought. As history has shown, it's tough for a Democrat to win this office in Marion County.

In the battle for the Marion County offices, Massa and Curry remains the main event for the November General Election.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Democratic Councillor Defends Walkout

A Democratic City-County Councillor contacted me earlier today, and we had a talk about the events this person said led up to the Democratic walkout. This just in, it wasn’t the budget.

Despite some of the media and blogosphere depictions, the Democratic walkout at Monday’s City-County Council as the Mayor presented his budget was orchestrated to show the displeasure many Councillors have with how the Mayor has treated Democrats and the Democratic caucus, in general, since he was sworn in as Mayor in 2008.

This Councillor told me that repeated attempts to meet with the Mayor over various proposals and ordinances have been ignored or pushed aside.

The Councillor told me that the difficulties faced by them are not foreign. This individual told me that many on the Republican side of the aisle have been brushed aside by Mayor Ballard and his staff. Reportedly, that boiled over to a shouting match between the Republicans and the Mayor when he attended a caucus with one respected Republican Councillor telling the Mayor, “Even (Mayor Bart) Peterson met more with us than you have.”

The Democrat told me that the Mayor’s staff has not bothered to show up to town hall meetings put on by Democratic Councillors and has shown a general lack of respect towards anyone on the “D” side of the aisle.

On Monday, the Councillor told me that those that walked out of the meeting did so in a quiet and organized manner. It was a coordinated, and it was directly aimed at the Mayor.

The budget process, the Councillor tells me, will allow the Democrats to be heard before final approval. “We are more than willing to have a discussion about the budget with the Mayor,” said the Councillor.

Walkout Sends Wrong Message

In the title bar of this blog, I bill this place as an independent source. I don't necessarily mean an independent source in the political sense. I just feel like sometimes that I need to say something about my own party that just needs to be said.

Eleven Democrats walked out of the City-County Council meeting on Monday night as Mayor Greg Ballard presented his budget (for a detailed analysis, visit Had Enough Indy). They walked out reportedly due to disagreements with the budgeting process, and I, frankly, think that sends the wrong message to voters. Only Democrats Jackie Nytes and Mary Moriarty Adams stayed.

Granted, I have yet to talk to Joanne Sanders or anyone in the Democratic caucus, but, as much as we may disagree with Mayor Ballard and his methods his administration used to arrive at the proposed budget, I simply cannot agree with walking out.

A stronger message might have been for the Democrats to have stayed in the chamber and to have voiced their strong disapproval with Mayor Ballard and his practice of leaving Dems out of nearly every decision that went into this budget. After all, this isn’t the first time that the Ballard Administration has left Dems out in the cold.

Walking out can give the impression that the Democrats wish to be obstructionists. Going into an election year where simply keeping the ball inbounds looks like a great strategy to win back the Council, these kinds of actions can potentially rub the voters in Marion County the wrong way and provide fodder for Republican opposition.

I get what the Democrats were saying, but I wonder if they may have overplayed their hand a bit with this action. Nevertheless, the move made the papers and was on television.

The bigger question that I have with the budget is a simple one. How can Mayor Ballard claim that "public safety is job one" as he often does while he cuts out an entire recruiting class of new law enforcement officers? Cutting these officers while the Ballard Administration just handed out $33 million to the Indiana Pacers is irresponsible.

Unfortunately, no one was left in the chamber to amplify it.

Editor's Note: I invite any member of the City-County Council's Democratic Caucus to respond to this blog post, and I will publish it, un-edited.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Evans Apparently Wrong on Take Home Cars

Yesterday, Jose Evans sent out a news release talking about his disagreement with an alleged announcement that Mayor Ballard was ending the policy of IMPD officers taking home their police cars to save money. Here is the full text of the release:

The recent shooting on the west side of Indianapolis where two residents, were killed and six others injured, demonstrate the vital importance of a police presence in our communities.

That’s why I am very concerned to learn that Mayor Greg Ballard today announced a new policy that will prohibit officers of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department from taking their vehicles home.

While I can appreciate the need to cut back on expenditures, the safety of our communities is not an area where a mayor should cut corners. The presence of police cars in neighborhoods where real people live, acts as a deterrent on the commission of crime. As crime in Indianapolis continues to soar, it is essential that we preserve this weapon against crime in our communities.

