Friday, June 27, 2014

Stay Issued Stopping Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples in Indiana

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay in the Indiana marriage equality case.

That stops, for now, the issuing of new marriage licenses for same-sex Hoosier couples until the case can be decided on appeal.  Attorney General Greg Zoeller appealed to the 7th Circuit for a stay when lower court judge, Richard Young, refused to grant one.

This is likely just a temporary albeit speed bump along the road to marriage equality.  Equality advocates are running a long winning streak.  That said, anything is possible.  We'll see.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Same-Sex Hoosier Couples May Now Marry

Marriage equality has apparently come to Indiana.

There's no one in this room to pinch me to tell me if I'm dreaming or not, but I'm fairly speechless.  When one is speechless, why not turn to the words of Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence?

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It now means the same thing for all Hoosiers when it comes to joining in marriage with the one you love.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller may spend our tax dollars in a reckless appeal, but Judge Richard Young's ruling stands.  Marriage equality has come to the Hoosier State.

Friday, June 20, 2014

World Sports Park Controversy About Fiscal Responsibility

Shariq Siddiqui
Photo from Indiana Forefront
Local non-profit leader Shariq Siddiqui raises an interesting point in his post on Indiana Forefront.  He comes at Mayor Greg Ballard's World Sports Park controversy from a different angle.

When the Democrats announced their Fix Our Neighborhoods Now! Plan the other day, apparently someone in the news conference called the plan, "Cricket-Proof."

This wording offends Siddiqui who writes:
Marion County Democrats are making a mistake by attacking the new World Sports Park. As an Asian-American – I am offended by their characterization of their new infrastructure plan as being “cricket proof.” I think they are playing towards a an anti-foreigner sentiment that may garner votes and attention in the short-term put challenges the “big tent” values of the party and makes Republican Mayor, Greg Ballard, seem like the “open-minded” one in this debate.
Let me first say to Mr. Siddiqui, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry that you were offended by the terming of the Democrats plan as "cricket-proof".  It probably wasn't the wisest choice of words, and it underlines something that I heard Dan Parker actually speak about back in May at the Decatur Township Democratic Club.

Parker, who may run for Mayor, said in his talk that Democrats need to be careful in how they frame the argument on the entire World Sports Park controversy.  He said that there is actually a very vibrant immigrant community on Indy's South side and in other pockets across the community that actually do play lots of cricket.  He warned that too much cricket bashing could cause offense.

Clearly, in the case of Mr. Siddiqui, he was correct.  I do think Mr. Siddiqui is wrong in his larger point.  The World Sports Park kerfuffle has less to do with being anti-foreign and more to do with being fiscally responsible.

Here's what we're talking about, though.  We aren't talking about the kind of investment or economic impact of the Colts, or the Pacers, or the Indy Eleven, or the Indy Fuel.  We're talking about a neighborhood park that has been converted to a World Sports Park.  The reason it was done, pure and simple, was to draw the National Cricket Tournament here as sponsored by the USACA.  That organization had a horrible reputation before ink was placed to paper, but the Mayor of Indianapolis went ahead and spent between $4.9 and $6 million (number keeps changing) of Rebuild Indy money to build a World Sports Park for one event.  An event with hardly the kind of economic impact of the Indy 500 or of the political conventions the Mayor passed on.

News reports go back to 2009 on this, and I have e-mails upon e-mails from City-County Councillors on both sides of the aisle warning the Administration and predicting exactly what happened.  The National Cricket Tournament went kerplunk here in Indy.  That infrastructure investment which would have likely brought literally hundreds of cricket fans to our city is done...but someone's road didn't get paved or sidewalk didn't get fixed.  We also didn't address our crime problem.

The investment in that park gives us pretty much nothing back, so it becomes an expenditure.  How many spray parks could we have put up?  How many potholes could we have filled?  How many sidewalks could have been fixed?  I have nothing against cricket or gaelic hurling or rugby or any kind of world culture in our city, but the streets are crumbling.  The sidewalks are, too.  What is the priority?

The City-County Council Democratic Majority and some on the Republican side too have had every right to question this park, the motivations behind it, and the way forward from here.  Perhaps the wording was wrong at the news conference, but overall need for fiscal caution and to make sure that Rebuild Indy funds are appropriately managed is exactly why we have a City-County Council.

Blogger's Vacation!


Everyone needs a vacation, right?

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  I'm going to kick back, relax, and think about nice vacation things rather than think about the blog for a few days.

In the spirit of summer vacation everywhere, I am suspending daily posting through Monday, July 7, 2014. Normal daily posting will resume on that day.

I would anticipate that something will come up that will strike my blogging fancy between now and July 7.  I just won't be posting daily.  

For updates, follow me on Twitter @johnnystir.

Thanks for your readership and see you all July 7 (if not before).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rebuild Indy 2 Plan To Be Co-Sponsored By Mahern

Brian Mahern
Our good friends over at IndyPolitics.org have learned that City-County Council Democrat Brian Mahern, a former Vice President of the body, has decided to co-sponsor the Mayor Greg Ballard's Rebuild Indy 2 plan.  This comes just a day after Democrats announced the "Fix Our Neighborhoods Now" plan.

