Thursday, January 31, 2013

Giffords Powerfully Testifies on Gun Control

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords nearly lost her life due to an act of gun violence.

Yesterday, however, she sat in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Gun Control Hearing and testified so that no family perhaps someday will have to endure what hers did with her husband, Mark Kelly, at her side.

There are inspirations, and there are INSPIRATIONS.  Gabrielle Giffords inspires with her grit, toughness, determination, and will.  She's a remarkable woman, and I hope her beautifully crafted and spoken words make a difference because her story certainly has.

"Be bold!  Be courageous!  Americans are counting on you!"
--Gabrielle Giffords

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kerry Will Be Secretary of State

John Kerry
Confirmed 94-3 by the U.S. Senate, John Kerry will soon take the Oath of Office and replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  Kerry will resign from the Senate on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

When he is sworn in, Kerry will have served just over 28 years in the U.S. Senate.  Of course, he ran for President unsuccessfully in 2004. Since then, he has been back to work in the Senate, and he's been somewhat quiet.  He was up for this job in 2009, but President Obama chose Hillary Clinton.

Now, at 69, he's been called back to service to replace Hillary, and I think he will be a tremendous asset to the State Department.  He will certainly have his hands full.  Lots of things going on in the world.  From Egypt to Syria to Afghanistan to North Korea, there are tons of flash points in the world.  It's certainly a job that I wouldn't want right now.  It's just the job for John Forbes Kerry.

Incidentally, Oklahoma's Jim Imhofe, and both Texas Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted against Kerry.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Council Conduct Disappoints

Beurt SerVaas Public Assembly Room
I watched the City-County Council meeting last night, and I want to say that, on principle, I disagree with the tax increases that were passed on sports tickets and rental cars.  That was what I planned to blog about, but I have something else on my mind today.

I was appalled by the way the Council reacted to each other at times last night with some Councillors using points of order to try to stop other Councillors from speaking on proposals and some Councillors being flat out disrespectful to President Maggie Lewis when she tried to restore order.

I don't think you do anyone any favors when we talk over each other and try to shout each other down.  I believe that some Councillors need to realize that even when we disagree with what someone says that they have a right to say it.  If President Lewis has the authority to give someone the floor, then that should be respected.  A few Democrats seemed to forget that last night, and I find that unfortunate.

The Council is not a perfect place, and people get snarky both ways.  I realize that.  Councillor Benjamin Hunter sent out a tweet targeting Brian Mahern last night that I retweeted because I found it kind of funny.  

Now, some people might have considered that disrespectful I suppose.  I thought it was just simply what a mayoral candidate does.  They kiss babies and shake hands.  It also started a discussion on Twitter about whether or not it was ok for Councillors to tweet during meetings.  However you feel about Hunter's tweet, I don't think it's the same thing as essentially trying to shut down another Councillor who has something to say and something they wish to defend.

All in all, President Lewis kept order and was able to eventually allow all views to be heard.  For that, she deserves a medal.  

The whole meeting just left a bad taste in my mouth.  Sorry to any of my friends that may disagree with me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hogsett Still THE Key Player in 2015 Race for Mayor

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett keeps doing his job as the United States' lawyer in the Southern District of Indiana.  That means that he will have nothing to say for now about a possible run for Mayor of Indianapolis until he's no longer U.S. Attorney as he cannot politic.

Regardless of what Brian Mahern or any other Democrat wants to do for that matter, Joe Hogsett is still the biggest fish in the Mayoral Marathon in 2015.  Why?  Simple.  He has the highest profile.

Hogsett is a very familiar name.  As a young man, he served as Indiana Secretary of State, and he has served three governors and in a variety of different posts and manners inside and outside of party politics since then.  He has put his name on the ballot a couple of times for the good of the party in tough races, but the last couple of years have been his crowning achievement.  Hogsett has been working to clean up Indiana and, working with local authorities, his record has been quite good.  For the last two years, Hogsett has been in the news and active as a crimefighter.  He's been putting bad guys and the occasional good guy that did a bad thing away.

Politically, as I said last time I wrote about Hogsett and the 2015 Mayoral Marathon, his political rolodex contains pages that most local candidates won't ever have (see Bill Clinton, Evan Bayh, etc.).  I believe Hogsett would clear the Democratic field for Mayor this time around.  He might even send Mayor Ballard off to retirement.  That would be the Republican Party's best chance against Hogsett, but would Ballard want to have to run a third hard campaign when third terms have been cursed unless your name is Hudnut?

It's a big mystery for now.  Hogsett can say nothing.  I'm sure at some point we'll find out his plans.  As U.S. Attorney, he serves at the pleasure of the President.  As long as President Obama will have him, the U.S. Attorney job is a great one to have.  He's going to have to want to be Mayor of Indianapolis to quit it.  Maybe that will be his motivation not to run in 2015.

Will he run or won't he run?  Democrats want to know, but Greg Ballard and Brian Mahern REALLY want to know.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Is Something Rotten in Perry Township? Advance Indiana Says Maybe

Councillor Jefferson Shreve
I don't often read Gary Welsh's ramblings over on Advance Indiana very often these days, but I have to give him credit.  The volume of the material he cranks out and the quality of the investigating he's comfortable doing makes me look ridiculous sometimes.

