Friday, March 29, 2013

House Republicans Respond to Weak AFP Attacks With Weak Ad

The Indiana House Republicans have had enough of the Americans for Prosperity loyal to Governor Mke Pence as the civil war between the Indiana GOP continues.  When will Eric Holcomb step in to officiate this now fully-engulfed firefight between two factions of the same party.

This latest volley launched by the Indiana House Republicans!



Of course, that comes on the heels of Americans for Prosperity Indiana launching this volley back on March 9.



These folks need to hire someone like Blair Englehart (unpaid, unsolicited endorsement) to do their ads.  Can't you just see Brian Bosma or Mike Pence in this trench coat?

Vote Bill Levin from Englehart Group on Vimeo.

The first two ads are completely worthless.  I'm Jon Easter, and I approve this message.

Abdul Running Defense for Ballard on SB 621

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
I read Abdul-Hakim Shabazz's Star column in defense of Senate Bill 621 this morning, and it's a well-written piece of political opinion.  That is...except all the parts he left out.

My friend Abdul's piece focuses pretty much on how Democrats have overreacted to Senate Bill 621 and how it has harmed their case.  It, like many Abdul pieces, goes pretty easy on Mayor Ballard portraying him as the benevolent dictator that will soon inherit all the powers sent down from Mount Mike Young to him.

Like many bill supporters, including Young himself, Shabazz brings up things that happened 10-15-25 years ago when talking about the possible elimination of the At-Large seats, and, like Young, proves he's incapable of looking at this in any other way than Democrat vs. Republican.

The fact is that neighborhood group leaders from Nora to MCANA to Decatur Township have all spoken out against many provisions of the bill.  I sat at a Town Hall on Saturday morning for Senator Young where, in the town of Speedway, NOT ONE of the 40 or so persons in attendance spoke in favor of the bill except for the Senator.

Abdul BFF and Indpls Mayor
Greg Ballard
Young directly argued to me that this is not a power grab bill because of the changing political landscape of Marion County and that Ballard may be the last Republican mayor for a while.  I couldn't get him to answer whether he would pursue changing the legislation when the Democrats take office or not.

What I have heard from neighborhood leaders and citizens at that Town Hall was that the At-Large Councillors are sometimes more responsive than the district councillors.  I have seen that in action.  I have also seen, for example, Democrat Zach Adamson work in a bipartisan manner with Republican Jason Holliday to try to make things happen that would benefit Decatur Township, and they've had success.

Republicans from Richard Lugar to current Councillor Christine Scales have spoken out loudly and in public against provisions of the bill.  Scales even was rebuked by her own caucus for stepping out of line.  Somehow Abdul missed all of that.

That leads me to two conclusions.  First, this should be Abdul's theme song every time you see him praise or write about Mayor Ballard.



Second, Abdul fails to see that Democrats are arguing against their own eventual interest.  I can't wait to see all he will write when a Democrat is in the Mayor's Office about his or her appointments.  Maybe the way that future mayor handles the budget.  Just remember all of this.

I will say it again, this is not about Republicans vs. Democrats.  This is about the voice of the people being overturned by legislation at the Statehouse.  Removing Council power and handing it to the Mayor of Indianapolis is harmful no matter who sits in the chair on the 25th floor of the City-County Building.

Finally, Abdul's character that he plays on TV and his blogs is funny quite often.  Sometimes I agree with him and find his opinions insightful sometimes I laugh at the hub-bub around him because he freely admits he's a "political arms dealer."  People take him way too seriously.

It's at times like this, when he tries to play journalist, I find him rather maddening.  He's smarter than this and knows exactly what's going on.  The only thing he's trying to do is push buttons, and this bill really isn't the one to be pushing buttons on.  This is the kind of bill that, changing the characters to Congress and President Obama, would have people crowding town halls and protesting on Lafayette Square.

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  --Lord Acton

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Poor Timing for Donnelly Fundraising Message

Senator Donnelly on Campaign Trail
This morning, I received a campaign donation request from Joe Donnelly.

The message itself is cleverly written and asks for a low amount in order to meet the Senator's fundraising goal before the FEC deadline.  It invokes the story of the tortoise and the hare.

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice (I've always wanted to use that), otherwise known as the Supreme Court, the nine Supreme Court Justices are just beginning to struggle with what to do about the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.  Both pieces of legislation, in my view, discriminate against LGBT couples by keeping them from joining in marriage with who they love.  Over the past few years, we've seen a tortoise and hare kind of story as public support moved slowly from opposing gay marriage to supporting it.  The thing is that "the hare" is starting to win the race in that case with more and more Americans evolving, as the President did, on the issue of gay marriage.

Joe Donnelly, however, remains one of just nine Democrats in the Senate that now does not support gay marriage.  I predict that, because of who Joe Donnelly is, that he will be the last one standing in opposition.  This is not a convenient political position for him but something he believes.  Donnelly doesn't seem politically sway-able on issues like these.  That's both admirable and maddening.  I believe that the only way Joe Donnelly is going to change his mind on gay marriage is for Joe Donnelly to change his mind on gay marriage.  That could be a tortoise of another kind.

All of this aside, it was an incredibly bad time for Donnelly to send a request for my dollars.  One of the biggest issues that I advocate for (and that, frankly, I evolved on) is in the public spotlight with Senator Donnelly on the wrong side of things from my perspective.  

My point???  I'm not so happy to write a check to you right now, Mr. Donnelly.  I bet that I'm not the only one.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Few Days Off...But I Haven't Forgotten About Marriage Equality

Dear readers, it's that time again for my spring hiatus. Thanks so much for your continued readership of the blog. For now, I'll be suspending the daily updates of the blog and instead updating on a WIFLI (When I Feel Like It) schedule.

