Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ballard Played Politics Despite Own Claims

Mayor Greg Ballard and Wife Winnie Ballard
Photo by Sarah Stierch
The puff pieces and retrospectives have begun on Greg Ballard's eight years as Mayor of Indianapolis, and there's not any question about it.  Ballard was a better politician than I gave him credit for when he was elected, but his accomplishments rank far below those of the other UniGov-era Mayors.

The IndyStar reports that, as Ballard leaves office, he enjoys a 65 percent approval rating.  That doesn't surprise me.  If the question was asked in a certain way, I'd say I'd approve of Mayor Ballard.

He has been largely successful in putting his personal story out there as a good-hearted family man who loves his city.  I don't take issue with that description of him.  He is a good man who loves his family dearly.  It's a part of who he is, and I salute him for keeping his family and wife, Winnie, first in a job where they can often fall down the priority list.

I get off the Ballard bus and bandwagon when it comes to talk about his skills as a uniter and the idea that he was somehow not political.  I believe he fell horribly short in this regard.

Often, Ballard would push forth his own agenda with little input or little care for what those on both sides of the aisle in the City-County Council would think.  When Council members would stand up and be counted, he would claim they were being overly political or obstructionist.  Republicans who crossed him would find themselves in political timeout.  Democrats would be lambasted in the press or accosted by the Mayor.

When you stack up Ballard's accomplishments, most remain either controversial or built on the back of the Bart Peterson Administration.  He'll largely be remembered for the selling of public assets such as the city's parking meters and water/sewer utilities and rammed-through deals like Blue Indy and the Freedom Fleet.  His accomplishments include a variety of redevelopment initiatives. Perhaps the biggest is the Cummins Complex on half of the old MSA site.  Ballard also greatly increased the Mayor's power by the silent backing of SEA 621 which took some power from the County Commissioners and the Council and handed it to the Mayor  The Mayor was also successful during the whole RFRA blow up in standing up for what was right.  Indy welcomed all.

I've been told the city's books are about to blow up and may reveal that Ballard's "honestly-balanced" budgets weren't so balanced.  That remains to be seen.

When I look back at eight years ago, I set low expectations for Mayor Greg Ballard.  He managed to exceed those low expectations, for whatever it's worth.

As far as the future, Councillors Zach Adamson and Marilyn Pfisterer posted this picture the other day on social media, and, I think it says a lot.

The picture is of Mayor-Elect Joe Hogsett sitting down with City-County Councillors of both parties for dinner.  These sorts of things just simply did not happen in the Ballard Administration, and it's my hope that they continue.

Ballard, despite his claims of being above politics and just doing the work of Mayor, was as much of a politician as any Mayor could be expected to be.  Some of it he was good at, but he failed in other regards.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Council Raise Good Idea Timed Badly

The City-County Council on Monday voted to raise the pay of the incoming Council from the current $11,400 to $16,400.

Let's be really clear.  This is not the incoming 25 Councillors setting their own pay; this is the outgoing 29. Many will be back after January 1 but not all.

I don't like the timing, and I get that argument.  Had I been on the Council, I don't think I would have voted to pass the proposal because of the timing.  With that said, I have no problem that it did pass, and I think $16,400 is chump change for what is expected out of our Councillors.

A City-County Councillor doing his or her job right puts in countless hours of work in addition to his or her day job or career.  We're not talking about career politicians here.  Many of these folks work other day jobs, own businesses, or have vibrant careers.  A few of them have pensions or are retirees.  With maybe a couple of exceptions, these folks aren't rich.  They are just like you and me.

Candidly, when I decided to run for Council, I never once took into account how much I would make.  I wanted to serve.  I don't know how I would have felt one or two years into the job.  I just get that $11,400 is not really enough for all that's expected.

There's never a good time to vote for a pay raise, and I know that some running against the Councillors that voted for this will use it against them in the future.  I wouldn't.

I get the uproar.  I just think it's a little much when you think about it.  It's $125,000 out of a $1 billion budget.

Ultimately, it's the decision of Greg Ballard now.

Orentlicher Guests on JohnnyStir Show Tonight on IndianaTalks.com; Blogger Hiatus Engaged

The JohnnyStir Show on Indiana Talks is back tonight at 8 p.m. with an all new episode.

Joining me is 8th District Congressional candidate David Orentlicher to talk about his run for Congress.  Also, my good friend Steve Terrell joins me to talk about the craziness that is the 2016 Presidential Election derby.

Also, I'm announcing that the blog is going on my normal holiday hiatus.  This week is going to be busy at the day job, so I'll be suspending my normal daily Monday through Friday routine.  We'll get back to that after we flip the calendar to 2016.  In the meantime, I'll still be chiming in between now and then to promote the radio show and comment on any major news.  I also reserve the right to post something if it strikes my fancy.

Hopefully you'll tune in to the big show tonight at 8 p.m. at www.indianatalks.com and follow me on Twitter for new posts.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Personal Prerogative: Remembering Grandma Easter

My Grandma Easter
Today's post is personal, not political.

The anniversary sneaked up on me again this year, but December 8 has come and gone again and all day I remembered my grandmother, Twila Easter.

I had a unique relationship with my dad’s mother. Grandma Easter helped raise me because she essentially lived with us. She had her own space on the first level of our house in a built-out basement (though you better never called it a basement when she was within earshot), but she was my babysitter, grandmother, and best friend growing up.

Grandma could tell a story like no other. Sometimes she would, let’s say, change some of the details to make them more interesting. For example, she worked at the lunchroom at Haag’s downtown on Illinois and served an ever-growing number of people a day as the years passed. Her last career was as a school cook at Stephen Foster School 67 in IPS. She retired in the early 70’s. 

After my grandfather passed in 1972, Grandma Easter went back to work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the gift shop part time. She worked there for the next 10 years. I came along in 1975, so I ended up with all the cool racing stuff you can imagine. My bedroom was decked out in Team Penske and A.J. Foyt gear. I loved racing before I ever loved football or basketball or any other sport, and it’s because of my grandmother. She taught me so many other things.

Grandma told stories that had nuggets of gold buried in them. She always seemed to have some point. She was always passionate about education and was adamant that even though she barely had a high school education that knowledge is something that can never be taken away. 

Sure, she’d bribe us all with her divinity fudge or her world-famous “pound-of-bacon” sandwiches, or the best macaroni and cheese you had ever eaten, but we, and I mean the grandkids, all loved Grandma because each of us had a different relationship with her. You could tell her almost anything, and she would dispense honest advice.

One of the most memorable times of my life was the time I spent with Grandma travelling out west to California after I graduated from high school to see my cousin. All of the other grandkids had gotten to travel with her, and it was something she absolutely loved to do. This was my time with her, and we had a blast. She was 83 at the time. I can still remember being on the plane and feeling sorry for the person we were sitting next to as Grandma drilled on with questions about life. Inevitably, Grandma found a way in and made a friend before the plane landed. That was who she was. She never met a stranger or was afraid to talk to anyone.

When she was able, Grandma would spend months at a time travelling to see her sisters in Oregon or Washington or Florida. She visited my cousin in Denmark (where she almost caused an international incident by taking two toy guns through security…they were gifts for my cousin’s host family’s young son). She took a cruise. She went to Europe and Hawaii (or Ha-why-yuh, as she called it). She and my grandfather once hopped a Greyhound and explored the great American West stopping in Yellowstone Park and seeing anything you could imagine seeing.

Grandma was a giving person. She would give you her last penny if you needed it. She never complained. Unfortunately, life caught up with her though she seemed invincible.