Yesterday, Jefferson Shreve was elected by Republican precinct committeepersons to serve out the remaining time on Jeff Cardwell's Council seat.  That only tells part of the story.  For the rest, I will urge you to go to Gary Welsh's blog and read the rest.  I will also direct you to my friend Paul Ogden's blog for more of a follow-up.

The gist is that Welsh raises serious questions about Shreve's Marion County residency.  Shreve defeated a longtime Perry Township Republican, Michael Kalscheur.  Kalscheur is a Perry Township Advisory Board member and also ran for At-Large City-County Council in 2011.  According to Welsh, Shreve only recently started attending GOP functions in Perry Township and yet somehow gained the support of the Ballard Administration and Cardwell.  Did we mention he has deep pockets?

Oh the the reporting.  It's well done.

Looks Like Mahern Running for Mayor...or Something

City-County Councillor Brian Mahern
Brian Mahern created a Facebook page this weekend that looks a lot like the Facebook page of a guy running for Mayor of Indianapolis.

The Near-Eastside Democrat has been the most vocal critic of Mayor Greg Ballard's Administration and the Republicans that support him on the City-County Council.

Instead of seeking a second year as Vice President on the Council, Mahern's taken more of a role as a vocal Councillor speaking up against Mayor Ballard and, in that process, has gained the support of many Democrats and advocates that believe the Mayor has gone astray from his campaign promises.  This move also put him outside the Democratic leadership on the Council and more on his own path.

Creating a Facebook page does not yet mean that Mahern is officially running.  The name of the Facebook page is "Mahern for a better city" and not "Mahern for Mayor", but that's smart at this point.  It's always important to dip your toe in the water before diving in.

Mahern will have challenges and advantages in this run.  One advantage is that he's a Mahern.  The Mahern family has long been associated with the Democratic Party in Marion County and that carries a lot of goodwill with party faithful.  And, as I stated earlier, Mahern has been the most vocal critic of Mayor Ballard of any Democrat on the Council as well.

From a challenge standpoint, there are other candidates still out there that might run.  Joe Hogsett is seen by most Democrats as a "field clearer" given his performance as U.S. Attorney and his previous run for Mayor the last time around.  In that cycle, he ran very hard early but pulled out and threw full support behind Melina Kennedy shortly before being named U.S. Attorney.  City-County President Maggie Lewis, City-County Councillor Vop Osili, previous candidate Brian Williams, and even Congressman Andre Carson have all been mentioned as possible candidates or people interested in exploring a run for Mayor in 2015.  I really doubt Carson will leave Congress to run for Mayor, but the other candidates are definitely possible.

Mahern will need to also mend a few fences, and he may already be doing that.  I have been told that Mahern's aggressiveness and perceived ambition, at times, put him at odds with his own colleagues on the Council when he was vice president.  For his part, Mahern has cited philosophical differences with Council President Maggie Lewis and thought she should have been more vocal against the Mayor's advocacy of tax increment financing and also louder against the Mayor's call for more financial support of the Indiana Pacers.  That doesn't seem to matter to many of Mahern's strongest supporters, and it's what makes him stand out to them as a candidate.  I think time and opportunity mends all.  There's nothing in my judgement that Mahern has done that cannot be fixed, but he will have to work to fix those disagreements or to bring people over to his own side.

On the Republican side, Ryan Vaughn is widely considered the frontrunner to take the standard from his boss if Mayor Ballard doesn't go for a third term.  Republican City-County Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillen, City-County Councillor Ben Hunter, and newly-appointed Pence Administration member Jeff Cardwell have been other Republicans that I've heard might be interested in a run for Mayor should Ballard step out of politics.

Mahern, however, looks to be the first likely candidate in the Mayoral Marathon for 2015, and he's a strong candidate to start with for the Democrats.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shreve Elected to Replace Cardwell

Jefferson Shreve
Photo from IU Alumni Assn.
District 23 has a new City-County Councillor.

The Indy Star reports that southside businessman Jefferson Shreve has been elected by Republican precinct committeepersons to serve out the remaining time on Jeff Cardwell's City-County Council term.  Cardwell, a hardware shop owner, stepped down to take a spot in the Pence Administration earlier this year.

This is the second change of the City-County Council line-up since the current Council took office in January of 2012.  In the other instance, former Council President Ryan Vaughn took the Chief of Staff position in Mayor Greg Ballard's Office last year and was replaced by Councillor Will Gooden.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Treacy To Leave Chairmanship in March

Chairman Ed Treacy
In a not-so-surprising move, Marion County Democratic Party Chair Ed Treacy announced yesterday that he will not be seeking another term as county chairman.

Treacy has capably led the Marion County Democratic Party and has seen the county slowly turn more and more blue under his direction.  Almost every City-County office is now in Democratic hands with the notable exception of the Mayor's Office.

Mayor Bart Peterson was the first Democrat to be elected to the office since the 1960's, and Treacy directed the party when the Mayor was reelected in 2003 after becoming Chair in 2001.  Treacy was replaced by Mike O'Connor in a very brief retirement.  Treacy was not Chairman when Peterson lost reelection and the Dems lost the City-County Council in 2007.  While Democrats could not defeat Greg Ballard in 2011, the party did re-take the City-County Council.

Greater than that, a trip around the City-County Building will now find a decidedly Democratic feel.  Dems control every county office after years of Republican domination.  Things were capped off in 2010 when Terry Curry won election over Mark Massa as Marion County Prosecutor.  Dems also came within a few thousand votes of sending home Scott Schneider in the Senate and added Christina Hale and Karlee Macer in D pickups in Marion County State Representative races.  Since 2004, the Democratic candidate for President has carried Marion County.  In statewide races, Marion County has become a must-win.  Joe Donnelly swept to victory in 2012 partially because of huge margins he carried out of the state's most populous county.

