Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ballard Blasts Legislators for Leaving $12 Million CIB Shortfall; Ogden Suggests Where Mayor Can Find $15 Million Without Raising Taxes

WRTV-TV is reporting that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is outraged over the actions of the Indiana General Assembly which did not give him the power to raise taxes like he had sought. The Mayor had proposed rental car tax increases, increases in the hotel tax, increases in the admissions tax and a tax on downtown parking garages as a way of bridging the supposed $47 million operating deficit the Capital Improvement Board is facing.

According to the Channel 6 story:
Mayor Greg Ballard sounded off against state legislators Tuesday for what he called their failure to adequately address the Capital Improvement Board's $47 million operating deficit as the clock ticks toward a midnight state budget deadline.

Indianapolis needs legislative help to plug the projected deficit, and Ballard said he is frustrated that lawmakers' latest plan would raise only $25 million annually.

Ballard sought an increase of admissions, car rental and hotel taxes to pay for the operation of Lucas Oil Stadium and other Indianapolis sporting venues. (Note: Actually the Mayor also ask for authority to impose parking fees on downtown garages as another way to generate revenue for the CIB.)

Lawmakers only addressed the hotel tax increase, from 9 percent to 10 percent, in their latest proposal.

That increase, combined with $10 million in operating cuts, would cut into the funding shortfall, but would still leave a $12 million gap.

"It's problematic. It's disappointing, and frankly, the state's the loser. It's the state sales tax revenue really at stake," Ballard said. "I was very clear we need to get over this three or four-year hump. Then, we could re-look at it. If we can't do it with what they are making available to us, we are going to have to make some serious decisions."

Ballard admitted that he doesn't have a Plan B, and said the city will be forced to work with what it has. The mayor said he's concerned that the city's tourism efforts will suffer.
Okay, let's do the math for the Mayor. You start at $47 million. Deduct $10 million in already identified CIB budget cuts. That leaves $37 million. Then you deduct another $25 million in revenue from an increased hotel tax and a loan from the state.

That leaves the $12 million shortfall the Mayor is complaining about. Hmm, where can the CIB get say $15 million without costing the taxpayers a dime, any cuts in CIB operations, or any loss of convention business? How about this... do not agree to have the taxpayers pick up the $15 million in operating costs on Conseco Fieldhouse, a building in which the taxpayers get 0% of the revenue.

The Pacers are entering the 10 year anniversary of their 20 year contract. That 10 year anniversary gives the team the right to get out of the contract early IF they pay a penalty of $50 million to $125 million dollars. The Pacers are never going to do that. They have no leverage that would require the CIB to reopen that deal and give the billionaire Simon brothers $15 million more per year of our money.

Why do we take the position that if the Pacers or Colts believe they cut a bad deal, it is okay to let them renegotiate it midstream? However, if it is the taxpayers getting screwed by a deal cut with the Colts or Pacers, we'll that is just tough luck.

Not only would foregoing the $15 million solve the Mayor's $12 million complained of shortfall, it would also eliminate the need for Indianapolis to raise the hotel tax at all. The Mayor complains about lost convention business. Does he not realize that raising the hotel tax, to give us nearly the highest combined sales/hotel tax in the country, will do a heck of a lot more to hurt convention business than giving the Simon brothers $15 million more per year for their Pacers franchise?

See Advance Indiana's take on this story by going here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Forgery in the Marion County Courts

I just saw this on the Indianapolis Star on-line. I did not really have any commentary. I just thought the story is one of the most bizarre I have ever heard.

A former IMPD employee who is the wife of a Marion Superior Court judge was arrested Friday on preliminary charges she forged another judge's name to stop foreclosure of their home, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police

Kristina Nelson, 43, who worked as a civilian public assistance officer for IMPD, told police she had signed Judge Sheila Carlisle's name on a counterfeit document claiming she and her husband had been attacked and ordering Everhome Mortgage to stop the foreclosure until the couple could recover, according to the police report, which was filed Friday.

She told police that her husband, Marion Superior Court Judge William Nelson, knew nothing about the incident. Kristina Nelson is Carlisle’s sister-in-law, the police report said. Carlisle is married to her brother.

Kristina Nelson was released Friday on a $5,000 bond and faces preliminary charges of forgery, according to IMPD and Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's office. Brizzi's office is seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide on the final charges.

"Given the fact that our deputy prosecutors appear before (William Nelson) Monday through Friday," said Chief of Staff Helen Marchal, "we thought that this would be the best route to go."

Kristina Nelson faxed the document to Everhome Mortgage on June 17, according to police. The document said that the Nelson’s had been the victims of an assault and that William Nelson had been shot and Kristina Nelson had suffered injuries that required her jaw to be wired shut — none of which was true, police said.

Carlisle told police investigators the signature was not hers but that she recognized the address as belonging to her sister-in-law, Kristina Nelson, the police report said.

Civilian public assistance officers work at district front desks taking simple reports, among other duties.

Why The Special Session Lingers? Blame Constitutional Convention of 1850 and Indiana's Extremely Weak Governor Veto

As the countdown for the end of the special session is now less than 48 hours, the complaining about our legislature has increased tenfold. It is suggested that we simply have a defective legislature made up of defective individuals. We are told that we have the "worst legislature" in the country.

Personally, I have never bought into the demeaning of the Indiana General Assembly as somehow being a legislative body fundamentally worse than any other legislative body in the country. I don't believe the people who occupy our legislature are any different in nature or quality than those individuals elected to the legislative body of the other 49 states.

Rather I look at whether there might be structural reasons for the logjam, instead of simply taking the easy way out and blaming individuals. Indeed such a structural reason stares one in the face when one examines the structure of Indiana's government.

In 1850, Indiana tossed its existing constitution, to create a new one. In the 1850 Constitution (ratified by the voters in 1851), we gave our governor a very, very weak veto. Indiana is one of the few states, where the governor's veto can be overridden by a simple majority vote, making it virtually useless as a bargaining tool with the legislature. Almost all states in the country have a 2/3 or 3/5 gubernatorial override of a veto. Indiana's constitution was undoubtedly modeled on Kentucky and Tennessee, which also had majority veto overrides in their constitution. But at least Kentucky and Tennessee provided their governor with a line item budget veto. Indiana is one of only seven states in the country where the governor does not have a line item veto.

In short, Indiana has the weakest governor veto in the country, with the exception of North Carolina which grants the governor no veto at all. People do not realize how little power Governor Mitch Daniels has when dealing with the Indiana General Assembly. In Indiana, our legislature reigns supreme and the governor is a bit player in the legislative session.

Without having real veto power in Indiana, a governor in the Hoosier state is hardly in a position to twist legislative arms and force a compromise. Add to the fact that Indiana is a highly divided, partisan state, where Democrats control the House and the Republicans control the Senate. Instead of being surprised that our legislators aren't getting together on a budget, we instead ought to be surprised when they do reach a compromise.

If you want to blame someone, blame those Hoosier leaders who put our current constitution together in 1850. A Governor with a real veto power (2/3 override, line item veto) could have exercised real power in relation to the Indiana General Assembly and forced a compromise.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard Proposes Tax On Downtown Workers; Warning to Republicans on Indianapolis City County Council

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has changed his Capital Improvement Board bailout proposal so many times that perhaps missed this past week was a significant change. Before Ballard proposed increases in rental tax car taxes, hotel/motel tax and admissions taxes on tickets to events at CIB venues, like Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse and Victory Field.

