Friday, March 9, 2018

That's the Ball Game, Goodbye

This will be the last post on the Indy Democrat Blog.

I'm ending this for personal reasons, but I'm pleased to do it on my own terms.

Why? That's a good question. My heart and time are no longer here, and, rather than have this become a part-time effort written poorly and haphazardly, I'd rather just say goodbye to blogging and move forward to new challenges. I'm healthy and happy. I'm just tired of doing this, and I feel like it's looming over me like a ghost of the past.

In 2006, I started a writing a column in the Mooresville/Decatur Times called Democratically Speaking in Indy, but my passion for journalism goes back through my time at Indiana and even back to the old journalism classroom at Ben Davis. This blog was an outlet for me to talk about politics. I created it for myself, really. I love journalism. I love chasing stories, and I appreciate that so many of you encouraged me along the way.

For the last nine years, I've been grousing on politics here. I've enjoyed almost every second. There gets to be a point, though, that this challenge or that challenge isn't enough anymore. I got to that point a few years back and taking couple of months off used to recharge me. It no longer does. I simply feel like I've written the same posts now with different characters so many times. I don't want to do that, and it's not fair to keep it going.

For kicks, I went back to 2011 and read some of the stuff I had written, and I sounded like a different person. Today, I just really don't have the time to write at that level any longer, and I really don't have the energy to make that time. I'm spending my time away from politics more and more.

Now, that doesn't mean I'm going to shut up. I'm still going to be posting on social media and doing other things. Who knows? If the right offer comes along, I might write for another outlet. I have had those offers, but I wanted to stay true to this blog. Well, I feel like time has come for me to take my leave.

The only thing left to do now is thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for telling me you enjoyed this blog. Thank you for calling me out on something you disagreed with. Thank you for giving me your time. I never thought I'd ever have anything more than me reading this blog. You made it special.

This blog has given me an opportunity to meet so many people and strike up relationships with fellow bloggers on both sides of the aisle. It's led me to friendships with people I never thought I'd meet and probably wouldn't have met without this outlet. We've been mentioned nationally and read internationally, and I am so proud of that.

Anyway, let's not make this an opera death. I feel like it's time for this blog to go. We've reached the end of the line...and it's alright. From the bottom of my heart and with everything I am, THANK YOU!


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Merritt Should Tell Indy How He Will Help Solve Indy's Infrastructure Woes from Indiana Senate

Jim Merritt
Marion County Republican Chairman, Senator Jim Merritt, is calling out Mayor Joe Hogsett on social media and elsewhere on the pothole situation that’s plaguing our city.

It’s definitely an opportunity for the out-of-office party to go after the popular Mayor. After all, it’s something we all see every day on just about every drive in our city. This is low-hanging fruit for Merritt and the GOP, and there’s really not much that Hogsett can do right now to remedy the issue except to wait for drier and a little warmer weather. A long-term fix is just not something this city can afford at the present time without astronomical tax increases.

Merritt, however, is calling the Mayor “Pothole Joe”, and he’s trying to ascertain what the Mayor’s plan is. I have some problems with this approach.

Merritt had every opportunity to step up to the plate and take a swing at this city’s biggest problems. He didn’t run for Mayor in 2015. Chuck Brewer ran for Mayor of Indianapolis after multiple Republicans declined to run. Neither Merritt nor anyone else on the GOP side wanted to take on Joe Hogsett, so it fell to a first-time candidate making a mayoral run against the experienced Hogsett.

As with everything, Hogsett has taken responsibility for this issue. His DPW Director, Dan Parker, hasn’t hid from the cameras or dodged questions. In fact, he told WISH-TV that the potholes that have sprung up across Indy are “unacceptable”. They are.

I also won’t go back and rehash old politics of why we have a multi-million dollar World Sports Park including a cricket stadium, but you might break an axle on a pothole getting there. You have to go back and look up the Ballard years for that.

The truth is that this dance happens every year. We gripe and complain about potholes. We wait for DPW to fix them. Then, we cringe at the tax bills we get every year because more and more money is being diverted from local governments at the state level by property tax caps and other policies. Joe Hogsett can’t do anything about that. Jim Merritt can as a member of the Indiana Senate.

I guess a good question might be, “What’s your plan to help Indianapolis deal with its infrastructure problems, Senator Merritt?”

That doesn’t make a good political hashtag, though.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Take a Breath Indianapolis...You're in Good Hands with Osili

Vop Osili
Vop Osili is the President of the City-County Council.