As a journalist and a blogger, I'd be remiss if I didn't briefly discuss a few negatives.  His enemies list is long.  Treacy is decidedly old school in his tactics and his dealings, and some of the things that made him very successful also alienated some talented people in the party.  That is, however, the nature of being a party chair and a party chair of Democrats.  As I've heard Ed say before, it's like "herding cats."

When the final chapter is written, though, it's been a remarkable run for Treacy.  He's been a major player in two major Indiana counties as chair (having previously served as Monroe County Chair).  His record stands for itself as he leaves the Chair position behind.  The Marion County Democratic Party is in an extremely strong position as he leaves.

I would assume there will be a bit of a scramble as the factions of the party try to put up their own chair candidates.  The Indy Star's Jon Murray writes that Joel Miller is a likely choice to emerge as chair, and I would agree with that assessment.  Nonetheless, it's going to be interesting.

On a personal note, while I've had my moments of agreement and disagreement with Chairman Treacy over the years, I want to thank him for his support.  I also want to thank him for the opportunity to serve the party as a Vice Precinct Committeeperson, Precinct Committeeperson, and Ward Chair for a few years.  That taught me a lot about party politics, elections, and much more.  I understand the many criticisms out there, but I also believe that on balance the positives of Chairman Treacy's tenure have FAR exceeded the negatives.

In 2008, Tom John, the then-Republican Chair of the Marion County Republican Party liked Treacy's return to the Chairmanship to him being "exhumed from the political graveyard."  At the time, Republicans held the City-County Council, the Prosecutor's Office, and the Mayor's Office.  As Treacy leaves, Tom John has been retired and the Republicans only have the Mayor's Office in their column.  Does that mean that Ed has presided over a political zombie apocalypse over the GOP?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Get Well Karen Pence!

Governor Pence and First Lady Pence enjoy an inaugural
ball dance.  (Photo from Facebook)
I want to take a moment and send a get well wish out to Indiana First Lady Karen Pence who had to have emergency gall bladder surgery today.

Pence has barely had a chance to unpack any boxes when this health issue and emergency cropped up.  Here's hoping that she makes a speedy recovery.

My thoughts and best wishes are with the Governor and the Pence family.

Dems Rightly Call Foul on Young Bill; People Lose

Senator Mike Young
I've let it sit for a couple of days, and it's been like a stew overcooking in the crockpot.  Well, it's starting to bubble and percolate and get nasty over there. Tthat describes my attitude over Senate Bill 621, Senator Mike Young's bill that would make major and, in my opinion, destructive changes to city-county government.

I've already written on the bill once here, but I'm not done yet.  I've got a lot on my mind, so bear with me.

Yesterday, Democratic officials held a news conference that was highly critical of Young's bill that Mayor Greg Ballard didn't even ask for (but apparently participated in writing) that would give him a great deal more power as the city's executive.  Some of that power would be unchecked and unilateral power.  For example, he would get more appointments to the Metropolitan Development Commission.  He would be able to change the budget and have more freedom to use a line item veto.

Young's bill would also reduce the City-County Council from 29 to 25 members by eliminating the four At-Large Council seats.  Since the Republicans hold a 13-12 majority in the districts, the four At-Large seats currently give the Dems a 16-13 majority on the City-County Council.  As the At-Larges go, the control of the council seems to go recently.  Removing those At-Larges would sure make it easier for the Republicans to control the Council.

In the interest of full disclosure, I served as an honorary co-chair of Adamson for Indy, Zach Adamson's campaign committee when he ran for Council At-Large in 2011.  I did that because I believed in Zach, but I also did it because I believe in the idea of an At-Large Councillor.

City-County Building
With At-Large Councillors in addition to my district councillor, I have four councillors that have a more global view of the city and a more countywide outlook representing me along with the home district Councillor who is more attuned to the district.  I think that's important.  It's also something unique.  It's not a new concept, and it has been in place for over 40 years.  At various times, both parties have tried to eliminate the At-Large seats, but they have been maintained because someone saw value in them.  This, however, with all due respect to the four Councillors sitting in the At-Large seats isn't really about the At-Larges though.  That's just one small part of this bill.  Without this highly-controversial plank, it's still a REALLY BAD BILL.

Another portion I think is unacceptable is the removal of two appointments of the Marion County Board of Commissioners to the Metropolitan Development Commission. Under Unigov, the Marion County Commissioners consist of the Marion County Treasurer, the Marion County Auditor, and the Marion County Assessor. In most counties in Indiana, these are separately-elected offices. Due to Unigov, these offices make up that three person board. 

A few years back, Republicans handed over keys to most of the City-County Building to Democrats. That included the countywide offices that tend to trend with the way the County moves politically. Other than the Mayor’s Office, Democrats control every county office. Young’s bill, if passed, would move two crucial Metropolitan Development Commission appointments away from the County Commissioners and into the Mayor’s Office. If you don’t think that’s significant, then you just don’t understand government.

I fail to understand why these things are necessary now.  Is there really a call or a need for the reform of Marion County and Indianapolis government?  No.  Young just stuck his nose in where it really didn't belong.  After all, the measures Young wishes to overturn with his power grab bill have been in place since Unigov went into place over 40 years ago. It’s not like these are new issues that just recently popped up on the landscape.

