Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Three Types of Liars: A Liar, a Damn Liar, and Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel

Turns out in Carmel, those Keystone Avenue roundabouts keep getting more expensive all the time.

In February 2007, Mayor Brainard was told by engineers that the six roundabouts would cost $138.6 million over an 11 year period but that that it could be brought down to $112 million if the project were completed by 2010. Mayor Brainard withheld the estimate. Then in September of 2007, he announced the roundabouts could be completed with the $90 million state contribution and no city money used.

In February 2008, an egineering firm budgets the project at $149 million and informs Brainard. Brainard though that same month tells the City Council that they'll need maybe $10 million or $15 million of city money to complete the project.

The Indianapolis Star reports that Carmel City Council member Luci Snyder was angry that the council was told that only $10 to $15 million more was needed at the same time that Mayor Brainard knew that the estimates were that the city needed $60 million more to complete the project.

The Star also reports the reaction of council member Rick Sharp:
"Any idea why this number wasn't shared with the council? And point in fact, well into the summer of 2008, in various private meetings, we were told an additional $20 million (over the initial $90 million cost) was needed to construct Keystone. If the mayor knew in February of 2008 that the engineering estimate was $149 million, any idea why he told the council he only needed $20 million?"
Why? That's because to paraphrase the saying popularized by Mark Twain, "you have liars, damned liars and then you have Mayor Brainard of Carmel."

It appears that Carmel voters might finally wake up to the big-spending Democrat they continue to re-elect in that fair city.

Advance Indiana's excellent take on Mayor Brainard and the Keystone roundabouts can be found here.

As a side note, I would like to know why there apparently was never any investigation of Mayor Brainard's 2007 campaign report that listed a $481,000 expenditure to Stakeholder, Inc., a company owned by Allen Sutherlin, which acted as his campaign consultant. That one expenditure represents 88% of of his expenditures on his report according to an Advance Indiana blog post. It defeats the whole purpose of the campaign finance laws if who is truly getting the campaign expenditure is not shown on the report. In other words, you can't simply pay someone else who then pays the campaign vendors in order to avoid disclosing who is truly receiving the money. Whether or not that was what was done in Brainard's case, is not clear. Perhaps Stakeholder, Inc. did $481,000 worth of work. But certainly it looks very similiar to what Matt Kelty's campaign did, only this time it is on the expenditure side.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Indiana's Problem With Unprosecuted White Collar Crime and Public Corruption

It is growing increasingly apparent that there is an enormous problem in Indiana with unprosecuted white collar crime, including public corruption. The problem appears to be growing worse. There isn't hardly a week go by that I'm not presented with a new shocking set of facts of criminal activity by crooks who wear starched white collar shirts. Given the history in this state of not prosecuting those folks, it is apparent that they have little to worry about.

The problem stems from the prosecutorial system established in Indiana. In Indiana, county prosecutors have sole discretion to prosecute individuals. They gear their efforts at stopping the type of street crime that dominates their communities, drug dealing, burglaries, rape, theft, etc. White collar crime though can be enormously complicated and requires an expertise that few county prosecutors have. Prosecuting white collar crime requires a lot of time and resources that prosecutors don't want to divert from the street crime they are used to prosecuting.

That leaves the Attorney General. Indiana's Attorney General, however, does not have prosecutorial powers. While there is absolutely nothing that prohibits the AG from establishing task forces to deal with white collar crime, conducting investigations and offering assistance to prosecutors who choose to prosecute as a result of the AG's investigation, historically our AG has declined to assume that role.

There is, however, some hope that the new U.S. Attorney will make white collar crime and and public corruption seriously and engage in prosecutions. Of course, for the U.S. Attorney to be involved, there has to be violations of federal law. Many of the legal violations now, concern state laws being broken.

It is time to rethink the prosecutorial structure of Indiana. As things currently stand, white collar crime and public corruption will continue to go unprosecuted under the current structure. We need to have an aggressive Attorney General who is willing to make these types of crimes a priority, and has the legal authority to initiate prosecution.

Public corruption in Indiana is deeply embedded in both political parties. Those involved have little fear of of being exposed in the newspapers or being prosecuted. That has to change.

Contrasting Sheriffs; More Deaths at Indiana Jails

Today's Indianapolis Star this morning reports on the death of an inmate at the Hancock County jail, a county directly east of Marion County-Indianapolis. Brian Bales, 36, was booked into the jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. He, however, passed a breathalyzer before being taken to jail. At that point, according to the article, they should have investigated whether a physical condition, and not drugs, was causing Bale's erratic driving and behavior. While a hospital staff member drew Bales' blood, a doctor never examined him and a nurse on duty never consulted with a doctor regarding his condition. A day and a half later Bales, who was also a diabetic, had died from what was later determined to be gastrointestinal bleeding.

The Star article shows Hancock County Sheriff Bud Gray immediately taking action. As a result of his preliminary investigation, he fired a jail nurse and placed a deputy on administrative leave pending an investigation. Sheriff Gray stated:
"Based on vital signs that were taken, a doctor should have been called," Gray said. "We have a doctor on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we pay for that service. That's why we have him , for situations like this one. (The jail nurse) should have contacted the doctor on call, and that didn't happen."
Sheriff Gray should be commended for his immediate and thorough response to this inmate's death. It stands in sharp contrast to the continual non-response by Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson to the numerous deaths and injuries in the jails in Marion County. For example, five inmates died at Jail #2, run by Corrections Corporation of America, in 2006. Sheriff Anderson did no investigation on any of them, and has not even audited the facility in at least three years. Despite the deaths in 2006, he gave CCA a brand new 10 year contract in 2007. From 2005 through 2008, there were thirteen lawsuits filed against CCA for problems in its operation of Jail #2

There are problems in the other Marion County jails, usually related to the privatization of medical services. Inmates have died of week-long untreated pneumonia, not getting heart medication, not getting blood pressure medication, etc. Other inmates have been injured by not getting their prescribed medication. Not surprisingly, private companies like to make money and aren't quick to hand out expensive medication to inmates few people outside of their families care about.

But if people aren't sympathetic to the inmates, they should at the very least be concerned about the cost to the taxpayers. When these private companies providing medical services at jails get sued, so does the Marion County Sheriff for failing to supervise the privatization contracts and force these companies to follow the contract and the law. Even though there is an indemnity provision in the CCA contract, for example, that would allow the Marion County Sheriff to recoup litigation costs on behalf of taxpayers, it is never enforced. During late 2008, the Sheriff's office got council permission to transfer money from one account to another in order to pay CCA for inmate meals and an inflation adjustment CCA had decided to take. As I recounted on the pages of this blog, the reason stated to the Council for the payment was bogus. CCA, and not the Marion County Sheriff, pays for inmate meals and the inflation adjustment in the contract is automatic and takes place on 1/1 of every year. I have tried to obtain open records to see if this taxpayer money was, in fact, destined for the pockets of CCA's lawyers, Barnes & Thornburg, but CCA has refused to comply with the open records request, even though these are documents the public acccess counselor has determined need to be provided in the past.

Contrasting sheriffs. On the one hand you have Hancock Sheriff Bud Gray who investigated the matter and took responsibility for what happened in his jail. Then you have Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson who, despite the inordinate amount of deaths and injuries in his jails, won't lift a finger to investigate the matter or hold anyone responsible, including himself.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Something for New Attorney General Greg Zoeller to Investigate - His Own Office

A couple years ago, I represented Susie Talevski, an attorney who was suing her former boss, Democrat Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, in a wrongful termination/whistleblowing action filed in the Indiana Federal Court, Northern District. Talevski was a deputy prosecutor who worked out of the Hammond child support office. One of the “employees” in the office is a self-described political for vote-getter for Prosecutor Carter in East Chicago. The man is also the uncle of a Democrat Lake County judge.

The man received a full-time salary, yet according to my client, only came in late in the afternoon for a few hours during which he spent most of his time reading the paper and on the phone making calls in Spanish. Although he carried the title of child support caseworker, unlike the other case workers, my client saw that he had no files in his office or computer on his desk to track the cases. My client, concerned that ghost employment was taking place, asked him which cases he was handling and he could not identify a single one. Rather she was told that she needed to talk to Prosecutor Carter if there was any question what work he did around the office.

