Monday, February 29, 2016

Pence Refugee Policy Overturned

Governor Pence
This weekend, the headquarters of the Islamic Center of North America was vandalized by some idiots.  This happened sometime Saturday night/Sunday morning in Plainfield.

The community has reached out and has put its arms around the Muslim community in Indianapolis, but there's no question that the flames of the fire have been stoked by prejudices and fearmongering by even our Governor, Mike Pence, who attempted to stop Syrian refugees from settling in our state on the infinitesimal chance they might be terrorists.

Today, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt called Pence's plan to halt Syrian refugees exactly what it is: discriminatory.  She had previously ruled that the state had no authority to stop settlers from Syria in Indiana.

Thank goodness Judge Pratt understands what Governor Pence doesn't.  Indy and Indiana is a state that welcomes all especially those in need.  That's Hoosier Hospitality.

Back to the drawing board, Governor Pence.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Could ABN Development Be Litebox II?

It’s been a topsy turvy week on Indy’s Westside.

Last week, Carrier’s parent company broke the news that its Westside operation and all its jobs would be moving to Mexico over the next couple of years. That hit like a ton of bricks dropped from an invisible crane, and it blindsided everyone. Political enemies have united in opposition to the plant’s closing which appears to be motivated by nothing more than pure capitalism.  Goodbye to thousands of good-paying, union manufacturing jobs.

Then, just as out of the blue, the Airport Authority announced plans for a unique athletic facility to replace the old airport terminal. The sports, medical, and entertainment complex would be developed by an Indy-based company called Athlete’s Business Network (never heard of them before) and would, according to estimates, create 3,000 new jobs.  It was a development that took some governmental agencies by surprise and apparently was the winner of four submitted plans to the Airport Authority.  Price tag is $500 million on the facility and no public money is in the plans.

I remain skeptical about the ABN development because it sounds too good to be true. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like when then-Governor Mitch Daniels and then-Mayor Greg Ballard held a news conference to announce 1,000 new jobs coming to Indy’s Northwest side along with a company called Litebox that was supposed to make semi-trailer sized HD screens for events. Litebox never got off the ground with its Indianapolis development, and, sadly, founder Bob Yanagihara passed away from cancer.

Call me jaded or cynical after hearing these types of announcements over periods of time, but I just get the same feeling with this development. There just seems to be a lot of unanswered questions.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Man of Wit, Intellect, and Principle: Justice Scalia Dead at 79

For a man so, as President Obama termed him, larger than life, it's hard to believe that Antonin Scalia apparently went to sleep and never woke up on Saturday morning, but that's exactly what happened.

The bane of many a liberal's existence, Scalia passed away quietly at the age of 79 after a full life of being anything but quiet.

We throw those words "larger than life" around so much, but it did really describe this son of an Italian immigrant and first generation Italian-American.  Scalia's life was so American, a child of New York City who grew up to make a difference.  His persona was based upon his great intellect and legal philosophy of originalism.

I personally never understood how a judge can put himself in the mindset of the white men that wrote the Constitution as Scalia's judicial philosophy commands one to.  I also never understood how one could deduce exactly what the words of the Constitution meant to the ones that wrote it.

For example, Scalia once argued in an interview with CBS's Leslie Stahl that torturing a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay was legal because it wasn't cruel and unusual punishment.  "What are they punishing you for?" asked an incredulous Scalia.

Scalia also battled with rights that were not specifically enumerated in the Constitution that the court had ruled on over the years such as abortion and marriage.  Scalia thought those things should be left to the states to decide.

At the end of last year, Scalia made headlines by suggesting that black students would do better at colleges that were not as rigorous.  That was just one of his many controversial hits over the years.  His more famous lines are chronicled in this story.

Though controversial, and while he had so many great philosophical fights with the other Justices he served with, "Nino" as he was known to his friends was often described as one of the best friends you could have.

Unlike many in Washington today, Scalia didn't choose his friends based on their political or judicial philosophy.  I can relate to that.

In many ways, it was the controversial nature of his public persona and the remarkably non-controversial nature of this wonderful father, husband, and friend that make Antonin Scalia one of the most interesting people ever to sit on the Supreme Court bench.  He was a man of great wit, intellect, and principle.

It's also why, even though he was 79, that it's even harder to believe that he died in his sleep, peacefully.  I'm sure it was a hell of a debate though when the Grim Reaper stopped at his room.  You know Nino scored some rhetorical points.

