Monday, December 29, 2014

Cherish Every Moment: In Memoriam: Marjorie Easter (1941-2014)

Marjorie Easter
My mother
On Christmas Night, my mother went to sleep, and she didn't wake up again.

She had been sick, but I did not expect to be writing this blog post when I visited her on Christmas Day.  Still, as I look back on that visit, there was a sense of finality to it, and I can't explain why.  I visited her at least once a week since she went into the nursing facility...sometimes twice.  I'd been there on Monday, Dec. 22, but this visit just three days later felt different from the start.

When I got there, she was uncomfortable, so I got the nurse.  They helped her take care of some business while I waited in the hallway.  When she was done with that, I went in and I sat down next to my mom, and I mostly watched her sleep.  It gave me a chance to reflect on my relationship with her over the past few months as her physical being deteriorated quickly before my eyes.  You could tell she was going, but I guess I didn't realize how fast.

Parkinson's Disease does that to you.  It robs you slowly at first of the ability to move and to voluntarily control your muscles.  In the end, it progresses much more quickly and the medicine, I'm told, only helps for so long.  My mother's tremors had rapidly gotten worse.  She also had a myriad of other health problems that forced her to take a regiment of medication daily just to maintain her condition.  It wasn't a fun existence, but Mom persevered like a champion even though she wanted to die at times more than anything just to be back with my father.  I heard her say it so many times.

She plugged on making people smile and laugh when she could.  She listened to the problems of the health care workers at the nursing facility where she was.  They liked my mom because they could talk to her, and she dispensed good advice.  She lived a good life, and you can read an obituary I wrote for her here.

Back to my final visit with Mom.  Once she was comfortable, she slept peacefully only waking up to open my gift to her (a Colts sweatshirt, a 12-pack of Diet Cokes, two packages of Oreos, and some Emeraude perfume) and to keep an eye on me.  At one point, she reached out and grabbed my right knee.  I asked her what was wrong, and she said, "Nothing. I just wanted to make sure you were still here."

I sat there while she slept, and I looked at the three or four pictures of my parents that surrounded her bed.  Above her dresser, she had a picture of herself as a young woman, a picture of my dad as a young man, and a picture of them as a couple.  My mom was such a beautiful lady even up until the end.  There were pictures of me and my brother.  There was a picture of my Grandma Easter, too.  I even asked my Grandma, if she was listening, to watch over her daughter-in-law.

When it came time for me to leave, I stood up and put on my jacket.  Mom lamented the fact that she didn't have a gift for me.  I chuckled and told her that it was ok.  She gave me the gift of life 39 years ago.  She didn't hear me, so I had to repeat it louder.  She kind of smiled.  Then, she said something I'll never forget.

"Jon, thanks for all you've done for me these past few years.  I don't know what I would do without you."

I told her that of course she would figure something out.  After all, this lady was battling Parkinson's and arthritis and had kicked breast cancer's ass a few years ago.  She had been through losing two children and also her soulmate.  Mom was a survivor, so I told her.  "Mom, you would do fine without me. You're a survivor."

"I don't know," she said, with a chuckle.

I bent down to give her a kiss on the forehead, and she stuck her lips out, so I obliged her with a kiss on the lips.  I got really close to her, and I smiled.  I said, "I love you, Mom." 

She said, "I love you too."

I told her I would bring her some pudding tomorrow, Friday, and be out to see her and make sure she was feeling better.  She said ok and repeated that she loved me.

"I love you, too, Mom.  See you tomorrow."

Those were the last words I said to my mother.  Somewhere about 11:00 p.m., nestled snug in her pajamas and under her blankets, my mother died.  She'd had enough of all that ailed her, and it can't touch her now.  She's in heaven, and she made it home for Christmas with Dad.  I got the call about 11:30 p.m.

Make sure that you make every visit with someone you love count.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Murder Aftermath of NYPD Officers Turns Sadly Political

I've been absorbing a lot of the things that are being said about the gunned down NYPD officers, and it's gotten so sadly political.

Let's first remember Wenijan Liu and Rafael Ramos who paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.

