Thursday, February 28, 2013

Te'o's Sexuality Should Not Be Open Book for Employers

Yahoo Sports published an article on Tuesday night that said 13 of the 32 NFL football teams are fully within their rights to ask a player if he is gay. The Indianapolis Colts are one of the 13 teams that can ask.

Apparently, it depends on what state the NFL team comes from and what type of organization the team is. With the Colts, they are not a public company thus are not covered by the anti-discrimination laws. They can ask a player if he is gay and not feel pressured by a lawsuit because they’ve done nothing legally wrong. They would, however, do something morally wrong by asking that question, and I think that’s the larger point.

The subject of the article was Manti Te’o’s sexuality. Many have circulated the rumor that Te’o might be gay because of the whole girlfriend that did not truly exist scandal surrounding him.

Let’s say, hypothetically, a player like Te’o is gay. Does it change his ability to play football? Is he any less of a linebacker? Furthermore, what business is it of an NFL team what goes on way behind the scenes.

I understand that these teams are investing big time money in these young men, but I think these kinds of point-blank questioning strategies only make the players bottle up their secrets inside. If the NFL fostered an open and honest workplace where players could feel secure admitting their true sexuality, I think the level of play would go up. It takes a lot of work to hide one’s sexuality…especially in the professional sports world.

It’s time for a federal law that mandates, on a civil rights basis, that organizations of any kind cannot ask a prospective employee about his or her sexual orientation. That should go for not only the NFL but any business.

UPDATE:
It appears the Indianapolis Colts would be covered under the Human Rights Ordinance for Marion County.  Hat tip to Abdul-Hakim Shabazz who brought this possibility to my attention.  Thus, it appears that they could not ask Te'o questions about his sexuality.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Indiana Senate Loses Collective Mind

Constitutional Convention of 1787
Your Indiana Senate may be out of control.

Yesterday, the Senate approved a measure calling for a U.S. Constitutional Convention.  Yes, that's right.  We've joined the lunatic fringe in Indiana.  Since it requires 2/3 of the states to approve, 33 other states would have to pass similar measures.

The Hoosier State can probably lead the fight to rewrite the document that has held our country together for all these years.  It is also the document that many conservatives always rush to defend in a strict-constructionalist manner.  The House now must agree with the Senate in order for things to move forward.

These are the kinds of things your legislature continues to take up.  Instead of doing the people's business, the Indiana General Assembly seems heck bent on revenge, retribution, and wackiness.

For once, I agree with Senator Mike Delph who told the Star's Mary Beth Schneider that the Constitution does not need to be rewritten; it needs to be followed.  Even though it passed the Senate by a 32-18 margin, Schneider points out that even conservatives like Delph and Senator Sue Glick opposed the convention.

We'll see this move forward now, and I'm sure that if it passes that some states will agree with Indiana.  This is no time for this mess.  We can't even agree on the simplest things.  How does the Indiana Senate think we can agree on a new Constitution.

I get it.  The Tea Party fringe is mad and is putting pressure on their politicians to act.  This is too extreme, and George Washington, Ben Franklin, and James Madison aren't coming through the door anytime soon although  Zombie James Madison might come back and slap someone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Welfare Drug Test Bill Clears Indiana House

Yesterday, the Indiana General Assembly approved a measure that will require some recipients of welfare to undergo drug testing.

I'm no legal scholar, but the new measure, according to the IBJ, has anyone applying for benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to complete a written screening test.  Those identified as "possible drug abusers" to undergo drug testing.  It would then put those that fail a test into a treatment program in order to continue to receive benefits.

A written screening test?  Hmmm...sounds suspicious to me.  What language is it written in?  What kind of test is it?  If I fail, I am identified as a potential "drug abuser" without any evidence of drug use?  Sounds pretty fishy to me.

Democrats tried to put an amendment in that Republicans shot down requiring drug testing for state legislators.  Given some of the craziness coming out of the General Assembly this session, who could blame them?





Monday, February 25, 2013

Walker's Desperate E-Mail on SB621 Could Have Opposite Effect

Marion County GOP Puppet Chair Kyle Walker
How bad do the Republicans want Senate Bill 621 to pass the Indiana House?  More than you probably could even imagine.

This weekend, an e-mail from the Marion County Republican Central Committee landed in my inbox.  I've explained before that I don't exactly know how I got on the e-mail list, but I do get their propaganda from time to time. I find it somewhat interesting, and it gives me blog fodder.  Well the e-mail that arrived in my inbox this weekend would be funny if it were not so scary.

It's long-winded and scary, but the e-mail begs Republican insiders to take action to help get Senate Bill 621 through the House because those pesky Democrats are wanting to try to stop it.  Let's remember that the Republicans not only hold a majority in the Indiana House but a supermajority.  They have nothing to worry about if the Democrats pick off a few votes.

