Monday, February 28, 2011

State of the City Reaction (FINALLY)

Well, I finally got a chance to sit down and read the transcript of the State of the City Address by Mayor Greg Ballard. It's a well-crafted speech that highlights the positives and hides the negatives.

As those of you who have heard or read the speech know, Ballard spends a significant amount of time talking about jobs and job commitments. That certainly would make sense for a mayor who is running for re-election in an election year to hit those notes. Ballard also talked about land redevelopment, education, crime, and other topics.

Out of the whole speech, though, one topic that has been on the hearts and minds of Indianapolis residents since at least August...if not before...has been IMPD reform. To this end, Ballard dedicates a measly three paragraphs and just eight sentences. The speech came in at around 40 minutes long. That's all he could muster? Just eight sentences.

That is what struck me most. Perhaps he wanted to steer clear of the whole IMPD reform thing with the recent death of Officer David Moore. Moore's image was present throughout the speech, and Ballard spoke eloquently on the slain officer's sacrifice. It was Moore's impending death that rightly moved the State of the City speech to Thursday, after all. That was an excellent decision by the Ballard Administration.

The speech was heavy on statistics, but it was light on action steps and specifics. Granted, it was the kind of State of the City address you'd expect.

That didn't stop the folks over at Washington Street Politics from ripping into Melina Kennedy for her response to Ballard's address. WSP criticized Kennedy for being light on specifics in her jobs plan and for criticizing Ballard for raising fees.

First of all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Ballard's speech was also light on specifics. Kennedy should get the same pass. The purpose of her video was clearly not to rebut Ballard point-by-point but to introduce herself and her plans to the city in a "Cliff's Notes" version. In 2007, Ballard's only play in his play book was to whip up anti-property tax sentiment and say, "Had Enough?" While it worked, it seems strange to criticize Kennedy for attempting to propose things here in the early stages of the campaign.

Secondly, Candidate Ballard himself said that we could fix what ailed Indianapolis, "without asking for any more of your money." Unfortunately, I'd like to play those ads for you again here, but the user "IndyGOP" has closed up its YouTube account. I guess they didn't want you to see those ads again. Wonder why?

Truth be told, Mayor Ballard HAS asked you for more of your money, and his supporters can make whatever argument they wish, but the truth is out there.

All-in-all, the dryly-delivered speech was too "Pollyanna" for me. Those of us that live in Indianapolis each day see the headlines on the news. Indianapolis is a great place to live, but I don't recognize the shining city that Ballard describes in his speech.

If you wish to see the Mayor's speech. Here's a link.

Short Memories?

Those complaining about the Democrats leaving the Republican agenda hanging at the Statehouse have very short memories.

After all, we just experienced two years where the Democratic agenda was left hanging at the national level by a Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate that demanded that Democrats get 60 votes for everything. They threatened to filibuster and hold up the people's business forcing Democrats to de-liberalize much of the legislation or drop it altogether.

In the past, Republican caucuses have walked out of the Indiana House as well. Maybe they didn't do it to this degree, but this is a tactic that both parties have used over time the Statehouse.

I would tell my Democratic friends in the House to tread very carefully on this walkout. As it enters its second week, they need to be keenly aware of what's going on and not to extend it too long. I don't know if I trust the judgement of Pat Bauer after his vote on HJR-6, but I do trust the judgement of many others in the caucus. Hopefully it's them that help to drive this walkout to an amenable exit strategy so that the General Assembly can get back to work in a more respectful manner. There is some danger of overplaying the hand here.

Sometimes legislating isn't pretty. Folks, this is one of those times. This will all get straightened out, and the General Assembly will be back to work soon.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Adamson's Kickoff Event Brings Out Support

Now that the City-County Council race has finally passed through the slating portion of the election season, the candidates are starting to officially get down to the brass tacks of campaigning.

At-Large Council candidate Zach Adamson did just that on Friday as he officially kicked off his campaign. Adamson has been running for over a year for the spot, but the slating nod he received on February 12 gave him an opportunity to refocus some attention onto his campaign.

The announcement brought out many current and former elected officials and other candidates for office. These are always good signs. Adamson also decided to hold the event in Fountain Square at the Square Rootz Deli. The deli is a small, gay-owned and operated business in a new and vibrant area of town that is coming back strong after a tough period in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

After hearing from a variety of community members, candidates, and (current and former) elected officials...including Mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy, Zach took the stage and gave a great speech about moving the city forward.

It was a great event for a great candidate that, when elected, will make a great City-County Councillor.

(full disclosure: I am an honorary co-chair for Zach's campaign, but Zach was my friend before he was a candidate for anything.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

WTHR's Andrea Morehead Traces Her Past

Nothing overly political here...

This is a phenomenal piece by WTHR's Andrea Morehead on her journey to find out about her family's ancestors. It also shows the joy and heartbreak many African-Americans find when trying to trace their family trees.

Daily Show Takes on Libya Uprising

Muammar Qadafi or Khaddafi or Qu'dafi or al-Gaddafi or however you want to spell it today is proving to be a very desperate man. Jon Stewart somehow kind of explains the whole uprising with a little humor thrown in. BRILLIANT!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Exciting Week at General Assembly

Well, the Indiana General Assembly rests today after a tumultuous week of finger-pointing, name-calling, and, at times, red-faced anger. That’s just from the Republicans and their supporters.

So, what have we learned from this?

I think we learned that protest still matters. The Statehouse was filled to the brim with supporters of Indiana workers and Indiana families. Veteran Statehouse reporter Kevin Rader of WTHR-13 said on air that these were some of the biggest crowds he has ever seen there. You can’t overlook the power of social networking.

I think we learned that even though you may be in the minority, you can make a difference. What Indiana House Democrats did this week was masterful in its orchestration and effective in its impact. Somehow, I think we now know what Brian Bosma might look like if he swallowed a lemon.

We learned that Republicans have loose cannons. The Indiana Assistant Attorney General who was fired this week by Greg Zoeller for saying that “live ammunition” should be used to end protests in Wisconsin was not only out of line, but he was apparently fairly serious when he said that was his feelings on the subject. I salute Zoeller for taking care of this situation post haste. Hopefully, this individual will read the United States Constitution and realize that the right to peaceably assemble is guaranteed.

We learned again that Mitch Daniels just doesn’t do well when he’s challenged. Daniels was right when he said essentially that dealing with wedge issues are no way to run a state government. He was wrong when he criticized the Democrats after essentially praising them before. Apparently, Mitch must be ready for Spring Break, his flip flops are ready to go.

Well, it was a heck of a week again in the Indiana General Assembly. The best political show on Earth…bar none.

State of The City Address

Mayor Ballard delivered his State of the City address on Thursday, but I didn't have time last night to listen to it, watch it or certainly to react to it. I will get around to it this weekend. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bennett Talks Good Game...Does He Believe It?

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is making the rounds doing education reform meetings with teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders. I attended one of these meetings on Tuesday night with the Superintendent, and I must admit that I was impressed at his openness and accessibility.

Bennett took questions from the assembled group of mostly teachers and a few administrators for as well as had his staff explain the new evaluation procedures being proposed in the Indiana Senate. If I were someone that didn’t like to peel back the onion, I would be very impressed and perhaps even concerned that I had mischaracterized him previously.

As you know if you read this blog on a regular basis, I’m not one of those people.

If you do peel back that onion a bit, you’ll find that Bennett is kind of saying something in the subtext, and it’s this, in a nutshell, “No matter how many times I call this a collaborative process; this is what you’re going to have to live with and like it.”

That’s pretty much it.

