Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Indiana State Political Predictions

To mirror my earlier Indianapolis political predictions, I now issue some state political predictions. There won't be that many because the 2011 election is only for municipal races.

Governor Daniels: Despite all the talk, Governor Daniels will decide not to run for President. Instead he will assist other candidates with the hopes of being selected as VP.

Congressman Mike Pence: Pence will not be running for President, but he will definitely run for Governor. His formidable presence will keep many big name Democrats out of the race.

Education Reform: Besides the budget and redistricting, education reform will be THE issue that takes everyone's attention. Governor Daniels and the Republicans will push through measures forever changing the face of public education in Indiana. The chief one will be that "the money follows the child," a reform that will benefit growing school districts versus those urban school districts (like IPS) that are losing population. There will also be a major expansion in the ability of charter schools to open. Because of the economic climate though, a public-private school choice measure will ultimately be pulled.

Forfeiture Reform: Look for a 50-50 split between schools and law enforcement to be adopted as to civil reform assets that are seized. An accounting system will also be put into place. Not all of the 50% of the school money will go to the Common School Fund though. A significant portion will be directed to aid charter schools cover building and start up costs. Unfortunately other needed reforms in civil forfeiture, including limiting civil forfeiture to cases where criminal charges are actually pursued, will fail when they are opposed by law enforcement types.

Redistricting: The Democrats will scream about the new Republican redistricting maps. In the House, they will threaten to deny the Republicans a quorum by walking out. In the end, the Democrats will swallow their lumps.

Labor: The Republicans will pass a right to work law. Democrats will secretly be happy about the Republican move as they intend to use the issue to motivate their often dormant union supporters.

I might add more later...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Ideal New Year's Eve

I've decided I'm a really boring guy. I don't care for New Year's Eve, never have. (I earlier wrote an "I Hate Halloween" piece.) I find myself reflecting on the year ending and being depressed that I failed to accomplish as much as I wanted. As far as the New Year's Eve parties, well I don't care for them.

My favorite thing to do on New Year's Eve is to have a nice meal at a restaurant, then return home and watch a movie. Usually I fall asleep on the couch long before midnight.

When I tell people my ideal New Year's Eve, they claim it is depressing and insist on dragging me off to some party, thinking I will find it fun. But I rarely do. I usually struggle making it to midnight and find the toast at midnight to be a bit silly. I also do not look forward to driving home with streets filled with drunk drivers and police officers trying to catch those drunk drivers.

My well-meaning friends aren't going to convince me otherwise this year. I'm old enough that I get to do what I want on New Year's Eve and that means staying home. I expect to be on the couch sound asleep when Dick Clark (is he still alive?) counts down to 2011. Yep, that will be an ideal New Year's Eve to me.

Channel 16 Features the Best of Ballard

Often when I have difficulty getting to sleep, I turn the television to Channel 16, the local government channel. Watching the latest zoning board hearing or council committee hearing usually puts me to sleep pretty quickly.

Lately I've noticed some strange things going on with Channel 16. They have started re-running really old programs, programs televised months earlier. Usually the meetings featured on Channel 16 are of fairly recent vintage, a few weeks old at best. Recently though Channel 16 showed the Mayor's State of the City address from January of 2010. I watched the Mayor present firefighters awards - again from early 2010. Just last night I watched a March 2010 Mayor's Night Out on the southside.

If those examples make it sound like there is a common theme on all these old programs being shown on Channel 16, that is indeed the case. Many if not most of the old re-runs feature the Mayor in prominent roles.

What is going on? Is Mayor Ballard using Channel 16 to increase his positive name ID going into the election?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why We Republicans Should Not Support Council President Ryan Vaughn's Re-Election

Recently I had an exchange with a fellow Republican regarding Council President Ryan Vaughn's re-election campaign on Facebook. Here's an edited version of what I wrote:

The problem in our party (the Republican Party) is that we have have failed to clean out the corruption and profiteering in the party. After Ballard's win in 2007, we had an extraordinary opportunity to rebuild the Marion County GOP. Instead certain Republican insiders like Barnes & Thornburg partners Joe Loftus and Bob Grand decided to use the politically naive mayor to cash in for themselves and their clients. In that regard, installing Ryan Vaughn, as Council President to safeguard the interests of B&T clients made sense. Vaughn was nothing more than a useful tool.

That being said, Vaughn should have known better. Instead he has played right along making threats to my fellow Republican councilors who refused to support his law firm's clients, stripping them of committee assignments, helping Loftus and others cut insider deals. Vaughn played a major role in selling Mayor Ballard and the majority Council Republicans down the river. We have no chance of winning the election in 2011.

The ethically-challenged Vaughn has had major conflicts of interest he has steadfastly ignored. The ACS deal was just the latest, albeit the worst. The man sat in the Council President's chair and pushed the 50 year no bid contract through the council even though it benefited his own law firm's client. The impropriety of Vaughn's actions in supporting ACS is astonishing.

Vaughn has demonstrated beyond doubt that he is no conservative. He's supported every tax and fee increase proposed by Ballard, more than 100 at last count. Vaughn is every bit as the big spending, big taxing liberal Democrats he complains about. No that's not fair - to the Democrats. Vaughn's actually much worse.

Our party needs to clear house after the 2011 election, eliminate people like Vaughn, Loftus and Grandfrom positions of power. (I understand that Vaughn is in a safe seat and while his actions will help skin the Republican majority, he will get re-elected.) We need a party that reaches out to everyday working men and women, not just political insiders who seek out elected officials' help in order to get wealthy off taxpayers. People like Ryan Vaughn have set back the Marion County GOP by at least a generation.

The best thing we can have in the Marion County GOP is people speaking out against people like Vaughn representing OUR party. We Republicans are in the position we are now because people in the party have stayed silent about the corruption and profiteering in the party instead of demanding that it be stopped. I do not intend to be silent.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Supervisor at Indianapolis Water Accuses Veolia of Falsifing Records to Earn Bonuses

An Indianapolis Water supervisor has accused Veolia of falsifying records to earn bonuses. The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:

A supervisor at Indianapolis Water has told state regulators the private operator of the city-owned utility falsified records to earn performance bonuses.

Tom Plummer’s testimony, filed Tuesday with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, is part of a ratepayer group’s effort to stop the city from paying Veolia Water a $29 million contract-termination fee.

The IURC is weighing the city’s request to sell the utility to Citizens Energy Group for $1.9 billion.

Consumer Ratepayers, a group that includes Plummer and 10 other water customers, on Dec. 17 alleged Veolia effectively defaulted on its management contract with the city on numerous occasions.

As such, the city could terminate the contract “for cause” and not pay Veolia the $29 million, they contend.

Underlying the complaint is their attempt to win money for salaried water employees they allege had their benefits gutted following the city’s purchase of the water utility eight years ago and subsequent management contract with Veolia.

Their complaint is the first relatively contentious filing in the IURC case and threatens to at least slow the commission’s deliberations on the sale request.

Plummer is identified as a 31-year employee who now works as operating supervisor in the utility’s central control station, which distributes water to eight counties in the metro area.

“I have personal knowledge of false record-keeping by US Filter/Veolia,” Plummer testified, referring to the previous name of Veolia’s water operations.

