Friday, August 22, 2014

Indianapolis to Pay Hourly Rate to Consultant Far in Excess of What Other Cities Are Paying

One of the seven consulting contracts signed by the Ballard administration to promote the proposed Justice Center is with KPMG Corporate Finance, LLC.  The cap on the contract (which assuredly will be hit) is $3,000,000 with an hourly rate $212.50 which is to rise to $637.50 an hour if the deal is closed.  That $637.50 rate translates into $10.63 every minute.  The $212.50 and $637.50 rates, by the way are for ALL employees, even clerical.

Let's look at what cities are paying KPMG in contracts I found online.  I have also included the approximate date of the contract)

Chicago: (8/2014)  $90 an hour

Idaho:  (2012) $250 an hour

Dallas:  (2007) $190 an hour

Portland: (2002) $120 an hour, $145 after January 1, 2013

The only comparable KPMG contract I could find on line was one with the State of Indiana which paid KPMG $4.5 million and had hourly rates as follows:  Managing Director $655, Director $560, Associate Director/VP $470, Associate $380, Clerical $150.  The contract ran from 2006 to 2009 with hourly fees increasing every year. The amount cited is for the 2009 year.

It is true that the work in each of these contracts are different.  But it is not clear why that in the Indianapolis is so much more complex that it involves a much higher rate.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wayne Township Small Claims Court Clerk Denies Access to Court Records Involving Collection Agencies, Unbelievably Claims Records Are Not Public

It's pretty remarkable in this day and age that a court clerk would not know court records are public records and that anyone off the street has the right to look at those files.  Apparently though someone at the Wayne Township Small Claims Court needs some better training.  I am fairly confident that once that court's well-regarded judge, Donnie Vaughn,  learns what one of his employees did, he will set her straight and train his staff what their duties are to the public in terms of the open records law.

In the complaint below that Attorney Steve Hofer filed with the State's Public Access Counselor, he also makes note of the curious fact that defendants names in Wayne and Lawrence Township are not included on a number of collection cases filed in Wayne and Lawrence Townships.

I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Pike Small Claims Court who Steve identifies as complying with the law.  I may be biased because it is my home township, but my experience is that Pike Township has the best run small claims court in Marion County.  Kudos to my fellow law school classmate, Judge Doug Stephens for that.

The following is a link to Steve's blog on the subject.

***********************************

August 21, 2014                                               
 
Luke Britt
Indiana Public Access Counselor
W470 Indiana Government Center South
402 West Washington Street
Indianapolis IN 46204

               OFFICIAL OPEN RECORDS COMPLAINT

                                              Agency: Wayne Township (Marion County) Small Claims Court
                                              5401 West Washington Street, Indianapolis IN 46241
                                              Date of Request/Agency Denied Access: August 4, 2014

 Dear Counselor Britt: 

I am hereby making a complaint of denied access under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.  The agency in question is the Wayne Township Small Claims Court in Indianapolis.  On Monday, August 4, 2014, during regular business hours, between 2:30 and 3:00 PM; I went to the Wayne Township Small Claims Court for the purposes of reviewing a selection of recent cases filed by bad debt buyers.  The abuse of the court system by bad debt buyers is a matter of public concern.  For context see: The One Hundred Billion Dollar Problem in Small Claims Court: Robo-Signing and Lack of Proof, Peter A. Holland, published in Journal of Business & Technology Law, Vol. 6, p. 259, 2011 and online at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1875727. See also the New York Times Magazine feature story Paper Boys: Inside the Dark, Labyrinth, and Extremely Lucrative World of Consumer  Debt Collection,  Jake Halpern, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/15/magazine/bad-paper-debt-collector.html?_r=0 

At the Wayne Township Court, I was allowed to use the public access terminal to identify a selection of recent cases. I copied down some case numbers, approximately 20, and asked to see the files that went with the case numbers.  The attendant said that I was not allowed to see the files, that they were not public. The only public information was the information on the terminal. I told the attendant that she is mistaken, these are public records that are readily accessed by collection attorneys on a daily basis.  On that same day I had inspected files without incident at Pike Township Small Claims Court. The attendant told me that I would have to take it up with the supervisor who was not in, and would not be available until tomorrow. She would not give me the full name of the supervisor. I offered to make a written request, but I was rebuffed.   

I believe it is the responsibility of the agency to have persons trained in compliance with the act on duty during all regular business hours regardless of the presence or absence of any given supervisor.  I believe my treatment at this court conveys an image that the court’s policy is to be friendly to debt collectors but not to persons who want to police the conduct of debt collectors.  

Finally, I would have made an informal request for an opinion by the counselor if it were not for a disturbing fact that I found out later.  In the MYCASE online record system, the defendants’ names are missing from the online records of a number of collection cases filed in Wayne and Lawrence Townships after 8/11/2014.   (See enclosed documentation.) If researchers aren't even able to get defendant names from the online system; it will be impossible to uncover problems with debt collectors misusing the court system.

Sincerely,

Steven R. Hofer
Attorney at Law

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tax, Borrow and Spend Indianapolis Republicans Plot to Take Fiscal Conservative Out in Primary, Possibly Hand District to Democrats

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh has penned a nice article entitled:  The Conscience of the Indianapolis City-County Council:  Christine Scales.
Councilor Christine Scales
I echo Gary's praise of Christine.  Just recently we saw virtually every Republican councilor, but not Christine, sign on to sponsor a property tax increase.  This same group of Republican councilors is also pushing for a local option income tax increase of nearly 10%.  It is astonishing how far these councilors, and Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, have strayed from the fiscally conservative principles that won the election in 2007.

One thing though in particular caught my eye in Gary's article about Councilor Scales:
Incidentally, the Republican council leader, Mike McQuillen, who can't get enough of shooting spitballs at Scales during council meetings, used introductions at the beginning of the council meeting last night to introduce a guy by the name of Tim Craft. Keep an eye on this guy. The Republicans met behind closed doors and drafted Craft, an associate of CB Richard Ellis, to run against Scales in next year's Republican primary as punishment because she votes like, well, like a real Republican would vote. Of course, Craft's Democratic business associate at CB Richard Ellis, Gordon Hendry, who served in the Peterson administration, and his wife, Jennifer Wagner, did all they could to stop Ballard's election in 2007. They couldn't say enough bad things about candidate Ballard in 2007.
Councilor Mike McQuillen
So McQuillen and other Republicans are plotting to unseat Councilor Scales in the GOP primary with an associate of one of the biggest government contractors in the city, a beneficiary of Indy's well-polished pay-to-play system and all those increased taxes and fees on working men and women that Councilor Scales has fought so valiantly against.  But it is worse than even what Gary has portrayed.  With the new maps, Scales' northeast side district is far from being safe.  Republican operative David Brooks, who drew the maps, pegs the Republican baseline in the district at 55.12%.  But Brooks used 2010 which was an exceptionally good Republican year.  Using the 2012 election, I calculate a Republican baseline of only 50.38%.  Most likely the 2015 baseline will be somewhere between the two figures which makes it a very competitive district.