Last month, the Mayor announced he supported giving the Pacers $33.5 million dollars over three years. Now this month, the Mayor has taken the position that the safety of our communities as well as the loyal men and women who serve the public as law enforcement officers, do not deserve the same support.

Being mayor is about setting priorities. Mayor Ballard’s priorities appear to be about giving sweetheart deals and tax breaks to downtown businesses. As a candidate for Mayor, I would make keeping our communities safe and supporting our police officers a priority.

At the next Council meeting, I intend to introduce a resolution asking the Mayor to reconsider his decision to end take home cars for IMPD officers. I would respectfully ask my colleagues on the Council, both Democrats and Republicans, to support my resolution.

Well, I waited all day yesterday and some of the day today for the poo to hit the fan on this one, and it now appears that this "no take home cars for you IMPD" announcement by Mayor Ballard did not occur.

Pat Andrews at the Had Enough Indy blog addresses it in the comments section of this blog post, and Abdul Hakim-Shabazz discusses it here in a blog post.

Looks like Evans has a bit of egg on his face for jumping the gun to get out a news release. Let's hope it wasn't a recalled egg.

The New Budget's Here...The New Budget's Here

I'm going to review the city/county budget and what's being written about it before making too many crazy statements. Still, you have to wonder what that $33 million the city gave to a mediocre NBA franchise to stay in town (when I still maintain there were no places for them to go) would have done to help the city's bottom line.

I know, it's complicated. Sometimes things don't have a one-to-one relationship. That's the way it is with school budgets as well. It's why you can have a multi-million dollar buiding but no way to pay teachers to work in it.

It just doesn't look good when the budget comes out, and we're shuttering libraries on certain days during the week and pulling money out of a "rainy day fund" to balance the budget when we essentially gifted the Simons some cash to keep a failing business model in town.

Also, this bears watching. Councillor Jose Evans, Democratic candidate for Mayor, yesterday put out a news release claiming that Mayor Greg Ballard has decided to end the practice of allowing officers to take home their cars. Evans is in opposition to the plan.

If this is true, what a horrible time for Ballard to do this. With morale in the police department low and public safety in the community in doubt, Ballard wants to take more of a presence off the streets?

I guess he wants his opponent to get that FOP endorsement after all.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Brad Ellsworth: To Serve and Protect

Am I alone in thinking that this is the direction Brad Ellsworth needs to take in his next group of ads? Ellsworth has an excellent stump speech where he explains how his law enforcement background has informed his experience in Congress. How when someone dials 911 that the person on the other end just wants help and how a true law enforcement officer doesn't care about the person in need's politics.

I believe this type of strategy would connect with Hoosiers. I would advise the Ellsworth campaign to make the next group of ads personal to Hoosiers. Make the election not about Washington lobbyists or about special interests, but let's make it about them. I know it all relates, but the contrast between Coats and Ellsworth will be even more stunning.

Ellsworth's best asset is himself. He comes off as authentic, real, and down-to-earth. Play it up! Coats is anything but!!!

Just some free political advice. Until then, enjoy what I think could be trimmed into a couple of 30 second ads.

I Could Be Wrong But...

The polls don't show it yet, but I get the feeling that the Indiana 2010 Senate race is closer than it appears. I just can't put my finger on it, yet.

Some of the most recent polling I have seen has Republican nominee Dan Coats up on Democrat Brad Ellsworth between 15 and 21 points, but I just can't see how that can be right. As I said, I always entertain the possibility that I'm wrong, but I just am hearing things from people that make me think differently. I just can't see how Ellsworth can be polling below 30 percent...as he is in the Rasmussen Poll.

What I'm hearing from my conservative friends is that they just don't like Dan Coats and that they don't really know Brad Ellsworth, yet. My mother, for example, a Republican all the way, told me the other day that she really likes Brad but that she's never liked Coats. I asked her which way she might vote, and she said that she's thinking about Ellsworth right now. To be fair, she was a Bayh voter when he was Governor.

