Friday, July 31, 2009

Federalism, Constitutionalism and the Libertarian Party

A discussion I had this morning reignited my thoughts on a topic I have been wanting to address publicly.

I have a great deal of respect for my Libertarian friends. I think they when it comes to the three parties' leadership, they are the only reform game in town. While both the Republicans and Democrats have reformers in their party, the two parties' leadership works overtime to keep the reform element out of power. Country club elitism dominates both parties' leadership.

As I sat there at Tuesday's nights council meeting, I was struck by the fact that which party had a majority in the council chambers did not matter. The real power lies in the elites sitting the audience, those "suits" who had shown up to back giving more taxpayer money to the Capital Improvement Board, yet another institution that seem impervious to the wishes of the public. It doesn't matter whether Republicans or Democrats control the council or the 25th Floor, people like Tamara Zahn, Susan Williams, Don Welsh, Bob Grand, Joe Loftus and the city's big law firms, always end up the winner. Taxpayers on the other hands always lose.

While Libertarians nobly resist the city's country club culture, where I differ is the tool often cited by Libertarians to oppose big government - the constitution. Actually "constitution" is not correct - it's multiple constitutions, namely the national constitution adopted by the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia in 1789, and the one ratified by the State of Indiana in 1851.

Libertarians are on solid ground when they accuse Congress of overstepping its power in violation of the U.S. Constitution. In the U.S. Constitution, our federal government (I prefer the term "national government" as "federal" technically includes national and state government) can only exercise powers expressly granted to it. For Congress to pass a law, it must be authorized by one of the powers in the Constitution, generally those enumerated powers found in Article I, Section 8. If it's not on the list, then Congress cannot act. Granted this rule of limited powers has been stretched beyond recognizable form and the Libertarians are correct to point that out.

States are different animals though, and that is where Libertarians often miss the boat. When the General Assembly passes a law, it does not have to be based on an express power in the Constitution. States have the authority to pass laws UNLESS there is a specific provision in the federal or state constitution denying them the authority to act.

Local governments on the other hand, are subdivisions of the state. Local government must have their authority given to them by the State. So if the State doesn't not grant power to a local government, in one form or another, it cannot act.

To summarize it works like this. If Congress passes a law, it is unconstitutional unless it fits within one of the powers given to the national government in the U.S. Constitution. If a state passes a law, it is constitutional unless there is something in the federal or state constitution prohibiting the state from passing the law. For local government to pass an ordinance, it must be based on authority received from the state.

Libertarians have a good argument when they say that the state or local government has no business being involved in running sports stadiums. But that is a policy argument, not a constitutional one. Libertarians need to realize that not every answer to every policy question can be found in the Constitution. Sometimes bad law is just just bad law and not unconstitutional.

Senate District 30: How The Wheels Came Off The GOP Party Establishment

After talking to some Senate District 30 insiders, I put together this summary of the behind closed door maneuvering.

According to my sources, John Ruckleshaus and Ryan Vaughn badly miscounted the vote. Ruckleshaus told people he believed he had 40 votes. (Remember there were 99 total votes.) Vaughn thought all he needed was 5 more votes for a first ballot victory.

No surprise there. What should turn some heads, is that Central Committee cut a deal with the fourth candidate, Chris Douglas, to get him out of the race, promising him Vaughn's seat on the council after Vaughn won. In return, Douglas was supposed to back Vaughn, giving him many of the 15-20 votes Douglas told Central Committee he had lined up. It seemed like a good deal to the Vaughn people as they believed he only needed 5 more votes.

The only problem is that Douglas did not have anywhere near 15-20 votes. Instead his support was in the single digits and not large single digits. Vaughn had also vastly over counted his support. Douglas' dropping out meant that Ruckleshaus would be dropped after the first ballot leaving it a two person race - Scott Schneider versus Vaughn. Scott and his father, Bill Schneider, who like Scott is a former councilor, are seasoned political pros and know northside GOP politics better than just about anyone. They estimated 50 votes on the first ballot and received 49. They also knew that votes for Ruckleshaus, who was also viewed as an alternative to the establishment candidate Vaughn, would go straight to Scott. And that's exactly what happened as now State Senator Scott Schneider won every Ruckleshaus vote on the second ballot putting him over the top for a 61-38 win.

One could hardly overestimate the rejection the precinct committeemen in SD 30 gave to the party leadership last week. Outside of the mummy dummies who were placed into the district earlier this year, Vaughn captured very few votes of elected and appointed working PCs. While the mummy dummy vote can generally give the selected candidate a 20 to 25% head start, party insiders, like GOP Chairman Tom John and Hamilton County resident and Center Area Chairman David Brooks, thought they could put Vaughn over the 50% mark by the usual arm-twisting, veiled and actual threats, and backroom deals for support that accompany virtually every slating and vacancy caucus. In their attempt to do so, they enlisted the support of almost every establishment Marion County GOP Republican. The PCs in SD 30, however, were not having any of the political games. Instead they voted for the outsider, Scott Schneider. Their vote was not just a rejection of Vaughn and an endorsement of Schneider. It was also evidence that a new day is dawning in the party and that the rank and file is no longer going to put up with the games played by party insiders.

What I find most disconcerting about the above account is the backroom deal cut between Chris Douglas and Central Committee. Again, the deal was that Douglas would drop out and throw his support to Ryan Vaughn to put him over the top. In return, the Central Committee promised Douglas Ryan Vaughn's seat on the council.

While deals like this are cut in every caucus, in this case Central Committee simply did not have the authority to fulfill the promise the Committee was making. Vaughn's seat would also be filled by a party caucus of PCs. To promise the seat without the authority to deliver it means they believed they could manipulate the PC vote so Douglas would win. The back room deal drips of arrogance and utter disdain for GOP party workers.

One would think the slapdown of the party insiders would have caused them to reconsider their strong arm tactics. Then came the Friday Night massacre last week when two ward chairman, Eric Smith and Liz Karlson, Schneider supporters who dared to stick out their necks, were canned. I have sent an open letter to GOP Chairman demanding that they be reinstated and that Brooks, who allegedly did the firing even though he had no actual authority to do so, be terminated. Chairman John still has not replied to the letter. If he plans to continue with the SD 30 tactics, then he also needs to consider resigning. Chairman John can choose to continue to play the politics of old that were soundly rejected in SD 30 or he can help usher in a new era in the GOP organization, one that is more democratic (small "d") and has a stronger grass roots, with the rank and file party workers having real political power. Time will tell which path he takes.

Note: For correction regarding Chris Douglas see: My Apologies to Chris Douglas, Candidate in Senate District 30 (Thursday, August 6, 2009)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blue Indiana Attacks Ogden on Politics; Makes Up Quote

Wow, I know I have arrived now. I went over to Blue Indiana and found Thomas Cook posted part of my column discrediting the lame CQ Quarterly report he posted about. The report predicted congressional election results 16 months out, something no respectable political analyst would be caught doing.

No problem with that. Thomas, however, then proceeds to attack me completely making things up, including quoting something I supposedly said:

Paul then referred his readers back to his incredibly successful "REVOLUTION AT THE STATEHOUSE" campaign, which resulted in...uh...

He also added, "...if history has shown us anything, it is that this country will never elect a black man president!"
Where in the world did I say any of that?

Ironically I was saying from the day McCain secured the nomination that he had no chance to beat Obama and even predicted Obama would be the first Democrat to win Indiana since 1964.

It is flattering that I have the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party attacking me. I've always said that if they are ignoring you, then you're not being taken seriously. When they start attacking you, they are worried. You would at least thought though Cook would not resort to making things up completely, including a supposed direct quote. But hey that's what happens when you stick your head up out of the foxhole. People are going to take cheap shots, even when they have to completely make them up. To mix metaphors, it is just water off a duck's back, Thomas. Keep 'em coming.

