Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mayor Ballard Misleads the Public on Sweetheart Parking Meter Deal

Mayor Greg Ballard
The blog Urban Indy has published an interesting Q and A with the Mayor. I found this question and answer on the parking meter contract with ACS quite interesting:
Q: What is your point of view on privatization of public assets? (ie: parking meters, utilities, etc)
A: As our record shows, we think privatization can be a great solution in the right circumstances.
...
The lease of the parking meters is also a solid transaction. Though it may require an adjustment period, the ability to use credit and debit cards in the meters has been met with rave reviews—over 40% of transactions on those new meters are done without cash. That is a clear indication that Indy residents and visitors are embracing this new technology. And with the feedback we received from the public, the City modified the contract with the ParkIndy team to allow us opportunities to get out of the contract if the deal is no longer beneficial to the City. So, done in the right way and with the right terms, these are great ways to leverage our assets.
To see the rest of the Urban Indy interview, click here.

You see what Ballard did?  The question was about whether privatization of public assets is a good idea. When talking about the parking meters, Ballard flipped it and started talking about modernization of the parking meters, which of course the City could have done on its own.  In fact for just $8 to $10 million the City could have bought the new meters themselves and kept 100% of the revenue instead of giving away 70% of it to ACS for the next 50 years.

Then Ballard brings up the right of the City to get out of the contract every ten years.  The fact is if you examine the contract closely you find out that right is illusory...the terms make it impossible for the City to ever exercise that opt out provision.

Last November, I wrote about my examination of this illusory opt out provision that the city was touting:
...according to Section 18.2, any decision to cancel the contract requires a year's notice. But it is much worse than that. Second, under Section 18.2, the City is not allowed to contract with another vendor to run the parking system for two years, unless:

the amounts paid or payable to any third parties by the City for outsourced services do not exceed, in the aggregate, the amounts paid under the Parking Meter Services Contracts during the Year 2010 and provided such payments do not include a revenue share with the City or revenue or collection guarantees with the City.
Given that this contract isn't likely to take effect until 2011, a vendor taking over the parking responsibilities within the two year window has to agree to be paid nothing since that's how much ACS will be paid in 2010 on the parking deal. Assuming the starting point is switched to 2011, any new vendor in the future, let's say 2031, would have to agree to take no more money on the contract that ACS received in 2011. Plus, even if a vendor can be found which will do that, the language of the section also prohibits the vendor from sharing its revenue with the City. So we'd have to go without any parking revenue for those two years if we turned it over to another vendor.

That language of Section 18.2 leaves the City with two options, none of which are good. First, the City can wait out the two year cooling off period, while doing the parking themselves. The second is to pay ACS an additional $5 million penalty on top of the tens of millions the City already has to pay for termination. $5 million is the additional price the City has to pay for contracting out during this two year window.

Well, if ACS does a really bad job, the City can just float a bond and pay the early termination penalties and $5 million penalty for breaking the two year window, right? Wrong. Section 18.2 contains a provision which prohibits the City from borrowing money to pay ACS's termination fee. Here's the language: "The City shall not ... obtain capital from any third party in order to fund the payment of the Termination Penalty..." The penalty at year 10 is $19.8 million. With the $5 million, the City would have to fund $24.8 million out of its general revenue stream to be able to terminate the contract at Year 10. At Year 20, this would be $21.25 million. Again, we are not allowed to borrow to make this payment.
People should demand more intellectual honesty from more our local officials than is witnessed in Ballard's answer to this question.  Ballard is not the only one.    Disingenuous discussion of the issues is practiced on both sides of the aisle, especially when it comes to shoveling tax dollars to politically-connected companies.

Note:  My November article also discusses why the 200 job promise made by ACS in a separate letter is completely unenorceable.  To see the entire article, click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Channel 13 Exposes Hoosier Lottery's Lavish New Offices



As I've said before, I do not know why Governor Mitch Daniels, who I like on so many levels, does not exercise stronger oversight when it comes to the state's agencies.  He seems to let agency heads do whatever they want and the result is stories like this one.  The video above is not to be believed.

Here is part of the written story:
13 Investigates has uncovered big questions about a multi-million dollar contract signed by the Hoosier Lottery.

The lottery claimed its new headquarters would save taxpayers money, but a look inside reveals what some are calling extravagant expenses. The accommodations are very nice and when it comes to the numbers, 13 Investigates found they don't add up.

The director of the Hoosier Lottery recently took Eyewitness News on a tour of the Lottery's new headquarters and what we saw inside made us ask a lot of questions.

Nine conference rooms - most decked out with brand new furniture - a massive break room and multiple coffee bars and lounges with new custom artwork, six microwaves, five refrigerators, three dishwashers, four flat screen TVs, even a workout room with brand new state-of-the-art equipment. It contains more than 35,000 square feet of office space - all for 83 employees.

...
Densborn said the lottery was running out of space at its old headquarters at the Pan Am Building downtown, so she decided to move out to a historic building on Meridian Street, where everything has been custom designed by the lottery.

"We have a lot more meeting rooms, we have small meeting rooms, we have large meeting rooms, we have made the employee break room, very, very large. So we could have our gatherings there," Densborn said. "I didn't expect to be moving, actually, so it kind of took on a life of its own once we started crunching the numbers and looking at everything, so here we are."

...
13 Investigates obtained both the new rental contract and the old one. Rent and parking used to cost $467,484 per year. Now, it costs $630,030 per year and that number will be going up to almost $700,000 during the life of the contract. Bottom line, over the next ten years, that would amount to an extra two million dollars.
...

Federal Court Blocks Attorney General's Attempt to Enforce Law Against Out-of-State Political Robocalls

The Indiana Law Blog has an interesting story about Federal Judge William Lawrence's decision issuing a permanent injunction against the enforcement of Indiana's Automatic Dialing Machine Statute (IADMS) against out-of-state robo political calls.

The case raised two issues, whether the law violated the First Amendment (which protects political speech more than any other type of speech) and whether the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act had pre-empted the state law as to out-of-state phone calls. 

The Court concluded that the IADMS was precluded by the federal law. The Court, however, did not address the First Amendment issue.   However, from the tone of the opinion it seems clear that that issue would have been decided that issue against Zoeller as well.  In footnote #1, the Judge Lawrence state:
When applying another Indiana statute, the Telephone Privacy Act, a previous Indiana Attorney General recognized “an ‘implicit exclusion’ for calls soliciting political contributions.”  See National Coalition of Prayer, Inc. v. Carter, 455 F.3d 783, 784 (7th Cir. 2006). Attorney General Zoeller recognizes no such exclusion with regard to the IADMS and has expressly reminded Indiana’s political parties that the statute does not exempt political calls and that he intends to actively enforce the statute’s provisions.
The footnote refers to the no call list law.  Former Attorney General Steve Carter recognized that past precedents require that the law exclude political speech which is given the maximum protection under the U.S. Constitution.  However, when it came to the IADMS,  Zoeller took a contradictory approach, arguing that the law did apply to prohibit political speech, i.e. political robo calls.

