Monday, October 31, 2011

The Tea Party, the Occupy Crowd, and the Indianapolis Mayor's Race

With a complete lack of independent polling, both campaigns are pointing to results showing their candidate ahead.  Mayor Greg Ballard claims to be in the lead by 12 points in a GOP poll and Melina Kennedy by 2 points in a Democratic poll.  While both campaigns say the polling is recent, the poll results sound exactly like those the parties were touting some five weeks ago. 

Frankly, I don't buy either camp's claim.   Most likely the campaigns at this point are just doing tracking polling which, while good at showing how candidates are trending, are not good at predicting the result on election day.   I would guess though that the race is likely to be very close.   The irony is that it did not have to be.

As we count down to the election, we are witness to tea party and occupy movements all across the country.  While seemingly different, they are are both rooted in a growing populist movement which gains more influence in the major parties every day.  People on the left and right are tired of elected officials using the tools of government to make their rich friends richer.

Ballard may well have been the first tea party candidate.  But having won in 2007, Ballard immediately rejected his populist roots and became the consummate insider or at least someone willing to take orders, without question, from insiders. His opponent, Melina Kennedy, has been willing to stick a proverbial toe in the populist political pool, but little more than that.

Both Ballard and Kennedy seem oblivious to the growing anger working men and women have toward their government officials and the fortunes being amassed by those in the private sector at the expense of taxpayers.  Ballard could have spent his time in office tapping into that populist angst, leading a movement against the establishment policies of his predecessors.  If Ballard would have taken that course, he would face only token opposition in next week's election instead of an extremely well-funded, high profile opponent.

With Ballard absenting himself from the populist movement, the field was wide open for a Democrat  to swoop in and take advantage of the populist angst as reflected in the tea party and occupy movements.   If Kennedy would have ran as a populist, Ballard's chances of a second term would have been slim and none.  But Kennedy's roots and inclinations are also with the establishment. 

Thus, in the race for Mayor we are left with two establishment candidates who do not appear to understand the angst of the average Indianapolis voter who see their tax dollars continually handed out to the downtown elites and corporate insiders, money that liberal populists would like to see go to schools, libraries, public transportation, etc. while conservative populists would like to see remain in the pockets of the taxpayers.

Yes, next week's election will probably be close. But it didn't have to be.

Carmel's White Elephant Gets Whiter

Carmel's Palladium
Headline story in the Indianapolis Business Journal (subscription only) is that the taxpayer subsidy for operating Carmel's Palladium is being nearly tripled to $5.5 million.  This is despite the fact that the venue is booked solid and is filled to near capacity for most events.

Mayor Jim Brainard says in the article he hopes to have the subsidy down to $1 million in 3 or 4 years.  It's not clear how that is going to be accomplished.

Last year, the City gave $2 million from its general fund to cover the Palladium's budget of $7.5 million.  IBJ reports that this time money is coming from a private entity that is supported by tax increment funding (TIF) rather than the city's general fund.  Like that makes a difference. Regardless of what governmental pocket the money is taken from, the money initially came from property taxes paid by Carmel residents.  If TIF money is drained off, that is less tax dollars for schools, libraries, roads, etc.

Why Is Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy Not Funding Democratic Challengers In Winnable Races?


Len Farber
On Saturday, I predicted on the show Civil Discourse Now that the election would result in Democratic control of the council 18-11, down one from my prediction earlier this year of 19-10.The numbers just do not work out for a Republican majority.  Republicans are fighting to save incumbents all over the county, while virtually every Democratic incumbent is in a safe seat.
Council President
Ryan Vaughn
But while the Democrats are blessed with targets, oddly Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy has apparently chosen to not fund some Democratic challengers running against vulnerable Republican incumbents.

Council District 3 goes from Broad Ripple to 96th Street, taking in very economically diverse neighborhoods along the way, including Ravenswood and Williams Creek. While Council President Ryan Vaughn won the district easily in 2007 with 64% of the vote, the Republican baseline has taken a nose dive since then. In 2010, a good Republican year, the GOP baseline in that district was 52%. The Democrats could easily make a run at the district, attacking Vaughn on such issues as the 50 year parking meter contract, the Pacers' $33.5 million giveaway and the David Brooks redistricting contract. Yet Treacy has not yet put money into the campaign of Len Farber who is challenging Vaughn. 
Councilor Susie Day

Frank Mascari
By all measures, Susie Day, should be a vulnerable in District 20.  In 2007, she won by just 650 votes.  She's up against a big name, Frank Mascari, a well-known, long time businessman who was narrowly defeated for Beech Grove Mayor in 2007.  The 2010 baseline shows the district is only 55% Republican.  Yet Treacy has not put a dime into the district. Mascari's only money in the race has been the $700 he donated.

Council District 21 is an eastside district which includes Irvington.  In 2007, Democrat Ben Hunter won grown increasingly Democratic.  The district in 2010 had a Republican baseline of just over 55%.  Challenger Todd Woodmansee would seem to be a candidate who could take the fight to Hunter, if his campaign were properly funded.  Yet the Democratic Party thus far has chosen not to help out Woodmansee with money.

Councilor Ben Hunter
Todd Woodmansee
Why not fund these Democratic challengers?  Well the fact is, it doesn't appear that Treacy needs Farber, Mascari or Woodmansee to win in order to have a solidly Democratic majority on the council.  You would think Treacy would want an even bigger Democratic majority than voters will hand him on November 8th.  It would appear though, that for whatever reason, Treacy doesn't want a super large majority that might include Democrats who won't 100% of the time do what he wants.  It's the same reason Treacy failed to support local activist Pat Andrews, a local Democratic activist who is brilliant on budgetary matters but who would not be a rubber-stamp for whatever Treacy or a Democratic Mayor wished to do.

What is astounding about Indianapolis politics is that party leaders of both parties often prefer someone of the other party to be in office rather than someone of their own party who will show independence.

Civil Discourse Now Interviews Len Farber, Candidate for Indianapolis City-County Council, District 3

On Saturday, Civil Discourse Now interviewed Len Farber, Democratic Candidate for Indianapolis City-County Council, District 1.  On our first segment, our guest's extensive background of higher education led co-host Mark Small and myself to take a detour into a discussion of issues relating to whether higher education prepares graduates for the real world job market.   Because of that interesting diversion, we ended up cutting two more segments with Mr. Farber, the second and third focusing on his campaign and issues relating to the district.

Part 1 (Interview w/Len Farber, discussion of issues related to higher education)



Part 2 (Interview w/Len Farber, Democratic Candidate for Indianapolis City-County Council, District 3)


Part 3 (Interview w/Len Farber, Democratic Candidate for Indianapolis City-County Council, District 3)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Strange Twist Democratic Challenger Kostas Poulakidas Attacks Republican Councilor Christine Scales for Not Supporting Mayor Ballard CIB Tax Increase

Kostas Poulakidas
In what continues to be a bizarre approach to campaigning by Kostas Poulakidas in Indianapolis City-County Council District 4,  the Democratic challenger has mailed out yet another mailing pretending to be from Republican councilor Christine Scales.  But that's not the bizarre aspect of the mailing.  What is bizarre is that the piece actually slams Scales for not voting for a Capital Improvement Board tax increase for the sports stadiums pushed by Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, a tax increase which only one Democratic councilor voted for.  (Note:  Poulakidas refers to it as a bipartisan vote because one Democrat who crossed over.  That does NOT meet the definition of a bipartisan vote. A "bipartisan vote" is one where majorities in both parties vote on the same side.)
Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana reports:
Kostas Poulakidas seems determined to bring down the legal profession of which he is a member as much as possible given the unethical and deceitful campaign he is running against 4th District City-County Councilor Christine Scales. Apparently it was not enough for him to blanket 4th District voters with a post card impersonating Scales, giving them the impression she is an inattentive councilor who spends all of her time living at a family vacation home in Naples, Florida by making it appear that she had handwritten a post card to them from Florida. He decided to double down by breaking the law again by sending yet a second post card to voters in the district impersonating Scales. The text of the handwritten message on the post card impersonating Scales reads:

Crazy, right?! Second time you've heard from me in 4 years! I hear Indianapolis' unemployment rate is one of the worst in the state and incomes have dropped 9.8%.

