Friday, July 29, 2011

Are Local Right-Leaning Blogs Losing Faith in Ballard?

The blogosphere in Indianapolis is filled with suddenly very few pro-Greg Ballard blogs, and that signals a big change in the landscape here.

The formerly-pro-Ballard Advance America, Bart Lies, Ogden on Politics, Indy Tax Dollars, and other blogs that helped to get the man elected have now turned either against the Mayor or at least take a more cynical view of the man we knew so little about in 2007.

Indiana Barrister is unapologetically more anti-Melina Kennedy than pro-Ballard. Abdul tends to post unsubstantiated rumors many times or take, what I would call, more than a few liberties with the truth. Abdul's game is Abdul's game, and it's well-known. He's going to continue to smoke a cigar, drink a martini, and stir the pot.

That leaves us with Capitol and Washington and Washington Street Politics.

Lately, Capitol and Washington has been much more about state and national politics than local Indianapolis politics, and that may be by design. They do, however, continue to consistently post. Capitol and Washington is more of a blog that is a repository for individual bloggers on the right to post under one umbrella.

The real surprise is Washington Street Politics. Many believe WSP, which is written anonymously, is actually penned by Robert Vane, a longtime Republican activist and former Ballard Administration Communications Director. The ghostwriter at WSP denies this is true.

In the last month, WSP has just four posts. There are three pieces on Congressional races and one that is effusive in praise to the Mayor for the plan that IBE, IMPD, Frank Straub, and others cooked up to cut violence on the second weekend of Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration.

Now, I know it's difficult to post each day, and I know that summertime isn't always the most interesting time for politics. With that said, there's been A LOT to post about recently. Washington Street Politics has been largely absent without explanation from the scene.

I guess that means there's just not much positive to say about Mayor Ballard right now.

Wallace Launches Media Campaign

Republican candidate for Governor Jim Wallace said he was "insulted" then Mike Pence said he would not talk policy until May of 2012. I wonder how Pence feels now.

The man with infinite resources (Pence) was not the man who first hit the airwaves with a TV ad, and here it is.

Besides the messed up hair in the first few shots of the ad, Wallace appears to be gubernatorial, can pull off casual, and wants everyone to know he's "In Indiana" and "on it" taking a direct shot at "Washington Mike" Pence.

For his part, John Gregg continues to work the back roads of Indiana, too. He called me on Tuesday morning just to talk and wished me a happy belated birthday (which totally caught me off guard). He's picked up the endorsement of several mayors. He's also been making the county fair and festival circuits. Gregg is using his Facebook as an outreach as well.

Mike Pence, meanwhile, is off doing the Republican Party's business in Washington, and I bet he's more than a little ticked that Wallace is raining on his parade. Anyone that thinks Pence is a shoo-in for the nomination or for winning the general election in 2012 really needs to think again about that hypothesis right now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kennedy Announces Crime Plan

In a news conference at her campaign headquarters, Melina Kennedy announced her plan to fight crime in Indianapolis when she takes office in January 2012. It's realistic, measurable and completely appropriate.

Fitting in with her "Making Indianapolis a Quality of Life Capital" theme, Kennedy, who was flanked by Sheriff John Layton and Prosecutor Terry Curry, articulated a clear plan with eight parts.

Here is the news release from the Kennedy campaign:
Today, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and Marion County Sheriff John Layton joined me as I announced my plan to enhance the quality of life throughout our city through crime fighting and crime prevention.

Four years ago, candidate Greg Ballard said public safety was job number 1, but the fact is, crime is up, including aggravated assaults. Crime prevention has been cut, there are fewer officers patrolling our streets, and residents across our city feel less safe than they did four years ago.

And Mayor Ballard’s recent decision to restructure police patrols from beat coverage to zone coverage signals the death knell for community policing.

This morning, I reemphasized my commitment to initiatives aimed at promoting strong, smart, credible and accountable public safety. We need to add 100 officers to the streets. We need to get illegal guns, gangs and drugs, which are assaulting our city, off our streets and out of our neighborhoods. And though partnerships with the Prosecutor, the Sheriff, federal agencies and community groups, we need to restore crime prevention initiatives cut by the current administration, so that we can stop crime before it starts. We must do all these things to provide true community policing.

My plan, including my commitment to put 100 additional officers on the streets, is revenue neutral and can be done without a tax increase.

I am sure you will agree with me that we can do better, and that the residents of Indianapolis deserve a mayor who follows through on commitments to make Indianapolis safe and secure. And we need public safety leadership that is accountable.

In the coming weeks, I will also announce additional elements to this plan specifically addressing crimes against women and children.

Here's my eight point plan to Enhance Quality of Life through Crime Fighting and Crime Prevention:

1) True Community Policing

2) Increase the Number of Police Officers on the streets

3) Attack Illegal Guns

4) Crime Prevention

5) Bi-partisan Crime Statistics Task Force

6) Creation of Drug Enforcement and Initiatives Director

7) Centralized Grants Office

8) Technology

Please review my plan and other supporting documents, which will be posted on my website...

As stated above, Kennedy's plan would put 100 more officers on the streets in the city. John Tuohy of the Indianapolis Star reports that the 100 officers would come from 50 currently on force and 50 new officers. Over four years, this is a very reasonable goal. Mayor Bart Peterson promised 200 new officers on the streets, and he did that. Kennedy can get 100 in these tough economic times. Greg Ballard promised a crazy 750 more officers during his campaign in 2007. He's not even remotely close to that number.

Kennedy's plan also covers crime prevention. Previously, she announced plans to use water deal money to help young children arrive in schools more ready to learn. Tuohy also wrote that Kennedy wishes to make stronger "community partnerships" to help fight crime. We saw perhaps a preview of this type of tactic with Indiana Black Expo's volunteer plan that helped to head off violence on the second weekend of the Summer Celebration.

I look forward to seeing the details behind Kennedy's plan. I am also interested to see how the fifth and sixth plank of her plan are going to work and the details behind them. I think they are excellent ideas.

This again is another strong, clear plan from Melina Kennedy who has had a very good week on the campaign trail.

Questions Remain About Crime Numbers

You’re going to hear a lot of chest thumping and fist pumping from Mayor Greg Ballard’s campaign over statistics that show crime dropped in Indianapolis, but, as always, the devil is in the details.

Ballard and the Department of Public Safety do deserve credit for a drop in crime of 4.4 percent in Indianapolis and a violent crime drop of 2.7 percent, as reported by the Indianapolis Star. The latter number, however, is apparently well behind the national average drop of 5.5 percent. Property crimes are down 4.7 percent, and Ballard can truly wave a banner over that one because the national average was only a drop of 2.4 percent. The results were published in an article by the Indianapolis Star’s John Tuohy yesterday.

While violent crime dropped, Tuohy reports that aggravated assaults are up in Indianapolis 6 percent, and these are the crimes many truly fear. News reports show a recent wave of these types of crimes on the Monon Trail as well as downtown along the canal and Monument Circle. These are all areas residents of the city enjoy and contribute to a higher quality of life. Add in that there were bullets flying following the downtown fireworks on Independence Day, and the stats on aggravated results make much more sense and much more impact.

Unfortunately for Ballard, the headlines in the newspaper and the top stories on television news oftentimes don’t seem to make it feel like there has been a drop in crime. For the victims of those crimes as well as the families of the victims, an argument on the statistics of crime really doesn’t make much of a balm for the scars…physical and emotional…inflicted by a criminal.

That’s the perception that becomes the reality. Even though the numbers are better overall, the feeling in the city is that Mayor Ballard and Public Safety Director Frank Straub’s “whack a mole” strategy (Ed Treacy's words not mine) on crime is simply not working.

There are also a couple more curious details buried in Tuohy’s article. Apparently, Indianapolis has conveniently missed a deadline or two on being included in the FBI’s report on crime. Indy was one of just three cities with a population of over 500,000 that will not be included in the FBI’s report. Why? According to Tuohy, PSD Straub claims understaffing as one issue. In addition, Tuohy writes thatwrites, "He (Straub) also said he demanded that analysts be meticulous in classifying the data before it was submitted."