Don't even get me started on my Senator, Mike Young, either.  Having lived in his district for many years, I strain to find someone I would consider a more partisan member of the 150 members of the Indiana General Assembly.  He may or may not be a member of the establishment all the time, but Mike Young is a REPUBLICAN.  I believe any chance he has to stick it to Democrats he would.  Now, he has that chance.

And, that's the real tragedy here.  This is going to become a Republican vs. Democrat issue.  It shouldn't be.

If we truly want to reform City-County government in a meaningful way, this is not the time nor the place nor the venue nor the manner.  It should be something that's done together with the input of the public.  Young has clearly already telegraphed his shot with this overbroad bill that will consolidate a great deal of power that should not be consolidated under the Office of the Mayor of Indianapolis.  No matter WHO is in that office...the Mayor of Indianapolis doesn't need any more power.  For this reason alone, this bill must be defeated.

I hope wiser folks than Mike Young prevail on this one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Democrats Respond to Pence's State of the State Address

The House and Senate Democratic Leaders, Scott Pelath and Tim Lanane, react to Governor Mike Pence's State of the State Address.

I did not get a chance to hear the speech, so I will be playing from behind on this one.  Duty called last night, so I'll watch it and give my own reactions at a later date.

For now, here's the Democratic response.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pence's State of the State Address

Did not get a chance to watch the speech (like me)?  Here it is.

I'll watch it and provide my reactions later.

President Delivers in So Many Ways

In case you didn't hear it, President Barack Obama delivered an amazing and truly beautiful Inaugural Address yesterday in Washington, D.C.

The speech was historic in many ways.  Most of all, in a very personal way, it touched me.  It was amazing to hear the President of the United States explain in real terms that he understood the struggle that the LGBT community continues to fight today for civil rights.

President Obama brought home the shared journey that we all continue to walk in this country and that we are indeed all in this together.  The speech had its DNA in the great speeches of President Lincoln and Dr. King.  At one point, it seemed to be a direct answer to Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech given nearly 50 years ago at the other end of the National Mall.  The answer is that we still have work to do and that we can do it together.  As Obama said:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation's task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.

Mostly, though, I'm just proud to have a President that I voted for twice stand before his country and give a speech like this one.  I am very proud of my President, and I look forward to a new spirit of cooperation that will hopefully come from us all as citizens.  WE THE PEOPLE can indeed move this country forward, and I thank the President for reminding us of this.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Remembering Dr. King

Obama II: The Sequel

President Barack Obama is already officially into his second term, but he will be publicly sworn-in and will deliver his Second Inaugural Address today.

As the nation celebrates a great man named Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama will step to the podium and set his agenda for a second term.  Few politicians will be under as much pressure or scrutiny as President Obama when he opens his mouth to deliver his speech today.

What will be in the speech?  One can only predict.  If I know my President, I think we'll hear an honest and at times sobering and real speech.  I think we'll also hear him soar for the stars and try, once again, to appeal to the best of people.

I could be wrong, but I think we'll hear a great speech from a great man on a great day honoring a great American.  As President Obama begins his second and final term in office, all Americans should be hoping that the next four years continue to get brighter.  So, here we go.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Young's Huge Bill Would Change City-County Government

Senator Mike Young filed a mammoth bill that will fundamentally change City-County government in Marion County if it passes.

Young's bill is so full of various provisions that it's really hard to even put into one blog post everything that it would change.  The biggest change is that it would eliminate the At-Large City-County Council seats and only keep the district-level seats.  Currently, four Democrats hold the At-Large seats and that nets a 16-13 majority on the Council.  Republicans hold a 13-12 majority in the 25 district seats.

The quick rundown goes like this.  The bill, numbered SB0621, would also remove Council oversight of Mayoral Director and Deputy Director appointments.  It would remove County Commissioner appointments on the Metropolitan Development Commission while giving the Mayor two more.  It would officially place the IMPD under the Department of Public Safety and the Public Safety Director.  It would give the Controller the ability to allot appropriated funds to city/county departments.  It would eliminate the possibility of CIB PILOT payments.  The bill would allow the Mayor to reduce or modify separate items of an ordinance appropriating money or a tax.  This is only a part of it.  It would change the amount of time someone must live in Indianapolis before being eligible for running for Mayor or how long someone would have to live in a district before running for City-County Council.

Here's a link to the bill.

Where to begin?  It's pretty easy.  Almost everything in this bill is designed to reduce the power of Democrats in Marion County.  From reducing the power of the County Commissioners (the Marion County Treasurer, Assessor, and Auditor) to deleting the At-Large seats on the Council, this bill would, as it stands now, reduce the power of the City-County Council in one majorly blue county.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  After all, it's Mike Young who filed the bill.  You won't find many more partisan members of the Indiana Senate.

Thank YOU!

The over 1,800 hits in the last three days on this blog according to site meter!  That is simply remarkable.

Thank you so much for your readership, and I so appreciate your confidence in this blog and what I write here.  Thanks again!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Almost All of Indiana's Congressional Republicans Oppose Sandy Relief Bill

Six of Indiana's seven Republican Congresspersons voted against a $50.7 billion bi-partisan Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill that finally passed out of the U.S. House on Tuesday Evening.  

