Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paul Okeson Claims to Be Looking Out for City's Taxpayer in Pacer Negotiations, Nose Continues to Grow As His Lies Pile Up

Former Indianapolis Chief of Staff Paul Okeson's act as chief "negotiator" for the Capital Improvement Board on the impending Pacer deal is wearing thin. The man has a problem telling the truth. In today's Star Okeson was quoted as saying:

"We're committed to taking enough time to make sure we're doing what is right by the citizen taxpayer and the city's economy."


Okeson and CIB President Anne Lathrop have gone out of their way to help the Pacers out in their negotiations with the CIB/City. They've ignored the numerous academic studies that demonstrate that local government subsidies of professional sports teams are a bad investment. Instead, they commission a study by a former City insider to give them cover as they try to put the City taxpayers on the hook for another $15 million a year to the billionaire Simons family.

That's not all. Okeson has deliberately ignored the contractual provisions that prevent the Simons from simply moving the team and which would require a penalty of nearly $140 million for early termination. Okeson has intentionally ignored these provisions. Reportedly, when questioned more directly about the penalty by reporters, Okeson told them the Pacers have a contractual right to offset the penalty with their losses. Folks, that set-off is not in the contract. Okeson lied.

Okeson is nothing less than a shill for the Indiana Pacers. It is in the best interest of this City and the taxpayers to not renegotiate a contract the Pacers have no leverage to break. Yet where is Okeson as this work day closes? He's at the negotiating table with the Pacers trying to reach an agreement to give away millions more in taxpayer money.

P.S. Picture is changed. Thank you BartLies for the excellent photoshop work.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources Spends $500,000 in Taxpayer Money to Repopulate State with Rats

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a story how my uncle who got in trouble with the state because he had pushed a scoop of dirt up against a dry creek bank to try to prevent the bank from collapsing. As a result of demands of agencies like the Department of Natural Resources, my uncle, an 84 year old man on a limited income, has paid out over $26,000 the past year in restoration efforts even though there was nothing to restore once a 100 year flood washed the dirt away. In the same story, I detailed how the State only fined Wal-Mart, the third largest company in the world, $3,000 for allowing raw sewage from the Madison, Indiana store to leak onto a neighbor's property. The State did not even require Wal-Mart to clean up the property. As a result the neighbor's lake and the surrounding is filled with pollution.

From the files of misplaced priorities comes another story, this also involving DNR. Indiana taxpayers are paying $500,000 for a DNR program to breed the Allegheny woodrats at Purdue University and to import those rats from Kentucky and Tennessee. The concern is that these rats are going extinct. The plan is to release the rats into the wild so Indiana can replenish the state's rat population. I'm sure those rats will find their way into people's homes eventually.

Anyone who knows the history of this planet knows that animal species have been going extinct since the first animal appeared. So now our job is to prevent nature from taking its course? I can understand bald eagles and bison, but rats? Surely we should draw the line somewhere. I would draw it at vermin.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pacers Announcement Coming

Steady yourself folks, the Pacer announcement is coming almost certainly this afternoon or tomorrow. If I know my City "negotiators," they don't have the guts to really stand up to the Pacers and go beyond the team's arbitrary 6/30 deadline.

If the people at the City were smart, they would announce the news late on a Friday so that it hit Saturday's paper, the least read paper of the week. A lot of people would have missed it on the TV news Friday evenings, the day of the week most people eat out. They could have killed off some of the impact of the story.

City officials though are clueless when it comes to PR. You watch, they'll announce it prime time for TV and the newspapers, with pride believing the the Pacers' deal will be seen as a great accomplishment of the Ballard administration. They have no clue that it will be a disastrous political move by the Ballard administration, a deal that will be widely panned by the majority of the people who live in Indianapolis. Mayor Ballard has never gotten the fact that elite support does not equal popular support.

Monday, June 28, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Incorporates 2nd Amendment, Rebukes Ballard Administration's Position on Second Amendment

Having been on the front-line of the debate over Indianapolis' gun policies, I can testify first hand the incredible hostility the Mayor Greg Ballard has toward the Second Amendment and gun owners. In court, his attorneys have taken the position that the City of Indianapolis does not have to follow the Second Amendment, a position directly opposite fellow Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Ballard has supported one of the most restrictive gun return policies in the Midwest, with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department insisting that lawful gun owners undergo fingerprinting and ballistics testing of their guns before they are returned, even when the seizure was a mistake. Ballard has also supported a ban on guns in City parks even though licensed gun owners can carry guns into state and federal parks, the latter law signed by President Obama. Ballard even went so far as to support New York City-style gun registration and supported a Public Safety Chief who has supported strengthening restrictions on private possession of guns.
Today, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt the Ballard administration's gun policies a blow. In McDonald v. City of Chicago the Court "incorporated" the Second Amendment as one of the Bill of Rights that states and local governments have to follow.
The rumor is that national gun rights groups may, post-McDonald, target Indianapolis' gun return policy and ban on guns in city park as being in violation of the Second Amendment. In light of McDonald, Mayor Ballard should lead the charge on revising these two likely unconstitutional policies. We'll, see if that, having his position rebuked by the United States Supreme Court, Greg Ballard will finally start living up to his claim that he supports the Second Amendment. I won't hold my breath.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pike Township School District Has Student From Bahamas Take ESL Test

A friend of mine lives in Pike Township. She briefly lived in the Bahamas, where her son was born. Early in her son's life they moved to the United States and have here ever since.

When Pike Township school officials discovered that her son was born in the Bahamas they administered an "English as a Second Language" test to him.

What language do they speak in the Bahamas? That would be English.

The son is now enrollled in a charter school.

News for Next Week: 2nd Amendment & Pacers

Two unrelated stories to look for next week.

Monday marks the last conference day for the U.S. Supreme Court. Observers believe that the decision on the 2nd Amendment gun case, McDonald v. City of Chicago, is in the pipeline, and may be announced on Monday at the conference.

There seems to be a consensus that the Supreme Court will incorporate the 2nd Amendment, i.e. require states and cities follow the 2nd Amendment. Look for Indianapolis ban on guns in city parks, supported by Mayor Ballard, to be a likely challenge following incorporation. It will be interesting seeing Mayor Ballard who has paid lip service to the 2nd Amendment while showing extreme hostility to gun owners in the policies he's supported.

The other likely story next week is the announcement of a short-term deal between the City and the Pacers to pay their operating costs for three years, with possibly one retroactive year. The premise behind a short-term deal is that a new collective bargaining agreement would place more control on labor costs and let teams like the Pacers be more profitable. Thus, the Pacers in three years might not need more taxpayer money and they won't have to beg for the City to continue paying operating costs. Yeah, like that's going to happen.

Pike Township School District Wastes More Taxpayer Money; Rubberstamp Pike School Board's Sweetheart Insurance Plan

Kara Kenney of WRTV reports on the wonderful insurance plan Pike Township provides to school board members:
INDIANAPOLIS -- In spite of statewide cuts to education, the Pike Township School District continues to pay for a school board perk that many districts do not offer.

