Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Charlie White Case Demonstrates Indiana's Unequal Justice System

On Monday, the Indiana Court of Appeals handed down a decision in the Charlie White appeal throwing out three of the six charges for which White was convicted, and affirming the remaining three.

Tossed were two of the charges due to double jeopardy reasons and the "perjury"conviction for White
Charlie White
supposedly lying on his marriage certificate. The Court did not find the address on the form to be a "material fact," a necessary requirement for perjury.  It's astonishing that the trial judge didn't throw out that charge from the beginning.  What I find surprising though is that the Indiana Court of Appeals didn't also throw out the equally absurd "theft" charges.   Supposedly White "stole" money from the Town of Fishers by being paid for work performed on the council when he no longer resided at the original address from which he was elected.  There was no attempt to remove him pursuant to procedures that had been established and there was no dispute that White performed the work.  Fishers certainly did not consider itself to be a victim and had had no problem paying White, which pay was later returned.  As any employment attorney would have advised Fishers officials, if someone performs work, the Town must pay that person or face a law that mandates treble damages and attorney's fees.

The White case has become emblematic of the two tiered system of justice Indiana employs.  If a politician is politically popular, at least with one party or the other, the parties will work together to protect the politician from prosecution.  If a politician ticks off the power brokers in both parties, as White did, they will come after that politician with gusto, leaving no rock unturned.  Thus, we had special prosecutors, Republican John Dowd and Democrat Daniel Siglar, wading through White's marriage and mortgage records in a zeal to find anything they could to throw at White.

Meanwhile, former Senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh continue to vote using Indianapolis addresses while clearly not residing at those addresses.  Pursuant to the White case, they are committing felonies every time they cast a ballot using those Indianapolis addresses.   Their combined felonies would dwarf even what White was accused of, yet do charges get filed against them?  Of course, not. The irony is that the three judges that affirmed the vote fraud conviction of White were appointed by former Governor Bayh who commits the exact same offense.

But if the Lugar and Bayh examples aren't enough to convince you of Indiana's unequal justice system, how about the saga of former Superintendent Tony Bennett?  An investigator in the Indiana Inspector General's Office concluded that numerous prosecutable felonies had been committed by Bennett and members of his staff.  The information on the Republican Bennett was turned over to two Democratic Prosecutors, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett.  Both apparently have declined to prosecute despite what appears to have been a case of high level public felonious conduct handed to them on a silver platter.

What is the difference between Tony Bennett and Charlie White?  Well, certainly the allegations against Bennett were far more serious than those lodged against White  The other difference is that Bennett, unlike White, had not burned bridges with powerful Republicans.

The lesson is if you want to avoid prosecution in this state, don't tick off those in political power.   If you have friends in high places, there is hardly anything you can do which will result in prosecution.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Antarctica Gains Record Ice Contradicting 95% of Climate Models; Alarmists Still Claim It is Consistent With Anthropogenic Global Warming

The Guardian reports:
While Arctic sea ice continues to decline, Antarctic levels are confounding the world’s most trusted climate models with record highs for the third year running....    
 Antarctic ice floes extended further than ever recorded this southern winter, confounding the world’s most-trusted climate models.
“It’s not expected,” says Professor John Turner, a climate expert at the British Antarctic Survey. “The world’s best 50 models were run and 95% of them have Antarctic sea ice decreasing over the past 30 years.”
The winter ice around the southern continent has been growing relatively constantly since records began in 1979. The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), which monitors sea ice using satellite data, said this week that the year’s maximum was 1.54m sq km (595,000 sq miles) above the 1981-2010 average. The past three winters have all produced record levels of ice.
The growth of Antarctic sea ice has been observed since satellite records began in 1979.

Actually not only has Antarctica ice grown, it's now at a 35 year record level.   Still despite the fact that 95% of the climate models wrongly predicted that Antarctica ice would shrink due to anthropogenic global warming (AGW), some alarmists were quick to claim the change is consistent with AGW.  In response to the news, Ian Simmonds, a professor in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne stated:
“It seems counterintuitive, but the growth in the Antarctic sea ice is consistent with global warming and the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. There is strong evidence to indicate changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are leading to region-specific changes in climate,” Simmonds explains. 
“The greenhouse effect is strengthening the westerlies over the Southern Ocean and this could be causing the increase in the Antarctic sea ice zone. Ultimately ocean warming will counteract this but it may be a number of years before that takes place.”
One game with conspiracy theorists is that when part of the conspiracy is proven wrong, they simply move to another part of the theory. The climate alarmists do exactly the same thing.  With AGW theory undermined at the South Pole, other alarmists instead shift to trying to scare people about what's happening at the North Pole.  After ice increased in the Arctic Ocean, it's now melting again.  It may eventually be free of ice.  Catastrophe! 