I will say that Bennett seems like a really nice fellow. He comes across well-prepared and knowledgeable, and I take him at his word when he says that he doesn’t want to be the man who destroys Indiana’s public school system. I also take him at his word that he is disgusted by what he sees in some Indiana traditional public schools. If things are in some schools as he says they are, I would be disgusted, too.

The need for reform is there, but the reform needs to be without politics and with more input from the people on the front lines in education. Instead of being dictated to, teachers need to be consulted.

One thing did make an impact with me in the forum. Bennett said that if he was too harsh on good teachers when he came into office in 2009, then he apologized. Apology accepted, but I wish that Bennett would have listened more at that time, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Right to Work Dead for Now

The so-called “Right to Work” bill is dead for now in the Indiana General Assembly, but the same questions remain for the Republican majority: when the 40 Democrats return, will the Republican caucus even care about the wishes of 40 percent of the Indiana House and those constituents they represent?

The health care bill that Republicans and conservatives often point to as being rammed through the Congress at the federal level contained 200 Republican-pushed amendments in the final bill. It was not the sweeping single-payer health care system so many liberals pushed for. Instead, it was a compromised bill that got no support from Republicans.

Indiana House Republicans decided at some point that their agenda was good enough, and no input was necessary from Dems. If the Governor wanted it or some constituency group thought it was a good idea, it was going through. The Democrats took it for a few weeks, but they decided enough was enough.

It is a good gamble. Democrats currently hold no statewide executive offices. They currently hold just 13 seats in the Indiana Senate and 40 in the Indiana House. They had become insignificant in the Republicans’ eyes. Well, their actions along with the actions of tens of thousands of union workers may have shuttered Right to Work for now in Indiana.

More massive legislative changes are on the way with everything from an education voucher bill (which has significant Republican opposition) to redistricting in the works. Whether Bosma wants to fine or censure or revoke the per diem of Indiana House Democrats or not, he’s going to have to pay a little more attention to that side of the aisle, now.

His Senate counterpart, President Pro Tempore David Long, has backed away from Right to Work calling it a “mistake” according to Politico. He apparently plans to assign it to a committee for study. If the Democrats had not done what they did or the protesters had not shown up, would he have said this?

Many on the right have begun to call the Indiana House Democrats the “caucus of no.” On the contrary, I think they are the “caucus of no way.” By that I mean that Democrats are flatly saying in one clear voice that the conduct of the Republicans is simply not acceptable, and it’s not the way that business has been done in the Indiana House for years.

Besides, Republicans have walked out before and so have the Democrats. It’s not like this is a new tactic.

Now, it’s time to get back to work in Indiana. I hope that Democrats come back soon so that the heavy lifting that is necessary to occur here in the state capital can get done.

State Political Climate May Hurt Marion County GOP

This week, Democrats decided to fight back with the only weapon they have right now in the Indiana General Assembly, the walkout. Republicans and conservatives screamed bloody murder, but many Democrats and their supporters have welcomed the move.

Mayor Greg Ballard and Marion County GOP Chair Kyle Walker have to be a bit concerned because Marion County is certainly a county that leans more Democratic than Republican these days. A motivated electorate came out in 2007 mad about property taxes at the state level and sent Mayor Bart Peterson packing. The same thing could happen at the state level this year.

It won't be property tax belly aches. Ballard may take it on the chin because Dems will come out to express their displeasure about the conduct of the Republican caucus at the state level in the Indiana House and Senate, and, consequently, it's up to Ballard to explain his views on all these issues. Where does he stand on immigration, right to work, gay marriage, and other key issues? He had better have an answer because voters are sure to ask.

The last thing Ballard wants is a motivated group of Democrats coming out to vote in November. I would say that with the opening salvo of the 2011 General Assembly session that local Democrats will be mad as a hornet, and independents will be too.

That could spell doom for the Ballard Administration and help put Melina Kennedy into office.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dems Walkout Proves Point

Today, the Indiana House Democratic caucus proved a point. They said to the power drunk Republicans that we can stop your legislative assault, and we will do it by any means necessary.

Normally, I am not a big fan of walkouts. I don't like them, and I typically believe that they are nothing but political stunts, but, if you talk to legislators behind the scenes, they will tell you what it's like to be a Democrat in this year's General Assembly session.

Recently, I talked to a high-ranking Democratic legislator, and this legislator told me that it's been a depressing session for Democrats. Republicans are not even listening to their counterparts on the other side. It's been a very very one-sided session, "I don't even know why we are there," the legislator said. "They don't ask us for anything. They just tell us what's going to happen."

That ended today over the so called "Right to Work" legislation. This legislation has caused union members and their supporters to march on the Statehouse, thousands strong, and has even prompted Mitch Daniels to tell his colleagues in the legislature to back off this polarizing legislative agenda. That in itself should tell you that these are the sorts of issues that should really be avoided in this session.

We have big things to accomplish, but the Republicans clearly will get nothing done without the Democrats in the chamber. It was a hardball step, but I think this was more about proving a point than about being a political stunt. When the Democrats come back, Republicans will know that the "nuclear option" of a walkout is something Dems will utilize if necessary.

In a greater sense, Democrats are saying that if you try to attack Indiana workers; that's going too far. Unfortunately, they didn't walk out on education reform discussions or on the polarizing gay marriage ban amendment vote, but I bet you now that Republicans will at least pay a little more attention to what Democrats have to say when they return to the House or it's going to be a long and pretty pointless session.

Brian Bosma, the next move is yours.

Weinzapfel Leaves Gubernatorial Race

A bit of weekend business is left to clean up here. Jonathan Weinzapfel became another high-profile Democrat to leave the Gubernatorial Grind for 2012. In all honesty, it was probably a good move for Weinzapfel who has a very bright future in Democratic politics still ahead.

His statement from Facebook on Saturday:
Well, I've decided not to run for Governor next year. Here's the statement I released this morning:

I don’t think I’ve made any secret of the fact that for the past few months, I have been exploring the possibility of running for Governor of the State of Indiana. And I’ve been encouraged by many of my supporters and friends to get in the race. They say my experience here in Evansville of creating good jobs, improving education and taking innovative approaches to government could really benefit the state…particularly now.

When I think about running for Governor, I get excited about the possibility of helping all Hoosiers across Indiana achieve their dreams and about moving our state forward.

But I also think about the time it takes to run a statewide campaign. I would have to spend the next two years away from my family and friends and away from this community.

Some might find this hard to believe, but one of the benefits of serving as Mayor is that I can do my job and still have time to enjoy my children, watch them grow up and participate in their lives in a meaningful way.

I’m not ready to give that up. And it’s become clear to me that running for Governor would force me to choose between politics and my family. And frankly, that’s an easy choice for me, I choose my family.

And so, I’m announcing today that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2012

Although I’m not running, I intend to work as hard as I can to help make sure Democrats take back the Governor’s office. I’m excited about the candidates who have expressed an interest in running, and I’m confident that come November of 2012, Hoosiers will be celebrating a Democratic victory, and celebrating a bright future.

He's right. In order to beat Mike Pence or Steve Carter or whomever comes out of the Republican primary, you're going to have to be "all in" for the race. Weinzapfel expressed reservations about leaving his family in order to campaign, and that has to be a concern for a man with a young family. If he feels that he can't give 150 percent to the campaign, then he made the right decision. Family always should come first, and I believe him.

Weinzapfel's time will come if he wants it to. He would make a great Congressman, Senator, or Governor. He's a good man, and he's been an effective Mayor in Evansville. At a youthful 44, he's due for a long run in Indiana politics.

