Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mayor Ballard's Midterm Grades

Within hours, the term of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard will be reaching the mid-point. Time for a mid-term report card on his performance:

Keeping Campaign Promises: D-

Note: Frankly, it was tough not giving him an "F." It is really difficult to pinpoint a campaign promise Mayor Ballard has not broken. Maybe public safety? After all, he did carry out his promise of consolidating IPD and the Sheriff's Department. Of course that happened the first few months on the job. It has been all downhill since.

Solidifying the Republican Base: D

Note: One of the first rule of campaign politics is that you do not alienate your base. This is especially true for a candidate whose party is the minority party in the area. Mayor Ballard's political people though seems to think you can get to 50% by starting at the 44% Republican vote in the county and subtracting. The Mayor seems on a mission to alienate every major Republican-leaning group of voters out there. He has angered and continues to anger anti-tax activists and gun rights supporters, two of the most loyal Republican-leaning groups out there. He hasn't done anything to upset pro-lifers - yet - so that saves him from flunking.

Communications: D-

Note: While this administration has a very capable communications guy in Robert Vane, ultimately he is only as good as the person he is speaking for. This year featured one communications gaffe after another by the Mayor. As far as communications as part of governing, the Mayor seems to have no interest in reaching out to Democratic council members. Instead he seems to want to rely on strong-arming of the tiny Republican majority on the council. That's not really fair to Republican council members who are being asked to support things like unpopular tax increases.

Pursuing Government Reform: D-

Note: Those of us who supported Ballard thought we were getting a reformer, someone who would end country club politics in Indianapolis. On that front, it would be hard to be more disappointed. The Mayor has turned his administration over to developers, big money interests and a politically-connected law firm, none of which seem to have an interest beyond lining their own pockets during Mayor Ballard's only term in office. Conflicts of interest and insider self-dealing dominate this administration worse than any administration in my lifetime.

Appointments: D+

Note: This administration has been characterized by the appointment of young, inexperienced individuals who lack the clout necessary to stand up to the real powers in the administration, people like Joe Loftus, Bob Grand and (allegedly) Steve Goldsmith who are calling the shots behind the scenes and who don't seem particularly concerned about the welfare of the Mayor. There have been a few good appointees with some gravitas, such as former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman, but those appointments have been few and far between.

Political Advice: F

Note: I don't know who is giving political advice to the Mayor, but those advisers seem completely clueless about basic political strategy. I have never seen a politician flounder with more ineptitude when it comes to politics than Mayor Ballard. Heck, Candidate Ballard seems to have known more about politics than Mayor Ballard.

Overall: D-

Note: I have been more disappointed, indeed disgusted, with Ballard than any other Republican elected official. Ballard seems to not know what it means to be a Republican and is simply replicating the insider deals and tax-increasing policies of his predecessor, Mayor Bart Peterson. While Ballard's policies are every bit as objectionable as Peterson's, fortunately for conservative and populist Republicans, Ballard is less competent in terms of achieving his goals than Peterson ever was.

Chance of Winning Re-election: 15%.

Note: As things stand now, to win re-election Ballard would probably need a major scandal involving the Democratic nominee for Mayor to have a legitimate chance at re-election. Without that scandal, Ballard's image is too tarnished, and he has alienated too many Republicans, to win, regardless of how much money he is able to raise.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Indiana Traffic Deaths Lowest in 84 Years

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that Indiana is on pace to have the fewest traffic deaths since 1925. 680 people have died this year on Hoosier roadways compared to 670 in 1925.

It's a remarkable stat when you consider Indiana's population was then half of what it is now and the numbers of cars on the road has to be a fraction of what it is today. Also, in 1925, the interstate system did not exist.

I think it probably has to do with better safety features in vehicles and much better emergency medical care. People who are involved in serious motor vehicle crashes often survive where 84 they may not have survived.

Advice to Colts Management

This message if for Colts management: Irsay, Polian and Caldwell. I keep hearing how management wants to put the fiasco of Sunday afternoon behind them. There is a way to do exactly that- APOLOGIZE. You made a mistake. You took the Colts fans for granted, casting away the perfect season as if it meant nothing. It meant something to Colts fans as well as the players.

The Colts' management reminds me of a husband arguing with his wife, trying to convince her that he was somehow right about something. It is an argument he will never win. Just apologize and call it a day. Otherwise you'll be sleeping on the couch for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Event Schedule for Lucas Oil Stadium

I count 22 events scheduled at the stadium next year. You add in 10 home Colts games and count the days listed below and you're talking about using the building 45 out of 365 days or 12% of the time.

I'm sure though the Klapper bar mitzvah will probably fill the place up.

Lucas Oil Stadium Schedule From December 29 2009 - December 29 2010

Tue Jan 5 - Jan 6 2010 Central Area Hospital Group

Tue Jan 12 2010 Prudential 2010 Indiana Fast Start

Sat Jan 30 2010 Monster Jam

Sat Feb 20 2010 Supercross

Fri Mar 5 - Mar 7 2010 Indianapolis Home & Flower Show

Wed Mar 10 2010 Troyer's Food Trade Show

Sat Mar 20 2010 Ben Klapper Bar Mitzvah

Sat Apr 3 - Apr 5 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Final Four Basketball Chmps

Thu Apr 22 2010 Indiana Orthopaedic Society Presidents Welcome

Thu Apr 22 - Apr 24 2010 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC LOS)

Sat May 1 2010 Celadon's 25th Birthday Celebration

Tue May 4 2010 IWDC Sales & Purchasing Convention Reception

Sat May 8 2010 Plainfield High School Prom

Wed May 26 - May 27 2010 Ind. Long Term Care Convention & Expo Prospectus

Fri May 28 2010 Baldwin & Lyons Race Weekend Celebration

Mon Jun 7 2010 Kimball Nena Client Event

Tue Jun 8 - Jun 10 2010 Indiana Funeral Directors Convention

Thu Aug 12 - Aug 14 2010 DCI World Championships

Wed Oct 20 - Oct 22 2010 National FFA Convention 2010 (LOS)

Sat Oct 30 2010 ISSMA Marching Band Finals

Thu Nov 4 2010 Midwest Health Care Engineering Trade Show

Sat Nov 6 2010 BOA Regional Competition

Wed Nov 10 - Nov 13 2010 BOA Grand Nationals

Monday, December 28, 2009

Update to Peyton's Place? Apparently on the Bench

In my post on the Colts below, I made the point that if the Colts were concerned about injuries, why do they continue to leave Manning in the game during blowout wins?

I did a little research. Three games could properly be classified as blowouts this year:

Week 3 Colts 31-10 over the Arizona Cardinals
Week 5 Colts 31-9 over the Tennessee Titans
Week 7 Colts 42-6 over the St. Louis Rams

Peyton Manning played every snap in each of the blowouts.

Mayor Ballard Reflects On City; Gets Facts Wrong

On Sunday, the Indianapois Star published an article by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard in which he discussed the City's "resilence." Even though it was authored as a puff piece patting himself on the back, the Mayor still misrepresented several facts.

Here's part of what the Mayor said:
Visitors to Indianapolis fly over a revitalized Downtown landscape and into a state-of-the-art airport (above). A stadium unlike any other in the world beckons hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to watch the team of the decade in the National Football League, and their sons and daughters, vie for tate championships.
The airport the Mayor brags about is presently not covering costs. It may only be a matter of time before taxpayers are asked to kick in to help subsidize it. The person Mayor Ballard appointed to run the new airport was ousted from Jacksonville after officials found him recklessly spending public funds. While that was a red flag to Jacksonville public officials and the media there, that kind of conduct is par for the course in Indianapolis. As far as the football stadium Ballard brags about, of course that's a facility paid for with tax dollars for which we give a renter, the Indianapolis Colts, half of the non-Colts revenue and 100% of the Colts revenue. The City entered into such a sweetheart deal with Colts owner Jim Irsay that Indianapolis taxpayers turned him from being a mere millionaire to a billionaire. When asked to help pick up some of the operating costs for the stadium this year, Irsay said "no" and Mayor Ballard successfully pushed through increased taxes and borrowing to bail out the Capital Improvement Board.

