Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Indy Council Strikes Down Homestead Tax Credit, Fountain Square EID, Sends Graffiti Ordinance Back To Committee

Fountain Square
On Monday Night, the City-County Council met, and I think the meeting just ended a few minutes ago.  In all seriousness, it was a very long and contentious meeting that ended with a few mixed results from my perspective.

First of all, the Fountain Square Economic Improvement District failed miserably.  The final vote on that was 22-7.  Support had eroded over recent times, and it just seemed like this one was doomed to fail from the start of the debate.

The proposed graffiti abatement ordinance also stalled and is heading back to committee for further work on the ordinance.  The Council bogged down over the $50 fine in the bill as well as a few other issues.

On the positive side, the City-County Council stopped Mayor Greg Ballard's proposal to do away with the Homestead Tax Credit to give the city a boost in funds.  Opponents argued that the removal of the credit would not only raise property taxes but harm Marion County's public school systems of millions of dollars in funding.  The tax credit survived by a  vote of 18-11.

Republican Councillors Aaron Freeman, Bob Lutz, and Christine Scales joined the Democrats in opposition to the plan.  In response, the owner of IndyPolitics.org, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz reported that Ryan Vaughn, the Mayor's Chief of Staff told him to expect big time budget cuts.

Hopefully, the Mayor will take his cricket field right off the top, but I'm not holding my breath.

Beyond all of this, I sometimes get a little annoyed with members on both sides of the aisle.  There is a genuine lack of collegiality between some members and others.  For some, it seems like opening up their microphone is a moment to say something snarky about the other side.  That's pretty sad to me.

I know that President Maggie Lewis has a tough job sometimes trying to lead that Council.  I certainly wouldn't want her job.  She does it well.

The next meeting of the Council is August 19.

Five Years of Indy Democrat...

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Indy Democrat blog.  It was on this day in 2008 that I made my first post here.  It went as follows:
-----
Tom John...Mess with the hornets...get the stingers

When my father was young, he once beat on an old couch on the back porch that he knew had a hornets' nest in it. When the hornets came out, he would run into the house just to watch them all bang against the screen door. Then, he'd repeat the process until he got bored. One day, he beat on the old couch, and someone locked the door on him. Dad got stung.

Now, Marion County Republican Chair Tom John and my father have something in common. They both have beaten on the hornets' nest. In response to Chairman Ed Treacy's election to the Marion County Democratic Party Chairmanship, John decided to pull what we now will forever know as "a John McCain" and go negative. Rather than realize just how much tougher his job just got, John took a shot directly at Treacy saying that Democrats in Marion County had "exhumed" him from the "political graveyard." Keep beating on that hornets' nest.

You see, Mr. John, you may get away with it this time, but I bet Chairman Treacy will remember your first shot at him. Perhaps you intended to be funny, but this is serious business. Your shots at the new Democratic Chair will just make him work harder to topple Republicans and restore Democratic majorities in Marion County offices as well as provide critical Democratic votes to help statewide candidates. We also remember, Mr. John, what your party did in "exhuming" folks from past Republican administrations for appointed offices under Mr. Ballard.

Mr. John, you say that Democrats offer nothing new for Marion County. You say this out loud despite the fact that your mayor got elected pretty much with just the slogan "Had Enough?" That was it. For months, Mr. Ballard had no vision or nothing really to offer. He really even struggled to have your support, Mr. John.

And, finally Mr. John, you make it seem as if no one is excited about Ed Treacy coming back. Tell that to the standing room only crowd that elected him loudly and unanimously last night. Tell that to the crowd that clapped for every zinger aimed at your "accidental mayor." Tell that to the crowd that heard Treacy say that he will concede nothing to your party Mr. John. NOTHING...NOWHERE. Not even in Perry, Franklin or Decatur Townships. NO CONCESSIONS. He said we will fill our boards and recruit candidates. And, I believe him. Mainly, Mr. John, because he was doing this long before you were.

I get the feeling that you are in for a very tough few months, Mr. John. Hopefully, you can pick up a few pointers because the Marion County Democratic Party is reorganizing, fired up and ready to go. You've had your fun. You may have conducted an exhumation of your own party, but it soon will be back where it was prior to the 2007 Municipal Elections. It will be going nowhere fast. Ed Treacy has done it before, and he will do it again.

So, the hornets are out of the nest and heading for the screen door, Mr. John. I hope it's not locked!

-----

Yeah, probably a little over the top and something I'd never write now.  Since I posted that one, some 2,239 posts have followed.

This is not a "retrospective" or a "clip show" like they used to play on those sitcoms.  Nope.  This is a big thank you.

I started this blog as an outlet for my political views and to exercise my writing muscles.  I thought that only I and a few of my friends would ever read it.  It has grown beyond my wildest imagination.  I can only say thank you to my readers.

Hopefully, on July 31, 2018, we'll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the blog.  Thanks again for your comments, suggestions, questions, tips, and everything else.  I'm at your service.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bennett Left His Mess in Indiana

Dr. Tony Bennett
I have a confession.

I have tried to start this blog post a number of times and then erased what I had written.  Too harsh.

That's why it took me so long to get something up here about Dr. Tony Bennett, the former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.

This is toned down significantly.

An Associated Press investigation into e-mails Bennett and his staff exchanged showed that when a school started by a deep-pocketed donor to Bennett and the GOP scored out at a C on Bennett's A-F school grading scale that he went through somewhat extraordinary means to get the grade changed to something more palatable...like an A.  

The donor, Christel DeHaan, it should be noted, denied that anyone from the Christel House ever asked to have the grade changed.

In countless public talks, Dr. Bennett told audiences of Hoosiers that all of this reform effort was about students and not adults.  He said it countless times.  

Thing is, when you read his e-mails as he frantically tried to cover his own political tail, you get the distinct feeling that this was all about him.

Despicable.  

The A-F system is thankfully gone, and Dr. Bennett is Florida's problem now.  Hoosiers were so right to elect someone else.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Proposed Graffiti Ordinance Getting Bad Rap

Everyone hates unwanted graffiti.

The tagging of a vandal is an unwelcome, ugly, and sometimes tragic form of petty crime that can really incense a property owner and destroy a beautiful community one spray paint can at a time. 

Tonight, the City-County Council will take up a proposal to try to clean up the community and the graffiti within it.  Unfortunately, the media spin on this proposal has taken the debate down a different path, and it's time to set the record straight.

Bear with me...

Let's say some fine individual decides to vandalize the side of my home by spray painting something unwelcome on there.  As a property owner, I currently have few recourses.  I have to either leave the graffiti or pull money out of my pocket to fix it.  I’m not going to let it sit on the side of my home because I’m a responsible home owner. There are some things you just have to take care of.  I would call someone, get an estimate, and get the thing off the side of my home pronto.  Most people would.

The ordinance proposed by the City-County Council would not have any effect on me.  As long as I have this graffiti fixed within 30 days of receiving a notice from the city (which would also, by ordinance include information on how I can get assistance from the city to remove the graffiti via an abatement program), I would not see any action under the proposed ordinance.

On the other hand, let's say I own some rental property in another neighborhood.  The same thing happens.  Someone tags the home with graffiti.  Instead of fixing the problem, I let it sit.  It sits for weeks and months.  Pretty soon, the neighborhood decides that this is the house to put graffiti on.  Before long, my little problem went big.

It's these types of situation that this proposed ordinance is trying to fix.  This ordinance is targeting folks that are not good neighbors. The kinds of folks who seem not to care that someone tagged their building, out building, or property. These are the folks that this ordinance wants to hit in their pocketbooks.

It’s my understanding that many business owners and property owners are planning on showing up at the City-County Council meeting tonight. It’s certainly their right to do this, but I wonder if they have actually read the ordinance. 

