Sunday, February 28, 2010

Marion County GOP Leadership Continues Effort to Rig At-Large Council Vacancy Election; Includes Update

Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John and his sidekick, Hamilton County resident, David Brooks, are at it again.

First, John decided he would only give the list of precinct committeemen list to Angel Rivera, one of several candidates running in the vacancy election for Council at-large representative. That idea got scuttled when the move was loudly protested.

But Chairman John and Brooks were not finished. Thursday night they held a candidate forum for the at-large candidates with about 100 precinct committeemen attending. Brooks and John would only allow Rivera and Chino Reeves to speak at the forum. None of the other 9 candidates were allowed to address the crowd. That is the first time I have ever heard of forum in which eligible candidates were not allowed to address the PCs at a party function.
Tom John's actions continue to undermine the grass roots of the Marion County GOP, the hard-working men and women who do the grunt work for the party. As a chairman, he expects the absolute right to dictate who the candidates will be and the wishes of the precinct committeemen and the Republican electorate are merely obstacles to his getting what he wants.
As far as Brooks goes, the idea that he continues to serve in a leadership role in the Marion County GOP organization when he doesn't even live in the county, is an insult to every member of the Republican county organization who might otherwise be serving as Area Chairman instead of Brooks.
Enough is enough. Tom John needs to go and David Brooks needs to be given a permanent ticket out of the Marion County GOP. They have inflicted enough damage on my party.
As I understand it, these are the candidates who will be competing on Monday:
Jacqueline Cissell
Gary Conner
Kevin Green
Dorothy Henry
Michael Jezierski
Michael Kalscheur
Avachino Reeves
Angel Rivera
Bruce Schumacher
Eric Smith
Aaron Williams
I have heard from a PC that Dorothy Henry's boss at the Indiana Health Care Association sent out a letter to PCs on IHCA stationary supporting her candidacy. I would very much like to know if that is true and would like a copy of the letter. In a previous post, I explained my strong opposition to Dorothy Henry given her rubber stamp, anti-taxpayer performance while serving on the Capital Improvement Board. If her boss at IHCA is violating IRS rules limiting non-profit corporation's involvement in politics, I'd like to know that. I saw enough of that stuff during the Wishard and school referendums last year. The IRS really needs to reign in these non-profits which are getting away with so much.
UPDATE: Apparently David Brooks is promoting the need for "diversity" in the party in support of his choice for Chino Reeves or Angel Rivera. I know David Brooks very well. He was Pike Township Chairman when I was a ward chairman underneath him. In the 1990s I met with Brooks to discuss with him the need for more diversity in the party. Brooks' response? I'll never forget it - he said said that the Marion County GOP is wasting its time reaching out to African-Americans and other minorities and to simply forget it. Now Hamilton County resident David Brooks is playing the "diversity" card in support of his preferred choice? Has Brooks no shame?

Washington Township School Administration Asks School Board Members to Sign Code of Slience

After blogger Diana Vice recently exposed in a series of posts the illegal Securatex contract the Washington Township School Administration had entered into years ago, the administration immediately took action. Did the story prompt the administration to adopt a new policy to ensure this mistake didn't happen in the future? Nope. The administration adopted a code of silence to try to ensure the mistake would not be exposed in the future.

At the bottom of the page is the "School Board Compact" aka Code of Silence that adminstration is trying to get elected Washington Township School Board members to sign.

Paragraph #1 would violate the open records law. The Superintendent has no power to override state law and impose limits on requests for public records. As far as Paragraph #2, I'd be highly suspicious of what the administration labeled as "confidential." It could be used as a pretext to violate free speech. Paragraph #4 is a direct violation of school board members free speech rights.

Any elected school board member who would sign such a document does not deserve to be in office. I am stunned to read on Diana Vice's blog that four of the five members (not Greg Wright) have agreed to sign the document, including Vice President Don Kite, who is an attorney. Those members should resign their office as it is obvious that they are not putting their constituents first.
As a candidate for the Pike Township School Board, I pledge that should Pike administration officials try to get me to sign such a code of silence like that below, I will gladly tell administration officials where they can stick their document.
MSD Washington Township School Board Compact

The Board incorporates by reference Policy 0144.2 entitled Board Member Ethics. The Board adopts this Board Compact in order to address gaps and ambiguities in current Board Ethics Policy

Individual board member requests for specific documents or information from the Superintendent, whether denominated as a “citizen”, “taxpayer” request or otherwise, shall only be made during regular board meetings. This shall be done so that all board members will understand the rationale behind the request and have the opportunity to agree or disagree with the request. The Superintendent shall comply with the request only if the request is supported by the majority of the board[C1] .

Board members must respect the confidentiality of the executive session. Board members shall not publicly discuss either verbally, in written form, or electronic form about any discussion, confidential documents reviewed or discussed or any decision made in executive session.

Board members in the minority of a split decision will not sabotage the action; individuals on both sides of an issue will respect their Board colleagues. Individual opinions on matters being considered can and should be defended, but once a decision is reached, it should be accepted gracefully and implemented wholeheartedly.

Individual Board members will refrain from independently engaging the media or the public in matters that currently are or may come before the board. The Board reaffirms the notion that the Board speaks only through its President[C2] .

We hereby attest that we have read, understand and agree to adhere to this Compact and that we have reread, understand and agree to abide by Policy 0144.2, entitled Board Members Ethics, in the performance of our duties as members of the MSD Washington Township School Board.

Cheri Harris, President

Don Kite, Vice President

Anthony Dzwonar, Secretary

Wanda Spann Roddy, Member

Greg Wright, Member

Date: ___________________________________

Saturday, February 27, 2010

ICVA President Don Welsh Pushes for State to Enact Smoking Ban; Decides Entire State Should Have to Suffer From His Involvement in Politics

Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association CEO Don Welsh, who annually receives about $400,000 in salary and benefits from Indianapolis taxpayers, apparently for the purpose of fleecing yet more money from taxpayers, has decided that sticking his nose in local politics is not enough...he wants to extend his influence to all areas of the state.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports that Welsh is pushing for the Indiana General Assembly to adopt a state-wide smoking ban:

The smoking-ban debate in this city and state is getting a new spark from a fired-up group of tourism and convention officials.

They’re trying to light a fire under lawmakers, who have been reluctant to approve the kind of comprehensive smoking ban that health—and now tourism—officials say is needed here.

On the state level, the Indiana House on Feb. 24 passed a measure that would ban smoking in all enclosed public places except casinos and horse tracks. Several local tourism officials said they plan to get in the ear of state politicians as the bill progresses through the General Assembly.

A number of cities in the United States and abroad have passed legislation outlawing smoking in all public places, including hotels, restaurants and bars. Welsh said he recently heard from visitors from New York who were disgusted by Indianapolis’ policy.

“When Paris passed their anti-smoking legislation 18 months ago, that set the tone globally,” Welsh said. “It’s what people come to expect, and Indianapolis is being left behind.”

Welsh is far from alone in his concern.

Jeff Sweet, president of the Greater Indianapolis Hotel and Lodging Association and general manager of Hilton Indianapolis Hotel and Suites, said the complaints he hears from visitors about Indiana’s smoking policies are becoming louder and more frequent.

“Our guests, quite frankly, are taken aback by the smoking in our city,” said Sweet, whose hotel is in the process of going completely smoke-free. “There’s no getting around it. It’s starting to affect the city’s image, and not in a good way.”

