Monday, March 31, 2014

Coats Raises Profile Ahead of 2016

Senator Dan Coats
Dan Coats seemingly somnambulated through his first couple of years back on the Senate floor after his 2010 win over Brad Ellsworth.  There were times that I honestly wondered if Coats was there at all.

That's all changed in the last few months.  Coats is active not only on the Senate floor and in the national media spotlight but on social media as well.  A couple of weeks ago, he drew attention by tweeting out his mildly humorous take on being banned from Russia by Soviet Premiere Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Coats' seat is up in 2016, and I think that this uptick in the profile signals that Coats will be running for reelection.  Some (including me) wondered if, at the age of 70, he would be a candidate or if he'd turn in his Senate ID and return to his job as a lobbyist in North Carolina Indiana.  Well 70 is just when some Senators hit their prime, and Coats has the benefits of being the incumbent.

That doesn't mean that there a few Indiana Democrats that could give him a run for his money.  You'd figure that those D's will make themselves known here in the next few months as it will likely take some cash to knock off Coats.

Coats also will have to protect his own flank lest he be primaried for not being conservative enough.  I don't think he'll have the trouble Richard Lugar did.  Coats is good at reading the tea leaves.  We've seen a man that once voted for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's confirmation as Supreme Court Justice rebrand himself into a Republican the Tea Party could be proud of.

We'll see what happens as this race develops over the next two years.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mascari Disputes Ballard's Rebuild Indy 2 Sales Tactics

Mayor Greg Ballard
If you haven't heard, Rebuild Indy 2 is in the works, and Mayor Greg Ballard is now going around to a variety of different areas of the city in support of this program.

The program's aim is worthy.  It is to fix the city's crumbling streets, sidewalks and infrastructure.  I don't think anyone is opposed to that.  Where things get sticky is how the Mayor wishes to pay for the program.  He wants to bond the program out and pay for it over 30 years.  Most Democrats on the City-County Council disagree with this plan of our grandkids and our great grandkids paying for work done today on our roads and streets.

Think about it.  Let's say 30 years ago, in 1984, we bonded out street and road repairs...and, to be fair, some new projects.  That gives you some idea of what we're talking about here.  It would be like building a sports stadium in the early 80's and still be paying for it after it's torn down now...wait a minute...

Mayor Ballard did this once with Rebuild Indy, and that 2011 reelection public works program resurfaced and upgraded roads across Indianapolis.  Now many of those same roads and streets...or more likely those that were ignored in 2011...are riddled with potholes and other issues.

The Mayor got a little help with some state money for his program after a lobbying effort, but that's not going to cover it all.  The Mayor is going to need City-County Council support for the rest of the program.

Councillor Frank Mascari
At the Perry Township Democratic Club meeting on Thursday, City-County Councillor Frank Mascari said that he got wind that Mayor Ballard hinted to some of Mascari's constituents that the councillor was in support of the Rebuild Indy 2 plan.  That is not accurate, so Mascari decided to attend an informational meeting on the plan.

After a few minutes of raising his hand and being ignored, Mascari said he got up and began talking and debating the Mayor on the funding of the program.  Mascari said the Mayor was so frustrated with the back and forth that he walked away.  "I just wanted to make it clear to him that I am not on his side on this issue," said Mascari.

The moral of the story here is, don't take the Mayor's word for it.  If he seems to indicate the home district City-County Councillor is for something, I'd ask that councillor.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blog on "Spring Break" Hiatus from Daily Posting

Well, we've reached that moment in the spring where the blog goes on daily posting hiatus.  I'm going to be taking a few days to step back and gear up for what should be an interesting run up to the May Primary.

Daily posting will resume on April 7.  As always, I'll still be writing here, just taking a break from daily posting, so make sure you follow me on Twitter @Johnnystir to get the latest from the blog or check back in.  

Thanks again for all your support.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Turner's Alleged Actions in Caucus Draw Investigation Request by Democrats

Rep. Eric Turner
R-Cicero
Republican lawmaker Eric Turner is under fire for his alleged behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts in caucus which would seem to benefit his family's business.