The district is paying $77,000 a year for health and dental insurance for school board members, employees who work part-time for the district and often have other jobs, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

Records showed that teachers pay $4,787.76 for the "Employee+One" Anthem plan each year and $6,246.96 for the family plan. School board members pay less than teachers -- $3,588.72 for the Employee+One plan and $4,550.40 for the family plan.

Less than 25 percent of districts statewide pay for insurance for board members, according to figures from 2008.

The Indiana Department of Education checklist for trimming costs lists "reduce all fringe benefit packages of school board members" as a way to cut money without affecting the classroom.

"I'm disappointed and a little bit shocked," said Teresa Meredit, vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. "For them to receive that kind of a benefit even greater than what a teacher gets just seems unfathomable to me when you look at the time a teacher commits to the school system beyond the contract. Teachers pour in hours and hours, plus many of their own dollars."

"I think it's an outrage," said Paul Ogden, a long-time Pike Township resident and former school board candidate. "$75,000 is nothing to sneeze at. You're talking the salary of two full-time teachers ... it is significant. Those kind of things add up."

6News attempted to contact the superintendent, chief financial officer and board members, but none were willing or able to be interviewed. District officials didn't return calls or e-mails on Thursday, but board member Nancy Poore wrote an e-mail to Kenney.

"A typical member spends hundreds of hours on behalf of local education each year. I consider it a great honor to do this work, but it is not an 'honorary' seat. Beyond monthly meetings, most members serve on substantive committees that meet numerous times each year. Board members often have a history of engagement as district boosters and volunteers," Poore said in the e-mail. "My colleagues across Indiana dedicate personal time to be present and show support for education at countless district events, ranging from graduations to annual elementary literacy days. We also read and study educational issues at the state and national level and attend professional conferences to improve our insight and leadership. I subscribe to several education journals, at my own expense."
Poore's argument would and does jusify a higher school board salary for Pike than the current $2,000. Everyone on the Pike Township Board serves at-large so the number of constituent issues that arise can not only with parents, but teachers, school employees, etc. Poore's argument though does not justify giving part-time school board members a better benefit that full-time teachers in the district receive.

Pike spends $75,000 for this benefit. Why not double salaries to $4,000 to fairly compensate school board members, then cut out the health care benefit. That would save Pike Taxpayers $61,000. School board members should get exactly the same health care benefits the school district pays to its part-time workers, which is none.

Pike school board member Ricky Hence was supposed to be interviewed for the story but apparently backed out. It's unfortunate because Ricky Hence two years ago was supported by pro-labor groups who wanted him to stand up to the administration, yet he has completely been captured by the administration and his pro-labor views set aside. Don't think that hasn't been noticed by the folks who helped Hence get elected.

At a Pike School Board meeting last night, school board members gushed praise on the administration of Superintendent Nathanial Jones, a protege of Eugene White. All the presentations to and from the School Board that everything is wonderful in the district, they're all doing a terrific job. Meanwhile, in the real world, Pike schools are filled with gangs, classroom learning is interrupted by disruptive students and parents continue to look for other alternatives like charter and private schools.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Viable Alternative To City's Sale of Utilities to Citizen's Gas

Over at another blog, (I won't mention the blogger's name but as a hint he's widely considered to be a paid moouthpiece for Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John and the Ballard administration), the blogger says no one has come up with a viable alternative to the City's plan to sell the water and sewer utilities to Citizen's Gas.

Really? Here's one....don't "sell" the utilities to Citizen's Gas. Transfer the utilities to Citizen's Gas. The public will own the utilities before and after the deal...a slightly different public, but the public nonethelss.. The "sale" is nothing more than a huge tax increase that will be paid for by the public in the form of higher utility rates. The only reason to "sell" the utilities is so the Ballard administration can get their hands on a lot of cash before the election to try to buy favor to rescue his unpopular administration.

The blogger goes on to say in the comment section that he has no problem with borrowing money for 30 years to fund improvements which last 5-7 years. Ahem. A commenter suggested that road repairs do last 30 years. Yeah, right.

Telecoms Try to Deter City From Collecting Right of Way Fees

Yesterday, Indianapolis Star report Francesca Jarosz reported on the City's latest effort to collect revenue - letting telecom companies lay fiber optic cable along the trails:

Indianapolis has come out with its latest idea for generating revenue from an existing resource. Trouble is, it might not be legal.

Last week, city officials issued a public request seeking ideas on how they might make money from the city's 59 miles of greenways by laying fiber optic cable networks along the trails.

The idea is that cable and Internet companies or data-storage providers could build and use those networks as ways to expand fast, high-tech services -- and compensate the city for use of the space.

But a telecommunications trade group argues that charging rent to occupy rights of way violates state law.

Late Tuesday, city officials said they were not clear on the interpretation of the statute and emphasized that the intent of soliciting information is to work out those kinds of kinks.

I have reviewed the statute in question - IC 8-1-2-101(b). The statute authorizes municipalities to charge utilities to use municipality public right-of-way. The greenways (which I refer to as "linear parks") is clearly a "right-of-way." A "right-of-way" is public property upon which people, goods or services move from one place to another.

I think I know what the telecom's legal argument is - that the term "right-of-way" should be defined as an easement.. An easement is not ownership of property but rather the right to use property for a particular purpose and when that purpose ends the property goes back to the underlying fee owner.

Municipalities and other government entities do not acquire easements any more when they build roads, trails, etc. Rather they buy fee simple title to the property. When they did that the term "right-of-way" lost its meaning as just referring to an easement. Clearly the legislature did not mean for this statute to just apply to easements but meant the broader, more modern definition of "right-of-way." Suggesting "right-of-way" just means an easement would turn upside down the code which is littered with references to "right-of-way," references that clearly don't refer to the antiquated definition of a "right-of-way" only being an easement.

Of course, nobody is making the telecoms buy access to the greenways, so what's the fuss? What Ms. Jarosz missed in the article is a larger story. The fact is telecoms are currently using the city's right-of-ways for free. Most cities require telecoms to pay for their use of public property. But Indianapolis does not. Indianapolis gives it away, to the tune of foregoing millions of dollars every year. I'm sure the telecoms do not want a precedent established that might cause the City to re-examine its giveaways.

The City's giveaway to telecoms was the reason for the blowup regarding Rick Maultra's work as director of the City's telecom agency. Maultra insisted that telecoms should have to pay for its use of public property. This didn't sit well with Joe Loftus, who is an attorney for the mayor, partner at Barnes & Thornburg, and, most significantly, a lobbyist for AT&T. Loftus had tired of Maultra's taking a position for his client the City and against his other client, AT&T, and worked behind the scenes along with AT&T officials to have Maultra's job phased out.

I can recall that at the time, Chris Cotterill, then head of City Legal, and now Chief of Staff, argued forcefully in an email that telecoms should not be charged by the City because they would simply pass along those costs to consumers. While it's not a philosophy I buy (businesses can't always just pass along charges to consumers - sometimes the competitive marketplace will not allow that), it is interesting that Cotterill's philosophy is selective enough to allow him to argue for raise business fees and and for charging telecoms use of greenways.

