Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Will Pence Veto SB 621?

Governor Mike Pence told the Indianapolis Star that he has his concerns about Senate Bill 621, the bill that alters Marion County government.  He wouldn't specify his concerns to Star writer Chris Sikich, but it seems that he's at least taking a second look at the bill.  That's good for Marion County residents.

As is well-documented, Senate Bill 621 is a disaster for Democrats, but that's likely only temporary.  Someday, it will be a disaster for Republicans.  That said, an even more powerful Greg Ballard and a less powerful City-County Council sends the idea of checks and balances out of balance.

Pence has three options.  He can veto the bill.  He can allow it to pass into law without his signature, or he can sign the bill.  I think it's likely that he will do one of the first two.

If he vetoes the bill, it would just take a simple majority of both houses to overturn Pence's veto.  I think he would likely get that in the Indiana Senate.  The House, however, voted 54-45 to pass the amended conference committee bill showing that at least 14 Republicans (Brian Bosma did not vote) had significant concerns about the new bill containing the elimination of the four At-Large City-County Council seats.  I think it's unlikely that the Indiana House would overturn the Governor's veto.

While the removal of the At-Large seats and the budget provisions got a lot of attention, also significant is this idea of central absentee vote counts in ONLY Marion County.  Marion County Clerk Beth White says that it will cost the county more money and force both parties to find more campaign workers to help count the centralized absentee votes.

I would think also a concern might be the general lack of knowledge that the bill's defenders seemed to possess when being questioned at various levels of the governmental process.  I thought David Frizzell's performance in the Conference Committee hearing was particularly embarrassing to the Republicans.  He answered questions with words like "I would think" or "I suspect" instead of sounding more factual in his defense of the provisions of the bill.

If it is time to look at Unigov, then let's look at it together and work on a bi-partisan plan that has input of all constituents.  The GOP through its actions admitted that it would not want to do that.

It's on Pence's desk now.  He told the Star that he would keep us informed.  If you're someone that cares about checks and balances in government, now is the time to step up and be heard.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stewart Takes on Fox's Constitutional Cunundrum

In this excellent piece from last Wednesday's Daily Show, Jon Stewart rightly skewers Fox News for its convenient use of the United States Constitution.

JohnnyStir Show
Tonight on the JohnnyStir Show, State Representative Justin Moed joins me to talk about the 2013 General Assembly session.  Chris Jackson will be back as always to discuss the hot political stories in the Action Jackson Political Lightning Round.

Tune in to IndianaTalks.com at 9:00 p.m. tonight.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fourteen Republicans Cross Aisle, But SB621 Still Passes

Courageous Republicans crossed the aisle in droves, but it was not enough to save Indy's At-Large City-County Councillors as the Indiana House voted late last night to adopt the Conference Committee recommendations and remove the four seats by a final tally of 54-45.

14 Republicans joined 31 Democrats in an effort to overturn the bill that has been called a political play, a power grab, and bad policy by people in all three major Indiana political parties.

Buried deep in the bill is more sinister political power moves.  One provision puts Mayor Greg Ballard in charge of the Metropolitan Development Commission.  Another provision makes the Constitutional offices of Marion County Government beg the un-elected city controller for their budgets.  Still another mandates that there will be a central counting of all absentee ballots in Marion County only despite the fact that Marion County Clerk Beth White says it will cost more, force the county to buy more machines and hire more election workers, and delay results of critical races for days.

By the time you read this, the bill will probably already have passed the Indiana Senate and be on its way to Governor Mike Pence for his signature.

What really gets me is that David Frizzell, sent to defend the bill in Conference Committee, had very little in the way of specifics to back up the bill.  He consistently told the committee only his opinions.  At one point, he actually used the words "I suspect many in Marion County are in favor."  That's why House member after House member came to the podium on the floor and said, "I have not had any constituents tell me they support this bill."  Even one Republican said he had heard nothing either way on the bill.

Republicans told Marion County residents that their voice didn't matter either by shooting down suggestions that the bill should be put to a referendum.  Frizzell instead said that he believed the legislative process was better.  Easier to fix that way.

Well, something must have been wrong with Frizzell's case.  Republicans left him.  In the end, it wasn't enough.

The Democratic Caucus of Marion County fought hard and got in some good parting shots.  This one's over though.  The fight moves on to another day.  The bill is sure to pass the Senate, and it may have done so by the time you read this post.  Then it will go to Mike Pence for his signature, and the Governor hasn't said all that much on the bill just yet.  With only 54 in favor, would they be willing to override a possible veto?  It does only take a simple majority to do so.

Perhaps there's still a little more life to this debate yet.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

MCDP Releases Video Take on Ballard Trips

If the early going is any indication, Greg Ballard is going to see Joel Miller's Marion County Democratic Party challenge him at nearly every opportunity.

The party has released a second video in just a few weeks criticizing Ballard for his trips overseas on trade missions that so far have brought no jobs to the city.  The latest trip by Ballard, to India, has caused widespread ridicule aimed at the Mayor over his announcement of his never-before-expressed love for the game of cricket to the New Delhi Times.

Here is the video by the Marion County Democratic Party.

Well, that's the video.

It's not meant to be anything more than what it is.  We're not talking high fallutin' political humor or satire here.  It's just a song devoted to the Mayor's penchant for going overseas on "trade missions" and coming home with nothing to speak of except an announcement of a cricket stadium.

The Marion County Democratic Party isn't alone in noticing Ballard's trips abroad and their results.  Matt Tully lodged this scathing criticism of Ballard on Tuesday.

On the issue of the video, I give the MCDP credit for trying to create something that will generate discussion one way or another and focus attention on the man quickly becoming the "Absentee Mayor".

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gooden, McHenry Unnecessarily Undercut At-Larges

The Indianapolis Star's account of the General Assembly Conference Committee hearing on Senate Bill 621 contains few surprises.