To be honest, when I heard about the proposal, my knee-jerk reaction was to fire off a couple of nasty e-mails to the sponsors of the ordinance, too. Once I was walked through what is actually in the proposal, I did a 180. I believe this is not only good public policy, but the kind of common sense and bi-partisan idea we need to improve our community. This is a step in taking back our streets and neighborhoods from the vandals that want to deface them.  

If you want to read the proposal for yourself, it is here.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Aslan Owns Fox News Anchor

Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan just appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday Night, and I was impressed with him.  He's smart, funny, and was an excellent panelist on the show.

He's written a book about Jesus Christ, and he is Muslim.  That's about as far as the Fox News anchor in this clip got.  Aslan came loaded for battle though in this one-sided smack down of Lauren Green on Fox News' program "Spirited Debate".

Nothing debatable about this.  Lauren did little preparation for a religious scholar.  Aslan was much more calm than I would have been.

Here is a link to the video.  I can't get it to successfully embed.


Friday, July 26, 2013

PFLAG Video Takes on HJR-6

PFLAG of Indianapolis, that's (Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays) has released a video aimed at combating HJR-6.  I think it's a very well done video, and it makes a great argument as to why this would be a harmful thing to write into Indiana's Constitution.

Please watch...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Birthday #1's

Today, I begin my 39th year on the planet (though I am celebrating my 38th birthday...don't you love how that works).  I have, for the past few years, compiled some sort of list of things that I am older than.  This year, I decided to compile a list of the number one Billboard songs on my birthday each year since I was born.  

I think it's quite interesting to see how music has and hasn't changed because when I listen to the Hustle, I hear connective tissue to the #1 today, Blurred Lines.

Here's the list!


1975-The Hustle by Van McCoy
1976-Kiss and Say Goodbye by the Manhattans
1977-I Want to Be Your Everything by Andy Gibb
1978-Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb
1979-Bad Girls by Donna Summer
1980-It's Still Rock and Roll to Me by Billy Joel
1981-The One That You Love by Air Supply
1982-Eye of the Tiger by Survivor 
1983-Every Breath You Take by the Police 
1984-When Doves Cry by Prince 
1985-A View To a Kill by Duran Duran
1986-Invisible Touch by Genesis
1987-Alone by Heart
1988-Hold On to the Nights by Richard Marx
1989-Toy Soldiers by Martika
1990-She Ain't Worth It by Glenn Medeiros (feat. Bobby Brown)
1991-Unbelievable by EMF
1992-Baby Got Back by Sir-Mix-Alot
1993-Can't Help Falling in Love by UB40
1994-I Swear by All-4-One
1995-Waterfalls by TLC
1996-How Do U Want It/California Love by Tupac
1997-I'll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy feat. Faith Evans, 
1998-The Boy is Mine by Brandy and Monica
1999-Wild Wild West by Will Smith
2000-Bent by Matchbox 20
2001-U Remind Me by Usher
2002-Hot in Herrre by Nelly
2003-Crazy in Love by Beyonce feat. Jay-Z
2004-Confessions Part II by Usher
2005-We Belong Together by Mariah Carey
2006-Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado and Timbaland
2007-Umbrella by Rihanna feat. Jay-Z
2008-I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry
2009-I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas
2010-California Gurls by Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg
2011-Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
2012-Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
2013-Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke feat. T.I and Pharrell.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hoosier Republican, Former Bush Aide Implies Hillary Clinton May Be Too Old to Win Presidency

Hillary Clinton has yet to announce her 2016 plans, but many people believe she is going to run for President.  Republicans already are out trying to head off Clinton at the pass.

It's one thing to use her record against her.  That's something completely on the table.  If Republicans believe that Benghazi is enough to defeat her in 2016, then so be it.  I think they will need more political ammunition, and I think that they know it.  Right now, as we speak, Republicans are planting the seeds of another campaign against the former Secretary of State.  It's a campaign against her age.

Indiana Republican Party Communications Director Pete Seat penned an opinion piece for Politico published today analyzing a possible Hillary Clinton run.  While he never comes out and says that Hillary is too old to run for President (the headline is deceiving), he implies that she's a dinosaur of generations past.  Seat's a political message expert, and he tries to hide his less palatable message behind analysis and things, but it's is clearly there between the lines.

It's amazing that Republicans can do this with a straight face.  Let's go back through history, Mitt Romney, the GOP's most-recent nominee, was 65 when he accepted the nomination.  John McCain was 72 when he accepted the nomination.  George W. Bush was a youthful 56 when he was nominated in 2000.  Bob Dole was 73.  George H.W. Bush was 64 when he took office.  Ronald Reagan was 69.  Even Gerald Ford was 61.  You have to go all the way back to 1960 to find a Republican nominee who was under 50.

Listen, I will concede that many Democrats made age an issue before, but this one didn't.  I think it's a question of record.  I think it's a question of fitness for the office.  If you're 90 and sharp, then have at it.

When Republicans want to name everything after Ronald Reagan and even some that want to put him on money or on Mount Rushmore, it seems really stupid to question someone's age...however you do it.  Whether you couch it in some larger piece of analysis or not.

Hillary Clinton won't be the oldest person to be nominated as a candidate for President if she runs.  Saying that she will have trouble connecting to a young generation of Democrats based simply on when she was born is foolish.  After all, Ron Paul had plenty of youthful supporters last time around during the Republican primary season and he is now 77.

Seat's shortlist of possible "Generation X" GOP Presidential candidates is less than stellar even though they are all less than 50.  His shortlist includes 42-year old Florida Senator Marco Rubio, 45-year old Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, 43-year old Congressman Paul Ryan or the 42-year-old Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal.  I'll take my chances against that field with Hillary Clinton.

Republicans would be wise not to make Clinton's age a major issue in this upcoming campaign.  After all, it was Reagan who turned the questions about his age right back on the Democratic nominee, Walter Mondale, with one quote, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."  Plus, she seems to have the meme thing and that Twitter thing all figured out.

Weiner's Balloon Deflates Again Thanks to Own Choices

It's hard to even remember that Anthony Weiner was once a rising star Congressman with unlimited potential.

After yesterday's revelation of more sexting, the former Congressman should do everyone a favor and leave politics while he still has a wife.  Who knows what else may come out and embarrass not only him, but the City of New York.  I'm not perfect, but I'm not running for the most visible Mayor's job in the U.S.A.

It's really a shame.  At one time, this was the Anthony Weiner we all knew.  A fiery orator that would defend 9/11 defenders against the shameful "procedural" vote of the GOP in Congress.



What could have been.

Pencership

Mike Pence seems to not like to hear dissenting points of view.

I’d like to discuss this with Mike Pence, but I’m forbidden to do it on his social media accounts.

As has been well-documented, the Indiana Governor’s Office recently released a new social media policy that pretty much puts the kibosh on any discussion of controversial or political issues on his Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media sites. That means that for many Hoosiers, they will never get a chance to voice their concerns over issues of the day with the Governor unless they snail mail, e-mail, call, or smoke signal his office.

It's called Pencership, and it even has its own website.

Now, I’m not saying that the Governor even logs on or knows how to use his Facebook or Twitter pages, but I’m sure that someone there is in charge of telling him what people are saying on social media. From now on, it will be puppy dog tails and rose petals. All will be well in Mike Pence’s own little old world.

Kind of reminds you of another pleasantly unaware politician who led this country for eight years.

Here’s some serious reality for you, Governor. You’re doing nothing to ingratiate yourself to the 50.5 percent of Hoosiers who voted for someone else last time. Your predecessor, Mitch Daniels, built himself a coalition of voters from both parties. You’re building yourself the wrong kind of coalition, and I think it’s probably gotten even a little smaller by the way you’ve started off here.