The editor-in-chief over there at Indy Politics, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, gave it full "Fox News Alert" kind of status posting it across social media on his various channels.  Thing is...the only person surprised by this move is probably Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.

While it's certainly possible that Mahern believes Mayor Ballard's plan is the best for the city, Brian Mahern has been on the outs with his own caucus for months.  He tried unsuccessfully to work with members of the Republican caucus to stage a full out revolt against Council President Maggie Lewis, so he's been persona non grata from his caucus since.  This is a perfect chance to join up with his former nemesis, Mayor Greg Ballard, to stick it to the D's.  There was a time not too long ago that Mahern was seen as a possible Democratic candidate for Mayor.

There's a Republican who has found herself in a very similar situation as Mahern.  That's Christine Scales.  Whatever plan she decides to go with could be the one adopted by the Council.  

If I know Scales, she will look at both plans and decide which one is best for the city as well as listen to her constituency.  Seems to me that would be the Democrats' plan, but it's clearly up to her.  She won't make a decision to purely stick it to her caucus, but, if her decision does stick it to her own caucus, so be it.  I have a higher degree of confidence in Scales to make a non-political decision than Mahern.

Dems Release Fix Our Neighborhoods Now Plan

Will the Mayor Come to the Bargaining Table?
The Democrats released their version of an infrastructure plan to fix Indy's roads and streets as an answer to Mayor Greg Ballard's $300 million Rebuild Indy 2 plan.

The announcement came from a group of Democratic City-County Councillors at the World Sports Park on Indy's Eastside.

There are similarities and differences in both plans.  The biggest difference is the amount borrowed.  The Mayor's plan borrows much more than the Democrats plan.  Democrats also say there's some $60 million in cost savings in their version of the $340 million plan.  They also take $45 million from the downtown TIF district to make the D plan work.  According to the Indianapolis Star, there already seems to be a sticking point on that TIF money.

Marc Lotter, the Mayor's spokesperson, says that the TIF money is for downtown redevelopment.  Problem is that Mayor Ballard has used the TIF money as a fund to help balance the city's budget in the past by siphoning money from it.

It's hard for the Mayor and his backers to say the Democrats don't have a plan.  They clearly do, and it's a good solid plan.  Now, the question is which plan gets adopted.  I believe that both sides should sit down and hammer out a plan for the better of the city.  We know that it will just get stuck in politics otherwise.

Mr. Mayor, the ball is in your court now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Simpson's Departure Hurts WIBC

What I Look Like after a Week of Listening
to the Chicks on the Right
With Steve Simpson out at WIBC, I got to thinking.  There's now not one trusted straight-down-the-middle voice there for news.

I tried to find a list of their current news reporters, but it's impossible to find on the website.  There seems to be a movement to hide straight news reporting.  Coupled with what the IBJ said about Simpson's departure from the station, it appears WIBC may finally be moving to the right completely and becoming Tea Party Radio.

That means we can expect severe weather outbreak coverage from the Chicks on the Right?

Mock:  Oh my, this severe storm here is just coming through.
Daisy:  Yeah, that National Weather Service just issued a tornado warning.
Mock:  Take cover, ya'll.
Daisy:  Yeah, y'all.  Take cover.
Mock:  ERMEGERD y'all, it's really rainin' hard.
Daisy:  And there's this hail.  Y'all.  Real hail.
Mock:  There's no awesomesauce on this storm.
Daisy:  Y'all take cover.

I think we'll miss Steve, don't you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Brown to Resign from Council

Vernon Brown
Longtime Democratic Councillor Vernon Brown will be stepping down from the Council in the next few weeks, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The IBJ report says Brown is leaving the Council in order to continue his run for Warren Township Trustee this year.  A new state law precludes Brown, an IFD firefighter, from running again for Council in 2015.  Jeff Bennett, the current Warren Township Trustee, is not running for reelection.

Brown's seat is safe for Democrats.  The person that replaces him on the Council will be heavily favored to win back the seat.  The gentleman that ran against Brown in 2011, Michael Heady, is ironically running for Warren Township Trustee as Brown's opponent.

Since the current Council took office in 2012, two other Councillors have resigned for greener political pastures.  Ryan Vaughn became Greg Ballard's Chief of Staff, and Jeff Cardwell went to work for Governor Pence.  Steve Talley also has announced he is running for Lawrence Township Trustee, but he is, so far, staying on the Council.

Talley and Mary Moriarty Adams, as the IBJ piece points out, both are also affected by the same law that prevents Brown from running for Council again as an IFD firefighter.  Talley works for IMPD, and Moriarty Adams is employed in the Assessor's Office.

Monday, June 16, 2014

GOP Should Remember Whigs Before Turning on Turn Signal

As I read some of the analysis of Eric Cantor’s loss in Virginia, I hear a theme that the Republican Party may be ready to make a right turn again. 

My advice to the Grand Old Party would be to turn right, but turn right only knowing what it means.  Turning to the right's going to leave behind a lot of moderates.  Maybe even enough moderates to cause a political shift of epic proportions.

