Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sally Yates No Longer Anonymous

Sally Yates
It takes a lot of guts to stand up against the most powerful man in the world.

Prior to yesterday evening, I doubt if most people had heard the name Sally Yates.  She was a "keep your head down" career Department of Justice employee.  After Loretta Lynch departed her position as Attorney General, Yates took over as Acting AG to keep the lights on and the office running.

Little did Yates probably know that she might have to make one of the most consequential decisions in the recent history of the Attorney General's Office.  When her moment came, she was ready to stand up and be counted, regardless of the personal cost.

It was Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that reviewed President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries and decided that it was indefensible and possibly unconstitutional.

Trump promptly fired her and found a someone that would defend his indefensible and possibly unconstitutional Executive Order.  That is Dana Boente.  He will serve as Trump's Acting Attorney General until Jeff Sessions takes over in the role.

The Department of Justice, by definition, must be above politics.  Yates, it seems to me, was trying to keep this above board.  She got fired for it.  Who knows what this means for our country.

I applaud her.

Monday, January 30, 2017

GOP Councillors Stunt "STEERs" Towards Pettiness

Even with King Donald running rampant in Washington, there's still time for a little pettiness in local government.

Before I get into this blog post, I want to say that in the interest of full disclosure, I dined on a 10 oz. sirloin steak tonight, and it was delicious.  That doesn't mean that I don't understand and appreciate what the City-County Council was trying to promote with its non-binding resolution a few weeks back promoting Meatless Mondays.

The Democratic caucus was behind the resolution, and it was essentially harmless.  If someone wanted to eat a big steak, like I did, on a Monday night, it's still a perfectly legal endeavor.

Still, some in the city and in media when apoplectic over it.  Tony Katz of WIBC hated it enough to do one of his signature "Popcorn Moments" on the council's resolution, and others took it to social media to whine.  Again, no one stops anyone from eating meat...it was just to promote a little more healthiness for a city that needs it.

Tonight, according to Council Vice President Zach Adamson, Republican Councillors supported a resolution praising the Indiana Cattle Association, "Complete with steaks handed out to all Councillors."

Adamson posted a video on social media of Councillor Jeff Coats and others helping to hand out the steaks to the Council members.

Again, I'm a big lover of steak, but this was a stunt that steered toward pettiness.  Touché, I guess.  Let's hope future stunts like this are rare.

Pence Caught Between Rock, Hardplace, Former Job Mess

Mike Pence
Mike Pence has been in the news after Donald Trump signed his controversial Executive Order on immigration last week.

Trump, whose administration says his ban is not strictly banning Muslims, came up with the idea to ban Muslims from entering the country during the campaign, and he has said that Christian refugees would even be given precedence as they try to pick through the mess he's made.

Of course, at the time Trump suggested the ban on Muslims, Mike Pence spoke out...and he took to Twitter to do it.




Of course, Pence now agrees wth his boss's current ban.  We wouldn't expect him to bite the hand that feeds him, now would we even though former Governor Mitch Daniels has spoken out against Trump's policy and, indirectly, Pence's hypocrisy.

For the second-straight weekend, peaceful protests have cropped up at airports and places of travel to show solidarity with those immigrants entering the United States and to urge the rule of law to be followed. So far, in some cases, it appears Trump's Administration officials are not carrying out court orders from several federal judges.

In short, it's a mess.

It's also a mess here in Indiana as the Hoosier State tries to clean up what Governor Pence left behind.

The story is over at Indy Republican.

Interesting, isn't it?



Sunday, January 29, 2017

Daniels Leaves No Doubt Where He Stands on Trump Immigration EO

Mitch Daniels
If Donald Trump won't listen to reason or protests on his immigration Executive Order, perhaps he'll listen to a former Governor of a Rust Belt State like Indiana.

After all, there has to be someone close to Trump who has spoken out on something like this before that has good Hoosier cred.


No...not that one.  He sold out.

Go back to Indiana's 48th Governor, Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.

Daniels, now President of Purdue University, said, in a statement released by the university, “The President's order related to immigration is a bad idea, poorly implemented, and I hope that he will promptly revoke and rethink it. If the idea is to strengthen the protection of Americans against terrorism, there are many far better ways to achieve it.”

For once, I am in complete agreement with former Governor Daniels.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wonder What's Going through These Minds?

Living former U.S. Presidents
It’s been a rocky first week for President Donald Trump as he’s tried to ease into the space between mega-celebrity, business mogul, and President of the United States.