I have long argued that it is unconstitutional to ban political robo calls.  There was simply no way of squaring Zoeller's position with previous First Amendment decisions dealing with political speech.  People may not like the robo calls, and from a political standpoint they may not be effective.  However, at the end of the day the Constitution protects the right to make even annoying political robo calls.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

President of United Way of Central Indiana Making Quarter of a Million Dollar A Year Pleads for Donations to Address Poverty

Anyone who has read this blog long knows that I detest non-profits and especially charities that put the financial well-being of their own executives ahead of the cause or causes they purport to support.  Top of my list of such non-profits is the United Way, an organization that acts as a clearinghouse for charitable contributions.

Ellen K. Annala
 Last week United Way of Central Indiana CEO Ellen K. Annala penned a letter to the editor discussing poverty and urging people to contribute to the United Way.

You can bet that poverty is not something Ms. Annala and her fellow United Way executives have to deal with in their personal lives.  Ms. Annala pulls in $251,720 in salary and benefits a year.  Angela Dabney, Sr. VP of Resource Development makes $168,458, Jay Gersey, Sr. VP Community Planning & Strategic Investment earns $169,100, Dale E. Depy, Assistant Treasurer, hauls in $170,275, and Nancy S. Ahlrichs, VP Workforce Development and Diversity makes $136,896.  In total, the organization paid out $7,489,393 in salaries and benefits in 2010 and reported net assets of $108,440,285.

I would strongly urge people interested in giving money to charity to give the money directly to the charity rather than through the United Way.

Guilt by Association Approach to Politics

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz
Over on his blog, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz engages in rumor-mongering this morning:
You might recall a couple months ago I asked Stephen Clay, the head of the Baptist Ministers Alliance of Indianapolis if he had ever been the subject of an investigation by the Department of Child Services for inappropriate contact with a male minor.

At the time Clay refused to answer my question and give me a straight “yes” or “no” reply. Instead he told me “my non-response is my response.” Well, it turns out Clay was the subject of an investigation a few years ago and apparently someone believed there was enough merit to the claim to forward it to the proper authorities. However, it’s unclear whatever became of the investigation. I do know my inquiry into whether there was an investigation has unnerved Clay.
Anyone can be "investigated" for anything.  The fact someone brought an allegation to "proper authorities" means nothing.  Are we going to assume people are guilty now because they are accused of something?

Abdul continues on, this time trying to link Democratic candidate Melina Kennedy to Clay:
What makes this interesting is that Clay considers himself a political ally of Democratic Mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy. He even reportedly did the private invocation the day she announced she was running for Mayor. When I approached Kennedy campaign manager Nick Buis about this story he replied to me via text “so does this mean Goldsmith is fair game?”
I know that Abdul pretty much speaks for the Ballard administration.  Is that the approach Ballard wants to take to winning (or losing) this election - smearing Kennedy allies with unproven allegations, then suggesting that their association means she approves the unproven conduct of the ally?

Buis is right.  Goldsmith is an ally of Ballard and has been deeply involved with this administration's policies.  Should we condemn Ballard because of the allegations made about Goldsmith being involved in domestic violence?  Of course not.

We should demand that our politics and the people who practice those politics be above the "When did your political ally stop beating his wife" type approach to electoral politics.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

About Those Indianapolis Mayoral Polls

A recent campaign poll showed Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard up 12 points. Melina Kennedy's campaign though recently released one suggesting she is up 2 points on the Mayor.

What's the difference?  There is a lot of focus on margin of error.  While that's too complicated to explain here, I would note that the larger the sample size the less the margin of error.  Also, the media misreports margin of error when they say a lead is outside or inside a margin of error.  Actually a 4 point margin of error means both candidates numbers can be off 4 points on either side. Thus there a candidate would need a 9 point lead to be outside a 4 point margin of error.

But the bigger error by far in these types of campaigns is the sample selected to poll.  If Democrats want a poll favorable to them, they poll more Democrats.  If Republicans want a poll favorable to them, they poll more Republicans.

WISH-TV reporter Jim Shella claims to have seen the two polls and provides some insight into the sample used in both polls:
 I was permitted to review both polls and found that the major difference, aside from the head to head numbers, is in the breakdown of Republican and Democratic voters in the polling samples. Democrats believe they have a 10 point advantage in terms of party identification by voters in Marion County. Republicans think the Democratic advantage is only 4 points.
So the poll showing Ballard ahead by 12 points only polled 4% more Democrats than Republicans, while the poll that showed Kennedy up by 2 points polled 10% more Democrats than Republicans.

In 2008, the baseline numbers in Marion County favored the Democrats 60-40, i.e. 20 points.  In 2010, the baseline numbers, in the midst of a huge Republican year, favored the Democrats 55-45.

Looking at those baseline numbers, I would have to question any poll that bases its sample on the Democrats only having a 4% advantage on registration in Marion County.  Obviously the edge is substantially bigger than that.  Even a 10% advantage estimate might be too low.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mayor Ballard's Campaign Foolishly Attacks Melina Kennedy on Tax Issue, Opens Mayor Up to Challenge for His 140 Tax and Fee Increases

Further confirming the suspicion that the race has tightened, the campaign of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard released a video attacking Melina Kennedy on taxes.


First, the Ballard campaign gets the facts wrong.  Kennedy was not Deputy Mayor when the county option in come tax was increased.  But besides getting the facts wrong, I have to question the boneheaded campaign strategy of Mayor Ballard attacking Kennedy on taxes when it is probably the single issue he is the most vulnerable on. During his term, Mayor Ballard has supported raising 140 taxes and fees and reneged on his campaign promise of repealing Mayor Peterson's 's county option income tax.

When the political wisdom of Ballard's tax/fee increased was questioned during his tenure, Ballard supporters assured doubters that come election voters will make distinctions between who pays certain taxes and that the fee increases were justified.  Of course campaigns, conducted in a sound bite atmosphere, do not allow time that sort of education of the voters.

Now that Ballard has set Kennedy up on the issue of taxes, expect her to spike the ball. I expect that Kennedy will release a powerful response ad blowing away Ballard on taxes.  I can imagine the ad now. The ad shows Ballard making a campaign promise to repeal the county option income tax.  The commentator notes that Ballard did not repeal the tax and instead support 140 tax/fee increases.  The ad freezes on Ballard ( an unflattering photo), while a list of the tax/fee increases scroll over Ballard's frozen face.  It would be a devastating spot.

The fiscal conservatives who worked for Candidate Ballard's election in 2007 have almost all long ago jumped off the Ballard bandwagon.  But the betrayal of fiscal conservative principles that caused those former supporters to stop supporting the Mayor is not yet well known to the average Marion County Republican voter.  Once Kennedy starts hammering on those issues near and dear to fiscal conservatives' hearts, including Ballard's tax/fee increases and endless giveaway of taxpayer dollars on corporate welfare schemes, the Mayor's support with Republicans begins to crumble.

Indeed it is with Republicans that Ballard is the most vulnerable.  The Mayor does not have a fiscally conservative record, not even close. If Kennedy makes that fact an issue in this campaign, Ballard's critical GOP base will begin to erode.  If on November 8th, 20% of the Republicans vote for Kennedy because of Ballard's liberal fiscal record, the Mayor will be seeking other employment come January 1st.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Democrats Release Poll Result Showing Melina Kennedy Overtaking Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard

Melina Kennedy
Jon Murray of the Indianapolis Star reports:
The Marion County political parties have been keeping a lid on their ongoing polling results in the Indianapolis mayor’s race, but a new result today was too good for the Democratic Party to keep to itself. A “strategic memorandum” sent by Chairman Ed Treacy to the media (and presumably some party supporters, given the solicitation for donations at the end) touts the poll’s finding: Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy is at 40 percent support among likely voters, vs. 38 percent for Republican Mayor Greg Ballard and 21 percent undecided. Earlier today, during my interview with Treacy about another topic, the delivery of these results had made Treacy more confident than ever that Kennedy’s victory is all but certain.