It's not unprecedented.  At one point in history, Democrats had the Whigs to be worried about.  The Whigs actually elected two Presidents (William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor) and counted among its membership memorable politicians like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

For the Whigs (originally born out of opposition to Andrew Jackson), the question of slavery splintered the party.  The stronger faction of the party which was more based in the northern states and was more anti-slavery became what we now know as the Republican Party, and the others dissolved away, quit politics, or tried to find other places to hang their hats politically.  

Some Whigs tried to reinvent themselves as a part of the American Party and even nominated former Whig Veep turned President, Millard Fillmore, for President.  They carried one state in 1856, Maryland.  The Whigs threw their weight behind John Bell in 1860 for President before dissolving.  A party that had been robust in 1852 and in the White House found itself dissolved by 1860.

Social issues now are threatening to pull the GOP apart.  While politics have changed since 1860, the Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party is clearly leaving room for a moderate party that could break off and form a new coalition all its own. That would kill the Republican Party as we know it. The GOP will be marginalized in the national debate. Eventually, it will go the way of the dodo bird.

I’m not saying that it is going to happen now or in 2016, but the tea leaves are there. It’s very real. The Republican Party is leaving true Republicans behind as it moves further and further right.  For moderates, it's a question of finding a home.  They clearly don't feel like Democrats, but they can't claim to be Republicans any longer.

There are many choices for those Republicans.  They can band together and start a new party.  That would be very difficult, but it wouldn't be unprecedented.  Third-parties have inherent disadvantages, and I can't imagine Republicans will go quietly.  They can join the Libertarians.  That's certainly an option some have taken.  I'll advocate for a third option.

Well, I'm here to say that there's no need for a moderate party...come on over to the Democratic Party.  We know how to have a good old knock down drag out and still all get along.  Our members go from Joe Donnelly to Nancy Pelosi and everything in between.  There's room over here for you, too.  I may not agree with everything you agree with, but I'm willing to bet we agree on more than we disagree.  

Soon, GOP is going to be the home for the Christian right, the climate-change doubters, the Bible thumpers, and the isolationists. They will tell you that Ted Cruz has a chance in a national election and make Rick Santorum start to look like a liberal. They will be like a hunk of cheese applied to the digestive system of Congress.

The far right won't see it coming, but a moderate tide is building from the left and from the middle.  It's about to set things right in Washington.

It’s coming. Mark the tape.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

My dad
Henry S. Easter, Jr.
Happy Father's Day to each and every dad out there.

Whether you'll spend time with your dad today or think about the good times you had with your dad when he was here, I hope that you spend this day celebrating your dad or even your father figure.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Russert Still Missed Six Years After Death

"That's all for today.  We'll be back next week at our regular time.  If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press."

Tim Russert
May 7, 1950-June 13, 2008
The date was June 8, 2008, and Tim Russert was correct.  The next week, Meet the Press was back at its regular time, but Tim was gone.  Gone forever.  Sunday morning talk has never recovered.

On June 13, 2008, the great Tim Russert was working on voiceovers for the June 15 Meet the Press when he collapsed in the Washington Bureau of NBC News and later died of a massive heart attack.

For 17 years, THE PLACE to go for Sunday morning talk was Meet the Press.  Russert got the guests, and he asked the tough questions.  If you weren't ready, you were toast.

Russert was almost an artist when it came to interviews.  He knew exactly the right moment to throw the right question.  He walked his subject through a gauntlet only to slam them over the head sometimes with their own words.  It wasn't unfair or nasty.  He rarely raised his voice.  He just calmly went about his job of a thorough interview.

I was always an admirer of Russert's.  His depth of research and his intelligence always amazed me.  It was also the way he could take some complicated political analysis and break it down to something as simple a statement or a few questions.  He was immune to spin because he was, at one time, a spinner.

When Tim Russert died, his form of journalism did, too.  David Gregory is nowhere near the interviewer Russert was, and, while he tries, Meet the Press is no longer something I must see each week.  There are great journalists out there that can still ask tough questions and be fair.  Anderson Cooper probably comes the closest.

It's clear that the field of journalism lost a member of its Mount Rushmore on June 13, 2008.  Tim Russert...still missed six years after his death.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Turn and Face the Strange...Ch-Ch-Changes

The only thing constant in life is change.

We've heard that statement so many times over the years that it has almost become cliche, but it remains true.  Life changes, and it's going to change until you no longer have life to live.  Hopefully, for all of us, that time is a long way off.  I have decided to make some changes in my life, and that will require me to make some changes in how I live it.  

First thing's first.  If you don't already know, I'm running for City-County Council in District 20.  Right now, I've just opened an exploratory committee, but I hope to change it into a campaign committee.  This district is, by registration, heavily Republican, but I'm not going to let that deter me.  There are many important issues in this city that I talk about quite often on this blog that aren't going away.  It's too important to just sit by on the sidelines anymore.  That's why I decided to run.

So, now the changes.