An accident scared her from continuing to drive about the time she turned 80, and a fluke accident during cataract surgery caused her to lose most of the sight in one eye at 84. She also developed a serious infection that took its toll. Around Thanksgiving of 1996, she developed pneumonia and went into the hospital. She missed our family Thanksgiving.

In true Twila Easter fashion, she rallied. She was released from the hospital a few days after Thanksgiving and spent the next few days ordering Christmas presents for everyone. Unfortunately, she took another turn for the worse and went back into the hospital. This time she wouldn’t recover.

I received a phone call from my mother saying that my dad, my brother, and his fiancé would be coming down to take me to dinner. I knew Grandma was not well and had been checking on her a lot. I knew what was coming. In the lobby at Read Hall, I got the news that Grandma Easter passed on December 8, 1996 at about 4:30 p.m. She was 86.

A few days later, the family gathered, and we had a celebration of a great life. There was the inevitable crying and sadness, but how could you be too upset for a lady that lived the life my grandmother did. To her, she was always just one of 14 kids from Stringtown on Indy’s Westside. 

In reality, she went all around the world and squeezed all the juice she could out of life.
It was tough after she was gone. I’m not sure my father ever got over losing Grandma Easter. A huge hole remains in my life that has yet to be filled by anyone, and that’s ok. It’s a special place no one could ever fill up, and I’m ok with that.

I know that I’m not alone. We all lose people we love. 

We, however, move on. We get older, and we try to spread the story of a remarkable person that we all loved and will always love so we don’t forget, as if we ever could.

So here’s to my grandmother, Twila Easter--my best friend ever. I miss you.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Trump's Muslim Lockout Proposal Goes Against Basic U.S. Values

Donald Trump
As you know by now, Donald Trump set off a firestorm of criticism with his latest turd nugget of wisdom...I mean proposal to deal with radical terrorism.

It looks funny to even type it, but it's the truth. The Republican frontrunner actually said all Muslims (even Americans living elsewhere) should be banned from entering the United States. 

It’s a move so xenophobic that even crazy members of his own political party and those running for the same office have denounced it. When Ted "Drop a Nuke" Cruz says that you’re crazy, you’re very crazy.

Listen, there are tons of reasons why jihadists target our country, but we cannot keep cow-towing to fear and capitulating to hate with the same response. Trump's policy, as many have pointed out correctly, is exactly what ISIS wants.  They want hate.  They want division.  By forcing us to fundamentally change our lives, those radicalized terrorists win.

The truth is that the United States is and always has been a country for immigrants, and our lives here in our country are enriched by those that are different from us. I love open and honest dialogue about culture and how we might or might not have the same customs as others. It’s part of what makes the rich tapestry of our country great.

Locking people out of the American Dream is no way to get people to aspire to it. Doing it by taking away fundamental Constitutional rights is a bridge way too far. In our quest for safety, we must not override the diversity and richness of our culture based on fear.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Riggs To Be Hogsett's IMPD Chief

IMPD Chief-to-be Troy Riggs
Yesterday, Joe Hogsett reached deep into his bag of tricks and pulled out one few saw coming.

The Mayor-Elect of Indianapolis announced on Tuesday that Troy Riggs, former Public Safety Director under Mayor Greg Ballard, would become the Chief of Police as of January 1. The Indianapolis Star also reports that Hogsett has decided to have Riggs and the Chief of the Indianapolis Fire Department report directly to him. This would seem to eliminate the middle position of Public Safety Director…at least in its current role.

Riggs, a former Police Chief of the Corpus Christi Police Department, will replace Rick Hite.

It’s not uncommon at all to replace the Chief of Police for an incoming administration though Ballard did not replace Michael Spears when he became Mayor. He did, however, beef up the job of Public Safety Director hiring the incredibly controversial Dr. Frank Straub towards the end of his first term who went on to alienate many in the city’s public safety departments. Many say it cost Ballard the “hearts and minds” of the officers working under him.

This new arrangement, however, means that there now appears to be no buffer between Hogsett and public safety. It’s all on him now, sink or swim. Hogsett, a former U.S. Attorney seems to relish the role of crime fighter, and he ran on reducing crime and improving public safety in the city. This is his first move, and it’s a strong one.

Despite Riggs being a Ballard appointee, I think he did an excellent job cleaning up a lot of the mess left behind by Straub. People on both sides of the political aisle speak very highly of Riggs, and I think it’s an excellent choice for IMPD Chief given his depth of experience. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Prominent Democrat Decides to Challenge Bucshon

David Orentlicher
David Orentlicher announced on Monday that he is returning to the political sphere.

The brilliant Orentlicher, an IUPUI professor, doctor, attorney, and past Indiana State Representative, says that he is running for Congress in the 8th District against Dr. Larry Bucshon in 2016.

It's not his first time at the rodeo.  Orentlicher ran for the 7th District Congressional Democratic nomination in a special caucus, but he and five other Democrats were defeated by Andre Carson.  In the May Primary, Orentlicher gave it another run, but he finished third in the Primary that year behind Congressman Carson and former Indiana Health Commissioner Woody Myers.  In 2010, Orentlicher ran for Marion County Prosecutor.  He dropped out and endorsed Terry Curry after a strong run.

Orentlicher is a respected voice on many issues.  Besides his background as both an Ivy League-educated doctor and lawyer, Orentlicher is an authority on the U.S. Constitution having taught Constitutional Law.  He's a prolific author and is a brilliant candidate to take on Bucshon.

To be fair, great candidates have taken on Bucshon before, but he's always been able to fight off the challenges.  Orentlicher may provide his toughest challenger yet.

An official announcement is expected in 2016, according to Orentlicher.

Monday, December 7, 2015

JohnnyStir Show Returns

The JohnnyStir Show returns tonight to IndianaTalks.com.

As many of you may know, I had a talk show from February of 2013 through July of 2014 on Indiana Talks, but I let it end because I was running for public office.  I needed to clear my plate of something.  So, I did.  A few weeks ago, I contacted the President of Indiana Talks, Gary Snyder, to see if I could maybe discuss bringing the show back, and he gave me close to my old time slot back.

Today being Pearl Harbor Day, John Cimasko, a board member of Indy Honor Flight, joins me to discuss the organization and what it does for veterans. Also, my good friends Stephen Terrell and Snyder help me finish out the program.

The JohnnyStir Show is back at 8:00 p.m. tonight.  Tune in!

Always Remember Pearl Harbor

Ships on Fire after Pearl Harbor Attack
"December 7, 1941.  A date that will live in infamy."

The words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ring through the annals of time just as they did the day he said them.

On that date, as you well know, the Empire of Japan attacked United States installations at Hawaii's Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base leaving much of the Pacific Fleet in flames, damaged, or at the bottom of the water.  2,500+ died, and another 1,000+ were wounded.  Many perished instantly when a Japanese-dropped bomb destroyed the USS Arizona killing 1,177 sailors.

The United States had been dragged into World War II by the next day.  Before we knew it, we were engaged on the Pacific and the Atlantic Fronts.  The United States was at war.

So many of the men and women of that era are passing before our eyes.  Some 16 million veterans survived World War II.  Some went to Korea just a few years later.  Today, just an estimated 1.7 million survive, and the daily obituaries tell a grim story.

We are losing World War II vets at the rate of 600 per day.  That means that by the end of this week, 3,000 fewer will be here.

Thankfully organizations like Indy Honor Flight are bringing attention to what these vets did for us and are taking them to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials our country was all too late in building for them.  We must do whatever we can to remember Pearl Harbor and what these many veterans did for us on and after that date.

To those that saved the world in World War II, thank you.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate what you did for the free world.  You are the true superheroes.