Dirk Ebener, CEO of Atlanta-based NuernbergMesse North America, which represents more than 100 trade shows globally, said a city’s smoking policy has a major impact on its image. Ebener, who recently conducted a site inspection in Indianapolis, said the smoking in entertainment hot spots here is a definite drawback.

“There are a growing number of conventions in various sectors that definitely prefer a non-smoking city,” Ebener said. “A city’s smoking policy says a lot about it. It speaks to cleanliness of the city, demonstrates the health awareness of the city, and calls attention to its overall progressiveness.”

In 2006, the City-County Council enacted an anti-smoking law, but there are several exemptions, including bars and other establishments that don’t allow anyone under 18 and businesses that don’t employ anyone under 18.

In October, the City-County Council voted against an ordinance that would have strengthened the existing smoking ban to include bars and the vast majority of workplaces. Council members then decided in a 14-13 vote to table the legislation, which means it can return to the council agenda at a future meeting.

Local patrons like Kenneth Fegett still enjoy a smoke at the Front Page and other area bars. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)Mayor Greg Ballard has said he would veto such an ordinance if it reaches his desk.

That stand, Welsh said, is endangering a critical sector of convention business the ICVA is trying to develop.

“Many in the life sciences, bio and medical fields are vehemently against smoking in
public places,” Welsh said. “I’m not sure it’s always a show stopper, but it’s certainly an unnecessary worry and concern that we shouldn’t have.”

Medical and life sciences conventions and corporate meetings are key to the city’s plan to grow downtown and its convention business, Sweet said.

“Bio and life sciences is a premium-rated business,” he said. “There’s a huge benefit to getting a foot in the door with that industry. Since that sector is growing rapidly, now is a critical time for this city to put its best foot forward with those organizations.”

Sweet said the current policy hurts the city’s otherwise pristine reputation among convention-goers.

“In order to be perceived as being a more progressive city, we have to have a smoking ban,” he said.

The city’s rapidly growing tourism and convention business means there’s plenty at stake.

A 2006 study by Washington, D.C.-based industry analyst D.K. Shifflet and Associates showed the city’s annual visitor spending hitting $3.6 billion.

Life sciences currently generates 4 percent of Indianapolis’ convention and visitor business, but within a few years, Welsh said, it could account for 20 percent. Sports is the city’s largest convention and visitor moneymaker, he said, making up 24 percent of the pie.

While the money spent on life sciences and medical conventions is considerable, it’s just part of the benefit. ICVA and its partners in the endeavor to grow that sector hope exposure from the medical and bio gatherings gives the region further gravitas as a life sciences hub. That, BioCrossroads President David Johnson said, will help build the credibility of companies located here.

“If we could make Indianapolis ground zero for these types of meetings, that would be a tremendous way to show the strengths of this community in a way others in the industry don’t normally think of,” said Johnson, whose organization heads economic development for Indiana’s life sciences initiative.

Not everyone in the local convention and tourism sector favors strengthening the city’s anti-smoking law. John Livengood, president of the Indiana Restaurant & Hospitality Association, said there’s an intense divide among members of his organization.

While some agree with Welsh and Sweet that Indianapolis’ smoking laws are scaring off certain visitors, he said others fear an all-out smoking ban will hurt the city with
other patrons.

“There’s only one policy that works for everyone,” Livengood said. “To have no policy and let each company decide for itself. It’s a free enterprise issue.”

Waiting for local businesses to conclude that smoking must be banned, Welsh said, could have detrimental consequences.

“I understand civil liberties, but there’s enough medical documentation to know smoke—firsthand or secondhand—is bad for you,” Welsh said. “Our current policy makes this city look not very progressive.”•

Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association CEO Don Welsh and other area tourism and convention officials say Indianapolis officials’ unwillingness to strengthen anti-smoking legislation is imperiling the city’s growing tourism trade.

“In many cases, the ordinances have been driven politically or solely due to the desires of local citizens,” Welsh said. “While I understand that, the desires of visitors who spend billions of dollars in our community every year have not been considered.”

Once again the siren of economic development is used as a pretext for passing a law. (How is that adopting DST will bring business to the state working out?) Last year Welsh was arguing for the City-County Council to vote to give Indianapolis the highest combined sales/hotel tax in the country...for the purpose of helping the hotel industry and, of course, giving his group more money so they can hire more six figure salesmen. (Since when are salesmen paid salaries instead of having those salaries based on performance, i.e. commissions?)
Many Indianapolis residents have this weird inferiority complex, a belief that the City is "backwards" or not "progressive." People like Welsh learn to exploit that complex when arguing for more money from taxpayers or Big Brother laws such as those that tell private businesses they can't allow smoking on their private property. It's unfortunate that we can't trade Welsh back to Seattle from which he came. I'm pretty sure though Seattle wouldn't want him back though.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Update on Traffic Court Bill

The Indiana House last night voted 98-0 to clamp down on moving violation fines being imposed by Marion County Traffic Court and other traffic courts in the state.

Senate Bill 399 had previously passed the Senate 45-5. Because there was an amendment made in the House Committee that heard the bill, the Senate will have to agree to the change or it will go to the conference committee to resolve the differences.

Kudos to our legislature for addressing forcefully what is going on in the Marion County Traffic Court. I only wish our local elected officials had not completely ignored the situation for fear of stepping on political toes.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mayor Ballard Refers to Gun Owners' Rights As "Distraction": Update: President Obama More Pro-Gun Rights Than Mayor Ballard

Last night at the Pike Township GOP Club meeting, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard referred to certain issues being "distractions" to his agenda.
Make no doubt about it, his comments were aimed directly at those of us who support gun rights, including the proposal by Libertarian Councilor Ed Coleman to allow people to carry guns into city parks, just like they are allowed to do in national and state parks.
Yep, the Mayor said your Second Amendment rights are a mere "distraction" to his agenda which, by the way, apparently consists of handing out corporate welfare, insider deals, tax/fee increases and jetting around the globe on taxpayer-funded junkets.
Will someone tell me what we Republicans won on November 6, 2007?
Update: Councilor Ed Coleman's bill was tabled tonight by a majority of Republicans, supposedly because the bill needed work. It is difficult to understand what possible amendments need to be made to such a simple concept that the city law on guns in parks should match what is done at the state and federal level.
A gun rights supporter today pointed out that President Barack Obama signed the guns in national park legislation. True it was attached to the credit card reform legislation, but President Obama could have insisted Congress split the bill up under threat of veto. Unlike Mayor Ballard though, President Obama didn't threaten a veto when faced with a gun rights measure. President Obama signed the bill into law. Why do we have a Republican Mayor who is more hostile to gun owners rights than President Obama?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why This Pike Township Republican Won't Be Supporting Dorothy Henry for Council

Tonight when I attended a Pike Township Republican meeting, I was reminded of a meeting a couple years ago where party leaders were speaking about supporting a certain judge. We committeemen were assured the legal community viewed him/her as an outstanding jurist. As an attorney, I knew that, contrary to the claim, the judge was viewed by attorneys as one of the worst on the bench and, in fact, attorneys regularly took a change of judge when a case unfortunately landed in the judge's court. Finally, I couldn't take the praise any longer, and offered a mild reality check based on my knowledge of the judge's poor performance.