Here we go.  Sit back, relax, and get ready for some political spin, Oppan GOP Style.

Dear Marion County Republican,
Government Reform in Marion County took a giant step forward yesterday as the Indiana State Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 621. Senator R. Michael Young authored the bill and carried it through the process with the support of his fellow co-authors and Marion County Senators Waltz, Delph, Crider, Miller, and Schneider. 
The battle is now going to be in the Indiana House and we need you to make your voice heard in support of this legislation. 
Senate Bill 621 allows for greater oversight on county government spending and safeguards the City of Indianapolis from political games played by Democrats on the City-County Council, like their recent attempts to raid the Capital Improvement Board, hold-up Mayoral staffing appointments, and block economic development progress. 
It also eliminates the At-large positions on the City-County Council. It is not a stretch to say that these positions are largely anonymous as the vast majority of voters, even many who are active in the community, cannot name just one of the four At-large Councilors. In a city our size, accountability for local government resides clearly with the Mayor and District Councilors. At-large Councilors are unknown and unaccountable, therefore, these positions only dilute the voices of the District Councillors who represent us each day. Eliminating this wasteful layer of government makes sense. In fact, the Democrats spent much of the past three decades fighting for this very action and filed multiple lawsuits over the years for this very effort. We now have a real opportunity to do so - if the House takes action. Please make your voice heard. 
Finally, Senate Bill 621 also requires the Marion County Clerk to centrally count absentee ballots, eliminating absentee ballots from arriving after the polls are already closed; a problem that was widespread in the 2012 General Election. 
Now that the Senate has acted, the fate of Senate Bill 621 will be decided in the Indiana House of Representatives. As we've seen time and again, House Democrats are opposed to any type of government reform. You can count on them putting pressure on our Republican legislators every step of the way, and they will stop at nothing to try to kill this bill. 
We can't let that happen. Make your voice heard! 
Show your support for Marion County government reform today by taking two easy steps: 
1) Click Here to tell our Marion County Republican members of the Indiana House of Representatives that you stand with them and support their efforts to pass SB621
2) Click Here and thank our Marion County Republican Senators for passing Marion County government reform. 
Thanks for being a part of the greatest Republican organization in Indiana. Together, we can make a difference! 
Sincerely,
Kyle Walker
Chairman
Marion County Republican Party
That's the kind of spin Republicans are putting on this bill.

The spin that somehow having LESS City-County Council oversight and MORE power for the Mayor of Indianapolis is a GOOD THING!  That the At-Large City-County Councillors are ANONYMOUS and are not ACCOUNTABLE TO ANYONE.  That counting all the absentee ballots in one place is LOGISTICALLY a GOOD THING because of a MADE UP PROBLEM NO ONE HEARD ABOUT UNTIL THIS E-MAIL.  That the REPUBLICANS might actually JUMP SHIP on this one and side with the Democrats in enough numbers to make a difference.  That just because DEMOCRATS disagree they are OBSTRUCTIONISTS to government reform that clearly only REPUBLICANS have asked for in 2013.

Kyle Walker clearly bumped his little head before he wrote that one.  It just goes to prove that the Marion County Republican Party (Mayor Greg Ballard's Administration) is behind this move, and Senator Mike Young is the one that was their pack mule.

The funniest line is probably the last one. The "greatest Republican organization in the state of Indiana" holds one countywide office and feels like the only way they can get more power is to undercut the will of the voter.  That's rich.

Yep, that e-mail he sent could definitely motivate some people.  It's so completely full of political bull that it could rile up the Democrats and get some allies on the right.  Doubtful that it will be enough to stop the bill, but I think letting the bill take its course on this one would have been the way to handle it rather than overplaying a good hand.  In the end, it may not make a difference, but time will tell.

Tonight on the JohnnyStir Show...

My radio show hits the air tonight at 9:00 p.m. on IndianaTalks.com.

Tonight on the big show, Indy Student blogger Matt Stone joins us to talk about local politics.  Former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan drops in to discuss education reform, and we'll close it out with the lightning round as Chris Jackson calls in for the political lightning round.  Should be interesting.

Give us a follow on Twitter or on Facebook!  Look forward to having you all join us.

If you have show suggestions, feel free to e-mail me.

Friday, February 22, 2013

On the IMS Tax Plan: Upon further review...

