Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gov. Daniels Will Make Decision On Presidential Run Within Weeks; Would Presidential Candidate Mitch Daniels Resgn as Governor?

This morning Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels told reporters that he would make an announcement as to whether he was running for President "within weeks."

I wouldn't be surprised if the announcement doesn't come earlier than that - in particular, next Friday evening at the state Republican dinner.  Cheri Daniels, the Governors' wife, is speaking and is set to introduce to him.  In fact, the news  might be leaked before then so that the news hits the Friday newspaper rather than be confined to the worst read newspaper of the week - Saturday.

Further news is that the Governor wil sign the abortion/Planned Parenthood bill.  The General Assembly gave Daniels a huge gift in sending that bill to his desk, the ability to with a stroke of the pen set aside much of the flack Daniels would have received from social conservatives on the primary campaign trail for his "truce" comment.

I went from thinking there was about a 10% chance Daniels will run back in January, to about 55% (maybe 60%) today. The Republican field has stayed very weak and there has been a much later start in the campaigns than has previously been the case.   So much about politics is about timing and luck, and both seem to be playing into Daniels' favor this year.

Finally, the one thing that doesn't seem to get any press, but should, is the question whether Daniels would remain as Governor while running for President. I can't see that happening. Running for President is a full-time job and it would not seem to be Daniels' style to be an absentee Governor.  Further Daniels has a chance to leave on a high note with most of his legislative agenda passing.  I believe there is a excellent chance that a Governor Skillman will serve the remaining 1 1/2 years of Daniels' term assuming the Governor runs for President.

Things I Don't Get: British Royalty and Americans' Interest In It

I'm trying to think of things I have less interest in than the Royal Wedding, but I can't think of anything.  Can someone explain to me why we should worship and fawn over someone because they were born into the right family?  Why should we care that someone from that family has decided to tie the knot?  Can you someone give me a justification for giving this particular family millions of dollars for doing nothing, not to mention millions of tax dollars spent on this wedding?

What is even more of a mystery to me is that some Americans have an interest in this royal nonsense. When this country was set up our founders explicitly rejected England's monarchy in favor of a meritocracy, albeit admittedly an imperfect one.  Thus, why should Americans have any interest at all in a Royal Wedding?  That's not who we are.

Imagine if we decided to deem one family in the United States as royalty and gave those family members millions in salary and perks simply for having the right genes (or marrying into the family with the right genes.)  Then, in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depressionm we taxpayers were were asked to spend millions of dollars on a royal wedding. Can you imagine the revolt?

Thank God I'm an American.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Indianapolis Bar Association Responds to Abdul's Allegations against Marion County Judge Rosenberg

Indianapolis Bar Association Responds to Criticism of Marion County Circuit Court Judge

Indianapolis, IN, April 28, 2011: On behalf of over 5,000 lawyers, judges, and legal professionals, the Indianapolis Bar Association on occasion finds it appropriate to speak when the integrity of the legal system or those who administer, support and defend it are unfairly called into question. The April 27, 2011 blog post by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz titled “Treacy v. Parker?”, has made unsubstantiated allegations that call into question the actions of a sitting judge and the integrity of the legal system as a whole. The Marion County Circuit Court judge in the matter involving the case of Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is bound by the rules of judicial conduct in that and any other case. While we understand the importance of a free debate in political matters and policy issues of public concern, including those that may take place on the Indiana Barrister blog, parts of this April 27 blog post suggest without evidence that the judge has violated his duties. The legal system, its participants and the public benefit from commentary on politics that is free from baseless allegations of this nature. We also note that since Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney who has chosen a name for his blog that references the legal profession, it would have been our hope that his respect for the legal system would have outweighed any interest in publishing sensationalized, unfounded and unattributed allegations about the judge. The IndyBar reiterates its support for a vigorous public discourse about the legal system and judiciary, but encourages those who comment publicly to do so responsibly.

xxx
 
 
OGDEN'S RESPONSE:  I'm all for Free Speech and an attorney's right to criticize a judge.  If a judge can't take public criticism, then he or she probably should look for another line of work.  Having said that, even I am troubled by Abdul's allegation that Judge Rosenberg has been talking to Democratic officials about a pending case before his court and has done their bidding. That would be an extremely serious violation of judicial ethics that could well warrant disbarment.  If Abdul has such evidence then by all means he shouldn't hide behind anonymous sources to create a "composite" to come up with an allegation against Judge Rosenberg that suggest serious ethical lapses.  He should produce the evidence.

Democratic At-Large Council Candidate Pat Andrews Ad Hits TV Airwaves With Spot

Pat Andrews would be an enormous asset on the council.   No one knows budgetary or finance issues better than she does.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Indiana Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects AG''s Opinion That Constitution's "All Forfeitures" Does Not Include Civil Forfeiture

Today, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down a significant opinion on Indiana's civil forfeiture law.  The case dealt with the forfeiture of a truck and the evidence that supported that forfeiture.  While the case was not directly on point, the Supreme Court made note of "[t]he relative ease of effecting such forfeiture and the disposition of the assets have become a matter of public note" and even cited the front page November 14, 2010 article  written by Heather Gillers Mark Alesia & Tim Evans, Cashing in on Crime, Indianapolis Star, Nov. 14, 2010.

Indiana Attorney General
Greg Zoeller
To summarize, Indiana's Constitution says that the the Common School Fund will be made up of "all forfeitures."  On May 12, 2010, the Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller wrote an advisory opinion at the request of Steve Johnson of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney's Council saying that "all forfeitures" only meant criminal forfeitures, not civil forfeitures.  I have no doubt that the AG's office issued that opinion not as an objective interpreter of the law, but rather as an advocate of county prosecutors wanting to continue with the status quo of pocketing all civil forfeiture proceeds.

Under Indiana's civil forfeiture law, law enforcement is only to keep the costs of the action, with the rest going to the common school fund.  Instead almost almost all counties doing civil forfeiture have kept all the money, including Marion County which hasn't contributed a dime to the common school fund in years.  Only $95,500 in  was paid to the common school fund by Indiana's 92 counties during the last three years.  A bill currently in conference committe would eliminate the law enforcement cost provision in favor of letting law enforcement keep 85% of the civil forfeiture loot.

Footnote 3 by the unanimous court clearly reveals the unwillingness of the Court to accept the AG's opinion that "all" doesn't actually mean "all."
From the proceeds, the court may except law enforcement expenses incurred ―for the criminal investigation associated with the seizure‖ and a prosecutor‘s expenses associated with the forfeiture proceeding and the expenses related to the criminal prosecution. Ind. Code § 34-6-2-73 (2008). Whether this limited diversion, calculating actual expenses on a case-by-case basis, is consonant with the constitutional command that ―all forfeitures‖ be deposited in the Common School Fund is an unresolved question.
At the very least, anything above ACTUAL law enforcement costs is going to be considered unconstitutional. The 85% figure in the bill in conference is far above actual costs and certainly wouldn't pass constitutional muster. Likewise the practice of keeping 100% of the money, i.e. pretending all the money is law enforcement costs, wouldn't find a friendly audience with the Indiana Supreme Court.

In Judge Oakes' opinion dismissing our case, he suggested a better "mule" to ride would be a constitutional challenge.  So we recently amended the complaint to change it from a qui tam into a straight constitutional challenge to law enforcement keeping civil forfeiture proceeds as costs.  The irony is that Attorney General Greg Zoeller could have worked on a resolution which ensured counties complied with the "law enforcement cost" provision, but instead chose to play hardball and get the 85% provision written into the law.  Because of those hardball tactics, Zoeller, IPAC's Steve Johnson and county prosecutors, are well on their way to going from getting 100% of civil forfeiture to getting nothing.

