Monday, March 31, 2014

United States Cricket Governing Body Faces Another Key Departure

 ESPN CricInfo reports:
The state of the USA Cricket Association's administration has been dealt another setback after the resignation of USACA board member Brian Walters over the weekend, less than resignation of USACA chief executive Darren Beazley. The Texas resident confirmed his resignation to ESPNcricinfo on Sunday night. 
a week after the

"Due to numerous personal and professional commitments, I have found it difficult to fully dedicate myself to my duties as a member of the board of directors at the USA Cricket Association," Walters wrote in a note that was obtained by ESPNcricinfo. "I have therefore made the difficult decision to resign from the board." 

Walters had been serving as the Central West representative to the USACA board since winning a regional election in 2012 to replace the incumbent Ahmed Jeddy. Walters was the chairman of the USACA Governance Committee over the course of the last year and had been championing governance reform measures along with Beazley that were recommended by an independent review by TSE Consulting. Those measures were postponed from being implemented at the USACA AGM in November.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Future of Cricket in the United States Suffers a Blow as USACA Chief Darren Beazley Resigns

The future of cricket in the United States suffered a blow yesterday.  ESPN CricInfo reports:
Darren Beazley
USA Cricket Association chief executive Darren Beazley has resigned after just 14 months in the role. USACA announced in a press release on Tuesday that Beazley was stepping down in order to return to his native Australia where he will take up a position as the chief executive of Swimming Western Australia. 

Beazley's initial contract was for three years, but his tenure was six months shorter than his predecessor Don Lockerbie, who lasted 20 months before being fired in November 2010 for reasons USACA has never stated. 

 Sources have indicated that the lack of support from the USACA board of directors to implement sweeping governance changes to USACA's administrative structure played a role in his seeking to leave USACA and return to Australia....
 
...

Beazley's resignation also comes in the wake of damning financial data made public last month that USACA was more than $3 million in debt at the end of the 2012 tax year. The returns showed a 47% decline in membership revenue from 2011 as member leagues revolted after the controversial 2012 USACA elections in which 32 out of 47 member leagues were disenfranchised. 

USACA is also under increasing pressure from the American Cricket Federationn (ACF), which was formed in the wake of the 2012 election. Many member leagues have defected for the ACF including the largest league in America, New York's Commonwealth Cricket League. 

Beazley had strong ties with Anderson and ICC top brass in Dubai but his departure may be the last straw for USACA in a series of administrative missteps. USA now faces the very real threat of a third administrative suspension by the ICC in the last decade. 
 The Indiana Cricket Blog opined on Beazley's departure:
Very Sad day! For the USA Cricket, USACA chief Darren Beazley resigns.

It may surprise to many as someone of his stature is resigning in just 14 months at this high level job. (Original contract for 3 years)

He was clearly someone who wished USA cricket to do well, and was trying to implement/reforms that would help cricket in America with Let’s Play Cricket USA theme & his willingness to make Cricket as True American Sport.

His involvement was key to bring ICC twice to visit USA (1st in New York than Indianapolis), and $6 million sports park project to bring USA National Championships to Indianapolis, which is scheduled to launch first USA National Championship in August 2014.

He tried his best with his vision & ambition to improve USA cricket at every possible way.
 ...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Authority Did Hamilton County Authorities Have to Redact Test Results from Irsay Arrest Report?

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Star published on-line an "exclusive" story about police reports the newspaper obtained that detailed the arrest of Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay.  First of all, I am  confused by how this could be an "exclusive" report.  These are public records.  Typically anyone can get any police report simply by going into the office that has the report and paying a modest fee for copying. I'm not sure how the Star could get an "exclusive" story based on public records that undoubtedly every media outlet in town has been asking for.

The Star story begins:
Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay had trouble standing, his speech was slurred and he admitted taking several medications but refused to voluntarily submit to a blood test after he was stopped by a Carmel police officer on March 16.

Those and many other new details about Irsay's arrest are contained in police reports obtained Wednesday by The Indianapolis Star through a public records request.

Police also found $29,029 in cash -- most of it in a briefcase and laundry bag where police also found numerous bottles containing prescription drugs -- in the silver Toyota Highlander that the billionaire was driving.

Irsay agreed at the scene to take a portable breath test, though the result of that test was redacted in the records obtained by The Star. Irsay denied having consumed any alcohol, according to the arresting officer, who told a supervisor called to the scene that he "believed Irsay to be intoxicated on a substance other than alcohol."
Under what legal authority does the government agency, I am assuming here the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department or the Prosecutor's Office, have to redact that information on the results of a portable breath test in a police report?  The agency needs to identify what exception in the open records law was used to redact that information, yet, if they did, the Star doesn't mention it.   I have seen a lot of police reports in my time. Never have I seen the results of a portable breath test redacted in a police report. Now if the case went to trial and the report was for some reason admitted into evidence, perhaps for impeachment purposes that result would probably be redacted as that test is generally inadmissible.  But at this stage there is no reason to do this except to shield politically powerful Mr. Irsay from negative publicity.

Like attorney Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana, I have doubts about the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office which has history of failing to prosecute wealthy, politically-connected members of the community.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: Spanking City Hall by Indianapolis Author Melyssa Hubbard

This past week, I had an opportunity to read Melyssa Hubbard's (formerly Donaghy) new book, Spanking City Hall which this week has become available to the public.  I've known Melyssa for several years.  I probably first met her in the Fall of 2008 after I started my Ogden on Politics blog.  In the blog I had started to publicize my disillusionment with the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.  Elected as a populist, tea party, limited government Republican, Mayor Ballard turned out to be the direct opposite of Candidate Ballard  I remember so well that election night in 2007 thinking we had done something special in defeating incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson and electing someone who owed nothing to the elite, country club types who controlled this city.  That is when I learned the lesson you can win an election but lose the transition.

While my disillusionment with Ballard was growing in 2008, I was nevertheless eager to to meet the key figure who had instigated a taxpayer revolt that had toppled Mayor Bart Peterson, the formerly popular Democratic mayor.  Indeed the populist revolt Melyssa led in the summer of 2007 gave birth to the Indiana Tea Party.   As a Republican, I have always held to the belief that the success of the GOP was in the ability to reach every day working men and women, not kowtowing to wealthy elites.   Melyssa understand not only the power of populism but also embraced a libertarian live-and-let-live philosophy that was growing in popularity among young Republicans.

At some point, I learned of Melyssa's colorful background as a professional dominatrix.  To her credit, she never shied away from her past and has always offered comparison between that profession and politics.  Without Melyssa's back story and having no knowledge of the dominance and submission lifestyle, I admit I had difficulty grasping how the two relate.  In Melyssa's book, Spanking City Hall, she connects the dots.