For a moment, let’s step back one week to that moment that he became the 45th President of the United States. All of his living predecessors were there except for one who had every excuse not to be, but I wonder what the Ex-Presidents think about the current occupant of the office.

You can bet Jimmy Carter will be the first to speak out. The 92-year-old cancer survivor has been slowed recently by health problems, but he still stands as an example of what to be when you’re a former President of the United States. The humble peanut farmer is usually honest about his feelings, and that’s at times seemingly put him at odds with the other former presidents.

George Herbert Walker Bush is a loyal father, but I don’t think you’ll ever see or hear the 41st President of the United States speak an ill word about Trump. It’s not his style. H.W. Bush is the most infirmed of the former presidents, but his mind seems sharp. I would assume you’ll hear something out of the former First Lady, Barbara Bush, before you’ll hear it from George.

Bill Clinton is a bit of a wild card. Clinton staunchly defends his record, and he even did so at the expense of Barack Obama a few times. Clinton has modeled himself a bit after Carter and has worked with both Bush 41 and Bush 43 on a number of projects. Pressed directly for a quote, I think Bill would speak out against Trump.

Like his dad, George W. Bush seems content to be retired. As has been well-documented, W. would be more comfortable painting Donald Trump than speaking out about him. As a couple, I think we can bet to hear the least out of W. who did seem to relish that temporary limelight of being back in Washington again last Friday.

That brings us to the most recent occupant of the Oval Office, Barack Obama. Obama won’t leave the game, in my view. I have a feeling that we’re going to see Obama continue to wield power as a former POTUS because the current one will leave a vacuum only the former can fill. Give Barack some time to settle into private life and I guarantee we’ll hear from him sooner or later.

In short, I think you’ll hear from the Democrats. I don’t think you will hear much from the Republicans. Secretly, all five former living presidents will probably look forward to the day that the current occupant joins them in January of 2021.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rokita Back At It With No Buffer This Time

Rep. Todd Rokita
Todd Rokita represents Indiana’s 4th Congressional District.

He looks and seems like a nice enough guy, and I give him credit in that he actually does appear in his district to talk to his constituents. He, or a member of his staff, will actually engage with people of all political beliefs on social media. He sets a good example in that way.

That’s where my praise for him ends
.
Recently, Rokita has drawn attention for attempting to change the way federal employees can organize into unions and how they can be hired and fired. Essentially, if Rokita gets his way, a new federal employee can be fired with no cause and with no recourse.

Last year, Rokita took on school lunches. He wanted to change the formula for schools that qualify for 100 percent free lunch and breakfast for all students knocking schools across the United States off the free lunch and breakfast program. In Wayne Township alone, seven schools would have been affected.

There’s also his Moby Dick. What he calls entitlements.

Since almost his first day in office, Rokita has seemed to want to declare war on what he calls entitlements. He’s called senior citizens “piggish” and “un-American” for depending on government services. 

Thankfully, for most of Rokita’s term, there have been cooler heads in Congress or the Oval Office that have held him in check.  Now that Donald Trump is in place in the White House and other Republicans are in place across government, suddenly Rokita’s head shake inducing machinations may bear fruit, and he’s suddenly a leading voice in the fight to reform Medicare.

Rokita told Politico: “It’s unfair for the citizens of tomorrow to bear the burden through our debt load for the health care of today’s poor, and it’s especially not fair for them to pay for [able-bodied adults] who otherwise should be making their own way.”

What Todd Rokita said or did before was perhaps him just talking or trying to show his street cred amongst his base. Now, his words actually mean something because he’s a leader in the United States House with a Republican friend in the White House.
Serious times, folks.  Stay alert.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Senator Head Wants to Give Gov., Others Raises (WITH UPDATE)

Senator Head
Logansport Senator Randy Head wants to give the Governor and other state officeholders a raise.  Head says we need to pay the officeholders more to attract more talented candidates in the future.

Why do you say that Senator Head?  Is there some deficiency in talent?

Anyway, Governor Eric Holcomb currently makes in the neighborhood of $110K. Head wants to raise that to around $140K.

The other elected executive offices such as Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General, and Superintendent of Public Instruction would get a hike in pay as well to over $100K.

Head’s proposal comes as the state struggles to find money to fund repairs to its crumbling infrastructure. As you might be aware, some lawmakers (and maybe the Governor) want to raise the gas tax in order to fix that infrastructure.

It seems to me (and I'm not alone in this) that maybe the infrastructure issue is one problem we should tackle first prior to giving anybody a raise, especially when they aren't asking for it.