These two officers were gunned down in cold blood by a sick and twisted individual who decided to co-opt the very legitimate protests of the Eric Garner Grand Jury case decision for his own personal misguided and vicious vendetta against law enforcement. The two things are sadly related but in a very tangential way.

Every person with credibility has denounced the murder of these two officers. That includes Bill De Blasio, the Mayor of New York and President Barack Obama.  Any person with credibility has denounced the idea that police officers should be killed in revenge for what has happened in Ferguson or in New York or anywhere else for that matter.  They shouldn't.  The violence needs to stop.

De Blasio is the Mayor of New York City and not only the Mayor of the NYPD. It's not his job to support 100 percent of the police tactics officers use nor is it his job to defend or encourage them to go outside of their bounds of brutality. He did not take a combat stance and fill a squad car full of bullets. The insinuation that he did or that because he has questioned policing tactics in the past caused this idiot to kill these two officers is concerning.

The reality is that these two men were killed because they were police officers. They were gunned down and assassinated in cold blood. This was an act of a deranged man.

We don't blame Jodie Foster for the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. We don't blame Sarah Palin for the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords. We don't blame Marilyn Manson for the Columbine shooting rampage.

We should be blaming the death of these two public servants on Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the apparently deranged young man with a gun who took two men from their families and two brave officers off the streets in a senseless act of violence.

Epilogue
It should also be noted that a third officer was shot and killed in Pinellas County, Florida just a few hours after the two officers were gunned down in New York City.  

Officer Charles Kondek of the Tarpon Springs Police Department was shot and killed and then run over by Marco Antonio Parilla, Jr.  It was a simple noise complaint.  

Officer Kondek's family will see Parilla get his day in court.  My thoughts go out to all public safety families grieving today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

No Merritt in This Campaign

Senator Jim Merritt
Senator Jim Merritt made it known today to anyone that would listen that he has no interest in running for Mayor of Indianapolis.  He becomes the latest high-profile Republican to take a pass on the office.

Merritt did tell Mary Milz of WTHR that he plans to run for Governor of Indiana someday in the future whenever the job is open.  It was a candid admission from a very keen politician.  We'll save that campaign talk for another day.

So, it's back to square one for Mr. Kyle Walker.  Milz said that she had talked to former City-County Councillor Scott Keller who said he could bring $4 million to the table for a run if he was guaranteed a clear path to the nomination.  I think that's more of a shot across Walker's bow than anything.  Keller was abandoned by the GOP years ago after he sided with the Democrats in the non-discrimination policy and police merger battles.  Without any party support to back Keller, Brian Mahern easily defeated him when he ran for reelection to the Council in 2007.  It remains to be seen what will happen there.

The best offer on the table for Walker would be to join up with Reverend Charles Harrison and try to make him the Republican nominee for Mayor.  Still a longshot, Harrison might be the best chance Republicans have to hold the office.  Harrison still has not declared a party.

The danger here is for Democratic frontrunner and election frontrunner Joe Hogsett to fight the air of inevitability.  If I know Joe, he'll continue to campaign like he's 20 points behind in the polls because it's something he truly loves to do.  He loves to talk to people, shake hands, listen to problems, and fight for votes.

We'll see, however, if Walker could pull a rabbit or two out of his rapidly shrinking hat of candidates.  The best choice may be Governor Mitch Daniels' sister and former U.S. Attorney Deborah Daniels.  No question she could raise money and having that last name provides her with plenty of name recognition as well.  She hasn't been bandied about as a candidate thus far, but it will be interesting to see if she might pop up at the last minute.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Garrison's Show Shrinks In Favor of Katz

Greg Garrison
On his own show this morning, Greg Garrison announced that he would be dropping his show from three hours to two hours.  Tony Katz will be making up the difference, and he appeared on Garrison's show to make the mutual announcement.

Interestingly, during the interview, Garrison didn't even seem to know the details of the move erroneously saying that Katz would be doing 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. rather than seeing his slot expand from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.

I guess one less hour of Garrison is progress.