Much of it is what I expected.  The fix is in.  Senate Bill 621 is going to pass.  It's all over but the details.  Senator Mike Young got his removal of the At-Large Councillors into the bill.  Come 2015, your City-County Council will likely be 25 district seats.  Still bloated and too large, but it's what the Indiana General Assembly wants for you.  So take it.

Buried in the article is something that should make every Marion County voter mad.

One of the Republican talking points so far in this fight has been that the four At-Large Councillors, all Democrats, are little more than anonymous obstructionists.  The job of delivering that message to the Conference Committee last night fell to District 3 Councillor Will Gooden and District 6 Councillor Janice McHenry.  They called the At-Larges, in the Star's words, anonymous and meddlesome.

Irony here is that only McHenry has actually faced the voters.  That's right, the GOP sent Gooden, someone that has never gotten one vote from any constituent to argue that those that have gotten votes were meddlesome and anonymous.

Besides, let's be brutally honest here, since Councillor Gooden and Councillor McHenry rarely have an independent thought, whose agenda would they be advocating for most of the time?  Whose agenda would be threatened by four Democratic members of the City-County Council?  If you said Mayor Greg Ballard's Administration, you would be correct!

The voters in Marion County went to the polls and elected a Republican Mayor of Indianapolis and then crossed over and elected four Democrats to the City-County Council, At-Large.  This was done by a countywide vote.  The voters of Marion County wanted divided government.  This little piece of testimony at the Conference Committee probably will make things really divided.

If Councillor Gooden thought that the At-Large candidates held up zoning cases before, wait until they are lame ducks.  If Councillor McHenry has a pet proposal she needs some votes on, I'm sure she just lost four.  That's the other side of politics.

I can't tell you how shortsighted all of this is.  Councillor McHenry and Councillor Gooden did not even need to say a word at the Conference Committee.  Senate Bill 621 was going to pass.  Kyle Walker or Donald Duck could have testified.  It wouldn't matter.  Time and time again, the Indiana General Assembly has slapped Marion County on the butt and told it to shut up.  Time and time again in this process, the people have stood up only to be knocked down by the iron fist of a supermajority gone wild.  The message from the Republicans is that "as long as we're in charge and the Democrats are in charge in Marion County that home rule is dead here."

Councillor McHenry and Councillor Gooden just unnecessarily kicked a little dirt on the coffin.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GOP Passed Up Chance for Real Reform

The proponents of Senate Bill 621 say that the City-County Council of Indianapolis and Marion County is bloated and too big.  The remedy the bill provides is to remove the four seats that are elected at-large and keep 25 district council seats.

Going into the 2015 election, this would tilt the balance of the Council to a 14-11 Republican majority because Democrats hold all four of the At-Large City County Council seats.  The Democrats would need to pick up three two seats to retake the Council, and that would be in new districts.  The Republicans drew the new districts as they were adopted.  Much is at stake in getting rid of the four At-Large Council seats.

If size is the problem, it appears that Senator Mike Young's Senate Bill 621 is aiming too small and targeting the wrong seats.  My research shows that plenty of large cities have seats elected to city councils in an at-large manner.  Some cities don't even have districts.

Here's what my research showed.  I took a look at the cities in Indianapolis' neighborhood both geographically and in common size.  It does appear that Young is right.  Indy's legislative body is bloated.

Most of the cities that I researched have city councils ranging in size from seven to 19 seats.  Of these, there was a mixed bag of government forms.  Some cities have an appointed manager that takes care of the day-to-day operation of the city with oversight from the elected at-large mayor and district city councillors.  Other cities prefer smaller numbers of councillors and a strong executive, but they aren't afraid to have some at-large representation.  Let's look at some specifics.

Jacksonville has 19 councillors.  Fourteen are elected from a district.  Five are elected at-large from a residency district but represent the entire city at-large.  Austin has six councillors.  The Mayor of Austin is elected at-large and serves on the Council.  A city manager runs the city.  San Jose has 10 councillors elected by district.  The Mayor is elected at large but sits on the Council. Again, a manager runs the city. San Diego has nine councillors elected by district. Columbus, Ohio has seven.  Cincinnati has nine members on its City Council, and they are all elected at-large.  Boston has nine district members and four at-large seats.

Those are just a handful of cities that I looked up.  If you look at the results, there's not one magic answer here.  Each of those cities have forms of government that have worked for them for many years.

It would seem to me from my research that perhaps in Indianapolis' case that the four at-large seats are not necessarily the problem.  When you have a council with 25 seats, perhaps it's time to look at reducing and combining those and making larger districts with more constituents.  Even Abdul-Hakim Shabazz agreed with this idea.  He suggested making the City-County Council a full-time gig and reducing the size significantly.

Indianapolis, however, is being told that 25 is the right size by the Indiana General Assembly.  Legislators from all over the state say that they know what's best for us here in Marion County.

Republicans had a chance to push this to a summer conference committee.  The Indianapolis Star reported that a six-hour marathon meeting in the Senate came up with Mike Young saying that was not going to happen.  Senate Bill 621 is going to move forward, and it's likely going to pass.  I just say that no one should forget this moment.  No one should forget this debate.

Be ready to remind your friends and neighbors what happened at the Statehouse this session when Republicans had a chance to make a difference in real government reform, but the took the political way out.


Ballard's proposal is likely to hear more of these
If a cricket stadium is in the works, and no one is told about it.......

Eh, I can't make that into a clever version of the old "If a tree falls" saying, but it appears Mayor Greg Ballard has managed to tick off his own caucus by not informing them of a major cricket stadium and international sports facility he's interested in building on the Eastside of Indianapolis, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.