What we pay our Governor and other state officeholders is probably something we should look at, but I don't think there's any pressing timetable to do it. This particular bill, should it make it to law, would not take effect for some of the offices until as early as 2018. The Governor’s raise would not kick in until 2021.

It just doesn’t seem like a front burner thing to do right now, to be honest. I guess if we’re so concerned about attracting and retaining talented individuals in a meaningful service profession, we should give teachers a raise, right?

Late update:
It appears the bill has been gutted and will now just study the idea, according to Fox 59.

Incidentally, Head at one point ran for Attorney General.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Meme Controversies Snares Sandlin, Lucas

Sen. Jack Sandlin
New Senator Jack Sandlin found out today that more people will pay attention to his Facebook feed now that he's in the General Assembly when something he or someone close to him posted made it all the way to national news.

Sandlin, a former City-County Councillor, whose term officially began earlier this month had a meme shared on his Facebook wall that was offensive to women.  Before he could take it down, Sandlin's wall was screenshotted and it became local then national news today.

After that, a lame apology appeared saying that Sandlin had no idea how it got on his wall and that the offensive meme did not reflect his views on women.

He continued to be consistent with this story during the rest of the day.  He didn't proclaim to have been hacked.  He continued to play dumb as the story continued to blow up.

Listen, Sandlin could be telling the truth.  Perhaps someone close to him runs his Facebook page and hit share on the meme that was showing up on many Facebook pages across the site.  Perhaps they weren't thinking when they hit share, and the boss is now taking the grief for it.

If I were Sandlin, I'd be much more up in arms about how it happened if I didn't do it.  I'd want to find out who pushed that button on my behalf.  If only Sandlin knew a private investigator...oh wait,,,Jack Sandlin is a former police officer and private investigator!

Senator Sandlin knows exactly how that meme ended upon his page.  If he doesn't know, he doesn't know jack.

State Rep. Jim Lucas also took some heat over a meme he posted on Facebook, but he took responsibility for the meme...for better or for worse...and continues to stand behind his decision to post it.

Indiana legislators...embarrassing Hoosiers since 1816.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trump Says Admin Will Handpick Media Outlets for Access to Briefing Room

President Trump
According to reports from Reuters, President Donald Trump announced in a taped interview with Fox & Friends that his administration will be picking the 49 media outlets that get a seat in the White House Press Briefing Room.

That means the White House Press Corps, for perhaps the first time in history, will be hand picked by the President of the United States.

Of course there's time to change minds here.  There are already more press requests than can be seated in the James Brady Briefing Room at the White House.  The White House Correspondents Association has been tasked in the past with deciding which news outlets get one of the chairs.

The Trump Administration had toyed with perhaps moving the media out of the White House altogether and into a different location to allow more outlets to cover the President, but that appears to be reversed now.

All of this news hits as the Trump Administration tries to shake off its first briefing with the media where Press Secretary Sean Spicer ripped the media and told a number of falsehoods in a statement and then left without taking any questions.

I've always enjoyed watching the Press Secretary and the media dance, but this whack-a-mole strategy by the Trump Administration on negative coverage won't stop the media.  As Kyle Pope of the Columbia Journalism Review, wrote in this open letter from the press corps to Mr. Trump a few days before he took office.