When I worked for Attorney General Linley Pearson during the late 1980s, he took the position he could decline representation in matters of public corruption and therefore we would always first investigate ghost employment charges before jumping into representing the elected official involved. Steve Carter’s office, however, did no initial investigation. (I would note that when I later had my own whistleblowing case involving the Department of Insurance, the AG’s Office didn't do an investigation either, although that didn't stop the AG from sending a form letter saying that an "investigation" had been conducted in denying my tort claim.) The AG's office now refuses to provide any information as to this supposed investigation, probably because none was ever conducted.) When my client filed her wrongful discharge/whistleblowing case, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office immediately went after her with a vengeance. There was no effort whatsoever to look into whether my client was telling the truth about ghost employment in the Lake County Prosecutor's Office. Rather they put about four deputies on the case and engaged in some of the most abusive discovery practices you can imagine. The man hours the Attorney General’s Office was willing to devote on that one case to discrediting my client were astonishing.

After awhile I took a job with the Department of Insurance and discontinued my private practice. Before I left the case though, I delivered a digital recorder on which Ms. Talevski had used to record the final meeting that had resulted in her termination, to the Attorney General's Office. None of my computer experts had been able to figure out how to copy the recording and it was past due pursuant to a discovery request. I emailed the main Deputy Attorney General (DAG) working on the case that I was dropping the recorder off at her office on the condition that after they made a recording and/or a transcript, it would be returned. I also included a note with the recorder. Never in my wildest imagination though did I expect the events that followed.

A few months later, my former client forwarded me an email from that DAG where she had written my client claiming she had no idea how the recorder got to the Attorney General’s Office and thus, she would not return it because of the suspicious nature of its arrival. Her claim to not know where the recorder came from was, of course, a lie.

My client, an attorney herself who by then was representing herself, obtained an order from a federal judge for the AG’s office to return the recorder. However, instead of returning the recorder as ordered by the court, the Attorney General’s Office immediately had the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District execute a federal grand jury warrant for the recorder. (My guess is that the U.S. Attorney’s Office simply did it as a favor to the Attorney General’s Office without fully realizing what was going on.) The DAG then filed the subpoena with the federal court and claimed the recorder was being subpoenaed because my client was under a grand jury investigation into my client for wiretap fraud. There had been no mention of that in the subpoena executed by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

There are a couple problems with that. First, it is a crime to publish a federal grand jury subpoena which is supposed to be secret. The second problem is that there never was any grand jury investigation of my client for wiretap fraud or any other crime. The recording was not remotely a ‘wiretap” nor was it illegal to do what she did. The DAG had lied to the federal udge about the supposed grand jury investigation in order to avoid returning the digital recorder.

Apparently there was a good reason why the AG’s office did not want to return the digital recorder to my client. With the subpoena, the recorder went to the FBI. The FBI agent found that the recording of the hour long plus termination meeting was no longer on the recorder. Whoever erased the recording did not erase anything on the recorder immediately before or after the recording of the termination meeting; only the hour long plus meeting had been erased. So much for an accidental erasure. Given the chain of custody from me (and I listened to the recording right before I gave it to the Attorney General’ Office) to the AG to the FBI, almost certainly the destruction of evidence was done by an employee of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

So let’s recap. The AG’s office made no effort to investigate allegations of ghost employment in the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office before launching into a full frontal attack on my client. The AG’s office obtained a grand jury subpoena for the recorder under dubious circumstances, in an obvious attempt to circumvent a federal court order. The DAG published the subpoena in violation of the law and lied to the court, falsely telling a federal judge that the subpoena was because my former client was being investigated by a federal grand jury for wiretap fraud. Finally, it is almost certain that someone in the Attorney General’s Office erased the recording, destroying evidence. We’re not just talking ethical lapses in the AG's Office. We're talking about criminal activity, most likely the commission of felonies.

Oh, and during this time the main DAG on the case received a promotion and nearly doubled her pay to approximately $85,000 a year. She is still listed as a supervisor at the AG’s Office..

Greg Zoeller needs to do a full investigation of how the Attorney General’s office handled this case. The people who were involved in this attempted cover up need to be fired and the results of his investigation turned over to the U.S. Attorney and Marion County Prosecutor for criminal prosecution. There should be zero tolerance for this sort of conduct, conduct, which along with the involvement of ghost employment in Lake County Prosecutor's Office, may well reflect more widespread public corruption. If Attorney General Zoeller wants help in investigating this matter, he has my phone number.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reading Between the Lines: Mayor Ballard's CIB Legislative Strategy

Buried in the middle of the Brendan O'Shaunnessey's article "Your Sports Ticket Could Cost More." is a comment that should raise concern:
Ballard could not put a timeline on when the city and CIB would present a plan to close the deficit, in part because he said he expects the state legislature to be a part of that effort this year.
Wait a second. The time for introducing legislation is long past. There has been no legislative proposal introduced to bail out the CIB. Yet the Mayor's people say they expect the state legislature to be part of the effort to close the deficit?

Folks, I worked in the Indiana Senate for three legislative sessions and have taught how our state legislature operates for some 20 years. I know how the game is played. You introduce a bill, and it goes through the full legislative process with plenty of chances for exposure, including two standing committees where public testimony is taken. The CIB proposal would have been crushed by public opposition. Don't think for a second that the City's lobbyists do not know that.

In the legislature, if you want to do something controversial, something under the public's radar, you do it in conference committee. Conference committees, which are designed to work out the differences between House and Senate versions of the same bill, take place at the end of the session generally on a compressed time table. The committees do not take public testimony. But conferees are free to insert pretty much whatever they want into the compromise version of the bill then send it back to the floor of both houses for a final vote.

If you want to get a controversial provision passed, you stick it in the middle of a conference committee report during the chaotic last days of the session when the media is overwhelmed with all the action. It will get much less publicity during the last days of the session and the forces against the provision will not have time to marshall the forces to stop it.

The deadline for bills to pass out of the first house has passed. Yet the Mayor expects the General Assembly to take action on the CIB. Translation: They plan to stick the CIB bailout in the budget bill considered in conference. The Mayor's lobbyists intend to bypass the public and cut out any opportunity for we, the people, to speak out against taxpayer money being used to bail out the CIB. You can bet on it.

Once again, it looks like Mayor Ballard is slapping the face of the very taxpayers who helped get him elected.

The Conflicted Capital Improvement Board Exposed

Unbelievable. Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana has obtained the financial disclosure statements of all the members of the CIB and exhaustively detailed all their financial conflicts. Hopefully everyone on the Indianapolis City-County Council will read what Gary has to say and pay attention. Can't we at least have one board member that puts taxpayers ahead of corporate interests? Is that really too much to ask for? A voice that might say "No" when the CIB plans to spend $15 million more for the Pacers? Or perhaps someone who will insist that the CIB ask for concessions from the Colts?

Here is the Advance Indiana story.

The Silence of the Democrats

As the Ballard administration lobbies to increase taxes to fill the enormous hole in the Capital Improvement Board budget, one group of city politicians remains mysteriously on the sidelines. I'm not talking about the the Republicans on the Indianapolis City-County Council. While they can be faulted for not exercising leadership on the CIB issues, at least they have the excuse that their silence is a strategic, albeit misguided, decision to support the Mayor. I say "misguided" because in the end their silence is enabling to a Mayor to go down a road that gives him no chance to win re-election and dooms any chance the Republicans have to continue being in the majority on the council.

Democrat Council members should feel no such constraint regarding the CIB. While Mayor Ballard's missteps has given them loads of ammunition to fire in 2011, no more potent issue exists than than this administration's complicity in continuing the corporate welfare schemes that have enriched wealthy insiders at the expense of the Indianapolis taxpayers. Yet rather than stick up for the little guy against the the big corporate interests, Democrats members of the Council are on the sideline.

But, alas there is a reason for the constraint. Democrat politicians are as tied into the elite corporate power structure in Indianapolis every bit as much as the Old Republican Guard, those country-club Republicans who immediately seized control of the transition and have run the Ballard administration ever since. Both Democrat Fred Glass and Republican Bob Grand fall all over themselves to enter into deals favorable to their corporate benefactors at the expense of taxpayers. The same mindset extends throughout Indianapolis politicians on both sides of the aisle.