It's all about the green...not the green of our linear park, but the green telecoms get to keep when the City doesn't charge them for using public property. Maultra was right. It is time we put a stop to people like Joe Loftus using their positions in city government. Telecoms need to be charged for using City rights-of-way.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grade Inflation, Paying Employers to Hire Graduates....What Will Law Schools Think of Next?

I've written before about how law schools mislead students about the salaries and career opportunities afforded by the legal profession. Law students often rack up six figure student loan debt to come out to a job market in which $30,000 starting salaries are the norm ... assuming the new attorney can even get a job.

Well, apparently the complete disconnect between law schools and the real world of practicing law is starting to close. Complaints are filtering back to the law school so they're trying to come up with measures to make their graduates more employable, including artificially raising grades and paying employers to "test drive" new lawyers.

The New York Times reports:

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

A Dallas law firm will be paid for employing Zachary Burd, who graduated from Southern Methodist University’s law school.

But it’s not because they are all working harder.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.

In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.

Law schools seem to view higher grades as one way to rescue their students from the tough economic climate — and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings. Once able to practically guarantee gainful employment to thousands of students every year, the schools are now fielding complaints from more and more unemployed graduates, frequently drowning in student debt.

They have come up with a number of strategic responses. Besides the usual career
counseling measures, many top schools have bumped up their on-campus interview weeks from the autumn to August, before the school year even starts, because they want their students to have a chance to nab a job slot before their counterparts at other schools do.

Others, like Duke and the University of Texas at Austin, offer stipends for students to take unpaid public interest internships. Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law even recently began paying profit-making law firms to hire its students.

“For people like me who have good grades but are not in the super-elite, there are not as many options for getting a job in advance,” said Zachary Burd, 35, who just graduated from Southern Methodist University. A Dallas family law firm will receive $3,500 to “test drive” him this August.

“They’ll get me for a month or two, for free, to try me out,” he said. “It’s safer for them, and it’s a good foot in the door for me.”

But the tactic getting the most attention — and the most controversy — is the sudden, deliberate and dubiously effective grade inflation, which had begun even before the legal job market softened.

“If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser at the end,” says Stuart Rojstaczer, a former geophysics professor at Duke who now studies grade inflation. “So you artificially call every student a success.”
I'm sure people are tired of my preaching the subject, but people thinking about law school need to talk to young practicing attorneys about what the salaries and job opportunities are in the profession and not rely on law schools, which make money off the students, to tell them the truth. Law schools lie...they lie a lot.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi Fails to Report All Income on Child Support Obligation Worksheet

Sorry, just been too busy and too uninspired to write lately.

Regarding the post below, I was able to obtain the Child Support Obligation Worksheet (CSOW) from the Brizzi divorce file out of Boone County. His weekly income is only listed as $2,500 which translates to $130,000. That is really close to the $125,647 in income Brizzi is reported as receiving from his prosecutor's salary.

Where is all of Brizzi's investment income? Why is that income not included in the CSOW? I can't imagine that the deputy prosecutors in the Child Support Division of the Marion County Prosecutor's would allow a noncustodial parent to underreport his income. Why then does Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi have a right to not report income that allows him to pay less child support than he otherwise would?

The charge to the court in these matters is the "best interests" of the child. It doesn't matter if Carl Brizz's now ex-wife wants to go along with the unreporting of Carl's income, the court still has a duty to ascertain the true income picture and issue a ruling, even if that contradicts the wishes of the parents. Apparently that didn't happen in this case.

Sorry I can't get the image to enlarge.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Marion County Prosecutor Targets "Dead Beat Dads"; Will Brizzi Target Himself for Underpayment of Support?

What do you do as an elected official if you find yourself immersed in scandal and facing calls within your own party to resign? You change the subject. With that time-honored strategy in mind, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi recently announced a program cracking down on dead beat parents (90% of which are fathers) by filing criminal charges if they refuse to pay.

One wonders whether Carl Brizzi will target himself for underpaying child support.

As reported in the Indianapolis Business Journal, Brizzi only pays $1,000 a month in child support for his four children. According to public records, Carl Brizzi's salary as prosecutor is $125,647 while his ex-wife makes $77,000 at the State Division of Family & Children. Using those gross salaries, I worked up a spreadsheet for child support that shows Carl Brizzi's monthly child support payment would be $1436.20.

While my calculation does include an adjustment for standard overnight visitation, it doesn't include a credit for health insurance premiums, child care, and private school tuition. Substantial payments by Carl Brizzi for those items could bring his child support payments down to $1,000 per month.

But what about Brizzi's outside income? He owns a share of Harry's and Izzy's. He owns investments with defense attorney Paul Page and real estate developer John Bales. Numerous stories have detailed those business ventures which have made Brizzi far wealthier than he would have been with his "meager" six figure public servant's salary. There is no way Brizzi's business income was included in the child support calculations and it still produced a $1,000 monthly child support figure for four children. His child support should be much higher.

As noted by the IBJ, the $1,000 figure was included in a divorce settlement. But as any one who has done family law knows, it doesn't matter that both parties agree that the father only has to pay a certain amount in child support. The Court is supposed to be looking out after the best interests of the children. That means the Court demands honest and complete income numbers from the parties and includes those figures in the child support calculation. It's not clear that the Court did that in the Brizzi divorce. Rather it appears they simply took the income at face value, and didn't include Carl Brizzi's business income in the calculation.

It's always an easy political score to beat up on dead-beat dads. Given the fact Carl Brizzi is clearly underpaying child support given his outside business income, this might not be the best subject for him to use to divert attention.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Indy's Panhandling Ordinance Revisited

As my office is right across from the City Market and only a few hundred feet from the City-County Building, there is hardly a day that goes by that I don't see panhandlers. As I recall, last year there was an ordinance introduced that was supposed to curb panhandling.

There have been times, I've seen panhandlers at every corner of he intersection of Market and Delaware. Rarely is there not at least one panhandler at this intersection.

Did I mention that the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's office is in the City-County building around which much of the panhandling takes place? Didn't IMPD brass plead that the council give the department these additional "law enforcement tools" like the 50 feet from the intersection restriction and a prohibition on signs? Ever last one of these panhandlers is within 50 feet of intersections and many have signs. I saw one the other day who used a clever prop to lure in "customers."

I wonder if the Councilors do not see the panhandlers who regularly violate their new ordinance when they walk to meetings at the CC building.