“Several Indianapolis Water employees told me that they were asked by (Veolia) personnel to alter records in order to make it appear that (the company) had earned an incentive payment when in fact the unchanged records would not have supported the claim for the incentive payment,” Plummer said in the complaint.

To see the rest of the article click here.

That a 31 year employee, a supervisor no less, is willing to speak out and risk his job, indicates the serious nature of the allegations. This is but one of many issues which would have justified the City cancelling the Veolia contract for cause, instead of paying Veolia a $29 million buy-out fee. Of course, Veolia is represented by Barnes & Thornburg which all but runs Mayor Ballard's administration.

2011 Indianapolis Political Predictions

Having dusted off my crystal ball for the last time in 2010, I now can see the future of Indianapolis, well at least for 2011.

Ballard Campaign Report: Released in the middle of January 2011, the report will show Ballard as having raised well over a million dollars in 2010, almost all of the money coming from city contractors or those hoping to do business with the City. The Star will suggest the money makes the Mayor difficult to beat and Star Columnist Matthew Tully will say it is a sign of Ballard's popularity. No major media outlet will question the propriety of a sitting mayor shaking down government contractors for campaign contributions.

The List: Democrats will get a hold of a list of city contractors used by the Ballard campaign for fundraising. The list will have been prepared by the Ballard administration using government workers and government resources. Council Democrats and Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy will seek to make an issue out of it but the local media will ignore them.

Primary (Democratic): The Democrats have a spirited and hard-fought three-way primary. Local Republicans will gleefully note the fact the division within the Democratic Party and that eventual winner Melina Kennedy burned through much of her money at the primary stage. The Democratic primary will prove to have given Republicans false hope.

Primary (Republican): The Star will label it an overwhelming victory for the Mayor that propels him toward the fall general election as the Mayor trounces an unknown opponent 71% to 29%. Political professionals though will know that an unknown getting nearly 30% of the primary vote against a sitting mayor represents a deterioration of his political base.

Spring and Summer of Indictments: Expect big name indictments to be handed down in 2011, including of my law school classmate Timothy Durham. But the indictments won't stop there - I see a strong possibility that Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and others associated with him get ensnared in the FBI probe and end up indicted. The indictments will shock the local Republican political scene, causing the Indianapolis Star to (finally) look into local political corruption.

Summer of Scandal: Expect the Ballard administration to be rocked by a "pay to play" scandal in 2011. Here's the way I see it going down. A Ballard administration official agrees to steer a contract to a company in exchange for something in return, quite possible a job after the 2011 election. The scandal gets exposed. Ballard's defense is that he didn't know what was going on in his administration. The good news for Ballard is that he will be telling the truth. The bad news for Ballard is that he will be telling the truth.

Summer of Straub: The situation between IMPD and Directer, er I mean "Doctor," Straub continues to deteriorate during 2011. Finally, in the summer of 2011, it dawns on the Ballard campaign team that ticking off a bunch of usually Republican-leaning police officers before a municipal election isn't good for a sitting Republican mayor. The firing of Straub will come too late to fix the damage he has done to IMPD morale and Ballard's re-election chances.

No Mayoral Debates (Until the End): Mayor Ballard will spend the summer ducking debates with Democratic nominee, Melina Kennedy. The Ballard campaign team will say the Mayor is too busy working on economic development issues to debate. In reality the reason will be two part: 1) an early post-primary poll which shows the Mayor with a commanding 20 point lead over Melina Kennedy; and 2) the fear that the Mayor would look intellectually inferior to the more polished Kennedy in the debate.

The Mayor's campaign team will learn a thing or two about "soft" polling numbers as Ballard's 20 point lead quickly melts in light of the summer scandals and attacks by Democrats on the Mayor's record. Ballard a few weeks out will finally agree to debate Kennedy. Expectations are so low for Ballard by that point he is judged as holding his own against Kennedy.

Democratic Attack Strategy on Mayor Ballard: Expect most of the negative to come out of Democratic headquarters. Ballard will be hammered for insider deals, the $33.5 million gift to the Pacers, selling off city assets, the parking meter deal. Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy will hit the Mayor on tax/fee increases and broken promises to cut government - issues that work to split fiscally conservative Republicans off from supporting the Mayor. For good measure the Democrats will pound the Mayor on scandals in his administration, including the problems with IMPD.

Council Races: The Democrats will blast sitting Republican Councilors with attack pieces discussing the Pacers $33.5 million gift, the utility sell-off and the 50 year parking deal. Other pieces designed at splitting the GOP base, will hit Republican Councilors, for tax/fee increases and reckless spending. The GOP councilors' response pieces will be a sloganesque - that they have to keep the City "moving forward" and "can't go back" to the Peterson days. The slogans, as a political defense to their actions in supporting Ballard's unpopular proposals, will fail miserably.

General Election (Council): On Election Day, the Democrats sweep all four at-large seats and pick up 2 districts. Republicans will not win a single seat currently held by Democrats. As a result, beginning 2012, the Council will be controlled by Democrats 18-11.

General Election (Mayor): In November 2011, Melina Kennedy will win the Mayor's Office by 55% to 42% over Mayor Ballard. The Libertarian will score the remaining 3% of the vote.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Winners and Losers of 2010

State Politician - Winner: The award goes to Governor Daniels. Although he is entering the lame deck phase of his eight years in office, Gov. Daniels unified campaign effort on behalf of the legislative candidates helped Republicans go from a 47 seat minority to a 60 seat majority in the Indiana House while picking up enough seats in the Senate to make that chamber impervious to a quorum call.

State Politician - Winner (Second Place): Speaker Brian Bosma was also a strong competitor for this award. Not only did the Republican victories propel Bosma back into the Speakers' seat, it came right before redistricting, allowing Republicans to draw the new district lines.

State Politician - Winner (Third Place): Tony Bennett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction wasn't on the ballot in 2010, but his education reform measures won a huge boost with Republicans taking over the House.

State Politician - Loser: The award goes to former Speaker of the House, Pat Bauer, for losing 13 seats in the House, a 26 vote swing against Bauer's Democratic Party.

Local Politician - Winner: Marion County Prosecutor-elect Terry Curry. Although Republicans recruited a big name and government contractors and the State GOP poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his campaign, Republican Mark Massa lost by 4 percent.

Local Politician - Loser: Former Marion County Chairman GOP Tom John takes this award. Under his leadership, the Republicans lost every county office in 2008 and 2010. It may turn out to be unfortunate that John vacated the office early, allowing another insider, Kyle Walker, to take the helm of the GOP. That might allow Walker to escape the housecleaning that should be coming after the 2011 election debacle.

Non-Politician - Winner: President Russ Simnick of the Indiana Public Charter School Association takes this award. Democrats in the Indiana House were always a roadblock to new charter school legislation. Now instead of needing four Democrats to cross over, Simnick and other reformers only have to worry about not going so far with their reforms as to lose ten Republicans. Quite a difference. (Disclaimer: Simnick is a friend of mine. However, I have called him a "loser" in the past and won't hesitate to do so again when the label fits.)

Non-Politician - Loser: While there were a lot of candidates for this position, Dr. Eugene White, IPS Superintendent, takes the award. Republican legislators believe the money should follow the student. Although the district has been losing tens of thousands of students per decade, IPS has managed to increase its funding from the General Assembly due to additional assistance it receives to offset the harshness of a strict per student funding formula. That safety net may be gone with 60 Republicans in the Indiana House.