Locking out political discussion from your social media pages won’t begin to bridge the gap between those that you disagree with and yourself. It only fosters the perception that you are aloof from everyone and could care little about what those that oppose you say. It makes you the governor of a new state called Pencelandia.

Politically, I hope you continue down this road. I think it’s a perfect way to alienate Hoosiers and elect a Democrat in 2016. Personally, for the state of my state and my home and as a Hoosier, I hope you will reopen the lines of social media communication. You will do what’s best for the state when you know how the effects of your decisions play on all Hoosiers and not just those that drink your particular brand of Kool-Aid.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Conversations Provide Insight into Next Generation of Democrats, Political Folks

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had a chance to meet a couple of really impressive young Democrats.

Last night on the Johnnystir Show on IndianaTalks.com, I had the chance to speak with one of the leaders in the Indiana High School Democrats organization, Jack Blanchard.

Jack is a student at Herron High School, and, before we went on the air, we had a great discussion about traditional public schools vs. charters and other things.  Once we went on the air, I was absolutely struck by the experiences this guy has had.

As a high schooler, he's already met some of the biggest movers and shakers in state and national politics.  He told me about meeting former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers in Washington.  He said he will soon be off for another young Democrats convention in San Antonio.

Jack also talked about Hillary Clinton and how she inspires him to be a part of the political process.  With that story, I couldn't help but remember my beginnings in politics talking to him, and I told the story of meeting Congresswoman Julia Carson for the first time.  She remains the reason I got involved in politics as deeply as I have, and I continue to remember my first experiences as I got to meet the movers and shakers.  The difference between my experiences and Jack's experiences is that they are coming at least 10 years or so earlier in his life than my introduction to politics at 27 or so.

Late last week, I also sat down with another young Democrat to talk about political things.  I had lunch with Patrick Lockhart, a sophomore at Indiana University.  I won't go into too much about what the conversation was over, but I was appreciative that he sought me out and wanted to talk about politics.

Patrick, my friend Paul Fox, and I all talked about a wide variety of issues in politics.  Some of it was how the various generations represented at our table respond to politics and social media.  Other parts of our conversation hinged around where politics is going, and how is it going to get there.

The moral of this story is that we do have good, hard-working young people in our society who care about the future of our country.  I'm hoping that young folks like Jack and Patrick are both going to "stay in the game" because our future will be better if both of them do.  It's on all three or four sides of the aisle, too.  No matter what the party, we should be fostering young people's interest in our American political system because they need to know all the positives and negatives of the process.  They need to know early how the sausage is made so that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of previous generations.

If you know someone that wants to get involved in the Indiana High School Democrats, you can find the organization's website at www.inhsdems.org.  The Indiana Young Democrats are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/indianayoungdems.


Monday, July 22, 2013

House, Senate Should Tell Voters Why Nothing Gets Done

When you elect folks to Congress, you typically send them there to get things done and make progress, right?  What do you define as progress?

For Speaker of the House, John Boehner, it's not passing bills.  It's repealing them.  Boehner told CBS, "We should not be judged on how many new laws we create...we ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal."

That's right, with all the pressing issues and problems that this country has, this Congress has passed just 15 bills into law.  That's it.  Of course, the House has voted umpteen times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  It takes the Senate to tango.

The House doesn't have a monopoly on inaction, however.  The Senate can't get anything done, either.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats will compromise with each other to even get things that they compromised on passed through the Senate.

I don't have the answer.  I just thought it was quizzical that John Boehner thinks it's ok that nothing has gotten done by this do-nothing Congress.

You really have to wonder what it's going to take to shake the locked up wheels of the legislative process to start moving again.  Maybe some new members of Congress?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

In Memoriam: Helen Thomas (1920-2013)

Helen Thomas
Legendary White House correspondent, Helen Thomas, has passed away at the age of 92.

If you are a journalist as I consider myself to be (I just loan myself to this blog), you have to admire the career of this legend as much as you have to be disappointed by the way that it ended.

As you may remember, Thomas, an Arab-American,
was forced into retirement after making offhand, recorded controversial statements about the Israel-Palestine continuing conflict.  She was never afraid to share an opinion, and that's sometimes what gets us journalists in trouble.  Sometimes our opinions get in the way of our storytelling.

Regardless, Thomas' career is one that many journalists will never have again.  After being laid off by the Washington Daily News, Thomas began a 57-year run as a reporter with the United Press International.  That is simply remarkable to be anywhere for 57 years.  She joined Hearst Newspapers shortly thereafter as an opinion columnist.

Her opinions often ran afoul of the George W. Bush Administration where she was moved from the front row of the James Brady White House Press Briefing Room to the back row.  Under President Obama, she found her seat back on the front row.

After her controversial comments and her subsequent retirement, she picked up a small gig for the Falls Church News Press writing a column.  She was still employed by the paper at her death.

When Thomas became a journalist in the 40's, it was common for women to write feature stories on non-hard news topics.  Thomas changed all that when she became a White House Correspondent covering John F. Kennedy.  From there, she covered every American President as a White House Correspondent until her 2010 resignation.  That would be Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.  That's 10 of the 44 Presidents.  She also covered Eisenhower's Administration as a reporter, so that makes 11 Presidents.

Along the way, she kicked down doors to the boys club of American journalism.  She brought women into the National Press Club.  She was the first female officer of that organization.  She was also the first female member of the White House Press Correspondents Association.  Above all, I believe Helen Thomas will be remembered to be as tough as she was controversial.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Plot Thickens in NYC Mayoral Race

Eliot Spitzer
Suddenly, the talk of the New York Mayor’s race is who is running for Comptroller?

Former New York Governor, Attorney General, and TV host Eliott Spitzer has entered the race for Comptroller of New York, and people are talking about this like it will be a drag on Anthony Weiner’s hopes to be Mayor of New York. I don’t understand that.

Yes I know that Spitzer and Weiner both got in trouble for sex scandals, but if Weiner is the right man for the job of Mayor of New York, why does it matter what Spitzer does?

Weiner continues to narrowly lead Christine Quinn in the polls for Mayor, and Spitzer has opened an initial nine-point lead in the battle for the highly-visible elected post of Comptroller. Quinn has started to use the past sex scandals in her campaign narrative. The Associated Press reports that she said this in a campaign news conference: "What have Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer done to earn that second chance? ... I would say not very much."

She has a point, but it’s not like the voters can’t see what these two men did. They got caught with their pants down…literally (maybe less in Spitzer’s case, but that’s beside the point). They both paid with their jobs, and now they are trying again.

Quinn is an excellent candidate for Mayor. I would advise her to stick to the issues at hand as well as her otherwise strong record rather than trying to play personal politics with things voters already know about Spitzer and Weiner. Plus, she’s not even running against Spitzer.

It remains to be seen if, as the AP says, Spitzer will “drag down” Weiner’s hopes for Mayor. Whatever happens, it keeps the first truly interesting New York Mayor’s race in 20 years that much more interesting.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

11th-Hour GOP Districts Nixed by Court Panel

2004-2015 City-County Council Districts Map
The City-County Council maps drawn and approved in 2011 by the former City-County Council Republican majority were struck down yesterday by a panel of Marion County Superior Court judges.

In case you've forgotten, the Council accepted a no-bid quarter of a million dollar contract to have longtime GOP insider David Brooks draw the districts in 2011, and with little public input or attempt to get public input, Brooks did that in 2011. In the waning stages of being in the majority and knowing they would soon be in the minority, the GOP rushed to get the Brooks redistricting passed and through the Council in late 2011.  Mayor Ballard signed the new districts into law on January 1, 2012 claiming that the law had been satisfied to do redistricting in 2012.