Under this scenario, spokesperson for the Mayor set out to sell the tax increases as not impacting local residents. It was a disingenuous argument from the beginning. Studies show that rental cars are rented mostly by local residents not out-of-towners. And while the hotel/motel tax is not paid directly by local residents, it most assuredly is felt by the workers in the form of stagnant wages and lost jobs as visitors opt against renting Indianapolis hotel rooms due to the increased cost of those rooms. Indianapolis is already nearing the highest combined sales/innkeeper tax in the country. That means Indianapolis becomes a target to having its convention business stolen as competing cities point out Indianapolis' high taxes as a reason to move the convention to their city.

At a budget committee hearing last week Mayor Ballard announced he was ditching the Governor Daniels' proposal regarding more CIB cuts and instead included proposals to gain more tax revenue, including a new proposal: allowing the city the power to charge fees at Downtown parking garages, which City Controller David Reynolds said could generate between $1 million and $1.5 million for the city each year.

As a matter of political strategy, I have long warned my fellow Republicans that the Mayor's idea that voters going into 2011 are going to distinguish between different types of taxes and conclude that a tax that supposedly just affects visitors is okay, is almost certain to fail. People hear the word "tax" and everything afterwards that falls on deaf ears. What is doubly worse for these tax increases is what the taxpayers perceive their taxes are going for. No matter matter how hard the Mayor and his people spin, the public perceives the taxes are not to save convention business, but instead are to bail out the CIB for excessive subsidies for professional sports. And you know what? They are right.

What makes the Mayor's position that this not about professional sports even more obviously disingenuous is the fact that at the same time he proposes raising taxes by millions of dollars, he also proposes giving the billionaire Simons brothers $15 million more of our tax dollars to pay the operating costs on Conseco Fieldhouse, a building from which their team, the Indiana Pacers, get 100% of the revenue. Even though the Pacers have no leverage whatsoever to demand this $15 million, the City and the CIB are bound and determined to give it to them anyway, and to raise taxes in order to be able to do it. That speaks boatloads about how the business elites have come to dominate this city over the interests of the taxpayers.

Now with the parking tax, Mayor Ballard has dropped the pretense that the tax increases won't affect local taxpayers. The proposed tax increases for downtown parking garages will directly impact those garages and the downtown workers who park there. The ruse is over.

As the legislature nears the end of the special session, most likely the issue of these tax increases will come back to the Indianapolis City County Council. I would strongly warn my fellow Republicans on the Council: If you vote for those tax increases, you not only are ensuring a Democratic Mayor and a Democratic majority in the council in 2011, you are ensuring that the Republicans will be written off into minority status in the Marion County for decades to come. No one is going to believe the Republican Party is a party of lower taxes if we increase taxes to bail out the CIB, whose deficit due almost entirely to excessive professional sports subsidies. Mayor Ballard has made it clear he intends to commit political suicide on the CIB bailout by pushing for higher taxes despite overwhelming public opposition. Do not follow his lead. Do not drink the Kool-Aid of higher taxes for professional sports.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Americans for the Arts Exposed

In the previous post below, I noted the supposed Americans for the Arts supposed study showing that the city's $2.5 million investment in the arts netted Indianapolis $500 million, a phenomenal return of 20,000%. Why shouldn't we believe an outfit called the "Americans for the Arts?"

In its website, Americans for the Arts outlines its mission:

With offices in Washington, DC and New York, and more than 5,000 organizational and individual members and stakeholders across the country, we are focused on three primary goals:
  1. Foster an environment in which the arts can thrive and contribute to the creation of more livable communities.

  2. Generate more public- and private-sector resources for the arts and arts ducation.

  3. Build individual appreciation of the value of the arts.

To achieve our goals, we partner with local, state, and national arts organizations; government agencies; business leaders; individual philanthropists; educators; and funders throughout the country. We provide extensive arts industry research, and information and professional development opportunities for community arts leaders via specialized programs and services, including a content-rich website and an annual national convention.

Local arts agencies throughout the United States comprise our core constituency. A variety of unique stakeholder groups with particular interests like public art, united arts fundraising, rural and small communities, state arts agencies, and emerging arts leaders are also supported.

Through national visibility and local outreach, we strive to motivate and mobilize opinion leaders and decision-makers who can make the arts thrive in America.

Ah, Americans for the Arts...yet another philanthropic group out there just trying to promote starving artists nationwide, right? Uh, no. Let's take a look at the salaries of the organization's executives.

  • Robert Lynch, President and CEO, $654,848

  • Mara Walker, Chief Planning Officer, $174,760

  • Nina Ozlu, Chief Counsel, $191,998

  • Gary Steuer, V.P. Private Sector Affairs, $180,530

  • Robert B. Stanley, V.P. Finance, $152,319

  • Marrc Ian Tobias, V.P. Operations, $145,653

  • Randy Cohen, V.P. Res & Info, $165,926

According to its 2007 tax return, Americans for the Arts total revenue in 2007 was $7,927,309. That year they spent almost $6 million of its income on salaries and benefits for its officers and employees. How much of that revenue did its "constituent" arts groups including the Arts Council of Indianapolis receive? In 2007, Americans for the Arts spent $1,155,755 on its "constituents," which is not even a 1/4 of what the organization spent on its own salaries and benefits.

Other interesting figures from the 2007 return include that the Americans for the Arts has over $160 million in accumulated assets, including over $24 million invested in stocks and securities.

Supporters of the arts might want to think twice before giving money to an organization that is obviously more interested in enriching themselves financially than helping out starving artists.

Nuvo's David Hoppe Warns of "Arts Crisis"; Promotes More of Our Tax Dollars Going to Wasteful Indianapolis Arts Council

Today, I discuss David Hoppe's recent column in Nuvo, in which he warns us of an "arts crisis" and bemoans further cuts in arts spending. In particular, he cites the need for the city to keep pumping more money into the Arts Council of Indianapolis, which I have already cited as one of the nonprofits in this city that has been wasting our tax dollars.

Hoppe tells his tearful tale:

[I]in talking about his decision to close [his gallary, Mark] Ruschman added an important postscript. He said that if he was looking to start a new gallery, he wasn't sure he would choose to put it in Indianapolis. That's because the recent cuts to arts funding send a troubling signal about the larger community's support for the arts.

The use of public funds for the arts in Indianapolis has been an unqualified success. According to a recent study by Americans for the Arts, Indianapolis' modest annual investment of $2.5 million in 2007 reaped almost a half billion dollars in revenue for the city.

But this hasn't been enough to keep these funds from being cut over the past few months as the city has been forced to deal with a combination of fiscal problems. Although the cuts have had little more than a symbolic impact on the fiscal problems, their impact on the arts community is dire.

Cuts to the arts line of the Parks and Recreation Budget and the expected elimination of arts funding from the Capital Improvement Board budget will reduce local arts funding to less than a million dollars, effectively erasing hard won gains made during the Peterson Administration. Informed sources speculate that more cuts could be in store. The City-County Council, with the tacit approval of Mayor Ballard, appears dangerously eager to make political points by cutting what remains of the Arts Council budget.

In any event, a decade's worth of trying to persuade the city's leadership class that arts and culture are key to whether or not Indianapolis reaches the next level as an urban destination is being dismantled with breathtaking speed. The arguments that have shown that the arts contribute to economic vitality, neighborhood development, improved education and safer streets have been brushed aside. When Ballard addressed a rally of arts advocates on the Circle, all he could say was that the creative community needed to do a better job of promoting itself. Incredibly, the audience received this exhausted version of blame-the-victim with polite applause.

Looming now is the grim prospect of the city's arts organizations engaging in dog-eat-dog fund raising, a zero-sum game that will favor large institutions over fledgling start-ups to an even greater extent than is already the case. If this happens, Indianapolis will be the big loser. Such a competition will amount to a clear-cutting of the city's cultural eco-system; landmark institutions will become increasingly isolated as young and independent creatives move to more hospitable environments.