This leaves Democrats with only a few candidates. Jim Schellinger's friends are still pushing him out there although I haven't heard anything from him at all since before he lost to Jill Long Thompson in 2008's Primary. Roy Dominguez, the Lake County Sheriff, sent out a Christmas card. That means that he's still considering a run, I think. Joe Donnelly may be the most likely candidate, and he would definitely be a strong antidote to the right-wing extremism of Pence. Donnelly's not the perfect Democrat for those on the left, but he's more moderate than most and that could be a benefit given the direction the state and country are headed.

Other names that I've heard include former Speaker of the House John Gregg, former Rep. Baron Hill and former State Health Commissioner Woody Myers. These would be interesting choices. Myers name also pops up as a possible 2012 Senate challenger for Richard Lugar (or whomever beats him in the 2012 Primary).

Still a long way to go, but I cannot fault Mayor Weinzapfel for making the best decision for his family.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Right To Work Bill May Be Inevitable Unless Fight Continues

When Republicans purposefully scheduled a hearing on the so-called "Right to Work" bill in a very small room at the Statehouse, you kind of knew the fix was in.

With broad majorities in both of the houses of government and with Mitch Daniels in the Governor's Office, unions knew they would probably get socked in the teeth by this session of the General Assembly. Add to that a sometimes shaky Democratic majority with a weak, shellshocked leader like Pat Bauer, and it should make everyone with Right to Work (for less) concerns even more worried.

That's why it's important that the unions and their supporters are doing what they are doing today and for however long it takes. Protest, protest, protest!

It's amazing how short the Republican memories must be. It was only a few short months ago that many of their supporters did the same thing. Their supporters jam packed town halls in protest of a wide variety of things. Those same supporters pushed them into office because many on the left didn't think it was important enough to get out and vote. They sat on their hands while Republicans claimed 60 seats in the Indiana House and 37 seats in the Indiana Senate.

That's all behind us now. The point is that the constituencies under attack now must make their voices heard. Those on the right don't want to hear it. Bloggers like Abdul-Hakim Shabazz continue to attack unions for protesting what's right. Unions have fought for years for all workers...union or non-union. Today, those forces that would destroy them reap the benefits of all those gone before.

It's a long shot, but it can be done. There are plenty of reasons to stand with our union brothers and sisters and stop the assault on unions. Right to Work legislation will devastate the unions, the workers, and Indiana. This will just be the first step in the dismantling of our unions and the first step in a dangerous revolution that will put corporations in charge of everything.

It's an incremental process. First you kill the unions ability to recruit new members. That makes it easier to jump on top of the unions and start swinging. Before you know it, the fight is over.

That's not going to happen in Indiana, hopefully. Peaceful protests like the ones going on today will go a long way to helping end this harmful legislation, but all of us can be activists even if we can't make it to the Statehouse by talking to our friends, neighbors, and legislators. This is going to be a critical week in the history of labor in Indiana.

Happy Presidents' Day

Well, it's the day of the mattress sales and car lot deals! It's Presidents' Day. Thanks to a union near you, you might actually get today off. Enjoy this educational rap about the 44 Presidents. Yes, I know that Presidents' Day was created to celebrate Lincoln and Washington's birthday, but what the heck. I guess Franklin Pierce needs a little credit once a year.

Happy Presidents' Day to the folks in the picture up above. They are a small but powerful club, for sure.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Been A Bad Week

Democrats, this has been the kind of week that makes you just want to climb into a fetal position, eat chunky munky ice cream, and watch reruns of Seinfeld.

The Republican-led Indiana General Assembly has been bent on revenge this week, and they've had help from our side of the aisle. You name it...the hits have just kept coming. At least we aren't Mitch Daniels, who, as a matter of fact, may be laying in bed right now eating Chunky Munky Ice Cream while he recovers from rotator cuff surgery. That's no laughing matter, and I honestly wish the Governor well.

Still, this is no time to give up. It's time to stand tall and be Democrats. Realize that being in the minority is simply temporary, and there will be a day (hopefully soon) where Democrats are back in control.

Everyday is just one day closer until that reality comes true. So, keep your chin up. We will get through this. I have a feeling the storm is only going to get worse. This legislature has become a House of Horrors for Democrats. Stay vocal and remember that we must tell our friends, families, and neighbors what's important and why they need to be involved in politics.

Keep moving forward folks. The political cycle will be back around, and Democrats need to be ready to lead it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm Sorry...I Can't Agree

Blogger Bil Browning of the Bilerico Project is threatening to out the dirty laundry of politicians who voted for House Joint Resolution 6 or might vote for it at its next stage.

Not that anyone listens to me, but I would caution Browning on pushing this course of action. The entire thing could backfire. I only think this kind of dirt-collecting only leads to tit-for-tat and not progress. It further alienates people that are turned off by this kind of thing. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it's more fit for the tabloids and TMZ than it is for political discourse.

Why alienate those same people that LGBT activists will need to push a possible Constitutional Amendment to the trashcan? Independents, who typically say they don't like this kind of negativity, may be pushed over to the side of those on the other side. I think there are powerful arguments and personal testimonies that will change the conversation over the next few years while the Indiana General Assembly's view on the subject is proven to be far outside the mainstream.

Yes, it's an emotional time. People are angry, and I'm mad as hell! The LGBT community was somewhat abandoned by the Democratic Party and some of its activists.

Today, I received an e-mail from John Spears, the state director of Organizing for America (formerly Obama for America), and that e-mail asked me to contact my legislators on labor issues. I wholeheartedly understand the plight of the working men and women in this state whose wages and livelihoods are at stake while this Republican-led General Assembly launches a full-on assault on them. I agree that we should be talking to our legislators about this, but where was OFA when the critical LGBT issue was on the table?

I also received an e-mail from the Indiana Democratic Party Chair, Dan Parker, that was written on behalf of state employees, public servants, and teachers. Again, there is a worthy cause, and we should all stand up to defend their rights. Yet again, there was no mass e-mail on HJR-6 asking Democrats stand with their LGBT brothers and sisters.

Yes, I'm maddest at Pat Bauer. Bauer plunged a knife into the back of the LGBT community with his yes vote on HJR-6. If the community were Caesar, he would be Brutus. It was an awful thing for him to have done, and it borders on unforgivable.

That said, I don't think two wrongs make a right. I don't believe in the kinds of tactics Browning is implementing. I just can't agree. Sorry.

I know that Bil's been out there for a long time and has been fighting this fight longer than me, and I respect him for that. I have only had this blog for a little under three years, and I haven't been nearly as active in the LGBT community as he has. I don't expect him or anyone to listen to me on this, but I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't express my opinion.

Besides, the skeletons in the closet of a politician seem to get out anyway. Just ask Larry Craig, Eric Massa, Christopher Lee, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, Elliott Spitzer, or any other politician that's been the subject of an embarrassing scandal.

So, Bil...I wish you the best, as always. Keep fighting the good fight. I just wish you could find a way to do it differently.

(photo courtesy of the Bilerico Project)

Sam Carson Appears on Amos Brown

Democrat Sam Carson, the third Democrat to file for Mayor of Indianapolis, appeared on Amos Brown's program, Afternoons with Amos on 1310 AM, WTLC.

You can listen to the 40-minute interview here.

All-in-all, Carson's performance was mixed. He said that he will seek the people's opinions or others opinions when developing his plan for everything from job creation to public safety to the management of traffic after races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I guess if you listen to the 40-minute episode, it just doesn't sound like he was very prepared for the interview or to meet the questions of the potential voters on the program. More than once he said that he didn't "have a plan" for this and that.