From there, Mayor Ballard brags about how he protected the hospitality industry:
This decade witnessed the culmination of more than 40 years' investment in the convention industry with the start of the convention center expansion. We've worked hard over the past four decades to create the 66,000 jobs connected to the tourism industry, and I will continue to work hard to protect them.
That 66,000 figure the Ballard administration continues to cite is as phony as a three dollar bill. The figure includes hospitality jobs in the Central Indiana area, not just Indianapolis. How does someone working at an Applebee's in Noblesville benefit from a Pacers game or the convention business? In fact, with regard to professional sports, it takes disposable spending out of the local economy and relocates it downtown. Of course, the suggestion that Ballard's actions earlier this year protected the convention business or the tourism industry, is complete malarkey. Mayor Ballard's bailout of the CIB was about sweetheart professional sports deals which nearly bankrupted the CIB. What Ballard further fails to mention is that his administration is already planning to give the wealthy Simons brothers $15 million more per year of taxpayer money so the Pacers can have the profits off of Conseco Fieldhouse free and clear, without having to pay to run the place as is currently the case. Now it appears that the administration, through the CIB, may try to bail out the Natatorium.

Mayor Ballard then begins bragging about his support for the parks:
Residents are proud of their city, but they live in their neighborhoods, and our neighborhoods are more vibrant than ever. They are connected by some of this decade's most important accomplishments: the growth of our greenways, the beautification of our parks, the creation of our bike lines and the addition of the Cultural Trail. More importantly, they are linked together by a shared sense of purpose by people whose combined dedication and talents are just as impressive as any structure.
Didn't the Mayor cut funding for the parks? Weren't there stories earlier in the year about overgrown grass at the parks and the Mayor's proposal to sell off park property? As far as the Cultural Trail, I think that preceded the Mayor's term in office. As to the bike lanes(I think the Mayor mean bike "lanes" not "lines"), I give the Mayor points for trying, but as a biker I know those lanes on Michigan and New York as drawn are extremely dangerous.

The Mayor concludes:
And we have every reason to believe the next decade -- one that will see us host a Super Bowl for the first time and open the spectacular JW Marriott hotel -- will be yet another chapter in the success story that is Indianapolis.
Time will tell if these public-private partnerships will work. Given the history of this City though, my guess is that the partnership will result in certain movers and shakers in the City becoming rich at taxpayer expense.

Indianapolis International Airport Review - Poor Signage

Returned today from my annual trip to spend Christmas with my parents in Florida. I would like to report that the signage, or lack thereof, at the new airport has improved. It hasn't. It's still horrible - Indianapolis' new airport has by far the worst signage of any airport I have been in.

It was common walking through the terminal to see people with confused looks trying to figure out where to go. The worst place is leaving the screening area. The gates are not well marked and it is easy to take a wrong turn and walk right out of the secure area, necessitating another pass through security. Earlier this year a TSA official told me that the designers of the airport didn't want to give it a cluttered" look by having too many signs.

Fortunately, I've now been to the new airport a few times and thus knew where I needed to go, at least most of the time.

One can't help but think that the airport was overbuilt...that there isn't enough air traffic coming through Indianapolis to fully support such a large facility. Even though I was traveling during the busiest travel days of the year, the airport's expansive facility seemed woefully underused.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tax Increases Proposed by Mayor Ballard in 2008

If anyone wonders why I and other Republicans are disgusted with Mayor Greg Ballard's performance in office, one need only look at the tax increases he pushed in 2009.

  • 1% increase in Marion County hotel tax (Passed) (Note the tax increase resulted in Indianapolis having the highest combined hotel/sales tax in the country)
  • 2% increase in Marion County car rental tax (Passed)
  • 4% increase in ticket taxes on all events at facilities the Capital Improvement Board operates, including Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse (Passed)
  • 1/2% increase in local Food & Beverage Tax (Rejected by legislature)
  • 100% increase in Alcohol Tax (Rejected by legislature

Business taxes currently pending before the Indianapolis City-County Council.

  • Taxicabs: $100 to $471.
  • Taxicab drivers: $20 to $283.
  • Sidewalk cafes: $169 to $591
  • Pet shops and kennels: $25 to $559
  • Trash haulers: $20 to $479
  • Hotels: $20 to $603
  • Pay telephones: $52 to $114
  • Transient merchants: $20 to $213
  • Massage parlors: $250 to $559
  • Massage therapists, escorts and nude models: $25 to $92
  • Installation of new water heater in home or business: $25 to $153 (if venting or fuel type is changed)
  • Scrap dealers: $200 to $823
  • Vendor cart renewals: $100 to $273
  • Block parties or other special events with a street closing: $25 to $113-$683 (higher fee for events with multiple street closures, food, entertainment and security.)
  • Horse-drawn carriages: $20 to $77
  • General construction inspections: $40-$50 to $107
  • Zoning variance to change permitted use of homes: $200 to $579
  • Zoning variance of use for a business: $900 to $1,999
  • Pay parking garages: $20 to $475.

Believe it or not, that's only a partial list for 2009. But, hey, I doubt the Democrats noticed, right?

Peyton's Place? Apparently on the Bench

I get the concept. You take your star quarterback out of a meaningless regular season quarterback so as to not risk an injury that would affect his being able to play in the playoffs.

Of course it was not a meaningless game to the fans and probably not to the players either. It was a chance for the Colts to go to a perfect 15-0 on the season and win their 24 regular season game in a row. Instead, Peyton Manning was pulled out of the game in favor of backup quarterback Curtis Painter, who had never played in an NFL regular season game. Not surprisingly, Painter did not do well and the the New York Jets came from behind to beat the Colts.

Here's what I don't understand about the decision that was made. Throughout Manning's entire career, the Colts organization has repeatedly left him in during the fourth quarter of blowout games. Some fans at the time justified the move saying the Colts were worried about some obscure, rarely-invoked point differential tiebreaker thus needing Manning in the game to run up the score. However, Manning was not running up the score in those fourth quarter blowouts. Rather he was just handing the ball off, running out the clock. There was no reason why a backup quarterback could not do that instead of risking Manning to a season-ending injury.

The justification for leaving Manning in today was much strong than it is for leaving him in those blowout games. Yet today, Manning was benched. It is a shame. The Colts players and their loyal fans deserved a genuine effort to try to win today's game.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Myth of the Underpaid Federal Employee

While trying to catch up on my reading, I ran across a USA Today article published a couple weeks ago about how the pay of federal employees has skyrocketed during the recession. I don't think anyone locally has blogged on the subject

According to the article, the number of federal employees making $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% during the first 18 months of the recession. That figure does not even include overtime pay or bonuses. The average pay of federal workers is now $71,206 compared to $40,331 in the private sector.

Probably the most interesting statistic had to do with the federal transportation department. At the start of the recession 18 months ago, only one employee had a salary of $170,000 or more. Now 1,690 employees in the transportation department have salaries in excess of $170,000.

The article notes that the trend to six-figure salaries is occurring throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech.

Jessica Klement, government affairs director for Federal Managers Association, defended the higher pay saying that government employs "skilled people such as scientists, physicians and lawyers" and that federal employees earn 26% less than private workers for comparable jobs.

Sure they do, Jessica. Sure they do.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Drunken Woman Assaults Santa Claus; Reportedly Fine To Make Rounds On December 25th

The Star reports:
A woman Downtown was arrested on Monday for assaulting Santa Claus and public intoxication.

Two acquaintances also were held on public intoxication charges, and all three were booked for possession of alcohol by a minor.

