Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Taxpayers expose State Archives Division’s shroud of secrecy over questionable plan for new building
Whether you're for the new building or not, whether you're a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian, a conservative or libral, this sort of secrecy has absolutely no place in OUR government. This is exactly the type of thing the rally last Wednesday was about.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Clarke Kahlo, Canal Park Advocates
April 1, 2009 (317) 283-6283
INDIANAPOLIS—This April Fools Day, Canal Park Advocates calls on the Indiana State Archives division of the Indiana Commission on Public Records, and the related Friends of the Indiana State Archives advocacy group, to fully disclose the public records pertinent to the need for, feasibility of, and alternatives to their heretofore secret plan to build a new state archives building on the publicly-owned 1-acre site on the downtown canal just north of Ohio Street. There is no legitimate reason to try to make fools of either the taxpaying public or of the proponents of a competing potential use for the site, as the Archives representatives are apparently attempting to do.
“Some Archives employees and Friends of the Indiana State Archives, a non-profit organization, have taken great pains to keep secret their plan to build a new building on this site,” said
Clarke Kahlo, a park advocates representative.
“We’ve been working very hard to have an open and public conversation with all officials who might have an interest in the ultimate use of the property. We’ve approached personnel from the Governor’s office, White River State Park Commission, the Indiana Finance Authority, the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks and Reservoirs, the Indiana State Library, the State Judiciary and the City’s parks and development departments. We also approached several board members of the Friends group (by happenstance), and several state Senators and Representatives. However, for well over a year, as we now know, many of these people have been working on, or at least cognizant of, a secret plan to build a new archives building on the site. Not one of these officials provided the courtesy of offering a heads-up or other notice so our group could be apprised, and so public scrutiny could rightfully occur. Fortunately, we recently discovered that the building plan was quietly being shepherded through the legislature, buried in the House Bill 1001, the House budget bill. We learned this just in time to testify to the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 26th that the archives plan was being kept a virtual secret from the public and would be a poor use of the key downtown site.”
Unfortunately, Canal Park Advocates has been unable to review the adequacy of the state’s needs analysis or feasibility studies because those materials have not been disclosed by the Indiana Commission on Public Records. In response to its March 12th public records request, the group was advised, by Director Jim Corridan on March 19th, that the ICPR would provide any pertinent records on or before April 30th. That date would of course be too late to be of any use in the legislative deliberations—the legislature adjourns on April 29th.
Agencies and their paid employees hold a position of public trust. That trust is violated if secrecy is used to hide self-serving agency actions, especially, as in this case, on important community issues and large expenditures.
Agency secrecy diminishes good governance. The City of Indianapolis re-experienced this embarrassing lesson in November 2007 when its secret plan to build a $2 million elevator/waterfall at the Ohio Street basin of the downtown canal was discovered and shown to be unnecessary, and a demonstrable boondoggle, based on Canal Park Advocates’ comprehensive public access facilities inventory.
Canal Park Advocates believes that our state officials should perform according to a much higher standard of ethical performance than reneging on a promise of a public hearing (IFA, 8-07) and hiding the ball from citizens and taxpayers and, in the case of the proposed archives building, trying to fool them by slipping a hidden provision into the budget bill.
The section of the House budget bill proposing funding for architectural/engineering plans for a new archives building at the indicated controversial location should be either removed entirely by the Senate or amended to provide for full public disclosure and thorough review before any funding authorizations are considered.
“Here in America, town halls and village greens helped shape the ideals of democracy. Insofar as we have kept these ideals alive, we have done so by creating arenas where all citizens can enter and all voices can be heard.”
Scott Russell Sanders, A Conservationist Manifesto, 2009
“The liberties of a people never were, nor never will be secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” Patrick Henry
As Julia Vaughn of Common Cause Indiana reminded the audience at the March 25th Taxpayers’ Revolt at the Statehouse rally, “Honest Abe Lincoln, beloved former Hoosier, famously quipped that ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.’”
~~ 30 ~~
My experience with the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, and that of those who practice criminal law on a regular basis, is that Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's office often will rush forward to file charges without insisting that a quality investigation be conducted first. This is particularly true when crimes are of a high profile and get a lot a media attention. It seems the motivation is to get someone charged ASAP, even if that means not getting the right guy, or curtailing an ongoing investigation.
The result is that the Marion County Prosecutor's Office makes a lot of bad charging decisions, decisions often made in haste. While that alone is a problem, a bigger one is that once the Marion County Prosecutor's Office charges someone they do not like to admit they made a mistake and dismiss. Rather the prosecutor's office will keep charges pending against innocent people up until the day of their trial, trying to cut a deal. It is not fair to those individuals who have had their lives turned upside by criminal charges that shouldn't have been filed in the first place. Leaving those charges in place after prosecutors know they have no chance of conviction, is immoral and a violation of the public trust. If you don't have a case, you dismiss. It's that simple.
Last year, I reported on a mentally disabled client of mine who was charged with the Marion County Prosecutor's office for robbing a video store manager. The charges were based solely on the statement of the manager, who claims my client hid behind a dumpster, and jumped out and demanded that he have the envelope with the bank deposit she had stuffed in her pocket. The story was preposterous from the beginning. The dumpster was around back of the store. The manager was supposed to go straight to her car at the front of the store and drive to the bank. How did my client, again mentally disabled, know that day she would take the trash out to the dumpster before going to the bank? How did he know that she had an envelope with cash hidden in her pocket? The only place on the property were there were no video camera coverage was the behind the store where the dumpster was located. That the manager said that is where the robbery took place wasn't a coincidence.
The story was incredulous. A fourth-grader could have looked at her story and picked it apart, figuring out that quite possibly the manager kept the money herself and fingered a mentally disabled man who walked liked to come into the video store and look at the pretty boxes. Because of the arrest of my client, the normal internal investigation of the theft was never conducted by the company. Even though they found absolutely no evidence on my client, the police and Prosecutor's Office couldn't conceive of the possibility that this woman might have actually taken the money herself. The Marion County Prosecutor's Office filed felony robbery charges on my client and he was hit with an $80,000 bond he couldn't afford. While in jail he didn't get his psych med, began talking to himself, and was beaten up.
Fortunately for my client, we had video of him getting picked up by his brother that day at a drugstore and then eating at a restaurant across town when he was supposedly robbing the manager. You think that would be enough for the Prosecutor's Office to dismiss? Nope. They still left him in jail... for months. They did not want to admit they made a mistake and even, disgustingly, offered him a plea deal. Only when the trial date came close and I wrote to Prosecutor Brizzi directly (with a copy sent to the Indianapolis Star), did the Prosecutor's office finally agree to drop the charges.
As far as the manager goes, during one of the initial hearing, I purposefully had her place her identification claim under oath, so that her false identification of my client would be a matter of perjury. The deputy prosecutor, figuring out what I was doing, tried to intervene - too late - to stop the perjury. I'm not sure why the deputy prosecutor thought it was his job to try to allow a witness to falsely accuse someone without consequence. Nonetheless, the Prosecutor's Office never pursued the perjury case. The manager undoubtedly made off with the money, without consequences, while my client spent months in jail on bogus charges.