During the tonight's meeting the issue of who the Pike precinct committeemen should support for the at-large vacancy on the Indianapolis City-County Council came up. It was strongly urged that Pike support the township's very own Dorothy Henry. It was pointed out that Henry served on the Capital Improvement Board trying to clean up the mess of the previous Mayor and she is opposed to tax increases.
When I started this blog, I decided I was going to be, as a law school classmate of mine used to say, "brutally frank." In light of that committment, I could not long bite my tongue on the suggestion that Pike Republicans support Dorothy Henry.
Actions speak louder than words. Contrary to the claim that Henry is against tax increases, she in fact last year participated in neighborhood meetings in which she promoted the CIB tax increases. While on the CIB she never once spoke out against giving the Pacers $15 million more per year of OUR money to run Conseco Fieldhouse, even though the Pacers contract gives the team no leverage to demand that money from taxpayers. Henry also did not speak out against giving the ICVA millions more of our tax money nor did she demand accountability from the ICVA despite the fact the organization is flush with six figure salaries. Not once did Henry suggest the horribly mismanaged CIB needed to change how it did business before we give the Board millions more of our tax dollars.
In all the CIB meetings I watched, I never once saw Henry ask a tough question. Her job seemed to be to rubber stamp whatever then CIB President Bob Grand wanted done and she never failed in that job.
Republicans desperately need fewer followers on the Council and more leaders. We need councilors who will exercise independent judgment and ask difficult questions. We need councilors who will put taxpayers and not party bosses and insiders first. Henry completely failed to stand up for the taxpayers and conservative Republican values while on the CIB. She was a rubber stamp for the insider corporate welfare measures and tax increases that City and CIB's leadership wanted. There is no reason to believe that Henry will suddenly become an independent-minded, conservative friend of the taxpayers on the Council. Her track record on the CIB strongly suggests otherwise.
I realize that honesty about a popular fellow Pike Township Republican won't be appreciated by many Pike Republicans. So be it. Henry clearly is not the right person for the Council and the fact she lives in my township does not change that fact.

Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John Throws Fit Over McAtee Candidacy, Insists Insiders Should Pick GOP Candidates

The act is getting old. First, Tom John apparently tried to rig the result of the at-large vacancy election by only giving one candidate the precinct committeemen list. Now he has this reaction to Bart McAtee's announcement that he intends to run in the primary against the slated candidate Dennis Fishburn:
“I am disappointed in Bart McAtee’s decision to disregard the votes of his fellow Republican activists at our slating convention and remain in the race for Marion County Sheriff. It is a selfish decision, but one that fits perfectly with the culture of cronyism and nepotism that has plagued the Sheriff’s department for years.

“I am sure that Dennis Fishburn will prevail in the primary because he represents a culture of achievement and integrity that stands in direct opposition to the political entanglements and back room dealings that are represented by Mr. McAtee. Dennis Fishburn feels that he owes the citizens of Marion County, not that Marion County owes him. We are 100% behind Dennis Fishburn.”
The notion that Tom John is standing up for the average Marion County Republican worker is quite amusiing. The bottom line is that John does not want the Republican party workers or the GOP electorate picking nominees. He wants those candidates selected by Republican insiders like himself and Hamilton County resident David Brooks, who inexplicably is still part of the Marion County GOP leadership despite his move out of the county a few years ago. The way insiders control the nomination process is through slating which gives the appearance party workers are exercising their informed choice when in reality, most of the people voting at the slating conventions are appointees of Chairman John, many of whom are "mummy dummies," people appointed for the sole purpose of attending slatings and voting the "right" way, i.e. the way the insiders want them to vote. In short, those "mummy dummy" PCs and ward chairmen are simply there to offset the votes of the regular PCs who do the grunt work in the party.

There is a reason why "slating" is not used virtually anywhere else in the United States. It undermines the nomination process by often eliminating a stronger campaigner and better general election candidate in favor of those who can better curry insider favor.

On paper, slating has merit. The idea is that actual party workers make an informed choice on who they want to support going into the May primary. The heavy-handed, leadership- dominated way slating is practiced though differs greatly from slating as it is sold to the Republican workers.

Is there a way slating can be fixed? Possibly. The county party could eliminate the ward chairman vote (who are all appointed by the county chairman) and adopt a rule that only elected PCs or those who have been appointed and have served a year in office and have worked an election, have the right to vote at slatings. That would virtually eliminate the mummy-dummy PCs that county chairmen employ to try to offset the vote of actual PCs who don't want the chairman's vote.

Would GOP Chairman Tom John support an elimination of the mummy-dummy PCs he and other insiders use to try to control slatings? Would the Chairman allow this common sense rule change that would strengthen the power of Republican grass roots workers in the organization at the expense of the insiders who seek to rig slating results? Let's just say, I won't hold my breath.

Mayor Ballard Spells Leader?

It's a very well made piece, but to be effective advertising should build on a pre-existing belief. Indianapolis Mayor Ballard has spent two years demonstrating beyond doubt that he is not a strong leader. No matter how much money Mayor Ballard pumps into advertising, that perception is not going to change. And when it comes to the Democrats' spots, they will tear him to shreds on the Mayor's numerous tax/fee increase proposals, the Mayor's overseas junkets and a string of broken campaign promises. The best thing Mayor Ballard can do for the Marion County GOP is to announce he won't run for another term.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard's Administration Continues Assault on Legal Gun Owners; Demands that Owner of Wrongly Destroyed Guns Compensate the City

Mayor Greg Ballard's administration continues its unrelenting assault on lawful gun owners. Believe it or not, my office just received notice that the City is demanding that my client reimburse the City for "costs" it had in defending the Grady Scott gun matter.

Let's recap the facts of the case. The Indianapolis Police Department (prior to the IMPD coming into existence) came into Mr. Scott's house, tore the house up and seized two guns Mr. Scott legally possessed. It was later discovered that officers realized they had the wrong address on the search warrant. But IPD refused to return Mr. Scott's guns, instead demanding that Mr. Scott first undergo fingerprint testing. Scott refused pointing out quite correctly that fingerprinting wasn't an original requirement of his possession. (Nonetheless, he had already been fingerprinted when he bought the guns.)

Even though notified of Mr. Scott's intention to file a lawsuit, the City went ahead and destroyed his guns anyway, a fact the City failed to disclose until a lawsuit had been filed. Late last year the Federal District Court dismissed Mr. Scott's lawsuit on the basis that the 2nd Amendment had not yet been applied to the City and it was too late to amend the complaint to include a due process claim. (In its filings, the City had completely misrepresented to the Court that Scott had not made a due process claim.) Mr. Scott has asked for reconsideration by the court on the basis that in fact the Complaint had already contained a due process claim, and that the mislabeling of that claim was not a basis for dismissal.

Today the City filed a "Bill of Costs" demanding that Mr. Scott fork over $854.17 for expenses associated with Scott's efforts to get his legally-owned guns back that were wrongly destroyed by the City. Unbelievable. Is there any limit this administration has when it comes to its hostility to legal gun owners?

Blogger and School Board Member Outs Securatex Contract With Washington Township Schools

If you ever wonder why it is important to have independent people on the school board, people who will ask hard questions and not simply rubber-stamp administration decisions, one needs only to read Diana Vice's blog this morning where she uncovers some surprising things regarding the contract the Washington Township Schools has with Securatex, a politically-connected outfit run locally by former Sheriff Jack Cottey. I post it in full:
Recent inquiries regarding Washington Township School District's exclusive and high-priced contract with Securatex are raising a few eyebrows and more than a few questions with taxpayers.

According to inside sources, Securatex has been providing security services for the school district for the the past several years even though the contract has not been re-negotiated for at least seven years.

This shocking revelation is not sitting well with taxpayers since the school district reportedly paid out $900,000 last year to the security corporation, which runs the MSD Washington Township School Police.

