Monday, January 2, 2012

Ogden on Politics Hands Out Awards for the Year 2011 in Indianapolis Politics

Political Winner
1) City Contractors - A very profitable year for those doing business with Indianapolis.  Buckingham received a $100 million loan backed by taxpayers for a project that no private lender would fund.  The City agreed to have taxpayers building a parking garage in Broad Ripple and give away all the parking revenue and revenue from commercial rents to Keystone Construction. The Indiana Pacers received the second - $10 million - of the City's $33.5 million payment to operate a facility, constructed by taxpayers, but from which the Pacers already get 100% of the basketball and non-basketball revenue.  In 2011, the ACS  parking meter contract started.  For the next 50 years, ACS will receive 70% of the City's parking meter revenue all for a measly upfront investment that the company will earn back in about 6-7 years.
Mayor Greg Ballard
2)  Mayor Greg Ballard - I can't say his team ran a great campaign. After all, Ballard's opponent, Melina Kennedy, never hit him on the unpopular corporate welfare, insider deals and misplaced priorities that put things like libraries and parks behind handing over taxpayer dollars to corporate insiders.   I have to admit, I was surprised.  I did not think the Democrats would choose to lose an election if winning meant tackling the City's pay-to-play climate that puts taxpayer money in the pockets of politically-connected companies. (See #1 above.)   Looking back that assumption was naive.  I don't agree with the panelists on Indiana Week in Review that Ballard improved as a candidate.  He just was never challenged - he was a weak candidate from beginning to end.  Nonetheless, a win is a win is a win. And Ballard won.

3) Councilor Christine Scales - She ran on principle and won on principle.  I had doubts campaigning as a nice person who wouldn't take the low political road would work, but it did if only by a few hundred votes.

Political Loser

1) Ed Treacy - In a year his party should have easily won 18 seats or more on the council, the Democrats barely escaped with a 16-13 majority, only because the four at-large seats followed the Democratic baseline.
Marion County Chairman
Ed Treacy

Instead of taking the Republican councilors head-on for their votes in support of the insider deals that most Democratic councilors, to their credit, opposed when given a chance to cast a vote on the council, Treacy chose to tackle obscure often irrelevant issues, often distorting Republican councilors' votes in the process.  He also tried to play the race card.  Treacy though had plenty of ammunition to use against the Republicans.  All he had to do was hit the councilors' on votes on unpopular Ballard proposals like the ACS 50 year parking meter contract, the Pacer give away, etc., hitting the districts with direct mail.  Instead Treacy did not want to take the populist route and challenge the taxpayer giveaways to politically-connected companies, undoubtedly because he supports them himself.

2) Melina Kennedy -  It's a tired theme, but a political strategist could have easily designed a campaign that hit Ballard on areas where he was vulnerable, and made Kennedy a winner.   But she deliberately avoided populist type issues which would have played well with the electorate, choosing instead, when she attacked, to do so only in a very general manner.  Like Treacy, she was willing to lose an election if the cost of a win was challenging Indianapolis' corporate welfare culture.

3) Taxpayers -   In an era of economic populism, neither Republican or Democratic party leaders, or their top candidates, were willing to ask tough questions about whether these corporate welfare, insider  deals are in the best interests of the people.  Well that's not quite fair.  I think there is a possibility that newly elected councilors, people like Zach Adamson, John Barth and Jeff Miller, might start asking questions that the previous Republican rubber-stamp majority failed to ask.

Biggest Political Surprise
Councilor Janice McHenry
1)  Councilor Janice McHenry's Re-election - She's a terrific door-to-door campaign, the best I have ever seen, but Ed Treacy can't win a 60% Democratic district?

2)  Christine Scales' Re-election - I have to say, given the resources her opponent had, I had doubts we'd see her back on the council.  But then again, her opponent actually criticized the Republican for not being more supportive of the Ballard corporate welfare agenda. Go figure.

Best Political TV Ad
1)  Bill Levin's ad shot in Broad Ripple the morning after a rain.  The ad was done locally by the Englehart Group.  For the life of me I don't know why well-funded candidates choose to go outside the state for TV production when Blair Englehart does far better work here locally.

Worst Political TV Ad
1)  Mayor Ballard's Ads - The ads showed constantly changing images that were on the screen for a fraction of a section and used Ballard's voice instead of a professional voice-over-artist. Dreadful.

