Monday, January 31, 2011

Delaware and South Towing Company Violates Indiana Law; Tows Vehicles in Violation of 24 Hour Tagging Rule

The Indianapolis Star reports:

About 50 people gathered at a Downtown tow lot late Saturday to dispute the mass towing of vehicles from a parking lot.

Police learned of the problem around 11 p.m. Saturday when they were called to Delaware and South Towing, 310 S. Delaware St., where angry owners of the towed vehicles had gathered. A police report said the vehicles had been towed from a parking lot at 510 Madison Ave. The police report said the lot is operated by Clear Channel Outdoor, an advertising company that has billboards on the lot.

Owners of the vehicles told police they had paid a man $20 to park. They told police there were no signs telling them the lot was off-limits, but those signs appeared just before the vehicles were towed. Police said they found what appeared to have been fresh metal shavings near where the signs were located.
The story overlooks an even bigger racket than the person taking the $20 for fake parking. Towing companies troll the city looking for vehicles parked in private business lots. They then tow the vehicles and hold them hostage for an exorbinant fees, generally much higher than their regular towing rates. The owner has no choice but to pay the ransom to get their vehicle back. I wouldn't be shocked if the towing companies then kicked back some of these fees to the business.

The practice is also illegal. IC 9-22-1-15 requires a vehicle that is left on private property to be tagged with a notice that it is going to be towed if it is not removed within 24 hours. IC 9-22-1-16 then allows for the removal of the vehicle by the private property owner if the owner has not removed the vehicle before the expiration of the 24 hours. IC 9-22-1-18 lets a police officer remove the vehicle after 48 hours.

Indiana law provides an exception to the 24 hour rule if there is an emergency or the vehicle is interfering with business operations. Obviously that doesn't apply if a store is closed, which is often when the towing takes place.

The posting of a no parking/towing sign has no legal effect whatsoever. There is no exception to the 24 hour rule for property owners who post signs. While people may complain that the law subverts the right of the private property owner, the law is still the law. If you don't like the law, the answer is to go to the legislature and get it changed, not simply ignore it. I would suggest though that the reason the legislature did pass the law is exactly because of practices such as towing companies trolling for vehicles in private business lots and then holding those vehicles for a ransom.

It is surprising that a class action lawsuit against the towing companies and the businesses who work with them, has not been filed. Given the hundreds of thousands of dollars in towing fees being collected from this illegal practice, it is only a matter of time.

Note: I have written on this subject before when A-Mass Towing decided to tow the vehicles of several people who had come to watch the Veteran's Day parade.

I Like Mike; Why I Am Supporting Pence for Governor in 2012

I have a confession: I like Mike. Rep. Mike Pence that is.

It is looking more and more like Republican Congressman Mike Pence will be running for Governor in 2012. He will be difficult to beat.

Mike Pence and I have a lot in common. Pence and I both grew up in Southeast Indiana, Pence in Columbus, while I hail from farmland a few miles from the "big city" of Madison. Pence and I both came from working class families. Both of our parents were Democrats and both of us were converted to Republicanism because of the influence of Ronald Reagan.

Our paths first crossed at Hanover College, where I entered as a Freshman in 1979 when Pence was a Junior. Where I really got to know Mike Pence though was at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. When I arrived there in 1984, I began writing conservative political columns for the law school newspaper, the Dictum. Pence, who was a year ahead of me, and I were of like mind on the issues and talked about politics. The next year, I became editor, while Mike Pence sketched cartoons for the paper. Pence is quite the artist and his cartoons reflected his good nature and biting wit.

Pence and I first clashed politically in 1986 over a law school election. I was running for President of the Student Bar Association, a position elected by the entire law school student body. It was a highly-contested election. Unlike the other candidates, I had been sharply critical of the performance of the outgoing President, who also happened to be a good friend of Pence's. Before the election, Pence drew a cartoon of me, mocking me as being power hungry. I don't know if Pence did it thinking I, as editor, wouldn't publish it, or whether he thought I would, and it would hurt my chances at the polls. I recognized it though as a miscalculation. I published the cartoon and raked in the sympathy while Pence faced a backlash for taking the shot at me. I won the election. I think it might have been Pence's first political mistake. He would go on to make others when he first ran for Congress against incumbent Rep. Phil Sharp.

I have to admire though the career path Mike Pence has taken. Some people mock him for allegedly "far-right" views, but Mike Pence has a core set of beliefs and he stands by them through thick and thin. He is also always pleasant and cordial to those who disagree with him, an approach that more conservatives should adopt. People respect Pence's intellectual honesty and graciousness, even if they don't always agree with him on the issues. In a state that produced Senator Evan Bayh, whose political views seem to depend on which way the wind is blowing that particular day, Pence is refreshing.

But what I admire most about Pence is his willingness to stand up to the leadership of the Republican Party when those leaders have strayed from the conservative philosophy on which they were elected. Indianapolis is renown for producing Republican politicians who are followers and are fearful of challenging the leadership of the party when they raise taxes or spend money recklessly like liberal Democrats. What I'm trying to do locally, chiefly through this blog, is something Pence has succeeded on doing at a national level. Even though he reached a leadership position, Pence has still stayed true to his political views, not becoming corrupted by the power of being an "insider."

Finally, I end by making a comparison between Rep. Mike Pence and Gov. Mitch Daniels. While he wisely ruled out running for national office, Pence understands the political equation that Republicans only can win national elections when find a way to put together fiscal and social conservatives in a winning coalition. Social issues are a net winner for Republicans, though WHICH social issues are always up for debate. The minute Gov. Daniels asked for a "truce" on social issues, his chances of putting together that winning conservative coalition to win the Presidency, or even getting the Republican nomination for that matter, were gone.

I wish Mike Pence the best of luck as he inches closer to running for Governor of Indiana.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Predicting an 18-11 Democratic Majority on Indianapolis City-County Council Following 2011 Election (Updated for 2003 Election Results)

I've been looking at my crystal ball for what results we can expect to see on November 8, 2011. The Council is currently controlled by Republicans 15-13 with one Libertarian councilor.

I expect that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard will get about 43% of the vote for re-election, with Melina Kennedy at 55%. The Libertarian will get the balance.

Republicans in 2007 won three of the four at-large seats. I don't buy the notion that those seats will always go whichever way the Mayor's race goes. Unlike the Mayor's race, the at-large positions are usually baseline votes. That spells trouble for Republicans. I fully expect that the Democrats will easily sweep all four seats. Republican at-large councilors Barb Malone and Angel Rivera have shown zero independence while in office. There is nothing to suggest they have any cross-over appeal to Democrats that would help them piece together a majority.

Although most of the close races in 2007 were Democrats prevailing over Republicans, I don't see Republicans beating any incumbent Democrats. It is just not going to be a good year for Republicans.

Currently the 25 district seats are held by Republicans 13-12. Even if the Republicans held every district, if the GOP loses the four at-large seats, the Democrats are in the majority 16-13. I expect though that the Democrats will also pick up two districts. Although she's shown some independence from the Ballard agenda which should help her, Christine Scales is still in a tough district. In 2007 she won 51.3% to 48.7%.

The next most vulnerable Republican is Mike McQuillen who upset incumbent councilor Sherron Franklin 57.8% to 42.2% in 2007. McQuillen foolishly has made no attempt to show independence in that swing district. The D's will undoubtedly hammer him with his unpopular votes for the Ballard agenda. I expect the D's to win back his seat in 2011.

Also, expect Janice McHenry (60.3% winning percentage) and Marilyn Pfisterer (61.2%), two west side Republicans, to face a barrage of direct mail linking them to unpopular votes for the Ballard administration, such as the vote to give the Pacers millions of dollars, the CIB tax increase, and the ACS parking meter contract. McHenry at least has started showing some sign of independence with her vote against Public Safety Director Frank Straub.

