Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ballard Administration Lies to Public About Cost Savings From Deal to Rent Alternative Fuel Vehicles

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
The city has been working with the venture-capital-backed company, Vision Fleet, for months, but Mayor Greg Ballard only announced Tuesday morning the plan to replace gas-powered cars in the city's fleet with 425 plug-in hybrid and pure-electric vehicles by

Michael Brilawski,
CEO, Vision Fleet
2016. The cars, including such models as the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, would be used for a variety of city services, but not for police-pursuit purposes.
...

Vision Fleet will buy the cars from local dealers and rent them back to the city. The company also will provide all of the maintenance and management with an emphasis on effective deployment. Vision Fleet’s analysis already has helped the city eliminate 100 gas-powered cars from the fleet, Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said, in addition to the 425 cars that will be replaced.

City officials say the cost of the program will be less than the expense of maintaining the gas-powered vehicles to be replaced.

According to a city press release, each gasoline-powered sedan in Indy’s fleet would have cost taxpayers about $9,000 per year over the next decade, including purchase, fuel, maintenance and insurance. The Vision Fleet vehicles will cost about $7,400 per year over that period, saving taxpayers about $1,600 annually per vehicle.

Lotter said the city will pay its annual fees to Vision Fleet through the savings on fuel and other vehicle costs. He said the city's total fleet costs, including payments to Vision Fleet, will be "nominally less" this year, and will decline by 2016. City officials couldn't immediately specify total fleet costs.
Last year I reported on the bogus savings the Ballard administration claimed when the decision was made to buy hybrid, non-pursuit vehicles for the Department of Public Safety a City officials claimed  the higher priced alternative fuel vehicles would result in a savings of $8.6 million over five years.  Using some elementary math I showed those hybrid vehicles would actually cost $10.6 more over that five year period.

Well, the Ballard administration is using its funny math again.  This time the administration is claiming that using gasoline powered cars cost $9,000 a year versus a $7,400 cost of renting hybrid and electric vehicles from Vision Fleet which would buy the cars.

First of all, let's look at the $9,000 estimate of the cost of driving a gas powered city vehicle.  At the current IRS reimbursement rate of 56 cents a mile, which takes into consideration the average cost of operating a vehicle, that means they would have to be driven 16,071 miles per year. Does anyone believe that the average city vehicle is being driven that many miles annually?

Now let's look at a comparison of gas versus alternative fuel cars.   It is true that electric and hybrid vehicles result in fuel savings. But those fuel savings quickly disappear when you look at the much higher cost of the alternative fuel vehicle and the higher cost of repairs, namely replacing the very expensive batteries.  Fortunately, Daily Finance has crunched the numbers for us using a comparison of a gas powered and electric Ford Focus:

Ford Focus ST Ford Focus Electric
Sale price $24,495 $39,995
Battery replacement N/A $13,500
Major engine repair
(1/5 original sale price)
$4,899 N/A
8-year fuel costs
(15,000 miles/year)
$16,222 $5,067
Total costs $45,616 $58,562
Source: Ford.com.

So, overall costs don't quite look so promising for the electric. While gas costs vastly outweigh eGallon expenditures, Ford's eFocus starting price already puts it at a $15,500 disadvantage. And when you add in the fact that a battery replacement costs around three times that of a major engine repair, electric owners are still out around $13,000 after eight years of fuel-efficient savings.
So the average gas fueled car costs $5,707 to operate annually according to Daily Finance (and that is at an unlikely average of $15,000 miles per year) compared to the $9,000 claimed by the Ballard administration.  Meanwhile, again according to Daily Finance, electric fuel vehicles cost $7,320 a year to operate which actually is very close to the administration's claim of $7,400.  On net, contrary to the claim that the administration makes that the alternative fuel vehicles save $1,600 per year, those vehicles actually cost $1,613 more per year.  Given how remarkably close those numbers are, one has to wonder if city officials lazily flipped the numbers when they decided to spin the extra cost of the alternative fuel vehicles into a claim they save taxpayers money.  Apparently they weren't concerned that media outlets might do the math and call out city officials on their ludicrous claim of savings.

Certainly there is a strong argument that transitioning to an alternative fuel fleet is good for the environment and worth the extra cost to Indianapolis taxpayers. But the Ballard administration officials apparently do not want to take that honest approach to selling the program.  Instead city officials chose to make the phony claim that using hybrid and electric vehicles will actually save taxpayers money and a lot of it. They apparently want us to believe that millions of Americans, not to mention the leaders of other municipalities, are just too stupid to realize that buying an alternative fuel vehicle would save them $1600 per year or $133 per month.

Of course, in the real world, if it was that much cheaper to have a hybrid or electric car, our roads would be filled with such vehicles. Last time I checked, they are not.

Note:  Advance Indiana has a story today on today's Vision Fleet announcement.  It takes another angle, namely pointing out that the checkered history of Vision Fleet's owner, Michael Brylawski.  It appears the City has once again failed to do any homework before handing out a big pile of taxpayer money.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ballard Administration Proposes Boardwalk Along White River in Broad Ripple as Nature Takes Back Seat to Tourism

Kara Kenney of WRTV reports:
A proposed Broad Ripple boardwalk is getting sharp criticism before the plans have even gone public, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.
Kenney obtained documents showing the City of Indianapolis Department of Public Works has filed a permit application with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Water.

The city wants to build a boardwalk along the south bank of the White River for recreational and pedestrian use, and would run from Broad Ripple Park to Riviera Drive and the Monon Trail.
...
White River resident and enthusiast Brant Cowser is concerned about the cost and environmental impact.
“There’s going to be a lot of clear cutting along the riverbank,” said Cowser. “In Indianapolis, the river is such an asset if used right.”
..
Clarke Kahlo with the group Protect Our Rivers, is also concerned about issues like erosion, as well as who will pay for such issues in the future.
“It’s going to create a major nightmare for our city and the taxpayers down the line,” said Kahlo. “It doesn’t really rise to the level of something that’s imperative or highly needed.”
Of course, the Broad Ripple Village Association is all for the proposal:
Justin McKeand, Broad Ripple Village Association president, said the association is supportive of the idea.
“Unfortunately, most people unfamiliar with Broad Ripple don’t even realize that the White River bends so closely to Broad Ripple Avenue,” said McKeand in an email to Kenney. “While I haven’t had a chance to dive into the specifics of the proposal, the BRVA will almost always be in favor a plan that increases green space.  Additionally, this project will create yet another family-friendly space in the Village and will attract more daytime traffic.”
McKeand, apparently without even bothering to review the plan, makes the nonsensical claim that the building a boardwalk along the river "increases green space."   Of course that is not true.  The proposal reminds me of the city's proposal to put public art along the central canal.  Apparently the city suffers from the belief that nature by itself isn't a sufficient attraction for tourists, that government needs to get involved placing things in nature that will attract tourists.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Indiana House Speaker Says Marion County GOP Insiders, Not Party Electorate, Will Decide Nominee for Indianapolis Mayor

In a column published a few days ago, Star columnist Russ Pulliam writes that if Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard decides not to run, Republicans will "scramble ... to find a consensus candidate."  In the column, Pulliam offers up a telling quote:
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma thinks the party will settle on the candidate in a
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R- Indianapolis)
January committee slating convention, not battling it out in a May primary.