In Ballard's point of view, if he builds a cricket stadium, businesses from countries where cricket is played will flock to Indianapolis.  Maybe he's right, but don't we have bigger fish to fry?

An overhead view of the land, located at 1300 S. Post Road, shows a lot of area available and not too many neighbors in the immediate area to gripe and complain about it.  It looks as if this area will need significant upgrades in infrastructure to support the kinds of crowds Ballard says he wants to draw, and he's proposing spending money from the Rebuild Indy funds to make it a reality.

Ok...Ok...The Sport of Cricket
You might remember that money came from the transfer of the city's water and utility assets to Citizens Energy, and the Mayor told us that it would go to infrastructure in the form of sidewalks, streets, and the like.  As I recall, it said nothing about cricket stadiums.  Of course, I've slept since then.

I have no objection with something nice at 1300 S. Post Road.  I think it would be a step up for the community, and I guess a cricket stadium would be something to talk about.  Early reaction has been...well...less than kind.  From 1260 AM's Derek Schultz of Query & Schultz...

It was also a topic of discussion at last night's City-County Council meeting.  The Indy Star's Jon Murray reports...

Even Abdul told me at the end of our debate last night that the Mayor's wicked googly might be misplaced on this one.  That's a curveball in cricket terms.

I guess we'll see where this goes.  If Senate Bill 621 passes, Mayor Ballard will have more power to do what he wants from an economic development standpoint and budget control to do it.  This kind of proposal just SCREAMS that we need more power for the Mayor, right?

Monday, April 22, 2013

John Layton Must Scare Republicans Stiff

Sheriff John Layton
The Marion County GOP must be frightened by the thought of a Marion County Sheriff with bi-partisan support who is doing his job and doing it well.  That's my explanation for the sudden laser-like focus on the Sheriff John Layton's budget.  Thing is...it was a trap they set and the Sheriff could do nothing but step into it.

In the fight for one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation in...well...since I can remember, the Republicans have now made the Sheriff and how he spends money the central focus of all their talking points.    Funny thing was, prior to 2012, it was never an issue.  What could have possibly changed?

Now I remember. On January 1, 2012, I attended the swearing-in ceremony for the new City-County Council Democratic caucus.  Only one Republican was there, Marilyn Pfisterer.  Anyway, it was the first time in four years that the Democrats held the majority.

Now suddenly, even though the Sheriff has exceeded his allotted budget for the last four years, his office is suddenly public enemy number one when it comes to SB621.

As City-County Councillor Pam Hickman points out, the Republicans stopped paying for the medical bills of prisoners out of public safety money and threw all of that on the Sheriff when they had control of the Council.    That took effect in FY 2011 (by the way, the first year John Layton was Marion County Sheriff).  Yes, the numbers have gone up, but it's to be expected.  The Sheriff is spending more.  The amount of money the Sheriff received in the budget actually went down by $2.2 million from 2011 to 2012.  Thus...you do the math.

Of couse the Mayor and his allies are out trying to besmirch John Layton because he is a threat to them if he decides to run for Mayor in 2015.  They want all of this to throw at him to try to take him out of the equation.  Plus, they have found something of all the pathetic-ness that is SB621 that actually might stick. They even followed it up with a well-placed John Tuohy Indianapolis Star article on an unrelated state law.  I'll give Tuohy the benefit of the doubt, but it sure is funny isn't it...the timing?

Well, here's my challenge.  Throw out the rest of the bill and keep the budget part if that's what you want to do.  This budget plank of the bill is just one part of the vile manure that is in this bill.

That's right.  I said vile manure.  It's a purely partisan bill.  The Republicans are holding on for dear life in Marion County, and this is the only way to even the playing field.  Mess with the people's elected representation, marginalize the threats in the County-wide offices, and make it really easy for a big name to swoop in (if not Ballard again) and live here a year before running to keep the 25th Floor in GOP hands.

It's shortsighted, but it just may work for a couple of years before trying to change things back again when Dems are back in control of everything in 2016.

One More Thing...
Be sure to join me as I go head-to-head with Abdul-Hakim Shabazz tonight on the JohnnyStir Show on IndianaTalks.com.  Abdul thinks he's going to win, and he does have the advantage of sit downs with Mayor Ballard and his advisers as well as being an attorney.

That said, I'm a scrappy brawler whose name is on the show.  Join us tonight at 9:00 p.m.  It will be a good-natured back and forth on SB621.

Friday, April 19, 2013

It Can Only Go Up From Here...RIGHT?

This has been a rotten week.

Monday brought the explosion at the Boston Marathon.  On Tuesday, some nutball in Mississippi thought it would be fun to allegedly send some ricin-laced letters to Congress and President Obama.  Wednesday brought the shock of the U.S. Senate turning  back a bi-partisan agreement on gun control.  It also is clear where the Indiana General Assembly is going with Senate Bill 621, and it's not good for Marion County residents.  Finally, the absolutely chilling explosion that wiped half of the town of West, Texas into oblivion.

Next week has to be better, I hope.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Awful Events in Boston Remind Us of Mortality

On Monday afternoon, another tragedy befell a great American city.

You know the details by now.  A deadly terror attack at the Boston Marathon killed three and left many more with serious injuries, some critical. 

For those victims and their families, the lives they lived prior to the moment that first bomb went off will from now on be just memories. Nothing I say in this blog post will ease their pain or in any way contribute to the conversations that are going on in their heads. They lived this tragedy firsthand..

For the rest of us, the mantra is, as we have heard before, "Keep calm and carry on."  I am not the first blogger or writer to see the connection between this motto and what happened in Boston, and I am sure that I won't be the last.  I did come to this on my own accord after thinking deeply about the events of Monday.  I didn't read any articles on it prior to me coming to this revelation or writing most of this blog post.  While my thoughts are not unique, they are my own.

