Wednesday, November 30, 2011

State Polls Released Today Show Gingrich Pulling Away From Romney

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich
Five polls released today covering four states show former Speaker Newt Gingrich expanding his lead over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Two polls from Florida show Gingrich leading Romney 41-24 and 47-17. 

While Romney has usually led in California, today's poll shows his lead down to three points over Gingrich.

Meanwhile a poll out of Louisiana shows Gingrich leading Romney 31-23, while in Montana Gingrinch leads second place Ron Paul 37-12.

The Misuse of Motions to Dismiss in Federal Court Following Twombly and Iqbal

United States Supreme Court
Today the Indiana law blog picks up an interesting article from Alison Frankel's legal column "On the Case."  It is actually on a favorite topic of mine, i.e. the misuse of Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss in federal court.  The article starts out like this:
Two of the most controversial U.S. Supreme Court rulings of the last decade are 2007's Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and its 2009 follow-on Ashcroft v. Iqbal. In Twombly, an antitrust case, the Court set a new, higher standard for what plaintiffs must allege in their complaints in order to survive a defense motion to dismiss; in Iqbal, it extended the higher pleading standard to cases outside of the antitrust realm. Ever since, law professors, practitioners, judges, and politicians have debated the impact of the two rulings. As you might expect, plaintiffs' lawyers and their supporters argue that good cases are being dismissed. Defendants counter that Twombly and Iqbal haven't affected meritorious cases. (Here's a sampling of perspectives from a December 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the two opinions.)
In March, the Federal Judicial Center put out a 52-page report that seemed to minimize the effects of Twombly and Iqbal. The study of motions activity in 23 federal districts, undertaken at the behest of the Judicial Conference's advisory committee on civil rules, found that there was an increase in the rate of motion-to-dismiss filings in the wake of the two rulings, but also found no general increase in the rate at which federal judges granted motions to dismiss with prejudice. "There was no increase from 2006 to 2010 in the rate at which a grant of a motion to dismiss terminated the case," the report said.
Actually Frankel is very incorrect that Twombly and Iqbal created heightened pleading standards in federal court.  If attorneys read Twombly and Iqbal closely it is apparent the Supreme Court intended those decisions to be interpreted narrowly. Both the Seventh Circuit and the United States Supreme Court have since clarified that Twombly and Iqbal did not change notice pleading, did not create a heightened pleading standard, and did not change the standard for granting a motion to dismiss. 

The Federal Judicial Center suggests the two cases haven't had much of an impact, focusing on the fact that more motions to dismiss are not being granted in federal court.  As the Frankel article points out that is an oversimplified analysis and that the increased filings of Motions to Dismiss have an impact even if the motions are not ultimately granted.

That is something I know all too well.  I have had a number of cases in the Southern District of Indiana in which attorneys, often City Legal, have filed canned Motions to Dismiss challenging virtually every allegation in a complaint as not being sufficiently pled.  Many of these motions are 30 pages or more.  Almost always the attorneys cite to summary judgment cases, not ones dealing with a motion to dismiss, in support of their claim that the Plaintiffs have not met the supposedly new Twombly and Iqbal pleading standards.

The practical effect of the federal courts entertaining these motions to dismiss is to delay and drive up the cost and time involved in litigating a case. That plays right into the hands of deep pocket defendants and against plaintiffs.  When the Defendant files a 30 page motion to dismiss, that means the Plaintiff's counsel is going to have to spend approximately 20-25 hours crafting a response.  It used to be that summary judgment was the hurdle in federal court.  Now, since the federal courts have allowed defendants to misuse Twombly and Iqbal to litigate lengthy and bogus Motions to Dismiss, there is another hurdle plaintiffs have to clear. 

Federal judges need to do more in terms of cracking down on these frivolous motions to dismiss.  Attorneys who cite a litany of summary judgment (post-evidentiary) cases in support for their Motion to Dismiss argument that a plaintiff has not pled sufficiently, need to be sanctioned.  Our federal courts need to understand that allowing Defendants to abuse Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss is to allow an unlevel and unfair judicial playing field.

ICVA Produces Cheesy "Welcome" Video for Super Bowl Guests

I have long said Indianapolis needs to get over its inferiority complex.  People outside of Indianapolis do not believe that we are just a bunch of hicks not ready to play in the big league.  Well the Indiana Convention and Visitors Association has apparently decided to prove me wrong in this awful welcome video based on the 1985 Bears Super Bowl Shuffle video.  Warning:  After watching it you will regret losing 5 1/2 minutes of your life.


Unfortunately I know public dollars were spent on this travesty.

Thanks to Indy Democrat who first picked up on this video.

Establishment Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney Continues to Trail in Most State Polls

Former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney
Supposedly Republicans will coalesce behind former Massachusetts Governor and establishment candidate Mitt Romney.   I am not sure I buy that.  Romney appears to have made no inroads whatsoever beyond his typical 20 to 25% of the Republican electorate. Worse yet for him, he trails in most state polls.  Here is a review of who is ahead in the most recent state polls (dating back to October 25th) according to realclearpolitics.com.

Arizona:  Gingrich
California:  Romney
Florida:  Cain
Iowa:  Gingrich
Maine:  Cain
Michigan:  Romney
Mississippi:  Gingrich
New Hampshire:  Romney
New Jersey:  Romney
New York:  Romney
Ohio:  Cain
Pennsylvania:  Gingrich
South Carolina:  Gingrich
Wisconsin:  Cain

Of the 14 states with recent polls, 9 have a candidate leading who is not named "Romney."   One might think that the demise of Cain's candidacy would help Romney, but the decline of the anti-Romney candidate never does. 

Although former Speaker Newt Gingrich has a lot of baggage, and has flip-flopped on some issues like Romney, I am not so sure he won't ultimately win the nomination.  He appears to have momentum.  Let's see if his honesty about the immigration issue brings down his numbers in the days ahead.

Also, don't be surprised if Ron Paul's numbers begin to rise as Cain appears to be leaving the race.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Missing the Bigger Picture on the Public Reprimand of a Judge's Fundraising - Judicial Candidates Should Not Be Raising Money to Pay Slating Fees Prohibited by Code of Judicial Conduct

Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy's was admonished by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission for a fund-raising soliciation deemed inappropriate.  The Indiana Lawyer reports:
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has admonished a Marion Superior judge for mailing a questionable re-election fundraising flyer that it says put the judiciary in a negative light and implied that justice is for sale.

Judge Rebekah Pierson-Treacy received the admonishment following an August solicitation that went to 600 attorneys and judges in the Indianapolis area about a fundraiser being held on her behalf. The flyer contained suggested contribution levels – $150 to be designated as a "Sustained" contributor, $250 to be “Affirmed,” $500 to be “So Ordered” and $1,000 for a "Favorable Ruling." While those responsible for the solicitation say it was meant as a play on words, some took issue with the language and raised concerns.
Judge Pierson-Treacy is the wife of Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy.

Many of my fellow attorneys got bent out of shape over the solicitation and some have suggested the admonishment is not harsh enough.  I am in neither camp.   Judge Pierson-Treacy's soliciation was obviously a joke.  I don't think anyone who has an IQ higher higher than tap water would think the judge was selling justice.  Upon reflection was it a good idea?  No.  But public admonishment for a bad joke is more than sufficient.