Three of the five judges disagreed, and, as the Indianapolis Star's Jon Murray pointed out, it broke out on party lines.

The majority of the court (all three Democrats) found that simply approving the districts on January 1, 2012 did not constitute redistricting in that year. The two Republican judges dissented.  The Star reports that this decision likely will send the matter to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Democrats did the work the Republicans did not do in 2012, but those districts were vetoed by Mayor Veto Ballard.

You never know what will happen at the Supreme Court level.  Recent changes to the court lineup could signal a more political court than in the past.

When the Supreme Court redrew the districts last time around, it produced three rounds of pretty competitive Council races.  The Council changed majorities in 2007 and 2011.

In 2015, these new districts will be the only City-County Council races on the ballot as the four At-Large Council seats have been removed thanks to the Greg Ballard Power Grab (SEA 621).  On January 1, 2016, whatever is eventually adopted will become the new districts for Council representation.

Just Watch This...

This video needs no introduction other than to say...there is hope for our future.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homestead Tax Credit Elimination Moves Forward to Full City-County Council Vote on July 29

The Mayor Greg Ballard-backed proposal to eliminate Marion County's homestead tax credit is moving to the full City-County Council.  It passed out of the Administration and Finance Committee tonight, 5-3.

Three Republicans and two Democrats (Joe Simpson and Mary Moriarty Adams) joined to pass the proposal to the full Council.  Three Democrats, Pam Hickman, Angela Mansfield, and Maggie Lewis, voted against the proposal.

If passed by the full Council on July 29, the elimination of the credit will only bring the city $8 million more dollars.  It's the latest attempt by the Mayor to squeeze more money out of Marion County taxpayers.

At some point, we residents of Marion County feel like frogs in a pot of boiling water. We are paying more for electricity, water, sewer, and many other services. It keeps costing more to buy goods and services, a gallon of gas, and a pound of hamburger. We are being nickel and dimed to death.

As a city, we are ready to put our hat in our hand and hand over $18 million more to a developer to build a new skyscraper downtown to attract more taxpayers to our city.  That's what they will tell you.  What they won't tell you is that this new development will more than likely come with a new tax increment financing or "TIF" district.  In theory, this means the property tax generated at that site goes back into building and improvements at the site of the TIF district.  In practice, it means that the city will never see that property tax money again because TIFs never sunset in this city, and we have set a dangerous precedent of raiding these TIFs to pay for other things.

I'm just growing more tired of it as many others are too.

This Mayor ran in 2007 by telling us he could do everything without asking for more of our money yet that's all he's done, and it's picking up even more. Now, he wants to get rid of the homestead tax credit.

Call your Councillors.  Here is the contact information for all Councillors.  Call the Mayor at (317) 327-3601, and attend that Council meeting on July 29.  Make your voice heard whatever side of this issue you are on.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

AP Catches Daniels Shockingly Blatant Censorship Efforts

Daniels
An Associated Press investigation has knocked a little bit of the luster off of the Mitch Daniels Administration by showing that Daniels, as Governor, tried to censor the academic content of specific post-secondary education courses because he didn't agree with the materials used to teach them.

The Associated Press article is here.  Read it for yourself.  The e-mails are pretty explicit that this Governor wanted to censor what went on in classrooms in this state.

This doesn't surprise me.  It also fits the narrative that Governor Mitch Daniels had and has no respect for public education in this state.  In my estimation, he tried to do everything he could to undermine it and now it seems he wanted to systematically cripple academic freedom in the classroom.

Of course, as the AP points out in the article, it was a much different Daniels that took the job at Purdue University.  In an open letter to the Purdue community, the AP said that Daniels wrote, “The academies that, through the unique system of tenure, once enshrined freedom of opinion and inquiry now frequently are home to the narrowest sort of closed-mindedness and the worst repression of dissident ideas.”

In his flurry of e-mails, the AP says that Daniels took particular aim at the writings of academic, Howard Zinn.  Zinn's People's History of the United States ticked off the Governor so much that he actually argued for prior restraint.  The AP reports that Daniels wrote in an e-mail, “Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

Governor Daniels clearly made a mistake here.  Had he wanted to get rid of Zinn's book from Hoosier classrooms, there were many ways to do it without putting his own stamp on it.  By sending these e-mails, it shows how power-drunk he was.  It shows how much he disrespects those that would oppose him and the lengths he would go to to make sure that he is in control.

The duty of a teacher or a professor, in my estimation, is to challenge the minds of students.  Sometimes it's ok to generate discussion by bringing in non-traditional articles, opposing viewpoints, or stories told from different lenses.  That should not be threatening to a Governor.  On the contrary, it should be a great comfort that we are raising and teaching young people who can think for themselves who are not being force fed what we want them to hear.

A public school or public university classroom in 2013 is a culturally and economically diverse place filled with young people who need to hear a variety of messages presented in a variety of different ways to learn.  I wish people, especially the politicians, would just let the professionals teach.

Indiana didn't need censorship of a message that was unpalatable to the ruling class.  Hopefully, the folks at Purdue will take a hard look at these e-mails and realize the true nature of the man they selected as the president and face of their university.

Just another reason to say, "GO IU!"

What's Next for the Former Market Square Arena Site: ELVIS??

Elvis Presley
Mayor Greg Ballard announced a new development that's sure to bring thousands of visitors to Indianapolis for the old Market Square Arena site: a 50-story-tall statue of Elvis.

That's right, "The King" is coming to Indianapolis where he performed his last concert at Market Square Arena...in a manner of speaking.

Ballard spokesman Mark Lotter said that the statue will include apartments and retail as well as a full cricket field and underwater tiddlywinks stadium.  "We think when people get a chance to live inside one of Elvis' jumpsuits that they won't be able to pass it up," said Lotter.

Reached for comment, Ballard said he got the idea while on one of his recent trade missions to Las Vegas where he saw an Elvis impersonator,  "I wanted to bring a hunka hunka burning love back to Indy."

Lotter said that after much discussion that the Mayor will suggest an older Elvis be the model for the statue which will be the tallest statue in the world topping out near 500 feet.  That would surpass the Spring Temple Buddha statue in China which stands 420 feet tall.

If you couldn't tell by now, this is totally bogus.  There's no statue of Elvis going there, but you may have thought for a moment that it was true, right?  Anyway, if you want to know what's really going in there, it's a lot more boring.  Just another mixed residential/retail development on part of the site.  Here's Jon Murray's piece from the Indianapolis Star.  Oh yeah, and the development will probably be asking for more of your money...maybe even another TIF!  OH BOY!

I think a 500-foot Elvis statue was a much better idea.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pence To Vacation in Undisclosed Location

Mike Pence on Vacation?
So, you're the Governor of Indiana.  You just want to get away.  Where do you go?

The Indianapolis Star reported on Saturday that Mike Pence is being ultra secretive about where he will plop up his feet, put on a straw hat, and fall asleep until noon during the first week of August.  When pushed on his vacation location, Pence told the Star that it will be, "Way out of state."

That made me start to think.  We never really know when our Governor is on vacation, do we?  I can't remember people saying anything about where Mitch Daniels, Evan Bayh, Frank O'Bannon or any other Governor vacationed.  Does anyone know? I mean, a Governor still has a security detail with him, right?

I'm not criticizing Pence for taking a vacation at all.  I never do that.  I believe he deserves one because running a state is probably harder than you could imagine. It just seems strange for him not to want to divulge where he will be.  Sort of like when Mark Sanford went hiking on the Appalachian Trail. to Argentina.

It got me to thinking, where do I think Mike Pence would go on vacation?  I'm stumped.  I can't imagine the guy ever having fun.

Don't get me wrong...again, I'm not making an issue over this.  I wish him well.  I just have to wonder if our Governor...is really...a SECRET AGENT.

