Saturday, August 30, 2008
McCain needed to do something dramatic with his Veep choice. To win he needed to find the weakness of the Obama-Biden ticket and exploit it. That weakness was the millions of voters Obama left behind by not putting Hillary on the ticket. McCain not only succeeded with his choice, he also solidified his base by picking a social conservative. Republican presidential candidates win with a coalition of economic and social conservatives. While there is tension among the two groups, they need each other to win.
Democrats are making a mistake criticizing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for a lack of experience. That strategy only highlights Obama's lack of experience and he's the one at the top of the ticket.
I know the euphoria will wear off eventually and I'll be back to knowing in my heart of hearts that rarely does the VP choice make any difference in a presidential race. In the meantime, let me enjoy the moment. We may be at the highest point in the McCain campaign. Let's savor it, just in case it doesn't get any better.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Mayor Gregory Ballard
Indianapolis City-County Building, 25th Floor
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Re: Selling City Property; Venture Real Estate Deal
Dear Mayor Ballard:
First of all, I want to let you know how much I wish for your success. As a Republican, I am deeply proud of the campaign you ran and the commitment you expressed for a more open and ethical city government.
It is exactly for that reason that many people are troubled by the Venture Real Estate deal. Giving a private company a profit motive (commissions) as to what is supposed to be the rendering of objective advice about selling city property, creates a major conflict of interest. It is likewise a conflict for one of your top advisors to also represent John Bales of Venture in negotiating the contract with the city. I have no doubt this advisor and his law firm will also earn fees on the legal work every time a piece of city property is sold or leased pursuant to the Venture deal.
Since this story broke, many Republicans, including those who worked directly on your campaign, have expressed concerns you have surrounded yourself with political advisors more interested in using their positions to profit financially than giving you sound advice. They believe, and I agree, that you received poor advice as to the Venture deal. Mayor, if your administration is going to be a success, you need to give those advisors their walking papers and replace them with people who will make your success the No. 1 priority.
Aside from the Venture deal being a bad political move, it is not clear consideration was given to the legal requirements that must be followed when selling city property and park land in particular. First, the sale of any city property requires a professional appraisal (IC 36-1-11-4) and notice and a public hearing. (IC 36-1-11-3). The selling agent has to take bids. (IC 36-11-11-4). The sale of any city property over $50,000 has to be approved by the City-County Council. (IC 36-1-11-3). The sale of any park land, regardless of value, has to be approved by the council and the sales proceeds paid into the parks department budget or used to buy new park land. (IC 36-10-4-8). We would expect that Venture follow all these requirements.
Paul K. Ogden
cc. Members of the Indianapolis City-County Council
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The media, however, did not find it to be a dry issue. On Tuesday, I found myself being interviewed on-air by Pam Elliot of WISH-TV and Norman Cox of WRTV. I also received a call requesting information from the Indianapolis Star. The article appeared this morning.
After media day at the law firm, I was reminded of a class I used to teach called "Media and Politics." Basically it was a class that taught the basics regarding how the media operates and how political candidates and elected officials should handle the media.
The explosion of the internet has considerably changed the relationship between media and politics since I taught Media & Politics in the mid-1990s. However, a basic rule of civility still applies. Many elected officials make the mistake of treating reporters with hostility or disdain because they think the reporters exist simply to make public official's life difficult or expose negative information. Quite often that is what they're trying to do. But treating the reporter with contempt or appearing as if you have something to hide, may well make a negative story worse.
Regardless of whether you like the person doing the story or want the story covered, the reporter should be treated with respect. Writing stories and scripts under looming deadlines is an incredibly difficult job. If you make their job easier by cooperating by returning calls and trying to answer the questions they have, you will cultivate an environment of respect that will result in better coverage, if not on the story at hand, in the future.
Of course, I approach things from a philosophy of open government. I am a huge believer in open records and public access to government documents and meetings. When I was at the the newly-formed Title Insurance Division at the Department of Insurance, we were inventing the wheel when it came to regulating the title insurance industry. I used to tell my staff that as we developed our plans for regulation of the industry, we needed to do so in full view of the public and be open to input and criticism from those we regulate. I told them, if we're doing things in secret because you don't want the public or the industry to know, we're doing the wrong thing.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The deal is troubling on so many levels. I think one though that might get lost in the shuffle is the role mayoral advisor Bob Grand played in brokering the deal. Although Schouten simply refers to Grand as John Bales' attorney, Advance Indiana confirmed that Grand is not only Bales' attorney, he negotiated the contract with the city. It should be noted though that the copy of the contract Schouten obtained from the city and linked to in his story conveniently did not include the signature page which may have had Grand's signature as Bales' attorney.