Bummer! Too bad I voted against a bipartisan City-County Council proposal that supported 66,000 Indianapolis jobs and families.

Since I don't need to work, I'm not sure why anyone else does.

Councilor Christine Scales
--Christine
Ironically, the proposal the post card references that Scales voted against, which supposedly "supported 66,000 Indianapolis jobs and families" was actually a tax increase enacted to bail out the Capital Improvement Board after it claimed it was facing a major shortfall. After the ordinance passed, which only one council member of Poulakidas' party supported, the CIB used the money to give a $33.5 million subsidy to the billionaire Simons and their Indiana Pacers, including a subsidy to cover costs for this season even though a chunk of the NBA season has already been cancelled due to a lack of a collective bargaining agreement between the billionaire owners and the players who earn millions of dollars a year. The agency is so flush with money that it's giving away money to help fund millions more in law enforcement expenses for the Super Bowl since the city's operating budget is short the necessary funds to pay for those expenses.

Contrary to the impression the post card tries to leave that Scales is an absentee councilor, she has an exemplary attendance records at council meetings and regularly attends community group gatherings in her district. Scales has received numerous awards from community groups in her district for her work on their behalf. She even donates the salary she earns as a councilor to charity.
To see the rest of Gary's column, click here.

I guess if you want to raise taxes for sports teams, you should vote for Mayor Ballard and Kostas Poulakidas.

Why I Think The Polls Show Indianapolis Voters Are Trending to Kennedy

There has been no independent polling done in the Indianapolis Mayor's race and there probably won't be any before the November 8, 2011 election.  That is probably because of the high cost of polling and the fact that newspaper outlets like the Indianapolis Star are struggling financially and simply do not have the money to pay for a poll.  It has also become increasingly difficult to conduct scientific polls in an age where people no longer have cell phones and caller ID and voice mean people don't pick up the phone unless they know the caller.

Campaigns though have to do tracking polling in order to gauge what message is working.  Tracking polls, which only poll a few people every day with older results rolling off the poll, are not designed to give an accurate big picture of the race, but rather are done for the purpose of showing what message is moving (or not moving) the electorate.

Since we do not have access to these campaigns' internal polls, I can only guess where things are heading.  There are two reasons I think things are heading in challenger Melina Kennedy's direction.

First, the commercials the candidates are running have changed.  Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is running a sharply negative commercial on challenger Melina Kennedy, while Kennedy has a new commercial out that is a 100% positive piece.  The fact Ballard has gone negative signifies to me that Kennedy's attacks on Mayor Ballard's record has caused the Mayor's numbers to fall.    The fact Kennedy has gone back positive to me signifies she in the last stage of the classic positive-negative-positive challenger campaign strategy.

Second, as noted in the story below, Kennedy's post-election report fundraising has taken off, far outpacing the Mayor's. Kennedy's contributors are movers and shakers in the City who have decided to place a bet on the challenger.  Many of those people have access to inside information such as the tracking polls of the campaigns and they are betting on Kennedy.

Then again, I could be wrong and Ballard might be comfortably ahead.

Indianapolis Power Brokers Begin to Bet Heavily on Melina Kennedy to Win; Challenger Outraises Mayor Ballard $204,000 to $76,263 in Large Contributions Reported in Last 11 Days

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Melina Kennedy
Under Indiana law, candidates receiving large contributions ($1,000 or more) after the deadline for pre-general election reports (25 days before the election), have to report those contributions in a supplemental-large contribution report within 48 hours.   These last minute, large contributions are usually the power brokers in the City trying to "bet" on the winner.  

A review of supplemental reports reveal that the big bets are starting to go to Melina Kennedy.  Since October 18th, Kennedy has outraised Ballard in large contributions, $204,000 to $76,263.  That is about a 2 1/2 to one advantage. In the reports filed in the last four days it is even more significant.  In the reports filed 10/26 to 10/29, Kennedy reported raising $156,500 in large contributions while Ballard reported $46,263.

Here is an itemization of those reports, including in parenthesis the largest contribution for that period when it is significantly large:

Kennedy
10/28:  $81,500 total (including $30,000 from John Gregg for Governor Committee and $25,000 from the Victory 2011 PAC)

10/26  $75,000 (including $19,000 from Commit to Indianapolis PAC)

10/24:  $6,000

10/21:  $18,000

10/19:  $16,000 (including $15,000 from UAW Victory Fund)

10/18:  $1,000

Ballard
10/29:  $6,000

10/28:  $12,000

10/27:  $8,263

10/26:  $20,000

10/25:  $4,000

10/22:  $16,000

10/20:  $8,000

10/18:  2,000

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Civil Discourse Now: Indianapolis Election Predictions for 2011

My election predictions for City-County Council and Indianapolis Mayor from the October 29, 2011, "Civil Discourse Now" show.

Predictions for Council Districts 1-13



Predictions for  Council Districts 14-25, Four At-Large Districts and Mayor's Race.




Friday, October 28, 2011

Former Lt. Governor John Mutz Ignores Reality, Cites Mayor Ballard's "Courageous Leadership" in Dealing With the Capital Improvement Board

Getting caught up on my reading after a busy week.  I picked up a copy of the October 24-30 edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal as I was intrigued by the on-line teaser that former Lt. Governor John Mutz had written that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard had showed "courageous leadership" in how he handled the crisis with the Capital Improvement Board.

Former Lt. Governor John Mutz
Indeed that's what Mutz said in the article, believe it or not.  Here's a portion of the article:
There is no better example of courageous leadership in the past four years than Ballard's handling of the financial crisis facing the Capital Improvement Board....
...
This mayor, this Marine, didn't blink.  He didn't play the ever-popular political blame game.  Instead he resolved to protect the tens of thousands of jobs that exist because of the activities in these buildings.
Really, John?  As I recall, Mayor Ballard, who promised to avoid conflicts of interest , made one of his first appointments of Barnes & Thornburg Partner Bob Grand to preside over the CIB.  Grand represents the Pacers.  The Pacers demand for millions for operating costs was on the CIB's table almost from the beginning.

The CIB's mismanagement was and still is the stuff of legend.  Every week came changed number on the Board's financial situation.  When the CIB went hat in hand to the Indiana General Assembly for a bailout, the Board had included in the CIB's deficit an annual giveaway to the Pacers of $15 million...even though the CIB had never taken the first vote on the subject.  The Board is filled with appointees who have conflicts, people with direct and indirect financial interests in the activities of the CIB.

Mayor Ballard could have held the CIB accountable.  He could have demanded that the Board stop the creative accounting practices designed to make the CIB appear in the black or red depending on the CIB's particular political agenda of the moment. Ballard could have demanded that the CIB open its books and account for its mysteriously and constantly changing financial picture.  Ballard could have demanded that the CIB stop wasting taxpayer money and reign in the corporate welfare.  But what did Ballard do, what "courageous act" did he take to straighten out the CIB?  Ballard did nothing.  He asked for zero accountability, zero change in how the CIB conducted its business.