"Keep Calm and Carry On," is a motto developed by the British Government during the preparation for World War II that was essentially never used and sat undiscovered until relatively recently.  The remarkable thing is that even as bad as World War II got in London with months-long bombing raids by the Axis forces and the Luftwaffe, the spirit of the people of London was unbreakable. The government didn't need the motto because it was ingrained inside.  As humans, we owe it to ourselves to not let our spirits be broken by heinous terrorist attacks.

The fact is that we all live with knowledge of our own mortality. I am no exception.  With every fat-filled Sausage Egg McMuffin that I willing consume, I know that I am likely contributing to the possibility that later in life I will pay for it. That said, my end could come sitting at this computer keyboard when a meteorite breaks through the roof and strikes me down. If you are still reading this, it didn’t. Thank God. Fact is that we don’t know when and where or how we will all die, but we know that we are a hearty but fragile species and very mortal.  We will someday be no more.

Knowing that one day you will die has scared the bejeesus out of people for years.  I know that I love life so much that I will carry on and keep calm. We can’t stop living because we fear the end of our mortal life. We have to keep calm and carry on. We must keep breathing. We must keep living. We must keep trusting one another while taking the necessary precautions to preserve our lives and those lives of the ones we love.

When I was a teenager, I accompanied a friend of mine to get gas for a lawn mower. My back was turned when a car came barreling through the gas station. My friend saw the car coming and alerted me. That warning made me aware that a car was coming through too quickly, and I moved in the nick of time. Had my friend not warned me, I perhaps wouldn’t be here today. That was the first time I remember thinking, “I could have been killed.”  As it stood, the car passed by harmlessly, and I have lived 20+ more years and more brushes with mortality here and there...most of which I likely wasn't aware of.

Who knows what the the three victims of Monday's attack were thinking as those bombs went off or if they even got a chance to address their own mortality before passing away.  All three were young ranging in age from eight to 29. Far too young. They, as they say, had their entire lives ahead of them. We continue to mourn their loss. This is the definition of senseless.  

As we rush to make sense of it all, it’s important to remember that some things make no sense to us. That’s why many of us believe in a higher power because that allows us to at least think that someone or something knows why these horrible things happen.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have any of them. I just know that the old motto from World War II still holds on and is still as fresh today as it was all those years ago. We must keep calm and carry on not because the terrorists will win if we don’t but because we will personally lose out on a full life if we don’t.

My mortality keeps me calm and carrying on.  I don't want to miss a minute of life, and I most certainly won't be scared out of it.

As I write this, details of the huge explosion at the fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas continues to pour in.  The entire town will be forever changed by this awful tragedy.  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in West, Texas.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

No Post Tuesday or Wednesday

Given the awful tragedy in Boston, I don't think it would be appropriate to play politics today.  I'm not going to willingly do it.

My thoughts and prayers are with the entire city of Boston.  Also, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this heinous act and their families.  The world can be such a cruel place.

Former Schools Chief Bennett Apparently Wasted Taxpayer Dollars on Video Equipment

Tony Bennett
It's tax day.  As you put your returns in the mail, it's only human nature to wonder how your money will be spent by government entities.  You hope it's wisely.

When it came to light that Glenda Ritz had spent some $86K (from office savings) on office renovations, I criticized her.  So did Abdul-Hakim Shabazz and many others.

I stand by that criticism today.  Ritz deserved some criticism for that, but her predecessor, well, you just have to hear it to believe it.  In Friday's Indianapolis Star, columnist Matt Tully wrote an excellent piece discussing some expenses by Tony Bennett in his final summer in office that made Ritz's office renovations look like chump change.

According to Tully, Bennett spent $1.7 million in taxpayer dollars on a state-of-the-art video conferencing system that no one can seem to understand the use or the reason for.  The piece states that part of it is installed, but the rest of it is apparently useless.

Not surprisingly, this didn't make the front page of Shabazz's Indy Politics website.  No snarky headlines...no "cheat sheet" mentions...nothing at press time.

As for Bennett, apparently he doesn't care.  He's kicking back in Florida on the beach where he's only accountable to his Governor and the people that keep him appointed.  He told Tully that the Ritz Administration just doesn't seem to get the purpose behind the $1.7 million expenditure.  Read Tully's excellent piece for more.  In short, I guess fiscal conservatism only goes so far.

That $1.7 million could have hired a lot of teachers.  Instead, Bennett was more concerned about expensive videoconferencing when, as Ritz's Administration pointed out, Skype is free.

I don't get the expenditure either, Tony.  I think you wasted my tax dollars.  Must have thought you were going to win reelection, too.  You don't order something like that thinking you were going to lose.

Enjoy the beach.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Visclosky Completes Set...All Indiana Congressional Dems Support Marriage Equality

Pete Visclosky
The Northwest Indiana Times reports that Congressman Pete Visclosky is now in favor of marriage equality.

As my friend and former local blogger Bil Browning pointed out by wondering it on Facebook, Visclosky's declaration means that Indiana's entire Democratic Congressional Delegation is now pro-marriage equality.

Congressman Andre Carson was for marriage equality before being for marriage equality was cool.  Donnelly came out of the closet in support last week, and Visclosky announced yesterday.

Who will be the first Republican Congressional Delegation member
to support it?  My prediction is Larry Bucshon.

Pence Future Cloudy After Start as Governor

Keeping Up Appearances
Matt Tully penned a column on Thursday in the Indianapolis Star which attacked Mike Pence for being too cautious and careful.  He said the Governor is likable, but he's too restrained.

I would call it something different.  Like him or not, Pence is an empty suit.

Career legislator Mike Pence doesn't know how to be an executive.  What's worse is that he doesn't know how state government works, and he seems content to be dominated by the legislature.