David Hoppe of NUVO Criticizes Arts Bureaucracy

Just a couple weeks after criticizing David Hoppe of NUVO for an article who wrote on the arts, he pleasantly surprises me by picking up my point - that the money we are paying for the arts doesn't actually make it to the artist but is instead funnelled to private bureaucratic organizations that spend most of the money on themselves. Hoppe and I can disagree on whether we should fund the arts, and to what degree, but we are united on the point that if we are going to do so, the money should being going to the artists and not to pay the overhead and administrative salaries of private arts organizations.

Hoppe in particular talks about federal stimulus money being channelled to groups like the Arts Council of Indianapolis instead of going to the artists and how little of that money filters down to the actual artists. I pick up his excellent analysis of the problem about half way through. You can read his entire column here.

... Although the life and vitality of our country's cultural scene is similarly challenged -- a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts shows double-digit declines in audience for virtually all forms of live arts experience over the past 20 years -- the country is now stuffed with non-profit arts organizations. This arts bureaucracy has created a handy distribution system for public monies. Indeed, the NEA was quick to say it would rely on this system for doling out stimulus dollars.

But this is also a system that favors arts administrators over independent artists, arts organizations over works of art.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, the Indiana Arts Commission will receive $323,000 and the Arts Council of Indianapolis will get 250,000 in stimulus funds. After setting aside money to pay themselves (the ACI will keep $50,000), the organizations will combine the rest to create a larger pot. So far, 24 organizations, ranging from the Friends of the Frankfort Library to the Eiteljorg Museum, have been identified to receive grants of between $7,500 and $25,000.

These organizations need the money. And the dedication and hard work of the people who will be employed is not in question.

But there is no getting 'round the sense that, rather than a stimulus, this federal money is the merest form of life support for many organizations -- and temporary at that. This money will keep doors open for another six months or so. Then what? The IAC's lame suggestion that it might use stimulus money to hire not artists, but consultants to advise organizations on fund raising strategies only adds insult to injury.

By being more about propping up a self-serving bureaucratic infrastructure than encouraging new forms, this federal support for the arts oddly resembles the bailouts that have been directed to financial giants deemed "too big to fail." Unfortunately, the size and scope of the arts effort is too small on both counts to succeed.
I share Hoppe's outrage that the Arts Council would suggest use the federal stimulus to hire fundraising consultants instead of spending it on the artists.

Indianapolis is even worse than the feds when it comes to trusting tax money to private bureaucratic organizations, like the Arts Council, to distribute. It is something that hopefully our Indianapolis City-County Council will be more cautious of in the future.

Cost of Attorney ID in Marion County To Increase 150%

This may be only of interest to attorneys practicing in Marion County, but I had it confirmed this week that the attorney ID (employees and attorneys have IDs that allow them to bypass the lines at security that often can be quite long) used to enter various county facilities, including the City-County Building, is being increased from $10 to $25. Starting in September any attorney who obtains an ID will have to fork over $25. By January, all attorneys will have had to purchase the new $25 ID.

I have not been able to confirm who ordered this change and the reason why. Obviously at $25 a pop for an ID card it might cost $1 to make, someone is making a profit. If 400 attorneys have the card (my estimate), you're talking about a profit of about $9,600, again assuming the cost of the card is about $1.

It seems more than a little odd that driver's licenses can last for 6 years, but the current $10 attorney IDs attorneys purchased are being declared obsolete much sooner than that. In fact, if you received an ID just last month, it won't be usable come January 2010.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Political Manuevering By Council Democrats On CIB

People are questioning the absence of Democrats Monroe Gray and Minority Leader Joanne Sanders at last night's meeting of the Rules and Public Policy Committee that considered the CIB hotel tax increase, which will start the City on the road to additional tax increase. The two Democrats' absences made the numbers on committee 5-1 as opposed to 5-3. If the split was 5-3, it would have taken only one Republican vote to cross over and stop the measure.

I have warned my fellow Republicans repeatedly that Mayor Ballard is leading them off the political cliff on the CIB bailout. Councilor Sanders is a sharp politician. She fully intends to use the Republicans' vote for tax increases against the GOP come 2011. But Sanders knows full well that if the Democrats knock down the tax increase in committee, its value as a political football come 2011 is greatly reduced. Her goal is to stretch this out as long as possible so that Republican council members and Mayor Ballard take a beating on raising taxes.

I have also said that if Council President Bob Cockrum ends up a few votes short on the Republican side, Sanders is going to slip him a few Democrat votes in safe districts to make sure it passes. Leave aside the fact that Sanders is actually for the tax increases and the status quo of corporate welfare in this city, from a political standpoint a tax that passes is much greater political fodder than a tax that fails to pass.

Anyone remember former Governor Bayh campaigning for re-election as the Governor who never raised taxes? People remember that but forget that Governor Bayh early in his administration proposed a tax increase that Republicans in the legislature shot down. People didn't hold that against Governor Bayh. Tax increases that pass are remembered by the electorate while those that fail are not.

Again, Minority Leader Sanders knows what she is doing. She's going to wrap these CIB tax increases around the necks of Republicans in 2011 and throw them off the White River Bridge. My only solace is that I can say I told you so.

Had Enough Indy? Hits Home Run in CIB Analysis

Pat Andrews, community activist extraordinaire, writes a brilliant analysis of last night's council committee vote in favor of the CIB tax increase on her blog Had Enough Indy? I quote in full below:

Warning: Rant ahead

Last night, the City-County Council Rules & Public Policy Committee voted 5-1 to move Proposal 285, 2009, to the full Council with a do pass recommendation. Aye votes were from Councillors Lutz, Cockrum, Plowman, Malone, and Pfisterer -- all Republicans. The lone nay vote was from Councillor Mansfield, the only Democrat Committee member present.

The meeting, Chaired by Councillor Bob Lutz of Wayne Township, was a grueling 4-ish hour affair that was an orchestrated parade of 'invited witnesses' with unlimited time to disgorge all of their thoughts, followed by a brief public comment period where speakers were limited to 2 minutes (more on that below) but who were 'graciously' allowed to dribble over that time limit in 5 second increments. Of the parade of maybe two dozen 'invited witnesses', all save three had a personal financial interest in more money being thrown at the Capital Improvement Board and all save two were in favor of the Proposal.

At the conclusion of the public testimony, Councillor Lutz feigned a let's get this over with and let the chips fall where they may attitude, fully knowing he had the votes to get this out of committee. Why did he know he could accomplish his goal? Because two Democratic Councillors, Sanders and Gray, were no-shows. Lutz had indicated he would likely not take a vote last night, but re-convene in a week to give the Committee members time to mull over the testimony they had heard. This probably was because the Committee is composed of 5 Republicans and 3 Democrats; certainly the Committee most likely to produce a positive outcome for the Proposal. Even so, Lutz could not count on Councillor Malone to vote do pass. With all three Democrats present, that could have caused a tie vote which would leave the Proposal in Committee. But, with the two MIAs, the math moved in his favor and he was guaranteed that his reliable 4 votes would serve his needs.

Some random thoughts:

The public deserves an explanation from Councillors Joanne Sanders and Monroe Gray for their absence on this critical Committee meeting and vote. I see that the blog, Indianapolis Times, which is the mouthpiece of the County Party, remains silent on the hearing, in contrast to their seeming interest leading up to last night (see here, here, and here). This makes me to wonder if Sanders and Gray are holding their aye votes in the wings for a last minute save of Prop 285 at the full Council. Politics as usual - play 'smart' at the public's detriment. But, I don't know why they were not
there and maybe there is an explanation - we deserve one. [edited to add: I have received word that Sanders has been out of town on business and was unable to attend.]

The public was done a disservice, as is usual when more than two people show up, in the public comment period. Chairman Lutz' should have given the public the same time limit as his parade of invited witnesses. His handling of comment time may have been generous by Council Committee standards, but that bar is set very low. In all of these committees it is as though the public point of view is not as worthy as that of proponents of a proposal. From my perch in the cheap seats it often seems as if the attitude of the Chairmen is that the problem with the public comments is that they drag the meeting out too long. While the Council does the public's business, I believe they need to be much more accommodating of the time in which they give the public to express its views. As I mentioned in a comment to Paul Ogden's blog, I challenge Committee Chairs to try to speak to an issue for 2 minutes with buzzers going off every 5 seconds thereafter.