With this being such a big week for equality in the U.S., I'm going to leave you with a few videos advocating for marriage equality.  Let's hope the Supreme Court sees the light.  

Enjoy.




Lugar Advocates Leaving City-County Council As Is

Richard Lugar
Former U.S. Senator and Mayor of Indianapolis, Richard G. Lugar, is weighing in on the Senate Bill that would eliminate four City-County Council seats elected countywide.

Lugar told WFYI that he believes that the Council is fine as is and no modifications are necessary.  "This was a good way when we brought together the entire community to make sure that the entire community had a vote," said Lugar in a soundbyte in this newscast.  Fast forward to about the 1:15 mark to hear Lugar's comments.

Of course, that was then and this is now.  The current proponents of Senate Bill 621 say that the At-Large seats on the Council are wasteful and their occupants are anonymous, but it's clear to me that they haven't talked to many neighborhood folks who consistently stand behind the Council as it is.

Will Lugar's comments have any affects on the debate at the Statehouse?  It's too early to tell.  It sounds like the bill will get a hearing and go forward.  I've been told by Senator Mike Young Young that the House version of his bill has already died.  We'll see what the appetite for Senate Bill 621 is over the next week or so.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Young's Town Hall: A Mixed Bag of Thoughts

I attended Senator Mike Young's Town Hall on Saturday morning at the Speedway Town Hall.  Since it was a Saturday, I took some mental notes.  It was a pretty interesting affair.

Going in, I expected maybe 10 or 15 people.  Actually, about 40 or so showed up taking all the available seats.  Young sat in a chair and took questions the entire two hours of the event.

Young is good at retail politics.  He's good at talking to voters and telling them what they want to hear.  Of course, he's likely going to vote however he wants to vote.  That said, he did listen to the constituents in the audience intently often telling his staff to take notes on questions he couldn't answer or had not researched.

The topics ranged from mass transit to the 10 percent tax cut to the IMS tax breaks to Senate Bill 621 and lots of things in between.  His answers, if you listened carefully, were pretty non-committal.  For example, on the issue of mass transit, Young never really took a position.  He kind of came down on both sides a bit.  He agreed something had to be done, but he didn't exactly provide answers about what.
Senator R. Michael Young

Young said he supported the Pence tax cut and explained that the deal with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was only done once IMS put some of their money in the game.  It's a $2 million required investment for IMS before any money flows their direction.

On Senate Bill 621, I took a moment at the microphone to tell him my concerns.  Again, he listened.  After the event ended, he came up to me on the sidewalk and we continued our conversation.  Young seemed to be unable to understand that this looks like a power grab for the mayor...whatever person is in the office...and not necessarily just a power grab for the Republicans.  I had to tell him again and again that my concern wasn't rooted in party interest but in the interest of what's best for the citizens of Indianapolis.

SB 621 would take many duties now under the Council or the County Commissioners of Marion County and place those responsibilities under the Mayor of Indianapolis.

In true skilled politician fashion, Young said he shared some of my concerns (about the bill he wrote).

To be honest, I left with a higher personal opinion of Young than I had going in.  I think he's a person that does care about what his constituents think and have to say.  That said, I'm not sure that he's going to take any of it into account.  Young is going to do what he wishes to do with his power.

Probably the most telling moment of the entire two-hour event was the moment when Young said that SB 621 wasn't a power grab.  A loud moan rose from the audience, and I laughed out loud.  He continued to explain all the various forms of research that he had done and how Mayor Ballard had come to him and had proposed a few things once he made it known the bill was something he was interested in writing.

A tall union member seated in the front row said that Mayor Ballard had not asked for the elimination of the four At-Large City County Council seats.  Instead of answering yes or no, Young laughed.  It has been reported that Ballard says he didn't request the elimination of the At-Larges.  When Young was pressed on what his laugh meant he said, "I didn't say that he requested them or not; I just laughed."

I suppose we should read between the lines on that one.

The JohnnyStir Show on IndianaTalks.com!

Yezak
Tonight's show should be a very good one.  Chris Jackson will join me for an early edition of the lightning round.  Then, about midway through the show, I'll be joined by Ryan James Yezak, a filmmaker, who is in the process of filming Second Class Citizens.  Below is the trailer.  Join me at 9:00 p.m. on www.indianatalks.com!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Advocacy Group Message Not Being Heard; Pence Asks Group to Back Off

Americans for Prosperity has been airing this commercial here in Indiana for the last two weeks or so in support of Governor Mike Pence's income tax cut plan that seems to be going nowhere at the Statehouse.



The ad itself is very close to an ad Mitch Daniels placed a few years back in the 2008 election cycle.  In fact, it uses the same music and graphics.



I don't know if that was intentional or not, but I remembered it.

Anyway, the ad by AFP is pretty hard on Indiana's Republican-dominated legislature accusing them of planning to spend out the wazoo while refusing to cut taxes.

House Speaker Brian Bosma took some time Thursday to smack down the ads pretty hard, according to the Associated Press calling them "misinformation."  Bosma was highly critical of the way the Governor rolled out his tax cut plan to legislators saying that a compromise was still possible but that Pence started in a "deficit" by giving legislators minimal time to review the plan before announcing it.

Bosma's critique came a day after Governor Pence asked AFP to back off on their attacks on the Indiana General Assembly, according to the Evansville Courier and Press, citing Ronald Reagan's so-called 11th Commandment:  "Thou shalt not speak ill of any other Republican."  Fortunately for Democrats, the Tea Party fringe rarely adheres to Dutch's old adage.