"Meticulous in classifying the data."

That definitely could fuel the fire of those that think the crime books may be cooked in the City of Indianapolis. Understaffing could also be the cause of a Mayor that has not fought hard enough to get a police department that can effectively fight crime. Whatever the case may be, it's an extreme embarrassment for the city's numbers to be missing from this report.

It's another example of suspect leadership by the Ballard Administration in public safety. Hopefully, someone in the City-County Council will demand the Public Safety Director to answer for these data reporting delays.

As is always the case when dealing with Greg Ballard, sometimes one step forward represents two steps back when the details are analyzed.

I guess you have to ask yourself, "Are these the kinds of results you should expect from a Mayor that has claimed that 'public safety is job one' and made it a central part of his platform?"

Had enough?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kennedy Sets Clear Vision

Melina Kennedy is winning the vision battle in the race of Indianapolis Mayor, easily.

In a sweeping speech (linked here and published below) in front of the Indianapolis Kiwanis Club, the Democratic nominee for Mayor of Indianapolis articulated a sweeping vision for the city that will guide her first four years in office and pay dividends into the future, and it’s getting rave reviews from many even as some try to chop it down.

The political writer of record for the Indianapolis Star, Matthew Tully, who continues to equally upset the right and the left, gave Kennedy high marks. He praised Kennedy for offering a clear picture of what a Kennedy Administration would look like as well as the reasonable and necessary steps for getting there. My favorite passage of the piece said:

Kennedy...has promised to fill out the details of the plan she outlined Friday with a series of announcements in the coming weeks. The biggest battle clearly will be over her proposed method of paying for some of her programs. She wants to use $150 million, or roughly one-third, of the money Ballard raised by selling the water and sewer utilities to create an endowment to fund crime-prevention grants, early education programs and job training. The remainder of the money would remain earmarked for infrastructure repair.

Kennedy said the endowment's leaders would be charged with leveraging local money to win federal grants and raise philanthropic dollars, hopefully growing it into a major and sustained force in the city.

"It's an opportunity to create something lasting," she said, "as opposed to spending all of the money in 10 years."

That money, of course, has been marked for continuing work on streets, sidewalks, alleys and other infrastructure projects. And while I wholeheartedly and perhaps obsessively support such infrastructure projects, Kennedy's speech was a reminder that a city's infrastructure goes beyond concrete and steel. It also includes things such as early childhood education, crime prevention and job training -- efforts that also make a city stronger. Additionally, with this huge and rare pot of money from the utilities sale, the city needs to make sure it uses it in the most effective ways possible.

"We've got choices before us," Kennedy said. "Will we be satisfied with paving roads as our biggest idea, or will we make more significant investments in people? Will we have the resolve to do what it takes for Indianapolis to become a quality of life capital or be satisfied with the status quo?"

Kennedy’s speech was not without its critics. Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, the host of WXNT’s Abdul in the Morning and blogger at Indiana Barrister, wrote that Kennedy’s speech was little more than a political ploy offering a point-by-point analysis of her remarks.

I think Abdul is missing the point, and I think Tully gets it. Being Mayor of a city like Indianapolis or even the smallest town in Indiana involves having an idea of what four years under your leadership will look like. We have not once received that glimpse of leadership from Greg Ballard. This is not a new problem. I addressed it back in the early days of this blog. Even nearly four years into his term as Mayor, as Tully points out, his vision is more tied up in legacy. These are two different things.

You can have a legacy, but if it's not connected to anything discernible, it's just a disjointed legacy. Ballard lacks vision. It’s an overarching goal that guides your principles and leadership strategies and mission statement. Mission and vision are tied together. Ballard’s vision is not known. He’s a nuts-and-bolts guy more comfortable with paving roads and streets and striking deals that might or might not be good for the city to pay for short term projects. He's running his administration to try to do enough to get another four years in office by simply checking off what he believes are the most likely items to get him back in the office.

Ballard’s slogan, as I’ve said before, should be “Reactionary Leadership at Work.” Take his crime strategy, for example. Ballard's solution to our city's crime wave has been to play, what Ed Treacy called, "whack a mole" with policing. Crime pops here...he beats it on the head. Crime pops here...he hits it on the head. It's a short term strategy that doesn't have anything to do with vision, and it goes against the community policing idea that has worked for Indianapolis in the past. If your an a war like this, you would lose.

Conversely, Kennedy’s plan for the city to help with early childhood education will go a long way to preventing young ones from getting into trouble. As an educator, I can tell you that the lack of preparedness for students to come to school ready to learn is certainly a key contributor to students giving up on school. If they don’t think they can learn, then that student will give up. When students give up on education, studies show that they are more likely to make bad choices that will end up with them in bad places. The education aspect is something that is sorely needed to fight crime before it begins. As the speech reads, it's not her only plan to reduce crime. She also has previously articulated a vision to remove guns obtained through illegal means from our streets. Again, it’s time we have visionaries and not reactionaries.

In this political climate, we need a Mayor that’s not only able to react to a given set of circumstances, but one that’s willing to make the decisions that are best for the city. Coupled with that, we have to have a Mayor that sets a clear vision for moving forward. That person is not Greg Ballard. It’s Melina Kennedy.

When you think of Indianapolis Mayors in the Unigov era, you think of strong politicians who not only have a legacy but had a vision. Look at the list: Richard Lugar, William Hudnut, Stephen Goldsmith, and Bart Peterson. You can agree or disagree with any of those individuals politically, but they all had a vision. When you throw Greg Ballard into that list, immediately he looks out of place.

Come November, it’s time to put a visionary back on the 25th Floor of the City-County Building. The person for that job is Melina Kennedy.

Melina Kennedy's Speech to the Kiwanis Club, July 22, 2011

Making Indianapolis a Quality of Life Capital
July 22, 2011

I’m sure everyone here knows that Indianapolis’ old city hall sits at the northwest corner of Ohio and Alabama Streets.

What you may or may not have noticed is, carved into the cornerstone of the building is a saying attributed to Mayor Charles Bookwalter back in 1909 – it reads: "I am myself a citizen of no mean city.”

As I used to pass the old city hall on my way to the City-County Building and see that statement, I always thought it was odd that a mayor would want these words carved into stone .

Words saying that people in his city were "nice." It was only later that I discovered Mayor Bookwalter’s statement was drawn from a much older saying from the Apostle Paul, and was referring not to the attitude of our citizens but to the importance of the city.

By “no mean city”, Bookwalter meant “no average city” – signaling his pride in Indianapolis and literally chiseling into stone at City Hall a challenge to the city’s leaders to strive for greatness instead of mediocrity.

Since the cornerstone was laid at the old city hall, Indianapolis has had its trials and triumphs – sometimes living up to Bookwalter’s challenge and sometimes falling short.

In recent decades, our city has several times transformed its image and economies – from manufacturing center – to amateur sports capital – to life sciences hub.

Today, we are still all of those things, in greater or lesser amounts, which you might expect as the city and the world around it has evolved. But it is time to think of the next transformation for our city – the next thing that we are credibly known for and that we can layer on top of our past successes.

Today, I challenge our city to become extraordinary as a quality of life capital. A quality of life capital that is not just "mean" or average, but extraordinary.

A place that people want to come for a job; and for an education; for recreation; and for peace of mind and safety. Wouldn't you like to live in a place whose residents easily say about their city, "it's a great place to live – I have an extraordinary quality of life there."

Well, to do that we have to dream big – to have a vision and see the future we want. And dreaming big means not just building big things, but doing big things – things that invest in people and the society they belong to.

Things that invest not just in physical capital like roads, but human capital, like our residents. In this way, we can give Bookwalter's statement a double meaning – becoming an extraordinary city that is nice to inhabit in every respect.

We know there are increasing financial pressures on local governments, including Indianapolis. Because of this, more is required of our city’s leaders than ever.