I am beginning to think that the new panhandling ordinance was all about the 2012 Super Bowl. My guess is that you can finally expect the new panhandling ordinance be enforced when visitors are in town for the week of Super Bowl activities.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

State Targets Common Man While Letting Wal-Mart Pollute Without Consequences; Asks Legislators to Investigate DNR and IDEM

I spent much of the day working on this letter. I wish you all could see the pictures and video of what the State has allowed Wal-Mart to the man's property discussed in the letter. We're talking raw sewage in and around his lake. The state fined Wal-Mart, the third biggest company in the world, just $3,000 and didn't even make the company do a clean-up of the property. Meanwhile, my uncle's bills are up to $26,000 (though the increase has slowed since I pulled the plug on his trying to make regulators happy) trying to make the government officials trying to make government officials happy after he was cited for putting a couple bulldozer scoops of dirt against the bank of a dry creek bed. Fortunately the EPA decided he didn't need to do any restoration effort as the dirt was washed away in a 100 year flood. State officials though are still pursuing the matter.

P.S. I found the IDEM logo below ironic given the agency apparently has no problem with Wal-Mart "fertilizing" a neighbor's property.

June 17, 2010

Sen. Beverly Gard
Indiana Senate
Indiana Statehouse
Indianapolis IN 46204

Rep. David Cheatham
Indiana House
Indiana Statehouse
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Re: Request for Investigation of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Department of Environmental Management

Dear Sen. Gard and Rep. Cheatham:

I am writing this time to formally ask that you launch an investigation into the environmental enforcement policies and activities engaged in by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). In particular, I would ask that you focus on how individuals at those agencies have handled two separate matters involving Madison resident Paul Buchanan and the Wal-Mart located in Madison

In 2008, I visited John Scott in Madison, where I used to live. Scott and his son live on property next to the Wal-Mart in Madison. Walking next to his lake I smelled a strong ammonia-type odor. I flipped over some topsoil next to the lake and witnessed raw black sewage. Mr. Scott had the soil tested and found it had an extraordinary level of toxins in the soil. This information was turned over to state officials, including IDEM. Wal-Mart was cited for having a private sewer that overflowed. Wal-Mart was also cited for having leaky trash dumpsters that were draining onto Mr. Scott’s property.

State of Indiana officials fined Wal-Mart, the third wealthiest company in the world, $3,000 for one citation and nothing on the other. The State has not even required Wal-Mart to clean up Mr. Scott’s property and now has allowed Wal-Mart to bury raw sewage in a hill next to Mr. Scott’s property, without a liner. Unless the law of gravity is reversed, sewage will leak onto Mr. Scott’s property. Given Governor Daniels recent commitment to wetlands development, it is surprising the utter disregard state agencies have when it comes to corporate polluters and real life victims of that pollution.

The other case involves my uncle and client, Paul Buchanan. Paul lives in Madison and owns property in the China-Manville area. One day he noticed that banks of the Dry Fork Creek (the creek in this area is completely dry unless there is a storm) were being undercut by erosion. On one side, his property was about to collapse into the creek bed. On the other side, trees and a county road would eventually collapse.

My uncle took his bulldozer and pushed a couple scoops of dirt to try to shore up the banks on both sides of the creek. He was cited with a violation for his work. Before he could remove the dirt he had pushed against the bank, a 100 year storm came through the area and washed away the dirt. The creek at that point was back exactly like it was before.

The fact there was nothing left at that point to restore was not good enough for federal and state officials. They began making creative claims like his work had interfered with the spawning of fish (there are no fish – it’s a dry creek bed) and disturbed “vegetation,” i.e. weeds that are supposedly growing in the rock filled creek. They required Paul to hire engineers, environmentalists and others to come up with various plans to address these non-existent problems. They even suggested that he hire a pilot to fly over and take pictures of the area.

State officials further made the outrageous demand that Paul change his deed to include a restriction that he (and future owners of the property) no longer be allowed to work in the creek. That would mean that Paul and future owners of the property, even if they followed the law and got the proper permits, would not be able to do the very same things their neighbors are allowed to do. As a real estate attorney, I know that restriction would negatively affect the value of Paul’s property. That state officials are using their office to demand that homeowners execute deed restrictions unaware of their impact is something that alone warrants an investigation.

No matter what Paul does, it is never enough for state officials. While the federal officials eventually concluded there is nothing left to restore because of the storm, state officials are still pressing the issue. Recently we received a letter from Ron McAhron, Deputy Director of DNR wanting Paul Buchanan to make more changes to the creek on what he refers to as an “active matter.” (It’s obvious that Mr. McAhron has never been to the creek he is talking about.) While Mr. McAhron’s letter is not as threatening as most of the other state officials, my client has learned from experience that the minute he agrees to do something to placate officials, they will just start making additional demands.

Remember that $3,000 fine that the state officials hit Wal-Mart for its environmental violation? Remember that state officials have not even required Wal-Mart to clean up the property the company had damaged? Well, Paul Buchanan has spent $26,000 this last year trying to meet the demands of government officials. While the State is willing to give Wal-Mart a slap on the wrist for a major environmental violation and not even require restoration, they are more than happy to harass and bully Paul Buchanan, an 84 year old man living on a limited income. They have had Paul so worried about losing his farm, that he can’t sleep and has had trouble eating.

I hope you like me find the conduct of IDEM and DNR officials with respect to the Wal-Mart and Buchanan cases to be outrageous and that an investigation should be conducted. Please be assured that you have my and my client’s full cooperation should you decide to hold such an investigation.


Paul K. Ogden

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

$3.5 Million of Our Tax Dollars Down The Drain; Metropolitan Development Commission Approves Plan to Renovate the City Market...Again!

I've reported on this several times. The Indiananpolis Metropolitan Development Commission has approved a $3.5 million plan to renovate the City Market. Of course, millions was spent just a few years ago to renovate the City Market, closing down much of the building for over a year. Preceding that was, you guessed, it another renovation.

This time though the City Market Board has come up with a great plan: Bright colors!!! More lighting!!! Vendors stands!!! Oh, and we'll have a bicycle hub in the east wing including amenities for those of us who like to peddle to work!!! Yes, that will cause the public to suddenly change their mind about shopping for produce and fresh meat at the City Market on their lunch hour. FYI... that was sarcasm.
This may be the biggest white elephant in the city. Instead of some government board deciding what will work at the City Market, why not let the free market play a role in determining what businesses the people will patronize at that location? Now, I know that whole "free market" approach is revolutionary in a city devoted to handing over taxpayer money to businesses, but it's worth being considered.

Why Can't the Media Ask the CIB's Paul Okeson and Anne Lathrop A Tough Question?

Yesterday morning I had the chance to listen to a radio interview with Paul Okeson, Treasurer of the Capital Improvement Board and lead "negotiator" for the CIB with the Pacers. The interview went on for about 15-20 minutes. The interview consisted of one softball question after another. No calls were taken from the public.

That "homer" interview was not exactly unique. With the exception of the Indianapolis Business Journal, virtually every other reporter in town approaches CIB officials with kid gloves, fearful of asking even a mildly tough question about the possibility of forking over millions more in tax dollars, every year, to the Simons. Since those reporters can't seem to come up with a tough question to ask CIB President Anne Lathrop and Okeson, let me come up with a few for them?