It's being spun as a mutual decision by Garrison and company to have Indy radio's codger write more for WIBC and expand Katz's show, but it's pretty clear that WIBC wants to get younger.  With ratings on the upswing right now (up to a 6.2 from a 5.1 this August. station-wide) Garrison stands out as the sore thumb among the new whipper snappers.

Tony Katz
Katz, the Chicks on the Right, and Abdul all seem like babies compared to Garrison, a gifted attorney but a horrid radio host.  The station has also taken pains to get younger by adding Dana Loesch's radio program a few years back to its airwaves.  They showed longtime anchor Steve Simpson the door a few months ago in favor of Katz.  Simpson has since landed on his feet in Minneapolis.

I assume Garrison's audience is still unique and special enough that WIBC wants to keep them around, but let's face it, his show is old fashioned.  It's the same stuff every week.  He has the same guests and the same interviews.  In a world of new and different, Garrison's show is the wood-paneled office of yesterday.  He's a relic of talk radio from two decades past.  He's never changed his show, and he's never had to do it.  Now, he's getting replaced by the new model.

Garrison has been an institution for almost 20 years on the Indy airwaves, and his show remains WIBC's last long-running local weekday program.  For now, he'll stay on the air, but it's anyone's guess how long.

Rush...they're coming for you next!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Remembering Pearl Harbor Attack 73 Years Later

This particularly poignant piece documents some USS Arizona survivors that still are telling their stories today.  Remember Pearl Harbor!

In Memoriam: Mary Berry (1931-2014)

Mary Berry
Photo from
ObituariesExpressionsTributes.com
Southside Democrats and Democrats across Marion County are feeling the loss of Mary Berry.

Berry was one of my favorite people in politics, and she was the driving force behind a group of Democrats that would meet on Mondays at the Gaslight Inn on the Southside.  If you wanted her support, you knew that you needed to show up for lunch, and the candidates did.

Mostly, though, it was Mary's friends, and I got to know her through these gatherings.  She was a wonderful lady who, as her obituary pointed out, "never met a stranger", loved the Chicago Cubs and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Democratic politics.  She was also a proud person of Irish descent.  Mary bled green.

Unfortunately, time caught up with this bright light.  She passed away at the age of 83 on Friday, and she will be missed by so many.  My thoughts are with her family and her extended family of friends across Indianapolis.

Daily Posting Becomes Sporadic Posting Starting Today Through Start of 2015

It's come to that time that the daily posting schedule takes a short vacation.

I'm not going away, and I'm sure there will be a few posts this month. Basically, I'll post when I durn well please instead of doing it daily. It's just a very busy time of year as the school year winds down, the after school schedule spikes, and the family schedule becomes extremely important.

So, here is the schedule for the rest of the year:
December 8-December 12-Sporadic updates
December 15-December 19-Sporadic updates
December 22-December 26-Breaking news only updates
December 29-January 2-Sporadic updates
January 5-Daily updates resume

Please make a note of it and have a happy holiday season!  Thanks so much for your readership.  You don't know what it means to me.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pence Closes Down CECI, Releases Anti-Public Education Legislative Agenda

Indiana Statehouse
Since its creation, educators and small government advocates have railed against Governor Mike Pence's Center for Education and Career Innovation.  Critics called it a shadow Department of Education and part of the Governor's effort to undercut Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz.

Yesterday, the Governor reversed course and dissolved the CECI.  It's gone, but Governor Pence had a parting shot.  He released his 2015 legislative agenda, and it's not good for traditional public education.

Pence's legislative agenda calls for the Indiana General Assembly to keep the Superintendent of Public Instruction as part of the State Board of Education but to have that body elect its own chair.  It's a continued move to put the SBOE at the center of the state's education policy and away from the control of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The agenda also calls for more funding for charter schools and more freedom for districts to use performance-based pay for teachers and remove the cap on the education voucher program.

So, let me get this straight. The Governor got rid of the CECI, but he wants to continue to beef up charter schools, performance-based pay, and expand the voucher program?

Sounds like it's going to be a long legislative session for educators more than in just time alone.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Local Businessman Bill Mays is gone at 69

Bill Mays
Photo from IndianapolisRecorder.com
There's word tonight that one of the most influential African-Americans in the history of Indiana has passed away.