The incident happened at the Pennsylvania Street plaza outside Conseco Fieldhouse before the Milwaukee Bucks-Indiana Pacers game about 6:45 p.m. Monday, according to a report from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Police were watching the crowd outside Conseco Fieldhouse when they saw a woman take a picture of a man portraying Santa, then rip the beard off Santa's face.

Officers checked the Santa's helper, who told them it hurt when the firmly attached beard was ripped away. The Santa also said it appeared the woman who pulled the beard was extremely intoxicated.

Police followed the woman inside Conseco Fieldhouse and found she had a bottle of vodka hidden under her shirt. That woman, a 19-year-old from Carmel, was arrested for misdemeanor battery. Two others, a 19-year-old man from Indianapolis and an 18-year-old woman from Zionsville, were also arrested when police found they were intoxicated.
I'm sure I can come up with a good punch line if I have enough time. In the meantime, feel free to insert your own joke.

Ballard Adminstration Proposes Hefty Tax, er, Use Fee Increases

The Indianapolis Star this morning reports on Ballard administration's plan to greatly increase taxes, er user fees, on businesses.

The new year could bring similar fee increases to a wide array of licenses, affecting street vendors, nude models, pawn brokers and builders, as well as homeowners who want to install a water heater or throw a block party.

It is part of Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to change the way such licenses are funded.

Instead of subsidizing inspections with tax dollars, he wants to shift the cost to those who receive the service. The proposed hikes, which still must be approved by the City-County Council, would affect 27 types of businesses licensed by the city. Ballard also wants the city's zoning and building inspection services to be fee-based, rather than subsidized by property taxes, said Mike Peoni, administrator of the Division of Planning.

The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce said it supports the mayor's approach to pay for city services with user fees when possible, but its members are objecting to the size of the hikes the city says are needed.

"I haven't heard anyone supportive of it," said Jean Farison, manager of business advocacy for the Chamber. "We need to be encouraging our businesses to grow, not adding new user fees or taxes. By increasing fees . . . what kind of message does that send about Marion County?"

Others, including Gonzalez-Piriz, executive vice president of Indianapolis Yellow Cab, say the fees could have unforeseen consequences. He predicted the higher fees on taxis and drivers would result in more unlicensed and uninspected cabs on city streets.


Later in the article, the Star lists the proposed fee hikes:

Taxicabs: $100 to $471.

Taxicab drivers: $20 to $283.

Sidewalk cafes: $169 to $591.

Pet shops and kennels: $25 to $559.

Trash haulers: $20 to $479.

Hotels: $20 to $603.

Pay telephones: $52 to $114.

Transient merchants: $20 to $213.

Massage parlors: $250 to $559.

Massage therapists, escorts and nude models: $25 to $92.

Installation of new water heater in home or business: $25 to $153 (if venting or fuel type is changed).

Scrap dealers: $200 to $823.

Vendor cart renewals: $100 to $273.

Block parties or other special events with a street closing: $25 to $113-$683 (higher fee for events with multiple street closures, food, entertainment and security.)

Horse-drawn carriages: $20 to $77.

General construction inspections: $40-$50 to $107.

Zoning variance to change permitted use of homes: $200 to $579.

Zoning variance of use for a business: $900 to $1,999.

Pay parking garages: $20 to $475
The proposed fee increases will have to pass the City-County Council. Will this be yet another issue where the Ballard administration asks Council Republicans to fall on the sword for tax increases, just like what happened with the CIB? You can bet on it. However, given the continued erosion of support for Mayor Ballard among Republican council members, he's unlikely to be as successful in convincing Republicans to vote as a block for tax increases as he was for the CIB proposal.

The irony of this proposal? Just a few months ago, the head of the City's telecom agency Rick Maultra lost his battle to make telecoms doing business in Indianapolis pay rights-of-way fees like they do in other cities. AT&T, working through its lobbyist Joe Loftus, who is also lobbyist for the Ballard administration and partner at the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, worked behind the scenes to get funding eliminated from the budget for Maultra's position, putting him out of work.

I seem to recall then head of City Legal and now Chief of Staff Chris Cotterill, arguing to Council members (undoubtedly on behalf of AT&T and the person who hired him, Loftus) that rights of way fees should not be imposed because telecoms would simply pass along those fees to consumers. Now Cotterill presumably is going to be spear-heading the effort to raise the very type of business taxes he claimed to be opposed to for physical reasons just a few months ago.

Last Republican still supporting Mayor Ballard, please turn out the lights.

UPDATE: Actually the Indianapolis Times Terry Burns reported this story first. What I haven't seen, or missed, is who on the council is willing to sponsor this proposal.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Republican Insiders Propose Ballard, Version 2.0, for Marion County Sheriff

The Republican insiders got together and decided that Bart McAtee was an unacceptable candidate for Marion County Sheriff. Instead they are pushing forward Dennis Fishburn, the father of Jason Fishburn who suffered a near fatal gunshot wound in 2008.

The Fishburns were front and center during the 2009 Wishard referendum where they pushed for passage of the proposal.

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Fishburn said he decided to run after another Republican candidate, Tim Motsinger, dropped out of the race unexpectedly last month.

In the 2010 primary, Fishburn would face Bart McAtee, the only remaining declared Republican candidate. Several Democrats also are circling.

"I felt I needed to step forward and give at least some sort of variety to voters," Fishburn said. "I've never really been worried about a battle, a battle that's worth fighting. . . . I want to give the voters of Marion County a good, bona fide candidate to vote for."

Fishburn has served as a spokesman of sorts for his son and his family since the July 2008 shooting of Jason Fishburn, now 30, during a foot chase on Indianapolis' Eastside.

In November, his shooter, Brian Reese, was convicted of attempted murder and other charges by a jury in Northwest Indiana's Porter County. A Marion County judge who presided over the case sentenced Reese to a maximum 59-year prison term a few weeks ago.

Dennis Fishburn said he didn't consider seeking political office until after the case had ended. "When one door closes, another opens," he said, adding that he had discussed the move with Jason and received his full blessing.
Political office is the only job I know where applicants tout their lack of experience as a selling point for the position. I remember the argument in 2007 that candidate Greg Ballard was a "breath of fresh air" because he did not have political experience. After he was elected in an upset, people salivated at the prospect of a mayor who didn't owe hardly anyone for his election.

Exactly how has that worked out? Mayor Ballard's lack of political experience led to his trusting people he shouldn't have trusted, people who did not have his best interests at heart and were more interested in cashing in on the Mayor's success. (There is a saying that if a politician wants a friend, he should get a dog. Translation, an elected official needs to understand that the people who surround him after the election are often there not out of friendship, but because they want something.) Likewise, although Mayor Ballard owed few people, if anyone, for his election win, that has not stopped the Mayor from hanging the "For Sale" sign on the City. In fact, this administration is the worst of any administration I've known in terms of catering to big developers, government contractors, big law firms, political contributors and other insiders.

Although the jury is still out on his candidacy, Fishburn certainly seems naive about why he was recruited as a Sheriff's candidate by Republican insiders not happy with the prospect of a new generation McAtee on the ballot. I can tell you for certain that those insiders would not have recruited Fishburn if they thought he could not be "controlled." The Marion County GOP leadership would rather lose with a candidate who can be "controlled" than win with an independent-leaning candidate who has a chance of winning the general election. Fishburn will likely be, like Ballard became, a puppet for the Republican, country-club establishment that is leading the local GOP off a cliff.

While I'll try to keep an open mind by Fishburn and the political company he is keeping (his supporters are, after all, the same ones who backed Jack Cottey and Tom Schneider), Fishburn's greatest political accomplishment to date has been crawling in bed with the organizers of the Wishard referendum, organizers who didn't blink at using lies and deceit to advance their cause, including the misleading referendum question. I don't recall Fishburn, a law enforcement official, criticizing anything that Wishard organizers did to advance their cause, regardless of how underhanded and dishonest the tactic. A law enforcement official with integrity, someone who wants to be Sheriff, should have done that. The fact Fishburn chose not to speaks volumes about his not having what it takes to be Sheiff.