The need to overhaul how the city's cultural sector raises money, disperses funds and communicates has never been more imperative. This isn't merely a matter of saving the Arts Council, useful as that office has been to the community. For while the Arts Council has played a crucial administrative role, facilitating and channeling opportunities like the Lilly Endowment's Creative Renewal Fellowship program and the Cultural Development Commission's public sculpture initiative, it has also found itself in an awkward political spot, having to grin and bear the clueless nonsense that passes for cultural policy for fear of reprisals from the city's leadership.

Over the past few years, the arts community has managed to rally for causes like relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and HIV/AIDS. The time has come for this community to coalesce around its own survival. This won't be easy. It will fly in the face of long and habitual practice that has understandably defined self-interest in the most one-sided terms: my building, my budget, my audience. But if the arts here are to amount to anything more than discrete attractions the city uses to sweeten its pitch to conventioneers, this kind of thinking must be overcome in favor of a more holistic vision. There needs to be less emphasis on community and more on the idea of alliance.

To be powerless in an environment where power is the defining force is a terrible thing. This, sadly, is where the Indianapolis arts scene finds itself. Politicians have been able to treat cultural policy here with cavalier indifference, believing they can do so without danger of losing support. It is now up to our creative class to organize and find ways to resist this foreclosure on the city's future.
I can't ignore that investment statistic cited in the Hoppe article. So an investment of $2.5 million in 2007 produced revenue for Indianapolis in the amount of $500 million? That's a 20,000% return. If that were the case, why would we invest in anything other than the arts? I'd love to see how "Americans for the Arts" came up with that phony number. My guess is the organization simply took how much the city spends on arts and compared it to how much revenue the arts allegedly brings to the city's economy. Such an approach makes the preposterous leap in logic that the city's expenditure on arts was completely and solely responsible for all the art revenue in the city. (To see the "Americans for the Arts" exposed, click here.)

In 2007, the Arts Council received a grant of $738,500 from the Capital Improvement Board and $1,450,500 from the Parks Department. Total government contributions are listed on their 2007 tax return totaled $3,082.284, which appears to be about 2/3 of the organization's revenue in 2007. Officers of the Arts Council, made the following in salaries and benefits, according to the 2007 return:

  • Greg Charleston, President and CEO, over $170,000
  • Janet Boston, Director of Marketing, over $84,000
  • Mike Prusa, Artsgarden Director, nearly $70,000
  • David Lawrence, Vice President, over $107,000
  • Mindy Taylor-Ross, Director of Public Art, over $86,000
  • Shannon Linker, Director of Artist Services, over $62,000
According to its website, the Arts Council employs 19 staff members. The 2007 return shows the organization paying out salaries and benefits of nearly a million dollars a year. The return also shows that the Arts Council has accumulated assets of $9,645,999.

As far as other non-profit arts organizations, Maxwell Anderson, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Arts pulls down $394,209 while Anne Munch, Chief Financial Officer makes $150,938. Simon Crookall, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra hauls in $250,224. Henry Leck, Founder and Artistic Director of the Children's Choir (which this year received a crime fighting grant) takes in $111,214. Jeffrey Patchen of the Children's Museum makes $344,345. This information is gathered from the most recent tax returns available.

Hoppe's tearful request for more tax dollars falls on deaf ears. Unless the arts community stops its wasteful spending on lavish salaries for administrative staff, our elected officials should not even consider giving the community more of our tax dollars.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ballard Explains CIB Bailout to Corporate Elites; Leaves Public Opinion Behind

Over at Indianapolis Times, blogger and Democratic activist Terry Burns tells of the meeting Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and his staff had with the city's corporate elites to update them on the progress of the CIB bailout, i.e. his tax increase plan that recently passed the Indiana Senate. Burns reports:
As we reported yesterday, Mayor Greg Ballard and state Sen. Jim Merritt called together civic leaders on Thursday to discuss "important" information about efforts to bailout the Capital Improvement Board.

So what happened? Nothing. What "important" information was discussed? None.

As one participant said, "It was just rehash of the Senate plan" to save the CIB. "It was nothing new."

The mayor, however, did reveal that he and Chief of Staff Paul Okeson will be testifying later today before a Statehouse conference committee to beg for a legislative bailout and the massive tax increases that go along with it.

(You really have to wonder why Ballard and Merritt still insist on having these meaningless meetings. Is it all for show? Is the mayor trying dispel the notion that he lacks even basic leadership skills? Is Merritt really that concerned about his re-election chances?)

This list of invitees (in no particular order) to Thursday's meeting: Bill Mays; Brian Payne; Dave Frick; Dave Reynolds; David Lewis; Frank Hancock; Frank Short; Greg Sease; Greg Shaheen; James Wallis; Jean Farison; Jeff Smulyan; Jerry Semler; Jim Dora Jr.; Jim Merritt; Joe DeGroff; Joe Slash; John Griffin; Lesa Dietrick; Mark Fisher; Mark Miles; P. E. MacAllister; Paul Okeson; Phil Bayt; Phil Borst; Roland Dorson; Steve Sullivan; Steve Walker; Susan Williams; Tamara Zahn; Tanya Bell; Toby McClamroch; Tom O'Neil; Turea Dabney.

It's an interesting list, especially when you consider it doesn't include a single Democrat from the City-County Council. It's a pretty safe bet that Ballard is going to need a some Democratic help on the council to pass a CIB bailout package (translation: massive tax increases) because he certainly doesn't have enough votes from the council's Republican caucus.
While Burns runs an interesting blog with an outstanding layout, he never stops being a Democratic partisan. I don't know if he has ever criticized a single Democrat on his blog. And he seems to have fixated on Senator Merritt as a potential target for Democrats in 2010 and has singled him out for special criticism. But on this score Burns is correct on one point while missing another.

Mayor Ballard is wrong for not taking a more bipartisan approach, whatever his plan is. Hopefully not all the Republicans will drink the Kool-Aid of raising taxes for professional sports subsidies which will be the political death of many a Council Republican in 2011. That means the Mayor will need Democrat votes. My guess is Minority Leaders Joanne Sanders will send him a few votes from safe seats so she can hang the CIB tax increases around the necks of the Republicans in 2011. It's an obvious political strategy.

The real problem though is that Mayor Ballard continues to care not one whit about any opinion except those corporate elites who have long dominated the politics of this city. What Mayor Ballard does not understand is that his own election ushered in a period of populist ascendancy in this city. Mayor Ballard though turned his back on the very people, the populists and tax activists, who helped him get elected and who would give him any chance of getting elected. On Election Night he claimed an end to Indianapolis country club politics then went out and became its worst practitioner.

Mayor Ballard seems oblivious to the continually growing taxpayer anger at his administration. He seems to believe that taxpayers will distinguish the different types of taxes and say these targeted taxes (which ironically are aimed at the very industry he claims he wants to save) are okay. They won't. Repeat after me, Mayor, a tax is a tax is a tax. The public is not going to hear anything after the phrase "tax increase."

But the political danger is not just in raising taxes, but it is what those taxes are used for. Mayor Ballard continues to spin the tall tale that these tax increases have nothing to do with professional sports. Of course, the reason the CIB is in its current hole is giveaways to the professional sports teams. Additionally, it won't be lost on the public that the amount of the tax increases in the amount that virtually mirrors the $15 million annual amount the CIB and this administration have decided to give to the billionaire Simons family. Mayor Ballard is raising taxes to hand money to billionaires. That's the sound bite and it is completely true.

Mayor Ballard is not salvageable politically at this point. Hopefully though Council Republicans make a better choice if and when the issue of tax increases for the bailout comes before the City County Council.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Climate Change Hysteria Visits Indiana; Alarmists Ignore 4.5 Billion Year Climate History of Planet

Today's front page of the Indianapolis Star reports on a new government led study, using previously gathered data, which suggests the effect of climate change. I have previously addressed the issue of climate change, formerly simply referred to as "global warming."