One issue local Republicans effectively used in the 2007 municipal election was that of Democrats' conflicts of interest that were ignored by Mayor Peterson and the Democrat majority on the council. Yet just months later, far worse conflicts of interest are emanating from the 25th floor. Obviously Mayor Ballard's political advisors are not serving his interests well if they did not alert him to the highly negative political ramnifications of the Venture Real Estate deal. Of course when the chief person advising the mayor politically is profitting from the deal, an obvious question arises whether the Mayor is getting honest political advice that truly is in his best interests.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Well, first of all on Indiana Week in Review, you have to discount the Democrat and Republican representative when it comes to political analysis. My trouble with them is that they are too intent on spouting the party line, even when they know better. Nonetheless, the more objective journalists took a swing at the issue and missed. Normally John Ketzenberger has good political analysis, but he characterized the issue of privatization as big government v. small government, a winner for Republicans in conservative Indiana.
Apparently the journalists haven't noticed a backlash against privatization that's been going on in the past few years. I highly doubt that the poll numbers would show Governor Daniels proposal to privatize the lottery being supported by anything close to a majority. Then you add in on the conservatives who otherwise would support the idea, but are worried about the expansion of gambling. Privatization is certainly not a good campaign isssue for the Governor, especially the lottery idea which could upset his core conservative supporters.
I was a big proponent of privatization in 1990s and still am today. But I think we Republicans completely bungled the implementation of the idea. We argued for privatization of services that should never have been privatized. The idea of privatization is injecting competition in the provision of government service. When there are only one or two companies that can provide a particular service and you hand them 10 year contracts, are you really creating a situation where there is a competitive environment for the provision of those services? Of course not.
Then you have a wholesale failure of elected officials to monitor the contracts private companies have to provide those services. As a result, those companies cut corners and the quality of the service provided suffer. While it's necessarily not an area that registers with the public, the quality of services provided by corrections privatization has been abysmal, especially when it comes to privatized correctional medical care.
It's unfortunate because many people now view privatization as bad when in fact the problem has been how it has been implemented.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Today's advice is directed to Mayor Greg Ballard. Now I've been accused by some of being against the mayor because of litigation I have filed of late. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am thrilled with having Mayor Ballard to preside over the city. Like the Mayor, my father was a Marine. Mayor Ballard has accomplished so much in life. This city is fortunate to have someone with his experience as mayor.
Having said that, many of my fellow Republicans, including me, believe the Mayor has gotten off track. Going into office, the Mayor surrounded himself with advisors from previous Republican administrations. On paper that was a good move. But for the reasons I state below, it was a mistake not to look for "new blood" political advisors.
Mayor, to be honest, 2007 was made possible because a popular incumbent Democrat mayor decided to commit political suicide by jacking up local income taxes a month before election, and just after a huge citizen uprising over property taxes. So to take what happened in 2007 as the rule, rather than the exception, is not a good approach to figuring a way to win in 2011.
Mayor, many of your closest advisors last reached their most grand and lofty status (hopefully that hint is obvious) as political advisors in local politics in 1995 when Steve Goldsmith won his last mayoral election. By 2011 that will have been 16 years ago. In 1995, the Republican base in the county was probably 56%. Now it's about 45%. By 2011, it could be 43%.
Since we're nearing football season, let's use a political analogy. The strategy of the middle 1990s was for the Marion County Republicans to just run the ball and overpower the defense. They didn't take chances by putting the ball in the air. The strategy worked well with a 56% Republican majority. But just running the ball with a 43% base will assure that the Democrats are back in power in 2011. Mayor, you have to pass. Throw the short screen, the slant across the middle, the post pattern. Mix in a run every now and then. But, Mayor, you have to abandon the outdated advice you are getting to stick to the running game. Think West Coast offense.
Winning politics when there is a minority base vote requires a candidate to skew the political equation. You have to mix things up, be creative, take chances. It's all about identifing political constituencies and assembling a majority coalition.