The Indiana Democratic Party, in its first week under Chair John Zody, fired off a political attack via Facebook posting, "To be clear, our Republican Governor is asking a Republican special interest group to stop beating up on Republicans at the Statehouse."

Yep, that pretty much says it all guys and gals.  The General Assembly is winning so far because there seems to be little movement to find a way for Pence's tax cut to get back in the budget.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fundraisers Make Strange Bedfellows

Jose Evans is new to the Republican Party, and some of his views probably seem new for some of the more hard line GOP members on the far right.  That hasn't stopped some of them from trying to raise some cash for him.

Several Republican muckety mucks will hold a fundraiser for Evans on April 10 at Mo's.  The top dollar for the fundraiser is $200.  Ultra conservative Republican Senators Pat Miller and Brent Waltz and charter school champ, Representative Bob Behning are all listed as hosts on the event which also includes other local Republicans from the City-County Council (including the controversial Jefferson Shreve), other offices, and the county party.

The subject line of the e-mail (sent by the Marion County Republican Central Committee) states that it's an Evans for City-County Council fundraiser.  The flyer itself in the e-mail says it's a welcome to the Republican Party fundraiser.

Evans
I'd be interested to see if Evans will now return all the money Democrats gave him when they thought he was a Democrat.  That's really doubtful.  Last week, he did write a long, rambling letter to his constituents that essentially contradicted a lot of what he said to Amos Brown on the Afternoons with Amos program the day he converted to the GOP.

We'll see where this fundraising leads for the newly-minted member of the GOP.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reid Chickens Out on Assault Weapons Ban

U.S. Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid
Gun advocates won a battle at the U.S. Capitol yesterday.  Harry Reid ran away with his tail between his legs again and is refusing to bring a bill to the floor of the U.S. Senate with an assault weapons ban in it.

What's the point?  This new gun control bill, if it passes, will maybe have some increased background checks and things in it, but it won't have the ban of the most dangerous weapons.  All of this coming as it appears another college campus shooting was narrowly averted at the University of Central Florida when the possible perpetrator offed himself before carrying out his plan.

It's sad that there's no more bold leadership.  A bold Senate leader would have brought the bill with the assault weapons ban to the floor and fought like heck for it.  The victims of those weapons deserved that.  It may have failed, but it would have put on record those that opposed it on both sides of the aisle. Harry Reid's easy way out allows the Democrats who would have voted against an assault weapons ban to save some face.  I refuse to be convinced that there is any private citizen need for an assault rifle.  There just isn't, and I've seen many of the arguments.

I'll have a respectful conversation with you if you disagree with me, but there's simply no reason for Reid to chicken out like this and not bring a ban back to the floor.  We had an assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004, so this is not an unprecedented piece of legislation.

I salute Senator Dianne Feinstein for her work.  She understands what gun violence looks like.  It's clear that Harry Reid doesn't understand what leadership looks like.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hillary Clinton Supports Marriage Equality

No shock here, but Hillary Clinton came out of the closet in support of marriage equality in the United States and around the world.  Her excellent video announcement is below from the Human Rights Campaign.



She looks so presidential.

Monday, March 18, 2013

House Bill 1338 Gives Ballard Unchecked Charter School Power

Emperor Mayor Greg Ballard
On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., House Bill 1338 will be heard in the Indiana Senate's Education and Career Development Committee.

The bill itself will change various things in the law regarding charter schools if it passes.  Some of the changes would seem to be good.  For example, one provision of the new law would allow charter schools to apply for school safety grants.  It would force the charter school to post its board on the school's website.  It does TONS of things...far too many to list here.  For a full list, go visit the bill here.

As is the case with these omnibus bills, they have a lot of parts.  There are several parts that are objectionable, I think, to most people.  One thing the bill would do is remove the City-County Council's ability to practice oversight over Mayor Greg Ballard's charter schools.  Essentially, he could create as many schools as he wanted to without any legislative oversight whatsoever.  Can you believe that?

Once again, the General Assembly is acting with absolutely no reason to act.  In general, the Council and the Mayor's Office has had a tremendous relationship on education matters.  For the majority of the majority, this is one area in which there has been a great deal of bipartisan agreement in city-county government, much to my dismay, in fact.  That's not that I believe that Mayor Greg Ballard should have more power to grant these charters, but I wish the Council would exercise more restraint to this proliferation of charter schools.  I don't think the power of the Council should be circumvented yet again by a General Assembly that keeps sticking its nose into local politics.

The power grab at the Statehouse continues by the people often yelling most about the federal government grabbing power.

On This Week's JohnnyStir Show...

Curry

Join me Monday Night at 9:00 p.m.  Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry joins me and Chris Jackson faces the political "Lightning Round" again!  Should be a fun time on www.indianatalks.com!

If you are enjoying the show, let me know.  Tweet me @johnnystir or you can always find the show on Facebook at www.facebook.com/johnnystirshow.  While you're at it, give the Indiana Talks page a like, too.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Indiana Democratic Party Elects New Chair

John Zody
The Indiana Democratic Party elected John Zody as Chair today.  He is the first new chair for the Democrats in Indiana since 2004.

Dan Parker announced late in 2011 that he was going to resign.  After talking with some of the key candidates, he then decided to take the position back to get the party through the 2012 elections and rescinded his resignation.

Zody was unopposed as Chair.  Cordelia Lewis Burks is back as Vice Chair.  Vera Mileusnic is the new Secretary, and Sherrianne Stradley is the new Treasurer.