For an average city, tight budgets can mean fewer services to residents. For an average city, struggling to address only the nuts and bolts means that big ideas get put on hold. To strive to be extraordinary in hard times, it takes courage and commitment from city leadership, and residents that demand more from their leaders and themselves.

Today, the biggest idea on the table from the current city administration is using hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds to repair roads and sidewalks.

It is hard to disagree that Indianapolis has significant infrastructure needs, and I agree that Indianapolis residents deserve to have drivable roads and walkable sidewalks.

But I can't help asking: Is that all there is? Is that the only investment we are willing to make in our children's future – to pave roads that will need to be repaved again before a third grader today graduates from high school ten years from now?

And I can't help but ask, while we are paving roads, where is it that we are going? It seems to me the mayor is paving roads but not telling us what path we are on. Where will be in ten years and what will it take to get there?

More and more, I'm convinced that it cannot be just bricks and mortar that define a city, but rather the ingenuity, work ethic and health of its people.

Today, while the city leadership toils to pave roads, it ignores that we are at a crossroads of opportunity to cater to broader and more important priorities. We cannot expect to become an extraordinary city – a quality of life capital – solely by paving roads.

Paving a road doesn’t prepare a child for school. Paving a road doesn’t keep teenagers who are vulnerable to becoming crime statistics off the streets.

And paving roads does us no good if those roads don’t lead our kids to good schools or if those roads and trails aren't safe for families to travel.

To be a city with an extraordinary quality of life, we need to be a city that graduates its high school kids and retains its college grads.

We need workers with job skills to meet employment needs, and we need the commitment to do job training for those who lose their jobs. And we need neighborhoods where residents feel safe and secure.

So, we've got choices before us. Will we be satisfied with paving roads as our biggest idea, or will we make more significant investments in people?

Will we have the resolve to do what it takes for Indianapolis to become a quality of life capital or be satisfied with the status quo? Will we be a "mean city" or an extraordinary city?

While there is much to do to promote Indianapolis as a quality of life capital, today I propose that we focus on three critical things. First, and foremost, we have to improve educational outcomes.

Education is, unfortunately, an area where our city is failing to score even at the mean in some cases. A mayor can’t sit in the back of the class while public education slips behind.

We should not be willing to just accept the status quo. We should not settle for an ordinary education system, but we should demand of ourselves an education system that is extraordinary.

Our children deserve it and the future of our city depends on it.

We know the problems. Too many of our children do not graduate from high school on time or at all. Our graduation rates are hovering around 60% at best and even then, many of our graduating students are not prepared for success later in life.

They are not prepared to continue their education, and many are not prepared with the necessary skills to enter the workforce and contribute to a better Indianapolis.

That lack of academic success and failure to learn meaningful skills in turn contributes to much higher poverty, crime, and ill health, and those problems significantly drive up the costs of social services.

To make a significant impact in this area, we need to make sure that every child in our schools can read by third grade.

Here's why: children who do not read at grade level by the end of third grade are 4 times less likely to graduate from high school. Dropouts are 8 times more likely than high school graduates to be incarcerated.

And dropouts are 3 times more likely than college graduates to be unemployed.
Here's what we must do to make a difference: First, we need to make sure our children enter school ready to learn at the earliest ages. This keeps kids in school and better prepares them for life after school.

In no uncertain terms, we must make childhood literacy and early childhood education a TOP priority. In order to achieve 3rd grade proficiency, we must invest early in our children’s education.

Every $1 invested in high-quality pre-kindergarten can save taxpayers up to $7 by reducing the need for remedial and special education, welfare, and criminal justice services.

One study showed that at risk children in Chicago without early learning were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime before their 18th birthday than their peers who received early learning.

Another study showed that kids in Chicago who attended pre-k, were 29% more likely to graduate from high school than peers with no pre-k.

Study after study shows that pre-kindergarten works and it is clear that education impacts our business community and education helps to prevent crime before it starts.

If, as the present mayor has said, shrinking budgets are the new paradigm, then it is even more important to invest our resources wisely.

Achieving 3rd grade reading proficiency by making early childhood education a priority will be the result of that wise investment – and that will be a step on our way to becoming an extraordinary city.

Second, we must get crime under control. Crime is up in our city and it has a very real impact on quality of life measurements. Rising crime keeps residents from being engaged in our city, and it inhibits our ability to attract new businesses and residents.

According to Congressional Quarterly, an independent, non-partisan publication, recently distributed its 2010-2011 crime rankings, and listed Indianapolis as the 6th most dangerous among the ten cities with a population over 500,000 with the highest crime rates.

This is not acceptable. To have the quality of life we want, people can’t expect as normal, nightly shootings, residential burglaries, and violence in the parks, on the trails and at the bus stops.

We have to be more dedicated to fundamentally changing the sense of safety in the city than to employing bureaucrats to fudge crime and manpower statistics in order to hope against hope that we are safer.

We’ve heard this administration say that crime is down, yet we know violent crimes like aggravated assaults - one of the most significant barometers of a city’s crime trend, are up. Indianapolis residents report that they don’t feel safe and they expect more.

The city government committed in 2007 to use $5million per year to fund crime prevention grants – money dedicated to stopping crime before it starts by seeding non-profits, faith-based groups, and community organizations with funds to impact vulnerable populations.

Cities across the country realize that the future of cost-effective crime fighting is in crime prevention. It saves money in the long run to prevent crimes rather than pay for the costs of policing, prosecution and incarceration.

Studies have shown that spending one dollar on crime prevention can save $7 dollars in crime-related costs. But the present city administration has simply turned its back on that commitment and crime prevention grants have been cut by more than half. We must restore this funding.

Third, too many of our fellow citizens are out of work. The city has lost more than 35,000 jobs in the last few years. We need a strategy of how to get these neighbors back to work, and we need it now. Overseas junkets are nice, but that can’t be all we do.

We need a strategy that emphasizes the men and women here at home who are entrepreneurs or run small businesses. The leaders of Indianapolis need to focus on the engine that drives our local economy – small business. We must spur local job growth to enhance Indianapolis’s quality of life. The majority of new jobs are created by employers with 500 or fewer employees and this is where we should focus the majority of our energy.

By creating an environment that promotes job growth within our existing business community, we will also become a magnet for other companies who are trying to decide where to locate and grow their businesses and it will help to put more of our neighbors back to work.

And, we need to help those without a job to attain the training and skills to rejoin the workforce and contribute to our local economy.

As a former deputy mayor for economic development for Indianapolis, there was simply no more rewarding activity than trying to find jobs for people who had lost them. We did that when United Airlines pulled out of the maintenance center at the Airport, by restoring nearly 1,000 jobs when we brought AAR into the facility. It is much easier for people with jobs to contribute to the quality of life in the community, so let us dedicate ourselves to job training as an important facet of our city’s economic development initiatives. We must establish and fund new job training programs to get our neighbors back to work.

Right now, it is a sad irony - employers are looking for qualified workers and many report having difficulty filling positions because the workforce does not have the necessary skills. And families all over the city are struggling because parents don’t have the skills to fill jobs.

A 2009 report showed that about 55% of Indiana's jobs were middle skill jobs that require specialized training, but only half of the state's workers have the appropriate training for these jobs.

It’s ironic that we enough jobs available to significantly reduce the unemployment rate, but we can’t only because of the gap between what employers need and the skills employees have. As a result of this challenge, job creation and economic growth are stifled. This has to be changed.

We have to work with employers to develop job training, retraining and technical training programs to meet the needs of employers, get our residents back to work, and we can recharge our local economy.

This will help not only our residents find jobs, but our employers to invest, expand and grow right here.

As we dream big about the future, let us also be realistic. To be successful, the dream of making Indianapolis an extraordinary quality of life capital will require the investments of time, attention and resources.

As mayor, I will create a program dedicated to the three initiatives I have outlined today – early education, crime prevention, and job training. I think of this as the “2021 Vision” – a reference to the year we will celebrate the bicentennial of Indianapolis when it comes just 10 years from now.