Pence has never had a strong agenda of his own.  He's never pushed an agenda of his own.  What is his agenda?  Do we even know what he wants?  Pence has not driven the conversation like Mitch Daniels did.    He was "0-fer" in his 12 years in Congress, and now he's having trouble getting a tax cut past a Republican supermajority.  

You get the feeling that a Pence Administration is much different than a Gregg Administration likely would have been.  You know that John Gregg would have come out carrying a big stick but behind the scenes would have been working the back aisles of the House and the Senate to get things done.  He would have been no shrinking violet.  Even if his agenda went down, it would not have gone down quietly.  Gregg is a fighter, and he knows how state government works.  That's not Mike Pence.

Tully points out that Indiana is in need of someone attuned to the needs of the Hoosier State right now.  I would add that the state is in need of a Governor that will keep the state legislature focused on the things that really matter as opposed to the types of things that are not important.

While Pence has been smiling and glad-handing, the General Assembly has been left to its own devices.  That's not good for Indiana.  It certainly wasn't good for Marion County (see Senate Bill 621).

If Pence wanted to use Indiana as a resume builder, he certainly had better find a way to improve.  His once bright future is looking more and more cloudy.  At this pace, he's not even a shoo-in for reelection in 2016.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ballard Loses Cover with SB621 Passage

Ballard might laugh now,
but will he cry later?
When Ed Delaney said he was thinking about running for Mayor of Indianapolis on the House floor last Thursday, he mentioned something that I had not thought about before.

Once Senate Bill 621 passes through conference committee, it will create, as Delaney put it during second reading, “the second-most powerful” politician in Indiana, and it will give the Mayor of Indianapolis unchecked power over the state’s most-populous city as well as a key component of its economic engine. That is a pretty big responsibility now.  It's a lot of power.

Democrats have a good number of candidates already clamoring to run for Mayor. Delaney, Joe Hogsett, and Brian Mahern have already been mentioned as candidates. New powers granted under SB621 makes it much more interesting perhaps for a politician like AndrĂ© Carson to run for Mayor of Indy. Perhaps there’s allure for John Layton or Terry Curry or any of the other countywide officials. Maybe Kathy Davis thinks that her amazing bio and unmatched experience in the public and private sectors would be a perfect fit. Will any or all of those names above run?  I don't know, but it's certainly a powerful office.

For Republicans, it’s a different deal altogether. Right now, Greg Ballard represents the GOP’s best chance to win the office because he’s the incumbent. After him, there are a number of talented potential candidates, but no one will be able to raise money or name recognition like Emperor Ballard. Anyone other than Ballard that would have that ability would need to be moved in.

When this was just proposed legislation, it was more on Senator Young.  Now, it’s all on the Mayor. After all, this is his bill.  Mayor Ballard worked hand-in-hand with Senator Young to write this bill and any attempts to deny that are pretty laughable. Ballard may not have agreed with every plank, but his fingerprints are all over the pieces of wood.

Representative Delaney is right.  This bill does create a superpolitican.  An office that now has no excuse for anything.  At the third reading yesterday evening, Delaney predicted that this would be the worst thing that's happened to this Mayor.  I agree.  When this bill leaves conference committee, is passed again by both Houses of the General Assembly, and is signed by Mike Pence, Mayor Greg Ballard's cover disappears.  If the results of his policies fail in Indianapolis, he can't blame anyone but the man in the mirror.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

MCDP Releases Great Video on SB621 Effects

While you weren't looking, Mayor Greg Ballard just became Emperor Greg I.

Ballard has now become officially power drunk.  Below is a video from the Marion County Democratic Party.  Make sure you share it far and wide.

Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, and everyone in between, your elected Mayor did not trust you enough to vote on the kind of government you want.  His minions didn't trust you with a referendum, and they certainly didn't trust your judgement when you elected a Democratic-majority City-County Council.

Instead of working at the ballot box to win elections in 2015, he worked with a friendly legislator in 2013 to get control of the budget from the Council and wrestle away more seats on the Metropolitan Development Commission from the D's.  The Republican-dominated House agreed, and Senate Bill 621 is reality and heading to conference committee.

While we may never get back what we have lost, at least you can tell your Mayor how you feel now that he's becoming your Emperor.  (317) 327-3601 is his number.  Be nice to his secretary.  It's not her fault, but let the Mayor know exactly how you feel about the legislation he worked on with Senator Mike Young.

This cannot go unchallenged.

SB621 Passes

Emperor Greg I
Greg Ballard got his bill.  Welcome to the Empire.

The Indiana House passed Senate Bill 621 just a few minutes ago.  The final tally was 57-41.  That means that several Republicans crossed over and voted in opposition to this horrid bill.

Representative David Frizzell said some pretty ludicrous things in defense of the bill.  His closing remarks inaccurately said that this bill would not remove power from the City-County Council.  What a joke.

Now, Mayor Greg Ballard gets his power as soon as this thing passes out of conference committee.  Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star has already said that Mike Young wants to move the four at-large City-County Councillors back on the chopping block.  Who knows what other craziness may happen?

Mayor Ballard must be held accountable for his actions on this bill.  I urge everyone to call, write, and e-mail the Mayor in opposition to this measure he has not only advocated for, but he helped to write.  Also, I urge people to go to his Mayor's Night Out events and let him know how you feel.

Mayor Ballard is a good man, but he's dead wrong on this bill.  The fact that he did this without much input from his own constituents shows how much he trusts you on what his party calls "good policy."  If the policy was so good, he shouldn't have been afraid of what the voters had to say.

So, there you have it.  When all of this passes, do you believe he will invite us to his coronation?

In Memoriam: Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

Former UK Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher died yesterday at the age of 87.  Love her or hate her, you could never ignore her.

Thatcher was a larger-than-life figure with a larger-than-life presence.  She was staunchly conservative and led the United Kingdom through 11 very tumultuous years as Prime Minister.