When I hear that Burns is mentally disabled, I think of my own client and what he went through. People who are mentally disabled are easily manipulated, and sometimes get confused. Although my client never confessed to the robbery, he was extremely confused about what was going on and why he was in jail. Sometimes it's important for a prosecutor to take a little extra time on an investigation to make sure you get it right before filing charges. There seems to be a lot more to the story than that Burns deliberately set the fire. It would be a good idea for the Prosecutor's office to slow down and get things right, rather than rush to judgment.
I don't get it. How does Ms. Grace think she'll every land a big job, like maybe being a political reporter for Channel 8? Here she actually talked to organizers and speakers at the rally. That's crazy. Doesn't she know that a good reporter is supposed to be looking for people in the crowd that she can interview and then later make fun of in her report? Doesn't she also know she is is supposed to take statements out of context to purposefully distort what speakers say and make them look like radicals? Or that she is supposed to simply make up things that the speakers spoke about - like immigration - or claim that issues like eminent domain are strictly federal issues, ignoring of course the fact we have state constitution that talks about eminent domain as well as 66 state statutes on the subject.
And doesn't the reporter know that she's supposed to use her position with the media to settle old scores with speakers who may have criticized her reporting in the past? A good reporter knows how to shellize information and present the story the reporter wants to present. Ms. Grace has no future at Channel 8 with this kind of fair, unbiased reporting.
P.S. For those who are sarcasm-impaired, the above piece was sarcasm.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Below is Ruth Holladay's response in full:
Since when does the Star carry water for the Pacers?The lawyer in me wants to see the actual sponsorship contracts and see if they truly do mandate such a lavish vacation for the sponsors. That's something people are forgetting about - they're just taking the Pacers' word about what is required by the sponsorship contracts. Of course, I think the odds of the Pacers making those contracts public are about as likely as the Pacers opening their books to actually prove the team is losing $30 million.
Or follow the reporting done by blogs?
Since it became a mediocre newspaper. Here's what was in the Star today, along with the back story.
Behind Closed Doors, which runs under the heading of PUBLIC INTEREST, (!!!) contains a small item: "Blogs don't get bogged down in facts."
Here's what it says:
"Local blogs were agog last week about a trip the financially strapped Pacers hosted for sponsors to Cancun, Mexico, recently.
"The blogs reported the Pacers took 60 people on a five-day trip to an exclusive oceanside resort.
"These bloggers, however, had it only half right."
Behind Closed Doors then goes on to get it all wrong -- quoting Pacers PR veep Greg Schenke, who magnanimously explains that the corporate sponsors in fact have contracts, which, as the Pacers/Star would have it, makes everything peachy keen. In other words, in Pacer/Star logic, the sponsors paid "up front" for their lucrative little jaunt to Mexico, plus all those liters of booze and spa time, so all is therefore fine and good.
Since this blog reported first on this issue, followed by other blogs, let me be the first to say: my source knew about the contracts.
And, unlike Behind Closed Doors, we are not impressed. Wasteful spending is exactly that: wasteful. If these corporate fat cats have the dough to throw a luxury six-day vacation into their deals with the team, in these hard-luck times, maybe THEY should bail the Pacers out -- after all, they get the benefit of luxury suites and other perks. They may well be the only people in town enjoying the Pacers these days.
The underlying issue remains the stickler: Pacers owners, Mel and Herb Simon, want the taxpayers to foot the team's $15 million bill for Conseco Fieldhouse. To further rankle citizens, the Pacers are being aided and abetted by the Capitol Improvement Board, which has become a joke if not worse.
Now, the Star has joined the ranks of this PR campaign by allowing itself to be used as a PR horn for the Pacers, rather than performing its journalistic job -- reporting who went on that trip, digging into the nature of such biz-sport team contracts, who benefits, etc. Of course, this sideshow is pretty transparent, since one of the trip-takers was John Cherba, director of retail advertising at the Star.
This is why people don't respect newspapers anymore.
And the Star simply compounded that by today's silly item.
Thanks to blogger Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana for pointing me to today's Behind Closed Doors.
The Star did not report on the trip at all...that is until bloggers picked up on it. Then the Star take was to not provide substantive reporting on the trip but rather to criticize the bloggers for doing the Star's job. Ahem.
For Gary Welsh's take go here.
Go here for Eye on Indianapolis response to the BCD piece.
Mayor Ballard Speaks on Pacers, Colts and CIB Bailout; Shows He is No Friend of Indianapolis Taxpayers
Since there is so little out there where the Mayor answers a question about the CIB publicly, I thought I would make a transcript for people to read. You can check out the video here. The question is about 54 minutes in.
Marshall: “There have been recent news that the Pacers have had a difficult time paying their bills, how do you see the situation resolving?"The Mayor's response is so disingenuous, I don't know where to start. The question concerned whether the city is to turn over $15 million more to the Pacers. Ballard dodged it, then lumped in the issue of public support for professional sports into the convention business. No one argues that convention business is not profitable for the city. People from outside of Indianapolis travel to the city to spend their money. That's not the same with professional sports. The fans are from the central Indianapolis area. The money they spend is simply money that would have been spent someplace else, going out to dinner, a movie, etc. There is no net gain. The academic studies do not show spending taxpayer money on professional sports teams is a good investment for a city. Some studies even show that professional sports teams have a negative impact on the local economy. But academic studies do not slow down the advocates of giving more of our hard earned money to billionaire sports owners. They just ignore them.
Mayor Ballard: “The CIB and the Pacers, this is not about the Pacers. And this is not about the Colts. This is about downtown. Pacers and Colts are players in the story but they are not the protagonists, here. Downtown is the protagonist. People have been working for 30 or 40 years to make the downtown what it is and there is a reason for that. People talk about life sciences, they talk about advanced manufacturing, they talk about motor sports, they talk about logistics, they talk about technology, they talk about all of that. But what they leave out of this is the convention business, which is really one of our industry clusters also. Well over $3 billion a year. A lot of money. Downtown was planned a certain way a long time ago and conscious decisions were made to get to a certain point.
And don’t look at downtown as a neighborhood. Downtown is an economic engine for the city and it is a HUGE economic engine for the state. That’s what it is. Okay, so if you think the care and feeding of downtown has been too much, I would disagree because over the 30 or 40 years, that’s a HUGE economic engine. People know Indianapolis, people come to Indianapolis, because of our downtown. Conventions come to Indianapolis and spend money, not your money, their money, and they help you, because of the downtown of Indianapolis, because they can bring their convention here and walk around. The NFL combine comes in here specifically ever year and spends a load of money because they don’t have to drive 30 miles to a stadium and then 40 miles to a restaurant, it is all right downtown and they spend a lot of money and it helps you, it helps the state, so that’s the short version of
And I’m very candid about this, we do not want to set up a row of dominoes in downtown Indianapolis and then just have them all go down. We are in an economic downturn right now. If we start saying, oh those guys over here or these guys over here, forgetting the bigger picture which is downtown, HUGE economic engine for Indianapolis, HUGE convention business, one of the big, big drivers of money into the city. You know that just being mad at this team over hear or this team over there, that’s not really the story. That’s not really the story. Downtown was planned a long time ago a certain way to be a HUGE economic engine and it is, and it is. The tax dollars that the State receives out of there is big and the city gets a fair chunk of change out of it also.
That’s what is happening. So some care and feeding needs to go downtown, I don’t think there’s any question about that. That’s like asking Eli Lilly to not have much land, why? You want them to grow jobs, right? You want that to happen and that’s what’s happening. There is 66,000 hospitality workers in central Indiana, 66,000 and that is based mostly on our convention business. And we do not want to set up a row of dominoes to knock that down because we’re going to pay a price for a long, long time if we do that.