I just am thinking that the campaign is really still stuck in neutral and that Ellsworth's first volley of ads didn't do much to jump it out. More in-depth reporting like what WISH-TV's Jim Shella filed below and more side-by-side comparisons of candidates through the debate season may reveal the truth. Coats is the career politician and lobbyist. Ellsworth is the normal guy that got elected to Congress.

Still, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Ellsworth will fight hard for the seat, but, if it doesn't work out, he will go back to Evansville and be content mowing his grass. There's something to admire about that.

Welcome to Indianapolis, Mr. Vice President

Air Force 2 will be touching down in Indianapolis today as Vice President Joe Biden addresses the VFW Convention downtown at about 11:00 a.m. and then goes to Southern Indiana for a couple of other activities.

I believe it's the VEEP's second trip to Indiana as Vice President. President Obama has been here at least that many times, too, as President. Looks like the Obama Administration hasn't forgotten that Indiana still may be a BFD.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

IMPD Protest Facebook Group Now Closing in on 11,000 Members

A little over 12 hours ago, I posted this. At that time, the "We the people want justice and no special treatment for Ex-Officer Bisard" Facebook page had just over 9,500 members.

Well the Facebook Group protesting the way IMPD has handled the David Bisard scandal has now grown to over 10,800 fans and is closing in on 11,000. All of this is happening while Frank Straub figures out who his next scapegoat will be. Mayor Ballard needs to take control of the situation and clean house beginning with Public Safety Director Frank Straub.

You wanted IMPD and public safety under your control, Mr. Mayor...LEAD.

Olbermann Comments on Ground Zero Mosque Non-troversy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Saturday, August 21, 2010

IMPD Investigation Protest Group Has Over 9,500 Members

The Internet is a hell of a thing. Over 9,500 people and counting have joined a Facebook group entitled "We the people want justice and no special treatment for Ex-Officer Bisard," and those people are being very vocal.

Some of the comments are raw and brutal. Emotions are bright red and raw right now in this city, and it's clear that many people out there don't trust Mayor Ballard, Dr. Straub, Paul Ciesielski, or IMPD.

For my part, I stand with those IMPD officers that are doing their jobs and doing them well. Those folks far outnumber the ones that are giving the good police officers a bad name.

Demotions in IMPD

According to the Indianapolis Star, three of IMPD's brass are being demoted by Mayor Ballard, IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski, and Public Safety Director Frank Straub. Frank Straub still has his job, too, btw. Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce, Assistant Chief Ron Hicks and Commander John Conley have all been returned to their "previous merit ranks" the Star says. This is in response to the Bisard accident investigation.

Here is the full story from the Star.

Fox 59 Report Investigates Who Was at Bisard Crash Scene

Hat tip to Advance Indiana for this one.


Image: Ballard Hides Under Desk as Community Storms City-County Building

I get this image of Mayor Greg Ballard hiding under his desk like George Costanza in a Seinfeld episode as the community demands leadership from its Mayor in the latest IMPD scandal where an officer allegedly killed a motorcyclist while impaired.

The Indianapolis Star's Jon Murray and John Tuohy co-penned this article from this morning's Star. In it, the writers describe a scene where community leaders crowded the lobby outside Mayor Ballard's 25th Floor office waiting for answers.

Now, the Mayor can't pawn this off on just the Democrats wanting answers. It's the entire community now. Short soundbytes and surrogates aren't going to cover it. The man is going to have to make a decision.

When will the Mayor lead? He continues to pass the buck on so many issues. From satellite voting to CIB to a variety of other issues, Ballard has been silent until forced to act.

It makes you wonder: did Mayor Ballard ever have to make any decisions as a USMC Lt. Colonel?

Saturday Humor: Key of Awesome Imagines Twitter Move

If you've been to the cineplex lately, you may have seen a trailer for a movie based on the founding of Facebook. Well, the folks from the YouTube channel indymogul have come through with a pretty funny parody of that trailer, but it also is a stand alone shot at Twitter (a website I'm still struggling to use, btw).


Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Hodge Podge: All Mostly Quiet on County Front

No one expected the race for Marion County Auditor, Assessor, Clerk, and Recorder to be mud hurling knockdown drag out battles between well-known household names, but things have been really quiet, especially from the Republican ticket.