1. What proof do you have that the Pacers are losing money?

2. What records have you personally examined that show how much money, if any, the Pacers are losing money?

3. Please tell me under what circumstances the Early Termination provision in the contract is triggered?

4. Does the contract allow the Simons to relocate the team before the end of the contract?

5. Here is a copy of the contract...can you point me to that provision?

6 Please explain to me how the penalties for the exercise of the Early Termination provision work.

7. How much would the penalty for Early Termination be if it were exercised in 2010?

8. Are you claiming that the Pacers are entitled to a set off against the penalty?

9. If the answer to #8 is "yes," please point to the provision in the contract that says

10. There have been a number of academic studies done which shows that local governments subsidizing professional sport teams is a bad investment. (Discuss a couple of the studies.) Are you claiming that: a) those studies are wrong and if so why or b) that the Pacer situation is different. If the answer is "b" please explain in detail why the Pacers are not like other professional sports teams that have been studied.
My guess is that if Okeson and Lathrop was ever confronted by a reporter asking these types of questions, the interview would end real fast.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brian Williams Leaves Mayor's Race, Endorses Melina Kennedy

This is darn near tragic. Brian Williams, a local businessman, is leaving the race for the Democratic nomination for Mayor. During his short tenure as mayoral candidate, Williams displayed a tremendous grasp of the issues and a willingness to be the independent, fair-minded voice this community desperately needs.
Williams has endorsed Melina Kennedy, a lawyer for Baker & Daniels who worked in the Peterson administration and ran, unsuccessfully, against Carl Brizzi for Marion County Prosecutor.

Kennedy was part of the elitist, insider crowd when she worked for Peterson. Although Republican Greg Ballard ran as an outsider, he quickly turned his back on those who helped him get elected and instead embraced the country club wing of the GOP which hadn't won a Mayor's race since 1995. So, assuming Mayor Ballard runs for re-election (we can always hope he'll won't), 2011 shapes up to be two big taxing, big spending, corporate welfare loving, country club insiders squaring off against each other. What is a conservative like me to do? If it is Ballard v. Kennedy, the Libertarian candidate will certainly get my vote.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why Did Star Editors Defang Francesca Jarosz Story on Professional Fees City is Paying on Utilities Sale?

This morning Francesca Jarosz's had a front page article discussing the professional fees being paid by the City in conjunction with the proposed water and sewer utilities "sale" to Citizens' Energy Group. Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana discusses the story and provides the Star's summary of those professional fees which ran alongside the article:


» Financial advisers: $5.6 million to Citigroup; $970,000 to Capital Source (which employs former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith).

» Lawyers: $2 million to Baker & Daniels.

» Analysis/due diligence: $250,000 to Crowe Horwath.

» Engineering: $206,500 to R.W. Beck.

» Public relations/communications: $322,500 to Hirons & Co.

» Total: $9.3 million


» Financial advisers: $366,809 to Morgan Stanley & Co.

» Lawyers: $1.2 million to Ice Miller; $47,000 to Hackman Hulett & Cracraft; $14,475 to Krieg DeVault Alexander and Capehart.

» Analysis/due diligence: $604,000 to Booz & Co.; $221,547 to Deloitte & Touche; $61,476 to The Revere Group.

» Engineering: $457,180 to Malcolm Pirnie.

» Public relations/communications: $90,093 to Bose Public Affairs Group.
» Total: $3.1 million

Over at the Indianapolis Times blog, Terry Burns detailed an internal Hirons email warning the staff to expect a hard hitting article from the Star discussing professional fees, including the fact that Hirons is doing the PR work on the project while Greg Ballard's son, Greg, Jr. is employed by Hirons.

The expected hard-hitting article never happened. Instead Jarosz's piece was milquetoast, an almost apologetic piece that simply published the professional fees without bothering to delve into their meaning. There was no attempt to make the inevitable connection between campaign contributions and those receiving these no-bid contracts. Most shockingly, the article never even mention that Greg, Jr., the Mayor's son, works at Hirons which has received $322 thousand or that the leading candidate for Mayor, Melina Kennedy, works at Baker & Daniels which has received $2 million in fees. The role of former Mayor Steve Goldsmith's and how much his firm is receiving is merely noted on a table accompanying the article.

I have no doubt that Ms. Jarosz intended a harder hitting article. It's not like the employment of Greg Ballard, Jr. and Melina Kennedy at firms receiving money on this deal hasn't been confirmed. They are facts that any professional reporter would have included in his or her story. There is no doubt that the Star editors intentionally deleted Ballard and Kennedy's employment Jarosz' story. Can there be any doubt that the Star's editors chose to throw away all pretenses of objectivity because they have an agenda that they intend to promote on the news pages?

How Much Does it Cost for the City of Indianapolis to Replace a Light Bulb?

In light of what was reported in the Indianapolis Star this morning about the professional fees the City is paying on the proposed utility sale, this is my analysis of how much the City would spend to replace a $1 light bulb.
  • New Light Bulb $1

  • Financial advisers: $70,000
    --needed to know fiscal impact of the new light bulb

  • Lawyers: $35,000
    --needed to write up contract for installation of light bulb

  • Analysis/Due Diligence: $15,000
    --needed to make sure the contract is followed.

  • Engineering: $15,000
    --needed to study and report on best way of installing light bulb.

  • Public relations/communications: $25,000
    --needed to explain to the public why the light bulb was replaced.

Total Cost to Indianapolis Taxpayer to Replace $1 Light Bulb: $160,001.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Governor Daniels Suggests Putting Social Issues on Hold, Sets off Heated Discussion in the Republican Party

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, perhaps unwittingly, has sparked a fierce discussion among Republicans about the direction of the party. In a piece published in the conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, Daniels said the next President should focused on the federal debt and national security rather than social issues. The comment was in a piece that focused on Governor Daniels' professional and political careers. Since this blog tends to focus on the "politics" of issues, that will be the focus of this post.

Since at least 1980, the success of the national Republican Party have depended on assembling and holding together a coalition of fiscal and social conservatives. Beginning in 1980, Ronald Reagan had extraordinary success with this coalition. His biggest success was drawing into the Republican orbit fiscally liberal but socially conservative voters who had historically voted for Democratic Presidents.

When Reagan left the political scene in 1989, this coalition began to come apart. In 2000, George Bush II put the coalition together again. Eight years later though the fiscal & social conservative coalition was in shambles, the worst shape it had been since Reagan.

Since then the always simmering feud between fiscal conservatives and social conservatives in the Republican Party has boiled over. Fiscally conservative Republicans have been most aggressive in pointing to the GOP's flirtation with social issues as the reason for the Republicans' demise. These Republicans typically point to Sen. Barry Goldwater as the ideal Republican - fiscally conservative and a moderate (if not liberal) on social issues. Those Republicans tend to forget Goldwater's version of Republicanism, sans social issues, was slaughtered in the 1964 presidential election, while the Reagan coalition of fiscally and social conservatiives won two landslides in 1980 and 1984.

