Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ballard's Choice for Public Safety Clears Council Committee: My Observations

Yesterday, the Council's Public Safety Committee unanimously endorsed Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's choice for Public Safety Director, Frank Straub. Straub had raised the ire of gun rights supporters for his comments that suggested a lack of support for gun rights.

Having attended the meeting, I have a number of observations. First, the Council continues to disappoint with its continued softball questioning of people who appear before committees. For example, at one point, Councilor Oliver asked Straub the question: "Are you a man of your word?" The other questions were not much more difficult.

Kudos go to Liz Karlson, President of the Republican Liberty Caucus, for standing up for gunowners, a loyal Republican constituency. She presented a passionate, articulate argument, personalizing it with her own experiences. As Indianapolis Republicans teeter toward inevitable disaster in the municipal elections of 2011, she is someone who needs to play a critical role in rebuilding the Republican Party for 2012 moving forward. We reform-minded Republicans can't make the same mistake we did in 2007 - winning the election and then losing the transition to the Old Guard Republican faction whose sole interest is cashing in as much as possible during Ballard's one term, while foregoing any long-term goal of rebuilding a Republican majority in the county.

While I would praise Liz, I can't say the same thing for former councilman Bill Dowden. I admired Dowden when he was on the Council, but last night he did not represent gunowners well. He seemed completely unaware of the lack of support the Ballard administration has displayed regarding gun rights (more on that later) and the positions taken by Frank Straub. Dowden's presentation went on far too long and it was unclear until the very end what position he was taking and even that position was mushy, at best.

IMPD Chief Michael Spears gave about a 30 second endorsement of the Straub nomination. Not sure if the brevity was due to a lack of enthusiasm or simply a recognition that the nomination was already a done deal. Spears though deserves substantial criticism for having IMPD officers pack the room, all wearing dress blue uniforms. (That same strategy was employed during the CIB meetings where workers came wearing their work uniforms.) While some political strategist apparently believes this shows solidarity and support, it comes across as a heavy-handed, overly organized and insincere. As an observer, I would be a lot more inclined to believe those officers actually supported Straub if they showed up in their civilian clothes. While it is true they were going to the Mayor's State of the City speech following the meeting, I have little doubt that they would have worn their uniforms regardless.

Right before my presentation, Public Safety Chairman Ryan Vaughn remarked that he knows Mayor Ballard supports the Second Amendment. Not that Vaughn is particularly concerned about the truth when phony political spin works much better, but he could not be more wrong. Mayor Ballard's administration has taken the position that the City doesn't have to follow the Second Amendment in any gun policy or ordinance it adopts. Mayor Ballard's position saying the Second Amendment is irrelevant to any law not adopted by the federal government is completely contradictory to that of another Republican, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who has argued in legal filings that states and cities need to comply with the Second Amendment.

I would close by again praising Liz Karlson for leading the way on this issue. Were it not for her efforts, the Straub nomination would probably have never been flagged as a problem by gun rights supporters. Although Straub's confirmation is, and always was, almost a certainty, the fact is Karlson, on behalf of gun owners, helped fire a warning shot by gun owners that will pay dividends in the future.


Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, Did you catch the comments Straub made on diversity? If I understood him correctly, he supports methods of hiring that permits discrimination in favor of minority candidates over white candidates as a means of achieving diversity in police and fire departments. To me, those comments were far more controversial than the comments he made about gun control. He obviously doesn't appreciate last year's Ricci decision.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Yes I heard to them. I turned to Liz and asked her if we elected a Republican or Democrat in 2007. I swear if you didn't know who appointed him, you would have thought from just listening to Straub that he was a Democrat.

StillWind said...

I was also there, and Straub did mention Ricci, although I believe referred to it as the Connecticuit case.
Straub was clearly just illustrating his adeptness at "pulling hose".
More importantly, the fact that the entire police and fire entourage exited in the middle of your speech was of little comfort that we are going to be able to depend on those guys to stand up for the rights of citizens.
I too would like to applaud Karlson, and did so in my notes on facebook.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I know Chief Spears claimed they had to leave for the State of the City, but they could have easily exited between speakers and not caused a ruckus. The speakers presentations, including mine, were not to be more than 2 minutes long, after all. I have little doubt Chief Spears orchestrated the timing of the walkout to try to disrupt my presentation.

I take those kind of tactics as a badge of honor though. If what you are saying is seen as irrelevant or unimportant, they don't stoop to tactics like that. It is because they are afraid and worried, that they pull stunts like that. The fact the Chief of Police of the 13th largest city would involve himself in such a stunt shows how worried they are about people standing before a council body and speaking the truth. They're used to softball questions from councilors, not concerned citizens saying the emperor has no clothes.

StillWind said...

ˇThat was the point I made in my note, although I erroneously said that they walked out in the middle of Liz's statement.
Clearly, that was a slap in the face, alomng with the whispers of "gun nuts" that I saw and heard in the crowd.
I was in the back corner, so I could see most of the crowd.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Thanks for this report on the so-called public safety committee hearing. I wonder what an American citizen means, when he calls another citizen, a gun nut. That is a puzzlement!