Marion County went almost overnight from being a strong majority Republican county to one where the Democrats dominate. When you looked around for political advisors, Mayor, you probably did not realize that there were very few who had the experience and knowledge to navigate the new political terrain. Mayor, don't be afraid to turn away from the advisors of previous Republican Mayors and listen to new people who are willing to suggest you new ideas and new strategies. Take a chance. Throw the ball, Mayor.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Real Clear Politics' electoral map now shows the gap narrowing as well. The electoral vote race is shown as split 228-178 in favor of Obama with 132 tossup electoral votes. However, when the tossup electoral votes (Indiana is still listed as a tossup) are counted according to their latest polls, McCain is shown as ahead of Obama 274-264. The reason for the recent change? The new poll switching tossup Indiana from the Obama column to McCain's.
I would like nothing more to see a McCain victory if for nothing more than replacing two of the liberal judges on the U.S. Supreme Court who are likely to retire in the next four years. While it's obvious Obama has slipped, I still think there is an enthusiasm gap between supporters of the two candidates that is enormously important in terms of turnout but difficult to measure in the polls. Again, this year reminds me so much of 1980 when the Reagan and Carter were almost in a dead heat going into an election that turned into a Republican landslide.
Within a day or so we're likely to know Obama's choice for vice president. His recent dip in the polls confirms the candidate I think he needs the most to shore up his ticket: Hillary Clinton. Would Tim Kaine, Evan Bayh or Joe Biden encourage voters to support the Obama ticket when they otherwise would not? No, but Hillary would. As much as I do not like her politics, I respect someone with political skill and ability to reach and motivate voters. She has it. The men don't.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The problem as AI reports is the execution by the Mayor's Office. Giving Venture Real Estate Services both the job of identifying properties that should be sold and the exclusive right to sell the property, creates an obvious conflict of interest situation. Of course, the history of public-private partnerships in Indianapolis has been conflicts of interest, and a lack of oversight and scrutiny by public officials Again, public-private partnerships are not per se bad. The problem is when conflicts of interest are ignored and public officials do not their job and exercise oversight. I don't normally tout Dan Carpenter, but he nailed the issue perfectly in his column today.
Back to the sale of park land. One wonders if the city's lawyers researched the idea. It's not that simple to sell off city property, especially park land. First, professional appraisals have to be done. (IC 36-1-11-4). Second, there has to be notice and a public hearing about the sale of the property. (IC 36-1-11-3). Third, the selling agent has to accept bids. (IC 36-1-11-4). Fourth, while the law would only require Council approval if the value of the property was over $50,000 (See IC 36-1-11-3), Indiana has a law specifically saying that the sale of any park land, regardless of value, has to be approved by the Council. (IC 36-10-4-18). Sixth, proceeds from the sale of park land have to be kept within the parks department to maintain the remaining park land or buy new park land. (IC 36-10-4-18). Finally, probably many of the properties have deed restrictions which limit the ability of the city to sell the property.
The major obstacle though is council approval. While the council might approve some sales where the local communities do not want the park in their neighborhood, it's hard to see how the council would support a wholesale disposal of park land.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
It will be interesting to see what effect the new job numbers and the presidential candidates running ads will have on the numbers in the Governor's race. My guess is that things are tightening up. A couple months ago I would have said Jill Long Thompson had a 20% chance to win the election. I think it's risen sharply in the last 30 days, closing in on 40%.
The last poll I saw was a poll released from Daniels' campaign showing the Governor leading Democrat Jill Long Thompson 50-36. Generally, polls that are released by candidates are for fundraising purposes and are chiefly aimed at making the candidate good. They should be taken with a grain of salt. To a lay person a 14 point lead looks good. However, experienced politicos would focus on the Governor's numbers as revealing a problem. It used to be taught in Campaign 101 that an incumbent who had an under 60% re-elect number was potentially in trouble and a below 50% number was a death knell. With the increased cynicism of the electorate today and the negative campaigning turning off people to candidates, the 60/50 rule is no longer a good barometer.
However, even if the old 60/50 rule of polling for an incumbent was replaced with a more realistic 50/40 rule, the poll should still sets off warning lights for the Governor's campaign. His political advisors would be wise to not ignore the lights and instead learn what people like and do not like about the Governor and retool the campaign message accordingly.
Friday, August 15, 2008
It's an easy shot. Clearly the pensions are improper. Instead state legislators pensions should match state employees, including the amount of contributions and time period for vesting.