Councilor Scales is well-known in that district and by far the best suited to hold onto it despite the challenging demographics of the area.  Knocking her off in a primary would put an unknown Republican on the ballot and tip the balance to the Democrats. 
That McQuillen and his ilk would even contemplate doing this shows what is wrong with the establishment RINOs who have latched on to Mayor Greg Ballard's pay-to-play administration that is fueled by tax and fee increases, as well as reckless borrowing. They would rather lose a district to the Democrats, than have in a Republican in office who is a fiscal conservative and who stands up for taxpayers.  And that is precisely why those McQuillen and the other RINOS are, deservedly, heading for a huge election loss in 2015.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn Repeats Lie About Indianapolis Property Tax Caps Causing Loss in Revenue

Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy once again takes apart the numbers and catches city officials lying about the budget.  This time her fact checking snares Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn:
Ryan Vaughn
... Chief of Staff (aka Mayor) Ryan Vaughn, is reported by John Tuohy of the IndyStar, as having said
Vaughn said tax collections have lagged since passage of property tax caps in 2008. Next year's property tax revenues will be $63 million less than in 2008 -- the homestead tax credit and the police tax were a couple of the only options the city has left to collect additional money, Vaughn said.
Come on Ryan.  Either you know you are pulling a fast one over the public, or you do not.  Neither option is adequate to transparency in government.

Vaughn specifically picked 2008 for a comparison because that was the last year before the tax caps program was fully implemented.  You don't have to talk to government officials very long before they are bemoaning tax caps.  I don't want to dismiss all of their claims out of hand.  But - and this is a big 'but' - they never seem to recall the massive amount of obligations that the State took over, funded by the 1 percent increase in State sales tax.

In the case of the City-County, the State of Indiana took over funding of specific obligations that used to cost the City-County over $113 M a year.  For instance, the famous pre-1977 police and fire pensions.  This pension had not had prudent payments made to it over the years and those public safety folks were beginning to retire in mass.  This is the financial cliff that Peterson was facing when he got the public safety tax raised.

So, when you subtract the $113 M a year from the 2008 property taxes, well then Mayor Ballard got quite a golden ticket from the State Legislature.  When you subtract that $113 M a year in obligations, AND account for tax cap penalties, the City-County collected just about $50 M more from property taxes in 2014 than in 2008.  Yes, I said MORE.
 Pat then goes on to provide a graph for those of us who like pictures:
Below is a graph showing the City-County total property tax levy and the net levy (total levy minus circuit breaker penalty) from 2008 through 2014. To simplify the jargon, the total levy is what they asked for, the net levy is what they got. The state took over City-County obligations in 2009 and the circuit breakers began to hit in 2010.
As you can see, the total property tax levy (what they asked for) and net levy (what they got) took a real jump in 2009 (The 2008 data is normalized for the $113M in City-County obligations taken over by the State in subsequent years so we can compare apples to apples.)  Without a doubt, the initial year of the tax caps was good for the resources of Indianapolis.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Liberals Blast Texas Governor Rick Perry Indictment, Criminalization of Political Differences

Many liberals are rejoicing in the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry for threatening (and then carrying out) a veto against continued funding of the "public integrity" division of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after her embarrassing driving while intoxicated arrest in which she was found to have a blood alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit and was videotaped being extremely abusive to law enforcement officials while being booked.  The video (actually there are three, links for which can be found here) speaks for itself.
Texas Governor Rick Perry

Governor Perry thought DA Lehmberg was an embarrassment, had lost the confidence of the people., and should resign. When the budget bill came before him, he did a line item veto of funding for the "public integrity" activities of Lehmberg's office when Lehmberg refused to resign.

For exercising his constitutional prerogative to veto funding for Lehmberg's office, a Travis County special prosecutor unbelievably brought two felony charges against Governor Perry to a grand jury who indicted him this week.

First up is David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama from 2009 to 2011 who tweeted:
“Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy."
Other liberal Democrats took to Twitter to announce that the indictment of Perry was ludicrous, including Jonathan Prince and Matt Yglesias:
Have to say Perry indictment seems nuts. Gov has constitutional power to veto. Gov uses power. Grand jury indicts [because] they don't like reason?" Prince asked
"Hard for me to imagine these Rick Perry charges sticking," Yglesias wrote, adding, "Does anyone think this Perry indictment makes sense?"
Left-wing blogger Jonathan Chait also blasted the indictment in an column entitled "This Indictment Of Rick Perry Is Unbelievably Ridiculous."

Even the liberal leaning news outlet, ThinkProgress, which has long been a critic of Governor Perry, issued an editorial raising doubts about the validity of the Perry indictment.

On the academic front, three of the biggest names, Professors Alan Dershowitz, Jonathan Turley and Eugene Volokh were united in support of Perry.  First up is Prof. Dershowitz:

The indictment also outraged former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who nobody would accuse of being a conservative or a Republican.
...Dershowitz calls himself a "liberal Democrat who would never vote for Rick Perry," but he's still "outraged" over the Texas governor's indictment Friday on charges of abuse of power and coercion.

The charges are politically motivated and an example of a "dangerous" trend of courts being used to affect the ballot box and politics, he told Newsmax on Saturday. 

"Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment," Dershowitz said. "If you don't like how Rick Perry uses his office, don't vote for him."

 ...

  "This is another example of the criminalization of party differences," said Dershowitz, a prominent scholar on United States constitutional law and criminal law who writes the "Legally Speaking" column for Newsmax. "This idea of an indictment is an extremely dangerous trend in America, whether directed at [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay or [former President] Bill Clinton."
Further, Dershowitz said, such indictments are something that's done in totalitarian countries and should not be done in the United States.

In such countries, "if you don't like them, you indict," Dershowitz said. "In America, you vote against them...this should be up to the voters. There is no room in America for abuse of office charges, and this has to stop once and for all. This is a serious problem."

And indicting a politician, rather than fighting back through a ballot box, "is so un-American."
Dershowitz also told Newsmax Perry was well within his rights when he vetoed the money for Lehmberg's office, as he "saw a drunk serving as DA" who "shouldn't be enforcing criminal law.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh penned an article analyzing the Texas criminal statutes used to indict Governor Perry and concluded that indictment was improper.  Prof. Turley, who opined that Gov. Perry was wrong in threatening a veto of public integrity funding if DA Lehmberg refused to resign, nevertheless did not find a legal basis for turning a political dispute into a criminal matter.

Democrats are at risk at overplaying their hand, banking on a ridiculous indictment to smear Governor Perry, who is increasingly looking like a strong presidential candidate in 2016.   It's good though to see that some on the left though have the integrity to stand up and say that what is being done to Governor Perry is not supported by any rational interpretation of the law and is simply wrong.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Ed Delaney Attacks Mayor Ballard's Pre-K Program As Inadequate, Poorly Thought Out

State Representative Ed Delaney today kicked off the 2015 mayoral election season with a press
Democratic Mayoral
Candidate Ed Delaney
conference in which the veteran Democratic lawmaker took aim at the Ballard administration's pre-K program, including Ballard's plan to fund it with the elimination of the local homestead property tax credit.  That approach, which would result in only some residents facing property tax hikes, also acts to raid tax revenue from school districts in Marion County.