She retired from public life in 1992, but she remained an active voice in world affairs for the next decade or so before falling out of the public eye as her health declined.  In her final years, we would only see her sporadically but most notably when she determinedly traveled, despite the poor health she was in, to the United States for the funeral of her friend, Ronald Reagan.  Her eulogy, against the wishes of her doctors, was a beautiful tribute to her friend.

That was Thatcher.  She was strong, determined, and tough.  She had to be.  When a Russian journalist called her "the Iron Lady", her nickname stuck because it fit her so well.

Margaret Thatcher left a legacy hard to follow for future Prime Ministers and certainly goes down with others like Winston Churchill as among the greatest the UK had ever seen.  Thatcher also proved once and for all to any that may have had doubts that a woman not only had the temperament to lead a major world power but to do it by blazing a trail any man would be happy to have.

Here's to the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why Donnelly Changed His Mind Means Little

Senator Joe Donnelly
As you know by now, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly switched positions on Friday morning throwing his support towards marriage equality.

Donnelly's change of position comes with plenty of cover.  Senator Evan Bayh changed his position a few weeks back and several other current sitting Senators including two neighboring-state Republicans switched from opposition to support.

In Ohio, Rob Portman switched his position because his son came out as gay.  Senator Mark Kirk, who suffered a near-fatal stroke a few years back, switched his position in Illinois with a beautifully-worded statement hinting that his brush with death changed the way he looked at life for everyone. "Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage," wrote Kirk. "Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back-- government has no place in the middle."

For Donnelly, his statement read as kind of political and part personal.  He talked about examining the issue and his past votes.  He came down to supporting marriage equality because it was "the right thing to do."  That's the bottom line.  However he arrived at the final decision, Joe Donnelly is on the right side of history.

Some on the far right are calling him gutless and accusing him of taking up a position to win an election and even tap into fundraising dollars.  Can you believe that?  Just a year or two ago, did you ever think that you would see being for same sex marriage as the politically expedient thing to do?  This is indicative of the attitudes of those on the far right.  Ideologically, you must take a position and stubbornly hold on to that position.  For them, extending marriage to the LGBT community opens the door to polygamy and bestiality.  That's just ridiculous.

Back to Donnelly. I know I wrote just a few days ago that his position on marriage would likely make me avoid giving him campaign money right now.  His poorly-timed e-mail begging for campaign cash the week the Supreme Court was hearing the Prop 8 and DOMA cases put his position on marriage equality in the spotlight.  Perhaps his numbers weren't what they wanted.  Maybe that raised his eyebrow?

Whatever his motives were, in Indiana, the polls say most Hoosiers oppose marriage equality, but the gap is narrowing week-by-week.  Nate Silver predicts that within the next few years that most states will support marriage equality.  He did this excellent piece on the rapidly emerging support for gay marriage.

That's good news for Donnelly.  Even so, he won't stand for reelection until 2018.  Politically, this won't damage him in five years.  By that time, there is a lot that can happen with this issue.  He's on board, and it will be interesting to see how his attitudes and votes change from what they previously were on LGBT issues because I guarantee you LGBT Hoosiers will be watching.

For now, it's nice to have a public servant that represents the entire state of Indiana who doesn't think the LGBT community is full of second-class citizens.  If you couldn't see the difference between Richard Mourdock and Joe Donnelly, I hope you can now.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Donnelly Now Supports Marriage Equality

Senator Joe Donnelly
As the kids say, "BOOM."

“In recent years, our country has been involved in an important discussion on the issue of marriage equality. While serving in the House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to act on a core belief of mine: we are a stronger country when we draw on the strengths of all Americans. I voted to repeal ‘don't ask, don't tell’ and was an original supporter of the bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexual orientation. It is also for that reason that I oppose amending either Indiana’s or our nation’s constitution to enshrine in those documents an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ instead of a ‘we.’ With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all.”
That was a statement just released by Senator Donnelly on Facebook.

I had spoken with then Representative Donnelly on the campaign trail.  He told me that he "couldn't get there" to supporting marriage equality.  That was in May of 2012.  Clearly, he has evolved on the issue in a year.  Thank you to Senator Donnelly for coming around on this issue, for examining his own personal convictions, and thank you for the hours of thought and reflection it likely took you to come to this point.

The drumbeat for marriage equality plays louder and louder.

Walker E-mails Republicans on Senate Bill 621

Artist's Rendition of What Mayor Ballard
Will Look Like if SB 621 Passes...
Marion County Republican Chair Kyle Walker put his e-mail list in to action last night after the Indiana House Republicans ran roughshod over Marion County voters and shot down all Democratic amendments in the 2nd reading of Senate Bill 621.

Here is his e-mail:
Dear Marion County Republican,
Just over a month ago, I wrote to you and asked for your support of the Marion County Government Reform bill known as SB621…and your support has made a difference!

This bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate, and today passed an important hurdle in the Indiana House of Representatives. 
Our Republican House members voted down several amendments proposed by Democrats that would have derailed this important reform legislation. One such amendment would have even required the Mayor to provide the City-County Council a note from his doctor if he didn’t attend one of their meetings. 
It’s just more politics as usual from the Democrats in the Indiana General Assembly. 
The reality is that these reforms will dramatically help Mayor Ballard keep our city fiscally sound. While Mayor Ballard has spent the last several years cutting spending, county offices like the Sheriff have dramatically increased spending. In fact, over the last three years, Sheriff Layton has overspent the budget given to him by the City-County Council by over $21,000,000. 
Mayor Ballard is leading the way on fiscal responsibility in Marion County. We need these reforms to ensure that the Sheriff and other county offices do the same. 
Thankfully, this bill will continue to move through the legislative process…but we can’t rest yet! 
Make your voice heard! Click here (link doesn't work here) to thank our Republican members of the Indiana General Assembly and show your support for this very important legislation! 
Thanks for being a part of the greatest Republican organization in Indiana. Together, we can make a difference! 
Kyle Walker

The link in Walker's e-mail opens up a prefabricated thank you e-mail you can send to all the supporters of SB621 in the House and Senate.  I tried to copy their e-mails here, but blogger doesn't like the links.