World Series Circa 1970

I am in the process of watching a recording of the first game of the 1970 World Series involving the Cincinnati Reds v. Baltimore Orioles. (Thank you Major League Baseball network.) Being a Cincinnati Reds fan growing up, I was only 9 years old during the 1970s World Series. Some observations:

The game was placed on October 10th, about 2 1/2 weeks earlier than the Fall Classic now starts. It was a day game with the temperature at the start of the game 65 degrees. Now all the World Series games are night games and temperatures often dip down near freezing at 32 degrees.

Looking at the crowd, virtually everyone seemed to dress up for the game. Men wore suits and ties, women dresses. You sure wouldn't see that today.

Camera angles and graphics are much better on today's broadcasts than they were back in 1970.

As far as the Reds go, it surprised me at how young the Reds star players were. Many of the members of the Big Red Machine were in their early 20s. Gary Nolan, who started the game, was a veteran of three years, having broken into the majors at 18.

The youth of the star players on the Reds and to a lesser extent, the Orioles, really surprised me. The prime age for baseball players is now several years older. Star players generally don't hit their stride until their late 20s or early 30s. Today you wouldn't see a championship-level team made of of key players who are 21-25 years of age.

It is a shame that the steroid era came along and ruined the statistics of the ballplayers of my youth. The statistical accomplishments of a Tony Perez and Johnny Bench, seem puny compared to the numbers put up by the steroid-laced athletes of the 90s.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Carl Brizzi's Real Estate Investments; Possible Tax Problems Ahead?

Usually the question asked of elected officials is "Where did the money go?" With regard to Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, the question is "Where did the money come from?"

While Brizzi's $125,000 salary as prosecutor is far better than most associates and some partners at law firms earn in Indianapolis, it is not the type of salary that allows one to become a major investor, especially considering that Brizzi is still paying back student loans and has four children for whom he is paying child support.

Nonetheless, the limited government salary has not deterered Prosecutor Brizzi from becoming a major investor. In addition, to his investments in stock which generally are linked directly or indirectly with embattled Indianapolis businessman Timothy Durham, Cory Schouten of the Indianapolis Business Journal reports that Brizzi is also a major real estate investor:

Since he took office in 2003, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has participated in more real estate deals than some full-time developers.

Records show he partnered in 2005 to develop a new Key Bank branch in Broad Ripple, and in 2008 he took an ownership interest in an office building in Elkhart that has the state as a major tenant.

He bought a 10-percent stake in downtown’s Harry & Izzy’s restaurant in 2007, flipped two condos in Broad Ripple’s Reserve development between 2004 and 2009, and joined local real estate heavyweights in an attempt to launch a $30 million vulture real estate fund in 2007.

And this year, the Republican prosecutor considered buying a minority interest in a retail building anchored by the restaurant Café Patachou at 49th and Pennsylvania streets before ultimately passing on the deal.

Brizzi, 41, has come under fire in recent months for investing in public companies connected to his friend and largest donor, embattled businessman Tim Durham. But Brizzi’s next headache could involve questions about his real estate dabbling—much of it done in partnership with another friend, Venture Cos. President John Bales, who last year won a no-bid contract to handle the sale of surplus city property.

Neither Brizzi nor Bales returned phone messages from IBJ, but a review of dozens of public records show their business relationship runs deep.

Bales led the effort to find new office space for the Prosecutor’s Office in 2003, settling on 72,000 square feet at 251 E. Ohio St.

He also handles lease deals for state agencies and has a knack for buying buildings where the state (a reliable and lucrative tenant) eventually leases space.

One such building is at 1659 Mishawaka St. in Elkhart, where the Department of Child Services agreed in July 2008 to lease 13,000 square feet for $19.12 per square foot, or $248,500, per year. It’s one of the highest per-square-foot rates for a state agency, and well above the $6-$10 range for available Elkhart office space listed on LoopNet. Other state agencies pay less for space in downtown Indianapolis.

Brizzi has a stake in the building’s owner, L & BAB LLC, that’s worth $50,000 to $100,000, according to a federal disclosure he filed in May in preparation for a possible run for the 5th District U.S. House seat now held by Dan Burton.

He also disclosed an interest in Curtailing Investments LLC, which developed the Key Bank branch at 6410 N. College Ave. Records show the developer took out a loan for $1.15 million, secured by a long-term land lease with Key Bank, when it bought the property. Bales led the effort.
People will recall that Bales' Venture Real Estate received a sweetheart deal from the Ballard administration to inventory city property and then obtain the commissions off of any sale of those properties.

While these investments may not, by themselves, constitute ethical violations, they raise major red flags about how Prosecutor Brizzi obtained the money to make major stock and real estate investments that would not ordinarily be possible for someone on a $125,000 government salary. One has to ask the question whether people like Durham and Bales, both wanting the support of a powerful local politician, gave the money to Brizzi for the investments.

While Durham and Bales giving Brizzi money could well create potential conflict of interest, there may be a more serious problem. If Brizzi did not report these investment gifts from his friends as income, he may have some questions coming from the Internal Revenue Service

Saturday, December 19, 2009

President Obama Returns from Global Warming Summit to Largest Washington D.C. December Blizzard Ever

Mother Nature sure has a sense of humor. President Barack Obama returns from a summit in Copenhagen, where he discussed the the dangers of global warming with world leaders, to find Washington D.C. being hit with the biggest December blizzard ever. (Let's not forget, Winter has not even officially started yet.)
A couple years ago, the advocates of the "Man is Causing Dangerous Global Warming That is Going To Destroy the Planet" theory, faced with evidence the planet might not be warming, had the presence of mind to switch their warnings from "global warming" to "climate change." (Since climate change has been going on for the entire 4.5 billion year history of the planet, it is is pretty certain to continue happening.) Now everything that happens weather-wise supports their theory.
A Fall blizzard? Yep, yet more evidence of dangerous "climate change."

Trustee Accuses Councilman of Misusing Nonprofit's Funds; Marion County Prosecutor Passes the Buck to the Feds

The Indianapolis Star reports this morning that a trustee appointed to oversee the bankruptcy of an Indianapolis faith-based nonprofit is seek a $1.3 million judgment against City-County Councilor Paul Bateman who worked for "The Russell Foundation" According to the Star, the foundation was started by Rev. Michael Russell with the goal of spurring economic development and easing poverty by focusing on ethanol production and the construction of a privately funded monorail from Indianapolis to Northwest Indiana. Bateman was a paid lobbyist for the foundation beginning in 2006.

The allegations are that Bateman, Russell, and Manuel Gonzalez, a Carmel business consultant, used the foundation to not for its stated purpose, but rather spent money on dress clothes and other perks for its volunteers. The Star also reports that the foundation was used to purchase more than a dozen vehicles, including a stable of 2007 Dodge Caliber compacts, a 2007 Cadillac Escalade and several pickup trucks. While Councilor Bateman is accused of misspending the largest amount, the others, including Russell and Gonzalez, are accused of misspending $600,000.

One thing caught my eye is that the Marion County Prosecutor's Office knew as early as July of 2008 that these allegations were out there. Instead of taking action, Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's office simply passed along information obtained by its grand jury investigators to the U.S. Attorney's Office. If there was evidence of criminal wrongdoing, the Marion County Prosecutor should not be simply passing the buck to the feds. While the U.S. Attorney's Office can be also blamed for not acting, the accusations lodged by the Trustee would primarily involve primarily violations of state criminal law, the enforcement of which is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Marion County Prosecutor.

This highlights a common complaint about how Carl Brizzi has run the prosecutor's office. He hasn't just looked the other way as to wrongdoing by Republicans. He has also looked the other way when it comes to Democratic elected officials. That fact has insulated Brizzi from much deserved criticism by elected officials for his not pursuing white collar crime and political corruption. His inaction protected both Republicans and Democrats alike.