This study is noteworthy because compared to past reports, this one does cite to significant benefits from a warmer planet including shorter, milder winters and a longer growing season resulting in more productive harvests.

That doesn't prevent some of the alarmists from ringing the bell anyway and declaring the debate over. J.C. Randolph, director of Indiana University's Center for Research in Energy and Environment, is quoted in the Star article "the debate over whether climate change is happening -- is over . The thing is trying to figure out how to help solve the problem."

Randolph, and many the global warming alarmists, simply do not connect the dots.

Let's return to the start. Is the Earth currently undergoing a warming trend? Absolutely. Is man responsible? Of course, for at least some of that increase, man is responsible. Increased human activity does increase global temperatures. For example, if you have an open field and you pave over it to make a parking lot, you're raising the overall surface temperature. You do that a million times over, and there will be an upward effect on global temperatures. (It should be noted that when atmospheric temperatures rather than surface temperatures are reviewed, the warming has been less.)

The question is not whether human activity is affecting global temperatures, but how much. The fact is our 4.5 billion year old planet has always gone through periods of warming and cooling. We have major climatic events which raise or lower temperatures. In between these bigger spikes, the temperatures zig and zag back and forth in warming and cooling cycles lasting hundreds if not thousands of years.

The problem is that the temperature data used to sound the global warming hysteria is based on only about the last 150 years, when temperature data has been collected. There is no doubt we are on an upward zig in temperatures. But the scientists are simply taking that tiny amount of data and employing computer models to extrapolate that data out, ignoring the history of short term (hundreds or thousands of years) fluctuating temperatures that follow a zig-zag pattern between major climatic events.

Even if what Randolph and his cohorts say is true, they leap to a conclusion that a change in climatic temperatures would devastate the planet. Given the extraordinary changes in temperature in Earth's 4.5 billion years, why would anyone think today's temperature is the ideal temperature? Yet virtually every global warming alarmist simply accepts as true that today's temperature is the best.

Although temperatures have been recorded for only about the last 150 years, there are other ways of measuring the Earth's temperature. Chief among those is to drill down into the Earth's surface and measure the chemical content of the various layers. Like trees, the surface of the Earth has a ring representing each year, telling a different story of what happened during that year. Examining the chemical content of those rings, scientists can provide a remarkably accurate climatic picture more than a billion years back into the past, not just the past 150 years. The global warming alarmists ignore this long-term climatic data, instead choosing to feed into their computers only the recorded data of the last 150 years.

The long-term climatic data undermine the alarmists and their agenda. It shows a planet that has forever moved through periods of rising and lowering temperatures, including sometimes dramatic shifts, even before man arrived. Even if the alarmists were willing to look beyond the 150 most recent years to look at the time of Earth during the time of modern man walked the Earth, the past 10,000 years or so, they would find exactly why the dots do not connect. At no time during that period has a warming Earth resulted in the decline in the fortunes of man.

The Earth's history has shown man has always done better during periods of warming, including periods when the Earth was warmer than today. It is when global temperatures fall that man has suffered set-backs, including the spread of deadly disease. For example, the great plague (sometimes referred to as the "bubonic plague") of the 1300s that wiped out 25% to 50% of Europe's population happened during a cooling period (what is often referred to as
"The Little Ice Age" which lasted until the middle 1700s), not a warming period. The disease was borne by fleas carried by rats. The colder temperatures didn't stop the transmission of the disease. The newest report ignores history, suggesting insect-borne diseases will increase with warmer temperatures.

Bottom line is Randolph and other alarmists fail to connect the dots - yes they make the case that temperatures are warming but fail to show 1) that this isn't really more than part of a larger trend and 2) how rising temperatures is a "problem." Will there be winners and losers if temperatures rise? Absolutely. For example, the person in Minnesota is going to benefit greatly while someone living in Florida will experience more warming that isn't desired. But history tells us that warming temperatures, the problem cited by Randolph, is something that has previously greatly benefited mankind. In fact, the alarmists would cannot point to a single example where warming global temperatures has been harmful to mankind.

But the alarmists aren't interested in the 4.5 billion year climatic history of Earth. They are interested in just the last 150 years and feeding that data into their computer models to provide scary scenarios which will prompt government to take action. It is a situation where the anti-growth political agenda of certain scientists has distorted what should be an objective, academic search for scientific truth. When politics corrupts science, as it happens in the global warming debate, we all end up losing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Washington Township School Superintendent James Mervilde Puts Himself First, Kids Nowhere in Sight

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh reports on the Washington Township (Marion County) putting himself first when it comes to a whopping pay increase to his already bloated salary. Worse yet he's trying to get a boost of $124,700 in his pension benefit.

Welsh states:
Washington Township Superintendent James Mervilde, who already has a salary and compensation benefit package worth more than a quarter million dollars annually, will see an increase in his annual salary of 7% and a $124,800 boost in his pension benefit, if the township's school board approves a proposed renegotiation of his salary and benefits at its meeting tomorrow night. This comes at a time the school district is expecting little or no additional state funding from the proposed state budget. Moreover, at least half of the school district's middle and elementary schools are failing at least one category of the state ISTEP test.

Dr. Mervilde is currently paid an annual salary of $171,600 under a contract that is set to expire on June 30, 2010. Mervilde exercised his right to renegotiate his current 3-year contract prior to its expiration. He is seeking an increase of 7% in his annual salary through June 30, 2011, taking it to $183,500. The biggest change, however, is in a proposed revision that will require taxpayers to purchase four years of credit time for Mervilde in the state teachers retirement system at a cost of $31,000 per year, or $124,000.

I'm told that this has become a common negotiating strategy for superintendents like Mervilde who are nearing retirement age to ask a school district to purchase credit time for purposes of calculating their retirement benefit. In lieu of a larger salary increase, the additional credit time the school district purchases on the school district official's behalf ensures a much higher retirement benefit for the employee. The school official is not taxed on the credit time purchase, enhancing its value to him or her greatly. These benefits are often not explained to the public to allow them to properly evaluate how much school officials are being paid.

School board member Greg Wright believes the nearly $200,000 salary and
benefits increase for Mervilde is too costly. “These are tough economic times for many in our community," Wright said. " Increasing any municipal employee’s employment contract by hundreds of thousands of dollars is simply outrageous.”

Superintendent Mervilde should be ashamed of his efforts to pad his own salary and benefits while residents in Washington Township struggle with unemployment, foreclosures, and high property taxes caused by the excessive spending in Washington Township Schools. It's too bad that Washington Township doesn't have more board members like Greg Wright, who is a true defender of taxpayers.

Contrary to what many people claim, this state's taxpayers haven't short-changed education. In fact we've dramatically increased education spending over the past few decades. The problem is the money often doesn't make it to the classroom, instead ending in the pockets of bloated administrative staff, which includes Superintendents like Mervilde.

Ballard Administration Enlists Indianapolis Children's Choir To Fight Crime

At an anti-crime rally Monday at Wishard Hospital, Public Safety Director lauded the crime fighting efforts of the Ballard administration by bragging how the administration has given away $4.5 million in "community crime-prevention grants" to 60 organizations.

Front and center in the Star article on the rally is a $50,000 grant the administration gave to the Indianapolis Children's choir. The choir runs a program with Dance Kaleidoscope and the Madame Walker Theater Center. Dan Steffy, the choir's executive director conceded they don't spend time battling crime, but justified the grant saying, "[w]e help prevent crime just by the nature of what we do."