I also expect the Democrats to take a run at Council President Ryan Vaughn (64.7%). While his Broad Ripple-area district is probably outside the range of a successful challenge, if the Democrats put money behind a Vaughn challenge, the Republicans will undoubtedly answer by spending scarce resources to protect the consummate political insider, neglecting more competitive races.

At the end of Election Day, November 8, 2011, the Democrats will control the Indianapolis City-County Council by an 18-11 margin. Bet the farm.

UPDATE: The comments of Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana encouraged me to go back another municipal elections. Usually you don't want to go back too far when making comparison because of population and demographic shifts. But I would agree with him that Marion County certainly hasn't become more Republican since the 2003 municipal election.

After looking at the 2003 numbers more closely, I discovered that the prediction that the Republicans will only lose two of the district seats and all four at-large positions is actually a conservative prediction. Below is the R-D vote percents of districts currently held by Republicans where the R candidate received less than 55% in 2003. I have also included the raw vote spread and the current Republican occupant of the council seat:

District 3 54-42, 1073 vote spread (Vaughn)
District 4 52-48, 361 votes (Scales)
District 6 50-47, 171 votes (McHenry)
District 12 48.34-48.55, 13 votes (McQuillen)
District 13 54-41, 597 votes (Lutz)
District 14 52-48, 186 votes (Pfisterer)
District 20 51-47, 196 votes (Day)

Since the 2007 election was such an aberration, it is arguably better to look at 2003 for a model even though it is eigh years old. Again, even if the Democrats lose all these races they have a 16-13 majority if they, as expected, capture all four at-large positions in 2007. The 2003 model shows they are just 553 votes away from capturing four districts currently held by McHenry, Pfisterer and Day's and McQuillen, whose district actually went to the Democrats in 2011. That would make a 20-9 spread. Most observers believe Scales' district is closer now than it was in 2003, which would give them a shot at another seat. Then Lutz and Vaughn's seat is not outside the range of a strong challenge. While I don't believe a 23-6 Democratic majority will happen, I think my 18-11 Democratic majority prediction is very much on the low end of expectations.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bill for Ex-Superintendent's Retirement Package at $1.15 Million and Rising; Will Wayne Township School Board Members Resign?

Over at Channel 6, Kara Kenney continues with her excellent reporting on former Wayne Township Terry Thompson's generous retirement package. Kenney was the first reporter in town to report the generous provisions of the contract.

The reported cost of Thompson's retirement package to taxpayers continues to increase. Thompson received $800,000 in severance pay, $15,000 for retirement planning, and more than $1,300 a day for seven months (which by my calculations totals abut $270,000) for Thompson acting as "superintendent emeritus." Kenney now also reports that Thompson received a $35,000 early retirement incentive payment that others in the district received. Apparently the $1.15 million retirement package of Thompson's was not a sufficient enough incentive for the Wayne Township School Board. (Sarcasm intended.)

Of course the Wayne Township School Board members' defense is that they were simply negligent in failing to actually read Thompson's revised contract when they approved it in 2007. School board members have asked that Thompson resign his superintendent emeritus status and return the money. Kenney reports that Wayne Township voters are now asking that others resign - namely the school board members who demonstrated an incredible lack of diligence in doing their jobs.

Kenney reports that the Wayne Township administration's spokesperson has answered those taxpayers saying that no school board members plan to resign. A spokesperson for the school administration has no business speaking for school board members. . The school board is separate from the administration and is supposed to be a check on it. (Remember "checks and balances" from high school civics? That also applies to the operation of school districts).

Kenney is also asking questions about the administration's attorney, Jon Bailey of Bose McKinney and Evans. This reveals another problem. But the administration's attorney is not the school board's attorney and has no ethical duty to the board. (Again, separation of powers.) Bailey represents the administration, including chiefly the superintendent.

Legislators in the General Assembly don't rely on Governor Daniels' attorneys for legal advice. Rather each legislative chamber has its own attorneys whose ethical duty is to their respective chamber not to Governor Daniels. Likewise school boards need to have their own attorneys they can consult to from time to time. Relying on the administration's attorney for objective and honest legal advice on matters involving the administration, is extremely foolish.

Thankfully there are reporters out there like Kenney who are keeping a watch on our tax dollars. Clearly our elected representatives are falling down on the job.

Pictured: At top is former Superintendent Terry Thompson. At the bottom is the Wayne Township School Board.

The Constitutional Problem With The Indiana School Choice Bill

I am in favor of anything that provides parents with choices as to their children's schooling. House Bill 1003 does that by providing impoverished parents in failing public schools the right to a "choice scholarship" that they could use in another school, including a private or religious school.

I've never bought the argument that this set-up would violate the Establishment Clause by channelling public funds to religious schools, the typical constitutional challenge. After all, government scholarships have long been able to be used at religious colleges and universities without a problem.

But there is a glaring constitutional problem with the bill, namely with the provision that says that those impoverished parents who already attend private school would be ineligible to receive the choice scholarship. This exception is justified because the authors are trying to provide new opportunities for those who can’t already afford private school.

Understandable...but also unconstitutional. The United States Constitution contains both the equal protection and the privileges and immunities clause. Indiana's Constitution also has a privileges and immunities clause. Basically those provisions require that residents of a state be treated equally and not denied privileges afforded to other state residents. The case law allows states to get around these rules along as they have a really good reason for treating their residents differently.

Applying a means test - providing the "choice scholarship" program to the poor but not to those better off - is perfectly acceptable as a distinction under the constitution. What won't be acceptable, however, is denying the scholarship program to impoverished Hoosiers who have already removed their children from school. The proffered reason - wanting to provide new opportunities (as well as undoubtedly avoiding the additional cost of providing the scholarships to parents who have already removed their children) - simply won't be sufficient to justify discriminating against poor parents who have already removed their children to private schools.

Unfortunately there is no place for public officials such as legislators to turn to get objective, non-politicized legal advice that everyone can trust. While it used to be that legislators could ask for that legal advice from the Attorney General, in recent years the AG has allowed the process of imparting legal advice to public officials to be politicized. The AG's advisory opinions have too often been about promoting a particular legal position, rather than offering a fair, honest interpretation of the law. Additionally, the quality of the legal research and writing in the AG's official opinions,in recent years has tended to be quite poor, far from the more scholarly AG opinions from decades previous.

Behning and Bosma are both good, thoughtful legislators. Bosma is also an attorney. Hopefully they will consider strongly making this program apply across the board to all impoverished Hoosiers, not just the ones who have yet to make the decition to leave their failing public school. Doing so should let the program survive a constitutional challenge.

Pictured from top to bottom: Rep. Robert Behning and House Speaker Brian Bosma.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wayne Township School Board Asleep At the Wheel While While Retired Superintendent Walks Off With Million Dollar Severance Package

Kudos to Kara Kenney of Channel 6 for first breaking the story that retired Wayne Township Superintendent Terry Thompson walked away with a sweetheart retirement package that Kenney pegged as worth at least $500,000.

More like a million dollars. The Indianapolis Star picked up the story today and reported the package as being worth over a million dollars, including a $800,000 lump severance payment, as well as a payout of $1,352 per day over 150 days (worth $200,000) and a $15,000 stipend for retirement planning. The huge retirement package was rubber-stamped by the Wayne Township School Board which didn't bother to look at the lengthy documents associated with his 2007 contract.

In the Kenney story, school board members refused to speak to Kenney and instead deferred to the district spokesperson Mary McDermott-Lang. All the current school board members Paul Calabro, Michael Nance, Trish Logan, Stan Lewis and Phyllis Lewis were with the district in 2007.

School board members constitute a separate legislative body. The job of the school board is to oversee and act as a check on the executive - the superintendent and the school administration. The Wayne Township School Board members are not part of the Wayne Township school administration and the board members should not be having the administration's spokesperson speaking for them.