The proponents of Prop 285, save one or two, hid behind the skirts and aprons of the service workers in order to shill for more tax money for the CIB. As I mentioned earlier, these folks have a personal financial interest in the ever increasing investment of more and more tax money into the sports/convention business. Folks like Tamara Zahn of IDI, Susan Williams of ISC, Barney Levengood of the CIB, and Bob Welsh of ICVA are even more outrageous, as they haul down fat salaries derived almost exclusively from tax revenues. As reported by Paul Ogden, Zahn makes around $200,000 a year while IDI has squirrelled away over $7M in savings living lavishly off the public dole, and Welsh makes about $350,000 in salary and benefits while the ICVA had 'only' $4M in assets in 2007. Meanwhile Williams makes over $130,000 (poor thing) with ISC holding assets of nearly $7M in 2007, and Levengood makes $221,000 per year while the CIB takes in over $100M in taxes each year. These folks are pulling down the more than generous salaries from the public trough and have little real accountability for how well they do their jobs. Compare that to the maids who average a mere $15,000 a year in Indianapolis. To pretend that this CIB bailout is for the little guy, is bold faced lying. Its to keep the good times rolling for a select few living large off taxpayer largess.

There has been and will be NO examination of how the CIB got into this mess. Each Councillor is apparently quite content to believe it is the Mayor of the opposite political party, or the Governor, who caused this supposed catastrophe. This attitude will never identify the problems with the CIB in its fiscal and policy structure that will continue to bleed the taxpayer. The Councillors all acknowledged last night that this is only a two year 'fix' and ignored the obvious conclusion that it is therefore not a real fix of the real problems. Only Councillor Malone expressed an opinion that indicated that a real fix was important to her - enough to influence her vote at the full Council.

There is no interest in doing the public a service and creating a plan to make the sports/convention/tourist/hospitality industry self-sufficient. Speaker after speaker tossed around numbers in the range of hundreds of thousands to billions of dollars. I kept thinking - so why aren't we rich already and why are these guys back begging for more tax revenues?

Passage of the hotel tax and acceptance of the state loan, if successful at the full Council meeting on August 10, will trigger the necessity to increase two more taxes, car rental and ticket, in 2013. This is putting the onus on the next Council. Quite irresponsible in my view and it smacks of politics. The public good should count for something and it never seems to be weighted very high when elites have their hands out for the public dole. The public good is all the rage as a foil when the discussion is more money to help those who struggle to put a meal on the table or clothe their children or what to do about those pesky panhandlers who inconvenience us at stoplights. It takes the EPA to force Indianapolis to fix the sewer overflows that push human feces into our river and streams like some third world cesspool. But, all it takes for the wealthy overseers of our sports empire to get more, is to claim a need for an additional $47M on top of the $100M they already get and the only topic for discussion among our elected officials becomes how to land that money for them. Again, no request for an examination of what the CIB did wrong to put it in the position it is in now. That is the only way you can determine what to fix.

Blame decisions past and push problems forward seems to be the name of the game. But, make sure you get the CIB all the money it wants.

I hope the significance of the August 10th Council meeting is not lost on the Councillors. Mayor Ballard will present the 2010 budget proposal with something like $30M in cuts. Proposal 285 will be voted upon with its increase of $12M of tax revenues and a $27M loan from the State to add to the $100M in tax revenues the CIB already gets. Contrasting what City services are to be cut with the bailout of our sports empire, will shed a clear white light on what is really important

That Meteor With The Earth's Name On It

Jonas Goldberg has an interesting column this morning in which he discusses how the world is preoccupied with global warming while oblivious to the more likely and more deadly catastrophes on the horizon, such as a meteor strike.

He paints a possible scenario and comments:
The year is 2109. Celebrations continue as mankind’s heroic, century-long, quintillion-dollar effort to lower the global mean temperature by 1 degree has paid off: July 2109 is just as hot as July 2009. Few can contain their jubilation.

But even as the carbon-neutral champagne corks fly, the sky darkens. A projectile of a different kind is coming our way. An asteroid streaks across the skies, giving the media just enough time to spread the word. The New York Times, now beamed directly into subscribers’ brains via digital-neural networks, fulfills ancient prophecy and warns that women and minorities will be hardest hit by the incoming object.

But there’s little we can do. The space flotsam smashes into the solar-energy farm formerly known as Arizona. The space rock, 100 meters in diameter, hits at 50,000 mph with the force of thousands of nuclear warheads. Millions die. Dust and debris blot out the sun and will chill the planet for years. Crops fail; billions starve. The heat of impact releases torrents of nitrous- and nitric-acid rain.

So horrendous is the calamity that some even wonder if the enormous investment in fending off climate change might not have been better spent.

Alas, there’s no time to defrost Al Gore’s frozen head to ask his opinion.

This vision of the end times came to me on hearing the news that something hit Jupiter in the breadbasket the other week and nobody saw it coming.

It left a Jovian scar as “small” as the Pacific Ocean or as big as Earth. An amateur astronomer in Australia saw it first because none of the pros were even looking. Then again, the rock was probably pretty small, between 50 and a few hundred meters wide. That is to say, about the size of John Edwards’s house.
People think the idea of a meteor strike that could kill millions, if not billions of human beings (it is not the initial collision that will kill most people, it is the dust kicked up into the atmosphere that will literally choke people to death and lead, ironically, to drastically falling temperatures) is a far-fetched scenario. But as Goldberg proceeds to point out, our planet has a history of meteor strikes and we've had some recent near misses:

Now, I know what you’re saying: So what? It’s not like we need an early-warning system for Jupiter, a “gassy giant.” What have the Jovians done for us? When God starts pelting rocks at Earth, or at our own gassy giants, like Chris Dodd, then we can worry.

Well, He has been, on a regular basis. In March, a meteor called 2009 DD45 came within a few inches, astronomically speaking, of smashing into Earth (about 45,000 miles). Fortunately, we spotted that one ahead of time — a mere three days ahead of time. That’s just enough warning for Keith Olbermann to knock out several top-notch diatribes on why George Bush is to blame, but not enough time to, you know, keep New York City from being liquefied.

In 1908, a DD45-sized meteor exploded over Siberia with a force 1,000 times the Hiroshima blast. It leveled 80 million trees over an area twice the size of Los Angeles. If it had arrived five hours later, St. Petersburg would have been gone.

Scientists think there are millions of such “small” near-Earth meteors out there, and more than 1,000 that are at least a kilometer wide. Those are the ones that really leave a mark. Just ask the dinosaurs. And we’re discovering more every day.

A few years ago, a book titled The Black Swan came out. No, it’s not about swans singled out by the Cambridge Police Department for breaking into their own roosts, but about sudden, unpredictable events occurring far more often than we’d like to think. There are flocks of black swans out there, but we find it discomfiting to contemplate their existence.

In 2008, science writer Gregg Easterbrook surveyed preparedness for a "space-object strike” for The Atlantic. He found that even though serious experts believe there’s as much as a one-in-ten chance of a significant Earth strike within the next century, NASA doesn’t much care.

Things are improving, but it’s still a cottage industry. A scientist quoted last month in Maclean’s noted that “there are more people working in a single McDonald’s than there are trying to save civilization from an asteroid.”

Meanwhile, the global-warming industry — and it is an industry now — could fill football stadiums.

It makes you wonder. For all the rush and panic, the truth is, climate change — if real — is a very slow-moving catastrophe. Moreover, it happens to align with an ideological and political agenda the Left has been pushing for generations: Unregulated economic growth is bad and must be reigned in by experts; nature is our master, and we must be her servants. What a convenient truth for environmentalists.

Meanwhile, a “deep impact” is a terribly inconvenient threat, partly because it requires making peace with the idea that nature can’t be conquered.

Better to not even think about it.

Goldberg is absolutely correct. The threat of a serious meteor collision is very real indeed and has happened to our planet several times previously, dramatically affecting life on Earth.