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT ELECT: 
In these final days before your inauguration, we thought it might be helpful to clarify how we see the relationship between your administration and the American press corps.
It will come as no surprise to you that we see the relationship as strained. Reports over the last few days that your press secretary is considering pulling news media offices out of the White House are the latest in a pattern of behavior that has persisted throughout the campaign: You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. You’ve taken to Twitter to taunt and threaten individual reporters and encouraged your supporters to do the same. You’ve advocated for looser libel laws and threatened numerous lawsuits of your own, none of which has materialized. You’ve avoided the press when you could and flouted the norms of pool reporting and regular press conferences. You’ve ridiculed a reporter who wrote something you didn’t like because he has a disability. 
All of this, of course, is your choice and, in a way, your right. While the Constitution protects the freedom of the press, it doesn’t dictate how the president must honor that; regular press conferences aren’t enshrined in the document. 
But while you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too. It is, after all, our airtime and column inches that you are seeking to influence. We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers. So think of what follows as a backgrounder on what to expect from us over the next four years.  
Access is preferable, but not critical. You may decide that giving reporters access to your administration has no upside. We think that would be a mistake on your part, but again, it’s your choice. We are very good at finding alternative ways to get information; indeed, some of the best reporting during the campaign came from news organizations that were banned from your rallies. Telling reporters that they won’t get access to something isn’t what we’d prefer, but it’s a challenge we relish. 
Off the record and other ground rules are ours—not yours—to set.We may agree to speak to some of your officials off the record, or we may not. We may attend background briefings or off-the-record social events, or we may skip them. That’s our choice. If you think reporters who don’t agree to the rules, and are shut out, won’t get the story, see above. 
We decide how much airtime to give your spokespeople and surrogates. We will strive to get your point of view across, even if you seek to shut us out. But that does not mean we are required to turn our airwaves or column inches over to people who repeatedly distort or bend the truth. We will call them out when they do, and we reserve the right, in the most egregious cases, to ban them from our outlets. 
We believe there is an objective truth, and we will hold you to that. When you or your surrogates say or tweet something that is demonstrably wrong, we will say so, repeatedly. Facts are what we do, and we have no obligation to repeat false assertions; the fact that you or someone on your team said them is newsworthy, but so is the fact that they don’t stand up to scrutiny. Both aspects should receive equal weight. 
We’ll obsess over the details of government. You and your staff sit in the White House, but the American government is a sprawling thing. We will fan reporters out across the government, embed them in your agencies, source up those bureaucrats. The result will be that while you may seek to control what comes out of the West Wing, we’ll have the upper hand in covering how your policies are carried out. 
We will set higher standards for ourselves than ever before. We credit you with highlighting serious and widespread distrust in the media across the political spectrum. Your campaign tapped into that, and it was a bracing wake-up call for us. We have to regain that trust. And we’ll do it through accurate, fearless reporting, by acknowledging our errors and abiding by the most stringent ethical standards we set for ourselves.
We’re going to work together. You have tried to divide us and use reporters’ deep competitive streaks to cause family fights. Those days are ending. We now recognize that the challenge of covering you requires that we cooperate and help one another whenever possible. So, when you shout down or ignore a reporter at a press conference who has said something you don’t like, you’re going to face a unified front. We’ll work together on stories when it makes sense, and make sure the world hears when our colleagues write stories of importance. We will, of course, still have disagreements, and even important debates, about ethics or taste or fair comment. But those debates will be ours to begin and end. 
We’re playing the long game. Best-case scenario, you’re going to be in this job for eight years. We’ve been around since the founding of the republic, and our role in this great democracy has been ratified and reinforced again and again and again. You have forced us to rethink the most fundamental questions about who we are and what we are here for. For that we are most grateful. 
Enjoy your inauguration.
—The Press Corps

Friday, January 20, 2017

Indiana's New AG Releases Statement on Trump's Inauguration

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill
Indiana’s new Attorney General is speaking out and pleading for calm as Donald Trump gets inaugurated in Washington.

Curtis Hill, the former Elkhart County Prosecutor, who took office just last Monday replacing Greg Zoeller, said in a statement,
“The peaceful transfer of presidential power stands among our nation’s most cherished traditions. Whatever our political beliefs and affiliations, let us all join together as Americans to give thanks for the stability of our great republic. Let us do what Lincoln asked: 'Let us be guided by the better angels of our nature.' This is not the time for division nor is this the occasion for politics."
First of all, if this is what we can expect for the next four years, I'd say Curtis Hill is already running for something else. It's certainly his right to put out a statement on anything he wishes, and politicians do.  That said, I honestly wasn't thinking, "Wonder what Indiana's new Attorney General thinks about Donald Trump's inauguration."  Don't take this as a slap or a slight.  I think it's something interesting, and it signals something larger about Hill's star in the Republican Party.  It's going to rise.

Taken on merit, I disagree with parts of the Attorney General's statement.

First off, I do agree with the peaceful transition of power being a cherished tradition. I also do absolutely agree that we should celebrate that power moves from one President to another in our democracy without tanks on the streets.  It’s been that way now since George Washington handed power to John Adams in 1797, and we should be absolutely proud of that.  I disagree with Mr. Hill on this being a time for politics.

An inaugruation is all about politics! Politics inherently run through the veins of this government, and President-Elect Trump will stand up and give a political speech today. The response of the opposing party and its leaders is a political decision even if that decision is to attend the festivities, watch politely, and enjoy the cold January afternoon.  It's Donald Trump's big political day.  After all, it’s his inauguration.

I also think that we can handle any dissent to Trump's ascension to the highest office in the land because of the strength of our democracy. People can and will protest and that's perfectly ok because they have the right to do so. Curtis Hill may not agree that the timing is right, but I believe the freedom to stand up against those in power in a peaceable manner is also what we celebrate about our country. 

 The right to peaceably assemble, the right to speak freely, and the right to the press to write and speak freely are all guaranteed under our Constitution. I’m sure that Attorney General Hill knows all of this, too.