As far as this blog is concerned, you probably won't notice much of a change.  Perhaps I might miss a day here or there with a post if I'm extremely busy or perhaps down the line I may need to adjust the publishing schedule.  I just don't see any reason or need to shut down the blog or stop it at this point, and I think that would not be a good situation for me.  I enjoy writing, and this is a definite outlet for me.  It's my stress relief.  As far as it being potentially damaging to my campaign,  I have over six years now of opinions out here in internet land.  It's not like stopping the blog and deleting it from existence is going to stop anyone from knowing where I stand on things.

One thing I will be stopping, as I announced on Monday, is the JohnnyStir Show on IndianaTalks.com.  While the show has been an absolute blast to do, and I really enjoy it.  I need some flexibility on Mondays back, and that's tough to do when I have to be home at my computer by 9:00 p.m. on Monday nights.  With City-County Council meetings and other community meetings on Monday nights and a lack of other nights that I can can commit to doing the show, it's best to end it at this point.  I'm grateful to Gary Snyder and everyone at IndianaTalks.com for their support and the opportunity to do my show my way.  The show will end July 28.

So that brings everyone up-to-date.  This blog is not going anywhere.  I thank each and every one of my readers, and I appreciate all the comments, both positive and negative, I get from you.  You're all coming with me on my City-County Council campaign journey, too.  It's going to be a fun ride.

As David Bowie once said, "Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes!"  Here we go.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brat Spoils Cantor's Reelection Campaign; Shocks Political World With Stunning Win

David Brat
Last night, every incumbent on both sides of the aisle had to shudder when the mighty Cantor went down in Virginia.

The second-in-command Republican in the U.S. House is done.  Hard to believe because no one...including Eric Cantor himself...probably thought he was in trouble.  So, today, we're left to try to make sense of what happened yesterday in Virginia's Fightin' 7th.

At the very basic level, Tea Party candidate David Brat defeated the powerhouse Cantor by a wide margin.  It wasn't even close, and it was called well before all the votes were counted.  I'd like to say that Cantor's arrogance cost him, but that would mean that I would have seen this coming.  As has been widely reported, Cantor never expected it as his internal polls had him up 34 percentage points over Brat.

I didn't even know there was a Primary in Virginia until the news broke that Cantor was done.

To be frank, I don't know what to make of this.  Trying to put it into context is unbelievably hard since something like this hasn't happened since the 19th Century.  The world was quite different then.  Elections were quite different then.  Women, for example, couldn't vote.

Eric Cantor
That said, with Mitch McConnell in trouble in Kentucky and now Cantor going down in Virginia, I think it's safe to say that people aren't satisfied with either party's leadership in Washington.  President Barack Obama's approval rating ranges from the high 30's in the Reuters/IPSOS poll to the high 40's in the Rasmussen poll.  Congressional job approval stands at 13.4 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.

The bottom line is people are fed up with what's going on in Washington, and Cantor is a clear reflection of the current gridlocked government we have.  I think you saw as well the battle for the soul of the Republican Party playing out again in living color right in front of us all.  While the Tea Party's influence has waned a bit, it still wields a heavy hammer in the Primary.

Now is David Brat going to be any better?  He's an unknown commodity.  Brat credited his election to God working through the people on Fox News and called it a miracle.  We'll find out if Brat is worthy over the next few months.

The only thing we know is that the incredibly-powerful Cantor lost to an unknown guy with the last name of Brat.  That, my friends, is irony.

Dems force Mayor into Compromise on Rebuild Indy II

Democrats won the first battle over Mayor Greg Ballard's Rebuild Indy II plan.

The Indianapolis Mayor announced that he had retooled the plan by knocking $50 million off of it and shortening the term of the planned bonds from 30 to 20 years.  Both are big steps in the right direction.  Now, I'm anxious to see what the Democrats propose.

In my view, the biggest sticking point with the Mayor's first plan was the length of the bonds.  Park improvements, sidewalk repairs, and road and street repairs made now would not theoretically be paid off for 30 years.  If you think of how often some of those things are repaired or updated, you might be paying for something that had to be redone.

Councillor Jeff Miller pointed out to me on Twitter that many of the projects on the Mayor's list were neighborhood projects and streets that see less travel than main thoroughfares.  Streets that typically last 20 years without improvement.

The biggest thing I see in the plan is the dreaded "C" word.  Compromise!  We'll see what the Democrats have to offer when they release their plan soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Republicans to Gays: You Can Carry...But You Can't Marry

The Republican Party's convention in Fort Wayne this past weekend got me to thinking about some things.
Leading up to the big day, there were a couple of big issues.  First, would the party vote to leave in the language defining marriage as between one man and one woman in their party platform?  Second, would conventioneers get to openly carry their guns at the convention?

The answer was yes to both questions.  Republicans voted to write discrimination into their party platform, and they also got to carry their beloved guns to the convention.  This, however, mixes these two issues in a bit of a strange way.

Indiana is controlled by the Republican Party with supermajorities in the Indiana House and the Indiana Senate for the GOP.  They also hold the Governor's Mansion with Mike Pence there when he's not on some trade mission or campaign stop.