What is surprising, however, is the reluctance of other Democrats who aren't elected officials to criticize the corporate welfare schemes that dominate the politics of Indianapolis. Recently a prominent Democrat blogger was asked to condemn "corporate welfare." He refused to answer the question, claiming it was "irrelevant." Not sure why he thought it was "irrelevant," but it is positively astonishing that he would not bring himself to taking a stand against taking money from lower and middle class folks to make the rich richer. The only Democrat blogger I've seen who has come close to criticizing corporate welfare is Jen Wagner, and she doesn't ever criticize the concept of corporate welfare, only the Mayor's handling of the questions relating to the issue. For example, I've never seen her criticize the sweetheart deal Fred Glass negotiated or demand that the Colts make concessions to help close the CIB budget gap

Democrats, who claim to be defenders of the "common man," demonstrate an enormous amount of hypocrisy when they can't bring themselves to criticize taking money away from hard-working men and women to give it to billionaires like the Simons and Irsay. The silence of the Democrats provides an enormous opportunity for a more populist-oriented Marion County Republican party to forge coalitions that could eventually bring the GOP back to dominance in the county. But, alas, those who run the Marion County GOP and call the shots on the 25th Floor, are about as far from being populists as one could be. They are part of the problem and the reason why the Republicans are missing a golden opportunity made possible by the Silence of the Democrats.

Media Advisory: Revolt at the State House

For Immediate Release Contact: Paul K. Ogden
February 25, 2009 (317) 531-6127 (cell)
(317) 631-0172 (work)

Indianapolis – Attorney Paul Ogden, 47, today announced plans to hold a taxpayer rally at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The rally, which is called “Revolt at the State House,” is supported by several local political blogs including “Ogden on Politics” and “Hoosiers for Fair Taxation” and various taxpayer groups not only in Indianapolis but all across the state.

The rally will focus chiefly on issues relating to corporate welfare, Indiana style “pay to play” politics, property tax reform, and the need for transparency and ethics reform. Particular topics are likely to include: “The Colts, Pacers & the Capital Improvement Board, “Pay to Play Politics, Indiana Style: Campaign Contributions & Government Contracts,” “The Executive and Legislative Revolving Door,” “Corporate Welfare – How Politicians Have Used Our Tax Money to Make the Rich Richer.”

Speakers, which will include Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians, will be announced at a later date.

Ogden stated: “One of the primary goals of the rally is to bring to the attention the issue of our taxpayer money being taken from hardworking men and women to make the rich richer. The situation with the Colts and Pacers is a perfect example, albeit just one example. The Mayor’s Office, the Capital Improvement Board and the Indiana General Assembly need to be asking the Colts and Pacers for concessions rather than asking average taxpayers to shell out more of their hard-earned money to make the Irsays and Simons wealthier.”

Ogden noted the tremendous work blogger Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana had done on this issue of corporate welfare in Indianapolis and that part of the purpose of the rally was to take these types of issues from the pages of the political blogs directly to the General Assembly.

Melyssa Donaghy of Hoosiers for Fair Taxation also noted that the rally will include the need for ethics reform. “Part of this rally will include a call for transparency, that the average person needs to be able to know what is going on in government,” Donaghy said. “The conflicts of interest many of these politicians have need to be exposed and ended. We should not have our elected officials using their positions to make themselves and their friends richer.”

More details on the “Revolt at the Statehouse” will be provided at a later date.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

History of the Indiana General Assembly: The Story of Senator Nelson Grills

In the late 1980s, I had a jury trial against an attorney by the name of Nelson Grills. It was an eminent domain case and the issue was the value of an old railroad easement being taken. While the subject matter of the lawsuit was boring, I found Grills, who by then had to be pushing 80, to be fascinating. I later discoered that Grills, a former state senator, wasn't just telling tall tales about his former political career. He indeed had led fascinating life. From the book, The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly by Justin E. Walsh:
It might be said that Senator Nelson G. Grills made a career out of being a maverick. he first gained notoriety as a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy's Lighter Than Air Division during World War II. In July, 1943, as skipper of the only blimp in naval history to attack an enemy submarine, Grills was shot down by German off the coast of Florida and spent nineteen hours in the water before being rescued. Since blimps were not supposed to attack submarines, the Navy spent years trying to decide whether to give Grills a court-martial or a medal. In 1961, it finally decided on the latter, the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, Grills moved from Hammond to Indianapolis and became active in the Democratic party. Beginning as a precinct vice-committeeman, between 1952 and 1956 he served as Marion County and eleventh district Democratic chairman. He also served as minority attorney in the state House of Representatives in 1953. In 1958, Grills was elected to the first of two terms in the state Senate. During his years in politics, according to an Indianapolis journalist, he "managed to make just about everyone mad at least once. He admits this has not been easy to do." Many thought that, for him, it had been. In his first term as senator, Grills proved that one man could indeed make a difference in the General Assembly. In the process of adding the word "grillibuster" to the lexicon of the General Assembly, Grills alienated almost every colleague on both sides of the aisle, the state leadership, and a governor of his own party over the reapportionment issue.

Grills began his fight for equal representation in 1959 by introducing a bill for numeration leading to reapportionment. But the rural-dominated reapportionment committee refused to meet, let alone approve the bill. In retaliation, on February 20, Grills invoked the long-ignored provision of the state Constitution that every bill be read aloud, word for word. Thus was born the "grillibuster," a nine-day period during which the Indiana Senate ground to a halt. On the first day a drone of voices - four clerks reading portions of each bill simultaneously - transformed the chamber into a modern Tower of Babel. Grills said he would demand a full airing of every bill until the apportionment committee released his measure. Committee chairman Willis K. Batchelet of Angola refused to budge, stating that if Grills succeeded he would "set a precedent that would light a fire and burn the Statehouse down." While Grills did not have arson in mind, he did intend an inflammatory battle of words to wear down his colleagues. On February 22, with as many as eighteen senators reading aloud their own bills, a steady attack was loosed on Grills from both ides of the aisle. Outside the Senate, Grills received support. "That Stubborn Mr. Grills" was praised in an editorial by the Indianapolis Times: "If the Indiana General Assembly won't [obey the Constitution] then who will?" On February 28 Grills bowed to pressure from his fellow Democrats and ended his "grillibuster." He vowed to continue his fight for the next two years, however, and predicted that the 1961 legislature would abide by the long-ignored reapportionment requirement.
As the session progresses, I intend to share other interesting stories about the history of our General Assembly.

Senate Amends Township Bill; Advocates for Reform Need to Take A Chill Pill

Yesterday, the Indiana Senate acted to strengthen Senate Bill 512 by amending the bill to eliminate township boards and require county councils to decide whether taxpayers should get a break if townships's cash reserves balloon. The latter change was in response to news reports that numerous townships were hoarding cash, while at the same time being very stingy about poor relief. The bill still excludes Marion County.

Over on other blogs, I'm reading about how the Indiana General Assembly is the worst legislature in the country and how the world will end if the entire township reform proposal contained in the Kernan-Shepherd report is not enacted into law. Sorry, but I'm not buying either one of these claims. First, Indiana's legislature operates no differently than most other state legislatures in the country, and is certainly more efficient than Congress. What you are seeing going on in Indiana's legislature is exactly the same thing that goes on in all 50 state legislatures. So I'm not buying this whole nonsense that Indiana is the "worst legislature." That's not to say there isn't a need for reform in how the legislature operates, including the need to enact things like a revolving door law that delays a legislator from going directly from the General Assembly to a lobbyist's payroll. But even those problems are faced by other legislatures.

Now to the issue of township government reforms. This township system went into effect with the ratification of Indiana's present constitution in 1850. That was 159 years ago. Now in 2009, there are legislative proposals to completely do away with township government. It looks like advocates of elimination are going to fall short of getting everything they want this year. My response to that would be "so what?" There are legitimate differences of opinion about township government. It takes time to move public opinion and legislators to the point of complete elimination. Why is it such a terrible thing if you only get half a loaf on this first serious attempt at elimination?

Again, that is simply the way the General Assembly, and, in fact, all legislatures operate. Legislative bodies rarely make huge sweeping changes, especially on the first attempt. It takes time for public opinion and legislative support to reach a consensus on reform. The legislative process is designed to be slow and cumbersome, which often frustrates those who want immediate sweeping changes. That's not always a bad thing. Take a look at what has happened in Washington, D.C., where our elected officials, without much debate or deliberation, enacted huge corporate bailouts and stimulus packages costing hundreds of billions of dollars that will be paid for by printing more money. Is that the swift, decisive action, taken without much thought or consideration, really what we want from the Indiana General Assembly? I think not.