I would also bet that the Wayne Township School Board utilized the administrations' attorney for legal advice. (This is something I've complained about the Pike Township School Board doing.) An attorney for the superintendent has ethical obligations to his client, the administration. The school board is not going to get honest, objective legal advice from the superintendent's attorney whose job is to do what is in the superintendent's best interest, not the board's.

If the Board would have employed its own attorney to review the 2007 contract, the sweetheart deal would have actually been read and flagged as against the public's interest. Now the Wayne Township Board's only recourse is to beg the retired superintendent to return the money the Board didn't intend to give him. Yeah, good luck with that.

Have The Wheels Gone Off The Marion County Republicans' 2011 Election Hopes?

This week Vop Osili, the Democrats well-respect former candidate for Secretary of State, announced he will run for Indianapolis City-County Council in District 15, a safe Democratic district currently occupied by Doris Minton-McNeil. Osili, as noted by the Indy Democrat, brings a certain star power to 2011 municipal elections.

Meanwhile on the Republican side you have to be wondering if the wheels have come off the wagon.

The campaign finance reports of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard show a remarkable continuing trend of burning through money in off years. Ballard's most recent report showed off-year campaign spending of over a half million dollars, about 63% of what he raised in 2010. While Ballard's fundraising in three off years has approached record levels, his burning through campaign money in off years has brought him within a few hundred thousand of his major Democratic opponent Melina Kennedy who wisely banked her cash instead of spending it.

The issues Mayor Ballard's campaign is focusing on is equally mind-boggling. The campaign is trying to sell the public on a lower crime rate when the headlines each day are filled with violent crime. Then the Mayor also seeks to feature job creation as a central theme to his campaign - even though his tenure has coincided with the worst national economic downturn since the Great Depression. Anyone who knows anything about campaign politics knows those issues won't work.

Meanwhile the Republican at-large incumbents and candidates for re-election appear to be floundering. Angela Rivera spent 164% of the money he raised after the caucus that elected him to fill out the rest of Councilor Kent Smith's term. He only has $1,000 or so in the bank. Meanwhile Barb Malone did no fundraising in 2010.

2011 will introduce two new Republican at-large candidates - Jackie Cissell and Michael Kalsheur - who have apparently already been picked by party leadership. The fact that no one has thus far been willing to step up and oppose either shows: 1) how the leadership of the local GOP has strangled the life out of the grass roots organization; and 2) that the seats are not perceived as winnable by many who might choose to take on the challenge. Cissell and Kalsheur have not raised any money for their campaigns.

While the local GOP is floundering going into the 2011 elections, new GOP chairman Kyle Walker shows no interest in rebuilding the grass roots party organization, instead continuing with the same autocratic approach that Tom John took with the party, even going to the extent of reappointing Hamilton County resident David Brooks to a leadership position in the Marion County organization. Many Center Township elected PCs are furious that Brooks is their new chairman. Walker though does not seem to care...instead preferring to have a hatchet man in Center Township to carry out his dictates rather than pick a leader who lives in Center Township and actually wants to rebuild the organization.

It's going to be a long year. Hopefully at the end of the 2011 election debacle, we'll have a cleansing of the party. The profiteers and those not interested in rebuilding the Marion County GOP organization need to be shown the door.

Pictured is Kyle Walker, Marion County Republican Chairman.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Officer David Moore Passes Away

Channel 6 among other media outlets, are reporting on the passing of IMPD Officer David Moore.

While there has been a lot of discussion about the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department over the past couple years, we should never get so lost in that debate as to forget that the job of a police officer entails enormous risks. We as a community should be thankful that there are people like Officer Moore who are willing to accept that risk to make our communities safer.

At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with Officer David Moore's family and his many friends and colleagues at IMPD.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Revisiting Angel Rivera's Burn Rate; Post-Caucus Burn Rate is 164%

Over at Washington Street Politics, the anonymous insider establishment Republican blogger challenges my post on Angel Rivera's 90% burn rate:

We read a blog post last night over at Ogden on Politics that made us shake our heads. Paul was talking about his favorite political topic: burn rates. It is a fun term and makes him feel like an expert. We understand. It is fun to feel smarter than everyone. The problem is that just because you know the term doesn’t mean you really understand it.

Ogden took City-County Councilor At-Large Angel Rivera to task for burning “through nearly 90% of his campaign funds.” He said Rivera’s report ”reveals that he raised $10,515 in 2010, and spent $9,418, an off-year “burn rate” which is nearly an astonishing 90%.”

Paul doesn’t seem to be aware that Rivera became the at-large councilor when former At-Large Councilor Kent Smith resigned his position last year. Marion County Republicans held a countywide caucus to fill the position last February. Since several candidates were seeking the position and it was a countywide caucus, it is safe to assume that it was necessary to send mailers to precinct committeemen and engage in other activities that cost money. Rivera has only been in office 10 months and we are sure he plans to protect his seat.

Fair enough. So I redid the calculations taking out contributions and expenditures made before Councilor Rivera won the seat in caucus on March 2, 2010.

What are the new numbers? Rivera raised $3,900 in contributions that were clearly post-caucus. How much did he spend post-caucus? $6,386.55

Folks, that's a burn rate of 164% in an off-year for a candidate going into a highly contested general election year. This guy clearly doesn't know what he's doing.

Hat tip to Washington Street Politics for suggesting I look at the post-caucus numbers.

Republican Councilors Support Property Tax Increases for Local Schools; Tax Increases Will Be Outside of Property Tax Caps

Over at the Had Enough Indy? blog, Pat Andrews writes of property tax hikes referendums being proposed for Perry and Franklin Township schools:

[Introduced Monday were] Prop 14, 2011, and Prop 15, 2011, which are the public questions to be included on the May ballot in Franklin and Perry Townships, respectively. Both public questions would raise taxes for extra operating funds for the school districts. Franklin Township's taxes would rise by $0.75 for each $100 of assessed value. Perry Township's taxes would rise by $0.3078 for each $100 of assessed value. Both would have to be approved by the respective electorate in May, and both would last for the next 7 years.
By way of translation, that's $750 and $307.80 per $100,000 assessed value.

Who are the sponsors of these property tax increase proposals? Well, they are all Republicans. Councilor Aaron Freeman is sponsoring the Franklin Township tax increase, while Councilor Susie Day and Jeff Cardwell are sponsoring the Perry Township tax increase.

These property tax increases will be outside of the property tax caps. Worse yet, the referendums sponsored by the three Republicans would take place during primaries when turnout is much lower. Schools have a much easier time pushing through tax increase referendums when there is a low turnout.

In 2007, Republicans won the municipal elections riding a wave of backlash against property taxes and an increase in the county option income tax. For three years, Republicans Councilors have supported scores of tax and fee increases proposed by the Ballard administration. Now they are even willing to go out on their own, supporting increasing the very unpopular property tax outside of the property tax caps that voters overwhelming approved just two and a half months ago. Have Republicans forgotten the lesson of 2007 this quickly? Apparently so.
Note: Pictured from top are Councilors Aaron Freeman, Susie Day and Jeff Cardwell.

Monday, January 24, 2011

City-County Council At-Large Candidate Angel Rivera Burns Through Nearly 90% of His Campaign Funds

You have to wonder what is going on. Looking over Republican Councilor Angel Rivera's campaign report, it reveals that he raised $10,515 in 2010, and spent $9,418, an off-year "burn rate" which is nearly an astonishing 90%. To give you an apples to apples comparision, Democratic at-large candidate Zach Adamson has a 2010 burn rate of 29%.
It is a fundamental principle of politics that incumbents raise money in the three off years, during which they spend very little, and then they dump that money in the election year. Mayor Ballard (off year burn rate of 53%) and Councilor Rivera couldn't pass a Campaign 101 class.