Perhaps the “better angels of our nature” tell us that the appropriate action when something is wrong to not let it go unchecked. That, I suppose is in the eye of the beholder.

One way or another, it's a big day in America.  I join AG Hill in wishing everyone in Washington a smooth day.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thanks Obama

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One
White House Photo by Pete Souza
The fact is tough to face for some, but it's a fact.

Today is the last full day of the Barack Obama Presidency.

Tomorrow, shortly after noon, Donald Trump will raise his right hand and become the 45th President of the United States.  It's a time-honored and tested ritual   The power of the United States Executive Branch of Government will pass peacefully to Trump.  I think it's fair to say that two more different men have rarely taken part in this well-rehearsed ceremony.

The good news for President Obama is that the burden of leading this country will rise from his shoulders, and America's problems will become that of Donald Trump.  The talk will have to stop, and he will have to lead.  As many before have said, the past has been prologue, but the future has not been written.

What an eight years we've had with a man who grew up in a way unlike any previous POTUS.  The first African-American President of the United States left a consequential legacy that hopefully come the future will still be in tact.

Among his major accomplishments in office: bringing back the economy from near-collapse, adding millions of new jobs after double-digit unemployment gripped the land, saving the auto industry, repairing a shattered reputation around the world, attacking climate change and immigration reform, passing the Affordable Care Act, honoring the agreement with Iraq to bring home our troops, beginning the process of drawing down troops in Afghanistan, normalizing relationships with Cuba, refusing to let our enemies sleep, and getting Osama bin Laden.

There were many disappointments too.  The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was bungled.  Obama was unsuccessful in passing comprehensive immigration reform and getting action on gun control.  During his administration, the United States Government spied domestically on Americans and on some of our biggest allies.  Benghazi was poorly-handled, and the Syrian Civil War spun out of control allowing the rise of ISIS.

Part of the reason for these disappointments was a Congress that, for six years of his eight years, worked strongly against him.  President Obama has been disrespected and treated more poorly than many of his predecessors.  All the while, the President and his family have been a picture of class, intelligence, and even good humor.

There will be many defining American moments that we'll look back upon as to when President Obama was at his best.  One moment I'll always remember will be when he stood at the memorial service in Charleston for the nine people shot and killed in the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting and broke into "Amazing Grace".  It was a healing moment.

I'll also remember the movement that got him elected.  I remember meeting in people's living rooms and in coffee shops.  I remember making phone calls and knocking doors on his behalf.  I remember getting to know Mike Liroff and Charlie Davis and other organizers in the campaign.  I believed in President Obama.  I believed in the movement.

I'll remember when Obama's Vice President, Joe Biden, said he was "absolutely comfortable" with marriage equaity in this country.  Soon, Obama said he backed it, too.  The Department of Justice stopped defending DOMA.  Don't Ask Don't Tell went by the wayside.  Public opinion turned around, and Republican-appointed judges and Supreme Court Justices ultimately made marriage equality the law of the land in a broad advancement of civil rights for gay people like me.

That was not only the hope and change he promised.  It was signed, sealed, and delivered.

Tomorrow, Barack Hussein Obama II leaves office with a near 60 percent approval rating.  His administration has been largely scandal-free.  A grateful country says thank you.

I say thank you, and I can't wait to see what's next.  At 55, Barack Obama seems far from done making change.  This country needs him badly, too.  While I hope Donald Trump succeeds for the good of the country, I know that Barack Obama will be there to use his bully pulpit to make the world a better place.  To me, that's the job of a former President.

There will never be another Barack Obama.  For one final time, thanks Obama!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wesseler, Mowery Join City-County Council GOP Caucus

As is typical of local government, the layer most close to the public is often the one you hear the least about.

Republicans Jack Sandlin and Aaron Freeman left the City-County Council in November of last year. The duo took their “talents” to the Indiana Senate this January leaving two conspicuous open seats on the Council. Those seats have been filled.

John Wesseler, who according to the IBJ is a U.S. Army Veteran and has an extensive background in law enforcement, won the caucus to replace Sandlin. The Homecroft resident joined the Council in December.

Also joining the Council last month is Councillor Brian Mowery. On the positive side, Mowery seems to be excellent with social media with active Twitter and Facebook accounts. He lives in Franklin Township.

So, that means the Council is now comprised of the following 25 individuals. I’ve tried to list them by seniority on the Council.