After reading this morning that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the months leading up to asking for millions of our tax dollars greatly increased their political donations, I would like to revisit my endorsement from a few days back.  See below:


I may get lambasted for this one by some of my "no more tax money to billionaires" friends on this one, but I believe that, if done right, a little tax help for one of our state's icons is more than appropriate. 
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has sat by quietly as the Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis Colts, and other local sporting entities have gotten millions of dollars in taxpayer money. They have been checks going out with little coming back in.
Long before the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts existed as franchises and long before the NBA and NFL organized, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was bringing people to our city and our state for motor sports events and the motor sports industry. IMS owners, the Hulman-George Family, have spent an astronomical amount of their own money to upgrade their facility while asking for nothing and bringing in an unbelievable amount of money and prestige to Indianapolis and to Indiana.
 Why then, as a taxpayer, does it not make sense to give a little back to them? The bill, as written by Senator Mike Young, calls for IMS to receive $5 million a year in locally-generated (in a "motor sports investment district" encompassing the speedway) tax money over 20 years as a tax credit to make improvements to the facility. As you may remember, costly improvements are required to make the IMS facility more disabled-accessible. You can read about the proposal here. It actually sounds pretty reasonable for a Mike Young bill.
Is IMS worthy of receiving taxpayer money? Certainly it's much more worthy than an over $35 million handout to the Pacers. The Pacers unfortunately can't draw flies right now even though they are putting a great product on the floor. That's not the case at IMS. The track routinely packs in 250,000 race fans on Indy 500 race day with even more in the infield, and while the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race has lost some of its former luster, that's still another near 100,000 race fans packing the stands. 
When I first heard this proposed bill, I was strongly against it. After reading up on the plan, to me, it sounds like a solid plan and a different plan than the one the local government handed the Pacers. This is less of a hand out and more of a hand up for a longtime friend like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hope that clears up any confusion.  I retract my endorsement.

Friday Hodge Podge: SB621 Passes, Tew on Ultrasound Bill; Joe The Plumber Back Again; Tharp for Chair

Young's Bill Advances
Senator Mike Young's power grab bill taking away power from the City-County Council and handing it to the Mayor of Indianapolis has passed the Indiana Senate.  It moves on to the House now.  There is a House version of the bill that is almost the same as Young's bill except that it does not include the provision chopping the four At-Large City-County Council seats.  As for the Senate bill, we'll see how the bill that even Greg Ballard didn't ask for does in the House.

Ultrasound Bill Causing Controversy
This is something that probably merits its own blog post at some point, but the Indiana Senate is considering a bill that would force a woman who has had a medication-induced first-trimester abortion to have ultrasounds before and after the abortion.  My friend Kip Tew put it best in this Tweet.




More likely to come on this one.

Joe The Plumber Back
Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as "Joe the Plumber" announced, announced, and announced before announcing again that he is giving away a free AR-15 rifle.  Wurzelbacher is clearly trying to make a point that the AR-15 is not an assault rifle.  Whatever it is, it's a dangerous weapon that can fire six rounds a second.  You can win one from Wurzelbacher, though.  It's a nice publicity stunt for Wurzelbacher who hasn't really been in the news since he lost his race for Congress with just 23 percent of the vote.  Wurzelbacher sent out about 20 Tweets like this one on his giveaway begging for coverage.





There you go, Joe.  Your desperation is not becoming, though.


Tharp For Chair
David Tharp, political director for the Vop Osili and John Gregg campaigns, is running for Howard County Democratic Chair.  While this should not be seen as an endorsement of him, I want to wish him the best in his run.  I do believe he would make a great chair.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

House Pushes Anti-Teacher, Anti-Ritz, Pro-Political Agenda

The Statehouse is a House of Horrors for Teachers, Ritz
Since the start of the year, it seemed like the gloves were about to come off between teachers and the Indiana House Republicans.  Today, it's on.

Republicans, led by House Education Chair Bob Behning, are targeting the power of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz.  Of course, Ritz is the only Democrat to hold one of the state executive offices.  She also received over a million votes in the 2012 election.  That doesn't seem to matter to the House Republicans.  Three bills are currently circulating the Indiana House that would strip Ritz of important powers and duties her predecessor had and undercut teachers' associations across Indiana.

According to the Indianapolis Star, House Bill 1342 would remove Ritz as the administrator of the state's school voucher program and place it under the Office of Management and Budget under Governor Mike Pence.  House Bill 1337, according to the Star, would put the task of making changes to the A to F system of evaluating schools under the State Board of Education and the Education Roundtable.  This would totally circumvent Ritz and the Department of Education.  Finally, there is the direct assault on teachers under the guise of House Bill 1334.  This bill, according to the Star report, would ban the practice of school districts collecting union dues directly from paychecks.

These are all hostile and direct attacks without any cause on not only Superintendent Ritz and teachers but Indiana voters.  Indiana voters voted for a change in a down ballot 2012 race electing Glenda Ritz and sending Tony Bennett out of office.  That didn't just happen.

While things look bleak in the House, the Senate Education Committee Chair Dennis Kruse has gone on record saying that Ritz should keep her power, as reported by WISH-TV yesterday and several other outlets last month when Kruse said it.

If I were the Republicans in the Indiana House, I would remember what happened to Tony Bennett.  While he landed on his feet in California Florida (I knew that, duh), his policies were widely repudiated by millions of Hoosiers at the ballot box.  For out-of-power House members, no $300,000 a year jobs are waiting in another state.