Non-Candidate Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi Burns Through $111,000 in 2010

Reviewing former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's campaign finance report reveals some interesting tidbits, not the least of which that Brizzi burned through $111,000 in 2010, despite announcing on January 15, 2010 that he wasn't running for re-election. Brizzi only raised $4,902 in 2010.

Contrary to what a lot of candidates think, campaign funds are limited on what they can be used for. Pursuant to IC 3-9-3-4, money received by a candidate or a committee as a contribution may be used only:
(1) to defray any expense reasonably related to the person's or committee's:
(A) campaign for federal, state, legislative, or local office;
(B) continuing political activity; or
(C) activity related to service in an elected office;
(2) to make an expenditure to any national, state, or local committee of any political party or another candidate's committee; or
(3) upon dissolution of a committee, in a manner permitted under IC 3-9-1-12.
Here's a list of what Brizzi's reports list him spending the $110,000 on, all of which took place after he dropped out of the race:

$505.90 Keystone Mall (gifts)

$302.60 Ambrosia Restaurant

$727.73 Harry & Izzy's

$184.02 United Fine Wines & Spirits (event & beverages)

$215.28 Sullivan Steak House (political meeting and expenses)

$361.14 Brown & Joseph (gifts)

$2,601 Verizon Wireless

$147.47 Columbia Club

$930.42 St. Elmo's Steak House (including $616.72 expenditure on 6/28/2010)

$9,523 Taft Stettinius & Hollister (legal)

$141.31 Posh Petals (gifts)

$449.50 Delta Airlines (expenditure took place on 12/22/2010)

These are only a small portion of the questionable expenditures on Brizzi's report. What is the use of having limits on campaign expenditures is they're going to be consistently ignored by candidates and ex-candidates who apparently think that campaign funds are their personal slush fund?
Advance Indiana previously did an excellent post on the questionable Brizzi report, calling for money to be returned to the victims of the Tim Durham ponzi scheme. That post can be found here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Top 10 Warmest and Coldest Years in Indianapolis Since 1871

I ran across this data on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website while looking up some temperature records for Indianapolis.

Warmest Years on Average Since 1871
1921 56.5
1931 56.3
1998 56.0
1941 55.7
1874 55.6
1939 55.5
1938 55.2
1933 55.2
1922 54.9

Coolest Years on Average Since 1871
1960 50.5
1976 50.8
1924 50.9
1917 49.7
1885 49.8
1963 50.2
1979 50.3
1958 50.3
1904 50.4
1875 50.4

The other day I heard a global warming, er climate change, "expert," declare that the warmer than normal year we just experienced in 2010 was proof of global warming. That's utter nonsense. The temperature is constantly fluctuating from year to year...warming and cooling trends last thousands if not tens of thousand of years. To get any sort of accurate determination as to a long term trend you have to feed into the computer at the very least hundreds of thousand years of temperature records, not just the last 139 years when records were kept. Yet those who believe in man is causing dangerous global warming, er climate change, want to ignore all the climate data prior to official temperature records...probably because going back further doesn't support their political agenda.

The above information does not show a trend...nor should it. It is only a 139 year sample, a tiny grain of sand on the beach of human history. You have to step back and look at the entire beach to discern temperature trends. That's what a scientist interested in the truth rather than a politically correct conclusion would do. Unfortunately there are too many advocates of global warming, er climate change, who simply have no interest in honest science.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Aiming Higher" and Governor Daniels Try to Sell the State on More Corporate Welfare, i.e. Public-Private Partnerships

Earlier this week, the Republcian, pro-Governor Mitch Daniels blog Aiming Higher, filed an entry entitled: "Push the Envelope: Broaden Public-Private Partnership, which states in part:

In the upcoming legislative session, Aiming Higher will support efforts by the General Assembly to broaden public-private partnerships (P3) for public infrastructure in order to:

•Free state government to enlist the private sector as a partner in building new roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
•Save taxpayers money by allowing the private sector to complete tasks in coordination with the government.
The article goes on to quote the Indianapolis Business Journal and the libertarian-leaning Reason magazine (whose editors must live in a fantasy world where politics is not practiced) for the notion that public-private partnerships are great for taxpayers.

Really? How has building Conseco Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, and heavily subsidizing the teams that play at those facilities, been good for taxpayers? Or how about the North of South development that we taxpayers are going to be on the hook for $98 million for a project deemed too risky by private lenders? Or how about the ACS deal that results in our residents paying to the private company around $1.2 billion over 50 year life of the contract when we could have bought the meters for about $6 million and kept all that money?

I'm sure that readers of this blog can add to the list of other public-private developments that are costing taxpayers a fortune while not producing the return to taxpayers originally promised when the public-private partnership was struck.

Make no mistake about it, when a politician uses the phrase "public-private partnership," grab your wallet. Public-private partnerships are almost always nothing more than corporate welfare measures involving politicians forcing taxpayers to subsidize private business ventures so that those private businesses (who are also contributors to the politicians) have less risk and can make more money.

Republicans won in 2010 because the voters overwhelming thought the GOP would be better stewards of their money. I doubt those voters, who overwhelmingly rejected Wall Street and bank bailouts, will take kindly to Republicans engaging in the same sort of corporate welfare they rejected at the polls in 2010.

Private Companies Push for Red Light and Speed Cameras in Indiana, ACS and Others Plan to Profit at the Public's Expense

On Tuesday, this week the Indiana Law Blog discussed a newspaper article dealing with state legislative measures introduced to adopt red light cameras in Indiana.

... The photo enforcement industry is now working overtime to make up for lost ground by expanding operations into states where neither red light cameras nor speed cameras have been well received. Lobbyists are hopeful that Indiana could be the next state to reconsider.

Powerful members of the General Assembly earlier this month introduced legislation to authorize the use of traffic cameras. House Majority Leader William C. Friend (R-Elkhart) introduced House Bill 1199 authorizing the widespread use of speed cameras. Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Merrit (R-Marion County) authored a companion measure, Senate Bill 527, legalizing red light cameras. Photo ticketing vendor Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) has given lawmakers $51,650 with most of the funds directed to the House and Senate Republican campaign committees and Republican Governor Mitch Daniels. Democrats have also gotten in on the action. In October, Arizona-based camera company American Traffic Solutions gave state Representative Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) $1000. State Representative Shelli VanDenburgh (D-Lake County) cosponsored the speed camera bill.

This legislation allows the state highway department to lower the speed limit on a
freeway or a locality to designate a "work zone" where a photo radar device would be set up to issue tickets worth $300 for a first offense to $1000 for a third. The systems could also be used in school zones during times when class is in session. Tickets would be mailed within six business days of the alleged violation and notice must be sent by certified mail.

The Senate red light camera bill gives the private company up to sixty days to drop the $150 ticket into a regular mail box. The state government would take a thirty percent share of the net profit from citations issued by municipalities and would suspend the registration of any vehicle owner that did not receive or respond to a ticket. The measure also repeals the definition of "official traffic control devices" under Indiana law, allowing private corporations to regulate traffic instead of the "authority of a public body."
Folks, our elected officials are at it again. Just like with the Indianapolis parking meter deal, private companies, like ACS, give money to elected officials, while hiring the right insiders and law firms, and suddenly our elected officials are all but too happy to introduce legislation to help the private companies get at our wallets.

What's next? Are we also going to have the private company running the court that decides these red light and speeding camera tickets? The proposed gadgets are nothing more than a way for government to raise money while giving our private dollars to a politically-connected company.

If you want to know what it's like dealing with private companies handling traffic enforcement duties, take a look at the video Had Enough Indy? posted about the Chicago motorist who received a parking ticket while talking with a reporter about the privatized parking meter operation in that city.