But that's not entirely true.  Ballard did do something. He came out for tax increases.  Lots of them.  Ballard came out for an increase in the Marion County food and beverage tax to go to the CIB from 2% to  2.5%.  Ballard wanted to increase the state liquor tax, a proposal that went nowhere.  Ballard successfully lobbied for the legislature to give the City the power to raise the hotel tax, the car rental tax and the ticket tax.  The Indianapolis City-County Council, with Ballard's people twisting Republican arms, used its authority to raise the hotel tax, giving us the highest combined sales and hotel tax in the country, not exactly a selling point for tourism.

Ballard originally asked that Colts and Pacers participate in the CIB bailout since it was their sweetheart deals that caused the CIB's financial difficulties. But at the first sign of the teams' opposition to any financial contribution, what did the "courageous" Ballard do?  He surrendered faster than a battallion of French soldiers facing a solitary Panzer tank. A year or so later, Ballard was, at the request of the CIB, making the Pacers' sweetheart deal even sweeter, agreeing to give the Pacers $10 million a year to operate a taxpayer-owned building for which the Pacers already gets to keep 100% of the Pacer and non-Pacer revenue on.  This was despite the fact the Pacers had no leverage whatsoever to leave the city.

Where did the revenue come for the Pacers gift which amounts to $33.5 million over three years?  Ballard diverted property tax revenue of average, hard-working Indy residents, struggling through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, to the billionaire Herb Simon, the owner of the Pacers.   Yes, our property taxes are being used by Ballard to fund the Pacers' operations. 

Thanks to the lockout by NBA owners, including the Pacers Herb Simon, more of the Pacers' season got cancelled tonight.  Has the "courageous" Ballard stood up and demand that Simon return our tax dollars the team is taking to not play at Conseco Fieldhouse?  Absolutely not.  Ballard's response is that the Pacers can keep OUR tax dollars.

I have only been able to barely scratch the horrific financial fiasco that is the CIB.  Ballard did not show "courage" in his handling of the CIB.  He showed a complete and utter lack of leadership.

Mayor Ballard Cites Failed Navistar Clawback as Evidence of Holding Companies Like Litebox Accountable for Tax Breaks

Listening to WIBC on the way home tonight, I heard Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard respond to the Litebox fiasco with assurances he would hold the company accountable for the jobs that were promised.  Ballard cited the example of his making a company pay back $5 million when it failed to live up to its job promises.

Mayor Greg Ballard
Ballard is talking about Navistar.  A decade or so ago, Navistar had received an $18 million abatement.  In 2009, the company laid off 1,000 employees. At that point Navistar clearly owed the City of Indianapolis $23 million under the contract.  In a bizarre move by City Legal, the case was settled for a mere $5 million.  City Legal Attorney Jonathan Mayes trotted out the bogus explanation that it was being settled for such a low amount to avoid legal costs.  Of course, City Legal's attorneys have fixed salaries and it was merely a contract interpretation matter, not one likely to result in years of litigation.   There simply was no reason for the City to give away $18 million of the $23 million it was owed.

But the story didn't end there.  In July 2011, Navistar offered to hire 250 more people and again asked for a tax abatement.  The City eagerly handed one over, even though the company had stiffed the City on $18 million in a previous deal.

If that is what Mayor Ballard thinks is holding a company accountable for not living up to job committments, Lord help us.

Litebox Fiasco Deepens; Were State and Local Officials Duped By "Visionary"

The Indianapolis Star still has plenty of talented writers.  I'm convinced that the problem is the Star editors who won't allow those writers to pen critical articles about Indianapolis officials. But the Litebox story is simply too big even for the Star.  Here is a portion of that lengthy article:
It had all the makings of a great day for Indianapolis and Indiana: Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mayor Greg Ballard flanking a California entrepreneur to announce that 1,100 jobs soon would be coming to the city.

In these tough economic times, it seemed to be just what the doctor ordered -- the largest job-creating business expansion to be announced in the city this year. And for Ballard, locked in a hotly contested re-election campaign in which his opponent has criticized the mayor for job losses, it was a timely feather in his cap, just two weeks before the election.

But things have taken a strange turn since Wednesday's splashy announcement, at which Bob Yanagihara detailed plans to renovate a local office building and construct a $20 million factory where his startup company, Litebox Inc., would make mobile video screens.

Now some wonder whether the project is serious, and there is growing criticism that state and city officials failed to adequately vet Yanagihara before offering his company millions in tax breaks if the project comes to fruition.

...
At Wednesday's announcement, Daniels hailed Yanagihara as a "visionary" and an "entrepreneur."

In California, public records suggest he might be something else.

Based on an Indianapolis Star review of public documents Thursday, it appears Yanagihara has failed to fully pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal tax liens in the past 10 years.

Those documents suggest he owes money to others, as well.

Colin McGrath, 52, Camarillo, Calif., said he invested $100,000 in a housing development project Yanagihara was leading with the promise of recouping $140,000 in 18 months. That was in 2002, and McGrath said he is still waiting for his money, even though he obtained a court judgment in 2007 against Yanagihara for $145,000.
...
The state of California has at least six outstanding tax liens against him, though specifics were unclear. One lien, filed in October 2007, was for $85,108, according to records confirmed with the Ventura County clerk and recorder. Another, filed that same month with Los Angeles County, was for $64,579.

...
Yanagihara also has not fully paid off thousands in federal tax liens, including a $70,130 lien filed in February 2008.

The most recent tax lien against Yanagihara that The Star's review found was for $15,088. It was filed in Los Angeles County in January.

...
In addition, the Star talked to industry experts who raise doubts about whether Litebox's business plan is workable:
...Stephen Isenberg, president of Impact Audio Visual Inc. of Las Vegas, which has supplied mobile video screens for high-profile events, including the Academy Awards, said he finds Yanagihara's plans unrealistic.

The $20 million that Yanagihara plans to spend to build an assembly factory for truck-mounted media screens in Indianapolis is enough money, Isenberg said, "to buy all of the competitors in the industry."

Isenberg also said he doesn't believe Yanagihara will need anywhere near the 900 workers he plans to hire to run the factory. Isenberg's company employs a total of 20 people and uses 12 trucks that hold JumboTron-sized video screens.

"We built these things," Isenberg said, "with less than six people in 90 to 120 days."
Readers should read the article in its entirety, in particular how state and local officials try to justify their lack of vetting of this project.

Advance Indiana has a good take on the Star article. AI's blogger Gary Welsh was the first to report that Litebox does not appear to be licensed to do business in California or Minnesota.  Do we even know Mr. Yanagihara has a company that employs 69 employees?

There needs to be a thorough investigation of state and local economic development officials (especially those of DevelopIndy) involved in this deal to find out why they didn't properly look into the company and Mr. Yanagihara's background. What information did they look at? Why didn't they look at other publicly available information such as the Star uncovered? Did the election play a part in their rushing this decision forward?  I think at best they can will have to admit to negligence.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

IBJ Buries Litebox Story Raising Questions About Company, its CEO and Job Promises to City w/Correction

Yesterday Cory Schouten's story raising questions about Litebox was at the top of the Indianapolis Business Journal's website, the lead story. 

Usually lead stories drop down the page as time passes and eventually get buried on the website, only to be found under the link "More News."  Schouten's article went straight from being the lead story to being buried in "More News."

I'm hearing from more and more news outlets are under tremendous pressure to bury negative stories as the election nears.   Thankfully we bloggers are immune from such arm twisting.