In a press release following the conference, Delaney outlined his criticism of Ballard's program:

The Mayor’s pre-k proposal does too little and drains existing programs already under stress

o    By the Mayor's own estimate there are nearly 6,000 children in poverty who could benefit from decent pre-school education. His proposal would reach less than 25% of children in poverty. His proposal does nothing for the remaining 75% of children in poverty and nothing for those children whose parents cannot afford preschool.

o   The Mayor would finance his modest idea by taking funds away from public schools, public libraries, IndyGo Transit and Eskanazi Hospital. Let me repeat that: every cent of his proposal will result in harm to existing services including the tens of thousands of children in our public schools. This is robbing Peter to pay Paul.  In doing this the Mayor would eliminate a Homestead Credit that has benefited the schools and reduced taxes for homeowners. I am handing you a chart to show the exact costs to our schools and other public facilities. To take just one example, the Mayor will take $922,700 per year for 5 years from the Franklin Township Schools alone. That school system is already under financial stress. Note that in the process of cutting our schools and city services the Mayor would also increase taxes on homeowners by $3.7 million. 

The Mayor’s proposal does not help all the children who need help to attend pre-school

o   Pre-school is costly but it is money well spent. According to the Mayor's estimate it costs from $4700 to $7000 per year. His proposal would only help one of four poor children not now in pre-school. It would leave everyone above the poverty level to pay the full-cost of pre-school whether their parents make $35,000 or $350,000 a year. Such a program cannot be labelled "public" education, yet he would fund 75% of the cost of his program from public school dollars.

The Mayor’s proposal is driven by the Election Cycle not by good planning

o   The State is slowly beginning to create a structure to support preschool with state dollars. I am urging the Legislature to move more rapidly to fund a state-wide pre-school program. In the long run pre-school education will lower our crime rate and improve academic performance. It only succeeds if the approach is thoughtful and widespread. It should not be done in a hurry because the Mayor is facing an election.

o   The Mayor has been under siege over the murder rate in our capital city. It is only natural that he wants to respond. He is right that over the long haul pre-school education will lower our crime rate and strengthen our community. But we need to have a thoughtful approach to this long-term program. It simply cannot succeed if it is too small. It cannot generate support if it undercuts everything from school budgets to public transit and public health.

o   If the Mayor needs political cover, let him get it by engaging in a debate over how to fund pre-k, who gets help, what role the public schools will have and who will run the system. I am prepared to engage in that debate with the Mayor and the other Democrats seeking that office.

Will Seven Justice Center No Bid Consulting Contracts Worth $12 Million End Indianapolis Mayor Ballard's Political Career?

There was outrage last week when it was discovered that the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard had entered into a $750,000 no bid consulting contract with public relations and lobbying firm Bose Public Affairs Group.  It turns out that was the tip of the iceberg.  Diligent work by reporters unearthed six more no bid consulting contracts for the promotion of the Justice Center, contracts worth more than $12 million.  The IBJ details the contracts:
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
The largest contract, signed in February, is with architectural consultant Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc., also known as HOK. The firm stands to make $4.7 million if the city closes on a deal for the justice center. That may include a closing bonus and finance charges on the deferred fees, according to the agreement. 

Financial consultant KPMG can earn up to $3 million, and that includes a potential bonus, or "success fee," if a deal closes. KPMG is working at a discounted rate of $212.50 per hour. If the deal closes, the bonus will be calculated with an hourly rate of $637.50. 

Legal consultant Bingham Greenebaum Doll's retainer is worth up to $1.5 million, but it can be amended if fees accrue beyond that amount. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Deron Kintner, who entered the agreement with Bingham in October, used to work at Bingham's predecessor firm, Bingham McHale LLP.

Bingham's sub-consultant, Los Angeles-based Nossaman LLP, can earn up to $2.5 million, according to an agreement, also entered by Kintner in October.

Public relations and lobbying firm Bose Public Affairs Group is charging $750,000 in three installments. Bose senior consultant and former mayoral staffer John Cochran is working on the justice center project, communicating with City-County Council members and residents affected by the new courts and jail. The justice center is slated to be built on the site of the former General Motors stamping plant on the western edge of downtown.

There are also two smaller contracts, one with local building consultant John Klipsch, who could earn up to $100,000, and one with risk-management consultant Bickmore for up to $50,000.
(Emphasis was added.)
Think one of the consultants might advise the administration that the current plans for the Justice Center are not the best, well think again.  According to Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter:
It's not up to the consultants to advise against entering a deal, Lotter said. "They are providing the expert counsel to make it go forward," he said.
For 6 1/2 years, the Ballard administration has used projects such as this to enrich with our tax dollars government contractors, invariably also contributors to the Mayor's campaign.  But the consulting contracts the Ballard administration handed out this time with respect to the Justice Center are unprecedented, evidence that the Ballard pay-to-play practices are now on steroids.  There also appear to be people within the Ballard administration, without any apparent supervision by the Mayor, aggressively using their positions to enrich friends and supporters, one last desperate attempt to raid the public treasury before the lights mercifully go out on the Ballard administration forever.

The $12 million in no bid contracts also create a dynamite political issue for Ballard's Democratic opponent(s).  Those contracts could well prove to be the final nail in the coffin holding Ballard's political career.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard's 2013 Finance Report Raises Questions As To Whether He Will Run for Re-Election in 2015

In early January of this year, the campaign of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard filed its 2013 annual report with the Marion County Clerk's Office.  The report suggests questions as to whether Ballard intends to go to the post in 2015 as well as highlights a continuing "burn rate" problem.

Let's look at some comparable year reports which will highlight my point.  In particular, I looked at reports that were two years before the election, outside the election window, when an incumbent is supposed to be raising money and stashing it away for use in the election window.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Mayor Ballard 2013
Raised: $617,618
Spent:  $203,400
Burn Rate:  32.9%

Mayor Ballard 2009
Raised:  $831,080
Spent:  $377,579
Burn Rate:  45.4%

Mayor Peterson 2005
Raised: $1,338,354
Spent:  $272,487
Burn Rate:  20.4%

Let's crunch the numbers.  Ballard's two years out fundraising is down by 26.0% and spending is down 46.1%.  The latter is not necessarily a bad thing as a candidate is not supposed to spend a lot of money in an off year.  Former Mayor Peterson did it exactly correct in 2005, stashing away nearly 80% of every dollar his campaign brought in.

Contrary to the belief that he is a prolific fundraiser, Ballard raised only 46.1% of what Peterson raised in a comparable year.

Much of Ballard's spending has always gone to consultants.  In the 2009 report, Ballard, for inexplicable reasons, paid Hallowell Consulting, run by Jennifer Hallowell, $92,857.  That was down to "only" $52,000 in the 2013 report.   Such large payments to Hallowell, who is married to Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker, were always strange given her spotty record as a consultant.  In 2007-2008, Hallowell acted as New Hampshire campaign manager for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  Giuliani finished fourth in the Granite State with only 9% of the vote. When Giuliani later dropped out,, Hallowell ran John McCain's campaign in Indiana.  In 2008, McCain became the first Republican presidential candidate since 1964 to lose Indiana.