Since Republicans have such a stranglehold on the power and are so pro-gun but so anti-gay, one could draw a line between the two issues as they are both civil rights and constitutional rights questions.  Why is it fair to fight for an inanimate object when you won't fight for people to have the right to marry who they want to marry.

It's only a matter of time before this fight is over once and for all.  Indiana will throw out its antiquated anti-equality laws, and same sex couples will be able to marry.  Democrats have taken a stand on the right side of history just like many Republicans did during the Civil Rights movement of the 60's.  

For now, though, Indiana remains a place where if you are gay, you can carry your gun, but you can't marry your mate.  Something seems backwards about that.  Then again, I'm only thinking logically.

Monday, June 9, 2014

GOP Leaves Fort Wayne with Unwanted Attention

The Indiana Republican Party went to Fort Wayne for its convention this year, and they brought a lot of attention to the second-largest city in Indiana.

Two things were expected.

The civil war over the party's platform developed and got kind of nasty.  Despite the work of many moderate Republicans, the GOP insisted on passing a platform supporting marriage between one man and one woman.  In 2012, the Republican platform omitted marriage altogether.

The other expected attention grabber was the fight for the Treasurer of State nomination.  Unlike the Democratic convention where it was smooth sailing for Mike Boland, it was anything but for establishment candidate Wayne Seybold.  The Marion Mayor succeeded in vanquishing Don Bates, Jr., but Bates may have won the war when some of his delegates got behind Kelly Mitchell, a member of Richard Mourdock's staff.  Mitchell won the nomination completing a ticket of all female candidates on the Indiana Republican statewide ticket.  Mitchell joins Connie Lawson and Suzanne Crouch on the ticket.  Lawson and Crouch were unopposed for Secretary of State and Auditor, respectively.

Finally, the unwanted attention came from Mourdock.  In his speech to the delegates, Mourdock compared the current state of the United States to that of Germany before the Nazi takeover.  According to the Indianapolis Star, Mourdock's speech received a standing ovation from the crowd.  That's ultimately the saddest part of the story.  Tim Berry, the GOP Chairman, later would back away from Mourdock's comments.

With the disharmoniousness behind them, the Republicans now have to come back together to hold off a united Democratic ticket intent on winning statewide office and picking up seats in the Indiana House and Senate.

Should be quite a race.  One final note to Berry.  Please keep allowing Mourdock to speak at your party functions.  In fact, let him be the keynote speaker for every Lincoln Day dinner you can find!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Days No One Should Forget

The first time I saw Saving Private Ryan, I sat with my mouth open at the brutality and devastation of war.  Then, when you realize that this was Hollywood's very accurate depiction of what that day on the beaches of Normandy, France were like, and you just can't fathom the horror.

War is hell, and D-Day was brutal.

Those men charged that beach 70 years ago so that we continue our way of life today.  It was the ultimate example of paying it forward.  For all these reasons, I humbly thank each and every veteran that fought that day, and I honor the memory of those that never came home.

Donnelly Delivering on Hoosier Common Sense Promise

Senator Joe Donnelly
At Saturday's Indiana Democratic Party Convention, Senator Joe Donnelly was making the rounds from caucus room to caucus room.

When he got to the 7th District caucus room, he was not greeted with golf claps.  Senator Donnelly got a standing ovation from the room.  It's a clear indication of the job he's doing as U.S. Senator from Indiana.

Donnelly spoke of the things he's working on in Washington.  He talked briefly about his current bill that is moving through Congress to help curb military suicides.  On the House side, Congressman Andre Carson got a bill through Congress addressing mental health of our fighting men and women, so it's good to see the Indiana delegation taking on the cause.

Besides the mental health issues of our soldiers, Donnelly has also taken an interest in curbing violence in our cities holding two meetings last week in Indianapolis.

Most of all, Donnelly was there to thank the delegates for the work that got him into the Senate.  He talked about the strong work of his supporters at the grass roots and how their support (with a little help from Richard Mourdock) pushed him over the top.

Yes, Donnelly has evolved on many issues and has moved even to the left on some.  He's now a strong supporter of marriage equality, and he confirmed that with his convention speech.  Republicans will attack him for his support of the President's Affordable Care Act, but he's taken steps to support the repeal the parts of the bill that hurt those Hoosier companies that make medical equipment.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though I don't agree with Senator Donnelly still on every issue, I've become a much more ardent supporter of him.  I would have to think he enjoys high approval ratings in the state, and his prospects for reelection over anyone the Republicans might throw at him in 2018 seem pretty solid right now.

Bottom line...Joe Donnelly has been a pleasant surprise as Senator Joe Donnelly, and I hope he keeps up the good work.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rebuild Indy II Deserves Scrutiny...Not Capitulation by Democrats

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz covered the press conference Tuesday where City-County Council Republicans looked all stern and took the opportunity to criticize City-County Council Democrats for not simply capitulating on Mayor Greg Ballard's Rebuild Indy II plan.

You may remember that this plan spends $350 million or so to build cricket fields rebuild Indy's crumbling infrastructure just in time for a reelection campaign over the next few years.