At the risk of no one leaving a comment, I'll let you dream up where he might come the first week of August on your own.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reflections on the George Zimmerman Trial

George Zimmerman is not guilty.

That's what a jury decided late on Saturday night.  The decision touched off a firestorm on social media, and it got so bad that I did the rare act of closing out of Twitter.

From a purely legal standpoint, the system worked.  In my estimation as well as the opinion of several legal experts, there was simply no way that anyone could have convicted George Zimmerman based on the evidence that was presented in court for the of which he was accused.  The only thing that the Zimmerman legal team had to do was create reasonable doubt, and they successfully did that.

I have no idea what happened between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman on that night.  Neither do you.  That is what created the reasonable doubt.

From an emotional standpoint, it's a different story.

Whenever a young person dies, it's a tragedy.  Trayvon's death seems particularly tragic because he was just walking home.  He was shot and killed while walking home.  He wasn't doing anything wrong except walking home.  It makes it that much more tragic.

Take this tragic end of a young life and add in the fact that George Zimmerman is not a particularly endearing person.  If he wasn't endearing before, the website he setup to solicit funds for his legal defense featured a photo from a vandalized black cultural center and a whole other narrative started to develop.

None of this changes the law.  The law is the law.  Emotion is emotion.

The problem is on a more grand scale.  The problem isn't the verdict, but it's the laws that made the verdict possible.  I think laws like "stand your ground" make people like George Zimmerman more brave than they perhaps normally would be.

As I look at the evidence, Zimmerman, gun or not, should have stayed in his car as the police dispatcher asked him to do.  That dispatcher told Zimmerman that they did need him to follow Martin.  He should have listened.  I don't believe Zimmerman's account of events.  It doesn't make sense for Martin to simply jump him.  In my mind, I think Zimmerman confronted Martin and a fight ensued.  I think Zimmerman realized that he was in over his head and that's when it happened.  Martin was dead.

The problem is I can't prove it. It's just my opinion, and in America, you are innocent until proven guilty.  My opinion means zilch.

George Zimmerman is not guilty because the State of Florida was a witness or two short of painting a full picture of what happened on that evening, and Martin isn't alive to testify.

It's tragic.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ex-Chamber President Quietly Appointed to MDC

Scott Miller
Picture from Cedarville.edu
On July 1, Senate Enrolled Act 621 became law.  The law, known as the Ballard Power Grab in Democratic circles did many things, but it gave the Mayor of Indianapolis and the City-County Council each another appointment to the Metropolitan Development Commission.

The MDC is a critical governmental agency.  It oversees what happens with development in the City of Indianapolis supposedly taking into account the wishes of the neighbors and city planners.  Sometimes the process works, and sometimes other concerns take over.

When the Ballard Power Grab became law, Ed Mahern and Jimmy Brown were both tossed from the MDC.  Mayor Greg Ballard wasted no time in filling his seat.  According to Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star, Ballard installed former Indy Chamber of Commerce President Scott Miller onto the MDC.

I will give Mr. Miller the benefit of the doubt, but, as a former neighborhood group president, I have to tell you that I'm a little nervous having the former Indy Chamber President deciding zoning issues.  To me, it seems a little bit like, to use a cliched idiom, the fox guarding the hen house.  I hope that he will balance the concerns of economic development vs. the concerns of the neighbors and residents of a particular area of town.

The good news is that there are plenty of advocates for neighbors and neighborhoods in this town.  Folks like Pat Andrews are always on guard.

The City-County Council will make their appointment at some point to the MDC, but Ballard, as Murray points out in his post, will have a 5-4 advantage on the MDC.

I guess we are vividly seeing the very real potential changes that the Ballard Power Grab has had on the city already.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yezak, National Gay Blood Drive Taking on Antiquated FDA Policy

Ryan James Yezak
Photo via Twitter
Another front in the civil rights battle for LGBT Americans opens Friday.

Filmmaker Ryan James Yezak, who is working on a documentary entitled Second Class Citizens about the gay rights movement, has organized a National Gay Blood Drive.

The drive is designed to draw attention in a very real manner about how stupid and counterproductive it is for the Food and Drug Administration to continue to ban sexually active gay/bisexual men from giving blood with all we now know about HIV testing and blood screening.

In Indy, you can attempt to donate at the Indiana Blood Center at 3450 N. Meridian Street.  To read more about it and the process, go to www.gayblooddrive.com.  From the website, the National Gay Blood Drive is:

A peaceful nation-wide demonstration in which otherwise eligible gay/bisexual male donors will show up to get (HIV) tested at a specified donation center in their city and attempt to donate their blood. As each donor is rejected, their test result will be collected, compiled, and delivered to the FDA - visually conveying to them on a national level how much blood the gay community could contribute to the blood supply should they lift their current policy.

Below is the follow-up to Yezak's excellent Gay Rights Movement teaser for Second Class Citizens that includes more about the National Gay Blood Drive.



Here is Yezak's PSA about the Blood Drive itself.

Ballard 2015?

Mayor Greg Ballard
Last week, Greg Ballard sat down for his normal monthly one-on-one with his friend, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.

The Mayor told Abdul that he's pretty much undecided on running for Mayor a third time.  The interview appears on Abdul's Indy Politics site.  He said the job takes a toll on both a person and a person's family, and that he will likely give it a go only if he feels in his own mind like there's still work to be done.

Abdul's conversation comes a few weeks after one of Ballard’s chief confidants, Jen Hallowell, said that Ballard was planning on a run in 2015. It leaves us to wonder, which is it?

I take Ballard at his word that he is stuck in the middle. I believe his party will want him to run. There’s no doubt that Greg Ballard can win elections and raise money. Twice he has proven he can win this race in two very different races.

His first run saw Ballard as the punchy underdog who hopped aboard the early grumblings of the Tea Party Express to defeat an incumbent.  In the process, he surprised almost everyone including many in his own party. The second time around, he fought off a well-financed and strong challenger. This third run might be the toughest yet for the incumbent.

Third term runs have been tough on the incumbent since Unigov became the law of the city and county.  While Hudnut was successful, due to circumstances beyond his own control and some within his own control, Bart Peterson was not successful in winning a third term.  Richard Lugar elected to run for Senate after leaving office in 1976, and Stephen Goldsmith saw his second term blow up into such a dumpster fire that he lost then Republican-leaning Marion County to Frank O'Bannon in the 1996 gubernatorial race.

Ballard, or at least those around him, must realize this.  I could not sleep at night if I said that Mayor Ballard's time in office has been a miserable failure, but, as he is in office longer, some of the decisions he and his administration have made really has left him vulnerable to attack on multiple fronts.

One of the biggest fronts sits in right under his nose.  With the homicides mounting, if Ballard is unable to win this battle to get folks in this city to stop killing each other, that will continue to be a huge Achilles heel for him since he ran on the slogan that public safety was job one.  I understand that it's not all his fault, but, as many in the media point out, Ballard is not the most hands-on guy.

Public safety isn't the only issue out there where the Mayor would be vulnerable to a pinpoint attack.  A well-run campaign by the Democrats could hit Ballard on city contracts, campaign finance, the use of Rebuild Indy funds, his penchant for raising taxes and fees, cricket, and much more.  Remember, Ballard preached for honesty and transparency while not asking for more taxpayer dollars.  That candidate is very vulnerable.

On top of it all, Ballard just completed one of the greatest coups taking critical powers from the City-County Council and Marion County Commissioners for himself by getting Senate Enrolled Act 621 through the Indiana General Assembly.  Ballard's power grab made it easier for Republicans to gain control of the Indy City-County Council and easy for the Mayor of Indianapolis to exert his will over the city.