“I don’t think Joe Hogsett is a shoo-in for the Democrats. But it’s a tough race for us. We don’t want to have a primary battle in a year with a tough race,” Bosma said. “There’s also a lot of respect in the party for the slating process.”
The idea behind slating is that elected neighborhood party officials represent their party in picking the best nominee and then the party collectively gets behind that candidate at the primary.  In the past 15 years, the slating process has so denigrated that even hard core Republicans no longer take the process seriously.  Most of the people attending county-wide slating (estimates are as high as 80%) are direct appointees of the county chairman, not elected representatives of the GOP electorate.  Most of those precinct appointees receive their position, not to do work in the neighborhoods for the party, but simply to attend slating and vote the way the county chairman wants.

If slating process were fair process for determining who the party electorate wants, you'd see multiple candidates in virtually every slating contest.  But under former county chairman Tom John and  current chairman Kyle Walker it became well known that party leaders would get together, decide who they want slated, and then rig the system so that person won.  Candidates who did not receive the blessing of leadership choose not to participate in slating.

In doing so the party bosses consolidated power in themselves at the expense of party workers and the GOP electorate.  The consequences of that power consolidation has been to destroy the grass roots of the Marion County GOP and to reduce Republican turnout.  In the 2014 Marion County GOP primary, only 28,533 voters participated, a mere 3.5% of the registered voters in the county.

Contrary to what Bosma says, there is virtually no respect anymore for the Marion County Republican Party slating process.  He's also wrong about the effect of a contested primary.  Just5 as the 2008 extended presidential nomination battle actually energized grass roots Democrats and their voters, a contested primary would do the same thing for Republicans in Marion County.  While any Republican mayoral nominee in 2015 will almost certainly be a long-shot in the Fall, having a contested primary would be help rebuild the grass roots of the party long-term.  The notion that contested primaries are always bad is simply a myth perpetuated by party leaders who don't want ordinary folks deciding who the nominees of the party should be.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mid-Term U. S. Senate Polls Reveal Democrats' Gender Gap Problem

When the media outlets report on the gender gap, the focus almost always is on the fact that Democrats do better with women voters, especially single women, than Republicans.  That drumbeat of coverage regarding the gender gap have even persuaded some Republicans to believe the party needs to abandon conservative positions  on abortion and some other social issues, that to attract women voters..  Of course that's nonsense.  Women are every bit as conservative on social issues, including abortion, as are men.   Where Democrats poll much better than Republicans with women is not on social issues, but rather on economic issues, things like health care and education.  Women tend to believe, much more so than men, that government programs can fix societal problems.

But there is a bigger issue that's overlooked when it comes to the gender gap.  That issue is that the overall Democrats have a bigger problem reaching male voters than Republicans have connecting with women.  The gender gap runs both ways and, for the Democrats, their problems attracting male voters to their agenda has been exposed in this mid-term election.

Looking at the competitive U.S. Senate seats, according to recent CBS/New York Times polls, Republicans are losing the women's vote in Arkansas by 5 points, 8 points in Georgia, 12 points in Iowa, 9 points in Kentucky, and 4 points in Louisiana.  But in those states, critical to winning control of the U.S. Senate, the Democrats are losing the male vote by 18, 11, 14, 17, and 11 points respectively.  Even in Colorado, where Democratic incumbent Mark Udall has made women issues such a central part of his campaign that he's been labled as "Senator Uterus" by the media, the Democrat has only a net 1 point advantage on the vaunted gender gap.

There are competitive races where the Democrats have an edge due to women voters.  The most significant gap is in North Carolina where Democratic Senator Kay Hagan has a 12 point edge among women while breaking even with men.  A smaller gap can be found in New Hampshire with Senator Jeanne Shaheen having a net 4 point gender gap edge over her Republican opponent. 

Those races are the exception though.  In race after race, the Democratic brand is failing with men and usually by margins that dwarf the Republican difficulty reaching women.   Yet when will the media start talking about the Democrats' long-standing problem getting men to vote for their candidates?  I won't hold my breath.

Friday, October 24, 2014

U.S. Senate Bellwether Race: New Hampshire

If you want to see how big the Republican wave will be on election day, or if there is a wave at all, a race to watch early on Election Night is the New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen matchup against challenger and former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Republican Brown has trailed in virtually every poll.  But in recent weeks, he's closed the gap to within a couple points of Democrat Shaheen.  Shaheen is popular in New Hampshire and has been near the magic 50% in earlier polls.  She's dipped a few points and Brown has risen a few to make for a closer race.  If the Republicans win New Hampshire, which has long has been categorized as leaning to the Democrats, the Democrats will almost certainly lose in the states where Republicans currently are polling slgithly ahead.

The challenge for Shaheen and Brown is the polls in the Granite State show very few undecided voters, about 5%. So there is not a pool of unattached voters for the candidates to appeal to.  They have to persuade voters who are committed to their opponent to switch.

The undecided voters almost always break for the challenger. usually by 2-1 margins, so let's say Brown gets 3% of that 5%.  If the poling is accurate, Shaheen would still edge out Brown, albeit barely.  So if on Election Night Shaheen loses, it will almost certainly be because Democrats stayed home rather than going to the polls.   That would probably be a sign that a wave is coming that would result in not 51 Republican seats but as many as 53.

State Senate Candidate JD Ford Ducks Question Whether He Supports Denying Public Services to Organizations with Objectionable Religious Beliefs

State Senate Candidate JD Ford
Over at IndyPolitics, Abdul has obtained state senate candidate JD Ford's response to criticism of his comment at a candidate forum which seem to indicate that his position is that businesses and other organizations which don't support same sex marriage should be barred from receiving public services, in particular police and fire protection:
Its clear my answer to a specific question about discrimination was taken out of context. I said Hoosiers should not be denied service as a result of their race, gender or sexual orientation.
That statement does not provide "context."  It is nothing but spin, i.e. an attempt to duck responding to the questions Ford himself raised with his comment.  It is real simple, JD.  Do you support denying public services, such as police and fire protection, to businesses and other organizations that have objectionable religious beliefs, such as not supporting same sex marriage?

We don't need political spin, JD. We just need a "yes" or "no."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

State Senate Candidate JD Ford Experiences Todd Akin Moment on the Campaign Trail

During the 2010 campaign, Missouri U.S. Senate Candidate Todd Akin famously, in an attempt to make a larger point about pregnancy rates, used the phrase "legitimate rape."   That phrase became a punch line and ended his chances at winning what had until then been a close contest.


Well, political newcomer JD Ford just experienced his Todd Akin moment on the campaign trail.  In an Indiana Forefront column, Indiana Family Institute's Curt Smith describes Ford's political misstep during a recent candidate forum:
Responding to a question about how we should think about businesses and other organizations that do not support the recent court-compelled same-sex union requirement, he says those institutions should be prevented from receiving public services, specifically mentioning police and fire protection.

The forum was held at the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center in north Indianapolis. So, I ask, Mr. Ford, if a Jewish printer doesn’t want to print signs for a gay rights rally that promotes behavior contrary to the Hebrew Scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament), his or her business should burn if it catches fire?

Similarly, if a faith-based hospital that is guided by a Church that believes the Bible’s understanding of marriage as the sacred union of only one man and one woman, suffers a fire, the place should burn to the ground and all who are in it.
By supporting extending the right for anyone to marry who he or she loves, JD Ford was well-positioned to take advantage of the increasing popularity of the same sex marriage movement.  Instead of remaining on that solid ground, and keeping Senator Mike Delph on the defensive, Ford chose to walk head long into the emerging battle over religious liberty while armed with the bizarre and extremely unpopular view that if your religious views are politically unacceptable you shouldn't receive public services such as police or fire protection.  JD Ford says those churches with objectionable views can just hire security guards to protect themselves from criminals or get a pail of water to put out fires.