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 Osili 1/1/2012 (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)
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)
Brian Mowery 12/5/2016* (Hogsett)
John Wesseler 12/5/2016* (Hogsett)
*-Estimated Date

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Former Rep. Mae Dickinson Passes at 83

News came late Tuesday night that longtime State Representative Mae Dickinson passed away after fighting health issues.

Long before I knew anything about politics, I knew about Dickinson and the work she did on behalf of children in the Indiana General Assembly.

Dickinson was first elected to the Indiana House in 1992 and served there until 2007. She retired from the House as her 95th District seat went to John Bartlett.

Her work as a neighborhood activist and State Representative aside, Dickinson also had quite a collection of hats, and she seemed to never be seen with the same hat on twice.  It was her trademark.

She served long and well, and the tributes poured in.

Congressman André Carson:
Saddened to hear about the passing of former State Rep. Mae Dickinson. Mae was not only a friend, she was a leader, stateswoman and gift to our entire community. May God bless her family during this time.
City-County Council President Maggie Lewis:
I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of State Representative Mae Dickinson. For nearly 15 years, she served the people of Indianapolis' 95th district with valor. Colossians 1:10 says, "Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.”

Representative Dickinson produced good fruit for the City of Indianapolis. Because of her profound commitment, our community has tougher domestic violence penalties and more extensive background checks for school corporations. On behalf of the City-County Council my deepest sympathy goes out to her family for their great loss.
There are many more personal reflections out there on social media. If you search her name, you'll find stories of kindness and service.

Representative Mae Dickinson is gone at 83.

Trump Undermines Own Legitimacy By Conduct

Donald Trump
I'm back from my long weekend, and it's just in time for one of the most interesting weeks in politics: Inauguration Week.

This year, January 20 falls on a Friday, so we get an entire week of hype before Trumpmageddon 2017. At noonish on Friday, Donald John Trump will raise his right hand and John Roberts, a man criticized by Trump, will ask him to repeat after him the Oath of Office.  It won't matter what he says because, legally, at noon on January 20, Barack Obama will no longer be President of the United States and Trump will.

It will be yet another peaceful transition of power between political parties but never perhaps between two political figures like Obama and Trump.

Obama, the first African-American to serve as President of the United States, will be handing off to Trump, a 70-year-old former reality show host and business man who successfully navigated a populist wave for an electoral vote victory.  

As Trump did for several years to Obama, he himself is fighting claims of illegitimacy to hold the office.  The loudest voice is civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.  The man who felt the blunt force of a sheriff's deputy's nightstick on Bloody Sunday in 1965 told NBC's Chuck Todd that he did not see President-Elect Trump as legitimate due to concerns over Russian hacking of our electoral system.  Trump fired back with sophomoric tweets using untrue rhetoric to sully the reputation of Lewis.  It backfired.

I don't agree with John Lewis in this regard.  I think Donald Trump was elected President of the United States by the laws of this land.  I think he stands as a legitimate holder of the office.  He, however, is threatening his own legitimacy by his actions.

How can a man swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States when he clearly doesn't even know what the very first First Amendment of that document says or means?  It's the First Amendment that guarantees my right, your right, John Lewis's right to protest.  It's the First Amendment that guarantees my right, your right, John Lewis's right to speak out.  It's also the First Amendment that guarantees the right of a free press and media to write about it.  

Thank YOU John Lewis for once again having the courage to speak out and stand up.  You are one of my heroes.  

As for Mr. Trump, I suggest he do some cramming on what it means to be President and take that Oath of Office.  Pocket-sized Constitutions are widely available.  One can even find the Constitution online with a little less time on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Donnelly's Reelection Fight Already Underway

Senator Joe Donnelly Spends the Day as a Firefighter.
Joe Donnelly’s fight for reelection to his Senate seat in 2018 has already begun with campaign insiders already being pulled in to lead his effort.

Peter Hanscom will lead Donnelly’s campaign as his campaign manager. Despite Hanscom’s relatively young age, it’s not his first time at the rodeo. He’s served in leadership roles with the Indiana Democratic Party, Freedom Indiana and Indiana Competes.

In 2012, Donnelly moved over from the U.S. House to the Senate by defeating then-Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Donnelly ran the perfect campaign, and, while the campaign was trending his way, Mourdock’s now infamous comments on rape shocked Hoosiers. 

Consistently, Donnelly ranks as one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, and his record on women’s issues tends to annoy more liberal Democrats. When he was elected to the Senate, Donnelly was against same-sex marriage, but he has since evolved on the issue. His vote for the Affordable Care Act as well will no doubt be used against him.