Most observers are certain Ballard will throw his hat in the ring for a third term. With former U.S. Attorney and Secretary of State Joe Hogsett waiting in the wings, I think a Ballard attempt at a third term in increasingly Democratic Indianapolis is far from a certainty.  I'm sticking with the odds being only 50-50 that Ballard will run again.

Friday, August 8, 2014

What Do Marion County Republicans Do If Ballard Opts Against Running For A Third Term?

Imagine the scenario. It's the middle of December 2014. Indianapolis Mayor Ballard Greg Ballard steps to the podium to announce he will not seek a third term.   Just a month earlier, Republicans lost every county-wide race by over 15 points.  Republicans in Marion County scramble for a nominee, someone who will assume the responsibility of not only overcoming the Democratic partisan advantage, but doing so while facing off against a formidable opponent, former U.S. Attorney and Secretary of State Joe Hogsett.

I've been assured that Ballard is definitely running for a third term.  WISH-TV reporter Jim Shella suggests that the fact that Ballard is raising a substantial money is evidence that Ballard is seeking re-election. Balderdash.  One thing that is consistent about the Ballard's campaign reports is that while he raises a large amount of money (almost exclusively from people and companies doing business with the city), Ballard's campaign, unlike every other candidate I've ever known, spends an astonishing amount of money in off-years far removed from elections. This is what I wrote about his campaign's habits after reviewing his 2010 report:
Ballard is having no problem raising money, last year clearing $988,828. But what is shocking and unprecedented, is how much money the campaign is spends in off-years. Last year, the Ballard campaign continued its high "burn rate" practice, spending an astonishing $522,356. 
That means the Ballard campaign is spending 53% of every dollar it takes in. What about Ballard's opponent? In 2010, Democrat Melina Kennedy raised $868,000 and spent about $144,000. Kennedy thus spent only 17% of the money she raised.
The Ballard "burn rate" was duplicated on other off-year reports he filed.  Ballard's fundraising doesn't appear to be primarily about raising money to run for office.  Rather, it seems the purpose is to get money from government contractors in order to transfer that money to the pockets of political consultants, law firms and others who have profited off of Ballard during his 6 1/2 years in office.

So I don't buy the Shella theory.  Instead I fall back to what I know about politicians. The bottom line is that those who have won high elected office generally become very risk adverse when it comes to new election challenges.  That's why Sen. Dan Coats stepped aside when a clash with then Gov. Evan Bayh was on the horizon and it is why Joe Hogsett decided against running for re-election as Secretary of State when Sue Ann Gilroy tossed her hat in the ring.  Hogsett knew he successfully scaled the statewide Republican mountain once before against Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut in 1990 and that doing so again would be difficult.  

Ballard is in a similar position today having overcome the Democratic baseline in the county in 2007 and 2011, both times by very thin margins.  To try again in 2015, against a formidable Democratic candidate with even more Democratic-leaning Marion County than in 2011, would be to take a risk, especially when facing a formidable political professional.  There is nothing to indicate that Ballard enjoys the give and take of politics.

But what about the profiteers who have made money during Ballard's tenure?  Wouldn't they try to talk Ballard into running again?  Not necessarily.  If you are a Barnes & Thornburg, the law firm which has profited to the tune of millions of dollars during Ballard's two terms, would you want to put your money on a now risky horse (Ballard) or rather bet on the favorite (Hogsett) who is almost a certain winner, especially if Ballard is out of the race?   The last thing Barnes & Thornburg wants to do is to alienate the Mayor-elect by supporting his opponent, resulting in the firm being locked out of the 25th Floor.

Ballard is the Republican's best hope for one reason and for one reason only:  he's able to raise an astonishing amount of money. Granted it is almost all money from contractors doing business with the city (i.e. pay-to-play) , but thus far the Democrats (and the media) haven't chosen to make that an issue. Other than being in a position to raise a lot of money, Ballard has enormous liabilities as a candidate. Ballard is easily rattled, enormously thin skinned when it comes to challenges to his record, and is gaffe-prone when faced with impromptu media questions.  

I think the odds of Ballard overcoming a Hogsett challenge to be re-elected to a third term are long. But that's if he runs, the chances of which I'd only rate at 50-50 presently.   If Ballard fails to go to the post, it will be too late for Republicans to compete with Democrats on fundraising. 

Would that mean Republicans would have no chance of winning the Mayor's Office? No, but it would make that task a longer shot than it otherwise would be.  To succeed the GOP would have to nominate a Republican far different from Ballard, a candidate who is against Indianapolis corporate welfare, including handouts to billionaire sports owners, government contractors and the downtown mafia.   Because of his ties to that system, Hogsett would have trouble countering the populist message letting the Republican an opportunity to gain cross-over votes needed to win in Democratic-leaning Marion County.

Of course, the Marion County Republican Party leadership would have no interest in nominating such a candidate.  Those leaders would rather lose an election than elect a Republican who might challenge the pay-to-play culture which they have used to enrich themselves at the expense of rebuilding the grass roots of the Marion County GOP organizations.

Indianapolis BikeShare Agreement Appears to Leave Riders Exposed to Considerable Legal Liability

As a follow-up to the horror stories about the charges incurred by users of Indianapolis' BikeShare program run by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc. (ICT), I decided to take a look at the contract that riders are asked to sign.  After reading the contract, which is published on the Indiana Pacers BikeShare website, there is no way I'd take the risk of ever checking out a bike.

First I looked at a section that seems to contradict the a story published in the Indianapolis Star regarding total charges riders can be hit with as well as the claim that riders who check out a bike for 8
Mayor Ballard on BikeShare Bicycle
hours still have to return the bikes to a docking station every 30 minutes or incur additional charges:
2.6 Maximum Rental Time and Charges: The maximum rental time is 24 hours. Rider agrees that Rider will return the Bike to a designated ICT, Inc. bike station within no more than 24 hours from the time that rental of the Bike began. Rider may then rent again. Rider agrees that he/she is solely responsible for being aware of any elapsed time related to the timely return. Bike Rental Charges are $8.00 for a 24 hour pass and $80 for an annual membership. For bikes checked out between 31 and 60 minutes, a $2.00 additional user fee will be charged. For each 30 minute period greater then 60 minutes, an additional user fee of $4.00 per thirty minutes will be charged. The maximum day charge is $75.00 and is based on a calendar day.
The claim may well be that other published material given the bikers impose the 30 minute check-in requirement and higher daily charges.  The problem with that argument is that the Agreement contains an incorporation provision which says the document represents the entire contractual agreement between the parties.