Coupled with these vulnerabilities, the Democrats have a bench here with a few solid candidates sitting on it. U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett is his potential chief rival.  As U.S. Attorney, Hogsett is unable to do anything political in nature, but the thought is that he has aspirations for political office again.  Hogsett would be a strong campaigner and strong fundraiser who would hit Ballard in his vulnerable areas while touting a long record of public service most recently as a crusader against gangs, guns, violence, and government corruption.

There are other Democrats on the bench that could also be very strong candidates if Hogsett decides to not to run or to run for something else in another cycle.  City-County Councillors Brian Mahern, Vop Osili and Council President Maggie Lewis are possible candidates.  Former Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Woody Myers is rumored to be interested, and Abdul reported in the same posting that Sam Carson will try to get on the ballot as an independent.  It's not impossible to do in Marion County, but it's very tough.

That brings us back to Mayor Ballard.  Democrats would be well-advised not to underestimate him.  He’s moderate enough to keep getting elected in a city that leans blue, but he’s conservative enough to draw enough of his base to continue to get votes and support. He’s also Teflon enough so that things just don’t stick to him like they should. As much as I criticize him here on this blog, Ballard is a genuinely nice fellow. He does the retail politics well, but the question is will he want to do it again?

There's no rush on this timetable.  As the incumbent, I think that Ballard understands he has probably until next summer to make a firm decision on 2015. By that point, we should also know the plans of Joe Hogsett and other Democrats who are considering a run.

Whatever Mr. Ballard decides, it's been an interesting run for the man few people gave a chance to back in 2007.  He's proven to be a much bigger political force than I could have ever imagined, and, if he runs, I won't dare write him off or out in 2015 until the votes are counted and the race is called.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reports Say Politics Played Biggest Role in Pence's Choice of Berry

Indiana Auditor of State
Indiana GOP Chair Nominee
Tim Berry
The news is a little old now, but Indiana Republicans will soon have a new party chair.

After Eric Holcomb hit the door, the state's highest-ranking elephant could have chosen anyone to be his replacement.

Instead, Governor Mike Pence looked pretty much across the hall from his Statehouse office and tapped Indiana Auditor of State Tim Berry to be his dude.  This move, according to reports (such as this one from the Evansville Courier Press), was likely purely political.

Early speculation was that Indiana Treasurer of State, Richard Mourdock, was considering giving the Auditor's job a run.  Given Mourdock's far far far far far right views and unfortunate comments about rape during the 2012 General Election campaign for U.S. Senate, you can understand why Pence and other GOP leaders would have issues with a possible statewide run for Mourdock again.  

If his appointment as chair is approved, Berry will resign from his job as Auditor ending his nearly 15-year run in state office.  That will open the door for Governor Pence to select a replacement for Berry.  That will essentially also select the GOP nominee for Auditor in 2014 should Pence's selection want to continue in that role.

Unlike most offices where Republicans and Democrats go to the polls on Primary Election Day and elect their party's nominees, these two political parties nominate their choices for the state offices of Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Attorney General, and Superintendent of Public Instruction at their state conventions.  In 2014, Auditor, Secretary of State, and Treasurer will be on the ballot.

Indianapolis City-County Councillor Mike McQuillen was thought to be considering the GOP nomination for the Auditor's Office.  I'm not sure if this changes his calculus at all.  He has had two huge fundraisers with impressive names over the past two years.  It is unknown if Pence will nominate him to fill out Berry's term.

Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold, also a Republican, recently announced he would run for Indiana Treasurer.  Incumbent Secretary of State Connie Lawson is trying to be elected on her own right.  She, of course, was nominated by Mitch Daniels to replace Jerold Bonnett, the interim Secretary of State.  Bonnett took over for Charlie White after he was removed from office.

A few people have asked me for my reaction to Berry's nomination.  Frankly Scarlett, I'm underwhelmed.  Berry, as the Courier-Press points out, is a business-as-usual nomination for the GOP.  While Berry is a loyal Republican, I'm not sure he brings much to the table that is new or interesting.

I'm also not sure if Pence had let the normal course of things play out that Mourdock would have had a chance to win the Auditor's race, anyway.  I think the party faithful in the GOP would have put a stop to the impending car wreck that would have been another statewide Mourdock campaign.  If anything, the choice signals that Pence doesn't trust his own party faithful.

Sorry for the Gone with the Wind reference.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sweeney Bell Launches Campaign for Marion County Recorder

Kate Sweeney Bell
Photo from Facebook
Kate Sweeney Bell threw her hat in the ring for Marion County Recorder officially yesterday by filing her campaign committee and documents with the Marion County Clerk's Office.

The self-professed lifelong Democrat told the assembled crowd at last night's Decatur Township Democratic Club that her father used to knock doors for political campaigns with her in her little red wagon. She's hoping to hitch her wagon to the Democratic nomination next May.

Sweeney Bell's resume shows government experience working in the O'Bannon and Bayh Administrations in communications as well as the Washington Township Small Claims Court as its financial supervisor.  She also worked in the private sector owning a small business with her father.  

In a news release from her campaign, Sweeney Bell cites the efforts of current recorder Julie Voorhies to expand access to the office and modernize it.  She says she wants to continue and expand those efforts.  "I look forward to bringing my own measure of 'kitchen table common sense' to the Recorder's office," said Sweeney Bell in the release.  She said she is dedicated to responsible government.

Sweeney Bell's campaign committee includes longtime Democratic activist and Southside legend Mary Berry, Marion County Auditor Billie Breaux, and Perry Township Advisory Board Member Jason Fletcher.  Berry and Breaux are serving as co-chairs.  Fletcher will be Sweeney Bell's Treasurer.

Both Pike Township Advisory Board President Annette Johnson and Marion County Surveyor Debbie Jenkins have also expressed an interest in replacing Voorhies who is running for Marion County Auditor.

Two Songs, Videos Show Rapid Change in American Views on LGBT Culture

Something is happening in pop culture right now.  Something that is a very welcome change.

This past week, Same Love by Seattle artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (who I might add are both straight) found its way on to the charts at number 28.  The song, which features vocals by Mary Lambert (who is gay), deals with the struggle for gay couples to find the same recognition for the same love straight couples have shared for years.  The message that love is love and that needs to cut through hate is simple, but some consider it still controversial.

Even with that, the song is playing on mainstream radio, and the video has gotten over 55 million views on YouTube since it was posted late last year.

It's a beautiful video, and a beautiful song.



Every time I watch that video, the tears well, but that's not the only important song and video out there on the internet.

For singer and model Steve Grand, this past week has no doubt been special.

On July 2, the budding country singer and model released a simple original country song about a boy pining for his seemingly unattainable love.  The difference with that song and the tons of other country songs on the same topic is that this one is called "All-American Boy" and the object of Grand's affection is a man.

(caution...VERY brief nudity in this video)


The reaction on the video has been largely positive with Grand due to appear on Good Morning America today.  Reading the YouTube comments is mostly a fun experience to this point because it's full of people talking about how this song describes or is reminiscent of a deeply personal moment to them.

The song and video have been criticized as well.  Bilerico Project blogger Mark S. King wrote this piece taking the video apart and criticizing those that made it for portraying gays negatively as sad drunken predators.

I can't disagree with this assessment more.  When I watch the video, I see one and maybe two somewhat confused guys fumbling through what is perhaps their first gay kiss.  If you're gay, you've probably been there.  Perhaps you read the wrong signals and end up in a heartbreaking situation.  That's what I think the video is about, and I think that's why so many of the (as of press time) 516,400+ views have come along with positive reviews.