What the Commission is not addressing and what is a much, much more serious ethical matter is why these funds are being raised.  Marion County judicial candidates, including Pierson-Treacy, are raising money not to run in a contested election, but to pay slating fees.  Even though slating fees are prohibited by the Indiana Judicial Code of Conduct, both the Marion County Republican and Democratic Chairmen demand judicial candidates pay the fee if they're going to be considered for slating.  They've gotten away with that by claiming, with a wink and a nod, that the slating fees are "voluntary."  Yeah, right.

Previously I wrote about this fee and reported it was about $12,000, 10% of a judge's annual salary.  I have since been informed that figure is wrong, that it is actually much higher.  According to my source, a few years ago the Republican slating fee for judge was up to $22,000 while the Marion County Democrats were charging their judicial candidates $15,000.  If anyone has an update on what they are charging judicial candidates this time around please let me know and I will make it public.

Financial Advisor David Lumley Discusses the National and Global Economic Crises on Civil Discourse Now

Part I



Part 2



Part 3



Part 4

Redistricting: Where the Interests of Republicans and Black Democrats Come Together

Marion County GOP hatchet man and Hamilton County resident David Brooks is promoting the proposed new Indianapolis council district map, he was paid a quarter million dollars to draw, as being more friendly to minorities, i.e. that it is a map that creates more districts in which minorities have a majority of the population.  In political science, these districts are called majority-minority districts.

David Brooks
Brooks' strategy highlighted in the map, which is certainly not new, is for Republicans to divide the interests of African-Americans Democrats and white Democrats.  Because African-Americans vote for Democrats in such high percentages (approximately 90% in many elections), the creation of more African-American districts results in a higher concentration of Democrats in those districts.  The more Democrats that Republican map-makers can concentrate in those majority-minority districts, the fewer Democrats there are to distribute to other districts.  Thus, the more majority-minority districts a redistricting proposal has, the better Republicans do in the remaining districts.  While these minority-friendly maps end up producing more African-American Democratic elected officials, the legislative bodies end up being run by a Republican majority.

People should not believe for a second from David Brooks' rhetoric that he is actually interested in helping out African-Americans in Marion County politics.  I will never forget a discussion I, then a ward chairman, had with Brooks, then Pike Township GOP chairman, about my belief that the Republican Party needed to do more to reach out to the large number of middle class African-Americans who were coming to dominate the township's politics.  He told me the GOP should just write off black voters and not waste time pursuing them.  Apparently Brooks believes that is true...unless they can strategically be used in a redistricting gerrymander.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smaller Market Pacers Win from the Lockout; Will Indianapolis Taxpayers Still Be Asked to Pay Tens of Millions of Dollars to Subsidize the Pacers?

Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz is reporting that the smaller market Indiana Pacers have won concessions in the new deal that will allow the team to be more profitable:
The NBA season won't begin until Christmas, but already, the Indiana Pacers have won.

So have all the league's small-market, small-revenue teams -- the Hornets and Bobcats, the Kings and the Bucks and several others.

Assuming the new labor deal is confirmed by both sides, not only will we have NBA basketball back on our radar -- and not a moment too soon given the grim fortunes of the local pro and college football teams -- but we will have a reconstituted NBA that gives the little guys a better chance to compete with the L.A.s, New Yorks and Bostons.
To see the rest of the article, click here.

Conseco Fieldhouse
To refresh people's memories, we taxpayers paid to construct Conseco Fieldhouse.  (We actually owe more on the building now than when it was built 12 years ago.) The 1999 agreement was that the Pacers would be responsible for the expense of running the building and the team would receive 100% of the basketball and non-basketball revenue from Conseco.  After the sweetheart deal Jim Irsay received for Lucas Oil Stadium, the Simons, the owners of the Pacers, begin to complain that their 1999 deal was not sweet enough.  After discussions during the summer of 2010, the City agreed to pay $10 million for each of the next three years to cover the Pacers' operating expenses and to sink $3.5 million into new improvements.  Part of that taxpayer money went for a new ribbon advertising loop in Conseco from which the Pacers get 100% off the advertising revenue.
 
One of the reasons for the City said it opted for a three year "bridge deal" rather than a long term deal to cover the final 10 years of the contract was that the new collective bargaining agreement might put the Pacers in a more profitable position where the team would need less taxpayer support.
 
Now that in fact has happened will the City resist demands by the Simons that taxpayers that taxpayers continue to pay the cost of operatiing Conseco Fieldhouse?  Don't count on it.  The Simons know the City's crack negotiators (said with all possible sarcasm) will immediately cave on the issue and give the Pacers everything they ask for.  Expect discussions to begin next year and that the Pacers's annual subsidy will actually increase...my guess is from $10 million to $15 million.

Litebox: Indianapolis Star Uncovers Additional Problems With Litebox Founder

Today the Indianapolis Star ran a lengthy investigative piece on Litebox and its founder Bob Yanigahara .  Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana wrote a followup article.

The Star's reporting on Litebox and Yanigahara has been excellent. So too is Gary Welsh's who first raised questions about Litebox.  As far as the Star, the Litebox coverage shows the local paper can still play a role in investigating local issues.  Unfortunately under Managing Editor Dennis Ryerson the Star has cut investigatory resources and played politics with what should be objective news gathering. So many times over the past several years Ryerson has refused to allow reporters to cover issues because those stories wouldn't fit the editorial position of the newspaper. For example, the Star still refuses to cover the Broad Ripple parking garage story even though a review of the contract shows we taxpayers are paying for a garage that is being given away to Keystone Construction.

Returning to the Litebox story, one thing does concern me about the news coverage is that every reporter thus far has simply accepted government officials' assurances as true that Litebox will not receive any government subsidies or abatements until such time as Litebox proves that it has produced the promised jobs.  Since when has that ever been the case?  First, I seriously doubt the timing that would require that every last employee be hired by Litebox before the company received a penny of public support - direct or indirect.  Second, since when has the City consistently monitored whether companies live up to their job promises?   Third, if the City finds out Litebox didn't fulfill its job promises, will the City aggressively enforce pursue enforcement of the breached contract?  The City's track record on that front is terrible.  One only has to look at the Navistar example as proof of that.  The City allowed Navistar off the hook for only a fraction of what it owed for not living up to employment promises and then a year later was giving the company new tax abatements.

This morning's Star story on Yanigahara is must reading.  It recounts numerous times when Yanigahara sought out suckers willing to make investments baked solely on naked promises.   City and State officials are attempting to assure the public that they haven't been taken for suckers, that the the deal is structured so that Yanigahara and his company won't see any money until he lives up to everything he promised.  Frankly I don't believe them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy Broad Ripple Organizer Listed White Pride Group's Website On Facebook Page Opposing Black Expo

On Wednesday, blogger Mark Small of Civil Discourse Now broke the news that Occupy Broad Ripple With Guns organizer Johnathan (John) Hallgarth was listed on Facebook that his "political views" are "National Alliance."   National Alliance is one of the largest white supremacist groups in the country.

After Mark blogged on the subject, I wrote on my blog adding my two cents from the right.  I am very supportive of Second Amendment rights and believe that the possibility that citizens might be armed does deter crime.  However, I have often seen good causes get taken over by fringe players who have a far different agenda.  It is important that those of us who believe in gun rights be vigilant against those who might want to usurp the cause for a different agenda.   To not resist such extremists in our midst is to allow the left to paint us all as extremists.