Clerk of the Circuit Court
While Marion County Clerk Beth White has been loud and forceful while carrying the standard for satellite early voting centers to return to reality this election season. Her opponent, Republican Jana Scott, has been very silent on the issue. She has yet to respond to this blog’s request for information on her position. Scott told me at the Decatur Central Lions Club 4-H Fair that her experience as a security company executive qualifies her for perhaps the largest executive job in city-county government other than the Mayor’s job.

I expected more fireworks from both former Franklin Township Assessor, Becky Williams, and Deputy Assessor, Joe O’Connor, the Republican and Democratic nominees to replace Greg Bowes as Marion County Assessor. O’Connor has just recently begun making the rounds again to Democratic events, and the normally anything-but-quiet Williams has been largely silent and out of the press for a while.

No reason to think this race isn't still leaning towards O'Connor who did make a Wednesday morning appearance on the WIBC Morning News in his role as Bowes' right hand man. He did a great job explaining how folks from the Assessor's Office might end up in your back yard in the line of duty.

I'm sure it's a bit of a disappointment to Williams that she didn't end up taking on her arch-nemesis, Bowes. O'Connor's assessment credentials and nice guy personality make him tough to attack. Bowes' personality would have been an easier target.

The Libertarians are fielding James Madjak in this race.

Billie Breaux, the Marion County Auditor, has been making the rounds as a candidate despite the fact that she's really in little danger of losing to the Republican candidate, Joe Hecko. I think Breaux is in really good shape at this point, and she remains a tough force to beat on the ticket.

Joell Palmer is the Libertarian candidate.

Democrat Julie Voorhies, the incumbent, remains the favorite. She has been helping her husband, Bob Voorhies, through cancer treatment, but she still has been doing her best to get out and about. She has held a couple of fundraisers and has been active when her schedule permits. Republican opponent, Ted Clements, is mounting little challenge.

It would seem that the Republicans are definitely putting all their chips on the more high profile Marion County races this time around. Voters should not ignore these offices when voting. Remember, each of these county offices has its own set of responsibilities and duties.

For example, did you know that the Marion County Auditor and the Marion County Assessor are two of the three seats that make up the Marion County Commissioners. Treasurer Mike Rodman is in that third seat. In most counties, those offices are elected on their own. Unigov changed all of that in Marion County.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ballard's IMPD, Dept. of Public Safety Slowly Sinking

After campaigning in 2007 to get the merged IMPD back under the jurisdiction of the Mayor and away from the Marion County Sheriff, Greg Ballard's police department has hit the iceberg and is taking on water. Whether it sinks or not depends on the next few weeks and the actions of a very weak Mayor.

The latest blow comes after IMPD apparently botched the investigation into the fatal accident that killed motorcyclist Eric Wells and critically injured two others after they were struck by Officer David Bisard. An admitted failure to follow procedure caused Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to throw out evidence showing Bisard had a blood alcohol level of .19 at the time of the accident.

Bisard also gets to keep his drivers license until his fate is decided because officers on the scene of the accident said there was no suspicion that he was intoxicated on the scene.

The latest case is just one example.

Earlier this summer, IMPD ran into controversy in the Brandon Johnson case. The teenager, his family, and community leaders alleged IMPD used excessive force against him. One officer has been recommended for termination following that case.

Need another example?

In the same article referenced above, an officer allegedly discharged his weapon inside a squad car in a domestic dispute. The incident led to his arrest in Danville.

But wait...there's more...

The Ballard Administration and the Department of Public Safety was criticized following the appointment of two local radio hosts but no City-County Council Democrats on the newly-formed Public Safety Advisory Board.

I'm still not done...

FOP members voted down the city's first contract offer after some personnel concerns related to the movement of detectives from downtown to the individual district offices. Allegations of trouble and friction between Dr. Frank Straub, the Public Safety Director, and many other members of IMPD forced Chief Paul Ciesielski to publicly pledge his support for Straub.

In short, it has not been a good year for public safety in the city. With a homicide rate that continues to be an issue, Mayor Ballard has to take some responsibility for putting the team in place that has allowed this to occur. It's his time to do something about all of this.