Based on an anonymous tip, MSDWT School Board Member Greg Wright made a public inquiry into the matter and asked to see a copy of the school's Securatex contract. The administration subsequently supplied copies of the contract to the board; however, according to Wright, the anonymous source told him that school officials did not have a copy of the contract on file and received it from the vendor after an inquiry had been made.

A copy of the contract in question has been requested via the Public Information Act and will be posted to this site upon its receipt.

Superintendent Jim Mervilde told board members that he would issue a Request for Proposal within the next 60 days, but many are questioning why this wasn't done before questions were raised.

Interestingly, the link for MSDWT's school police page has been turned off.

In addition to the allegations of poor record keeping, many are left wondering why such a high contract item was not put out for public bid over the years, including competitors of Securatex, one of which reportedly claims the security services could be contracted for much less than what the school district is currently paying. Taxpayers also raised the issue that local companies are being shut out of the competition in favor of the politically-connected Securatex.

Perhaps this is an issue that the State Board of Accounts should look into.

When asked about the fact that the security contract was not put out for public bid, taxpayers were reportedly told that school officials had a good relationship with Securatex management.

Well, pardon me, but this is the people's money, and they should be getting the best bang for their buck, not enriching friends and business associates of school bosses. All Indiana security corporations should be considered when contracts of this magnitude are negotiated.

What is known about Securatex? According to information received from the Secretary of State website, it is a for-profit foreign corporation based in Illinois. The
Business Service Advisor listed for Securatex is former Marion County Sheriff Jack Cottey.

As a side note, here is a link to March, 2007 Advisory Minutes for the Marion County Community Corrections Department, which reports that Securatex was approved for a multi-million dollar contract for the department even though it was not the low bidder. More than one of the board members listed have been linked to a corruption investigation involving Tim Durham, who has also reportedly hired the firm to provide security for lavish parties that he has hosted.

Sources say that more shocking details about this situation will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead as members of the local media have reportedly been asking questions about the controversy.

In the meantime, I'd say Jim Mervilde and Company might have some explaining to do.
People like Washington Township School Board Member Greg Wright and Blogger Diana Vice do a great service to this community. We owe them our thanks for bringing this matter to light. My guess though is that this is not the last time we are going to hear the name "Securatex" revealed in some expose of government improprieties.

Mayor Ballard Replaces Chief of Police; Will New Chief Show More Respect for the Constitution?

News out of the 25th Floor yesterday is that the Mayor has appointed Northwest Commander Paul Ciesielski to replace Michael Spears as Chief of Police.
While I am not sure about Ciesielski's approach to law enforcement, he has to be an improvement over Chief Michael Spears. Chief Spears seemed to have a disdain for "trivial things" like constitutional rights.
During Spears' tenure, I have witnessed numerous cases in which officers said that they were under a standing order from Chief Spears to do "inventory searches" of vehicles. Some explanation is in order. The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures, often requiring a warrant for that search. There is an exception to that rule that allows officers to conduct an "inventory search" of vehicles that are going to be impounded. The idea is that the officer should be able to to go through the vehicle and document what is in it just in case he or she is later accused of stealing something from the vehicle. Inventory searches are limited. The classic example is a locked box in the truck can only be listed as a locked box. It can't be opened.
What IMPD officers have been doing under Spears' direction is when a person is pulled over for a minor offense, but the officer suspects the person might have drugs, the officer will announce he will have to impound the car and will do an inventory search. I have seen several occasions when those officers doing the inventory do not even bother to make a list of what is in the car, which is the whole purpose of the inventory search. Rather they are using the inventory search as a pretext to get around that pesky Constitution. If at the end of the search, if the officer can't find evidence of a crime, he or she will let the driver go.
Is the practice unconstitutional? You betcha. But Chief Spears knows perfectly well he can get away with it for years until somewhere down the road a court appeals to the Indiana Court of Appeals to put a stop to IMPD's bogus inventory searches he uses to circumvent the Constitution. Someone with the level of arrogance and disdain for the Constitution Spears has displayed should not be in a leadership position. Good riddance Chief Spears.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Asking the Impolite Question: GOP Sheriff Candidate Dennis Fishburn Needs to Be Asked How Much He Was Paid by Wishard Campaign

I was told that the question everyone wants to ask hasn't been asked because of sensitivity to the shooting of his son, Jason. I'll bite though. That question is how much Dennis Fishburn's was paid to act as spokesman for the Wishard campaign.

Perhaps the answer is $0. However, since it appears the Marion County Election Board is going to allow the Wishard PAC to conceal $850,000 or so in campaign expenditures by using a PR firm, Hirons & Associates (which employs the Mayor's son) to pay its campaign bills, Fishburn should be answering the question how much he was paid for his role in the campaign.

I still haven't decided who I will support - Fishburn or Bart McAtee should he decide to run against the slate. Certainly McAtee's association with Sheriff Frank Anderson's administration is more than a little troubling. But Fishburn's affiliation with the very dishonest election campaign put on by the Wishard folks last Fall makes me wonder about his integrity. Fishburn made no effort to distance himself from the efforts by Wishard supporters to mislead voters in the wording of the referendum or in public statements that the Wishard folks were not intested in raising taxes. The only reason the referendum was needed was that the Wishard supporters wanted the ability to pay for the new hospital by raising property taxes, above the property tax cap no less, when the inevitable times comes that their little nursing home Medicaid scam be derailed by the feds in the future. When Wishard comes calling for our property taxes to be raised, Fishburn deserves some of the blame for his role in misleading Marion County voters about the referendum.

In the meantime, Fishburn needs to public tell voters how much he was paid to be spokesman for the Wishard campaign.

Star's Matthew Tully Praises Mayor Ballard for Threatening Veto of "Goofball" Guns in Parks Proposal, Gets Both the Politics and Policy Wrong

This morning, Indianapolis Star columnist pens a column which he uses in part to praise Mayor Ballard's threatened veto of Libertarian Ed Coleman's proposal to allow those with gun permits to carry them into city parks:

"It started a few weeks ago when a goofball proposal to allow guns in Indianapolis parks found its way onto the City-County Council's agenda. Yes, that's what our parks are missing: firearms. I have that thought every time I go or a stroll or bike ride on the Monon Trail.

Ed Coleman, a former Republican councilman who switched parties and is now a Libertarian, apparently thinks the people of Marion County are clamoring for guns in parks. Initially, it appeared at least a few council Republicans would support the idea.

That was until Mayor Greg Ballard stepped in and made clear he would veto such an ordinance. Since then, he has taken heat from gun advocates. But support for the idea has diminished because Ballard made a smart, quick decision."