Or the money could go to the salaries the choir pays out. You would think an outfit called the "Children's Choir" would consist of interested local citizens contributing their time, right? Think again. This is Indianapolis. Henry Leck, founder and artistic director of the choir, makes $111,214 according to the organization's most recent tax return. Steffy hauls in $83,127, Janet Bishop, Managing Director, makes $57,228

The print version of the star lists the six top crime fighting grants given out by the Ballard administration this year:

  • United Neighborhood Centers: $440,000
  • Wishard Health Centers $257,000
  • Fathers and Families Center $200,000
  • Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition $170,000
  • Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. $160,000
  • Progress House, Inc. $160,000

I previously did an expose on Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. which has stashed away millions in investments, most of which originated as taxpayers dollars, while paying its officers lavish salaries.

If the administration insists on giving away taxpayer money on projects only indirectly associated with curbing crime, one wonders why fixing the pools for this summer's swim season did not rank as a higher priority.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Profiting Off Of Indianapolis' Non-Profit Corporations

This morning I present a sampling of the salaries Indianapolis non-profit corporations are paying. The information was gathered from looking at their most recent tax returns available. Those tax records are public record due to their non-profit status. I concentrated on picking out non-profit corporations which receive government support, in many cases substantial support.

Note the calculations include salary plus other contributions. They do not include expense accounts.


Greg Charleston, $170,391
President & CEO

David Lawrence, $116,344
Vice President

Note: From its website, the Arts Council appears to have 19 paid employees.


Mark Miles, $382,133
President & CEO


Ron Carpenter, $178,298
President & CEO

Janice Klein, $114,168
Executive VP & COO,

Clara Anderson, $109,280
Executive VP & CAO

Susan Meyer, $104,566
Executive VP & CFO

Jon Bennett, $103,812
Executive Vice President

Note: The Children's Bureau, also listed nine other officers making between $77,000 and $65,000. The Bureau provides serves for at-risk youth and received over $11 million in government support in 2007.


Martha Boden, $119,622
Executive Director

Update: As David Horth, Board Chair of the Humane Society points out in the comment section, the Humane Society does not take taxpayer dollars. I double checked the tax return...he is correct. My apologies to the Humane Society for lumping them in with the other non-profits living on the public teat. Mr. Horth allso points out that the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Indianapolis is John Aleshire and his salary is $93,500.00. Boden is the former director and was the director whose salary was listed on the tax return. Unfortunately with regard to all these non-profits, the information is somewhat dated. That director's salary seems very reasonable, especially in light of what some of these other non-profits are paying.


Susan Williams, $137,719
President & CEO


Jeffrey Patchen, $344,345


Robert Bedell, $353,777
President & CEO

Matthew B. Carter, $142,343
V.P, Strategic Development

Alfred D. Bennett, $142,579
V.P, Sales

Mary K. Huggard, $144,637
V.P., Communication and Development

James E. Wallis, $136,858
V.P., Finance Administration and Technology


Tamara Zahn, $198,284
President & CEO

Julia Watson, $108,000
Vice President, Marketing & Communications


Danny R. Dean, $178,907


Maxwell Anderson, $394,209
President & CEO

Anne Munch, $150,938
Chief Financial Officer


Cindy Porteous, $112,219
Executive Director,


Simon Crookall, $250,224
President & CEO


Lloyd Wright, $180,451

Friday, June 19, 2009

Defection Scenarios Involving Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard

Over at the Indianapolis Times, editor of that blog Terry Burns has filed several posts suggesting that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is job hunting and intends to forgo re-election to take a management position somewhere, possibly with a non-profit. Here is one of them. The theory is that Indianapolis Republican power brokers are forcing the Mayor out of running for re-election so that a "big name" like Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi can run for Mayor in 2011.

The first part of the scenario sounds very possible. The second part makes absolutely no political sense.

First, the notion that Mayor Ballard would forego re-election at this point seems very possible. His post-election popularity has been flushed down the toilet by numerous missteps, including the never-ending CIB fiasco. If he runs in 2011, it will be virtually impossible to overcome those negatives. Instead he could choose to walk out a winner, having defeated a formerly popular mayor. Ballard could slip easily into the management of one of Indianapolis' non-profits wish pay extremely well and provide lavish benefits.

However, for a "big name" Republican to step up in 2011 to run, after Ballard has so tarnished the Republican brand in Marion County, makes no political sense. Carol Brizzi has successfully navigated the increasingly Democratic landscape that is Marion County. Why would he risk a third time running the gauntlet, this time weighed down by Ballard's baggage?

Let me pose, however, another scenario. Let's assume that Ballard is job hunting. Instead of waiting for the end of his term to take that job, he instead decides to leave early, let's say in early 2010.

Should Ballard leave early, the Mayor's replacement by law is filled by a caucus of all the precinct committeemen in Marion County. In reality, the process is easily open to manipulation by party leaders who fill vacancies with "mummy-dummies" whose appointment is solely for the purpose of voting for the candidate the party leaders want. In this scenario it will be people like Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John and Hamilton County resident and Center Area chairman controlling who the next Mayor of Indianapolis is.

What is the difference between the replacement scenario I outline and new candidate scenario Burns suggests? The Ballard replacement scenario provides for an opportunity for a rehabilitation, a period during which a new Republican can swoop into office and dramatically turn things around on the 25th Floor. Given the low bar Ballard has set, there would be a terrific opportunity for a replacement Mayor to come off looking like a strong, effective leader. The period could be used effectively for the new Republican mayor to springboard toward re-election. A bigger name Republican might be interested in this scenario, while the big names are going to shy away from the scenario Burns suggests where they simply run for an office tarnished by Ballard's legacy of ineptitude.

Is the replacement scenario likely to happen? No. But from a political standpoint it does make a certain amount of sense.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Star Swallows CIB Spin, Public Not Convinced

While teaching at IUPUI a number of years ago, I taught a class on how politicians and elected officials use the media. One of the class topics was the "Art of Spin," how politicians try to shape not only public perception but how they try to influence reporters in how they cover their story. Good reporters are vigilant about not buying into the spin and giving people the facts.

For most of the past year, the City and the CIB have been in spin mode. They tell us that the need for a CIB bailout, including tax increases, has nothing to do with sports, and is instead about protecting the convention/hospitality business. They talk about how tax increases that hit hard the hospitality industry for the bailout are needed to protect jobs in the hospitality industry.

Usually the general public is easier to spin than reporters who are supposed to be viewing things with a more critical eye. The CIB bailout saga is an example of the opposite. While the public ain't buying the CIB spin one bit, reporters have started to incorporate the spin in their stories and editorials.

Today's example comes from the Indianapolis Star. The Star's staff editorial criticizes the Mayor for waffling on which plan he supports to bail out the Capital Improvement Board. While it is valid criticism, what I find interesting is how the editorial reflects that the Star has completely bought the CIB spin. Let's examine some quotes from the editorial:

"A decision by the House Democratic leadership to kill off a rescue package for the Indianapolis' troubled Capital Improvement Board is disappointing."

"Rescue package?" The Star reporters and editorials have all started to call the plan a "rescue" instead of a "bailout." If you look back at the early stories on CIB problems they all referred to it as a "bailout." The City/CIB spinsters knew that "bailout," especially today, has a negative connotation. So they worked to get reporters to use "rescue" instead. Who doesn't want to "rescue" something? Amazingly, reporters, in particular those of the Indianapolis Star, completely bought the spin and started substituting "rescue" for "bailout" in their stories. Given its nearly almost uniform usage now, I would not be surprised if there was at some point a staff meeting where the reporters were told to use "rescue" instead of "bailout."

"Worse, if not reversed, the move would seriously jeopardize the strength of the city's convention and tourism industry, the source of tens of thousands of jobs in Central Indiana."