But, it all began on a beautiful December morning in Hawaii.  This blogger will always remember Pearl Harbor!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Four Words & a Comma Best Way to Guarantee Rights for All Hoosiers

The Indiana General Assembly has big issues to deal with in its upcoming “short” session.

From education to a wide variety of other issues, the Indiana House and Indiana Senate have a full, jam-packed agenda from day one. From infrastructure issues to education, it’s going to be a plate more full than you had at your Thanksgiving dinner.

That’s why you would think it would behoove the General Assembly to clear some off the clutter first. You’d think they would want to minimize the distracting courses on the plate and work with those meat and potato issues. It would behoove them to address the LGBT civil rights question and settle it early before it derails the entire session.

The simplest way to clear this issue from the agenda would be to add four words and a comma to the state’s anti-discrimination law: “gender identity, sexual orientation”.

As it stands now, only LGBT Hoosiers are protected in cities like Indianapolis that have a human rights ordinance. If you live in Indy, you can get married on Saturday and not be firedon Monday. Elsewhere in Indiana, it’s not that simple. 

Instead of the four words and a comma approach, the General Assembly will consider Senate Bill 100. It’s a convoluted mess of a bill that pretty much reaffirms parts of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Among other things, SB100 would:
  • Continue to allow some businesses to discriminate
  • Propose a fine for those whose claims are deemed “frivolous” of $1,000
  • Override local attempts to prevent discrimination
That’s just the surface. The bill clocks in at over 20 pages.
It’s time to get serious in Indiana about protecting all Hoosiers. I would advise the Republicans to abandon SB 100 and simply add in the four requested words and a comma to the state’s non-discrimination code.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Walker Announces Resignation

Walker
December 15, 2015 will be the last day Marion County Republican Chair Kyle Walker will be on the job.

The GOP chairman of the state’s most-populous county announced his resignation today on Twitter, effective December 15. At that time, there will be a caucus to select his replacement.

Walker was elected Republican Party Chair in December of 2010. After five years on the job, he has little to show for his efforts. Democrats are in control of every major Indianapolis City/County office, the City-County Council, the 7th District Congressional seat, and several key General Assembly seats. 

When Walker came to power, Republicans still held the Mayor’s Office and City-County Council. Those went bye bye in 2011. He struggled to find candidates after that point. It’s been tough going.

I’ve never met Walker, but he’s been an occasional Twitter foe. The Republicans decide to place in the role. Certainly, it won’t be an easy job.  It might be tough to find a chair.    

New Spirit of Bi-Partisanship to Dominate City-County Building Under Hogsett?

Mayor-Elect Joe Hogsett
Four years ago when the Democrats took control of the City-County Council, they sent an olive branch to Mayor Greg Ballard and the Republicans and offered to jointly swear in together as a sign of unity.  That fell through, and the only Republican Councillor to show at the Democratic swearing in ceremony was Councillor Marilyn Pfisterer.

It was the first shot in what has been a big gulf that has sometimes been choppy between the Mayor and the City-County Council.  While a number of big ticket items have gotten done, others have languished because of a lack of communication...mostly from the 25th floor down to, believe it or not, both Council caucuses.

Last week, Mayor-Elect Joe Hogsett, Council President Maggie Lewis, and Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillen announced a joint swearing in ceremony and inauguration to take place on January 1, 2016 at high noon inside Hilbert Circle Theatre on Monument Circle.  According to media reports, it was Mike McQuillen, the Republican Council Minority Leader's idea to hold the ceremony that will be free and open to the public.

While the Hogsett express has gotten pulled into the weeds a bit here by talk of a raise for the Mayor of Indianapolis that he apparently did not ask for, the gesture bears note.  The constant complaint again from Councillors I talked to on both sides of the aisle (yes, I do talk to Republicans and they talk to me) was that Mayor Ballard often had his own agenda.  You were either on board or walking the plank.  

There was even a name for it around the Council chambers. 

"Councillor Timeout" was what one Republican told me it was called.  I think you know the names of the Councillors that have been in there at various times.

Let's hope that this unity is more than symbolic.  Pay raise aside, Hogsett and this Council have a lot to accomplish.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cut to the Chase, Donald

Donald J. Trump
I feel compelled to explain something to Donald Trump (should he stumble upon my humble blog). So, if I could have your attention, please, Mr. Trump.

I have no clue why anyone with brain matter would support you, but you have apparently bamboozled some of the electorate into thinking you’re a serious candidate for President. For that, I congratulate you. You've managed to convince them that you seriously want to "Make America Great Again" as if it's not great now.  Seems to have been pretty great to you, but I digress.

When it comes to being a Presidential candidate, you really have nothing to offer anyone.  Let's be honest, as Martin O’Malley has pointed out, you are little more than an “immigrant-bashing carnival barker.”

Regarding your latest kerfuffle over the mocking of a reporter with a physical challenge.  Let's be clear.  We all know you did it. We aren’t stupid. We can see what you did. No one owes you an apology for anything, and, for someone so brazen and brash, an apology seems to be the last thing you would demand. You're awfully sensitive these days. That’s not, however, what I wanted to address.

I wanted to address your latest P.T. Barnum scheme (with apologies to Mr. Barnum).  It seems you've proposed a plan to get CNN to pay you $5 million to appear in the next debate. You say you want to give the money to wounded warriors and veterans. That seems noble until you realize that you’re worth billions. You likely have $5 million in your couch cushions. You could easily donate that amount on your own if you wished, but you won’t. 

The bottom line is that this latest bit of silliness is part of the entire shampaign you’re running.  You're not really running for President because you're not serious about running.  You're just a reality TV star that was, as Ann Richards once said, "born on third base and thought he hit a triple."

You're not equipped to be President because that requires you to be unselfish...at least at times -- to allow those out there to criticize when they have no idea what the job entails and to go about the business of the country putting yourself second and this country first.

You see, when you are elected President, you are elected to serve. The 43 other men who have served in the role could tell you that many times being President is not about how you’re treated by a media outlet or how people react to your showmanship. It’s about service. Part of the process requires you to put forth serious ideas into the public square and compare those ideas with others. It requires your plans to be vetted by a media protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

You may not like their questions or that the facts they find don't agree with the ones you make up in your head, but it's actually the way it happens.  Part of this process requires debates so that voters can compare ideas and decide who is best to earn their vote.

So, be honest.  Whether or not to attend this debate has little to do with CNN or how you're treated by the press or helping wounded warriors or veterans. It's not about putting your ideas out there to be vetted in public discussion.  Nope.  Come clean.  It’s about the only person you see in the mirror. It’s about Donald J. Trump, a man who makes even our least humble President look like Pope Francis.

You can start to "Make America Great Again" by abandoning your run for President.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Democrats Very Close to Vanquishing Republicans in Marion County...Maybe for Good

For years, Marion County was a Republican stronghold. It was redder than red, and the Republican Party organization was admired across the United States.

That time has passed, and the transition has come within my political lifetime.

In 1999, Bart Peterson broke through and took the Mayor’s Office. In 2003, Democrats took control of the City-County Council for the first time. In 2004, John Kerry carried Marion County for the Democrats. It was the first time a Democrat running for President had won Marion County in 40 years. 

This decade, the march continued.  Between 2000 and 2006, several county offices changed parties.  In 2010, Terry Curry took the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office from Carl Brizzi by defeating now-Indiana Supreme Court Justice Mark Massa. He was reelected easily in 2014.