Blogger of the Year: I have to hand it to Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana. Welsh is tireless at rooting out corruption and dishonesty in our politics. He doesn't care which political party - he exposes all the shenanigans taking place behind the scenes. He has a phenomenal memory and an eye for detail that I can't begin to match. The importance of Gary Welsh was demonstrated when he was off for nearly a month this year due to illness. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders trying to help fill his absence. Although some County GOP leaders claim that Welsh and my blogging efforts are aimed at tearing down the local GOP, instead the effort is aimed at making the local GOP more honest and appealing to the general public, a direction the party needs to head in if it's going to have chances to win elections in Democratic Marion County.

Blogger of the Year (Runner-Up): Although she doesn't post that often, when Diana Vice of Welcome to My Tea Party does, she's almost sure to ruffle feathers. She exposed several scandals this year, stories that the mainstream media missed or only picked up after she reported them.

Reformer of the Year (Politician Category): I have to give it to Sen. Mike Delph. Sen. Delph and I don't see eye to eye on immigration, but he does push a reform agenda and did so before it was popular. Sen. Delph was re-elected this year in a tough campaign and may have aspirations for U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar's seat.

Reformer of the Year (Non-Politician Category): The award goes to Julia Vaughn, President of Indiana Common Cause. I have to admit, earlier in my political life I thought Common Cause was some kooky left-wing organization. Vaughn, who hails from my hometown of Madison, Indiana, has blown away that perception by pushing a reform agenda that is common sense and truly aimed at what is in the best interests of Hoosiers. With Republicans taking over the legislature, it is time to to enact some of these reform measures that House Republicans have paid lip service to in recent years.

Tomorrow I will look into my crystal ball and see what is going to happen in 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Star's Matthew Tully Blows Away Inflated Graduation Numbers

I was reading some old newspapers when I ran across a Matthew Tully column I had missed. I have to give credit where credit is due. In the column, Tully methodically takes apart the IPS's claim that their schools have experienced soaring graduation rates. In the column, Tully analyzed his alma matter, Manual High School:
If Manual is any guide, the new state graduation rates should be eyed with hardy skepticism. Either that, or I spent an entire school year at Manual and missed a remarkable turnaround.

The Southside school isn't alone in reporting tremendous advancement. The question is whether the improvements at so many struggling schools are as grand as portrayed. For answers, look at data the state released this week.

Relying on IPS reports, the state says Manual's graduation rate increased from 39 percent in 2008 to 44 percent in 2009 and to 60 percent this year.

Along the way, though, the number of actual four-year graduates declined -- from 142 in 2008 to 119 in 2009 and then to just 113 this year.

Two factors seem to best explain how the rates are calculated. First, there is a wide gap in the number of students enrolled as freshmen and the number who are counted as members of the freshmen class. A state official said that is because many students are classified as freshmen even though they have been in high school a previous year.

So although the Manual class of 2010 started on paper with 490 freshmen in 2006, only 360 of those students counted when the school began to calculate its graduation rate.

Second, schools work hard to compile lists of students who leave early for officially valid reasons. There's good reason for that, as each student placed on the list bumps up a school's graduation rate because it lowers the overall number of students in a class.

Some students are put on the lists because they transferred to a charter, private or different district school. But a growing number of students in recent years have been placed on the lists because they said they were being home-schooled, a claim made easier by the state's lax rules. Manual listed 172 students in the class of 2010 who left for supposedly valid reasons -- a number that has increased sharply in the past two years even as enrollment has declined.

As a result, Manual had to claim only 188 students as potential members of the class of 2010. So even a paltry graduating class of 113 resulted in a graduation rate of 60 percent. That's an astonishing number in a school where only 25 percent of students passed both math and English assessments last year.

And consider this: If you add back in only the students who reported they were being home-schooled, Manual's graduation rate drops below 50 percent. Meanwhile, of this year's 113 graduates, nearly 20 percent received a waiver, meaning they were allowed to graduate even though they failed to meet state guidelines.

To see the rest of Tully's column click here.

Tully reminds me of some of my students who are capable of an "A" if they put forth the effort, but just choose to go through the motions, perfectly content with a "C." This column highlights Tully's capabities. Tully is, as far as I know, the only media type who didn't simply accept the graduation numbers spoon fed to the media and started looking into the methodology used to arrive at the numbers. It is a shame that Tully doesn't approach all political topics like he did this one. Tully gets an "A" here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

City Will Pay Will Pay $600,000 for Fourth Skywalk and Then Give It Away to the Arts Council

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports on the recent final approval of the fouth pedestrian skywalk that will cost Indianapolis taxpayers $600,000:

An enclosed pedestrian walkway connecting the downtown PNC Center with the Indianapolis Artsgarden received final approval Thursday morning.

The Regional Center Hearing Examiner OK’d the design of the project after the Metropolitan Development Commission in October approved providing $600,000 in city funds to help build the connector.

The Greater Indianapolis Bond Bank will finance half of the $1.2 million project by using tax increment financing from the downtown district.

The building’s property manager, Massachusetts-based Reit Management & Research LLC, intends to start construction in March and finish by mid-2011.


Despite support from city leaders, plans for the fourth walkway drew objections in October from several opponents who railed against using taxpayer money to support “wealthy corporations.”

The 16-story PNC Center, previously known as National City Center and Merchants Plaza, houses the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, the city’s fourth-largest hotel based on number of rooms.

The Hyatt, along with other city hotels, has been targeted by a union group called Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, which is pressuring the hotels to improve their pay scales. About a dozen supporters of the group, armed with signs bearing such slogans as “Vote No on Ballard’s Bridge to Nowhere,” attended the MDC meeting.

Supporters argued that the walkway, as part of the Artsgarden, will be owned by the Arts Council of Indianapolis Inc. They also said TIF funds need to remain within the district and cannot be released into the city’s general fund.


To see the rest of the article click here. Also to read another IBJ Property Lines blog piece on the connector written by Cory Schouten, click here.

I went back and look at the October 6, 2010 meeting where numerous individuals, including Councilor Brian Mahern, spoke against the project. The video can be found here. Mahern's comments begin at about 12:00 and runs to 33:30.

You'll notice how MDC Chairman Tim Ping handled the vote. Instead of singling out the controversial resolution for a separate vote, he simply left the resolution in with scores of other resolutions and asked for a voice vote on all of them at the same time. That prevented any sort of accountability of Commission members for their vote. Of course no board member asked a tough question. Member Scott Keller spoke, only to give a highly misleading statement about the the City "owning" the downtown Simon mall, thereby justifying the use of tax dollars. Another councilor asked Deron Kintner a softball question about whether the TIF money could be used outside the district.

Many of the speakers against the proposal complained about labor unrest at the Hyatt Regency located within the PNC Center.Other speakers, including Councilor Mahern, focused on how the Mayor has been using the TIF money as a slush fund to direct money to private corporations. He said, and I agree, that these excess TIF funds above what is needed to pay bond obligations, need to be going back to the general fund. At some point TIF districts need to go out of existence so that the property taxes in the district are not longer being diverted to be spent in less than an accountable fashion by boards like the MDC.

This administration's abuse of TIF funds will hopefully prompt some legislative changes.