In my blog I pointed out information I learned from Mark, namely that Hallgarth is known as "Der Ecips Gnaw" on the Internet, including Facebook.  (He also goes by other names such as "John E. Wang," "John Wang," "The Mayor of Fountaintown," "The Motown Crackpipe.")  I also found out from googling that "Der Ecips Gnaw" had posted on numerous race related topics.  I had little doubt at that point that the National Alliance he cited for his political views was THE National Alliance of white supremacist fame.

According to later Facebook postings on the Occupy Broad Ripple Facebook page, when WRTV reporter Jack Rinehart asked Hallgarth, aka "Der Ecips Gnaw" about the "National Alliance" reference he indicated that the reference was to the National Alliance Of Families For the Return of America's Missing Servicemen.  Not sure how that could possibly be a logical answer to the Facebook inquiry about one's "political views" but let's give Mr. Hallgarth, aka "Der Ecips Gnaw" the benefit of the doubt ... for now.

Logo for Stormfront White
Supremacist Organization
Der Ecips Gnaw previously started a Facebook page to "End Black Expo (Summer Celebration) Now." Lest it be taken down after seeing this, I have linked to the info page here and the wall to the page here.  On the page, Mr. Gnaw links to http://www.stormfront.org/   I encourage people to go to the website.  I have included the logo to the right.  Here is how Stormfront describes itself:
"We are a community of White Nationalists. There are thousands of organizations promoting the interests, values and heritage of non-Whites. We promote ours."
The website has a link to the "White Pride Enterprises Project" and the "Latest David Duke Video."  The website also has a large forum section discussing various white pride subjects.

Let's return though to the "National Alliance" defense Mr. Gnaw offered.  An alert reader found this page on the Internet containing a comment with the exact same email address as used by Mr. Gnaw on the Facebook page against the Black Expo:
Mr. Jagger, Again I must thank you, jager, for your revolutionary words in a time when not enough gentiles are standing up and saying "something isn't right." when this fire is ignited in one's soul he or she will forever be a racially concious individual. I hope you are frequently visiting a website known as natall.org. (The webiste has since changed to http://www.natvan.com/)   It is the website for the national alliance the foremost resource for racially concious person. (Emphasis supplied.) The NA has a news website that is updated daily written by some real revolutionaries. You can learn alot from these wise gentlemen. It is easy to see the injustice done in our country. but it is hard to pinpoint where to make the change. please w/b @ mtc_wang@yahoo.com John T. W. Hallgarth Curator, The Motown Crackpipe
said motowncrackpipe

2004.08.13 at 13:35:07 PDT
When someone called him out on his comments, this was his response:
DEAREST ADEEBA, YOUR MISGUIDED EFFORTS AND RAMBLING FALL APON DEAF EARS. MY VISIT TO JAMAICA WAS WONDERFUL, THANKS FOR ASKING. I WAS VERY HAPPY TO SEE THE BLACKS OF JAMAICA THRIVE AS A PROUD COUNTRY AND RACE. YOUR OFFENSE TO NEGRO IS SIMPLY CHILDISH REACTION. hAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF THE UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND? IT IS HARDLY A RACIST ORGANIZATION OF WHITES TRYING TO GET BLACKS THE FUNDING TO GO TO SCHOOL. i WOULD VERY MUCH ENJOY TO GO TO EUROPE TO SEE MY HERTAGE AND ITS ROOTS. I MIND YOU THAT JAMAICA HAS ALOT OF CAVES ITSELF. AT MY WORK I DEAL WITH EVERY NATIONALITY AND RACE IMAGINABLE. tHE WORD NEGRO IS A SCIENTIFIC ONE REFERING TO A NEGROID BEING. IN OTHER USAGES ON MY SITE THE WORD NEGRO IS EMBRACED BY THE BLACK PERSON IN QUESTION. AM I RACIAILIST? WHO CARES...BUT MY SITE CALLS IT AS IT IS, WITHOUT RACISM OR COCAINE. -JOHN E. WANG CURATOR, THE MOTOWN CRACKPIPE

said motowncrackpipe

2004.08.18 at 18:15:18 PDT
Mr. Gnaw aka "mayoroffountaintown" is apparently in the business of selling "herbal incense" and can be found on the Internet hawking products, including E-bay.  I do not understand why someone would pay $33 for a 5 gram bag of blueberry mint herbal incense. (Actually maybe I do.)   WebMD though last year had a lengthy article which claimed that incense products being sold on the Internet often include designer drugs that don't show up in drug tests but produce a high.   Because the synthetic cannabinoids found in these products are new, they remain legal in many states.  As I recall Indiana has attempted to address these designer drugs that mimic already illegal drugs through legislation, but prosecution has proven very difficult.

Again, I strongly support the right of those with a permit to carry their guns for self-protection. I think armed citizens are a deterrent to crime.  I want thugs to be concerned that their next victim might be armed.  What concerns me though about this rally is that many of my Second Amendment friends may choose to participate in an event that is being led by someone on the fringe, someone who might have alternative motives.  That would undermine a worthy cause.

Blogger Raises Troubling Questions About Occupy Broad Ripple With Guns Organizer

Over at Civil Discourse Now, blogger Mark Small raises a troubling question about an (the?) organizer of the Occupy Broad Ripple With Guns rally to take place Saturday night in Broad Ripple beginning at 11 pm.

Der Ecips Gnaw
I called Mark this more and asked for the source of his information.  He found what clearly appears to be the organizer on Facebook under the name "Der Ecips Gnaw."  Backwards that spells "Wang Spice Red" a type of synthetic drug.

Mark's focus was on the fact that "Der Ecips Gnaw" identified his "political views" as the "National Alliance."  The National Alliance is a white supremacist organization which lists as the group's goals on its website:
  • White Living Space
  • An Aryan Society
  • A Responsible Government
  • A New Educational System
  • An Economic Policy Based on Racial Principles
I thought possibly it was a different National Alliance, but upon googling "Der Ecips Gnaw" I noted numerous comments on stories dealing with race.  I think it is the same "National Alliance."

My googling revealed "Der Ecips Gnaw" is also very active in selling herbal incense.

This points to something I've said before.  People involved in political causes have to be vigilant about who they associate with in promoting the cause.   Members of fringe groups, often espousing racial and ethnic hatred, will try to latch on to legitimate causes to promote their organization and recruit members.  In the process those people from the fringe begin to be looked upon as representative of the cause...which undermines the cause.  Those who oppose gun rights would like nothing more than to point to a white supremacist as what the rally in Broad Ripple is about.   It is not fair, but then the game of politics is not about fairness.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: Former Libertarian Council Candidate Bill Levin Issues Press Release Opposing Saturday's Occupy Broad Ripple With Guns Rally

BROAD RIPPLE’S FORMER “UNOFFICIAL” MAYOR CALLS FOR COOLER HEADS

INDIANAPOLIS – Bill Levin, considered by many to be Broad Ripple’s “unofficial” mayor in the 1980s, is calling for the organizers of Occupy Broad Ripple With Guns to reconsider the rally they’re staging this weekend. Occupy Broad Ripple is asking licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to Broad Ripple on Saturday night, with the goal of raising awareness and educating people on how to protect themselves.