Marion Co. Republican Chairman Kyle Walker Turns Back on GOP Party Workers, Appoints Hamilton Co. Resident David Brooks to Chair Center Township

The biggest mistake Tom John made as Marion County Chairman was to strip party workers of their power in favor of an autocratic structure in which decisions are handed down by the county chairman. That doesn't work in a volunteer organization, such as a political party. As one high-ranking Republican told me, if the county chairman doesn't give the party workers authority in the process of selecting candidates, the whole organization is weakened.

New Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker had a golden opportunity to give back some power to the party workers and re-energize the party faithful. Instead Walker turned his back on the party workers to continue with the Tom John autocratic model of party leadership which has failed so miserably in terms of rebuilding the local GOP. Exhibit A is Walker's decision to appoint Hamilton County resident and hatchet man David Brooks to continue in a leadership role in the Marion County GOP organization, this time as Center Township Chairman.

Center Township, believe it or not, is the most important township in terms of control of the GOP organization. The township doesn't produce a lot of Republican votes in elections, but it has something more important to autocrats like Tom John and Kyle Walker. It has numerous precinct committeemen slots most of which remain vacant until filled by the county chairman.

These positions are critical in county slating contests and the county convention. When the county chairman wants to outvote elected, working PCs, the people who do the grunt work in the party, he simply appoints scores of "mummy dummy" PCs to slots in Center Township and other townships. Often these people don't live in the township and some may not live in the county or even the state. Certainly they don't do any work in the party. The job of a "mummy dummy" PC is simply to attend slating and vote the way the county chairman wants, offsetting the votes of those real PCs who do the work.

No one is better at finding and filling PC slots with warm bodies who will vote the way the chairman wants them to than David Brooks. Brooks also excels at making threats to existing party workers who won't agree to support the chairman's favored candidate. Brooks, who has previously worked as a township chairman in Pike and Center, has never shown the slightest interest in rebuilding the party. His sole focus has been on ensuring that party leaders get their way, even if that means stepping all over party workers.

Since Walker's decision, some Center Township Republicans have contacted me outraged not just that Walker is going outside of Center for leadership of the township, but that he went outside the county. They are none too pleased to have to serve under David Brooks.

Walker has been in office only a month yet he has demonstrated that he couldn't care less about bringing reforms to the party that will make the Marion County GOP organization stronger by strengthening the grass roots. Hopefully his term of office will end with Mayor Ballard's inevitable crushing defeat in November of 2011. The Marion County Republican Party deserves better than a younger version of Tom John. We need a house-cleaning of people like Kyle Walker, Tom John, Carl Brizzi, Joe Loftus, and Robert Grand, and that housecleaning needs to start after the next election. They need to be held responsible for what they've done to our party.

Note: Pictured are Kyle Walker and David Brooks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ballard's Campaign Engages in Unprecedented Off-Year Spending, Allows Chief Democratic Opponent Melina Kennedy to Close Fundraising Gap

In my quarter century of watching political campaigns unfold, I've never witnessed anything like the re-election campaign of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

Ballard is having no problem raising money, last year clearing $988,828. But what is shocking and unprecedented, is how much money the campaign is spends in off-years. Last year, the Ballard campaign continued its high "burn rate" practice, spending an astonishing $522,356.

That means the Ballard campaign is spending 53% of every dollar it takes in. What about Ballard's opponent? In 2010, Democrat Melina Kennedy raised $868,000 and spent about $144,000. Kennedy thus spent only 17% of the money she raised.

Comparing apples to oranges, right? Yes, but not the way you would think. It is the challenger who typically has to spend more to do fundraising. An incumbent, especially an incumbent mayor of one of the largest cities in the country, doesn't have to put on fancy fundraisers to get campaign contributions, especially not from city contractors wanting to do business with the city. The Ballard administration has shown it is not shy about raising money from those folks. Ballard's top 10 contributors are all city contractors.

One would expect that Kennedy, without the perks of office, would show a higher expenditure to contribution rate than Ballard. But instead Ballard's spending rate is three times higher than Kennedy's.

It will take some time to thoroughly look through the Ballard and Kennedy's report. But at first glance, it would certainly appear that people are seeing Ballard's pile of campaign stash and they are cashing in. It's the same thing that is gone on in this administration for the past three years. People taking advantage of a naive man who, three years after being elected doesn't know the first thing about how the political game is played.

Liars, Damn Liars, and Abdul

Over on Twitter, Abdul is back to making up stuff. This time the rumor he seeks to get going is that blogger Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana is leaving the Republican Party to join the Libertarian Party ...and the Libertarians don't want him.

In the Twitter feed (attyabdul), State Libertarian Chairman Chris Spangle, who I do greatly respect, laughs off Abdul's newest lie. Over at Indiana Democrat, Jon Easter, another person I respect, noted that Abdul was making up things about the Democrats. Easter also more or less laughs off the fibbing.

Abdul's lies, in particular the shot at Gary Welsh shouldn't be laughed off as a joke. It speaks volumes about the man's complete lack of integrity. He wasn't just passing along a rumor, he was deliberately trying to undermine Welsh's credibility and was more than willing to lie to do that.

Unfortunately laughing off Abdul's dishonesty and underhanded tactics at destroying people's credibility, simply encourages Abdul to continue with his tactics. In the world that screams out for honest public discourse, we need fewer people like Abdul Hakim-Shabazz.

Mayor Ballard's Campaign Report Due Today

The deadline to file campaign finance reports is today by noon. Mayor Ballard's report is still out. According to what reporters have been told, it will show the Mayor with $1.4 million in the bank.

It is possible that the Ballard campaign is engaging in a game of lowered expectations with reporters and will instead will trot out a report showing him with closer to $2 million in the bank. $1.4 million, which would only be about a half million more than his recently announced rival, Melina Kennedy, would be most unimpressive considering Ballard has $1 million in the bank last year at this time. With a $400K gain in 2010, Ballard would have netted only half of what his chief rival did in the same year. (All but $100K or so of Kennedy's money came in 2010.)

Undoubtedly Democrats like Terry Burns who runs the blog Indianapolis Times will talk about "lackluster fundraising" by the Mayor. But the numbers thus far have revealed a far different tale. Mayor Ballard's campaign is no slouch when it comes to raising money, in particular from city contractors. The problem is the astonishing, unprecedented rate of off-year campaign spending that is eating up much of the money raised. If the new report shows he spent $400K in campaign expenses in 2010, that will bring him to around $1.2 million in off-year expenses from 2008-2010. Those are years when not a single ad was run on behalf of Mayor Ballard's re-election.

If have no doubt that Mayor Ballard doesn't have a clue that a campaign spending 50 cents for every dollar raised during off-years is not normal. In running the city, Mayor Ballard has a habit of surrounding himself with people he mistakenly thinks are his "friends" who are just trying to help him. Instead what Mayor Ballard stubbornly refuses to realize is that those "friends" are there cashing in on the Mayor's success and position of power. He's just a tool to let them enrich themselves and their friends.

Mayor Ballard's blind spot extends to his campaign. People around him see the big pile of campaign cash and are helping themselves to a cut of the action now, not waiting for an election year. As a result, that big pot of re-election cash is not there.

Has a person more naive than Mayor Greg Ballard ever held political office?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pike Township Leads Marion County Townships In Spending

An alert Pike Township reader pointed out that according to the Indianapolis Star's interactive map, Pike Township leads all nine Marion County when it comes to spending, according to 2009 figures reported by the Indianapolis Star. Pike in 2009 spent $40,879,272, while its much larger neighbor to the east, Washington Township spent $2,206,418. Wayne Township which abuts Pike's southern border and has a larger population, was the only comparable township, spending $37,212,443. Center Township, second only to Washington Township in terms of size, spent $15,852,225.