Indianapolis, take a breath.

I met Vop sometime in 2010 when he was running for Secretary of State, and I'm proud to say that I've struck up a good friendship with him.

After the election in 2010, I received a call from Osili. It was New Year's Eve. He invited me to lunch at P.F. Chang's downtown. When we sat down for lunch, Osili said he wanted to pick my brain about the future.

I have to say it was a humbling moment for me. At the time, there was speculation that Osili could possibly run for Mayor of Indianapolis or even Governor of Indiana. I'm not going to tell you everything that was said, but what I got from the entire meeting is that Vop doesn't need to do this public service thing as an officeholder to be somebody. He has plenty to do, and he is a highly-respected businessman. The truth is that Vop WANTS to serve. He WANTS to give back to the near-Westside and to communities like Haughville where he grew up. He WANTS to truly make a difference.

It was never a surprise for me when Vop announced a few weeks later that he wasn't running for Mayor and that he would be pursuing a seat on the City-County Council. He easily won that election, and he's served that district with distinction since.

It's no surprise to me now, when his city needed him most, that Vop stood up and has raised his hand again. Like Maggie Lewis before him, Osili has a good, level head and a tremendous amount of integrity. He brings that with him to the leadership of the City-County Council.

Take a breath, Indianapolis. It's going to be ok.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Monday's Council Meeting Could Start Healing Process

The City-County Council meets tomorrow evening at 7:00 pm. Stephen Clay will start the meeting as the Council President. Who knows what will happen after that?

A city-appointed parliamentarian will have much to say about what happens as Clay, somehow believably and ridiculously, left the proposal to remove him as Council President off the published Council Agenda. It's expected that tactic won't hold up. If Clay is removed, it's expected that either Maggie Lewis will once again be voted into the Council Presidency or Vop Osili will perhaps become Council President.

Now, we can go back and determine how we got here. We can point the finger at the Democrats and Republicans that gave us Stephen Clay despite the well-documened questions around his fitness for the office of City-County Council President. We can mourn the loss of leadership of the quality of Maggie Lewis' stewardship of the Council. We can also bellyache about how the Council keeps infighting and keeps messing this thing up over the years.

All of this solves zero city problems. It paves no roads. It gets nothing done.

At its best, the City-County Council can be an example of bipartisan legislative excellence. The 25-member body works because the city and county need action. The old adage that potholes have no party comes to mind. The buses must run on time. Every one wants safe streets, and the trash pickup has to happen. None of this occurs efficiently without a Council that works. For all the bashing it gets over politics and infighting, the Council is still a million times more effective than what we have in Washington.

That's my hope for Monday. Whatever happens, we need a Council that can heal its wounds and move forward. We need that true bipartisan idea that we're all in this together to prevail. We don't need selfish self-promoters and political back door games.

When I ran for Council in 2015, I lost badly. Still, I enjoyed the process, and I tried to make difference. Even as I was running, I passed issues that I heard about on the campaign trail along to Jason Holliday, my opponent and the incumbent. We disagreed on much, but I think we both wanted to get things done for our neighbors.

People criticized me for not going after Jason harder during the campaign. Perhaps I could have been tougher on him, but I just don't think that's what city-county government should be about. I think we need to watch out for each other. We need to be critical, but we need to be fair. We need to speak out, but we don't have to be jerks about it.

Let's get Clay out of the leadership on Monday. Let's get anyone who doesn't have this spirit of what's best for the city out of office in 2019, and let's get this thing fixed. Our Indianapolis and Marion County have too much at stake. We need to be better.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Council Dems Say Bye Bye to Clay; Lawsuit Filed

Stephen Clay is still President of the City-County Council, but, after a bizarre stunt, he's been removed from the Democratic Caucus.

Clay was punted from the Democratic Council Caucus after his news conference yesterday where he accused former President Maggie Lewis and Council staff of wrongdoing. Various media outlets and sources with the city quickly debunked his conspiracy theories. There are 14 Democrats on the Council, and 13 voted to boot Clay. In fact, it was a 13-0 vote. 

Then, today, news came that Clay was being sued by eight fellow Councillors charging that he did not have the legal authority to fire now former Council Clerk NaTrina DeBow and former Council Attorney Fred Biesecker. The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to reinstate the employees.