The larger picture here is that these gay-themed videos are no longer being age restricted on the internet simply because they may contain a gay kiss or gay couples showing affection to each other.  With Same Love, mainstream radio is starting to pick up the great message of equality that's been so welcomed and embraced in such a quick way.  We'll see how it works from here for Mr. Grand.

These two videos and songs illustrate how far the pop culture continues to advance at breakneck speeds on LGBT issues, but there's still a long way to go.  I like where we are headed.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Marion County Dems' Chair Joel Miller Speaks Out on Ballard Public Safety Record

Not sure who created this graphic but...
Marion County Democratic Party Chair Joel Miller sent out this release today in advance of Mayor Greg Ballard's announcement of his plan to deal with the recent crime wave in the city.

---------

In the wake of skyrocketing crime, Ballard set to finally respond

INDIANAPOLIS—Below is a statement from Marion County Democratic Party Chairman Joel Miller regarding Mayor Greg Ballard’s upcoming announcement regarding public safety staffing at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

“Despite his campaign promise six years ago that ‘Public Safety is Job One,’ Mayor Greg Ballard has failed miserably to protect the people of Indianapolis.

Mayor Ballard has chronically understaffed the police department. Rather than approve the City-Council’s bipartisan move to provide $6 million in funding for up to 60 new police officers, he vetoed it. Days before his veto, the city proudly touted it will hold an amateur cricket tournament at Ballard’s field of dreams on the eastside.

Mayor Ballard couldn’t tell us if he vetoed more police officers so he can pay for his cricket stadium. That’s because he was in Las Vegas, on yet another junket.

His administration has become a classic case of misplaced priorities. Unfortunately, Mayor Ballard isn’t focusing on keeping parents and children safe during the city’s downtown fireworks. Mayor Ballard is myopically focused on building a cricket stadium, so much so that he is stubbornly digging in his heels despite the council’s common sense action to use Rebuild Indy funds to pay for more police.

A high crime rate chips away at a city’s quality of life. Consider this:

  • Of the 15 most populous cities, Indianapolis has had the highest overall crime rate in 2012.
  • In 2012, Indianapolis ranked in the top third of the largest cities in the US in overall crime, violent crime, aggravated assault, burglary and arson.
  • So far this year, Indianapolis has a higher homicide rate than Chicago. Per 10,000 residents, Indianapolis is averaging .874 homicides compared to Chicago’s .670.

I sincerely hope Mayor Ballard will personally tell us today why his new public safety plan will work. Because what he has been doing isn’t working.”

Public Safety's Big Day

It's a big day for public safety in Indianapolis.

After a holiday weekend full of violence and the very real problem that there may not be enough police officers to even do crowd control at major events in the city, citizens of Indianapolis are waking up to and feeling more of the problems of public safety in the city.

Later today, Mayor Greg Ballard is due to announce his plan to put more police on the streets.  The Mayor's allies are trumpeting the fact that Ballard's plan will put more police on the streets, and it's paid for.  Tonight, the City-County Council will consider whether or not to overturn Mayor Ballard's veto of a bi-partisan proposal to put more police on the streets.  Ballard vetoed the plan due to budget concerns, but the Council's plan was paid for, too.

By way of review, the Council plan would hire more police officers by taking money from the Rebuild Indy fund.  It would be a $6 million quick hit to help bolster the force and get more police on the streets.  Given the normal turnover in the department, the long term viability of the plan should not have been a question.  That's, however, the justification that Mayor Ballard used in vetoing it.

His plan is to put approximately 100 police on the streets from desk jobs.  According to Fox 59, 80 or so of those will be neighborhood resource officers.  The same resource officers that do community policing, right? These resource officers should be on the front lines, but they should not be walking the beat.  I think they should be in the community educating folks on how to reduce and prevent crime in their neighborhoods.

The Mayor's allies have also been beating the "more police isn't the answer" drum as well in the aftermath of Ballard's veto of the original plan.  Apparently, even Ballard doesn't believe that.  Furthermore, if Ballard knew that the staffing level was a problem, then why didn't he do something about it?  He's been in office since 2008.

Here's a radical idea.  Since both plans would be paid for in the budget, why don't we do both.  Ballard's 100 new police officers would be a stop-gap measure while we train and recruit more officers under the Council plan.  That way we might actually start moving towards relieving the massive understaffing problems present at IMPD.

I remember a few years ago prior to the IPD-MCSD merger when the Meadows area was experiencing a spike in crime.  The Marion County Sheriff's Department flooded the area with patrols.  Crime went down.

While it is true, as the Mayor's allies point out, that many of the people killing each other right now in our city  have previous mugshots.  We must not allow our city to become like Medellin in the early 1990's.  No matter who is shooting who, it is not acceptable.

The answer to part of this mess is more enforcement.  It's more education.  It may involve more taxpayer money, too.  If that keeps us from building a cricket stadium or attracting another Super Bowl then so be it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Independence At Long Last

The United States will turn 237 years old tomorrow.

Typically, we celebrate with a picnic followed by some fireworks and the ritual slapping of mosquitoes as they try to get a nice sneaky dinner.  Most typically, it's a fun night for me to enjoy with family or friends.

I'm not sure when these rituals started, but I can remember enjoying the company of family and friends almost every July 4th since I was hatched nearly 38 years ago.  It's one of my favorite holidays because I am proud to be an American.  I got that from my family.  Since I can remember, I've been taught that the United States is a special place.  I firmly believe that.

This year, I think the Independence Day holiday will feel different.  Things have changed.

Please bear with me as I take you back in time.  If you don't like personal blog posts, please change the channel now.

I can't tell you the first time I thought about who I was inside.

I remember feeling different as a child, and I didn't deal with those feelings well.  I didn't understand why I felt what I felt, and I didn't understand why I was different.  For a while, I thought I wanted to die.

Yes, I contemplated suicide.  It seems so silly now that I would ever think of taking my own life, but I did.  I invented these elaborate ways that I was going to do it.  Some of them now, as I think of them, seem even sillier.  Thankfully, I had a caring support system around me and a no nonsense grandmother who knew that I really didn't want to die.  She knew that I was dealing with things on the inside even if she didn't know what they were.  Grandma would talk me through things and tell me stories and fix me bacon sandwiches.  She and my parents taught me coping skills.  Before I knew it, I didn't want to die any more.

I wanted to live.  My attention was diverted, and my parents let me do my thing.  They even helped me participate.  I played a lot of school as a kid teaching the finer points of reading, writing, and arithmetic to my countless stuffed animals.  I would read to them and sometimes I had to discipline them, too.  I know that it must have taken great strength from my parents to put up with a seven or eight-year-old to yell at a "classroom" of stuffed animals.  I've been teaching for a long time...even if my students were filled with stuffing.

My other love, radio, grew out of insomnia as a youngster.  Frustrated with a child that just would not sleep, my parents made me a deal that I could play the radio or watch TV at nights as long as I stayed in my room and remained quiet.  As usual, they knew me.  They knew that if I just stayed in bed that I would fall asleep. Eventually, it worked.  Radio became a very good friend to me at a young age.

It did not, however, quiet the many confused feelings that I had going on inside me.  When I was about 10 years old, I can remember laying on the floor while watching cartoons and just blurting out to my mother, "I think I'm gay."  Confronted with this information, my mother immediately tried to convince me that I was not.  I can remember her asking me where I got the idea.  Honestly, I can't remember.  I can't even remember if I knew what I was saying.

I do remember being a loner.  I wasn't the kind of loner that locked himself in his room all day and night.  I had friends, but I felt socially awkward.  I still do to a degree.  My elementary and junior high school days were filled with off-and-on bullying over this awkwardness.  There was nothing severe or anything.  It was just basically the name calling and things.  Having the last name Easter was not a really good thing to have in elementary school.  I thought others could sense that I was different.