Changes at the upper levels need to be made. Frank Straub's short stint as Public Safety Director coming to an end would be a start. I tend not to blame Paul Ciesielski, but it's hard to continue to believe he has much institutional control over the department that is supposed to be his responsibility right now. If Straub is shown the door, then Ciesielski should be given the leeway to run his department.

With more control being collapsed under the non-elected Public Safety Director, it makes you wonder if maybe the Bart Peterson Plan that had the elected Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson in charge of law enforcement in the county wasn't a bad thing.

Without the pressure of being elected, the Public Safety Director just has to keep the Mayor happy. Somehow, though, I tend to believe that the tail might be wagging the dog. Nevertheless, it's time for Ballard to act or move aside so that someone can.

Just a final note, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to all the hardworking men and women that continue to pull on the blue IMPD uniform and wear that badge proudly and work hard each day to keep our community safe. I appreciate your efforts, and I hope that the rest of the community does as well.

Friday Unity Rally Planned at City Market to Oppose Arpaio Visit

When Treasurer of State Richard Mourdock takes the stage with Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he will be taking the stage with someone currently under investigation by federal authorities. He will also be taking the stage with a county sheriff that runs a jail whose practices, by most descriptions, walk the line between unconstitutional and constitutional. Mourdock's buddy Arpaio is anti-immigrant, and, as I said earlier this week, is just one piece of work.

The Indiana Federation of Young Republicans, whose Facebook page lists Republican At-Large City County Councillor Angel Rivera as an officer, is apparently ultimately responsible for bringing Arpaio to Hummel Park in Plainfield on Friday night. The fundraiser is benefiting Mourdock's re-election campaign.

A few local organizers aren't going to take Arpaio's visit in support of Mourdock lying down.

To celebrate the things Arpaio and his supporters seem to most fear, a unity rally has been organized by Operation Unity as a counter to the controversial Sheriff's Plainfield visit. Zach Adamson, At-Large City-County Council candidate, will speak at the rally which is set for Friday, August 20, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the City Market Plaza.

From the Facebook event page:
Operation Unity will be a protest against anti-immigrant activities and a celebration of the diversity that makes Indiana a vibrant state. The celebration is free and open to the public and will feature music, speakers and food.

WHY do we need opposition throught action?
On August 20, 2010, Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, will be a “special guest” of Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock who is seeking to raise money from Arpaio supporters. Thanks to one of the state's top elected officials, Hoosiers will be faced with an out-of-town visitor whose presence will inflame sentiments against many Hoosiers.

Arpaio’s practices, including his infamous sweeps that target anyone who appears to be an immigrant, have been the target of lawsuits. Arpaio is the subject of a federal investigation regarding his abuse of power in going after individuals who have opposed his tactics. Arpaio believes in using physical appearance to stop and inquire about immigration status.

Hoosiers should embrace the benefits of a changing Indiana demographic that moves our state into the 21st century and entry into the global community. We believe – Indiana believes - in moving forward.

It's still a major mystery to me as to why Mourdock wants to be seen somewhere with Arpaio. As Treasurer, Mourdock has NOTHING to do with law enforcement or really anything that Arpaio cares about. I guess he's going to do anything to raise money for a run at Governo...whoops...Treasurer. Many Republicans in the know privately tell you that Mourdock has his eyes trained clearly on Governor in 2012 and beyond the 2010 race.

Mourdock has a fight on his hands now. The Treasurer's race in 2006 was a close affair with Mourdock getting 52 percent of the vote, a thin majority, over Democrat Michael Griffin. This year's Democratic nominee, Pete Buttigieg, wants to simply be the Treasurer of State, and he has a good plan to keep Hoosier money in Indiana. As Hoosier voters continue to "Meet Pete" the choice should be clear, and it won't be for Arpaio's best buddy.

Lettie Oliver's Memory To Be Honored In Central Library Collection

Local union icon Lettie Oliver passed away earlier this year, but her fighting spirit lives on.

Congressman Andre Carson and others will gather at the Central Library tomorrow downtown to dedicate the Lettie Oliver Memorial Collection. From the Local 3395:

AFSCME Local 3395 representing I-MCPL library workers is proud to announce Representative Andre Carson will be dedicating the Lettie Oliver Memorial Collection at the August 19, 2010 board meeting 6:30 at Central Library's Clowes Auditorium. Please join us, Rep. Carson and Lettie's family in honoring our friend, mentor and beloved mom, and sister of Labor.