See: The Pacers, Colts and the Impact of Professional Sports on Local Economies (3/15/2009)
Mayor Ballard says with a straight face that the financial crisis the CIB is in has nothing to do with the Colts or Pacers. Again, a dishonest answer. The CIB is in a financial hole because of the sweetheart deal it gave to the Colts over the Lucas Oil Stadium. That triggered the Pacers to also ask for a similar sweetheart deal for Conseco. At some point, we need a mayor who will stand up for taxpayers against these wealthy sports owners who think they are entitled to yet more of our money. Mayor Ballard sent a clear message at the Washington Township Mayor's Night out that he is not that mayor and he is no friend of taxpayers.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
At a March 19, 2009 meeting of the Ethics Committee of the City-County Council where a new ethics code for City-County Councilors was discussed, Republican councilors on the committee, including Chairwoman Ginny Caine and Robert Lutz, incredibly are seeking a loophole for attorneys who serve on the council from disclosing clients they represent who are doing business with the city or county. Caine, Lutz and City Council counsel Bob Elrod take the untenable view that such disclosure would violate the attorney-client privilege.Caine, Lutz and Elrod are wrong. Attorney-client privilege refers to the requirement that COMMUNICATIONS between an attorney and his client be kept confidential, unless, of course, the client chooses to waive that privilege. The privilege does not apply to prevent an attorney from disclosing who he or she represents.
An on-line legal dictionary explains the attorney-client privilege and why it exists:
In the law of evidence, a client's privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent any other person from disclosing, confidential communications between the client and his or her attorney. Such privilege protects communications between attorney and client that are made for the purpose of furnishing or obtaining professional legal advice or assistance. That privilege that permits an attorney to refuse to testify as to communications from the client. It belongs to the client, not the attorney, and hence only the client may waive it. In federal courts, state law is applied with respect to such privilege.The attorney client privilege does not protect the existence of an attorney-client relationship or even how much the attorney has been paid by the client. See, for example: Wirtz v. Fowler, 372 F.2d 315 (5th Cir. 1966.) Again, the attorney-client privilege is about COMMUNICATIONS between an attorney and his client. It is not about who you represent or even how much you've been paid by that client.
The attorney-client privilege encourages clients to disclose to their attorneys all pertinent information in legal matters by protecting such disclosures from discovery at trial. The privileged information, held strictly between the attorney and the client, may remain private as long as a court does not force disclosure. The privilege does not apply to communications between an attorney and a client that are made in furtherance of a fraud or other crime. The responsibility for designating which information should remain confidential rests with the client. In its most common use, however, the attorney claims the privilege on behalf of the client in refusing to disclose to the court, or to any other party, requested information about the client's case.
Attorneys on the Indianapolis City-County Council need to be disclosing when they have clients, or their firms' clients, appearing before the council and recuse themselves from deliberations and voting on issues involving their clients. The attorney-client privilege is certainly not a valid basis to create a an enormous loophole in the ethics rules so that attorney councilors don't have to disclose when they have clients appearing before the council. Attorney councilors who think otherwise need to take a legal ethics refresher course.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I have to say I have always liked Jim Shella as a person and have been a regular viewer of Indiana Week in Review. However, after that piece he did on the Statehouse rally my opinion of Jim as a journalist dropped considerably. No matter how you slice it, what he did in that report was one of the most unfair pieces of journalism I have ever seen. I would hope that you would recognize that and your station would try to do better. I understand though you are actually defending what he did, which I find distressing as someone who has watched your news program in the past.
I would urge you to again watch Shella's piece on the rally. Watch the clip of Mark Small. The report showed Mark saying something like “Why should the State be funding education.” Then the video immediately cuts away. Mark Small’s speech was clearly marked as humorous and the cut away cut out the BECAUSE that was coming. It was a deliberate attempt to take material out of context and make a speaker at the rally look like a nut. I went to law school with Mark. Mark Small is a Democrat and a liberal, albeit with a libertarian twist, and I'm certain is not against the state funding education. The way that piece was edited completely and, undoubtedly deliberately, misrepresented what he was saying. I would urge you to watch that video and tell me why you think that that edit was okay from a journalistic and, more importantly, an ethical standpoint. There is no question that the snippet was nothing less than an attempt to deliberately mislead people about the rally, to make it look like we had a bunch of nuts up there speaking. The edit was inexcusable.
Then what Shella did to, Melissa (not Melyssa Donaghy, one of the rally organizers), was one of the worst things I have ever seen. She clearly was nervous, it was her first time being interviewed on TV and Jim took advantage of that, mocking her in his report when she forgot her group’s principles. She was not a speaker, and her group did not even have a speaker at the rally. Yet, Jim decided to feature her prominently in his report. She had taken the day off to come to the rally only to find herself ridiculed by Shella and Channel 8.
I have known Jim Shella for years and was the chief organizer of the rally. Jim made no effort whatsoever to even talk to me that day. He made no effort to talk to Gary Welsh who was the major substantive speaker on the CIB bailout. In fact, in putting together his story that day Jim Shella never talked to anyone who actually spoke at the rally or any of the organizers. (The other reporters, however, did.) I was shocked at his report when he said the organizers had to be disappointed in the result. Huh? Outside of some signs of things I didn’t support (like signs touting Sen. Delph’s immigration bill which I personally am not in favor of and wasn't on the agenda), I could not have been happier how things went. But if Jim wants to spin things in a different direction, that's his right. But there is no excuse for how Mark Small and the Melissa were treated in the coverage. I do not know how you could review that footage and conclude otherwise. Again, you should watch Jim Shella's piece and strongly consider apologizing to Mark Small and Melissa for how they were treated. Certainly the editing of Shella's piece was far below professional and ethical standards.
While I appreciate Jim coming to the rally that day, he unquestionably had a story in mind even before he came into the atrium and went about finding people in the crowd who fulfilled that story. It certainly was not Jim’s finest hour as a political reporter.
Paul K. Ogden
Attorney at Law
P.S. I would add that no other print or TV journalist did the same type of slam piece your station carried. Over the past 24 hours I, and other rally organizers, have been contacted by elected officials, and Democrat and Republican activists who all want to talk about how unfair the Shella piece was. I have yet to talk to a single person who thought his piece was fair.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
1. MORE TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT
· Government contracts and other public documents at state and local level need to be made available on-line2. STRONGER CONFLICT OF INTEREST LAWS
· Campaign contribution reports need to be available on-line.
· Names of government contractors need to be published along with their contributions to elected officials. The possibility of pay to play politics needs to be exposed.
· Stronger open records laws need to be enacted along with stiff penalties for non-compliance.
· A violation of Indiana’s open records and/or open meetings law should also be considered a violation of Indiana’s state ethics laws, subjecting the public official responsible with additional penalties.
· There needs to be stronger enforcement of open meeting requirements, including a crack down on commissions and boards making decisions behind closed doors with the only public meeting being a “dog and pony show" (after the decision has been made) to give the appearance of public input.
· Enact prohibitions on government officials being employed by local government agencies or contractors serving in executive and legislative bodies that oversee those agencies or contractors.3. REVOLVING DOOR LEGISLATION
· Require full disclosure of conflicts of interest and complete recusal from participating in those matters where the government official has a conflict of
· Require attorneys sitting on local government bodies to report when they have clients with interests before the bodies that they represent and require them to recuse themselves from participation involving those matters.