“Of course, responsible citizens with proper permits have the right to carry guns. There’s no question about that,” says Levin, a recent candidate for City-County Council. “But encouraging people to bring guns into the party-like and alcohol-infused atmosphere of Broad Ripple on a weekend night is tempting fate with firepower. And that, in my opinion, is a vast act of incredible stupidity.”

Levin acknowledges the circumstances that have led to this campaign. “It’s downright tragic that our usually peaceful community has seen such a spike in crime in recent months. But cooler heads must prevail. It’s irresponsible to mix excessive alcohol and firearms. And, although the organizers claim that this isn’t a vigilante movement, one minor scuffle could blow out of proportion and lead to gunfire, injury and death.

“As a Libertarian, I believe government must be limited to preserve our freedoms. But the fundamental purpose of government is to protect its citizens,” he continues. “So, as I ask the Occupy Broad Ripple With Guns’ organizers to cancel their rally, I also call on the City of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council to immediately address the issue of crime in Broad Ripple and act with speed and resolve to bring safety back to the village.

"And, as a long-time concerned citizen and community businessman,” Levin adds, “I offer my assistance to the City-County Council to help create a safe and peaceful resolution for everyone who lives in, works in and visits Broad Ripple.”

-30-

Franklin Township School District to Fight Legal Battle for Private Vendor Bus Fees

WRTV reports:
Franklin Township school board members voted Monday to fight a lawsuit over controversial bus fees.

In a vote of 3-2, the board voted to go ahead with litigation to defend the district against a suit filed seeking class-action status.

The embattled school district partnered this year with the Central Indiana Educational Service Center to offer bus service at a cost of $475 per child. They have collected $433,900 in parent-paid fees.

...
The Indiana attorney general recently issued an opinion that called the bus fees per child unconstitutional.
Some parents questioned why the district would spend money fighting an uphill battle.

“The response from this district’s attorney is absurd -- let them take us to court to fight an undefendable suit that will cost a minimum of $40,000,” another parent said.

Franklin Township Superintendent Walter Bourke has said the school board will continue to work to balance the school’s budget and will let the issue of the bus fees be decided in court.
I haven't read the Attorney General's opinion.  The AG's opinion originally was that the school district couldn't charge these fees. So the school district decided to outsource bus service and let them charge the fees.  While I am not certain on the overall issue of the legality of the fees, I don't see how the school district could contract out something that would be illegal if done by the district.

As far as the $40,000 legal fee figure, I am sure the legal fees will be 10 times that. The law firm hired to defend the lawsuit is Bose McKinney, a big downtown, well-connected law firm.  Bose is one of the many big law firms that make a bundle representing school districts and local units of government.  That sort of representation lends itself to big legal bills because there is no one that properly monitor the charges and because taxpayers and not individuals are footing the tab.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marion County Judicial Candidates Should Say "No" To Slating Fees

With the end of the municipal election season begins the judicial election season in Marion County.  This county has an unusual election system in that by statute the judicial positions are to be no more than 50% of one party.  The practical effect of that rule is that all the Republican and Democratic judicial candidates who win their party's nomination in May win the election.  This election cycle, the parties will each nominate 9 candidates.   Eighteen will assume the bench following the November election.

In Marion County, the party organizations "slate" candidates. Slating is an endorsement process by which the county party determines which candidates the organizations want to support going into the primary.   Virtually no other county political organization in Indiana slates candidates.  On paper, slating is a process by which hard-working, often elected precinct committeemen are rewarded for their work on behalf of the party with a signficant say in the nomination process.  In practice, due to the large number of vacancies that can be filled by the county chair before slating, the endorsement process is dominated by the county chairman and his lieutenants. For every hard-working precinct committeeman attending slating, there generally are at least two county chairman appointees in place to outvote the PC.  While we have some terrific judges in Marion County, it is despite the current system, not because of it.

The corrosive effect of the slating process is evident from the vote of the Marion County judges on the drawing of a new city-county council map following the 2000 census.  Republican judges all sided with the Republican county chairman's position, while Democratic judges all sided with the Democratic leadership's position.  It took a unanimous Indiana Supreme Court to break the deadlock and draw the council map used for the next decade.

Should any of the judges have crossed over on the issue of the council map, he or she would have surely been a target for replacement at the next slating.

While Marion County's slating process is bad for judicial selection, it is even more egregious when coupled with slating fees.  Slating fees from judges is a way party chairman refill the coffers following an election.  There may be as many as 15 judges seeking the 9 judicial positions each party is to fill.  Each candidate will be expected to pay to the county chairman, 10% of the annual judicial salary as a slating fee.  In other words, each judicial candidate will be expected to pay about $12,000 to the county chairman to be slated.

Where does that money come from?  Judges often have to solicit that money from attorneys and others interested in the legal system.  Other judicial candidates will borrow the money.  I have heard stories of judicial candidates taking out second mortgages on their home to pay a slating fee.

Slating fees, however, are specifically prohibited by the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.  The way the party chairman have gotten around this ethical rule is to call such fees "voluntary."  But in reality, slating fees are not "voluntary" if payment of them by judicial candidates is expected and candidates are not going to be slated without paying those fees.

Judicial candidates should band together this election cycle and collectively say "no" to the county chairmen when it comes time to pay slating fees.

CLE - Sound Judgment: A Discussion of Judicial Selection and Ethics for the 21st Century

Civil Discourse Now Discusses Immigration Law With Attorney David Cook

Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Part 4

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sign of Trouble for Romney Camp: Gingrich Wipes Out Huge Romney Lead in New Hampshire

Newt Gingrich
Throughout the season of Republican presidential polls, one thing has remained constant - former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has enjoyed a huge lead in the country's first primary state, New Hampshire, which is, of course, next door to Massachusetts.  As various Republicans have ascended to challenge Romney, no one has been able to make more than a small dent in Romney's New Hampshire lead.

That appears to have changed.  Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is showing in the latest New Hampshire poll (Magellan Strategies) as being within two points of overtaking Romney in the Granite State.  Romney had a 27 point lead in a CNN New Hampshire poll taken just three weeks ago. In the 29 New Hampshire polls conducted since April of 2011, Romney has led by more than 15 points in 28 of them and 23 of those polls showed Romney leading by more than 20 points.

The only time Romney lead in New Hampshire has dipped to single digits was in an early July poll taken during the Bachmann surge.  That poll showed the Minnesota representative as having cut Romney's lead to 7 points in New Hampshire.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sandusky Attorney Impregnated 16 Year Old Client

This is an interesting story that quite a few people have missed.  In Indiana, it would not have been a crime either.  However, in this state it is a disciplinary violation for an attorney to have sex with a client if there was no a pre-existing intimate relationship:
Attorney Joe Amendola
Joe Amendola, Jerry Sandusky’s attorney, impregnated a 16-year-old client and married her in 2003. Amendola was around 49 when he met the girl. Joe Amendola, the State College, Pa., attorney representing accused child molester Jerry Sandusky, has an interesting back story himself: He got a teen-age client pregnant during the mid-1990s.

Amendola, 63, married the girl several years after the birth of their child, The Daily reported Monday night, citing documents filed at the Centre County, Pa., courthouse.

Amendola represented a 16-year-old girl then known as Mary Iavasile when she filed an emancipation petition in September 1996. The emancipation petition said the girl had graduated from high school in two years with a 3.69 GPA and held a fulltime job at Amendola's law office.