A final observation is that the use of non-profit, charitable-type organizations as a way to enrich private individuals did not exactly originate with The Russell Foundation. (We need to remember these are just allegations against Bateman et al. at this point.) Many of these organizations solicit donations and government grants claiming a noble mission, while in reality that mission is to enrich the organization's officers with lavish salaries, and perks such as fancy new cars, expensive clothing, cell phones, computer equipment, etc. The line between business and personal use of such toys is a might thin one.

An African-American Indianapolis attorney I know has been particularly outspoken about the Ballard and Peterson administrations being so willing to hand over grant money to minority-led non-profits with no strings attached or follow-up. Her point is that rather than help out the black community in the inner city, these minority grants end up in the pocket of well-connected, political powerful black professionals who siphon off money for their own benefit rather than use it to help the black community. She often talks about the fancy cars, the fancy clothes, the new cell phones that she sees these black executives who head up these non-profits bestow upon themselves.

While she has a point, I would note that the misuse of money raised by non-profits, including government grants, isn't limited to the African-American community. It is a widespread problem that is getting increasingly worse as government is more and more willing to outsource doing good deeds to these nonprofits by handing them a stack of money with absolutely no accountability for how money is spent. It's only a matter of time before the IRS comes in and begins taking a closer look at these so called non-profit organizations.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Redistricting Seminar Today at State Senate

Today, Common Cause is sponsoring a redistricting seminar at the Indiana State Senate. Here is a link to the program which starts at 11:30. Attorneys can get CLE credit. I expect it will be a very interesting program.

The Alternate Universe Occupied by the Star's Editors

A quote from the Star's editorial this morning on the new public safety hire:

"Mayor Ballard, who has shown a knack for surrounding himself with strong people, appears to have made another good hire."

In what alternate universe are the Star's editors living? The only strong hires I can think Mayor Ballard has made are Public Safety Director Scott Newman (now gone), Robert Vane (communications director) and animal control director Doug Rae (run out of his job.) Instead the a major problem with this adminstration is that Mayor Ballard has repeatedly appointed young, inexperienced people to key leadership positions in his administration, people who because of their youth and inexperience are easily subject to manipulation by insider Republican types who are busy trying to profit off of the current administration to the detriment of the Mayor's re-election chances.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Public Pays While Sheriff Frank Anderson Plays

A few months ago, a big stink was made about the fact that Mayor Ballard's Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department parked a police car in the golf course parking lot of a political supporter of the Mayor. The political supporter wanted the presence of the car (which was out of service) at his business to deter crime at the facility.

The Mayor, IMPD Michael Spears, and acting public safety director, Mark Renner were rightfully criticized for this misuse of public property. However, the improper use of an IMPD car is peanuts compared to fiasco going on in the Sheriff's Department.

This evening, on my way in to my gym I saw in the parking lot a Marion County Sheriff's Department car, a brand new Crown Victoria. It was outfitted with all the bells and of an ordinary police car. It even had a dash-mounted laptop computer. It was a beautiful vehicle.

Of course, police duties in Indianapolis are now handled by IMPD and not the Marion County Sheriff. I'm not sure why Sheriff's Deputies have to take home these publicly-owned vehicles. Or perhaps the officer was simply transporting a prisoner to the gym for a little exercise.

I am sure the Sheriff would respond that the Crown Vics were purchased with jail commissary money and not taxpayer money. While the law does authorize the Sheriff to use jail commissary money for the purchase of vehicles, many would argue that the statute requires that those vehicles be actually related to the transport of inmates. Instead the Sheriff dips into the commissary to buy Crown Vics and motorcycles which the deputies then use to take home. The Sheriff touts the "savings" of the if the Sheriff Deputies are transporting inmates or serving legal documents using motorcycles.

Regardless of whether the purchase was legal or appropriate, it is still taxpayers ultimately footing the bill to fill up the gas tanks and to maintain the vehicles of the Sheriff's Department. It is a shame that the Council continues to let the Sheriff play an expensive game of pretend cop long after his powers have been taken away.

As I left the gym tonight, I saw the Marion County Sheriff's Department car was gone. Just a short distance away, I noticed an older, plain looking police car. I walked over to take a closer look at it. It was an IMPD vehicle. It did not have have the dash-mounted laptop or other bells and whistles of the Sheriff's car. Go figure. The ones who don't need first-rate equipment get it, while the ones doing the police work have to settle for second-rate equipment.

Global Warming Science is Not About "Competing Truths"

On Sunday, Indianapolis Star editor Dennis Ryerson published a response to critics who say that the Star had failed to adequately report on "Climategate," the relevation that researchers at the major university providing information on global warming were involved in nothing less than a conspiracy to manipulate and cover up data to support the theory. The headline to Ryerson's column is entitled: "Competing Truths About Climate Change." In the column, Ryerson notes that both sides on the man is causing global warming debate are right.

Ryerson's description of what science is about is not accurate.

Science is about the objective search for the truth. I don't recall in school learning that the scientific method involves selective use and manipulation of data to get a hoped for result. Science must be objective - the search for the truth regardless of what that truth is. We as a society are going down a very dangerous road when we allow science to be politicized. Yet that has happened with respect to the global warming debate.

Indianapolis Star reader Frank Sparzo from Fishers wrote a letter to the editor which appears in today's paper. He says it better than I could have:

Brooks says that government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths.

That may be a comforting idea for those who govern, and Brooks and Ryerson, but not for science. Good decisions about complex matters should be based on good science, not on how many "scientists" are on one or another side of an issue.

Science is a public enterprise. Fundamentally, the issue is not so much about competing "truths," as Brooks and Ryerson would have us believe, but about the process by which scientific data are found, collected and reported. Any hint that scientific research systematically excludes sound contradictory evidence, keeping such evidence from being public, should signal a thorough review of the science in question.

Good science is necessarily interested in contrary evidence. Good government decisions ought to be, too.

The Myth of Short-Changing Education

If there is what they call the "third-rail" of Indiana politics, it would be education, or more particularly K-12. A politician who dares to "cut" education could will be attacked as "short-changing" education. That's why I viewed with interest he story that Governor Daniels has asked K-12 schools to make $300 million in emergency budget cuts after a new projections showed Indiana will take in $1.8 billion less than expected just 9 months ago.

In 1996, I was involved in developing education policy for gubernatorial candidate Rex Early. I met with educators all over the state. It became clear to me that the problem was not how much money the schools were receiving so much as how that money was being spent. Administrative and building costs were consuming more and more of the dollars spent on education.

I also ran across a figure that I thought interesting and confirmed it was true with the Indiana Department of Education . In the two previous decades, approximately 1976 to 1996, spending on education had increased by 47% above the rate of inflation. I'm not sure of the figures from 1996 to 2009, but my guess is that spending on education has not slowed.

It is a law of bureaucracy that the more money you shell out for a particular program, the greater the inefficiencies there will be in that program. Look around the state, you will find a lot of highly paid administrators and nice buildings with wonderful athletic facilities. Up here in Pike Township, they paid off a construction loan so what did they immediately do? They decided to build new Guion Creek elementary school even though the current one only dates from the 1970s and is perfectly functional. The school board out here has taken a page out of the Wishard handbook - promising there won't be a tax increase.

While I've been critical of Governor Daniels' on bad appointments and inattention to the supervision of agencies underneath him, I applaud wholeheartedly his leadership during this budget crisis. Rather than sock this state with the tax increase, he's looking at cutting the part of the state's budget that accounts for 50% of spending. It is the right thing to do.

Federal Appellate Court Brief Done

I want to apologize for my loyal readers who haven't seen much in the way of postings from me the last few days. Late yesterday afternoon I finished up a huge 7th Circuit federal court brief. I was not aware of how time consuming it would be. We took the whole thing to FedEx last night along with a huge two volume appendix.