With that said, he didn't totally embarrass himself, and he scored some serious points on Mayor Greg Ballard. One caller did point out that he didn't sound sharp and that he needed to "sharpen up." The caller was right, and Carson acknowledged it himself. I think that might be his best asset. Carson doesn't seem to come with too many answers, and he seems curious to learn.

With that said, the problems of this city are too important for on-the-job training. No reason to vote for Carson when there's a former successful Deputy Mayor on the case in Melina Kennedy. Even Ron Gibson seems to know more about how the city runs. Carson seems to be the third-best candidate in a three person race for the nomination.

Kennedy remains the best choice of the three.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Devastating: Rep. Bauer Votes For Discrimination

Of all the votes cast on HJR-6 yesterday, one probably stood out more. Former Democratic Speaker of the House, Pat Bauer, voted in favor of the resolution to write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution and to begin the process of putting a ban on gay marriage in that document.

House Joint Resolution will alter Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution by adding section 38 to it should it get through the process that we just saw property tax caps go through. Section 38 will read:

"Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."

No civil unions. No domestic partnerships.

And our leader in the House, Pat Bauer, voted for that! He voted for that piece of poo. Unfortunate isn't the word.

I decided to send Rep. Bauer a note via e-mail. I publish it here. I urge you to do the same. His e-mail is You can also call him at 1-800-382-9842. Please, above all, even though he doesn't seem to respect LGBT Hoosiers, be respectful to him.

Here is my e-mail note.

Representative Bauer,
I need to apologize to you. I thought you were someone that stood up for Hoosiers of all kinds. Today, I know that this is not true.

I understand that House Joint Resolution 6 had little chance of failing. Perhaps you felt that this gave you a little wiggle room to vote your conscience or perhaps trade a vote here for a vote somewhere else. I certainly hope that it is the latter and not the former. I would hate to believe that the Democratic Caucus leader of the Indiana House would support discrimination in the Indiana Constitution. If you did vote your conscience, I respectfully disagree.

Whatever your reasons were, you voted to put your stamp of approval on one of the darkest House Joint Resolutions ever authored in the Indiana House. I will never understand this vote, sir. With due respect, I recommend that you immediately reflect on your position as House Minority Leader. Realize that you have done enough damage with this one vote to undermine nearly everything Democrats stand for.

I thank you for your long service in the Indiana House as the Democratic leader, but I cannot support your continued leadership of the Democratic caucus if these are the types of wedge issues you wish to support. Please consider your constituents at large not only your constituents in House District 6 when you vote. We look to you as our House leader, and your vote on this matter will be trumpeted by the far right as a victory...perhaps even more of a victory than the wide final margin.

Thank you for your time.

Jon E. Easter

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

HJR-6 Passes, 70-26

A gay marriage ban is in its first steps to becoming a permanent part of Indiana's Constitution. Even former speaker J. Patrick Bauer voted for the resolution.

The Democratic Minority Leader in the Indiana House wants to write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution. It's a sad, cloudy day for equality in Indiana.

Leader Bauer, I hope that when you look yourself in the mirror tonight that you see the thousands of LGBT Hoosiers, marriage equality advocates, and their supporters that you just disappointed today.

Here is a list of who voted for and who voted against the bill. Bravo to the 26 House members voting no including Republican Edward Clere.

HJR-6 On Calendar Today; Marriage Equality Threatened

The Indiana General Assembly will likely vote today on House Joint Resolution 6 that will effectively become the first step in writing discrimination back into the Indiana Constitution.

This wedge issue from the past is being kept alive by activists that are hiding behind defending so-called traditional marriage. Others are hiding behind the cloth or the altar.

This is your last chance to stand up and make your voice heard for marriage equality. Republicans (and some Democrats) often talk about how they don't want government in their lives. This, to me, would be the ultimate example of the government in your life. If passed by two separately elected General Assemblies and passed by a majority of voters, this would write discrimination into the Constitution of Indiana.

Here's what Article 1, Section 38 of the Indiana Constitution would read if this resolution is passed:

"ARTICLE 1 OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF INDIANA IS AMENDED BY ADDING A NEW SECTION TO READ AS FOLLOWS: Section 38. Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized."

Elections have consequences, but this will be a bi-partisan measure...which I find awful. The co-sponsors are Republican Eric Turner and Democrat Dave Cheatham.

Contact your legislators here and tell them what you think of this highly discriminatory resolution.

Rules Must Be Consistent for Some to Take Slating Process Seriously

I believe that there is value in slating. I do. I know that puts me at odds with many people in my own party. Some folks probably have stopped reading after that second sentence because they don't see the value in a party recommending candidates out of a crowded field. Well, keep reading.

If we are going to continue to have slating and slating conventions, then I think the rules should be standardized for each convention and not changed in ways that can be perceived to protect candidates before each convention. I think this would make the process of slating seem fairer for the average, everyday slating voter.

I believe, for example, that the slating for the four at-large City-County Council seats should have been done differently. Voters should have gotten the opportunity to select the four candidates they wanted to select out of six. There could have been measures put in place to prevent system-gaming and bullet voting rather than what occurred. That was that the candidates each were given four slots to file in and then voters had to make a choice.

In my case, I had promised my vote to both John Barth and to Pat Andrews. I was forced to make a choice when I stepped into the booth to vote for slating, and I was forced to potentially disappoint one of my friends. It put me in a tough position. I’ve been there before with judicial slating, too. I guess from now on, I’ll wait until I hear what the rules are going to be before I promise my vote to anyone. That wouldn’t happen if the rules were always the same each year and always clearly stated.

I actually think that people who potentially might run against the slate would respect the wishes of the slating voters more if they thought the process was fair. As it stands now, you have two candidates that lost at slating that might challenge the slate. I have not talked to either in depth about it, but I haven’t heard they’ve withdrawn from consideration, too. That is a different animal altogether, and it’s not unprecedented that someone who is not slated gets through. In 2008, Judge Kim Brown bucked the slate and was elected over the party recommendations.

So, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I hear belly aching every year after slating, and I just think the party could do a better job administrating it. I do applaud those that did apply for slating, though. We had a wonderful crop of talented candidates ready to serve this city and take back the City-County Building. Come May, I have no doubt that the best candidates will win.

As for slating, let's put away that controversy for a year.

There were positives from slating. Over 700 people and 513 announced delegates attended nearly filling the room at the Convention Center. That easily outdistanced the Republicans who reported 300 or so folks at their convention held at Brebeuf Jesuit High School.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day. I want to wish each of you a very happy day with the one you love. Blog returns to normal tomorrow!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Open Letter to Sam Carson, Sr.

Dear Mr. Carson,
Today, your nephew, Congressman Andre Carson, spoke eloquently and openly about what it takes to serve this community. He said it takes serious people with the "heart for public service." Now, I know you have a good deal of your mother, Julia Carson, in you, so I won't question your heart. I will, however, question your racially-charged comments earlier today.

Just the other day, you announced out of the blue that you were running for Mayor of Indianapolis. You did this with little or no warning. You have done little or no work to gain support or raise the kind of funds that will be necessary to win, and, frankly, few people knew that much about you.

Today, I saw you at the slating convention, and I resisted the urge to walk up to you and ask why you were running. You and I have never met, and it's certainly your right to run. I've heard that you supported Governor Daniels for re-election. Again, that's your prerogative. I, too, have voted for the occasional Republican. I was content to just leave it alone and talk to you another time.