Books in the collection will include:
-For Jobs and Freedom: Race and Labor in America Since 1865 by Robert H. Zieger

-Restoring the Power of Unions: It Takes a Movement by Julius G. Getman

-Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU by Harvey Schwartz

-There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray

-Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement by Marshall Ganz

-A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement by Amy B. Dean

-Live Wire: Women and Brotherhood in the Electrical Industry by Fran Moccio

-Labor Relations (Major Issues in American History) by Millie A. Beik

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Over (Sorta)

At this hour, President Barack Obama and the White House are announcing that American combat forces are on their way out of Iraq. 50,000 American troops will still be in Iraq (because we just can't get out of anywhere we go), but the mission will be training and support. There will be no more combat operations. It took Barack Obama to end George W. Bush's War in Iraq. Yet, there is no "Mission Accomplished" from President Obama tonight.

Tonight, this fulfills a campaign promise by President Obama, and it also signals a 100 percent shift in the War on Terror officially from Iraq to Afghanistan where U.S. public support and the mission continue to become more and more hard to find.

I can tonight only hope for the same thing in Afghanistan, soon. If objectives cannot be reached, we need to end the conflict and change strategy. General David Petraeus is the right man for the job over there, and I will finally be able to exhale for all my friends and former students fighting there when that conflict ends.

When that happens, you may even see the kind of euphoria demonstrated in that iconic picture above from Times Square on V-J Day just a little over 65 years ago. Let's come home safely from Afghanistan before we begin that full celebration.

My thoughts and prayers remain with all those troops lost in U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those left behind to deal with a shattered family life. I also want to say a special hello to those friends and former students that are still fighting for our country today. Keep fighting hard!

Lugar's Decision Creates Seismic Shift for 2012 Senate Race

A few weeks ago, my friend Chris Jackson and I were driving into the parking lot at Chipotle in Avon, and we had both decided, given Senator Richard Lugar's recent voting record in the United States Senate, that he would not be pursuing re-election.

Fast forward to last week. Chris is in Michigan now attending law school, and Richard Lugar is now a candidate for re-election in 2012.

I have no problem with Lugar running again. On the face of it, Dems could do a lot worse. When you dig deeper, you see that much of Senator Lugar's so-called "moderate record" contains some pretty conservative votes. That may be Lugar's biggest problem: he is not conservative enough for his own voters.

That's why, as I said last week, I think Lugar will have a May 2012 Primary challenger. Many on the far right are upset with his support of Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in their nominations for the Supreme Court. Those forces on the far right will try to portray him as out of touch with his own conservative base, and they may be correct. Believe me, though, Lugar still has plenty of conservatism to go around.

Who would challenge him? I would assume perhaps some of the same characters that pursued the Senate seat in the 2010 May Primary on the Republican side. Perhaps some state-level legislators might give it a shot. Maybe a Mike Delph, who has been very critical of Lugar, may give it a run.

Knocking off Lugar is highly unlikely for a Republican. You might even see Democrats cross over and preserve the lesser of two evils there.

On the Democratic side, I think that a run is probably a long shot now at best. That doesn't mean that I think the Indiana Democratic Party shouldn't contest Lugar. That has actually happened before. I hope it doesn't happy again.

There are Democrats out there that I think could give Lugar a good shot. It's going to take a well-financed campaign and an energetic campaigner who can take on Lugar head on by pushing the idea of a new agenda and new leadership.

Lugar's beloved here, but he will be 80 as he runs for re-election. He's in, what seems like, excellent health. When sworn in for a prospective seventh term if re-elected, he would be about three months shy of his 81st birthday. Should the Republicans re-take control of the U.S. Senate in 2010, Lugar would become fourth in the Presidential Line of Succession as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

All of these things say, he's old. Certainly, I don't think anyone will stand for an age attack. Age attacks, especially on someone as healthy and popular as Lugar, often backfire.

I don't know what the Senate race in 2012 will bring, but I think Lugar's re-election bid will likely make life a little less interesting for political observers.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Despicable He

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came out against the Constitution yesterday by taking a position against the building of a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero. It's the latest disappointment from one of the worst Majority Leaders Democrats could have ever found.