Think about what we could become in ten years’ time. In 2021, an eight year old who is just starting life’s journey will be graduating from high school. Shouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure that child has grown up in safety, has been intellectually challenged at school, and is poised to stay in or return to Indianapolis after college?

We want that young adult to contribute to our economy, to start a family here, and to do his or her part to improve the quality of life in our community.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself - where will money for the 2021 Vision come from? When properly used, tax dollars are investments in the community and its quality of life. But now is no time to ask the community to make greater investments through higher taxes – and I will not ask that we raise taxes to accomplish these goals.

Frankly, the community needs to start seeing some results from the taxes that have been raised already by this Administration.

So, I propose funds from two sources for the 2021 Vision. First, of the more than $400 million in proceeds from the transfer of the city’s water and sewer assets, we should place $150 million in an endowment to fund the 2021 Vision, making the over $250 million focused on infrastructure needs and road repairs. In no uncertain terms, the 2021 Vision will send a message that we are serious about doing the things necessary to be a quality of life capital.

Second, we should not be content to just live off the interest and principle from this endowment to the fund. We must use that initial investment as seed money and work hard to secure philanthropic contributions from people who share this vision and want to make a difference.

This is difficult, but other cities have been successful in creating such funds. Here in Indianapolis, we have recently seen how generous our citizens can be – as in the case of the recent $40 million gift to Wishard Hospital. This approach will also allow us to leverage additional federal funding and grants as well. The current city administration has not capitalize on federal funding and grants, and I am committed to ensuring that we take advantage of every non-tax dollar that is available to us.

Let me be clear that I have my reservations about the current mayor’s actions in transferring the city’s water and sewer assets in exchange for the money the city is receiving.

And I have said before that no one in our community should be deceived into thinking that money like this falls from trees. It is the public’s money – sewer and water ratepayers are contributing to it one way or another.

But that decision has been made, the money is on its way to city accounts, and let’s resolve to make the best public use of it. Indeed, let’s see it as an opportunity to make the city a quality of life capital.

Again, we confront a choice: in 2021, the bulk of that money will either have been used to pave roads that have already worn out, or for having been a substantial part of transforming educational outcomes, public safety and the economy.

In 2021, that eight year old girl may be walking on a paved road that once again needs repair, or may be walking away with a diploma ready for college and ready to make her mark in this world. For me, the choice is clear.

Let me also say that my proposal to spend the transfer proceeds on what I view as higher priorities, there is still a significant portion of the remaining proceeds for infrastructure needs.

Many of those dollars have been spent, but many remain and I propose that the remaining infrastructure dollars be spent in a way that makes sense for neighborhoods. So we can measure the use of this remaining infrastructure money not in the miles of roads paved, but in impact to neighborhoods based on their stated needs.

So where do we go from here? Over the next few weeks, I will be announcing four plans that go hand-in-glove with the proposal I have made today.

Third-grade literacy and early childhood education is the most important thing we can do in education. And, I will outline this plan after I complete the numerous meetings with parents, children, teachers, administrators and community leaders that I committed to.
Similarly, crime prevention is key to the future of public safety, but at a time when most people in our city report that they don’t feel safe, there are many other things that must we must do to fight crime.

As just one example, we desperately need more officers actually on the streets. I will soon be announcing a detailed crime plan taking that reality into account.

And job training is obviously only one part of my economic development plan. In addition to a trained workforce, we must have policies that encourage small business development and big business retention.

Finally, we cannot become a quality of life capital if we don’t recognize neighborhoods as the basic building blocks of the city. Currently, we are paving roads in neighborhoods in a top down manner.

We need a plan that empowers the leaders and residents of each of our unique neighborhoods. We need to retool the process by which we work to enhance our neighborhoods.

In short, we need to improve quality of life measures in every zip code. I will announce a plan to completely reorganize how we make investments in, and provide services, to neighborhoods.

In the coming weeks, and starting today, here, I will be advocating to city councilors, the administration and most importantly the community at large that we make early education, crime prevention and job training a real priority especially at this very critical juncture where we find ourselves at a moment of great challenge and also, opportunity.

I am glad that Mayor Bookwalter’s words from 100 years ago are still so clearly visible at the Old City Hall. We should accept and meet his challenge of being “no mean city”.

Our success will be measured not in how many new building cornerstones are laid over the next ten years, and certainly not in how many roads are paved, but in the recognition by our children ten years from now that they can be happy here and thrive. We’ve got a lot of work to do to become a quality of life capital before 2021, but I am confident the citizens of this extraordinary city are up to the challenge.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adamson's Letter To Editor Highlights City Disconnect with Neighborhoods

Zach Adamson, who is running for Indianapolis City-County Council At-Large, sent a Letter to the Editor to the Indianapolis Star. It was published on Monday. The letter dives into the relationship between the City of Indianapolis and a local neighborhood group. The letter reads:

Every August, neighborhoods across the country join forces and reclaim their streets from the forces that seek to keep law-abiding citizens locked in their homes and afraid. It's an event called National Night Out Against Crime.

As is tradition in our neighborhood, we have a huge block party highlighted by the Parade of Children, a symbolic walk through our neighborhood with residents and public safety officers. We have a massive cookout, feeding nearly 300 people. We have a school supply and clothing giveaway for hundreds of our kids.

We do all this free of charge to both the residents and the city for the simple reason that it has helped reduce crime.

This year is different. For the first time in nearly 10 years, after we submitted our application for a permit, we got an invoice in an email from the city. The fees include a never-before-heard-of permit fee and an application fee for a total of $57 (a fee to collect the fee).

Also, despite never having a single issue in 10 years, we were told we must hire an off-duty police officer for security.

Even though our event costs the city nothing, they want to charge us to help them do their job of controlling crime. It's madness.

In what universe can a mayor say public safety is job one and then charge fees to communities working to build collaborations with the city to help in that effort? I realize the city is struggling financially, but to even entertain the notion of using communities helping fight crime as a revenue source is unthinkable.

Is it any wonder our crime rates are what they are? This is just one of a growing number of examples of the disconnect between the city and its residents and one that has prompted a number of community leaders, like myself, to run for public office.

I hope the voters are watching closely.

Zach Adamson

Founder, Willard Park of Holy Cross-Westminster Civic Alliance

Candidate for City-County Council, At Large

Adamson notes in the comments section that the fees have been waived and that the event will go on as it always has, but his point is well taken. I plan to talk to Zach further on the issue. It shouldn't take a letter to the editor to get this kind of thing done.

(Full disclosure: I am an honorary co-chair of Adamson for Indy.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pence Ignores Hoosiers...Like Always

Mike Pence plans to not talk policy until 2012. May, 2012. Doesn't that scare you?

It should, and it frightens the bejeesus out of me. The man, who many consider to be the frontrunner in the 2012 Gubernatorial Race, doesn't respect Hoosiers enough to tell us where he stands on the issues that face this state. The man who has been in Congress for most of the last 10 years won't tell us his feelings about education, the state budget, or how he's going to bring Hoosiers jobs.

Thus, we must go on what we know about Mike Pence.

Pence, whose legislative record despite being one of the most powerful House leaders, doesn't show one significant legislative win. He hasn't passed a thing through Congress. He's carried water for the national GOP, and I think it's fair to say that he might be waiting for their orders about how he can position himself for a run at the Oval Office in 2016.

He doesn't want to be your Governor. It's a stepping stone, and it's clear. That's why Jim Wallace would seem to be a reasonable alternative for Republicans. He has plans, and he's not hiding them from people. Pence clearly thinks he is as much of a threat as a fly on the back of an elephant. Well, sometimes that fly's bite packs a punch. I think he is sorely underestimating Wallace, a man who can appeal to moderate Republicans and not just the Tea Partiers Pence is clearly counting on to carry him through.

All the while, John Gregg awaits the winner. Gregg is not really tasked with doing much at this point except making the rounds, listening to people, and raising campaign cash. He can put out policy plans as he goes. Pence, on the other hand, has a well-financed opponent, and it appears that he's not only ignoring him but ignoring Hoosiers.

Then again, why should it surprise us? That's what he's done in Congress for the last 10 years.