Jerry Sandusky
The girl gave birth to Amendola's child when she was 17 years old, her mother, Janet Iavasile, said. Amendola would have been about 49 years old at the time. The age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16.
Janet Iavasile said she didn't know the extent of the relationship between her daughter and the attorney. She thought he was more of a mentor than a paramour.

"She was interested in law," the mother said.

Amendola married the girl in February 2003 and the couple had a second child before they separated. Amendola's estranged wife, now a 32, has retained his last name.

"Joe is a very good father and has loved his two children very much, and that's the most important thing for me right now," Janet Iavasile said.

...

"I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I've helped," Sandusky said. "There are many that I didn't have - I hardly had any contact with who I helped in many, many ways."

Amendola is apparently unconvinced. When Costas asked the lawyer if he would leave his children alone with Sandusky, Amendola said "yes, without hesitation."

"OMG," Mary Amendola wrote on her Facebook page, "did Joe just say that he would allow my kids to be alone with Jerry Sandusky?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Open Letter to My Libertarian Friends

Dear Libertarian Friends:

This is a difficult letter to write.  But I feel the need to tell you the truth.  Your third party strategy is not working.  You are not making progress with the voters.

Don't get me wrong.  As a long time political activist, I greatly admire the commitment you have to your political views.  I share many libertarian views, including the idea that smaller government works best, that the national government has gone beyond the constitutional limits on its power, and that government has encroached too much on individual liberties.

Democrats and Republicans do not hold a candle to the Libertarians when it comes to being philosophically consistent on the issues and the dedication Libertarians have for what they believe in.  But many Libertarians have moved beyond the mere debating of public issues.  During this past election, I had the chance to spend half of Election Day with volunteers on the Ed Coleman campaign.  I was greatly impressed with Coleman's election day organization, including the number of people who volunteered as well as the energy they brought to the task.  There was probably not a single Republican or Democratic council candidate who came close to the organization that Libertarians put together for Coleman on Election Day.

Libertarian At-Large Councilor Coleman faced off head-to-head with Republican Councilor Jack Sandlin.  In an at-large race, well-known community activist Bill Levin threw his hat in the ring as a Libertarian candidate.  In the mayor's race, Libertarian Chris Bowen challenged Mayor Ballard and Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy.

All were excellent tests of the willingness of the voters to move beyond the two parties and consider the Libertarian alternative.   Coleman finished with nearly 24% of the vote, the best showing of any Libertarian candidate in Indianapolis history, but far below winning.  Meanwhile Levin, a colorful character who is more connected than just about anyone, ran only marginally ahead of other Libertarian at-large candidates who were not well known.  Bowen meanwhile obtained just under 1.5% of the mayoral vote.

It is a tough thing for Libertarians to hear, I'm sure.  But I'll say it anyway...the Libertarians are not making progress in getting voters to abandon their commitment to the two party system.  The Libertarians are getting the same baseline vote they received 35 years ago.  It hasn't changed.

I know the Libertarian arguments all too well when it comes to my GOP affiliation. Libertarians point out quite correctly the scores of Republicans who are not living up to the principles the GOP claims to stand for, a fact I have repeatedly pointed out on this blog.  To Libertarians this represents a collective failure, an indictment of the Republican Party.  To me, these are individual failures, an indictment of Republicans who wear the GOP uniform while betraying party principles.

It comes down to whether you are more likely to effect change working from the outside, as a third party, or from the insider, working within the two party system, in my case, the Republican Party.  While Libertarians suggest the Republican Party is never going to change and it is futile to try, they fail to recognize their own futility when it comes to winning elections or even so much as getting an increasingly larger percentage of the vote.  The bottom line is, until Libertarians actually make a dent in the public's commitment to the two party system, the argument that a frustrated Republican wanting change would be better off giving up his party and becoming a Libertarian, fails.

Most people pick their party identification by replicating that of their parents. My parents though were Democrats.  I chose to become a Republican because of the principles the GOP represents.  Do Republican elected officials fail to live up to those principles?   Absolutely.    Do I want those  officials to be more conservative, even more libertarian, in how they act in office?  Absolutely.  Do I want smaller government and more individual liberty?  Absolutely. 

My hope is to be a driving force for change, in particular within the Republican Party. Will I fall short of effectuating that change?  Quite likely. But at the end of the day, at least I am in the game plugging away.  Libertarians are not.  They are outside of the fence, watching while the two parties play the game.  Marion County GOP leadership love it when frustrated Republicans become Libertarians because they have taken themselves out of the game and are not a threat anymore.

It does not have to be that way.  The Libertarians I have met over the year are intelligent, committed, and even better organized than the local Republicans and Democratic parties.  If Libertarians suddenly announced they were going to be active in the Republican Party (I pick the GOP because most Libertarians clearly lean that direction in the absence of a third party), they would be instant players in the political scene and quite possibly come to dominate GOP.  But instead they have chosen a third party strategy that is clearly not working.

Like it or not, my Libertarian friends, people aren't budging from the two party system.  It is time to rethink the Libertarian strategy and to get in the game.

Sincerely,

Paul K. Ogden
Republican

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard, (Some) Council Republicans to Throw Bars Owners Under the Bus in Expanded Smoking Ban

The Indianapolis Star reports:
City-County Council Republicans plan to introduce an expanded smoking ban in early December, President Ryan Vaughn said this afternoon.

The proposal would add bars, bowling alleys and hotel rooms to Marion County's existing smoking ban. But it would exempt cigar and hookah bars, retail tobacco stores and nonprofit fraternal organizations, including veterans halls.

Democrats will take over majority control of the council Jan. 1 and have been making plans to pursue a smoking ban so that the expanded ordinance could take effect before Super Bowl festivities begin in late January.

But Vaughn says the Republicans' proposal -- if passed at the last meeting of the year on Dec. 19 -- would have ample time to be properly advertised before it takes effect. He said the Democrats, by acting in January once they take control, could run afoul of a state law requiring a period of published notice before a law imposing penalties for violations can take effect.

Vaughn said Mayor Greg Ballard is on board with his proposal, which is still being drafted and would be introduced at the Dec. 5 meeting. ...
Is anyone surprised that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, just a week away from the election, is willing to walk away from a pro-freedom, Republican position that championed the right of Indianapolis bar owners to make business decisions about what is best for their bottom line?  After all, what counts is the Super Bowl.

Indianapolis Television Stations Report Problems With New Broad Ripple Bike Lanes

As reported on this blog last week, from the Village to Keystone Avenue, five traffic lanes on Broad Ripple Avenue, from the Village to Keystone Avenue, have been reduced to three lanes (with one of those lanes being a middle turn lane) to make room for two bike lanes. This has resulted in bad traffic backups not to mention two very unsafe bike lanes where bicyclist is trapped by high curbs unable to get out of the way of approaching traffic.

The Indianapolis news media have done a number of reports on the Broad Ripple bike lanes the last few days. Here is the WRTV report and WTHR report. My favorite though is the WISH-TV report, the video of which I have embedded below:



This story highlights something I have preached about on this blog, namely that the City is more interested in claiming credit for bike lanes created than the safety of those bike lanes. Unfortunately recreational bicycle groups such as IndyCog and the Central Indiana Bicycling Association (CIBA) are so happy that someone is paying attention to them that they will not even raise the issue of whether those lanes are safe.