But there are some important caveats to this poll: First, Treacy’s release doesn’t specify the margin of error, though surely it’s greater than the 2-percentage-point difference between Kennedy and Ballard. So the best that can be said is that Kennedy and Ballard are about even, by this poll’s finding. Also, this was a poll commissioned by the Marion County Democratic Party. It was conducted by Riggs Research Services locally; I know very little about the firm, which doesn’t seem to have much of a footprint on Google. Whether its polling has any bias, I don’t know — though Democrats say shop leader Jim Riggs’ polling was scarily accurate in many local races last year, in a few cases underestimating Democrats’ support in a few contests in his September 2010 survey. (Details of the mayoral poll: 403 likely voters were interviewed Tuesday and Wednesday. The party’s release did not provide information about party association of those polled but says the sample was geographically and demographically representative.)
To see the rest of Murray's piece, click here:

Marion County Republican County chairman Kyle Walker is quoted in the piece as saying that the Mayor has a "double digit" lead.  That too raises questions. There is a huge difference between 10% and 25%, yet both are "double digits."  So what does he mean by "double digits?"

My guess is the status of the race is somewhere in between where Walker and Treacy suggest it is.  One thing that makes me think the numbers have moved favorably for Kennedy is the thus far lack of aggressiveness of Kennedy in attacking Mayor Ballard's record, i.e. the so-called negative campaigning, a term I am not fond of in that context. Although Republicans leaders say Kennedy has been negative, the fact is she has barely scratched the surface of a compare and contrast campaign that one would think a challenger has to run against an incumbent mayor.  Kennedy seems to be coasting in her campaign, rather than scrambling trying to make up a huge deficit.  That spells trouble for Ballard.

I expect that the Mayor still has a lead, but that the lead has shrank.  If so, Kennedy will have achieved an advance on the Mayor while barely firing a shot. What happens when Kennedy brings out the big political guns, shooting the three plus years of ammunition Mayor Ballard has provided in supporting politically unpopular policies?

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to Public: "I Don't Care What You Think, I Am Changing the Name of Georgia Street"

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Okay, the quote is made up, but it captures perfectly Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's attitude when it comes to listening to the voice of the public versus the downtown elites.  Ballard simply doesn't care what the average person thinks about city issues.   WISH-TV reports:
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is standing firm on plans to rename Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis.

The three block stretch is being reconstructed to accommodate a pedestrian mall and there is a competition to come up with a new name .


Georgia Street under construction.
A Democratic member of the City-County Council, Angela Mansfield, has called for the mayor to drop plans to rename it , citing history, but Ballard told 24-Hour News 8 Reporter Jim Shella that it won't happen.
"There's other things that are planned for it which is necessitating the name change," he said.

When asked to explain that Ballard said, "We'll have to wait for the next few days ... putting it together to make sure people understand what we're really trying to do on that street."

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate for Mayor Melina Kennedy added her criticism Thursday.

"I don't think we should change the name," she said, "but there are many bigger issues that the mayor ought to be focusing on."

Ballard says he will make an announcement regarding Georgia Street in a couple of days.
To see the rest of the story, click here.

As I've said before, it doesn't matter even if 99% of the public is against the name change.  Ballard simply doesn't care what people think. What Ballard cares about is what the downtown elites think. Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. wants the name change, so the Mayor's is going to carry out IDI"s orders regardless of overwhelming public opposition.

A Republican friend of mine asked why this issue is so important. In the grand scheme of things it is not.  But it is emblematic of the attitude Mayor Ballard has consistently displayed toward the residents of Indianapolis He simply doesn't care what the average person thinks about issues. When it comes to the issues like the Pacers $33.5 million gift of our tax dollars, the 50 year parking meter deal, the Broad Ripple parking garage giveaway, or the $100 million North of South project, Mayor Ballard believes he is in office to take orders from downtown elites and implement their directives.  If there is a perfect symbol for why Mayor Ballard does not deserve a second term, his attitude on the Georgia Street name is it.

Civil Discourse Now Tackles Whether Higher Education is Worth It and Professional Sports Subsidies

We are still working on fixing the echo problem. Anyone with suggestions, let us know.  We'll probably go with lapel mikes and a mixing board but some short term suggestions would be helpful.

Note:  Each segment is approximately 14 minutes long.


Part I



Part II


Part III



Part IV

WRTV Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Keeping Georgia Street Name

WRTV has an online poll on whether to change the Georgia Street name.  The results thus far:

Yes    42 votes,  4%
Maybe (depends on the name)  111 votes, 11%
No   844 votes, 85%

While such an on-line poll is not scientific, I do think it measures the depth and intensity of the opposition to the street name change.  I appreciate the fact that they fixed it so a person can't vote more than once from a single computer.  (Unless you clear the cookies, of course.)

I'm sure though the Mayor Ballard will do what he is told to do by Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. and other insiders, so I expect his position supporting the name change won't be affected by the overwhelming public opposition to the idea.

In a previous blog article discussing the resolution sponsored by Councilor Angela Mansfield against the name change, I failed to mention that Libertarian Councilor Ed Coleman is a co-sponsor.  Thank you Angela and Ed for sticking up for common sense.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Indiana Supreme Court Revisits Barnes Decision, Creates By Judicial Fiat Police Exception to Statute Giving Homeowner the Right to Prevent Unlawful Entry

Yesterday the Indiana Supreme Court released the long awaited rehearing opinion on Barnes v. State.  With all due respect to the justices, the majority is still wrong.

Indiana Supreme Court
In the original opinion, the Court said that the 4th Amendment and case law interpreting it did not allow homeowners to use force to resist an unlawful entry by a police officer.  While there is a problem with that original decision, the bigger problem to me was thatthe parties, the justices, and the justices' clerks, all missed the controlling statute, IC 35-41-3-2(b), i.e. the No Retreat Law, which provides the right to use "reasonable force, including deadly force, against another person...if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person's unlawful entry of or attack on the person's dwelling."

In our federal system of government, states are always free to provide more rights to people than are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Our federal constitution is not the ceiling on our rights; rather the constitution is the floor, the minimum amount of rights we are guaranteed.  At the point that a statute provides an individual  more rights than the constitution, the constitutional provision, i.e. the 4th Amendment becomes an irrelevancy.  All that discussion in both opinions about the 4th Amendment and its case law in the court's opinion is irrelevant.

The Court notes that the battery statute, IC 35-42-2-1(a)(1)(B), provides for an enhancement to a Class A misdemeanor when the victim of a battery is of a police officer.  In the rehearing opinion, the Court opines that the Attorney General has the right approach to interpreting the No Retreat Law in light of the police officer battery statute, i.e namely a homeowner can resist, but can never "batter" a police officer.

As any first year law student will tell you, a battery does not have to involve violence. Under Indiana's battery statute, there need only be a touching done in a "rude, insolent or angry manner" for there to be a "battery."  Violence is certainly not required for a battery.  Therefore, how can the homeowner "reasonably resist" if pretty much any touching of a police officer is going to be considered a battery? The answer is the homeowner can't.  Under the position supported by Attorney General Zoeller and adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court, the homeowner's only recourse is to ask the police officer who illegally entered the house to leave. 