Nowhere in Walker's e-mail does it mention the strong bipartisan opposition this bill has seen at every level.  This is not a Republican vs. Democrats thing.  It's a citizens vs. government thing.  This is the kind of thing that Republicans used to rail against.  Now, they are on record, thanks to some very well-placed and well-written amendments as supporting everything they used to hate.

By the way, Sheriff John Layton is on the record saying something far different than Walker's numbers in the e-mail.  If you want to see what a big issue it's been, see what kinds of hits you get on a search on Sheriff John Layton.  Try "Sheriff Layton Budget" in Google, and you'll find there's not much there.

Again, it's a manufactured crisis by Walker.  It's a manufactured crisis that has brought upon this bill.  SB 621 is just bad policy.  Mayor Ballard wanted more power, and the General Assembly is likely going to give it to him.

Soon, we'll have a City-County government for the Mayor of Indianapolis and by the Mayor of Indianapolis.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Memoriam: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Roger Ebert
In the midst of the back and forth today at the Statehouse came the disturbing news that Roger Ebert had passed away at the age of 70.

Ebert has long been someone that I looked up to as a writer and as a journalist.  I can remember settling in and watching Siskel & Ebert with my grandmother to find out what new movies were good or bad or otherwise when I was a child.

Over the past few years, I began to look up to Roger Ebert for a different reason.  As cancer ravaged his face, Ebert became a source of strength for those of us with body image issues.  How can I complain about my belly, which is something I can control, when Ebert clearly had no problems being in public with no lower jaw.  His self-deprecating humor and wit continued to be something I appreciated and admired.

That's why I think people today have had such a visceral reaction to his death.  He was a guy that nearly everyone knew.  He was a guy that nearly everyone had an opinion about, but we all respected him and loved him for different reasons.  He took himself seriously, but he never took himself too seriously.  He was just Roger.

I'm just glad that Ebert found his soulmate in his wife Chaz.  My thoughts are with her tonight.  She's lost more than we have, but we've all lost something, too.  We've lost an American Icon.  You know you're a big deal when even the Onion breaks character a bit in salute.

I give the news of Roger Ebert's death two thumbs down, but his life gets two thumbs way up.

Delaney for Mayor?

Rep. Ed Delaney
State Representative Ed Delaney said today during the debate on Senate Bill 621 that the bill is "a life-altering bill for me."

He said that people keep telling him he should run for Mayor of Indianapolis, and that it is something he honestly didn't think about doing.  Today, in public, he said he now is because the added power of the Mayor's Office that would be granted under Senate Bill 621 would make it a much more desirable position.

Delaney spoke out strongly against the power-grabbing bill saying that he thinks he is about the only Democrat to help Mayor Greg Ballard on some things in the state legislature carrying through some of his agenda items.  He also said that he likes the Mayor and often bicycles with him.  He paused and then said this, "I AM DONE with the Mayor on this bill."

Whether he was making a rhetorical point or not, we now add Delaney into the Mayoral Marathon for 2015.

Indiana's Wooing of Firearms Manufacturers Doesn't Feel Right

Gun manufacturers are looking for new homes after states like Colorado increased gun restrictions, and they may find a hospitable environment in Indiana.

It should surprise no one that the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly has passed resolutions in both houses that encourage gun makers to relocate here in the Hoosier State.  From an economic standpoint, it's sound policy that, if successful, would provide jobs for Hoosiers.  This would be nothing different than Governor Mitch Daniels' initiative to woo motorsports development to the Hoosier State.  That initiative felt right.  This just feels wrong.

Now, before you go off and call me a bleeding heart liberal, I understand that the vast majority of gun makers in this country produce their products for law-abiding citizens.  I am not quibbling with any of your Second Amendment rights when I say that you should have a right to own firearms in your home to collect them or use them for defense or hunting or whatever lawful use you wish to use them for.  I get that, and I support that.  There's nothing inherently wrong with gun making nor the state's pursuit of gun makers to locate here.

For me, though, it just feels dirty...the kind of ground in dirty that even the most intense shower won't remove.

If you go back a year ago, we were in the midst of this gun control debate, but the heat wasn't as high then.  The massacres in Newtown and in Aurora had not occurred yet.  There wasn't as much impetus by state legislatures to tighten gun laws.

While other states tighten up gun laws, Indiana continues to loosen them.  Long regarded as one of the more gun-friendly states in the union, Indiana's climate seems to get more and more friendly to guns with every General Assembly session.

For gun makers, they are looking at the climate in the states they are in and are trying to determine if their business model matches the state climate for guns.  In a few cases, it just doesn't agree.  That business decision is theirs to make.

Still, the fact is that likely the main reason these companies are leaving those states is because those states chose to make it more difficult for the wrong kind of person to get hold of weapon with the capability of creating the kinds of massacres have seen over the last year.  It should come as no surprise that both Connecticut and Colorado as well as some of their neighboring states have taken action and passed some new and more restrictive gun laws.

Now, I know opponents of tightening restrictions on firearms will say that there are enough unenforced laws on the books to take care of our problems.  They will also say that more guns and not less guns are the answer to the issues we face.  They may even point out that the reason that Indiana hasn't seen some of the horrible mass shooting tragedies that have occurred in other states is that we have more guns than those other places.  I am not going to enter into that argument.  I continue to maintain that more guns are not the answer.  The answers aren't just as simple as adding more guns or more guards.