Furthermore, the bill ending the collection of union dues is simply a direct slap in the face of Indiana teachers.  There's no reason, no need, and no problem on this.  To get union dues taken out of one's check, that teacher has to sign off before it happens.  It's a voluntary system.  This just makes it a little less easy to have teachers join a union.

All of these moves are political.  It's stick it to the teachers and stick it to the Democrats time in the Indiana House.  The opening round is underway.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Voters Will Determine Second Chances

Richard Mourdock
Mark Sanford
 As a culture, we typically believe in second chances. Two Republicans are looking for second chances after whiffing majorly on the big stage.

In South Carolina, former Governor Mark Sanford is asking for a second chance as he runs for the U.S. Congress in a very crowded March special election primary to replace Timothy Scott who took Jim DeMint's Senate seat.  He has held that seat before.  Sanford is already running ads talking about what he learned from his mistakes during the time he was governor. Sanford, of course, disappeared off the grid in 2009. His staff initially reported that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Of course, we now know that he was having an affair with an Argentinian woman whom he is now engaged to marry.

Sanford has paid back all the debts he accrued from misusing state funds and taxpayer dollars, and he’s back now asking for forgiveness and for the voters to forget how he was censured and embarrassed by the scandal.

Here in our own Hoosier State, Richard Mourdock raised some eyebrows when he said he would actually consider another run for public office after having the U.S. Senate seat Joe Donnelly now sits in fall away from him after controversial comments about rape. After knocking off Richard Lugar in the May primary, Mourdock’s undisciplined general election campaign performance allowed the Democrats to gain a seat in the Senate most political pundits rated as safe when the campaign started.

What office Mourdock is considering is not known, but you can’t take the politics out of a career politician. That’s exactly what Mourdock is.

Ultimately, in the case of Sanford and if Mourdock runs again, it will be up to the voters to determine if these second chances are in order.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Indiana House Treats Pence Differently Than Daniels

Mike Pence's first major proposal hit the Statehouse floor like a lead balloon on Monday when the House Ways and Means Committee failed to include Pence's 10 percent across the board tax cut in its official budget proposal.

This sets up a potential civil war between the House Republicans and Governor Pence and shows a clear difference in how the Indiana House sees the current occupant of the Governor's Office vs. the previous one.  The House hath spoken on its budget...by an 18-4 vote!  Pence can stammer all he wants about how disappointed he is, but I'd say the vote pretty much repudiates his tax cut.

Let's fast forward two years, can you imagine the Indiana House ever standing up to Mitch Daniels like this? Heck no.  For them, Pence is a bit of an unknown commodity.  It seems like perhaps they think of him as an outsider whereas Daniels wasn't.

Besides, Daniels was too smart to propose anything he knew wouldn't stand up.  The Indiana House has been telegraphing its moves here, and Pence was either too politically inept or too stubborn to change his tune.

This is one of the cornerstone of Pence's campaign for Governor.  If he can't get this through, then he will have already failed on one campaign promise.  Pretty silly for a guy with a legislative background not being able to negotiate with his own legislature.

I'm not sure to call this 10 percent proposal dead yet.  Certainly someone in the GOP will see how this makes their own governor look toothless and try to find a way to make him look better.

Monday, February 18, 2013

JohnnyStir Show Premieres Tonight at 9 on IndianaTalks.com

Excuse the shameless self promotion, but my new radio show, the JohnnyStir Show, premieres tonight on www.indianatalks.com at 9:00 p.m.  It runs one hour, and I promise, I shall do my best to make it worth your ear.

Tonight, I'll get the show started with an introduction of myself and the show.  About 9:25, I'm expecting public education activist Justin Oakley from Just Let Me Teach to call in, and we'll catch up with Chris Jackson and talk local and national politics towards the end of the show.

To listen, it's very simple.  Just point your browser to www.indianatalks.com to tune in.  I'd be much obliged.  Thanks to Gary Snyder for the opportunity.  It's going to be fun.  If you do tune in, tweet me what you thought or go on over to www.facebook.com/johnnystirshow to leave your comments.

Thanks again.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tragedy Strikes on Streets of Indianapolis

As most of you know, Indianapolis had its heart ripped out again this weekend as two young first responders were involved in a traffic accident on duty early Saturday morning.

Private Timothy McCormick perished at the Wishard Hospital on Saturday, and his colleague, Cody Medley, died early Sunday.  Timothy and Cody are gone.

McCormick was a native of New York City and, according to his Facebook page, recently graduated from IUPUI after a long run on the Dean's List.  McCormick also recorded this message on YouTube which I think gives a good glimpse at a man who seemingly had a very positive outlook on life and was dedicated to saving others.



A video like that can save a life far beyond the back of an ambulance.