Let's return to the battery statute that the Court concludes carves out an exception to Indiana's No Retreat statute when the person entering unlawfully the home is a police officer.  Indiana's battery statute isn't confined to police officers, it applies to everyone.  So why wouldn't the exact same reasoning apply to non-police officers who unlawfully enter a home, i.e  reasonable resistance of the homeowner cannot include "battery" of the intruder?

Attorney General Zoeller argued against a homeowner's
right to use force to repel unlawful entry by police officer
Using the battery statute to carve out an exception to Indiana's No Retreat Law effectively obliterates the law, rendering it meaningless.   The legislature did not carve out an exception for police officer intruders when it drafted the No Retreat Law and certainly, as noted above, the battery statute does not provide for the rationale for a judicially-created exception. 

While the Court's decision notes valid policy reasons for having an exception in the statute for police officers, that is a decision that should have been left to the legislative branch.  While the Court notes it will bow to any legislative clarification of the law, the fact is the Court by judicial fiat created a statutory exception where one clearly does not exist. That is exactly the type of judicial activism we conservatives have long criticized.

It is apparent to me that the Indiana General Assembly intended the No Retreat Law to be a defense to the crime of battery and thus, when the facts warrant it, an instruction on the law should be given.
The facts of the Barnes case seem to clearly justify the police officers entering the premises to find out what was going on in that domestic dispute. Therefore, one has to wonder why the Court didn't just decide the issue on the facts of the particular case, using existing law.  The Court could have said that the instruction on to defend one's home was not supported by he facts or that the failure of the trial court to give the instruction was harmless error. 

Instead the Court chose to address broader issues, effectively stripping homeowners of the right to resist an unlawful entry by a police officer. I think the decision to needlessly delve into this area could well be due to leftover resentment from the 1988 incident involving Catholic high school teacher Fred Sanders case in which a police officer who broke into Sanders' home was shot Sanders.  Although that case was early in my legal career, I can still remember how deeply divided the community was on what happened.

Fortunately the erroneous Barnes decision is fixable. The legislature just needs to come back and make clear when it says a homeowner can use force against "another person" in the No Retreat Law, that means everyone including police officers.  The legislature shouldn't have to do that but after yesterday's decision it needs to be done.

Indianapolis Councilor Introduces Resolution Opposing Georgia Street Name Change

Councilor Angela Mansfield
 IBJ reports:
A City-County councilor has joined the growing opposition to the city’s controversial push to rename Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis.

Democrat Angela Mansfield submitted a resolution that could be heard at the Oct. 3 City-County Council meeting. It urges Mayor Greg Ballard and the Metropolitan Development Commission to “cease and desist from all efforts to rename Georgia Street.”

City and community leaders began considering the name change for the 190-year-old street earlier this year after construction crews began a massive $12 million streetscape overhaul of the three-block stretch. The idea, they said, was to create a fresh identity for the street in time for the city’s hosting of the 2012 Super Bowl on Feb. 5. The project is designed to create a major public gathering place between the Indiana Convention Center and Conseco Fieldhouse.

But opposition to a name change is mounting, evidenced by Mansfield’s resolution and a Facebook page created by Joan Hostetler to make a case against the rebranding.

"I’m not big on changing street names,” Mansfield said Wednesday morning, “and even more so on this one because it’s a historic name.”

The street is listed on the 1821 Alexander Ralston “Plat of the Town of Indianapolis” and it is home to the city’s oldest hotel, the Omni Severin (98 years) and its oldest Catholic church, St. John the Evangelist (140 years).
To see the rest of the article, click here.

Kudos goes to Council Mansfield for doing this.  As a history buff, I appreciate her standing up for this City's history which only goes back a couple centuries. 

It's apparent that although the name change is unpopular, Mayor Ballard is intent on doing it anyway, even though it will happen just a few weeks before an election. Will Republican councilors who are almost all in tight races back Ballard's unpopular position or do the right thing and support Mansfield's resolution?  I'm not holding my breath.

Barnes & Thornburg Continues to Fleece the State's Taxpayers In Representing FSSA

The Indiana Law blog picks up on story by Ken Kusmer of AP on the Barnes and Thornburg contract to represent FSSA:
Brian Burdick
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's legal bill in its lawsuit with IBM Corp. over a canceled welfare outsourcing contract could grow by more than half its original value, topping $8 million by the end of next June, state documents reveal.

Critics of the administration of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels criticized the growing costs Tuesday while his press secretary and a spokesman for welfare administrators defended them.

The Family and Social Services Administration will pay as pay as much as $8.05 million through June 30 to the well-connected Indianapolis law firm of Barnes & Thornburg to represent it in the lawsuit with IBM under an amended contract approved Aug. 30 by the attorney general's office. The original contract approved a year ago paid the firm $5.25 million over the same length of time

The firm's attorneys on the case include longtime Republican activist Peter Rusthoven and Brian Burdick, the brother of Daniels' deputy chief of staff, Betsy Burdick.
...

Peter Rusthoven
FSSA sued IBM to recover more than $400 million it paid before Daniels canceled the 10-year, $1.37 billion contract in 2009 amid complaints about the automated welfare system IBM had installed. The Armonk, N.Y.-based technology giant countersued for about $100 million for costs including computer equipment it claims the state has held onto.
 ...
The contract's original terms called for FSSA to pay Barnes & Thornburg $5.25 million over the course of three state fiscal years ending June 30, 2012, but the amended terms show the agency paying $5.25 million through June 30, 2011, and the additional $2.8 million during the current state fiscal year that began July 1.

...
Rusthoven is billing the state $475 per hour, Burdick is charging $405 per hour, and John Maley, a third attorney, is charging $465 per hour.

"This is a sweetheart deal from the get-go, and it just got sweeter for Barnes & Thornburg," said Julia Vaughn, policy director for the government watchdog group Common Cause/Indiana. "It's disappointing that they've come back to the public trough."

Daniels' press secretary Jane Jankowski, defended the administration's use of the firm.

"They're among the best in the business, and if there had been a conflict, the firm would not have been selected," Jankowski said.
...
To see the rest of the AP article, click here.

John Maley
Jankowski's statement is flat-out wrong.  As discussed previously on this blog, the State's own contract with Barnes and Thornburg explicitly identifies a conflict the firm has in its previous representation of ACS, which was the main subcontractor on the Medicaid privatization contract.  In the contract Barnes & Thornburg says in representing FSSA against IBM it may have to sue ACS, which is still its own client. In the contract Barnes and Thornburg seeks to get around this conflict by suggesting ACS consented to the conflict and that if Barnes and Thornburg sues ACS, which is again B&T's current client, it will set up a wall at the firm so the B&T attorneys suing ACS will be separated from the B&T attorneys who represented ACS in the Medicaid privatization.  The only thing is that the ACS conflict of interest is clearly a nonwaivable conflict of interest under the Rules of Professional Conduct.   The reason why is obvious.  Is B&T really going to zealously represent the FSSA if it means suing and possibly losing a major client, ACS?  Of course not.   No other law firm in the State would even attempt such a brazen violation of the conflict of interest rules that we attorneys are obligated to follow.