But asteroids are far from the only big threats out there. Should one of the world's super volcanoes millions of people will die from the environmental impact. Even more ominous is that the super volcano in Yellowstone National Park, which has erupted like clock work throughout its history, is overdue for an eruption and is showing signs it might be ready to blow its top. The impact on the population of the United States would make the Katrina hurricane look like a picnic.

But shouldn't we be more worried about the temperature rising a couple of degrees? Uh, no.

Note: I haven't checked out this site closely, but it appears to provide some information on the Yellowstone Super Volcano.

No, Council, the Pacers $15 Million Is Still On the Table; Harold Hill Appears Before Council Committee Asking for Money

Yesterday, the Rules and Public Policy Committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council approved the proposal to raise the Marion County hotel tax, giving Indianapolis the highest combined hotel/sales tax in the country. Although Chairman Bob Lutz several times tried to characterize the measure as just being about raising one particular tax, the fact is it is the first required step in a program to raise two other taxes, the tax on rental cars and the admissions tax.

During the debate the issue of the Capital Improvement Board picking up $15 million in operating costs on Conseco Fieldhouse, a building in which the Pacers Sports and Entertainment Group gets 100% of the revenue, was discussed. For months, the CIB has been telling this it is is a done deal, zealously incorporating that $15 million in its $47 deficit figure.

Chairman Lutz a couplte times last night said the CIB had now taken that off the table. Other councilors, including President of the Council, Bob Cockrum, apparently suggested the same thing at a meeting in Decatur Township.

That is simply is not true. Council members are getting played, which is made possible by the failure of councilors to ask tough, direct questions and put any concessions in writing.

I was at a Pike Township town hall meeting hosted by Councilors Jose Evans and Mike Speedy last week. CIB's representatives at the meeting were CIB executive director Barney Levengood and CIB board member Dorothy Henry. Like at the council meeting, Levengood and Henry attempted to skate by the Pacers $15 million question without answering it. Unlike the council committee meeting last night, in Pike the audience would not let them off the hook. They kept asking follow-up questions. Levengood and Henry eventually conceded that, yes, the $15 million Pacer subsidy was still part of the package and that the CIB intended to go through with it. Councilor Mike Speedy seemed stunned. I think he had been led to believe the CIB had dropped the idea.

Last night, a councilor asked about the Pacers $15 million. Anne Lathrop, head of the CIB's finance committee, answered that she did not include the $15 million in her calculations. In a later question, she answered that the Pacers had not FORMALLY asked the CIB for the $15 million.

To council members that was the end of the story. That meant the issue was no longer being considered.. When Sean Shepard, Libertarian representative, mentioned the issue, Chairman Lutz attempted to correct him, saying the CIB had taken it off the table. But the CIB representatives have never said that.

Let's examine what Lathrop said. She chose her words carefully, and words have consequences. She said the Pacers had not FORMALLY asked for the money, but they were talking with the team. Folks, the 10 year anniversary of the Conseco contract does not happen until later this Fall. It is at the 10 year anniversary that the Pacers have the right (if they can cough up $50 to $125 million ) to cancel the contract and move, therefore providing at least a theoritical opportunity to negotiate for better terms.

When Lathrop said the Pacers had not FORMALLY asked for the money, she was referring to the fact that the 10 year anniversary had not happened and thus they could not, FORMALLY, consider giving the Pacers $15 million. Yet Lutz and other councilors took that to simply mean the whole thing was no longer being considered.

There is a way to make sure. Put the ban on the CIB giving the Pacers $15 million more into the proposal. Make it a condition of any tax increase that the CIB does not take on $15 million more in debt by picking up the Pacers' operating costs at Conseco. If the CIB has truly taken it off the table, the Board will agree to it. My guess is the CIB will not because it most certainly is not off the table. Again, the council is getting duped.

Unfortunately, our councilors are not as skeptical as they need to be. They watch a glossy presentation and assume they are being provided accurate information, often praising the presenters for their candor. Again, last night we heard about those 66,000 hospitality jobs that are supposedly threatened if we don't raise taxes . (Only in bizarro world is increasing taxes that hit visitors particularly hard somehow going to lead to more tourism and convention business.) That 66,000 figure is a central Indiana figure! Most of those jobs have nothing to do with the downtown foot traffic caused by the convention business or the sports venues.

Welsh's presentation last night included that Lucas Oil Stadium has been booked for 69 events this past year. I think a building like that only being used 69 times out of 365 days to be under-utilized, yet even the claimed 69 events is a misleading number. What the CIB and ICVA are doing is including anything that happens at Lucas Oil Stadium in their event figure. So if your company decides to have a 20 member sales meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium, using one of the conference rooms at the facility, that is considered in the 69 total. Of course that sales meeting could have been held just about didn't need to have constructed a several hundred million dollar retractable roof stadium to host the sales meeting.

Barney Levengood reminds me of Robert Preston's character Harold Hill from the 1962 movie version of the Music Man. Hill comes to town posing as a boy's band organizer and takes money from townsfolk to buy musical instruments and uniforms. Hill then skips town with the cash.

Unlike Hill, Levengood is not alone in his mission to extract more money from the wallets of the townsfolk. He has other powerful allies throughout the city, other Harold Hills who also make a nice living off of taxpayer money. The council needs to be a lot more careful before they raise taxes and hurt the convention/tourism business because yet another Harold Hill says he needs the money.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beggars Show Up Week Late to Council

Last week, the council considered an ordinance on how to deal with panhandlers. Today, we had the professional beggar class appear before a council committee to tell them g why we taxpayers should cough up even more money.

Parade after parade of witness appeared before the council. Almost all of their jobs were directly tied to government handouts. For example, Tamara Zahn, President and CEO, of Downtown Indianapolis spoke. As I've pointed out on my blog, her organization receives over a million dollar annual taxpayer subsidy and spends most of it on overhead, including paying lucrative salaries to herself and others. Meanwhile Indianapolis Downtown has millions of our tax dollars stashed away in stocks, bond and other securities.

See also: Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. Picks Taxpayers' Wallets While Patting Itself On The Back (Tuesday, July 7, 2009)

Or take Susan Williams, President of the Indiana Sports Corporation. Her organization walked away without paying taxpayers $6 million owed under a 22 year contract, all thanks to post-election shenanigans pulled by the Peterson administration.

Then you have Don Welsh, President of the ICVA. Welsh makes around $350,000 in salary and benefits. Other employees of ICVA also make lavish salaries and benefits, all off of the back of taxpayers.

So tell me why we should be concerned about the panhandlers asking for a dollar when these professional beggars are picking the taxpayers' pocket to the tune of millions of dollars?

The Political Strategy of CIB Bailout Supporters

There have been two interesting political moves by CIB supporters that have gone mostly unnoticed.

Advocates of the CIB bailout were counting votes as the measure was being prepared to be heard in committee. The natural home for the CIB bailout is the Municipal Corporations Committee. Instead, Council President Bob Cockrum decided to put the measure in the Rules & Public Policy Committee. Translation: They counted the votes on the Municipal Corporations Committee and were gravely concerned it would pass. So instead Cockrum assigned it to a more friendly committee.

The newest development is that tonight's vote on the CIB bailout might be delayeduntil next week. Given the time crunch that the council is working on, this is no insignificant development. It represents that even on this favorable committee, Council President Bob Cockrum might not have the votes to pass the bailout.

Expect the bailout supporters to pack the room tonight. Supporters of the measure are going to get every CIB employee and supposed beneficiary of the bailout to the City-County Building to make their presence known. (Don't be surprised if they aren't being paid to be there.) Watch for them all to be dressed in their hospitality worker send the message to the council that this is about jobs. I saw them employ that strategy at the Statehouse. They will do it at the City-County building too. You can count on it.

Committee Hearing on CIB Taxpayer Bailout Today

With a tip of the hat to the blog, Had Enough Indy?, I am cross-posting the summary community activist Pat Andrews has provided about the CIB bailout committee hearing to be held today:

You Are Invited To Speak Your Mind About the CIB Bailout Plan

Proposal 285 will be heard by the Rules & Public Policy Committee of the City County Council. Public comments will be taken.