In addition, the Agreement contains a number of very one-sided provisions that leave users of the program very exposed:

  • If a bike is not shown as returned within 24 hours, Rider is charged $1,500. (Section 2.6)  That is far above what the bike is worth.  It's important to remember too that they have your credit card information and will likely just charge it.
  • It is a violation of the Agreement to use the bikes if you have consumed any alcohol or drugs, apparently even legal prescription drugs (Section 2.9)  Forget having a beer with your dinner if your on a bike.
  • Rider is responsible for any lost bike, even if the lock they provide does not work (Sections 2.12, 2.13)
  • Rider is responsible for paying for all repairs need to the bike.  (Section 2.13)  Conceivable a Rider could be billed for repairing even a flat tire.
  • Rider waives all legal claims against ICT, even if ICT is negligent.  (Section 3.1)
  • Rider agrees to indemnify ICT for all lawsuits against ICT as a result of Rider's use of the bike, even in cases in which ICT is negligent. (Section 3.2)
  • Rider agrees he or she "will have no right to make a claim or file a lawsuit against Released Parties arising out of this Agreement, the rental, maintenance, design, use and/or operation of the Bike, the Indianapolis B-cycle program, Indiana Pacers Bikeshare and/or this website, in consideration for using and/or operating the Bike."  (Section 3.3)  So forget suing to try to recover that $1500 they charged you on your credit card for a bike you returned but was shown as missing on their records.
I doubt there are many attorneys who would encourage their client to sign such a one-sided agreement in order to rent a bicycle.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2013 Vanderbilt Study Shows Educational Advantages of Government Subsidized Pre-School Are Gone Before First Grade

In promoting a new early childhood education initiative, to be paid for with a property tax hike, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard stated:
"The data is very clear on all of this," Ballard said, pointing to statistics that show kids with access to good early education do better in school in the long-term, are more likely to move on to higher education, and - if they come from low-income backgrounds - are less likely to go on welfare as adults or be arrested.
Contrary to Mayor Ballard's claim, there have been several studies out there that show that investing money in early childhood education offers no long-term benefits.  The most recent is the Vanderbilt study which looked at a Tennessee voluntary early childhood education program (TN-VPK) aimed at assisting low income families:  I quote from the study published in August of 2013:
The relatively large effects of TN‐VPK on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures found at the end of the pre‐k year were greatly diminished and no longer statistically significant at the end of the kindergarten year. The only exception was a marginally significant negative effect on Passage Comprehension such that nonparticipants had higher scores at the end of the kindergarten year than TN‐VPK participants.
Similarly, at the end of first grade, there were no statistically significant differences between TN‐VPK participants and nonparticipants on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures with one exception. There was a significant difference that favored the nonparticipant group on the Quantitative Concept subscale.
These diminished effects were not entirely unexpected in light of the findings in other longitudinal studies of the effects of early childhood programs on economically disadvantaged children. For preschool programs, a typical finding is that the cognitive effects are not sustained for very long after that initial year. Though none of those other studies investigated the effects of a single year of a scaled up state‐funded public pre‐k program, many involved even more intensive programs that nonetheless failed to show effects on cognitive achievement measures that were sustained for very long. Like TN‐VPK, however, these programs did not involve any continuous, focused support in subsequent years for sustaining the gains made during the initial program year.
Other studies have noted that the "head start" provided by early childhood education programs dissipates by third or fourth grade.  The Vanderbilt study shows the advantage disappears even earlier.

At the very least, the Mayor's claim that the studies all point to long-term academic benefits of early childhood education is very much inaccurate.  As far as his claim that his program would reduce poverty and reduce crime, factors justifying a property tax increase and an expensive new entitlement program, well that is just pie-in-the-sky stuff.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

After 6 1/2 years Matt "Rip Van Winkle" Tully Wakes Up, Reports that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is Involved in Political Cronyism

Matt Tully is a talented man.  He has not only been phoning in his political columns the past several years, he's done it all while sound asleep.  Well, Rip Van Tully has finally awaken after 6 1/2 years of the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and found that there is political cronyism going on the 25th Floor.  A shocker!
Matt "Rip Van Winkle" Tully
In a deal that is wrong on many levels, Ballard's office hired one of its former political appointees and the firm he now works for to market a proposed criminal justice complex west of Downtown. The contract is worth $750,000 to Bose Public Affairs Group, a figure that is both offensive to those of us who pay taxes in Marion County and, by any reasonable measure, horribly inflated.

The contract, [Indianapolis Star Reporter Tuohy reports, charges Bose with duties such as arranging public meetings, communicating with City-County Council members, particularly Democrats, and attracting positive news coverage.

Well, here's some news coverage for you, but I guarantee it's not going to be positive. Because this contract is as ridiculous as it is unjustifiably expensive. How bad is it? Let's count the ways.
First, it's another outrageous example of cashing in on political clout.

...

Second, let's look at what the contract pays Bose to do. Cochran and his firm are supposed to organize community meetings focused on the criminal justice complex. You know, the type of meetings that typically attract about 20 people and could just as easily, and for free, be hosted and organized by the city's many neighborhood groups.

The contract also calls on Bose to talk with and answer questions from Democratic council members, which seems like something the mayor or his employees could do? And it seeks to have Bose create "a media messaging strategy to help inform and educate the general public of the project's benefits." It sure seems that one of the mayor's well-paid public-relations associates could handle that chore.
Isn't that their job?

Third, let's think about what this says about the dysfunction within the City-County Building. The mayor's office felt the need to hire a firm with Democratic ties to communicate with and lobby council members on that side of the aisle — on a proposal that has two decades of pent-up support from Democrats. It's a reminder of how tied up in ridiculous partisan politics things have gotten over there.

Finally, let's think about the real cost of this $750,000 contract. As a friend said Monday morning, "that's just way too many zeroes." How much is $750,000? Enough to eat up every penny of property taxes paid this year by the owners of roughly 400 homes worth $200,000 each.
Tully and his employer, the Indianapolis Star, bear an enormous responsibility for the political cronyism as reflected in the Cochran deal.  For 6 1/2 years, they have steadfastly refused to carry out their obligation to be a watchdog and report critically on local government.  Now, after 6 1/2 years, the Star's political columnist finally pens an article on Indianapolis political cronyism, a subject blogs and other media outlets have been reporting on for years?   And we're supposed to be impressed?

Will someone explain to me why a struggling newspaper like the Star refuses to replace such a incredibly weak political columnist, like Matt Tully, while letting go numerous talented writers?

Ballard Administration Pushes Another One Sided Contract in Favor of Vendor and Against Taxpayers

You would think that after the one-sided parking meter contract with ACS and the abysmal Regional Operating Centers contract, which is so bad that officials are trying to squelch the release of public information about it, that the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard  would take some time to ensure that taxpayers interests are actually protected when negotiating these vendor contracts.  Think again.  Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana has the scoop:
A one-sided agreement worth well over $112 million to [Covanta,] the New Jersey waste disposal company is currently being rammed through the Public Works Board controlled by Ballard stooges. 
A memo by the counsel for the City-County Council, Fred Biesecker, lays bare just howbad of a deal the Covanta deal means for Indianapolis taxpayers. If approved, the City will essentially be locked into a single provider of recycling services through the year 2028. If any new technology or better recycling opportunities comes along during the next 14 years that the City might choose to implement, it will be required to pay liquidated damages to Covanta equal to $333,333.33 a month for the rest of the contract's term. That's a staggering $4 million a year penalty. "This provision clearly protects Covanta from future competition, but it is hard to see how it benefits the city," Biesecker opines.