· Prohibit individuals benefiting from projects entered into by redevelopment commissions and capital improvement board, from sitting on those commissions or boards.
· There should be at least a one year cooling off period from serving in state legislature to working as a lobbyist.4. LEGISLATION REGULATING PRIVATIZATION CONTRACTS
· Stronger executive revolving door legislation should be adopted, including reverse executive revolving door provisions addressing people who go from the private sector to the public sector then are involved in privatizing services with their previous employer.
· Privatization contracts need to include a provision saying that any contractor found to have filed a SLAPP lawsuit will have their contract voided and be forever barred from doing business in the State of Indiana.5. MORE PROSECUTION OF WHITE COLLAR CRIME INCLUDING PUBLIC CORRUPTION
· Privatization contracts need to include a provision requiring the contractor to comply with Indiana’s open records law or face fines and possible cancellation of the contract.
· The attorney general needs to be given the responsibility of ensuring state
contractors comply with their privatization contracts.
· Legislation needs to be enacted to give private citizens the authority to act as a private attorney general to enforce privatization contracts, bidding laws and other consumer protection laws when elected and appointed officials fail to do so.
· Indiana’s Attorney General needs to provide the county prosecutors the expertise and investigatory resources to prosecute white collar crime, such as mortgage fraud, violations of state bidding laws, etc. Where the Attorney General is lacking in authority, the legislature, needs to give that office the authority needed.
· Attorney General needs to make deputies available for deputization by county prosecutors to prosecute white collar crime in local communities.
· Attorney General needs to be given the power to initiate prosecutions of white collar crimes, including those involving public corruption.
· Prosecutors, state and federal, need to make public corruption and abuses of the public trust a priority.
· Elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats, need to encourage President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to support the appointment of a non-partisan U.S. Attorney to the Southern District who will aggressively pursue white collar crime and public corruption.
6. OTHER PENDING LEGISLATIVE ISSUES
· The CIB bailout should be addressed by legislature as a separate legislative proposal and not simply into budget or another bill during conference committee so as to avoid public testimony and scrutiny.
· The General Assembly should not take away the right of the people to vote in referendums on large projects funded by property taxes.
· The General Assembly should continue supporting improvements in Indiana’s open records law, but, not neglect the need to move to a more digital democracy with those records placed on-line where they can be viewed by anyone.
- A speaker advocating more transparency and accountability in government.
- A Lafayette-area housewife and new grandmother talking about exposing an illegal bidding scheme entered into by a government contractor that costs taxpayers million of dollars in overcharges
- A speaker advocating lobbying and ethics reform
- A speech against government raising taxes to give more money to billionaire sports owners
- A speech against pay to play politics where the taxes of working men and women are used to give more money to big corporate interests who have made big donations to politicians
- A speech where a Speedway resident talks about having their homes and business uprooted by corporate development funded by residents' tax dollars
- A speech where an Evansville grandmother talks about the city raising taxes to build a new sports arena
- A speech against corporate welfare
- A speech which calls for a stronger Attorney General's Office to prosecute white collar crime and public corruption
You as a Democratic blogger:
a. Endorse the positions on these issues as they are "common men and women" type issues in keeping with Democratic philosophy.
b. You ridicule the citizens people involved in bringing these issues to their legislators.
I've broached this with Mr. Cook before and gotten no response. Let me address this again to him in this more public forum. Tell, me Thomas Cook, which of the above bullet points raised in speeches at the rally does the Democratic Party oppose? All I'm asking is that you address the issues rather than engage in personal ridicule of the hard working men and women who took time out of their busy schedule to go to the Statehouse.
I grew up in a household led by parents who were life-long Democrats. My father worked in a factory and my mother as a secretary. I can tell you that Mr. Cook's views, which supposedly represent the views of the Democratic party, are certainly not the views of my parents. That he would ridicule the speakers and, by his silence, take positions against the above-bullet point issues raised by speakers is remarkable and an embarrassment to the Democratic Party.
Of course, Thomas Cook could take a position for working men and women, like good Democrats are supposed to do, and endorse wholeheartedly the issues addressed above. I'm betting though the hypocrisy continues.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Thanks go out to Sean Shepard. He told me afterwards he had never acted as a host of such an event. I thought he was absolutely terrific. Thanks, Sean.
I thought Diana Vice use of props was fantastic. Obviously she was a media favorite. A closeup of Diana speaking is on Indystar.com. Her tale of success fighting against the powers is an example we can all try to emulate. Diana, you were great.
Julia Vaughn, like me, hails from the small river city of Madison, Indiana. I never realized Julia was such a forceful speaker. What is interesting is that even though her underlying political beliefs might not have been the same as most of the crowd, the good government issues that she and her group, Common Cause, bring to the table are issues that cut across party and philosophical lines. Things like revolving door legislation and lobbying reform is at the top of everyone's agenda, everyone except the legislators. Thanks, Julia.
No one brings more substance to a discussion of city affairs than Gary Welsh. I think Gary shined during his presentation. His report on the Capital Improvement Board and the professional sports teams should be a chilling warning to those folks down in Evansville discussing building a new sports arena. Remember that temporary 1% food and beverage tax that was supposed to pay for the RCA Dome and then disappear after it was paid off? Well, Gary hasn't. He does a great service for the city with his blog. I appreciate your efforts at the rally, Gary. Keep up the good work.
What can I say about Mark Small. Mark and I went to law school together. Even though we were philosophical opposites, we found a lot of common ground on issues. Mark also brings a great sense of humor to everything he does. Today, his take on the professional sports franchises demanding more of our money was entertaining and information. Thanks for your efforts, Mark.
Having been a northwest side resident for years, not terribly far from the world-famous race track, I really appreciate JoEllen Dotlich coming and speaking about what is going on with the town of Speedway and the Speedway Redevelopment Commission. JoEllen put a human face on dealing with these appointed commissions that decide issues behind closed doors and then trot them out for "dog and pony" shows where they pretend to give the public input on issues they have already decided. Thank you so much for coming, JoEllen and sharing with us.
Jim Premeske of Team Hammond Taxpayers, Frankie Neidhammer, President of the Vanderburgh County Taxpayers Association, and Jim Arnold, of Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal all gave us a perspective on what is going on in their communities. From their presentations, it certainly appears that what Indianapolis is experiencing with a government that is out of touch with the people is not a unique situation. Thanks Jim, Frankie and Jim for traveling so far to come and speak at our rally. Everyone appreciates your dedication to the cause.
Now my thoughts on the rally. Contrary to some media reports, there was a common theme among the presentations - that government is out of touch and listening to lobbyists instead of the voters. Those media outlets are confusing the term "theme" and "issues." The rally presented a single theme, but multiple issues. The reason why is that there are multiple issues where our elected officials seem to care not one whit about what people think. They seemingly only care about those lobbyists giving them campaign contributions.
As I tried to emphasize at the post-rally luncheon, what we have is a coalition. As with any coalition, not everyone is going to agree on every issue. I am on record as saying I’m uncomfortable with some of the immigration rhetoric and I am not a fan of Sen. Delph’s bill, which I believe additionally could irreparably hurt the future of the Republican Party. Likewise, I don’t think that the Fair Tax (replacing the federal income tax with a large sales tax) is workable, a position that is directly opposite of some of my biggest advocates.