Where: Room 260, City-County Building

When: 5:30 pm, Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What: Presentations and Public Comments on Council Proposal 285, 2009 followed by a vote by the Committee on whether to pass it to the full Council for a final vote -- expect public comments to be limited to 2 minutes per person

Who: all members of the public are invited and urged to come speak your minds - otherwise only those people who have a financial interest in the outcome of this vote will attend


Proposal 285 would do three things: increase the hotel tax by 1%, increase the Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA) to include hotels abutting the convention center, and accept a $9M per year loan from the State to the CIB for years 2009, 2010, and 2011

Increasing the hotel tax would likely generate an additional $4M per year that would be directed to CIB operating expenses.

Income and sales taxes (up to a maximum of $8M per year) from the expanded PSDA would also be directed to CIB operating expenses.

The loan and the money from the expanded PSDA are blackmail -- if the Council does not increase the hotel tax, the state will not pass any money to the CIB from either a loan or the expanded PSDA.

The loan is PROHIBITED from being repaid until 2013.

In January through March, 2013, the City-County Council is authorized to increase two other taxes - car rental and admission tax. It is not allowed do so until then. These two taxes will likely have to be increased, if only to repay the State for its loan plus interest.

The Indiana Convention and Visitor's Association, which will likely appear at the hearing with a full presentation to the Committee, wants another $3 - $5 M per year from the CIB to advertise for more Convention business and to book discounted rooms through its website. The ICVA currently gets about $7M of its $11M annual budget from the CIB.

The CIB currently gets about $100M per year in tax revenues alone. It wants another $47M. For comparison, the entire City-County budget for 2009 is $1.1 B, including all tax revenues, grants, fees, etc.

The CIB still owes $70M for the Hoosier Dome -- which cost $55M to build and which has already been imploded. This is the type of fiscal impropriety that has caused us to be in this situation. The CIB has not been good stewards of the taxpayer's money.

Mayor Ballard says that even if Proposal 285 passes - it is not enough. He pledges he will be back to the Legislature next year, asking for even more money for the CIB.

The CIB wants $15M to take over the operating costs of the Conseco Fieldhouse - even though negotiations with the Pacers have not been reopened, the Pacers get all revenue from all events held at the Fieldhouse, and it would cost the team a penalty over $50M to break the deal. Bob Grand's position as the President of the CIB while also representing the Simons, owners of the Pacers, is a conflict of interest that is apparent to everyone except Bob Grand and Mayor Ballard.

The Councillors will find it difficult to turn away from ready cash offered by the hotel tax increase and the subsequent cash flowing from the State. But, the easy cash will only put the taxpayers in a bigger hole. They should, instead, move forward on a plan to identify the policy and fiscal decisions of the CIB that led us to this problem and change those policies and prohibit a repeat of the bad fiscal decisions; they should not pass one tax increase that leads directly to the need to raise two more in three and a half years; they should create a plan to make the hospitality-sports-tourist-convention industry self-sufficient within a decade; AND they should bar the CIB from taking over the $15M in annual operating expense of the Conseco Fieldhouse.

The members of the Committee are:

(R) Robert Lutz, Chair 241-4020
(R) Bob Cockrum (no published email address) 856-5549
(D) Monroe Gray 327-4242
(R) Barbara Malone 291-4359
(D) Angela Mansfield 872-3306
(R) Marilyn Pfisterer 244-7156
(R) Lincoln Plowman 557-7594(
D) Joanne Sanders 283-6040

Plan on attending the hearing -- contact your Councillor, too -- Tell them to do what is right for the taxpayers of Marion County and fix the problems of the CIB, not just throw more money at them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bush Stadium Earns Its Name

Click on to enlargen. I took these of the 16th street Bush Stadium where the Indians used to play. I snapped the picture by sticking my camera phone between a crack in the left field fence. Isn't it amazing how quickly Mother Nature takes back over when man is no longer present?

Congressional Predictions 2010

Blue Indiana gleefully reports the political analysis of CQ Quarterly that the only Democratic district in the state that could be competitive is the 9th District currently held by Baron Hill. He also boasts that CQ Quarterly expects the Democrats to add to their majority in the House.

With 257 of the 435 U.S. House seats, Democrats are strongly favored to retain their majority in the 2010 elections -- though history points to party losses in the first midterm election of President Obama.

Most of the 435 congressional districts have such well-entrenched incumbents that the 2010 House races there will be landslides. But CQ Politics has preliminarily identified 100 districts, 59 of which are held by Democrats, where the contests should be highly or mildly competitive. Of these, CQ Politics rates three districts, all now held by Republicans, as leaning toward takeover by the challenging party: Louisiana 2, Pennsylvania 6 and Illinois 10.

See our full chart of all House Races by rating. Learn more about our race rating system.
This CQ Quarterly report is such nonsense. The 2010 election is 16 months away. That is an eternity in politics. History tells us that the first mid-term election of a newly-elected President has almost always produced congressional losses, sometimes large, for the President's party. Do I believe analysis 16 month out or the lengthy political history that contradicts it? The smart money is on history, which usually repeats itself.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Need for Healthy Skepticism Regarding Heath and Hospital Corporation Purchase of Nursing Homes

For the record, I don't have a knee jerk reaction against a new Wishard Hospital, or at least moving the services provided by Wishard to a newer facility. There does seem to be a need to do something. But the special election in an off year seems like a highly calculated political move to take advantage of extremely low turnout that will favor the pro-Wishard folks. The effort to rush things also sets off alarm bells. Perhaps, just perhaps, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County wants the issue decided before there is a chance to take a close look at its activities. I feel like we taxpayers are on a used car lot and the salesman, i.e., Matt Gutwein head of HHC-MC, is telling us we have to buy today or lose the deal. That's exactly the time to take some time to think of your options.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid the Indianapolis City-County Council will buy the used car without stepping back with a healthy dose of skepticism. Representatives of groups like HHC-MC will appear, show a glossy presentation and councilors will praise the presenters for their candor, and the meeting will be adjourned. Councilors need to be more skeptical, not accepting things at face value. My criticism certainly doesn't apply to everyone. There are a few councilors, mostly Republican, who will ask pointed questions.

The acquisition of nursing homes throughout the State of Indiana by HHC-MC does not pass the smell test. It seems more than a little odd, almost as if HHC-MC is using its special status as a municipal corporation to try to build a health care empire, with taxpayers of Marion County holding the bag should something go wrong. Here are some questions I think members of the council need to ask:

Could Marion County taxpayers not be on the hook for these nursing home acquisitions if the investments go sour? What liabilities do taxpayers have should these investments go sour? Or what if there is a wrongful death lawsuit at one of the facilities? Are taxpayers going to have to pay?

HHC-MC is a non-profit, municipal corporation. What is the impact of the tax code on HHC-MC, a non-profit entity, acquiring for profit businesses.
---This seems to be a way of trying to get around IRS rules and raises red flags. The IRS doesn't like it when you try to get around the tax code. HHC-MC may think there will not be tax consequences, and may have even been advised by a tax attorney the municipal corporation won't have any, only to find themselves subject to an IRS penalty down the road that we taxpayers get stuck with paying. Tax law interpretation is quite often not black and white. The problem is the IRS has almost complete authority to interpret the gray area.

Does HHC-MC have the right to purchase these nursing homes many of which are far outside of Marion County? Isn't the municipal corporation's mission providing health care to the indigent in Marion County? How does owning a nursing home in Valparaiso advance this mission?

What triggered the rush to purchase all these nursing homes in a four year period? How much did they cost? What money was used to purchase the nursing homes? How much money is still owed? Did HHC-MC mortgage the properties?
---Again, we taxpayers could be on the hook for all these investments. We need to know.

Is HHC-MC purchase of these nursing homes taking the properties off of local property tax rolls?
---If so, I could see a county going after HHC-MC for the payment property taxes.