Carmel Spends $1 Million on Statues in Arts District

WRTV Reporter Kara Kennedy did a story yesterday on the increasing Carmel debt being the focus of the Republican Primary.  Opponents John Accetturo and Marnin Spigelman have accused the Mayor of being a big spending liberal.  Even Mayor Jim Brainard does not deny the City has vastly increased its borrowing over his last term.

I found it interesting that the City spent $1 million on statues in its Art & Design district.  Unbelievable.   Maybe Mayor Brainard would consider lowering taxes for taxpayers instead of spending it on bad, overpriced sculptures.

Of course we all know Carmel has a secret money tree which makes any expenditure possible without cost to taxpayers.

Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker Sticks Foot in Mouth, Declares Republicans Will Gain Seats on the Council

Over on the Indy Democrat blog, Jon Easter does a nice job of comparing the declaration by  Marion County Chairman Kyle Walker that Republicans will pick up seats on the Council in 2011 versus the political realities of the map.  While it's true that Walker as County Chairman can't be negative about the party's prospects this year, politics is an expectations game and you don't build up expectations when you're going into a bad election cycle.  By doing so, Walker has put his reputation (and hopefully) his job on the line pending the results of the fall election. If Republicans lose the Mayor's Office and several council seats, he should resign.  He's turned out to be nothing more than Tom John II, someone who has no interest in rebuilding the grass roots of the party organization.

Marion County Republican Chairman
Kyle Walker
While Easter does a good job summarizing the races, he actually is far too conservative in his analysis.  First, the at-larges.  Those are baseline races.  Unless there is some freakish turnout like 2007, the D's should easily prevail in those races even if Ballard somehow pulls out a win.  That alone puts the D's up 16-13.

Then you have I believe three districts which Democrats may actually have a majority baseline in which are held by Republicans, Districts 4 (Scales), 6 (McHenry) and 12 (McQuillen).   Scales is the only Republican who has been wise enough to stake out a more independent (and popular) position on issues than simply rubberstamping the Mayor's proposals.  Stil it will be tough for her given her well-funded opponent. 

I don't agree with Easter that McHenry is a bad candidate.  She's a ferocious door-to-door campaigner and a very likable person.  But she drank the Mayor's Kool-Aid on the issue after issue and seems oblivious to the impact that will have on her re-election chances.  All the D's have to do in her district, is use direct mail to remind voters of McHenry's CIB tax increase vote, the vote to give the Pacers $33.5 million and McHenry's support of the 50 year parking meter contract.  McHenry did vote against Public Safety Director Frank Straub, but that only helps her with the law enforcement officials, not something that's going to help her overcome her support of the Mayor's unpopular agenda.  Plus I hear the Democratic baseline in her district is now close to 60%.

McQuillen has been even more of a rubberstamp than McHenry. His district is now, I believe, majority Democrat.  Again, all it takes is a well-funded direct mail campaign reminding voters of McQuillen's unpopular votes to unseat him.

But the fact is the D's are well within firing range on several other districts.  Fully five other districts have at least a 40% Democratic base:   Districts 3 (Ryan Vaughn), 13 (Bob Lutz.), 14 (Marilyn Pfisterer), 20 (Susie Day), and 21 (Ben Hunter).  In a good Democratic year aided by direct mail targeting those individuals for their unpopular, pro-Ballard votes, they could fall to strong Democratic challengers.   The D's appear to be making a credible challenge to Vaughn.  Even though Vaughn's district is only marginally competitive, at the very least a strong challenger will require the Republicans to divert resources to protect the President of the Council.

Only five districts appear to be solidly Republican territory: Districts 5 (Virginia Cain), 22 (Bob Cockrum who isn't running for re-election), 23 (Jeff Cardwell), 24 (Jack Sandlin) and 25 (Aaron Freeman).  But even one of those isn't safe as Libertarian at-large councilor Ed Coleman has announced he will challenge Sandlin. Lest anyone think that is a fool's quest, remember that Perry Township voters threw Trustee Sandlin out of office in a Republican primary just a few years ago.

Meanwhile the Republicans only appear to have any shot at two districts with Democratic incumbents, Districts 17 (Mary Moriarity-Adams) and 19 (Dane Mahern).  That's it.

Assuming the R's can hold onto the Sandlin seat, my guess is the Council will be at least 18-11 in favor of the Democrats after the election.  It could actually be far worse.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Other Communities Debate Safety of Bike Lanes; It's Time for Indy's Recreational Bicycling Community to Be Concerned About Safety of Bike Lanes Here

On the heels of the announcement that the City is spending $10 million on 33 more miles of bike lanes, today the Indianapolis Star ran an editorial promoting the city bike lanes. Once again the Star simply assumes bike lanes make biking more safe, without any consideration of how those lanes are designed.  In fact, many bicyclists dispute the safety of bike lanes.  A quick google search on the Internet revealed these stories all of which are written by bicyclists:


If LA is Going to Invest in Bike Lanes, Do It Right!
Bicycle Blunders and Smarter Solutions
A dangerous and now deadly bicycle policy
Why Bike Lanes Are A Bad Idea
Dedicated Bike Lanes Can Make Cycling More Dangerous (by an IU-Indianapolis Law Professor)
Slated Bike Lanes 'Dangerous,' Local Athletic Director Believes
AASHTO and Door Zone Bike Lanes
More bike lanes?  No thanks.
Guest commentary:  Bike Lanes on Mass. Ave are not safe (article is about a street in Arlington,Massachusetts)

Unfortunately those in the Indianapolis recreational bicycling community are so thrilled that someone in government is finally paying attention to them, they refuse to engage the administration on the safety of those bike lanes.  In fact, many of the City's bike lanes make commuting more dangerous.

Here are 11 reasons, in no particular order, why many Indianapolis bike lanes are not safe:

1.  Lanes are too narrow.

2.  Broken pavement, debris and water in bike lane that causes sudden swerving.

3.  "Dooring," i.e. the sudden opening of the door of a parked car into a bike lane. Example of a highly dangerous dooring area is the downtown New York Street bike lane.

4.  Bike lanes going across traffic lanes.

5.  Lack of visibility.  Bile lanes put rider on the far side of the road where he or she may not be seen by approaching driver,  the complete opposite advice of "riding wide" given by bicycle safety experts.

6.  Speed disparity.  Lanes are put on roads with high speed traffic, like Allisonville Road..

7.  High curbs.that trap a bicyclist when a vehicle begins drifting toward the biker.

8.  Bike lanes create a false sense of security for bicyclists.  People believe the painted bike lane line somehow magically protects them from vehicles.

9.  Bike lanes narrow traffic lanes causing vehicles to pass much closer to the bicyclist than otherwise would be if they shared the road.

10. Downtown service vehicles often park in bike lanes.

11.  Bike lanes encourage novice bicylists, without the proper training and experience, to ride on dangerous streets.

Where's the Emergency?; Attorney General Exceeds Powers by "Investigating" Gas Stations for Alleged "Price Gouging"

For those of us who have worked regulating the players in Indiana's real estate industry, the biggest complaint we had was the lack of action from the Attorney General's Office.  When I was head of the Title Insurance Division, we often dealt with the Attorney General's Office which is responsible for regulating appraisers and real estate agents.  I remember well going over to the AG's office and looking through boxes of files, finding numerous examples where appraisers had been deeply involved in mortgage fraud schemes.   Yet the files were old and the AG had done absolutely nothing about the appraisers.  When we talked to the AG's office about enforcing RESPA with respect to real estate agents, we were told the AG didn't have the power to do so, despite the fact is says right in RESPA that state AGs can enforce it.  Because of the AG's failure to enforce RESPA, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill specifically instructing the AG to enforce the law.  Still representatives of the AG's office claimed they had no authority to do so.  The AG's office could have done so much to prevent mortgage fraud in this state, but instead were asleep at the wheel.