Like our coalition today, political parties are by definition coalitions. It is a healthy thing for the success of a coalition, including political parties, that people are allowed to express their positions without fear of being ostracized or punished for their beliefs. That's why I am troubled when the Indianapolis Mayor's Office and the GOP leadership of the City-County Council demand that other Republican council members support their agenda 100% of the time or face being ostracized within their caucus. That is not a healthy situation, especially when the Republican Party is a distinct minority party within the county and needs to allow elected officials some independence to reach out to non-Republican voters. The elitist, pro-corporate welfare direction of the Marion County Republican Party leadership is dooming my party to certain failure in 2011. Many Republicans have expressed that view to me - privately - because they know to say so publicly will bring consequences. Ask Ed Coleman.
But I digress. The revolt today was about Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians coming together for a common cause, to be heard in our Statehouse. Although we brought our concerns to the steps of the Indiana Senate and House, we need to take those concerns and translate them into action. In the program today, I identified numerous "good government" reforms that would probably have nearly universal support among the people who attended the rally as well as the general public. While the rally was not really a forum to have a lengthy discussion of those detailed reform proposals, in the coming weeks, months and years ahead, we can work toward unifying the coalition behind those or similar reforms. There are two steps in this process: talking about the problems and taking action. The talking is over. Now it's time to start preparing to take action.
Again, thank everyone for all they did and for attending the rally. I can't thank you all enough.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
It is not clear why this money is needed. Has the size of Wayne Township increased, thus necessitating more money? Or has there been a rash of fires on the west side? Whatever the reason, Baird apparently doesn't believe he needs to answer questions. Linda Karn, editor of the Speedway Navigator, has asked Baird why the additional money is needed and he has not responded.
It shouldn't be surprising that the Wayne Township Trustee's Office needs more money. Baird, who makes $81,120 a year, hired as his "chief of staff," his brother, Hershell, a position which pays $78,744 a year and includes the use of a new Ford Crown Victoria. The deputy trustee Lynn McWhirter, makes $58,493 a year. McWhirter is a Republican, a former member of the council, and was was Baird's opponent in 2006. Given the very limited duties of a township trustee, it is unclear what work the Baird brothers and McWhirter could be doing to earn their pay.
Baird's antics seem to single-handily be making the best case possible for the elimination of the township trustee's office. So, in the long-run, some good may come out of this.
Monday, March 23, 2009
March 23, 2009
(317) 631-0172 (work)
--Citizen Leaders Pay Call to Legislators; Demand Reforms--
Indianapolis – Attorney Paul K. Ogden, 47, today announced finalized plans regarding the taxpayer rally dubbed the “Revolt at the Statehouse” to be held on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the North Atrium.
The focus of the “Revolt” is the anger the average citizen has with government at all levels which has been captured by big money interests and does not listen to ordinary citizens.
Ogden cited the populist uprising in the country, which is noted on the cover of Newsweek that hits the newsstands today, as one of the reasons for the rally. “You are seeing a populist rage sweeping the country like you have not seen in decades. People are angry as they see their hard-earned money being taken to give out to failing companies, like AIG and others. In Indianapolis, leadership of both the Republican and Democratic Parties is deeply involved in a corporate welfare culture that silences even the most well-meaning party members who dare speak out for the interests of the taxpayers.”
Gary Welsh, author of the blog “Advance Indiana,” has tirelessly reported about the proposed Pacer bailout, the overly generous Colts-Lucas Oil Stadium deal as well as other issues related to the Capital Improvement Board and other local issues. Welsh notes, “The CIB is filled with members who have serious conflicts of interest, not the least of which is the President of the Board, who represents the Simons who own the Pacers. The individuals on the CIB clearly do not have the best interests of the people of Indianapolis in mind when they decide they need to give another $15 million of our tax money to billionaire sports owners.”
Melyssa Donaghy, who runs the blog "Hoosiers for Fair Taxation," noted that people are fed up with the back door deals and lack of transparency in how government operates. “The Revolt will include a call for ethics reform, including more transparency. People need to know what is going on in their government,” Donaghy said. “The conflicts of interest many of these politicians have need to be exposed and ended. We should not have our elected officials using their positions to make themselves and their friends richer at the expense of taxpayers.”
The speakers will include Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians. Titles of some of the speeches include: “Increasing Debt: Mortgaging Our Children’s Future,” “The Colts, Pacers and the Capital Improvement Board,” “Run over by the Speedway Redevelopment Commission,” “Lobbying and Ethics Reform,” “Transparency and Accountability in Government,” “Pay to Play Politics, Indiana Style,” and “Fun and Games in Evansville.” A speaker list is included below.
REVOLT AT THE STATEHOUSE SPEAKERS
(Wednesday, March 25, 2009; 11:30 to 1 p.m.)
"Increasing Debt: Mortgaging our Children’s Future"
– Lisa Kelly, former Libertarian Candidate for Lt. Governor
"The Colts, Pacers and the Capital Improvement Board"
– Gary Welsh, Attorney at Law and Publisher of Advance Indiana blog
“Government Grants & Public Corruption”
– Rev. Solomon, Author and Community Activist
"Run Over By the Speedway Redevelopment Commission"
- JoEllen Dotlich, SPEED
"Pay to Play Politics, Indiana Style"
– Mark Small, Attorney at Law and Author
"Transparency and Accountability in Government"
– Diana Vice, Lafayette-area Housewife and political activist; Publisher of Welcome to My Tea Party blog
"Lobbying and Ethics Reform"
– Julia Vaughn, Policy Director of Common Cause/Indiana
--Jim Premeske, Team Hammond Taxpayers
"Fun and Games in Evansville"
– Frankie Neidhammer, President Vanderburgh County Taxpayers Association
"How to Get Involved & Make a Difference"
– Melyssa Donaghy, political activist and publisher of Hoosiers for Fair Taxation blog
"A Call to Action"
– Paul Ogden, Attorney at Law, and publisher of Ogden on Politics blog.
According to the website:
The spirit of this initiative is the basis of what makes a Hoosier. Giving freely of yourself for the goodwill of another. Print out one of these cards by clicking on the image to the left and then pass it on to the person for whom you do your act of service.The website then goes on to suggest ways YOU can help out:
- Have a clothing drive at work to donate to a homeless shelter.
- Volunteer with your pet for pet therapy at a nursing home or children’s hospital ward.
- Pay for a kid to play in a youth sports league.
- Visit a nursing home.
- Donate your kid’s old toys to charity.
- Buy lunch for an intern.
- Share your umbrella with someone who doesn’t have one.
- Volunteer at your local elementary school (field trip chaperone, read to 1st graders, etc.)
- Take a homeless person out for lunch.
- Write a supportive and caring letter to a friend
The website plays an annoying, condescending video about how people need to help out their fellow Hoosier during these hard times. Jim Irsay even makes an appearance where he exhorts Hoosiers to help one another.
Let's recap. This is an organization that after the floods and the tornado on the east side of Indianapolis last year, contributed a miserly $50,000 to relief efforts...and even that donation was conditioned on the public matching the Colts' $50,000.