If Delph's campaign is on its toes, it will have a TV commercial and direct mail piece out in just a few days exploiting Ford's rookie mistake and putting an end to the spirited challenge from the newcomer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Angie's List Loses Money Again; Fails to Meet Expectations

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports on the Angie's List losses:
The Indianapolis-based consumer-review company said Wednesday morning that it lost
$5.2 million, or 9 cents per share, in the period ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $13.5 million, or 23 cents per share, a year ago.

The loss, adjusted to extinguish debt, came to 8 cents per share, which fell short of Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of 5 cents per share.
...
 Angie's List shares have decreased 45 percent since the beginning of the year. Shares fell 8.8 percent in premarket trading Wednesday, to $7.55 each.
IBJ puts a positive spin on the news that Angie's List losing money by talking about the company's increased revenue.  Of course, at the end of the day increased revenue at means nothing if a profit is not turned.  Angie's List has not turned a profit in its 19 year history.

In a bizarre move, Indianapolis and state officials last week pledged $25 million in subsidies for Angie's List to expand its operations.  Three years earlier. the city and state gave Angie's List $14 million in subsidies.  In between the two bequests of taxpayer money, there has been a layoff, two investor lawsuits accusing Angie's List executives of fraud, and the IBJ's expose of a strange real estate dealings involving Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle in which a company he formed and owned 70% of, bought 40 parcels of downtown property for $2.625 million and then, using the city's 2011 subsidy money, bought the property for Angie's List for $6.25 million.  I recounted Angie's List history and have links to IBJ stories in the column I wrote last week about the company.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Continued Speculation on the Republican Nominee for Indianapolis Mayor

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana is reporting that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard will very soon, as early as this week, announce he is not running for a third term.

That's not a surprise.  As I've said before, Ballard beat the odds in Democratic Marion County twice.  In 2011, he only received 51% of the vote against a Democrat, Melina Kennedy, who was not perceived as having run a strong race.  This time he would face a much tougher candidate, most likely former Secretary of State and U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, just as the chickens were coming home to roost with Ballard policies as well.  Stories of violent crime have dominated the pages this year and Ballard was facing increasing criticism for insider deals and a lack of transparency.  Additionally, Ballard's fiscal record of raising scores of taxes and fees left him vulnerable to attack.
In 2007, local Republicans were looking around for the candidate for Mayor to run against incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson. First and and second tier candidates all declined.  Instead the party pulled Ballard from the third tier to run.  Ballard ran as a populist which appealed to voters when Peterson imploded politically by raising local income taxes in the Summer of 2007.

Although Republicans don't face an incumbent Democrat in looking for a nominee in 2015, they do face the situation of squaring off a well-known and well-liked Democrat.  So the situation isn't much different than 2007.  But the county is much more Democratic than it was in 2007. In the 2006 mid-term, the election that most resembles the municipal election in turnout, the Republican baseline was 46.35%.  In 2010, a great Republican year that featured very low Democratic turnout, the Marion County GOP baseline still managed to decline to 44.53%.  It is a safe assumption that the GOP baseline in 2014, will drop to 42%, leaving 18% between GOP and Democratic candidates.  That's outside the range of being competitive.

The speculation is that former Republican State Chairman and Lt. Governor candidate, Murray Clark, might run.  Others point to State Senator Jim Merritt as a possible candidate.  I can't see either tossing their hats in the ring.  Politicians who have achieved success in the past tend to be risk adverse. Clark and Merritt both had chances to run in 2007 and took a pass.  Now that the county is much more Democratic, I think they would have even less of an incentive to run.  For Clark and Merritt to run would mean taking a long-shot risk at overcoming the increasingly strong Democratic numbers in the county.   While neither would lose their positions due to running, losing badly, as they likely would, could negatively impact any future political endeavors they might have.

I think Tier 1 candidates will take a pass.  That leaves Tier 2 candidates, people who are less known but who have some political experience.  In a previous column, I speculated those candidates might be Councilors Mike McQuillen and Christine Scales, former Councilor Isaac Randolph, or former congressional candidate Carlos May.  Regardless, the GOP establishment will certainly get behind one candidate and make sure slating is rigged for that person to win.   Even if it is not the best candidate, the mindset of current Republican leadership is that they'd rather lose to a Democrat than run a Republican who might challenge Indianapolis' political structure which has proved handsomely profitable for certain contractors and big law firms

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Outsourcing Comment Could Cost Republicans Georgia U.S. Senate Race

Michelle Nunn, Georgia Democratic
candidate for U.S. Senate
In what is appearing more and more to be the Democrats' best chance for a pickup in the U.S. Senate, Democrat Michelle Nunn appears to have moved ahead of her rival Republican David Perdue in the battle for an open seat formerly occupied by Republican Saxby Chambliss.

Nunn leads in a SurveyUSA Today poll by 3 points.  In an August 14th Survey USA poll, Perdue led his rival by 9 points. 

SurveyUSA calls its periodic surveys of the race a "tracking poll" though it is not clear that it is designed as a true tracking poll.

David Perdue, Georgia Republican
candidate for U.S. Senate
Nunn's positive movement in the SurveyUSA poll, as well as a recent WSB-TV/Landmark poll which
shows the race tied, coincides with the release of 2005 deposition testimony of Perdue, former CEO of Dollar General, in which he testified he spent most of his business career outsourcing jobs.  When questioned about the testimony on the campaign trail, Perdue stated he was "proud" of his work outsourcing job. The comment received widespread media attention. Surprisingly though it took Nunn a week to get an ad on the air hitting Perdue on the issue.

While outsourcing is an inevitable part of a world economy that benefits consumers and workers alike, trying to educate voters on complicated economic matters in a political campaign dominated by sound bites is impossible.  Perdue's poor handling of this issue gives the Democrats renewed hope they can hold on to the Senate.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Litebox Redux: State and Indianapolis Officials Hand Over Taxpayer Money, Again, to Angie's List

Today, Governor Mike Pence and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard stood before the cameras to announce that they were giving Indianapolis-based Angie's List $25 million in taxpayer subsidies so the company could expand its near eastside campus and hire 1000 more employees.

Skeptics immediately pounced on the deal.  And for good reason.  They'd been down that road before and knew better.  

In August 2011, state and Indianapolis officials gave Angie's List $14 million for the expansion of their campus, including $4.6 million to purchase real estate.  The subsidy was conditioned on hiring 500 more employees.

Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle
The news since that original subsidy has been entirely bad.  The Indiana Business Journal in May of 2013 did an expose of questionable real estate dealings by Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle, dealings ironically that were made possible by the 2011 taxpayer subsidy.  While that article is now behind a paywall, Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana reviewed the IBJ story and summarized it well:
[IBJ's Chris] O'Malley explains how Oesterle formed a separate company, Henry Amalgamated, in which he owns a 70% stake, to acquire nearly 40 parcels of property on the city's near eastside. Karl Northern owns the minority interest. That company, in turn, leased their property at premium lease rates to Angie's List for its expanding headquarters and operations. The combined assessed value of the properties owned by Henry Amalgamated is just $2.625 million; however, Angie's List is acquiring the properties from their CEO's company for $6.25 million. Oesterle defends the sale, claiming that no cash is exchanging hands, at least cash that came from his hands. That's because Mayor Greg Ballard, who has received large campaign contributions from Oesterle, was very generous with your tax dollars and gave Oesterle's company $4.6 million in incentives from the downtown TIF district after the company pledged to keep its headquarters in downtown rather than relocating to the suburbs. Oesterle allowed the value of those incentives to go to Angie's List as part of the sale.
Then in December of 2013 came news of an investor class action lawsuit against Angie's List. Welsh of Advance Indiana summarizes the lawsuit which accuses Angie's List officers of fraud:
A class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana charges key officers of Angie's List of defrauding investors who purchased stock in the company between between February 14, 2013 and October 23, 2013 by issuing  materially false and misleading statements regarding the strength of the company’s business model and its financial performance and future prospects and failed to disclose adverse effects on the company's prospects of becoming profitable. Named in the lawsuit are the company's CEO, William Oesterle, the company's co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Angie Hicks Bowman, current and past CFOs Charles Hundt and Robert Millard, and Thapur Manu, the recently-terminated Chief Information Officer.

The serious allegations contained in the lawsuit call into question the legitimacy of the subscription-based reviews of local service providers on the company's website because of its shifting business model, which increasingly relies on revenues it now derives from referral fees to those same service providers. According to the lawsuit, Angie's List this year began relying on offering free membership subscriptions in order to artificially boost the number of subscribers in order to mislead investors. This helped boost the price of the stock significantly during the period in question. Oesterle and the other officers cashed out many shares they owned during this period for a handsome profit. Ooesterle sold 486,400 shares of stock for more than $10.3 million, while the other officers collectively sold about $3 million of their personally-held shares of common stock "to the unsuspecting public at fraud-inflated prices."
But that wasn't the end of the bad news.  Despite receiving the $14 million subsidy in 2011 conditioned on hiring more employees, in August of 2014 Angie's List laid off 97 members of its sales force.

Then in September of 2014, it was reported that Angie's List had hired investment bankers to consider a sale of the business.

Astonishingly, despite all these red flags this past year as well as that Angie's List in nearly 20 years has made a profit in exactly one quarter, what do state and Indianapolis officials do? They shovel even more taxpayer money in Angie's List's direction.  The IBJ has the astonishing details:
Angie’s List plans to spend about $40 million to expand its headquarters campus on the east side of downtown and create 1,000 jobs with the help of more than $25 million in state and city incentives, according to a joint announcement Tuesday.

The Indianapolis-based consumer-review firm said that the expansion of its headquarters campus would include renovating a nearby, 176,000-square-foot Ford manufacturing facility currently owned by Indianapolis Public Schools. It also would build a 1,000-space parking facility across from its campus at 1030 E. Washington St.
...

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has offered Angie’s List up to $6.5 million in tax credits and up to $500,000 in training grants based on the company's job creation plans. These tax credits are performance-based, meaning they cannot be claimed until employees are hired.

Of course, hiring employees and continuing to employ them is two different things, a fact that 97 employees of Angie's List recently found out.
IBJ details the city's financial commitment which is even more involved than the state's:
In addition, the IEDC said it will provide the city of Indianapolis with up to $2 million in infrastructure assistance from the state's Industrial Development Grant Fund.

The City of Indianapolis will consider additional incentives, including $9.6 million in assistance from the downtown tax increment finance district for construction of the parking garage and $6.75 million to Indianapolis Public Schools to offset the cost of relocating from the former Ford facility.
This reminds me so much of Litebox deal in which state and city officials rushed forward to offer millions of dollars in taxpayer money for a company that proposed manufacturing large outdoor TV screens at a company in Pike Township that would employ 900 people.  It turns out government officials didn't even wait for a prototype to be built before offering the money.  They also didn't bother to look into the background of Litebox CEO Bob Yanigahara who was exposed by blogger Welsh, and later investigative reporters taking Welsh's lead, as having a checkered record of shady
business deals.

At least though with Litebox, the red flags were hidden and required a modicum of digging to find them.  The Angie's List red flags, on the other hand, aren't hidden at all.  They are public knowledge. Yet astonishingly Governor Mike Pence and Mayor Greg Ballard decided even more taxpayer money should be shoveled in Angie's List direction. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Carmel Diverts Money from Roads and Maintenance to Finance Mayor's Corporate Welfare Projects

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Struggling to pay both debt and ongoing costs associated with one of the nation's most sustained suburban building booms, Carmel has systemically been reaching for money or limiting budgets intended for city services.

An Indianapolis Star review of budget documents reveals that in the last five years the city has slashed funding meant to repair and repave crumbling roads, diverted money intended to pay for sewer work, and delayed plans to extend Illinois Street and fix public
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
amenities such as the reflecting pool at City Center.
...
For the first time, Brainard will ask the council to pass potentially tens of millions in bonds backed by the full faith of the city for use by a private developer. He believes commercial property taxes paid over time and other financial guarantees from the developer will cover the expenses. If those funds fall short, however, property taxes ultimately will back the bonds.

Carmel-based Pedcor, the city's main redevelopment partner, is asking for the bonds to build a parking garage and other infrastructure for a $100 million continuation of City Center. And, to the north, Old Town Development is considering a similar financing proposal to build a parking garage and public plaza in a $150 million project at Midtown.

The new development boom would have the usual Carmel flourish. The last wave brought the Romanesque Palladium. The new wave would bring an architectural nod to Rome's famed Spanish Steps — a $500,000 flower-laden decorative staircase at City Center.
...
The lengthy and well-researched article goes on to talk about Carmel selling off property and borrowing more to service its every-growing debt generated chiefly by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, Mayor Brainard's vehicle used to bypass the Council in order to pass out corporate welfare to developers:
Debt has been a debate in Carmel since the City Council backed most of the commission's debt in 2012 with property taxes. On the verge of insolvency, the commission no longer could pay its debt without the bailout. The council's backing allowed it to refinance at lower interest rates, saving $55 million over time.

And now, even as it prepares for another round of expensive development, the commission is going to great lengths to avoid tapping those property taxes.

There's cause for concern. The commission's tax-increment financing districts will fall $43 million short of paying the $486 million it owes through 2037, according to Umbaugh, the group's financial adviser.

So the commission, with the Council's approval, diverted money from two other taxing districts — collectively called Parkwood — to pay back debt.

The Parkwood tax districts were created to pay for projects in an entirely different part of the city — in a Duke development at 96th Street and College Avenue. The work long-ago completed and now paid off, the city could have closed both districts. That move would have lowered taxes throughout Carmel. Instead, the money is being spent to pay for development outside the districts.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is building a city made of gold.   Unfortunately that gold is fool's gold.  It's not like the people of Carmel haven't been warned about the Mayor's reckless spending and borrowing, that eventually the bills would have to be paid and that would mean much higher taxes and people and businesses leaving the city to avoid those taxes. Yet Carmelites continue to re-elect him.   Congratulations to the Star for an excellent of the fiscal shenanigans of Carmel city government.  Now if we can just get the Star to take a look at what's going on just blocks away in Indianapolis city-county government.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Marion County Republican Party Leadership Fails to Fill Candidates in Majority of House Races

The number one job of a county chairman is to recruit candidates for office.  Using that measure, Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker and other GOP organization leaders should receive a failing grade for their performance in the 2014 election cycle.   Of the 15 house districts which are based in Marion County, Republicans are only contesting 7 of them (Districts 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, and 93).  Meanwhile the Democrats recruited candidates in 12 candidates, leaving only Speaker Brian Bosma (District 8), and southside representatives Mike Speedy (District 89) and David Frizzell (District 93) opposed in their re-election bids.
Marion County GOP Chairman
Kyle Walker

While not being able to recruit Republican candidates for heavily Democratic districts is sometimes understandable, a number of unfilled house districts are on the edge of being competitive, yet Republicans failed to field a candidate.  So if the Democratic candidate in those districts makes a major mistake before the election, such as get arrested or embroiled in a scandal, he or she still wins because the Republicans have no candidate to take advantage of the mistake.