Who is personally profiting from these non-profit corporations?
---The tax returns of non-profits are public and these include the salaries of top officers and employees. Likewise the salaries paid to municipal officers and employees would be subject to review. However, with numerous for-profit entities in HHC-MC's portfolio, it would be very easy to have some of the compensation channelled through the for-profits so those payouts to executives would not be subject to examination. On the 2007 tax return of a Wishard Foundation, Matt Gutwein, head of HHC-MC, was listed at $331,395 and Dr. Lisa Harris, CEO of Wishard Hospital, was shown as making $300,396. That's probably just part of Dr. Harris' compensation. Regarding HHC-MC, the council should ask whether Gutwein and others are getting pay channelled through the for profit nursing homes, pay that would not necessarily be scrutinized by anyone.

Here is the list of nursing homes listed on the Secretary of State's website as being owned by HHC-MC.

2/2/2005 BEECH GROVE MEADOWS (Assumed)
2/2/2005 SPRING MILL MEADOWS (Assumed)
2/2/2005 HERITAGE PARK (Assumed)
2/2/2005 NORTH WOODS VILLAGE (Assumed)
2/2/2005 FOREST CREEK VILLAGE (Assumed)
2/2/2005 FRANKLIN MEADOWS (Assumed)
2/2/2005 ROSEWALK VILLAGE (Assumed)
2/2/2005 EAGLE VALLEY MEADOWS (Assumed)
2/2/2005 RIVERWALK VILLAGE (Assumed)
2/2/2005 ZIONSVILLE MEADOWS (Assumed)
2/2/2005 RIVERVIEW VILLAGE (Assumed)
7/7/2005 AMERICAN VILLAGE (Assumed)
1/26/2007 MAPLE PARK VILLAGE (Assumed)
1/26/2007 EDGEWATER WOODS (Assumed)
1/26/2007 RIVERSIDE VILLAGE (Assumed)
2/6/2009 BROWNSBURG MEADOWS (Assumed)
2/6/2009 COVENTRY MEADOWS (Assumed)
2/6/2009 MEADOW LAKES (Assumed)
2/18/2009 ARBOR GROVE VILLAGE (Assumed)

Friday, July 24, 2009

GOP Leadership Fires Two Ward Chairman For Supporting Scott Schneider Over Councilor Ryan Vaughn: Open Letter to GOP Chairman Tom John

July 24, 2009

Marion County Republican Chairman Tom John
Marion County GOP Headquarters

Dear Tom:

I learned today that two Washington Township Chairman who were supporters of successful State Senate candidate Scott Schneider were supposedly fired by Center Area Chairman David Brooks. This includes Liz Karlson who has a long history of tireless devlotion to the Marion County Republican Party.

First of all, I would advise you that pursuant to party rules, David Brooks as area chairman has no authority whatsoever to fire anyone in the organization. Only you as county chairman have the authority to fire a ward chairman. Further, David Brooks is a resident of Hamilton County. That you are continuing to allow him to act in a supervisory capacity within the Marion County GOP organization is highly improper.

Second, I would have thought that the results of the Tuesday night vacancy election would have taught you and Brooks that your good old boy intimidation tactics no longer have a place in the Marion County GOP organization. You and Brooks’ efforts to rig the contest by filling precinct vacancies with mummy dummies and strong arming the rest of the organization to support Ryan Vaughn failed miserably. The Republican organization in Senate District 30 emphatically rejected your tactics and elected a candidate with integrity. Now, Brooks, possibly with your support, decides to take revenge against two supporters of a newly-elected state senator because they did not support the losing candidate. Do you really think that’s a wise course of action?

Third, if you haven’t noticed the Republicans are no longer a majority party in the county. If we are going to be successful at becoming the majority party again in the county, we need to be reaching out to non-Republican voters including people who have left the GOP because of these heavy-handed tactics, not attacking those who do so.

Fourth, I understand that Brooks has challenged the honesty of the other ward chairmen he fired. I have known David Brooks for probably 20 years. Brooks’ challenging anyone’s honesty is a little like Obama challenging someone to be more fiscally responsible. Further, David Brooks could not care less whether the Republican Party is conservative, liberal, communist or socialist. All he cares about is how much GOP leaders will financially reward him for acting as a hatchet man in the party.

Tom, I am demanding that you immediately put an end to these strong-arm intimidation tactics against good, loyal Republicans who don’t support the candidates you and Brooks want supported. If the organization is going to be strong, it needs to tolerate independent thought and even dissent, especially since it is a minority party in the county.

I am further demanding that you reinstate the two ward chairman who were allegedly fired and that you dismiss Hamilton County resident David Brooks from further work in the Marion County GOP organization. I will expect the reinstatements, and Brooks' termination, to be completed by Friday, July 31st. Should you fail to act by then, please be advised that opposition to your intimidation tactics will continue and you can expect that the shellacking your and Brooks’ leadership took in Tuesday's Senate District 30 caucus will be repeated many times over.

It is time to rebuild the Marion County GOP organization. Tom, you can either be on the right side of history by making our party better or on the wrong side continuing to tear this party apart with intimidation tactics and threats. I hope you make the right choice.


Paul K. Ogden


Update: Libertarian and former congressional candidate Sean Shepard has written a beautiful piece talking about how Liz Karlson has worked tirelessly to try to encourage Libertarians to join the Republican Party and how she has promoted Republican candidates to Libertarians. It can be found here.

The Insanity of How We Educate and Train Lawyers

Imagine if you will the following scenario. Joe decides to become a doctor. After college he spends four years being educated at the IU Medical School. The professors teaching Joe how to practice medicine have graduated from medical school but have never been doctors themselves nor have they ever sat foot in a hospital or clinic as a medical professional.

During Joe's training in medical school he doesn't specialize in any particular area. He is not required to undergo any sort of residency or apprenticeship with an experienced doctor. Instead his profession grants him a general medical license that he can use on Day 1 to do anything from giving a tetanus shot to the most complicated surgery.

How confident would you be in having that doctor do your open heart surgery? My guess is not very. Yet the above described scenario is how we train lawyers in this country.

People don't realize it but many, if not most, law school professors have never passed the bar to become licensed attorneys themselves and fewer still have ever practiced law. They are purely academics, bringing little in the way of practical experience to their classes. The supposed reason for this approach is that law school should be about teaching one how to "think like a lawyer." (I'm pretty sure the 3 years of law school leave plenty of time to teach one how to think like a lawyer and also provide practical experience.) Every year law schools across the country graduate people who don't have the first clue on how to practice law.

Once you pass the bar in Indiana, like most states, you are awarded a general law license that gives you the right to handle anything from the simplest divorce to the most complicated federal tax law matter. There is no requirement that you spend time under another attorney's tutelage to get some direction on how to be a lawyer. Remember you are also not given any practical experience in law school. In law, you learn how to be a lawyer on the job, often making mistakes that hopefully does not rise to the level of malpractice. When I complained in previous blog posts about the problem with a lack of litigation experience at City Legal, this is why. I know the mistakes young attorneys make. I made plenty of them.

As I enter my 22nd year in the practice of law, there is nothing I would like more to see than a complete overhaul of the way we educate attorneys in this country. Virtually every lawyer I talk to agrees that it would be more productive to spend those three year getting practical legal experience rather than spend the time in classrooms being taught by professors who have never sat foot in a courtroom. How do we change the status quo? I wish I knew. I do know that the medical profession's model of training doctors, with real doctors teaching the future doctors, the residency requirement and specialization, is a model that works, and one we in the legal profession would be wise to adopt.

See also: Lies, Damn Lies and Law School Employment Statistics; The Sordid Truth Behind the Numbers (Wednesday, April 22, 2009)

Mayor Ballard Touts CIB Tax Increases As Critical for Economic Future of Indianapolis; He Then Heads to Brazil During Committee Hearing on Proposal

The Rules & Public Policy Committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council will meet on Tuesday, July 28 at 5:30 pm in room 260 of the City-County Building to consider the Mayor's proposal for a taxpayer bailout of the Capital Improvement Board.