As far as B&T law firm being "among the best in the business," Jankowski should talk to attorneys in the legal profession who quickly would set her straight. Barnes & Thornburg is about power and political influence and often quality legal work is not the firm's bailiwick. B&T's legal work is typically subpar when it comes to the bigger law firms such as a Baker & Daniels or Ice Miller.

Noting that the hourly rate of the five Barnes & Thornburg attorneys identified in the contract as working on the deal are John Maley - $465; Brian Burdick - $405; Peter Rusthoven - $475; Patrick Price - $255; Curtis Greene - $265, the Indiana Law Blog crunches the numbers: 
"If all 5 lawyers are working at once, that is $1,865/hour. If all 5 lawyers are working at once, 8 hours/day for 50 weeks a year, that is 2,000 hours x $1,865/hour = $3,730,000 per year ..."
So are we to believe Burdick, Rusthoven and Maley set aside all their other clients to work full-time, indeed overtime, on this case?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard Supports Changing 190 Year Old Georgia Street Name

Indianapolis' Georgia Street currently under construction.
I was going to blog my prediction that Mayor Ballard would support changing the Georgia Street name despite the apparent overwhelming public opposition.  Unfortunately the news beat me to the punch. The Indianapolis Star reports:
Some businesses and history buffs are miffed by a plan to change the name of a redeveloped Downtown street.

The initiative, which is backed by Mayor Greg Ballard, would change the name of Georgia Street to . . . well, nobody knows yet.

..
Indianapolis Downtown Inc. last month conducted a survey asking for suggestions to rename Georgia Street and got more than 3,000 replies. The survey explained that Georgia is being transformed into a three-block long pedestrian mall in time for the Big Ten football championship game in December and the Super Bowl in February.

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said the goal is to create a "signature" name for the mall that would be recognized nationally, even internationally.

"It is part of the re-engineering of Georgia Street and the re-branding of it," he said. "This will be a new gathering place, a civic institution, like Monument Circle, so we want to market it."

But dissent has been stirring. Historian Joan Hostetler started a Facebook page in an effort to save the Georgia Street name and has been gathering petitions against it.

"I just think it is really shortsighted to change a street name that has been around 190 years for an event like this," Hostetler said. "I just wish they'd have a little more respect for the history of the street name."

Georgia is one of several streets named for states in the original city plat created by Alexander Ralston in 1821. Hostetler noted that another street named for a state, Massachusetts Avenue, has made quite a name for itself.

Hostetler said she worried that the new name might not wear so well in 20 to 25 years.

...
The city's Metropolitan Development Commission is expected to consider the name change in mid-October, and Ballard would have the final say after that, city officials said.
Ballard, who doesn't seem to care at all about what the public thinks on any issue (e.g. Pacers $33.5 million giveaway, the 50 year parking meter deal, etc.), is plowing forward with the idea despite what appears to be overwhelming public opposition. Where are his political advisers who should be telling Mayor Ballard this is a dumb idea to do this just a few weeks before the election?  After all, if he is dead set on doing this, he could easily wait until after the election.

When people consider former military officers for elected office, the concern is usually that the person won't understand that he or she can't just give an order in politics and have it carried out like one can in the military.  A mayor has to work with others, persuade, twist arms to get things done.

But the flip side of that coin is that military people are also accustomed to taking orders. Throughout his tenure, you get the feeling that Ballard is not really in charge, that he's just taking orders from downtown power brokers in the City and implementing those orders regardless of what the public thinks.  Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. is one of those power brokers.  Mayor Ballard has his orders from IDI about changing the Georgia Street name. That he was going to support the name change regardless of what the public thinks was not a difficult prediction.

To go to the Facebook page to sign the petition to keep the Georgia Street name click here.  Of course, it won't matter to this Mayor if 99% of the residents sign it.  This Mayor simply does not care what the public thinks about anything he does in office.

Monday, September 19, 2011

That Supposed $55 Million Impact of a Lost Pacers Season

WRTV reports on the supposed devastating impact the loss of a Pacers season would have on the City's economy:
INDIANAPOLIS -- An NBA season lost to the ongoing lockout could cost Indianapolis more than $55 million, one report found.

The Pacers are expected to start training camp Oct. 3, but a highly anticipated negotiating session between NBA management and the league's players association blew up last week with no progress on the big stumbling block, the salary cap, 6News' Norman Cox reported.

The Hunden Report, a consultant study that was the basis of the deal that kept the Pacers here last year, found that eliminating Pacers games would deal a large blow to the city, including operators and workers in downtown's hospitality industry.

"We have over 40 home games a year and we always get a great crowd from the Pacers' games, so it certainly isn't going to help our business," said Keith O'Reilly, who owns a pub a block from Conseco Fieldhouse.

...
Conseco Fieldhouse
The Capital Improvement Board, which operates Conseco, will soon present its budget to the City-County Council, including the third of the three, $10 million subsidy payments to the Pacers.

The CIB said those will still be made, even if no games are being played.

"The mayor was very clear. It's about the building, not the team. The payments are made so that the building can continue to be operated," said CIB spokesman Robert Vane. "So the fact that there's not an NBA game being played doesn't mean there aren't other activities, and the CIB would still have to pay for operation of the building."
...
Almost every study of professional sports suggest that the economic impact is minimal at best.  When the CIB wanted to try to justify giving the Pacers tens of millions more of our tax dollars, did the Board go to a university economist who might give them news they didn't want to hear?  No, they went to Hunden Strategic Partners, a pro-hospitality group, headed by Robert Hunden, a former economic development official for the City of Indianapolis under Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and previously worked for the Bond Bank.   Hunden also worked on the original deal for Conseco Fieldhouse.

Let's look a bit at Hunden's funny math.  If the Pacers are locked out at all season, that means 45 home games (including four preseason) are lost.  The Pacers average 13,538 fans per game, so let's use a total of 609,210 fans who won't be coming downtown to Pacers games. 

Supposedly those 609,210 fans generate $55 million in economic activity in downtown Indianapolis. That would be $90.28 for each fan.  That $90.28 does not include the cost of the ticket, parking at the Fieldhouse or game concessions, 100% of which money goes to the Pacers.  Rather that $90.28 is economic activity that is supposedly created in the downtown area by spending at downtown bars, hotels and restaurants. It is also includes a number of part-time, seasonal jobs created at the stadium, jobs that pay just above minimum wage.

How many people actually spend $90.28 each for a meal at a restaurant or drinks after a game?  How many get a hotel room for the game?  You can bet not many.  Hunden Strategic Partners was using funny math to come up with a pro-Pacers subsidy study.  Of course, we taxpayers had to pay Hunden $30,000 for the study that suggested taxpayers should pay the Pacers more.

Any economist will tell you that with the Pacers you're just moving discretionary spending from one part of the metropolitan area to another.  You are not actually creating new spending.  If the Pacers don't have a season, fans are going to spend that money on other activities such as taking the family out to a restaurant or the movies.   The money doesn't disappear as suggested by Hunden, the CIB, and our illustrious mayor.

As part of the Conseco Fieldhouse deal struck in 1999, the Pacers were given free rent in the building built by with Indianapolis taxpayer dollars.  In exchange for operating the building, the Pacers were given 100% of the profits from the facility, including from all non-Pacer events held at the building.  Last year, we found out that deal was not good enough.  The Pacers wanted the CIB, i.e the taxpayers to pay to run the building while the team continued to get 100% of the profits on the facility. Of course, the CIB said "okay" and put the taxpayers on the hook for $33.5 million over the next three years.