Less details are out there about Medley.  He was apparently a Boise, Idaho native.  The Indianapolis Star reported that Medley and McCormick often shared ambulance duty and were friends.  A tribute video to both men is circling Facebook, and it shows a couple of eclectic men that were full of life and dedicated to their craft.

Saturday morning's accident reminds us again that even our EMT Supermen and Superwomen aren't invulnerable and how quickly life can change...even for first responders.  They are the people we call in the dead of night when we need help or aid.  They are the people we call when we fall down or can't breathe.  They are the ones we call when the pain is too great, and they do their best to fix us, make us better, and get us to a place where more help is available.

Today, as a community, we circle with them and put our arms around them.  As Mayor Ballard orders flags to half staff, it's important to remember that our friends in the first responder community need our good thoughts and prayers for strength even as they still work through the tears and anguish of losing two young colleagues.  For the first responder community, there's no time to stop.  There's always a call to answer.

For Cody and Timothy, they have answered their final call.  Rest in peace, heroes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Colbert Tackles Author of TN "Don't Say Gay" Bill

The author of the "Don't Say Gay" bill in Tennessee, Stacey Campfield, is at it again.  He is backing two bills this session that are also highly controversial.  I'll let Mr. Colbert handle it from here...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Young's Bill Increasing Mayor's Power Passes Committee

Senator Mike Young
Senator Mike Young's naked power grab bill to increase the Mayor of Indianapolis' power and stick it to the Marion County Democratic Party passed through committee yesterday, and it's on its way for a full vote in the Senate.

In case you've forgotten, the bill essentially waters down the power of the City-County Council while greatly increasing the power of the Mayor of Indianapolis.  It removes levels of government oversight by removing the council's ability to approve or disapprove of top mayoral appointees.  It would hand the mayor more appointments to the Metropolitan Development Commission removing them from the Marion County Commissioners (currently all Democrats).  The bill would chop the City-County Council down to 25 members from the current 29 after the 2015 municipal election.  Currently, all four of the seats that would be removed, the At-Large seats, are held by Democrats.  It would also remove the flexibility of future Mayors of Indianapolis to decide where IMPD should be in the hierarchy of city government by making it law that the mayor would always be in charge via the Public Safety Director.

According to the Indy Star's Jon Murray, the bill was stripped of a provision that would have allowed the mayor line item veto power over the budget and other proposals involving money as long as the amounts weren't changed.

Another more strange provision allows future mayoral candidates to only live in the city for two years and council candidates to live in their district for one.  Currently, it's five and two.

I find this change, among many others, hard to stomach.  The Mayor of Indianapolis should be intimately familiar with the city that they will lead.  Having a leader that lives in the city he or she is about to represent for five years would seem to invite candidates serious about being the city's chief executive instead of carpetbaggers looking for resume items.

I'm sure this thing will pass the Senate and head to the House.  The bill treats Indianapolis differently than second and third class cities across the state.  This bill is so evidently a power grab that it is practically screaming.

The bill also shows a full transformation of Greg Ballard from the unassuming non-political Marine to the power-hungry typical politician.  If he runs for mayor again in 2015, he can't tell us he's not political and that he's not a politician.  Make no mistake, he asked for this bill...maybe not every provision...but he asked for it.  Mike Young gave it to him.  There was no need for government reform in Marion County.  There was no ground swell for it.  That makes me very suspicious.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sometimes a Cow is Just a Cow

WANTED
A cow is on the lam(b) on the Southside of Indianapolis. 

The bovine fugitive appears to actually be a cow and not, as rumors reported, Mayor Greg Ballard and Senator Mike Young dressed in a tandem cow suit perhaps in order to discuss further secret legislation to increase Mayor Ballard's power.

"We won't cow-tow to your silly consipracy claims," Ryan Vaughn, Chief of Staff for Mayor Ballard, may have said when I did not contact him.

Whatever happens, let's hope this moooving story comes to a safe end.

In Memoriam: Tim Froman

Tim Froman
(Photo from Facebook)
While I am someone that is blessed with a lot of friends, but like many, I only have a handful of truly close ones. On Sunday, though, I was shaken to learn about the loss of someone I had never actually met face-to-face.

Social media is a heck of a thing. I have acquired many friends through Facebook and Twitter that I have yet to meet. Recently, for example, I met Chris Spangle, the former Executive Director of the Libertarian Party face-to-face for the first time. It was like we had known each other for years…because we really had. It’s one of the best things about social media.

Unfortunately, on Sunday, one of my good friends through Facebook passed away suddenly of a heart attack. Tim Froman and I had spent a good four or five years as friends on Facebook and apparently just missing each other at events and things. He would often be the first or second person to comment on a status or leave me something on my profile. We had similar interests: politics, IndyCar racing, weather, and just general nerdy stuff. We also shared a bit of the same off-kilter sense of humor. I considered Tim a good friend.