The fact is, designing bike lanes is extremely difficult.  In many cases, bike lanes make bicycling more dangerous, not less. Serious bicycle commuters avoid most Indianapolis bike lanes. As quoted in an earlier WTHR report, a bicycle courier who travels 20-60 miles a day on Indy's streets, calls the City's bike lanes a "death trap." Indeed on the Madison Avenue bike lanes I wrote about earlier, the City has not even marked off bike lanes. Rather bike lane emblems have been painted on the edge of narrow traffic lanes with high cubs.

It is time to have a real debate in this City about the value of these bike lanes that are being thoughtless created, including how safe they are for bicyclists and whether the negative impact on traffic flow is worth it.

For an alternative view, see today's Urban Indy's blog on the subject.

Will the City Agree to Give the Pacers Hundreds of Millions of Our Tax Dollars Next Year?

Currently the NBA is in a middle of a bitter labor dispute that threatens the season.  So of course the Pacers are losing a lot of money since they are not receiving gate gate and television revenue, right?  Actually according to the City's deal with the team, the Pacers will actually make more money not playing the games.

Conseco Fieldhouse
Let's recap the original deal struck in 1999.  We taxpayers paid to build Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers agreed to pay to run the place as long as the team gets to keep 100% of all basketball and non-basketball revenue off the building.   The Pacers also play there rent free. 

Pretty good deal right?  Well the Pacers didn't think so.  Last summer, the City and the Capital Improvement Board, which runs the sports stadiums, agreed and decided to give the the team $10 million for operations for each of the next three years along with $3.5 million improvements to Conseco Fieldhouse.  The latter included a taxpayer purchased ribbon electronic advertising display which encircles the basketball court.  The Pacers, of course, get 100% of the revenue from the advertising display.  Later it was uncovered that the money given to the Pacers was property tax revenue...this at the same time that the library, paid for exclusively with property taxes, was cutting back hours because it did not have sufficient resources.

But that $33.5 million was a three year "bridge deal."  Somehow we have now completed the final payment on the bridge deal, just 1 1/2 years into it.  Next year it will be time for a final deal to cover the remaining seven years of the Conseco Fieldhouse contract.

The Pacers last year wanted $15 million to operate Conseco, but "only" received $10 million.  Don't be surprised if the Pacers ask for $15 million a year again, perhaps more.  Fifteen million times 7 years, means such a deal would cost taxpayers $105 million.

Unfortunately the news media continues to report, without question, the phony CIB-commissioned Hunden study of the cost of losing the Pacers (supposedly $55 million), often referring to it as an "independent" study.  Hunden Strategic Partners is a pro-hospitality group, led by Robert Hunden, a former economic development official for the City of Indianapolis under Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and who previously worked for the Indianapolis Bond Bank.  Hunden also worked on the original deal for Conseco Fieldhouse.  The Hunden Report is in no way an "independent" study of the economic impact of the Pacers on the local economy. 

If the CIB wanted an independent study, there are plenty of university economics professors who could have given the Board such a study.  But the CIB clearly was not interested in the truth.  The Board was instead interested in a "homer" study that would give them numbers they could feed to the news media to mislead the public about the economic impact of losing the Pacers.

Once the labor dispute is over, expect the Pacers to turn to the City, hat in hand, wanting as much as a hundred million more from City taxpayers. It will be interesting to see if anyone in the Ballard administration, which claims to be fiscally conservative, will stand up to the Pacers and say "no."  Given the history of our crack City and CIB negotiators (sarcasm intended), I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wabash v. DePauw Monon Bell Debate: Civil Discourse Now Tackles Issue Of Single Gender Higher Education

Watch Mark Small , graduate of DePauw University debate Carlos May, graduate of Wabash College, over the value of single gender higher education.

Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Civil Discourse Now Discusses Election Predictions

Civil Discourse Now discusses my election predictions. It should be noted that my revised prediction of Ballard winning 51-47 was right on the money.  So too was my prediction that the Democrats would win all four at-large seats and have a council majority.  But the Democratic majority I picked was 18-11 and the majority turned out to be 16-13.  In my defense, I never dreamed that Democratic County Chairman Ed Treacy would fail to go after Republican councilors on the highly unpopular corporate welfare and insider deals they voted for.  They were sitting ducks and he failed to take a shot.

Lame Duck Indianapolis Council Republicans May Try To Redistrict Before Democrats Take Over

The Indianapolis Star reports that Republicans may try to redistrict the Council before the Democrats take control on January 1st:
City-County Council Republicans, with seven weeks to go before they hand off control to a new Democratic majority, say they have no plans for an aggressive lame-duck session -- except, that is, on one particularly hot-button issue.

The GOP leadership plans to press forward on redrawing council district boundaries.

...

Democrats, stuck in the minority until Jan. 1, would prefer that Republicans hold off on redistricting.

If the GOP's 15-member majority approves a new council district map in coming weeks -- something Vaughn says hasn't been decided -- Democrats could simply draw new boundaries once they take power.

...
New boundaries for the 25 council districts -- four at-large seats are elected countywide -- will take into account 2010 census data.

...

But there's a complication for Democrats: The new map approved by the council -- whether under Republican or Democratic control -- will need Ballard's sign-off, giving Republicans a voice no matter what.
Let me restate.    If the Republicans can pass a redistricting plan before the end of the year - which it is not 100% certain it is legal to do so - then any future redistricting plan passed by the new Democratic majority could simply be vetoed by the Republican Mayor, leaving the GOP plan in place.

Such a move by the lame duck Republicans and Mayor Ballard would likely create acrimony between the Republican Mayor and Democratic majority council that could lay the seeds for four years of political stalemate.   A smart politician might choose to avoid such a confrontational approach to start off on the new bipartisan reality of Indianapolis government.  But given Ballard's previous disinterest in working with Democrats (council Democrats report that the Mayor won't even talk to them), this is a possible outcome of such a redistricting battle.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Polls Reveal Herman Cain Continues To Hold On To Support While Former Speaker Newt Gingrich Rises

Herman Cain
Realclearpolitics.com has some interesting new polling information in the Republican race for the nomination.  The polls show that while Cain has taken a hit due to the sexual harassment allegations, he continues to hold on to a substantial percent of voters in national polls and is tied or leads in five state polls released late last week.  Meanwhile the newest anti-Romney GOP candidate to rise in the polls is former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich:

National (CBS News): Cain 18, Gingrich 15, Romney 15

National (McClatchy/Marist): Romney 23, Gingrich 19, Cain 17, Paul 10

Newt Gingrich
Iowa (Insider Advantage):  Cain 23, Romney 19, Gingrich 15, Paul 11

South Carolina (Insider Advantage): Cain 26, Gingrich 19, Romney 16

Florida (Quinnipac):  Cain 27, Romney 21, Gingrich 17

Ohio (Quinnipac): Cain 25, Romney 20, Gingrich 11

Pennsylvania (Quinnipac):  Cain 17, Romney 17, Gingrich 13, Santorum 13

It is interesting that although former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has the organization and the support of virtually every establishment Republican figure who has announced an endorsement, the GOP electorate clearly prefers someone else and is willing to back candidates with perceived and/or real character flaws such as Cain and Gingrich.  This to me shows the growing divide between the Republican establishment, Wall Street types and the Main Street, populist Republicans who make up the majority of the GOP electorate.   Will President Barack Obama exploit this populist divide if Romney is nominated?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What the Melina Kennedy Campaign Could Have Done Differently to Win the Election

The re-election of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was not inevitable by any stretch of the imagination.  At the end of the campaign, only 51% of the people voted for his re-election, hardly an overwhelming mandate.  The Ballard campaign was mediocre at best.  It lacked a consistency and a message.   The Ballard campaign was defensive and let the opponent define the terms of the election. Still, even though challenger Melina Kennedy had a weak opponent and plenty of ammunition to use, her campaign chose not to fire that ammunition and to instead fight the election on grounds on which Ballard could actually win.