It will be harder to connect Donnelly to some of the same nefarious things that Evan Bayh was connected to in Todd Young’s successful campaign against the former Senator from this past fall. Donnelly is ethically as clean as a whistle, and no one can dispute how hard he has worked for his constituents in the State of Indiana. Donnelly has constantly been at the forefront of everything from VA reform to solving the crime issue in Indianapolis. Donnelly’s also been going across the state and doing a myriad of different jobs to put himself in the perspective of everyday Hoosiers.

Much will depend on who ends up challenging the Senator. You can bet it will likely be one of the current sitting GOP U.S. Representatives trying to take back the seat for Republicans.

I would assume this will be a close race all the way through.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Rokita Out to Destroy Civil Servant Union Representation

Rep. Todd Rokita
Last seen trying to take food out of the mouths of school children, Congressman Todd Rokita is back with the innocuous soundng Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act.  

The devil is often in the details when it comes to bills, as I've said before, and that's defintely true with the PAGE Act.  In fact, as reported by postalnews.com, Rokita's bill would kill union representation for newly-hired civil servants such as postal workers by making them "at-will" employees who "may be removed or suspended, without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all."

I'll give you a moment.

Ready to move on yet?

Another moment then...because there's more.

The bill would also make it impossible for a civl servant to qualify for a raise without reaching a certain performance level.  In essence, performance pay.  We recently saw how that worked for teachers in Indiana, didn't we?

I have an idea for Todd in his next campaign.  Why doesn't he run on his record of taking on the scourge of feeding children and paying civil servants?  Don't forget calling elderly Americans "piggish" and "Un-American" for expecting their social security and Medicare coverage.  

If Rokita ran on that record, maybe we could get someone in that seat that actually cares about individuals over ideology.  I can't imagine many of the people that mindlessly elect this guy know much about him.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Holcomb, Crouch Take Office Today

Crouch and Holcomb on Campaign Trail
Photo from Suzanne Crouch's Twitter
What a difference a year makes!

One year ago, Eric Holcomb was a candidate for United States Senate.  Mike Pence seemed to be on his way to at least a rematch with John Gregg in the race for Governor of Indiana.  Suzanne Crouch was on her way to midway through her term as Auditor of State.  Donald Trump was still seen as a joke, and Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner to replace Barack Obama in the White House.

Holcomb dropped out of the race for Senate in February.  Trump would soon become the frontrunner for the Presidency as he wrapped up the nomination by winning the Indiana Primary in May.  He then selected Pence as his running mate.  Holcomb was selected by the Republican State Committee to be the party's nominee for Governor.  A few weeks later, Holcomb tapped Crouch to be his running mate, and they started from behind in the polls.

We all know what happened in November, and, now, here we are.  Indiana state government takes center stage today as Governor-Elect Holcomb will raise his right hand and be sworn in as Indiana's 51st Governor.

All agreements and disagreements aside with Holcomb, but it must seem still like a whirlwind.  I'm not sure that I can think of anything quite like what happened to him this past year.  He's gone from out of the running for Senate to back in the game again to the Governor's Mansion.

It's easy to see why I'm a little unsure of what we are getting, but people that know Holcomb tell me he's up to the task.  Crouch also brings a great deal of experience to her role as Lieutenant Governor.

I don't know what's ahead for this General Assembly session and how they will ultimately treat a man that, as of last summer was out of politics for the moment.  I just caution Holcomb to remember that essentially 49 percent of Hoosiers wanted someone else as Governor.

I simply ask him to keep that in mind when they look at all sides of an issue.  There are a lot of us out here in the loyal opposition.  That said, I wish Governor Holcomb the best as he takes office because if he succeeds for our state, we all are more likely to succeed as Hoosiers.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Buttigieg Running for DNC Chair

Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Back in August of 2009, my friend Christopher Jackson and I attended the IDEA Convention in French Lick.

As we entered West Baden, we immediately stared seeing these homemade "Meet Pete" signs.  They were all in the same font.  "Meet Pete" signs were clustered everywhere, and I have no idea how many there were.  Needless to say, we put it on our agenda to meet Pete...even though we had no idea who Pete was.

Eventually, about 6:00 pm that night, we ran into Pete.  Turns out "Pete" was Pete Buttigieg, then a candidate for Indiana Treasurer of State. The marketing campaign urging Democratic insiders to "Meet Pete" was brilliant because once you met Pete, you were not going to forget him.  It was simple, cheap and I guarantee that anyone who attended that particular convention remembers it to this day.