Spanking City Hall is the portrait of a young woman finding her way through life, not only being influenced by the environment around her, but influencing that environment of.  Living in a small town growing up, Melyssa was sexually abused as a child.  In the book, she openly discusses that past as well as paints a portrait of how she slowly became intrigued by the dominance and submission (abbreviated as D/s in the book) lifestyle first as a hobby and a later briefly as a way of making a living.  Before Spanking City Hall I, undoubtedly like most people, thought the D/s subject referred to kinky bedroom sex.  I was surprised to learn through Melyssa's book that the subject was instead about how people interrelate to each other.  Some people apparently enjoy ceding power to another person, doing all sorts of menial tasks for their masters at their beck and whim.  The book details submissives doing all sorts of non-sexual, domestic chores for their mistresses, things like cleaning the house and washing dishes.  The tasks can be downright gross.  The book talks about one submissive who failed to clean a bathroom properly and was ordered by a dominatrix named Claudia (who lived briefly with Melyssa) to lick the toilet inside and out...which he proceeded to do.

Melyssa's life took another turn when the morning of May 8, 2003 she was awakened by knocking at
Melyssa Hubbard, Author of
Spanking City Hall
her door.  On the stoop was Jack Rinehart, the crime beat reporter for Channel 6 who informed her that there had been a police investigation of her property.  It turns out that one of Melyssa's clients was an undercover vice officer who had booked a session with Melyssa only to learn that her D/s sessions didn't involve sex.  Although there was nothing criminal uncovered in the investigation, City officials apparently decided to leak the news of the investigation.  Melyssa invited Rinehart in, sans cameras, and allowed him to view the dungeon she had established in her basement.  Rinehart's piece ran during sweeps weeks.

A few years later, the Peterson administration tried a new tack, pursuing Melyssa for a zoning violation. Represented by local attorney Mark Small, the zoning prosecution failed and was ultimately dismissed by the City.  Nonetheless, that small victory in a clash with city hall gave led to a political crusade.  In 2007, property tax assessments in Marion County were soaring, particularly for those with older homes.   In Melyssa's neighborhood of Meridian-Kessler some residents were facing tax bills that had as much as tripled.  People were outraged. It was at that point that Mayor Peterson made what proved to be the fatal political mistake of pushing for a 65% increase in the county option income tax just months before the November 2007 election.

For me, a political junkie, the most fascinating part of the book is Melyssa describing her political work.  She details how she rode her bike throughout her neighborhood (similar to Paul Revere riding his horse through the streets of Boston) to try to rally the neighborhood to oppose taxes that could cost them their homes.   At first Melyssa's efforts was met with indifference by her neighbors, but through her persistence she eventually turned things around with hundreds of protesters turning out to rally against taxes at the Governor's mansion, the Mayor's home, and Monument Circle.  Probably the most effective rally though was the one held during the summer of of 2007 when tax protesters attempted to attend the Mayor's presentation of the budget to the Indianapolis City-County Council.  The presence of tax protesters so rattled Mayor Bart Peterson that he attempted to lock them out in favor of city employees who would be supportive of his budget presentation.  Melyssa made sure that she not only got the protesters inside but also that the Mayor's attempts to lock out the public would be the story on evening news.

The political highlight of the book though was that day in 2007 when a group of elderly citizens assisted by one young man lowered an oversized tea bag filled with property tax assessments from a bridge into the Central Canal running through the heart of Indianapolis.  This is the time many people claim the Indiana Tea Party was born.

The book has a very helpful "glossary of people, places and terms" at the end   I wish every book contained such a glossary, but unfortunately few do.   While the practice is to place a glossary at the back of the book, my preference is for the front so the reader does not get to the end of the book, as I did, only to find this helpful tool was available.

In Spanking City Hall, Melyssa Hubbard tells the story of a young woman who left a life of sexual abuse in a small town to become a big city dominatrix.  If that were not enough of a colorful tale, the book then takes another turn, detailing her transformation from the life of a dungeon master to a political activist who leads a tax revolt that helps defeat a popular Mayor tin one of the biggest upsets in Indiana political history.  Spanking City Hall is an enjoyable read, a fascinating tale of a woman's metamorphosis during her journey through life.

Spanking City Hall can be ordered by going to the author's website.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Attorney General Zoeller's Press Release on Duty to Defend Indiana's Marriage Law Ignores His History of Refusing to Defend Laws He Does Not Like

In a press release yesterday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller articulated his office's philosophy that Indiana laws deserve to be defended in court and, indeed, that is the job he was elected to do:
Several same-sex couples recently filed lawsuits seeking to strike down Indiana’s traditional marriage definition law. As Indiana attorney general, I have been asked why my office is defending the statute in court when some AGs in other states are not defending their states’ traditional marriage laws from similar lawsuits. I explain that I took an oath to represent and defend Indiana’s state government and its existing statutes. I don’t make the laws – that’s the Legislature’s job – but I have a solemn obligation to defend those laws while there is a good-faith defense, and I cannot shirk my duty nor abdicate that responsibility to others.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller
This is not personal advocacy on my part or by the lawyers who work in my office. Whenever the State of Indiana is sued, you – the taxpayers and citizens of the state – are really being sued collectively, and you are entitled to counsel. The correct course of action is for the attorney general to provide a good-faith defense – within the resources already available – until and unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides to the contrary. The justice system cannot work if one side is not represented by counsel or if the attorneys presume that they are judge and jury in their own cases and fail to zealously advocate for their clients.
I agree totally with Zoeller.  Those who want the Attorney General not to defend Indiana law are going down a very dangerous road. If we start allowing our Attorney General to pick and choose which laws he will defend in court that gives him a absolute veto over any law passed by the Indiana General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor.  It makes the Attorney General the most powerful politician in the state.
My problem with Zoeller's press release is that it reeks with hypocrisy.  A few years ago, Zoeller refused to defend the Indiana immigration law in court letting it be declared unconstitutional at the district court (trial) level.  As several attorney members of the Indiana Senate pointed out in exhaustive detail, the Indiana law was different from Arizona's that was declared unconstitutional.  Yet, Zoeller, who vehemently opposed the law when it was passed, told his attorneys to not offer any defense in federal district to the claim it was unconstitutional. Such a position riled the feathers of a few state senators and still does today.
A couple sessions ago, the Indiana General Assembly passed a new new expungement law which let those convicted of crimes clear their record of old convictions thus allowing them to do things like get jobs more easily.  In November 2013, the law challenged as being unconstitutional by Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega.  The case featured the odd situation where a state official, Sonnega, was challenging the constitutionality of a state law, a situation which would have put the state on both sides of the issue...except for the fact the AG decided not to put up a defense.  With the state absent  from defending the law (the law requires the AG be served and given the opportunity to defend at the trial level the constitutionality of a law), Morgan Circuit Court Judge Matthew G. Hanson found that the section of the expungement law addressing victim input "violates the Indiana Constitution" but because there was no real victim involved in the litigation the challenge failed.  If Sonnega had simply had crime victims as plaintiffs instead of the State he would have undoubtedly succeeded, especially since the constitutionality of the law was not being defended by the Attorney General.
Zoeller's press release also completely ignores the Indiana law provides an option for the Attorney General to step aside to let other counsel represent the state when the Attorney General feels he is unable to offer a defense to the law.  Yet Zoeller has steadfastly refused to exercise that option and, in the immigration case, steadfastly fought the Senators attempt to secure other representation to defend the law in court. Zoeller is using his position of legal counsel to the State to veto laws he does not like - immigration and expungement - by simply not defending them in court.  That, as he points out in his press release, is wrong.  It's too bad he doesn't follow the sound philosophy he lays out in the press release.
See also:

Monday, March 24, 2014

GOP Mayors' Support of Corporate Welfare Is Causing Irreparable Damage to Indiana Republican Brand

Indianapolis Mayor
Greg Ballard
Over the past several years, Indiana cities have been increasingly led by GOP mayors.  But these are not your typical conservative, limited government Republicans.   They are elected officials who have embraced the Hamiltonian notion that it is the role of government to pick the winners in the American capitalist system  To implement that philosophy those mayors have utilized tax increment districts, tax abatements, and direct subsidies to businesses..  In return for the taxpayer giveaways, those mayors have seen their coffers filled with contributions from companies, developers, and law firms which reap the benefit of corporate welfare.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
But that money that is given away by Indiana's mayors does not grow on trees.  Given that money has to be obtained from somewhere, the obvious answer is to reduce the dollars going to basic city services.  But those Mayors can only short services so much, eventually they need more revenue.  Where do those mayors go for that revenue?  The answer inevitably is increasing taxes on working men and women and/or borrowing from future generations to fund current operations. No better example exists than Republican Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who during his six year tenure, has proposed raising virtually every tax and fee, including local income taxes and property taxes.  Recently Mayor Ballard has gone the route of borrowing from the next generation with a proposal to float a 30 year bond to pay for mostly short-term infrastructure
Westfield Mayor Andy Cook
improvements, things like paving roads, during the months leading up to a possible re-election bid in 2015.   Lest anyone think Mayor Ballard is alone in this approach to government, he or she only look north to Carmel Mayor James Brainard, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook and Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold.  All have enthusiastically embraced corporate welfare.

Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold
The huge campaign contributions that those Republican mayors receive in exchange from handing out corporate welfare has insulated them somewhat from the vagaries of political competition, both in primaries and in the general election.   But as a long-term strategy for building the party, it is a disaster.  Corporate welfare is very unpopular among both Democrats and Republicans. Taxing people more, especially when those tax dollars are being given away to politically-connected companies, angers a lot of people.  In fact, it is exactly that approach to government which led to the rise of the Tea Party on the right and the Occupy movement on the left.

At the end of the day, the approach of the Republican mayors nets considerable contributions but little popular support.  If the Republicans are going to grow the party, they need to take a populist approach to the issues.  Looking out for wealthy corporations will result in considerable campaign contributions, but it does little in the way of gaining popular support among working men and women for the GOP brand.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Marion County Judge Tells Ballard Administration that Judges Get to Decide Location of Courts

It was an issue I wondered about from the beginning.  How does Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard think he has the authority, along with apparently the council, to relocate the courts?  After all, the judges' boss is not the Mayor. Their boss, if they have one, is the voters who elected them.  Apparently the Marion County judges agree.   The IBJ reports:
Marion Superior judges on Friday gave a grudging endorsement to the former General Motors stamping plant site as the location for a proposed criminal justice complex, but not before sending a message to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard that where courts are located is their decision.

Ballard senior policy adviser Kurt Fulbeck made a brief presentation to the Marion Superior Executive Committee on Friday during which he asked for the judges’ recommendation of a preferred site. Ballard prefers the GM site, but the city has left open the possibility of a site at Indianapolis International Airport near the Hendricks County line.

“Who do you think makes the ultimate decision on this?” Marion Superior Judge James Osborn asked. Fulbeck responded the City-County Council and project shareholders.

“With regard to where the courts are located,” Osborn said, “that’s our decision. … Nobody gets to tell us where to go.” Osborn said he was reluctant to offer an endorsement because he said he didn’t want to suggest the courts were ceding their authority.

...

The project announced in December is expected to cost as much as $400 million and would consolidate the Marion County jail, Superior Court criminal division, and prosecutor, public defender, probation and other related functions.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seventh Circuit Slaps Down Marion County Election Board While Partisan Attorneys Continue Billing Taxpayers

Yesterday, in a 3-0 decision, the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals slapped down the Marion County Election Board for its decision to enforce in the 2010 Democratic Primary to enforce an unconstitutional law the Board had agreed in 2003 that it would not enforce.  Last month, I outlined the facts of the case in a blog post:
Some background ...  When I ran in the Republican  primary for Clerk in 2002 , I had a handout at the poll that featured my name and Joe McAtee's.  McAtee was running for Marion County Sheriff, a position he had held earlier for two terms.  McAtee like me had not been slated by the party.   My handouts, as well as the Indiana Right to Life's list of endorsed candidates, were seized as being in violation of Indiana's Slating Statute which prohibits candidates from handing out literature with multiple names on the handouts unless the literature is first filed with the Election Board along with written approval from the candidates who are featured on the literature.
Zach Mulholland

After the primary, Jim Bopp's law firm out of Terre Haute contacted me about being a plaintiff in a free speech case challenging the Slating Statute.  I agreed to participate.  A lawsuit was filed with me as the plaintiff along with Indiana Right to Life which had its list of endorsed candidates seized at the same primary.  Our complaint asked that the Slating Statute be declared unconstitutional and the Board enjoined from enforcing it.  The Marion County Election Board, which was represented by the Attorney General's Office, entered into an agreed judgment, a consent decree stating that the law was unconstitutional on its face and the Board would be enjoined from enforcing it.  The case's citation is Ogden v. Marendt, 264 F. Supp. 2d 785 (S.D. Ind. 2003)

Nine years later Zach Mulholland was running for state legislature against Dan Forestal in the Democratic primary in House District 100.  It was shaping up to be a hotly contested race.  Forestal was the slated candidate, but on primary election day Mulholland had every polling place covered with volunteers handing out his literature. 

Mulholland's literature included one handout that suggested voting for President Obama, Joe Donnelly, Andre Carson, John Gregg, and Zach Mulholland.  (Mulholland, an attorney, knew that the Slating Statute had been held to be unconstitutional in my case.)  On the day of the primary, the Election Board met and voted 3-0 to seize Mulholland's literature for violating the Slating Statute, despite the fact that the Board had agreed that law was unconstitutional and the Board would not try to enforce it.  Democratic Party officials went out to the various voting locations and seized Mulholland handouts from the candidate's volunteers.  Mulholland lost by 730 votes to Forestal.