Even if I didn't say it, many know that Harry Reid has been a near disaster as Majority Leader, and, with this latest debacle, is not fit to be the Democratic leader in the United States Senate any longer and should be immediately replaced.

While Nancy Pelosi has been a thorn in the side of Republicans over in the House as its Speaker by wielding a heavy gavel and moving much of the Democratic Agenda through that body, Harry Reid has driven the Senate into a place where good bills go to die or at least be changed into shadows of their former selves. Overcautious and milquetoast, Reid has lived up to his Rush Limbaugh nickname, Dingy Harry.

This position on the mosque is an absolute slap in the face to Muslims across the country who have looked to those defending the constitutional rights of the minority. The sad thing is, that while the President took a definable position, Reid tried to be nuanced. He even used a spokesman named Jim Manley.

"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else."

Really? If Senator Reid truly respected the First Amendment, he would condemn those that are speaking out against the building of the Islamic community center that includes a small mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center and call them out for being fearmongers, which is what they are.

Instead, feeling pressure from his Republican wingnut opponent, Sharron Angle, Reid gets goaded into taking this position, presumably to save his own political hide.

Perhaps we should remind Senator Reid of his oath that he took when he was first elected to the Senate and that he has taken several times since.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Who's defending the First Amendment here, Mr. Majority Leader?

(In case you were wondering,
My feelings on this issue were expressed in this blog post.)

Election Board Meeting Today: Fight for Satellite Voting Continues

After a Monday lunchtime rally in support of satellite voting, the battle moves inside this morning at the City-County Building as the Election Board meets in Room 260 at 10:00 a.m.

There are only a couple of months left for the Republican member of the Election Board, Patrick Dietrick, to change his mind and support satellite voting. He was the lone dissenting vote in a vote that needed to be unanimous to put satellite voting centers back in for the fall 2010 elections.

For more information go here and to support the cause, sign this petition.

Monday, August 16, 2010

With Friends Like These...

Indiana's Treasurer of State Richard Mourdock is aligning himself with two controversial figures to help raise money and support for his re-election campaign.

Mourdock's Democratic opponent, Pete Buttigieg announced at the Johnson County Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner that Mourdock is bringing in Joe Arpaio, the extremely controversial Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, to help him raise money. He will be in Plainfield on August 20 at Hummel Park from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The Facebook link is here.

I don't say this about people often, but Arpaio is a despicable human being who doesn't know the meaning of the words cruel and unusual. Certainly, I have very
little sympathy for people that break the law, but I do believe they should be treated as human beings. Arpaio is known for making his inmates live in the desert elements and making male inmates wear pink underwear among other things. Those are rather tame. Arpaio is currently under investigation for abuse of power, and the Mayor of Phoenix has called Arpaio's term in office a "Reign of Terror".

He's the kind of person I wouldn't want to align myself with. Besides, what does a Sheriff of a county in Arizona have to do with the duties, the issues, and the re-election campaign of the Treasurer of State?

Looks like Glenn Beck will be sharing a stage with Mourdock on the Michiana 9/12 Project's "The Pursuit" on September 18, 2010. Mourdock is pictured on the website right under Beck. In the description, he is noted for his attempt to liquidate Chrysler. That move would have possibly crippled one of the state's largest employers.

I don't think I need to go in depth on Beck. We all know that he chases conspiracy theories, spreads lies, and has a pretty skewed view of the world.

Take heart though, Indiana voters. You do have a great choice this election. That is Pete Buttigieg.

At the JJ Dinner, Buttigieg reported that he is all over Indiana right now spreading his message. He said he is living off "fair food and anything I can get at the gas station."

Buttigieg's message has substance. Not only is he dinging Mourdock for who he's hanging out with, but he is getting after him for how he has run the office.

Unlike Mourdock who has put Indiana's cash in out-of-state banks, Buttigieg is advocating the investment of the state's money here at home and in companies and investments that will create jobs here. Buttigieg is highly critical of Mourdock's personal vendetta against the Obama Administration's policies to save GM and Chrysler. That personal cause, of course, culminated in Mourdock spending of taxpayer dollars in the previously mentioned lawsuit that would have forced Chrysler into bankruptcy.