While the City is putting up $600,000, HRPT Properties Trust of Boston, which owns the PNC Center, will be putting up the remaining $600,000. What bothers me is that we taxpayers are paying half of this project and for some reason it is simply being given away to the Arts Council of Indianapolis which will "own" the skywalk. If we taxpayers are putting up half the money, shouldn't WE own at least half of it? The Arts Council rivals Indianapolis Downtown in government subsidies. In previous posts, I have documented how the Arts Council (which is supposed to be a local clearinghouse for arts grants) uses our tax dollars to pay itself lavish salaries and benefits, while very little of our tax dollars actually trickle down to the artists. The Arts Council also has millions of dollars stashed away in investments and other savings, money which again originated as our tax dollars.

The Mayor's misplaced priorities involved in funnelling taxpayer dollars to private corporations has done one astonishing thing - it has untied fiscal conservatives and fiscal liberals in outrage. I am so glad to see fiscal liberals wake up to the fact that the taxpayer pie is only so big and that they need to be complaining about corporate welfare in this City. When Mayor Ballard is giving millions of dollars away to politically-connected companies, that is less money available for parks, buses, and libraries.

The Mayor will get a lesson about misplaced priorities come November 8, 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bloggers Finally Agree on Something: DADT Had to Go

I have yet to find a local blogger, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, who opined in favor of keeping the do not ask, do not tell policy forcing gay men and women to keep their sexuality a secret or be discharged from the military.

Here are the local blogs that applauded the DADT repeal:

Advance Indiana
Indiana Barrister
Indy Democrat
Indianapolis Times
Indy Student
Ogden on Politics
Washington Street Politics

I think some of the other blogs have simply not got around to the issue or their focus is simply elsewhere.y how have times changed.

Councilors Kept in Dark on Mayor Ballard Administration's Early Retirement Program

Recently I had the opportunity to watch a committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council discuss whether to adopt an early retirement program for city/county employees. The proposal passed committee and was recently approved by the full council. It left me wondering about the "how" this proposal was handled by the Ballard administration.

To enact the early retirement program, the administration needed council approval. Instead of introducing the proposal for consideration by the Council, the administration developed the program and then went to the employees to sign up. That sign-up period concluded at the end of November. The resolution for the early retirement program was not even introduced into the Council until that period had expired. So much for councilors being able to communicate with their constitutions who city or county employees.

The approach shows a disturbing lack of respect for members of the Indianapolis City-County Council. Apparently the administration simply views the Council as their personal rubber-stamp that will approve anything the administration sends over.

Here's an idea for the Ballard administration: develop a working relationship with councilors, including dare I say Democrats, and work with them to get bipartisan support for your proposals. In doing so, it might be helpful to communicate with those councilors, representatives of the public, before you finalize programs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ballard's Campaign Signs Paid For With Tax Dollars

Driving on Guion Road from 62nd Street to 38th Street on the City's northwest side, I spotted nine Ballard "Drive Safely" signs. Many times a large wooden frame has been erected in the road right-of-way to post a sign.

The irony is that one of the reasons that right of way signs are limited is for driver safety. With fewer signs, there is less chance for a driver to hit a sign when he or she runs off the road. The "Drive Safely" Ballard sign actually decreases motorist safety.

I warned months ago that Ballard was going to use the infrastructure improvements as an opportunity to, at taxpayer expense, post signs all over town bragging about the work that was being done under his administration. I didn't realize how right I would be. Just on that one stretch of Guion Road, there is a sign posted on average every 1/4 mile.

I think it is time media types start asking questions about these signs, including how many there are and how much they have cost the City's taxpayers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Will Mayor's MBE Strategy To Get African-American Support Work?

When he announced he was running for re-election, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's announcement featured prominently the fact he has increased almost four fold the number of Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) contracts awarded by city government.

That's a mighty strange thing for a Republican to brag about.

Republican-leaning voters overwhelmingly view the awarding of contracts based on the business owners' skin color as reverse discrimination. That Ballard would feature this as a central theme of his campaign shows he's tone deaf to issues central to conservative political philosophy.

Ah, but there is a reason why Ballard is featuring his support of MBEs front and center in his campaign.

Amos Brown, radio host at WTLC, likes to talk about people who live on "his side of the street." The idea is that African-Americans, like Brown, have a better insight on what black folks experience than do whites. There is certainly truth to that.

But the converse is also true...I, as a white man and a Republican political activist in Marion County for 24 years, have a good understanding of Ballard's approach to winning African-American votes. There are Republicans who believe that black votes can be purchased by funnelling money to black businessmen through the awarding of MBE contracts. These Republicans view the African-American community as a monolith. They believe if they can buy off the support of wealthy black business leaders, poor and middle-class African-Americans will also vote Republican.

People often assume it is the more conservative, populist Republicans who are racists while the establishment, country club wing of the Republican Party is more enlightened on racial issues. Actually, the converse is true. The outreach of establishment Republicans to African Americans is often extremely insincere. They want black support as a means to an end, not because they actually care about African-Americans. These establishment Republicans seek out blacks for positions in government, as long as those appointed won't rock the boat and will do what they are told by leadership. It is the conservative, more populist wing of the Republican Party, often unfairly characterized as racist, who actually value the ideas and input of African-Americans.

As now a card carrying member of the country club Republican establishment, Ballard believes that he will win a sizable percentage of the African-American vote by buying their vote through an an expansion of the MBE program and cozying up to certain black leaders. It is a simplistic strategy borne of ignorance about what motivates the African-American vote.

It will be a long climb for Republicans to gain back the support of African-American voters. If they are ever going to do so, they can start by actually listening to the concerns of the African-American community and valuing real input into policy decisions, rather than appointing rubber-stamps to commissions and boards. Ballard's strategy is doomed to failure. Not only will his emphasis on MBE turn off white voters, it won't win him many votes from African-Americans.

Democratic Councilor Jackie Nytes' Non-Profit Received Millions in Grants From Republican Ballard Administration

In 2008, City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes became Executive Director of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation. The Mapleton-Fall Creek Redevelopment Corporation which helps low income residents rehabilitate their homes.

The timing appeared to be unfortunate. Nytes, a Democrat who is an influential member of the Indianapolis City-County Council, took the helm while Republicans had taken over the Council and Republican Greg Ballard was elected in an upset. With Republicans running city government, one would think that the fortunes of Nytes and Mapleton-Fall Creek would take a turn for the worse.

In fact, just the opposite happened.

Nytes transformed the sleepy non-profit with millions of dollars in grants from the City. The City's database reveals 15 contracts (or amendments to existing contracts) totalling nearly $5 million have been awarded by the City to Mapleton-Fall Creek, almost all of them under the administration of Republican Mayor Ballard. This includes a contract in July of 2010 that was amended in September of 2010 to funnel $3,350,275 more in federal grants to Nytes' non-profit.

At the same time the City was funnelling millions to the non-profit headed by Nytes, Nytes was casting key votes in favor of controversial Ballard administration proposals. These include a vote for the CIB bailout/tax increase, the Pacer $33.5 million gift and the city utilities transfer.