Following the primary, Mulholland retained the ACLU to file a lawsuit. But, in a development that proved perplexing to the Seventh Circuit judges, the ACLU filed the lawsuit, asking for an injunction against the Board enforcement of a statute already declared unconstitutional and for damages, was filed in state court rather than the federal Southern District of Indiana which had entered the injunction in 2012.  Meanwhile the Election Board attempted to conduct an investigation and ordered Mulholland to appear.   Later, Mulholland filed a federal lawsuit again asking that it, again, be declared unconstitutional and that the Election Board, again, be enjoined from enforcing it.

In September of 2013, District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker dismissed Mulholland's federal lawsuit citing the abstention doctrine set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).   Basically that case holds that when there is a state court proceeding any subsequent federal litigation on the same topic cannot proceed.  There is, however, an exception to the Younger doctrine namely extraordinary circumstances like "bias or harassment."

In what I found most surprising though was that Judge Barker bought the Election Board's far-fetched argument that the decision in my case that the Slating Statute was facially unconstitutional and the Board would be enjoined from enforcing it, only applied to me and Indiana Right to Life.  For everyone else, according to the decision the statute was still in effect and enforceable.
In the unanimous opinion written by Seventh Circuit Judge David Hamilton, the Younger doctrine was found to be inapplicable and the court rejected the notion that a facially unconstitutional law (which means the particular facts of a case don't matter) could only be unconstitutional as to the particular litigants in a case, a theory that Judge Hamilton stated:
We reject the Election Board’s oxymoronic argument that the judgment in Ogden should be read to mean that the statute is facially unconstitutional only as to the Ogden plaintiffs. We have not encountered before the idea of facial unconstitutionality as applied only to a particular plaintiff. Facial unconstitutionality as to one means facial unconstitutionality as to all, regardless of the fact that the injunctive portion of the judgment directly adjudicated the dispute of only the parties before it. (Citations omitted.)
The Court then dropped a footnote to give the Election Board a stern warning about continuing to enforce the unconstitutional law against non-slated candidates:
If Board members or their agents were to try to enforce the anti-slating statute against other parties at this point, such as in the May 2014 primary elections, we expect that this opinion and the Ogden judgment would make it difficult to invoke the defense of qualified immunity to a damages action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Translation, if members of teh Election Board, and the thugs who enforced the order against Mulholland on behalf of the Board, attempt to pull this stunt again, they could be personally held liable in subsequent federal litigation.

The case was remanded back to the District Court for proceedings consistent with the opinion. District Court judge Sara Evans Barker should do more than that.   Every member of the Election Board (Democrat Mark Sullivan, (now slated Republican judge) Patrick J. Dietrick, and Clerk Beth White) are attorneys.  Some of the people who enforced the illegal Board decision are also attorneys.  Every last one of them knew a federal court had declared the statute unconstitutional and knew the Election Board had agreed not to enforce it in the 2003 case.  Yet they all enforced it anyway in the 2012 primary.  Undoubtedly they knew that they knew they were violating a federal court order, but also knew Mulholland would have no way to be made whole after the election was over.  Worse yet, when Mulholland did sue, the Election Board (over the notable objections of Clerk White) did proceed to hire a Democrat and Republican who have been milking taxpayers over a lawsuit that should have immediately been settled.  Last July the Council approved at least $150,000 in attorney's fees for the case.  (There may well be another bill coming.)

We atorneys are officers of the court.  We are obligated to follow the orders of the court, regardless of whether we like them. The knowing failure to do so is contemptuous, a direct affront to the authority of the court.  These attorneys knowingly violated a federal court order to harm a person they knew perfectly well would have no satisfactory remedy after the election.  Judge Barker should issue a Rule to Show Cause and bring every one of those attorneys who acted to adopt and enforce the illegal Board decision to seize Mulholland's literature into her courtroom to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court for their conduct.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Liberal Nuvo Columnist Finds Market Square Development "Boring," Again Takes a Pass on Criticizing Corporate Welfare

For years, Nuvo has had two columnists, David Hoppe and Steve Hammer.  The columnists had something in common besides their liberal political leanings.  Both consistently supported every corporate welfare scheme cooked up by the Ballard administration.  Meanwhile they also faithfully supported tax increases on working men and women to pay for city services.

The Hoppe and Hammer writing tandem always reminded me of Bob & Tom's Mr. Obvious bit in which a person, let's call him "idiot," can't make the obvious connection between two things. 
David Hoppe

Neither Hoppe or Hammer have ever made the connection between the corporate welfare schemes they consistently support and less tax revenue for public services.  In short, Hoppe and Hammer would be the idiots in the Mr. Obvious bit.

But then again, maybe I'm the idiot because keep reading Hoppe's column thinking he will eventually oppose a corporate welfare scheme as a drain on revenue that the City could use for basic services.  This week I was sure that day had finally arrived.  Hoppe had penned a column about the Market Square Development in which the City is giving a private, politically developer property and a subsidy of over $23 million (over $40 million if you count interest on the money being borrowed), in order to build luxury apartments and retail.

I just knew this time would be different, that Hoppe would have to write about the land being given away, the $23 million subsidy, and the fact that the city has much more pressing priorities when it came to the tax dollars that would flow to the private developer.   But once again I was proven wrong.  Hoppe managed to write a whole column on the development without ever mentioning the huge taxpayer subsidy.  Instead he spent the whole article complaining that the proposed structure is "boring" and that the City lost an opportunity "to make a major cultural statement."

I am working on this Mr. Obvious bit starring David Hoppe:
HOPPE:  The Market Square development is boring.  And what about culture?  This city needs more culture.
MR. OBVIOUS:  Aren't you in the least bit concerned that taxpayers are shelling out a $23 million subsidy to a private developer to build luxury apartments? 
HOPPE:  Culture...culture...culture.  I like that word.  I try to say it as much as I can.  
MR. OBVIOUS:  We don't have enough tax revenue for basic services, things like parks and public safety.   
HOPPE:  That's why I want to raise taxes.
MR. OBVIOUS:  But if we stopped giving away tax revenue to every politically-connected developer in town, we would have plenty of revenue to fund city services.   
HOPPE:  Huh?   
MR. OBVIOUS:  By giving $23 million to a private company to develop the Market Square apartments, that means we have $23 million less to spend on city services.   
HOPPE:  What? Are you saying that if the City gives money away, that means the City has less money?   
MR. OBVIOUS:  Yes.   
HOPPE:   Huh, I never made the connection.   Thank you, Mr. Obvious. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Councilman Wants New York City to Be Cricket Capitol of the United States

Indianapolis' run as the United States cricket capital may prove to be a short run.  The International Business Times reports:
The elegant 500-year-old British sport of cricket is one of the most popular athletic endeavors in the world – that is, outside of the United States. With hundreds of millions of fanatical followers in the former British Commonwealth nations spanning the globe, the gentleman’s game has yet to capture the imagination of Americans.