Now we find out that even though the Pacers may not have a season and the supposed $55 million economic impact may not happen. Yet the Mayor and the CIB still want the taxpayers to be on the hook for the annual $10 million payment to the Pacers to run Conseco Fieldhouse.  Of course, the Pacers, and not the taxpayers, will continue to get all revenue off the building, with or without a season.  After all, that is the Indianapolis way.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Mayoral Election is Indianapolis Star Columnist Matthew Tully Watching?

Indianapolis Star Columnist
Matthew Tully
This morning Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully chides the two major campaigns for Mayor:
"It happens every election year around this time. Politicians running for office, and the people running and surrounding their campaigns, start to get a little extra tense.

As Election Day approaches, they begin to lose perspective. They start to overreact to everything the other campaign does. They look for petty ways to score points. They see conspiracies everywhere. Reporters, they insist, are too tough on their side while letting the other side get away with murder.

I sensed last week that the race for mayor could be heading that way, as the campaigns of Mayor Greg Ballard and Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy complained and shot off silly press statements instead of having serious debates about their various proposals. It's crunch time, and in politics that does not inspire good things."
Let's repeat what Tully said:  both campaigns "shot off silly press statements instead of having serious debates about their various proposals."

I'm not sure what campaign Tully is watching because I don't recall that from either of the campaigns.  Mayor Ballard issued a detailed plan about his education policy.  Kennedy criticized it because of the question of the legality of the tax credits and because it did not include anything about early childhood education.

I couldn't find any more press statements from the Ballard camp. But I found two from Melina Kennedy.  In one of those press statements, Kennedy talks about how Ballard has been raiding money from TIF districts to fund downtown projects and how that means less money for schools, libraries and the bus system.  Kennedy also pledged to push for a change in state law to prevent the Mayor from using this tactic to divert property tax revenue from the aforementioned services.

I can hardly think of a more important discussion for this community to have than the issue Kennedy raised in that press release.

In the other press release, Kennedy talks about how Indianapolis' unemployment rate has increased under Ballard's watch and offers a detailed plan of her own. 

Of the three examples I could find, where is the support for Tully's claim that the candidates "shot off press statements instead of having serious debates about various proposals?"

I don't know about Tully, but to me education, misuse of our property taxes, and jobs are far from silly matters in this mayoral election.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Advance Indiana's Excellent Take on Why Lincoln Plowman Thinks He is Innocent

Lincoln Plowman
Yesterday I wrote atttempting to illustrate that Plowman truly believes he's innocent because he's simply a bit player in a terribly corrupt system, a small fish in the politically lake that is Indianapolis' politics.  As is typical, Gary Welsh wrote an article explaining my sentiments much better, and even went into Plowman's background to explain his belief system.  I totally concur with his article, including the update in which he ridicules Ryan Vaughn for ignoring his own ethical lapses in his comments on the Plowman conviction. Vaughn is the last person who should be talking about ethics.

For those interested in local politics, they should read Gary's blog Advance Indiana.  For those who missed his Plowman article, here it is:

Why Lincoln Plowman Honestly Believes He Is Innocent
A somber Lincoln Plowman could be heard murmuring to himself that he was innocent as the jury's verdict was read in U.S. District Court Judge Larry McKinney's courtroom finding him guilty of bribery and attempted extortion charges. I find no joy in knowing that Plowman is likely to spend the next few years sitting in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute. If it's any consolation, he may have the company of two former governors of Illinois to pass away the long days ahead of him.
When Lincoln professes his innocence, I truly think he believes that. After all, he's not new to the rodeo called Marion County politics. As a young military veteran seeking a career in law enforcement, he landed the job he wanted as a deputy in the Marion Co. Sheriff's Department. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, it never occurred to me that anyone would aspire to work as a deputy in Sheriff's Department as a path to political power. Aspiring politicians in Indiana knew otherwise. At one time, the Marion County Sheriff was the highest paid elected official in the entire United States. Yes, he actually earned more than the President of the United States, and that was still true when Plowman joined the office as a new deputy back in the late 1980s.
Under the tutelage of powerful sheriffs like Joe McAtee and Jack Cottey, Plowman learned there were a lot of perks that came with working in the Sheriff's Department. All around him were law enforcement officials making big money off their part-time jobs and businesses, while driving their well-equipped Crown Vics available to them for their personal and private business use. There were also all the added perks of not having to pay admission to nightclubs, getting free drinks and food in many local restaurants and bars and free passes to watch the latest flicks at the local theater. So when Plowman worked his own side deal with a local strip club that provided him $1,000 a month in what he told jurors was "just gravy", he was doing what he had seen so many of his law enforcement buddies do over the years: get their cut.
When Plowman was selected over far-more qualified persons to enjoy the added bonus of serving as a City-County Councilor with a top leadership position and powerful committee chairmanship with control over the city's zoning boards that provided him an additional $18,000 a year, he saw nothing wrong with using that position to get more of "his cut." And why not? Others around him were getting their cut without any legal consequences.
Ryan Vaughn sold his seat on the council to the City's most powerful law firm in consideration for a high-paying job with the firm and shamelessly uses his powerful position every day to benefit his law firm and its clients--even voting on measures that specifically benefit them. Former City-County Council President Monroe Gray got a high-paid no work, no show job with the Indianapolis Fire Department and contracts for his concrete company courtesy of former Mayor Bart Peterson. Jackie Nytes gets multi-million dollar government grants for her "nonprofit" employer and city contracts for her husband's business. A large company puts 50 police officers on its payroll in part-time jobs and uses them as cover for receiving stolen property and to eliminate its competition using their law enforcement powers and walks after cutting a $200,000 deal with Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry, who promised to removed the "for sale" sign from the prosecutor's office. Curry's predecessor, Carl Brizzi, got cut in on real estate deals and got to own a piece of a downtown restaurant/bar despite a specific state law barring him from owning an interest in an establishment with a liquor license. All around Lincoln, people were getting their cut without consequences. Why shouldn't he?
And can we fault Plowman, who is not an attorney, for not knowing that he had to disclose his part-time work as a consultant on his statement of economic interest form he signed under penalties of perjury where it asked if he had any self-employment income? After all, the City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn is an attorney who authored the city's ethics ordinance and yet he filed a statement of economic interest claiming that he does not receive compensation in excess of $5,000 from a business that does business with or solicits business from the city or county despite the fact that his employer bills city and county agencies for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of legal work every year. Even new-comer to the council Angel Rivera, who is not an attorney, knew how to answer that question correctly on his statement of economic interest.
I know it sounds strange, but I do feel sorry for Lincoln. He's a small fish as they say in a sea of corruption. Prosecuting him does little to shake things up in what has become a very corrupt environment here in Indianapolis and Marion County. He did wrong and he deserves to pay a penalty for his crime. There are many others, however, who deserve the justice he is getting far more. His cut was peanuts compared to the large haul other more powerful figures are making at the public's expense. I truly hope Joe Hogsett meant what he said today when said "nobody is above the law" and that his office will hold accountable those who have a "for sale" sign hanging from their public offices. The public will anxiously await to see if he keeps his word.
UPDATE: In light of reality, I got a chuckle reading this quote from Ryan Vaughn in Carrie Ritchie's story in the Star today:
Council President Ryan Vaughn, who's also a Republican, said he thinks the council's ethics rules are strong enough to dissuade others from crossing ethical boundaries and to punish those who do.
The council tightened its rules two years ago -- a move Plowman supported. It now has an ethics committee that quickly and publicly reviews complaints against council members, Vaughn said.
"It's not that our process failed," he said, "it's that he failed our process."
Whatever. Is that the same explanation for your ethical lapses in judgment, Ryan?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Civil Discourse Now Discusses Tea Party and Whether Terrorists Won Post 9/11

This is a new internet television talk show about the issues co-hosted by Mark Small and myself.   We plan to discuss national, state and local issues.  We're still working out same kinks.  We tape it on Saturday and hope to have it up on Sunday afternoons.  I'll try to have it on here when it becomes available.