It's interesting seeing how the legal community has embraced technology. The key word would be - slowly. While the district courts in Indianapolis have electronic filing, with the 7th Circuit everything has to be done the old-fashioned way. That involved nearly $700 in printing costs for the appendices and briefs and maybe $50 more to ship the huge box to Chicago. I can't imagine what kind of storage space they must have at the 7th Circuit.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Councilor Ryan Vaughn Challenges President Cockrum for Position; Will He Agree to to Not Sit on CIB if He Wins?

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh posts a summary of the several contests going on within the Republican council caucus. The one that caught my eye was Barnes & Thornburg attorney Ryan Vaughn challenging President Bob Cockrum for his position:
When the Republicans caucus to pick their leadership tomorrow night, it looks like there could be several contested races. Vice President Ryan Vaughn, a lobbyist/attorney for Barnes & Thornburg, will seek to oust veteran President Robert Cockrum. If Vaughn is successful, Barnes & Thornburg will solidify their hold over the Republican-controlled council. As CCC President, Vaughn would also get a seat on the Capital Improvement Board, which will ensure that his law firm will continue to have a say in the affairs of the CIB. Robert Grand, manager of Barnes & Thornburg's Indianapolis office, created controversy when Mayor Ballard appointed him to serve as President of the CIB because of the firm's representation of the Indiana Pacers and the team's owners, the Simon family. Grand recently stepped down from the CIB to make way for new Ballard appointees. Vaughn, you may recall, sought appointment to the senate seat vacated by Sen. Teresa Lubbers earlier this year but was defeated by Scott Schneider, a former City-County Councilor.
Vaughn, as Gary notes, is an attorney at Barnes & Thornburg, which represents the Pacers who are in the midst of trying to get the CIB to redo their contract so the taxpayers have to pick up the operating costrs on Conseco Fieldhouse, a building on which the Pacers get 100% of the revenue. As noted on this blog several times before, the conditions that would allow the Pacers to cancel their 20 year contract have not happened and the penalties under the contract would be enormous if the team did try to assert that provision.
There is nothing in the law mandating that the President be the one the Council appoints - rather it's simply been a tradition. If Vaughn truly wants this position, he needs to tell fellow council members that, in order to avoid a conflict of interest with a client of his law firm, he will forgo the typical CIB appointment for the Council President.

New Chairman of Indianapolis Animal Care & Control Advisory Board Pulls Plug on Channel 16 Coverage of Meetings

In yet another blow to public scrutiny and accountability, the new Chairman of the Indianapolis Animal Care & Control Advisory Board David Horth has booted Channel 16 out of public meetings. According to Horth's explanation which can be found on YouTube, he found out upon becoming chairman that he had a right to ban Channel 16 from meetings and didn't find the presence of the TV cameras to be productive.

Horth is wrong. While he might be able to ASK Channel 16 to come to meetings (like anyone else could), he has no legal authority to prevent Channel 16 or anyone else from video or audio taping meetings. See IC 5-14-1-3(a). Hopefully no one over at City Legal gave him that legal advice. If so, that attorney should learn the basics of the Open Door Law. See page 17 of this presentation from former Public Access Counselor Heather Willis Neal.

Horth's explanation rings hollow. Nothing good has ever come of government behind closed doors which always leads to less scrutiny and less accountability. Given what is happening in animal control, the last thing this board needs is less public scrutiny of its actions.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mayor Ballard Vice-Chairman of Mayors' Group Supporting More Local Taxes

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that an organization called the Urban Mayors' Caucus, led by Tom Henry of Fort Wayne and Indianapolis' Greg Ballard, is seeking to replace property taxes lost because of the tax caps passed by the legislature. The group has targeted non-profits that are not paying property taxes. The Caucus will also lobby the legislature for more highway money and the authority to raise local sales taxes.

Even though Mayor Ballard is Vice-Chairman of the Urban Mayor's Caucus, his spokesman Robert Vane indicated the Mayor would not be active in the group.

Did I mention that he's Vice-Chairman of the group? Ahem.

Note: The story is on the subscription-only portion of the IBJ website so I could not publish the content. I would strongly encourage people to get at least an on-line subscription to the IBJ. While its editorial page is weak, it is doing an outstanding job of covering local politics.

More Trouble for Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi

I have a federal appeals court brief to write the next few days so I'll keep this short. I woke up this morning to find on the front page of the Indianapolis Star a story about our prosecutor Carl Brizzi that indicates he might have been less than truthful about his ties to Indianapolis businessman Timothy Durham. Here is part of that story:

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, under fire for his financial ties to embattled Indianapolis businessman Timothy S. Durham, also invested in a Los Angeles movie company with deep connections to Durham, according to records obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Records filed in May show Brizzi held shares in Red Rock Picture Holdings, a production company that has loaned millions of dollars to National Lampoon, which is run by Durham. Durham is a major investor, director and interim chief executive of the company, best known for its "Animal House" and "Vacation" comedy movies.

It is not known whether Brizzi currently holds shares in Red Rock. If he does, the disclosure would contradict a statement he made earlier this week, when he said he had no further financial ties to Durham, beyond those already reported in news stories.

While there have been complaints about Brizzi not answering question, from a legal standpoint he might not want to talk. He could have real insider trading problems. Although probably less than 1% of the people involved in insider trading ever get caught, when the feds do get someone in their sights, they like to make an example of them.

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh has a story about Brizzi's ties to local real estate developer John Bales. That name should sound familiar. Bales' company, Venture Real Estate, received a sweetheart no-bid real estate contract with the administration of Mayor Greg Ballard for the exclusive right to commissions to any city property sold. Brizzi was involved in business dealings with Bales, while at the same time using taxpayer money to rent office space at 251. E. Ohio Street from Bales' company, Meridian Asset Development. Welsh provides more detail on the business relationship between Brizzi and Bales.

I'm afraid the Republican Party locally is sinking as insider dealing and conflicts that are just now rising to the surface. What is next? Imagine an expose of the relationship between Ballard contributors and those receiving city contracts? While Brizzi's financial ties undoubtedly cross the line into impropriety, the conduct of the current administration in selling out this city to contractors, developers, and other insiders has been troubling. The only people who seem to be remaining on the Ballard bandwagon these days are those who are cashing in as quickly as they can from this administration. Yet Mayor Ballard thinks those folks, who have sunk any chance he has of re-election, are his "friends." Go figure.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Star's "Gadfly" Attorney Crack

As readers of Gary Welsh's Advance Indiana blog will know, yesterday in an editorial on the traffic court, the Star labeled me as a "gadfly" attorney who brought the lawsuit to stop the court from imposing hefty fines on people for requesting a trial on their tickets. However, in its editorial the Star endorsed the idea that these fines need to be stopped.

I think Gary's right that there was vindictiveness in the adjective. I have been extremely critical of the Star's editors' selective support of good government and fair elections. For example, the Star steadfastly ignored facts opponents of the Wishard referendum continued to raise and would not even stand up for the principle that voters are entitled to honest information about the project before the election. The Star had an agenda and the notion of fundamental fairness was put on hold while the newspaper blasted support for the referendum on its news and editorial pages.

Now the Star is regularly criticizing the legislative revolving door. Yet the Star has said not one one word criticizing the revolving door in the Mayor's Office where Chief of Staff Paul Okeson left the administration to take a job with Keystone Construction, a major contributor to Mayor Ballard ($25,000 donation given in 2008) and a bidder on lucrative city projects, including the Wishard construction. It's mystifying why the Star's editors insist on being inconsistent in their treatment on the issue of the revolving door. If anything, the executive revolving door is much worse of a problem. Yet the Star simply ignores it.

I was told that over on Facebook, political commentator Abdul was criticizing the traffic court lawsuit. He did so too on his blog. I commented to that post, but frankly I stop reviewing and responding to comments after awhile. It's just too time consuming. People are going to say what they want to say. One thing I think is great about the lawsuit, is that we're having a much needed public debate about how the traffic court is being operated.