2) Melina Kennedy's Ads - While her ads were more visually appealing than Ballard's, there was no coherent theme or consistent message to the issues.

Best Political Blogger (Republican-leaning)
1) Advance Indiana - Gary Welsh and I have gone around a few times, but no one is a better political blogger not only locally but in the state. His grasp of detail and memory of events is phenomenal.

Best political Blogger (Democratic-leaning)
1) Indy Democrat - Jon Easter is not as independent as Welsh when it comes to the issue, but his observations are always informative and interesting.

Best Political Reporter
1) Kara Kenney (WRTV) - Although she doesn't strictly do political reporting, when she does she is willing to delve into details that other reporters will not touch.

2) Norman Cox (WRTV) - While other statehouse reporters are content on just reporting the conventional wisdom, Cox is willing to do investigatory work and look at issues from other angles.

Worst Political Reporter
Jim Shella
1)  Jim Shella (WISH) - Shella gave up serious reporting years ago and has been mailing it in ever since.  If you want the conventional wisdom reported without any actual investigatory work done, Shella is your man.   Shella loves rubbing elbows with the powerful and influential in the Statehouse, and he will not report anything that challenges the existing power structure. 

Worst Political Columnist
1)  and 2) (TIE) Matt Tully and Erika Smith (Indianapolis Star) -In a city rife with corporate welfare and now scandal, these columnists can't seem find anything controversial to write about.  God forbid they ever write something challenging the status quo in this City. 

3) David Hoppe (Nuvo) - In a recent column, Hoppe noted that the bike lanes were poorly designed, caused traffic problems and no bicyclists were using them.  Yet Hoppe supported them based on his conclusion they were part of a deliberate plan by the city to not help bicyclists, but to make driving less convenient so that public transportation would take off.  And that was one of Hoppe's better columns.

4) Steve Hammer (Nuvo) - I used to think there was a clever Hunter S. Thompsonesque quality to Hammer's writing. That disappeared long ago.  Hammer has been running on fumes ever since.  Like Hoppe, Tully and Smith, Hammer can't seem to find anything controversial in Indianapolis to write about even though bloggers and TV reporters are uncovering interesting stories every day.  Instead he chooses to remain on the sideline while others do all the heavy lifting.


Jon E. Easter said...

Both Jone Easter and Jon Easter thank you for the award. Should I expect some sort of trophy?

Just kidding Paul. Thanks very much for your kind words.

Indianapolis Observer said...

Don't blame Erika (or Matt) for those idiotic face-off columns.

Reporters don't decide what they'll write about or what the "conclusions" will be.

Management does.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Jon, my editor is still on vacation. In fact he/she's been gone for a few years now.

IO, Erika Smith and Matt Tully are not reorters, they're columnists. Columnists typically have more leeway in what they choose to write about. I agree that the Faceoff columns are particularly manufactured and seem a product of management.

marksmall2001 said...

You don't even give a show you co-host an award? And don't give me any crap about conflict of interest. This is the NEW Indianapolis. Also, you didn't let ME know you were going to hand out awards, or I would have bought more beers. As it was, you left those to me to drink. Geez.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Paul. Not sure a lot of the Rs would claim me as one of their own. I'm franking having an increasingly difficult time calling myself a Republican. There's not much difference in the way the two parties govern these days.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary, the GOP establishment types fear what you and I do, i.e. arguing for Republicans to live up to their principles. That is possible because we are Republicans and thus speak with authority. Their fear is a sign they know we can and do have an impact.

I can't speak for you, but I get an awful lot of support from rank and file Republicans. (Of course, leadership has made sure those people have little power within the party.) It's the leadership who dislikes me because they know I don't support their violation of Repubican principles in order to put more money in their pockets.

M Theory said...

As one of many of your fans out there, I agree with your 2011 winners...although some of them like Tully, Hoppe, and Shella are really losers.

Anyway, I love you and still read you and Gary's Advance Indiana every day. In my opinion, both of you are the best political bloggers in the state because you have enough personal integrity to speak up for truth and not go along with the party's rotten hypocrisy.

Citizen Kane said...

I've heard that Keystone may have another winning hand with their involvement supervising the NOSO project.