Part 1



Part 2



Part 3

Missing

Part 4




Conviction of Ex-Councilor Lincoln Plowman Highlights Corruption in Indianapolis Politics

Former Indianapolis Councilor
Lincoln Plowman
The Indianapolis Star reports that former Indianapolis City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman was today found guilty of bribery and extortion.

Celebrating the outcome of this case would be both inappropriate and misguided.  Plowman was not some lone wolf peddling influence in an otherwise legal and ethical political system here in Indianapolis.  Rather Plowman is the product of a horribly corrupt system where influence peddling and conflicts of interest are the norm. 

Plowman testified he did nothing wrong.  Why shouldn't he feel that way?  After all, his actions were no worse than other players in Indianapolis politics who for years have ignored laws and ethical guidelines to peddle influence and cut insider deals enriching themselves and their friends. For decades those political players have operated without fear of prosecution or even media scrutiny of their corrupt activities.

I have no doubt that Plowman was pursued with the expectation that he would cooperate in targeting the bigger fish in Indy's sea of political corruption.  Plowman didn't cooperate though and paid a price today with a conviction that could earn him 30 years in federal prison.

Democratic Challenger Melina Kennedy on Raiding of Funds from TIF Districts

DISCLAIMER: My posting of this press release and/or video is not to be intended as my endorsement of the candidate or party identified therein.

Kennedy Calls Out Mayor for $20 Million Raid on Libraries & Public Schools

Kennedy Proposes Change in Law to Prevent Future Raids on Property Tax, Library and School Funds

Democratic Mayoral Challenger Melina Kennedy
 INDIANAPOLIS (September 15, 2011) - Today, Melina Kennedy, Democratic Candidate for Mayor of Indianapolis, denounced Mayor Ballard's decision to divert at least $20 million of property taxes that would have gone to schools, libraries and other essential services. Instead, the Mayor used property taxes on downtown projects not related to paying off the debt the TIF District  owes.
"After being absent from the education discussion for the past four years, yesterday the Mayor made a hasty attempt to support education by offering tax credits to non-profits and providing $2 million to charter schools,” said Kennedy. “In fact over the past four years he’s taken $20 million from entities like schools and libraries and used the money for pet projects like a walkway to connecting the Arts Garden and a hotel and giving money to the CIB. His priorities are misplaced by taking funding away from schools and libraries to fund pet projects.”
Kennedy added, “On several occasions over the past few years, the Mayor has said that he could not use the substantial excess monies from the Downtown TIF district to meet the needs of libraries and IndyGo. As a result, libraries and IndyGo have been forced to make serious and painful cuts in hours and service levels.”


Kennedy continued, “The $20 million raid of tax dollars is a display of misplaced priorities. To take money from schools and libraries when they are struggling is unconscionable – and as Mayor, I would never let that happen. In fact, as mayor, I will propose legislation to safeguard school, libraries and other providers of essential services from having their tax dollars raided in this way.”


Kennedy noted that the $20 million -- $9.7 million of diverted personal property taxes in 2009, and roughly $10.4 million of diverted personal property taxes in 2010 -- is sorely needed to restore service cuts resulting from the Mayor's decisions to fund his downtown pet projects.
"We must have a mayor who recognizes how essential our schools, libraries and bus services are to the health and success of our City,” said Kennedy. “As Mayor, I would never strip monies away from essential services at a time when our schools are struggling, our libraries are being closed, our crime prevention programs are being cut and our bus services are struggling to get workers to and from work daily.”
Kennedy explained that she would seek to change the law Mayor Ballard has been using, to prevent the Mayor from diverting property taxes from schools, libraries and other units of government when the Downtown TIF District is flush with cash as it was in 2009 and 2010 when the Mayor diverted the $20 Million into the Downtown TIF. Kennedy noted that she is not opposed to appropriate use of tax increment financing, but that Ballard in those two years took unfair advantage of a state law change to take money away from schools, libraries and other units of government.
Kennedy has outlined her own plans to make Indianapolis a "Quality of Life Capital," including transformative investments in quality early childhood education so that more children are reading at grade level by the third grade, a comprehensive jobs and economic development strategy to get Indianapolis moving again, and restoration of crime prevention funding Mayor Ballard has cut over the past few years.
****

Publisher's Note: This is one issue I totally agree with Kennedy on. I am terribly frustrated with Mayor Ballard's priorities which put subsidizing downtown elites and politically-connected insiders ahead of properly funding things like parks, libraries and animal control, Then you have the additional problem that the administration is using the TIF to pay for pet projects which diverts money from other local units of government, including schools. As a result, we will all end up paying higher property taxes.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's Education Platform

DISCLAIMER: My posting of this press release and/or video is not to be intended as my endorsement of the candidate or party identified therein.

Here is the education news release Mayor Ballard released yesterday.

September 14, 2011

MAYOR BALLARD RELEASES FIVE-POINT PLAN FOR IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN INDIANAPOLIS

INDIANAPOLIS – Mayor Greg Ballard today unveiled his education platform that includes strategies to increase public education opportunities within the city that will position Indianapolis as a national leader in innovative education reform.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Balalrd
“The future of our city involves the creation of new, independent, high-quality public schools that consistently educate and serve all students exceptionally well,” said Mayor Ballard. “New, independent, high-quality public schools are an element of – and can be a catalyst for – neighborhood, workforce and economic development.”

Mayor Ballard’s plan builds upon the many successes of his first term in office, which include:

  • Received more than 50 applications for new charter schools and opened eight schools – four of which are nationally unique models – for a total of 23 schools;
  • Secured up to $1.4 million in grants;
  • Piloted a model high school accountability system;
  • Created a new performance system for students in special education programs;
  • Featured in nine national publications;
  • Made eight charter school renewal decisions;
  • Launched enhanced school performance information via the Internet;
  • Expanded the Office of Charter Schools into the Office of Education Innovation;
  • Petitioned the Indiana General Assembly to pass a law that allows the Mayor to petition the State Board of Education to transfer underperforming schools to local oversight; and
  • implemented an intensive community school model with United Way of Central Indiana.
Mayor Ballard’s Five-Point Education Plan, which he announced at the regular meeting of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, will build upon this success and create new opportunities for better student learning and performance.