In 2011, the Republicans kept the Mayor’s Office, but they lost the City-County Council majority. Before leaving office, that Republican Council Majority got a redistricting plan on the Mayor’s desk that was supposed to be a political time bomb for Democrats in 2015 and lead to a Republican return to Council power. That plan, combined with government structure changes approved by the legislature in 2013, was supposed to keep Republicans at least in charge of the Council. Well, the elections happened, and two longtime Republicans lost their district seats meaning that the Democrats have a one seat majority at 13-12.

In 2014, Republicans placed all their chips on knocking off John Layton with Emmitt Carney only to lose spectacularly.

In 2015, after a reported six no’s from prominent Republicans, unknown Chuck Brewer stepped up to the plate and got less than 40 percent of the vote for Mayor of Indianapolis across Marion County.

There are other indicators beyond demographic shifts to favor Dems.

Republicans tried to pack André Carson’s district with Republicans on the Southside, but electorally, Carson exceeds the reported baseline vote. They can’t touch him electorally.
Democrats have lost big statewide, but that doesn’t include Marion County where two of the 10 Democratic Indiana Senators serve and two more districts are extremely competitive despite every effort to gerrymander them. On the House side, 10 of the 29 Democrats in the House represent Marion County districts.  Dems have a seat on the Perry Township Board, and I even won a precinct in Decatur Township running for City-County Council.  

The blue tide is about to wash away the red.

In short, it’s good to be a Democrat in Marion County. It’s bad to be Kyle Walker, the Marion County Republican Chair, who now presides over an organization that can’t even fill its pollworker slots. It doesn’t even attempt to do so it seems…even in Republican-controlled areas of the county such as the Southside.

As strong as the Dems are here in Marion County, we're weak elsewhere. 

You have to drive miles to find blue or even purple territory. That’s why Marion County and Lake County must lead the way and take back this state in 2016 for the Democrats beginning with John Gregg and the Governor’s mansion.

For Republicans in Marion County, it’s just about game over. It’s hats off to all those Democrats that have worked for years to get to this point.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Council Should End Talk of Raising Own, Mayor's Pay

Council President
Maggie Lewis
Indy Politics is reporting that the City-County Council is going to propose a pay raise for the Mayor of Indianapolis from $95,000 to $125,000 per year and for the Council from $12,500 to $16,000 per year.

Council President Maggie Lewis and others are expected to bring the proposal forward at tonight's meeting of the City-County Council.  I caution them on how to proceed.

I am against this measure. Indianapolis has tons of other issues to deal with before we even begin to consider raising the pay of its Mayor and City-County Council.  With murders, shootings, robberies, and crime dotting our headlines and streets and sidewalks crumbling, the optics of a pay raise just do not look right at this time.

Not one person that will be sworn in on January 1 was lured by the salary of the job. I knew that the Council made $12,500 when I decided to run, but the promise of the extra cash wouldn't have done a diddly darn thing to change my decision.

To be honest, I have less of a problem with the Council raising its pay.  City-County Councillors meet once or twice a month, but they meet over the calendar year.  In addition to probably working a job (a handful of Councillors are retired, I know), Councillors go to committee meetings and, if they're worth a vote, do work within their district almost constantly by answering constituent complaints and concerns, attending community functions, and supporting local causes.  Jumping from $12,500 to $16,000 is really justifiable.  I think the timing is still off and the message isn't quite right.  I think proposing a Council pay raise should be done over time and should be justified by showing exactly what a hard-working member does.  

The raise for the Mayor is something completely different.

Is the Mayor of Indianapolis is a horribly underpaid job?  Yes.  There are Mayors around Indiana that make more than the Mayor of Indianapolis.  The money paid does not necessarily match the work expected.  Still, Joe Hogsett knew that when he decided to run for the office. It's not like this is a big secret. I guarantee he would have still run for Mayor no matter what the salary was because when you decide to enter public service, you do it to serve and not to get paid what you're worth.

Being Mayor of Indianapolis has its perks, but it's a tough, stressful job that requires nearly 100 percent of your waking hours.  Knowing Joe, it will consume what he does for at least the next four years.  He will throw himself into the work and earn every penny.  That's why even he has to know this is a bad idea.

Looking at this from the other side of the shore, is there really a good time to raise the Council and the Mayor's pay?  Probably not.  I still think you have to be mindful of timing and avoid the idea and optics that this is being rammed through a lame duck Council and past a lame duck Mayor.

Don't know where this one is going, but I hope the Council decides to put off this proposal until the timing is better and the pay raises can be better justified to the public.  If I were Mayor Ballard, I'd veto this one if it passes the full Council.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Obama Pardons TOTUS...HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

For your entertainment, here's the annual pardoning of the TOTUS.  "Turkey of the United States"

Indy Democrat is confirming that after seeing this, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and the rest of the Republican candidates have pledged to get tough on turkeys and never pardon another one.  Mike Huckabee even said he will kill the turkey and eat it in front of the press if he's elected President.

Or maybe not...anyway, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pence Sued, Defied on Same Day Over Refugee Refusal

Governor Mike Pence
It was a bad Monday for Governor Mike Pence.

First of all Exodus International announced that it would continue to settle refugees from all over the world in Indiana...including Syria.  Then, later in the day, the ACLU announced that it was filing suit against Governor Pence in federal court for attempting to block Syrian refugees at the state's border.

Pence had no official comment, but you can't think for a minute that he's happy with either challenge of his authoritah especially after he thought he had put it to bed with his poorly-received op-ed.

I stand with the ACLU and Exodus on this case.  These Syrian refugees are running from the people we fear and should not be feared by us.  They go through an exhaustive process and deserve better from a Governor who's more interested in politics than actually helping the refugees. I'm glad someone is holding him accountable.

As we've also seen, neither the Indiana Democratic Party nor John Gregg, the presumed nominee for Governor on the Democratic side, seem too interested in holding Governor Pence's feet to the fire on this issue or, most-importantly, standing up for the immigrants who deserve better all around.

Monday, November 23, 2015

JohnnyStir Show Returns to IndianaTalks.com

If you follow me or Indiana Talks on social media, you know this already, but I'm returning to the internet airwaves on December 7 with a brand new iteration of the JohnnyStir Show on IndianaTalks.com.

My first run of the show aired from February 18, 2013 through July 28, 2014 on Monday Nights from 9-10 on Indiana Talks.  I decided to end the show on back in July of 2014 to concentrate on my candidacy for City-County Council here in Indianapolis.  I didn't think I could do my job as a teacher, run a political campaign, plan a talk show, and continue to blog effectively.  Something would have suffered.

Gary Snyder, the founder of Indiana Talks, told me when I left the show that it was just a hiatus, and that I would have a spot on his network in the future if I wanted one.  I told him that I appreciated that, but I really didn't expect to take him up on it.

Over the past few weeks and with the campaign over, I got to thinking about what I could do to make a difference.  This blog is one thing.  As I've said many times to people, when I started blogging, it was to simply scratch an itch as a writer.  I never intended this blog to have a readership of thousands and millions over time.  It was simply a way for me to write what I wanted to write about.

There have been times that I've lost my "mojo" here on the blog, and I've always come back fired up and more ready to bring the best political commentary, opinion, and analysis from left of center to my readers.  Sometimes, I've been able to bring my personal life into this blog, and you've welcomed it.  I appreciate that.

I want to bring the same thing you see and read here back to Indiana Talks, but I also want to add some journalism and radio.  You see, those things are a part of me, too.  With the 2016 Presidential Election coming up, I have a feeling it's going to be a great year.

So, without making this post much longer, I'm back.  I'm hoping I'm back for good.  I don't know what might stop me unless Gary tells me to go fly a kite or I get another jones to run for office again.