NOTE:  Cory Schouten was kind enough to let me know I made a mistake on this story.  The other stories were posted after the Litebox story and thus bumped it all the way down.  I never figured that IBJ would have posted that many stories after the Litebox led off yesterday's website, but apparently that's what happened.   My apologies.

Council Candidate Bill Levin's 30 Second Spot

Terrific commercial, better than what the better funded candidates are producing.  Love the backgrop of the early morning darkness and Broad Ripple streets damp from the rain.  The dramatic music is great too.  I am told Levin actually did a television buy on the cable networks and will soon be up running.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Litebox Followup...Where Is The Prototype?

I wrote the Litebox story below before I learned the company did not even have a prototype developed to show off at the big job announcement.  Wow.

According to media reports, Litebox's CEO Bob Yanagihara claims to have lined up $200 million of private investors to produce the high-tech, mobile video screens, so many that the company will be hiring 1,100 people for its Indianapolis operations.  He, however, wouldn't name any of the investors.

So these venture capitalists were persuaded by Yanagihara to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a concept that existed only in computer simulations?   They handed over all that money without even so much as a single prototype of what Yanagihara intended to build and sell not only nationally but internationally?  The first thing you do when you have a new product that you want to sell investors on is you create a prototype.

I'm going to call BS on this one.

Is Litebox the Proverbial Unicorn?; IBJ and Advance Indiana Research Company While Rest of Media Publishes Hype Without Question

I was all excited about the 1100 new jobs coming to my Pike Township courtesy of "Litebox."  Then I read Corey Schouten of the Indianapolis Business Journal's report on the company and its founder.  I also read Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana's take on the company's big announcement today.

Let's look at a portion of the Schouten IBJ article first:
A West Hollywood man with a short entrepreneurial resume came to Indiana with a big idea to build hundreds of trucks outfitted with giant video screens.

The product is unproven, and so is Bob Yanagihara, the ambitious 50-year-old who dreamed it up.

But Yanagihara said the key word when he met with state and city economic development officials: jobs.

He's scheduled to stand alongside Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard Wednesday afternoon to announce his plans to build a $21 million manufacturing plant on the northwest side and create more than 1,000 jobs.

Yanagihara said that his previous business experience includes selling medical devices and floor tile.  His company, Litebox Inc., stands to collect training grants and property-tax abatement worth a total of $11 million if it creates the promised jobs, local economic development officials said. The deal doesn't pose much risk to local governments since the company won't receive tax breaks or grants unless it lives up to its promises.
...
Yanagihara also said he has lined up more than $200 million from private investors to fund the start-up, but he declined to name any of them.

...
Yanagihara told IBJ his company expects to create 1,200 to 1,400 jobs locally, paying salaries between $30,000 and $150,000.

He said the new factory near 86th Street and Georgetown Road would churn out eight mobile entertainment trucks per month, with 300 people working on them at a time in three shifts. More than 300 additional employees would work at a "media production office" at 146 E. Washington St., a building Yanagihara said he plans to renovate. Litebox has not yet hired a contractor to build its factory, Todd said. It plans to own, not lease, the space.

The company has not yet built any of the mobile entertainment semitrailers, which will feature 47-foot-tall, high-definition screens. The finished products would sell for about $3 million apiece and feature Panasonic LED screens and Bose sound equipment. Programming would be beamed to the devices by satellite.
To see the rest of the article, click here.

After reading in more detail about what this project will entail, basically a huge $3 million television screens loaded on semitrailer for outdoor video presentations, one has to wonder whether the demand actually would be there.  Advance Indiana wonders too:
The Indianapolis Star and all of the local TV stations ran with headline stories of the big economic development announcement today promising to bring more than 1,000 jobs to Indianapolis. "We're bringing back the drive-in movie theater, but it's going to be a digital version, and on wheels," Bob Yanagihara, founder of Litebox, Inc. told the Star. Develop Indy's CEO, Scott Miller, described it as "one of the biggest jobs announcements for the city in recent years. Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mayor Greg Ballard are scheduled to make a formal announcement in a couple of hours, along with Yanagihira. I tried in vein to find out information about this company online and came up short. The company's website has nothing more than a short video clip of the product concept and the contact information for Yanagihara. [The link to the company's website brought up an error message when I posted this story saying the bandwidth limit had been exceeded. Not real encouraging for a supposed tech-savvy company.] As the Star describes this new, untested product:
Yanagihara's unusual product calls for a towering video screen mounted on the back of a semitrailer truck. The truck can show up at any site on short notice and play first-run movies, live-streamed concerts and sports.
What's the market for this product? I can't imagine that there are enough buyers today to justify opening up a manufacturing facility to build a product that costs $3 million a piece in the worst economic times since the Great Depression....
 
...
 
Who says there's a demand for this product all over the world? Never forget the old saying that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Now, check out what Yanagihara's past business experience consists of according to Schouten:


Yanagihara said his prior business experience includes selling medical devices and floor tile. (He owns a tile shop called Creative Environments in Los Angeles). His most recent entrepreneurial effort was a website called promotemysong.com that is no longer online. (He said his team is revamping the site's design for a relaunch).
To see the rest of the Advance Indiana article, click here.

Thank you Corey Schouten of IBJ and Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana for not simply taking things at face value and actually doing some investigation.   I am not sure why state and city officials went so ga-ga over such a questionable proposal from an inexperienced businessman with a dubious product idea.   I hope the fact an election is 13 days away did not factor into the announcement.

Tully Misses the Mark ... Again, Suggests Kennedy Follow Fool-Hardy Campaign Strategy

Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully pens a column today suggesting that Melina Kennedy is doing something wrong by going negative, i.e. pointing out Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's record.

Indianapolis Star Columnist
Matthew Tully
From a campaign perspective, Tully could not be more wrong.  It would have been extremely irresponsible of Kennedy to not point out why people shouldn't vote for Ballard. After all, the election is a referendum on Ballard. The problem is not that Kennedy has been "negative," the problem is she hasn't been nearly as aggressive as she should have been in attacking Ballard's record.  For example, Kennedy should be going after the parking meter deal, the Pacer deal, etc. Instead she only will address Ballard's persistent corporate welfare giveaways very generally.   Giving the populist, anti-corporate tide sweeping the country, Kennedy has (had?) a perfect opportunity to decry Ballard's turning over his administration to profiteers.

I don't like that term "negative" campaigning. It implies you're doing something wrong when you're doing what you're supposed to do as a candidate. The question is whether the attacks are accurate and whether personal issues are avoided.   For the most part, I think the overwhelming answer as to Kennedy's campaign is "yes." It's not like she pulled the stunt that was pulled on behalf of Kostas Poulakidas against Councilor Christine Scales, the fake postcard from Florida.  Now that is gutter politics.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised about Tully.  He has not uttered one words against the pay-to-play culture of Indianapolis politics and decries anyone who even raises the subject.  In his column he talks about how great deputy Mayor Mike Huber is.  Huber was the architect of one of the most lopsided deals in Indianapolis history, the parking meter contract which will result in the giving away of 70% of our parking revenue for the next 50 years.  Just because Huber is good at convincing councilors to sign off on sweetheart, corporate welfare deals that screw over taxpayers and mortgage the future of this City does not mean he warrants praise.  After all, wasn't Al Capone good at his job too?