Quite simply, Republican fiscal conservatives are wrong. Social conservatives haven't cost Republicans their majority in Congress and the White House. Rather the Republicans lost because the GOP gave up being the party of fiscal conservatism. The public does not believe the Republican Party is the part of lower taxes, smaller government and balanced budgets. And for good reason. The legacy of the last Republican Congress and President Bush is that they ceded the fiscal conservative philosophy to the Democrats.

Governor Daniels is exactly right that the Republicans need to get back to being the party of fiscal conservatism. While I doubt he was suggesting the GOP abandon its socially conservative agenda in doing so, that nonetheless is the inevitable spin his comments have received.

The national Republican Party wins when it can assemble and hold together a coalition of fiscally conservative and social conservative voters. The members of the coalition don't always get along, but without each other the GOP cannot win Congress or the White House. It's as simple as that.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Presentation to College Bound Charter School Students; Law Schools Lie to Students about Salaries and Opportunities Provided by the Profession

About three weeks ago, I helped a colleague out with a program at a charter school that was aimed at encouraging students at the school to go on to college. My job and that of several of the others who were recruited to help was to talk to the students about the importance of higher education.

Being about the last person to speak, I heard adult after adult speak glowingly about education has opened doors for them. Most of the presenters were students themselves, i.e. law students, or were recent law school graduates and experiencing the legal job market for the first time.
When it came my turn, I gave the students a completely different message. I told the students that if they are interested in a profession, they should go talk to people who actually work in that profession to get the straight scoop on employment opportunities and pay. I warned them not to rely on the job statistics offered by colleges that are trying to get their tuition dollars. I also told them not to rely on such sources as if they want a realistic view of income those in that profession make. The other presenters thought I was talking to the teenage students. Actually I was talking to them.

I was reminded of this experience this week. A fairly recent attorney, who I'm sure has an extremely modest associate salary of $35,000 or so, told me that she was paying back $150,000 in student loans. Ugh. From a pure dollar standpoint, I doubt that law school education investment will ever prove to be profitable.

She shouldn't count on experience making that much of a difference in her salary either. Another Indiana attorney, who ended up relocating out of state, told me of a conversation he had with a partner who was considering hiring him. The attorney had decades of experience that he could have brought to the firm. The partner told the experienced attorney that he couldn't hire him when he had a stack of resumes from people in the top 5% of their law school class who were willing to work for $30,000 to $35,000 a year without benefits. That's the same pay, $30,000 to $35,000 that private law firms were paying out in 1987 when I graduated from law school.

Those of us in the legal profession laugh when we read about the employment statistics claimed by law schools. According to the 2008 Employment Survey conducted by IU School of Law at Indianapolis, 96% of attorneys are employed within 9 months and those new lawyers in Indianapolis average $70,000 a year. There is no auditing of these numbers. Law schools can make up whatever claims they want without fear of penalty. Since the law school ratings consider these numbers, there is an incentive is to inflate the numbers to compete against others law schools which also want a better rating.

Supposedly these IU Law School employment numbers are based on surveys that are returned by new lawyers. When I asked for the surveys in an open records request several years ago, the law school refused to produce them claiming confidentiality requirements. Of course the school could have simply redacted any identifying information. One thing that did slip come out during my asking questions is that school officials admit they estimate salaries for those new attorneys who don't return their surveys. So the estimate of salaries is based substantially on salary numbers the law school is making up for new lawyers who don't return the form. Not real scientific.

If the new and future lawyers who were at the charter school that day had talked to actual practicing attorneys about their career choice, before they made it, they might well have chosen a different career. The legal profession needs to hold law schools responsible for lying to prospective students about the salaries and jobs available in our profession. Why does the Indiana Bar Association remain silent about an issue that is so important to the welfare of those who practice the legal profession?

See also:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008, Mandatory Reading Before Going to Law School

Wednesday, April 22, 2009, Lies, Damn Lies and Law School Employment Statistics; The Sordid Truth Behind the Numbers

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Can't the CIB's Lathrop and Okeson Tell the Truth About the Pacers?

I know it's a crazy idea, but what if public officials, who were supposed to represent us, were honest with the public instead of using their positions to promote a particular agenda?
I bring this up because of the supposed imminent Pacers' deal. The Capital Improvement Board, i.e. the City, is poised to give the billionaire Simon family millions of our tax dollars to subsidize their operation of Conseco Fieldhouse, a building which taxpayers built and the Pacers play rent free in. Right now the Pacers pay to run the place but get 100% of the profits that result from events at the arena. The Simons want us to pay to run the place while they pocket money from events at the building. This proposal will cost taxpayers as much as $18 million per year.
The CIB, led by Anne Lathrop and Paul Okeson, are negotiating with the Pacers. Throughout the process, Lathrop and Okeson have suggested to the public that the we can't afford to lose the Pacers and that we need to reach a solution on an additional annual subsidy for the team. In the face of a plethora of academic studies that all say professional sports subsidies are a horrible investment, Lathrop and Okeson went out to get a "homer" study by a company that promotes the hospitality industry which would give them the news they wanted to hear - we need the Pacers here! (The person who did the report was a former Goldsmith administration official who had originally worked on the Conseco Fieldhouse deal.) They could have gotten a study from an economist, but that person might have told them the truth about professional sports subsidies. Lathrop and Okeson weren't interested in the truth...they were interested in getting information that they could use to try to dupe the public into accepting their planned taxpayer giveaway.
Of course, even getting to the point of considering the impact of the Pacers leaving is premature. The fact is the Pacers' contract doesn't let the Simons just pick up and move the team after ten years. Under the contract, the Simons have to be selling the team and the team moving out of state before the Early Termination provision can even be exercised at all. This is something that Lathrop and Okeson simply ignore.
And why aren't Lathrop and Okeson telling the public the truth - that even if the Pacers exercised this Early Termination provision, the team's penalties would be enormous - $142 million in 2010. According to my sources, when that issue has come up CIB officials have suggested the penalties aren't that severe as the Pacers are entitled to a set-off for operating losses that would virtually wipe the penalty. The claim is a lie. The contract does not have a set-off for the penalty.
What is it about Lathrop and Okeson that they feel no duty to be honest with the public? It is obvious that they do not represent the public's best interests. They are in their position to help the Simons out and by golly if accomplishing that requires them to lie to the public, they'll do it.
While public officials lying is not exactly a new phenomenon, what has often held those folks in check is the few dedicated public servants who are willing to do their job and ask questions. But has any member of the CIB or any city or county politician ever asked questions and demanded answers about why the CIB would consider giving more taxpayer money to the Pacers at all? Nope.
Honesty...what a novel concept.