The Indianapolis Star reported Monday that Turner, the second most-powerful Republican in the Indiana House, publicly made it look like he was practicing good ethics by not voting in the overturn of a moratorium against new nursing care facilities in Indiana while lobbying for the overturn in caucus meetings.  Two anonymous Republican lawmakers leaked the information to the Star.

The thing is that Rep. Turner co-founded health care facility operator Mainstreet Property Group, who led the opposition to the moratorium, according to the Star.  Turner's son, Zeke, chairs the company, and his daughter, Jessaca, lobbies for Mainstreet. The moratorium pushed by existing nursing homes and health care facilities would have potentially harmed Mainstreet's business interests by stopping or delaying the construction of new nursing homes, the Star reports.

In response to the news of Turner's alleged behind-the-scenes actions, Democrats fired off a letter requesting an ethics investigation into Turner's activities on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.  Indiana Democratic Party Chair John Zody requested that the House look into Turner's actions to see if they violated Indiana's legislative ethics rules.

If this is all true, first of all bravo to the fellow Republicans that brought it to light.  Secondly, this is the worst kind of deception by a politician. If what is alleged is the way it happened, Turner was clearly trying to stay above board and look to his constituents as if he was doing the right thing while potentially doing the exact opposite in private.  Hopefully, Brian Bosma and the rest of the House will look into this matter.  This will certainly bear watching.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gary Bettenhausen (1941-2014)

Gary Bettenhausen
Courtesy of IndyCar
Quietly, in his home in Monrovia, Gary Bettenhausen died on Sunday night.  

Bettenhausen's death came contrary to how the man lived.  A true racer in every sense of the word, Bettenhausen and his family lived life in a fast manner.  Gary's father, Tony, raced in 14 Indianapolis 500's before being killed during testing.  

It would not be the last tragedy the Bettenhausens would suffer through.  Gary himself was injured in an accident that left him with little use of his left arm.  His younger brother Merle was just three laps into his Champ Car career when an accident robbed him of his right arm and left him severely burned.  Only the youngest Bettenhausen, Tony Jr., would escape injury in the cockpit, but a wheel from his car was punted into the stands by Roberto Guererro's car during the 1987 Indianapolis 500, and it killed Lyle Kurtenbach, a spectator from Wisconsin.  Tony Jr. would die in a plane crash after a successful career as a car owner.  

Through the tragedies, the Bettenhausens raced on, and Gary was the fastest.  Driving for Roger Penske, he nearly won the Indy 500 in 1972 leading 138 laps before a mechanical failure.  In 1980, he drove from last place to third place.  Most of his finishes at Indy were marred by crashes or by mechanical gremlins.  One of his last runs at Indy in 1992 came to end when a tire from Jeff Andretti's wrecked car came out of the sky and bent Bettenhausen's suspension.

Through all the tragedy and heartbreak, Gary Bettenhausen kept going fast, and he kept picking himself up and moving forward.  He pursued his dream of winning Indianapolis until he could no longer do it and stepped out of the car for the final time at Indianapolis in 1994.  His legend certainly will live on.

One of the best drivers to drive in the Indianapolis 500 but never win it, Gary Bettenhausen has gone to that big racetrack in the sky.  Gary is survived by his wife Wavelyn, his three sons, his brother Merle, and his sister Sue.  Gary B. was 72.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Indiana House Democrats Release Session Results Video

The Indiana House Democratic Caucus released this video highlighting the 2014 General Assembly session and the issues pushed.  In short, Democrats were right on the issues.  Enjoy.

Friday, March 14, 2014

HD 91 Incumbent Fighting Primary Foe

Bob Behning
House District 91 voters again have a contested primary on the Republican side as incumbent Bob Behning will have to take down a fellow R before facing Democrat Patrick Lockhart.