Was the Ballard administration buying Nytes' vote? It is doubtful there was a quid pro quo. With the notable exception of former Illinois Governor Blagojevich, those who engage in "pay to play" know to avoid making the bargain explicit. But it is hard not to connect the dots representing Nytes' Republican votes and the millions her non-profit received from the Ballard administration.
Note: Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana has written several times on a possible Little Hatch violation involved with Nytes' serving on the counsel while her non-profit receives federal funds funnelled through the Ballard administration. I am in agreement with Gary on his latest post that there is no reason to treat a non-profit which receives almost all of its funding from government should be treated differently than a government agency when it comes to the Little Hatch Act.

The Invention of Lying: Will Ballard Administration Redefine "Homicide" to Claim Lower Rate?

According to BartLies, the City's annual homicide figures now total 116. What do you want to bet the Ballard administration redefines what a "homicide" to claim the number is below 100?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Democrats Do Republicans a Favor, Kill Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Saturday, Democrats and some Republicans banded together to kill the 17 year old "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy toward gays serving in the United States military. The vote was 65-31 to pass. Eight Republican Senators voted to end the policy.

Democrats did Republicans a huge favor.

This was one of those generational issues where Republicans were stuck on the wrong side of the issue, i.e. the side supported by older voters. Although Democrat Bill Clinton was commander-in-chief in office when the policy was enacted, the mood of the country toward homosexuality has changed significantly in the 17 years since the policy was enacted. People forget that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was at the time a compromise between those who wanted to boot all homosexuals out of the military and those who didn't want any restriction at all.

The polling shows DADT with little support among younger voters. Among elderly voters, the policy remained popular. My generation straddles the political divide with the result being you'll find many people my age on both sides of the issues.

DADT is not so much as a Republican v. Democrat, Conservative v. Liberal issue. It is a Young v. Old issue. Long term, the younger voters always win. Republicans were stuck defending a position supported by people who were dying off.

I don't understand about what all the fuss is about. All I care about is whether a solider can do his or her job. If someone is offended about serving next to an openly gay soldier, then that person has the problem, not the gay soldier. We should not have policies which force gay soldiers to remain in the closet for fear of losing their jobs.

The same "morale of the troops" argument was used against integrating our military. When President Harry Truman signed an executive order in 1948 integrating the troops, a Gallup poll showed that 63% of American adults endorsed the separation of blacks and whites in the military while only 26% supported integration. Truman proved to be on the right side of history on that issue. You won't find anyone - except perhaps those in the Klan- who would today defend racial segregation in the military. It will be the same thing a decade from now when it comes to homosexuals serving in our military.

DADT is gone. Good riddance.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

State Superintendent Bennett Avoids Blaming Attorney General Zoeller for Not Insisting Prosecutors Pay Civil Forfeiture Money Owed to School Fund

There isn't a statewide public official I have more respect for than Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. From the beginning he aggressively used his office to promote the issue of education reform. In doing so, he's taken on deeply entrenched interests in the education community. I haven't agreed with everything he's done, but his approach to government activism should be a model for Republicans and Democrats.

The contrast between Bennett and Attorney General Greg Zoeller's approach to their jobs could not be greater. Zoeller and his boss before him, AG Steve Carter, are constantly making excuses about why they can't take action to protect the public. When I headed the Title Insurance Division, I dealt with real estate regulators throughout state government. Every last one of them complained about the AG's office not doing its job regulating appraisers, real estate agents and other real estate players.

As one example, under the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act (RESPA), the state attorneys general are to enforce the law. When other state regulators pointed out that provision to the AG's office, the response was that AG wasn't sure he could enforce the law. Shortly thereafter, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law specifically telling the AG to enforce RESPA. Once again, the AG responded that he wasn't sure he could enforce the law.

That's only one of many, many examples of where the Attorney General's office, under both Steve Carter and Greg Zoeller, has refused to enforce the law, leaving Hoosiers unprotected.

Fast forward to this morning, the Indianapolis Star ran an article saying that Bennett and Zoeller intend to recommend that the legislature set a fixed percentage law enforcement and the schools are to get from civil forfeitures. Here's an excerpt from that article, concentrating on Bennett's comments:
Indiana's vague and much-disputed forfeiture law promises both police and schoolchildren a cut of the money the state seizes from criminals. Now, the state's top education official and the state's top law enforcement official say they will work together to clarify the law and share the funds.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett told The Indianapolis Star they have met and informally discussed potential
revisions to the state's forfeiture law.


"I certainly wish we could have come to a solution before," Bennett said.


But until controversy began swirling around the issue this year -- prompted by a disciplinary case against a prosecutor who was paying himself with forfeiture money -- Bennett said he thought the small portion of forfeiture money the schools received was all they were entitled to.

Zoeller and Bennett said they favor a new law that would divide the money up by percentage rather than allowing each prosecutor to calculate how much he or she keeps. But it's not clear yet what the distribution would be.


Bennett played no role in the lawsuit and disagrees with a central premise: that prosecutors intentionally ignored an obligation to turn over money to the schools. Like Zoeller, Bennett thinks the prosecutors were doing the best they could to interpret an unclear law.

And while it would have been nice to have had a steadier flow of forfeiture money into the Common School Fund in the past, Bennett said, this is an ideal time for an uptick in that funding source. The state is increasingly using technology to measure students' progress, and charter schools are a centerpiece of Gov. Mitch Daniels' recently unveiled education reform plan.

Bennett and Steve Johnson of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council -- who is also participating in brainstorming the new law -- say they also are open to legislative changes that would direct the schools' portion of the money to other funds.
I understand Bennett is in a tough position politically. He is a Republican dealing with a Republican Attorney General and scores of Republican country prosecutors throughout the state, all of which wield political power in their communities. Bennett though has to know that this is not as the reporter characterized his comments a situation where the prosecutors were "doing the best they could to interpret an unclear law."

While it is not clear how to determine "law enforcement costs," the legal requirement that excess funds above law enforcement costs be paid to the Common School Fund is crystal clear. Those are two distinct concepts. Bennett is not an attorney and not familiar with the law but Zoeller is and he has to know he is being intellectually dishonest in running these two concepts.

Most county prosecutors do not even bother to determine law enforcement costs and haven't for years. They have been just pocketing all the money. Marion County apportions a set percent to each law enforcement agency - the same on every case - regardless of law enforcement costs. Nothing gets paid to the Common School Fund. In the last 3 years, county prosecutors in the State of Indiana paid a total of $95,500 into the Common School Fund through civil forfeiture. (Marion County took in about $2 million in civil forfeiture last year. ) Only five of the 92 counties paid anything. This isn't some innocent misinterpretation of the law by prosecutors. They were intentionally keeping money they knew weren't "law enforcement costs" and belonged to the Common School Fund.

Bennett says he didn't know the Common School Fund was entitled to more civil forfeiture money than it was receiving. I have no doubt that's true. But you know who did know? Greg Zoeller. Attorney General Zoeller has known for years that prosecutors were keeping money that belonged to the state's schools and did absolutely nothing, just like his predecessor Steve Carter. In fact, the history of the Indiana Attorney General looking the other way on civil forfeiture goes back maybe as much as two decades.

Zoeller, and Carter before him could have enforced the civil forfeiture law and demanded that excess civil forfeiture money be paid to the Common School Fund. Zoeller, perhaps working with Steve Johnson of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney's Council, could have enacted guidelines to ensure that the prosecutors were following the law. But Zoeller was perfectly happy with prosecutors pocketing money that did not belong to them.