The Mayor has touted this bailout as absolutely "critical" to the future of Indianapolis' economy. He has put his entire administration and the future of the majority Republican council on the line in support of tax increases to pay for the CIB bailout. If the Democrats stick to their guns regarding voting against the tax increases, Mayor Ballard will have to convince all 15 Republicans to vote for tax increases that will undoubtedly cost Republicans the Mayor's Office and a council majority come 2011.

So you would expect that the Mayor Greg Ballard would be hard at work trying to build support for the tax increases in the days leading up to and after this critical committee hearing on the CIB bailout, right? Think again. That's not the Ballard way. Instead the Indianapolis Star reports that during this critical committee hearing he will be thousands of miles away in Brazil on a speculative effort to bring back jobs and to look at Brazil's alternative energy industry, which based on producing ethanol from sugar cane that doesn't grow any place in Indiana. The Mayor leaves on the trip beginning on July 27th and won't be back until the 31st.

On-Line Protective Orders? Sounds Like a Very Bad Idea

The Indianapolis Star on-line has a story about a pilot project where people can request protective orders on-line. According to the Star:

A pilot program in eight Indiana counties lets domestic violence victims fill out forms online to request protective orders.

The Indiana Supreme Court says the program debuted this month in Marion County plus Allen, Elkhart, Grant, Madison, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Wabash counties. It's an expansion of the state's electronic protective order registry, which makes new orders available to police statewide within minutes.

The registry is used in all counties but Jefferson County, where the courthouse was heavily damaged by a recent fire.

Once the online forms are completed with the help of a domestic violence advocate, they can be printed and taken to the county clerk for filing.

The improvements were financed by a $135,000 grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

This just sounds like a bad idea. You make filing of protective orders too easy and people start abusing the process.

People may not remember the early days of the protective order statute. You could file them against anyone. A person wanting to file one in Marion County could go into any small claims court, get a form with the allegations pre-printed on them. The person would sign his or her name, not even under oath, and the clerk would stamp the judge's name on it. That put the temporary order into place pending a hearing on making it permanent.

In the years that followed the process was modified to strike a better balance between the need for these orders and the ability of people to launch accusations against people that often turned out to be false. This program sounds like it might be a retreat from that balance.

The CIB Taxpayer Bailout Tour Comes to Pike Township

Last night the Capital Improvement Board Taxpayer Bailout Tour, featuring CIB Executive Director Barney Levengood, CIB Board Member Dorothy Henry and Warren Wilkerson Senior VP of the Indianapolis Convention & Visitor's Association came calling to Pike Township.

Councilor Mike Speedy and Jose Evans should be commended for putting on the meeting. They truly seem interested in public input and did not appear to be pushing either side. They allowed for open discussion, even yours truly who had made some rather pointed comments.

The meeting started with each of the panelists making opening remarks. Then Warren Wilkerson of the ICVA gave a presentation that included a video that talked about how Indianapolis was an empty hole before all these great downtown sports and convention buildings arrived. He continued to peddle the same phony numbers such as the 66,000 plus hospitality workers (who make $1.9 billiion in wages) that supposedly would lose their jobs if the bailout doesn't go through. That figure includes workers who work nowhere near downtown including outside of Marion County. It is a central Indiana figure.

My favorite phony number was that Lucas Oil Stadium is booked with events for 69 days a year. What they are doing is counting ANY event at the facility in that figure. This includes small meetings that take place in side rooms Lucas Oil Stadium. Those meetings could have been held anywhere. Nonetheless, I find it disturbing that a facility of that size is being used only 69 days out of 365.

The purpose of Wilkerson's presentation was not only to ask for the bailout but to also ask for more money for the ICVA to market the new convention center and promote the city. I thought to myself, isn't that the reason the City hands a $1 million subsidy every year to Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., a non-profit corporation set up to promote the city? As I revealed on these pages, much of that subsidy gets swallowed up by IDI in administrative costs, including paying IDI's officer excessive salaries and benefits. But the ICVA is no better on that score. According to ICVA's latest tax return the organization pays out salaries and benefits of $5,108,763 to its officers and employees. These include former President and CEO Robert Bedell who pulled in $353,777. According to the return, ICVA also has $495,854 in mutual funds and $1,053,413 in equity securities.

During the meeting, the issue of the CIB picking up the $15 million in operating costs on Conseco Fieldhouse was brought up by yours truly. Councilor Mike Speedy seemed to believe the issue was no longer on the table and he posed a question in that regard. Levengood ducked question. Dorothy Henry ducked the question. The audience though was persistent. Pike Township Assessor Lulu Patton asked Levengood what the exact deficit of the CIB is and how the Board got to that point. After initially ducking the question, Levengood finally returned to the line that the deficit is $47 million and his itemization included the $15 million to the Pacers.

Later in an exchange with me Levengood defended the $15 million by saying that if the Pacers were not in Conseco Fieldhouse, all the tax revenue the team generates would not be captured by the Sports Development district which goes to Indianapolis instead of the state. That though assumes that if the Pacers vacated that building would no longer produce any revenue. But right now the Pacers get all the revenue from the building and they are asking the CIB, i.e. taxpayers, to pick up all their operating costs on the building.

Nonetheless, it is a moot point. The Pacers would have to pay the city a hefty ($50 million to $125 million penalty) for getting out of its 20 year contract at the 10 year point this fall. They aren't going to do it. The Simons, the owners of the Pacers have no leverage to force the CIB to pick up these operating costs for at least 10 more years. Why do it in the midst of this financial crisis.

I should point out that the CIB has never taken a vote on the $15 million annual gift to the Simons. Yet it is taken for granted that this is something the CIB is going to do. This again highlights the terrible conflict of having Bob Grand, whose law firm represents the Simons and the Pacers, head up the Capital Improvement Board.

During the meeting a comment was made by someone in the audience that the taxes were okay, if the CIB learned its lesson and this did not happen again. That's the problem. Despite this financial crisis, no one in leadership has demanded changes in the way the CIB does business. All your doing is flushing more taxpayer money down the black hole that is the CIB.

It is time for a new board, it is time for accountability. Throwing more taxpayer money at professional sports giveaways, is not the answer. The best thing is if the CIB were authorized to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy so that at the least the CIB had the leverage, even pre-bankruptcy, to renegotiate these pro sports contracts so the CIB can capture more of the revenue it has given away, money that has made the Colts in particular one of the wealthiest franchises in the NFL. The CIB can also use bankrtupcy to renegotiate the debt load that is choking the Board or use bankrtupcy to discharge part of it. Bankruptcy though comes with a caveat though. If the CIB simply goes back to its historic giveaway philosophy, the Board will be back in the red in no time. The Board has to change. We need to make sure this fiasco that the CIB bailout represents, never happens again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Southport Mayor Rob Thoman Hires Republican Insider Legal Counsel in Attempt to Buy Political Influence

Yesterday I talked to a fellow Republican about the tenure of former Marion County Chairman GOP John Sweezy. Sweezy and I, a relative political rookie at the time, were often at odds. Looking back though , I respect Sweezy a lot more today than I did at the time. Sweezy was the Republicans last full-time, paid Marion County Chairman. The joke was that if you were a Republican running for office, you had to go in and kiss his ring. After his departure, a Republican elected official told me that although Sweezy had his problems, he kept many of the bad forces of the party at bay by staying as county chairman for so long.

Since then we Republicans have had as county chairman mostly lawyers and lobbyists, and sometimes both. Our current county GOP chairman, Tom John, is a practicing lawyer. How might an elected official, with legal business to hand out, possibly curry favor with the current county chairman? How about hiring him to do legal work? John gets a nice paycheck from the taxpayers and the elected official gets political support and possibly campaign contributions in return..which of course originated as taxpayer money. It happens all the time in Indianapolis politics, why can't it also happen in a small city?

Enter Southport Mayor Rob Thoman. When I spoke to Mayor Thoman in early 2008 at the Rex Early book signing, he seemed to have been elected with no insider political connections, which I thought was refreshing. As I reported a few days ago on this blog, Mayor Thoman then went out and hired the most politically-connected law firm and certainly one of the most expensive, Barnes & Thornburg, to do legal work for the Perry Township city of just 1,700. As a result, Southport has been faced with paying several large legal bills Barnes & Thornburg has submitted, including a $35,000 invoice on a strange lawsuit to silence a local resident who was disrupting council meetings.