Chocola's Club for Growth Lugar Ad Misleading apparently took a look at Club for Growth's anti-Lugar ad that has been running on tv screens across Indiana for the past couple of weeks. The non-partisan watchdog group says that the CFG's claim that Lugar voted to "bail out" New York City back in the 1970's is misleading.

As Factcheck points out, Congress bailed out New York City in 1975. Richard Lugar was still Mayor of Indianapolis.

Perhaps someone should fact check Chris Chocola! When the Republican was in Congress, he was one of the most wealthy individuals there, and he never met a tax cut for the wealthy that he didn't love. He voted to lower corporate taxes and helped to create the climate of debt we now swim in because of his votes in Congress.

Now, some of the same things he voted for, his group wants to criticize Richard Lugar for voting for. That, my friends, is the definition of hypocrisy.

Here's the ad, by the way.

After this ad, Lugar responded with this odd effort.

And then, his opponent for the Republican nomination, Richard Mourdock put up this web response to Lugar's ad which the Log Cabin Republicans called, "Juvenile."

Isn't it amazing how you can be ripped up in this political climate for working with someone? That's the kind of guy you'll get with Mourdock. If he wins the nomination, bet you dollars to doughnuts he will end up being the next Chris Chocola, run one another.

36 Years and Still Kickin'

Well, it's my 36th Birthday today, and I couldn't help but think back over the first 36 years of my life and try to remember those moments that really and truly stand out.

Ok, I'm not going to bore you with that.

I am going to treat you to 36 things that I am older than. Feel free to add in your own in the comments.

1. Tiger Woods (Dec. 1975)
2. Peyton Manning (1976)
3. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Indiana (1976)
4. The Ink Jet Printer (1976)
5. Roller Blades (1979)
6. MRI Tests (1977)
7. The Atari 2600 (1977)
8. The Cell Phone (1979)
9. The Walkman (1979)
10. MS-DOS (1981)
11. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Illinois (1981)
12. Britney Spears (1981)
13. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) 1983
14. Windows for your PC (1985)
15. .com web domain (1985)
16. The disposable camera (1986)
17. Doppler Radar (1988)
18. Prozac (1988)
19. HDTV (1989)
20. HTTP and www (1990)
21. The Pentium Processor (1993)
22. Justin Bieber (1994)
23. The Brickyard 400 (1994)
24. The DVD (1995)
25. eBay (1995)
26. Viagra (1998)
27. South Park (1998)
28. Family Guy (1999)
29. The iPod (2001)-Still don't have one
30. The Hybrid Car (2003)
31. Facebook (2005)
32. YouTube (2005)
33. Twitter (2006)
34. The iPhone (2007)
35. The Tea Party Movement (2009)
36. Owling (2011)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nora Community Council Forum Takeaways

I sat in the front row of the room at the Nora Northside Community Council Candidates' Forum last night. Besides the Mayor's decision to skip the forum, I found a number of things interesting.

Kennedy Scores Solid Points
Democratic candidate for Mayor Melina Kennedy thanked the Nora Community for welcoming her and her husband Bob in as small business owners. Kennedy spoke passionately about her vision for the city, and that vision includes making Indianapolis a city "where all children can achieve their dreams." She talked about making the climate even better for small businesses and the jobs that they provide. Kennedy, an avid runner, mentioned that she wants to try to make Indianapolis a more healthy city and improve our "F" grade in air quality. She said that she would not only support but advocate for a comprehensive smoking ban.

Kennedy also seems to be just about the only candidate who voices vocal support for traditional public schools in Marion County while also advocating for reform and change.

Chris Bowen=Serious Candidate
In the past, the Marion County Libertarians have been spotty with the quality candidates they have put up for Mayor, but Chris Bowen is definitely more Andy Horning than Fred Peterson (who may have been a good candidate but a bad campaigner). Bowen aimed a great deal of criticism at Mayor Ballard and seemed to agree with Melina Kennedy that the status quo in public safety and education in this city is not acceptable. He was very critical of the water deal. Bowen said, "Every city that has done a deal like this has had water rates go up and water quality go down."

Bowen said that, as Mayor, he would be the an education-focused Mayor and be in charter schools personally monitoring progress. His solution to reforming education, apparently, would be to make all public schools charter schools. Bowen cited his past service in the U.S. Army, charter school bookkeeper and small business owner as reasons he thinks he's qualified for Mayor. He also highlighted his father's service as a retired police officer as giving him a different perspective on public safety.

Democrats Democrats Everywhere
All the Democrats invited to attend the forum were in attendance. Kennedy was there along with John Barth, Zach Adamson, Leroy Robinson, Pam Hickman, Len Farber, Kostas Poulakidas, and Angela Mansfield. Also in attendance were Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Marion County Clerk Beth White, and outgoing At-Large Councillor Joanne Sanders. In fact, Sanders was the only incumbent At-Large Councillor in attendance...and she is no longer running for reelection.

At-Large Candidates
This was a one sided affair. Each At-Large candidate for the Democrats got a shot to hit on his/her pet issues. Adamson spoke out clearly and strongly with his experiences as a small business owner and the parking deal. He said that it's been bad for business downtown. Hickman called the selling off of city assets, "Madness!" Barth highlighted his experience as a neighborhood leader and education was Robinson's issue along with his previous elected experience as an IPS Board of Education member. Jackie Cissell, the lone Republican running for At-Large that showed, talked about her background and some of her community work as IPL's neighborhood liaison, but she was also tasked with defending the Mayor for not showing up at the forum. She spent most of the time on the defensive, and that was unfair. She should have had some friends there to help her. I will cover Bill Levin later.

Mansfield vs. Simons
No real fireworks between these two candidates who were physically seated as far apart on the panel as possible. Mansfield was two seats from the right, and Simons was the last seat on the left. Mansfield's opening statement was right on citing her extensive Council experience and record of service for her constituents. Anthony Simons gave a speech that really focused on big ideas and less on details. There appears to be division over the comprehensive smoking ban which Mansfield sponsored last time around and that she says she will get passed in 2012. Mansfield also was critical of the water deal and the parking meter deal saying that the city should have captured that money and done any updates or upgrades on its own without selling off assets.

Farber vs. Vaughn
Democratic candidate for Council in District 3, Len Farber, had the best line of the night. When the topic of the now-controversial Broad Ripple proposed parking garage came up, Farber cited his research into the proposal. Farber said that he has found that it will take 20 to 25 years for taxpayers to recoup their investment in the garage. "I don't think we (as taxpayers) should be the sugar daddy for some rich developer," said Farber. The crowd heartily applauded his comments.

Vaughn was right on message all night spitting out all sorts of statistics, numbers, and exaggerations. Vaughn highlighted emphatically, to some snickers and chuckles, that the city can buy back the Broad Ripple garage for $1 when it becomes profitable. That when is a big if, I'm told. He also claimed that the Mayor has lowered income taxes in town and has balanced the budget. Vaughn said that the water deal will lower water rates in the future. I wonder how that is true because my rates seem to be going up even though I'm using the same amount of water as always.

Poulakidas vs. Scales
Kostas Poulakidas and Christine Scales didn't get much of a chance to mix it up in a large forum such as this one. Scales highlighted her experience as a Councillor and as a hard worker saying that she has made serving her constituents a "full time" job. Poulakidas seemed to take subtle exception to that saying that he decided to run for Council when he was helping out a neighbor with a zoning case. "We received no help from anyone," said Poulakidas.

The Curious Case of Bill Levin Redux
Well, Libertarian At-Large candidate Bill Levin is one of a kind. Sitting between the business casually dressed Barth and the perfectly coiffed and proper Scales, Levin's spiked hair, shirt and tie, handkerchief in sportscoat pocket, jeans, and socks/sandals look stood out. Levin also stood out in his opening statement, "I'm not a blue. I'm not a red. I'm a gold," said the Indy pop culture legend. Levin then sat down saying he loved everybody and, "I'm going to let the others do their thing." Some of the looks on Christine Scales face as Levin riffed on the issues were PRICELESS.