The bill passed 241-180 and FINALLY came to reality close to 90 days after the storm barreled on to shore destroying hundreds of miles of coastline property and disrupting thousands of lives.

Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman, Jackie Walorski, Susan Brooks, Larry Bucshon, and Luke Messer all voted  to oppose the final measure.  Todd Young was one of the few brave Republicans to stand up and vote to provide the help needed to get the affected region back on its feet again.

Rokita gave some malarkey answer about feeling compassion for the victims of Hurricane Sandy but he didn't feel it was right to increase the debt for the children of the future blah blah blah blah.  Rokita uses official Congressional funds to advertise his town hall events on WIBC and in other venues.

Congressmen Andre Carson and Pete Visclosky, Indiana's Democrats in the House, joined Young in voting for the bill.

Why was this the bill to try to fight this spending thing on?  Pretty sad and pretty embarrassing for Hoosiers.  Let's hope that national disasters stay out of our state because we likely aren't getting any help from the East Coast. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Statehouse Shocker: Ritz Supports Pence Plan Removing Board from Her Office

According to the Associated Press, Glenda Ritz says she’s ok with Mike Pence’s removal of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board from the responsibilities of her office into the Office of the Governor.

The move appeared purely political to me, but I guess appearances can be deceiving as Ritz said she applauded the move by Governor Pence. She said that it will set up the board to operate as a “separate entity”.

Of course, I had been critical of the move that was made by Pence. I guess I should have waited to hear what Ritz thought. This is what happens when you jump to conclusions. As a blogger, sometimes I do it too quickly. Now, I just admit it, own it, and move on.

So, I own it.  Sorry Governor Pence and Superintendent Ritz.

Pence's Budget Raises Eyebrows

Governor Mike Pence's first budget has raised some concerns from educational advocates about the way that it will fund education.

Pence plans a 10 percent cut in income taxes across the board.  Of course, Indiana's income tax is one tax that now funds schools since the property tax reforms of a few years back.  On top of that, Pence's increases in education do not keep up with the recent average rate of inflation.  Finally, he ties funding increases to academic improvement.  None of these things benefit struggling inner city school districts in the state.  As my friend, Kelly Kennedy Bentley, an educational reform advocate and former IPS School Board Member said, "This is really a bad idea."

So, as costs go up with the rate of inflation, funding will remain behind that and there's no guarantee you'll get more money.  Granted, Pence has set up a pretty broad scoreboard for districts to show growth academically, but some districts or other schools won't make it.  The new Governor wants to expand career and technical education.

Time will tell how Pence's budget does once the House and Senate gets hold of it.  I think his tax cuts will likely shrink and I'm interested to see how education funding might be tweaked.  Of course, the Governor will have to sign off on the deal.  It's clear not everyone is exactly on board with Pence's budget.  After all, that would burn through a lot of revenue.

It's going to get interesting, I think.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Breaking: Controversial Superintendent of IPS to Retire in April

Dr. Eugene White

According to WRTV, Dr. Eugene White, the sometimes controversial Superintendent of the Indianapolis Public Schools, has decided to step down from his job.  Details are still emerging.  More to come on this story for sure.

Dr. White will retire in April, and the district will honor his contract that runs through April of 2015.  It will pay him an extra $800,000.  RTV 6 has more here.

Three Consecutive Female Lt. Governors: Time for One in Big Chair?

Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann
When Sue Ellspermann became Lieutenant Governor yesterday, it extended a streak.  One that we have now come to see as commonplace.  Ellspermann is the third-straight female to be Indiana's Lieutenant Governor.

It began in 2003 when then-Governor Joe Kernan nominated the highly-qualified Kathy Davis to take his old job after Kernan succeeded his late boss, Governor Frank O'Bannon.  Governor Daniels added Senator Becky Skillman to his ticket in 2004, and they were swept to victory over Kernan/Davis.  They won reelection in 2008 over Jill Long Thompson and Dennie Oxley.  That brings us to 2012 where both the Republicans and Democrats nominated a female for the Lieutenant Governor slot.  In a close election, The Mike Pence/Ellspermann prevailed over John Gregg and Vi Simpson.  With Indiana so willing to elect female Lieutenant Governors, it begs the question about when we might see a female Governor in Indiana.

We may find out sooner than later.  If Pence decides to run for President, there's always the chance he might resign to concentrate on running for that office.  That would make Ellspermann Indiana's first female Governor.  That is not likely, though.  I don't see Pence stepping aside especially since Indiana has a legislature that is done by early to mid-spring.

At just 62 now, Skillman likely isn't done in politics.  In four years, if Pence moves on, I could see her giving the office a whirl.  Ellspermann would likely be a candidate at that time, too.  I think the bench is much longer on the Democratic side.  Davis, Simpson, Rep. Linda Lawson, Rep. Terri Austin, and many others that I'm forgetting would make excellent Governors.

It's just an interesting thing to think about.  It isn't only the Governor's Office that perhaps lacking in female power, but the U.S. Senate seats from Indiana have been male-dominated. As my friend and fellow blogger, Matt Stone, pointed out on Twitter when I tweeted this out on my account,

The road to 2016 will tell us much, I think.

P.S.-If I forgot anyone, please feel free to let me know in the comments what female candidate you believe would make a good Governor.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pence Wastes No Time Slapping Ritz in Face

Glenda Ritz
I should know better.  After such a soaring speech that hit on many of the right notes, Mike Pence waited practically no time at all to slap the only Democrat executive office holder in the face by removing some of her power.