Unfortunately the AG's Office is no better in other areas.  A few months ago I dealt with an issue of an employment agency violating the law.  The AG was handling a complaint about an employment agency, apparently completely unaware that it is the Department of Revenue that regulates those agencies.  (In fact, the DOR has the power to pursue criminal and civil penalties against employment agencies.) When it comes to civil forfeiture, for years Attorney General Steve Carter and now Greg Zoeller have been knowingly complicit in letting prosecutors and law enforcement officials pocket 100% of civil forfeiture proceeds, in clear violation of the law, depriving millions of dollars from the state's schools.  Did Carter or Zoeller ever lift a finger to enforce the law?   Absolutely not.

Although often refusing to exercise the authority that it clearly has, the AG's Office has no problem exercising authority it does not have with respect to alleged gasoline price gouging.  Recently three Indianapolis-area gas stations raised gasoline prices about 20 cents a gallon to $4.17.  The AG's Office immediately launched an investigation of this alleged price-gouging demanding records from these stations.

First, the price gouging allegation is stupid.  The city has hundreds of gas stations.  If one station raises its prices 20 cents higher than the next, all it does is drive people to other gas stations with lower prices.  Those "gas gouging" stations don't make more money...in fact, they probably make less because of the loss of customers.  Unless gas stations are colluding on setting prices (which is illegal and something worthy of investigation), consumers are protected.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller
Second, where is the AG's authority to target these gas stations for alleged price gouging and demand records as part of an investigation?  Under Indiana law, the Attorney General is authorized to investigate price gouging under IC 4-6-9.1 et seq. ONLY when the Governor has declared an emergency under IC 10-14-3 et seq.   There was no emergency declared.  AG Zoeller had no power to conduct a "price gouging" investigation.  The owners of those gas stations should consider legal action for the defamatory and unauthorized approach approach Zoeller's has taken in this matter.

Today, the AG's Office announced that as a result of its investigation it found that there was no price gouging. Really?  So in a period of about 24 hours the AG's Office was able to obtain and analyze complicated financial documents from those three stations and complete an investigation with a conclusion that cleared the stations of price gouging?   Amazing.  I've never seen an administrative agency work so fast.

Of course, the AG's Office did no investigation.  AG Greg Zoeller saw a political issue and sought to exploit it.  He didn't have the power to do what he was doing and he saved face by claiming an "investigation" cleared the gas stations. This is not exactly the first time Zoeller has lied to the media about his office doing an investigation.  He did exactly the same thing when he claimed to reporters he did an investigation into the forfeiture compliance by the state's 92 county prosecutors and found they had not "knowingly" violated the law.  Yet Zoeller has failed to produce a single scrap of paper relating to that supposed investigation. His office also lies about doing tort claim investigations, often generating form letters with the declaration that the office "investigated" the matter and found the claim to be meritless. 

Indiana consumers deserve better than they're gettingr from Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Is Carmel a Municipal Enron That Is Heading Toward Collapse?; Carmel's Debt More Than Doubles During Last Four Years

Many Indianapolis Republicans complain that Mayor Greg Ballard turned out not to be the fiscal conservative he claimed to be during the 2007 campaign.  Ballard has taken corporate welfare to a new level and increased taxes and fees more than 100 times.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
But as bad as Ballard has been for Indianapolis fiscal conservatives, Mayor Jim Brainard has been worse for our neighbor to the north, Carmel.  Brainard is seeking a fifth term.  Brainard's tenure has been marked by spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money for private business development.  During his tenure the city has seen a number of projects started, probably the most notable being the Palladium, one of the most elaborate performance halls in the country.  Awhile back, Brainard fessed up that the building wouldn't pay for itself, that property tax revenue would have to be tapped to pay for the operation of the building. 

As two primary opponents, City Councilor John Accetturo and businessman Marnin Spigelman, have argued, Carmel's success has been built on a foundation of debt.  Much of the debt of the Carmel has been assumed by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission which governs the 30 plus TIF districts in the City.  .

Carmel Mayoral Candidate
Marnin Spigelman
Of course, these redevelopment commissions are used by cities to get around the constitutional limit on municipal debt.  According to Spigelman the city's debt, including that owed by the Redevelopment Commission, has more than doubled over the past four years and will cost Carmel taxpayers more than a billion dollars in interest.  Spigelman explains it in a publication on his website:
In the Mayoral Debate, on March 29th, I made mention of the fact that Carmel has debt of nearly one billion dollars inclusive of long term interest. That is fact. Does it mean that if we would pay that debt off in full today that would be the total? The answer is, of course not. That payoff, if made today, would be approximately $550 million dollars. However, interest is accrued on a daily basis until the entire original debt is discharged. Therefore, any finance charges must ultimately be added to the base amount to determine the actual overall outlay for said debt.

Accounting principles show that interest must be capitalized to the base cost of the project until such time it is completed and ready for use. There was certainly quite a bit of bond and loan interest accrued from 2005 to the end of 2010 that was deferred, but earned. However, the first installment payable just on the original bond, for $6.9 million, did not occur until January 2011. There were also payments made on those loans secured in banks, such as Regions Bank, prior to completion of the Palladium enhancements. After project completion it appears that the accounting for interest is viewed as an expense item. See, http://www.accountingtools.com/questions-and-answers/when-should-i-capitalize-interest-cost.html

The City of Carmel, the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, or for that matter most municipalities, do not have that kind of surplus ready cash to be able to pay off all of their debt. That surely is the case in Carmel where we have had two consecutive years of operating deficits. That means, in the end result, when full repayment is tendered then the ultimate cost of any financed project must include all accrued interest paid by taxpayer money to satisfy the requirements payable to bond holders, or banks.

Carmel's Palladium
An example would be the initial $80 million bond issued for the Palladium. According to the Clerk-Treasurers office, if that bond goes full term to the year 2033, the total repayment would be $173 million dollars. The chance for that bond to be called before its maturity, given our burgeoning overall debt, is very unlikely. So, the taxpayers of Carmel will have to pay the full financed amount including interest, in the long run, which must be considered as part of the actual end cost for that building. It cannot simply be ignored or covered up as inconsequential.
Carmel is a municipality, which is not the same as an individual buying, for example, his own home. Carmel is not filing income tax returns, and is unable to write off the interest on any obligation. That interest is hard cash that comes out of a specific fund, usually the General Fund, or from Carmel Redevelopment business tax increment funds, to pay for the required financing costs to satisfy the terms of the bond or loan. Not so with an individual who is able to take advantage of a tax deduction for the interest that they pay through the years. That makes that interest for Carmel more significant when it comes to considering the overall costs of the debt.

So when I say that the City has one billion dollars in debt, what that means is that notwithstanding some revenue windfall, of enormous proportion, which could create a large cash surplus in the General Fund or CRC accounts to immediately pay off the debt, all projected interest will ultimately get paid to the creditors. As aforementioned, that must be included in the final cost paid by the taxpayers for the project.

To further put it into perspective, during the last election season the City had a net debt of approximately $300 million, excluding interest (with interest about $450 million), more or less, but now it is $550 million, excluding interest (with interest conservatively about $1 billion), principally because of the over the top liberal spending by the Mayor for his visionary projects. Had he kept to his promises of costs, within reasonable boundaries, then we would not be in a troublesome financial situation. It doesn’t take a professional planner or accountant to understand the ultimate costs for project expenditures principally because it is usually well defined in long term projections, or in actual loan documents.