But Ruben Wills hopes to change that. The Democratic New York City councilman, who represents neighborhoods in the borough of Queens with large South Asian, Indo-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean communities, seeks to promote cricket and ultimately build a stadium for the sport in the city. Wills has introduced a bill that would create a nine-member task force to evaluate the “health, social and economic impacts” of cricket in New York City. The task force would also examine the feasibility of using park-lands in the city as cricket grounds.
“We have the largest and fastest-growing population of Indo-Caribbean and South Asian populations,” Wills told the New York Post. “Everywhere in the world, cricket is the No. 2 sport, only behind [soccer]. We want to make sure we can introduce this into mainstream New York and we also want to look at the end-game of creating a cricket stadium in New York.” Willis added that he wants to make sure "that this city and the state does not fall behind on the advantages that cricket brings."
The proposed legislation is now in the hands of the Council’s parks committee, the New York Daily News reported. Wills is hopeful. “We want to understand everything cricket can bring,” Wills told the Queens Courier. “I believe the stadium is possible and I don’t believe it will take light-years.”
The article talks about the popularity of cricket in several New York City boroughs but concludes Queens is where a cricket stadium should be located:
But if any cricket-centric stadium is ever to be built in Gotham, Queens would make the ideal locale. For New York City as a whole, some 10 percent of its 8.2 million residents are of South Asian or West Indian descent, and many of them are concentrated in Queens. Queens Gazette reported that some 63 percent of all Indo-Caribbeans and South Asians in New York City reside in Queens. Councilman Wills represents the New York City Council's 28th District, which covers Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Rochdale and Jamaica neighborhoods of Queens – all regions with high South Asian and Caribbean populations.
The article discussed the difficulty promoting cricket in an already sports saturated environment and noted the failure of the Lauderhill (Florida) cricket stadium: 
Despite the passion that these people hold for cricket, it might not be financially feasible to construct a cricket stadium in the city, especially for a sport that the vast majority of Americans (and New Yorkers) do not care about. Thus far, the only significant cricket facility – that is, the sole internationally certified field – in the United States is located in Lauderhill, Fla., in Broward County near Fort Lauderdale. The multipurpose 5,000-seat Central Broward Regional Park was constructed in 2007 at a cost of some $10 million, according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper of Florida. The stadium was promoted by cricket officials in both the U.S. and the Caribbean, citing the region's large Afro-Caribbean population.

But the New York Post noted that this stadium has staged only a few international cricket matches and that it will now be transitioned to other athletic purposes, especially soccer. Last April, the Sun Sentinel reported that the park failed to attract the tourists the owners had promised to Broward County taxpayers. In fact, the stadium has generated less than $100,000 a year in rental and parking revenues, primarily by staging low-level competitions, cultural events and various sporting attractions. Tourism officials said that in 2012 cricket events generated just $3 million, only one-half of 1 percent of the county's total sports-related tourism revenues. "We told them [repeatedly] it wasn't going to draw the hype they were stating," said Lauderhill resident Alan Brown. "They focused all their energy into something they felt was going to be an economic boon."

At that time, Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan blamed the stadium's disappointing performance on a tepid reaction from the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA), the sole body in the country that can sanction any matches. "Our pleas with USACA to sanction additional games in the USA have fallen on deaf ears," Kaplan wrote in a letter to David Richardson, the Dubai-based CEO of the International Cricket Council.
As I previously reported, USACA may soon be suspended as the United States governing body for cricket.

Unlike Indianapolis, New York City has a substantial population of immigrants who came from countries where cricket is popular.  It would make sense that NYC would have the players needed to host regular league play and grow the popularity of cricket.  With Indianapolis, building the World Sports Park is yet another extension of the "build it and they will come" mentality of this administration that is likely to be every bit as successful as Lauderhill's flirtation with cricket.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Honest to Goodness" Parks and Recreation Writers Can Craft Better Slogans Than Indiana Panel

Last month, Indiana's new slogan "Honest to Goodness" was unveiled resulting in considerable ridicule not only in Indiana but beyond the borders of the state.  The USA Today picked up the story from an Indianapolis Star article:
Restart Your Engines is out, after a memorable eight-year run.

Indiana will now promote itself to tourists — minus a verb — with the slogan "Honest-to-Goodness Indiana."


...

Jake Oakman, spokesman for the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, which paid $100,000 for the slogan and a soon-to-start branding campaign that will run through summer, aimed to point out to the early critics that the new four-word slogan isn't meant to stand alone. Wait until the billboards and the print ads and the TV commercials come out, Oakman suggested, and the new slogan will take on a fuller meaning.

"The initial reaction that it's too 'Mayberry' or whatnot, that can be tamped down when put in context with the whole branding campaign," Oakman said.

And besides, the tourism spokesman said, "You're never going to get 100 percent approval for anything."

The new slogan is the result of a monthslong search for the right words to market Indiana. The effort was headed by the Indianapolis marketing agency Williams Randall. The final choice of the new slogan was made by a panel of marketing and tourism types and state officials, Oakman said.
It is mind-numbing that state officials actually paid $100,000 to a marketing agency for the slogan "Honest to Goodness."  I could have gotten a few buddies together, and for the price of a couple beers apiece, walked out of the bar with a better slogan than that.

It turns out that Parks and Recreation writers are better at coming up with slogans.   Last week's episode (which I assumed was filmed before Indiana unveiled its slogan) was about finding a new slogan for the fictional Indiana city, Pawnee, which had merged with its rival, Eagleton.  The townspeople settled on "When You're Here, Then You're Home."  That not a bad slogan and could be improved even more by simply leaving out the "Then."

The main character Leslie Knope was pitching the slogan "Storied Past, Bright Future" which did not get approved.  However, that would have been an excellent slogan for Indiana as the state approaches approaches its 200th anniversary celebration which is just two years away.

In fact, the obvious question is why the marketing agency and the folks making the decision did not tie the new slogan in to Indiana's bicentennial.  They had to know about it as right under the slogan is "Est. 1816."

"Honest to Goodness" what a missed opportunity.  Hopefully this silly and embarrassing slogan will have a very short shelf life.

Indianapolis Council Votes to Give Away $23 Million in Corporate Welfare; Next Up a Tax Increase for Public Safety

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
Proposed Market Square Tower
A proposal by Flaherty & Collins Properties to build an $81 million, 28-story apartment tower on part of the former Market Square Arena site passed its last big hurdle Monday evening.

The Indianapolis City-County Council voted 18-9 to provide up to $23 million in city financing for the project, with the stipulation that 30 percent of the workers hired to build the tower live in Marion County.

...

The proposed Market Square Tower—if it’s built as planned at 28 stories and 370 feet—will be one of the 10 tallest buildings in Indianapolis. It would rank as the tallest apartment building in Indianapolis.