Yes, Virginia, Police Brutality Does Exist

When the possible police brutality case involving 15 year old Brandon Johnson first made the news, a lot of people, including a local blogger and radio host, was ready to pronounce Johnson guilty and exonerate the police officers. Comedian Chris Rock's bit on police brutality was posted and even praised as a model for young African-Americans to follow in their dealing with police. Apparently the fact that one piece of advice was to always ride with a white passenger wasn't enough to tip off these people that Rock's piece was a JOKE and not to be taken seriously.
On my blog, I warned that whites are too quick to always discard claims of police brutality. While African-Americans are too distrusting of police, whites have the opposite problem - they believe police officers are always in the right and are not open-minded to the possibility that officers do step over the line and are not always honest in how events are recounted in police reports.
Well, results of the police investigation of the Brandon Johnson matter are in. Chief of Police Paul Ciesielski and his boss Public Safety Director Frank Straub have recommended that Officer Jerry Piland be fired for continuing to hit Johnson after other officers had Johnson subdued. Other officers are recommended to receive reprimands.
While the focus of the discipline was on the officers' actions with Brandon Johnson, I do wonder about those who participated in the writing of a biased police report that effectively covered up Piland's excessive force and put the blame on Johnson. Officers should know that if they participate in covering up serious police misconduct they will also face discipline.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wealthy Industrialist P.E. MacAllister Ignores Details of Pacers Contract, Urges Taxpayers to Shell Out Millions More to Billionaire Simons Family

This morning, the Indianapolis Star continued its PR campaign in favor of giving the Simons millions more of our tax dollars. Today's effort involved a guest editorial from former Capital Improvement Board President P.E. MacAllister.

As a party to the original negotiations in 1983 when the city begged the Simons to buy the Pacers, I may have a different perspective regarding the Capital Improvement Board and its relationship to the team. Our reasoning seemed sound at the time because of Indiana's reputation for basketball. To contemplate the Pacers leaving seemed a bit like sacrilege. It would suggest we had lost our passion for the game or were unable to meet the requirement necessary to be a major league competitor.

Key to improving the city were several components: the move to Uni-Gov; a partnership between the public and private sector; building the Indiana Convention Center in 1971 and the support that followed, including a list of hotels coming on stream, 20 new restaurants, the revival of Downtown theater and the symphony, Union Station, Market Square Arena, the Eiteljorg, Circle Centre, etc. One piece after another fit into a composite that resulted in a brand-new Indianapolis, achieved through broad effort creating justifiable pride. The Indians, the Colts and the Pacers help round out our range of options, adding to our uniqueness and attracting visitors who would have never before considered visiting Naptown.

That being said, the CIB and the city are rightly concerned about the perennial cost of maintaining a new image, causing us to focus on the Pacers and the current challenge to underwrite a share of Conseco Fieldhouse expenses. But don't we also have to look at the "net" figure, accounting for the benefits they contribute to the local economy?

These are surprising. Conseco Fieldhouse generates an annual revenue stream of around $200 million, 37 percent of it contributed from folks outside Marion County. It accounts for 2,500 to 3,000 jobs with payroll of $75 million to $85 million annually (not counting players); $8.2 million in taxes paid; 200 events and 500 meetings (not counting games). Between 1.5 million and 2 million people come to Conseco each year; 61 percent of them are not local residents. Filling this gap if the team should leave might be tougher than figuring out how to keep them

The city's metamorphosis didn't just happen. It came through deliberate effort; broad citizen buy-in; business institution; industry contribution; an AAA bond rating; and strong leadership in the mayor's office. Note, too, all this was constructed a piece at a time so the components fit together. The ethos of our current city is delivered by a multitude of different influences that are interrelated and interconnected.

I now wonder if this composite so long in the making is threatening to crumble. Because the loss of one piece could -- will -- hurt the rest. As we stew about the Pacers, we might also stew about another major decision: the renewal of the Nordstrom lease, the very anchor to the Circle Centre mall itself. If these two are gone a year from now, how do we compensate for the fallout? It is hard to remove one or two stones from an arch and expect the structure to stay intact.

Does the next generation plan to adopt a "holding pattern" or view what has been achieved so far as a base for newer levels of progress? I think future progress will be contingent on how we resolve this issue.

Success here will further enhance this incredible city. The 30-year relationship is one we want extended. So I am hopeful that once again we will confront the nemesis and find a way of disposing of it. We need to appraise as well what failure means, and agree none of us wants to go there.
Being so close to the situation, MacAllister has to know the truth about the Pacers contract - that the contract does not let the Simons just pick up and move the team as he strongly implies. The Simons have to be selling the team and the team relocating out of state. MacAllister also can't be oblivious to the penalty the Simons would have to pay - $142 million in 2010. The Simons are never going to pay that.

MacAllister is either terribly uninformed or he is intentionally misleading people. My guess is the latter. MacAllister, like Mayor Ballard, like CIB President Anne Lathrop and CIB negotiator Paul Okeson all undoubtedly know the contract doesn't allow the Simons to move the team and the penalties for early termination would be enormous. Yet they are all willing to mislead the public to try to get the taxpayers to cough up another $18 million or so per year for the billionaire Simons family. The Simons don't have any leverage so why is the City at the negotiating table trying to give away millions in taxpayer money?

MacAllister also points out that that professional sports stadiums are drawing discretionary spending from the donut counties to downtown Indianapolis. Members of the CIB did the same last month when they talked about how the City profits from Pacer games. What kind of clout will these folks have with the donut counties when they again start clamoring for a "regional approach" for funding professional sports? They have now admitted that pro sports relocate discretionary spending from the suburbs to downtown. Yep, it sure does that.

MacAllister goes on and cites statistics about what a great producer of jobs and economic activity Conseco Fieldhouse is. Of course, those non-Pacer events would still be held at the building even if the Pacers could leave. In fact, more events could be scheduled with 41 plus dates opening up. MacAllister once again is playing fast and loose with the facts.

The "economic engine" that Ballard and others used so much last year, must now be out of fashion because corporate welfare advocates are now using the brick/structure argument. Supposedly the City is a structure (MacAllister favors an "arch") and the Pacers are a brick in that structure. You pull out the brick and MacAllister argues the arch falls.

How utterly ridiculous. A city is not a structure. A city is vibrant, dynamic living entity. It has many parts to it. Businesses go under, while others open up. Places become popular while other fall into disfavor. Indianapolis' success is not dependent on one business, especially not one that is costing taxpayers tens of millions every year to subsidize.

MacAllister is part of the Republican old guard, a fabulously wealthy elitist who believes average men and women exist for the purpose of shelling out their hard earned money to corporate fat cats that he represents so well. MacAllister should do the Republican Party a favor and retire.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Democrat Councilor Monroe Gray Praises Council Republicans for Fiscally Irresponsible Vote

The Indianapolis City-County Council tonight, with no debate, voted 25-3 to give away $1 million of our tax money to 51 non-profit, artsy-type groups. Every Republican except for Christine Scales, Mike Speedy and Jeff Cardwell voted for the measure.
Not a single councilor asked a question about whether these groups needed the money or what the money would be used for. This is the Council, after all, and asking anything more than softball questions is considered impolite and frowned upon.
The vote earned praise from Democrat Councilor Monroe Gray. Gray congratulated Council Republicans for finally starting to act like Council Democrats in their willingess to blindly throw $1 million at arts groups. Again, that was Monroe Gray praising the spending habits of Council Republicans. Is there any doubt that Marion County Republicans have given up on being fiscally responsible.
Many of these arts groups receiving our tax dollars are flush with cash and hand out six figure salaries to their top employees. I recently reported on one of them, the Indianapolis Children's Museum:

"On its 2008 tax return (most recent available), the Children's Museum is shown as having income of $29,608,000, which is down from the previous year's income of $56,674,002. The difference? The Children's Museum income from investments had dropped from $38 million plus to $12 million plus. As of the 2008 return the Children's Museum had stocks and other securities totalling $316,061,120.