The further danger of another term by the current Mayor is simply that with a liberal borrowing and spending policy the debt could increase even more dramatically, including the long term ultimate costs. Are we in Carmel willing to take that risk in the next four years after we have already seen the writing on the wall in the last six years?
Carmel City Councilor John Accetturo
Over on his campaign website, John Accetturo has a fact sheet which deals with Carmel's financial problems.
 11. Carmel Redevelopment Commission sold the energy center for $5.5M in a three way deal and bought it back the same day for $16.3M to be paid over a 25 year period. These numbers are according to public documents in the County Assessor’s office.

8. The most meaningless number Mayor Brainard is giving out concerning Carmel’s fiscal health is the $50M he says Carmel has in the bank.

7. In 2010 the Carmel Redevelopment Commission borrowed $37,500,000 at a 7.81% interest rate and $2,500,000 at a 9.25% interest rate. Why are they paying these high rates if the City has an AA+ bond rating like Mayor Brainard claims?

6. The Carmel Redevelopment Commission could have given excess tax money to the Carmel Clay School District if it had not spent it all on the Performing Arts Complex. This would have reduced the money needed in the School Tax referendum.

5. Over $1M of taxpayer money was paid to a single lawyer to find loopholes in state statutes so the Mayor could have his Redevelopment Commission unilaterally borrow over $100M with no approval by the City Council.

4. The exact cost of the Palladium and the Performing Arts Complex is unknown to me, a member of the Carmel City Council.

3. It is known that a $80M bond was approved to build the Performing Arts Complex by a prior City Council, and a document I have from the Carmel Redevelopment Commission indicates that another $97.8M was borrowed through third party finance agreements.

2. The Carmel City Council has voted twice to provide a total of $4M in taxpayer money to The Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. to subsidize the operation of the PAC Complex.

1. There is no contract in place between the City and The Center for The Performing Arts, Inc., who is operating the Performing Arts Complex.
Over the weekend I watched "The Smartest Guys In the Room," a documentary about the collapse of Enron. Enron for years was viewed as one of the most successful, innovative companies in the world.  But it was all smoke and mirrors.  Enron executives' true expertise was the use of accounting tricks to make the numbers look good to investors.   One trick, that I'm sure would sound familiar to Accetturo and Spigelman, was Enron's use of subsidiaries to hide debt on the balance sheet.  That's exactly what the City of Carmel is doing with the Carmel Redevelopment Commission.

Unfortunately the problems with Enron didn't become apparent before it was too late for many people to get off the sinking ship.   Accetturo and Spigelman are both sounding the alarm about Carmel's Enron-like fiscal status. Will Carmel voters heed the warming?

To get information about the three candidates, click on the below three links:

John Accetturo Website

Mayor Jim Brainard Website

Marnin Spigelman Website

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Did Director David Sherman Mislead Council Committee With Claim Fuel Surchage Was Not Enforced Because of Legal Concerns?; Administration Continues to Flip-Flop on Issue

On April 11, 2011, WTHR's Sandra Chapman first reported on the failure of the City to enforce the fuel surcharge on public safety (mostly IMPD) take home vehicles.  As reported by Chapman:
Director of Public Works David Sherman
DPW Director David Sherman is in charge of the defunct Fuel Board. The mayor's office said he was unavailable, and Mayor Greg Ballard's communications director would speak instead.

"Mayor Ballard believes that that's the last step we should take to charging city employees, especially our public safety employees. We've reduced the overall number of take home vehicles across the city. We're also implementing a no idling policy," said Marc Lotter, mayor's spokesman.
On April 14, 2011, Jack Rinehart did a story on the failure to enforce the surcharge.  By then, the administration had added an additional reason for not enforcing the fuel surcharge ordinance:
Another reason the city hasn't imposed the surcharge is because there are questions regarding whether the $3 mark applies to the retail price or the bulk price of gas.
A week later, the Ballard administration completely changed direction.  Appearing before the Public Safety Committee on April 21, 2011, Public Works Director David Sherman said the reason for the administration's failure to enforce the fuel surcharge is that it could subject the the City to litigation.   In other cities the implementation of  a fuel surcharge had been found to violate the union collective bargaining agreements those cities had entered into with public safety officials.

Wait a second.  Here is how City Legal responded in the April 11th story:
"This is a little tricky, since it is a poorly written ordinance that has never been applied. Although the Fuel Board met in 2008 and set potential fuel surcharges for 2009, apparently, the retail price dropped below the threshold of $3/gallon, so the surcharge was never implemented."
If the legal problems that Sherman claim exist were behind the non-enforcement of the ordinance, why didn't City Legal mention them when given the chance on April 11th?  Why did it take ten days to come up with this claim of a legal problem to explain the non-enforcement?  And why at the April 21, 2011 meeting did no one from City Legal attend to answer legal questions from the Council when in fact that was the very reason cited for the non-enforcement?    

It should be noted that when asked about the fuel ordinance in the Chapman piece, Bill Owensby, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said they had not tried to block the ordinance.
"In no way shape or form, have we had any conversations to delay this or to block it," said Bill Owensby, Fraternal Order of Police president.
In the Rinehart piece, Owensby repeated that the IMPD officers had no prolbem with the surcharge:
"When fuel reaches a higher level, we'll pay that fuel surcharge," he said. "It's something we're willing to do because we know what's it's doing to our family budgets and we just think it's the right thing to do."
Sherman though told the committee it was the possibility of union legal action that the ordinance was not enforced.  The collective bargaining agreement certainly would have been subject to any ordinance in existence at the time.  This was the ordinance on take home cars before the amendment added language about the fuel surcharge.
Sec. 279-227. Eligibility for take-home cars.

Eligibility to participate in the take-home car program shall be determined in compliance with established policy, as the same may be amended from time to time by the director of the department of public safety.
It would appear that Director of Public Safety Frank Straub could have on his own imposed a fuel surcharge as a condition of having a take home car even without the fuel charge ordinance beign passed.. It is highly unlikely that there is any legal problem with the fuel surcharge at all. 

But that's not the end of the story.  On April 22nd, Chapman did a second story where Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker (who is now apparently spokesman for the City) didn't bother to mention any legal problem with the ordinance and instead says it was not enforced because of politics, namely the administrtion is looking for other options besides "taxing" police officers:
They're looking for ways to actually reduce the fuel consumption and therefore the fuel costs, without penalizing the police officers," explained Marion County Republican Party Chairman Kyle Walker.

It's the mayor's answer now after 13 Investigates caught the city itself idling and failing to implement a $25 surcharge passed in 2008.

Public safety workers with take-home cars were supposed to pay the surcharge when gas prices exceeded $3 a gallon. The measure received bipartisan support, including support from Ballard.

Now the mayor and Marion County Republicans call it a tax on police officers.

Walker doesn't deny the mayor's flip-flop. "Right. And since that time police officers have helped with the overall budget shortfalls, or I should say budget savings that the mayor has proposed," Walker told 13 Investigates.
Walker never once mentions the alleged legal problems associated with the ordinance, the very reason Sherman cited the day before as justification for the administration not enforcing it.  Instead, according to Walker, the Mayor's position is pure politics....it is about currying favor with police officers. (Wouldn't a smarter move be to fire Frank Straub?)  I do wonder though what legal authority the Mayor has for picking and choosing which ordinances he enforces.  If Mayor Ballard disagreed with the ordinance, as Walker suggests, why did he not veto it after it passed the Council?

Friday, April 22, 2011

General Assembly On Verge of Eliminating Ban on Guns in Indianapolis City Parks; Measure Will Override Mayor Ballard's Opposition to Gunowners' Rights

Licensed gun owners can carry their firearms into both state and national parks. The law allowing the latter was signed by none other than President Barack Obama.

Libertarian At-Large
Councilor Ed Coleman
But last year when Libertarian Councilor Ed Coleman announced that he would introduce a measure to allow licensed carriers to take their guns in city parks, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard responded immediately that he would veto the measure. Council Republicans, of course, let the measure die rather than exercise thought independent of the Mayor.