Zody Takes Gavel from Dan Parker
Photo from the IDP
In a release sent out by the IDP, Zody said, "I'm excited to lead the Indiana Democratic Party, build on our past successes and continue to grow support for our candidates and campaigns," he said. "I look forward to working with this new team and our supporters across the state to make that happen. After all, our party is only as strong as those who are part of it."

More reaction to come, but the early word feeling is cautious optimism on the part of some Democrats. Many don't know a whole lot about Zody, but they are willing to learn.

Powerful Message

This song by Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert may hopefully change some minds about same sex relationships and love.  It's quite beautiful.



Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis Inherits Big Job

Pope Francis as Cardinal Bergoglio
On Wednesday afternoon, Jorge Bergoglio stepped out onto the balcony at the Vatican and took the name Francis. The weight of 1.2 billion pairs of Catholic eyes descended upon him. He has a big job.

So far, it appears that Francis is not your normal Pope. After sneaking out of the Vatican on Thursday morning, he went to a church in Rome for a quiet and unannounced prayer service. After that, he returned to the Vatican-owned living quarters where he stayed while in Rome to pick up his luggage and pay his bill. That’s right; the Pope essentially paid his own bill at his own hotel.

Pope Francis has hardline and old school views on issues such as same-sex marriage (once equating the movement behind marriage equality to something started by the devil), women in public life (he doesn't think they're fit for public office) and abortion, but he also apparently has much more liberal views when it comes to helping the poor and the needy. People familiar with the new Pontiff speak extremely highly of his temperament and his heart.

The former Jorge Bergoglio was not without controversy. His critics accuse him of helping support the brutal dictatorship that ran Argentina for years and not doing enough to speak out on human rights violations by that regime. His friends and supporters say that this is simply not correct. It’s not unlike Josef Ratzinger’s indoctrination into the Hitler Youth as a teenager. The facts are out there, and people will take those facts and believe what they will. It was nearly 30 years ago for Pope Francis, and people change a lot in that time.

For those looking for a totally new way of thinking in the Catholic Church, this is likely not your Pope. There’s little indication that he’s going to radically change things, but he does appear much more human than his predecessor. He’s likely more John Paul II than Benedict XVI, and, while I disagreed with Pope John Paul II on many things, I admired him as a man and as a leader.

At 76, Pope Francis likely will not have a decades-long term in the Vatican, but he can definitely have a major effect on the future of the Catholic Church, and that will make a difference for the future of Catholicism in the world.

I will keep an open mind about the new Pontiff, and I hope that his new position will open his heart and mind to new ideas as he tries to reform a church that has been mired in controversy for many years. Pope Francis must address the sex abuse scandals head on instead of hiding from them and hoping they will go away.

Pope Francis has a big job ahead of him. I’m not Catholic, but I did say a little prayer for the Catholic Church’s new leader. Let's hope he governs in a different manner than previous Popes.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sticks and Stones, John Kasich

Governor John Kasich
Ohio Governor John Kasich is under fire in his own state from the Tea Party for expanding medicare.  Apparently, he's taking it out on Indiana.

At a dinner in Hamilton County, Ohio, the county where Cincinnati is located, Kasich derisively said that there isn't much more in Indiana than Indianapolis.  Said Kasich, "...you go to Indianapolis … and then say, ‘Where else are we going to go? Gary?"

I'm not going to sit here and defend the Hoosier State to all of you, my fellow Hoosiers, but I will just remind Mr. Kasich that old saying about sticks and stones is true.  These things he's spewing are just words.  In the whole scheme of things, Hoosiers are just like Ohioans.  We are on the same team as we are all Americans.

If he wants to pick a fight with the Hoosier State, that's fine.  We are a proud state, warts and all.  We aren't perfect.  We are far from it, but I've lived here all my life, and, when I go to my grave, I will become part of the Hoosier landscape someday.  If I'm lucky, maybe I'll find a nice Hoosier house to haunt.  I'm a Hoosier.

I've been to all the great cities in Indiana.  I've been in Indianapolis for almost all my life, but I lived for a while in Pittsboro.  Indiana is about both the Indianapolises and the Pittsboros.  We're about all the small town festivals in the fall and the county fairs in the summer.  Indiana is about weather that we know changes by the minute.  We're about the little small town eateries like Frank & Mary's in Pittsboro as well as the upscale places like the Eagle's Nest in Downtown Indy.  We're about places that you can't pronounce or the places that we purposefully mispronounce like Versailles and Milan.  Politically, we're the state that elects a Republican supermajority to our General Assembly but will still send a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. 

Hoosiers know that Indiana is a lot of things, but we're never boring.

Hoosiers know a fraud.  Hoosiers know a blowhard.  Hoosiers know someone who is in political trouble.  Those are all words that have been used to describe John Kasich.  You elected him, Ohio.

I wish you the best, Governor.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Curry Releases Report to Community

Marion County Prosecutor
Terry Curry
Terry Curry has released a report about what the Marion County Prosecutor's Office has been up to over the last year.  

You can read the report for yourself online by following this link.

The digest, however, shows an impressive record for Curry, his office, and his staff of deputy prosecutors.

  • The county’s first case on the sale of "spice" and other synthetic drugs was filed in October, charging smoke shop owner Christopher Tiplick with 18 felonies for allegedly selling synthetic drugs.
  • Metal theft was addressed in a new way by coupling the traditional charges of theft and burglary with racketeering and income tax charges, a first in Marion County for this type of criminal activity.
  • Three one-day landlord trainings were held to assist landlords in keeping their rental properties free from criminal activity.
  • Twenty-six burglary prevention forums were held to educate citizens with strategies to protect their property.
  • $106.3 million in child support was collected for Marion County families.
  • More than 300 cases for illegal gun possession were filed.
Beyond all of this, Curry has had several high profile cases to oversee including the Richmond Hills explosion and the continuing saga of officer David Bisard.  Curry, unlike his predecessor, is more comfortable working than he is chasing down microphones or hosting radio programs on WIBC.  

