Sunday, December 18, 2016

In Memoriam: Bill Hudnut, 1932-2016

Mayor Bill Hudnut
What do you say about a man like Bill Hudnut? I could write all day and still probably come up short.  When you measure the impact of all of this city's post Unigov mayors, one stands above the rest.  
In fact, it could be argued that his impact stands above all Indianapolis mayors.

Bill Hudnut is now gone.

It's so very fitting that the statue of Hudnut that sits in Hudnut Commons on the park bench at the corner of Capitol and Maryland Streets is larger-than-life because that's the kind of figure Hudnut was here in this city for his time as Mayor of Indianapolis.  He transcended party and politics.  Almost everybody loved Mayor Bill.

After sweeping in to office in Congress in 1972 by defeating iconic Andrew Jacobs, Jr., two years later, partially because of the Watergate backlash, Hudnut was home again after being defeated by Jacobs for reelection.  He ran for Mayor in 1975, and he was elected.  He succeeded Richard Lugar.

In his first term, Hudnut was tested and forever bonded with his city because of his leadership through the destructive Blizzard of 1978.  Hudnut actually climbed aboard heavy machinery and helped remove the snow.  It was an image I was too young to remember, but my parents would never forget.

Beyond leading this city through that crisis, Hudnut turned his attention towards the future.  His vision built the Hoosier Dome and attracted the Colts to town.  His vision expanded the convention center.  His vision turned urban blight eventually into the Circle Centre Mall.

Hudnut transformed the Circle City's image from "India-no-place" to a world-class amateur sports city that was in the world eye for more than just one day.  He brought the National Sports Festival here in 1982.  Hudnut successfully steered the Pam-Am Games to Indianapolis in 1987.

In 1990, Hudnut decided to try to run for Indiana Secretary of State.  Hudnut entered the campaign as the heavy favorite, but he lost to Joe Hogsett.  Hogsett, of course, would later become Mayor of Indianapolis in his own right.  By the time 1991 rolled around, Hudnut decided to eschew a fifth-term run.

When Hudnut finally turned the keys of the city over to Stephen Goldsmith in 1992, Indianapolis was moving forward having successfully navigated the urban decay and fate of many Midwestern cities in the 1970's and 1980's.  The work since Hudnut has been done by others, but his fingerprints and his vision remain right at the center.  Indianapolis is always the undersized city punching up.

While Hudnut the Mayor was larger than life, Hudnut the man couldn't have been more different.  A humble man of God and minister by trade, Hudnut took joy in his family and friendships.  Hudnut had a human touch and will be remembered for that as well.

Hudnut penned a final web post posted on the Caring Bridge website.  In death, as in life, Bill Hudnut always shared his vision and demonstrated great class.
My Valediction Forbidding Mourning
William H. Hudnut III

One cannot choose how one finishes the race, only how one runs it. I would not have chosen a long, slow slide into complete heart failure, but I tried to cope with it with “gaiety, courage and a quiet mind,” to borrow from my mother who in turn was quoting Robert Louis Stevenson. 
It has often been remarked that life is a journey, not a destination. About the destination, “I believe, Lord, help thou mine unbelief.” I leave this earthly life at peace, with faith and trust in a future that will carry me beyond the bourne of space and time, but also with wariness of plotting the furniture of heaven or the temperature of hell. There is much I cannot fathom about the afterlife. Will there be recognition? What part of me, if any, survives? Forever, or just until I am forgotten? A little reverent agnosticism seems to be in order, because “now we see through a glass darkly.” More positively, “we walk by faith and not by sight.” 
About the journey, it’s been a wonderful trip. As I have said many times, I hope my epitaph will read: “He built well and he cared about people.” 
I have tried to lead a useful life. Of course, I’ve made mistakes. I’ve displayed some real shortcomings and caused some hurts along the way. I’m sorry. But overall, I look back with gratitude. I have been blessed in so many ways—by my loving wife Beverly for more than a quarter century; by my chances to move from a one-room schoolhouse in the cornfields of Illinois to graduate school in New York City; by living in America, and spending most of my professional career in Indianapolis; by having a beautiful cottage in the serenity of the Adirondack mountains; by manifold opportunities to lead a life of service and usefulness, as mayor, congressman, Presbyterian clergyman, academic, think tank fellow; and by the people in my life like doctors, staff, academics, co-workers, (certain!) media types, political allies (and adversaries!), church members, fellow citizens who have worked with me and wished me well across the years. There’s no such thing as a self-made man or woman. We’re all indebted to others, a point I always tried to make whenever some thoughtful recognition like Hudnut Commons would come my way. 
In my last years, I have become deeply aware of the love from family and friends and well-wishers with which I have been surrounded. Starting with my wife Beverly, I think about my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Also, I think about my cousins (ranging from 90 down to infancy), my parents and siblings and other relatives in our family circle. I cherish the affection and support of friends too numerous to count. I have appreciated the posts on the CaringBridge website expressing appreciation, encouragement, and loving concern. I can’t be sure, but it seems as though great love must endure. I depart this life believing with St. Paul (I Cor. 13): “Love can outlast anything; it still stands when all else has fallen.” 
As Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, “O Lord, support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done, and then in Thy great mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.”
Safe travels, Mr. Mayor.  Thank you for everything.