The Mayor and the CIB have been spinning this nonsense all along and they found a taker when it comes to the Indianapolis Star. First, of all the 66,000 hospitality job figure the administration keeps citing are hospitality jobs in the Central Indiana area. Many of the jobs aren't even in Marion County. Probably only a small fraction of that amount have jobs related to the downtown convention business.

Second, how exactly does the proposal to raise taxes that hits hard the convention and tourism industry, giving us the highest or nearly highest hospitality taxes in the country, a move that is going to protect convention and tourism jobs? Again, people aren't buying it. But the Indianapolis Star is.

"Two weeks ago, the mayor stood with Gov. Mitch Daniels at a press conference and hailed a fresh proposal to erase the CIB's projected $47 million [deficit] through a mix of spending cuts and targeted tax increases."

Reporters, television and newspapers, keep repeating the lie about the $47 million deficit. That includes a $15 million gift to the Pacers, in the form of the CIB picking up the organization's operating costs to run a building on which the Pacers get 100% of the revenue. But the CIB has never taken a vote to pick up this $15 million which couldn't have happened until this Fall anyway when the Pacers reach their 10 year anniversary on their Conseco Fieldhouse contract. Rather the City and the CIB simply went about including the $15 million whenever they mentioned deficit. Instead of being more discerning, reporters started simply repeating the $47 million number as the deficit figure. The spin by the CIB was deliberate. They knew the Pacers $15 million gift would not fly as a separate item. So the CIB strategists decided to just start lumping it into the deficit. The newspapers bought it. The public did not.

If the Star wants a good CIB topic for an editorial, the editors might try a very easy one: Come out against giving the Simons brothers, the billionaire owners of the Pacers, $15 million more of our tax money while the CIB is, allegedly, already in the hole $32 million dollars.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Governor Daniels Names Carol Cutter as New Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Insurance

I was happy to hear of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' latest appointment, Deputy Commissioner Carol Cutter to replace outgoing Department of Insurance Commissioner who is moving to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Up until the Fall of 2007, I worked as manager of the Title Insurance Division. While my interaction with the other regulatory units within the Department was not extensive, I came away extremely impressed with the professionalism and dedication of so many of the regulators who work at the Department. They take their work seriously, understanding that their role is not only to regulate the industry but to serve the public. Carol has over 30 years experience working in insurance, both in the private sector and in a regulatory capacity.

Carol was one of those impressive regulators. Carol currently serves as Chief Deputy Commissioner for Health and Legislative Affairs. According to the Governor's press release, she led efforts to eliminate an 18-month backlog of rate and form filings for health, life, and property/casualty products in her first two years on the job. The release also touts that Cutter helped establish a self-certification process for life and annuity rate and form filings to allow for a faster turnaround for approval of those insurance products for marketing.

As someone involved in politics, I certainly don't begrudge the Governor when he appoints individuals with more of a political than a regulatory background to various agency heads. In fact, doing so often brings fresh ideas and a broader perspective to government service. But having said that, the Governor is right to also consider as potential agency heads those career professionals who are doing stellar jobs and deserve to be considered for the top spot. I think the insurance industry will be extremely pleased with the leadership Carol Cutter will bring to the Department of Insurance.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Monon-Kroger Expressway, Courtesy of City Leaders

I am not sure how I missed the story about one of Indy's newest public-private partnerships. The Indianapolis Star reports that Kroger has signed a 20 year contract to maintain 600 feet of the Monon trail on the city's northside. In exchange, Kroger has been permitted to build right next to the trail, just south of 86th Street. This will involve knocking down thirteen trees in the area that previously provided trail users with a shaded canopy when traveling through the area. The artist rendering of what the development will look like shows the Monon converted to a nice, unshaded path all the way up to Krogers.

Isn't the whole point of the Monon is that it is a park, that people can ride through the city while experiencing trees, nature, and the great outdoors? Development is important, but why does it have to be right on the trail? What's next, a Wal-Mart at Eagle Creek Park?

If this continues, the Monon could be turned into nothing more than a nice sidewalk between stores.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yet More Pay to Play Indianapolis Politics? Activist Alleges That Indygo Roof Project Bid Rigged in Favor of Politically Connected Company

Over at Welcome to My Teaparty blog, the ever viligant Diana Vice rings the alarm about Indianapolis taxpayers possibly being ripped off by another overly expensive roof project brought to you by the politically-connected Tremco:
According to roofing industry sources, several Indiana roofing businesses have filed or are planning to file complaints with the Indianapolis Deputy Mayor and IndyGo for what they perceive to be unfair bidding and business practices initiated by the city's public transportation entity for a large and expensive roofing project.

Those complaining say that a 400,000 square foot roofing project may end up costing taxpayers much more than it should, and that the specifications are written in such a way that it shuts out competition to favor Tremco, an Ohio-based roofing manufacturer.

According to the bid documents, Jeff Cacioppo is listed as the roofing consultant for the IndyGo project. Cacioppo was the Tremco contact for the AEPA no-bid roofing scheme that was recently declared to be illegal by Indiana's Attorney General. Indiana roofing businesses have complained that they were shut out of competition for millions of dollars in school roofing projects before the scheme was shut down by state officials, and now they are crying foul over the tactics used by city administrators for this latest public works project.

None of this makes sense to Indiana roofing business owners and employees, who are wondering why a roof consultant from Ohio was involved in the first place. They say there are many qualified roof consultants in Indiana, and that scarce tax dollars should not be benefiting the economy of a neighboring state when Indiana's own economy could use a boost.

Some say this is especially insulting to Firestone Products, a world leader in the manufacturing of roofing products and materials. Firestone's world headquarters is located in Indianapolis, Indiana, and yet according to roofing industry sources, the Indiana company is shut out of the IndyGo job. Company officials of the international company are reportedly angry at this latest controversy involving public works projects in Indiana.
Diana Vice proceeds to ask city officials some very pertinent questions about how the bidding specifications were written. The rest of her post can be found here.

Let me try to summarize what is going on. Diana Vice has battled Tremco for some time on the failure to follow state bidding laws when it came to school roofing projects. In particular, networking through a purchasing agent, Tremco was not being required to go through the bidding process to win school roofing jobs. Those roofs would often cost 3 times what other roofs would cost.

Diana Vice won when the Attorney General's Office, finally, issued an opinion saying that these projects need to be bid out. What you're seeing alleged here is that Tremco is employing Plan B. When you can't get around the bidding rules, you It's simply have your buddies putting together the bid write the specifications in such a way that only your company can quality. That is the claim Diana Vice is making, which she has, as always, researched thoroughly and displayed on her website.

To say that the the Indygo roof bid process may have been rigged to favor politically-connected Tremco is about as much as a surprise as walking into a casino and find gambling going on. Indianapolis is a hotbed of pay-to-play politics. Tremco hires the biggest, most politically-connected law firms which will aggressively pursue citizens like Diana Vice who dare to speak out about possible violations of Indiana's bidding laws by Tremco and those the company works with to secure bids. Previously I wrote extensively about the SLAPP lawsuit filed against Diana Vice by Tremco and the need for legislative reform to put the stop to such actions by government contractors. The idea of suing citizens for expressing their free speech rights is as repugnant as anything I have seen in my 21 years of practicing law.

Although issues regarding bidding can be complex, it is something that concerned taxpayers need to keep an eye on.

You can find here a letter from a roofing industry consultant concerned that the Indygo bidding process may have been rigged in favor of Tremco violation of anti-trust, bid rigging and racketeering laws.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Council Democrats' Likely CIB Strategy

Look for the Democratic leadership of the Indianapolis City County Council to employ a smart, albeit obvious, political strategy when the issue of whether to raise taxes on the CIB bailout gets kicked back to the city.