If Kennedy loses it won't be because she went "negative" (like Ballard hasn't been negative?) but because she failed to be aggressive enough in pointing out how Ballard turned his back on the people and the populist values he campaigned on in 2007.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Tale of the Broad Ripple Parking Garage: Taxpayers Pay to Build the Facility While the Developer Gets 100% of the Ownership and Revenue


Proposed Broad Ripple Parking Garage
A source in City government recently provided me with a copy of the Broad Ripple Parking Garage contract.  I spent several hours pouring through the contract and now am ready to offer my review.   (Unless otherwise indicated, the information below is an analysis of Section 10, that runs from p. 14-16.)
  • The contract discusses two funds, the “Project Account”and the “Developer Funds.” The “Project Account” is an escrow account maintained by the Disbursing Agent.  (see page 6, Project Account" definition) which is to be made up in total of the $6.35 million of the City’s payment under the contract. The “Developer Funds” consists of the construction loan taken out by the Keystone (see page 2, "Developer Funds: definition) There is no requirement that Keystone take out a construction loan or how much needs to be borrowed.
    
  • The City is to pay $6.35 million for 10 years of rent of a police substation to be located located in the garage.  The money is to be paid upfront as discussed below.  Although the money is designated as "rent," (see p. 2, "DMD Purchase Price" definition), elsewhere in the contract the $6.35 million is designated to be used to purchase and build the facility. My guess is that the parties are calling the $6.35 million "rent" rather than a gift from the City is to somehow limit Keystone's tax liability.  I'm not sure the IRS would be amused.
  • 
  • Despite the payment, IMPD will have to pay a proportional share of the utilities at the parking garage.  After the 10 years expires, the IMPD has to pay rent at "market rate."  (See page 4, "IMPD Lease" definition.)
  • Regarding the $6.35 million upfront payment, the City first puts puts $1.9 million into a “Project Account, " and escrow account held by the Disbursing Agent. That money is  paid to the developer at the time of the execution of the contract (which occurred on September 2, 2011) to pay for land acquisition and construction costs incurred by the developer.
  • The City later puts the remaining $4.45 million into the "Project Account." When the City does this, $1.275 million gets paid out to Keystone for documented land acquisition and construction costs.
  • The remaining $3.175 million of the City’s money (which at this point is 50% of what has been deposited) contained in the Project Agreement is then paid to Keystone for construction costs on a proportionate basis using a “fraction.”
  • 
    Former Deputy Mayor
    Paul Okeson now works
    for Keystone
    
  • The “fraction” used for the proportion is $6.35 million divided by total "Developer Funds," which consists of any funds the Developer borrows.  According to the agreement,  $6.35 million is the Numerator, the Developer Funds is the Denominator. So let’s say that the Developer borrowed $9 million and for simplicity sake we’ll use $6 million for the City’s share, then the fraction is 6/9 2/3. So the math on a $3 million of additional bills Keystone presents for payment, the city pays $2 million while Keystone pays $1 million.
     
  • There is nothing in the contract, which stops Keystone from borrowing less than $9 million, thus making the Developer Funds less and changing the fraction in their favor. Let’s say Keystone borrows exactly $6.35 million, so the ratio is 1/1.  then any bills then any bills are 100% paid for by the City until the $6.35 million Project Account fund is exhausted.
  • Once the $6.35 million is exhausted, then, and only then, is Keystone responsible for 100% of the construction and land acquisition costs.  However, as reported a parking garage of the type designed typically costs in the range of $6 million.
  • There is absolutely nothing in the contract supporting the City's suggestion that the garage will somehow cost $15 million, contrary to the much lower figure other garages have cost.
  • There is absolutely nothing in the contract that requires Keystone to put up a dime for the project.
  • Keystone (actually the entity created for the project is 6280 LLC) gets 100% ownership of the garage, 100% of the parking revenue and 100% of the rental money for the 20% of the space in the garage devoted to commercial.
  • The $1 buyback option is a myth.  For the City to buy back the garage the formula is $1 + $10,000 ("transaction costs") + 80% of at least $6.35 million, i.e. the cost of the garage and land acquisition. (See p. 3, "Garage Acquisition Price" definition.) (Note: we would not be buying buck the 20% devoted to retail space.) Nonetheless the $1 buyback provision expires after five years.   (See p. 3, "Garage Option" and "Garage Option Agreement" definitions.
In this City we have seen sweetheart deals with the Pacers and Colts, and most recently the ACS contract in which we agree to give away 70% of the revenue of the City's parking meter revenue for the next 50 years. But this Broad Ripple Parking Garage deal is the sweetest of the sweetheart deals.  We taxpayers put up the money to buy the land and build the garage.  Yet the developer gets 100% of the ownership of the building, 100% of the parking revenue, and 100% of the money from commercial rents in the building. There is no requirement, none, that Keystone put a dime into the project.

Unbelievable.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Melina Kennedy and Her So-Called Negative Campaign for Mayor of Indianapolis

The 2011 Indianapolis mayoral campaign has been one of the least contentious major campaigns I have ever seen.  The suggestion this has been a dirty, negative campaign is laughable. Both candidates have focused on the issues and not made personal attacks.  Both candidates have pretty much stuck to verifiable facts, albeit facts often creatively spun.

Melina Kennedy
For some people though that's not enough.  Especially when it comes to Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy, the mere fact that she challenges Ballard's record brings criticism that she is being "negative."  Those people suggest that Kennedy should stick to talking about her own qualifications and what she would do as Mayor.   To them, it's wrong to challenge Ballard's record or whether he has kept his campaign promises.

Balderdash. 

When a challenger faces off against an incumbent, especially an incumbent who is in an executive position like Mayor, Governor, President, the election is a referendum on the incumbent.  A challenger who approached a campaign by ignoring the incumbent would be committing nothing short of political malpractice.  

Rather than being too aggressive in her attacks on Ballard's record, Kennedy appears to be far too passive.  Kennedy hasn't mentioned in her ads the 50 year parking meter deal, the $33.5 million giveaway to the Pacers, the $100 million North of South deal, the Broad Ripple Parking Garage giveaway and other insider deals the Ballard administration cut at the expense of taxpayers and the future of this City.  While Kennedy has mentioned no bid contracts going to campaign contributors, she has only done so in a very general manner.  To have a powerful impact, Kennedy would be much better advised to be specific.  Ballard has no defense for his highly unpopular Pacer giveaway and the parking meter contract.  Kennedy could be using those issues to drive voters away from Ballard, in particular people on the left and right who hate corporate welfare.  Kennedy has not done that.

Maybe she won't have to.  At the end of the day, Marion County is a Democratic County.  It is even more Democratic today than it was 2007. 

Kennedy is doing nothing wrong in her campaign strategy.  She is doing what she's supposed to do, telling voters why they shouldn't re-elect the incumbent.  She hasn't lied about issues, she hasn't attacked Ballard on a personal level.  It's been a good clean campaign.  Her only fault from a strategic standpoint is her failure to be nearly aggressive enough about attacking Ballard's record and his broken campaign promises.  That's not what Republicans want to hear, but it's the truth.

Civil Discourse Now Interviews Candidates Matt Stone, Bill Levin and Conrad Cortellini

This week Libertarian candidates Matt Stone, Bill Levin dropped by our set.  Official write in candidate Conrad Cortellini also appeared.  We cut six 14 minute segments, two with each candidate.

My favorite moment came when co-host Mark Small was making some typical left-wing, socialistic remark, to which Bill Levin responded by calling Small a "commie."  Bill's honest, and accurate, remarks, are refreshing.