While the focus has been on whether the bill allowed guns to be carried into municipal sporting venues like Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse (an amendment apparently has addressed this by allowing ban for those facilities), the media is overlooking that Senate Bill 292 would override the Mayor's opposition to gun rights and invalidate the city ordinance banning guns in city parks.

That is, of course, the right decision and unfortunately one our Republican Mayor didn't support.  People who are going to break the law are not going to be deterred  by a law not allowing guns to be in city parks.  All the current ordinance does is strip law-abiding citizens of the ability to carry a gun to protect themselves when in a city park.

This is the second setback for the Mayor's anti-gun rights position.  The Mayor had also taken the position that the City did not have to follow the Second Amendment in its ordinances and policies. That position was overridden by the United States Supreme Court which said that states and local governments do have to follow the Second Amendment.

Here is the latest version of Senate Bill 292 that I can find on-line.  It is on its way to conference committee to work out the differences between the passed House and Senate versions of the bill.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Indianapolis Road Construction and the 50 Year Parking Contract

Urban Indy has some excellent photos and an update on the Georgia Street construction project.  It's not the only project in town.  All over downtown construction is going on with lanes closed and parking meters bagged or removed.

My question is how much is the City paying ACS, er ParkIndy, for all the lost parking meter revenue from the construction on downtown streets?  I believe that's what the contract requires.

Why Have Republican Political Bloggers Abandoned Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard?

If you survey the Indianapolis political blogosphere you'll find that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has very little support, even from bloggers who are Republican.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Seeks Re-election
Indiana Barrister run by Republican Abdul Hakim-Shabazz has always been supportive of the Mayor.  It's been long rumored that Abdul is cashing in on the current administration, which would explain why he always appears to be an echo for anything the administration comes up with.  I don't know if Abdul is paid by the Ballard folks, but he certainly seems to have lost any pretense of independence when it comes to anything relating to the Ballard administration.

Up until Washington Street Politics was created there didn't appear to be any other Republican blogger in town who regularly supported the policies of Republican Mayor Ballard.  WSP appears to have been created exactly for the purpose of giving the Mayor more support in the blogosphere.  It happened to coincide perfectly with Robert Vane leaving the Mayor's office and starting his own communications firm. I'm not convinced that Vane is behind it.  He certainly denies it and the writing doesn't always "sound" like Vane.  Since the blog's author insists on being anonymous, it could well be that the blog was created by the Ballard campaign or the Marion County Republican Central Committee.

It speaks volumes about how much Ballard has alienated conservative Republicans that an anonymous Republican blog had to be created to defend him.

If you look at blogs run by Republicans - my own, Advance Indiana, Indy Student - there is rarely a positive word uttered for Ballard's policies.  Hoosier Advance rarely mentions Ballard and when the blog does it is often not in a favorable light.   Republican blog "Frugal Hoosier" used to support Ballard before eventually abandoning him.  Now the successor to that blog, Aiming Higher PAC, sticks to state issues.  Another pro-state Republican blog, Capitol and Washington, rarely talks about Ballard.  Criticism of Mayor Ballard has even crept into a few out of town Republican blogs, such as Hoosierpundit.

Why don't Republican bloggers support the Mayor?  I think the Republicans who blog do so because the issues matter to them. Most of them believe in a conservative philosophy.  The problem with the Ballard administration is that conservative political philosophy seem not at all important.   The policies of the Ballard administration from the outset has seemed totally driven by the rewards of being in power, e.g. lucrative city contracts for political contributors, tax breaks and subsidies for well-connected companies (i.e. corporate welfare), administration officials positioning themselves for cushy private sector jobs, etc. Whenever being fiscally conservative and looking out for the interests of taxpayers interfered with profiteering off of being in power, the Ballard administration always chose profiteering. 

Republican bloggers keep apprised of the issues and that's why they criticize the Mayor who appears to be the ultimate RINO.  If Republican bloggers who know the issues have turned on the Mayor, how long before conservative Republican voters in Marion County, once informed of such things as the giveaways of our tax dollars to political insiders and 100 plus tax and fee increases, do so as well?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Misplaced Priorities: City to Spend $10 Million for 33 MIles of Bike Lanes

During the debate over the 50 year ACS parking meter contract last year, city officials said it was too risky to spend $8 million to buy the parking meters and keep all the revenue.  Instead they brought in ACS to buy the meters and keep hundreds of millions of dollars from Indianapolis residents during the next 50 years.

Of course, the $8 million estimate for new meters was back when we thought we were getting the entire meters, not just the credit card readers.

Today Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced the City would be spending $10 million to create 33 more additional miles of bike lanes. That's less than an investment in the parking meters would have cost us.

By my math, that's an astounding $303,030 to paint lines for each mile of bike lane.  How could it possibly cost that much?  Oh wait, I guess those contractors and lawyers contributing to the Ballard campaign need to get their money back.

$10 million...wasn't that the same as the shortfall for the library?

Unlike Mayor Ballard, I am a real bicycle commuter.  Most of those bike lanes end up making bicycling more dangerous, not less.  I've written on that topic numerous times and won't repeat those observations here.

I conclude though by noting that that governing is about setting priorities.  That in a nutshell is what's has been wrong with the Ballard administration.  Misplaced priorities.

Three Murders in Indianapolis Today; Ballard's Reliance on Crime as an Issue is Doomed to Failure

I have long argued that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard completely failed to use his three years in office to position himself for re-election.  Instead the issues Ballard plans to run on - jobs (or at least "commitments" for jobs)  and a lower crime rate are doomed to failure as they do not fit into the preconceived beliefs people have about those issues.   Any political strategist will tell you that there is not enough time to both convince voters that their perception about certain issues is wrong, and then use those issues in a political campaign.

In yet another blow to the Ballard crime strategy, today featured three homicides in Indianapolis.  There was a killing this morning in the Greenbriar area on the northwest side, and a double homicide on the east side late this afternoon.  For one day at least, we have an annual crime rate over 1000.

It doesn't matter if Ballard is right about the crime rate going down, it is a losing issue for him.  It continues to amaze me how poor the political advice is that the Mayor is apparently receiving for the $10,000 he pays monthly to political consultant Jennifer Hallowell.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Cogressional District 7 is 58.1% Democratic

Proposed Congressional Map for Indiana

See previous post for methodology.

Marion County in 2010 had a 55.5-45.5 majority Democratic baseline.  I ran the number on the proposed new 7th Congressional District.  It is 58.1-41.9 majority Democratic.  So the 7th is more Democratic than the county as a whole.  (Which means that the northside territory cut out of the district was actually marginally Republican.)  Although I didn't have the precincts to do the numbers for the old 7th compared to the new, since the map traded slightly Republican area for heavily Republican area, heavily I think my guess that the new 7th is marginally closer than the old district is right on the mark.

To see which congressional district your precinct is in with the proposed map, click here.

Political Baseline Numbers for New Marion County House Districts

I spent a few hours today crunching the numbers in the new Marion County House Districts.  Because the House has a list of precincts in each proposed district I was able to look at the partisan leanings of the district using 2010 baseline numbers.  The House Republicans also have a high resolution map available.

First a word about the methodology.  As my low profile race for the baseline numbers, I used the results in the county recorder's race.  Three districts go outside of Marion County:  88, 91 and 93.  (I was incorrect when I earlier said HD 40 came in from Hendricks County into Marion County.  I didn't read the map correctly).  However, the Marion County parts of those three districts were already strongly Republican so taking them outside of Marion County didn't really create an advantage.  This is contrary to the strategy of the Senate of going outside of Marion County to pick up Republican votes to turn an otherwise Democratic district into a Republican.  The numbers for 88, 91 and 93 only reflect the Marion County baseline numbers.