Let's look at some of the districts in which Walker and his lieutenants inexeplecably failed to field a candidate. 

House District 86 takes in the western and northern parts of Pike Township before cutting over to take in much of the western side of Washington Township including the Broad Ripple and Meridian-Kessler areas.   Using 2010 baseline numbers, the district was 54.6% Democrat and 45.6% Republican.  In 2012, with heavy turnout due to a presidential election, Democrat Ed Delaney ran ahead of that 2010 baseline winning with 60.1% of the vote.

House District 97 takes in part of the east side of Wayne Township, the southern part of Center Township and dips down deeply into Perry Township.  Historically numbers in that area of the county have been greatly impacted by turnout.  The 2010 baseline numbers in the district actually showed it had a 52.4% Republican majority with the Democrats baseline running at 47.4%.  In 2012, with much larger turnout in the district Democrat Justin Moed won with 58.3% of the vote.

House District 100 includes much of southern Center Township before moving into Warren Township to Irvington.  Of the three districts it is the least Republican, with a GOP baseline of 43.2% in 2010.  In 2012, Democrat Dan Forestal won the district with 61% of the vote.

In looking at these numbers, it is important to note that 2010 was a particularly good Republican year.  In 2012, the pendulum swung back the other way with much higher Democratic turnout because of the presidential election.   So it's understandable that the Democrats in the above districts ran ahead of the 2010 baselines  Still 2014, is more likely to resemble the 2010 baselines and it was essential that Republicans place candidates in those districts yet failed to do so.

It should be noted that the 2012 underperforming Marion County GOP house candidates extended beyond the above districts.  The Republicans had a 2010 baseline of 55.1% in District 87 in Washington Township, and the Democrat challenger Christine Hale defeated the Republican incumbent Cindy Noe by capturing just over 50% of the vote.  In District 92 on the far west side of Marion County, the Republicans went into the election with a 2010 GOP baseline of 55.4%.  Yet the Democratic candidate Karlee Macer won the open seat with 54% of the vote.

Of the three Marion County districts drawn with Republican majorities ranging from 52% to 55% (87, 92 and 97), Republicans lost all three.  Although drawn for Republicans to win a majority (8) of Marion County districts, Marion County Republicans currently only hold 5 of 15 house seats and that's unlikely to change with this election.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Federal Court Strikes Down How Judges are Elected in Marion County; Is Judicial Slating the Next to Fall?

Federal District Court Judge Richard Young yesterday handed down an opinion striking down Marion County's process for electing judges as a violation of the First Amendment.

That process involved Republicans and Democrats each nominating exactly half the candidates and all the candidates so nominated automatically winning the general election. Thus, if you were a voter who only cast a ballot in the general election, you'd have no say in the selection of Marion County judges.

The decision is likely to be appealed to the Seventh Circuit. I think, however, it is unlikely to be overturned.  If it is not overturned that means the Indiana General Assembly will need to revisit the issue of how the judges are selected in Marion County.  The legislature can go to an election process in which all judges are elected county-wide which would likely result in all Marion County judges being Democrats.  That's not likely to happen though with a Republican legislature and a Republican governor. Or the General Assembly can opt to elect judges by districts or install a so-called merit system which has been done in some counties.  Unfortunately, merit systems does not eliminate the inevitable politics involved in judicial selection.  It often just puts those politics behind closed doors.

Besides the issue of electing Marion County judges in the general election, you have the related issue of judicial slating in Marion County, which involves the payment of hefty fees to party bosses in order to receive the party organization's endorsement.   In January of 2013, I reviewed campaign reports and summarized those payments as follows:
To get slated, Republican judge candidates had to pony up $13,100 apiece before the slating convention.  (Democrats had to put up a similar amount.)  Following the election, the Republican judge candidates are to pony up another $10,000 apiece.
In 1992, the JQC had opined that the practice of paying mandatory slating fees was a violation of the Judicial Code of Conduct.  Twenty years later I asked the JQC to revisit in light of the fact that the payment of these fees as evidenced by twenty years of history showed they were mandatory and thus a violation of the Judicial Code of Conduct.  The JCQ in a letter dated April 2012, confirmed its earlier opinion and then reiterated a set of factors it would look at to determine if the fees paid were mandatory:
While not an exhaustive list, some of the factors the Commission believes are important to evaluate when considering whether a payment is voluntary include the timing of the payment, particularly if it must be paid by a certain time, such as before a slating convention, whether anyone from the political party communicated to the judicial candidate that the payment is expected, and whether the amount contributed by all judicial candidates during an election cycle is the same (assuming o further explanation for the coincidence.
In a piece I wrote in May of 2012, I outlined how those factors compared to what happened during the judicial slating that took place that year:
  • All of the endorsed candidates paid a $12,000 slating fee  (I found out later that there was an additional fee paid that had to be paid after the election.)
  • All paid the slating fee before the slating convention.
  • The party communicated to the candidates the amount of the slating fee before the slating convention. 
  • Judicial candidates, like candidates for other offices, were not provided a list of voters at the slating convention until the slating fee was paid.
  • The slating fee equals 10% of a judges annual salary. Slating fees always are 10% of the annual salary of the office that is sought.
  • The party, like with all slating contests, refunds 80% of the slating fee for judges if they're not slated and do not run in the primary.  If they run in the primary, the party keeps 100% of the $12,000.  If it were a voluntary political contribution, why would they ever refund the money?
I understand from very good sources that a complaint against the Marion County slating process remains pending before the JQC and was put on hold pending the outcome of yesterday's case.  Hopefully the JCQ will now find the slating fees that have been paid to be a violation of the Judicial Code and have that decision ratified by the Indiana Supreme Court.  I think that is quite likely coming down the road.

Meanwhile, in light of yesterday's decision, the Indianapolis Bar Association issued a statement yesterday, published on the Indiana Law Blog website:
The Indianapolis Bar Association (“IndyBar”) is reviewing Judge Young’s decision holding unconstitutional Marion County’s current system for selecting judges. For more than twenty years, the IndyBar has taken an active interest in the best methods of selecting judges in Marion County. Through its Attorneys for an Independent Bench (AIB) Committee, the IndyBar intends to offer its assistance in crafting a remedy to address the Judge’s decision. Marion County has been well served by its excellent judges over the years, and inclusive engagement of all interested parties in creating a new judicial selection method will ensure that continues.
You have to remember the Indianapolis Bar Association has been silent on any sort of meaningful reform of the selection process for Marion County Judges, has refused to condemn slating, including the payment of slating fees in violation of ethical rules, and has actively provided cover for party bosses' handpicked judicial candidates through the use of an easily manipulated survey process.  And now the Indianapolis Bar Association wants to be a player in reforming the system?