He also reported that Indiana taxpayers might be surprised to know that our money is invested in Halliburton and also the News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News. He says that Mourdock has invested state funds in junk or non-investment grade bonds.

Buttigieg, a South Bend native, is Harvard-educated and was a Rhodes Scholar studying at Oxford. He is not taking bank money to support his campaign and has invited Mourdock to do the same though he says he's "still waiting" for the Treasurer's response.

As far as Mourdock goes, the old Ben Franklin adage rings true, "He that lieth down with Dogs, shall rise up with Fleas."

Sunday, August 15, 2010


My post for Monday was just completed, and I accidentally posted it early. So, you may have gotten a sneak peak. My apologies for the error.

Social Security Turns 75

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, announces the Social Security Act of 1935 on August 14, 1935.

It's 75 years old! Social Security has been providing a safety net for Americans since that day when FDR signed it into law as part of his Second New Deal.

Today, estimates say that 2/5 elderly Americans are kept out of poverty because of social security. The program has certainly never been without controversy, but it, I think, for the most part does what it was designed to do. Provide that safety net for those who most need it.

I will be retiring somewhere in the neighborhood of 2030-2035 (if the ticker keeps ticking). I am currently saving in other ways for my retirement, but I know that I will likely have my social security as a safety net. It creates a peace of mind knowing that it will supplement what I save.

Thank you to Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, to FDR himself, and to the Congress that passed the act. The system continues to pay off for elderly and disabled Americans 75 years (and one day) after it was created.

As an aside, Ida May Fuller was the first recipient of a Social Security Check. She is proudly pictured holding the check. Now, things are done pretty much by direct deposit, but I can tell you that my mom still enjoys her "pay day" even though she is unable to work due to her health issues.

The look on Mrs. Fuller's face makes me smile because I see that same look on my mother's face on her "pay day" as well. A government should take care of those that need to be taken care of. It's moral and right and good.

President Obama celebrated Social Security yesterday in his weekly address.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Hodge Podge: Ellsworth in Indy; Hogsett Still Waits

Ellsworth in Indy
Congressman Brad Ellsworth will be in the Indianapolis area this weekend and next weekend. Tonight, the Congressman is holding a Young Professionals fundraiser featuring the game cornhole and beer at 4130 N. Meridian Street. Low end contribution is $25. Sounds like a good time, and it's good to see the Congressman in Indianapolis.

On Saturday, he will be the keynote speaker at the Johnson County Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Next weekend, his campaign tells me he will be at the Third Annual Marion County United Democrats Picnic at Garfield Park. The event is on Sunday at the Pagota Shelter (yes...it's spelled that way) from 1-3 p.m.

Hogsett Waits
Former Indiana Secretary of State Joe Hogsett still awaits Senate confirmation as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. If he is confirmed, Hogsett will be required to refrain from political activity until he is no longer a U.S. Attorney. While I'm certain that Joe will make a tremendous U.S. Attorney, the move silences one hell of a good campaigner.

Locke Still Hammering Berry on Travel
Sam Locke, the Democratic candidate for State Auditor is still holding Indiana Auditor of State Tim Berry accountable for questionable travel records. From the Locke campaign:

Information obtained in a recent public records request has once again found Auditor of State Tim Berry taking questionable trips statewide - financed by taxpayers and using state resources. On June 14, state travel records detail that Auditor Berry drove his government vehicle 232 miles to the City of Bluffton, for what was described in the disclosure as a “revenue report.” Further comparison to a list of campaign appearances on his Facebook page and campaign website revealed this report was delivered to a meeting of the 6th District Constitutional Patriots, a local Tea Party-affiliated organization.

Blue Dogs Endorse Van Haaften
Trent Van Haaften, the Democratic nominee for the 8th District Congressional seat, has picked up the endorsement of the Blue Dog Coalition. In the release to the media, Van Haaften's campaign describes the coalition as a "fiscally-conservative" group. They neglect to also note the coalition's "socially-conservative" stances on LGBT and other issues.

I haven't dug that deeply into Van Haaften's views, but I hope he's the kind of candidate LGBT individuals in the 8th District can support rather than just vote for.