The good news for Republicans is that 8 of the 15 districts favor the GOP.  The bad news for Republicans is that the Democrats would appear to immediately have good shots at winning four of those 8 Republican-leaning districts (87, 89, 92 and 97). On the other hand, Republicans appear to have shots at wining just two Democratic leaning districts (86 and 100).

While it does look like there was some packing of Demcoratic votes in several districts, Democrats can't complain that the Republicans drew only safe seats for themselves. The 15 person Marion County delegation could easily swing to 11-4 in favor of the Democrats. 

Let's look at the numbers.

HD 86   54.6 D  45.4 R   2071 raw vote difference
HD 87   44.9 D  55.1 R   2082 raw vote difference
HD 88   36.8 D   63.2  R  3081 raw vote difference (district goes into Hamilton County)
HD 89   42.8 D   57.2 R   2142 raw vote difference
HD 90   32.1 D   67.9 R   6040 raw vote difference
HD 91   36.3  D   63.7 R  1996 raw vote difference (district goes into Hendricks County)
HD 92   44.6  D   55.4 R  1460 raw vote difference
HD 93   34.3 D   65.7 R  3729 raw vote difference (district goes into Johnson County)
HD 94   78.6 D   22.4 R  7876 raw vote difference
HD 95   72.9 D  27.1 R   6313 raw vote difference
HD 96   83.1 D  16.9 R   11,973 raw vote difference
HD 97   47.6 D  52.4 R    376 raw vote difference
HD 98   76.8 D  23.2 R   6225 raw vote difference
HD 99   79.4 D  20.6 R  7739 raw vote difference
HD 100  56.8 D  43.2R   1548 raw vote iffference

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No, the Indianapolis Council At-Large Districts Don't Follow the Result of the Mayor's Race

I keep hearing it suggested that the four Indianapolis at-large council districts will almost certainly follow the result in the Mayor's race and that they were designed that way.

Republican Councilor Angel
Rivera is seeking re-election as
 an at-large member of the council
Pure nonsense. 

First, the at-large races were expected designed to be Republican seats when Unigov was crafted in the early 1970s.  Marion County was heavily Republican then.  Even if the Democrats were able to elect a mayor (they did win a few county races back then, albeit rarely), that wouldn't have changed the fact that the at-large seats would have certainly been Republican.  Here's why.

The Mayor's race is a high profile affair. When people go to vote for Mayor they know the candidates.  When people vote for at-large representative on the council, few voters know the candidates, and instead default to what party they typically favor.  That's exactly why when you measure a party's baseline numbers, you look at low profile elections.

Marion County has become Democratic by a fairly substantial. margin  While Republicans can still win a high profile race like Mayor, for Republicans to win the baseline at-large races in a typical election year would be next to impossible.  It happened for 3 of the 4 seats in 2007 because it was an extremely odd election where Democrats stayed home and Republicans showed up.  As a result the Marion County baseline shifted in favor of Republicans for one election...I'm pretty sure the last election for a long time.  Even in 2010, a glorious year for Republicans, the Democratic baseline in Marion County was far ahead of the Republican baseline.

Even if Ballard were to by some miracle win the election, the at-large seats will almost certainly go Democratic in 2011.  Ballard won in 2007 running slightly ahead of the Republican majority baseline.  In 2011, he'd have to win running well ahead of the Democratic baseline.  While a Republican mayoral candidate can pull that off, it's extremely unlikely someone in an at-large seat could jump over the strong Democratic county baseliine to win.

IBJ Reports North of South Deal Even Worse for Taxpayers Than Previously Thought

If you read anything this weekend, it should be Cory Schouten's article in the Indianapolis Business Journal on how the North of South (No-So) deal was even worse for taxpayers than what was presented to the council.  Here is a snippet:
The $156 million North of South project is a complicated, risky and potentially transformative bet on downtown.

Artist's Rendering of North of South Project
It’s also a no-brainer of a deal, at least for Buckingham Cos., the developer, and Eli Lilly and Co., which owns the 15 acres of surface parking lots set to be developed along South Street east of Delaware Street.

That’s because taxpayers—acting as the project’s bankers—are shouldering most of the risk in the no-bid deal, while the potential for a tangible profit rests squarely in private hands, a review of documents and interviews with people familiar with the project show.

Buckingham stands to cash in every step of the way, earning fees for all three of its divisions—development, construction and property management. And Lilly gains a new amenity for its corporate campus while cashing out of a 20-year-old arrangement with the city that required the company to make periodic payments on infrastructure bonds.
...
Several developers who spoke with IBJ on condition of anonymity and are generally supportive of public-private deals said the North of South arrangement upends the traditional risk-reward calculation for land development. They say any developer would have jumped at the deal the privately held Buckingham achieved.

“All the developer has is upside!” one said. “The taxpayer has all the risk.”
While it was difficult for Schouten to find development consultants to give anything but anonymous comments about the deal, he found one in Massachusetts who was willing to comment on the record::

The payments between the city and Lilly seem murky to Christopher Steele, an economic development and site-selection consultant and president of Massachusetts-based CWS Consulting Group.

Steele applauds local governments that find creative ways to partner with developers after “sober reflection” to attain “broader public goals.”

But Steele, who reviewed the documents at IBJ’s request, described the agreements as “poorly negotiated.” He can’t quite understand how, if a company doesn’t pay enough property taxes to cover the bonds for its own infrastructure improvements, the city could wind up in arrears.

“There are very good and effective ways of structuring incentive and tax programs to build a strong and mutually reinforcing situation between company and community,” Steele said. “This is not one of them.”

He described the commitment that Lilly reinvest the proceeds in the North of South project as “trying to make a very bad deal better.”
To read the rest of the lengthy article, click here.  Again, I have to ask where is the Indianapolis Star in covering this story.  Hardly a negative word was uttered by the Star about the project, and as I recall local political columnist Matthew Tully opined that the project "makes sense."  I guess it does...for Buckingham and Lilly's.

Political blogger Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana is quoted in the story and on his blog has an excellent take on the deal. 

No-So is is yet another pay-to-play project where taxpayers get the shaft in favor of politically-connected developers and local businesses.  When we elected them in 2007, I expected our Republican Mayor and Republican-majority council to put taxpayers first.  Obviously that hasn't happened.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Slated Democratic At-Large Candidates Have More Money in the Bank Than Republican Endorsed Candidates

I took a look at the financial reports filed by the slated endorsed candidate.  Here's what I found in terms of how much money they have in the bank ready to be spent:

Democrat Zach Adamson
leads at-large candidates
in fundraising
Democrats
Zach Adamson  $12,097.31
Joanne Sanders  $9,686.36
John Barth  $8,487
LeRoy Roibinson  $6,019

Republicans
Angel Rivera  $5,555.85
Michael Kalscheur  $2,312.63
Barb Malone  $1,487.50  (number taken off 2010 annual report; 2011 pre-primary report not posted yet)
Jackie Cissell  $741.27

So all the Democrats rank ahead of all the Republicans.  Democrats have an edge about 3.5 to 1 in at-large fundraising.

Did Superintendent Tony Bennett Throw Schools Under the Bus?; Bennett Gives Away 85% of Funds in Behind Closed Doors Deal Cut With AG Greg Zoeller

The answer is almost certainly "yes."

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tony Bennett
While calling around to school district attorneys this week, I learned quite a bit about what was happening behind the scenes regarding civil forfeiture.  Apparently a number of school districts and education associations were interested in the issue raised by our lawsuit challenging the fact that county prosecutors and law enforcement types all over the state were simply pocketing all civil forfeiture proceeds instead of only the "costs" of the law enforcement. The amount above costs is required to go to the common school fund.  In the one county which was complying with the law, Wayne County, 26% went to cover law enforcement costs, while 74% went to the Common School Fund.