Note: Special thanks to Indiana Law Blog for providing the link to the Indianapolis Bar Association statement and Judge Young's opinion.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Developments in 2014 U.S. Senate Races Continue to Surprise

Recent developments in the U.S. Senate race:

South Dakota - This state was long considered to be a certain Republican pickup with former Governor Mike Rounds having a double figure lead throughout the summer.  But a recent poll shows the independent candidate Larry Pressler, a former Republican U.S. Senator closing the gap to 3 points.  The driving force is Rounds support for the EB-5 program which allows green cards to the families of foreign investors who make investments of at least $500,000 to qualified economic development projects.  The program led to a series of scandals in the state.   It should be noted that the Democratic candidate Rick Weiland's numbers, which have tracked under 30%, have not moved one bit.  Rather Rounds' slide has benefited solely Pressler.  Polls also show Pressler would inherit  almost all of Weiland's supporters should the Democrat drop out.  While Pressler would probably caucus with Republicans, it is noteworthy that he did endorse Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Kentucky - A recent Courier-Journal/Survey USA poll, which showed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes with a 2 point lead, broke the string of  10 straight independent polls showed incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell with a mostly 4 to 6 point lead.  That poll though is likely an outlier.    The most recent poll in the race, sponsored by Fox News, shows McConnell back ahead by 4 points.

Georgia - Republican David Perdue has led the Democrat Michelle Nunn in 10 straight polls.  However, the margins have been very slim.  The last six polls have been 4 points or less.  Nunn though recently has been trying to take advantage of a Perdue statement in a 2005 deposition that he spent most of his career in business outsourcing jobs.  When given a chance to temper those deposition comments, Perdue said:  "This is a part of American business, part of any business. Outsourcing is the procurement of products and services to help your business run. People do that all day."  Perhaps...but trying to educate voters about this in the midst of the soundbite-dominated climate of a political campaign is impossible.  That is a serious unforced error that could tip the balance to Nunn.

North Carolina - After a summer in which incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan has surprisingly led in 13 straight independent polls by margins that averaged about 4 to 5%, the Republican Thom Tillis finally appears to be closing the margin.  The last four polls show Hagan with an average lead of only 2 points. 

Kansas - Good news for Republicans out of the Sunflower State.  After Independent Greg Orman led in seven of eight straight polls (the eighth one was a tie), including three by 10 points, incumbent Republican Pat Roberts appears to have reeled him back in.  The two most recent polls show Roberts leading by 1 and 5 points.  But, even if Roberts prevails in Kansas, the fact Republicans have had to divert critical resources to a state which should have been a solid victory for the GOP is a victory of some sort for the Democrats.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Low Office Occupancy Rates in Downtown Indianapolis Lead to Foreclosures on Major Downtown Office Buildings

A reader alerted me to the publication of a sheriff's sale notice 10 W. Market Street, i.e. the 30 story Market Tower which is the sixth largest office building in downtown Indianapolis.  The Indianapolis Business Journal reported on the filing of the foreclosure action back in December of 2013.  Back then the IBJ reported the building was only 75% occupied.

But that is not the only downtown office building facing foreclosure.  The IBJ reported back in August that HSBC bank has filed to foreclose on the office buildings at 151 N. Delaware St., also known as the "Gold Building" and 251 E. Ohio Street. 

The 20 story Gold Building is the 10th largest office building downtown and is 73% occupied.   The office building at 251 E. Ohio Street is the 16th largest office building and is only 62% occupied.

A major tenant in the Gold Building is the Marion County Public Defender while the Marion County Prosecutor has offices at 215 E. Ohio Street.

What If They Held an Election and Nobody Cared? The Problem With Early Voting

Here we are less than 30 days before the election and I've seen exactly one political television advertisement, the "short" commercial by Secretary of State candidate Marion County Clerk Beth White.  I saw that ad after clicking on a link on Facebook and saw it again while viewing a
documentary on YouTube.  Apparently White has figured she needs to utilize other ways to get her message out instead of the traditional manner of buying expensive TV spots.   It's an excellent ad by the way.  White mocks herself for being vertically challenged while use the word "short" as a lead in to talk about improvements she wishes to make as Secretary of State.  Policy wise, I wish she would embrace vote centers, but I digress.

Indiana doesn't have a governor or U.S. Senate race on the ballot this year.  But we do have 9 congressional races, three statewide offices, 100 Indiana house races are going on as well as 25 in the state senate.  Yet, I've hardly a peep out of any of them.   Probably the race that's attracted the most attention locally is the State Senate race involving incumbent Republican Mike Delph facing off against Democrat J.D. Ford.  But so far most of the battle has been carried out door-to-door and in the social media.

I expect that in this last month many candidates will finally begin their campaigns in earnest.  That is why I don't like early voting.  Many down-ballot candidates don't have the funds for a prolonged campaign and wait to start communicating with voters until the final month. The problem for those candidates is that many have already voted.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ballard Administration Refuses to Comply with Transparency Law Mandating Release of Justice Center Request for Proposal

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
A representative of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard told Marion County judges Monday that the request for proposals the city issued to three teams competing to design, finance and construct a criminal justice facility is not a document the public can see.

Kurt Fullbeck, senior policy advisor for economic development, said at a meeting of the general term of Marion Superior judges that the document would be public if it were for particular goods and services. But because the specifications also involve operation of a jail, criminal courts and other judicial offices, the procurement procedure was different and not covered by state law making RFPs public.

...

The city has denied requests for the RFP from the Indianapolis Business Journal. However, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said recently in a letter that the city had failed to justify its denial of a request to produce the document for public inspection.

Fullbeck said the city was “currently working with the public access counselor” and insisted that the city has no obligation to make public those documents relating to a potentially $500 million public works project....
Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana, who has worked in the procurement area and has written explaining in detail the procurement law disclosures required and how the Ballard administration is violating that law.  This time Welsh notes how the media, sans the IBJ, has been silent on the administration's refusal to comply with transparency laws on a project that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars:
As I've previously reported, the Indianapolis Star (then controlled by the Pulliam family) and the Hoosier State Press Association were at the forefront in assuring that a state law enacted by the legislature back in the 1990s contained provisions to ensure transparency in the awarding of public-private agreements precisely like the one contemplated by this project. Yet the Gannett-owned Star, which endorsed the project before any fiscal analysis had been conducted, has been totally silent on the Ballard administration's flaunting of state law. Incredibly, the administration claims it can acquire the more than half billion dollar criminal justice center without spending a dime more than it currently spends on criminal justice facilities.

GIPC, the shadow nonprofit organization controlled by downtown elites which makes all of our most critical local government decisions in secret, recommended the P3 approach for the project. GIPC includes a management employee of the Star on its governing board of directors. All of the local television news stations also have management employees serving on the board of GIPC and have similarly refused to expose the corrupt and secretive process being undertaken by the Ballard administration. By their actions, the local news media is effectively conspiring with the Ballard administration to defraud Indianapolis taxpayers.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Columnist Right on Privatization's Failures, But Wrong on the Reasons

Former Indianapolis Star columnist Dan Carpenter has written an excellent article for the Statehousefile on how privatization has failed.  In it he asks this question:
Could you please tell us again, Mitch Daniels and Grover Norquist and the rest of you libertarian luminaries, how privatization of basic government functions beats letting the government handle the work and control the revenue stream?
Carpenter assumes privatization is wrong in theory.  But privatization is right in theory.  That theory is that by leveraging the power of  the marketplace government can utilize the private sector to provide better services to the public at a lower price...even with the private sector making a profit.
Dan Carpenter

Where privatization failed is not in the idea, but in the implementation.  Instead of creating the market competition needed for privatization to work, government has often handed long term contracts that ensure the private company is insulated from competition (and accountability) regarding the contracted service.  Examples of that are the 75 year toll road deal and the 50 year parking meter deal Indianapolis entered into.  Government creating a private sector monopoly is no better (and indeed probably worse since there is no accountability to the public), than having the government provide the service directly. 