Proponents say that the roads and streets get repaired under this plan at once instead of piecemealing it through.  Opponents point out that the plan requires the city to borrow money paid off over years.  They argue that short term repairs should not be paid with long term loans.  They also argue that the list of projects has not been equally spaced out across the city...that some of the hardest hit areas were not due to get the needed repairs.

Part of the problem is that the Ballard Administration clearly thinks it's ok to try to ram through its agenda without the other side asking reasonable questions.  When those questions are raised, Republicans run out and do news conferences with concerned citizens.

I'm a concerned citizen.  I hit the same pothole every day on the way home from work along Tincher Road.  Every time I hit it, I remind myself to miss it tomorrow and to report it to the Mayor's Action Center.  I'm not, however, in such a hurry to get that pothole repaired that I'm willing to put it on a credit card to be paid off with interest over 30 years.  It just doesn't make sense to do that.

The Democrats are coming up with their own plan, and I'm interested to see what an alternative it is to the Mayor's plan that's on the table.  There will be a plan out there before 2015.  You can count on that.

Until then, the Mayor's going to have to wait, work harder to sell his plan or even perhaps do that thing we like to call compromise with Council Democrats to get this done.  Voters elected a Democratic majority for a reason in 2011.  While I completely respect their position, a handful of concerned neighbors holding a news conference with Republicans who are concerned about protecting their Mayor and their own political interests does not excuse doing one's due diligence responsibly financing this project.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Call to Convention Also a Call to Arms in Fort Wayne for GOP

Republican Delegates and Convention Attendees
Can Pack Heat!
You know, I've attended five Indiana Democratic Party Conventions now, and I've never once said to myself...I think I want to carry a gun.

When Republicans convene in Fort Wayne this weekend, some will be packing heat while they adopt their platform and nominate their state ticket.

The Grand Wayne Convention Center said late last month that it's up to the Indiana Republican Party if it wishes to allow its delegates and attendees of its convention to carry firearms...and now the Republicans said, "Yes!"

A contentious fight for Treasurer of State with three candidates and a platform plank fight over marriage equality...what could go wrong?  In all likelihood, nothing will go wrong, and a few good, law-abiding citizens will get to carry their guns in public in some sort of show of something or other.  Good for them.  I hope they enjoy it.  It just doesn't make much sense to me.  It seems like an unhealthy obsession between firearm and firearm owner here in the Hoosier State.

Then again, while I support the Second Amendment, I don't think like a Republican.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cricket Fight Would Be Funny If It Weren't So Sad

City Rebuild Indy Cash Down Drain
The spat over the canceled USACA’s Cricket Championships, once to be held at the still-under-construction World Sports Park, has gotten personal with both sides lobbing verbal and written shots at one another.

Laughably, the USACA criticized Indy’s ability to hold their event citing lack of tournament sponsorships from the city and a dearth of direct flights into the city. Indy fired back that it could easily handle a small event like the Cricket Championships if it could handle multiple major motorsports events, NCAA Final Fours and a Super Bowl.

What’s more laughable from Indy’s point of view is that now the Mayor’s spokesman Marc Lotter is admitting that the Ballard Administration had its doubts about the USACA as an organization, but they put their faith in one man, Darren Beazley, the recently deposed leader of the organization.  Lotter also seems to admit indirectly that the Ballard Administration may have overblown the significance and impact of the USACA Tournament on the Indy economy.

That means that this $6 million $5.1 million investment all came down to faith in one person…SIX MILLION in Rebuild Indy funds that could be used to be rebuilding sidewalks and streets? That’s pretty unbelievable. In fact, it’s unconscionable.

The USACA will now move its tournament back to Central Broward Regional Park and Stadium, a 5,500 permanent seat stadium with lights. According to dreamcricket.com, it’s the same stadium the USACA criticized a year ago.  Even Florida officials are taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the USACA saying that if fees aren't paid up front then there will be no tournament.

Indy Democrat has obtained copious e-mails from Republican City-County Councillor Christine Scales where she raised a number of questions and concerns over the past few years.  At one point, she was told to file a Freedom of Information Act to get information from the city.  That's ridiculous for a City-County Councillor.  This Administration has no shame.

Now, it's over, but Greg Ballard has cracked the door wide open for a potential future opponent to attack him and his Administration over a lack of due diligence on investigating this organization or overlooking the obvious tea leaves that should have had them backing away quickly from the USACA..

Pence Opts Out of Federal Law Designed to Prevent Prison Sexual Assaults

Gov. Mike Pence
Forty-three states told the federal government that they would comply with federal law meant to curb prison rape in the U.S. correctional system. Indiana was one of seven that said no.

Governor Mike Pence announced via a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Indiana would be opting out of the federal law due to cost, and that made lawmakers like Rep. Christina Hale (D-Indianapolis) mad.

Speaking at the Indiana Democratic Convention on Saturday, Hale roundly ripped the Governor saying his move was wrong for Indiana and that it was shortsighted. “It’s our hope that someday these individuals will come back having served their time and become constructive members of our society, but Governor Pence’s decision only assures us that many will be more angry and more bitter.”