Pence signed several executive orders immediately after taking the oath of office and finishing up his Inaugural Address.  Pence rescinded a Mitch Daniels Executive Order from 2011 that placed the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board under the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and placed it back under the responsibility of the Governor's Office.  That particular board is in charge of resolving disputes between school districts and teachers' unions.

Ritz now has a little less power than Tony Bennett did, and Pence did it by circumventing the legislature.  I hope that all the people that get hot and bothered when the President issues an Executive Order will get just as equally hot and bothered over this one.

By one of his first actions, it sounds like Pence's speech calling for bi-partisanship and a sense of togetherness was just words.

Here's to Mike Pence

How I would enter the inauguration.
The balls are all done, and the parties have happened.  It's time for Mike Pence to become Governor Mike Pence, and he'll do that today at about 11:00 a.m.

It might not surprise you to know that I did not vote for the Governor, but I always wish him well.  I hope that over the next four years that I will be able to credit the Governor when he deserves it, but I will be ready to hold him accountable when necessary as well.

I think Pence is a genuinely good person with a good head on his shoulders.  People will find out quickly, however, he's not Mitch Daniels.  Love Daniels or hate Daniels, he did change this state.  Some of it, like his BMV reforms were excellent.  Others...well, not so much.  The point is that Governor Pence finds himself with a state that's supposedly in pretty good shape fiscally, but I don't think we know that for sure or not.

Governor Pence deserves a loyal but vocal opposition.  I will respect him because he is the Governor of my state, and that has always meant something to my family.  It doesn't matter if it's Oliver P. Morton, Frank O'Bannon, Robert Orr or Evan Bayh.

From the bottom of my heart, Governor Pence, I hope you are successful as governor of Indiana.  Every Hoosier, regardless of political party or constituency group should hope.

Abdul Teases Cheat Sheet with Carson Mayor Rumor

Congressman Andre Carson
The self-proclaimed political "arms dealer" in town is apparently going to include a piece about Congressman Andre Carson possibly running for Mayor in his next "cheat sheet" from,

I have to tell you that the thought of Mayor Andre Carson makes people like me excited, and it makes the far right wing nervous, but it really shouldn't.  Congressman Carson has built a strong record in Congress of working hard for the 7th District and its families.

Because I have kicked around the notion in my brain before, it really didn't surprise me to see Abdul speculating on it, and I don't know exactly what the cheat sheet will say.  I would say this.  Congressman Andre Carson has been elected four times by wide margins to lead Indiana's 7th District in Congress.  In order to reach his first election, he had to fight off a field of great Democrats at the caucus and primary levels.  That doesn't even count that March Special Election fight with Jon Elrod which is still Carson's closest victory yet.  Carson proved strong in Presidential years of 2008 and 2012.  He bucked the anti-incumbent trend in 2010 each time exceeding his own seeming baseline of votes.

For these reasons, I think Congressman Carson will likely stay in Congress and let someone else run for Mayor of Indianapolis.  He is, however, a very powerful force in local politics.  If he wants to run for Mayor, he can do it, and I think he can win.  I just honestly think he will stay right where he is for now.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

HJR-6 Dying on Vine; Don't Pop Cork Yet

As the days pass, it appears that House Joint Resolution 6 which would ban pretty much all forms of state-recognized relationships other than male-female marriage by Constitutional Amendment appears to be headed towards the scrap heap in a stunning turn of events. That doesn’t mean it’s time for a parade down Meridian Street just yet.

An end to the fight to write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution would be spectacular, but it hasn’t happened yet. Even if it does happen, same sex couples are still prohibited from joining in marriage by Indiana Code. Federal law also prevents it even though the current administration is not so keen on enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act.

That’s why it’s important to watch what happens at the Supreme Court level. There are cases the Court is currently considering that could determine what happens in not only states that have passed referenda on the subject but states like Indiana that have outlawed same sex marriage by statute.

The Indy Star reported that a recent poll showed Hoosiers were evenly split on the issue of marriage with 45 percent favoring same sex marriage and 45 percent opposing it. That is a big step forward for this state. Who knows if that ground swell of support that seems to be building on what used to be a controversial issue will someday cause the end to and the repeal of these laws if the Supreme Court doesn’t get to it first.

It’s time. Pretty cool to be around to watch our society change for the better.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let's Write Off Cursive

As the Indiana General Assembly hits "Hump Day" on its first week in the session, the Indy Star reports that Senator Jean Leising and her cosponsor Mike Delph are filing a bill to bring the instruction of cursive writing back to Indiana schools, but it's unlikely to go anywhere.

To be frank, it shouldn't.  I've written on this subject here before on the blog, and my mind hasn't changed.  It's much more important to give the 21st century student keyboarding skills at a young age than forcing them to practice the proper curly "q" on the letter D.

According to the Star, 46 states have adopted the common core curriculum which doesn't force schools to drop cursive instruction but allows schools to substitute other instruction instead of cursive.  Leising is concerned that students won't be able to read cursive if they don't learn it.  It's a valid point, but I can't honestly remember the last time I saw a student write in cursive in my class.  I think the ship has sailed on this one.  If you write in cursive, you're officially "old school" like me.