Then you have the problem of no bid contracts, campaign contributions from contractors wanting politicians to get the long-term deals steered to them, and the revolving door between government contractors and the political branch responsible for picking the contractors.  The last thing those government contractors want is to compete for contracts and be held accountable when they provide crappy service.

On my bookshelf I have the bible of privatization, Reinventing Government.   While it talks about possible problems with privatization, nowhere in the tome does it mention the possibility of long-term deals that defeat the market competition needed to make privatization work.  Nowhere in the book is a warning about political contributions and revolving doors working to undermine privatization.

Dan Carpenter is right that privatization has largely failed.  But it didn't fail because of the idea.  It failed because of how it has been implemented.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Mayor Ballard Campaign Website Still Trumpets Letter to the Editor Criticizing Opponent for Advocating "Misguided Use of Money on Early Education"

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Given Mayor Ballard has contradicted virtually every campaign promise he made, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that he has now changed his mind on pre-K and now enthusiastically supports it so much so he is asking for a tax increase to fund it.   Nonetheless, if Ballard is thinking of a third term, he would be wise to remove from his campaign website the 11/1/11 Star letter to the editor criticizing Ballard's 2011 opponent for advocating spending money on early childhood education which "will do little to help young children whose parents do not value education."

Misguided use of money on early education 11.1.

INDIANAPOLIS STAR LETTER TO THE EDITOR

I am very disappointed by The Star's endorsement of Melina Kennedy for mayor. Her decision to divert millions from RebuildIndy to early childhood education is misguided and will do little to help young children whose parents do not value education. Parental involvement and support are key to their progress and Kennedy would be better off finding ways to support the family structure, which is so lacking in many poor neighborhoods.

I was glad to see that most of the letters in the Oct. 30 edition of The Star supported Mayor Greg Ballard. Many of us are less interested in attracting young liberals from other countries who sit in coffeehouses discussing theory than we are in having long-neglected infrastructure needs met right now. Ballard has done a good job and deserves another term.

Elizabeth Q. Grady
Indianapolis

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Legal Battle Breaks Out in Indianapolis Volleyball Community

On Wednesday, the Indiana Volleyball Club (IVC), which operates out of the Incredi-Plex on the far east side of Indianapolis, filed a voluminous lawsuit against the newly-formed Academic Volleyball Club (AVC), as well as its Executive Director Emily Hawthorne.  Hawthorne had previously been employed by IVC as Volleyball Coordinator and still appears on the IVC's website in that capacity.  The lawsuit also names eight coaches of the IVC who left to join the AVC, including Emily's husband, Steve.

The lawsuit alleges that when Hawthorne left she utilized IVC client emails to recruit clients for AVC and redirected the IVC's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to AVC.  (AVC appears to have regained control over these accounts which are now directed toward the Incredi-Plex. The lawsuit also alleges that when Hawthorne started AVC, she adopted a tournament series with the same names and dates as IVC in order to cause confusion in the volleyball community.

The coaches, who are all identified as independent contractors, are said to have violated their one page IVC's contract which say they shall "not disclose...trade secrets, production processes, customers, pricing or marketing plans."  Emails are attached to the lawsuit which purport to show solicitation of customers by the defendants.

The lawsuit identifies six legal theories:  violation of Indiana Uniform Trade Secrets Act, tortious interference with contract, conversion, computer tampering, breach of duty of loyalty and good faith, and breach of the Lanham Act.  The lawsuit asks for specific performance, that corrective measures be taken and for unspecified damages.

The lawsuit, which has Cause No. 49D-1414-PL-032496, was filed by Attorney John Maley, a partner with Barnes and Thornburg.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Potholes: Indy Star Columnist Erika Smith Gets Facts Wrong ... Again

Indianapolis Star Erika Smith pens a column complaining about potholes and the failure of the Mayor and the Council to fix the roads:
It's the end of September. It hasn't snowed in months. Yet, most of the same potholes that
were there when our seemingly endless winter finally ended are still there today. And by now, most of them have turned into full-blown craters.

Some streets have been "repaired" — and I use that term loosely, given the way work crews have sloppily tossed a tarlike substance into so many potholes across the city. But many of those streets are just as rough on vehicles as the streets that haven't been touched. (Central Avenue just south of Fall Creek Parkway comes to mind.)

The idea that we are about to enter another winter with roads that are in just as bad a shape as they were at the end of last winter is ridiculous. Particularly because, according to weather forecasters, this winter could be as cold or colder than last winter.

...

Democrats on the City-County Council and Republican Mayor Greg Ballard's administration have spent months negotiating how to fund RebuidIndy 2, a Republican-backed plan to spend $300 million fixing roads, sidewalks and curbs. So long, in fact, that construction on those projects can't begin until 2015.

That means you should probably start saving money to replace damaged tires and rims over the next six months. Either that or check out IndyGo's schedule.

This is just one more sign of how dysfunctional and ineffective our city government has become.
Smith apparently doesn't know, or maybe doesn't care, that Rebuild Indy II is not about fixing potholes.  The proposal pushed forward by the Mayor was to borrow money over 30 years (to be spent in 3 years) for infrastructure improvements, including paving roads.  The $150 million proposal would have cost taxpayers nearly $300 million once the cost of interest on the money borrowed was calculated.  Does it really make sense to borrow money over 30 years to pave a road?  Democrats have acted as responsible stewards of the taxpayers money in questioning the Rebuild Indy II and demanding changes.

But Erika Smith does not concern herself with facts regarding Rebuild Indy II, including how the projects are financed.  Nowhere in her article is the size of the project mentioned or that those improvements we would enjoy today would be financed by leaving the bill for the next generation.

Worse yet, the Star's columnist seems to have totally confused Rebuild Indy II with the a separate "emergency" measure introduced to fix potholes.  There was some initial complaints that all council districts were not included, but changes were made and the pot hole proposal passed within 28 days of being introduced. 

But, of course, Erika Smith doesn't mention that fact either.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Real Clear Politics Average of Polls Show Republicans Winning a Majority of U.S. Senate Seats

This evening I took a look at the Real Clear Politics average of polls for the various Senate races.  Right now the AOP show Republicans leading in eight states that are currently controlled by the Democrats.  Below I have listed those states and the Republican advantage:

West Virginia  19%
Montana  19%
South Dakota 13.3%
Louisiana 5.6%
Alaska  4.7%
Arkansas 3.6%
Iowa 2.2%
Colorado .8%

Republicans also have outside shots in:

North Carolina -3.6%
New Hampshire  -4.5%
Michigan  -4.7%

Kansas is the only state where a Republican incumbent is presently losing.  In that state, Senator Pat Roberts Republican has trailed Independent and former Democrat Greg Orman in the last four polls from 5% to 10%.  Orman is expected to caucus with the Democrats.