Challenger Melina Kennedy
What could Kennedy have done differently?  Well let's start with the candidate.  Kennedy is a smart, attractive candidate.  But she's also an attorney from a big downtown law firm, an insider who had served as a Deputy Mayor in the Peterson administration.  Ballard had spent four years governing as an insider, establishment Mayor.  In a populist climate that produced both the right-wing Tea Party and the left-wing Occupy Wall Street movements, the Democrats would have been wise to have nominated an outsider, someone who had better appeal to every day working men and women angry about government handing out tax dollars to wealthy corporations.  That person would have drawn support from both Democrats and Republicans.

But while Kennedy was not the perfect candidate for the times, she still could have won, and easily so.  Let's re-examine the strategy her campaign used, starting first with the primary.

The importance of money to political campaigns is often misunderstood.  The media focuses simply on how much money is raised and how much is left.  But the HOW AND WHEN MONEY IS SPENT is every bit as important as total dollar amounts.

Campaigns have "windows" during which voters are paying attention.  Contrary to what some people think, primary competition is not always a bad thing and spending money in a primary is not always bad.  A primary, especially a primary with competition, is a window when voters are paying attention and learning more about the candidates.  With two opponents in the primary, both of whom had some name ID but lacked the resources to compete, Kennedy had the perfect situation.  She should have spent money in the primary window running strictly positive ads about herself, defiing herself without any interference by the Republicans.  By the time, the primary was over, voters would have thought her to be a terrific candidate and made it easier for her to later run "negative" ads without her being defined as negatively as she was.

Kennedy's not spending money in the primary might have seemed smart. But it wasn't.  Spending that money leading up to the primary would have been a great investment for the general election.

Mayor Greg Ballard
In the general election cycle, Kennedy should have started out positive, reminding voters of how great she is, as established in the primary cycle.  During that general election initial positive stage, she should set out her agenda of what she wants to do if elected, with maybe three bulletin points, and more detail available for those seeking it.

After that initial general election positive stage, she should have gone after Ballard on specific issues.  Don't let anyone say otherwise, a challenger who does not criticize an incumbent, especially an incumbent Mayor, has no chance of winning.  Elections involving an incumbent are a referendum on the incumbent.  A challenger does not beat an incumbent unless he or she says why the incumbent should not be re-elected. 

How should Kennedy have gone about picking issues to address?  The campaign at this stage should have hired a media or public relations outlet that empaneled a focus group.   A focus group is a group of maybe 15-20 individuals picked at random from the overall electorate.  The focus group would include Democrats, Republicans, and independents, men and women, people of all races/ethnicities and ages.  The media outlet first asks the focus group both direct and open-ended questions about the perception of the Mayor and his challenger.

Why do that?  It's because any message works better if it fits into a pre-existing perception about the candidate.  For example, there is a pre-existing belief that Ballard is a "nice guy."  While some people who have worked with Ballard suggest otherwise, a challenger is not going to be able to use a message the acceptance of which depends on the conclusion that Ballard is not a "nice guy."  It's hard-wired into the electorate that Ballard is a nice and sincere man.

The focus group, however, would have revealed pre-existing beliefs about Ballard that opened up avenues to attack.  For example, before the election, I doubt the focus group would have called Ballard a "strong leader" and likely would have agreed with the statement that he is too influenced both those people around him.  That could have been a theme that Kennedy played on when it came to selecting specific issues for telling voters why Ballard should not be re-elected.

The focus group members should have also been asked their opinion on specific issues.  My guess is almost the entire focus group would have been against the Mayor's decision to give the Pacers $33.5 million and would have been pretty animated in their feelings. To only a slightly lesser degree, I think the 50 year parking meter contract would have been an issued that stirred opposition from the focus group, especially when told (the truth) that 70% of the parking meter revenue over the next 50 years is going to a Texas company.  Same too with respect to the Broad Ripple parking garage, which taxpayers pay to build and is given away to Keystone Construction.  Finally, the CIB actual and proposed tax increases too would have raised people's ire in the focus group (Ballard proposed increasing the alcohol tax, the food and beverage tax, the rental car tax, the hotel tax, the ticket tax), especially if raised in a specific fashion and tied to more tax dollars given to professional sports.

All these issues relate to the specific theme, i.e. that Ballard is a weak leader who is manipulated by people around him.  You don't want to make the argument that Ballard is a bad guy - people refuse to believe that - but rather that he is a guy overwhelmed by the job and is dominated by people around him.  You contrast that with Kennedy, making her to appear to be someone smart and in control, someone who is willing to say "no" to the insider fat cats who dominate the Ballard administration.

At the "negative" stage, Kennedy never developed a message that fit into a pre-existing view about Ballard.  She never went after the leadership issue.  The issues involving corporate welfare which would have most moved the focus group against Ballard, went untouched by Kennedy, probably because she really isn't that against what Ballard did.  It could have also been because of WHO Kennedy received campaign contributions from.  A perfect example is the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars she received from the Simons family.  Is that money really worth it if because of it she has to take one of her best issues - the Pacer $33.5 million taxpayer gift - off the table?

Kennedy finished the final days of the campaign as she should have, with a positive message about her.  But by that time, the election was over.  She had not defined herself or Ballard.

Neither the Kennedy or Ballard campaigns had a coherent, overall campaign strategy.  That mystifies me.  These campaigns spent several million dollars yet they didn't seem to follow market-based, campaign strategies that are well-known to people in the industry.

City Eliminates Two Broad Ripple Avenue Traffic Lanes to Add Bike Lanes

This information was included in a comment below but I thought it worthy of a separate post.

The City has eliminated two traffic lanes on Broad Ripple Avenue running (from the village to Keystone Avenue)  in order to put in two bike lanes.  According to attorney Mark Small who has a law office in the area, the street was already congested with four traffic lanes and now they've eliminated two of them.

The bike lanes are also framed by high curbs, which as I said in my previous post is incredibly dangerous.   As a bicyclist, I keep my eye on cars approaching from behind.  If they don't see me or have drifted into my lane, I get off the road.  I've done that more than  a few times in my life.  But when you have a curb there is no escape.  You are dead.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bicyclist Killed on Southside, Were the Madison Avenue "Bike Lanes" the Fault?

While working the polls, a voter I had never met before came up to me saying he had voted against Mayor Ballard because of the poorly designed bike lanes.  He said two bicyclists had been killed on them within the past week or so, one on the northside and one on the southside. 