A "smart, quick decision?" It was far and away the dumbest political decision Mayor Ballard has made in office and that it saying something as there are so many bad political decisions to choose from. In one rash move, the Mayor forever alienated gun rights supporters. Those of us who have dealt with the Ballard administration know the Mayor has a substantial track record of opposing gun rights and has even taken the position in court that the City doesn't have to follow the Second Amendment, a position directly opposite that of Attorney General Greg Zoeller. But, until the Mayor's flippant and poorly thought-out response to the Coleman proposal, he could have at least continued the pretense of supporting gun rights into the next election. That now is forever over.
I'm not sure if Tully was merely judging the Ballard veto threat by what he thinks is good policy or good politics, which are not always the same thing. I'll address the former in a second. If it is the latter, Tully grossly misunderstands the politics of the Ballard gun veto threat. It doesn't matter if 80% of the electorate is for a ban on guns in city parks. The fact is that 80% won't vote for Ballard on that issue. The 20% on the other side though will. To them it is a "voting issue."
What is even worse for Ballard is that 20% comes from the heart of the Republican base, people who almost certainly would have otherwise voted for him. Ballard has already alienated Republicans through his continued support of corporate welfare measures, insider deals, and limitless tax/fee increases. He cannot afford to lose a single Republican voter come November 2011. Right now though, just a name on the ballot against Ballard in the Republican Primary, without that person spending a dime, would garner 30% of the vote just because of the anger and betrayal Republicans feel toward the Mayor. Mayor Ballard has zero chance to win re-election having alienated so many Republicans. What Republican-leaning group is the poorly-advised Mayor going to target next?
As far as Tully's claim that that it is a "goofball proposal" to allow guns in parks, he fails to explain why we should have a different law with respect to guns in city parks than we do in national and state parks. Parks are not closed environments like the City-County Building or an airport where everyone is searched for guns and other weapons. The only thing enforcing the current gun ban in city parks is the honor system. Why does Tully believe that someone who is already inclined to break the law and commit a crime, will follow the honor system and be deterred by a sign saying it is against the law to have a gun in a city park? All the current law does now is strip law-abiding individuals of their guns when going into city parks.
During the warmer months, I ride my bike to work utilizing about 4 1/2 miles of the White River Trail. The trail can be accessed anywhere by anyone without limit and you can ride for miles without seeing anyone. There is nothing to stop someone from jumping out from behind a bush and robbing me from virtually anywhere on that 4 1/2 miles. Would I carry a gun on my bike to defend myself? Probably not. But the last thing I want to do is publicize the fact that I will be unarmed if I am accosted. That is exactly what the current law does.
I enjoy reading Tully's column as he brings an interesting perspective to the newspaper. That is not to say he isn't often wrong. On this issue though he is dead wrong on both the politics and policy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Marion County Election Board Okays Campaigns Using Third Parties to Pay Bills and Conceal Expenditures, Allows Wishard to Hide Nearly $1 Million Spent

Apparently, unbenkownst to me, Patty Hebenstreit, the Treasurer of the Citizen's for Wishard campaign filed an answer to my complaint that Citizens for Wishard had used a third party vendor, the PR firm, Hirons and Associate, to pay campaign bills and thus conceal the true receipient of $845,187.59 paid by C4W to Hirons. Ms. Hebenstreit, who is an attorney, never bothered to send me her response, even though that is standard practice for attorneys and one might say an ethical requirement of practicing law. Of course, neither did the Election Board, which didn't give me a chance to file a reply to the response. Not that there was much to respond to. Here is Ms. Hebenstreit's response:
Dear Mr. Sullivan,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to questioins regarding the reports of receipts and expenditures filed by Citizens for Wishard. Having received yourinquiry, I reviewed the reports of receipts and expenditures as originally filed by Citizens for Wishard and the law regarding campaign election reports. All orginal filings by Citizens for Wishard were timely, accurate, complete and in full compliance with the law. If you have any additional questions, please let me know.

Patty Hebenstreit
Former Treasurer
Citizens for Wishard (Dissolved 1-19-2010)
Ms. Hebenstreit did not even bother to sign the copy forwarded to me by the Election Board. Yet in a 2 1/2 page letter I received today from Laurel Judkins, Director of Elections, Marion County Election Board, this explanation was deemed sufficient. According to Ms. Judkins, it is perfectly okay for a campaign to use a third party to pay its bills and that only the "direct" payment to the third party need be reported.

Here is the response I will be hand-delivering on Monday:

February 22, 2010

Laurel Judkins
Director of Elections
Marion County Election Board
200 E. Washington Street, Suite W-144
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Re: Complaint Against Citizen for Wishard Political Action Committee

Dear Ms. Judkins:

I am in receipt of your February 18, 2010 letter dismissing my complaint.

First, I would point out that your office never forwarded Citizen for Wishard’s (C4W) response to my original complaint until you provided it with this decision. Having worked at a state agency that took public complaints and processed them, I can report that the best practice is for the agency to provide the original Complainant with the response and allow him or her to provide a reply to that response. That allows the Complainant to address any factual or legal misstatements in the response. Your office failed to afford me that opportunity leaving me completely unaware of Wishard’s response.

Second, I am not sure how the Board has already ruled on my complaint when the Board has not even met since I filed it. There needs to be a vote by the Election Board on my complaint at a public meeting. (I would point out that any administrative appeal would require final, formal Board action to take that appeal). The notion that a complaint can just be summarily dismissed (without any sort of investigation on your part) or without even so much as a vote by the Election Board, is to render the complaint process meaningless.

Finally, I find your interpretation the campaign statutes to be off-base, to say the least. The first step in statutory interpretation is to determine legislative intent. The second step is to effectuate that legislative intent in your interpretation and application of the law. Bushong v. Williamson, 790 N.E. 2d 467, 471 (Ind. 2003); Indiana Family and Social Services Administration v. Pickett, 903 N.E. 2d 171, 176 (Ind. App. 2009). Your letter makes no effort whatsoever to ascertain legislative intent or to effectuate it.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in Shrenger v. Caesers Indiana, 825 N.E. 2d 879, 881 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), trans. denied, explains the concept well:

When interpreting statutes, our foremost objective is to determine and effect legislative intent. Statutes must be construed to give effect to legislative intent, and we must give deference to such intent whenever possible. We consider the goals of the statute and the reasons and policy underlying its enactment. We examine and interpret a statute as a whole, giving words their common and ordinary meaning and do not overemphasize a strict, literal, or selective reading of individual words. We take words and phrases in their plan, ordinary, and usual meaning unless a different purpose is manifested by the statute. Every word must be given effect and meaning where possible and no part is to be held meaningless if it can be reconciled with the rest of the statute. We ascertain the meaning and intention of the legislature not only from the phraseology of the statute but also consider its nature, design, and the consequences which flow from the reasonable alternative interpretations of the statute.
What is the legislative intent in requiring that a campaign report expenditures? The obvious legislative intent is that the Indiana General Assembly wants public disclosure of who is actually receiving campaign money. When a campaign uses a third party vendor to pay campaign bills, as Wishard clearly did, it undermines the legislature’s intent in passing the campaign expenditure law.

Additionally, your opinion is not only in violation of the obvious legislative intent in passing the law, it is in violation of the express language of IC 3-9-5-14(b) which states:
(b) The report of each committee's treasurer must disclose the following:

(8) The full name, mailing address, occupation, and principal place of business, if any, of each person other than a committee to whom an expenditure was made by the committee or on behalf of the committee.
Contrary to your claim, that provision is not limited to in-kind expenditures. It also covers the situation where a third party is paying bills on behalf of a campaign committee. Under that section, C4W has a duty to report who is really receiving the campaign expenditures it is making. With regard to the C4W report, we are not talking a few thousand dollars. We are talking $845,187.59 in campaign expenditures that C4W has shielded from public scrutiny by using its PR firm to pay its campaign bills. It is clear from your letter that your office did no investigation whatsoever to determine the nature of the nearly one million dollar in expenses listed as going to Hirons on the report.

I will expect the Board to consider my complaint at a public meeting and to vote on it. In the meantime, I would urge the Board to reconsider its decision to condone a campaign practice that would allow candidates and political action committees to conceal campaign expenditures by using a third party to pay campaign bills.