I hope you'll give us a listen when we come back on Mondays from 8-9 p.m. on the Indiana Talks network.  For a full programming schedule, visit the website at www.indianatalks.com.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hilarious Saturday Night Skit Takes on Politics at Thanksgiving Dinner

This past weekend, Matthew McConaughey was the host of Saturday Night Live, and the musical guest was Adele.

Most of the episode was disappointing with the exception of Adele's performances, but a hilarious skit involving Adele's hit single "Hello" and political discussion over the Thanksgiving dinner table made it one of the most memorable episodes in years.

In the skit, a family is having Thanksgiving Dinner.  As often happens at Thanksgiving, the conversation turns to politics, religion, and controversy and things degenerate.  The little girl in the skit runs to the radio and starts Adele's CD.  The rest...well, you just need to see.

Enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hollande Opens French Borders to Refugees, Why Doesn't Indiana?

French President
Francois Hollande
French President Francois Hollande announced that his country would continue to take refugees from the Middle East even after the awful terrorist attacks last Friday in Paris.

Hollande's announcement came as France, Belgium, and other authorities across Europe continue to investigate the attacks and track down those responsible for planning them.

In short, things have barely calmed down, but Hollande still had a moment to announce his country would continue to do the right thing and accept those who have lost so much.

On this side of the pond, governors from several U.S. states as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan, and other mostly Republican leaders called for a moratorium on accepting refugees for fear that some of them might be radical Islamists bent on attacking our country.  This despite the exhaustive vetting process that the refugees must go through to be accepted and placed in the U.S.  Mike Pence, Joe Donnelly, Dan Coats, Jackie Walorski, and other Hoosier movers and shakers subscribed to this fearful response rather than to open our arms in hospitality to those that have already lost so much.

Even Hollande, whose country has barely rested since Friday, would seem to find this response quizzical.  As quoted by the Guardian, Hollande said, "Some people have tried to draw a connection between the movement of refugees from the Middle East and the terrorist threat. This link exists because people from Iraq and Syria live in areas controlled by Islamic State and are killed by those who attack us."

Governor Pence, please call your office.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

One Must Infer Gregg Agrees with Pence Policy on Syrian Immigrants

John Gregg
John Gregg couldn’t even be bothered to comment on Mike Pence’s decision to build a metaphorical fence around Indiana for Syrian refugees.

Gregg instead left it to his own campaign to comment via a statement. As reported by the Indianapolis Star, the Gregg statement reads:

“Like everyone else, John Gregg was outraged by the barbaric events in Paris over the weekend and he feels strongly that every Hoosier should feel safe in their homes, at work and at school. We trust that Mike Pence made this decision based on information he’s received as governor from both state and federal intelligence sources and didn’t do this as a knee jerk reaction motivated by politics.”

It’s political gobbledygook.

The right answer is Syrian immigrants are vetted in an intensive process, and there is absolutely no reason to stop the program. A phone call could have cleared that up. Pence doesn't care about that. He cares about politics and rather than educate the public on the truth, he took the easy way out. John Gregg let him, and one must infer...agrees with him.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear anyone running for Indiana Governor wants to take the right side on this political hot potato, incumbent or challenger.

How disappointing.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pence Policy on Syrian Refugees Defies Hoosier Values

Syrian Refugees
Photo Courtesy of pittstate.edu
Imagine for a second everything you know had been taken away.  Your home is gone.  Your job is gone.  You are lucky to still have your family around you, but even some of them have been killed in violence.  You have to move out of your home land because things are so bad there. 

Your feet are tired from moving from refugee camp to refugee camp.  Your back hurts from carrying your children and your belongings.  You pray every night for a peace that just doesn't seem to come.  You've been running for your life for so long that you don't even know what that means anymore.

Word comes that you have been accepted as a refugee into the United States.  You will be going to a place called Indiana far away from the reach of Bashar Assad and the horrors of ISIS.  It's a new life, and you can make a new start.  Then, the Governor of that U.S. state slams the door in your face in fear and tells you that because of the terror attacks in Paris that you are not welcome.  You are confused, bewildered, hurt, and angry.

Mike Pence did just that to Syrian refugees by slamming the door and suspending the resettling program here until the feds can vouch for the safety of Hoosiers.  

Thing is, Indiana is already the home of thousands of refugees from all over the world.  These individuals have come in seeking a new start from horrible situations across the globe, and Hoosiers have opened their arms to these people with warmth and hospitality.  

Governor Pence's decision to close shop shows a severe lack of understanding and empathy and just is not up to the kinds of Hoosier values I've always been taught.  It embarrasses me, frankly.

I understand I may be in the minority here, but I believe in the greater good in people.  I also believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt especially when these Syrians are fleeing that endless civil war there between the forces of Assad and ISIS.  It's a lose-lose no matter who wins that one.  On one hand, you have a brutal dictator with a cult of personality built around him, and, on the other hand, you have radicalized Islamists that persecute other Muslims for their differing beliefs.  

I put my faith in the organizations that are resettling these people as well as the variety of intelligence agencies we have at work every day in the United States.  When they do their jobs, we are safe.  

Governor Pence, please reverse your policy.  It's a symbolic one anyway.  Be a Hoosier and let's show these people the love they need to resettle and restart a life.  Let's show them how Americans act out of love and not out of fear.

Last Week's Terrorist Attacks Leave Questions in Wake

Since the news broke on Friday night, I have been struggling to deal with all of the news out of Paris, and I don't even have a direct connection to it.

At first, I was worried about a friend who had been in Paris last week.  Turns out, he had left the City of Lights the evening before the attacks and was safely back home.  Once I found that out, it gave me a great sense of relief.

For the many families of the victims and the victims of the Beirut attack the day before the Paris attack, there is no relief coming...only grief.  They have questions, and there are few answers. When it comes to losing someone in a terrorist attack, there just is no sense to it.

My mother passed away on Christmas in her bed at the age of 73.  She was warm and snug under her blanket, and she looked so peaceful.  My father died at the age of 69 surrounded by his family.  He took his last breath in our presence.

On Friday in Paris, ISIS radicals conducted coordinated attacks against civilians.  The people that died on Friday are dead because they went out to eat.  They are dead because they went to a concert or a soccer match or happened to be nearby a suicide bomber. It makes no sense.

It's also scary because there's no way to bomb our way out of this, either.  We can't go bomb a country and call it a day.  The terrorists don't put death in the same context that we do.  Living and dying don't mean the same things to a radical.  When that radical is a religious radical, it just makes the entire situation that much more perplexing and frightening.

We have to redouble our efforts in intelligence to keep us safe.  We have to target the ability of terrorists to coordinate these attacks and continue to prevent attacks where we can.  As a society, we have to continue to fight hate with love.  It's cliche, sure, but it's the only thing we know that can keep us.  We must drive out evil in the world with force when necessary.  We certainly must be there to support our friends and allies as well.

France is on its way to recovery, and I have no doubt that Paris will be back...stronger and better than before.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank You Veterans

Today is Veterans Day, and it's a day to reflect on the sacrifices that so many have made and continue to make to protect our country and our way of life.

Thank you so much for all you do to our veterans.  I cannot express fully how I feel that someone I don't even know would lay or did lay his or her life down for me so that I can continue to be free.

Thank YOU

It's been a week since Election Day, and I've had time to reflect.

First of all, while I learned a lot as a candidate, I'm very content to be back to blogging.  Political analysis is my thing.  I'm glad to be back to doing it again.

My election loss to Jason Holliday hurt, but I'm proud of my run.  I know I exceeded both my expectations and those of the Marion County Democratic Party, so I feel very appreciative of all the voters that gave me a look and voted my way.  We received 1,760 votes and 38.24 percent of the vote.  I'm extremely pleased with that showing.