Of course, the Arctic Ocean has been ice free before, before man ever began adding CO2 to the atmosphere.  In fact what is normal for the history of the Planet Earth is that the Arctic Ocean is free of ice during the summer.   Facts...they are inconvenient things.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Same Sex Marriage Legal Battle Continues in Florida

Down here in Tampa visiting the folks over Christmas and eyewitness to a debate over the legality of same sex marriage.  Let me lay the background.  On August 21, 2014, Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida handed down a decision finding that Florida's ban on same sex marriage was a violation of the United States Constitution. 

Judge Robert Hinkle,
Northern District of Florida
In lawyer speak, the case heard by Judge Hinkle was a facial challenge to the constitutionality of the law, not an "as applied" challenge.  The latter is a constitutional challenge in which the plaintiffs claim that when the law is applied to their particular facts, the law is unconstitutional. But with another set of facts, the law could be applied constitutionally and, therefore, the law is not struck down as unconstitutional across the board.   A facial challenge on the other hand does not depend on the particular facts presented by the plaintiffs, but is a wholesale finding that a law is unconstitutional.  On the facial challenge, Judge Hinkle found that Florida's same sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.

Judge Hinkle stayed his opinion until January 5th to allow the State of Florida to pursue an appeal.  While it has not been heard by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, that Court refused to extend the stay beyond the January 5th date.  Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court, through Justice Thomas, denied the request by the Florida Attorney General for an extension of the stay to prevent the state from recognizing the marriages of eight gay and lesbian couples.

Confusion now reigns in Florida over the effect of Judge Hinkle's decision.  Or pretend confusion, I would say.   Opponents of same sex marriage, say the decision only applies to the litigants involved in the case or, at the most, Washington County, where the lawsuit originated.  Proponents of same sex marriage say that the decision applies all throughout Florida   Lawyers for Washington County have filed an  "emergency motion" asking Judge Hinkle to clarify his decision.

But Washington County and the State of Florida found an ally for the insipid conclusion that Judge Hinkle's decision only has limited effect, a memo from the well-known Florida law firm Greenberg Traurig.  That legal advice is summed up in the Florida Court Clerks & Comptroller's Association statement:
“The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers’ opinion regarding the legality of issuing same-gender marriage licenses in the State of Florida, as previously stated by our general counsel, remains unchanged. Numerous cases support the holding that the denial of the state’s motion to stay by the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday was not a decision on the issue of same-gender marriage.

“Our general counsel has advised us that established case law makes it clear that the order of a trial court, including the Federal District Court in this case, is not binding on any other court. Further, it is the understanding of the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers that the only courts that can bring judicial clarity to this question through a binding, statewide decision are the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court or a Florida District Court of Appeals. 
“Absent a ruling from one of those three bodies, our opinion, as previously presented by our general counsel, will not change.

“The Clerks of the Court remain committed to their duties as constitutional officers. And, to further gain clarity, our general counsel has recommended that the Washington County Clerk consider filing an emergency motion with the Federal District Court seeking clarification as to who the court’s injunction was intended to apply.” 

Greenberg Traurig later reiterated its position:
“The denial of the stay by the U.S. Supreme Court does not change our advice to the Florida Association of Court Clerks & Comptrollers that Judge Hinkle’s ruling only applies to the Washington County clerk,” Hilarie Bass, Greenberg Traurig’s Miami-based co-president, said in a statement. “The denial of a stay is not a ruling on the merits of the marriage-equality issue.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article4807866.html#storylink=cpy
The law firm is completely right that an order of the Northern District of Florida is persuasive precedent, but is not legally binding statewide or on other state and federal courts.   However, the law firm is completely wrong on the nonsense that the order only applies to Washington County.  As any first year law student will tell you the decision is binding on all counties that make up the Northern District of Florida, which includes Washington and 22 other northern Florida counties.  The denials of stays by higher courts does not jurisdictionally increase the legally binding effect of Judge Hinkle's decision.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

President Obama Right to Reverse Policy on Cuba, Wrong Not to Demand Human Rights Concessions and More Freedom for Cubans