Pat Lockhart
In the Primary, Behning is facing Michael Scott, a union electrician, who ran in 2012 as one of the Lunch Pail Republicans.  Scott is already planning walks and yard sign distribution.  We'll see if he can improve on his 2012 vote total.

Much like 2012, Behning has a Democratic challenger with no primary opposition, Patrick Lockhart.  The IU political science major has been making the rounds in the district impressing nearly everyone he comes in contact with.  Lockhart is planning on taking to Behning (or Scott) a tough and aggressive campaign in the fall.  That really didn't happen with 2012 Democratic nominee, Mike Blinn.
Michael Scott

Behning just has to be wondering if his decision to run again in 2014 might have been the right one.  He's going to have to work harder than ever to keep his job in the General Assembly.  There were rumors about Behning's desire to run for the office leading up to the election season. It was even rumored at one time that he was not planning to run, but he has filed and was slated by the Republican Party.

Democrats know that if they are going to retake the House, eventually House District 92 is a seat they need to take.  Lockhart is an excellent candidate to take it, but Scott remains a very interesting wild card.  If he can beat or take a big bite out Behning's reelection budget, then Lockhart could definitely capitalize in the fall.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ballard, Administration Launch "Your Life Matters" Initiative Seven Years into Administration

Mayor Ballard launched a major initiative targeted specifically towards troubled and at-risk young people trying to turn them away from crime and into a variety of other existing programs designed to better lives in our city.

It's an initiative called, "Your Life Matter," and it will take direct aim at our city's crime problem, specifically crime by black males on other black males.

"We lose more young men of color to murder than we do to car crashes or disease," Ballard said in his announcement today. “This current pattern of violence is robbing us of an entire generation of young men of color, and it must stop.”

He's exactly right.  Something had to be done.  When I wrote my "Easter 2015" blog post last month, I outlined a broad plan to take my fight to our schools and fight crime with education.  Mine was hypothetical.  Ballard's is much more involved.

Ballard's initiative brought immediate praise from those voices in the community long calling for action, but will it work?  That remains to be seen.  There is no silver bullet that is going to stop young men from killing other young men or other individuals deciding to make poor decisions.  The Indianapolis Star describes a bit about what is in the plan:  
>> Ballard pledged a $75,000 investment in the Connect2Help 211 telephone service. The nonprofit connects people, especially parents who need help with troubled children, to human services providers. The extra funding will allow 211, which has about 60 phone operators covering 24 counties in Central Indiana, to hire two additional employees. 
>> New public service announcement spots highlighting the initiative and its anti-violence message are airing every hour on Radio One networks. Radio One owns urban gospel, urban adult contemporary urban rhythmic and top 40 stations that broadcast in Marion County. 
>> Nearly 60 mentorship organizations endorsed by and partnered with the initiative, Ballard said, are prepared to help lead teenagers and young men and women away from violence. Youth employment programs, such as Youthbuild Indy, Youthworks Indy and Youth Employment Services, also have partnered with the initiative. 
>> For young people who already have criminal pasts, Ballard highlighted the city’s re-entry assistance programs, including the Mayor’s Office of Re-Entry. The office gives recently released ex-offenders a directory of groups that assist with jobs, housing and mentorship programs. 
To keep track of how the initiative is doing, Ballard said group leaders have organized a task force, comprising community and faith-based leaders, who will monitor the city’s involvement.
The biggest question that I have is why did it take until his seventh year in office to come up with a plan to get control of the spiraling crime rate in this city.  This certainly cannot be his only initiative, either.  Ballard needs to be forceful in dealing with crime across the city...in all quarters.

Nevertheless, it is good to see the Mayor concentrating his efforts in a positive manner rather than trying to recruit Prince William and Princess Catherine to the opening cricket match at our city's new cricket stadium.  Nothing against Will and Kate, but public safety is allegedly job one for Mayor Ballard.  Sometimes you wonder where it ranks on his list of jobs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Obama Drops By Funny Or Die to Talk Between Two Ferns

President Barack Obama appears on "Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis" on funnyordie.com to drum up support for the Affordable Care Act.