Take a chill pill. Change is coming in township government. It just probably won't all happen this year.

The Governor's Use of the State's $1000 An Hour Plane

Today's Indianapolis Star carries an article this morning discussing how the Governor had used (or attempted to use before the windshield cracked) the state's King Air prop plane to fly to Washington, D.C. to appear on a couple network news shows and attend the National Governor's Association. Governor Daniels was the lone passenger on the plane that seats 9 passengers.

According to the news reports, the plane cost $791 an hour to operate, plus $184 in maintenance costs for each hour of flying time. I would have certainly question whether there are other fees involved. I believe there would have been landing fees associated with the plane using the airport and the plane would have had to be stored during the day, both of which propably had expenses associated with it. I'm not sure what landing and storage fees would be, but I think it's safe to conclude that the entire trip cost taxpayers in excess of $5,000.

The Governor defends the trip saying that there was no commercial option that would have gotten him to Washington, D.C. in time. That reference is probably related to his plan to appear on a couple Sunday morning news programs.

I'm all for the Governor being able to move about the state quickly. Having your Governor on the road for long periods of time in a car takes him away from work he might otherwise be able to do. I see nothing wrong, for example, with the Governor, boarding the state plane to fly from Indianapolis to Evansville or South Bend, both trips that take, one way, 3 plus hours by car, but less than an hour by plane.

But when the State's plane is used not in place of in-state travel by car, but rather because the Governor does not want to take a commercial flight, well that's a lot tougher to defend. The Governor was the sole passenger on the plane. In the article he talks about how taking a commercial flight would have required arriving the night before and a hotel stay. While he declines to do the calculation, it doesn't take much in the way of math skills to figure out that a commercial flight would have saved the taxpayers thousands of dollars.

The times are tough. Everyone needs to make sacrifices, including the Governor. He needs to be flying commercial for trips like this.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rethinking the Cuban Embargo

In the Indianapolis Star this morning is an article about Indiana Senator Richard Lugar urging that Congress and the Obama administration rethink the strict embargo toward Cuba that has existed for 50 years. In the report scheduled to be distributed among his Senate colleagues this week, Lugar says the embargo gives the Cuban government a "scapegoat" for the nation's economic difficulties.

The embargo has failed to change Cuban behavior for 50 years and should be considered a failure. While there are sound arguments for the embargo, the isolation of the island nation has not worked to bring about change. Now is the time to steer another course. Lifting the Cuban embargo (in exchange for guarantees by the Cuban government), would begin to expose the Cuban people to American ideas which would eventually lead to breaking the hold the Communist regime has over its people. That formula has worked elsewhere. Now is the time to try it in Cuba.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The New Marion County Traffic Court

This morning's paper brings an article on the changes to traffic court in Marion County. Earlier this year, Judge Bill Young took the helm of the far eastside court. When he chose that assignment, it raised a few eyebrows. Judge Young is a seasoned criminal court judge, and for him to agree to preside over the far eastside court seemed like a voluntary demotion. The traffic court was formerly headed by a commissioner rather than an elected county judge like Young.

I personally like Judge Young and expect him to hand out justice fairly. What I do find objectionable though is his policy of imposing higher than normal fines on motorists who dare to challenge their ticket in court. If a person gets a ticket for speeding, for example, the fine could be $150 to $200. If that motorist challenges it in court and loses, Judge Young imposes a $400 fine plus $150 in court costs.

People should be allowed to have their day in court without fear of having a substantial penalty associated with doing so. The people who appear in this court mostly do so without any sort of legal representation. They are up against a prosecutor who does know the routine, including how to present witnesses and evidence. The deck is stacked against the motorist. To penalize that person for seeking justice seems wrong. I know it is done for the purpose of discouraging baseless challenges to tickets and clogging the docket, but in the process you are also penalizing people who have a legitimate defense and want a chance to present it to the court.

One change that is coming, however, will help out enormously. The court which is now located off 10th Street near Post Road is set to be relocated to a former T.J. Maxx store on the northwest side of town, just below Lafayette Square Mall. The court will be easily and quickly accessible from I-65. Attorneys who represent client will be able to get to the court in half the time they did when it was on East 10th Street. In addition, the added space cures a likely legal problem at the old place. Friends and families of defendants were often being excluded from the traffic courtroom. That almost certainly was a constitutional violation as both the Indiana and U.S. Constitution requires "public" trials, i.e. that the courtroom be open for anyone to attend. Only proceedings involving juveniles can be closed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Offical Marion County GOP Spin on the Coleman Defection

Just listened to Marion County Republican Communication Director Dan Tierney on Hoosier Access giving the official Republican response to the decision of Ed Coleman to leave the Republican Party to become a Libertarian.

I thought the spin Tierney offered was good. As opposed to the strident comments I heard after the announcement, Tierney took a more conciliatory approach. Perhaps the folks over at headquarters started crunching the numbers and discovered that only one more defection would put the GOP in the minority. Not sure the status of whether Coleman will be stripped of his committee assignments as that question was not asked during the interview.

Josh Gillespie, the host of Hoosier Access, however, asked a good question about the status of Barb Malone, a Republican at-large councilor who had formerly been a Democrat. Tierney handled the question adeptly, smartly praising Malone for her work on the council while ignoring her votes with the Democrats on many issues. He did point out though that she is an attorney and then sort of suggested that because of that, ethics was a priority. I'm sure the attorneys listening got a chuckle out of that.

Tierney did point out that the Republican at-large members ran on the platform of "lower taxes, safe streets and more accountability in government" and that was something that Mayor Ballard supported. He then said he was disappointed that Coleman did not want to continue with that agenda.

Huh? The Mayor's people are over at the legislature lobbying the legislature for higher taxes to bail out the CIB. It was Coleman, and not the Mayor's Office, who dared speak up about the CIB and asked for full disclosure about what is going on. Nobody else on the council, Republican or Democrat, has done that. The Mayor's office has opposed accountability and transparency about what is going on his administration and at the CIB, although during the campaign Ballard promised both. Unlike Mayor Ballard, Coleman apparently took his campaign pledges seriously. Tierney does a really good job with the spin, but, at the end of the day, it's just political spin with only a sprinkling of truth.

The Mayor's State of the City Address and the Need for Accountability for the CIB Mess

Advance Indiana today analyzes Mayor Greg Ballard's discussion in his State of the City address and finds his comments on the CIB mess fell short:

"If you were hoping for some straight talk and specifics from Mayor Greg Ballard on the colossal financial crisis of the CIB in his State of the City Address, you will be isappointed. "We are working with Governor Daniels and the General Assembly on solutions--solutions that directly involve the users of the facilities and those who benefit from them," is all that Ballard had to offer on the "$36 million deficit" at the CIB, which Ballard laments is "grab[bing] the headlines". "[The] challenges we face go beyond the headlines, and impact our citizens every day and in every paycheck," he explains. He adds, "Placing blame for this problem is not important, but fixing the problem is."

I couldn't disagree with Ballard more on that last point. Assessing blame for the current CIB requires analyzing how we got ourselves in this mess and what we can do to avoid facing similar problems in the future. Even worse, it clearly signals his belief that the problem can only be corrected by increasing public expenditures. While Ballard offered zero specifics on what he means by asking "users of the facilities and those who benefit from them" to provide the money for the additional spending, we know from well-placed leaks to the mainstream media what he has in mind. He wants anyone who attends an event at one of the facilities to pay a ticket tax. He wants to capture revenues which would otherwise fund other government services from an expanded development area around the CIB facilities and divert them to the CIB. He wants higher taxes on food and beverages and hotel stays. There's even talk of imposing a local income tax on people who work in Marion County but lived outside of it."

I would concentrate on Welsh's comment, "Assessing blame for the current CIB requires analyzing how we got ourselves into this mess and what we can do to avoid facing similar problems in the future." Truer words have never been spoken. One of the problems we have historically had in this city is a lack of accountability of city leaders. We are quick to praise them for being forward thinkers when they negotiate some big corporate deal, yet we never want to look at the fine print. Well, folks, the fine print is now biting us in the ass. Yet is anyone calling on Fred Glass and Bart Peterson, for example, to be held responsible for the poor deal he negotiated with the Colts? Nope.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Marion County GOP Should Be For Marion County Republicans

In 2002, I went through slating for Marion County Clerk. That year, former Marion County Sheriff Joe McAtee also ran against Lawrence Mayor Tom Schneider, who was also the Lawrence Township chairman. Schneider, Jack Cottey, who was Warren Township Chairman, David Brooks, who I believe was then Center Township Chairman. and John Keeler, then County Chairman, worked together to appoint numerous "mummy-dummy" precinct committeemen prior to the slating convention.