Frankly I don't know what to make of the numbers. I can only assume that some sort of township projects like new fire stations in Pike and Wayne townships drove up the numbers. I note that Pike's spending on poor relief was only $463,952 of the total $40,879,272 spent, about 1.1%. Meanwhile, Washington Township spent $906,125 on poor relief, about 41%.

Using another table provided by the Star, if you divide the poor relief numbers by the number of recipients, you get some interesting results. Pike gave aid to 2408 individuals, averaging $193 per recipient. Lawrence Township, the county's second wealthiest township, aided only 560 people, but the aid averaged $1,389. Center, the poorest township in the county, helped out 8,487 people at an average of $685 apiece. Washington which is per capita the wealthiest township in the county, but also has some very depressed areas, gave aid to 8,164 people, an average of $252.

What do these numbers mean? I'm not sure but I believe it is safe to say townships are very inconsistent in how they operate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Councilor Proposes Voluntary "Tax" for Library While Insisting on Mandatory Taxpayer Contributions to Pacers and Politically-Connected Developers

Indianapolis City-County Councilor Angel Rivera makes headlines today for proposing that when Marion County taxpayers pay their property taxes they can designate additional money to go to the library. In the last line, Thomas Shevlot, the Library board's President praises Rivera for "outside-of-the-box thinking."

The proposal is only clever in that it helps divert attention from how Councilor Rivera has consistently sold out taxpayers and city services like the library.

The library is funded by property taxes. Ultimately that pot of money is limited. When property taxes get diverted that leaves less money for public services like libraries.

Councilor Rivera took office in March of 2010. During that time he supported giving $33.5 million to the Pacers, money that will be coming indirectly from property taxes. Did Councilor Rivera propose making it voluntary whether taxpayers contribute to the Pacers? Nope.

Councilor Rivera had no problem requiring Indianapolis taxpayers struggling to make ends meet fork over their hard-earned money to the the billionaire owner of the Pacers.

Councilor Rivera has been supportive of every administration deal for politically-connected insiders, deals that could cost Marion County taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Rivera supports the North of South project that places the taxpayers on the hook for $98 million on a development that every lender which looked at it deemed as too risky. (It should be mentioned that Rivera's good friend, and the person who got him on the council, former Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John, is a lobbyist for the project.) It is the same thing with the East Market Street deal. Once again, property tax revenues are being diverted while Councilor Rivera does nothing but cheer on the looting of the taxpayers.

Councilor Rivera apparently thinks city services, like the library, should be paid for with voluntary contributions. But if a professional sports team or a politically-connected developer comes calling wanting more of our tax dollars, Rivera thinks taxpayers should have no choice but to pay up.

If Councilor Rivera really wants to do something for the taxpayers and the Library he can start opposing insider administration deals that take money away from both taxpayers and the libraries. Right now Councilor Rivera is little more than a cheerleader for the Ballard agenda, someone who has shown little intellectual depth on the Council or a willingness to ask tough questions. My hope is that, in his final twelve months in office, Councilor Rivera will finally show some independence and start approaching his job in a more thoughtful manner. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Note: A clarification on Saturday's post immediately below. A few people thought the purpose of the post was to oppose the Library getting more tax dollars. My intent rather was to draw attention to the diversion of property tax dollars that have left libraries looking for alternative funding schemes. I know it's a pipe dream, but I want legislators like Sen. Merritt addressing things like the Pacer $33.5 million giveaway, that indirectly came from our property taxes, and the Ballard's administration's raiding of TIF funds for insider development projects. We need to be getting TIF properties back on the tax rolls as soon as possible. Unfortunately Sen. Merritt's proposal doesn't touch the misuse of property taxes and will ultimately allow those who helped cause the property tax shortfall for the library escape responsibility for their actions.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Indianapolis Star Advocates Diverting Local Option Income Tax to the Library; Sen. Merritt's Bill Proposes End Run Around Tax Caps

In an editorial yesterday, the Indianapolis Star advocated a bill introduced by Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) which would allow the City-County Council to divert local option income tax revenue to the library.

Sen. Merritt is one of Mayor Ballard's biggest supporter in the legislature. His bill overlooks the fact that Mayor Ballard has already diverted property tax revenue, albeit indirectly, to the Indiana Pacers. Mayor Ballard's administration is also using excess TIF funds for various projects (including the No-So development panned by investors as being too risky) rather than working to return the properties to the tax rolls.

Sen. Merritt's bill should outrage conservatives. It does an end run around the tax caps passed by the voters during the last election. A true fiscal conservative should be putting a stop to the Ballard's administration practice of funneling property taxes to politically-connected private corporations. Sen. Merritt's bill simply makes up the property tax shortfall by taking the money from the taxpayers' other pocket.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Insider Marion County GOP Blog Mocks Indianapolis Republican State Senator and Tea Party Movement

If you want to know what is wrong with the Marion County GOP organization leadership look no further than the insider local GOP blog, Washington Street Politics. Earlier WSP had called popular northside Republican state senator Mike Delph "crazy" for introducing a bill that would require a presidential candidate to produce a birth certificate to qualify as a candidate. Of course, that is simply asking for proof of one of the few legal requirements in the Constitution to run for President, but that fact didn't stop WSP from mislabeling it as a "birther" bill aimed at President Obama.

Now WSP attacks Sen. Delph for offering a bill establishing a "Don't Tread on Me" tea party license plate. According to WSP, these efforts are Delph trying to appeal to the "fringe right." I wonder if WSP means those tea party, "fringe right" type people who helped Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard get elected in 2007, the ones Ballard immediately sold out?

These two posts by WSP reveal how completely clueless the Marion County GOP establishment leaders are in understanding the importance of issues in motivating not only voters but the people who work the trenches in Republican politics. To the GOP country-club establishment, the motivation is government contracts, insider deals, and making private individuals and companies wealthy at the expense of taxpayers. Unless party leaders can grasp the importance of political issues and ideology in motivating voters and party workers, any effort to rebuild the local Republican Party is doomed to failure.

Has Marion County Republican County Chairman Kyle Walker Failed His First Test of Leadership?

Tomorrow will be Kyle Walker's one month anniversary of being elected Marion County Republican Chairman. Although I had a low opinion of former chairman Tom John, I did have a flicker of hope when it came to Walker. His comment about the need for the party organization to revert back to a township structure led me to believe that possibly he understood the need to restore the power of the grass roots workers in the Marion County GOP organization. Under John, precinct committeemen and ward chairmen were treated as doormats, people to be walked over by party leaders on the way to getting what they wanted.

If the Republicans are going to have a revival in the county, it will have start by strengthening the power of the grass roots. Those Republicans who work in the trenches are vital to the success of the party. For those individuals, it is not government contracts and favors that motivate, but conservative philosophy and issues. If there is no difference between what Republicans and Democrats stand for, the troops aren't going to be motivated.

Kyle Walker has before him a golden opportunity to strike a blow for the rank and file Marion County Republican Party workers. One of the area chairman is David Brooks, a long-time Marion County activists who has resided in Hamilton County for the past several years. I've known Brooks for probably 20 years, including a period when he lived in Pike Township and was a township chairman there. Brooks couldn't care less about conservative philosophy or the issues. His involvement in party politics is solely about power and influence.

Throughout his career in Marion County GOP politics Brooks has been nothing more than a two-bit hatchet man, someone who is there not to build the grass roots of the party but to twist arms and threaten party workers who fail to do whatever the chairman dictates should be done. Brooks is the one who by email "fired" (even though as only an area chairman he had no authority to do so), Liz Karlson from the party organization. Liz is a very talented, energetic person but Brooks was outraged because as ward chair she supported Scott Schneider over leadership's preference Councilor Ryan Vaughn for state senate.