I also appreciate all of those that volunteered for the campaign, made phone calls on my behalf, gave me great advice, passed out literature, knocked doors, donated, or supported my candidacy.  You have no idea what that means to me.

On a personal note, I enjoyed the role as a candidate because it gave me a chance to talk to people about their neighborhoods and their needs.  I learned a ton about my community, and I know that will make me a better advocate for this city and its citizens.  I'm not stopping my involvement in politics, and, given the right conditions, I might run again for office.  It won't be in 2016 though.

So, congratulations to all my friends that won.  I'm proud of all my friends that didn't win but gave a good fight.  Thank you for putting your name on the ballot.  It was a pleasure to have my name alongside of all of yours.

I'm of course very proud of my friend Joe Hogsett.  Here's to a great four years for our city and our community with you as the leader, Joe.  I know you'll be the best Mayor we've had, and the bar has been set high

I am going to take a few days off from the blog.  I'll be back in a few days or as news breaks.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Seven New Councillors to Join City-County Council on January 1

Come January 1, this will be the status of the City-County Council when it comes to seniority along with who was (or will be) Mayor when they took office.

Democrats
Monroe Gray 11/23/1992 (Goldsmith)
Duke Oliver 1/1/2004 (Peterson)
Maggie Lewis 12/2/2008 (Ballard)
Zach Adamson 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Frank Mascari1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Vop Osili1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Leroy Robinson 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Joe Simpson 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
LaKeisha Jackson 8/21/2014 (Ballard)
Stephen Clay 11/15/2014* (Ballard)
Jared Evans 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Blake Johnson 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
David Ray 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
*-Estimated Date

Republicans 
Marilyn Pfisterer 1/1/2004 (Peterson)
Janice McHenry 1/1/2008 (Ballard)
Mike McQuillen 1/1/2008 (Ballard)
Christine Scales 1/1/2008 (Ballard)
Aaron Freeman 3/23/2010 (Ballard)
Jack Sandlin 11/19/2010 (Ballard)
Jason Holliday 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Jeff Miller 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Jeff Coats 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Susie Cordi 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Colleen Fanning 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Scott Kreider 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)

Of the 25 Councillors, 15 became Councillors under Mayor Ballard, two under Mayor Peterson, and one under Mayor Goldsmith. Seven will join the Council on the same day Joe Hogsett becomes Indy's new Mayor.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Amos Brown...Gone

Amos Brown
Photo Courtesy of Amos Brown, AM 1310 The Light

Life doesn't even give you a chance to say goodbye.

Just last night before bed, I saw a tweet on Amos Brown's Twitter feed about the new protected bike lanes.  I chuckled to myself that Amos doesn't miss a beat.

Now, I'm sitting here on my couch with my mouth agape and misty eyes after hearing that Amos Brown has died.  According to family sources, he collapsed while in Chicago while visiting family and has passed away.

This loss is felt for me on three levels.  When my mother died, Amos sent his condolences to me via Twitter.  I honestly didn't even know that Amos read this blog or knew I existed, so it was honestly shocking for me that he took time to remember my mother and of course very appreciated.  Amos was a force of nature.  He was an icon.

I feel his loss as a journalist.  Amos came with a point-of-view, but his point-of-view was always clear.  You knew where he stood, and he was always curious and searching for the truth.  Every question he asked.  Every article he scoured.  Every source he checked.  Every conversation he had.  It was all a tool to get to the truth of something.  More often than not, he'd find it.

Finally, his loss is the end of a career of advocacy.  Anyone that was anyone or wanted to be anyone passed through Amos' studio chairs and had to face his questions.  If you ducked him, he would tell everyone.  If you disrespected him, he'd tell everyone.  Conversely, if he liked you, he'd tell everyone.  What Amos said mattered.

I don't really know what to say other than my condolences to all of his many friends and to his family.  It was less than a month ago that I was on his show, and he was at his best that day.  That's how I'll always remember him.

There will never be another...

Amos Brown is gone, and I can't believe it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Republicans Bank on Council Majority, Find One Seat Minority

Tuesday was a great night for Democrats in Marion County, but it was a horrible night for Republicans...especially on the City-County Council.  The GOP was banking on a majority.  It got a one-seat minority.  Eight of nine townships will have at least one Democrat representing them on the Council...including Decatur.

While the GOP and Colleen Fanning did pick up District 2 on the Council, Republicans ended up losing two seats they could not lose and two veteran Councillors were defeated.  

Ben Hunter seemed to be on the road to a leadership position.  Some even thought he might take over as Minority Leader or even Council President if Republicans took the majority.  Instead, he's going home as Democrat David Ray outworked him and won.  Hunter blamed David Brooks' new lines for his loss.  The new district was part of it, but, behind the scenes, many Democrats on the Council were happy to see Hunter's loss. 

Another stunning defeat was GOP Councillor Bob Lutz.  I have had a front row seat to watch this upset.  Jared Evans worked this district amazingly hard.  He knocked doors in places where people haven't knocked doors in ages.  He took the fight into flooded neighborhoods and listened to people tell him their problems.  He shook hands, gave hugs, and he made people understand he cared.  You can't fool the folks of District 22.  Jared cares, and that's why he won.  I'm not saying that Bob Lutz doesn't care.  He does.

Other incumbents proved pretty popular with their district people.  Christine Scales, Janice McHenry, Jeff Miller, and Frank Mascari all turned away strong challenges from well-financed and hard-working challengers.  

Sadly, my friends Kip Tew and Pam Hickman failed to win reelection to the Council as they both lost tough races.  With Tew, Hickman, Hunter and Lutz, Jose Evans, John Barth, Angela Mansfield, Will Gooden, Ginny Cain, and Jefferson Shreve will not be returning to the Council in January.  That means there will be several new City-County Councillors.

I predict that Maggie Lewis will be reelected as Council President.  I also think you'll see some new faces step forward in both parties as leaders in the Council.

The transition period has begun.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Democrats Take Control of Indianapolis Government

Indianapolis is back in the hands of the Democrats.

Joe Hogsett dusted Chuck Brewer, and Democrats used two unexpected upsets to claim an apparent 13-12 majority on the City-County Council.

In the races thought to be close, only one truly was.  Colleen Fanning prevailed over Kip Tew in a tight battle.

In the other so-called swing districts, it was a different story as they really weren't close.  In District 3, Christine Scales won reelection over Pam Hickman.  Jeff Miller turned back a challenge from Emily Shrock in District 16, and Frank Mascari trounced Anthony Davidson in District 21.

It was David Ray's stunning upset of Ben Hunter and Bob Lutz's huge loss to Jared Evans that provided the Council with its 13-12 Democratic majority.  Councillor Maggie Lewis apparently will stay Madame President.

The Council line-up will be as follows:
District 1-Leroy Robinson (D) (pickup)
District 2-Colleen Fanning (R) (new, sorta new seat, pickup)
District 3-Christine Scales (R) (hold)
District 4-Mike McQuillen (R) (hold)
District 5-Jeff Coats (R) (new, hold)
District 6-Janice McHenry (R) (hold)
District 7-Joe Simpson (D) (hold)
District 8-Monroe Gray (D) (hold)
District 9-Duke Oliver (D) (hold)
District 10-Maggie Lewis (D) (hold)
District 11-Vop Osili (D) (hold)
District 12-Blake Johnson (D) (new, hold)
District 13-Stephen Clay (D) (hold)
District 14-LaKeishia Jackson (D) (hold)
District 15-Marilyn Pfisterer (R) (hold)
District 16-Jeff Miller (R) (hold)
District 17-Zach Adamson (D) (hold)
District 18-Susie Cordi (R) (new, new seat)
District 19-David Ray (D) (new, pickup)
District 20-Jason Holliday (R) (hold)
District 21-Frankie Mascari (D) (hold)
District 22-Jared Evans (D) (new, pickup)
District 23-Scott Kreider (R) (new,hold)
District 24-Jack Sandlin (R) (hold)
District 25-Aaron Freeman (R) (hold)

More to come on this election on Thursday.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Election Day is November 3...Get Out and Vote!