Do not believe the nonsense that it matters what type of taxes are being raised. Any tax increase associated with the CIB bailout is political poison. It is not just that the Mayor and many Council Republicans ran in 2007 against tax increases and now would be favoring them. The bigger problem is that the public perception, which is accurate, is that the tax increases are for the city's overly-generous subsidies for professional sports. Clearly the new $15 million annual gift to the Pacers that the CIB and City insist on giving, which is not required by the Conseco Fieldhouse contract, appears to be the only reason left for a tax increase at all. While the Mayor keeps spinning the taxes as being to protect the convention business, it is apparent that the voters are not buying that nonsense.

Once the Special Session ends, most likely the authority to raise certain taxes will pass to the Indianapolis City-County Council. With serious arm-twisting, let's say that the Mayor's staff is about to get 12 of the 15 Republicans in the majority to vote for the tax increases.

Now let's say you are the minority leader, Joanne Sanders, what do you do? Do you hold back all your Democratic votes on the council and let the tax increases go down in flames? No. If you do that, you actually lessen the impact of a potential political issue. Voters rarely remember the tax increases that are proposed and fail to pass. They remember best those tax increases that pass.

Also, it can't be overlooked that the chief beneficiary of the tax increases proposed int he CIB bailout plan is the Simons brothers, the owners of the Pacers. They are the biggest contributor to Democratic candidates in the state. If the tax increases go down, so too does the $15 million planned gift to the billionaire Simons. The Democrats will not want to shoot down the plan to give the Simons more of our taxpayer money.

What does Sanders do? If Mayor Ballard is three votes short, she gives the Mayor the vote of three Democrats sitting in safe districts. That way the tax increases pass and it becomes a powerful weapon the Democrats can use against the Mayor and the Council Republicans in 2011.

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Much Does A State Legislator Cost? I'm Pretty Sure Less Than $179,500

A new website http://www.istaexposed.com/ reports that Rep. John D. Barnes, Democrat from the eastside of Indianapolis, received $179,500 in campaign contributions from the Indiana State Teachers Association. Of course recently, an arm of the ISTA, the ISTA Trust, has come under scrutiny for massive losses in risky investment schemes and the churning of investment accounts which appear to be for the purpose of earning additional commissions, something that securities regulators take a might dim view of.

$179,500? I bet that "investment" by the ISTA will be pan out better than the risky investments schemes engaged in by the ISTA Trust.

FSSA Employees Ordered to Lie About Benefits?

Sandra Chapman at WRTV-Channel 13, reports new problems at FSSA, the agency that provides welfare type services which was privatized under Governor Mitch Daniels. The contractor, ACS received the lengthy contract, shortly after Mitch Roob left ACS to take over FSSA.

Chapman reports:

A statewide call center, set up to help Hoosiers down on their luck, is drawing fire from employees who work there.

Workers say the state is trying to speed up a billion dollar system, by delivering promises they can't keep. Some workers told 13 Investigates they're being dismissed from the job for veering off the FSSA script.

They went to work at the FSSA call center to help. The agency provides food stamps, cash assistance and Medicaid for the neediest Hoosiers. But now upset workers, some dismissed, are speaking out about internal policies that require them to give callers a line. Lines they say are helpless and in some cases misleading.

One former employee said, "I was told to tell people that their benefits would be authorized there in 48 hours and they weren't." It's a story other current and former employees back up."We were told to lie," said Gregory Guy, a former Tier 2 coach at the center.

Guy was dismissed as a supervisor for veering off script with an irate client. He himself had written up employees for failing to follow nearly 200 scripted responses.

Employees are told exactly what to say on everything from the status of a case, to a call from the governor's office, to a bomb threat.

Nearly a half dozen employees told 13 Investigates they were instructed in January to tell a backlog of clients they would receive their benefits within two business days, a 48-hour turnaround.

"90 percent of the calls that came in that day were calling in 48 hours later asking where their benefits were," added another worker who wanted to keep her identity concealed out of fear of retaliation.

"A lot of people were questioning it, but you had no choice," said Guy, explaining the possible repercussions. "You could get wrote up, you could get dismissed from the project. So you did what you were told to do."

ACS, a subcontractor hired by IBM to oversee the Marion call center, and FSSA spokesman Marcus Barlow dispute allegations that the state ordered workers to give misleading information.
This story again goes to show you that not every government service should be privatized, and that giving contractors long term contracts amounts to bestowing on private business a government-established monopoly insulated from market forces - the very opposite of the goal of privatization. At the very least, government officials need to be diligent to ensure the vendor complies with the contract. Fortunately, here we have the media overlooking the shoulder of the contractor, ACS. With regard to thousands of other government contracts, there is little in the way of oversight when it comes to compliance.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Locked Up Abroad, Er, In Indianapolis: The Story of Timothy Treacy, His Run in With the IPD, and His 35 DUI Pre-Trials

One of my favorite cable shows is “Locked Up Abroad.” The show details people, usually Westerners, traveling through third world countries, generally doing something stupid like trying to sneak drugs through airport security. Instead of making the quick financial score, the poor sap gets caught and finds himself in a judicial system unlike at home, a system with little in the way of due process we westerners take for granted. Often the person finds that they can sit in a jail cell for months, even years, before being tried. And when they are tried, they will find the American presumption of innocence for the accused to be nowhere in the courtroom.

Fortunately the American political system is different from those third world countries. We don’t lock up people for years without bringing them to trial on charges. Among an assortment of legal protections, Americans have a constitutional right to a “speedy trial” when they are charged with a crime. No one charged with a crime in the American judicial system faces what those travelers in Locked Up Abroad have to face.

Or do they?

Meet Timothy Treacy. Tim is a bright, young man in his early 30’s. Tim worked with an Indianapolis Police Department officer who moonlighted repossessing cars and would do informing work for the police. Tim also dated an IPD officer’s daughter. Tim's relationship broke up and he decided he wanted no part of being an informant. While it's not clear exactly which of those things led to it, clearly Tim had a serious falling out with his former IPD buddies. Before long, in November of 2005, Tim found himself arrested by IPD for DUI. He pled guilty thinking he would just get a slap on the wrist and probation. That’s what happened. On March 23, 2006, Tim was sentenced to time served and given 353 days of probation. See docket for 49F18-0511-CM-194610.

But that was only the beginning of Tim's troubles. He had become a target. It seemed like every time out the door, Tim was a target of the IPD/IMPD. He ended up charged for DUI four more times, all of which are still pending. Having seen the files, it appears that in most of the cases, the charges are simply based on the officer’s statement regarding Tim's appearance of intoxication and erratic driving, with a noted lack of chemical evidence supporting the charges. Some strangely suggest that he was driving while intoxicated with a passenger under 18, an apparent effort to enhance the charges. The police reports don't show that Tim had a passenger under 18 during any of the stops.

The cases have the four cause numbers listed below:


The dockets on the cases can be found here.

Indiana Criminal Rule 4 has three parts. First, if a defendant is in jail and moves for a speedy trial, he has to be tried within 70 days. If he is in jail and does not move for a speedy trial, he has to be tried within 6 months. If he is not in jail, he has to be tried within a year.

Early on Tim moved for a 70 day speedy trial motion on three of the four charges. (He would have filed on the fourth but his speedy trial motion on the other charges kept getting ignored so he eventually gave up). All four of the cases would easily qualify for dismissal under the 70 day/6 month/and one year rules. Yet some 36 pre-trials later on the pending cases, Timothy Treacy remains in jail.