"Mummy-dummies" are people who are temporarily appointed precinct commitment for the sole purpose of attending a slating and voting the "right way," i.e. how the party bosses want them to vote. The effect is a huge pool of slating voters who usually can offset the elected and appointed commitment who are true committeemen, working their precincts and on election day.

In 2002, the people working for me and for McAtee discovered something very unusual when scanning the list of Republicans eligible to vote at the Marion County GOP state-wide slating convention. Many of those listed as precinct committeemen who had been appointed were from outside the county, some were even from outside the state. Several cars in the parking lot were from other counties and even other states. After the slating contest, a reporter followed one Marion County Republican precinct committeemen, who was apparently on his way home, back to the Ohio border.

Things have not changed. David Brooks, who had a home in Pike Township, has sold that home and, according to what Brooks have told several Republicans, has moved to Hamilton County. Yet Tom John continues to allow Brooks to act as the Center Area Chairman. This is even worse than in 2002. Now we have upper level supervisors in the Marion County GOP living in another county.

It should be a basic requirement that the precinct committeemen, ward chairman and area leaders who are part of the Marion County GOP organization actually live in Marion County. One wonders if those who work at Marion County GOP headquarters are also from Marion County. It does not make sense to have people working for the Marion County Republican Party who live in another county and who may be part of other GOP organizations.

Is it really too much to ask that the Marion County GOP be made up of Republicans who actually live in Marion County?

Hindu Prayer at the Indiana Senate

The last few years have produced several stories about prayer at the Indiana General Assembly. The opening prayers being offered in the Indiana House resulted in federal litigation and a decision restricting the practice which was reversed on a technical issue on a appeal. Now this morning comes the news that a Hindu chaplain offered the opening prayer during yesterdays Senate session. Good.

Contrary to the claims of a lot of people, I have rarely found any Christian activist who has said that while he wants prayer or religious displays in the public sphere, that it only be Christian in nature. In fact, my experience is that Christians activists are the most supportive of "open forum" idea undoubtedly because they know that if other religions gets excluded so do Christians.

As far as the nonsense that an opening prayer violates the Constitution, every day of the Constitutional Convention opened with a prayer. Delegates quoted at length from scripture during the debates. The first Congress which debated the First Amendment, including the Establishment Clause, opened up their sessions with a prayer. The U.S. Congress has been opening with a prayer for over 200 years. The notion that an opening prayer of a legislative session is unconstitutional is not well-founded. Then you have the separation of powers problem. Under that doctrine, the legislature is not permitted to tell judges how they are going to run their courts. Likewise, courts are not supposed to tell legislatures how they are going to conduct business. That court decision restricting prayer never had a chance of surviving on appeal.

Having said that, I don't agree with how the Indiana House was conducting its prayer which led to the lawsuit. Some of the Christian prayers were way too demonstrative and lacked respect for those who might hold different religious beliefs. On the other hand, people should be able to stand there and quietly respect the prayer of another religion without being so "offended" it results in a federal lawsuit. That includes when the prayer offered is Hindu.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Diana Vice and Red Light Cameras

I wanted to write on red light cameras, but being short of time today, I scoured some other blogs to find material I could copy rather than write original material. Found Diana Vice's excellent research on red light cameras. I totally agree with Diana Vice that it is an embarrassment to the GOP that a Republican would sponsor such legislation. I likewise am troubled by the fact that Republicans are leading the charge on the DNA database bill, which would require felony arrestees to submit their DNA for a national database. Since when are Republicans supposed to be for this Big Brother nonsense?

But back to Diana Vice and her blog. Diana writes:
As a registered Republican, these types of Republican-sponsored measures make me cringe. The Republican-controlled Indiana Senate passed a bill 28-22 yesterday that would allow cities and towns to install cameras at intersections to catch drivers running red lights.

C'mon, guys and gals, we all know that this is less about public safety and more about increasing revenue by extorting fines from Hoosier citizens. It's also an example of why more and more Republicans are abandoning the Party of Lincoln to join their Libertarian friends.

This is not only bad public policy, but it smacks of a Big Brother mentality. Republicans simply should not be supporting these types of intrusive measures.
Absolutely. These types of Big Brother measures could not be more opposed to Republican philosophy of limited government.

Diana goes on to provide some research on red lights cameras around the country. If the members of the General Assembly aren't reading her blog, they should be.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Collecting the Mail for the CIB

Gee isn't it bad enough they want to take my money and give it to rich billionaires, now the Capital Improvement Board also wants me to collect their mail for them too?

The brochure sent to the CIB has the address of my law firm. Click to enlargen.

The Indiana Lincoln Penny

After a heavy day of political blogging yesterday, I was in the mood for something lighter this morning.

The U.S. mint is releasing a new Lincoln Penny series. The reverse side of the coin will have Lincoln depicted in four different scenes. The Top of the Ticket LA Times blog reports:

"The first depicts the one-room log cabin in Kentucky where Lincoln was born. It's already in circulation. The second shows him as a rail splitter in Indiana. (The mint says it should start moving into circulation in mid-May). The third, due out in August, shows him reporting to work at the Illinois Legislature, and the fourth penny, due in November, depicts the U.S. Capitol without its dome -- a symbol of the civil war that divided the nation when he was president."
It's about time Indiana gets more credit for Lincoln so I'm happy about the series. Honestly though, I think it's time to retire the penny. Pennies aren't even taken seriously as change anymore. One of the reason why it is still around is Illinois has always blocked any effort to do away with it. So elimination of the penny probably is not going to happen with an Illinois resident occupying the White House.

While I'm on the issue of need monetary changes, I have always heard Americans love their paper dollar bills. Well then they need to get over it. Paper dollars, while cheaper than coins to produce, only last for 18 months and have to be replaced. Coins on the other hand have a circulation life span of approximately 30 years. We need to scrap the paper dollar and just go to the $1 coin. I saw where the dollar is worth about a 1/4 of what it was 20 years ago. So that dollar is the equivalent in value to a mid to late 1980s quarter. Well then it is time to make it a coin instead of a paper bill.

Notice - Blog Registration

I was told when I started this blog that at first I should not initially have limitations on posting, but as it became more popular, I would probably need to move to requiring registration and maybe comment moderation. Well, I think I'm getting there. A few times things have gotten out of hand and the comments went from being more intellectual in nature to name calling.

So I have turned on the function where you are required to register to comment on my blog. So we'll need a name. I may also soon be turning on the comment moderation function soon as well. I do notice though that even many of the blogs that have been around for awhile allow for immediate posting. So I'm still weighing the benefits and negatives of that.

In the meantime, let's play nice.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bypassing Public Scrutiny: The Likely Legislative Strategy Employed by CIB Taxpayer Bailout Proponents

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh writes a compelling piece about a bailout of the Capital Improvement Board getting put into the budget bill.

People need, however, to be on guard regarding this little legislative trick that can allow such a bailout to bypass most of the public scrutiny it would otherwise receive.

It takes weeks if not months for most bills to pass through the legislative process. When they go to the standing committees, the public is permitted to speak out on the bill and the bills can be "marked up" (i.e. changed) before they move to the floor. Because of the length of this process, any controversial measures generally get a great deal of public exposure before the final days of the session. The troops opposed to certain bills, get plenty of time to rally their troops.

There is a way around this lengthy process, a way that allows the legislature to adopt controversial provisions without much public attention or input form the public. Here's how it works:

When a bill comes out of the first chamber and is changed in the second chamber, then it often ends up in conference committee where 4 conferees, 2 from each chamber, sit around a table and try to work out a compromise on the bill. These conferees can make any changes they want, including inserting into the bill language that neither chamber originally considered. Sometimes, conferees will strip out the language of a bill and insert a completely new bill.

Conference committees are open to the public, but do not take public testimony. They operate on a very compressed time table, usually meeting during the last few days of the session. The conference committee report (the compromised version of the bill) that come out of conference goes directly to the House and Senate floor for final vote. At that stage there are no amendments, but just a straight up or down vote on the compromise bill.