Few. I was shocked at how smooth Ryan Vaughn is. He knows the party line, and he rarely deviates. That's probably why he has persisted as the President of the Council when others have been deposed. He did step out of line and joined the Democrats in a show of hands as someone that would support a comprehensive smoking ban in Marion County.

It was impressive to see all the Democrats on the panel and in the room. I've been told that the Nora Northside Community Council typically leans a little right, but the room seemed to be about 60-40 Democrat. Jackie Cissell even made note of the fact, "Even though this seems to be a Democratic crowd, I hope you will consider me."

The absence of Mayor Ballard and the other Republicans was certainly noted.

Nora Community Council Provides Excellent Forum for Candidates; Too Bad Ballard, Malone, Rivera Missed It

Let's get this out of the way. All the Democrats invited to participate at the Nora Northside Community Forum were there on Thursday night playing to a packed house at St. Luke's United Methodist Church. Even Councillor Joanne Sanders, who is not running for reelection was there as was Prosecutor Terry Curry and Clerk Beth White. Who wasn't there? At-Large Councillors Angel Rivera and Barbara Malone and, the big man himself, Mayor Greg Ballard.

It would have been one of the first chances to see Ballard and his main challenger, Democrat Melina Kennedy, side-by-side. Kennedy instead got to score some easy and unchallenged points on the incumbent. While Chris Bowen, the Libertarian candidate, also hacked away at the Ballard legacy.

Ballard, on the face of it, could get a pass for missing this event. He had a Mayor's Night Out scheduled for opening night of the Marion County Fair on the other side of town, but I'm told that event was actually scheduled AFTER the Nora Northside Community Council was set. The NNCC even apparently attempted to change the date and work with the Mayor, but, as Ruth Hayes, longtime President of the organization said, "The Mayor declined our invitation to appear tonight."

Even if the Mayor gets a pass, where were Councillors Malone and Rivera and candidate Michael Kalscheur? Poor Jackie Cissell did her best to hold the line for her Republican At-Large ballot-mates.

The absence was well-noted. The Nora Northside Community Council, I'm told, is an organization that is non-partisan but whose membership leans Republican. With the three countywide officeholders on the Republican ticket this fall to skip the event, it could look like a slap in the face to those supporters expecting to see them.

Makes you they think this is hopeless or do they think this is in the bag?

So, the attendance list included:

Democrat for Mayor, Melina Kennedy and Libertarian for Mayor, Chris Bowen
District 2 Councillor Angela Mansfield and her Republican challenger Anthony Simons
District 3 Councillor Ryan Vaughn and his Democratic challenger Len Farber
and District 4 Councillor Christine Scales and her Democratic challenger Kostas Poulakidas.

All four Democratic At-Large candidates, Zach Adamson, John Barth, Pam Hickman, and Leroy Robinson were there with At-Large Libertarian Bill Levin and At-Large Republican Jackie Cissell.

My thoughts on the forum will follow under a separate headline later today.

West Mistakes Debate for Something Else in Congressional Feud

This House of Representative floor speech was just too much for Representative Allen West to stomach, apparently. (The moment of contention is just about 35 seconds in.)

This is what prompted this wacky, crazy, and unbelievable e-mail from West:

From: Z112 West, Allen
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 04:48 PM
To: Wasserman Schultz, Debbie
Cc: McCarthy, Kevin; Blyth, Jonathan; Pelosi, Nancy; Cantor, Eric
Subject: Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman-Schultz

Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!

I am bringing your actions today to our Majority Leader and Majority Whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior......which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign hqs, October 2010 in Deerfield Beach.

You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!

Steadfast and Loyal

Congressman Allen B West (R-FL)

Congressman West challenging Wasserman Schultz to a fight? IT'S ON! This could, in fact, however solve our debt crisis, a pay-per-view CSPAN event with Congressman West against Congressman Wasserman Schultz.

In all seriousness, West actually apparently thinks he is in the right. He is claiming that there's more than meets the eye in this feud. He also, after sending a fundraising e-mail to supporters, decided to say he apologized to Wasserman Schultz. Something the Congresswoman disputes.

Wasserman Schultz vs. West is just one of the latest stories in dust-ups between Washington types. Don't believe me, consider the Charles Sumner-Preston West feud, which is probably one of the worst moments in the history of our government. Senator Sumner was beaten to near-death on the Senate floor by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina in 1856.

Sumner gave a speech on the Senate floor that Brooks took exception to because he felt it insulted a relative of his, Senator Andrew Butler. According to Wikipedia, the speech given by Sumner "compared Butler with Don Quixote for embracing the harlot slavery as his mistress, and mocked Butler for a physical handicap."

So, this is what happened, according to Wikipedia:
On the afternoon of May 22, Brooks confronted Sumner as he sat writing letters at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber. Brooks was accompanied by (South Carolina Representative Laurence) Keitt and Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia. Brooks said, "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks began beating Sumner with his thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head. Sumner was trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to strike Sumner until the latter wrenched the desk from the floor in an attempt to escape. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber. Several other senators attempted to help Sumner, but were blocked by Keitt, who was brandishing a pistol and shouting "Let them be!" Keitt was censured for his actions.

I'm glad that we settle our differences now in much more civil means in the House and Senate these days.

The Sumner incident has little to do with this latest dust up between Congresspeople. It certainly gets messy sometimes in law making. Pols hold to their ideologies and to the wishes of their constituents. At the highest level, it sometimes reaches the boiling point, and that appears to be what has happened with Congressman West.

The American public cares little for what happened before. All they know is that this Member of Congress, was barely needled in a debate about an issue of importance, and he went crying to his e-mail about some poor treatment...perhaps then to generate fundraising dollars from it. Well, Wasserman Schultz, the Chair of the DNC, is using the opportunity to fundraise from the incident as well.

In two years, this will probably be a story that's long gone, but it does provide some interesting blog material for a July day in the middle of a heatwave.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ballard to Dodge Candidates' Forum for "Softball" Mayor's Night Out Event

Mayor Greg Ballard is dodging tonight's candidates' forum at St. Luke's Methodist Church on the Northside, according to his Twitter page.

The Mayor, whose supporters criticized Mayor Bart Peterson for dodging the forums in 2007, is apparently going to be at the Marion County Fairgrounds for a Mayor's Night Out event. If you've never been to a Mayor's Night Out, Ballard and 20-30 of his department heads, public safety officials, and others appear together. Questions are highly screened and pitched softball style at the Mayor who almost always dodges the softball and lets his staffers take it.

You could do a Mayor's Night Out without the Mayor, easily. While they are valuable events, you wonder if the Mayor might be dodging these candidates' forums for another reason. Anyway, I will be at the candidates' forum tonight. Hopefully, I'll see you there tonight at 7:00 p.m. at 100 W. 86th Street.

Fifth District Council Race Provides Interesting Match-up

When Ed Treacy named Jackie Butler to run for the City-County Council in District 5, it certainly made things very interesting.

National blogger and friend of this blog, Bil Browning, riffed on this over on the Bilerico Project, and I think his point is worthy of note. Butler, who is openly gay, is trying to unseat Cain who, according to Browning, is "an extremely anti-gay incumbent."

Browning writes:
Back in 2005, then-Bilerico contributor Seth Kreigh e-mailed Councilor Cain about supporting a proposed human rights ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity. Cain responded by saying that being gay is an "unhealthy lifestyle" and is "meant for destruction of human beings and our civilization."

The full text of Cain's, frankly, shocking e-mail is republished on Bilerico. I highly suggest you click over there and read the entire text as well as Bil's take on two more openly gay individuals are running for Council as Democrats in 2011, Zach Adamson and Todd Woodmansee.

Huge Forum Tonight on Indy's Northside

The Indianapolis Star reports that the Near Northside Nora Community Council will hold a candidates’ forum at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church tonight at 100 W. 86th St. The forum will include candidates for Indianapolis Mayor as well as City-County Council candidates in the At-Large race as well as Districts 2, 3, and 4. I plan on attending the forum.