The recycling agreement with Covanta doesn't apply to any existing recycling efforts, including the curbside subscription services offered to city residents by Republic. Expanded use of curbside services, however, is discouraged under the agreement with Covanta by reducing the city's portion of steam revenue if curbside collections increase by more than 5% over the preceding year. "DPW will probably say that the city may continue to operate and support existing programs, but they probably won't admit they have a financial disincentive for doing so," Biesecker observes.

Could it get any worse? Believe it or not it does. City taxpayers will be forced to reimburse Covanta for certain "additional costs," which is defined to include any real and personal property taxes levied on its recycling operations. The City will wind up reimbursing Covanta 70% of the taxes levied on its recycling operations up to a cap of $4 million. Biesecker describes this provision as "a sham intended to avoid the requirements of the abatement statute, which include council approval if the abatement property is located in a TIF district." "My recollection is that the Attorney General would not allow either type of provision to be in a state contract," Biesecker said. Under the terms of the agreement, Covanta is required to recover just 18% of waste for recycling, without glass. Critics believe a recovery rate of only 18% is inadequate, although Covanta says it will be its goal to achieve higher rates of recovery. 
I knew that when it was clear Ballard would likely not continue in office, that the profiteers who have run his administration would increase their looting of tax dollars to a fevered pace.   Just last week we had news break that Ballard has handed out a $750,000 no-bid contract to his former campaign manager, John Cochran, to advocate for the new Justice Center.  Before days before that we had Ballard announce his support for property tax and local income tax increases. Those additional revenues are not about improved city services.  They are about increasing the pile of money available to the Ballard administration profiteers.  Ballard is willing to throw away his own re-election and the election of numerous Republican council members to push tax increases before a municipal election.

In response to Ballard's 2007 campaign slogan, "Had Enough?," my answer would be an emphatic "yes."   There is nothing worse than being a Republican and watching a Republican officeholder betray every conservative principle you believe in.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Will Indianapolis Council Republican Candidates Have to Campaign on Ballard Agenda of Property and Income Tax Increases?

It's been a bad week for Indianapolis fiscal conservatives.  Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, who won an upset victory in 2007 riding a backlash to property and the local income tax increases,  announced on Wednesday announced support for increasing property and local income tax increases.  Then a couple days later, the Star reported that Mayor Ballard had given a $750,000 no-bid contract to his 2007 campaign manager, John Cochran, to promote Mayor Ballard's plan for a new Justice Center.  This comes just days after a judge ordered the administration to produce records on the ROC fiasco that had council Republicans forced into a position of covering up possible wrongdoing by the administration.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard

I appears that U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett will toss his name into  the ring to pursue the Democratic nomination for Mayor.  Hogsett would unquestionably be a heavy favorite to knock off Ballard in a bid for his third term.   Ballard narrowly won with 51% of the vote in 2011 while facing an opponent, Melina Kennedy, who failed to mount an aggressive campaign that might have otherwise put Ballard on the defensive.  Few people think Hogsett, unlike Kennedy, would give Ballard a pass on issues like tax and fee increases, misplaced city priorities, and pay-to-play political cronyism.

Unfortunately, Ballard will likely insist that Republican council candidates run on his agenda of  higher property and income taxes as well as  defend his priorities that place corporate welfare ahead of city services.  Then you have the issue of Ballard cronyism, only the most recent evidence of which is the Cochran $750,000 no-bid contract.  Republican council candidates may well be forced in a position of defending those outrageous insider deals that have enriched Ballard friends at taxpayer expense.

The problem for Republican council members is that their collective fortunes hang by a thread.  I don't buy for a second that the map drawn by Republican operative David Brooks will produce anything near a 15-10 Republican council majority as claimed, or even a narrow Republican majority for that matter.  Nonetheless, the numbers in Republican majority districts are so narrow that any undermining of the dwindling Marion County GOP base could result in a huge Democratic majority on the Council.  Using the 2012 baseline numbers, I see only four Republican leaning council districts which are strongly Republican.  Four leaning Republican districts fall in the range of 50.38% baseline Republican to 52.36%.  Granted 2012 was a presidential election, a year which featured a higher than normal turnout which favors Democrats in Marion County.  But the year Brooks used, 2010, for his baseline analysis favoring Republicans also has a major flaw in that it was an exceptionally good year for Republicans turnout, the type of year you normally discard when doing a baseline analysis.

Imagine on January 1, 2016 new mayor Joe Hogsett being sworn in along with 19 or 20 Democratic council members.  That's entirely possible, especially if Ballard insists Republican council candidates openly support property and income taxes as part of their individual campaigns.  For Republican candidates to do that, and antagonize their own base, would be political suicide.

The sad thing is that when Ballard won his upset victory in 2007, he had a chance to reshape the Marion County Republican Party into a more populist form which could eventually return to power one day.  That though would have involved those who suddenly found themselves in power ceding power to party workers in order to build a stronger and more motivated grass roots GOP organization.   Instead of doing that, Ballard and his followers, as well as leaders in the Marion County GOP, used their political power to enrich themselves and their friends.  There will be a price to pay for that arrogance and that bill will come due on Tuesday, November 8, 2015.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard Proposes Property Tax Increase and 9.25% Local Income Tax Increase to Fund Public Safety, Education Initiatives

After a long 6 1/2 years in office, I shouldn't be surprised by anything Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard does.  During his tenure he has never met a tax or fee he didn't advocate raising.  In this morning's big public safety announcement, Mayor Ballard continued to show why he is the most liberal mayor during my nearly four decades in Indianapolis.

As part of his big crime initiative this morning, Mayor Ballard announced:
  • Support for an end to the local homestead tax credit, resulting in property tax increases for most Indianapolis residents.
  • A 9.25% increase in the local income tax  (1.62% to 1.77%)
  • Increased tax revenue will be used to fund 280 more police officers.
  • Increased tax revenue will also be used to fund a $25 million pre-school scholarship program to be run by United Way of Central Indiana.



At 7:45 in the above 2007 video, Candidate Ballard chides Mayor Peterson for not hiring more police officers with the 65% tax increase (1% to 1.65%) in the local income tax pushed through that same year.  Yet when Ballard was elected in November of 2007, he did not push to repeal the tax increase and, like Peterson, did not increase the police force with new hires.  In fact, Ballard did far worse, presiding over a substantial reduction in the police force during his tenure, all the while profiting off the higher income tax which Ballard proposes raising again.  And taxpayers are supposed to believe Ballard?  If Ballard has shown one consistency in office it is that any additional tax revenue he gets goes to corporate welfare and the "downtown mafia" as Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana calls them, not basic city services.

In the Mayor's announcement this morning he said that the City would "explore" applying for the federal COPS grant if the Mayor got his tax increase.  The City had been receiving that grant for years to fund law enforcement officer salaries, but backed off on applying this year to gain leverage in negotiations with the council on the tax increase.