My sincere condolences to Justice Scalia's family and friends.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ellspermann Out, Holcomb In; House of Cards, Indiana?
(some optional music as you read this blog post)

As I read the news today of the announcement of the pending resignation of our state's Lieutenant Governor, Sue Ellspermann, sometime in the near future, I only thought of the behind-the-scenes machinations of one Frank Underwood on House of Cards.

Then again, Mike Pence is no Frank Underwood.

Ellspermann was widely seen as something that was right about Pence's Administration.  She was credited by many on both sides of the aisle for being above politics, and she even seemed to have understood that Pence's position against LGBT civil rights was the wrong position.

Conventional political wisdom (or is that gossip) is that Pence began looking for a subway stop to push Ellspermann off his train just as Underwood might have had Doug Stamper do with a disloyal Lieutenant Governor.

When the Ivy Tech Presidency opened, well, that job was a perfect landing spot.  So, with a slight push, Ellspermann suddenly became interested in the job.  Whether she gets it or not remains to be seen, but I think she has the inside track seeing as Pence appointed the Trustees.

So, it was now time to find just the right person to replace Ellspermann to bring the plan full circle.  Pence couldn't select anyone in the same political place as she was.  Oh no.  He needed someone that would be transparently loyal.  Someone that would be willing to put aside his or her own aspirations and join the team.  Someone like former Mitch Daniels staffer and Dan Coats aide, Eric Holcomb, who, up until Monday, was running for U.S. Senate.

Holcomb dropping out of the Senate race would allow his support to coalesce around the establishment choice for that seat, Todd Young, instead of the Tea Party choice of Marlin Stutzman.

All in a day's work for Frank Underwood Mike Pence.

But, here's the thing.  As a former State Party Chairman, Eric Holcomb is not your normal nominee.  While Holcomb generally is seen as liked, you don't become a party chairman without spoiling a few tubs of egg salad.  In fact, Dan Parker, former Indiana Democratic Party Chair, once told me that there was no greater disqualifier for public office than being a major party chair.  Holcomb arrived in that role by playing the political game well but also playing the role of game master well.

Thus, as Frank Underwood might say, "I wonder if our dear Governor, in his haste to get one wolf out of his hen house, let another come in the back door."

Holcomb might be bringing an even bigger wolf with him in the form of his former boss, Daniels, who still casts a huge shadow in this state.

Whatever the case, Holcomb is not the answer to stabilizing this situation for Pence.  You don't appoint a party boss to your Lieutenant Governor position if you want to appear to be above politics.  It's going to be an interesting run to November.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Even This "Dog" Had His Day

My Unbelievable Moment
Yesterday, I received a phone call from Mayor Joe Hogsett aide Peter Luster.  He asked me if I could stop by the Mayor's Office about 5:00 p.m.

Obviously curious, I asked what the Mayor wanted with me, he said he didn't know, but the Mayor wanted me to come by.

It might surprise you to know that in the seven years that I've been writing this blog that I've never been on the 25th Floor of the City-County Building...let alone in the Mayor's Office.  I even asked Peter what to do when I got there.

So, I arrived early.  I went through security, and then I went up the elevator to the 25th Floor.  After another security checkpoint, I found myself overlooking the Westside of Indianapolis from the lobby of the Mayor's Office.  As snow fell across the city, it was draped in a beautiful curtain of white flakes...a gorgeous sight.

I waited a bit making small talk with the administrative assistant at the reception desk.  I had come up the elevator with new City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning, and City-County Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillen came in the office.  We chatted.  The Mayor's Chief of Staff, Thomas Cook, was the first clue to me that something was up.  He told me that the Mayor would be back in the office in just a few minutes and to sit tight.

Sure enough, in just a few minutes, Mayor Joe Hogsett appeared carrying an arm full of documents flanked by his security officer and aide Tim Moriarty.  After exchanging pleasantries, the Mayor invited me into the Mayor's Conference Room.  It was there that he presented me with a Proclamation declaring February 8, 2016 as "Jon Easter Day" in the City of Indianapolis.

Recently, I received an award from the Indiana High School Athletic Association for my work at WBDG-FM at Ben Davis High School.  That award was a complete shock to me when the IHSAA informed me that I would receive it.  Now, I was standing on the 25th Floor next to the Mayor of Indianapolis who was handing me a proclamation with my name on it.

A quick couple of hellos with more of the Mayor's Staff, Deputy Mayor of Neighborhoods Dr. David Hampton, and City-County Councillor Pastor Stephen Clay, and I was out the door back in the cold in the snowy city I'd just seen from the 25th floor...on my day in this city.