The Children's Museum pays its executives handsomely too. Museum President Jeffrey Patchen receives a salary and benefits totalling over $500,000. Edward Bewel, CFO, Brian Williams, VP-Development, Craig Emsmiller, VP-Operations, Jennifer Pace-Robinson, VP-Exhibits, Katy Allen, VP-Human Resources, Brian Statz, Attorney and Jennifer Burch, Assistant VP-Development all make salaries and benefits approaching or exceeding $150,000 a year. In 2008, Children's Museum paid out salaries and benefits totalling almost $14 million.

The $100,000 grant would be just 0.33% of the income of the Children's Museum (when compared to its 2008 income). Is our $100,000 really better spent giving it to the Children's Museum rather than spend it on libraries, city parks or to open city pools on time?"

Council Republicans, led by fiscally liberal Ryan "I Never Met A Tax Increase Or Spending Program I Wouldn't Support" Vaughn, tonight showed they are no better than the Democrats they decry for big government and tax increases. Pray tell, why should a conservative like me vote for these Council Republicans who tax, borrow and spend every bit as much as the most liberal Democrats on the Council?

Note: Libertarian Ed Coleman also told me he would have voted against the measure.

See also: Tuesday, June 1, 2010, City Poised to Give $1 Million Away to Art Groups While City Pools Stay Closed Over Memorial Day Weekend

Indianapolis Dangerous Bike Lane Design - Riding in New York Street's Danger Zone

People probably are tired of me preaching on the subject, but as a bicycle commuter I consider bicycle safety to be extremely important. That's why on Sunday I went out and took photographs of the most dangerous stretch of bike lane in the city, a stretch along New York Street. (The two large pictures are from Indianapolis. The two small ones are from the article. Sorry...I can't get Blogger to do captions on photos.)
There is a principle in bike riding known as "dooring." That's where a bike rider is riding close to a parked car and a driver suddenly throws open a car door. The choices for the bicyclist are not good. You either slam into the door, dodge out into traffic, or you ricochet off the door landing in a traffic lane. Numerous bicycle fatalities have been reported from "dooring."

That's why it is critical that any bicycle lanes that are designed be far enough away from opening car doors that they cannot be opened in the path of a bicyclist, or cause the bicyclist to suddenly veer out into a traffic lane.

Take a look at these pictures of New York Street bike lane between West and Capital Streets. All the car doors can be opened within the bike lane. (Two door cars are particularly dangerous as they have longer doors.) Some of the vehicles even are parked partially in the bike lane because the parking lane is so small. Any bicyclist using this stretch of bike lane is risking their health, even their life.
I ran across an article on bike lane design that discusses the danger of the door zone:
Bicycle facility design is serious business. Done wrong it kills. Some communities squeeze bike lanes into roads that do not have enough room. They create serious safety compromises.

Believe it or not, most streets are better off without bike lanes. Bike lanes have a lot of physical requirements to be safe. If you bend these requirements too far, you wind up with a bicycling environment more hazardous than the same street without the bike lane. These requirements can includes factors such as sight distance, driveways, intersections, pavement quality, edge dropoffs and slope. But the most common factors that leads communities to bend the requirements are overall available width and parking.


Simply stated, if you shoehorn a bike lane into a narrow street with parking, the bike lane will be in the door zone, where car doors can -- and do -- fling open at unpredictable moments. These accidents are dismaying common. Quite a few fatalities have been documented.

For more than 30 years, the safety literature has warned cyclists to avoid riding in the door zone. But now we use our tax dollars to pay for traffic control devices that instruct us to ride in the door zone! This is a sad situation.

The city of Cambridge Mass. installed door zone bike lanes on several busy streets with narrow lanes, including Massachusetts Avenue, despite warnings that they were unsafe. The bike lane ... proved fatal for Tufts University graduate student Dana Laird in 2002. If you look carefully at the photo (sorry couldn't get it to post), you can see that the open car door blocks almost the entire bike lane. There is not room to avoid the door without encroaching into the motor lane. (Remember, a bike is about 2 feet wide. There is less than two feet between the open door and the left stripe.) You can see a larger copy of this photo from the photographer's website.

Unfortunately, many other cities also install bike lanes in the door zone (see Fig. 7) and some these also cause causalities to cyclists. You can read accounts of 16 recent door zone casualties (11 fatal) in an article called The Door Zone Project.

One of the most inexcusable examples of carelessness in bike lane design is illustrated by this statement: The City of Chicago installs bike lanes on streets as narrow as 44 feet wide with parking on both sides. Chicago published a Bike Lane Design Guide that includes plans showing how they achieve this claim. In their zeal to install bike lanes despite inadequate space, they distorted the size of the cars and trucks depicted in the drawings.

At first look, this drawing doesn't look too bad, but that's only because the cars and trucks depicted are far, far smaller than in real life. We have the noted cycling author John Forester to thank for pointing this out. In 2002, Forester added dimensions for the vehicles depicted in by scaling from the drawing. Forester determined that these vehicles are about 20 percent undersized -- some cars and trucks are depicted as though they are narrower than a VW beatle.

This is shocking dishonesty and blatant engineering malpractice. Most motor vehicles are around six feet wide, and many commercial vehicles are 8.5 feet wide. Those are what you have to design for. Pretending that you are doing otherwise is dishonest, and it courts dooring accidents.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mayor Ballard's Five Year Campaign Strategy

Another blogger suggested that local Democrats don't have a 2011 election plan. Not sure they need one since Mayor Ballard and Council Republicans seem willing to commit political suicide by abandoning fiscal responsibility going into the municipal election.

I do have an insider friend in the Ballard campaign though who sent me the Ballard five year re-election blueprint developed shortly after the 2007 election victory.

2008 - Raise taxes/fees. Alienate supporters who helped Ballard get elected running as outsider and anti-tax candidate. Scrap campaign promise of more ethical city government.

2009 - Travel the world on junkets. Take advantage of free country club memberships, free sporting events tickets and other "perks" of office. Raise money from contractors wanting to do business with the city.

2010 - Borrow from the next generation to raise big pile of money to spend going into 2011 election. Raise more taxes/fees. Shake down more city contractors for contributions. Pass out taxpayer money to Simons and other "needy" billionaires.

2011 - Spend, spend, spend. Pause to raise more political contributions from contractors. Spend, spend, spend. Pause to take bike ride on new city bike lanes. Spend, spend, spend.

2012 - Take job as head of American Legion after crushing defeat.