It's another attempt for the state to mandate something a local school district can decide for itself.  I honestly don't think this rises to the level of something that needs to happen in our schools.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Carson Placed on Armed Services Committee

Rep. Andre Carson
Seventh District Representative Andre Carson was named to the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.  Carson's position on the committee puts him on one of the most prestigious committees in Congress.  This comes on the heels of Carson last week being named a Deputy Whip in the Democratic caucus.

Here is the release from the Congressman's Office:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced that Congressman AndrĂ© Carson will serve on the powerful House Armed Services Committee, effective immediately.
The Armed Services Committee oversees defense policy, ongoing military operations, the organization and reform of the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, counter-drug programs, acquisition and industrial base policy, technology transfer and export controls, joint interoperability, the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, Department of Energy nonproliferation programs, and detainee affairs and policy. 
“The men and women of our armed services are the truest examples of patriotism and character,” said Congressman Carson. “The policies and programs that impact their work are of critical importance to our national security and the overall success of this nation. I am honored to join the Armed Services Committee and to work with my colleagues as we seek to empower their service and honor their sacrifice.” 
Since taking office in 2008, Congressman Carson has had notable legislative success in issues dealing with our armed services. In 2011, two pieces of his legislation were signed into law by President Obama: The Service Members Mental Health Screening Act, which ensures comprehensive evaluation of mental health assessments before and after deployment, and the Military Families Financial Preparedness Act, which provides service members and their spouses with financial counseling before leaving the military. 
In addition, Indiana’s 7th District is home to several defense industry companies who employ thousands of workers. With this appointment, Congressman Carson will be able to advocate on behalf of those industries, their employees, and their efforts to keep our military effective.

All of this is good news for Indiana and the 7th District.  Having a powerful Congressman on a prominent committee cannot hurt.  It also puts the Congressman in the leadership line for the Democrats who will be working hard to retake the House in 2014.

One thing's for sure.  Carson continues to serve Indiana's 7th District with distinction in Washington.

Monday, January 7, 2013

General Assembly Session Starts Today

Indiana Statehouse
As the Indiana General Assembly convenes for its 2013 long session today, there are signs that things, at least in the Indiana House, aren't necessarily as bad as some Democrats may think.

I have talked to a few Democratic legislators that tell me the Republican majority may actually be willing to reach across the aisle more than some may have thought.  The Dems tell me that Republicans have sent signals that some of the extremism that many feared might happen with a far right majority may not get out of the Indiana House.

I'm told that the surge in public opinion towards supporting same-sex marriage may ultimately doom the issue here in Indiana.  The Dems tell me that many Republicans in the House are concerned that the resolution passed in 2011 goes way too far and that it's likely seeing a lot of its support drying up.  A big push by same-sex marriage advocates and concerned families that are in things like domestic partnerships would probably push this issue over the top.

I would expect partisan fights over the budget and education, but we shall see.  I also have less confidence in the Indiana Senate.  The amount of crazy on the right side of the aisle in the Senate is immense.  We already have seen Senator Dennis Kruse file a bill that would allow public schools to require the saying of the Lord's Prayer daily.  That's probably going nowhere, but it signals the "see if it sticks" mentality of many in the Senate.

One thing is always for sure in the Indiana General Assembly: expect the unexpected.  With a long session, it's going to be a long haul for those interested in Indiana government.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rokita, Stutzman Oppose Sandy Relief Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives convened yesterday its new session yesterday.  Today, it passed a bill, 354-67, to help fund flood relief claims for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.  After 60 some days, this is the FIRST bill to be passed through Congress to help Sandy victims.

Indiana's Todd Rokita was one of the 67 no votes on the bill announcing today on his Twitter:

Rokita is right.  We do have a fiscal crisis.  We have to cut spending.  This bill, however, is not the place to start cutting.  The victims of Hurricane Sandy deserve relief NOW.  They have been waiting long enough.  When Chris Christie went off the other day on Congress, it was guys like Rokita that he was certainly thinking of in his comments.

Rep, "Reluctantly" Rokita
While Rokita opposes bills like this one, he has no problem using taxpayer funds to advertise his Congress on Your Corner events on WIBC and in other media.  That's taxpayer money going into Emmis' coffers, and, while Jeff Smulyan is a Democrat, it would be great if that's the kind of spending that perhaps Rokita would be talking about cutting.

I wonder if Rep. Rokita would do the same thing if a major disaster were to hit in Indiana's 4th District.  If his own constituents were standing by and waiting now over two months for Congress to act.  Hopefully, he might have a different attitude.

It seems that we shouldn't be trying to balance the budget on the backs of the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Seems to me that we perhaps should be cutting an unnecessary billion dollar weapons program or something rather than voting to oppose aid for people that need it.  Thankfully, enough members of the House voted to pass the bill.  Incidentally, Marlin Stutzman joined Rokita in opposition to the bill.  All 67 no votes were Republicans.  161 Republicans joined 193 Democrats to pass the measure.  Other than Rokita and Stutzman, the rest of Indiana's delegation voted to pass the resolution.  Michele Bachmann even voted yes.

Having worked so hard, the House has now convened until December 14.  I guess those two days were doozies!

Ballard Barks Back at Tully on Twitter

That tweet came from Mayor Greg Ballard this morning after the Indianapolis Star's Matt Tully penned a Jan. 3 column extremely critical of the policy on snow and ice removal on the city's residential streets.

The crux of Tully's argument is that if the City of Indianapolis wants to find the money to do something that it does it.  He's right.  Again and again, the city has found a few extra million here and there to pay for things like hosting a Super Bowl or helping to bail out the Pacers and the CIB.  He argues that we should expect more out of city services even if it means paying more in taxes.