Matt Stone, 7th District Libertarian Council Candidate, Indianapolis City-County Council (Part 1)



Matt Stone, 7th District, Libertarian Council Candidate, Indianapolis City-County Council (Part 2)




Bill Levin, At-Large District, Libertarian Council Candidate, Indianapolis City-County Council (Part 3)



Bill Levin, At-Large District, Libertarian Council Candidate, Indianapolis City-County Council (Part 4)





Conrad Cortellini, Official Write-In Candidate, Mayor Indianapolis (Part 5)



Conrad Cortellini, Official Write-In Candidate, Mayor Indianapolis (Part 6)


Excuse Me While I Don't Celebrate The Largest Drug Bust In Indiana History

The Indianapolis Star reports:
An investigation that started in March with money falling from a hidden compartment in a truck ended last week as apparently the largest drug bust in Indiana history.

More than 5 tons of marijuana and more than $4.3 million are now in law enforcement hands, with four men in the Marion County Jail on charges that could put them in prison for life.
The size of the bust has law enforcement confident that they have, at least for now, halted a large drug distribution operation in Indianapolis and probably affected a Mexican drug cartel.

“This is going to have a profound impact,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler, who, along with other federal and Marion County law enforcement officials, detailed the coup Sunday to The Indianapolis Star.

“This is one of those rare cases where you get both the drug proceeds and the actual product, so this organization has obviously suffered a significant setback, if not been eliminated entirely by a seizure of this nature,” he said.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said the financial hit to the Mexican cartel, which authorities believe was the originator of the marijuana and the ultimate destination of the cash, is far more than the $4.3 million seized here. While the bulk value of the marijuana — 10,505 pounds, or 5.25 tons — is about $5 million, Hogsett said, the street value “could be upwards of 10 times that amount.”

“Even being conservative, the cartel is not only out $4.3 million in proceeds that was on its way, but they’ve now lost the possibility of maybe $50 million in proceeds from the distribution of drugs,” Hogsett said. “This was significant because we got them both coming and going. The money was going, and we interdicted the drugs that were coming.”
To see the rest of the article, click here.

I'm wrapping up watching the series Prohibition by Ken Burns.  The parallels between alcohol and marijuana prohibition are striking.  Making alcohol illegal resulted in the involvement of organized criminal enterprises in the making and distribution of the intoxicating product.  Crime spiked as gangs fought over territory.  Federal officials would periodically conduct busts, rounding up the bootleggers and smashing stills.  Every time they claimed to have made a striking blow for the prohibition cause.  In the end, all the enforcement efforts did was drive up the price and make it more, not less, inviting for organized crime.

I'm sorry, but this marijuana bust, the largest drug bust in Indiana history, will not cause a decrease in drug-related crime.  It will cause an increase in the cost of the product and make the business of distributing it more inviting for organized crime.  Just like prohibition.

I have serious doubts that federal officials actually believe this bust will make a dent in the "Reefer Madness" some people choose to indulge in.  Rather I think the reason for the bust can be found in the article.  Hogsett and the local law enforcement officials recovered $4.3 million from the drug traffickers.  Let's see how much of the money above law enforcement costs is paid by prosecutors to the Common School Fund as is required under Indiana law.  My guess is the figure will be the same as always, 100% for law enforcement, 0% for schools.  Unfortunately our local judges are not enforcing the law that requires that prosecutors, at the end of a civil forfeiture case, prove law enforcement costs for the case, with a check cut to the Common School Fund for the balance.

We recently passed a milestone in this country.  According to a Gallup Poll, for the first time more than 50% of Americans believe marijuana use should be legalized.  That is higher than ever and the rate is soaring thanks to younger people who are against prohibition.

While it is great that the legalization debate is happening, one thing that is overlooked is that marijuana prohibition is big business for law enforcement officials.  They love the cash that the busts bring.  When it comes to U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett and Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, the bottom line is that they like the money they get from civil forfeiture much of which is made possible because of marijuana prohibition.  Take that away and they lose money.

I'm sorry, but excuse me while I don't celebrate this historic drug bust.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Indianapolis Council District the Parties Forgot

Republican Councilor
Susie Day
Looking over the many chances Democrats have to pick off Republican councilors on the Indianapolis City-County Council, one district that comes to mind is the Beech Grove based District 20.  Currently the district is represented by Republican Susie Day.  In 2007, Susie Day captured 54% of the vote winning by 543 votes during a year when Republicans did phenomenally well especially in the former Democratic stronghold of Beech Grove.   Day briefly flirted with the idea of running for Beech Grove Mayor but dropped that idea to run for re-election. 

Anyone who has watched the council over the last four years wouldn't characterize Day as a dynamic, charismatic councilor.  Day is very quiet and rarely speaks.  Possibly she is different on the campaign trial, though I have doubts.

The Democrats recruited a strong candidate to run against her.  Frank Mascari is a life-time Beech Grove resident, long active in the community.  Mascari, who owns a local jewelry store, ran losing by just 165 votes.  On paper, it looks like an ideal opportunity for the Democrats to pick up a seat or at the very least force the Republicans to spend a lot to defend the seat.

Frank Mascari
The financial reports though tell a different story.  According to her report, Day has raised just over $12,000 this year, with more than half being a single contribution from the state GOP organization.  She has only two contributions from individuals, $500 from Jim Morris of the Pacers and $1,500 from Harold Day, Jr. which is either her husband or son.  The report shows no contributions from the county GOP organization, but a $4,550 expenditure to the county party for mailings and a slating fee.  Day's report reveals she has $1,500 left to spend.

While that may look like a lackluster report, it is substantially better than Mascari's.  According to Mascari's report, he has had only one contribution, a $700 donation by ... Frank Mascari.  He has spent just $662.86 on his campaign and reports having $37.14 left in the bank.

The 2010 baseline numbers showed that this district is 55-45 Republican.  It is one of the few areas in the county that is trending more Republican.  Still 55-45 is well within the range of being competitive.  Yet the candidates and their parties do not appear to be competing.

This close district with inactive, under financed candidates, perhaps reveals the nature of this campaign.  Out of 13 Republican councilors,  8 are in competitive districts.   Meanwhile the Democrats have only one Democratic incumbent, Dane Mahern, who is in a competitive district, a district which in fact leans Republican.  Dane Mahern's district is next to Day's, once again in the only part of the county (Northern Perry and Southern Center) which has become more Republican   Bottom line, the Democrats are blessed with so many Republican targets they apparently have the luxury of overlooking a competitive seat in Beech Grove.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Does Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry Care About Civil Liberties?; Prosecutor Expands Civil Forfeiture and Office's "Policing for Profit"

In one area in which I've done a lot of work, civil forfeiture, I found troublesome that former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi failed to follow the statute requiring that, once a judgment in a civil forfeiture action has been made, the prosecutor's office is to introduce evidence showing how much in law enforcement costs are for that particular case.  At that point a check for the balance is to be cut to the Common School Fund. The reason for the law is that it keeps law enforcement officials from profiting off civil forfeiture.

Now, nearly a year into his first term, I have to wonder whether we elected a prosecutor in Marion County who doesn't understand or care about the term "civil liberties."

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry
The Marion County Prosecutor's Office was not unusual in the practicing of keeping everything.. In a three year period that we looked at, only five counties paid civil forfeiture proceeds to the Common School Fund, a total of $95,500.  Law enforcement officials are walking away with tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars that should be going to the state's schools.  Prosecutors and judges all over the state simply are not following the law.  Of the counties doing civil forfeiture, only five appear to be following the law, most notably Wayne County (Richmond) which was found to zealously documentslaw enforcement costs and cuts checks to the Common School Fund on a regular basis.

In the last year or so, the Indianapolis Star did a series of articles on civil forfeiture, documenting numerous cases of the abuses associated with the system and how it has led to civil liberties abuses while prosecutors and law enforcement officials have profited off those abuses.  The stories were shocking.