Of course, Karlson wasn't the only party worker who supported Schneider. Another ward chairman who supported Schneider got the axe. Despite the heavy-handed tactics of people like Tom John and David Brooks on behalf of Councilor Ryan Vaughn, Schneider won the state senate position in a lopsided victory. That victory by Schneider speaks volumes about the gap between Marion County GOP leadership and Republican rank and file party workers.

Walker has had an easy opportunity to send a message to Marion County Republican party workers that a new day has dawned. All he has to do is fire David Brooks. A month after Walker's election though, Hamilton County resident David Brooks is still in his position presiding over Marion County GOP party workers. In a month or so we'll be in slating and once again Brooks will be carrying out threats and twisting arms in an attempt to rig slating so that the leadership candidates are endorsed.

Hopefully Walker will prove me wrong and strike a blow for GOP party workers by firing Brooks. If he doesn't that will strongly suggest his term will be no different than Tom John's, and that the county party organization will continue to sink deeply into minority status.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Law School Lie: Plenty of Jobs and Great Salaries; Where is The Indiana State Bar Association?

It's heartwarming to see law schools finally being exposed for lying about salaries and employment opportunities while leaving graduates with six figure debt they'll never pay off. The latest was a lengthy article in the January 7, 2011 New York Times entitled "Is Law School a Losing Game?" Here's a snippet of the article:

IF there is ever a class in how to remain calm while trapped beneath $250,000 in loans, Michael Wallerstein ought to teach it.

Here he is, sitting one afternoon at a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a tall, sandy-haired, 27-year-old radiating a kind of surfer-dude serenity. His secret, if that’s the right word, is to pretty much ignore all the calls and letters that he receives every day from the dozen or so creditors now hounding him for cash.

“And I don’t open the e-mail alerts with my credit score,” he adds. “I can’t look at my credit score any more.”

Mr. Wallerstein, who can’t afford to pay down interest and thus watches the outstanding loan balance grow, is in roughly the same financial hell as people who bought more home than they could afford during the real estate boom. But creditors can’t foreclose on him because he didn’t spend the money on a house.

He spent it on a law degree. And from every angle, this now looks like a catastrophic investment. Well, every angle except one: the view from law schools. To judge from data that law schools collect, and which is published in the closely parsed U.S. News and World Report annual rankings, the prospects of young doctors of jurisprudence are downright rosy.

In reality, and based on every other source of information, Mr. Wallerstein and a generation of J.D.’s face the grimmest job market in decades. Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated.

And with corporations scrutinizing their legal expenses as never before, more entry-level legal work is now outsourced to contract temporary employees, both in the United States and in countries like India. It’s common to hear lawyers fret about the sort of tectonic shift that crushed the domestic steel industry decades ago.

But improbably enough, law schools have concluded that life for newly minted grads is getting sweeter, at least by one crucial measure. In 1997, when U.S. News first published a statistic called “graduates known to be employed nine months after graduation,” law schools reported an average employment rate of 84 percent. In the most recent U.S. News rankings, 93 percent of grads were working — nearly a 10-point jump.

In the Wonderland of these statistics, a remarkable number of law school grads are not just busy — they are raking it in. Many schools, even those that have failed to break into the U.S. News top 40, state that the median starting salary of graduates in the private sector is $160,000. That seems highly unlikely, given that Harvard and Yale, at the top of the pile, list the exact same figure.

How do law schools depict a feast amid so much famine?

“Enron-type accounting standards have become the norm,” says William Henderson of Indiana University, one of many exasperated law professors who are asking the American Bar Association to overhaul the way law schools assess themselves. “Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty.”

IT is an open secret, Professor Henderson and others say, that schools finesse survey information in dozens of ways. And the survey’s guidelines, which are established not by U.S. News but by the American Bar Association, in conjunction with an organization called the National Association for Law Placement, all but invite trimming.

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too.

Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it.

For the rest of the article, click here.

Maybe 7-8 years ago, I met with a reporter from the Indiana Lawyer trying to get her to write an article on the bad attorney job market and how law schools lie about employment and salaries. I told her the attorney job market was completely saturated and there was no demand for attorneys. I even brought an example with attorney who struggled for years to get any sort of job.

The reporter was flabbergasted. She was certain the attorney job market was good and that my friend was an exception. She claimed there was a high demand for many legal jobs, such as divorce attorneys. She had no clue what she was talking about.

During that time I also conversed with the placement offfice of the IU Law School at Indianapolis. I challenged the statistics they were touting to prospective students and even asked for the response forms from new graduates they said support their numbers. They refused to provide me with that documentation and IU faculty members ridiculed graduates complaining of the job market as having personal failures that would be overcome if they exerted more effort..

Since that meeting with the Indiana Lawyer reporter there has been a string of articles detailing the realities of the legal job market. Law school employment lies are also being finally exposed.

One wonders when the Indiana State Bar Association will finally get off its collective ass and do something on behalf of attorneys, i.e. call law schools out for their lies about employment prospects in the profession. When will the ISBA stop turning a deaf ear to the attorneys' complaints that the job market is completely saturated and that associate salaries have been stagnant for decades? By its own inaction, ISBA is defending a fraud perpetrated upon those who decide to go to law school.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fox 59 "Faceoff" Exposes Weakness of Ballard Campaign Talking Points

Last night I had the opportunity to see a "Faceoff" segment on Fox59 featuring former Ballard media spokesman Robert Vane and Kip Tew, the former Democratic state chairman. The topic was whether Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard deserves to be re-elected.

I was supposed to be on this segment, arguing against Mayor Ballard's re-election. The Ballard people flat-out refused to face off against me. I highly doubt they were fearful of my debating prowess, but rather the Ballard people knew perfectly well how they've sold conservative Republicans down the river and they didn't want someone bringing that up. I'm sure it will be raised during the campaign, however. The smartest thing a Melina Kennedy can do is to try to peel off conservative Republicans by pointing out how Ballard betrayed them with his policies.

Tew and Vane are professionals though and they did well in what is a difficult and uncomfortable format. Vane is a media guy and he was undoubtedly hitting Ballard campaign talking points. The problem was that the talking points, the campaign themes Ballard intends to use, are so incredibly weak. Let's examine them.

  • Ballard fulfilled his campaign promises.

--Ballard's list of broken campaign promises is extremely long,including one pointed out by Tew during the debate, the Ballard promised not to run for re-election if he didn't cut the non-public safety part of the budget by 10%. Ballard should not be bringing up his 2007 campaign promises because that will come back and bite him...big time.

  • Ballard cut taxes as he promised.

---Ballard is going to look ridiculous when the Democrats roll out a list of some 100 taxes and fees Ballard has proposed raising.

  • Ballard has not increased any "broad based taxes."

---Of course, Ballard made no distinction in the type of tax when he made his promise not only to not raise taxes but to cut them. Nonetheless, this talking point asks voters to make a distinction between types of taxes, a far-fetched notion. Nonetheless, let's not forget Ballard did propose raising the food and beverage tax, the alcohol tax, and supports a local sales tax for transportation.

Ballard has provided attention to the City's basic needs.

--I'll grant you that one. Of course, Ballard mortgaged the future to do it, using 30 year loans to pave roads, an improvement which might last 7 years if we are lucky. Nonetheless, this is a negative voting issue. People won't vote for the Mayor if he pays attention to the City's basic needs, but they will vote against the Mayor if he doesn't. This isn't a good campaign issue by any stretch.

  • Ballard has engaged in "unprecedented job creation."

---This seems to be Ballard's No. 1 issue. Yet the claim that jobs in Indianapolis have increased the last few years, in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, is not at all the public perception of what's happened. Therefore it is not a good campaign issue. Undoubtedly Vane's numbers were based on "job commitments" not actual jobs created. Tew easily countered that quoting the declining in jobs in Indiana.