It's Election Eve, and I'm going to be on hiatus for a couple of days.  Please get out and vote on Tuesday.  Please exercise your franchise.  Let's make the pundits wrong and get a respectable turnout.

If you need information about where to vote or what's on your ballot, you can go to www.indianavoters.com or maps.indy.gov/VIP.

It's almost over for another year.

See you Wednesday (or Thursday).

Sunday, November 1, 2015

In Memoriam: Mel Daniels (1944-2015)

Mel Daniels
Photo courtesy of the NBA

Friday afternoon, one of Indiana's basketball legends died.

Mel Daniels, perhaps the greatest Indiana Pacer of all time, passed away of an apparent heart issue.

Daniels was a constant figure in professional basketball in Indianapolis since the late 1960's and early 1970's when he helped lead the Indiana Pacers to three ABA Championships.  Daniels involvement with the club didn't just stop with the end of his playing time in Indiana (he played for two other teams after the Pacers).  After assisting in college at Indiana State, he rejoined the Pacers as Director of Player Personnel.  He was a respected and valued member of the community and organization.  He retired in 2009, but he continued to attend games and advise players and management alike.  In fact, he was apparently at the stadium just Thursday night.

I was too young to remember seeing Daniels play, but, when you grow up in Indiana as a basketball fan, you honor those legends of the past and you hear their stories.  When I was a young Pacers fan, the past stories were much better than those of the present.  Of course, that changed when I went to college and the Pacers started seeing real NBA success.

Mel Daniels saw it all and everything in between.  He saw all the highs and all the lows.  He even served as interim coach for two games in 1988 after Jack Ramsay suddenly resigned.

Mel Daniels is gone at the age of 71.


In Memoriam: Fred Thompson (1942-2015)

News came on Sunday of the death of Fred Thompson.

Many people will remember Thompson for his roles in Days of Thunder, Die Hard 2, and the Law & Order franchise.  Politicos remember Thompson as a U.S. Senator and attorney with a key role in the Watergate Hearings.

I never admired Thompson for his politics or his role hawking reverse mortgages, but I did enjoy following him on social media and watching him on the big and small screen.

Thompson was an imposing 6'5" and typically found himself placed in roles of authority.  He played those roles well and with the necessary authority.

After having three older children with his first wife, Thompson became a father again in 2003 and 2006 with his second wife.  He was a doting father.

Thompson had health problems over the years and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2004.  He eventually went into remission after successful treatment.  Reports say he recently experienced a recurrence of Lymphoma.

The big fella from Tennessee definitely lived an amazing and remarkable life.  Fred Thompson was 73.

What You Need to Know About Joe Hogsett

My friend Joe Hogsett and I at Mel's Drive-In
I couldn't believe he was there, but he was.

Joe Hogsett was at my mom's funeral home viewing.  He could have been anywhere on December 30, but he was walking into Conkle Funeral Home in Speedway.  I smiled.

I remember exactly when I met Joe Hogsett.  In 2004, Joe was about to be named the Indiana Democratic Party candidate to take on Steve Carter, the incumbent.  The odds would be long, but there was Joe Hogsett giving a ceiling tile rattling speech in the 7th District Caucus Meeting at my first state convention.  I was impressed.  I shook his hand, and he looked me dead in the eye with that look only Joe could give you, "Joe Hogsett, and I'm running for Secretary of State."

Our friendship grew over the next few years as I'd see Joe at events.  It became our thing that he'd grab my hand and say, "Joe Hogsett!"  It was as if he was introducing himself for the first time.

When he ran for Mayor briefly in the run up to 2011, I had already committed to Melina Kennedy before he jumped in because Melina was and is a good friend, too.  He completely understood and still bought my dinner at the IDEA Convention in French Lick.  Had Joe continued on, I would have honestly had a very difficult decision to make.

He suddenly dropped out of the race, and it became known that he was in line to become U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.  Before his confirmation, at a political event, he told me, "I won't be able to even think about attending a political function like one of these while I am U.S. Attorney."

I only talked to him twice while he was in office in that capacity.  I invited him to be on my radio talk show on Indiana Talks.  He initially confirmed that he could come on.  A few days later, he called me back and said that he needed to decline my invitation because he didn't want it to appear that he was being any way political by coming on my show.  Of course, I respected his decision, and he was probably right.  The last thing I wanted to do was to be a problem for him.

When he resigned from his job as U.S. Attorney, everyone knew what was next.  The first time I saw him in four years was at the 2014 United Democrats Picnic at the Pagoda in Garfield Park.  "JOE HOGSETT!"  He said as he grabbed my hand with that smile.

Since then, I've been dedicated to helping Joe become Mayor of Indianapolis.  It's one of the reasons I decided to run for office in District 20.  Hopefully, I thought, I can bring Joe a few votes by motivating Democrats to come out to vote.  All that remains to be seen.

But, back to December.

Joe Hogsett never met my mother, but I had told him about her and her about him.  My mother always admired Joe despite the fact that she was a stanch Republican.  But here was Joe Hogsett at my mother's funeral viewing.

He came in and he spent time talking to my entire family.  He especially spent time talking to me and my brother about what it would be like for us now that both of our parents were gone.  He talked about how that moment forces us to face the fact that the older generation is gone or going and we are replacing them.  He also expressed his deep condolences and gave us some more too personal advice from his own life to share here.

After he was done talking to us, Joe went to my mother's casket and bowed his head.  I don't know what he said.  It was too quiet to hear.

He gave me a hug, and he left.

It had spent about a half an hour talking to me, my brother, and my family, but he made an impact on me and my brother.

I've seen that Joe a few times again on the campaign trail as he's listened to people's stories.  I saw it in Decatur a few months ago as he knelt down to hear from a Democrat Club member who had lost his wife to cancer.  Anyone that's seen that Joe knows that he's going to be a great Mayor because of his empathy for people.

I had not planned to write about this personal story, but I thought you all should know why I'm so passionate about my friend Joe Hogsett and why I'll be a proud resident of Indianapolis when he's my Mayor.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tully Defends Miller But Not Mascari?

Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully all but endorsed City-County Councillor Jeff Miller in the newspaper’s pages over a negative attack sent out by the Marion County Democratic Party into Miller’s district.

I haven’t seen the negative piece, but it bears note that the Republican Party has since reportedly dropped a negative piece on Emily Shrock. Shrock didn’t even have anything to do with the negative piece that hit mailboxes against Miller.
Councillor Jeff Miller

Listen, I’m not going to call balls and strikes on this one. I wish negative campaigns didn’t exist. That said, it’s part of the party, folks. 

Back in 2012, I thought about running for Indiana Senate. At the time, my mother was still living, and I was afraid of the effects a dirty campaign might have on her. I knew that if I threatened Senator Mike Young’s prospects for reelection, that he might go negative. I sought out every person I could think of to give me good advice.

My best advice came from Congressman André Carson. He didn’t sugar coat it. He told me to follow my heart knowing that the other side would do its worst if they had to. I picked up my phone, and I called Vi Simpson the next morning. I told her no.