As I see it, what's wrong with this goes right back to the original reason these companies want to move.  The reason goes back to why this new rash of legislation was passed.  The mass shootings touched all of this shuffling off.  Thus, isn't Indiana competing for the business of companies whose business models and products do little to help reduce the chances of another mass shooting?

Yeah, it feels wrong to me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Committee Hearing Reveals Broad Bipartisan Opposition to SB621

According to State Rep. Robin Shackleford, 29 people testified on Senate Bill 621 today. Of those, 27 testified AGAINST the bill and only two testified for it.  I would say that the voters are watching, but I don't think it will make a difference.
Indianapolis Mayor Dictator-Elect Greg Ballard

The Republican-led state legislature is going to give the Republican Mayor of Indianapolis what he wants because they are stuck in the mentality of sticking it to the Democrats.  It has nothing to do with efficiency.  It has nothing to do with better government.  It has everything to do with local council committee appointments.

That seems to be the talking point that's emerging.  When the Democrats unfortunately decided, at the local level, to reduce the Republican representation on the City-County Council committees, the groundwork for what would become SB621 was likely beginning.  Republicans were upset, and they should have been.  I didn't like the idea of reducing R seats on the committees.

The response to that move, however, does not in my view fit the original act.  I'm now convinced that Senate Bill 621 is the payback.  Other than what Republicans seem to be hinting, I don't have any hard evidence, but I just can't imagine any other reason.

Unfortunately, the loser in all of this is not the Democrats on the Council.  In fact, the Democrats will eventually benefit from this bill if trends continue.  The losers in this bill are the citizens of Indianapolis.  Because Mike Young seems to have found a way to pay back the Democrats for their local level decision on the Council, powers granted to the Council over 40 years ago in the Unigov law must now go to the Mayor of Indianapolis.  

Committee representation...that's a party decision.  When you start fiddling with what powers governmental branches have, that's pretty much something that affects us all.  

In the end, it likely won't matter that a bipartisan group of elected officials and citizens overflowed a room to testify in grand numbers against a bill.  I predict that party politics will carry Senate Bill 621 the rest of the way through the process and into law.  It may be amended or changed slightly, but Ballard will get most of what he wants.

Sadly, Indianapolis residents will likely pay an old political debt by their elected Council losing its voice and oversight over the Mayor's Office.

Looks like the At-Large seats were removed from the bill per Jon Murray of the Indy Star, but Senate Bill 621, the most egregious power grab for an executive that I've seen in years, has passed the committee stage, 8-5.  It's going to be law, folks.

All hail Greg I.

Smith Doing Nothing Wrong by Supporting Mass Transit

Star Columnist Erika Smith
Erika Smith must be one polarizing person if you read the blogs and social media posts of two local bloggers here in town.

Her crime?  She took the opinion to support mass transit and has used her column in the Indianapolis Star to push it.  Oh, the humanity.

First, there's blogger and local attorney Gary Welsh.  Welsh has spent a lot of time railing against mass transit on his blog and has taken time out from his Obama conspiracy theories to attack Smith for her spending column space on the issue of mass transit..  The Advance Indiana blogger would normally get a link to his blog when I discuss him or something that he wrote, but his treatment of Erika was so over the top and out of bounds, I'm not even going to dignify it by printing it here or linking you to it.

Then, there's Paul Ogden.  Paul is a friend, but he's also no fan of mass transit and has railed against Smith for spending column inches on the issue on Facebook and on his blog, as well.  While at a IndyCAN meeting, apparently a prayer was said.  Paul took to Twitter with this tweet:

Ogden didn't even take the time to look up what might have been on Smith's Twitter feed at the time where she was providing almost play-by-play coverage of the meeting.  Anyway, Smith tweeted this:

I get their point.  Smith has used her column to push the issue of mass transit, and she's done it a lot.  It's no different than when a columnist has a pet issue like education or women's rights or taxes or immigration or anything.  It's going to divide people, and some people will get angry about it.  It is, however, what newspapers do.  Smith is paid to give her OPINION.  She pointed this out to another angry tweeter just today.

As for me, I remain rather ambivalent on mass transit.  If we do it, I want it to be done right.  The only way to do it right is going to cost us a lot of money we don't have.  It's a vicious cycle that we've seen played over and over again in this town for the 37 years I've lived in and around it.  We've always needed mass transit, and we have to do something because the current system isn't working.  That said, I'm sympathetic to the arguments of those against it, too.

What I'm not sympathetic is just being plain nasty to someone because you disagree with them.  Abdul-Hakim Shabazz and I go back and forth at each other often, but I don't ever get disagreeable with him.  I think he's dead wrong on Senate Bill 621, and I did give him a little grief for standing up for "his man" Mayor Ballard the other day.  I think Abdul knows that I did it in fun and jest.  He'd do (and has done) the same to me.

I just can't stand being nasty to someone.  Gary Welsh's blog post was repulsive, and Paul Ogden's tweet was a real head scratcher.  What happened to agreeing to disagree?

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Important Announcement About the Indy Democrat Blog

Well my friends, today is the day.  I'm moving on.

Yes, I've decided to discontinue the blog and concentrate on my radio show and other social media opportunities.

It certainly has been a pleasure writing here for nearly the last five years, but, as they say, all good things must come to an end.  I would like to thank everyone that has helped me, provided me with tips and comments, and took a moment to read what I write here.  I also sincerely appreciate all of you readers that gave this blog a look each day.

I am off and outta here.  Have a great April Fool's Day.  Watch out for those on the internet that try to get you to fall for things today.

Seriously though, I will not be on the radio show tonight.  Chris Jackson will be subbing for me.  Be sure to tune in at 9:00 p.m. and give him some support.  As for the blog, if the last line of the previous paragraph didn't tell you, let me be clear...it's not going anywhere.  Thanks for your continued support.