The impact still hasn't hit me, but I'm incredibly humbled that the Mayor thought to recognize me and to spend a moment out of his day to help celebrate my accomplishments.  There are many in this city who serve it with distinction and deserve a day of their own, so I do not take this lightly.

Thanks again to Mayor Hogsett and his staff for making this "dog" have his day.  I'm so appreciative.

2016 Carson Opposition Familiar

Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, André Carson has attracted nearly the same opposition for his District 7 U.S. House seat as he has in previous elections.

For the Democratic nomination, it’s Curtis Godfrey and Pierre Quincy Pullins challenging the incumbent for his seat. They won’t be successful.

On the Republican side, Catherine “Cat” Ping is back for another bite at the apple. She was the lucky winner last time around in the Republican derby defeating Wayne “Gunny” Harmon and J.D. Miniear.  The same trio are trying again.  Get ready for yard signs into 2017 from Ping and Miniear!

I’m just having fun with these candidates. We all know that Carson’s going to pull about 90 percent in the primary and will be going back to Washington in the General Election. They probably know it, too. 

At least they keep putting themselves out there.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Webster To Battle Young in Senate District 35

Senate District 35
Senator Mike Young has an opponent who's ready to go all nine innings in this race.

Former Decatur Central Head Baseball Coach and teacher Phil Webster has thrown his cap in the ring to take on the longtime Senator.  Webster has tremendous name recognition throughout the district and is extremely well-known for leading the Decatur Central Hawks to the 2008 IHSAA Class 4A State Championship in baseball.

Young, who I like to call the GOP's spaghetti candidate (throw the crazy bill up on the wall and see if it sticks), was first elected in 1986 to office.  By that point, Webster had already been shaping young minds for years.

Bravo to Webster for stepping up and deciding to run.  We need more teachers in the legislature, and, with hard work, it's possible we could get a Hall of Fame baseball coach in there, too.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sources: Fletcher Pulls Candidacy for District 97

Indy Democrat sources are saying that just as quickly as he entered the race against Justin Moed that Perry Township Board member Jason Fletcher has withdrawn his candidacy against the popular State Representative in District 97.

We'll stay tuned to find out what happened at pre-primary convention today for the Democrats.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Daily Posting Ceases Today; Please Read

There never is a good time to do this, so I'm electing the quick and fast mode on this one. I'm pulling the plug today. This will be the last daily post of the blog for now.

For now, this blog will become an at-will posting blog.  In the meantime, I'll be concentrating more of my time where I should be putting it as a teacher and on my radio show, The JohnnyStir Show.  It airs, of course, on Monday nights at 8 p.m.

As for me, I'm not going anywhere.  I'll still be around, and, again, this blog will go on posting.  I'm not going to stop writing, but I can no longer commit to posting on a daily basis.  I can't in good conscience leave you without a voice from the left, so this blog isn't going anywhere.  I'm just adjusting the frequency of my posting.

I'm sorry if you feel as if I'm deserting you in the wilderness.  I know that you're all smart enough to find your way back.  I'll be utilizing social media more to let you know when I have posted.  Make sure you follow me on Twitter.

Again, I can't thank you enough for the loyalty you've shown to me over the years, and I'm glad we're continuing to step forward together...just in a different manner.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fletcher Takes on Moed in HD 97

Rep. Justin Moed
We all know Justin Moed did not have a good spring last year when revelations about his personal life came to light.

That being said, Justin became a beacon of doing what's right in the damage control phase.  After disappearing for a few days, Justin came back, admitted his mistake, and said he was moving on.  Moed never pretended to be a holy roller or a Christian crusader.  He did what he did, and he apologized to his constituents for it.

Then, he went back to work for his constituents.  House District 97 has some of the rich parts of downtown, but it also has some of the toughest parts of Indy's near-Southside, and Moed knows these people.  He knows their communities.  That's because he's been bitten by several dogs walking these communities.  His campaign page often tells stories of sitting down in people's living rooms for coffee or lemonade.  He works hard, and he gets results.  In a tough legislature for Democrats, Moed has been a rock star in getting things done for his constituents and for the
Jason Fletcher filing for HD 97
City of Indianapolis.

That's why I was curious to find out today that my friend Jason Fletcher had also filed to run for House District 97 today.  Fletcher is currently the only Democrat on the Perry Township Advisory Board, and he is, no doubt, worthy of a look from voters.

I just wonder what happened for Fletcher to suddenly think he's a better choice for the 97th than Moed's proven record.  Fletcher did work hard walking much of the district for Emily Shrock's unsuccessful run for City-County Council.  The two districts overlap quite a bit.