There is no question that a bill like the budget bill will end up in conference committee. The bill will be huge and it will be considered in a conference committee during the last day or two of the session. There will not be enough time to digest everything, and little, if any, time to rally opposition to any new objectionable provisions.

By waiting to insert the language into the conference committee report during the last day or so of the General Assembly, those who want the CIB taxpayer bailout can effectively shut out most of the publicity the provision might otherwise get as well as make it virtually impossible for opponents to rally the troops against the controversail provision.

Inserting controversial provisions into conference committee reports is an old game played by the legislators who don't want the full glare of the public eye on controversial proposals. YOu can bet that is the very plan the CIB and city lobbyists plan to use to get the taxpayer-funded bailout through the General Assembly.

Mathematically-Challenged Republican Council Leadership Considers Retaliation Against Ed Coleman

One question presently unanswered is whether the Republican leadership of the Indianapolis City-County Council will retaliate against Ed Coleman who announced this morning he was switching from the Republican to the Libertarian Party. That retaliation would likely take the form of stripping Coleman of committee positions.

Okay, let's review the numbers. Up until the announcement, the Republicans had a 16-13 majority on the council. Now it is 15-13-1. One Republican at-large member, Barb Malone, is a former Democrat who often votes with the Democrat. So on many votes, you're looking at 14-14-1. By my count, that makes Ed Coleman the single most important vote on the council. So Republican leadership actually thinks it is a good idea to sanction Coleman by stripping him of his committee positions? Coleman is philosophically in line with Council Republicans on 90% of the votes, they are in critical need of his vote on a plethora of issues, and they think ticking him off with some petty retaliatory act is a good idea?

I'm pretty sure that when they do the math, the Council Republicans leadership will see the light and make the wise decision to not retaliate against Coleman by stripping him of committee assignments.

Ed Coleman Press Announcement

Today, flanked by prominent members of the state and local Libertarian Party, Maroin County Councilman Ed Coleman announced he was leaving the Republcian Party to join the Libertarian Party.

During his announcement, Coleman emphasized that while his political views had not changed, he believed his party's approach had. Coleman summarizes the problem:
"Both of the old two parties have forgotten their ties to the common man, and instead focus on power and control as elitists. I am a common man, campaigned for the
common people, and I still represent the common people, the voters and taxpayers."
Although Coleman's comments were not meant to be confined to Marion County politics, it is clear that the description perfectly fits the situation in Indianapolis where the party in power, whether it is Republican or Democrat, has for decades been competing to see who could hand out more corporate welfare at the expense of taxpayers.

It is apparent from his prepared comments and his answers to questions that the situation with the Capital Improvement Board played a major role in Coleman's decision to leave the GOP. He indicated that he had been asking for information about the CIB's operations and continually was being given the brush-off. Coleman said other Republicans on the council felt like he did regarding the CIB, but were unwillingly to speak out publicly. Coleman's willingness to ask questions and perhaps express dissent regarding the CIB made him a target of GOP leadership.

One thing that is encouraging is that Coleman indicated that he intends to be even more aggressive at pursuing matters like the CIB. He said that he planned to still be "an advocate for the common person, an independent voice to challenge the status quo." Coleman's emphasis on transparency in government and accountability should be concepts both parties embrace rather than scorn.

While I strongly believe that Ed Coleman would have been better served in standing up to those thugs within the Republican Party who try to stifle dissent and independence, I certainly respect him for the decision he made. Whether he is a Republican, Libertarian or Democrat, Coleman brings values that every elected official should embrace. The Indianapolis City-County Council would be a far better place if we had more leaders like Ed Coleman and fewer sell-outs like Ryan Vaughn.

Below is the text of his speech in full:

"Good morning. As an At-Large member of the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council, I am announcing today that I have joined the Libertarian Party.

This is not a decision I take lightly, nor did I come to it without deep reflection. I have found that the direction of the Republican Party has changed, and it is not the same party I joined many years ago. Nor do I believe its current leaders truly represent the ideals that the party markets and advertises to voters.

Both of the old parties have forgotten their ties to the common man, and instead focus on power and control as elitists. I am a common man, I campaigned for the common people, and I still represent the common people; the voters and taxpayers.

I have come to find that my politics are actually more aligned with the Libertarian Party than any other; a party that still allows free thought, a party where dissent is not necessarily a dirty word.

Both of the old parties endeavor to silence dissent. During the Council's previous period of Democrat control, the majority's powers were used to silence Republicans. Now, under Republican control, the Council majority abuses their power to weaken Democrat influence. Over the past year I have been criticized for votes I made in response to the concerns I heard from my constituents. As a leader I have spoken out against the secretive and expensive affairs of the Capital Improvement Board; but the old two parties want obedient followers, not leaders.

As I stated during my campaign, I support good, transparent, fiscally responsible proposals whether they originate from Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians. I will continue to work with representatives from the other two parties and hope they will feel free to approach me for support of anything that makes our city safer, more livable and prosperous. I am not beholden to any special interest. I am beholden only to the wonderful citizens of Marion County.

Like a surprising number of other Libertarians, I am personally still a social conservative. I am proud of the Christian values that I hold but oppose using government to force my religious values on others or assume authority over things that should be the domain of the church. I am still the same person today as I was when I campaigned for office. The letter after my name may be changing, but if you wanted an advocate for the common person, an independent voice to challenge the status quo, then I am still your man.

I would also ask my fellow elected officials and anyone else that feels as I do, that the two-party system is broken, that maybe your party has left you or government's focus is on the wrong things, to consider taking a stand and joining me."

Why Aren't Council Republicans Asking Questions About the CIB?; The Future of the Marion County GOP

In today's Indianapolis Star, Vic Ryckaert writes about Council member Ed Coleman's decision to leave the Republican Party and become a Libertarian. Coleman is quoted in the article and his observations are right on the mark, and disturbing.

According to Ryckaert:

"Coleman said he faced criticism from fellow Republicans when he opposed the 'secretive and expensive affairs of the Capital Improvement Board.'"
Coleman had previously spoken out for accountability and that the secretive CIB open its books and tell council members and taxpayers what is going on. This begs the question, why aren't ALL of our Republican and Democrat council members demanding the same?

I've been involved in Marion County GOP politics since 1986. I know how a handful of people run things and put corporate interests ahead of taxpayers. Anyone who dares speak out is subject to intimidation and retaliation. I've witnessed it first hand. As Ed Coleman says "The two old parties want obedient followers, not leaders." Absolutely. When I ran for Clerk in 2002, I was told by that party leaders at that time that the triumvirate of Keeler/Cottey/Schneider, who ran things at the time, would not support me because I "could not be controlled." If anyone believes Coleman hasn't been retaliated against by CIB President Bob Grand, Joe Loftus, and those of their ilk, for speaking out about the need for the CIB to be open and accountable, I have some swampland in Florida I'd like to sell.

I know many of the Republican council members. Most are thoughtful and dedicated councilors. Yet, when push comes to shove, they're not about going to climb out of the foxhole and lead the charge against the enemy. They are followers. And that's what those running the show want. They don't want people on the council who will dare challenge what they're doing.

Republicans cannot continue to allow the elitist, country-club wing of the Republican party dominate and use government to make themselves and their wealthy patrons richer at taxpayer expense. Republicans have no chance to win elections in Marion County without a more populist approach. Don't think for a second that Bob Grand and Joe Loftus don't know that. They don't expect Ballard to win re-election or for the Republicans to have a majority on the council after 2011. Rather than encourage the Ballard and council Republicans to pursue a more populist approach which might actually give Ballard and the majority Republicans on the council some chance at winning in 2011, they are using their positions to cash in now, selling out the future of the Republican Party.

I believe their days are numbered, however. While populists won the 2007 election, the elitist wing of the Republican won the transition, pushing a naive, politically-inexperienced mayor to reject the taxpayer-loving friends who helped him get elected in favor of the party's insiders and high-rollers. Populists won't make the same mistake next time. After the upcoming 2011 election debacle, heads need to roll. The people responsible for selling out the Marion County GOP for personal profit (e.g. Grand and Loftus), and those who aided them in that cause (e.g. Marion County Chairman Tom John and Councilor Ryan Vaughn), need to be held accountable on November 9, 2011 for what they have done. Their days of influence peddling and/or political careers need to be over.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Council Republican Ed Coleman Leaving the Party; Will Other Republicans Buck Council Leadership?