According to several sources Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennnett told school districts to not help us in the litigation.  Several education groups and school district leaders apparently had presentations ready to present to the legislature with respect to the bill introduced to reform how civil forfeiture proceeds were to be divided, but were told by Bennett not to testify, that he would cut a deal with Attorney General Greg Zoeller regarding the civil forfeiture money.  As a result, the only people the legislative committees heard from were law enforcement officials and Bennett's office.

The deal Bennett cut with Zoeller was beyond horrible.  It allows law enforcement officials to pocket 85% of civil forfeiture proceeds while schools would only get 15%.  Even the worst negotiator in the world could have easily cut a 50-50 deal.  85% for law enforcement certainly creates the problem of policing for profit, the very thing that has led to the horror stories that have dominated many of the headlines over the past few years.

By the time the education establishment found out what happened, it was too late.  The 85% bill has passed both chambers.  Now the only hope may be that rare gubernatorial veto.

Fortunately, there is that silly thing called the Constitution.  Indiana's Constitution says that the Common School Fund is made up of "all forfeitures."  The Attorney General, on behalf of his "clients" the county prosecutors, wrote a poorly written and reasoned opinion a couple years ago that said "all" didn't actually mean "all" and the constitutional provision didn't cover civil forfeitures.  (That opinion contradicted an earlier AG opinion.)  Judge Timothy Oakes opined in his opinion dismissing our qui tam that "all" did, in fact mean "all", and that the AG's opinion on the subject was all wet.  We agree, as do a number of attorneys, including legislators.

Today we amended our complaint  to be a straight class action taxpayer challenge to the constitutionality of the civil forfeiture law.  While many school districts have expressed interest, they all so far have feared jumping on board due to possible retaliation by Bennett. We may still add a school district or two as well as an education association.  Given the lack of cooperation from Zoeller and Bennett, and the inane 85% deal Bennett agreed to, we feel we have no choice but to challenge the constitutionality of the law as suggested by Judge Oakes.  If the law is declared unconstitutional, law enforcement gets 0% while the schools get 100% of civil forfeiture.

I began as a huge fan of Superintendent Tony Bennett.  I believe in almost all of his reforms, although not always his manner of pursuing them.  But when it came to a golden opportunity to do something for the schools, he decided to curry favor with prosecutors and law enforcement officials.  Bennett's political ambitions should not have been placed ahead of the welfare of schools and school children.  But in this case it was.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Indianapolis City-County Council Race; Don't Forget the Female Factor

Over at Indy Democrat, Jon Easter pens a column about the effect ballot placement has on election results.  He suggests that the Republican challenger to the slate, Jocelyn-Tandy Adande, who is first on the list of five candidates could have an advantage.

Easter is right, of course. Ballot placement does have an effect, in  particular on who wins in a list race.  The worst place is to be in the middle of a list.  Candidates at the very end tend to stand out a little more than those who are in the middle of the pack.  The best place to study this effect is in delegate races where most primary voters know few if any of the delegates.  In those races, those who are near the top of the alphabetical list tend to score better.

This "alpha effect: is most pronounced in low-profile elections.  When you get to the big races where voters actually know the candidates the order of those candidates does not matter nearly as much.

But if you look at those list races, such as a delegate contest or a race for judge, another bias rears its head. Female candidates almost always do better in list races than males do, at least here in Indianapolis.  If the race is between a little known male Candidate A and an unknown female Candidate B, B will almost always win.

I would put gender ahead of the "alpha effect" as an influence on low profile list races.  Another factor, which isn't just confined to list races, is that if a candidate has an unusual or foreign sounding name, they tend to lose support.  Sorry to say, but there is still some xenophobia out there.  I always thought Vop Osili was at a decided disadvantage because of his name.

Let's not forget that in 2007, Barb Malone (a common American sounding name) beat out slated Republican at large candidate, Michale Jezierski.  Mike had the strike of being male and having a somewhat unusual last name.  Of course, he didn't receive any support as the slated candidate either. Then GOP county chairman Tom John decided to assist just just one Republican slated at-large candidate, Kent Smith.

Let's look at the 2011 Republican at-large candidates:

Jocelyn-Tandy Adande
Jackie Cissell
Michael Kalscheur
Barbara Malone
Angel Rivera

Jon Easter theorizes that Rivera is safe because he's an incumbent.  I'm not sure I agree with that.  Rivera has never been in a Republican primary before.  He's not that well known and his time on the council certainly has not endeared himself to fiscal conservatives.  Plus, there is an unfortunate segment of voters, many Republicans, who have a knee jerk reaction to anything Hispanic.  They might not say it out loud, but it is a bias that could show up in the privacy of a voting booth.

Still if one of the four slated candidates dropped for the list, I'd have to guess Michael Kalscheur.  He's male, in the middle of the pack, and has an uncommon last name.

On the other hand Jocelyn-Tandy Adande is not an unknown for many voters. She's run for several offices as both a Republican and a Democrat.  Plus her name is unusual and has a hyphen.  Voters don't like hyphens for some reason.

All in all, I'd predict the slated candidates would win, but it's not the slam dunk some people may think it is.  Again, think of the 2007 Barb Malone example.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Correction Regarding CICF's Role in Terminating Crime Prevention Grants

Previously I commented on a Fox 59's report regarding the role Central Indiana Communication Foundation had in terminating grants.  I questioned why CICF was involved in the screening of grants as that role was given to the Parks Foundation.  According to Mike Knight, Communications Director of CICF, the Fox 59 report was in error regarding CICF's involvement.  Here is what Mr. Knight emailed me:
I read your April 11th post regarding the Community Crime Prevention Grant Program and wanted to provide some additional information regarding its content (which is based in part on WXIN’s initial report from Sunday evening, April 10th. You referred to that in your post, and provided a link, and if you’ll follow that link, you’ll find the story has been pulled from the site).

Unfortunately WXIN’s initial story was inaccurate: CICF is not involved in the Community Crime Prevention Grant Program, but Indianapolis Parks Foundation, a support organization of CICF, is.

IPF is a separate entity from CICF with its own board of directors, and acts independently of CICF. For more information about CICF and the Parks Foundation, and a press release further detailing the grant program from the Parks Foundation, please go here: http://www.cicf.org/cicf-news/2011/april/community-crime-prevention-update.

For an updated version of the Fox story, please go here:

http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-funding-cuts-mayor-seeking-answers-to-funding-cut-decisions-20110411,0,585858.story

And for the Indianapolis Star’s version, check here:

http://www.indystar.com/article/20110412/LOCAL/104120318/Crime-fighting-programs-denied-funds?odyssey=tab
topnews
text
IndyStar.com

To its credit, Fox was diligent in trying to correct the inaccuracies, which included pulling the page and we do appreciate it. We also appreciate your content and consideration, and my hope is you’ll update your post to reflect this more accurate information.

...

Mike Knight
Communications Director
Central Indiana Community Foundation
615 N. Alabama Street, Suite 119
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317.631.6542 ext. 187
www.cicf.org

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Observations on the New Maps; Why Marion County Democrats Should Be Pleased With the Marion County House Districts

I have waited to write on the new maps because frankly the political impact of those maps are only a guess to those of who weren't part of the small handful of the people who worked actively in drawing those maps.  Even many legislators are still studying the impact of the changes on their re-election chances.  I have not been able to find on-line the actual amended redistricting bill that lists the counties, townships and precincts in each particular district.  As a result, I'm like everyone else - just eyeballing and making guesses.  Some observations:

Democrats are screaming that the Republicans have engaged in "gerrymandering," i.e. the drawing of districts to favor the GOP.  Every majority party gets accused of this at re-election time and rightfully so because that's exactly what the majority party always does.