This is an organization that got such a sweetheart deal with the Lucas Oil Stadium that the Capital Improvement Board has been left running huge deficits, so much so that Indianapolis' taxpayers face yet more tax increases to bail out the CIB. Jim Irsay could with a wave of his hand ask that the agreement be changed so as to eliminate the CIB's operational deficit on Lucas Oil Stadium and wipe out the need for a tax increase for Indianapolis residents. Irsay won't even consider that. His spokesmen arrogantly dismiss renegotiation, and claim they are merely "tenants" in the building. Of course, the Colts are tenants that get all the advertising revenue inside and outside the building and 1/2 the revenue from non-football events, while the CIB pays for full-time employees to run the building.
Instead of trying to shame Hoosiers in a lame PR effort to score points while not actually shelling out any of his own money, Jim Irsay might try showing some generosity to Hoosiers by bending on his position against renegotiation of the Lucas Oil Stadium deal. Simply winning on the playing field is not enough. It is time for the Indianapolis Colts to step up and finally become good corporate citizens.
FYI, you'll notice that in the YouTube version of the video they direct you to off of the website, they have shut off comments. The Colts PR folks undoubtedly knew they would have faced a barrage of negative comments about the organization's own lack of generosity and failure to help Hoosiers.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The Star is wrong in its declaration that time is not on the CIB's side and in incorrectly assuming that the lack of a legislative proposal or public announcement, means that there has been no progress toward a CIB "solution." What the editors don't get apparently is that is exactly the strategy being employed. Even when a deal is reached on the CIB, it quite likely won't be publicly announced before the conference committee when it's inserted in the bill. Certainly the proposal will not be introduced in a standing committee where it will be subject to public testimony or even a floor amendment where the sponsoring legislator would have to take heat. Rather the plan was from day one to slip the CIB provision into the biennual budget during a conference committee meeting during the final days of the legislative session. There is not going to be a "frantic" push for a "solution." Rather the time frame the City/CIB is working on to get this done is exactly the one their lobbyists outlined from day one.
The financial challenges facing the Capital Improvement Board, and by default the entire city, don't appear demonstrably closer to resolution now than when the extent of the board's budget deficit was revealed nearly two months ago. And, with the General Assembly scheduled to wrap up its 2009 session in less than six weeks, time is not on the CIB's side.
Before a final, and perhaps frantic, push for a solution begins...
People who know the legislature, know the strategy well. When lobbyists and legislators want to pass something that is highly unpopular, they stick it in a bill like the budget bill during a conference committee meeting during the last days of the session. Conference committees consist of four individuals, two appointed by Senate President Pro Tem and two appointed by the Speaker of the House. The four individuals work out a compromise on a bill that has generally passed both chambers but in a different form. The four sit around a table in an open meeting and discuss the bill. (Don't for a second though think that things like a CIB bailout won't be decided by the conferees in advance of this public meeting.) No public testimony is allowed. Once the bill comes out of conference, the compromise bill (which is called a conference committee report) goes to the floor of the House and Senate for a straight up or down vote. No amendments are allowed on the floor at this stage.. Even if a legislator didn't like the newly-added in CIB provision in the budget bill, the legislator could not offer an amendment to take it out. Again, it's a straight up or down vote on the compromise bill.
If the Indianapolis Star editors believe that legislative leaders would, well in advance of the conference committee, release the result of any CIB backroom deal, they are naive. The timetable the CIB and the City's lobbyists are working on has always been part of their plan. The CIB deal will be sprung on people at the last minute, and shoved down their throats whether they like it or not. You can count on it.
To its credit, the Star recognizes how unfair this would be:
Finally, the legislative process must be open to public scrutiny. So far, the discussions have taken place largely behind the scenes.Yes, the public discourse about the proposed solution should begin now, but it won't. And that is exactly the plan.
Business owners, residents and other interested parties should have the opportunity to be heard before the General Assembly moves forward with legislation. With 40 days before the legislature adjourns, the public discourse needs to begin now.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Abuse of the Public Trust Doesn't Matter to Mayor Ballard; John Clark Gets Unanimous Endorsement from Indianapolis Airport Authority
It should be pointed out that neither Clark or Tobias ever denied any of the published reports about Clark's publicly-funded, jet-setting lifestyle. Nope. Rather the response was that those allegations simply didn't matter...that what Clark did was perfectly okay for someone in his position. Maybe in the world Tobias and Clark occupy, but it does matter to the average person on the street.
Not a single person on the airport board found reason to vote against this character. Unbelievable. Here is a man who is being run out of his Jacksonville job due to his shenanigans being welcomed with open arms here.
There is one person here who should be held responsible more than any other for this appointment and that person is Mayor Greg Ballard. First, he appoints the ethically-challenged Randall Tobias to head up the airport board. Now he looks the other way while Tobias selects someone to be CEO of the airport who clearly has abused the public trust in the past. At any time, Ballard could have came out against Clark and stopped the appointment. Instead, Mayor Ballard did nothing. Once again he has demonstrated he was not serious about the ethics agenda on which he was elected.
In Jacksonville, Clark was faced with public officials who had the backbone to start asking questions about his waste of the public's money on his lavish, jet-setting lifestyle. Clark won't find public officials like that in Indianapolis. Unlike Jacksonville, Indianapolis knew exactly what they were getting in Clark before they decided to hire him and did so, unanimously, anyway. Here, Clark, with no worries about being questioned about his shenanigans, will be like a kid in a candy store. There is no stopping him now.
Anyone who thinks Indianapolis actually made a good choice with Clark should do some googling and find out what the Jacksonville people are saying. They are thrilled he'll be gone and are laughing at Indianapolis for being foolish enough to take him off their hands.
According to Diana:
I think it would be easier to pull the teeth out of an angry bobcat than it would be to collect public records from the Wilson Education Center. I understand that the folks at the WEC might be a little nervous about the public looking over their shoulders since they are key players in the illegal no bid scheme that originated in their office, but they are going to have to release records to the public whether they like it or not. I realize that much of the information that I've collected already makes them look very bad in the eyes of the public, but that's why public access laws are necessary -- to call the mismanagers into account!This appears to be nothing more than a tactic by Mr. Partenheimer to try to avoid the disclosure of how his company has handled public money and whether there was a violation of Indiana's bidding laws. There should be zero tolerance for the attitude displayed in Mr. Partenheimer's letter, which is not at all supported by the law he quotes. If he finds himself in court defending this letter, I don't think he'll find the judge too amused. In the meantime, our elected officials need to start taking a hard look at this company's activities. When someone taking public money doesn't want their activities exposed, that is generally a sign something wrong is going on. It is time for our elected officials to find out. Diana Vice shouldn't be the only ones asking questions about WEC.
Heck, I must really be on to something for them to go to these great lengths to avoid full disclosure of the public records that I have been trying to obtain for many months. They even went so far as to change their public records policy, tailoring it to make it difficult for me to obtain them. In the past, I have paid the postage costs for the WEC to send me records via U.S. mail. Now, they are requiring me to make a six hour round trip to obtain public records. I certainly hope this new policy applies to everyone, otherwise, it would constitute discrimination, and I'm completely familiar with the legal process.