I've been wrong before, and Fletcher is incredibly popular in Democratic circles and has built up a tremendous amount of goodwill.  I get the feeling that he's going to have to work hard to beat Moed in the 97th if it gets to a Primary war, and I just don't know if this was the right place to spend his political capital given even the struggles of Moed last spring.  The hardworking people in the 97th will remember the guy that's gotten stuff done for them.

End of LGBT Civil Rights Fight for This Session Just Means Delay of Inevitable

Efforts to end the discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers died today in the Indiana General Assembly, and, while the sun will come up tomorrow, it's hard to see how we could get this close and allow the whole thing to slip away.

The easiest thing we should be able to do as a government of the people, for the people, and by the people is to protect the civil rights of people.  Shoulda...woulda...coulda.  It's too damn hard, right?

It's too hard because some of these gerrymandered districts Indiana General Assembly members represent create a world where their representatives have no one to answer to except their own extremism, so they don't care about the rights of Hoosiers.  They could care less about someone who gets married on Friday and gets fired on Monday.

I'm sorry too.  I guess I had more confidence in people.  I guess I had more confidence in our legislators to get things done.  I thought in the end that they would feel the pain in their hearts that those who are discriminated against feel.  I thought maybe they'd feel the fear that many feel when they can't fully express who they are for fear of retaliation...or worse.

Nope.  I was wrong about Indiana.

Governor Pence hates the idea of civil rights for gay people so much that he's willing to stake his job on it.  Others believe that it's not a big enough issue to move on this session.

It's important to remember that, as the saying says, anything that's worth doing isn't easy.  Progress isn't easy, either.  Here in the Hoosier State, it's going to take a little longer, but we will someday celebrate LGBT civil rights.  It's going to happen hopefully in my lifetime instead of yours.

Yes, it's important to remember how far we've come.  Sometimes, we need a reminder about how far we have left to go.  As Macklemore said in Same Love, "We press play.  We don't press pause.  Progress, march on."

Don't stop living.  Don't stop fighting.  We will live in a state that someday recognizes our civil rights are worth protecting.  History is on our side.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cruz Trumps Donald; Sanders & Clinton Neck and Neck in Iowa

As the numbers continue to trickle in from the Iowa Caucuses, it's important to remember to not read too much or too little into the results.  What's going to be interesting is to see who still believes they are viable after the voters in Iowa speak.

It appears that, so far, there is no clear winner in the Democratic Caucus as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in, what Sanders has termed, "a virtual tie".  That's probably worse news for Clinton than it is for Sanders.  Reports also say that Martin O'Malley has decided to suspend his campaign.  That's a worthy decision given what the voters said after this first round.

For the Democrats, they'll continue to squabble and battle until a victor is named.

On the Republican side, it appears Ted Cruz has come out on top by a few percentage points over Donald Trump.  This should surprise no one.  Iowa is very conservative on the Republican side, and Cruz was expected to win or run a close second to Trump.  For Trump, as he has said, it's off to New Hampshire for his campaign.

Reports say Mike Huckabee and perhaps even Ben Carson are thinking of packing up the campaign and going home.

Again, this is just the first test. It's a long slog from here, but we're underway in the Presidential Derby 2016.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Iowa Caucus Signifies Start of 2016 Vote Counting

Clinton Hopes to Block Sanders
Momentum in Iowa
The big day is here.  It's Iowa Caucus day, and that signifies the actual beginning of the count of the votes towards who will be the nominees for 2016's Presidential Election in the major parties.

Hillary Clinton is holding on to a slim lead in most polls in Iowa.  For her, a victory would be great in Iowa because it's unlikely she's going to win in New Hampshire next week.  She doesn't need the victories, but it would be nice to put a stopper in the momentum of Senator Bernie Sanders.  Governor Martin O'Malley is a distant third in the polls and likely will not be a factor though his three or four percentage points of support could definitely help either of the frontrunners.

On the Republican side of things, it appears to be down to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in Iowa. If either win, they can claim momentum going into New Hampshire.  If someone can jump up from the pack and surprise in Iowa, it could signify that the always-finicky caucus-goers might have not been so enamored by "The Donald" or Mr. Cruz.  Marco Rubio is running a distant third in most polls, and former frontrunners Ben Carson and Jeb Bush are languishing further back.

On the JohnnyStir Show tonight, I take a brief look at the caucuses, but most of the show is to reintroduce my listeners to me as a person.  My friend Steve Terrell takes the reins of the show and does a really nice job with the interview.

I hope you'll tune in at 8:00 p.m. on,

Enjoy the caucus results!