This week President Barack Obama announced that the United States would take steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba, which has been subject of a trade embargo and tourism ban that has lasted for over 53 years.  President Obama is right that it has been a policy that's been a resounding failure.  From his speech last Wednesday:
Raul Castro
Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else.  And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.  Today, Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago. 
... I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.  Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  Even if that worked -– and it hasn’t for 50 years –- we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos....
Most Americans agree that our policy towards Cuba has been a failure.   President Obama should be applauded for making a much needed change that could have negative political consequences for his party, particularly in all-important Florida which has a powerful Cuban-American voting bloc.   What is maddening though is that President Obama forged this historic change in policy while obtaining no policy concessions which would have helped the Cuban people. A CNN editorial by Frida Ghitas, a columnist for The Miami Herald, sums it up well:
Let's be clear about this: The embargo on Cuba should have been lifted a long time ago. And yet it's hard to avoid the impression that although President Barack Obama had an overwhelmingly strong hand in negotiations, he played it badly. Badly, that is, for the sake of the Cuban people.
Yet despite Washington having significant leverage as the Cuban economy teeters and low oil prices threaten to sever its Venezuelan lifeline, the United States secured virtually no meaningful concessions.
Cuba remains one of the world's most politically oppressive countries. At the very least, therefore, the agreement to restore relations should have included substantial commitments on Havana's part to relax the state's grip. But it did not.
Of course, the release of the unjustly incarcerated Alan Gross is welcome. But his release should have been viewed not as a bargaining chip, but as a prerequisite to any deal at all. Instead, there was a separate exchange of spies, which Cuba treated as a major victory. The only concession that has been reported upon is Havana's agreement to release about 50 imprisoned dissidents. This leaves millions of Cubans still under the thumb of a repressive state.   
With that in mind, the main goal of U.S. policy toward Havana should be helping the Cuban people live in prosperity and freedom, able to enjoy the benefits of modernity, complete with the right to free expression and participation in the global economy. By beginning to lift the embargo, material conditions in Cuba are likely to improve -- and that is most welcome -- but the process of introducing political freedoms may or may not advance.
So, as the United States moves to dismantle the old, failed embargo, let's hope it plays its hand with greater skill on behalf of the Cuban people moving forward, and extracts from the government verifiable progress on human rights and individual freedoms. It is time to help Cuba and its people rejoin the modern world.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lack of Funding for Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Show Continued Misplaced Priorities of Ballard Administration

Probably nothing highlights the misplaced priorities of the Ballard administration more than its approach to animal welfare in this city.  The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
The largest animal shelter in Indiana is failing to meet the basic needs of thousands of animals in its care despite recommendations dating back more than a decade, a recent study has found. 
A report commissioned this year by the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety has found that few changes have been made at the city's Animal Care and Control since a 2003 task force called for better medical care, increased staffing and clearer euthanasia procedures.
The report's authors say conditions are so dire that the shelter may be violating the city's own animal cruelty ordinances. 
Animal Care and Control serves 17,000 animals a year. It has gone through 10 directors in 12 years and just hired a new one. Its lone veterinarian position has been vacant since March. At any given time, the shelter's 12 animal care technicians tend to more than 500 animals. 
Decisions to euthanize a wounded animal are routinely made without a basic medical workup. 
The city doesn't budget for food for the animals. Instead, it relies on a hodgepodge of donations that veterinarians say is detrimental to the animals' well-being.
Whenever something likes this comes up, the answer of the Ballard administration is always the same:  blame property tax caps and suggest there needs to be a new "revenue stream," i.e. higher taxes or fees to support the service.   Predictably city officials follow that script:
City officials told The Indianapolis Star that many of the problems at the shelter stem from revenue issues caused by property tax caps and the national recession. 
The article then notes that Valerie Washington, deputy director of the Department of Public Safety, lamented the fact that while police and fire has "numerous revenue streams," animal care and control is funded out of the general fund.

So what?  The problem is not where the funding comes from for Indianapolis animal care. The problem is that it is  simply is not a priority with this administration.  If Fido and Fluffy had the money to hire Barnes & Thornburg to lobby city officials, you can bet they'd finally listen.   Or, if the Ballard administration could think of some way to outsource animal care to a politically-connected private contractor, you can bet they'd find million in taxpayer dollars to make it happen.

It all comes down to the continuing misplaced priorities of the Ballard administration.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Angie's List Stock Drops in Value by 78% in 1 1/2 Years

Today Angie's List stock closed at $6.16.  Nearly eleven months ago, on January 31, 2014, Angie's List stock was at $17.94 a share.    On July 5, 2013, Angie's List stock reached its zenith at $28 a share.  Angie's List stock has dropped by 78% in 1 1/2 years.

Navistar to Close Foundry; Breaks Commitment to Indianapolis Taxpayers...Again

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
Navistar International Corp. plans to close its foundry in Indianapolis, eliminating 180 workers, the Lisle, Illinois-based manufacturer announced Monday morning.