Then, as I was leaving, someone told me that you had spoken with Abdul-Hakim Shabazz about Chairman Ed Treacy's comments on you entering the race. Let me just say, I was horrified to read what you told Abdul. You said that Chairman Treacy's admittedly harsh words were equivalent to him calling you a, "dumb n****r." That, my friend, was uncalled for, and I believe it has no place in our public discourse. You are entitled to your own opinion, but I cannot disagree with you more.

Let's provide a little background.

Sam, your mother is the reason that I'm in politics. I honor her memory, and I think about her often and smile. I was her "Decatur Boy", and she was my Congresswoman. I think back to seeing her smile and getting my Julia hugs. I felt pain when people would criticize her, and I was devastated when she passed.

You must know that Julia and Ed Treacy butted heads a few times, but they worked together in this city and in this party to make our Democratic tickets look like our voters. They did the job well. Candidates from all different backgrounds were elected.

Now, you look at our current county ticket. We have a vibrant and excellent ticket of talented individuals. This county is ready to move forward with them. Then, you have to take the light away from them with your use of a word so vile and so racially charged that people shut down at the mere mention of it.

From your comments, I can only be led to believe that you are trying to make this out to be a black and white issue. It's not. Ed Treacy wasn't insulting your intelligence or your race in his statement. He was merely stating what some would call the obvious. Nearly everyone was puzzled by your decision to run. He was raising serious questions about your qualifications for an office like the Mayor's Office. We have had four years of a man who clearly didn't have the "capacity" to do the job, and I think we have seen the results.

Therefore, I urge you to reconsider entering the race for Mayor. You seem to believe that the office is about the person running for it. It's not. We need serious leaders that have serious solutions. Utilizing the "N" word in a public discourse in response to someone merely questioning your qualifications for the job doesn't show that serious commitment to our city. Saying things like this shows that you want to take this election into the depths, and I just don't think that's going to bring us a job or prevent one crime.

Mr. Carson, I don't know what motivated you to run, but, please think about how you are going to conduct this campaign before you do it. We need serious solutions to move our city and county forward and not racially-charged rhetoric. We need to be brought together not broken apart.

Words like yours only undermine what we can do as a united community. Come and be a part of the conversation your mother helped start.

Slating Surprise: Robinson Topples Johnson

The Democratic Party of Marion County gathered this morning at the Indiana Convention Center to slate candidates for the upcoming May Primary. There were some surprises, and one Mayoral candidate has apparently lost his mind (post on that here).

In the fight for At-Large City-County Council, Annette Johnson lost by a mere 14 votes to Leroy Robinson, who entered the race only last month. As you may remember, Johnson had been the addressee of a letter that was carbon copied to all slating voters by Chairman Ed Treacy and the party just last week. My sources tell me that Johnson had 244 votes while Robinson had 258. Afterwards, Johnson was non-committal either way about a run against the slate. She said she would make a decision at a later time.

In slot B, the race wasn't as close, John Barth prevailed over Pat Andrews. I talked to Andrews afterwards, but the subject about her continuing her run never came up. Like Johnson, Barth has been working the Democratic circles for a while and Andrews only entered the race in December. It was tough to catch up.

Steve Talley prevailed over incumbent Paul Bateman in the race for his old Council seat that Bateman took over. Sources tell me that the margin was not close. In the other contested race, Vop Osili easily defeated former Wayne Township Trustee David King Baird. Both Bateman and Baird may take their cases to the Primary voters.

As far as the festivities go, former State Representative Mae Dickinson was presented an award for her had work for the Marion County Democratic Party over the years. Dickinson, confined to a wheelchair, said, "Finally I've gotten so old and so arthritic that someone can push me around." She urged people to participate in the democracy that we have made in this country because there was a time not everyone could.

Congressman Andre Carson gave a rousing speech that got the entire hall up and out of their seats. Carson's speech was a call to people with the "heart for public service." He introduced Melina Kennedy, the Democratic Party's candidate for Mayor.

In a tough spot (following Carson), Kennedy managed to keep the crowd on its feet with a warning to Mayor Ballard that he had better watch out. Saying that Ballard seems to be running from the conversation about Indianapolis' problems because he declined an invitation to debate her, Kennedy said, "Greg, you can run from me, but you can't run from your record." Later, Kennedy, an avid runner, added, "And, by the way, I'm a pretty fast runner."

The rest of the candidates were nominated by acclamation before the voting as they were not opposed. Things were extremely orderly with a few credential problems due to the 30-day freeze of delegates prior to the convention. Voting was completed, and the results were on time. The convention was gaveled closed by Chairman Treacy shortly after noon.

Slating Saturday Humor: Palin Turns 47

Happy belated birthday to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. She turned 47 yesterday. Here's a tribute to her put together by someone on the internet. It's 47 seconds of Palin Parody Performances. Tina still have it nailed!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Voice Silenced

Tom Carnegie provided the soundtrack for so many wonderful afternoons at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that it's still hard to fathom the place without him. Carnegie passed away on Friday at the ripe old age of 91.

While Carnegie was known for his work at the track, he was an accomplished journalist, writer, and sports announcer. Carnegie's voice was also synonymous for many with Indiana high school basketball. He played himself in the movie Hoosiers.

We will never hear that deep voice live again, but thankfully his pipes will always be preserved in sound clips and videos.

Tom Carnegie won his race yesterday. The checkered flag on his life came out, and he has retired in Victory Lane.

The More I Think About It...

I have some further thoughts post from earlier today regarding the slating process for Democrats in Marion County and the process behind it.

The slating process has been criticized and lambasted for being unfair in the past, and there are people that believe they have been wronged that will run in the May Primary because they feel things weren't fair in February. I, frankly, don't think that the process that's been settled upon tomorrow morning at the Indiana Convention Center is healthy enough to overturn some calls of shenanigans.

When I first read the information from the MCDP, it jumped off that voters would cast ballots on the Ivotronic voting machines. These are the touchscreen machines. When you vote on these machines, it does keep the cost of an election down, in theory, because you don't have to print paper ballots. The problem is that if an election is close, there are no paper ballots to fall back on. There is no check or balance.

I've been told that each candidate for slating will get one poll watcher. There will be 20 machines. That means that two eyes will have to watch 20 machines for the candidates. Also, the way the Ivotronics work, someone will have to be nearby with a PEB to make the machine work. The PEB must be placed into the machine each time a ballot is cast.

I just wonder how much confidence some of the candidates will have in the process. The way to make slating work, and I do agree with it in principle, is to make the process open and transparent. I am not accusing anyone of anything, but this election process for slating allows people to make claims that the process was poor even if it was not.

I wish I were voting on a paper ballot tomorrow. I'd feel a lot better about my vote. Even if it takes a little longer or if it costs a little more money, I'd rather have that peace of mind. Instead...well...I won't.

Let's just hope slating doesn't end up like this...

Slating Saturday Provides Some Interesting Races

The Marion County Democratic Party released this news advisory yesterday which includes a list of all the candidates for slating by party loyalists on Saturday. Ward Chairs, Vice Ward Chairs, Precinct Committeepersons and Vice PCs will cast votes by touchscreen voting (I'm sure that won't make possible conspiracy theorists happy to not have a paper trail) ANNNNNYYYYYWAAYYYYY...

Here is a portion of the advisory from the MCDP.