Unfortunately, I never got to shake his hand or meet him, and I think that’s a shame. Reading about how his death has affected many others, I can see that I missed out on truly knowing a special person. As a proud Ben Davis Alum, Tim exuded Purple Pride and showed it by continuing to volunteer with the Ben Davis Band Program serving for years as one of its biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and constant promoters. He was a historian for the program and served as its videographer. None of that made him rich, but he made others’ lives rich…just like he did my life with a great comment on Facebook that made me laugh or smile.

I don’t pretend to know Tim Froman better than the people that met him, loved him, and knew him outside of the social media world, but his death hit me like that clichéd ton of bricks on Sunday. I have a lot of people I take for granted. After Sunday, I hope I’m less likely to do that.

Tim, you seem to have meant so much to so many. Thanks for making a difference in the lives of so many people and so many students. You will be missed, rest in peace.  Today is Tim's funeral visitation and his funeral is tomorrow.  My thoughts are with his friends and family at this tough time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We're Hitting the Internet Airwaves!

Premiering Monday on IndianaTalks.com, the Johnnystir Show with me, Jon Easter.

We'll broadcast the show from 9-10 p.m. live on Mondays from the home office here in Indianapolis.  Here's the description of the show.
Hosted by Jon Easter, 15-year radio veteran and the man behind the Indy Democrat Blog (www.indydemocrat.blogspot.com), the Johnnystir Show is an hour-long look from left of center at politics from local to national with an emphasis on what happens in the Hoosier State. Join us each week for guests and political commentary and stay up on the political scene.
Hopefully you'll join us each week.  I'm looking forward to this new venture.  Thanks to Gary Snyder for approaching me!  I'm really excited about this new venture.

If you're a fan of my ramblings here, never fear, the blog will continue on as normal.  Thanks so much to all of you for your continued support.!

Mayor's Night Out Should Be Changed To Mayor Punts Questions

Last night, I attended the 49th Mayor's Night Out event at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Decatur Township, and, halfway through, I started to wonder why the Mayor has the events at all?

After introducing the department heads in attendance and thanking the appropriate local folks, Ballard begins each evening by rushing through a slide presentation with various types of data tailored to the community he's in.  The Mayor didn't seem well prepared admitting, "They added a couple of slides on me, and I'm not quite sure what they are."

Once Ballard rushes through the data, he begins the Q&A.  Each session has a moderator who reads the submitted question to Mayor Ballard.  Once the question is read, Ballard typically punts it to a department head.  For example, a tort claim question got punted to the City Legal representative.  A question about copper theft got punted to IMPD.  Ballard does very little answering of questions himself.  Most of the department heads themselves punt to the standard, "Come and see me after the meeting if you asked that question."

That's great.  It's good that people want to hear from the Mayor, and Ballard said several times that the questions submitted help the city.  The Mayor's Staff collected surveys from almost everyone that attended, so you have to credit them for collecting the data.  My question would be that if this is just for keeping up appearances, why do them?  No substantial questions were answered.

There are better ways for the Mayor to get out there than these events which make him look like a delegator unconcerned with the details of running his city.  Ballard could use social media more to do Mayor's Night Out-type town halls.  He might find success there.  I love the idea of Mayor's Night Out, and it's good that he does them, but they could be so much more than they are.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tax Relief for IMS (Done Properly) Makes Sense


I may get lambasted for this one by some of my "no more tax money to billionaires" friends on this one, but I believe that, if done right, a little tax help for one of our state's icons is more than appropriate.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has sat by quietly as the Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis Colts, and other local sporting entities have gotten millions of dollars in taxpayer money.  They have been checks going out with little coming back in.

Long before the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts existed as franchises and long before the NBA and NFL organized, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was bringing people to our city and our state for motor sports events and the motor sports industry.  IMS owners, the Hulman-George Family, have spent an astronomical amount of their own money to upgrade their facility while asking for nothing and bringing in an unbelievable amount of money and prestige to Indianapolis and to Indiana.

Why then, as a taxpayer, does it not make sense to give a little back to them?  The bill, as written by Senator Mike Young, calls for IMS to receive $5 million a year in locally-generated (in a "motor sports investment district" encompassing the speedway) tax money over 20 years as a tax credit to make improvements to the facility.  As you may remember, costly improvements are required to make the IMS facility more disabled-accessible.  You can read about the proposal here.  It actually sounds pretty reasonable for a Mike Young bill.

Is IMS worthy of receiving taxpayer money?  Certainly it's much more worthy than an over $35 million handout to the Pacers.  The Pacers unfortunately can't draw flies right now even though they are putting a great product on the floor.  That's not the case at IMS.  The track routinely packs in 250,000 race fans on Indy 500 race day with even more in the infield, and while the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race has lost some of its former luster, that's still another near 100,000 race fans packing the stands.