This time, it appears to some degree that the negative campaigning has caused folks to defend Miller, and that’s ok. I consider Jeff a good friend. I find him to be thoughtful and engaging. He’s a good man and a wonderful father. 

I think he’s also good at playing the role of the internally- tortured politician. While there’s no question that he doesn’t always agree with his own party, he often votes with it and then explains how hard it was to vote with it. I don’t doubt his heart. He may in fact be struggling when he votes sometimes, but there are many reasons why he stays a Republican.

When I look at who I would vote for in that district, I see a candidate that has knocked doors, listened to voters, and pounded the pavement unlike any other candidate. That’s Emily Shrock. I think it puts her in a better position to represent the newly-drawn District 16 than Jeff.

Whether the voters will see it that way or not remains to be seen on Tuesday. Let’s not be sanctimonious about negative campaigning, though. There have been many times it’s occurred and has been unfair and Matt Tully has written nothing.  

In fact, it just happened to Frankie Mascari.

Mascari had a negative mail piece dropped against him in his district.  The shady piece uses dubious claims to portray Mascari as a vote for frivolous lawsuits against the city.  It leaves out the fact that these lawsuits were mostly bi-partisan efforts to safeguard taxpayer dollars and the Council's own function as a check against the power of the Mayor.        

Where's that column Matt?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mascari Deserves Four More Years on Council

We’ve looked at the tight races in District 2, 3, and 16. Let’s head over to Beech Grove and surrounding area for our next stop as Indy Democrat looks at the key Council races you’ll be watching with interest on Election Night. 

In 2011, Beech Grove business owner Frankie Mascari was elected his current Council seat.  He began the race as an underdog to incumbent Susie Day.  When the votes were counted on Election Night, even though he had been outspent, Mascari was one of the best stories of the night for the Democrats as they picked up a seat on the notoriously-red Southside of Indianapolis.  

Turns out, Mascari's win would begin to lead a turnaround in Beech Grove that extended past the City-County Council to the Mayor's Office and other offices in the city.  

Mascari has tons of name recognition, and he's done a sensational job on the Council.  He's been one of the Mayor's most vocal critics on the way Ballard has done business.  It's no wonder Ballard has endorsed Beech Grove Councillor Anthony Davidson for the seat.  Ballard has even stumped for Davidson on a recent television ad.

The newly-drawn District 21 has changed from the old District 20 boundaries.  It still includes Beech Grove but now has more territory to the north and to the west than it used to have.  It now extends up to Prospect on the southern end of Fountain Square (which is now split between three Council districts).  Registration numbers show this will be a close race.

At the end of the day, District 21 loves a fighter, and they have that in Frankie Mascari.  If they want four more excellent years of service, they will reelect Frankie to the Council.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Kip Tew Releases TV Spot

Kip Tew has gone up and on the air with an ad of his own after Colleen Fanning put an ad of her own on the air last week.

I saw Tew's ad this morning during the Eyewitness News Sunrise on WTHR.



It's a simple ad focusing on the crime issue.  Prosecutor Terry Curry has a pictured cameo.

Bad Lip Reading Takes on the Democratic Debate

Time for some laughs...enjoy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Obama Finds Right Message on Testing

One place I have differed with President Barack Obama is education policy.

His push for reforms including the advancement of charter schools has, in my view, hurt traditional public schools by diverting critical funding away from them. Rather than fixing the problems in the quality of our traditional public schools, the rise of and push for charter schools, some with the same kinds of quality challenges as their traditional public school counterparts, has exacerbated the problems.

The President has also been behind and has helped move forward the performance-based pay models for teachers. In essence, many of his policies have helped contribute, in my view, to the teacher shortages we see across the country today.

It appears that we’ve reached a tipping point in the reform era. President Obama is now speaking out against the number and variety of standardized tests given in our traditional public school classrooms across the country, and he’s starting to advocate for steps to reduce them.

I’m glad the President finally is speaking out on this issue, and I wish he would reverse or change course in other areas as he has reached the “lame duck” part of his term. Having the President set the table for the next person to take office will be critically important.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Watch District 16 As Swing District on Council

In our continuing series looking at the City-County Council’s key races district-by-district, Indy Democrat has looked at District 2 and District 3.
Emily Shrock
Councillor Jeff Miller

Today, we’ll cover District 16. The way this district is drawn has put incumbent Jeff Miller, a Republican, up against Democrat Emily Shrock. It’s about a 50/50 district that now includes not only the IUPUI campus but also the University of Indianapolis campus. The district takes in the Western part of Fountain Square and then goes down south to pick up part of Perry Township. On the West end, it picks up the Near-Westside and parts of Northern Mars Hill. In short, it’s a very diverse district.

At one end are the new developments and high-end real estate located on the Southside of downtown Indianapolis. On the far western reaches of the district, you have some traditionally-ignored neighborhoods that have big infrastructure needs and rescue from crime. It’s quite a remarkable bit of territory.

The old district Miller used to represent included the area around Garfield Park, and this new district has some of that area on the Westside of the park, but it’s definitely a bit of new territory for Miller on the far Northside of the district around IUPUI and on the far Southside of the district in Perry Township. 

Shrock, a Deputy Prosecutor, has used that to her advantage by knocking, re-knocking, and knocking again on doors across the district. She’s worked incredibly hard, and I believe she would be a magnificent City-County Councillor. Miller, who is frankly a friend of mine, listens and works hard. He does his job and is a good Councillor, but many in this new area do not know him. Registration-wise the district is capable of swinging back Democrat. When he was elected to the Council in 2011, Miller defeated Democrat Dane Mahern in a tight race. I would expect another close race on Election Night 2015. 

This may be a bellwether district to see what kind of coattails Joe Hogsett might have depending on the margin.  A close win either way is expected.  A blowout by Shrock will indicate Hogsett had coattails.

As in Districts 2 and 3, the fight in District 16 may come down to just a handful of votes in a traditionally low-turnout district. If you live in this district, you should definitely plan to get out and make your voice heard it literally could make the difference for one candidate or the other.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hickman and Scales Battle As Incumbents for Newly-Drawn District 3 Seat

It's incumbent vs. incumbent in another district race worth watching as this election cycle comes to a close over the next two weeks.

At-Large Councillor Pam Hickman was left with few options when the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 621 a couple of years ago.  The "Ballard Power Grab", as I like to call it, really did a number on the Democrats as it eliminated the four At-Large seats on the Council.

Councillor Scales
Councillor Hickman
We've already seen the nastiness of the law.  Leroy Robinson moved into District 1 specifically to run for the seat and narrowly defeated Councillor Angela Mansfield to win the nomination.  Rather than take on Joe Simpson, Council Vice President John Barth declined a run and will finish his time on the Council in January.  Kip Tew is locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Colleen Fanning in District 2.  Originally elected to an At-Large seat, Zach Adamson took over Brian Mahern's vacant seat when the former Councillor became a Marion County employee and could no longer legally hold a Council seat.

The law set up the battle between Hickman and fellow incumbent Christine Scales in District 3. 

Scales is no favorite of the Republican establishment because she has often been a critic of Mayor Greg Ballard's policies, but they seem to be playing nice (they even gave her money) because they know this seat is very important as to what party controls the City-County Council majority.  It's a far cry from the Primary Election back in May where Scales was "primaried" by her own party.

Both Hickman and Scales are hard workers and take their jobs seriously on the Council.  It's going to come down perhaps to which candidate works the district harder in these last two weeks.  

Scales was nearly defeated by Kostas Poulakidas four years ago, but she held on for a slim victory of just 39 votes.  The district was redrawn a bit and favors Scales slightly more now, but it's still a very tight district.  

This is another district that I believe we'll be waiting a while on Election Night to call.