Candidates that should be participating include: *=incumbent

Mayor: Melina Kennedy (D), Greg Ballard (R)*, and Chris Bowen (L)

District 2: Angela Mansfield (D)*, Anthony Simons (R), and Sam Goldstein (L)

District 3: Len Farber (D), Ryan Vaughn (R)*, and Grant Smith (L)

District 4: Kostas Poulakidas (D), Christine Scales (R)*, and Raymond Vanlanot (L)

At Large: Democrats: Zach Adamson, John Barth, Pam Hickman, Leroy Robinson
Republicans: Jacqueline Cissel, Michael Kalscheur, Barbara Malone*, Angel Rivera*
Libertarians: Patrick Cutley, Bill Levin, Sherry Meinert, Reid Miller

Should be an interesting chance to see several candidates in a one-stop-shop kind of forum.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Indiana's 4th District Left Without Representation: Rogue Rokita

Todd Rokita is blunt. Sometimes, though, it seems that he may have been smoking one before interviews. This one, however, takes the cake.

On ABC’s Top Line, Rokita gave a perplexing awkward interview that said he basically wasn't concerned about today's problem of meeting our country's obligations to our seniors and military. Instead, he's looking down the road. The quote was, brace yourself, one of the most arrogant things I've ever heard from a politician. Here it is.
“I don't know anything more piggish -- I don't know anything more un-American than saying, ‘Oh, I'm worried about my own little handout or my own little program or my own little economy and we'll kick this can down the road and let some future generation deal with it.”

Mr. Rokita clearly doesn't understand that there are millions of seniors and others that depend on those checks from the government. They aren't un-American. They aren't piggish. These are the people that built the country you now claim to represent, today.

Mr. Rokita, who the heck are you to say these people are piggish or un-American? The only thing piggish or un-American is adhering so strictly to your political ideology that you would rather starve seniors than solve this problem and work on a long term solution. This is not about you. This is about our nation. This is about solving a debt crisis for today and working to make sure it doesn't happen tomorrow.

Beyond his completely crazy comments about our seniors, Rokita also admitted that he does not serve his constituents. The votes that he has taken so far in Congress are for some future group of people that may or may not exist yet. Sorry 4th District, looks like your Representative went out the door in January…and that was Steve Buyer.

A friend of mine has told me that Todd Rokita was a much different person when he was a student at Wabash College. That Todd Rokita was someone who was much more of a liberal version of the one we see now. Makes you wonder if Rokita has put aside his core views in favor of an ideology that will get him elected in the “No Republican Left Behind” 4th District.

I digress. If you want to watch the entire interview, click below. And, by the way, I had to take a lot of strong language out of this post before it was published. I realized that an empty suit like Todd Rokita isn't worth an "F-bomb" or taking my blog out of the "family friendly" realm. I hope you're proud 4th District!

Citizens Should Ultimately Be Commended for Peaceful IBE Finish

I have not said much about Indiana Black Expo over the last few weeks, and that’s simple. There really wasn’t much out of the ordinary to report. It seemed like a very well-run and excellent showcase event here in the City of Indianapolis.

Those on the right are rushing to congratulate Mayor Greg Ballard and his staff for the good job they did in managing the security situation downtown on the second weekend, and, you know what, he does deserve credit. I admit it. I would hope that many Democrats and Republicans alike would give the Mayor an “attaboy” for this. The Summer Celebration was a successful event, but it was ultimately the citizens of Indianapolis and those that attended the Summer Celebration that made it a great experience. The public safety plan just helped to facilitate it.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the Mayor’s plan. On Friday and Saturday, it was clear the goal was to put as many police officers and volunteers on the streets as possible downtown. Is that some big mystery? Is that some big innovative plan? After last year’s problems, Mayor Ballard would have qualified for a dunce cap had he not advocated for this. It was a no brainer.

The Mayor’s Administration did do some risky things that did apparently work. Ballard, IMPD, and others took the case directly to the gang members in town, and he told them that their presence was not welcome downtown. There was also a lot of work by volunteers in the faith-based community to make sure the Summer Celebration went off without a hitch.

A hearty congratulations, I think, belongs to IBE, IMPD and the Department of Public Safety, who were, no doubt, tasked with organizing that huge police presence downtown on the second weekend. I saw a number of different agencies at work. Sheriff John Layton’s deputies were on the streets as well as Indiana State Police troopers. It was a team effort, for sure.

I was downtown for about three hours on Friday night, and all was peaceful. Police officers were smiling and helping pedestrians and motorists. I saw one officer giving directions at the corner of Meridian and Georgia. The police I saw seemed to be in a good mood.

So, I credit, again, the Indiana Black Expo and the City of Indianapolis for a job well done. We, as citizens, failed last year, and it should be noted that what happened last year on the last Saturday of Indiana Black Expo was not a result of a police failure. It was the result of people acting like idiots.

It's a page turner now. Let's make sure that IBE stays the showcase event that it has been for many years and move the discussion forward. Melina Kennedy will do an excellent job next year in helping to facilitate this major, important event.

Obama Dominates Fundraising in Indiana

Indiana’s Presidential campaign fundraising numbers show the strength of President Barack Obama and his unfettered path to the Democratic nomination in 2012 as Republicans are simply not putting their money where their mouths are yet.

According to the Indianapolis Star and writer Maureen Groppe, President Obama’s fundraising numbers in the Hoosier State have easily outpaced all of his Republican competitors, combined.

The report shows that the President has raised over $154,150 for his campaign. All Republicans in the race thus far have pulled in just over $121,500 with Obama's closest competitor, Mitt Romney, raising a couple dollars over $53,050. These numbers represent those individuals giving more than $201.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone. Obama is an amazing fundraiser, and his most loyal supporters remain extremely loyal. The Star reports that Obama raised $4.35 million in 2008 which is over twice of what John McCain was able to bring in from Hoosiers.

What does all of this mean? I think you can read a few things into the numbers.

Incumbency means a lot. Obama has the mechanisms in place to raise money, and his campaign has an excellent group of staffers dedicated to doing it. His huge campaign war chest will be among the many reasons why a second term remains likely.

There is no Republican front-runner. Though Mitt Romney has raised the most money, I think many Republicans are not comfortable with another middle-of-the-road Republican taking their standard into a national election. It’s why people like Michele Bachmann continue to gain traction, and Herman Cain is still getting attention.

President Obama still shows strength in Indiana. He eeked out a victory in 2008, and Indiana will be extremely tough in 2012 for Obama to win again. With that said, I think Obama is going to follow the same strategy that carried him to victory. His chances should not be overlooked anywhere. At the very least, he’s going to make the race extremely expensive for the Republican who rises up to challenge him, and that’s definitely in his favor.

Finally, reading fundraising numbers this early is sometimes a silly exercise. The Republicans do not have a clear candidate yet, and that may be keeping a lot of big money donors out of the fight just yet. Nobody wants to bet on a losing horse. We’ve seen Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Guiliani, and others raise tons of cash only to end up losing the nomination.

Nevertheless, President Obama’s chances in Indiana are, to quote that famous Monty Python movie line, “Not dead yet!”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stephens, Decatur Court Say WSJ Article Unfairly Portrayed Small Claims Courts in Marion County

I was all set to really light up Pike Township Small Claims Court Judge, Doug Stephens. I was ready to really read him the riot act on this blog and criticize him severely for his comments in a recent Wall Street Journal report on debt collection in Marion County's Small Claims Courts. That was until I talked to him.

The truth is always out there, but Stephens strongly disagreed with the portrayal of him in the article. He says the WSJ reporter, Jessica Silver-Greenburg, took a few of his quotes out of context and that he can't remember saying some of the things attributed to him.

"I'm pretty much the insurance-company judge," Stephens allegedly told Greenburg, and he says he did say those words. Stephens told me that it was in the context that certain townships seem to get certain cases and see more of them than others. He did not mean to insinuate that he is more favorable to insurance companies.