"The Colts, Pacers and the Capital Improvement Board" – Gary Welsh, Attorney at Law and Publisher of Advance Indiana blog
“Government Grants & Public Corruption” – Rev. Solomon, local political activist
"Run Over By the Speedway Redevelopment Commission" - JoEllen Dotlich, SPEED
"Pay to Play Politics" (humorous interlude) – Mark Small, Author and Attorney at Law
"Transparency and Accountability in Government" – Diana Vice, Lafayette-area housewife and publisher of Welcome to My Tea Party blog
"Lobbying and Ethics Reform" – Julia Vaughn, Common Cause
Topic TBA, Jim Premeske, Team Hammond Taxpayers
"Fun and Games in Evansville" – Frankie Neidhammer, President Vanderburgh County Taxpayer Association
"Conflicts of Interest in Government" – Chris Hiatt, Delaware County Taxpayer Association
"How to Get Involved & Make a Difference" – Melyssa Donaghy, publisher of Hoosiers for Fair Taxation blog
"A Call to Action" – Paul Ogden, Attorney at Law, and publisher of Ogden on Politics blog
Thursday, March 19, 2009
In the article, the reporters only provide a tiny fraction of the detail included in the FolioWeekly expose of John D. Clark's jet-setting ways. That article can be found here:
The Star doesn't mention, which I find an even more compelling reason against the selection, Clark's response when people started having questions about his operation of the Jacksonville airport and tried to get information. Clark did his best to ensure what he was doing was kept from the public. That's not exactly the type of public servant I want.
But as has been pointed out, Indianapolis is the perfect environment for Clark to continue his jet-setting lifestyle, financed by the public, without the danger that an elected official will ever question him for it. In Jacksonville, Clark was being challenged by at least a couple members of the city council who questioned his always traveling first class to exotic places around the world and staying in lavish hotels, all on the public dime. Clark also threw lavish parties, again on the public dime.
Randall Tobias, President of the Indianapolis Airport Authority Board, addressed the concerns about Clark by saying: "People try sometimes make things into a big deal. We're just trying to hire a CEO here." Unbelievable. Neither Tobias or Clark challenge any of the facts asserted in the FolioWeekly article. Rather they simply respond to the accusations as no big deal...that what Clark did Jacksonville was nothing out of the ordinary or even wrong. Tobias is clearly giving Clark a green light to resume his jet-setting ways.
Unlike in Jacksonville, here Clark is unlikely to encounter any resistance to his big spending ways. In this city, we've had numerous examples of the abuse of the public trust by members of both parties, and our elected officials, of both parties, consistently looking the other way. The story of John Clark was first exposed by Jen Wagner of EnvisionIndy nearly 10 days ago. Yet has a single elected official in Indianapolis, Republican or Democrat, stepped up and publicly raised concerns over this appointment? Nope. Not a one. That's the Indianapolis way. Unfortunately this city has long been lacking in strong leaders who are willing to challenge the corrupt corporate welfare environment that dominates both local political parties. Clark's appointment is just more evidence of that.
Ogden on Politics: John Clark's Misdeeds Fly Below Indianapolis' Radar (3/13/2009)
Advance Indiana: Tobias Digs His Heels in on Clark (3/19/2009)
Advance Indiana: Tobias Says Clark Thoroughly Vetted (3/13/2009)
Advance Indiana: Ballard's Airport Authority Selects Rogue Jet-Setter to Run Airport (3/10/2009)
Envision Indy: John Clark Speaks (3/19/2009)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
What is themost offensive thing is that it is clear that their strategy is to bypass any public testimony or input on the CIB bailout/Pacers Gift by slipping it into the budget bill in conference committee the last days of the session. The lobbyists and legislators know that the provision would never pass the legislature standing alone.
Curious sight of the day in the Statehouse: Indiana Pacers executives Jim Morris and Greg Schenkel standing outside House Minority Leader Brian Bosma’s office.
There is no bill before the General Assembly addressing the budget shortfall at the Capital Improvement Board but there is lots of talk that lawmakers will seek ways to cover the operating deficits at Conseco Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium before they go home (can you say downtown casino?) There can be no better explanation for Morris and Schenkel to be on the third floor.
For the record, Morris said the purpose of the visit was simply to pay courtesy calls on legislative leaders.
In the editorial Early challenges Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully's criticism of the Capital Improvement Board discussions regarding giving the Pacers $15 million more per year by assuming the annual operating costs for Conseco Fieldhouse. Early talks about the economic impact of conventions and sporting events to the city and notes that the Pacers can't continue losing $30 million dollars a year on the team. He notes that the City would have to pick up the costs of the building if the Pacers left anyway.
While Tully gets a lot of things wrong, he isn't wrong in this dispute. There are a number of things wrong with Early's analysis of the situation. First, why is the CIB simply accepting the Pacers claim they are losing $30 million a year without requiring them to undergo an outside, independent audit? The fact is the Pacers refuse to submit to such an audit and simply want the public to accept their estimates as true, no questions asked. Dutifully, the Pacers do exactly that.
Second, Early talks about the $3 billion impact of sporting events and tourism to the city and state. That's very misleading as it lumps together two distinctly different things - the tourism industry which is profitable to local communities and professional sports which are a poor investment.
Third, Early talks about that if the Pacers leave Indianapolis will still have to pay for the operation of Conseco Fieldhouse. True, but what he fails to note is that the City would reap money off events held at the facility, money that currently goes to the Pacers.
Apparently the decision to give the Pacers $15 million more per year was already made behind closed doors and the public meetings now being held are nothing more than a dog and pony show to convince the public to give more of their tax dollars to the Simon billionaires. Who begins negotiations by announcing the bottom line, what the CIB will agree to do for the Pacers? It is exactly that kind of approach to negotiating that led to the atrociously one-sided CIB-Colts Lucas Oil Stadium deal.
On this one, Tully has it right.
See also: The Pacers, Colts and the Impact of Professional Sports on Local Economies (3/15/2009)
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Three months deep into 2009, taxpayer activists are told that any populist uprising now would be merely an aftershock of the 2007 earthquake. Wrong analogy. What happened in 2007 was World War I. It was called "The Great War" at the time. But what they didn't know then was that a much bigger war, World War II, was just down the road.
I could be wrong. My crystal ball has been cloudy before. But I have never seen this level of populist anger in the electorate. It easily dwarfs that of 2007 and appears to be growing larger every day. Elected officials do not seem concerned, seemingly oblivious to the storm clouds on the horizon. This should be an interesting next couple of elections.
Huh? If Limbaugh is, as some Democrats have claimed, a spokesman for the Republican Party, he's doing a terrible job. Yes, the American public is angry about the bonuses, and rightfully so. Billions of taxpayer money was used to bail out the failing AIG because it was deemed"too big to fail." Then the company then turned around and handed out turn around and hands out $165 million in bonuses. The public is not so stupid that they can't make the connection between their taxpayer dollars bailing out the company and the bonuses being handed out.
But we are told that the bonuses are "contractual obligations" that have to be honored. There is a pending $30 billion dollar bailout installment pending. That's pretty good leverage. Threaten to cut off that installment and let's see how quickly those "contractual obligations" get modified. It will happen. Trust me.
See also: Excessive CEO Pay (9/30/2008)
Monday, March 16, 2009
As part of annual Sunshine Week, teams of journalists and journalism students scanned government web sites in every state to look for 20 types of public records. The results of their study was released on Sunday.
Records that were found not to be on-line in Indiana included political campaign contributions and expenses, disciplinary actions and against physicians and lawyers, and environmental citations/violations.