Bill Mays, the founder of Mays Chemical and the owner of the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper, died today.

A legendary figure, Mays had a brain for business and found his success in several industries.  He branched out from his chemical company to become a local media and telecommunications powerhouse.  Along with partner Bill Shirk, Mays sold his electronic media interests a few years back to Radio One for a cool $40 million.

That would only tell part of the story about the Evansville native.  He believed in giving back to his community serving on countless boards and civic organizations.  The community will keenly feel his loss.

Bill Mays is gone at 69 years old.

DeLaney Leaves Mayor's Race...Harrison Files Exploratory Committee

Rep. Ed DeLaney
Ed DeLaney dropped out of the Mayor's race today, and that's great news.

It means that the longtime legislator will remain in the Indiana General Assembly where his strong and clear voice is sorely needed at this time when few Democrats prowl the halls.

What's curious is how DeLaney termed his exit.  In a news release, the DeLaney campaign talks about Ed's appointment to the powerful Ways and Means Committee.  He talks passionately about the area's he's looking forward to helping such as pre-K education.

What he didn't do was endorse Joe Hogsett, and that, to me, is disappointing.  This was an opportunity for DeLaney to show some unity with even one sentence, but he didn't do it.  He only talked about ending his run for mayor with "reluctance because of my deep commitment to this city."

So much for sticking the dismount.

Joe Hogsett issued a statement on DeLaney's departure from the race.
“I want to thank my friend Ed DeLaney for his tireless work elevating the important issues that are so critical to the future of our city. His leadership at the Statehouse is invaluable, and I look forward to partnering with him to make Indianapolis a safer, more prosperous city.”
On the same day DeLaney dropped out, Charles Harrison stepped in.  The head of the Ten Point Coalition has yet to declare a party, but he now has a Twitter handle and a website.  So far, it's just an exploratory run.  We'll see how Harrison puts together a possible campaign.

The Republicans still don't have a candidate.

Bennett Implicated in IG Report

Tony Bennett
On Tuesday, Tom LoBianco of the Associated Press lowered the boom on what remained of former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett's career.

The reporter wrote a scathing piece published by the AP on the Indiana Inspector General, David Thomas's, February 2014 report on Bennett's 2012 reelection campaign.  The report recommended prosecuting Bennett for alleged actions he took during that unsuccessful campaign uncovered in the Inspector General's investigation.  The IG report, according to Lobianco, alleges 100 possible violations of federal wire fraud law by Bennett or his staff among other incidences of wrongdoing.

Despite the report, Bennett has yet to be prosecuted by Marion County Prosecutor, Terry Curry, or federal prosecutors through the U.S. Attorney's Office.

For his part, Curry told the Indianapolis Star that he never saw the second 85-page report.  He says he only saw the eight-page report that resulted in Bennett paying a $5,000 fine for ethics violations.  The U.S. Attorney's Office and former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett have declined to comment.  Curry told the Star he's requested a copy of the IG's report for review.

Time will tell where this story goes.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Council Passes Pre-K Plan

On Monday Night, the City-County Council invested in the future of our city by passing a Pre-K proposal that will fund educational opportunities for 1,000 young citizens of our city.  It was no doubt a great night for our city, but it also came with eight no votes.

The Indianapolis Business Journal did some poking around and found out that the no votes came from Councillors opposed to the education plan because they believe that public safety needs to be addressed first or that the state should be funding the program rather than the city.

Personally, I believe very much in early childhood education.  It's fundamental to the learning process of our children as they get older, and there are studies that show that it makes a difference in crime.  I also believe that we have needs now that need to be addressed when it comes to infrastructure and public safety.  I just see the overwhelming benefits that this $40 million public/private investment comes with.

I do take issue with the IBJ on one thing.  This really is not Mayor Greg Ballard's plan at all.  While the Mayor did talk about early education as one of his goals in his crime fighting plan, he did not specifically make a proposal.  Instead, he asked the Council to simply hand over the homestead tax credit revenue without any strings attached to early education.