Well, the cat's out of the bag, as Gary Welsh says over at Advance Indiana. Tomorrow Republican council member Ed Coleman will announce he's leaving the Republican Party to become a Libertarian.

From reading the blogs reporting on the issue, I think many people are missing the big picture. The current Republican leadership now has a one vote majority on the council. If Councli President Bob Cockrum and Ryan Vaughn think that their leadership positions are safe, they might want to think again. I've heard from several Republican council members who are fed up with the direction of Mayor Ballard's administration which seems tone deaf to taxpayer interests. Further, they are tired of the heavy-handed approach the Mayor's people have taken to Republican council members who dare demonstrate any sort of independence.

If the Mayor's political advisers are smart, which they have shown positively no sign of being this past year, they would rethink their their approach to the council that is so poor as to drive a good conservative Republican council member like Coleman out of the party. While it's unlikely another Republican member will leave the party, don't for a second think that another Republican council member might not join with Coleman and the Democrats to throw out the current council leadership which has proven nothing more than a rubber stamp for a Mayor who has foolishly tossed aside the taxpayers who elected him in favor of cuddling up with the city's corporate elites.

Again we're talking ONE vote. If Cockrum and Vaughn think that all the other Republicans are happy with their leadership and the direction of the administration and they can't possibly lose that one vote, they might want to open up their ears. If they don't learn their lesson from Ed Coleman, they are going to wake up and find themselves in the minority.

Ballard Endorses Tom John as Marion County Chairman; Call for Chairman Tom John to Resign if He Continues to Lose Countywide Offices

In a letter apparently that this precinct committeeman has not yet received, Mayor Greg Ballard endorsed Tom John for a new term as county chairman. Here's apparently what the statement said:

I hope you will join me in supporting Tom John's re-election as Chairman. Tom has a plan moving forward to continue our party's success. He will work to grow our party's ability to communicate by engaging the newest, most innovative ways to communicate with voters and volunteers, ranging from e-mail and social networking websites to internet video and text messaging. We must stay the course and work toward the goals we set during the 2007 campaign. Simply put, I need a partner to continue my fight for the taxpayers of Marion County. Tom has shown himself to be a worthy partner and stalwart supporter in these efforts.
That's funny. During the 2007 campaign, I remember the Ballard people complaining because Tom John was not working to help him get elected. John also only supported one of the four at-large Republican council members. In fact, I recall that Ballard told John that he didn't want him as county chairman after he was elected.

It's just another example of how Mayor Ballard has tossed aside the people who helped him get elected in favor of others he naively thinks will help him get re-elected. Of course, John is someone who has remained completely on the sidelines and said nothing while the Mayor rejected the populist approach that helped him get elected in favor of taking on taxpayers in order to continue the same old corporate welfare schemes pursed by city leaders. Yeah, good luck with that re-election strategy.

Given that rules allow Tom John can pick many, if not most, of the voters who will be attending the county convention, his election as county chairman is a certainty. However, as part of that re-election, John should make a pledge that if he does not turn around the party by 2011, he should resign.

In particular, in 2008, 2010, and 2011, we have 15 county-wide elections. in 2008, Tom John lost four of them by margins unheard of for Marion County Republicans. Five of the remaining 11 county-wide seats up in 2010 and 2011 are held by Republicans. If Tom John cannot win at least 2 of 15 races up during 2008, 2010 and 2011, he needs to resign on November 9, 2011.

Here's the scorecard:

Countywide Races Lost in 2008
County Coroner, Result: Lost 60-40
County Surveyor, Result: Lost 60-40
County Treasurer, Result: Lost 63-37
Judge, Marion County Circuit Court, Result: Lost 59-41

Countywide Races Up in 2010
County Prosecutor, Result: ????
County Sheriff , Result: ????
County Clerk , Result: ????
County Auditor , Result: ????
County Assessor, Result: ????
County Recorder, Result: ????

Countywide Races Up in 2011
Mayor, Result: ????
At-Large Council, Result: ????
At-Large Council, Result: ????
At-Large Council, Result: ????
At-Large Council, Result: ????

Two of 15 countywide races in three election years. That's all that I am asking that Tom John win to continue holding his job. Will John commit to accomplishing this very modest goal or resign? Don't count on it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

City For $ale; Matthew Tully Proposes Corporate Sponsorships for Government Buildings

I have to admit that halfway through reading Matthew Tully's column this morning, I checked the calendar half expecting it to be April Fool's Day. Still I thought he was kidding.

Tully suggests that Indianapolis sell off the naming rights to various government buildings. He also suggests that city police cars have sponsorship decals placed on them. I immediately thought of the Reno 911 episode where the Reno Police Department cut a sponsorship deal with a Hooters-type franchise that required them to repaint their cars pink and wear pink uniforms.

Here are his suggestions:

"The Central Library, for instance, could become the Pepsi Library. The airport? It could be the Indianapolis International Airport at Target Field. Meanwhile, the city could slap Brink's decals on police cars and smoke-detector ads on firetrucks."
Later in the column he suggests more:

"After all, the children of Indianapolis would enjoy a park just as much if it were sponsored by Reebok. That city pool would be just as fun and splashy if Coppertone were the official sunscreen. Little would change if we had the Barnes & Thornburg City-County Building. Conventioneers surely wouldn't mind if a corporate name hung over the convention center."
It is quite evident that city leaders have been selling off the city for quite some time. But do we have to do it literally? These buildings were built with taxpayer money and any corporate contribution for naming rights is tiny comparied to how much taxpayers paid for the buidings. So why name it after a corporation?

I was certain Tully wasn't serious and was actually sarcastically mocking city leaders who are always putting business interests ahead of the taxpayers. Yet two Republicans on the council Marilyn Pfisterer and Ryan Vaughn actually are quoted in Tully's column saying that this is an idea that should be looked at.

Again, is this an April Fool's joke? I thought it was still February.

Ballard Continues to Alienate Republican Voters; The City's Gun Return Policy

The Indianapolis Star today reports on IMPD's gun return policy that is more strict than other similarly-sized cities, including Louisville, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The article mentions the case of my client who legally had guns in his home that were taken by the police when they searched his home because the wrong address was on a warrant. IMPD refused to return his guns to my client unless he fill out a form and submit to fingerprinting, which although, not indicated in the article, goes into a national fingerprint database.

It should be noted that I communicated with Jonathan Mayes, head of Litigation for City Legal on this matter. Mayes always claimed that if my client filled out the form and submitted to fingerprinting he could get his guns back. What Mayes concealed from me was the fact that my client's guns had already been destroyed, something I only learned a few days ago from the reporter who did the story. These weapons were destroyed despite the fact that the city had been informed my client intended to seek the return of his weapons, if necessary through litigation. In short, the city destroyed evidence in a potential lawsuit.

But this post is about the politics of the city's gun policy. Any political adviser will tell you that the first thing you do when your party is in the minority (Republicans have about a 44% base in Marion County) is to secure your base before going after independents and Democrats to get to 50%. Yet now, for the second time, Mayor Ballard has chosen instead to take on the most loyal Republican constituency there is - gun owners. One wonders if Mayor Ballard is purposefully trying to lose the 2011 election and drag down the Republican Council with him.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

CIB Secrecy Continues; The Time for Accountability is Now

The Indiana Business Journal reported today that the Capital Improvement Board is considering asking investors in the Circle City Mall to write off part of the profits on their investment that they agreed to redirect to the building of the Conseco Fieldhouse. CIB may ask them to forgive the $34 million they are owed by 2017.

Gary Welsh over at Advance Indiana does an excellent job of breaking down the dishonesty in this latest CIB proposal.

What I would single out as reprehensible is this:

Mall investors were one of many funding sources for the 18,345-seat Fieldhouse. Under a plan negotiated by then-Mayor Stephen Goldsmith in the mid-1990s, other sources included $50 million from a special “sports tax zone,” $10 million each from Eli Lilly and Co. and the General Assembly, and $57 million from the Pacers, which are owned by the founders of Simon Property Group.

CIB officials could not say whether the Pacers have made good on their promised contribution, which carried some conditions based on team revenue. The team did get to keep the $40 million Conseco paid for naming rights.

That bears repeating. The CIB cannot or will not (I would think either is bad) tell the public whether the Simons paid the agreed to $57 million dolars for the construction of Conseco Fieldhouse for the Pacers.