But an explanation is in order. Legislator's base pay is $11,600 and had not been raised since 1985. (It will go up to $22,600 starting in 2009. ) Neighboring Illinois pays its legislators a base salary of $63,143. How many of us would have gone 23 years without a pay raise? Whenever there is discussion of increasing their base pay, they unfairly get pummelled in the media, including by the Indianapolis Star. The Star makes their salaries look much bigger by lumping in daily expense money as if that were part of their income. While it's true that many Indianapolis area legislators do not have the expenses to consume all of the per diem, many legislators outside of Indianapolis have to pay for travel, hotel rooms, meals, etc. while they're staying away from home.
So instead of challenging the public and media backlash to raising their base salary over the years, legislators instead quietly increased their benefits. Was it the right thing to do? No. Compensation for legislators needs to be open and direct. It should not have to be "leaked" to the press in order to get it.
But the never ending backlash against legislators raising their base salaries is unfair as is the media's distortion of legislator's salaries. What would I recommend?
1) Instead of sneaking in pay increases through the back door (by increasing less noticed benefits), substantially increase the base pay for legislators. (This was finally done last session when pay was finally increased from $11,600 to $22,600)
2) Tie future increases of state legislator pay to state employees' pay increases
3) Have legislators' pensions match state employees' pensions in terms of
contributions and vesting. (Tully does an excellent job of pointing out how their pensions are better than state employees.)
4) Vary per diem expense money given to legislators by distance. If you live in Evansville you get more expense money than if you live in Indianapolis.
5) Full disclosure of all benefits paid by legislators.
Again, jumping on legislators for their pensions is easy. What is much more damaging to the public is legislators working second jobs that raise a conflict of interest with their legislative duties and their abuse of the franking privilege. Now that I'd like to see the Star cover. It would be a real service to the public.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The warnings used to be about the consequences of "driving drunk" Then without fanfare the language was subtly changed to warning people about "drinking and driving." A big difference. The latter reflects a prohibition mindset that labels even the teetotaler Mother who has a sip of communion wine a scofflaw if she dare drive home from church after "drinking."
The "drinking and driving" approach not only doesn't work, it prevents the pursuit of real education efforts that would cut drunk driving. For example, why not educate people about how much alcohol puts you over the legal limit to drive? Now that would be an educational effort that would have a real impact on cutting drunk driving. How about an effort to put breathalyzers in bars so people can check their BAC levels before getting behind a wheel? Neither are done because they contradict that mindset that even one sip of alcohol is too much to get behind the wheel and drive.
Now for some education. Let's assume a 200 pound man goes to a bar after work and drinks for 3 hours before returning home to his wife and children. How would different numbers of beers consumed affect BAC?
1 = .000
2 = .000
3 = .004
4 = .023
5 = .042
6 = .061
7 = .080 (legal limit)
12 = .174
16 = .250
20 = .326 (allegedly Benjamin's level)
From looking at the numbers it would seem that education efforts would be better spent encouraging people to monitor their alcohol intake rather than falsely telling someone they are a menace because they had a beer then drove home.
You can figure BAC going to this website:
I would caution though the numbers above are based on servings of beer. Contrary to what a lot of people think, mixed drinks will almost always contain more alcohol than beer. The website allows you to check many popular drinks as well as beer.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I find it interesting that Mr. Schmoll's wife was in the car with him during the road range incident. One might think she would have pointed out the inherent contradiction in shooting at another car to warn that person about the need to drive more safely. Then again, perhaps Mr. Schmoll was already upset because Mrs. Schmoll was insisting that he stop and ask for directions about the time when he was cut off in traffic.
Fishers police spokesman Sgt. Gerry Hepp said the shooting occurred about 6:15 p.m., while Schmoll and his wife were driving north on I-69 south of 96th Street.
Hepp said Schmoll claimed he feared for his safety when a woman in the inside lane tried three times to merge into his lane, prompting Schmoll to pull his .357 Magnum and fire what he described as a “warning shot” that hit the vehicle’s right front ender.
No one was injured in the incident.
“Her lane was ending,” Hepp said of the 26-year-old Fishers woman who was not immediately identified. “She said that he sped up and would not allow her to enter his lane. He describes it as he was just driving and she tried to run him off the road.”
Hepp said that both drivers exited onto Ind. 37 and turned east onto 126th Street, where Schmoll admitted to pointing the gun at her again.
After Schmoll told the woman to get away from him, she fled and called police. Schmoll also dialed 911 to report the incident.