In the midst of these stories, Marion County had an election for prosecutor which was won by Democrat Terry Curry.  Since Curry was a former defense attorney and since he is a Democrat, the party which claims to stand up for civil liberties, I figured Curry might curb some of the abuses of civil forfeiture under Brizzi's watch.  But Curry's rhetoric suggested otherwise. Despite the problems with civil forfeiture being exposed nearly weekly in the Indianapolis Star, Curry argued that civil forfeiture should be expanded to non-drug related offenses.

The first sign of trouble out of Curry's office was the decision to drop the Omnisource scrap metals felony charges in exchange for $300,000 for his office and law enforcement officials.  The trading of a criminal prosecution for cold hard cash is as bad if not worse than anything Brizzi was accused of in office.

What is thus far unreported though is that Curry has more than lived up to his campaign promise of expanding civil forfeiture.  The Marion County Prosecutor's Office is currently seizing cars, bank accounts and other property from individuals accused (but not necessarily charged) of all sorts of criminal activity.  The Prosecutor's Office is getting ex parte orders from courts to seize the property without their even knowing what is being done.

An example is a truck driver I talked to.  Because he's on the road most of the time, he uses a friend's apartment in Indianapolis for his mailing address.   Law enforcement officials searched the apartment office had the apartment based on allegations about the renter and found the truck driver's banking account information. Unbeknownn to the truck driver, the prosecutor filed a motion under seal and obtained an ex parte order freezing his bank account.   The truck driver had no idea what was happening.

Indeed that is the practice of this Marion County Prosecutor's Office. Law enforcement officials grab everything they can during a raid,then the Prosecutor's Office will file a complaint in court alleging that the property was used in connection with a crime, even though the prosecutors often have absolutely no evidence of that fact upon which they base when they make that claim.   (That whole ethical requirement that attorneys have a good faith basis in the truth of what they're filing is ignored by the prosecutor's office.)  Those prosecutors know that a large percentage of people will simply walk away from their property rather than hire an attorney and fight the allegations.

As I have said in this blog, what happened to Democrats who believe in civil liberties?  It is clear that Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry cares not one whit about the Constitution and people's rights under it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The "Used" Loophole in the Fair Tax

After Libertarian Sean Shepherd appeared on the show very ably defending the Fair Tax, Attorney Mark Small and I began discussing a troublesome loophole I have never previously seen discussed when the Fair Tax issue is debated.  Since the 30% federal sales tax would only apply to "new" goods, what exactly is a "new good?"  What if you have a car that is 50% new and 50% used?   What if it is a new TV but it contains parts from an old TV?  What if it is a computer that has a new motherboard, but everything else is old?

The Fair Tax would seem to be a boon to seller of used goods and parts.  It seems inevitable that a federal government  agency would have to get involved determining defining what is a "new" good and what is a "used" attorneys. That also means jobs for attorneys in litigating the various determinations and trying to keep clients out of trouble.

Below Mark discusses his take on the loophole.  It is copied in its entirety from his blog.
Mr. Haney from "Green Acres," and a hypothetical about the Fair Tax


Yesterday, October 19, 2011, 6:05:14 AM
Mark Small

Let's say the so-called Fair Tax is enacted. As I understand the Fair Tax, new goods are subject to taxation. Used goods are not.

What constitutes a "new good"? Let's look at automobiles. One new tire on a used car does not a new car make. On the other extreme, one used tire on a car fresh off the assembly line, I think most people would agree, does not make the car "used." What about "refurbished" cars? The State---and I use the word in the general sense of sovereign---would have to monitor such things. A company could drop rehabbed bodies onto new frames with new engines and voila! They could say the car was used. There would be no tax. Sure, the parts underneath the body would be new and subject to taxation, but remember, part of the Fair Tax consists of getting rid of the IRS. The State would need a policing/collection agency for such things. In the meantime, the auto industry, already in bad shape, would go down the tubes. Only the rich---a little more than one percent (1%)---would be able to purchase cars brand-new. They probably would own the companies that would rehab the cars I described. They probably also would obtain tort immunity from Congress for any products liability claims, if they even had to do so. After all, the goods sold were used.

Take this example across the board. We suddenly become a country of Mr. Haney's from "Green Acres," driving around in beat-up pickup trucks selling (a bill of) used goods.

There Is No Cold In Baseball; World Series Late Games Ignore Need for Young Fans

Last night the World Series between the Cardinals and Rangers began in St. Louis.  The temperature at the start of the 8 pm game was around 45 degrees.  Before the game was over, the temperature had dipped below 40.

St. Louis Busch Stadium
(not taken last night)
There is nothing I like more than sitting in the sun, attending a baseball game.  But when the weather is cold, being at the ballpark is a positively miserable experience for players and fans alike.  Indianapolis has similar weather to St. Louis, which is only a few hours directly west of our city.  Imagine what it would be like to attend an outdoor baseball game today given the cold, wet, and windy weather we are experiencing.  Now imagine what it would be like at night.  Awful

A further problem is that the game, which started at 8 pm, ended well after 11.  The 3-2 pitching duel will be one of the briefer games played.  Some of the games will last until nearly midnight.  Major League Baseball needs to cultivate younger fans.  How does MLB expect to attract those younger fans if the World Series games are played so late that those young fans can only watch the start of the games?

Bring back scheduled double headers so the season can be end at least two weeks earlier.  Play World Series games earlier so young kids can stay up and watch the games.  Play World Series games during the day on weekends. 

Baseball is a great sport.  Unfortunately the leaders of the sport have no understanding of what is good for the game long-term health of the game.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Is the State GOP Organization Helping Defend a Safe Indianapolis Council Seat?

Councilor Jeff Cardwell
CORRECTION:  This post contains a correction.  I had originally misread the $27,500 regarding the transfer to the county GOP, as coming from the GOP instead of going to the county GOP.  My apologies for the confusion.

According to the 2010 baseline numbers, incumbent Republican councilors represent 8 of 13 council districts with less than 60% Republican majorities and thus would be considered competitive.  Three of those council districts held by Republican Councilors (McHenry, Scales and McQuillen) actually have Democratic majorities.  Then you have the four county at-large races where the Democrats have a base vote between 55% and 60%.  Republicans won 3 of those races in 2007 and desperately need a similar performance in order to keep control of the council. 

Given the extraordinary need for resources in those highly competitive races, it is not clear why the State Republican Party would contribute $12,375 as an in-kind contribution to District 23 Republican Jeff Cardwell for printing and postage costs involved in a mailing for his race against Democrat Scott Coxey.   District 23 is not one of 12 competitive districts noted above (counting the at-large positions). It is a district in 2010 which was just under 67% Republican, i.e. a 2-1 edge for Republicans. It is one of the most safe Republican seats on the Council. With all due respect to Coxey, Cardwell does not have to spend a dime to win that district.   The State GOP should spend its money on council races where the Republicans are desperately trying to hold onto their seats.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Indianapolis Budget Did Not Pass On A "Bipartisan Vote"

Abdul, who fancies himself as a member of the mainstream media but who consistently compromises his jounalistic integrity with consistent pro-administration spin on his stories, is at it again.  This time he is portraying the vote by the Indianapolis City-County Council in favor of Mayor Greg Ballard's  budget as a "bipartisan vote?"  His reasoning?  Democrat Brian Mahern voted witht he Republicans.

But that is not the way a "bipartisan vote" is defined by political scientists. If that were the definition, there would almost never been a non-bipartisan vote as even partisan votes very often involve a crossover or two, especially in a body as large as the U.S. House which has 435 members.