When I first heard this proposed bill, I was strongly against it.  After reading up on the plan, to me, it sounds like a solid plan and a different plan than the one the local government handed the Pacers.  This is less of a hand out and more of a hand up for a longtime friend like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ballard for Senate? Five Reasons Why Answer Is NO

Ballard for Senate? Nah...Even He Likely
Finds It Funny.
Indy Politics published a tease for its subscribers only gossip piece known as the "Cheat Sheet" last week that hinted Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is being recruited to run for Senate in 2018 against Joe Donnelly.

I was driving around this weekend, and I came up with five reasons why he won't run for Senate.  Here they are:

1 & 2.)  He's the Mayor of Indianapolis, and he's from Indianapolis.
Whether Ballard runs for reelection or not in 2015, there really is not much more of a hit to a statewide campaign than being the Mayor of the state's largest city.  That's not to say it's a disqualifier, but there have been few successful Indianapolis Mayors that have gone on to state office.

Richard Lugar is an exception, but two more recent Mayors of Indianapolis ran for state office and lost.  Both Bill Hudnut and Stephen Goldsmith were unsuccessful in statewide campaigns.  Both were accomplished mayors with much on their resumes.  Both lost to Democrats.  For that reason, I sure hope Ballard runs.

The second part of this reason is that candidates from Indianapolis have long had difficulty winning statewide races.  Mitch Daniels was an exception.

3.)  Many Conservatives Don't Think He's Conservative
While Ballard has found his own coalition of local Republicans and Democrats that elected and reelected him, statewide, especially in his own primary, he would face greater scrutiny of his record.  That scrutiny could make it impossible for him to make it through a primary of conservative Republicans in a prospectively crowded field that would be ready to portray him as left of Donnelly.

My fellow blogger and friend Paul Ogden has been highly critical of Ballard's decidedly anti-conservative ways.  It's hard not to agree with him.  Ballard really isn't a conservative.  In fact, it's hard to tell what he is.  The Tea Party wing (which still has great influence in primaries...see Mourdock, Richard) will likely say that Ballard isn't the same conservative they early adopted.

4.)  Running for Senate Makes Him a Hypocrite
Throughout his first two terms in office and the campaigns for those, there's two themes that have run over and over again.  First, Ballard is a Marine.  Second, Ballard is not a politician.  While you can certainly be a Marine and run for office, you cannot be anything but a politician if you are running for a higher office.  So much for being "not a politician" if he ladder climbs.  I do think Ballard cares about that...well...because he's a Marine.

5.)  Statewide Office Requires Traveling Around the State
Running for statewide office would interfere with Mayor Ballard's travel schedule.  As Mayor of Indianapolis, he only has to travel the city.  Running for Senate would require him to travel to all 92 counties and visit county fairs, Lincoln Day Dinners, and a variety of other events.  Can you imagine Mayor Greg Ballard working that hard?  Probably not.

BONUS REASON) I honestly think Ballard is happy just being Mayor of Indy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mayor Gets More Control of Schools

After an Indiana Board of Education decision, Mayor Greg Ballard now has oversight of the four former IPS takeover academies at Manual, Arlington and Howe High Schools as well as Emma Donnan Middle School. That means local control is somewhat returned to these schools under Ballard. With seven more charters recently approved by the City-County Council, Ballard now has 11 schools just placed under his watch.

It also means that Ballard, according to WIBC, has oversight over 37 public schools. That’s pretty impressive for a guy that said during this last campaign that the Mayor had little to do with public education.

This also gives the Mayor a tremendous responsibility to see that these schools operate correctly and achieve. Ballard has pulled charters before. A few weeks before the school year was to begin, he closed the Project School. The school itself was not achieving at levels anyone would have liked and had some financial problems, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. The closure left some parents loyal to the school disappointed and left trying to scramble where to send their child for school in 2012/2013.

Last month, Ball State yanked its support of seven charter schools due to poor performance.

Every time a charter school closes, the parents and students of that school are left holding the bag. It’s why I think we should just be a little more judicious in creating more charters for the Mayor to oversee. He’s creating a bigger bureaucracy than the traditional school district. It’s a lot to put on the shoulders of one very busy man.

We’ll see how all this works out for students across Indianapolis.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pence Off to Respectable Start

Governor Mike Pence
Here we are, a few weeks into the term of Governor Mike Pence, and Indiana is still operating. In fact, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Governor’s first few weeks of really controversy-less leadership.

Granted, it’s only been a little less than a month, but Pence has said all the right things and has, for the most part, kept in the fairway so far. His State of the State address drew praise from Democrats, and the opposition to his tax cut plan has come from his own side of the aisle.  He has a long way to go to get his own plan through his own legislature.