I haven't been able to confirm those deaths were in bike lanes.  However, on my way home from working a southside polling place, I traveled up Madison Avenue where I had heard a bicycle fatality had happened on Monday.  There are two very narrow traffic lanes going each direction with a turn lane in the middle.  The outer lanes are bordered by a high curb.  On the pavement alongside the curb, along the edge of the outer traffic lane is a painted emblem of a bike with signs along the road saying it has a bike lane.

This is the type of emblem which
appears on Madison Avenue
(without the bike lane lines on either
side). The emblem is in the right side
of a narrow traffic lane bordered
by a high curb, an extremely
dangerous situation for a bicyclist.
But there is no actual line on Madison Avenue designating a bike lane!  Again, they are simply bike lane emblems in a narrow traffic lane with bike lane signage. There is no place to actually put a bike lane if they wanted.  Unfortunately my cell phone had died earlier in the day or I would have taken a photograph.

Of course, the fact these aren't actual bike lanes has not stopped the City from counting them as additional bike lane miles.  In a news release in April, the Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard bragged how the Madison Avenue bike lane would go from County Line to Shelby Street.  But as I noted, it is not even a real bike lane.  It is just painted emblems of a bicycle on the right side of a traffic lane. 

WTHR recently did a report on the confusing bike lanes and quoted a courier who rides 20-60 miles in Indianapolis every day who sees the lanes as very dangerous and avoids them:
"I personally rarely ride in a bike lane. It is a death trap," said Scott Harris, a bike courier.

Scott Harris is a professional courier and rides 20 to 60 miles a day. He has been hit by cars a couple of times.

...

The problems he sees with the bike lanes is chiefly driver inattention "because you are either facing doors swinging open at you at all times and then you are also dealing with the turn lanes, the transition around the turn lanes. I would rather be a car lane with a car in front of me and car behind."
The WTHR story also talks about how traffic lanes have been significantly narrowed.  Many of the ones reduced to create bike lanes are now not even big enough to hold wide motor vehicles. As a result, the vehicle ends up with a tire on or in the bike lane.

Let's see if IndyCog and other recreational biking groups will stop acting as cheerleaders long enough to address the very real safety problems of these bike lanes.   I won't hold my breath.

Ed Treacy's Failed Campaign Strategy Nearly Costs Democrats Control of the Indianapolis City-County Council

In reviewing last night's Indianapolis election results, it becomes evident how badly Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy's electoral strategy failed, a fumble that nearly cost the Democrats control of the council.  While the Democrats have a majority on the council now with 16 of the 29 seats, a better strategy could have resulted in an easy 19 seats, possibly more.

I should at the outset say I don't assume Treacy had control over the Melina Kennedy's mayoral strategy.  But if he did, I would point out that strategy suffered from the same failure noted below. 

Marion County Democratic
Chairman Ed Treacy
For three years, I've been screaming on this blog about Republican councilors voting for sweetheart insider deals that make the Mayor's friends wealthy at the expense of the taxpayers.  You had the Pacer $33.5 million giveaway, the CIB tax increases, the 50 year ACS parking meter contract, the $100 million North of South deal, the Broad Ripple parking garage financed by taxpayers and given away to Keystone, etc.   Near the end of the term, you had Republicans voting to not review Council President Ryan Vaughn's secret signing of a nearly quarter of a million dollar redistricting contract for his political supporter and Republican hatchet man, David Brooks, a payment that clearly did not have to be made since redistricting could not be done under the law until 2012.

Treacy did not have to distort those Republican councilors' message.  All he had to do was dump direct mail into the districts attacking their votes on those insider, corporate welfare deals, and the Republican councilors would have had no defense.  Game, set and match.  

Unbelievably Treacy chose to steer clear of those winning issues. He raised issues like school consolidation (which the council had no control over) and in the case of Christine Scales, her ownership of a vacation home in Florida.  Treacy had plenty of ammunition to use against the Republicans but he chose not to use it. Why?  Undoubtedly because both parties like the insider deals, corporate welfare and campaign contributions that come with it.  At least, I have to give Treacy credit for not being a hypocrite on the subject.

Ponder this, however.  The Democrats receive a lot of money from the Simons family.  But is taking that money really worth it if you leave on the table the single most explosive issue that could have taken down this Mayor and several GOP councilors - the $33.5 million giveaway to the Pacers, just about the exact same time the library cut back hours and days due to a lack of funding?

The scope of the failure of Treacy's election strategy cannot be exaggerated.  In addition to losing the big prize, the Mayor's office, three Republican councilors - Janice McHenry, Mike McQuillen and Scales - won re-election in Democratic-leaning districts.  Also, despite the fact Republican incumbents were in competitive seats all over the county and the Democrats had only one incumbent (Dane Mahern) in a competitive district and thus could concentrate their resources on his defense, Treacy still lost that district.

It is true that the Democrats ousted Republican councilor Susie Day in Beech Grove. But according to the most recent finance report, the winner Frank Mascari only showed $700 raised in 2011, money he put into the campaign himself.  A couple weeks ago, I remarked that it was strange that Treacy wasn't funding that winnable race which I speculate had to do with concerns over how "controllable" Mascari would be if elected.  It is hard to give Treacy any credit for that win.

Okay, but what about the at-large wins?  Frankly those are baseline races.  While campaigns can affect the margins a point or two, they pretty much reflect turnout.  Give the Democrats had a 10% baseline advantage in 2010, a good Republican year, it is clear that Treacy's at-large wins were not nearly as large as they should have been.  The Democrats should be able to put a monkey in as county chairman, and still win low-profile, county-wide races such as the at-large council seats.

Traditionally after elections, people assign blame and heads roll.  I have respect for Treacy's ability to turn out Democratic voters.  But his electoral strategy which ignored Republican councilors rubberstamping Ballard's insider deals and corporate welfare, apparently because he wanted to engage in those same practices if he regained power, nearly cost the Democrats the council majority.

The Democrats can pat themselves on the back for winning that majority.  In reality, the poor result on Election Night shows that they should instead be asking for Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy's resignation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Indianapolis Election Results

Today's results are in for 590 of the 593 precincts.  The three precincts out does not look like they will change any of the results.

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard won re-election over Democrat Melina Kennedy 51-47.  In yesterday's updated predictions, I picked Ballard would win 51-47.

I said the Democrats would sweep the at-large council seats.  That indeed has happened.

Councilor-Elect Frank Mascari
I predicted the council would have an 18-11 Democratic majority.  Instead, it appears the Council will have a 16-13 majority.  It will be interesting to find out which Democratic councilor will take over the Council Presidency as Ryan Vaughn goes to the back bench.

I did not pick correctly WHICH council district would switch hands.  While on paper, I thought Frank Mascari had an excellent chance to knock off Republican Susie Day in her Beech Grove district, I decided to not pick Mascari because his last report showed him raising only $700 all year long, which was his own contribution.  Neither party seemed particularly interested in contesting the district.  So I picked the incumbent Day to win re-election.

I thought the Democrats would beat McQuillen and McHenry in their Democratic leaning districts.  The Republicans won both seats.  I think the Democrats missed a golden opportunity to take out McQuillen and McHenry by attacking their highly unpopular votes like the $33.5 million Pacer gift and the 50 year ACS parking meter contract.

Councilor Christine Scales, the only Republican councilor to show independence on the council, apparently has won re-election by 39 votes.

Republican Jeff Miller knocked off Councilor Dane Mahern in his increasingly Republican leaning district.