Hale said it shouldn’t be a matter of cost but just a matter of staffing. Part of the federal law states that those incarcerated should only be undressing in front of same gender guards, for example. “It’s a matter of staff rotation and not a matter of staffing.”

Indiana says that it would cost $15 to $20 million in new staffing and equipment, according to the IndyStar’s John Tuohy. The cost for not complying with the law is around $350,000 in lost federal funding.

To me, this is a human rights issue. Indiana should be utilizing some of its billions in surplus dollars to comply with this federal mandate. Apparently, Governor Pence is okay with the culture of prisoner abuse and rape that is not only happening in our correctional facilities but, according to some, is very prevalent.  So much for compassionate conservatism for Governor Pence!

One final thing:
Advance Indiana's Gary Welsh points out that this federal statute passed unanimously in Congress when Mike Pence was there!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gregg Back in Picture, But Is He The Only One Playing for Comeback?

Evan Bayh
While John Gregg may be making a play to get back in the picture, there are still a lot of folks wondering what the most quiet but still hard-to-ignore big fish in Indiana politics might do in his future.

Evan Bayh is up to something…maybe. That’s what the good folks at the Center for Public Integrity think, at least. They may just be right.

The CPI reports that Bayh has a whopping $9.8 million in his federal campaign account. It’s more than any other former member of Congress who is sitting on his or her hands this election cycle can claim, and, as the CPI points that money would give Bayh a huge advantage over anyone, incumbent or otherwise, should he run for something in the future.

So what’s Bayh thinking? That’s the $9.8 million question.

His behemoth total in his campaign account can be used for federal or state level runs in the future. That means that good old Evan can run for either Governor or Senator in 2016.  Would we finally get that matchup between Coats and Bayh, or is Evan looking at retaking the Governor's mansion for the Democrats?  More than likely, he's enjoying lobbying, punditry and all the attention he gets every time elections roll around.

Bayh could also be a viable Vice Presidential candidate for his friend, Hillary Clinton. When Clinton campaigned in the state in 2008, Bayh campaigned with her.

If Mike Pence passes on a run at reelection for a run at another office, Bayh could even be seen as the favorite to win and at least up for a neck and neck run with Pence, who has over $8 million less.

Clearly, Bayh is holding on to his campaign cash for some reason, and I won’t believe that Bayh is done politically until his account is empty, and that money gives him choices.

If Bayh runs, what does John Gregg do?  Would he sit back and play for the Lieutenant Governor's spot?  That would be an awfully conservative Democratic ticket, but it worked out for Bayh and Frank O'Bannon.  That said, as my friend Matt Stone pointed out in a conversation earlier, it's usually not likely that a past party nominee takes the #2 slot on the gubernatorial ticket.
  
This doesn't even bring in the possibilities of all the other possible candidates for Governor out there.  The run up to 2016 will be fun to watch.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

It's Cricket, and He's Harmless--An Indy Democrat Play in Two Acts

I channeled my inner Shakespeare and decided to write a play of totally fictional and completely imagined detail about how the Mayor of Indianapolis arrived at backing a cricket field.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
---
It's Cricket, and He's Harmless:
Act I

Scene: It's an idle afternoon in 2008 in the City-County Building.  Bob Grond, Jim Leftus, and the rest of the guys that allegedly really run the City of Indianapolis are having a meeting.  They're trying to give Mayor Grog Bullard a big project.

Grond:  Guys, we really need to give Grog a diversion so that he still thinks he's in charge, but he'll leave us alone.

Leftus:  Yes, we need something that's maybe going to take him worldwide on a trade mission or something.  He wants to do too much.  We need to give him something to occupy his mind.  Please brainstorm.

(Room brainstorms for a while coming up with a list of 10-15 things.  At the top of the list are Chinatown and Cricket)

Leftus:  Thanks guys.  You can go.

(Room empties, but Grog Bullard walks in)

Bullard:  Oh hi Bob and Jim.  I thought I left my blue highlighter in here earlier.

Grond:  Sorry, Mr. Mayor.  I haven't seen it in here.  Maybe it's out there in the flower pot where you left it before.

Leftus:  Or the time before when you left it over the sink in the Mayor's Executive Bathroom.

Grond:  There was that one time it was over your ear.

Bullard:  Nah.  I already looked in those places.  What's that list?

Grond:  Oh, sir...it's really nothing.

Leftus:  Yeah, you don't need to concern yourself with it.

Bullard:  Come on guys.  I'm the Mayor of the City of Indianapolis.  I need to know everything you're doing here.

Leftus:  Sorry sir.  You're right.  Here, have a look.

Bullard reads the list slowly intently looking at every bullet point and reading each word.  The silence in the room is deafening.  Grond and Leftus exchange nervous looks.

Grond:  Wow, Mr. Mayor.  You really are taking a good look at this.

Bullard:  These look like things around the city.  I mean you've got wave green flag at IMS up there, there's naming Georgia Street, help implode RCA Dome, but what's this about my Chinatown idea?

Grond:  Oh...yeah.  One of the guys in our meeting remembered how you said you wanted to make a Chinatown here in Indianapolis.