Whether you like or dislike the President, he keeps up with Galifianakis well.  I've tried to embed the piece below, but if it doesn't work, here's a link.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Short Speaks in Decatur Township

Frank Short
Since my initial post here on him, I've heard a few things about Washington Township Trustee Frank Short.  The prevailing opinion has been, "Don't count him out."

Tonight, I had the chance to sit down with Short for the first time at an event and really get to talk to him.  I can see why folks say not to count him out in his run for Mayor.

Given a few moments to speak at the Decatur Township Democratic Club meeting, Short kept his message focused on getting the slate through the 2014 Primary, but he took a few moments to address something.  He called Marion County a "donor county" to the rest of the state of Indiana.  He said that Marion County should have $375,000,000 more in tax dollars by his calculations to spend on things like roads and streets, the City-County budget, and in other critical areas.  He said that when he's Mayor that he'll fight to get that money back.

It was short, sweet, and to the point, but I can see where he could be a definite foil for Mayor Ballard.  Short is quick-thinking and has experience with a variety of forms of government.

I still think there are other Democrats out there that will come out of the shadows to run, but Frank Short showed to me that perhaps I was unfair by classifying him as a long shot.  He seems to be in it to win it.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lawmakers Roll Back Eleven Funding

Indiana lawmakers are wisely tapping the breaks on a giveaway stadium building deal for the Indy Eleven soccer team.

The Eleven hasn't played a game yet, and lawmakers were concerned that the numbers just didn't add up, according to WTHR.

The bill, which passed the House, bypassed the hearing process and is headed for a conference committee.  At that committee, members will be asked to take out the funding for the soccer stadium in SB 308.  If that holds up, the funding will be dead this session.  Senate President David Long told WTHR that he'd rather deal with the soccer team's funding next year during a long session.

It's a big setback for the Indy Eleven who were hoping to get $87 million plus a ten percent ticket tax to help pay off the bond over 30 years.  As for now, they have to pin their hopes on the conference committee not changing its mind and/or having a good first year in Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Look at Indiana's 2014 U.S. House Races

Indiana U.S. House Delegation and Senators pose
with Governor Mike Pence
When it comes to Indiana U.S. House races for 2014, some are busier than others, according to the website, Ballotpedia.

In District 1, it will be another showdown between Pete Visclosky and Mark Leyva.  Neither apparently has an opponent.  Visclosky is the Dean of the Indiana Congressional Delegation now having taken office in 1985.  It seems that Leyva has been his opponent almost since that time.  He has run in every election since 1998 except for the 2012 election.  Just go ahead an mark down Visclosky for yet another term.

In District 2, Republican Jackie Walorski does not have any competition from her own party, but the Democrats are certainly busy on their side.  Democrat Joe Bock has over $181,000 in his campaign account to do battle with Walorski.  Brendan Mullen nearly defeated Walorski in 2012, but he declined to run in 2014.  Other Democrats in the race in District 2 include former Indiana House candidate Dan Morrison, Douglas Carpenter, and...wait for it...Bobby Kern.  Yep...that Bob Kern.

Marlin Stutzman has drawn two challengers to his seat on his own side of the aisle.  Mark Baringer and James Mahoney will challenge the GOP incumbent in the Primary.  On the Democratic side, Jim Redmond, Tommy Schrader, and Justin Kuhlne will battle for the nomination.

Kevin Grant will take on incumbent Todd Rokita in the May Primary in District 4.  For the Democrats, educator John Dale will take on Howard Joseph Pollchik, Roger Day, John Futrell, and Jeffery Blades will battle it out.  Libertarian Joe Bowman is also in this race.

In the 5th District, Susan Brooks is expected to hold on to her seat, but her political career will have to survive the May challenge of a couple of Davids, Stockdale and Campbell, as well as three Democrats who would face her in November (Allen Davidson, David Ford, and Shawn Denney).

