Senator Delph was led to believe that the meeting with IndyCAN would be an informational meeting, an opportunity to learn each other's positions. IndyCAN clearly had no intention of being involved in that type of meeting. It packed the hall with its supporters and invited the media. Then it proceeded with a tightly scripted agenda to make sure only one side of the issue was presented.
Pastor Al Goertermiller of the Pilgrim Lutheran Church of Carmel opened the meeting. He bragged about how IndyCAN represents tens of thousands of people in churches throughout Indianapolis. One of those churches listed as a supporter of IndyCAN is St. Monica's Catholic Church, my parish. I don't recall being asked at Mass whether we parishioners support IndyCAN or a massive expansion of mass transit paid for, in part, with a 19% increase in the local income tax. IndyCAN certainly does not represent me. I think people attending those churches identified by IndyCAN as supporters would be furious at the false representation that they support IndyCAN and its agenda, including the massive $1.3 million expansion of mass transit bill which comes with a huge tax increase.
Pastor Ronald Covington of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church said the Delph meeting was about having a "conversation" on mass transit. What would soon become clear was that the last thing IndyCAN wanted at the meeting was a conversation in which both sides would be heard.
Pastor Covington's prayer prominently featured a plea that God support mass transit. I actually expected he would pray that God convince Senator Delph to support the mass transit bill.
Following the prayer came three testimonials, lasting 10 minutes long total, people talking about their experience with our bus system. In particular the three spoke about the long waits and buses not going where they need to go. The stories made the point that we have a poorly designed bus system, which no one doubts. The speakers, however, completely failed to make make the case for spending $1.3 million and raising local income taxes 19% to pay for an entirely new system, including very expensive light rail to Fishers. (In fact, light rail was never mentioned during the entire meeting.) If IndyCAN truly wants to help the poor people with transportation, it would support a prohibition on light rail which will consume more than half the funds available for improving the bus system.
|State Senator Mike Delph|
After 35 minutes of being told about the wonders of mass transit without actually being offering any substantive facts, IndyCAN gave Senator Delph a whole five minutes to speak. Senator Delph stated he was surprised by the presence of the media and that it was not the type of meeting he had expected. The Senator noted that his father was near death in a hospice in Florida but he had delayed flying out until after the IndyCAN meeting out of respect for the organization. (Senator Delph said he would be missing the committee vote on mass transit on Tuesday because he'd be with his father.) Moving on to the issue of mass transit, Senator Delph talked about the fact that surveys in his district showed 54% did not support the expansion. He pointed out that the anecdotal evidence IndyCAN didn't actually support the massive expansion of mass transit proposed by the bill. Very quickly though Senator Delph's five minutes were up and he had to sit down.
An IndyCAN representative though wasn't done with Senator Delph. He demanded to know if the Senator would support the mass transit bill. The Senator said he would not support a state wide tax increase for mass transit and would wait to see the final version of the bill before deciding whether to vote for it. People, supposedly Christians, in the audience began to jeer Senator Delph and interrupt him. The IndyCAN representative again demanded to know whether Senator Delph would support mass transit. When he received the same answer, the presenter simply stated (falsely) that Senator Delph promised to support mass transit.
Next up on the program was a segment entitled "clarifying questions," in which pre-selected questioners were to ask Senator Delph pro-mass transit questions. At the conclusion of this segment, the moderator attempted to close the tightly-scripted program by moving on to the final prayer. Someone from the audience, however objected noting that there was still 25 minutes left on the program and she wanted to ask the Senator a question. The meeting then went off the script as two or three individuals in the audience were given the chance to question Senator Delph. But opponents of the mass transit bill, who had learned about the meeting from the press IndyCAN media advisory, were in the room and several raised their hands to ask friendly questions to Senator Delph. When the IndyCAN official running the meeting saw a "conversation" might actually break out with both sides presented via the unscripted Q and A session, he immediately shut down the questions even though there was some 15 minutes left on the program and numerous people had raised their hands to answer questions. Although Senator Delph was obviously worried about his father, he graciously agreed to stay "until midnight" to answer individual questions.
This dry accounting of the meeting doesn't begin to capture what it was actually like. The conduct of many of the IndyCAN members was utterly reprehensible and very unchristian. They were bullies who were not in the slightest bit interested in an honest exchange of ideas. Those who put on the meeting were especially at fault for the dishonest way in which they ran it. They weren't interested in a meeting in which both sides got heard. They had put on the meeting to set up Senator Delph, to put him in a position, in front of a room full of people with the media present in which he would feel so much pressure he'd pledge to support the mass transit bill. What a thoroughly disgusting tactic. Members of IndyCAN should be ashamed of what people on behalf of their organization tried to pull Monday night.
While the IndyCAN representatives embarrassed themselves with their conduct, Senator Delph proved himself to be a class individual. He handled the unfortunate situation he was placed in with grace, dignity, and tolerance, the very embodiment of the Christian qualities that so many members of IndyCAN obviously lack.