The Council wisely said no, and it's taken its lumps.  The work behind the scenes began almost immediately, and the result was a deal hammered out by the Mayor's Office and Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth and the City-County Council.  It was passed by a wide bi-partisan margin.  They got something done for the better of the city here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Former Broad Ripple Coach, Center Township Trustee Smith Passes

Smith during his BRHS days
The Broad Ripple High School community is in mourning on the news of the death of legendary coach, teacher, and mentor William Smith.

Smith had been recovering from surgery over the past few weeks at his home in Memphis, and his death was reported as unexpected on Facebook.

Smith coached at Ripple over two different stints and led the Rockets to the 1980 Boys Basketball State Championship.  Until last year, the '80 Rockets remained the last IPS-based team to win a State Championship up until Arsenal Tech won last year's tournament.

Besides his longtime position as a teacher and coach in IPS, Smith also spent a term as Center Township Trustee serving from 1987-1991.  He returned to Ripple in 1994 and coached for nine more seasons.  Recently, he had served on the staff of the New York Knicks as an adviser to former coach Mike Woodson.  Woodson, an IU basketball legend, played for Smith at Ripple.

While his foray into politics was brief, I'll remember "Smitty" as my dad and many of his friends knew him as a gregarious and larger than life figure.  His players always talked about how he commanded respect, and he was known to have a fiery disposition on the sidelines.  Away from the court, players often recounted the softer side of the big and intimidating-looking Smith.  Kyle Neddenreip of the Indianapolis Star captures those memories in this piece.

My father actually coached against Smitty in the City Championship middle school game one time and both teams were undefeated.  My dad's team actually beat Smitty's team, and he called my dad "Coach" for years after that even when my father was an administrator.  My dad was there at Ripple when Smith's team won that State Championship, and he appears in the pictures.

One thing is clear.  Bill Smith was larger than life, and his death leaves a huge hole.  Hopefully, the folks at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame will someday recognize him for his accomplishments and contributions to Indiana High School Basketball.  I'll just always remember Smitty as a great person and someone who touched a lot of lives along the way.  Coach Smith is survived by his wife and family and extended family of the players in whose lives he made a difference.

Rest easy, coach.  Bill Smith was 72 years old.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Indy Star Explores Possible Harrison for Mayor Run

Rev. Charles Harrison
Photo via Facebook
The Indy Star's Tim Swarens floated the possibility of running for Mayor by Rev. Charles Harrison, and the Ten Point Coalition's point man said it's 50/50 but expects to open an exploratory committee.

Personally, I don't know Harrison.  I've only interacted with him via social media, and I do admire his work tremendously with the Ten Point Coalition.  When no one was paying much attention in the Mayor's Office to the murders and violence going on in our city, Harrison was calling attention to it.  Some would even argue that he's one of the few that got Greg Ballard to listen.

Getting the Mayor's attention on an important issue is one thing.  Running for Mayor is another animal, and there's much more to it.

While Harrison has had a laser-like focus on violence in this city.  He also has a good handle on those that live in poverty in our city.  That said, I wonder how he would tackle a major snow storm or a budget battle with the City-County Council.  What if a tornado cuts a swath through our city or if a major employer wants to come here to our city?  These are the kinds of things that a Mayor deals with.  The known isn't necessarily as dangerous as the unknown.  If Harrison is to be a serious candidate, he will have to broaden his appeal past the issue of violence and of poverty in our city as I suspect Hogsett and DeLaney will.

He can certainly do that, but I don't know if he can muster the kind of support as a candidate to swing an election.  He seems to have put a lot of thought into it, though.  As the Swarens piece notes, he understands the financial reality of a run against a party-backed candidate.  

I would advise Hogsett and DeLaney to reach out to Harrison.  This may be the Reverend's way of getting the attention of the candidates to talk about very important issues facing our city and to figure out what they might do about them.  

Sometimes the best way of grabbing the attention of the candidates is to threaten to run against them.

I believe that Reverend Harrison is serious about running, and I wish him the best as he decides.  I've been in his shoes before deciding to run or not to run, and he's the only one that knows what's best for him, his congregation, the Ten Point Coalition, and his family.