Even after the Indianapolis Star began publishing its expose on the abuse of Indiana's civil forfeiture law, Zoeller sat on the sidelines. Zoeller, who is always pandering to county prosecutors he calls his "clients" (apparently Zoeller is unaware he has a legal obligation to ensure public officials follow the law), did not advocate any sort of reform. It was only after our law firm filed the qui tam whistleblowing lawsuit (to do what the Attorney General always had the power to do), that Zoeller finally came out in favor of legislative reform. Although our lawsuit is maligned in the Star article by Zoeller and Bennett, the fact is without that lawsuit Zoeller would never have come out against prosecutors continuing to pocket all of the civil forfeiture money for law enforcement.

Whether one likes Bennett's policies or not, he's the type of public servant, someone who aggressively uses his position to stand up for what he believes is in the best interest of Hoosiers, that we should want in office. It is shame that Bennett is stuck defending his antithesis in Attorney General Greg Zoeller, a statewide elected official who believes his job is to come up with reasons why he cannot take action to address public concerns. In this case, Attorney General Zoeller did not fulfill his responsibility to ensure that county prosecutors followed the law. Superintendent Bennett should not have to make excuses for Attorney General Zoeller, once again, not doing his job.

Coldest December Ever Recorded in England

Reports out of England is that this December is shaping up to be the coldest December ever recorded. Temperatures have been recorded in England for about 100 years.

This follows on the heels of England's coldest winter in 31 years, i.e. the Winter of 2009-2010.

England apparently didn't get the global warming memo.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Conservatives Need Another Republican Candidate For Mayor of Indianapolis

Of course now that Mayor Greg Ballard has announced he's running for re-election, attention turns to whether other Republicans will announce. With the Ballard campaign actively shaking down government contractors for contributions, any primary opponent will have little chance of being able to compete against the war chest Ballard will have assembled. Still, just a name on the ballot, any name, would get as much as 30% of the vote in a primary against the Mayor.

Conservatives and good government reformers have a lot to be unhappy with Mayor Ballard about. Here's just a partial list:
  • TAX INCREASES: Mayor Ballard has proposed raising taxes and fees over a hundred times since he was elected. He's supported an increase in the food and beverage tax, the alcohol tax, the car rental tax, the hotel tax and he wants a regional sales tax enacted. He has supported an increases in scores and scores of business fees. That COIT increase he promised to repeal...well that's another broken promise.
  • BROKEN PLEDGE TO CUT GOVERNMENT: Ballard pledged to cut the City's budget by 10% or he wouldn't run for re-election. Well, he's not even come close to doing that yet he's running re-election.
  • SWEETHEART DEALS: People are furious over the sweetheart deals that players in the city have gotten over the years. Ballard pledged to stop "country club politics." In fact he's taken country club politics to a new level, giving $33.5 million in tax dollars, pledging nearly $100 million in tax dollars for a politically-connected developer who couldn't get a loan because his project was deemed too risky, and the 50 year parking deal with ACS, a company for whom the Mayor's counsel Joe Loftus lobbies.
  • MISPLACED PRIORITIES: While libraries are cutting hours and the parks budget is cut, Mayor Ballard is giving millions of our tax dollars to the Pacers and politically-connected companies.
  • MORTGAGING THE FUTURE: Both the ACS 50 year parking deal and the phony "sale" of the utilities to Citizens Energy where aimed at mortgaging the future of this City so Mayor Ballard could get a pile of cash to spend before the Election.
  • ETHICAL LAPSES: This is yet another area where Ballard promised to be better than his predecessor an he's been fact much worse. Conflicts of interest, insider deals, and pay to play politics has been the hallmark of the Ballard administration. The 25th Floor is all but run by a law firm, Barnes & Thornburg. In fact, where is Ballard's campaign located? In the Barnes & Thornburg building. B&T's Joe Loftus, a paid advisor to the Mayor and lobbyist for the City, only has to ride an elevetaor to talk to Ballard campaign people.
  • HOSTILITY TO GUN RIGHTS: The Ballard administration has shown nothing but hostility to gun owner's rights. He has taken the position that the City does not have to follow the Second Amendment. Ballard has supported one of the most restrictive gun return policies in the Midwest, he has come out in favor of NYC-style gun registration, and he has threatened to veto a proposal to allow licensed gun owners to carry their guns into city parks. Those guns are allowed in state parks and President Obama signed a measure allowing guns in national parks. It is good to know that our Republican Mayor is to the left of President Obama when it comes to gun rights.
  • ABANDONED FRIENDS AND BROKEN CAMPAIGN PROMISES: There is hardly a person who supported Mayor Ballard in 2007 who supports him today. The man campaigned as a conservative populist and has governed as a liberal elitist. Ballard shoved aside his friends who supported in favor of insiders who didn't support him. He's broken virtually every campaign promise he made in 2007. The man who has no loyalty to his friends and apparently feels no moral obligation to keep promises he made to voters.

There is no reason why a conservative should support Mayor Ballard for re-election. Hopefully there will be other Republican alternatives come May.

Reminder: Redistricting Seminar Today at Statehouse

I wanted to give everyone a reminder about the Common Cause redistricting seminar. I should have done this reminder earlier. See below what I posted a week or so ago. Also the Star has an article on redistricting today that is excellent.


Next Friday, December 17th, Indiana Common Cause will be sponsoring a seminar on gerrymandering entitled "Drawing the Line on Gerrymandering." It's billed as a "luncheon seminar for legislators, lobbyists, attorneys, and advocates." CLE credit for attorneys is available.

The seminar will be held in the Indiana State Senate chambers at the Indiana statehouse. It begins with registration at 10:30 a.m. The program, which starts at 11:00 consists of a panel discussion followed by a question and answer period. It is targeted to wrap up at 1:00 p.m., just in time to return to work.

Radio personality Amos Brown will preside over the seminar. Guest panelists include the Honorable Theodore Boehm, an Indiana Supreme Court justice who recently retired, Dr. Michael McDonald, an associate professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University, and Virginia Martinez, a legislative staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Here is description of the seminar from the brochure for the program.

Every ten years the Indiana General Assembly draws new maps for Congressional and state legislative districts and typically he process is dominated by inside politics and partisan maneuvering. In 2011, the redistricting stakes will be as high as they have ever been since where the district lines fall will have a huge impact on which candidate will be elected and which political party will be int he majority for the next decade. Despite expressing support for an end to gerrymandering in the past, those in control of the map-making process will be under lots of pressure to deliver "safe districts" for their party and their incumbents.

That's where the public comes in. Because of the outstanding work of some computer and political experts, the 2011 round of redistricting will be the most open and transparent ever. Open-source redistricting software has been developed that will allow citizens to have access to the same information legislators will be using to draw the new maps. One of the best ways to shine a light on the process and prevent overt attempts to gerrymander is to allow the public to draw their own maps and compare those independent proposal to the ones offered by the legislature.

Come to the seminar to see a demonstration of how the map-drawing software works by one of its developers. And learn why a former member of the Indiana Supreme Court believes gerrymandering is a serious threat to the legislative and political process in our state. And, hear words of caution form a national expert on the Voting Rights Act regarding the need to balance minority voting protections with the desire for fair and competitive districts.