Bullard:  I DID!  I thought it was a good idea, but Jim wouldn't let me!  (with a pouty lip).

Leftus:  Now, Mr. Mayor, we thought it was a great idea...it was too...uh...visionary.  Yeah.  It was...uh...too far ahead of its time.  I just thought the people of Indianapolis wouldn't be ready for something so completely stupi....stupendous...stupendous...uhhh. Right Bob?

Grond:  (Nervously looks at Leftus) Sure Jim, but you know what's not ahead of its time...this cricket field you said you'd like to build.  That would be a great project for the city, and we believe you need to really put your time and effort behind it.  I mean, we'll set you up with whatever you need, sir.  You can put your personal stamp on this project, and that will allow Jim and I here to make you look good in other ways.

Bullard:  Well, I'm building my ant farm in the other room right now, and I think I can work it in between the second and third nap of the day.  I have to be home by six or my wife will worry.

Grond:  Oh!  We know, sir!  Well, this isn't something that's going to happen in a day.  We figure that it's going to take you a while, sir.  We think you need to spend every waking moment on it.  You may even need to travel a bit.  Maybe tell people out there how you really feel about cricket.

Bullard:  You know, when I want people to think of cricket.  I want them to think of Indianapolis.

Leftus:  That's great!  You should use that with the media and things.  Wonderful.

Grond:  You know, Mr. Mayor, we were just about to finish here.  Why don't you sit down with some folks and kind of sketch out what you'd like to do, and we'll see if there's a place we can make it fit for you.

Bullard:  (Clearly distracted and muttering) Wanders out the door.

Leftus:  Whew, that was close.  Do you think he knows what we're doing?

Grond:  Nah, he's clueless.

Leftus:  I just hope we haven't made a mistake here.

Grond:  It's cricket, and he's harmless.

It's Cricket, and He's Harmless
ACT II

TWO WEEKS LATER

Scene:  Bob Grond and Jim Leftus are sitting in the Mayor's Office on the 25th Floor.  They're waiting for the Mayor to arrive from his latest trade mission.  Suddenly, they hear an alarm clock.  Then a thud followed by an "Ouch."  Mayor Bullard, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt rises from under his desk.

Grond:  Oh hello sir.  We had no idea you were under there.

Bullard:  (Rises to his knees and slides down in his overstuffed office chair.)  Yeah, I saw that guy on Seinfeld that...Costanzo guy...he had one of these nap places built under his desk, so I put the guys here to work on it.  Pretty comfortable.

Leftus:  That's what we like about you, Mr. Mayor.  You're always thinking.  (Nervously looks at Grond)

Grond:  So, why did you call us here today, Mr. Mayor.

Bullard:  Well, this cricket thing.  You know...I'm not so sure about it.  I don't know if the people will buy into it.

Grond:  What do you mean?

Bullard:  I mean, it's kind of a dumb idea.  I think the Chinatown idea was so much better.

Leftus:  Why is it a dumb idea?

Bullard:  I got to thinking about it, and I kept wondering why people are going to come out and watch a cricket do anything.  I mean, I just usually squash the suckers when I hear them in my garage.  I don't know why people are going to come out to watch a bunch of those little things run around.  It just doesn't make sense.

Grond:  (With a blank look) You're serious, sir?

Bullard:  Oh yeah, I mean, they really aren't even that good looking of insects.  I mean...if we can get a bunch of preying mantises to battle with some yellow jackets or something.  But crickets...I mean...all I could think of was having some frogs eat them or something.  Here are my plans.

Leftus:  Sir, these are in crayon.

Bullard:  Yeah, I did them on the plane on the way back from the trade mission.  I figure if we build a net structure about 250-300 feet high, we can keep the insects in and that they won...

Grond:  Sir, I'm sorry to interrupt, but cricket is actually a very popular sport around the world.  When you said you were interested in a cricket field we just assumed you meant the sport of cricket.

Bullard:  (Laughing) Well, Bob, we know what assuming does.

Leftus:  We took the liberty of drawing up plans to convert one of our parks into a cricket, lacrosse, rugby, hurling...

Bullard:  Hurling.  I used to do that in college after a long night.  Oh the memories.

Leftus:  Again, this is a sport, Mr. Mayor.  Anyway, we could do this for a few million dollars and maybe even attract some national exposure.

Grond:  Yes.  It's really a great plan, Mr. Mayor.  What do you think?

Bullard:  Ok boys, I'm in.  I really have to go now, though.  It's 5:50 p.m.  My wife will be expecting me.  Crap, I've got one of those Mayors Night Out thingies.  Better change into my suit.  (The Mayor rises from behind his desk to show he's just been wearing boxers and black socks/shoes with his Hawaiian shirt the whole meeting.)

Grond and Leftus leave the office and head for the elevator.  The door closes.

Leftus:  Well, that was an experience!  He actually thought that a cricket field was a place for insects.

Grond:  I know, right?  This guy...

Leftus:  Again, I just hope we haven't made a mistake.

Grond:  It's cricket, and he's harmless.

Both men laugh hysterically.  The door opens.