But the over 9% increase in the local option income tax wasn't enough for Mayor Ballard.  He also once again is supporting the elimination of the local homestead property tax credit which will mean tax increases for scores of Marion  County homeowners.

These additional dollars are set to fund a new initiative proposed by the Mayor, a scholarship program aimed to help impoverished families afford pre-school.  What is particularly appalling about this idea, besides the fact it won't make one dimes bit of difference in long term education achievement, is that Mayor Ballard proposes having the United Way of Central Indiana administer the program, handling millions of our tax dollars.  UWCI is run by a private board over which the taxpayers have zero say.  The United Way of Central Indiana, which acts as a charity clearinghouse, also has a history of paying its executives exorbitant salaries.  This is what I wrote about United Way of Central Indiana three years ago:
Last week United Way of Central Indiana CEO Ellen K. Annala penned a letter to the editor discussing poverty and urging people to contribute to the United Way.   
You can bet that poverty is not something Ms. Annala and her fellow United Way executives have to deal with in their personal lives.  Ms. Annala pulls in $251,720 in salary and benefits a year.  Angela Dabney, Sr. VP of Resource Development makes $168,458, Jay Gersey, Sr. VP Community Planning & Strategic Investment earns $169,100, Dale E. Depy, Assistant Treasurer, hauls in $170,275, and Nancy S. Ahlrichs, VP Workforce Development and Diversity makes $136,896.  In total, the organization paid out $7,489,393 in salaries and benefits in 2010 and reported net assets of $108,440,285.
You can bet the UWCI would break off a huge chunk of that $25 million in tax dollars for themselves before passing along the money in the form of scholarships.  That's how the United Way operates.  People are foolish to give money to the United Way instead of just giving the money to the charity of their choice.

To say Ballard's plan for Indianapolis taxpayers is bad would be an understatement.  But it is also a bad plan for Indianapolis Republicans.  Ballard won in 2007 when he beat an incumbent who pushed for a local option income tax increase and was saddled for responsibility for a property tax increase.  Now Ballard proposes, the year before the election, to raise the local income tax and property taxes.  If local Democrats are smart, and the jury is still out on that issue, they'll wrap those and Ballard's other tax and fee increases around his neck and take him down to sure defeat in 2015.

Did Grant County Officials Violate the Open Records Law By Charging $200 for Eight DVDs?

A couple days ago WRTV super-reporter Kara Kenney did a story on a woman who died at the Grant County jail from an asthma attack.  It's an interesting story that touches upon an issue I've raised a few times on this blog, the failure of jail officials to provide proper medical care. 

But I write instead to highlight a particular part of Kenney's story that is very important to people who seek public records.  
Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney filed a public records request with the Grant County Sheriff's Office on May 20 and May 27 to find out what happened with Kendra Shaw and to obtain jail policies.
When the sheriff’s office did not provide records, Kenney filed a formal complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor. 
On June 24, the sheriff’s office, through its attorney, issued an apology for not complying with the public records law and provided 42 pages of documents. 
Kenney also requested video from the jail showing Shaw. That video was released after RTV6 paid $200 for copies of eight DVDs.
$200 for eight DVDs?  The discs themselves can't be more than 50 cents apiece. 

IC 5-14-3-8(d) applies to local governments charging for public records:
(d) This subsection applies to a public agency that is not a state agency. The fiscal body (as defined in IC 36-1-2-6) of the public agency, or the governing body, if there is no fiscal body, shall establish a fee schedule for the certification or copying of documents. The fee for certification of documents may not exceed five dollars ($5) per document. The fee for copying documents may not exceed the greater of:
(1) ten cents ($0.10) per page for copies that are not color copies or twenty-five cents ($0.25) per page for color copies; or
(2) the actual cost to the agency of copying the document.  As used in this subsection, "actual cost" means the cost of paper and the per-page cost for use of copying or facsimile equipment and does not include labor costs or overhead costs. A fee established under this subsection must be uniform throughout the public agency and uniform to all purchasers.
Subsection (g) of IC 5-14-3-8 outlines allowable charges for electronic records:
(g) Except as provided by subsection (h), for providing a duplicate of a computer tape, computer disc, microfilm, or similar or analogous record system containing information owned by the public agency or entrusted to it, a public agency may charge a fee, uniform to all purchasers, that does not exceed the sum of the following:
(1) The agency's direct cost of supplying the information in that form.
(2) The standard cost for selling the same information to the public in the form of a publication if the agency has published the information and made the publication available for sale.
It would appear that the only charge that should have been made to WRTV was for the actual cost of the eight DVDs.  It's important to nip this practice in the bud, before other local governments start copying what Grant County is doing here.  Hopefully WRTV's attorneys will contact Grant County with the law in hand and demand a refund of the $200 charge above the cost of the DVDs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Indianapolis on Track to Set Low Temperature Record for July

The average temperature in Indianapolis thus far this July is 70.4 degrees.   If that figure holds, which it may because the forecast for the final three days of this month are daytime highs below 80 and nighttime lows in the 50s, that would set a record.  The current record average low July temperature for Indianapolis is 70.6 degrees in 1947 with the runner-up 70.9 degrees in 2009.

This comes just two years after Indianapolis set the record average high monthly July temperature at 84.0 in 2012 and a third place finisher of 82.0 in 2011.   So during the last six summers we in Indianapolis will have two of the hottest Julys on record and two of the coldest. 

What does that mean for global warming?  Not a damn thing.  It's weather, not climate.  You can't forecast long term changes in the climate based on changes in the weather.  Even the 140 plus years that official temperature records have been kept is a tiny, tiny fraction of time, a sampling of weather not of climate.  Long term warming and cooling trends last tens if not hundreds of thousands of years, if not longer.  You can't take a tiny segment of time (which is 140 years) and make accurate conclusions about climate trends.

My alarmist friends are the first to make the distinction between weather and climate when a climate realist points out colder than normal temperature records.  Yet they have no problem using hotter than normal weather when it works to support their global warming theory.  Remember all the articles and columns using the hotter than normal summer of 2012 as proof the alarmists were right, that the planet is getting warmer? 

Of course when the global warming theory developed holes a few years ago the alarmists cleverly tried to shift the debate to "climate change" instead.  Of course, that is a "heads I win, tails you lose theory" as the planet's climate has always been changing throughout its 4.5 billion year history.  If the climate on our dynamic planet suddenly stopped changing - now that would be something to worry about.