In examining bipartisan votes, Congressional Quarterly gives the definition of a "bipartisan vote" as:
"roll-call votes on which a majority of voting Democrats and a majority of voting Republicans agreed."  The fact Mahern crossed over with Republicans did not make it a "bipartisan vote."

Americans for First Time Support Legalizing Marijuana Use

Like same sex marriage, notice the generational difference in views toward the legalization of marijuana.  Legalization is coming.  Gallup reports:
PRINCETON, NJ -- A record-high 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal.

When Gallup first asked about legalizing marijuana, in 1969, 12% of Americans favored it, while 84% were opposed. Support remained in the mid-20s in Gallup measures from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but has crept up since, passing 30% in 2000 and 40% in 2009 before reaching the 50% level in this year's Oct. 6-9 annual Crime survey.

...

Support for legalizing marijuana is directly and inversely proportional to age, ranging from 62% approval among those 18 to 29 down to 31% among those 65 and older. Liberals are twice as likely as conservatives to favor legalizing marijuana. And Democrats and independents are more likely to be in favor than are Republicans.

More men than women support legalizing the drug. Those in the West and Midwest are more likely to favor it than those in the South.

Percent of Subgroups That Support Legalizing Use of Marijuana

Liberals 69%
18-29   62%
Moderates  57%
Independents  57%
Democrats  57%
30-49  56%
West  55%
Men  55%
Midwest  54%
East  51%
50-64  49%
Women  46%
South  44%
Republicans  35%
Conservatives  34%
65+  31%

Republican Polls Reflect Division Over Possible Nominee

Some interesting poll results (top 3 candidates listed):

Nationwide (CNN)
Romney 26
Cain 25
Perry 13

Iowa (Insider Advantage)
Cain 26
Romney 18
Gingrich 12

New Hampshire (Insider Advantage)
Romney 39
Cain 24
Paul 11

South Carolina (Insider Advantage)
Cain 32
Romney 12
Paul 11

Florida (Insider Advantage)
Romney 33
Cain 30
Gingrich 12

Virginia (CNU Times Dispatch)
Romney 44
Cain 12
Perry 10

Louisiana (Clarus Research)
Perry 23
Cain 21
Romney 17

Monday, October 17, 2011

Council President Ryan Vaughn and Council Candidate Sally Spiers Appear on Civil Discourse Now

This past Saturday, we enjoyed having council candidates Council President Ryan Vaughn and Sally Spiers on Civil Discourse Now.   Vaughn is a Republican candidate for re-election in the 3rd District which runs from through the Broad Ripple area to the Marion-Hamilton County. line  Spiers is a Republican candidate in Council District 9, a district currently represented by Democratic candidate Jackie Nytes who is not running for re-election.  District 9 runs from southern Washington Township down to the Chatham Arch neighborhood downtown.

Because of the large number of candidates who had conflicts with last week's taping, we've decided to open it up to candidates for the next three Saturdays, October 22, 29 and Nov 5.  Council candidates please let me know if you're interested in appearing on the show and what dates you'd be available.  My email is pogden297@comcast.net.  Phone number is 297-9720.  Again we tape (maybe not the right terminology given modern technology) on Saturdays at 1 pm at the Second Floor of Big Hat Books in Broad Ripple.

We're still making technical improvements; right now our focus is on eliminating the echo.  The good thing about the technology is we're not limited in terms of time. While our segments run no more than 15 minutes (so we can download free to YouTube), there is no limit on the number of segments.  On Saturday, we did two segments with Sally Spiers and three with Ryan Vaughn. See below.

Segment 1 (Sally Spiers, Council Candidate, District 9)



Segment 2 (Sally Spiers, Council Candidate, District 9)



Segment 3 (Councilor Ryan Vaughn, Council Candidate, District 3)



Segment 4 (Councilor Ryan Vaughn, Council Candidate, District 3)




Segment 5 (Councilor Ryan Vaughn, Council Candidate, District 3)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on Last NIght's Mayoral Debate

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Here are my thoughts after watching last night's mayoral debate on Channel 13 between Mayor Greg Ballard and Melina Kennedy:
  • Anyone who says that Mayor Ballard won, either on substance or style, is wearing rose-colored glasses and not being objective. 
  • Having said the above, if you factor in Mayor Ballard's much lower expectations (think of a golf handicap) then possibly you could judge the two candidate's performances as being even.
  • Mayor Ballard does not respond well to criticism.    Whenever Kennedy threw out criticism Ballard immediately took the bait, addressing the negative without ever turning it back into a positive.
  • I think the Kennedy campaign has made a mistake in not being more aggressive early on attacking Ballard's record.  He might well have had a meltdown.  Even though they haven't been very aggressive, Ballard seems all too willing to go on the defensive and let her criticism define the issues.
  • Kennedy landed a blow when it came to tax and fee increases.  Ballard had the authority to say "no" and he never did.
  • Regarding the former, Kennedy makes a mistake when she lets Ballard focus only on the business fee increases.  Ballard supported a hotel tax increase (giving us the combined highest hotel and sales tax in the country), a rental car tax increase, a ticket tax increase, an alcohol tax increase, an increase in the food and beverage tax and an extension of the wheel tax. 
  • Kennedy mentioned the $33 million for the Pacers, I believe within the context of the priorities Mayor Ballard.  The comment got kind of buried.  She should emphasize that point more because the Mayor is extremely vulnerable on the issue of misplaced priorities.
  • Melina Kennedy
  • The most blood of the night was drawn on an exchange about the parking meters.   Kennedy received a privatization question and used it to attack Mayor Ballard's ACS 50 year parking meter contract.  Ballard responded that people like the modernized meters and that, besides, we can get out of the contract every 10 years.  Kennedy correctly pointed out that the Early Termination provision in the contract is a farce, that the penalty to exercise it is so excessive that it can never be used.  (Actually the $20 million penalty is only one of the contractual conditions that make the Early Termination provision impossible to ever be exercised.) 
  • It would have been great if Kennedy was able to also work in the figure 70%, as in the fact the City is giving away 70% of the revenue in the contract.  Also she should have called him out on Mayor's talking about modernization as justification for the 50 year contract.  The City could have purchased the meters ourselves for about $8 to $10 million and kept 100% of the revenue for the next 50 years.  Instead Ballard mortgaged the future of our city for a small upfront cash payment.
  • Kennedy continued to pound the issue of education.  I am all for using the Mayor's bully pulpit to try to improve education, and in particular IPS, but I still think education is one of the Mayor's few strong areas.  I can only assume there is polling supporting this line of attack.
  • Mayor Ballard really waffled when it came to the question about the comprehensive smoking ban.  From listening to him, youwould have thought his position supporting what amounts to about a 99% ban isindefensible.  He offered to "compromise" on the issue.  Isn't a compromise on the smoking ban already in place?  What's wrong with letting a bar owner, where only adults are allowed in, decide whether to have smoking?  That's a solidly pro-freedom, Republican position.  Yet Ballard seems uncomfortable with it.
I have never seen a major election like this where there is absolutely no independent polling just a little over four weeks out.  My guess is a poll would probably show Mayor Ballard up by about 10 points, though that's strictly a guess.  I still think on Election Day Kennedy will win though I would increase Ballard's chances to getting close to 40%, up the 30% or so I previously pegged the odds at.   I just don't think the Democrats have defined Ballard as they should have given the ammunition he's given them over the past four years.   Marion County though is a solidly Democratic county, even more so than it was in 2007.  Even in 2010, a great Republican year, the baseline favored Democrats by 10 points.  It's hard not to give the edge to Kennedy, especially when considering that Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy is an expert when it comes to turnout.