I think it's safe to say that he will have broad bipartisan support when he stands for reelection in 2014.  Curry will be my guest on Monday night at 9 p.m. on the JohnnyStir Show over on www.indianatalks.com.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Evans for Congress???

Is Evans Running for Congress?
When José Evans switched parties, he tried making it a big deal.

He kept it a secret from Democrats (though most in the know were not surprised). He and the Republican Party he joined invited in the media, wrote a press release, and made themselves available so everyone would know how giddy they were at his defection from the Democrats.
Evans went on Afternoons with Amos and said that essentially he was still a Democrat in most of his views but somehow the Republican Party gave him a seat at the table. He kept saying it over and over again. He then told Amos Brown that he had a meeting with RNC Chair Reince Priebus (who happened to be in town at the time). That begs the question: Why would Reince Priebus care about a district-level City-County Councillor in Indianapolis who defected to the Republican Party?

It got my brain working this weekend, and I did some digging.

Most experts don’t believe that Evans has an interest in running for reelection in 2015. If the maps that currently have been approved to go into effect in 2015 actually do become a reality, he finds himself placed in the same district as Angela Mansfield. Mansfield, a popular Councillor with a reputation for being great with constituent services, would be hard to beat in that district for a Republican, let alone one that used to be a Democrat. So, the question is, what is Evans thinking?

Evans may be thinking just what he said. He wants to have a seat at the table and someone to listen to his views. That said, his views are outside the Republican mainstream and in many ways go against Mayor Ballard’s own agenda on things such as charter schools. His views may be heard, but the Marion County Republican Party is going to do what it wants to do.

That leaves me with one conclusion. José Evans is going to run for Congress in the 7th Congressional District. Frankly, I don’t have anything more than political intuition to back that up, but I think that Priebus’ meeting with him and the big splash launch may hint at the future plans of the Councillor.

According to my research, Evans does not live within the boundaries of the 7th Congressional District. He is a constituent of Susan Brooks. It doesn't matter though. He could live in Fort Wayne. The U.S. Constitution does not prohibit someone from representing a Congressional District they don't live in, and laws that have tried to tie a representative to a district have been struck down as unconstitutional.

If I were Congressman André Carson, I wouldn’t be concerned about a possible Evans candidacy, but it does bear watching. I don’t think that if Evans runs that it changes one thing for Carson. He’s likely going to win, and he’s going to win likely by a wide margin.

At this point, Carson has weathered the storm of three election cycles now. There was 2008 where he fought through a special election and a primary just to earn his seat. In 2010, he was reelected by a wide margin after the Tea Party-infused candidacy of Marvin Scott tried to make Carson’s religion a campaign issue. In 2012, he fought off Carlos May in a campaign that saw Carson work the new territory of his district even though he was unlikely to carry those areas.

Yes, Evans would present a new challenge, but his campaign, hypothetical at this point, would be nothing short of a longshot against a Congressman whose power and influence grow with every election cycle.

Time will tell if the meeting with Priebus meant anything for 2014.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ballard '11 Consultant: He's "Planning on" Running for Third Term

Mayor Greg Ballard
Greg Ballard said a few weeks ago that he was "open" to running for a third term as Mayor of Indianapolis in an interview with Indy Politics. If you believe one of his former campaign consultants, it sounds like he's more than just open to the idea.

On Indianapolis This Week, political consultant Lara Beck, who normally represents the Democratic point-of-view, credited Mayor Ballard for his comments during his State of the City address about America breaking its dependency on foreign oil.  She noted that this wasn't something that a mayor generally speaks out on, and that it might signal that Ballard is looking at other offices down the line.

Hearing that comment, the newest addition to the WRTV lineup of political commentators, Jennifer Hallowell, spoke up and talked about how this has been a passionate issue for the Mayor given his background and service overseas as a U.S. Marine.  She also said that Ballard is "planning on" running for a third term in 2015.  Hallowell served as a consultant to the Ballard campaign in 2011.

That is the most definitive signal we've heard from anyone associated with Ballard about his 2015 plans, and it makes sense.  Why wouldn't Ballard run for reelection?  There's no one in the Republican Party that's on the bench waiting to replace him other than maybe Ryan Vaughn.  Jose Evans ran for mayor as a Democrat in 2011, and he's now a Republican.  When 2015 rolls around, it will probably still be too soon for him to be the Republican nominee.  After that, there's really no one.  Ballard gives the Republicans the best chance to hold the office.

Now that we know Ballard's likely plans, it becomes critical for the Democrats to get a likable candidate with substance.  Ms. Lewis? Mr. Hogsett? Mr. Mahern? Mr. Osili?  Someone else?  If Ballard is going to spend the next two years running for reelection, time to belly up to the bar with him.

On This Week's JohnnyStir Show

Marion County Dems Chair Joel Miller
Join me Monday Night at 9:00 p.m.  New Marion County Democratic Party Chair Joel Miller joins me and Chris Jackson faces the political "Lightning Round" again!  Should be a fun time on www.indianatalks.com!

If you are enjoying the show, let me know.  Tweet me @johnnystir or you can always find the show on Facebook at www.facebook.com/johnnystirshow.  While you're at it, give the Indiana Talks page a like, too.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Four Local Blogs Recognized by the Fix

Well, we still didn't make it, but bully to those that did!