Turns out that Mayor Thoman didn't stop there. Apparently Thoman last year also hired Republican GOP Chairman Tom John to do legal work for the city.

Reportedly, Mayor Thoman kept some of the Barnes & Thornburg's legal work quiet until springing the bill on the council. Obviously a city of just 1,700 does not have the financial resources to pay the inflated legal bills of over-priced lawyers. Right now it appears Mayor Thoman had to choose between paying politically-connected lawyers and a police force, and he chose the lawyers.

Make no mistake about it, Mayor Thoman is hiring legal counsel not based on what is in the best interests of Southport, but on what is in his political interest. He is using taxpayer's money in an attempt to buy political influence with the GOP party establishment. If that is not an impeachable offense, it should be.

Record Cool Weather and Global Warming; The Politicization of Science

Today's Indianapolis Star contains a story discussing record cool weather we have experienced this summer, including the fourth coolest July on record. The average temperature in July has been 70.5, nearly five degrees below average. Indianapolis has yet to experience a 90 degree day this summer.

I can hear the discussion now. Those who deride global warming claims will cite it as proof that the fuss is about nothing. Those who promote the global warming agenda will deride the current weather as a mere aberration that can't be taken seriously. Of course, if we were experiencing record heat, global warming alarmists would gladly use the higher than normal temps as evidence in support of their theory. Those folks are very selective in the evidence they use.

Both sides are actually wrong. You can't use one year's data as evidence either way. But neither can you use 160 years, about the length of time weather records have been formally recorded - as proof of long term climate change. 130 years in the lifetime of the 4.5 billion planet is nothing more than a grain of sand on a beach. Short term weather patterns last for thousands of years. Long term weather patterns last for hundreds of thousands of years.

What the man is causing global warming alarmists are doing is intellectually dishonest. They are taking the 130 year weather history and feeding the information into their computers, along with information on things like carbon dioxide levels, to create scary scenarios about the long-term weather patterns on this planet. Of course, carbon dioxide is actually a trailing indicator of temperature increases. In other words, when temperatures increase, carbon dioxide levels increase. The cause and effect is not there.

But I digress. What the global warming alarmists are doing is to selectively use data. There is no reason to completely ignore climate data from 4,499,998,400 of the 4,500,000,000 years the planet has been in existence, and only rely on the last 130 years when the data has been formally recorded. Scientists have long use other methods to very accurately measure temperatures throughout the history of the planet. But global warming alarmists aren't interested in this long-term data though they are attempting to show long-term weather trends using computer models. And we won't even get into the unquestioned assumption underlying it all that today's climate is the ideal and that is must be preserved at all costs. History has long proved that the fortunes of man flourishes in warmer climates, including climates warmer than today.

What should be incredibly disturbing to all is the almost complete politicization of science on college campuses and in foundations throughout the world. Contrary to the claims of global warming alarmists, the people who fund researchers on both sides of the issue have results they want to see. Don't think that does not affects the results. These researchers want to see the grant money continue and it won't continue if the results don't support what the funders want.

In the old days, the objective scientific method was the Holy Bible of those involved in science. You collected and objectively entered all the data, conducted your tests, and then conducted the tests again to see if you got the same result. The results were what they were and you faithfully reported them not as an advocate but as an objective, dispassionate presenter of the truth. Today, researchers collect their grants, then conduct their studies selectively entering data that produce results that support the conclusion the funders of the research want and hopefully result in more grants.

I can't preach long or loud enough the problem with the politicization of science. If we allow science to become politicized, we all suffer as a result.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sheriff Frank Anderson's Jail Contract Monitor for CCA/Marion County Jail #2 is Nowhere to Be Found; Call for Department of Justice Investigation

Click to enlargen.
The parking place is at CCA/Marion County Jail #2. The place is reserved for the contract monitor that Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson appoints to ensure that CCA is complying with the contract it signed with the Sheriff. I and other attorneys from my office probably have been to this facility probably 60 times in the last couple years. Not once have we seen anyone parked in the spot. You'll notice that they even had to put up an additional sign so people would not park in the always vacant space.

One would think that when Sheriff Anderson's responsibilities for providing law enforcement in Marion County were taken away, he could have actually spent some time monitoring what is going on in his jails. Not so. He was told about cameras that do not work at Jail #2. He did nothing. He was told about radios at Jail #2 that do not work. He did nothing. He was told of nurses escorting dangerous inmates throughout the facilities at Jail #2. He did nothing.

Sheriff Anderson was told that CCA had eliminated a round of medication for inmates so CCA could make more money by not hiring staff to pass out the pills. He did nothing. He was told of inmates dying and getting injured or sick because they didn't get their medication at Jail #2. He did nothing, no investigation, nothing. He was told that CCA was not providing translators at Jail #2 for Spanish-speaking inmates who had to use other inmates to translate complicated and private medical information to and from CCA's medical staff. Sheriff Anderson did nothing. The Sheriff was told of HIPAA violations such as intakes being conducted in video and audio presence of other inmates. The Sheriff did nothing. He was told of razor blades being left in wastebaskets where they were fished out and made into weapons. Sheriff Anderson did nothing.

Today I had it confirmed again from a recently released inmate that CCA is housing serious violent felons at Jail #2, contrary to what the Council is being told. People awaiting trials on misdemeanors are being housed in a dormitory environment right next to people who have committed Class A and B violent felonies. The jail is a hostage situation waiting to happen. Sheriff Frank Anderson knows this ... and he does nothing.

In the Fall of 2008, a Sheriff's spokesman told the Council's Public Safety Committee that the Sheriff need council approval to move money from one account to another so that he could pay CCA for inmate meals and for an inflation adjustment that CCA decided to take. The claim was not true. Under the Sheriff-CCA contract, CCA not the county, pays for inmate meals out of the per diem and the inflation adjustment happens automatically on 1/1 of every year. Later, the Sheriff's people told a Star reporter a completely different reason for the request, which was also phony. The money quite likely was transferred to CCA so CCA could pay its politically-connected law firm, Barnes & Thornburg. which had undoubtedly run up hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, in legal fees representing the oft-sued CCA. I wrote about the matter on my blog last December. It also bears mentioning that the chairman of the Public Safety Committee which oversees CCA operation of Jail #2, is Ryan Vaughn, a B&T attorney.

Did Sheriff Anderson Mislead the Council Into Giving Private Jail Company Nearly a Quarter of Million Dollars It Was Not Entitled To Receive? (Monday, December 15, 2008)

I asked for documentation under the open records law that might allow me to confirm whether the money went into legal fees. CCA has thus far refused to provide the requested information.
A couple years ago, the Indianapolis Star reported that Sheriff Anderson used commissary money to buy new cars for officers of the Sheriff's Department even though they had no law enforcement duties. Last year it was revealed that the Sheriff used commissary money to pay legal fees to the Sheriff's law firm, the then Locke Reynolds, which not coincidentally was a contributor to the Sheriff's campaigns. Neither expenditure is on the list of allowable expenditures for commissary money under Indiana law (IC 36-8-10-21) nor am I aware that the expenditure of commissary money was authorized by the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Allegations against Sheriff Anderson continue to mount. One 20 plus year administrator employed in the Marion County jail system has told me that Sheriff Anderson will not oppose CCA because he is making money off of the phone system used by inmates at the jail. He also says that Sheriff Anderson refuses to allow inmates awaiting trial to attend funerals of relatives, even when faced with court orders. Today, I spoke with a former inmate whose mother died while he was awaiting trial on a misdemeanor. The new chaplain at CCA did not even bother to tell him until a week after her funeral.
The Department of Justice needs to take a close look at Sheriff Anderson's running of the jails in Marion County. There is considerable evidence to suggest that Sheriff Anderson may be personally profiting off the running of the jails while neglecting his statutory and constitutional duties to run those jails properly. If the DOJ decides to turn over the rock that is the Marion County jail system, it might be surprising what crawls out from underneath.