The tower would include 300 luxury apartments renting for $1,300 to $2,400 per month. About 500 parking spaces and 43,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space would be included. Flaherty & Collins said it prefers that a specialty grocer occupy the space and is pursuing Whole Foods as a tenant.
 Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh outlines attempted amendments to the measure:
The only change made by council members was an amendment offered by Councilor Vop Osili to shorten the repayment term for the $23 million bond issue from 25 to 15 years. An amendment offered by Councilor Zach Adamson to reduce the amount of the bond issue to $19.5 million, which is actually the minimum amount the developer had indicated would be acceptable, along with reducing the repayment schedule to 15 years was rejected by a majority of the council members. Osili claimed his amendment saved taxpayers $7.6 million, while Adamson's proposal would have saved at least $14.7 million. Tonight's vote also paved the way for the gifting of land on which the high-rise building will be built to the developer worth at least $6 million.
Welsh picked up on the real reason this project was being financed by bonding instead of the City making the payments directly from the downtown TIF:
The discussion with the developer, David Flaherty, and the city's chief economic development official, Deron Kintner, demonstrated the extent of the ignorance of a majority of the council members. When Kintner was asked why the City didn't just make the $23 million grant directly to the developer rather than borrowing the money through the issuance of bonds, he told council members that the downtown TIF district had sufficient funds to pay the entire amount of the grant upfront rather than borrowing it, but the administration thought it would be more prudent to borrow the money because interest rates of about 5.5% were too good to pass up. Not a single member asked a follow up question to that response.

Kintner could not have been more disingenuous in his response. The project is being driven by the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, which will earn hefty legal fees, along with other financial firms, which contribute heavily to the politicians' campaigns. If there is no bond issue, they don't receive their kickback for their share of the project in consideration for their large campaign contributions. An equal concern of Kintner is making sure there is more money laying around in reserves so the city's bond bank can issue even more bonds to fund future outrageous public giveaways like the one witnessed at tonight's council meeting. 
While our Council is bestowing the $23 million on a politically-connected developer to building luxury apartments on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the City, which property we are simply giving to the developer, the Council is about to take up a local tax hike to fund public safety.  The priorities of this administration continued to be skewed toward handing out corporate welfare to politically-connected companies while sticking it to hard working men and women who continue to see their taxes raised to fund the giveaways.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rand Paul Wins New Hampshire GOP Presidential Poll

Politico reports:
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is the top 2016 pick of Republican activists gathered in New Hampshire this weekend, a new survey found Saturday.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

Paul took 15 percent in the survey of attendees at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua by GOP firm WPA Opinion Research.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ran a close second with 13 percent. Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum tied at 11 percent. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal got 9 percent, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 8 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz got 4 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan and former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton tied at 3 percent.
This comes on the back of Paul winning his second consecutive straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC.

If Rand Paul can temper some of his more outlandish, off-the-cuff comments (which my Democratic friends like to report with glee), he will be a formidable candidate for the GOP nomination.  The establishment wing of the GOP has strong support among current Republican officeholders and has lots of money, but has little energy or support among mainstream Republicans.  The libertarian and populist (tea party) wings of the GOP is where the energy and enthusiasm is within the Republican Party.

I know some of my Republicans will point to Paul's dovish foreign policy stances as an electoral weakness, but I don't buy it.  The GOP electorate has grown much more isolationist and libertarian.  Paul reflects both of those views.

My guess is the establishment will coalesce behind Christie as the nominee and it will come down to Paul v. Christie for the nomination.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Republican Jolly Pulls Off Upset Win in Florida Special Election

David Jolly
The news out of Florida is that Republican David Jolly has defeated former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in the special election to fill the seat of Republican Bill Young in Florida's 13th Congressional district which covers most of Pinellas County between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, including parts of St. Petersburg.

The district, which has some of the highest concentration of older voters in the country, has become increasingly Democratic and was won by President Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Sink, who ran a close race in 2010 against Republican Governor Rick Scott, was considered to be a superior candidate to Jolly, a former lobbyist and legal counsel to Rep. Young.

Sink held small but consistent leads in the polling leading up to the election.  Yesterday Slate Magazine reported on the final one:
The League of Conservation Voters has teamed with Public Policy Polling for, likely, the final poll on the race for Florida's 13th District. If accurate, it confirms what Republicans have feared—a superior Democratic organization has turned out enough votes for Democrat Alex Sink that Republican David Jolly is likely to lose tomorrow. PPP suggests that 60 percent of voters have turned out already (122,000 ballots have been cast before Election Day) and that Sink's won them by 7 points. Jolly's winning the rest of the electorate by 4 points
That keeps Sink in the lead, bailed out by the very moderate-sounding 27-year-old Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby....
The Slate Magazine article has a picture of Sink with the clever caption:  "Sink looks to sink an easy putt tomorrow."   Apparently not.

Indianapolis Council Republicans Blocking ROC Investigation is Brought to an End

Last night the ROC Investigating Committee, with its new 11th member, Beech Grove Democrat Frank Mascari, was finally able to break the 5-5 tie on the bipartisan investigation committee so as to finally be able subpoena documents relating to the one-sided Regional Operations Center deal.  For four months the Republicans had blocked the investigation, making every excuse imaginable why the Council's counsel Fred Biesecker shouldn't have been able to obtain documents that are public and anyone should have been able to obtain.

Councilor Frank Mascari
Watching my fellow Republicans stonewall for months while spouting a phony desire to want to get to the bottom of the ROC deal has been embarrassing.  Obviously GOP leadership has picked the Republicans on the council who would take blindly take marching orders, which is undoubtedly why more independent-minded Republicans Christine Scales and, to a lesser degree,  Bob Lutz have not made an appearance on the committee.  A particularly noteworthy performance last night was that of southside Republican councilor Aaron Freeman who proceeded to have a fit when they no longer had the votes to stonewall the investigation.  He picked up his stuff and left before the meeting was over.

I said it before, and I will say it again. There is no excuse - NONE - for City officials refusing to produce public documents.  It is sad that the GOP councilors are participating in what appears to be a coverup.  Didn't we Republicans learn anything from Watergate?  Often the coverup is worse than the underlying offense.

Speaking of coverup, last night Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana reported on the bizarre settlement agreement the City quickly reached with the ROC landlord, Alex Carroll, last December when the Council decided to investigate this matter:
..The bad news is that the reason Republican committee member have stonewalled production of the documents the past few months becomes crystal clear after viewing the unconscionable settlement agreement the city's corporation counsel entered into with the landlord late last year on December 10, 2013 after the ROC Investigating Committee had been formed and began its work in November.