The following candidates have filed candidacy declaration papers with the Marion County Democratic Party:

Mayor: Melina Kennedy
CCC At-Large A: Joanne Sanders
CCC At-Large B: Pat Andrews, John Barth
CCC At-Large C: Zach Adamson
CCC At-Large D: Annette Johnson, Leroy Robinson
CCC District 1: Jose Evans
CCC District 2: Angela Mansfield
CCC District 3: Len Farber
CCC District 4: Kostas Poulakidas
CCC District 6: Brett Voorhies
CCC District 7: Maggie Lewis
CCC District 8: Monroe Gray
CCC District 9: Joe Simpson
CCC District 10: William “Duke” Oliver
CCC District 11: Paul Bateman, Steve Talley
CCC District 12: Regina Marsh
CCC District 15: David King Baird, Vop Osili
CCC District 16: Brian Mahern
CCC District 17: Mary Moriarty Adams
CCC District 18: Vernon Brown
CCC District 19: Dane Mahern

For planning purposes only, doors open at 9:00 a.m., the convention will be gaveled to order at or about 10:00 a.m. There will be a brief program, including remarks by Congressman André Carson and election by acclamation of the unopposed candidates. The Mayoral nominee will speak about 10:30 a.m. Following that, voting will proceed by touch screen machines. We anticipate voting finishing around 11:45 and a closing gavel by 12:00 noon.

No Democratic candidates filed for slating in Districts 5, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, or 25.

Obviously the At-Large races in slots B and D will be ones to watch. District 11 features incumbent Paul Bateman against former seat holder and Council President Steve Talley, and slot 15 is a showdown between former Wayne Township Trustee David King Baird and Vop Osili.

I believe that only voters living in those Council Districts where there is a contested seat can cast ballots in those slating races. All voters will cast ballots in the At-Large races. I'm told that to vote, you must be credentialed by 10:00 a.m. Be early! Doors open at 9:00 a.m.

Putting to rest any questions about his support, Congressman Andre Carson is expected to introduce Melina Kennedy who is the only one of the now three Democrats running for Mayor that has filed for slating. Sam Carson and Ron Gibson are taking their fight to the Primary. In case you were wondering about his loyalty, sources close to Andre Carson have released this photo.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sam's Decision Brings Questions

I smell shenanigans in Sam Carson, Sr.’s decision to enter the race for Indianapolis Mayor.

Carson was a vocal supporter of Governor Mitch Daniels’ re-election campaign in 2008, and he has done little to prepare himself for a run at Mayor of Indianapolis. This comes completely out of the blue. Unlike Melina Kennedy and Ron Gibson, Carson has not appeared in the right venues to build support among likely voters in a Democratic Party primary. He also doesn’t have much in the way of resources, but, he has a name.

Is it too much for a conspiracy theorist to think maybe that a few Republicans might have put Carson up to this? Perhaps they see how weak Mayor Ballard’s prospects for a win seem right now and want someone out there that will force Kennedy to spend a little cash and time on before May? I don’t know, but Carson’s entry makes even less sense than Ron Gibson’s continued campaign does.

Many point to how a race early may help Kennedy. I would agree if the candidates were even close to Kennedy in experience and hard work quotient. If this were a race between Melina Kennedy against a candidate like that, I probably would not be writing this right now. The fact is that Sam Carson, Sr. nor Ron Gibson have any more chance than I do of prevailing against Melina Kennedy in May. It’s silly for them to think they might.

A big reason is the person that’s reportedly introducing Kennedy at Saturday’s slating convention. That’s Congressman André Carson. As the biggest name in Marion County Democratic politics, André Carson has built a strong record in Congress and has continued to exceed early critics’ expectations for his tenure as a member of Congress. His support of Kennedy, who has served in the past as a campaign treasurer for Carson, is well-known.

It just seems odd to me for Sam Carson, Sr. to jump in to the race…too odd to be an accident. Then again, maybe I've watched too much TV.

Daniels Lack of Respect for Educators Boils Over

Governor Mitch Daniels has no respect for teachers. None.

After a passionate protest that had to do with the future of public schools by over a thousand teachers at the Statehouse yesterday, Governor Daniels chose to release a disrespectful and flat out untrue statement that tries to make educators sound like greedy, money-grubbing, and evil people out to destroy our students. Daniels’ said, “As always, the union's demand is more money, no change. Their priority is their organization, not the young people of Indiana. Their special interest domination of education policy from the local level to the State House has hurt Indiana children for too long and this year, change must finally come."

Nothing could be further from the truth, and Governor Daniels should immediately apologize for his insensitive remarks.

Teachers do see the need for change and reform in our public schools. We see it every day in our classrooms and our hallways. We know that some things we are doing are working and that some things aren’t. But, teachers are the practitioners of the craft, and I believe hold the key to reforming the process.

As it stands now, the classroom teacher has little control over what is taught in the classroom...especially in the core areas. The State of Indiana has become more and more of an ever-present entity as it dictates curriculum, standards, and much more to our school districts. It has gained control of funding and other critical aspects of education that control the quality of our public schools. I would argue that the problem is more with the state than with the practitioner.

Instead of listening to the practitioner, Indiana wants to dictate politically-charged rhetoric down from the Statehouse. Many legislators on both sides of the aisle have no interest in hearing what teachers want to tell them about the realities on the ground. It’s as if the generals don’t want to listen to the foot soldiers and are blindly ordering a series of charges and attacks on the problem without first analyzing information.

It’s because Governor Daniels, Indiana House Education Chair Bob Behning, and others believe they know Indiana schools. They want to blame the teacher and the administrator for all the failings without looking at several different indicators of success. More importantly, they want a “fall guy” so they don’t have to look in the mirror.

Governor Daniels had done more to harm morale of teachers with flippant and condescending statements like the one he issued after the rally. He has shown that he doesn’t care what teachers have to say or the issues they are bringing to the forefront. He believes he has all the answers and believes that destroying our traditional public school system is the best thing for Indiana.

As teachers will tell you, the Governor is missing the point. This isn’t about us. Most of us didn’t get into teaching to get rich or to gain fame. We got into teaching because we had family in the craft, and we saw what a difference they made. We got into the craft because we wanted to touch the future. We got into the craft because it was a calling. It was what we felt we wanted to do.

Hundreds of teachers didn’t gather at the Statehouse on Tuesday because they wanted to get higher salaries. They gathered there because they wanted Governor Daniels to listen. They wanted Rep. Behning to listen. They wanted Superintendent Bennett to listen. They wanted the state to listen. Unfortunately, the Governor and his water carriers (including a Democrat or two) aren't wanting to hear what many teachers have to say.

The need for reform is there! That’s certain. The problem is that the state would rather not listen to the teachers or the schools. Instead, they would rather push a dangerous agenda that is charged up and full of politics. We should all be outraged at that.

By the way, with the help of my friend, Democrat Mary Ann Sullivan (the only Democrat to vote for House Bill 1002), charter schools will be cropping up across Indiana like corn in the summertime. The bill is not friendly to real public schools (yes, I know charters are public, too). One of the provisions of the bill takes transportation money from traditional public schools and gives it to the charter schools unless schools provide transportation to the charter schools for students in their district. It also coerces public school districts to rent "underutilized" school buildings to charter schools for essentially nothing. Folks, the jury's still out on charters. I have seen no evidence that cannot be easily rebutted that shows me that charters are somehow better than traditional public schools.

(Editors Note: Mary Ann Sullivan has invited me to go to some charter schools so that she can show me some of these schools at work. I plan to take her up on this someday. I disagree with her ideas on charter schools, but I still respect her tremendously.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2004 Wants Its Wedge Issue Back

The Indiana General Assembly has decided to dig back into the history of wedge issues to dust off one for everyone. That is, of course, marriage and the definition of marriage. Here's some great coverage of the conference hearings by my colleague Matt Stone over at Indy Student.