The Washington Post's popular The Fix blog by Chris Cillizza named Indiana's best political blogs, and there were four very deserving blogs that made Chris' list.

Masson's Blog, Indy Politics, Hoosier Access, and Howey Politics all made the list.  Congratulations to Paul Masson, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, Brian Howey, and all the contributors at Hoosier Access.

As for this blog, I will take to heart the words of Abraham Lincoln:

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Paul's Filibuster Follows Best Traditions of Senate

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at this hour is now closing in on his ninth hour of filibuster in the U.S. Senate on the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director.

Usually, this blog would be attacking Paul for gridlocking the Senate and another Obama appointee, but I'm actually going to agree with him on this one.

Why you ask?  Paul rose and has been speaking out about the possible ability of President of the United States to kill Americans on American soil that might be seen as a terrorist threat without due process.  One example would be for the President to order a drone strike against an American citizen on American soil.

I find it hard to believe that President Obama would utilize deadly force in that manner, and, in a letter from Eric Holder to Paul, the administration said as much.  The letter did leave wiggle room, and I think it is important to clarify these policies for the future and for future Presidents of the United States.  Paul also is addressing the use of drones over U.S. soil.  I oppose that measure without a judge issuing a warrant.

These are important questions, and I salute Senator Paul for rising and bringing attention to this critical issue. I also salute Senator Paul for actually using a "speak until one cannot speak more" filibuster.

Evans Decision Still Perplexes

Councillor Jose Evans
Yesterday, Jose Evans, however you slice it, turned his back on the Democratic Party that slated him twice for City-County Council and helped him win election and became a Republican.  Reaction continues to blossom.

A deeper look at Marion County Democratic Party Chairman Joel Miller's statement on Evans departure from the party seems to indicate that he believes that Evans and the Democrats will meet up again in some capacity.  Miller's statement said:

"This morning, I learned from news reports that Jose Evans, councillor for the 1st district will be changing political parties. While I wish Councillor Evans well in his future endeavors, as with any Republican, I certainly look forward to spirited political campaigns against him in the coming years."
The first part of the statement expresses subtle surprise.  Evans apparently told no one.  Not Council President Maggie Lewis.  Not Democratic Leader Vernon Brown.  Not the Marion County Democratic Party.  No phone call.  No e-mail.  No fax.  No carrier pigeon.  Miller concludes the statement by wishing Evans well and sending a nice parting shot his way addressing any future campaigns he might have.

There will be future campaigns for Evans, too.  As I mentioned yesterday, and as many of you are aware, Evans ran for Mayor of Indianapolis in 2011.  Under the current adopted City-County Council districts that were rushed through at the end of 2011, Evans and District 2 Councillor Angela Mansfield currently are in the same district.

Mansfield and Evans would certainly be a battle of the titans if that were to ever occur, but I think Mansfield's long record of delivering results for her constituents might be a little tough to beat for Evans.  If he thinks he has a chance now in Pike Township and Washington Township, which are turning more and more blue by the year, he would seem to me to be mistaken.  There is, of course, the possibility of Evans running for Mayor of Indianapolis in the future as he did in 2011.

Evans' record doesn't seem to match the most liberal Republican's agenda on the Council.  He is calling for a moratorium on charter schools.  Mayor Ballard wants to expand them.  Also, on Amos Brown's program on WTLC-AM, Evans apparently danced around the question of whether he would support Republican efforts to curtail City-County Council power.

I can't figure this one out.  Evans told Amos that he would never support someone like Mitt Romney or Richard Mourdock and said to callers that he was pro-labor. He seemed hopeful that he now can maybe do some things because he "has a seat at the table."  He said it again and again.  He told Amos that he had a meeting with Reince Priebus.  It's clear he's getting some attention now.  Evans himself said that the Marion County GOP told him not to change anything but to help them reach out to the African-American and Hispanic communities.  Sounds like the Republicans don't want Jose's views as much as they want Jose.  If Evans wanted respect and attention, he could have gotten it without leaving his old party.

As for Evans, he did a lot of dancing on Amos' direct questions.  He wouldn't tell Amos what specifically his problem was with the Democrats.  It was a great interview because you could clearly see that he did not want to answer these questions.

I'll reach out to Councillor Evans and give him an opportunity to appear on the JohnnyStir Show on IndianaTalks.com.  Hopefully, he will take up my invitation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

BREAKING: New Pope Elected (Wait a Minute)

White smoke emerged from the Vatican late tonight signaling that a new Pope had been elected.  Via Facebook, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz seemed to have the first photos of the new Pontiff.

Pope Abdul-Hakim I
I didn't even know Abdul was Catholic.

Evans Converts to Republican

Councillor Jose Evans
The Marion County Democratic Party received a jolt this morning when one of its City-County Councillors and former mayoral candidates jumped ship and joined the Republican Party.

Jose Evans, City-County Councillor in District 1, announced this morning that he was leaving the Democratic Party and would caucus with the Republicans. Evans ran a spirited campaign for Mayor of Indianapolis in 2011 before dropping out and endorsing Melina Kennedy.

In a news release sent out by the Marion County GOP (then repeated at a press conference later), Evans said this “was not a decision was made in haste or without considerable thought.”

Evans added, “When looking around my district, our city, and this state, however, it is clear that Republican policies and Republican leadership are getting things done, and I want to be a part of a Party that is focused on progress.”