William H. Hudnut III leaves us at 84.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I'd Vote No on Council Pay Raise

In 2011, I explored running for City-County Council, and, in 2015, I actually took the plunge and ran a respectable campaign to become the first Democrat elected from my area in years.

I fell short, but I ran above the baseline.  Most of all, I got a chance to push some unaddressed community issues that had been bothering me for years.  In the end, Jason Holliday won, but he didn't get a free pass to waltz back on to the Council without a fight.

As a full-time school teacher, I knew that my service on the Council should I win the election would change my life. I knew that I would have to change and rearrange things around my Council responsibilities and the ones that pay the bills.  It was going to be a challenge, but, if the voters had put their trust in me, I would have figured out how to balance things out.

Along the way, you can imagine I took a pretty deep look at the job of a City-County Councillor from many different angles.  After talking with current and former Councillors, I came to the realization that there's much more than meets the eye to the job.

For starters, Councillors, though perhaps classified as such, are not just part-time legislators.  The Council meets all year and every month, but Councillors also have committee meetings.  Beyond that, what takes up the most time for every Councillor is working on constituent issues.  There are a ton.  It may be something small like pointing someone to the right agency in the city or making sure someone's trash gets picked up.  It takes time firing off letters or e-mails or phone calls.  On top of that, most are people with real jobs and real lives.  Now, I will gladly admit there are some that are just collecting a check, and we know who those Councillors are.  No need to call them out here.

The need for a raise for the vast majority of this Council is noted.  Pay for the City-County Council is mere pittance when compared to what even nearby cities with similar governmental structures pay their legislators.  Louisville, for example, pays $35K.  It doesn't measure up.  How much that raise should be and when is the appropriate time to ask for it are questions for another person.

I don't believe raising the pay of this Council from $11,400 to $25,000 is at all exorbitant.  I don't believe it will break the bank of the city, and I believe this is a worthwhile conversation that we need to have over time.

So why would I vote no?

I take issue with this timetable.

Any raise, in my opinion, should be phased in over the term of the next Council (that is seated in 2020) and subject to the city's finances and budget.  The Council raise should not take effect until January 1, 2020.  That means that the 25 people sitting in those 25 seats after the 2019 election cycle will receive the raise.  I think it's really bad optics for a currently-seated Council to raise its own matter how well-deserved.

I would vote no on this pay raise, and I would not accept it if it passes.

If all of this seems familiar, we kind of went down this road last year.  The raise was only about $5,000, and Mayor Greg Ballard vetoed it on his way out the door.  I'm interested to see what this Council and Mayor Joe Hogsett do.  The GOP caucus is opposing the raise, but I don't know if Mike McQuillen can keep his caucus together.  Same for the Democrats, who seem in favor.

I'm going to guess that the proposal will pass with a couple of vote defections either way, and it will be up to Mayor Hogsett to decide to sign or veto it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Trump Meets Match in Chuck Jones?

Earlier tonight, Donald Trump went after United Steelworkers 1999 President, Chuck Jones, on Twitter.

Why did the President-Elect of the United States decide to say that a local union president is doing a bad job?  Because Jones had the courage to call out Trump's bad math buried deep in the Carrier deal saying that the PEOTUS "lied his ass off" about the deal.

Chuck Jones tells it like it is.  He doesn't filter his language.

Since Trump's tweet, Jones says he's been getting death threats aimed at him and his family.  Jones has also seen a throng of defenders tweet, Facebook and voice their support for him.

Trump should support guys like Chuck Jones.  Jones is a man who represents many of the working class folks that crossed over and voted for Trump in areas of the United States like Indiana.  Calling Jones out for being the cause of jobs leaving the United States is asinine, especially when the Governor of the State of Indiana is the guy you picked for Vice President!

Anyway, knowing Chuck Jones, he's no shrinking violet.  This will only make Chuck mad as hell, and that's not good for Trump, who had grudgingly drawn some praise from Jones on the initial announcement that 1,100 jobs were staying in Indiana.  As it turns out, that was a fool's gold number.  Only about 500 jobs are sticking around and the rest, including jobs in Huntington, Indiana, are moving out while Carrier's parent company collects a big check from the taxpayers of Indiana to further automate its operation.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy Hoosiers will still be employed here, but I'm not going to rush out and install a Carrier product in my home.

As for Chuck Jones, he'll go back to helping those people whose jobs are heading out of town while continuing to negotiate for better wages, working conditions, and deals for working people.  As for Trump, he'll probably continue to bully regular people on social media like a high school sophomore.

Now we know why Judge Joseph Wapner (yeah, he's still around) will be Trump's first Supreme Court nominee.  He's been too busy to do the real work of the office because he's been attacking real people on Twitter.  "He needs to worry about getting his Cabinet filled and leave me alone," said Jones to the Washington Post.