This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Politics in Indiana and, Indianapolis in particular, is dominated by backroom deals. The public is almost always shut out of the decision-making process. Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh today explores how the Capital Improvement Board kept from the public for nearly ten years that the Board has been operating at a deficit. Unfortunately, the CIB has been allowed to operate in semi-secrecy for years and has never been held accountable by the Indianapolis City-County Council. When council Ed Coleman, tried to get information from the CIB, that any member of the public is legally entitled to get, he was ostracized within his own Republican Party that he felt he had no choice but to leave the GOP.
The greatest check on the abuses of government is that the misdeeds of those in power will be exposed publicly. Those who would abuse the public trust will scatter like the cockroaches if a little light is turned on them. Unfortunately, Indiana's open records law falls far short of doing that. Try sometime to get records that will expose misconduct or legal violations from a government official sometime, and see how difficult it is. Or ask Diana Vice, for example, how easy it was for her to get information from government contractors, such as Tremco. It didn't matter that Tremco was subject to the Open Records law. Tremco actually hired a couple big law firms and filed a SLAPP lawsuit against Vice to try to stop her from asking questions whether Tremco was violating the state bidding law. As a government official or government contractor, if your fearing your activities will be exposed, that's probably because you're doing things you shouldn't be doing.
Previously I proposed that the City of Indianapolis place all city contracts on-line.
A Good Government Proposal for Indianapolis: Require That All City Contracts Be Posted On-Line (11/21/2008)
That is as good a place for the City of Indianapolis to start to bring sunshine to the city/county government. The cost of scanning and uploading the contracts is virtually nothing. The only reason to oppose such a suggestion is that city's contractors would prefer to remain as anonymous as possible, quite likely because they don't want someone to connect the dots between their political contributions to and the contracts they receive.
So Indiana is 49th of 50 states on on-line records, behind only Mississippi. It's time to move up in the rankings.
See also: Legislative Recommendation: Time for the Legislature to Slap Down SLAPP Lawsuits (11/8/2008)
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I picked up my Indianapolis Star, and found the Star's financial columnist John Ketzenberger was making the same argument about the Pacers. In his column he notes that "the sports/convention/tourism activity generates more than $3 billion in revenue each year." Unfortunately the $3 billion figure includes two disparate groups , professional sports teams which generally attracts an audience from Marion County and surrounding counties, and convention and tourism which primarily attracts people from outside the state.
Do the professional sports have a great impact on a local economy? The vast majority of the academic research on the subject says "no." Let's examine a couple of them.
Brad Humphreys, a professor of recreation, sport and tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dennis Coates, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 2004 studied the issue and were not able to uncover a single instance in which the presence of a professional sports team has been linked to a boost in the local economy.
As reported by the News Bureau, a publication of Illinois University:
“Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy,” Humphreys and Coates wrote in a report issued last month by the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. The institute commissioned the professors to study the economic impact of a deal proposed by Anthony Williams, the mayor of Washington, D.C.; under terms of the agreement, the Major Baseball League would move the Montreal Expos to the nation’s capital in exchange for a new, city-built ballpark.
The professors based their report on new data as well as previously published research in which they analyzed economic indicators from 37 major metropolitan areas with major-league baseball, football and basketball teams.
“The net economic impact of professional sports in Washington, D.C., and the 36 other cities that hosted professional sports teams over nearly 30 years, was a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area,” Humphreys and Coates noted in the report.
The researchers found other patterns consistent with the presence of pro sports teams. Among them:
• a statistically significant negative impact on the retail and services sectors of the local economy, including an average net loss of 1,924 jobs;
• an increase in wages in the hotels and other lodgings sector (about $10 per worker year), but a reduction in wages in bars and restaurants (about $162 per worker per year).
The News Bureau article continues with Humphrey's challenge to the flawed statistics used to support professional sports subsidies:
“The wonder is that anyone finds such figures credible,” Humphreys said. “Yet decade after decade, cities throughout the country have struggled to attract or keep professional sports teams, and the idea that a team brings with it large economic gains invariably arises. As it turns out, claims of large tangible economic benefits do not withstand scrutiny.
”That’s because such impact studies often are based on skewed data. For instance, when citing multipliers – the ripple effect that each dollar spent on professional supports is projected to have on the community’s wider economy – impact studies often overstate such contributions and fail to differentiate between net and gross spending.
And, Humphreys added, such studies typically don’t consider what economists call the “substitution effect.”“As sport- and stadium-related activities increase, other spending declines because people substitute spending on sports for other spending,” Humphreys said. “If the stadium simply displaces dollar-for-dollar spending that would have occurred otherwise, there are no net benefits generated.”
In 2008, Economic Professors Robert A. Baade, Victor Matheson and Robert Baumann, reached the same conclusion as Humphreys and Coates. In their lengthy report, they explain why professional sports don't raise the revenue claimed and how supporters play fast and loose with the economic figures supporting taxpayer subsidies:
Even when ex ante studies are done in a carefully considered manner, they suffer from three primary theoretical deficiencies: the substitution effect, crowding out, and leakages. The substitution effect occurs when consumers spend money at a sporting event rather than on other goods and services in the local economy. A local resident who goes to a baseball game is spending money at the game that likely would have been spent at local restaurants, theaters, or retail establishments in the absence of the game. Therefore, the local consumer's spending on a sporting event is not new economic activity; rather, it represents a reshuffling of local spending. For this reason, most economists advocate that spending by local residents be excluded from any economic impact estimates.The economics professors conclude their study:
A second source of bias is "crowding out," which results from the congestion caused by a game that dissuades local citizens from venturing near the playing venue during the game and thereby reduces economic activity.
A third source of bias comes from leakages. While money may be spent in local economies during sporting events, this spending may not wind up in the pockets of local residents. The taxes used to subsidize these events, however, are paid for by local taxpayers. The income multiplier for sporting events is likely to be much lower than for general expenditures as a result of the specialized nature of the service provided. In the NBA, for example, only 29% of players live in the metropolitan area in which their team plays (Siegfried and Zimbalist 2002).
Professional sports leagues, franchises, and civic boosters have used the promise of sports franchises, new stadiums and arenas, and all-star games or league championships as an incentive for host cities to construct new stadiums or arenas at considerable public expense. In the past, league- and industry-sponsored studies have estimated that mega-events such as the Super Bowl and all-star games increase economic activity by hundreds of millions of dollars in host cities.
Similar studies claim that new stadiums or franchises also can have hundreds of millions of dollars of annual local economic impact. Our detailed regression analysis of taxable sales in Florida over the period from 1980 to mid-2005 fails to support these claims. New stadiums, arenas, and franchises, as well as mega-events, appear to be as likely to reduce taxable sales as to increase them. Similarly, strikes and lockouts in professional sports have not systematically reduced local taxable sales. While these results, like any econometric estimates, are subject to some degree of uncertainty, they clearly place doubt on boosters' claims of huge economic windfalls. Cities would be wise to view with caution economic impact estimates provided by sports boosters, who have a clear incentive to inflate these estimates. It would appear that
"padding" is an essential element of many games both on and off the field.
While it can certainly be argued that having a professional sports teams brings with it the positive (usually) intangible benefit of raising the profile of a city, the argument that those teams have such an economic impact on the local community that they deserve hefty public subsidies is simply not at all supported by academic studies. However, locally raising the food and beverage tax and innkeepers tax so that we have some of the highest of such taxes in the country, would do more to hurt tourism and the local economy than if we have to say "goodbye" to the Pacers. Yet that appears to be the unwise direction the CIB is heading in.