Of course Republican leaders were ecstatic and overjoyed to have Evans join the party as it now reduces the Democratic majority from 16 to 13 to 15 to 14. GOP Council Leader Mike McQuillen said in the news release, ““While we’ve certainly not always agreed on the issues, I’ve always considered Councillor Evans a thoughtful colleague.” He went on to say that Evans decision to join the caucus shows that the former Democrat values “performance over politics.”

Marion County Republican Chair, Kyle Walker, and Indiana Republican Party Chair, Eric Holcomb, both seemed giddy to get Evans to join their party, but what are the Republicans getting when it comes to Evans? To his colleagues, he has always been a bit of an enigma on the Council. A Veteran Councillor has told me in the past that Evans, at times, seemed standoffish or would not respond at all to correspondence. It almost seemed that he had his own goal.

In 2011, that goal was to be Mayor of Indianapolis, and we, coincidentally, we are gearing up for another municipal election cycle in 2015 perhaps Evans is positioning himself as a Republican to run for a new opportunity if Mayor Ballard decides he doesn’t want to pursue a third term. With Evans’ district trending more Democratic, it would be a fight for him to retain his seat on the Council. It makes sense that he might look for something else.

Even though he has now switched caucuses, Evans may find himself at times as persona non grata. He is a Democrat that defected to the D’s. To the R’s, he is a Republican that used to be a Democrat. Some dues may have to be paid.

Joel Miller, Marion County Democratic Party Chairman, took the high road wishing Evans luck.  Said Miller in a statement, "This morning, I learned from news reports that Jose Evans, councillor for the 1st district will be changing political parties. While I wish Councillor Evans well in his future endeavors, as with any Republican, I certainly look forward to spirited political campaigns against him in the coming years."

Evans departure now leaves little margin for error for the Democrats on the Council and Council President Maggie Lewis assuming that the Republicans can trust Evans to suddenly become a loyal vote on their issues. 

It's also worth noting that when Ed Coleman left the Republican Party and went to the Libertarian Party, top Republicans lambasted Coleman.  The then-more-relevant Jon Elrod accused Coleman of betraying the voters who elected him as a Republican.  

On a personal note, I like Councillor Evans a great deal.  He has always treated me well, and I hope that will continue now that he is a Republican.  I just wonder what ultimately led him to this decision.  His sudden change of heart just is hard to believe.  Until something else is presented, I'll take him at his word, though.

City-County Council watching just got that much more interesting!

Bucshon May Have Fight on Hands in 2014

Indiana's 8th District is about to get politically crazy again, and it's probably going to be Republican vs. Tea Party.
Congressman Larry Bucshon is likely going to get a primary challenge in 2014, according to the Indiana Democratic Party.  The Club for Growth is expected to field a challenger to attempt to ouster Bucshon.  Despite his conservative voting record, Bucshon is not conservative enough for CFG President, Chris Chocola.  It was Chocola who lost his seat in Congress to Joe Donnelly in 2006.  He just can't give up on politics.

Last year, Chocola's group threw down against Richard Lugar defeating the longtime Senator with Richard Mourdock in the Primary.  Mourdock went down in flames after controversial comments about pregnancies resulting from rape during the final U.S. Senate debate.

For his part, Mourdock has made it known that he's interested in pursuing public office again.  The Indiana Treasurer of State has been making the rounds appearing on WRTV's Indianapolis This Week on Sunday with Rafael Sanchez.  Mourdock seems clueless or still in denial about his loss in 2012.  He told Sanchez, essentially, that he was bewildered by the mixed messages sent by the voters who reelected Republicans in the U.S. House but Democrats in the Senate and the White House.  He said voters voted for gridlock.  

No Richard. Voters voted against you.  They went to the polls and voted for a moderate like Joe Donnelly in a state that went to Barack Obama's Republican opponent by 10 percentage points.  You lost because you didn't keep your mouth shut long enough to get in office.  It would have been a close race, but you sealed your own doom when you said what you said, and that may keep the CFG from using you again as a candidate against Bucshon or anyone else.

One way or another, it makes things interesting in the so called "Bloody 8th" as we head to 2014. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Miller Takes Reins as Party Chair

Marion County Democratic Party Chairman
Joel Miller
(Photo from Facebook)
It's always hard to follow a legend, and, love him or hate him, Ed Treacy's record in two stints as the Marion County Democratic Party is pretty legendary.

Today, the Joel Miller era of Marion County politics officially begins, and he has to chart his own course in the seas and trials ahead.

As Miller enters office, the Marion County Democratic Party looks to be in really good shape on the surface.  Democrats hold all major executive offices in Marion County (minus the Mayor's Office) and a majority on the City-County Council.  Dems hold majorities on six township boards and five of the nine township trustees offices.  André Carson is very secure in the 7th Congressional District, and Marion County is turning out straight-ticket D results like a well-oiled union assembly line. Still, Miller's job is not going to be easy.

The Marion County Democratic Party is in good shape, and it's so hard to go from good to great.  It's also hard to define just what is great shape when it comes to politics.  The results at the ballot box could say one thing, but, behind the scenes, there could be trouble.  Miller has to be weary of things in that second regard as he takes office.

Former Chairman Ed Treacy
Last time around when Treacy was replaced, Democrats were given Mike O'Connor, and the results in the 2007 election were so bad that they set the party's momentum back a few years.  Much of that was out of O'Connor's control, but his name was on the door at the time.  When he resigned, Treacy came back, and the momentum began moving again in the right direction for Marion County Democrats and it continues today.