The thing about Pete Buttigieg that you quickly realize is that he's not afraid to do quirky things to introduce himself to you.  Pete's style and friendly manner is just the surface point.  What you quickly become aware of is that this Rhoades Scholar has a tremendous amount of substance, and he has the ability to take his ideas and figure out how to implement them.  That's why Buttigieg has been a successful Mayor of South Bend and why the voters gave him a strong reelection margin in 2015.

At just 34, Buttigieg already has a long list of accomplishments, and now, he wants to take his talents to the Democratic National Committee as Party Chair.  On Twitter, he announced his candidacy.




To be frank, he's probably not the favorite to win the race.  There are some heavy hitters, past Chairs and nationally-known names running.  The five other candidates running would be wise to not discount this humble and friendly guy from Indiana.  Buttigieg has gotten to where he is now because he works hard, and he's making progress.

As I sit here right now, I can tell you that I firmly believe that someday the United States will meet Pete just like Chris and I did in 2009.  This may be the first step.  I don't know if Buttigieg's road will take him to the White House or the Oval Office, but I do know that I would not count him out of anything in the future.  That includes this election for DNC Chair.

We'll know by the end of February who the next leader of the DNC will be.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Firefly Brings Light to State Insect

The devil is in the details of the bills filed each year for each session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Some bills are controversial.  Others are addressing long-necessary needs.  Others raise eyebrows for a different reason.

Senate Bill 165 (and HB1034) has made some folks chuckle and shake their heads in these early days of the legislature, but a little research on the subject changed my mind on the bill.

Senate Bill 165 would make the "Say's Firefly" the state's insect.

I was shocked.  In a state like Indiana, where things like religious freedom are always near the top of any legislative discussion, I would think that the praying mantis would already be the state's insect, but I guess it's the firefly that has captivated Hoosier hearts an minds.

So where does a bill like this come from?

Let's be clear about his bill.  It didn't start on Ron Alting, the bill's sponsor's desk, it's definitely a bill that's coming from the grass roots.  Apparently, the insect got its name from a man named Thomas Say who was born in Posey County, Indiana.  There's your Hoosier connection.  Thousands of letters urging lawmakers to make the Say's Firefly the state's insect were received by lawmakers from elementary students across Indiana.

The bill was introduced last year, and a similar bill, with bipartisan support, was filed in the House as well.  It failed.  This year, it's back again.

So there's the story on the firefly bill.

Fireflies don't vote, and we can debate whether a state insect is something we need to really designate.  I suppose I say why not?  It means something to elementary students in the state.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Radio Personality to Throw Out Ceremonial First Bill

Indy Democrat has learned that WIBC Radio Personality Greg Garrison will throw out the ceremonial first bill on opening day of the Indiana General Assembly Session.

"It's an honor to be chosen to throw out the first bill.  I've heard it's the one banning Sharia Law, so I'm extra excited," said Garrison,.

Those in the know say fellow Emmis employee Tony Katz was also considered, but he wanted his own ceremonial day as well as three minutes to just ramble about something.  "They didn't want the trouble," said an unnamed staffer.  "They knew Katz would just ramble on and on before throwing it to traffic."

Garrison is the first radio host to throw out the first bill since the late Stan Solomon's controversial toss in 1990.

BREAING NEWS UPDATE:
We've just learned that Garrison won't be able to throw out the first bill.  Abdul-Hakim Shabazz will fill in for him because he just can't say no.

General Assembly Opens Today

Governor-Elect Eric Holcomb
Today is opening day of the 2017 legislative session, and it sounds like there will be plenty to talk about in the Indiana General Assembly.

I wonder what celebrity will be there to throw out the first bill?

It's a long session of the Assembly.  That means that interested parties should be on guard for craziness from now until the session shuts down in April.

Even more interesting is that we have a new Governor in Eric Holcomb who is soon to be sworn in at the Indiana Farmers' Fieldhouse on Jan. 8.  It's a little bit scary because Democrats and Republicans alike are without much knowledge of Holcomb's agenda or how he will handle key divisive issues. The bar was not set too high by Mike Pence who has essentially abandonded the state with the title of Governor while dealing with his transition to Vice President.

Watch Brian Bosma and David Long and other House and Senate leaders as they no doubt try to puppet the Governor into doing their bidding.

It seems to me education, specifically what will ultimately replace ISTEP, what will happen with teacher evaluations/performance pay, the possible expansion of vouchers, and school accountability, will be a major issue as it always is in a budget year.  I also think that you're going to see the state's crumbling infrastructure take center stage.  There also seems to be a swell for some reform when it comes to how redistricting is approached...though I wouldn't hold my breath.

Get ready, it's going to be a long ride to April.