Again, the CIB is not telling people whether the Simons kept their part of the bargain in kicking in $57 million for Conseco. It should be noted that the President of the CIB, Bob Grand, represent the Simons who own the Pacers.

Yet, the CIB and the administration wants to give the Pacers $15 million more, possibly from the taxpayers. Before the CIB makes that decision, the CIB might to come clean on whether the Pacers paid the $57 million they owed. Oh, and the CIB might also demand for an independent audit of the Pacers rather simply take the organization's word that the team is losing money.

Indianapolis Colts Raise Ticket Prices and Give Middle Finger to Fans and Taxpayers

On the sports pages today is the announcement that the Colts organization is raising ticket prices in the upper deck of both end zones by $10. One of the sections will experience a 42% increase in ticket prices from $24 to $34. Another section will see ticket prices jump from $64 to $74, a 15% increase.

Isn't the Colts organization opposing a $3 tax on Colts tickets to help the City, i.e the CIB, pay for the operating costs of Lucas Oil Stadium on the basis that it could hurt ticket sales? Yet the Colts have no problem raising ticket prices by $10 so the organization can make more money. Is there any limit to the arrogance of Irsay and company?

Meanwhile this week the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced they were cutting some Brickyard ticket prices from $75 to $40, a 40% decrease.

Random Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

1. There is a backlash coming against corporate welfare in Indianapolis that is going to make the 2007 tax revolt against property taxes look like a picnic.

2. A good idea - privatization and its cousin public-private partnerships - have been horribly bungled in practice. They have become vehicles by which taxpayer money can be funneled to private companies which kick back that money to politicians. The whole concept of privatization was to bring competition into the delivery of services has long been forgotten. Instead these companies that are supposed to be competing to provide quality services are shielded from competition by making large campaign contributions and long term contracts. The money flowing into campaign coffers from these private businesses wanting taxpayer money has terribly corrupted our politics.

3. Don't forget the other revolving door - the one that exists between executive branch officials and companies that have privatization contracts. Unlike with the General Assembly, the problem is not people leaving government and going to work in the private sector. The problem is people coming from the private companies into key positions at government agencies and then that private company getting favorable contracts with that agency. Examples are Roy Templeton at Workforce Development and Mitch Roob at FSSA.

4. We have a real ethics problem in government that needs to be addressed. Conflicts of interest are rampant. People are using their position to personally profit. Taxpayer money is being channelled to private companies.

5. We need more openness in government. So much of what is wrong with government today happens because the players know their conduct is not going to be subject to public scrutiny.

6. We need a newspaper that will actually cover what is going on at the General Assembly. The Star's coverage is skimpy at best. Look at the newspaper coverage of the Indiana General Assembly 20 years ago as compared to today. Huge difference.

7. The Republican council members need to get some intestinal fortitude and confront the problems in the Mayor's office now. If not, they are going to pay the price with the loss of several seats and their majority in 2011.

8. I am a few months away from giving up hope completely on Mayor Ballard. He seems to have no idea how his populist ideas during his campaign have been completely thrown aside by the country club Republicans who he has let take over his administration. He also seems to have no idea that he can't win in a 44% Republican county running as anything but a populist.

9. I don't want to hear people say any more how it would be a good idea to elect someone to a high level office with no political experience. See No. 8. That has not worked out well.

10. After Mayor Ballard loses in 2011 and the Republicans lose the majority on the council, which election losses come after the Republicans lose all the county-wide races in 2010, the elitist Republican wing of the Marion County Republican Party needs to finally stepping aside. It is bad enough that that wing did nothing to help the Republicans win in 2007, yet claimed took over the administration after the election. In short, 2012 better see Tom John's resignation and Joe Loftus and Bob Grand booted from dominating local Republican politics. They had a chance to capitalize on the fortunate events of 2007 and led Republicans down the same old road of more corporate welfare and lining the pockets of insiders.

11. We need trial judges who will actually follow the law. I originally come from an appellate court background, having clerked for a judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals. Doing litigation what is shocking is that so many trial judges will blatantly ignore the law in their rulings knowing that litigants on the wrong side do not have the money to appeal their decisions.

12. We need a new selection process for Marion County judges. The current system where essentially party bosses pick the judges, is terrible for everyone except those party bosses. I am not a big fan of the Missouri Plan used for state appellate judges, but surely there has to be better alternatives.

13. If the Colts are smart they will agree to some changes in the sweetheart deal the team received and then use the concessions to garner positive PR. The Colts' positive image in the community is built almost completely on their winning record. They start losing and this community is going to want to run them out on the rail.

14. The Pacers would be wise to drop the idea of the community giving them $15 million more dollars in the form of picking up additional expenses at Conseco.. There is going to be a backlash against the team if that money comes from the community in the form of higher taxes, of any kind.

15. Someone should investigate why the Capital Improvement Board, would at the outset of negotiations, concede taking on $15 million more of the cost of running the Conseco Fieldhouse from the Pacers and built that into their budget assumptions. That's not the way you do a negotiation.

I'll add more thoughts later.

Friday, February 13, 2009

State Inspector General David Thomas and Ethics in State Government

To follow up the post below, Governor Daniels was quoted in the AP article:

"Everyone has been trained in ethics by the inspector general, including me."
The Inspector General Governor Daniels appointed is David Thomas, former Clay County Prosecutor. I had a case that indirectly involved Thomas. My client (let's call her "Rachel') who I represented on a civil matter, was pulled over in Clay County on suspicious of drunk driving. She had not been drinking at all, but the cop found she had slurred speech. Rachel had Huntington's Disease and was taking medication. The Clay County Sheriff's Deputy allegedly told her that he would let her out of the ticket if she raised her shirt and showed her breasts. She refused. Rachel said she ended up being groped by the officer when she stepped out of the car.

Since the cop did not have a breathalyzer he had to hold her until backup arrived. Another Clay County Deputy Sheriff showed up as well as a DNR officer who had a breathalyzer. Rachel passed the test and was allowed to leave.

Rachel though was upset by what the first cop had done to her and decided she would report it. She went to the Clay County Sheriff's Office and reported the incident. But in the confusion of the arrest she mixed up the names of the two Deputy Sheriffs. It was a simple mistake.

The first officer though was a big wig in the Republican Party. He had been the leading candidate for Clay County Sheriff in the early 1990s when he was charged with official misconduct, a felony, for having sex with an inmate when he was the jailer. The Clay County Court gave him a sentence of 60 days house arrest and fined him $5. I'm not kidding about the the $5. Interestingly the person who was the judge on the Deputy Sheriff's criminal case in 1990, finished the case by acting as the prosecutor on the very same case in 1991. They do things differently in Clay County.

So Rachel reported the wrong officer to the Sheriff's Office. When she found out her mistake she immediately corrected the information. It did not matter. Prosecutor Thomas went after her with a gusto. Prosecutor Thomas filed "false informing" charges against her. When a state police report indicated that it was a simple mistake and the charges would not stick, he also dug up a nearly two year old prescription drug allegation against her and prosecuted her on that as well. Still Rachel refused to drop her allegation against the police officer.

Following depositions of police officers on the prescription drug case, Rachel found herself being followed home by cop cars. Scared she said she went to Prosecutor Thomas' office and asked for help. Instead of giving her that help, Thomas supposedly informed her that if she did not leave he would charge with something else.

Since he has taken his position as Inspector General, I have seen questionable ethics charges filed by Thomas. One employee "Rob" had long ago left state employment. Rob though decided to challenge his termination and particularly targeted the ethics of one of the supervisors, a Republican, who had been involved in his dismissal.

Thomas reacted by filing a dubious ethics charge against Rob on the claim that he drove his car 30 miles out of the way so he could fill up his state car at a gas station in which he had a tiny financial interest (and where he had an office and stored chemicals for his work.). Doing the math, the employee would have been profiting to the tune of a half a cent a mile for all of his driving. It was a ridiculous ethics charge and no doubt filed by Thomas to get leverage against Rob who was pursuing his friends over at the state agency. It was exactly the same approach Thomas had taken against Rachel where he used his office to go after the enemies of his friends.

In short, my two brushes with David Thomas reveal that his ethical compass is broken and that he has no problem abusing his position, whether as prosecutor or inspector general, to go after enemies of his friends. Thomas simply has no business whatsoever being the person in charge of enforcing the state ethics code.