Miller is going to have to keep that momentum going by defending what the Democrats have earned at the ballot box and trying to claim those last few offices that just have not gone the D's way.  Of course, the big one is coming in 2015.  That's the next battle for Mayor of Indianapolis.  Who knows what the Council will look like then, as well.  The Republican shenanigans at the Statehouse may eliminate the four At-Large City-County Council seats making the district races that much more critical.  Remember, Democrats would hold the advantage at the district level had a few votes gone differently in the Kostas Poulakidas-Christine Scales race.  Scales held on by less than 40 votes out of over 9,700 cast. There will be new districts though, and that battle continues, too.

There is also the question of what will the Marion County Democratic Party do about the so-called "Southern Tier" of townships.  Decatur, Perry, and Franklin all now have Congressman Carson as their representative in Congress, but they remain largely Republican strongholds.  What will Miller's strategy be, and will it look any different than Treacy's?

I also believe that Miller would be wise to reach out to some folks that have been alienated over the last few years under Treacy.  There are some tremendously talented individuals out there that could help the cause.

The last thing he needs is me telling him how to do his job.  Due to his past work as the party's former Executive Director (and then-Treacy's right hand man), Miller knows the political terrain in Marion County.  He had a front row seat at that time for the gains D's saw the first time Treacy was Chairman.

Miller's also paid his dues, so to speak.  He's been way behind the scenes as a numbers cruncher and policy wonk.  He's managed local and statewide campaigns.  Miller's a workhorse, and he's earned this opportunity.  He's smart, bright, and extremely capable.  He also, with apologies to former Chairman Treacy, brings a more youthful outlook to the job.  The party has taken steps to modernize over the last few years, but it still has a ways to go.

So, he's got a big job, but he's the man to do it.  Joel Miller will be a success as Marion County Democratic Party Chairman, and I think he'll do it by honoring the past while charting his own course as the leader of the Marion County Democrats.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

This Week on the JohnnyStir Show

Councillor Brian Mahern
Coming up at 9:00 p.m. on Monday, I welcome City-County Councillor Brian Mahern to talk about Indianapolis/Marion County government, the Republican attempt to take it over, and why he's so hard on Mayor Ballard.

I'll also have Chris Jackson back for the political lightning round as there's much to discuss.  Don't forget to tweet me @johnnystir on Twitter or find the JohnnyStir Show on Facebook.

Don't miss the show on www.indianatalks.com.  You can also catch the podcasts of my two previous shows there, as well.  So, see what you missed.

Should be a great show!  Hope you'll join me.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Hugs

Watch this awesome example of how NOTHING can hold a determined person back from reaching his or her dreams.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

New Chair Elected Today

The Ed Treacy era of Marion County Democratic Party politics officially ends today as the party faithful convene to elect a new chair today at 10:00 a.m. at Primo's on the Southside.

Barring some last minute shenanigans, our sources tell us that Joel Miller will likely be that new chair as he is unopposed.  Since your blogger is no longer a PC, Vice PC, or Ward Chair, I don't have any credentials for the event.  I'll be relying on social media to inform me what's happening.

The Republicans also meet today on Indy's Eastside at the Mariott.  Kyle Walker is expected to be reelected chair, according to the Indianapolis Star's Jon Murray.  He does have opposition from Jocelyn T. Tandy-Adande.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ritz Office Remodel Failed Common Sense Test

Glenda Ritz
“Common sense ain't common.”
― Will Rogers


Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is, as most of you know, the only Democrat in a state-level executive office.  She represents not only schools, students, and teachers, but she also must realize that she represents the Democratic Party now as the highest-ranking state officeholder for the D's.

That's why the rest of this post is going to get a little hard.  I don't like to criticize our own, but I will if I think the politician deserves it.  Glenda Ritz, you deserve it today.

Ritz, who took office in January, redesigned her office space to the tune of $86,000, according to WISH-TV.  Ritz's office said that the money for the redesign came from savings generated by Tony Bennett's Administration.

Does Ritz understand how bad this looks?

There seems to be a bit of a "bunker mentality" from people I talk to in the Superintendent of Public Instruction's Office, and it's well-earned.  A source told me that Bennett's folks left nothing in the office when he left.  The office was essentially left bare, according to my source.  Perhaps that's partially what this redesign was maybe helping to fix.  After all, we don't have the invoices in front of us.  That bunker mentality though is that many in the Statehouse are working against Ritz and trying to undercut and undermine her authority.

What better way to give them grist for their mill than to personally direct what seems to be an $86K redesign of office space?

Memories are still fresh of state agencies wasting taxpayer dollars.  It was just over a year or so ago that WTHR did an expose piece on the Hoosier Lottery's extravagant new offices.  That led to the ouster of the Lottery Director and led to a mad dash to recoup funds.  Ritz's spending on her office is a mere drop in the bucket compared to what the Hoosier Lottery spent, but it still is a problem given the political climate we live in. There will be no resignations over this, and there shouldn't be.  It doesn't look like she went overboard.  The right way to do this would have been to get out in front of the story instead of having to react to it.  It's a lesson in politics, as Jim Shella said in the report.  In the world of politics, though, perception is reality.

If there's one thing Republicans like to pull on Democrats, it's that we like to spend money and do it wastefully.  Of course, we know that both sides spend and tax, but it's the Dems that usually find that charge sticking to them more.  Moves like this by Ritz and her office do nothing to dispel these political charges, only perpetuate them.

Maybe we're only getting one side of the story here, but this seemingly shortsighted move by the Superintendent of Public Instruction plays into past stereotypes of Democrats and only fuels the firestorm against her.  Any time Ritz now tries to claim schools are underfunded and that more money needs to be spent to help struggling schools, this story will be brought up.  Can't you just see them now?

Hoosier common sense apparently was not in these plans.  Let's hope next time it is.