1. Make Indianapolis National Headquarters for Education Reform Movement

Due to the bold steps taken by Governor Mitch Daniels, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett and state lawmakers, Indiana and Indianapolis are at the forefront of education reform. Indianapolis is home to very successful reform-focused organizations and programs, including: The Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis, The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Lumina Foundation for Education, the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship, The Mind Trust, Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, Stand for Children, College Summit, The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce’s Education Coalition, IUPUI’s Talent Alliance and Diploma Plus.

To make Indianapolis the national headquarters for this growing movement, Mayor Ballard will attract education reform leaders and groups to locate in our city. Mayor Ballard will offer an income tax credit to nonprofit education reform organizations that locate in the city. This credit would refund local income taxes to the nonprofit group to reinvest in their mission.

2. Charter Incubator to Open 20 New Schools by 2016

Despite the number of charters growing more than 40 percent since 2008, Indianapolis still does not have enough high-quality charter schools to meet the need in our community, especially for students enrolled in chronically low-performing schools. Mayor Ballard’s vision is to make Indianapolis the most compelling place in the nation to establish the next generation of exceptional charter schools. To accomplish this, the city is partnering with The Mind Trust to establish a Charter School Incubator. Mayor Ballard’s goal for the Incubator is to launch 20 new high-quality charter schools in Indianapolis over five years, serving as many as 6,000 students – which would nearly double the number of charter schools available in the city. The Incubator, on which Mayor Ballard has been working with The Mind Trust for more than a year, would have a fundraising goal of more than $5 million, which includes up to $2 million from the City through RebuildIndy funding, pending City-County Council approval. The remaining funding is expected to come from private sources.

3. Expedite Replication of Successful Existing Charter Schools

Indianapolis is home to 23 charter schools, many operating successfully with students coming in to attend from low-performing traditional public schools. In addition to incubating new charters, Mayor Ballard will expedite the process to speed up the ability of these schools to replicate their successes in other parts of our community. Mayor Ballard believes that fostering replication of charters with a proven record of achievement is an important way to increase the number of excellent options available to students.

4. Create Schools Targeting High-Growth Job Sectors

Indianapolis is emerging as a national leader in many high-growth career fields. Recently the Wall Street Journal identified Indianapolis as one of the nation’s seven top growth hubs, highlighting the city’s success in attracting and growing life science jobs. Mayor Ballard will work with education leaders, third-party organizations and charter school operators to develop charter schools that prepare students for jobs in these high-growth sectors. These schools would provide state-required learning but place added emphasis in classes and skills that prepare students for post-secondary education and careers in these high-growth fields. Mayor Ballard envisions schools specializing in healthcare, life sciences and technology – as a beginning.

5. Petition to Return Local Oversight of State Turnaround Schools

In 2011, Mayor Ballard worked with state lawmakers to give the city the ability to petition the State Board of Education to return schools subject to state turnaround to local control. Mayor Ballard already is working with the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education at IUPUI, the Indiana Department of Education, and the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis to develop a local management plan for the four IPS schools that have been assigned turnaround operators. In 2012, Mayor Ballard will petition the state for local management of these local schools.

###

Are Indianapolis Mayoral Tracking Polls Showing Kennedy Advancing on Ballard?

We are just under seven weeks away from the 2011 Indianapolis municipal elections and no independent or media polls have been released.  Undoubtedly much of that has to do with the expense of conducting polls in an era where modern technology has made it very difficult to reach the designated sample of voters critical to conducting an accurate, scientific poll.

Well-funded campaigns poll on a regular basis. But they generally do a different type of poll called a "tracking poll."  A "tracking poll" is a running poll of the same sample done over a period of time.  As new polling is conducted, old results fall out of the poll.

The purpose of a tracking poll is not to get an accurate measurement of the head-to-head matchup, but rather to measure shifts in public opinion about those candidates.  Campaigns watch these shifts closely to try to find out which of their campaign messages are resonating with voters and which are not. 

I was never sold on the claim by some in the Mayor Ballard camp that Melina Kennedy's brief and thus far tepid criticism of the Mayor in her TV spots indicated she was far behind in the polls (at least farther than expected) and was desperate.  At the end of the day, Kennedy, as the challenger, has to tell voters why Ballard shouldn't be re-elected.  That's Campaign Politics 101.

Rather when Ballard, as the incumbent, starts attacking Kennedy, that will be a sign that Ballard's lead is dangerously shrinking.  An incumbent who is not threatened does not ever have to attack the challenger.

Yesterday the Mayor released a several part education plan. This was undoubtedly in response to Kennedy's own education plan which was the lead off to her campaign.  While I was skeptical that education would be an issue in the Mayor's race, an issue that I think the Mayor is relatively strong on, I can only surmise that the Kennedy camp has solid polling that Ballard is indeed vulnerable on that issue.

The fact that the Mayor chose to respond with to Kennedy's education plan with a plan of his own, several weeks later, tells me that the Ballard campaign's tracking polls showed Kennedy getting leverage on that issue.  Otherwise the Ballard campaign probably would have stood on his own education record which, although the Mayor doesn't have much say in education, is not a bad record.

The problem thus far is that the Ballard campaign has been completely reactive.  Kennedy is driving the agenda, the issues the voters will be considering when they go vote this November.  Ballard's campaign commercials, outside of the one featuring Spencer Moore, have been completely unfocused, featuring a dizzying array of video images and a plethora of sound bites on several issues.

Ballard, although he is the incumbent, has never been through a highly competitive campaign featuring give and take on the issues.  How he will perform under fire remains to be seen.  Thus far it seems the Mayor believes everyone should look at his record and conclude he's done a good job and deserves a second term.  He appears to get very offended when anyone challenges that record.  Having a thin skin is not a good quality for a politician.  If the Kennedy campaign is smart, they'll exploit that thin skin and force Ballard into unforced campaign errors.

My guess is that the numbers have started moving in Kennedy's direction.  Undoubtedly the lead for Ballard is probably still well into double digits, but at this time the key for the Kennedy is to show movement toward the goal of being ahead on Election Day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Indianapolis Council Candidate Vop Osili's Press Release and New Video

OGDEN ON POLITICS' NOTE:  Below is a press release from Vop Osili.  The video is outstanding, one of the best commercials of the season.  Again, the disclaimer that publishing press releases and commercials are not to be taken as my support of the candidate featured.

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For More Information, Contact:  Trish Whitcomb, 812-767-2050

VOP OSILI RETURNS TO FAMILY HOME IN NEW VIDEO

INDIANAPOLIS – Vop Osili knows City-County Council District 15 very well. In fact, he grew up right in the heart of Haughville, just west of downtown Indianapolis. Now, he’s running to represent District 15 on the City-County Council – and in a new video, Osili walks through Haughville, visits his childhood home, and reflects on growing up in that working-class neighborhood.

Council Candidate Vop Osili
In the video, Osili emphasizes how living in Haughville as a child impacted his life: “It
helped to shape who I am and helped to shape what I believe makes for a great community.”

He continues by stressing how important strong communities are in building a strong city. “Indianapolis is made right here in our communities, right here in our neighborhoods, right here in places just like this,” Osili says. “And I’m so proud to have been from here, to have grown up here, and to have gotten the values that I’ve gotten from here – about family and community and neighborhoods.”

Osili remains optimistic about the future of Indianapolis and District 15, closing the video with his belief that “We can do better. Together, we can do this.”

To see his new video, go to http://www.vimeo.com/28736737.

To learn more about Vop Osili and the values he will bring to the City-County Council, visit votevop.com.0-