This seminar is designed to help policymakers, advocates and attorneys learn how to play a meaningful role in the 2011 round of redistricting in Indiana and how to design new maps that protect minority voting rights and promote fairness and competition in Indiana elections.

Please join us on December 17th to start this important discussion in preparation for 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Attorney General Greg Zoeller's Office: "We Don't Investigate Prosecutorial Misconduct"

Today I obtained a memo about alleged misconduct in Elkhart County involving the local prosecutor. The Sheriff up there had suggested that the person asking for an investigation of the local prosecutor contact the FBI and the Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office. The notes from the whistleblower's contact with Zoeller's office went like this:

"We do not investigate prosecutorial misconduct. Rather we represent them in legal matters."

Really? What about the legal requirement that the Attorney General investigate notices of tort claims filed against state officials, which include prosecutors? So are you saying you don't actually investigate those when prosecutors are accused of wrongdoing?

And what about investigating a matter before you reflexively agree to represent a state official including a prosecutor, who is accused of misconduct? When I worked for Attorney General Linley Pearson he 1) insisted we look into accusations that a government official was violating the law and 2) that the AG did not have to represent that government official if we found out he or she was violating the law.

I have never known the Carter/Zoeller Attorney General's Office to ever conduct an investigation into a whistleblower's accusation. The response has always been the same - go after the whistleblower who dared to accuse the public official of wrongdoing. Given the history of the AG's office under the leadership of Carter/Zoeller, I have to wonder about the truthfulness of Zoeller's claim that he did an investigation into the prosecutor's compliance with Indiana's civil forfeiture law.

Radio Host Abdul Peddles Intellectual Dishonesty, Continues Pandering to GOP Leadership

Over at Indiana Barrister, Abdul continues to show his lack of intellectual integrity in a post in which he says that Gary Welsh and I should have "stepped up" to run for Marion County Republican Chairman. He acknowledges that observers have pointed out the system is rigged, but instead of doing the intellectually honest thing of then addressing the issue, Abdul simply shrugs that off as an "excuse." You' will notice that Abdul never denies the system is rigged.

Let me first point out that I was ineligible to run for county chairman. You have to be a precinct committeeman to run for county chairman. I served as an appointed PC but was removed by Tom John before the last county convention, undoubtedly because he wanted to render me ineligible for that election and he knew I wasn't going to vote for him. But, hey, let's not let the facts get in the way of Abdul's pandering to the new GOP leadership.

It was estimated that last night 80% of the PCs at the convention were appointed, not elected. All of those appointed PCs were picked by outgoing Chairman Tom John. They can also be removed (like I was) by John if they don't agree to vote the right way.

Most of the appointed PCs are not PCs who actually work the precinct they are appointed to represent. They are appointed for the sole purpose of attending slatings, county conventions and vacancy elections and voting the way Tom John and leadership wants them to vote. That is exactly why John openly discouraged the election of PCs. John couldn't control elected PCs.

I ran into a prominent Republican yesterday morning. We talked about the convention. He said the biggest problem in the party is that the leadership is not getting a "buy in" from the grass roots workers who are doing the grunt work in the party.. Rather leadership uses a large pool of "mummy dummy" PCs (those appointed simply to vote "the right way") to control the process by outvoting the real party workers.

I'm glad Gary Conner ran, but of course he never had a chance. That had nothing to do with the merits of the two candidates. The system was completely greased for Kyle Walker to win. Of course, Abdul knows that but intellectual honesty has never been important to Abdul. Until the rules change, a reformer who pledges to restore the power of the party workers, thus decreasing the power of leadership, is never going to win.

Fortunately, I understand that state GOP leadership is examining the situation in Marion County and may make changes that will restore the power of the PC, taking away the power of the leadership to dictate slating and convention results by stacking the deck. It should be noted that Marion County is virtually the only place in the state (indeed in the country) that even employs slating. While in theory slating is good as elected neighborhood representatives of the party are picking candidates they want to endorse and work for at the primary, the reality is that party leaders have always tried to rig the results by appointing mummy dummy PCs to outvote party workers. With Tom John, the rigging was worse than ever.

Abdul's popularity as an Indianapolis radio host is at an all-time low because after the 2007 election he chose to pander to the Ballard administration and the Republicans in power, rather than do his job of presenting an honest, objective view of political events in the City. Abdul gets upset when others, such as Gary Welsh and myself, won't simply sell our political souls like he has done. The fact we continue to provide the unvarnished truth on our blogs I think speaks of our integrity, a concept that is foreign to Abdul Hakim-Shabazz.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Newest Ballard Betrayal: Mayor Sells Out 2007 Campaign Supporter Gary Conner

Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana reports about how Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has once again betrayed someone who worked for him in 2007 in favor of a Republican who didn't support his candidacy:

In an e-mail message announcing his candidacy for the Marion County Republican Party Chairman's position being vacated by Tom John, Gary Conner mentioned his work on behalf of Greg Ballard's uphill battle in 2007. "When Greg Ballard won election in 2007, he thanked his family, his campaign staff and then he thanked me, Gary Conner," he wrote. Greg Ballard said, "Without Gary, this doesn't happen." That was then and this is now. As Ballard has done to so many of the people who worked their butts off to elect him when Tom John, the Marion County Republican Party and other state and local Republican leaders did everything humanly possible to disparage his candidacy against Mayor Bart Peterson, Ballard kicked Gary Conner to the curb. Although Ballard had hinted to people his desire to find someone else to run the county party after his upset win over Peterson, he ultimately backed John for re-election. John had humiliated himself a short time earlier by filing to run in the wrong precinct for precinct committeeperson and wound up losing to someone else. John had to appoint himself to a vacant PC spot.

Conner learned today through a phone call from Ballard's campaign manager that Mayor Ballard would be endorsing Conner's opponent for county chairman, Kyle Walker, at tomorrow night's caucus election. Ballard couldn't even pick up the phone and tell his friend he wouldn't be backing him for county chairman. When Ballard ran for mayor in 2007, Walker worked as the executive director at the county party headquarters. Anyone who worked in Ballard's campaign will tell you Walker's boss and the county party staff provided little assistance to Ballard's campaign and discouraged would-be contributors from donating to his campaign. Once the election was over, Ballard betrayed the people who put him in office and turned to the very people who had worked against his campaign to assemble his new administration....
Gary Welsh also added a note that, once again, appointed PCs who don't agree to vote the way leadership wants - for Kyle Walker - are being threatened with removal. Just more of the same. That's why we need to eliminate the pool of appointed, non-working PCs that county chairmen use to rig these elections.

To see the rest of Gary's article, click here.

Decatur Superintendent Arrested for DUI; Does Lying Matter?

The city, particularly the southwest portion of the county, is abuzz over the recent arrest of Decatur Township Superintendent Don Stinson for DUI. The Star reports:

Decatur Township Schools Superintendent Donald Stinson expressed remorse and regret Monday, a day after he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in Plainfield.

"I made a terrible error in judgment," Stinson said Monday in a telephone interview with The Indianapolis Star. "I've embarrassed myself. Even worse, I've embarrassed my family and friends and have unnecessarily brought negative attention to our district."

Decatur School Board President Dale Henson said board members would discuss sanctions against Stinson tonight during the board's regular meeting. Stinson was not suspended Monday.