Bottom line, the climate alarmists are hypocrites. They want to use weather when it works for them, but to ignore it when it doesn't.  It's not an intellectually honest approach, but what the heck, the alarmist agenda has never been about saving the climate, it's been about promoting an environmental agenda using scare tactics.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Burglary is Thwarted When "Victim" Breaking Into Indianapolis House is Shot and Killed

The Indianapolis Star is still developing this story:
Indianapolis police are investigating a fatal shooting on the Near Northside.   
Around 1 p.m. Sunday, police were called to a home in the 3100 block of College Avenue, according to Officer Christopher Wilburn of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.   
"When officers arrived they immediately did a protective sweep of the exterior and interior of the residence," Wilburn said in a news release. "Officers located an unresponsive unidentified male subject with apparent trauma. Investigators do not believe this individual is the homeowner."   
After locating the victim, officers detained a person of interest and transported him to the homicide office for questioning, Wilburn said. 
The shooting occurred during an attempted break-in, police said. Three people were trying to enter the home while the homeowner was inside. 
Gunfire was exchanged, and one of the people trying to break-in was shot, Wilburn said. 
...
Later on the Star again refers to the person who was shot while breaking into house as a "victim."  They might want to change that as the story is rewritten.  If you get shot while breaking into a house, you're not a victim.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Will the NFL Suspend Tony Dungy for Comments About First Openly Gay NFL Player, Michael Sam?

Unless you're living in a cave, you know that ex-Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy made comments about the first openly gay NFL player Michael Sam that have stirred up some controversy.  For those cave dwellers, the story was broken earlier this week by Tampa Tribune columnist Ira Kaufmann:
g
Tony Dungy
“I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ said former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play,
but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.
“It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’
The last couple days Dungy as tried to walk back those comments, explaining what he really meant.

Already calls are going out for the NFL to suspend Dungy.  Earlier this year the NBA imposed a lifetime suspension on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist comments he made during a private conversation he had with his girlfriend.   The past few years have seen a number o TV and radio hosts lose their jobs because of comments they made that were not politically correct.

The issue is not the legality of those actions.  Private entities are not bound by the dictates of the First Amendment.

But the fact that the First Amendment doe not technically apply does not mean that the principles of the Free Speech clause have no relevance in terms of what policy  those private entities should follow.  We cherish free speech in this country, and rightfully so because punishing someone for their politically incorrect opinions is a slippery slope to the censorship of all non-majority opinions.

Let me be one of the few to say it, the NBA way overreacted to Sterling's comments.  They could have given Sterling a brief suspension, consistent with similar speech offenses, and let his comments stand as a lesson about how wrong racism is.  A "teaching moment" as they say. The antidote to bad speech after all isn't suppressing that bad speech but rather good speech.   NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been wrongly praised for how he handled the Sterling matter.  He kicked an 80 year old man with outdated racial views, who possibly suffers from dementia, when he was down.  Silver took the cheap, politically correct way out instead of setting a precedent that punished Sterling appropriately while recognizing that people should have some freedom to express their political and racial views, even when those views are unpopular.   Is what Sterling did the absolute worst thing an owner could have ever done?  If not, why is he getting the most severe punishment a Commissioner can impose on an owner?

It seems every week we hear about some celebrity or reality star saying something politically incorrect and losing their TV job.  Chilling unpopular speech by threats to people's livelihoods does not make us better.  Free speech makes us better.

Tony Dungy should have the freedom to express his views and people have a right to respond to those views, offering their own.  People have done that.  That exchange of ideas is what makes this country great.

Hopefully the silly talk of suspending Dungy will go nowhere.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Turning the Clock Back to 1990: Hogsett Defeats Hudnut for Secretary of State

Recently I  was asked about Joe Hogsett's upset victory over Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut iu the 1990 Secretary of State's class.  It is an important race to discuss now because it could provide the blueprint for the retiring U.S. Attorney to win the Indianapolis mayor's office.

In 1990, Hogsett was Secretary of State, having been appointed to fill out the rest of his term of Evan Bayh who had left that office early when elected governor in the 1988 election.  He had decided to seek election in his own right, but Hudnut, a popular mayor serving out his fourth and final term, also announced he would run for the office.

Initial polls showed Hogsett had no chance to win.  I believe the polls showed Hudnut with a 30 point lead or more.  A Hudnut victory was so certain, rumor has it, that a Hudnut campaign worker went to the Secretary of State's Office to measure the windows for new drapes.

I remember the race well because I was teaching a campaign strategy class at IUPUI and used the race as an example.  I asked my students what they thought of Hogsett's chances.  Every last one of them thought Hogsett had no chance. They were convinced that Hudnut promoting the "Indianapolis Miracle" on the campaign trail would resonate with audiences outside of Indianapolis. I told my class that people outside of Indianapolis did not view the city in the same way that people living inside the city do.  I said that people outside Indianapolis often thinks the city gets special treatment ,particularly by the legislature.  Having lived in southeast Indiana, I knew that an Indianapolis mayor running for state office would be viewed with skepticism.  The students though were not buying any of what I was selling.

Next, we talked strategy Hogsett could pursue.  They thought possibly Hogsett could brag about his work as Secretary of State.  I told the students that 30 points down, Hogsett had to go after his opponent.  How would he do that?  The students struggled to come up with a winning Hogsett strategy.  I asked them about areas where Hudnut was vulnerable.  I wrote on the board Hudnut's tripling of the local income tax, pushing my students to consider Hogsett going after Hudnut as a tax and spend Republican, effectively running to the right of Hudnut as a fiscal conservative.  The class was skeptical.  The tax increases were justified they said and besides look at how well the City was doing.  They just didn't believe that Hogsett could get any traction attacking Hudnut's record.

When a candidate attacks another for raising taxes, the response explaining what the taxes were used for and why they were justified takes too long given the modern sound bite and people's short attention spans.  Plus the explanation justifying tax increases reemphasizes the fact that taxes were increased and leaves the tax raising candidate on the defensive. While tax increases can be defended at election time, doing so is very tricky and often fails when a skillful candidate is on the other side.

What strategy did Hogsett employ during that 1990 election?  He ran to the right of Hudnut, slamming the Mayor repeatedly for being a tax and spend liberal.  Hudnut's tripling of the local income tax was a major feature of Hogsett's campaign.  Hudnut's strategists were caught flat-footed finding themselves having to defend the Mayor's record rather than promote it.  Hudnut's support among Republicans collapsed as many GOP voters saw Hogsett as a more conservative alternative to the Indianapolis Mayor.  Hogsett made up the 30 point deficit, winning the election 52-48.

In 1992, Hogsett ran against Dan Coats for Senate and lost badly, scoring only 41% of the vote. Two years later in an excellent Republican year he ran for Congress and did better, losing to David McIntosh 54-46. 

What was the difference between those races and the one Hogsett ran against Hudnut in 1990? Well, in those later races, Hogsett faced Republicans who were strong fiscal conservatives.  Hogsett could not run to the right of them.

If Hogsett were to run for Mayor in 2015, could he employ his 1990 strategy, running as a more fiscally conservative alternative, someone who highlights Mayor Ballard's never-ending support for tax and fee increases and Ballard's extremely poor spending priorities that place corporate welfare ahead of basic city services such as public safety?  You betcha.  The only difference between the two races would be that the pool of fiscally conservative, Republican-leaning voters in Indianapolis is less as a percent, than statewide.  But since Ballard only received 51% of the vote in 2011, any erosion of his Republican support would fatal.  Hogsett scaled a mountain to win in 1990.  In 2015, to win the Mayor's office he would have to climb a mole hill.