While many icy areas on my neighborhood streets have melted, there are a few spots here and there that are essentially ice rinks with potholes.  As more and more cars have gone over the thick ice, they have become rutted and rippled.  It's not an easy drive nor an easy place to stop your vehicle should a young child dart out in front of you.  My streets are better than many downtown which are now caked with two or three inch thick layers of ice.  The problem is there and anyone who drives a neighborhood street can see it.

Instead of a more measured tone, Ballard seems to be taking Tully's criticism of policy as criticism of the Indy Snow Force.  If Tully did that, that would be completely misplacing the criticism.  Thing is, Tully's piece doesn't do that, and it indirectly lays the blame at the feet of the Ballard Administration.  Indy Snow Force and the side contractors utilized by the city do a tremendous job, and they should be commended.  The problem is policy.

My friend, Paul Ogden, took Tully to task for the column as well, but he did it in a different way.  Tully also argues that Indy residents perhaps should "chip in a little more" in taxes for better snow removal.  That seemed to set Paul off.  Ogden wrote on Facebook :
Matt Tully never complained about the City giving away millions of dollars to politically connected developers and contractors. He has never written one word against the Broad Ripple Parking Garage paid for with our tax dollars and simply given away to a contributor to the Mayor. He supports the establishment of TIF districts which have been shown to drain precious resources from city services. He found "no problem" with a 50 year parking meter deal that gives away 70% of the parking meter for the next 50 years. When all these giveaways of our tax dollars happened, Tully remained silent. Now he complains we don't have money to do basic services like clear side streets of snow. I'm reminded of the Bob & Tom Mr. Obvious bit where a clueless person (Mr. Obvious) doesn't see the obvious connection between two things. Matt Tully is Mr. Obvious.
Can't argue there either.

Bottom line though is that Ballard, in this case, comes off again as thin skinned.  Rather than a measured and ready response to criticism, we get a "haters gon hate" response.  Heck of an irresponsible way to lead a city.  That's not the "paradigm he inherited."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Donnelly Sworn In

Senator Donnelly (and Senator Feinstein) Swears In
Flanked by outgoing U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Evan Bayh, Joe Donnelly was sworn in for a six-year term today by the President of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden.

While just a Senate freshman, Donnelly will certainly become a very important Senator to watch.  Donnelly already is on record saying now that the fiscal cliff has been averted temporarily that spending cuts have to be the order of the day.  He's absolutely correct.

Had I been in Congress, I likely would have voted for the legislation to avert the fiscal cliff, but I would not have liked it one bit.  This Congress needs to work together with President Obama, and I just don't know if that will happen.  With historic approval lows, someone in Congress needs to realize what needs to be done.  Spending must be addressed, and it doesn't have to be education, social security, and medicare that get axed.

While I haven't always agreed with him, I got to know Donnelly a little bit over the last few months through his campaign for Senate, and I like what I saw.  He's a "what you see is what you get" guy.  He will vote for his principles over his party loyalties, and I have a lot of confidence that he will be a Senator Indiana can be proud of when looking at his conduct and record.  He's a true moderate in a Congress that has fewer of those than many can remember.

Congratulations Senator Donnelly and best of luck carrying on in the tradition of your predecessor, Senator Richard Lugar.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lugar's Dedicated Service in Senate Ends January 3

Richard G. Lugar
At noon on January 3, Richard Lugar will become a private citizen for the first time in ages.  A year ago, did we really think this day would be coming?

Because of his bitter May primary defeat, the 80-year-old U.S. Senator's term expires at noon on the 3rd day of January, and the term of newly-elected Senator Joe Donnelly will begin as he's sworn in.  It's a significant moment in Indiana history.

Lugar leaves the Senate with his head held high.  He's already begun to see the predictions he made in his scathing concession letter coming true.  The partisanship and bickering of Washington pushed us to the brink of the fiscal cliff.  In one of his final votes, he voted for a compromise bill that averts severe middle class tax increases while raising the taxes on those making above $450,000 a year.

For years, Lugar has been one of those heavy hitters on Capitol Hill.  One of the senior members of the Senate, Lugar has used that seniority to advocate for Indiana and make a name for himself in the area of foreign policy.  This small man in stature was big in Washington, and he kept the humility of a Hoosier tree farmer even as his profile grew.

It's been a remarkable run for the former Presidential candidate, Mayor of Indianapolis, and member of the IPS Board of School Commissioners, and it's taken him literally around the world.  Through it all, Lugar has remained, in my view, humble and focused on representing the state.

Some will criticize him for not coming back home as much as he should have, and, perhaps it is warranted.  Lugar made mistakes and got too comfortable.  It's one of the reasons why he was beaten by Richard Mourdock in the Primary.

That's all in the past now, Lugar moves on in his life to new challenges as a college professor at the University of Indianapolis.  His Richard G. Lugar Academy will continue to develop young leaders for many years to come.  In that way, he will continue in service to the state he loves.

It's a bittersweet day for Hoosiers.  One thing is for sure.  We will remember Senator Lugar fondly, and I think time will probably treat him well.  He's certainly one of the most significant political figures in the history of our state and someone that generations of Hoosiers have lauded, loved, and supported.

Congratulations and thank you, Senator Lugar.  I applaud your service to Indiana in the Senate and wish you the best as you move forward in a different type of service.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013