Under the terms of that troubling settlement agreement, the City agreed to reimburse the various business entities owned by Carroll (401-Public Safety, LLC, Lifeline Data Centers, LLC and Lifeline Construction Services, LLC) approximately $120,000 for several items, including insurance on the building ($9,000), improvements to the leased premises ($40,000), reimbursement of maintenance expenses ($35,000) and data line use ($34,000). The City gave the landlord ninety days to complete a punch list of unfinished items (until May 2014 for some items) that should have been completed before the City's employees ever began occupying the premises prior to the Super Bowl in January 2012. The City assumed responsibility for obtaining permits for all work required to be done to complete the punch list of items and agreed not to unreasonably withhold approval of any work completed by contractors hired to perform the work. The agreement freed up the rent money being escrowed by the lender to be released to the landlord and made clear that the original lease would remain in full force and effect.
What I find interesting is that the only signature on behalf of the extremely one-sided settlement document is Andrew Seiwert, Corporation Counsel for the City of Indianapolis.  He is the attorney for the City of Indianapolis.  He is not the client.  When matters are in litigation, final settlement documents are almost always signed by the parties and possibly signed by the attorneys as well, but the attorney almost never signs without the client.  In this case there was no litigation, and thus no appearance by attorney on behalf of the client in a court case that would give him the authority to act on behalf of his client.  I am not sure what authority Seiwert would have to sign a final settlement document on behalf of the City.  I am not aware of any ordinance that gives Corporation Counsel the authority to enter into contracts (which is what a settlement agreement is) on behalf of the City of Indianapolis.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Congressman Wants Invitation to Snowden to Speak on Privacy Issues to Be Withdrawn

Politico reports:
Rep. Mike Pompeo doesn’t want Edward Snowden on the schedule at South by Southwest, and he’s taking the event’s planners to task for inviting him in the first place.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas)
In a letter from Pompeo’s office, he requested the NSA leaker’s invitation to speak via telecast at the annual Texas event be withdrawn, lest it encourage “lawless behavior” among attendees.

 Mr. Snowden’s appearance would stamp the imprimatur of your fine organization on a man who ill deserves such accolades,” the Kansas Republican wrote. “Rewarding Mr. Snowden’s behavior in this way encourages the very lawlessness he exhibited.”

Snowden is set to appear at the Austin festival Monday at 11 a.m. for a discussion about personal privacy and surveillance with American Civil Liberties Union technologist Christopher Soghoian. The conversation will focus on the National Security Agency’s activities, and audience members will have a chance to ask Snowden questions.

Pompeo, who is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote that the inclusion of Snowden in the event’s lineup “undermines the very fairness and freedom that SXSW and the ACLU purport to foster.”

...

Pompeo outlined grievances against Snowden, such as caring more about personal fame than the cause he represents, and giving real whistleblowers a bad name. Snowden remains in exile in Russia.

“Certainly an organization of your caliber can attract experts on these topics with knowledge superior to a man who was hired as a systems administrator and whose only apparent qualification is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin,” Pompeo wrote.
Rep. Pompeo does not get it.  It is exactly because of members of Congress like him not doing his job in protecting the privacy rights of Americans from the NSA's snooping that Snowden's efforts became necessary.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Indiana Attorney General Vows to Defend State Law Banning Same Sex Marriage

This week came news that Kentucky's Attorney General wouldn't defend the Kentucky law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.  Instead, pursuant to the laws of that commonwealth, private counsel was appointed to defend the law in court.

Then yesterday came news that a legal challenge had been filed against Indiana's law which also defines marriage as between a man and a woman, therefore excluding same sex marriages. The Indianapolis Star reports:
Indiana’s law banning same-sex marriages and the recognition of such unions legally
Indiana Attorney General
Greg Zoeller
performed in other states is the latest to come under attack in federal court.
Four Indiana same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana challenging the state law, hoping to catch a recent wave of successful challenges to similar state laws.
Two of the couples — Melissa Love and Erin Brock of Jeffersonville, and Michael Drury and Lane Stumler of New Albany — want to get married in Indiana.
The two other couples — Jo Ann Dale and Carol Uebelhoer of Otisco, and Jennifer Redmond and Jana Kohorst of Jeffersonville — were married in other states and want their marriages recognized in Indiana.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office issued a press release that will undoubtedly disappoint folks who did not want to see Indiana's law defended in court:
Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced that his office will defend Indiana’s statutory marriage definition from a legal challenge filed today in federal court.  
“As Indiana's Attorney General I will represent our state and defend our statute now and on any appeal to the best of my skill and ability, as I swore an oath to do.  As state government’s lawyer, I must defend the state’s authority to define marriage at the state level within Indiana’s borders.  People of goodwill have sincere differences of opinion on the marriage definition, but I hope Hoosiers can remain civil to each other as this legal question is litigated in the federal court,” Zoeller said.
...
I don't have a problem with Zoeller defending Indiana's marriage law in court. That is his job.  My problem with Zoeller is that he is a hypocrite, in the past refusing to defend in court Indiana laws he didn't like, such as ones allowing for expungement of crimnal convictions and the immigration law.  While it is understandable that at times the Attorney General might be uncomfortable defending certain laws, there is an opt out provision in the code that allows other counsel to be appointed in such situations.  Instead, Zoeller has steadfastly refused to exercise that provision, leaving the state laws undefended in court.  Such an approach gives Zoeller an absolute veto over legislation, a veto that cannot be overridden, not by the Governor, not even by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly.

It is exactly because of Zoeller power grab that members of his own party in the Indiana Senate this session authored a measure to allow the General Assembly to hire counsel to defend laws when the Attorney General refuses.  Another bill aimed at curbing Zoeller's claimed authority was introduced during the 2013 session.

See also:  

Saturday, January 11, 2014, State Senate Bill Seeks to Check Power of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller 

Monday, December 30, 2013, Attorney General Zoeller Encroaches on Governor's Power as He Lobbies for More Federal Funding for School Resource Officers

Monday, October 28, 2013, Indiana Attorney General Refuses to Defend the Constitutionality of Expungement Law

Tuesday, February 12, 2013, Bill Highlights Tension Between Indiana General Assembly and Attorney General

Saturday, September 8, 2012, Republican State Senators Spar with Attorney General Over Representation in Indiana Immigration Case; AG Zoeller Claims He is Both State's Attorney and Client

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Purdue Backs Down, Correctly Allows God to Be Mentioned in Plaque Language Written by Donor

WTHR reports:
Purdue University has reversed course and decided to allow an inscription on a dedication plaque that  includes a reference to "God's physical laws."   
Purdue graduates Michael and Cynthia McCracken had threatened to sue the university
unless it accepted the language on a plaque recognizing their $12,500 donation to the school.  
...  
The Journal & Courier reports the plaque states in part: "Dr. Michael McCracken: 'To all those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God's physical laws and innovation of practical solutions.'"  
The public university initially rejected the plaque's use of the word "God," saying it could be considered a government endorsement of religion.
As I pointed out previously, Purdue wasn't violating the Establishment clause by allowing "God" to be included in the plaque and in fact were probably violating the Free Exercise clause by y giving the McCrackens the right to create their own inscription then denying it because they wanted a reference to "God" in it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Possible Suspension of USA Cricket Association May Doom Indianapolis' Hosting of National Cricket Tournament

As the cost of building the World Sports Park (i.e. Ballard's Cricket Park) appears to be rising from $6 million to $8 million, the City's plan to host the four day 2014 USA Cricket Association National Men's Cricket Tournament beginning on Saturday, August 23, 2014 appears to be increasingly in doubt.  The dysfunctional USACA appears to be on the verge of being suspended by the governing international body.  ESPN CricInfo reports:
The American Cricket Federation has submitted a formal request to the ICC to recognise the ACF as a governing body for cricket in the United States in a strategic move that ACF chief executive Jamie Harrison admits may cause the ICC to suspend the USA's Associate membership for the third time in a decade. Harrison says that another suspension will allow USA to clean up its own domestic structure.