Republican incumbent Luke Messer is unopposed in the 6th District.  Three Democrats (Susan Hall Heitzman, Connie Westerfield, and 2012 nominee Lane Siekman) will lock horns in May to take on Messer in May.

In the 7th District, Congressman Andre Carson has token opposition from past candidates Rev. Mmoja Ajabu and Pierre Pullins.  Newcomer Curtis Godfrey has also filed to run against Carson in the May Primary.  On the Republican side, past candidates J.D. Minear and Wayne Harmon are joined by Erin McGee, Cat Ping, and Gordon Smith.

In the 8th District, Congressman Larry Bucshon will face fellow Republican Andrew McNeil in the Primary before he can turn his attention to battling battling with Democrat Tom Spangler and Libertarian Andy Horning in November.

Finally, in the 9th District, former Seymour Mayor Bill Bailey is the favored Democrat in a field that includes James McClure Jr., J.S. Miller, and William Joseph Thomas.  Incumbent Republican Rep. Todd Young has his hands full in the Primary with a pair of challengers, Mark Jones and Kathy Lowe Heil.  Neither is named Sodrel, so Young should be fine in the May Primary season.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Brown Booted

Kimberly Brown
Judge Kimberly Brown's career as a Marion County Superior Court jurist didn't even last one term.  The Democrat, unslated yet victorious in 2008, was booted off the bench by the Indiana Supreme Court for a variety of reasons.  It's all detailed in this report from WTHR.

It wasn't all bad news for Brown.  She gets to keep her license and can still practice law.

Brown, who was rarely seen at Democratic events or outside of her court duties, was running for reelection.  She's no longer eligible for judicial office according to the ruling.  With her forced from the race for judge, there will only be 10 Democrats running on the ballot in May for eight judicial slots.

Former Marion County Assessor Greg Bowes and Indianapolis Attorney David Hennessey will be on the ballot along with slated Democrats Judge Annie Christ Garcia, Judge Barbara Cook Crawford, Judge David Dreyer, Judge Jim Osborn, Angela Davis, Shatrese Flowers, Christina Klineman, and Marcel Pratt.

Indiana Tax Laws Provide Another Battlefield for Same Sex Marriage Debate

Senator Brandt Hershman
The federal government and most of the civilized world have either given legal recognition to or are in the process of giving legal recognition to same sex couples. It’s only a matter of time before all 50 states either voluntarily or involuntarily recognize these unions.

In a backwards state like Indiana, that seems like a long way off. Here it seems we’re trying to find new and interesting ways to make life difficult for married couples of the same gender. One needs look no further than the current tax code.

Federally, a married couple regardless of gender of the married parties can file jointly. In a state like Massachusetts or California or one of the other states that recognizes gay marriage, that federal tax return is used to calculate the state tax return for the married couple and so on and so forth…you know…like all married couples.

In Indiana, same sex couples must file separately since Indiana does not recognize same sex marriage. You can file a joint federal tax return as a married couple in Indiana if you are a legally married same sex couple, but you can’t use that federal return as the basis for a joint state tax return.

Why?

It’s simple. Indiana doesn’t recognize same sex marriage. That means the arduous step of filing a joint federal return and two sample federal returns so that each partner can figure their taxes. The Indiana Senate is taking steps to make sure that it stays that way with a bill they've offered up.  If it sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen, it probably is being filed right now. 

Senator Brandt Hershman told the Indianapolis Star that he doesn't believe tax policy is a place to have a debate about same sex marriage.  I say HORSEFEATHERS!  This is EXACTLY the kind of bread and butter issue that hits home with Hoosiers.

Sounds like a 14th Amendment case to me…Equal protection under the law. What’s good for straight married couples should be good for gay married couples when it comes to filing taxes. Perhaps Indiana’s antiquated ways will help the state recognize same sex marriages more quickly after all. Until then, it’s just another way Indiana tells a portion of its citizens that they are second class citizens.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Who Do You Trust?

Yeah, I'm watching the Oscars, so my brain isn't on politics.  Thus, I present this amazing video from YouTuber ZeFrank.