The best part of the story though is that Mr. Schmoll also called 911. That leads me to believe he was so certain he was in the right that he had no problem reporting the incident to the authorities. Apparently though the authorities did not comprehend the propriety of using a .357 Mangum to encourage a bad driver to improve her driving skills. Go figure.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I almost choke on the words as I write them, but I think Hillary Clinton would be the best addition to the Obama ticket. She has shown herself to be a tremendous campaigner and she excels at hitting the demographic, white working men and women, that McCain needs to have an overwhelming support among to have any chance of winning. While the Clintons, both Hillary and Bill, might be distractions in the White House, I'm pretty certain that Obama has the charisma and personality to keep them in their role as second bananas. That said, Obama and his supporters seem to have long memories about perceived unfair attacks by Hillary Clinton during the campaign. I doubt they would put thos slights aside to embrace Hillary,as No. 2, especially since her help as Veep probably won't be needed to secure victory.
My short list is narrowed down to two: Senator Evan Bayh and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Having watched Evan Bayh as a Secretary of State, Governor and U.S. Senator, I can't get over what certainly appears to be a charisma deficit. Charisma might not be important for winning statewide office in Hoosierland, but on the national stage it is important. Governor Tim Kaine trumps Bayh on charisma, is a better hands-on campaigner than Bayh and would likely put into the Obama column a state with 2 more electoral votes than Indiana.
So my bet is Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Okay, I know it's ridiculous to make generalizations about long-term temperature trends of a 4.5 billion year old planet based on the weather of the moment. However, if this summer were a scorcher, I'm sure the Man is Causing Global Warming Which Will Wreak Devastation on the Planet Earth Crowd would have been all over the temperature as proof of their hypothesis.
Here's what my research showed in terms of 90 degree days over the past 13 years:
2008: 2 (thus far)
In that 13 year period, we've never had a 90 degree day in May. Here's the website so you can check it out yourself. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ind/local_cli.php
As a Republican, I tend to believe competition in the provision of service is a good thing for consumers. However, as City County Councilor Jackie Nytes, one of the more thoughtful Democrat members of the council notes, for an outsourced contract to work there needs to be strong government oversight. Bingo.
Nytes' observation is particularly correct when it is the type of service provided outside of normal public scrutiny. For the past six months I've dealt with privatization of correction facilities, including privatized medical services for inmates.
There you have the triple whammy of a service provided outside of normal public scrutiny, an attitude of apathy if not hostility toward inmates, and lengthy contracts shielding the service providers from competition. The only protection, outside of litigation which is generally highly problematic due to prison adminstrative hurdles, is government oversight. And with the palms of elected officials often greased by campaign contributions, the urge to call the service provider onto the carpet for cutting corners and violating the contract just isn't there.
The shocking things I've seen from the services provided, or more accurately not provided, by these private correctional facilities lead me to believe privatized corrections just do not work. Public jails and prisons are almost always far better run than their private counterparts.
Now privatization of MAC might prove to be a different story. Regardless of whether it is a good idea, Councilor Nytes' comment regarding the need for good oversight is a suggestion Mayor Ballard should heed.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
She informed me she plans to vote for Obama. I asked her why. Although she has long expressed unhappiness with the Iraq war, tonight she talked of her concern about the state of the economy. She says she wants change and to her Obama represents change. She is also concerned about McCain's age, which is an interesting comment since McCain is younger than she is.
Although she votes Democrat for most state and local offices, she couldn't remember the last Democrat she voted for for President. I speculated it was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
In previous elections, Republican Presidential candidates would almost always get her vote by showing the conservative flag and pointing out how liberal the Democrat is. This well-honed Republican strategy is not working with her this time, even though Obama is one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate.
I tell my political science students that when predicting election results, you cannot simply look at polling numbers without looking at the intensity behind those numbers. This election reminds me most of 1980. In that year, the race between Reagan and Carter was nearly a dead heat going into Election Day. Reagan though won by a landslide, carrying Republicans all across the country to surprise victories. Presently, the intensity gap between Reagan and Carter supporters in 1980 reminds me of the gap between the supporters of Obama and McCain.
This election is going to be about change and the economy. While I like John McCain, the reality is that he is viewed as a status quo candidate who is far more concerned about foreign policy than economic issues. That spells trouble. As things stand today, I expect the Democrats to score a huge victory on Election Day. I think this could well be the worst election for Republicans since 1974. I hope I'm wrong but my political instincts tell me otherwise.