"What we're asking is for the ICC to acknowledge that there are multiple governing bodies in the United States, which is undeniable, and then to apply its own rules and constitution to that situation," Harrison told ESPNcricinfo on Wednesday. "If you read the ICC rules and look at the immediate precedent of what happened in Switzerland, the ICC has no wriggle room here." 

According to the ICC guidelines for Associate Membership, "members must satisfy that they are the sole recognised governing body for cricket in the country".... Previous battles waged in the USA between unrecognised governing bodies and the USA Cricket Association resulted in a pair of ICC suspensions but reconciliations were eventually achieved to allow USA to be readmitted into the ICC fold. Harrison has no intention for that this time around. 

"There will be no merger," Harrison said. "We're not giving an inch. We're going to see that out to the end. We're not talking to USACA, and we're prepared for what comes down the road." 

The ACF announced on Wednesday that the Commonwealth Cricket League, the largest league in America with 72 teams competing in New York City, had become the newest ACF member. It's another dent to USACA, particularly in light of their 2012 tax return revealing $3 million in debt and membership fees that were down 47% from 2011 to 2012. Harrison says that USACA's "toxic brand" makes them incapable of recovering and that they're holding back cricket in the country from developing. If the ICC recognises the ACF, Harrison believes it will open the door for American cricket to regenerate. 

Days earlier, ESPN cricket writer Peter Della Penna wrote another article looking at USACA's finances that should be a warning to Indianapolis about doing business with USACA:
New light has been shed on the USA Cricket Association's financial status with the revelation that the organisation was more than $3 million in debt at the end of the 2012 financial year, a 59% rise in debt compared to 2011. One of the major contributing factors to the mounting debt was a series of legal battles that resulted in more than half a million dollars paid to the board's defence lawyers in 2012. 

...

In the wake of the disenfranchisement of two-thirds of the member leagues ahead of the 2012 election, USACA has repeatedly claimed that the 32 leagues that were stripped of voting rights, due to not being "members in good standing", were still officially members. On its website, USACA states that as of 2012 it has 51 member leagues. The evidence in the 2012 tax return contradicts that. Membership dues in 2012 totaled just $68,959, down 47% from the $128,816 that USACA received in similar payments in 2011. It also means that USACA spent almost 10 times more on legal fees than they received in membership revenue in 2012.

Spending on domestic competitions, used to prepare and evaluate players for the national team, also dipped sharply. USACA spent $112,505 on domestic tournaments in 2010, the last year that full-fledged national U-15, U-19, men's and women's championships were held. That figure dropped to $76,000 in 2011 and was down to $46,487 in 2012 when USACA's only domestic championship was a single 50-over match between Eastern and Western Conference teams in Florida that November. 

USACA's total debt went from $1,899,368 at the end of 2011 to $3,023,280 in 2012. The USA national team's on-field activity was cut in half from six ICC tournaments to three, resulting in a dip in tournament costs from $640,050 to $364,010 from 2011 to 2012. Development spending stayed somewhat steady, dipping only slightly from $72,985 to $68,522 from 2011 to 2012.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Indiana Secretary of State Needs to Investigate Missing 3,700 Votes in Warrick County

Over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh picks up on an interesting story that hasn't gotten much play but should send off alarm bells and should trigger an investigation by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson:
Warrick County's Clerk Sarah Redmon has just confirmed that in the 2012 general election the clerk's office neglected to count about 3,700 votes that had been cast during early voting in that county. That number represents 90% of the in-person votes cast prior
to the election during early voting. According to Redmon, the missed votes were discovered by a Democratic precinct committeeman just recently. A technician who worked for Indianapolis-based MicroVote incorrectly uploaded the early votes according to the report. Warrick County Democratic Chairman Kevin Derr said there was no cause for alarm because the untabulated votes wouldn't have affected the outcome of any races. These kind of mistakes are inexcusable. Thousands of voters were disenfranchised by the negligent act of this voting software company's employee. And then they wonder why people no longer trust the votes tabulated by electronic voting machines. 
Make no mistake about it, the loss of 3,700 votes is an enormous mistake.  Warrick County only has 40,000 registered voters.  If only 50% of them voted in 2012, that would mean that nearly 20% of the votes were not counted.  I have my doubt about the claim that no races were affected by the missing votes.

Nonetheless, that overlooks a more important fact.  If one MicroVote technician could make these votes disappear by accident, what would stop that technician from doing it on purpose? But more importantly, what would stop a technician from simply switching votes from one side to the other, thus making fraud almost non-detectable given that the number of votes would show as being correct.

While I'm all for modernizing our voting systems (the days of paper ballots after all featured plenty of fraud), there is no substitute for a paper backup.  One thing, I have run into though here is that Clerk's Office's will try to block any outside review of that paper backup to confirm electronic numbers.  After the special election regarding the Wishard referendum in 2009, I tried to get paper ballots to confirm the preposterous numbers they were reporting in some of the precincts, including the ones I post below:
Ward 29, Precinct 15 179-0
Ward 27, Precinct 06 148-0
Ward 19, Precinct 03 134-0
Ward 23, Precinct 05 118-0
Ward 01, Precinct 03 112-0
Ward 1, Precinct 7 193-1
Ward 23, Precinct 7 162-1
Ward 6, Precinct 2 146-1
Wash., Precinct 38 117-1
Ward 1, Precinct 2 108-1
When I made my response, the Marion County Clerk's Office claimed that federal law prohibits a review of the paper ballots even though there is nobody's name on any of the ballots.   I'm not so sure they are right about the law, but didn't follow up though I did write about it.  I have my doubts as media outlets have done reviews of paper ballots before, including most notably the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

As to the Warrick County vote fiasco, Secretary of State Lawson should order an investigation not only of what happened in Warrick County but also as to the vote counts in other counties.  There is no reason to believe that this is an isolated situation.