  • All aspects of public safety have improved under Ballard.

---Again, this is certainly not the public perception and thus it fails as a political issue.

Ballard has no issue, none, that he can use to make a credible case for a second term. Usually I can see a path to victory for a candidate, regardless of how difficult the journey may be. But with Ballard, unless Melina Kennedy commits a major felony before November 2011, the Mayor has no chance of winning re-election.

Note: Over at the Indianapolis Times, Terry Burns notes that Melina Kennedy's top two issues are 1) jobs and 2) public safety. This may be the only campaign I can recall where both sides are campaigning by asking the public to judge the incumbent's performance on the exact same issues, with both sides believing those issues will break for them. Campaign strategy is usually about picking your candidate's best issues while de-emphasizing your worst. Either Ballard or Kennedy is completely wrong about which way the jobs and public safety issues will break with the public. Given the current perception of the public on those issues, that clueless candidate is Mayor Greg Ballard.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Mendenhall Chronicles: Part IV (The Confrontation)

Note: With the exceptions of a few statements made by Augustus (Gus) Mendenhall, the following account of what transpired on that Halloween Day is based entirely on the deposition testimony Edward Delaney and five Carmel police officers gave on June 15, 2010 as well as the State’s probable cause affidavit. Finally, it should be noted that the younger Mendenhall is referred to as “Gus” in this account so as to not confuse him with his father Burke Mendenhall who is also discussed in these Chronicles.

“Victor White” aka Augustus (Gus) Mendenhall phoned Ed Delaney at his law office in late October 2009. Victor said he represented Russian investors connected to California who were interested in investing in real estate located in Carmel. Gus Mendenhall’s version of the telephone call was more sinister - that he told Delaney he was with the Russian mob and he was interested in laundering money through real estate investments. Delaney said that they may have discussed a $10,000 retainer. They decided to meet the meet the morning of Halloween 2009, which that year fell on a Saturday.

A subsequent email from Victor confirmed the meeting. At the bottom of the email Victor invited Delaney to wear a Halloween costume. When asked if he thought the invitation to wear a Halloween costume was strange, Delaney said he did not remember reading that part of the email.

The two met at Christ Episcopal Church in Carmel at approximately 10 a.m. on Halloween 2009. When Delaney drove up to the church building, Victor, aka Gus, walked over to Delaney’s car. According to Delaney, Gus was dressed strangely. He wore a reddish-orange, long-haired wig, a “ski jacket,” and gloves which a Carmel police officer later described as heavy, insulated winter gloves. Gus was carrying a small gym bag. Delaney thought it was strange that Gus was dressed for very cold weather on a day in which the temperature was around 50.

According to Delaney, Gus explained his presence on foot by saying he had a driver who had gone on an errand. He asked to get in Delaney’s car so they could drive to the potential investment property a short distance away.

Given the strange way Gus was dressed, one might have expected that Delaney would not allow him in the car and would have driven off. Delaney though did allow Gus into his car and, at his request, Delaney drove to a nearly abandoned housing development. There they stopped to talk. According to Gus Mendenhall’s latter account of events, the first ten minutes with Delaney in the car was spent trying to reassure the state legislator that their meeting was not part of some elaborate FBI sting operation. Delaney though denied ever asking Gus if he was with the government in his deposition. Instead, Delaney said Gus reached into the overnight bag and pulled out a zip-lock bag containing a gun.

According to Delaney, the gun in the plastic bag sat on Gus’s lap, pointed toward him. Gus asked Delaney if he was “right with God” to which Delaney testified that that was “between [him] and her” and that he did not discuss those matters with other people. Then Gus asked if Delaney had ever used a lawsuit to hurt people. Delaney responded that that was not sort of thing he would do.

Delaney said Gus put his hand on the outside of the zip-lock bag holding the gun. Delaney testified that he said two prayers at that point and hit Gus in the face with one hand, while at the same time grabbing for the gun with the other.

Delaney testified that his hitting Gus precipitated three rounds of fighting with Gus over the gun. According to Delaney after that first round, Gus “put the gun up against my left side of my head and he moves his finger and the gun moves against my head twice and I don’t die.” Delaney said the gun was not pointed perpendicular to his head.

While they were still in the car at the housing development, another car approached. Delaney recognized the passenger in the car as a former Barnes & Thornburg secretary, Cathy Palmer. Her husband was driving. Delaney said Gus pointed the gun at and instructed him not to talk to the Palmers as their car approached. Delaney responded he would have to talk to them since he had known them 20 years. While exchanging brief pleasantries, Delaney made an obscene gesture, an attempt he said to alert Cathy Palmer to the fact something was wrong. The Palmers drove off but would alert the police.

Delaney testified that Gus had previously taken his wallet and got his bank PIN number. Now they drove off to a more secluded area. There Delaney jumped out of the car and attempted to slam the driver’s door on Gus as the younger man scampered after Delaney. The last round of fighting took place outside the door on the ground. According to Delaney, during the fight Gus was working furiously through the plastic bag trying to get the gun to work. At this point, Delaney says he saw two bullets in the chamber which were misaligned and that the gun was jammed. Delaney never testified that he saw or heard a trigger on the gun pulled, but rather concluded that the earlier pushing of the gun against his head was an attempt by Gus to fire the gun which had failed only because it was jammed.

At that point, the police drove up and Gus took off running. An officer quickly tasered him, knocking Gus down. During the fall, the wig came off his head. He still had his heavy winter jacket on though. Gus also still had his gloves on as he lay on the ground. Police observed that there was blood on the fingers of the gloves.

Delaney’s testimony is consistent throughout that the gun never left the plastic zip-lock bag. There was no testimony that Gus ever took off his heavy winter gloves during his altercation with Delaney and then put the gloves on at some point when he ran from police. According to Delaney, while Gus had Delaney pinned down he was at the same time trying desperately to clear the jam in the gun working through a zip-lock plastic bag while wearing thick winter gloves.

The Carmel police officers in their depositions testified that the gun was actually found in Gus’s gym bag, and was not out as Delaney had testified it was during the altercation, including their third round of fighting. The only way to reconcile the two positions is to assume that, when suddenly confronted by the police during his third struggle with Delaney, Gus had taken the time to put the gun back in the gym bag. However, none of the Carmel police officers or Delaney testified they saw that happen.

The depositions of five Carmel police officers suggest possible mishandling of the key evidence, i.e. the gun. A photo taken at the scene showed the gun in the zip-lock bag with the safety on. A later photo taken by another officer showed the gun out of the plastic bag with the safety switched to “fire.”

The handling of the gun jam was also questionable. Ben Fisher of the Carmel Police Department testified that when he examined the gun he decided to clear the “double feed” malfunction, thus altering critical evidence in the case. His explanation for removing the jam was that it was for safety because the gun could still fire while jammed.

The depositions reveal substantial questions about the state’s attempted murder case which was based on Gus pointing the gun at Delaney's head and pulling the trigger, with Gus’s intent to kill only being thwarted by the jammed gun. First, Delaney never testified that he saw or heard Gus pull the trigger on the gun and he stated that the gun was not pointed directly at his head. Delaney consistently testified that the gun never left the plastic zip-lock bag and the chain of events everyone testified to meant Gus would have been wearing heavy winter gloves while trying to manipulate the gun through the plastic bag. Then you have the inconsistency that the gun was in fact found in the plastic bag in the gym bag which contradicted Delaney's claim that Gus had the gun with him during their three rounds of fighting, including the last one which was interrupted by the police. The gun was also initially photographed with the safety on.

The probable cause affidavit though never mentions the plastic bag or any of the other inconsistencies. Instead the affidavit made it sound like a simple case of Gus placing the gun to Delaney’s head and pulling the trigger with the gun jamming.

Next up we will examine Gus Mendenhall's trial on attempted murder.