Republicans currently have 45 seats in the U.S. Senate.  Since the Democrats have the tiebreaking vote in the Senate with Vice President Biden, the Republicans need 51 seats to gain control.  If Republicans and Democrats hold serve, the Republicans will pick up 8 seats and lose 1, giving the GOP one more than the six net seats needed for the majority.

The Democrats appear to have two other shots at Republican seats, Georgia and Kentucky.  However, in those states the Republicans have a 3.4% and 5.25% lead respectively.

Obviously this election is close, though you have to give a slight edge to the Republicans simply because the Democrats are defending so many seats.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Possible GOP Candidates if Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard Decides Not to Run for Re-Election

After hearing Mary Milz of WTHR's report on the Mayor's future plans, including his interest in a job at Cathedral High School (poor Cathedral), I am further persuaded that Ballard will not run for a third term.  I'm officially reducing the estimated 50% chance of his running to 35%.

The question then is which Republican(s) will run, if not Ballard?

First, of all, forget the big names.  Marion County is a Democratic County and increasingly so.  With the exception of Ballard, no Marion County Republican has won running countywide since 2006.   Ballard only squeaked by in 2007 and 2011 as because of the much lower turnout in municipal elections.  But even lower turnout elections have turned increasingly in favor of the Democrats.  Don't expect a IMS President Mark Miles, Speaker Brian Bosma, or former state senator and Lt.
Mike McQuillen
Governor candidate Murray Clark to take a shot.  They know that any Republican running in 2015 will be a longshot and will take a pass.  Instead look further down the bench.   Here are some possible candidates.

Michael McQuillen - the current minority leader on the council, McQuillen briefly thought about running for State Auditor. McQuillen's strength is his close association with Marion County GOP leadership which might back his candidacy.  McQullen's weakness is that he drank the Ballard Kool-Aid, fully supporting every tax, borrow and spend proposal put forth by the mayor.  McQuillen undoubtedly would run as Ballard II.  McQuillen's failure to distance himself would likely hurt him with many Republican voters turned off by the Ballard legacy.  But even if it didn't,  Republican can't win running on the GOP base in Marion County.  It's unlikely that McQullen would have any appeal whatsoever to independents or Democrats.
Carlos May

Carlos May - a former candidate for Congressional District #7 in Indianapolis, May would be an attractive candidate.  May is tireless campaigner and personable.  Although May is employed with the
Ballard administration as Director of Latino Affairs, May could probably distance himself enough from the Ballard agenda to bring back to the fold many of the fiscal conservatives that have become disillusioned by the Ballard tax and spend agenda.  While May would be a better candidate than McQuillen, it's unlikely he could skew the political equation enough to overcome the Democratic advantage in the county.

Christine Scales
Christine Scales - just mentioning the name of Councilor Scales as a mayoral candidate will probably set Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker into a tirade.    After all, Walker has made defeating Scales in the 2015 primary his number one priority, much more important than a Republican winning the Mayor's office in 2015.    But the fierce independence and commitment to her constituents Scales has shown would also make her one of the stronger Republican candidates.  Any Republican who is going to have a chance in a general election is going to have to skew the political equation, taking Democratic and independent voters away from the opposition. While Scales has the potential to do that, Scales' problem though is that GOP organization leaders, including most notably Walker, would rather give the Mayor's Office to the Democrats than see Scales occupy the 25th Floor.  They would do everything they could to make sure she isn't slated and/or win the nomination at the primary.

Isaac "Ike" Randolph
Isaac (Ike) Randolph - the former northwest side councilor, indeed my councilor at one time, would be a strong Republican mayoral nominee.  Randolph, who like Mayor Ballard, resides in Pike Township, would bring sold Republican credentials to the table.  However, unlike McQuillen, Randolph seems to understand politics enough to know he would need to aggressively pursue non-traditional GOP constituencies in order to win a countywide election.  Randolph, who is an African-American, has made that a point of emphasis in his political career. Randolph also is likely to seek some independence from the country club Republicans who have dominated the Ballard administration.  But independence is not something the GOP party leaders see as a virtue.  They'd rather lose an election to the Democrats than elect a Republican who can't be "controlled."  I don't think Scales or Randolph would ever agree to being manipulated in office the way Ballard has been.

In summary, I think the best Republican candidate is someone who can hold the GOP base while aggressively pursuing Democrats and independents.   Of the four listed, Scales and Randolph would be the best at doing that.  May is also an attractive candidate.  But make no mistake about it, even the best Republican running a great campaign will have trouble winning in 2015.  The numbers just aren't there anymore.  And that, folks, is why Ballard may well not run for a third term.

Hollywood's Biggest Climate Hypocrite - Leonardo DiCaprio

The Daily Mail reports:
With his speech in front of the United Nations today, Leonardo DiCaprio cemented his reputation as one of the world's highest-profile activists on climate change.

'You can make history ...or be vilified by it,' he dramatically told world leaders.

After marching with 400,000 others on the streets of New York this weekend to demand tough regulations to cut the amount of CO2 being pumped into the air, DiCaprio opened a UN climate change summit by urging the world to crack down on polluters and 'put a price tag on carbon emissions.' 

But the 39-year-old Hollywood star's own jetset lifestyle reveals a double-standard on the issue of climate change.
In his speech to the UN, he said: 'This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make.'

MailOnline can report that DiCaprio took at least 20 trips across the nation and around the world this year alone - including numerous flights from New York to Los Angeles and back, a ski vacation to the French Alps, another vacation to the French Riviera, flights to London and Tokoyo to promote his film Wolf of Wall Street, two trips to Miami and trip to Brazil to watch the World Cup. 

...

Additionally, DiCaprio owns at least four homes: two apartments in New York and mansions in Hollywood and Palm Springs.

He also recently sold an estate in Malibu for $17million. 

And this summer, he spent his World Cup vacation on the fifth largest yacht in the world, a 482-foot behemoth owned by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan - a billionaire oil tycoon from the UAE.

...
 
DiCaprio has tried to stay green in other parts of his life. He owns a $4million apartment in an eco-friendly apartment building in Battery Park City. 

He drives a Toyota Prius and a $100,000 Fisker electric sports car.  He's been spotted riding a bike around New York. 

In 2007, he produced and narrated the 11th Hour, a documentary about climate change and other threats to the planet. 

He also represents several environmental charities and has thrown his star power behind Formula E, a new racing circuit that uses electric cars, instead of roaring gasoline-powered vehicles. 

However, his jetsetting - both for business and pleasure - means that he he's producing a lot more CO2 than most people.

Even if he flew on a commercial jet for all of flights, his carbon footprint so far in 2014 would be a minimum of 40million metric tons of CO2 spewed into the atmosphere, more than twice the average American output for an entire year.

That figure only takes into account his flights and assumes that he flew exclusively on commercial airlines . The A-list star is worth an estimated $220million, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com, and it is known to frequently charter private jets.

Carbon emissions for private jets vary, but by some accounts are more than 37 times higher than flying commercial.

...

DiCaprio is one of those typical Hollywood celebrities, those who encourage working men and women, who are struggling to make ends meet, to pay more taxes and pay higher utility rates in a dubious quest to save the planet.  Meanwhile, they lead lavish lifestyles, imposing a far bigger carbon footprint than hundreds of those "little people" they demand make more sacrifices.

It's called being a hypocrite.