Stinson, 60, was driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 when an officer stopped his pickup truck on Ind. 267 near Stafford Road at 1:42 a.m. Sunday, according to a Plainfield Police Department report.

Police arrested Stinson on initial charges of drunken driving and public intoxication, the report said.

Officer Michael Pigman saw Stinson drive a 2008 Chevrolet Tacoma over a curb and weave across the lane markers before he pulled the vehicle over, the report said.

Stinson smelled of alcohol and initially told the officer he was returning from a Walmart and had consumed a beer. Later he admitted drinking two glasses of wine at one tavern and two more beers at another, the report said.


To see the rest of the article click here.

It's unfortunate that the claims of drivers arrested for DUI regarding how much alcohol was consumed are never challenged by reporters. Stinson tested at .12 which he said was based on drinking two glasses of wine and two beers. BS.

If Stinson drank those two glasses of wine and two beers in a one hour period, his BAC would probably only be at .06. If he didn't drink that fast and he spent three hours consuming those two beers and two glasses of wine, he would have only been at .02.

Stinson would have had to drank at least 10 glasses of wine or beers over a three hour period to get to .12. Stinson clearly has not told the truth. Does that matter?

Note: I used the drink wheel to measure BAC. That can be found here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why a 58% Pre-Campaign Approval Rating for Mayor Ballard is Poor

For weeks, television reporter Jim Shella and others have been crowing about a WISH-TV poll showing Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard with a 58% approval rating. The 58% supposedly demonstrates the popularity of the Mayor, someone who is "swimming against the Democratic tide" in Marion County.

I don't get it. 58% is actually a poor number for an incumbent mayor at the start of a campaign.

For three years, Ballard's has had the bully pulpit to himself. He has been able to control the message and the issues, with no opponent and only token criticism from the other side. With any sort of political skill, Ballard should have been able to use that vaccuum to crank his approval rating up to 70% or more.

An election involving an incumbent is almost always a referendum on that incumbent. The Democrats are going to bombard voters with information about what Ballard has done wrong these past three years, how he's broken promises, supported tax and fee increases, and pushed through through highly unpopular measures like the parking deal and the $33.5 million Pacers gift.

58% represents Ballard's top number. Typically in these types of elections, the negative advertising from the opposition drags down the incumbent's numbers by 15%, at least. That would put Ballard at 43% on Election Day 2011, which is probably a good guess as to where he will end up.

Ballard needed to start the campaign at about 70% to be able to weather the inevitable storm that is coming. The fact Mayor Ballard is only at 58% at the start of the campaign is not a good is a bad omen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reformer and Conservative Gary Conner Announces for Marion County GOP Chairman

It is so good to hear that someone who believes in real reform in the Marion County GOP has thrown his name in the ring for Marion County Republican Chairman. Today, Gary Conner, Lawrence City Councilor At-Large has filed to run for county chairman.

Just the other day, Conner sent out a letter announcing his interest in running and suggested reforms. Looking over the reforms, it's clear that Conner understands the need to strengthen the grass roots of the organization, including the need to get back to elected neighborhood precinct committeemen. Current county chairman Tom John actively opposed elected PCs in preference to those appointed (and controlled) by him. As a result, slatings and county committees became top-heavy, autocratic affairs, controlled by party leaders.

The only other candidate, Kyle Walker, was executive director of the Marion County GOP under Tom John. Enough said there. We do not need more of the same.

I don't envy the uphill battle Conner has. The insiders will rig the county convention in favor of Walker. Every mummy-dummy PC Tom John has ever appointed will show up to outvote the real grass roots workers who do the actual work of the Marion County Republican Party. The leaders will also direct threats toward Conner and his family if he doesn't drop out of the race. I've seen that game played during my 24 years working in the party, and threats and arm-twisting has gotten much worse under John's leadership.

I agree 100% with the guiding principles outlined in Conner's letter:

Republican Friend,

As you know the position of GOP County Chair will be voted on next week. The most recent news I have heard says that only one person has file to be considered for this position. That person worked closely with the previous Chair to bring us the results we experienced in the last election cycle.

I am looking for a Chair candidate that will stand up for at least these basic principles:

#1. The core values of the Republican Party, as stated in the latest National GOP platform committee report.

#2. The party organization should never send out mailers attacking a GOP candidate.

#3. The process of Slating needs to be review to see if a workable system can be created.

#4. The GOP County Board should include Republicans from each of the townships and no one from another county should hold a leadership position in our county.

#5. Only elected PCs should be allowed to vote to determine the direction of our party. Allowing appointed PCs and Vice PCs seems to be a way for party leaders to try to control the party as opposed to listening to the grass roots of our party.

#6. Slating has not worked well in Indianapolis and should not be used in smaller communities, like the City of Lawrence.

If I do not hear about a candidate with these basic values, I am planning on running to serve as our next GOP County Chair.

Please, let me your thoughts and if you know of another conservative Republican candidate!

Gary Conner
City Councilor At-Large
City of Lawrence
(317) 547-4679, Ext. 127

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 17th Seminar "Drawing the Line on Gerrymandering; CLE Credit Available

Next Friday, December 17th, Indiana Common Cause will be sponsoring a seminar on gerrymandering entitled "Drawing the Line on Gerrymandering." It's billed as a "luncheon seminar for legislators, lobbyists, attorneys, and advocates." CLE credit for attorneys is available.

The seminar will be held in the Indiana State Senate chambers at the Indiana statehouse. It begins with registration at 10:30 a.m. The program, which starts at 11:00 consists of a panel discussion followed by a question and answer period. It is targeted to wrap up at 1:00 p.m., just in time to return to work.

Radio personality Amos Brown will preside over the seminar. Guest panelists include the Honorable Theodore Boehm, an Indiana Supreme Court justice who recently retired, Dr. Michael McDonald, an associate professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University, and Virginia Martinez, a legislative staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Here is description of the seminar from the brochure for the program.

Every ten years the Indiana General Assembly draws new maps for Congressional and state legislative districts and typically he process is dominated by inside politics and partisan maneuvering. In 2011, the redistricting stakes will be as high as they have ever been since where the district lines fall will have a huge impact on which candidate will be elected and which political party will be int he majority for the next decade. Despite expressing support for an end to gerrymandering in the past, those in control of the map-making process will be under lots of pressure to deliver "safe districts" for their party and their incumbents.

That's where the public comes in. Because of the outstanding work of some computer and political experts, the 2011 round of redistricting will be the most open and transparent ever. Open-source redistricting software has been developed that will allow citizens to have access to the same information legislators will be using to draw the new maps. One of the best ways to shine a light on the process and prevent overt attempts to gerrymander is to allow the public to draw their own maps and compare those independent proposal to the ones offered by the legislature.

Come to the seminar to see a demonstration of how the map-drawing software works by one of its developers. And learn why a former member of the Indiana Supreme Court believes gerrymandering is a serious threat to the legislative and political process in our state. And, hear words of caution form a national expert on the Voting Rights Act regarding the need to balance minority voting protections with the desire for fair and competitive districts.

This seminar is designed to help policymakers, advocates and attorneys learn how to play a meaningful role in the 2011 round of redistricting in Indiana and how to design new maps that protect minority voting rights and promote fairness and competition in Indiana elections.

Please join us on December 17th to start this important discussion in preparation for 2011.