The meeting of the Council on Feb. 19 could be Clay's last stand. Let's hope for the sake of the city, it is. We've seen enough of this ridiculousness. I believe the vote should be 24-1 to change Council Presidents. Vop Osili has been identified as the frontrunner to replace Clay, and the city comes out way way way way way way to the infinite power ahead in that exchange.

Of course, Clay could do us all a favor and just resign. Methinks he won't, though. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Most Council Democrats Release Statement on Clay Vote

WTHR's Milz Talks to Duke Oliver about Support for Clay, Vote to Hold New Election

No one has to speak to the media, but, when you voted for Stephen Clay for City-County Council President, I think it's incumbent upon you to provide at least a no comment.

WTHR's Mary Milz filed this report on the four Democrats who voted for Clay and the two Democrats who changed their votes on Clay and now want him out as Council President. It's very worth your time. 

So, let's get this on the scoreboard...

Duke Oliver, who agreed to sit down with Milz, says he had no idea the chaos that would follow.

Joe Simpson had no comment and couldn't be reached.

LaKeisha Jackson would not comment and seemed frustrated that Milz contacted her.

Monroe Gray was Monroe Gray.

I credit Oliver for speaking out. At least he took the time to sit down and explain his vote and you can give that account whatever weight you wish. As far as the other three, well, I still think they owe this city and its taxpayers at least a statement about their original votes.

I would also ask Mary Milz to corner Mike McQuillen and all the Republicans that voted for Clay and not let them get away without asking them if their proud of the role of their caucus in this coup. 

Clay's Leadership Continues to Draw Fire in Council Controversy

Pastor Stephen Clay
Pastor Stephen Clay's role as President of the City-County Council has gone from problem to embarrassment for his City-County Councillor colleagues. On February 19, the Council will get another chance to elect someone else President and perhaps some semblance of normalcy will return to our city-county legislative body.

After Democrats voted Monday to reconsider Clay's election to the Council's highest leadership role, Clay continued his uneven leadership on Tuesday firing Council Clerk NaTrina DeBow and Council Attorney Fred Biesecker. Reportedly, the two were escorted out of the building by deputies from the Marion County Sheriff's Office. According to local leaders and legal experts, these firings are more than questionable under state law, and they may ultimately cost the city in legal fees.

Now, as reported by the Indy Star, it seems that Clay may have tried to undercut the Republican leaders that delivered him the President's seat. James Briggs writes that Clay attempted to restore Democrats to council committee chair seats given to Republican Councillors last month.

All of this craziness has seemingly galvanized Clay's Democratic caucus against him. The court of public opinion has apparently turned against him, too. Ninety-five percent of respondents in a WTHR poll stated that the firings were not justified. The Council situation has gotten so bad that it dominated talk at my work lunch table today. We rarely discuss City-County Council politics, so the fact that people are aware of the story means that it may have hit another level of recognition with the community.

All of this couldn't come at a worse time here in Indy. With violence continuing and potholes popping up like fireflies across Indy roads, Clay's wacky turn as President, as many have pointed out, comes at a time when Indianapolis is trying to woo Amazon build it's new headquarters and invest right here in Indianapolis. This certainly can't be helping.

Depending on what happens, Clay could continue to lash out and be a desperate politician with a lot of power. That's why everyone is wondering what's next. It's really not like we didn't see this coming when Clay was elected. Again, thank LaKeishia Jackson, Monroe Gray, Joe Simpson, Duke Oliver and Mike McQuillen's GOP caucus (minus Brian Mowery and Jeff Miller) for making all of this possible. You elected a person who was clearly unready to lead.

Monday, January 22, 2018

WRTV Report Calls Into Question Clay's Ability to Lead, Serve on Council

Councillor Clay
More trouble has surfaced for new City-County Council President Stephen Clay in the form of a WRTV Call 6 Investigates report

It raises provocative questions about Clay's ability to lead and even serve on the City-County Council.

Jonathan Bryant, the man who, as reported by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz on Indy Politics, accused Pastor Clay of groping him several years ago, apparently did some digging, and he found something. 

Per the report from WRTV:
Jonathan Bryant obtained a copy of his own DCS report from 2004 and provided a copy to, which was shared with Call 6 Investigates on Saturday. 
That report, which Call 6 Investigates' Paris Lewbel confirmed through multiple police sources to be authentic, says the case manager who investigated the allegations found the claims against Rev. Clay to be “substantiated” and was turning them over to police and the prosecutor.
No charges were filed against Clay, and it's not immediately clear what happened after DCS turned the case over, according to WRTV. Both IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutor issued statements which are printed in the report. IMPD says there's no record of Clay being under investigation, according to WRTV. The Prosecutor's Office indicated to WRTV that they are still searching any records.