I just wanted to give thanks to all my friends who have come to my defense against the criticisms and the shots taken at me. I would assure my friends though that the attacks by critics and efforts to undermine me are worn by me as a badge of honor. One thing I have learned in politics is that when you are attacked by your critics, that is a good sign - it means you are taken seriously and are making a difference. It's when they ignore you that you have a problem.

So now I've been called a "wingnut" by the Indianapolis Times, a "gadfly" by the Star, and a conspiracist by Abdul. I'm sure I'll be called worse down the road. But I'm not about to stop fighting for good government and the end the the corruption of Indianapolis politics. And I'm not going to stop fighting for people who don't have much power - like those poor folks, ordinary working men and women, who find themselves on the end of an additional $400 fine because they dared to go before a judge in Traffic Court. They deserved better.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adventures in Traffic Court - Part Two

Today my office was flooded with calls from people who read the news reports about the lawsuit against the Traffic Court. The calls uncovered some other other problems I had overlooked or forgotten:

Right before the judge takes the bench, the Deputy Sheriff acting as bailiff actually physically locks the courtroom door. (I'm sure the Fire Marshall will be interested in this information.) He warns that anyone who leaves the courtroom at that point, even for an emergency or to use the bathroom, will not be let back in and will receive a "failure to appear" along with an additional fine. People told me how they wait for three hours or more for their case to be heard. It's not hard to imagine that someone might have a health problem that would necessitate getting water or using the restroom.

By the way, everyone I spoke to was highly critical of this Deputy Sheriff, his demeanor, attitude and the threats he makes to the defendants. The word heard most often with respect to the Deputy Sheriff: intimidation.

The Traffic Court lets police officers sign in and leave. If the defendant wants to try the case, they actually track down the officer to get him back to court. It's a "convenience" the court certainly doesn't afford to the Defendants.

I received complaints that interpreters were not provided or even offered to Defendants who did not speak English and could not understand what the judge was saying. Before I get a flood of comments about "Mexican illegals," these were non-Spanish speaking Defendants. There is no problem finding Spanish-speaking interpreters.

According to one person who paid the ticket he received on the court's website, he was given an option to pay an extra amount above the fine so that the court would not report his ticket to his insurance company. He (and I) believe that smells of extortion. His court reported his ticket and as a result his insurance premiums went up.

The report on the parking citation court is that on the first day the court made a $1,000 extra. Four people showed up to challenge their parking tickets and were each fined an additional $250 for having the temerity to challenge their tickets. Supposedly this was in the Star, but I missed the article.

As a side note, I heard a few people suggest that since the total amount of the Traffic Court fine is within statutory limits (actually I've seen a few occasions when they exceed the $500 statutory limit), it is legally permissible.

Here is the problem with that logic. The additional $300 or $400 fine is not because some evidence or information that came to light during trial that warranted an increased fine. If that were the case, the supporters of the fine would have a point. However, the history of the court, the comments of the bailiff, prosecutors and judge, all indicate, with absolute certainty, that the $300 or $400 fine is directly attributable to the person's decision to exercise his or her right to a trial. That is what makes the practice illegal and unconstitutional.

I hit on what I believe is a good analogy. Let's say a criminal court judge adopted the policy that if Defendants in his courtroom did not plead guilty and instead chose to go to trial, the judge would impose the maximum penalty allowed by law should the Defendants be found guilty. He does that on every case. Even though the penalty is within the statutory limit, the penalty is not being imposed because of the evidence, but rather because the Defendant is exercising his constitutional right to a trial. I couldn't find a criminal defense attorney today who thought that practice would be upheld by an Indiana appellate court.

Yet, that's exactly what is going on in Traffic Court and why I am confident the Indiana Court of Appeals or Indiana Supreme Court will strike down the practice as unconstitutional.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Statement Regarding Class Action Lawsuit Filed Today Against Marion County Traffic Court and Marion County Parking Violations Court

Paul K. Ogden, an attorney with Roberts & Bishop, a downtown law firm, announced today that a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of defendants who have appeared, or will appear before the Marion County Traffic Court and Traffic Violations Court.
In the Complaint, three identified plaintiffs, Toshinao Ishii, Matthew Stone, and Adam Lenkowsky, allege that the courts violate the United States and Indiana Constitutions by punishing defendants who choose to have their day in court rather than simply pay the traffic or parking ticket they receive. The Complaint alleges that Judge William E. Young of the Marion County Traffic Court fines defendants up to an additional $500 if they litigate their case and lose. The Traffic Court website, according to lawsuit, threatens $10,000 fines. The complaint also cites a press release that City intends to authorize the new Parking Violations Court to fine defendants up to $2,500 if they challenge their parking tickets.

Ogden stated, “While I like and have the utmost respect for Judge Bill Young, the principle that justice should be freely administered and not come accompanied by the threat of a fine, is simply too important to ignore. Everyone who comes to court, even those charged with minor parking or traffic offenses, has a constitutional right to his or day in court without being severely penalized for exercising that right.”

The lawsuit also notes that the Traffic Court’s additional practice of closing its courtroom to the public is unconstitutional.

In the legal complaint, Ogden asks that Court enter an order prohibiting the Traffic Court and Parking Violations Court from imposing fines on defendants for challenging their and that the money collected from such practice be returned. The lawsuit also asks that the Court order the end to the closed courtroom in Traffic Court.

Ogden noted that, while the lawsuit was filed in Marion County Superior Court, the Plaintiffs will be exercising their right to have the case transferred to an adjoining county. Ogden expects that, ultimately, the Indiana Court of Appeals or Indiana Supreme Court will have to decide the constitutionality of the courts’ practices.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shocking News Out of Indiana University: College Students Had Party With Alcohol!

On Saturday, it was reported that state excise police had arrested more than 80 people for underage drinking at a party off the IU campus.

This is indeed shocking news. College students drink? Who would have thought?

This bust, of course, will go along way to stopping 18-20 year olds from drinking. Sorry, more sarcasm. I can't help myself this morning.

Actually I agree those selling alcohol at the party without a license should have been busted for that violation. But punishing adults for consuming an adult beverage does not make sense. It actually makes the problem of binge drinking worse. We ought to be teaching people responsible consumption of alcohol, not pretending that alcohol prohibition will work.

As a side note, I would bet anything that the judge hearing the cases, the prosecutor bringing the action and the excise cops who were involved in the bust, all attended and drank at similiar parties when they were college students.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lessons From the Last Great Republican Scandal: D.C. Stephenson and the 1920s Indiana Klan

He dominated Republican politics in the early to mid 1920s. Although he claimed to be a Prohibitionist and a devout Protestant, famed Indiana Klan leader and Irvington resident D.C. Stephenson drank heavily and was a playboy. He used his power and money to get the things he wanted in life.

In the early to mid 1920s, the Klan dominated Republican politics in Indiana. Unlike in southern states where the Klan affiliated most closely with the Democratic Party, the Klan in Indiana infiltrated Republican politics. In the South, the Klan's chief target were African-Americans. However, in Indiana the Klan's chief targets where Catholics and immigrants. (My grandfather used to tell the story of how the Klan tried to burn a cross on the lawn of our rural Catholic Church only to be run away by neighbors toting rifles and shotguns.) In Indiana, there was a distinct division of the political parties among religious lines. Catholics were almost exclusively Democrats, while most Protestants were Republicans.

By the middle 1920s, Klan membership in Indiana had grown to 250,000, which was about 1 out of ever 3 men. (The Klan had a separate auxiliary for women.) If you subtract out Catholics, Jewish and black men who were not allowed in the Klan, it is a safe estimate that 1/2 of all Protestant men in Indiana were in the Klan in the 1920s. In photographs of the era Klan support can be seen in the form of "100% American" signs placed in store windows.

Although people picture the Klan as involving men in hoods riding on horses and burning crosses, the Klan in 1920's Indiana actually had a significant social component. It held picnics, ran sports leagues, held parades, etc. In photographs of the era, Klan support can be seen in the form of "100% American" signs placed in store windows.