Over time, I've seen my own views on this issue grow and change. Today, as I've said before on this blog, I believe that the government should be out of the marriage business altogether. The legal benefits of marriage should be extended to everyone that wants to join in a union with one other adult, but marriage is something that should be left to the church to decide. If you're a man, and you want to marry a man, for example, it's up to your church to call it a marriage...not the state. I believe it to be a religious institution. This would seem to me to be the ultimate compromise. However, until some brave legislator proposes this, anyone that wishes to join in a union with another adult should be able to marry under the law. That includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. They all should be able to apply for marriage licenses and be joined in a union by an official that is qualified to perform such a union.

Unfortunately, our Indiana General Assembly, led by an anti-marriage equality agenda, is pushing through a bill that would define marriage in the Indiana Constitution as between one man and one woman. House Joint Resolution 0006 goes further though. Not only does it want to write this ridiculously stupid definition of marriage into the Constitution of Indiana, but it wants to make anything like civil unions illegal in Indiana. It's pure bigotry and pure hypocrisy.

As many smarter than me have pointed out, the most dangerous thing to so-called traditional marriage is divorce. Why not outlaw that first? The idea that same-sex marriage is some awful and evil thing that will destroy all that is sacred and holy about marriage is silly. In legal terms, marriage is a contract, but the religion thing messes it all up.

In our current reality, you have many religious hypocrites (some married and divorced multiple times) voting for a bill to lock out a segment of the population just because of a belief that marriage is between only one man and one woman.

Clearly, they don't believe in the Declaration of Independence. They don't believe that all men (and women) were created equal and endowed by their Creator with those unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness apparently only goes so far. It apparently doesn't extend to who you love or how you love.

Governor Mitch Daniels is the only person that can try to stop this bill. With the religious zealots in the House and Senate, this will pass. It will also, unfortunately, be a bipartisan bill, I believe. But, it was Governor Daniels that has, ironically, stood up for partnership benefits at the state level. Governor Daniels has also said that wedge issues don't need to be what we are discussing right now. Unfortunately, his own colleagues in the General Assembly don't agree. Instead, they are more interested in discrimination than jobs and fixing our economy. They are interested in exclusion more than inclusion. They are interested in setting fire to freedom, liberty, and all this country holds sacred.

You see, many of them will tell you that we are losing our freedoms. They will blame it on socialism and liberalism. They try to tell you that the country is going to Hell and that they have the answers. From charter schools to vouchers to the free market...they cheer for all these things to make this country, as they say, more free and open.

Heaven forbid you want LOVE someone. Love that is the most personal of emotions. The State of Indiana wants to tell you that LOVE is not good enough to be with someone. That your LOVE is not good enough because you simply love someone that has the same genitalia as you. They will cite the Bible. They will curse you to Hell. It's a choice they say.

Well, it's not a choice. Not by a long shot. They don't believe in the science that clearly tells us that this is not a choice.

Governor Daniels and I don't agree on many things, and I've been hyper-critical of him, but we agree that governing by wedge issue is not a good way to show Hoosiers that you care about them.

I say to Governor Daniels, directly, please do the right thing, and when this bill crosses your desk. Send a message with your veto. Make your General Assembly friends go on record to overturn that veto.

As Bil Browning points out over on the Bilerico Project, the left side of the aisle has been pretty quiet. I think that there's a chance to get Governor Daniels over to our side if we talk to him.

Until then, to everyone, spread the word! Elections have consequences. They do. WE CREATED THIS MESS. Don't sit on the sidelines. Peacefully protest. Respectfully tell your Senators and Representatives how you feel. Tell them that no matter what their personal feelings are that Indiana cannot allow prejudice and discrimination back into its Constitution.

That's what's at stake.

UPDATE: I goofed. Governor Daniels doesn't get a crack at this one. That's a major faux pas from a guy that prides himself on knowing how government works. My apologies for any confusion, and thanks for the several comments that helped me correct this error.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mourdock Decides to Run for Senate

According to the Indianapolis Star, Richard Mourdock is likely running for Senate against Richard Lugar. He is the first candidate to enter the field that will likely grow more candidates that think they can knock off the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Indiana history.

Mourdock has worked very hard to build Tea Party credentials and cultivate a relationship with that segment of the conservative movement. He's appeared with the anti-immigration crowd and Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (video below). He also headlined a fundraiser with Glenn Beck in September. You knew he might be up to something, perhaps, even though he was running for re-election as Treasurer.

Mourdock's decision to run might not be that stupid. While I still give him a small chance of beating Lugar, in a head-to-head race, Mourdock might pull enough of the conservative crowd to knock off the longtime Senator if he is the only competitor in the race. The problem is, I think the crowd is going to grow. There are several other folks out there that might give it a go. Chief among them is State Senator Mike Delph, who has spent most of the last few months placating Tea Party interests on his own.

Delph and Mourdock will split the conservative vote, so if Mourdock is to win, he must make sure that he keeps Delph out of the race. You would figure that he would get some sort of jump on Delph.

Lugar still will be extremely formidable. He may be approaching 80 here in a couple of years, but I only hope to be in as good of health as he is when I'm approaching that age. He's also been making lots of campaign cash in anticipation of a primary fight.

While he has made a career as a moderate-sounding statesman, Richard Lugar is a Republican and votes the party line more often than not. Like Evan Bayh was for the left and far left, Lugar is a lightning rod for the right and far right of his party. His record plays well in the General Election, but it won't in the highly-charged Primary.

As the Hill points out, this certainly puts Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels in a very awkward spot. Defending Lugar could make them a target for the Tea Party but backing Mourdock or someone else would be like turning their backs on one of their wise old mentors.

I guess that assures us that 2012 will be one interesting year as Republicans try to fight amongst themselves for control. It might be the perfect time for a Democrat to slip right by, so you wonder who might give it a go then as well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Singing National Anthem...Not Easy Job

The Star Spangled Banner became the National Anthem in 1931. Now, it's a staple before any sporting event and at many other times of ceremony. The song is a poem by Francis Scott Key set to the tune of an old British drinking song.

Let's make this clear. There is no right or wrong way to sing this song. That said, there are conventions. If you step outside those conventions, you had better do it correctly or else people are going to nail you for it.

Here in Indiana, 16-year-old Shai Warfield-Cross, had the audacity to put a spin on the anthem and do it well, but some of the crusty old crowd that heard her sing the song in Martinsville her way complained to Bloomington North High School administration, and she was briefly told to sing the Anthem the traditional way or not sing it at events at all. Fortunately, the school apologized to Warfield-Cross and came to its senses.

Here's her singing the song...doesn't sound bad to me.

Of course, the Anthem and the way it is sung came back into the public discussion following Christina Aguilera's lyrical disaster and screechingly-bad performance at Super Bowl XLV. The way I see it, Aguilera made two critical errors: messing up the words and singing it non-traditionally (and poorly).

Flubbing the words can be forgiven. Look what Michael Bolton did to the Anthem here.

He recovered with a rousing finish, and you can actually hear the crowd helping him along, but Bolton messed the words up while being traditional. That's ok...especially if you sing it well!

Shai Warfield-Cross got it. Her rendition is different, but it is beautiful. The National Anthem should belong to each of us, but, if you are going to do it differently that the tradition, you have to make sure you do it respectfully (see Rosanne) and lyrically accurate (see Christina Aguilera) or else, you're going to end up in the public discussion.

Of course, this rendition is not traditional, and Marvin Gaye took some license as well with the words changing, "Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave?" to "Oh say does my Star Spangled Banner yet wave?" It makes sense though because Marvin made sweet music with a beautiful song. I still get chills.