Having said that the Democrats' concerns are way overblown.  The fact is, while Republicans can lock down legislative gains through redistricting, it would be difficult to increase the margins substantially more than what they are now.  The Indiana Senate is now 37-13 majority Republican using a map drawn by Republicans.  The Indiana House is 60-40 majority Republican using a map drawn by Democrats.  It is virtually impossible for Republicans to take out the numbers much beyond that because when the GOP tries it would cut the districts too close leaving scores of Republican legislators vulnerable during the inevitable GOP down years.  One bad election and poof the majority is gone.

Indiana is about a 55% majority Republican state.  74% of the state senators are Republican, 60% of the state Representatives are Republican.  What Republicans would try to do with a gerrymander is to create a majority of seats that are close but safe...say 60% to 40%, a 20% cushion.  In the remaining districts you throw as many Democrats as you can into those districts, conceding them by margins of 80% to 20%, for example.  So what the Republicans would be trying to do is spread out their votes in such a way as to have a solid majority in that chamber.  Democrats in the House did the same thing when they drew the map...though it is tougher for the D's to have a solid majority as their overall numbers are less.

It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for Democrats if the Republicans overreach and  create too many majority districts or protects too many incumbents.  If the GOP does that the party will cut the margins too closely.  So let's say you cut the margins on districts from 60-40 to 57-43 to win more overall seats.  Suddenly the elections are a lot more competitive and a good Democrat year throws out slews of Republicans and might even give the party of the donkey an unexpected majority.

Without political data, it's tough to estimate the political impact of the house and senate maps.  Visually I can make some observations:
Proposed State House Map
HOUSE: On the House side, Marion County Democrats should actually be thrilled. Too much attention is placed on the personal slight of District 96 which appears to lump three Democrats together, the Marion County districts appear to be very favorable to the Democrats. Bosma's Marion County district goes far outside the county to pick up Republican-leaning Hancock county precincts. Outside of that, there are only two districts on the south side that go outside of Marion County. (A third one does - HD 40 but that one actually comes from Hendricks County and only includes a small sliver of Marion County. So we won't count that district.) The rest of the districts are totally contained within Marion County. Looking at those Marion County districts, the Democrats would appear to be favorites in 86, 94, 95, 96, 98, 99 and 100, while Republicans have the advantage in 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93 and 97. That is a 8-7 split in favor of Republicans of the Marion County House seats (sans the aforementioned District 40). But the good news for Democrats is that they have good shots at every district but 88, 90, 91 and 93, while Republicans have little chance to win back any of the Democratic seats.


In a few years, thee Marion County house delegation could easily be 11-4 in favor of the Democrats. By not taking out the northern Marion County districts to pick up Republican precincts in other counties, the House map is certainly no friend of Marion County Republicans.

Proposed State Senate Map
SENATE: I find it fascinating that Republicans drew a state senate district, currently occupied by Republican Beverly Gard, that stretches from nearly Center Township, Marion County to the Wayne County line.  That's about an hour drive, by interstate, from one part of the district to another.  One wonders if some Indianapolis east side Republicans might take a shot at that district. Senate District 33 and 34 look like the only Democratic senate seats in Marion County. With the exception of Senate District 32 based in solidly Republican Franklin Township, all the other Marion County senate districts go outside of the county to pick up Republican-leaning suburban voters.  I would think Senate District 29, currently occupied by Senator Mike Delph, has been made more Republican.  It takes in a big section of western Wayne and northwestern Pike Townships before picking up precincts in the southeastern Boone County and southwestern Hamilton County.  However, given current demographic trends, this is likely to be a very competitive seat in only a couple elections.

Proposed Congressional Map
CONGRESS:  I never thought I would live to see the day when my hometown of Madison (Jefferson County) would be in the same congressional district (District 6) as Muncie (Delaware County), where I spent most of my college years.  I had to trek from Madison to/from Muncie and the drive took forever, a good two hour trip.  From the furthest areas of District 6, I'm sure the trip could be as much as 3 hours long.

I find it interesting that they chose to divide Southern Indiana (the most lightly populated part of the state) up into three congressional districts. 

It appears that the Republicans are angling to win 7 of the 9 congressional districts (all but District 1 and 7).   Doing so means they've had to cut the numbers in some of the more heavily leaning Republican districts, like the 8th Congressional district in southwest Indiana.  Marion County Republicans are giddy that Andre Carson's district has been drawn more Republican by including the Republican southside of Marion County while excluding some of the northern part that is more Democrat.  Too much is being made of this. The Republican southside is sparsely populated when compared to the north side of Marion County, plus the very north part of Marion County now excluded from the 7th is by no means heavily Democrat.   The district will only be marginally closer.

Me being the cynical political person I am, I could see the Republicans making the 7th District closer in the hopes that the Democrats invest resources to help Andre Carson, thus taking money away from other races.

I may have more observations later once I get more information on district lines.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Who is In Charge of Distributing Indianapolis Crime Prevention Grants and Why?

Russ McQuaid of Fox 59 reports that the several community organizations stand to lose have their crime prevention grant cut:
Several of Indianapolis' most successful community organizations, many located in the inner city, have been told their requests for city funding have been denied and that they shouldn't even submit applications.
The bad news to the groups was delivered by an e-mail sent after 4 p.m. Friday.

"Thank you for submitting a Letter of Intent for review by the Community Crime Prevention Grant Board," read the message from the Central Indiana Community Foundation. "We received 115 letters of intent requesting more than $12 million in funding which far exceeds the funds available this year. Careful consideration and a thorough review were given to each proposal; however your application was not selected to continue to the full application process."

The Mayor said he became aware of the funding situation Friday night and would try to come up with an explanation and solution by Tuesday.

...
The Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) is the agency the City is dependent upon to vet the letters of intent and applications from organizations seeking funding.

CICF also received $302,000 in community crime prevention grants in 2010, putting it in competition for funding with the organizations it has turned down.
To see the rest of the Fox 59 article click here:

I have a healthy suspicion of some of the non-profits which have sprung up supposedly to provide charity to the community.  If you look at some of the non-profit tax returns  it often appears that the chief benefactors are the people who work at the non-profit, not the people they're supposed to be helping.  CICF is no different with several executives making six figure salaries and a President who is making more than $300,000.   It also has hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank.

CICF is apparently acting as the administrator of the crime prevention grant program.  But it also receives crime prevention grant money which would seem to create a conflict of interest.  Also, what happenewd to the plan to have the Indianapolis Parks Foundation be the administrator of the crime grants. From Inside Indiana Business:
At today’s IPL Mayor’s Lunch for Parks, Mayor Greg Ballard announced his support for the Indianapolis Parks Foundation taking the reigns on a $2 million Community Crime Prevention Grant.

The city county council approved a proposal to make the Indianapolis Parks Foundation responsible for disbursing the Community Crime Prevention Grant at its February 28 meeting.

In partnership with the Public Safety Committee, IPF will now be responsible for making grants to community organizations whose programs focus on youth engagement, education, safe neighborhoods, health, and ex-offender reintegration and re-entry.

“I have complete confidence these funds will go to worthy organizations that are making a powerful difference in the fight against crime,” Ballard told the crowd of nearly 500 business and civic leaders assembled for the luncheon benefiting the Indianapolis Parks Foundation.
I don't know why the City would ever delegate the distribution of taxpayer money to a private entity, much less one that is receiving funds from the very grant money it is distributing.  CICF should never have the last say over who gets grant money, i.e. taxpayer funds.  But in this case I have to ask what happened to the role of the Indianapolis Parks Foundation and the Public Safety Committee in distributing these grants?  Did the Parks Foundation and the Public Safety Committee get cut out of its administrative and oversight role?

Note:  The Indianapolis Business Journal also wrote a story on the subject.