Paul K. Ogden

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Wild Northwest: Thirteen Pike Township School Board Candidates Set to Do Battle

It is good to see so many Pike residents interested in running for school board. Thirteen candidates have filed for three at large positions. There is one incumbent, John E. Brown, running for re-election. He is President of the Board. I am of course running as well as Allison Maguire, the wife of Libertarian Marion County Chairman Tim Maguire. We are running together as a team which will emphasis fiscal responsibility and accountability, and that the Board should not act as a rubber-stamp for whatever the Pike administration wants to do.

My guess is that candidate "Regina Randolph" is the wife of former Indianapolis City-County Councilor Isaac Randolph who lives in Pike. I have a call in to Ike to try to confirm that. Other than that, I'm not sure I know any of the other names.

The thirteen in the order of filing is as follows:

Tammy D. Moon
Paul K. Ogden
John E. Brown
Brownell Payne
Allison Maguire
Yvette R. White
Wanda A. Thomas
Eric Huffine
Thomas Allen Haynes
David S. Copher
George E. Crooks
Regina Randolph
Carl Z. Liggins, Sr.

Surprises from the Marion County Clerk's Candidate List

I ran across a couple surprises from the Marion County Clerk's candidate list.

Roy Houchins, the Perry Township constable who is under federal investigation for influence peddling, has filed for re-election. He will have two opponents: Kevin Bandy and David Taylor.

In 2000, I won the Republican nomination for House District 94 on the northwest side against Shane Brinkman, the son of former State Treasurer Joyce Brinkman, who had also been a Republican state representative from the northwest side of Indianapolis. Shane, who is a union leader with AFSCME, apparently switched parties at some point. He is running to be elected Democratic precinct committeeman in Pike 25. Although Shane would probably prefer not to have my endorsement, let me just say Shane is a good guy. Hopefully he can straighten out the local Democrats.

Evan Bayh Has "Charisma?"

Russ Pulliam, columnist for the Indianapolis Star, today became the first member of the media to ever utter the name "Evan Bayh" and "charisma" in the same sentence.

I about fell out of my chair reading Pulliam's column this morning. Bayh undoubtedly has a lot of positives as a political candidate, but "charisma" is not one of them. In fact, political pundits have often pointed to Bayh's lack of charisma as what has held him back on the national stage.
When snooze-fest candidates like Al Gore and Joe Biden spark more excitement among their followers than Bayh, there is a definite charisma deficit. Charisma might not be that important to winning an Indiana Governor or Senate race, but it is critical to winning the Presidency.

No, "charisma" and Evan Bayh do not go together.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ed Coleman's One Year "Libertarian" Party; Marion County Libertarians Provide Loyal Opposition to Big Government While Republicans Sit On Sidelines

It was just a year ago yesterday that at-large Republican Indianapolis City-County Councilor Ed Coleman announced he was leaving the Republican Party to join the Libertarians. I attended the poorly-attended press conference that day. Although capturing a Republican seat on the council of the 13th largest city in the United States was a major victory for the Libertarians, the media didn't seem to notice.
That turned out to be the low point of Coleman's first year as a Libertarian. Well, actually the low point might have been the Republican's foolish decision a few days later to strip him of committee assignments and alienate him from his former party. At the time, I chided the Republican leadership for an inability to do basic Math. Only one more Republican had to defect and the Democrats and the disaffected Republicans could control the council. Republicans needed every vote they could get on issue and turning their back on Coleman was stupid political strategy.

While the Coleman announcement fell flat, the following months into Coleman's tenure offered opportunities for the Marion County Libertarian Party to make news as the loyal opposition to big government, a position that the Republicans had abdicated in favor of supporting Mayor Greg Ballard who, post-election, fell in love with corporate welfare and tax increases. Libertarians like Marion County Chairman Timothy Maguire skillfully used the media to make the case for less government. The media which is always looking for conflict, took the Libertarians up on their efforts to fill in for the MIA Council Republicans who were too busy defending the Mayor's big government ideas to notice that the Libertarians were stealing their philosophical souls.

Libertarians pointed out the unenforceability of the pan handling ordinance and how, as written, it could be used to go after political speech. Republicans ignored the problems with the ordinance and lock-step voted for it. Then you had the Libertarian Party's opposition to the comprehensive smoking ban proposal, which nanny-state measure was unbelievably introduced by a Republican, Councilor Ben Hunter. If there was ever an issue that cried out for conservative, pro-liberty political opposition it was a proposal that government tell private business owners they can't allow smoking in their places of business. While many Republicans opposed the ban, especially when extended to places like bars which are only patronized by adults, few were willing to speak out against it.

Then you had the most recent flareup on the Council. Libertarian Coleman introduced a measure to allowing guns to be taken into city parks, just as guns are allowed into state and national parks. Mayor Ballard blew a gasket and immediately threatened a veto. With one stroke, Coleman had successfully made known to Indianapolis what those of us who have dealt with the Mayor's Office on gun issues have known for some time - Mayor Ballard treats the Second Amendment like he does a door mat. He wipes his feet on it.

Again, while many Republican councilors behind the scenes laud Coleman for being right on the gun issue and quietly express support, few are willing to make the case forcefully that the Mayor is wrong and Coleman is right. Once more,Republicans cede the conservative philosophical turf to the Libertarians.

In addition to the aforementioned issues that have played themselves out on the front page of the newspaper and on the evening news, Coleman has also introduced successful measures putting city contracts on-line and providing spaces for motorcycle parking downtown. It's been a good year for Coleman and the Libertarians.

Can Maguire and Coleman turn this new-found media attention on the Libertarian Party into votes? That will be an extraordinarily steep mountain to climb. Election results indicate that voters still see politics through a two party lens. They don't punish Republicans who betray their philosophical roots by electing Libertarians. Voters punish Republicans by electing Democrats, even if many times that is a result of angry Republican voters casting a ballot for Libertarian candidates as a protest vote and thus giving the Democrat candidate a plurality of the vote.

We shall see what the next year brings Ed Coleman and the Marion County Libertarian Party. Although armed with only a fraction of the vote, Libertarians have drawn considerable attention of the media which is looking for individuals who will offer the small government, fiscally conservative arguments local Republicans used to make, although not always sincerely so. At worst, Libertarians may end up forcing Republicans to live up to their campaign promises about small government and the role of government. As a Republican, I think that would indeed be a very good thing.

Press Release - Senator R. Michael Young Announces His Candidacy for Congress

Sen. Young Enters 4th District Congressional Race to Bring Conservative Principles Back to Washington DC

(INDIANAPOLIS, February 19, 2010) State Senator R. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) today announced his candidacy for Congress in Indiana’s 4th District at a Statehouse news conference.

Young, a conservative Republican, represents state Senate district 35 that includes the west side of Marion County (Indianapolis) and portions of Johnson and Morgan counties. He has gained a reputation in the Statehouse as being one of the few legislators who thoroughly reads every bill before casting a vote.

“When the health care bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives this summer we all watched news reports pointing out that most members of Congress didn’t even read the bill,” said Young.
“This will not happen when Senator Mike Young becomes a Member of Congress. One of the major dysfunctions of Congress is that our representatives are voting on matters of incredible importance while relying on lobbyists and back-room politicians to tell them what is in the bill.”

Sen. Young believes he is the best choice for Indiana’s conservative voters fed up with promises of “reform” and government bailouts that have not worked and put Americans into greater debt. He vows to run on the issues of using tax cuts to spark the economy and create jobs, citing the success of this strategy under President Ronald Reagan. Further, he opposes the bailouts that the government has used extensively in an attempt to bolster the economy.