Upon Further Review...Putting Up Those Signs May Have Been Bad Idea

Mayor Greg Ballard's Rebuild Indy program is allegedly off and least the signs are up. It's become sort of a joke on the Westside, especially if you take a drive down 10th Street between 465 and Country Club Road.

One of the first signs that I saw go up is a huge one in the median by Farley Addition, the neighborhood where I grew up. It's about midway between 465 and Girls School Road on 10th Street.

Both sides of the street there in that area are like the surface of the Moon now. There are potholes from mild to severe. One on the Eastbound lane is so big that it could swallow a 1983 Chevette.

The Mayor's folks put out these signs, but those people in those neighborhoods have to be wondering when those street improvements will be actually be underway because still, nothing has been done. And yes, I know it's tough to keep the road in tip-top condition this time of year, but the signs have been up since late summer and the road has been this bad for YEARS.

As for me, I'll be exiting the interstate one exit to the south and using Rockville Road on my way to work until 10th Street does get fixed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ronald Reagan Turns 100 (or You'd Think So)

Trying to beat cabin fever, I took a drive up the road to the Camby Meijer on Friday, and I perused the reading material. More than one book was there on the topic of Ronald Reagan. Life Magazine even has a retrospective out called "Ronald Reagan at 100.

Let's be clear. Ronald Reagan left us in 2004. I watched the funeral, and I was touched when his wife, Nancy, spent some last moments with him in a very public manner. Though Reagan is gone, his sometimes convoluted legacy continues on. Today marks 100 years since Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois.

Republicans often call Barack Obama "the Messiah" for Democrats. For Republicans, I think it's fair to do the same with Ronald Reagan. As the 2012 Presidential Election heats up, I think you'll find far more comparisons from Republicans that have them Reagan-esque than Lincoln-esque. The fact is that they have done what you do when you renovate a house sometimes. You put pretty wall covering over some of the rough spots in the wall. Democrats have done it, too. We romanticize Democratic Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bill Clinton even though they weren't perfect, either. There has been, to my knowledge, no perfect President.

The way you evaluate the Presidents of the past, as I see it, was did he throw more strikes than balls? Did he get things done? Were we better off as a country than we were when he came in? In all of these cases, I'm sorry Democrats, Ronald Reagan was one of our most successful Presidents and is worthy of some adulation. Any President would be considered successful with the kind of record that Reagan constructed.

More than nuts and bolts, Reagan constructed a great team of political powerhouses around him. He put figures like George H.W. Bush, James Baker, and George Shultz in his leadership team. Bush and Baker, on their own, were more than qualified to be President in their own right. Shultz's contributions as Secretary of State were also more than notable.

With Reagan, though, I don't think it was his policies or the way he conducted the office as much as that he got the role. He was an actor, and his best performance took place in the last eight years of his public career. He also put on a great performance of class and dignity as his years on this planet came to end. Somehow, Reagan made Alzheimer's Disease something not to be feared....even though we still do.

Now, we can sit here and talk about Reagan's failures, and he did have many, but that would miss the point of a truly amazing American life. Born into relative poverty in Illinois, Reagan started in radio...then got into acting...then got into politics. Third time was the charm for Reagan when it came to running for President. After, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt, served eight years as President, and became an icon.

All-in-all, Ronald Reagan seems pretty darn healthy at 100. Good going Gipper!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This is "Mayoral"

While Mayor Ballard is in Dallas...

From the next Mayor of Indianapolis

A Sight to See
After several days of "cabin fever," I was proud to work alongside a large group of individuals on Saturday who were eager to get out of the house and into our neighborhoods in an effort to get our students back to school next week. We volunteered our time and shovels to help clear Shortridge and several other IPS schools of ice and snow. More than 50 people showed up, contributing their strength, shovels, equipment, and salt. I want to thank everyone for their efforts, including the laborers local 120 union, IU Health, our democratic elected officials and candidates, and the Marion County Democratic Party! Hopefully, some of these schools will re-open early next week.

If you have cabin fever or just want to join others in a good cause, please bring your shovel to IPS school 27 at 19th and Central on Sunday, February 6 at 1:30. Let's make the Superbowl weekend about more than just football (not that I don't love a great football game!).


Melina Kennedy

Have a Great Super Bowl Weekend!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Dems Up Ante on Ballard Trip to Dallas While Unfinished Biz Sits At Home

This just into my inbox.

February 4, 2011

ADVISORY: Marion County Democratic Party to Volunteer to Help Get Schools Open

INDIANAPOLIS—Given the Mayor’s failure to clean off his desk before jetting to Dallas for this weekend’s Super Bowl, Marion County Democratic Party officials and volunteers will meet tomorrow to do their part to get schools open by Monday.

WHO? Marion County Democratic Party Officials
Elected Officials
Community Volunteers

WHAT? Volunteering to Assist Ice and Snow Clearing at Area Schools

WHEN? TOMORROW, Saturday, February 5, 2011
11:00 a.m.

WHERE? Shortridge (3401 N Meridian Street)

Please note, the group will move to other schools to be determined.

And from Mayoral candidate Ron Gibson:
Friday, February 4, 2011

Media Contact: Sean Foster, 317-902-8111
Ron Gibson for Mayor

Residential neighborhoods and schools paralyzed by ice storm

Indianapolis - “The City missed a huge opportunity to help schools reopen sooner by not treating residential neighborhood and side streets in a timely manner after the ice storm. Now after mounted pressure, the City has decided to act. In hindsight, the City should have waived the six-inch rule considering the ice storm and started cleaning and treating all streets on Wednesday immediately following the storm. Indianapolis desperately needs an administration that cares about all people," said Mayoral Candidate Ron Gibson.

Ron Gibson
Candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis 2011

Superintendent's Stand on Waivers Sounds Hypocritical

It's hard to believe, but this ice storm has turned out to become a controversial political snowball as many of the state's school districts across the state struggle to chisel their buildings out of the ice. With many schools missing several days, they are exceeding their built-in snow day allowance. In the old days, you could apply for a waiver so that those days beyond the scheduled allotment didn't have to be made up.

At issue today is the decision by the Indiana Department of Education to essentially end the waiver program that had developed over many years and that demands that schools meet their statutorily-required 180 days of instruction come heck water. The mechanism still exists, but the DOE has chiseled a line in the tundra that waivers will no longer be granted.

For his part, State School Superintendent Tony Bennett has been ice cold consistent with his rhetoric. He says that schools shouldn't bother to request waivers as they will not be granted.

Incidentally, when he was Superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, Dr. Bennett requested a waiver to not have to make up five days of school due to weather issues, but that was before he met politics. Seems to me, what was good for Clark County Superintendent Bennett should be good for State Schools Superintendent Bennett.

A larger question hangs in the air like an ice block from the Artsgarden: What would trigger a waiver situation? Let's say a school is hit by a tornado during summer when no one is there. The damage is so severe that the school can't open for a month or two, and there is no reasonable place to put the students nearby. Is that waiver-worthy or will those students have to go two months longer than everyone else? It's just a thought for the debate.

I can't remember the last time IPS or any of the other Marion County districts were out this many days in a row, and the forecast certainly doesn't look promising that the ice will melt anytime soon.

If the waivers will not be granted, then Superintendent Bennett must begin the process to take that away from schools as well. Why have a policy if it's not going to be used? Why leave that mechanism if the facts of each case aren't going to be looked at?

Whatever is decided is fine with me, but I do get why school districts across the state are scratching their heads at Bennett's doggedness on this issue given his own utilization of waivers when he was a district superintendent. The policy doesn't exist to screw kids out of an education, but I think that's what Bennett wants everyone to that he holds statewide office, that is.