All of this puts Mike McQuillen, the Republicans, and the Democrats who backed Clay for the Presidency of the City-County Council in a tough spot, politically. McQuillen stated that the allegations against Clay were just that: allegations. I don't know if this report will change the calculus for him.

Regardless, it's clear one thing has to happen. Despite the fact that he was never charged, with these revelations swirling around him, Pastor Stephen Clay is no longer able to effectively lead or serve on the City-County Council, in my opinion.

Though he should, he's not likely to resign, and there's no mechanism to remove a sitting Councillor who has not been convicted of a felony.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Council Committee Chairs Show Politics of Clay Coup

The coup continues.

It’s been three days since shock and awe struck the City-County Council as Stephen Clay upset Maggie Lewis to become President of the legislative body.

Today, the Republican Party, the Council's minority party, received chair roles in three powerful City-County Council committees. Democrats LaKeisha Jackson, Joe Simpson, and Duke Oliver all received chair roles as well. They are three of the four Democrats (plus Clay) that joined Republicans to oust Lewis.

Monroe Gray, a former Council President and the Council's current Majority Leader, was that fourth Democrat to jump ship in support of Clay over Lewis. He suddenly gained a conscience today and voted against the President Clay's plan to give Republicans unprecedented power from the political minority. He was outvoted. 

Not surprisingly, he didn't get a committee chairmanship.

The Indianapolis Star published two great articles today about the ramifications of the move by Clay to join with disgruntled Democrats and ambitious Republicans to unseat the capable Lewis. In brief, the short term gain is palpable, but the long term cost may be expensive politically. Read them here and here. Kudos to James Briggs and Abdul-Hakim Shabazz for the excellent coverage.

Citizens of Indianapolis lose in this whole mess. Instead of a tuned-in Council that’s ready to deal with the problems and issues of a city, we’re now bogged down in internal caucus politics and Republican-Democrat struggles with a Council leader who apparently has many questions surrounding his past behavior. Mayor Joe Hogsett deserves a better Council structure to deal with as the city tries to make key decisions about its future.

At least it makes good blog copy.

My good friend and Council Vice President, Zach Adamson, reminded me that Gray was already a committee chair and retains his chairmanship of the Municipal Corporations Committee.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Council Shocker: Clay Elected Council President

Pastor Stephen Clay
In a shocker, Pastor Stephen Clay was elected President of the Indianapolis/Marion County City-County Council tonight by a 14-11 vote.

Clay, Monroe Gray, LaKeisha Jackson, Duke Oliver and Joe Simpson joined 11 Republicans to overthrow former President Maggie Lewis. Under-fire GOP Councillor Jeff Miller as well as Councillor Brian Mowery joined the Democrats in voting to keep Lewis as President.

My sources told me, as recently as a few days ago, that Clay stood little chance of becoming Council President. He was expected to get only a handful of votes. This, to me, is a surprise along the lines of Bart Peterson losing to Greg Ballard in the 2007 Mayoral Election.

It's also not particularly good news for Indianapolis. Lewis was a tremendous Council President who drew wide praise from both sides of the aisle. I guess she's going to spend her time picking some political knives out of her back. Eh tu GOP?

Republicans, of course, have called for the resignation of Councillor Jeff Miller. Charges were filed in November against Miller accusing him of inappropriately touching two young girls. Last week, allegations of inappropriate behavior towards a young man came back to light in a detailed Indy Politics report. Clay denies the allegations, and no charges were ever filed. The Indy Star took an even deeper look at the matter in this report by James Briggs.

It should be very interesting to see a number of things...

  • the relationship between Clay and the Republican and Democratic caucuses
  • the relationship between Clay and the Mayor Joe Hogsett
  • what political machinations went on behind the scenes to win the votes 
  • what kind of Council President Clay will be
Republicans and some Democrats united to overthrow beloved Council President Rozelle Boyd a few years back with Steve Talley as President. Talley proved to be an effective leader. Monroe Gray took over as Council President until Democrats lost the majority in the 2007 election cycle.

Clay was appointed to the Council after Talley was elected Lawrence Township Trustee in 2014. He was elected to his own term on the Council in 2015 by a margin of 84.2 percent to 15.8 percent over Terri Miller-Penquite.

In other news, Zach Adamson was reelected as Vice President of the Council.