There is an exception to the Criminal Rule 4. If the continuance of a trial date is because of a delay requested by the defendant, rather than the prosecutor or the judge, the time does not count toward the time periods in C.R. 4. Still, in order for at least three of the pending DUIs to continue to pend, all but 70 days would have to be chargeable to Tim. On the other charge, all but 6 months of the approximate 2 years delay would have to be chargeable to the defendant. Neither option is likely. Still though the fact he has these four pending DUI charges apparently act to toll the running of his probation on his only conviction. Although he was released briefly, he ended up reincarcerated for a probation violation when he allegedly failed a drug test, a claim that he disputes with documentation from a private lab that had shown him clean. (He had taken the initiative to get the private drug test because he didn't trust the agency doing the probation drug tests.)

Last year, Tim filed a motion with the court asking for a dismissal of the pending DUIs pursuant to Criminal Rule 4. The court denied the Motion to Dismiss, within minutes, not even bothering to hold a hearing.

Recently Tim again moved that his pending DUI charges be dismissed because of C.R. 4. The prosecutor’s office objected saying that Tim needed to prove the delays were chargeable to the state and not to the defendant. It appears from the docket that virtually every entry regarding a delay in his trial were simply labeled as the defendant asking for a continuance, entries Tim hotly disputes are accurate. Having personally witnesses a few of these pre

Tim asked that he be provided the transcripts of all the pre-trials where they discussed continuing the trial date. Even though Tim had previously been declared to be indigent and entitled to a public defender, the prosecutor’s office objected, saying he should have to pay for all the transcripts. Given there have been 35 pre-trials, the cost to Tim for those transcripts would be a small fortune.

But you do not have to spend hours and hours reviewing the transcripts. Under Marion County Criminal Rule Local 20-109, all continuances in criminal court filed by the defendant would have to be verified and in writing. There are no written continuances in any of Tim's court files. Yet this fact, and the implications of C.R. 4, is ignored while Tim sits in jail.

Why the prosecutor’s office would be involved in making it more difficult for an indigent defendant to obtain transcripts that might free him, and perhaps expose wrongdoing of the prosecutor’s office and the police department, raises eyebrows. So too does other prosecutorial misconduct in the case, including filing motions against Tim when he was pro se and intentionally not serving him with the documents so he couldn't see them before they were heard in court.

The prosecutor’s office has to know by now that a conviction of Tim for any of the old DUI cases could never withstand a C.R. 4 challenge on appeal, yet prosecutors continue to fight to keep Tim incarcerated pending trial anyway. To me, the fact that a court is, for whatever reason, permitting the charges to continue, does not discharge the ethical obligation of prosecutors to dismiss charges pending against someone when the law clearly dictates that they be dropped. My guess is that there is considerable fear that once the charges are dropped, Tim will pursue them in the civil court for what they have done to him as well as file ethics charges against the parties involved.

Admittedly, Tim and his family are prone to believe in some rather bizarre conspiracy theories and are inclined to pursue unique legal arguments, perhaps out of frustration with the judicial system. Doing so though often ends up angering the legal establishment as well as frustrating the efforts of those who want to help the young man.

Timothy Treacy is stubborn in his principles and is not about to let his continued incarceration cause him to cave in to his IPD/IMPD accusers as well as the prosecutor's office zealous efforts to keep him incarcerated while never actually going to trial. At some point though justice needs to prevail and the charges against this man, need to be dropped. Justice should not only include dismissal of those DUI charges but an investigation by federal and/or state authorities (including the Indiana Supreme Court) of how this young man experienced a third world judicial system while Locked Up in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Playing the Starving Artist Role to Grab Our Tax Dollars; The Real Financial Story Behind the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Inc.

On Monday, Ogden on Politics examined the financial picture of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., a non-profit corporation which claims to promote the city in order to secure a million dollar annual subsidy from our city leaders. The examination of the IDI's 2007 tax return shows instead an organization which bestows lavish salaries on their corporate officers and workers, as well as the fact that the organization has several million dollars stashed away in investments.

Today Ogden on Politics turns to another non-profit corporation, which always has its hand out asking for the money from our city government. According to the organization's website Indyarts.org:
The Arts Council of Indianapolis, Inc. is a not-for-profit local arts agency serving central Indiana. Our mission is to advance and promote the arts through funding, advocacy, business, artistic and technical assistance, public and private support, and technology
The Arts Council also has a website for "stakeholders."

On their 2007 return, the Arts Council shows that they received a grant of $738,500 from the Capital Improvement Board and $1,450,500 from the Parks Department. Total government contributions are listed on Form 990 as $3,082.284, which appears to be about 2/3 of the organization's revenue in 2007.

Indianapolis artists might be starving but the organization's employees funded by our tax dollars to promote the arts are not. According to the 2007 return the President and the organization's top five paid employees make the following.
  • President and CEO of the Arts Council, Greg Charleston pulls in over $170,000
  • Janet Boston, Director of Marketing, makes over $84,000
  • Mike Prusa, Artsgarden Director, earns nearly $70,000
  • David Lawrence, Vice President, makes over $107,000
  • Mindy Taylor-Ross makes over $86,000
  • Shannon Linker, Director of Artist Services, has income totalling over $62,000
According to its website the Arts Council employs 19 individuals. The 2007 return shows the organization paying out salaries and benefits of nearly a million dollars a year.

Some of the names of the Arts Council's Board of Directors should ring a bell: Shawn Mulholland, Erik Johnson, James Birge, Bryce Bennett, Dan Appel, Dennis Bassett, Valerie Brennan, Diana M. Brenner, Greg Fehribach, Michelle Griffith, Dr. Vasiliki Keramida, Quay Kester, W. Tobin McClamroch, David Resnick Krista Skidmore, Brian Sullivan, Sylvia Trotter, Susan Williams, Greg Charleston, President.

Board of Advisors are: Vaughn Hickman, Stan Hurt, Yvonne Shaheen, Chair - Debbie Simon, and Mark Varnau

Okay, I have to ask an obvious question. Does anyone in the city look at these non-profits before handing them millions of taxpayer dollars?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations Calls for Investigation of Capital Improvement Board

Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, Inc.
P.O. Box 1082 * Indianapolis, IN 46206
(317) 862-1316 * www.mcanaindy.org

May 24, 2009

RE: call for investigation into the history and business transactions of the Capital Improvements Board of the City of Indianapolis

Dear Governor Daniels, Mayor Ballard and President Cockrum:

We believe that any responsible effort to seek long-term funding solutions for the activities and facilities managed by the Capital Improvements Board must include an investigation to evaluate the CIB’s past history and financial transactions. We respectfully request that you, as the ranking elected officials for the City of Indianapolis and State of Indiana, call for a thorough examination of the function, responsibilities, policies and authority of the Capital Improvements Board through its entire history. This would include its procedures, or lack thereof, to ensure the retirement of debt, as well as its financial ability to fully and responsibly fund the requirements of its contracts with any professional or semi-professional sports teams (i.e., Colts, Pacers, Indians, Fever, etc.), or any other entity, public or private, prior to those contracts being signed.

It is certain that the current economic climate in our country has contributed to the difficult funding situation now faced by the CIB, but we believe that past practices and decisions have been a greater contributor to the general long-term decline of the CIB’s fiscal soundness. The investigation for which we call is not to point fingers, but rather to quantify all the factors that have led to the CIB’s current position and ensure that those factors do not recur and contribute to future financial conundrums. It is clear that, whatever solution is adopted to resolve the CIB shortfalls, the residents and businesses of Marion County, and perhaps the state, will be ultimately responsible for generating most, if not all, of the new funding streams needed. It is therefore incumbent upon the citizenry to demand establishment of protocols and policies that will safeguard against the creation of future problems.

As City and a State, we must expect nothing less than one hundred percent accountability and transparency from any and all agencies and governmental units that represent and act on behalf of the public, particularly when those actions result in significant financial liabilities. We hope that you share this vision and will seek not only a solution to the financial crises of the CIB but also a resolution to the framework that led us to this crisis.


Catherine A. Burton,