“Bailouts to failing companies do not create jobs, they destroy the economic engine that creates jobs,” said Young “ Bailouts are not the American way, and we must stop relying on government to create jobs. Government does not create jobs, but it can destroy them through its misguided economic policies.”

Young, an attorney, lives in Indianapolis and has three children. He was elected to the Indiana State Senate in 2000 and is the only candidate in this race who is a member of the Indiana Senate Conservative Caucus. Prior to that, he was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 1986-2000 and a member of the Marion County Board of Zoning Appeals from 1980-1982. He was awarded the Indiana State Public Employee's Legislator of Year in 1995.

New Indianapolis Airport First in Customer Satisfaction? Not to This Customer

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that, according to J.D. Powers and Associates, the new Indianapolis Airport ranks first in passenger and visitor satisfaction of the 64 major airports.

Okay, I'm not buying that. I've been to the new airport several times. The wait times between shuttles is extremely long, and when they finally do show up, the shuttles are packed. When you get to the airport, the signage is non-existent. In fact the signage in the Indianapolis Airport is by far the worst of any airport I have ever been to. For example, when you walk out of the security area to go to your gate, it is very easy to take a wrong turn and walk right out of the secure area, necessitating yet another trip through security. Of course it was very difficult to find the screening area in the first place.

I was told by a TSA official that the people who designed the airport didn't want the look of the airport to be "cluttered" up by too many signs. So much for the needs of the passengers.

It may have some nice restaurants and shops, but the airport is not a user friendly airport and to me that is what is most important.

I have written about the airport a few times before:

Monday, December 28, 2009, Indianapolis International Airport Review - Poor Signage

Friday, September 18, 2009, Airport Board Considers Privatizing Parking, Shuttle Services

Friday, March 13, 2009, John Clark's Misdeeds Fly Below Indianapolis' Radar

Traffic Court Bill Clears Another Hurdle

The Traffic Court bill, Senate Bill 399 authored by State Senator R. Michael Young, cleared another hurdle yesterday passing out of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.

The bill was offered by Sen. Young after he was contacted by a constituent concerned about the fines being imposed by Judge William E. Young of the Marion County Traffic Court against people who simply wanted their day in court. The same constituent had first contacted his westside councilor on the Indianapolis City-County Council, Marilyn Pfisterer, who is now the Council Vice-President. According to the constituent, Councilor Pfisterer asked for some information about the case, even talked to Judge Young, but the situation was not addressed until Sen. Young took up the constituent's cause.

The bill will place lower caps on fining motorists who try their tickets, with the caps increasing if the individuals have had other tickets that they challenged unsuccessfully. If the bill passes, Judge Young's practice of increasing $150 traffic tickets to $449.50 or $549.50 across the board when those motorists ask for their day in court will be stopped.

Several motorists testified before the Committee about their experiences in Marion County Traffic Court. This included not only the practice of fining people for asking for their day in court, but also the courtroom being closed to the public (in direct contravention of the Indiana Constitution), the threats by the bailiff to arrest and incarcerate people who "trespass" in "his" courtroom, the refusal to allow people to be permitted to take medication or go to the bathroom and return to the courtroom.

One woman who testified was going to be a witness for her husband. She is a transplant patient who had spent more than a year in the hospital and wears a mask because her immune system wasn't working properly. Despite her health problems, the bailiff forced her to wait outside in the middle of February until her husband's case was called. At the hearing, the couple tearfully related the story including that when it came time for the testimony of the woman, the Judge refused to listen to her testimony. The man's ticket was increased from $150 to $549.50.

Another witness testified that she was forced to wait in the hallway for five hours until her case was called. The court staff would not provide her a chair and she had to nurse an infant standing up, in the public hallway. She reported that the Bailiff had warned people of the consequences of using the bathroom during the proceeding - that they would be locked out of the courtroom and possibly get a warrant issued for a failure to appear. In fact, I have talked to someone who had an arrest warrant issued because she went to the bathroom.

Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals on the Committee, were united in their outrage about not only fining people for asking for a trial but all of the the goings on in the Marion County Traffic Court. The bill passed 10-0 with many representatives calling for a letter to be sent to Chief Justice Randall Shepard asking for an investigation of the practices of the court.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Running for Pike Township School Board: Allison Maguire and Paul Ogden

For those of you who have been closely watching the filings at the Marion County Election Board, I have decided to put my hat in the ring for Pike Township School Board. The Pike Board consists of seven members, all at-large, township wide. Three will be elected this May. Six people have filed thus far. Only one of the three incumbents have filed thus far. School board is the only race in Indiana that is non-partisan. Translation: I won't be weighed down (as much) by my Republican label in a township Democrats control by a 2-1 margin.
I am running as part of a two person team with Allison Maguire (picture above), the wife of Marion County Libertarian Chairman Timothy Maguire. While I can't speak for Allison, I believe the issues that motivated her to run are similar to mine - that taxpayers are not adequately represented on the current Pike Board and that the Board is too much of a rubber stamp for whatever the administration wants to do. In fact, looking through the Board's minutes, I have yet to encounter a single vote that was not unanimous in support of administration proposals.
Allison and I would change that dynamic. We would start asking the hard questions and not be afraid to ruffle feathers. An example of how we would shake things up is the recent decision by the Board to replace Guion Creek Elementary School, a perfectly-functioning building I have been in numerous times and is only a few decades old. The Pike administration reasoned that taxes would not have to be increased because when the new bonds are being taken out to construct Guion Creek, older construction bonds are due to be paid off. Apparently there was no consideration given to actually cutting Pike residents a break on their taxes by not replacing school construction debt with yet more debt. Allison and I will change that.
Despite the fact that I do not have children in Pike schools, I have taught at the college level since 1987. When Rex Early ran for Governor in 1996, I worked on his campaign team developing a comprehensive education reform plan for him. I have also been in most other Pike schools as a substitute teacher, that is until the district went on a building craze a few years ago.
My hope is that other taxpayer-focused individuals will look at running for school board. Now more than ever we need people on the Board who will stand up for taxpayers and not simply rubber-stamp whatever projects school administrators want to pursue with our tax dollars. (Have I mentioned that more than 50% of our property taxes go to the local schools?) The filing deadline is Friday at noon. Think about it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Bayh Question The Media Should be Asking