"If you ask around, I'm probably the softy when it comes to defendants," said Stephens who said that he has had lawyers walk out of his court before when they cannot get him to do exactly what they want him to do. Stephens said he has talked creditors into knocking down payments or reducing the amount owed making it easier for the defendants to pay back the money owed. "I tell them that this family is going to file bankruptcy if you continue to push this case."

Stephens also said that the portrayal of him as a gun-totin' "Renaissance Redneck" came from an offhand remark about a Picasso print he recently acquired. He said that he does tote a small gun at times when his constable is not available because there are no metal detectors in Pike Township's Government Center.

I also called the Decatur Township Small Claims Court and talked to Pam Ricker, who was also quoted in the article. Ricker flat out said, "I do not believe that article is right."

Ricker said the writer contacted the court and did not tell them the purpose of the piece. Like Stephens, she claims that Silver-Greenburg took her out of context at times. "I never said that the lack of being on a bus line makes it easier on the creditors. I only pointed out that we used to be on a bus line, but Metro (IndyGo) took that away from us and now we are not. That's very unfortunate."

Silver-Greensburg visited the court on a day when there were a lot of medical cases going through, said Ricker. She said that it does not account for all their business and that the number of filings has been going down due to the number of bankruptcies.

She also took exception to Silver-Greensburg's assertion that the Decatur Court allows unsupervised meetings between attorneys for the creditors and those they are suing, "We do provide cubicles, but we are right there and can hear what the attorney is telling the people. If they have a problem, we tell them that we can easily get them in front of the judge and let him settle the dispute."

As I said, the truth is out there, but these two different courts from two different sides of the political spectrum seem to think that the Wall Street Journal reporter told a different story than the one that they told her.

As an aside, though, this doesn't change this blogger's opinion on forum shopping. The practice of creditors finding the right courts to file in does go on, and, while this article may have been heavy-handed in its methods and even perhaps unfair at times in exposing the issue, forum shopping is something that really does need to stop in Marion County and the State of Indiana. It's a simple fix at the state legislature, and I hope that it gets done.

Early Running Shows Lots of Familiar Names in Republican Race; One Democrat Pulls Out

Editors Note: I'm holding back my reaction to the Wall Street Journal's article on Small Claims courts. I am not quite done with it.

Democrat Sam Locke has decided against running for Congress in Indiana's 9th District.

Locke, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Indiana Auditor of State says that fatherhood changed the calculus a bit on a possible Congressional run against Todd Young, according to the Associated Press.

The Indy Star also reported the campaign finance reports have come in for federal candidates in what figures to be some of the most hotly contested Indiana Congressional Districts, Indiana's 2nd, Indiana's 5th, Indiana's 6th, and Indiana's 8th Districts. Cobbled together with other sources, there are a lot of Republicans running and a lot of them you've heard of before.

2nd District
Democrat Andrew Straw (Attorney)
Democrat Brendan Mullen (Technical Analyst)
Republican Jackie Walorski (State Rep.)

5th District
Republican Dan Burton (I) (U.S. Congressman)
Republican John McGoff (Former Coroner)
Republican Susan Brooks (Former U.S. Attorney, considering)
Republican David McIntosh (Former U.S. Congressman, considering)

6th District
Democrat Lane Siekman (Attorney)
Republican Don Bates, Jr. (Businessman)
Republican Travis Hankins (Businessman)
Republican Luke Kenley (State Senator)

8th District
Democrat Dave Crooks (Former State Rep.)
Republican Larry Buschon (I) (U.S. Congressman)

I'm sure there will be more names to enter the race. It bears watching.

Ed Treacy to be Roasted!

You know, I am often uneasy about posting too much information up here about political fundraisers and things, but, when they are really unusual or creative, I totally find myself on board. This one might get some Republican donors or maybe even a few media types.

- Hosts -
Melina Kennedy, Lacy Johnson, Greg Hahn, Andy Miller, Julie Voorhies, Bill Crawford, Linda Pence, Carl Drummer, Ed Mahern, Billie Breaux, Frank Short, Tony Duncan, Sarah Riordan, Andrea Scott, Kevin Murray, Kip Tew, John Dillon, Chip Garver, Jen Grawcock, Terry Burns, LaDonna Freeman, Graham Richard, Joanne Sanders, Joe O’Connor, Laurie Thornton, Mike Quinn, Bill Kelsey & Jim Voyles

- Roasters -

John Gregg, Mike Riley, Louis Mahern & Joel Miller

- Special Guest Roasters-

Congressman André Carson, Prosecutor Terry Curry & Sheriff John Layton

- Wednesday, August 10 -

5:30 – 7:30

(VIP Reception 5:30 – 6:15)

(Roast 6:15 – 7:30)

300 East Restaurant and Lounge

300 E. Fall Creek Parkway | Indianapolis, IN | 46204

- Contributions -

$75: (Admission) I want to see this Belly Bumper roasted!

$150: VIP Seating

$250: VIP Reception & VIP Seating

You can make your contribution online by clicking here.

- or -

Please send your donations to:
Marion County Democratic Party
148 E. Market Street, Suite 300
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Checks should be made payable to the Marion County Democratic Party
P.S. This is a Marion County Democratic Party event,
ALL Judges and their staffs are allowed to donate and attend.
Paid for and Authorized by the Marion County Democratic Party.
Ed Treacy, Chairman

Pretty cool fundraiser. I'm going to have to dig $75 in change out of my couch cushions for this one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

WSJ Report Brings Up Forum Shopping Issue...Old News to Us

Others including Paul Ogden have weighed in on this today, and I plan to blog more on this tomorrow. The Wall Street Journal took a look at the crazy way that creditors can file small claims court cases in Marion County today. Again, more on this tomorrow.

Back in October, 2010, I covered a candidates' forum at the Decatur Township Civic Council. Steve Terrell, who was running for Small Claims Court Judge, pointed out that there is truly apparently little justice in small claims cases and that it has become a cash cow for township government. I'll let my account of what happened take over from there.

Things Get Heated at Decatur Twp. Forum

At last night's Decatur Township Civic Council Candidates' Forum, Judge Bill Fisher, of the Decatur Township Small Claims Court, got a little hot under the collar when Democratic candidate Steve Terrell brought up that collection cases seemed to get filed in Decatur Township's court because the court seems to, by its own representation, value revenue over fairness.

Fisher took the comment personally and attempted to lodge an objection to Terrell's statement. He shouted something unintelligible about his judicial record and then was lightly pulled back down by his arm into his chair by Decatur Township Trustee, Steve Rink. He later apologized for, "losing his cool." One way or another, it showed, in my opinion, bad temperament for a sitting judge. He also refused afterwards to shake Terrell's hand.

The truth of the matter is that Fisher had just explained...out of his own mouth...what a cash cow the Decatur Township Small Claims Court has become for Decatur Township government. He said that since he became judge in 2007 that the court moved from 8th in the county to 3rd in the number of cases filed. With the accompanying filing fees, court costs, and judgments, Fisher called the Decatur Small Claims Court a "valuable asset."

Here's something you might not know, plaintiffs such as collection agencies, hospitals...can file small claims cases in any small claims court in Marion County. You can shop for a court. If a specific court seems favorable, you can file there. The Decatur Township location is particularly attractive because it doesn't sit on a bus line. That makes it more difficult for, let's say, a person that doesn't drive to get down to the courtroom and provide a defense.

None of this shouldn't be construed to be personal towards Judge Fisher. He's a truly nice guy. It's just that the manner in which his courtroom operates is absolutely fair game for Terrell. It's the issue of the campaign for many who feel as if they did not get a fair shake in the court itself due to the pressure or the philosophy of the court as a cash cow.

The question, I guess, is should the Small Claims Court be more about making money or more about making fair judgments? For Fisher, it seems he wants to be fair, but it's also that he seems to be more about making money for the township than fairness. Perception can be reality.

I invite Judge Fisher to respond to this blog post if he believes I have been unfair.

By the way, Judge Fisher never responded.

The result: You get the government you deserve. Fisher was handily reelected, and the court practices go on. Again, more tomorrow.