D. C. Stephenson, who became a millionaire from taking a portion of Klan initiation fees and selling Klan clothing, used his money and power to dominate Republican politics. In exchange for Klan support and bribes, he was able to get many politicians to agree to sign a paper agreeing to support the Klan agenda. Some politicians were even on the Klan payroll. The Center for History provides a quick summary which, in part, is quoted, below:

D.C. Stephenson went on to become a powerful political figure in Indiana. His rise to power was short-lived, however. In 1922 David Curtis Stephenson was appointed Grand Dragon of the KKK for Indiana. In 1925 he had met a statehouse secretary, Madge Oberholtzer, at an inaugural ball for Governor Ed Jackson. She was later abducted from her home in Irvington, a neighborhood of Indianapolis and taken by Stephenson and some of his men to the train station. While on a trip to Hammond, Indiana, Stephenson repeatedly attacked and raped Oberholtzer in one compartment of his Pullman railcar. In Hammond she took poison to frighten Stephenson into letting her go. He immediately rushed her back to Indianapolis where she died a month later, either from the effects of the poison or the severe bite marks she incurred during the rape.

Stephenson was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The sensational trial took place in Noblesville, Indiana in 1925. His conviction sent Stephenson to the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana for the next 31 years (the longest imprisonment in this state for that crime). He was released from prison in 1956 and faded into obscurity, however, not before causing the shocking downfall of many corrupt political officials within Indiana. When he went to jail he was convinced that Governor Ed Jackson, who he had helped elect, would pardon him. Governor Jackson never came through with the pardon and Stephenson began to talk.

With help from The Indianapolis Times (which won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigations), the structure of Indiana politics would be shaken. Stephenson began to talk about who had helped him rise to power and began to name names. The aftermath was shocking, indictments were filed against Governor Ed Jackson, Marion County Republican chairman George V. "Cap" Coffin, and attorney Robert I. Marsh, charging them with conspiring to bribe former Governor Warren McCray. Even Mayor of Indianapolis John Duvall was convicted and sentenced to jail for 30 days (and barred from political service for 4 years). Some Marion County commissioners also resigned from their posts on charges of accepting bribes from the Klan and Stephenson.
Today, the quid pro quo direct bribery of public officials is rare. Rather influence buying is normally more indirect, involving a wink and a nod. It often takes the form of large campaign contributions, vacations, free dinners, gifts, and promised jobs in the private sector after the person leaves the public sector. While there are numerous differences between the Republican Klan scandal of the 1920s and the Durham matter, there are also marked similarities. Both eras involve Republican elected officials who were willing to look the other way in order to associate with a millionaire playboy who offered money and political influence.

It is a shame that the history of the 1920s Republican Klan scandal has been forgotten. It would have been a good warning for those Republicans who so quickly jumped on the Durham money train, while ignoring Durham's extravagant lifestyle and not asking more questions where he got the money he was spending.

For more on D.C. Stephenson and the 1920s Indiana Klan see:

Indiana Magazine of History

"How the Klan Captured Indiana" New York Times January 5, 1992

Saturday, December 5, 2009

City Threatens People Who Challenge Their Parking Tickets With $2,500 Fines For Going to Court; Policy Mirrors That Used in Traffic Court

News this week is that the City has opened up a new parking citation court at the Guardian Home located at 5751 University Ave. Of course the City wasted no time issuing a press release bragging about being able to squeeze the public for more parking ticket revenue, part of which, of course, is shared with a private contractor:

INDIANAPOLIS – On December 1st, the City of Indianapolis will pilot a parking citation court in an effort to improve the way the city collects revenue from parking citations. The court will hold hearings at the former Guardian Home facility and will be managed five days a week to give violators an opportunity to pay outstanding citations.

"We have seen a significant lack of collections with unpaid parking citations and feel this is a way to increase revenue while working under our Six Sigma process to manage the program with greater efficiencies," said Manuel Mendez, Deputy Controller.

Using Six Sigma process improvement strategies, it is estimated that under this program the City may collect an additional $352,000 to $520,000 in parking citation revenue over the next 12 months.

The parking citation court will be managed by T2 Systems, which currently oversees the City’s collections and software for parking tickets. The court, which will hold hearings on a daily basis, will allow violators increased opportunities from the currently run system which holds hearings every two weeks.

"Our goal with this program is to assist the City in collecting parking citation revenue. Working together with the City, T2 Systems also offers payment options over the Internet, mail or IVR to make paying citations as easy and convenient as possible," said Jim Zaloudek, Chief Financial Officer for T2. "This allows us to fulfill our role of helping the City’s parking operations be as profitable and efficient as possible."

If citations are not paid prior to their scheduled hearing, the City may request a fine of up to $2,500 per citation. Upon receiving a judgment for an unpaid citation, individuals responsible could be subject to collections actions or having their vehicle registration suspended.

The citation court opens Tuesday, December 1st from the hours of 9am to 3pm at the Guardian Home located at 5751 University Ave.

Translation of that second to last paragraph? If you dare exercise your right to a trial over your parking ticket, the City is going to ask that your fine be increased up to $2,500. How's that for an incentive to pay?

The Marion County Traffic Court is doing the same thing. When defendants go into court they are warned by the bailiff, the prosecutor and the judge that if you take your case to court and lose, you can be fined an additional $500. Judge William Young lives up to that promise, imposing an additional fine of $400 or $300 on litigants who are unsuccessful.

Make no mistake about it. The Traffic Court fine and the City's threat of an up to $2,500 fine for parking tickets, are not fines for their respective offenses, but rather fines imposed on people for going to court. Most people I've talked to believe that fining someone for exercising their right to go to court, a right protected by the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions, is highly offensive. The practice may also be illegal. Stay tuned.

For the Star's story on the new Parking Citation Court click here.

Note: If anyone reading this is aware of anyone who has been a victim of these fines in Traffic Court or Parking Citation Court, or chose not to litigate their case because of the threat of those fines, I would like to talk to them ASAP. I can be reached at 317-631-0172.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Indianapolis Times Reveals Prosecutor Brizzi Was Chairman of Campaign Committee of Judge Who Presided Over Hamilton Avenue Killer's Trial

CORRECTION: Sorry didn't get this up earlier, but only learned late this afternoon that Terry Burns' information on Indianapolis Times blog wasn't quite accurate. Brizzi stopped appearing on campaign finance reports as chairman for Judge Altice around 2000. Still not good, but a heck of a lot better than if he recently was chairman of Judge Altice's committee. Ogden on Politics apologizes for the error. Apparently not everything on the internet is 100% true. Who knew?

The Indianapolis Times this morning reports:

-- In examining some campaign organization forms, it was interesting to discover that embattled Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is listed as the campaign chairman for GOP Superior Court Judge Robert Altice. Brizzi apparently has
served as Altice's campaign chairman since 1999. Wasn't Altice the same judge who presided over the bench trial of convicted Hamilton Avenue killer Desmond Turner? And who was the high-profile prosecutor involved in that case? You guessed it, Carl Brizzi.

"Interesting?" I'm not sure that Terry Burns knows what a huge bombshell he has uncovered. If Judge Altice and/or Prosecutor Brizzi did not disclose this relationship to defense counsel, especially while defense counsel and the defendant were debating going with the jury or a bench trial, I think the Indiana Supreme Court is going to reverse the decision and order a new trial. Chief Justice Randall Shepherd is already on record as saying how much he dislikes the partisan election system for judges and how it interferes with the fair administration of justice. He particularly dislikes
the set up in Marion County where the party leaders have a stranglehold on
judicial nominations via slating and every candidate nominated at the primary wins the general election. This would be the perfect opportunity for the Court to make a statement by reversing the decision and giving a tongue-lashing to the judge and prosecutor.

Then again, maybe the relationship was disclosed and the defense chose to go with Judge Altice anyway. Somehow I doubt they would have chose a bench trial if they knew the closeness of the relationship between the judge and prosecutor.