While the media sorts through the decision of U.S. Senator Evan Bayh to not run for a third term, there needs to be a closer examination of the time frame for Bayh's decision, including who new of Bayh's decision and when.
The reasons that Sen. Bayh has offered thus far - partisan rancour in Washington and a desire to spend more time with his family are certainly legitimate reasons to not run for a third term. Those reasons, however, do not justify the extremely late notice that deprived state Democratic voters of the right to choose Evan Bayh's replacement.
Sen. Bayh's announcement came less than 24 hours before the signature deadline for U.S. Senate candidates. Given the late announcement, it is an almost certainty that no Democrat will be able to muster the 4500 signatures (500 per congressional districts) needed to qualify for the primary ballot. Those signatures would have to be turned in today by noon. Without a candidate, party insiders get to choose the candidate, in particular the State Democratic Party leadership, led by State Chairman Dan Parker.
Bayh's stated reasons would have undoubtedly been known to him him months ago if not years ago. They are not the type of reasons - such as the illness of his wife cited by Rep. Buyer - that would explain a late decision not to go for another term. Reasonable people would look at the lateness of Bayh's decision and the facts he cites justifying it and conclude that Bayh deliberately waited to announce his decision at a time when it was too late for other Democrats to enter the primary, leaving the nomination up to party insiders. The media should be looking into when Chairman Parker knew about Bayh's decision and whether he deliberately kept the information from being public so that insiders could pick the nominee rather than Democratic voters.
Republicans are not above these type of insider games themselves. Locally, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi opted against running for a third term, making his announcement the day of the deadline for filing for slating. That allowed insiders to all but pick his replacement, which choice was at first Helen Marchal a high-ranking supervisor in Brizzi's office. That insider choice was later replaced by Mark Massa, Governor Daniels' chief counsel, when Marchal decided against tossing her hat in the ring.
An examination of his campaign finance report shows that Prosecutor Brizzi spent almost all the money he raised in 2009 in 2009. It was clear from the pattern of spending that Brizzi had early on made a decision not to run in 2010. Yet that decision apparently remained a secret throughout 2009 and for the first part of 2010. As Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John is a close personal friend of Carl Brizzi, one has to wonder when he knew of Brizzi's decision and whether he kept it a secret so, like with the Bayh decision, insiders could effectively choose the nominee instead of the party regulars in a wide-open slating contest.
The media should be investigating these matters and asking the questions. The timing of the Bayh and Brizzi decisions appear to both be designed for the purpose of letting insiders choose the nominees instead of the ordinary folks who make up the parties' electorate.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bayh Announces He is Not Running For Third Term; Has Anyone Looked at the Election Calendar?

Shocking news today. Evan Bayh has announced he will not be seeking a third term. I would be very interesting in hearing the rest of the story. Although Bayh cites the partisan rancour in Washington as his reason, partisan rancour in Washington isn't exactly new. His late departure from the race leaves the Democrats scrambling for a replacement only a few months before the primary.

If my reading of Indiana election law is right, it reveals a much bigger problem for Democrats. The final day for filing a declaration of candidacy is noon on Friday. This Friday. If someone, anyone, gathers the necessary 4500 signatures before then and files his or her candidacy, that person is on the ballot. If that person is the only candidate who has filed, he or she will be the nominee. The State Democratic Chairman can only appoint a person to the ballot if there is a vacancy. The Democrats could be stuck with a very weak candidate for U.S. Senate.

There has to be more to this story. A two-term incumbent U.S. Senator doesn't suddenly pull out just days before the filing deadline unless there is a bigger reason than what Bayh cited. Bayh's action has almost certainly handed a U.S. Senate seat to the Indiana Republicans.

CORRECTION: Another statute, IC 32-2-8-10 sets the time for filing the 4500 names at 77 days before the election. The deadline for filing for office is 74 days before the election. Thus, the deadline for turning in signatures is tomorrow at noon. The deadline for filing for office is Friday at noon. I guess the three extra days is supposed to give the county election boards time (not much time) to check out the names.

So someone still has 21 hours or so to file the signatures and be the only Democrat on the ballot.

This makes me almost certain delay in Bayh's announcement was a deliberate attempt to let State Chair Dan Parker pick a U.S. Senate candidate rather than have a contested primary for the position.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Primer on Primaries

As I am no longer an appointed Pike Township Precinct Committeemen (apparently Marion County Republican Chairman Tom John pulled my appointment sometime before the county convention at which he was re-elected last year), I didn't have a vote at the GOP slating convention this Saturday. However, I had a chance to read up on the coverage of slating by the various blogs as well as the Indianapolis Star and now offer some observations.

Marion County Is A Democratic County - I have read a few people declare that Marion County doesn't really have a Democratic majority. Poppycock. Of course the Democrats have a majority in the county, and a significant one at that. The baseline partisan vote in an area is measured by looking at low-profile races, which are the races in which voters generally don't know the candidates and vote their party. In 2008, the baseline was 60-40 Democrat. That baseline was undoubtedly inflated somewhat because of the Obama turnout. In 2006, the county baseline was 53-47 Democrat and in 2004, it favored the Democrats 52-48. My guess is the baseline for the next election will be about 55-45, though a nationwide Republican tide could shave a couple points off that number.

Republicans can still overcome the Democratic baseline and win certain high profile races. The Republicans now have a shot at winning the Prosecutor's office with Mark Massa and an outside shot of winning the Sheriff's race, particularly if Bart McAtee wins the primary. But races like Recorder, Clerk, etc. are going to be virtually impossible to win unless there is a huge Republican tide. Those are almost always straight baseline races.

Slating is Almost Always About Party Leaders Picking Candidates Not Party Workers - People who are involved in Indianapolis politics are shocked to learn that slating is practiced virtually nowhere else in the United States. In theory, slating invigorates the grass roots and rewards party workers by giving them a say in the selection of candidates. In practice, the process inevitably becomes corrupted by party leaders filling vacancies with "mummy dummies" whose only "work" in the party is voting the way the leaders want at slating. Slating results in the nomination of a lot of candidates would aren't strong leaders and are afraid to stand up for the people's best interests over the interests of party leaders.

Primaries As a Negative for Political Parties is Greatly Exaggerated - I hear all the time that the worst thing that can happen is for a party to have a contested primary. Nonsense. Tell me how the Obama-Clinton primary/caucus battles inflicted damage on eventual winner Obama. It didn't. The battles in fact energized the grass roots of the Democratic Party, greatly increased registration and gave Obama much-needed campaign experience. Some primaries are bad, true, but many are not.

Mark Massa - He has to distance himself as far as possible from Brizzi. Eventually the Democrats will figure out that tying Massa to the scandal-prone Marion County Prosecutor Brizzi is far better strategy than tying him to the popular Governor Mitch Daniels. Party leaders should be putting pressure on Brizzi to resign so Massa can run in 2010 as the incumbent.

Terry Curry-Greg Bowes - This battle for prosecutor could be a lot closer than what people are thinking. Bowes has county-wide name recognition which is worth a lot of money. He is going to get media coverage. If he runs as a maverick candidate, an outsider who will aggressively target white collar crime and political corruption, regardless of party, he could score among mainstream populist Democrats eager for someone to oppose the Old Guard Democratic Establishment. Like the Republicans, the Democrats have a signficant populist element in their party that is fed up with establishment politics.

Dennis Fishburn-Bart McAtee - I have yet to decide who I will support in this primary contest for Sheriff, assuming it unfolds. While the McAtees have always been supportive of me, I find their affiliation with ethically-challenged, asleep-at-the-wheel Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson to be more than a little troubling. Still I think the McAtee name still has political power and Fishburn's lack of political experience is troubling. Fishburn is going to get his first lesson in Marion County GOP politics when he finds out that, although the organization leadership helped him get slated, that's pretty much where the help is going to end. Any resources the county organization has is going to go to help Massa in his race. I would not bet against McAtee winning the primary.

Dan Coats Nominated in the U.S. Senate Republican Primary? - This would be a huge mistake. 2010 will be a good year for Republicans. The GOP will have an excellent shot at beating Evan Bayh. And you nominate a Washington lobbyist who doesn't live in Indiana? This is an example of how the importance of money can be overstated. Yes, Coats can raise money, but he has negatives that will doom his campaign with Hoosier voters, regardless of how much money he raises. The Republican Party is much better off nominating someone like former Congressman John Hostetler. If the conditions are right, which I expect they will be, any credible Republican candidate will be within striking distance of Bayh in the polls and the money will come in because of that fact.

Just my thoughts on this Sunday night.