One day, I got off the bus.  I was probably in the seventh-grade at the time.  I can remember that it seemed like a good idea to skip up the driveway.  My father saw me, and he explained to me that skipping probably wasn't the best thing to do for a 12-year-old, and that it wasn't what boys do.  He meant well.

I remember immersing myself in sports statistics at the time.  I became a huge sports fan.  The Colts had come to town in 1984, and I became a fan.  My room was decorated with football pictures, basketball posters, auto racing memorabilia and much more.  I collected football cards.

Then, I entered high school.  Thank God for high school.  I finally found a place where difference was not necessarily a bad thing, and I was able to find others like me.  I still had not dealt with the feelings I was having inside, but I was able to throw myself into being a student and doing well.

Ben Davis High School offered so many things for a teenager, and I found myself involved in many of those activities.  I really found myself in the journalism room.  I found myself on the radio station.  I found myself on the golf course.  It allowed me to be me, and it gave me some recognition for things I did well.  Relationship-wise, I was alone.  When I wasn't playing golf or at school, you could often find me in my room reading, playing video games, or watching television.

That's not to say that I didn't participate in high school social things.  I went to a few parties.  I went to prom.  I dated some in high school.  In fact, I dated some really nice young ladies who were sweet and kind.  I even had a girlfriend at one point, but I felt like I was someone just going through the motions on things.  When we would kiss, I would feel wrong.  I've had people tell me I seemed aloof and disconnected in high school.

In college, it didn't really get better.  My dad tried to set me up with a girl that attended Broad Ripple High School that he knew was a really good student and a nice girl.  We went on a few dates, but I didn't find things really sparking for me.

On another occasion, I remember going to a girl's dorm room on a date, watching Top Gun, and having the opportunity for my first true "experience"...if you know what I mean.  Most guys probably would have taken up the opportunity.  I literally ran away.  To this day, I can't tell you that girl's name, and if she's reading this...I'm sorry.  

It was about this time that the internet became a big thing, and I began chatting with people like me.  I found a guy who lived in San Francisco and that attended Cal-Berkeley.  We wrote back and forth online and via mail.  We exchanged pictures.  Later, I would find out my mom found those letters while cleaning my room one time.  She never mentioned anything about it.  It was my dad that told me.

My friend from California had made plans to come visit me at IU.  It was October of 1996, and he was coming in November.  We didn't have any logistical plans.  We just knew we had to meet each other.  Well, the meeting unraveled quickly, and the friendship did as well.  Even though it was a brief and not-so-normal relationship, for the first time, it was something that felt right to me.

I remember going into the restroom in my dorm room.  Via the mirror, I looked myself straight in the eye, and I struggled to get out the words, "I'm gay."

Finally, I said it.

Instantly, the weight left my shoulders.

All it took was for me to be honest with myself.  Now, it was time to be honest with the world.

I called my friend and my resident assistant for my floor, Sam Spicer.  I told Sam that I needed to talk to him about something important.  Sam had become probably my closest friend thanks to our mutual love for chicken wings and the X-Files.  I went to Sam's room.  I sat down, and I told him.  Sam was so supportive, and I appreciate that to this day.  I'm not sure if anyone came out to him or if anyone has come out to him since, but Sam's still my friend.  He always will be.

Next, I told my friend Jerry.  He was fine with it.  Then, I started telling my other friends.  They were all supportive.  I was still guarded with the information, but I began to realize that my true friends didn't feel any differently about me than they did before.  I dated a little, and suddenly the feelings of apprehension went away.  I felt normal.

It was two years before I had my first relationship.  That started in June of 1998.  I did a lot of things wrong. I made a lot of bad choices.  That relationship lasted until November of 2004.  No sense in going into detail here.  In fact, I'm probably boring you.

My point in sharing this tale is not to come out.  I've already done that.  My point is that for gay people, it's a process.  It's a process and a struggle for most of us as we try to fit in to what's expected of us rather than what's right or what's best for us.  

This Independence Day is special because the federal government now recognizes me for who I am.  With the decision in the DOMA case, the federal government is now saying loud and clear that gay people exist and aren't some square peg you can fit in a triangular hole.  The Supreme Court said loudly and clearly that our relationships and our families mean something and that they have the same status as other families.

We have a LONG way to go in this country, and the recent affronts to a woman's right to choose and the rights of minority voters signal that our fight is long from over. We must continue to stand together with our friends and allies and lock elbows and defend each other.

As freedom advances, we must continue to speak loudly and clearly when someone or something threatens the freedom of others.  We must be like that brave group of forefathers who put their lives on the line to bring forth this wonderful and imperfect union we know as the United States of America.

I love this country.  

Enjoy Your Holiday Weekend! Happy Birthday USA!


I'm taking the rest of the week and this weekend off to celebrate Independence Day.

If something breaking or pressing in nature comes up, I'll drop in.  As for now, daily updates will resume on July 8, 2013.

Please be safe as you set off your fireworks this weekend.  Happy Birthday to the United States of America!




Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Politics of Pence's First Six Months in Office

Governor Mike Pence
My friend, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, pointed out that Governor Mike Pence is sneaking up on a milestone.

The Governor has been in office now nearly six months, and he's had an opportunity to lead the state through its first General Assembly session.  The results, however, have not been likely what the Governor wants when and if he tries to run for President.

Like his legislative record back in Congress, Pence can't really point to too many things and say, "Yeah, I did that."  He's basically just kept the lights on and the engine running, but he has demonstrated a great lack of political skill especially compared to that of his predecessor.

Pence's latest flub was the Pencership scandal that really could have been avoided if he had just resisted the urge to keep his mouth shut.  The Indiana Constitution requires a potential amendment to pass through two separately-elected General Assemblies.  The first time the potential ban on anything but straight marriage amendment passed was 2011.  The resolution did not come up for a vote in 2013.  That means that 2014 is the last opportunity the amendment will have to go through.  If it passes, and it likely will, the amendment goes directly to the voters.  It never crosses Pence's desk.

Given this set of circumstances, Mitch Daniels might have released a statement, but he probably wouldn't have taken a side especially in the wake of what just happened with DOMA.  Daniels would have likely said something like "I have great faith that the General Assembly will give this matter great consideration and, if it reaches the voters, they will as well."

Pence didn't say that.  Pence went all in.  In doing so, he set the great Pencership scandal in motion by posting his statement on Facebook.  Then, all heck broke loose.  While he apologized, some report that Pence's staff is continuing to practice Pencership his official government Facebook page.

I think Pence is still used to being one of 435.  He's not used to being the one.  His immaturity as an executive showed earlier this year when he announced his income tax cut without consulting anyone in the General Assembly.  That's fine and all, but it was clear that no one had a discussion how to make each other look good in that situation.  In the end, it came out as the Governor vs. his own General Assembly.  Democrats rejoiced, but Republicans didn't.  In the end, Pence got a very small portion of what he wanted.

Pence did get some low hanging fruit things through the General Assembly.  With state revenues blowing his direction, he got more public school funding.  He also got his vocational educational program through.  These, however, were mitigated by his head fake on Greg Ballard's Power Grab Bill and the veto that was overturned for some local level taxes in Jackson and Pulaski Counties in Indiana.  Quite the place to stand and fight.

Eric Holcomb may have seen the writing on the wall.  Holcomb and what had been a very successful GOP leadership team exited a couple of weeks back.  Rumors out there say that Pence is looking at some high-level Washington-connected Hoosiers for the slot.  Those Hoosiers have experience in national campaigns.

I wouldn't quite book that flight yet for Iowa.  Mike Pence's performance in his first six months in office has been barely passable.  Pence came to office to focus on jobs and the economy, and it's hard to say he's done either.

At least we know where he stands on same sex marriage.