Pence topped things off by making a very public move this past weekend into the Governor’s Residence on Meridian Street. His predecessor, Mitch Daniels, only used that home for events choosing to continue to reside on Geist Reservoir.

The price of poker goes up soon as bills begin to hit his desk. Pence also has been mum on the status of the joint resolution on same sex marriage. He’s smart to stay out of the fray on this one because he won’t have to sign the resolution…it just goes to a vote if this General Assembly passes it.

It’s only been a few weeks, but Pence has been rather surprising so far.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ballard "Open To" Third Term

Mayor Greg Ballard
Indy Politics reported that during their monthly interview with Mayor Greg Ballard that he said he was open to running for a third term as Mayor.

Since Bill Hudnut was elected to a third term in 1987, that has been something no Indianapolis Mayor has been able to accomplish.  Steve Goldsmith's run at a third term derailed when Frank O'Bannon won Marion County over Goldsmith in the 1996 race for Governor.  Three years later, Goldsmith decided not to seek that third term opening the door for then-Secretary of State Sue Anne Gilroy.  Gilroy, however, was upset by Bart Peterson.  Peterson served two largely successful terms but was taken down running for a third term by Ballard and an anti-tax sentiment.

With his ability to raise money and his likability, Ballard will be an extremely tough opponent to tackle in 2015.  Democrats have largely spent the last six years underestimating the man who is Mayor of Indianapolis.  Dems can't do it again in 2015.  The fight will have to be taken directly to Ballard, and his record does have its vulnerabilities.

The Mayor Greg Ballard that was elected in 2007 and reelected in 2011 bears little resemblance to the anti-tax and outside-the-machine Greg Ballard that ran for Mayor in 2007.  The time to remind people of that would have been 2011.  Now, the argument against a third term for Ballard will have to be made on his record.  Ballard continues to grow into the job he may or may not have wanted when he ran in 2007.  He does have accomplishments he can continue to point to, but there are liabilities that the right candidate needs to point out.

There are, of course, Democrats that will be able to do that considering a run.  Brian Mahern is already positioning himself for a run by opposing much of Ballard's agenda.  Joe Hogsett is somewhat of a blank slate since he's been U.S. Attorney for what is going on three years.  Hogsett ran for Mayor in 2010 prior to him being named U.S. Attorney, but he barely got that campaign off the ground when the President came calling.

For other candidates, the road will be tougher to find daylight between themselves and Ballard.  Vop Osili found himself on the same side as the Mayor on the Massachusetts Avenue TIF.  Maggie Lewis found herself on the same side as the Mayor on the Capital Improvement Board and the extra money for the Indiana Pacers.  Both Osili and Lewis also recently supported the Ballard-pushed compromise which restored money in the budget Ballard had cut and, in return, raised the car rental tax and increasing the ticket tax.

If Ballard runs, the right candidate could exploit those things along with his liberal use of the veto pen.  Even so, Ballard will be tough in 2015 and represents the Republican Party's best chance of keeping the office.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Parks Legacy Lives on 100 Years After Her Birth

Rosa Parks in 1955
On a bus in Montgomery, Rosa Parks said she wasn't physically tired on December 1, 1955.  She said she was just tired of giving in.

Rosa Parks wasn't the first African-American to refuse to move to the back of the bus for a white person, but it was her case that would draw the attention of a nation.  It was her case of civil disobedience that brought a change.  Her case spurred the Montgomery Bus Boycott that would eventually end up with Montgomery integrating the bus system.  She suffered great personal hardships because she took a stand, but, in the years to follow, her actions on that day have become more than legendary.

Yesterday would have been Parks' 100th birthday.  Instrumental in getting Parks the Congressional Gold Medal was Congresswoman Julia Carson.  She led the charge and led the fight taking it to nearly brass knuckles at time to get it done.

Parks' Congressional
Gold Medal
My friend, Wilson Allen, posted Carson's speech at Parks' Memorial Service in 2005.  It was right before Carson's health began a steady decline that would lead to her death in 2007.  If you haven't seen it, please take a moment and listen here.  The Congresswoman was in rare form...which means it was a lot of fun.  Congresswoman Carson was born to a single mother in extreme poverty.  She lived in a garage for a while.  From those humble beginnings, she became a legislator in the Indiana General Assembly and the United States Congress as well as the grandmother of another Congressional representative.  That's a remarkable life in itself and not unlike the life of the woman she worked so hard to honor.
Julia Carson

As hard as it is to believe, if Indianapolis had not sent Julia Carson to Congress, then Rosa Parks may not have received the Congressional Gold Medal.  What a tragedy that would have been.

Rosa Parks lives on 100 years after her birth and just under eight years after her death.  She's still a powerful figure in the civil rights movement and others are drawing inspiration from her determination even today.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Nice Pep Talk

Nothing remotely political on this Friday.  I've been waiting for a nice time to post this.  Enjoy.