The foundry, located on the city’s east side at 5565 Brookville Road, produces engine blocks and heads. Navistar said the closure process will take place during the first half of 2015 and be completed in the summer.
People forget that just a few years ago, the City decided to grant Navistar a subsidy after it had failed to live up to a previous commitment.  This is what I wrote in October of 2011:
Listening to WIBC on the way home tonight, I heard Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard respond to the Litebox fiasco with assurances he would hold the company accountable for the jobs that were promised.  Ballard cited the example of his making a company pay back $5 million when it failed to live up to its job promises.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Star Columnist Mentions "Leading" Leading Indianapolis Republican Mayoral Candidates

Indianapolis Star Columnist Russ Pulliam pens a column about the quest for a Republican candidate to continue Mayor Ballard's RINO agenda:
All they want for Christmas is another Greg Ballard.
Marion County Republicans need someone to match up with former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett in next year’s race for mayor.   
An eager, ambitious candidate is hard to find.
“I can’t back somebody who doesn’t want to run,” says influential Republican attorney Bob Grand. 
Stop right there.  If Barnes & Thornburg Bob Grand enthusiastically backs someone it is for one Grand's agenda is simply more corporate welfare for his law firm and his clients and if taxes need to be jacked up on hard working men and women to do it, he has absolutely no problem with that.
reason and one reason only...he's trying to buy the office and will expect to control like a puppet whomever is elected.  The legacy of the Ballard administration is that from Day 1, Ballard turned his administration over to the profiteers like Grand and the taxpayers have paid a steep price because of that. 

Of course, Grand is widely despised in many if not most conservative corners of Indiana.  His mere association with a campaign turns off a lot of rank and file Republicans.  If you think not, one need only take a look at Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold's campaign for Treasurer.  He should have won easily, but his association with Grand and Attorney Dan Dumezich, Lake County's version of Grand, sunk his quest for victory at the 2014 Republican convention held in Fort Wayne .  Unfortunately, the beneficiary of the Grand/Dumezich backlash, Treasurer-elect Kelly Mitchell, immediately sold out and began accepting Grand's financial help after Seybold lost  That's the way Grand works.  If he bets on the wrong side in the election, he tries to buy the winner during the transition.  We saw that with Ballard's election victory in 2007.

Unfortunately, conservative Pulliam has a peculiar blindspot when it comes to Bob Grand who has become rich off of taxpayer money driven by a RINO, anti-conservative agenda.  Pulliam has previously penned a warm and fuzzy piece about Grand.  Apparently Pulliam thinks that a man lining his and his friends with millions of our tax dollars is "generous" when a few dollars are kicked back to charity.

Next, Pulliam turns his attention to Republicans he apparently he hopes will run:
Possible Republican candidates have included state Sen. Jim Merritt and Southside civic
Jeff Cardwell
leader Jeff Cardwell, who is now a top staff member with Gov. Mike Pence.
Cardwell has a long record of community service, helping build homes for needy families, as well as leadership in economic development on the Southside. “Cardwell is a successful businessman,” says former GOP county chairman Mike Murphy. “It is enticing to have a mayor who has actually run a business. He’s humble. He gets along with people. He has a lot of integrity.” 
I've written about Cardwell before.  Yes, the man I knew before 2007 had integrity.  He stood up to the corrupt GOP establishment.  He backed non-slated candidates and stood for conservative values.  Then something happened to Cardwell when he got elected.  He tossed aside his fiscal conservative background to become one of the biggest supporter of more taxes on Indy residents and of more corporate welfare.  If Cardwell voted against any of Mayor Ballard's 40 plus tax and fee increases (which now includes an internet tax and increase in the storm water fees) or the mayor's corporate welfare proposals, I'm not aware of it.  I've never seen a politician transform almost overnight and unfortunately in a negative way,  as Cardwell did.

Of course, Pulliam also mentions State Senator Jim Merritt.  Merritt has been a fervent supporter of everything Mayor Ballard did and chaired his 2011 re-election campaign.  If Pulliam thinks Indy conservatives are going to enthusiastically back Merritt he is in for a big surprise.

Sen. Jim Merritt
Contrary to what Pulliam apparently thinks, Mayor Ballard's record of corporate welfare and never ending tax increases was something that made him incredibly vulnerable.  Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Hogsett undoubtedly sensed that Ballard running for re-election gave him an enormous opportunity to put together a coalition of Democrats and fiscally conservative Republicans, wearing of Ballard's tax increases and reckless spending,  to win.  That's exactly the strategy Hogsett employed against another Bill Hudnut, when he defeated the popular Indianapolis Mayor in his race for Secretary of State in 1990.

My guess is that neither Cardwell or Merritt will run. Both have seen the electoral numbers in the county and know it was an uphill climb.  Both would be stained by a Ballard record that could easily be ripped apart by an even semi-skilled opponent, assuming he or she is properly funded which Hogsett will surely be.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rolls Royce Keeps Tax Breaks While Laying Off Workers from Indianapolis Plant

Kara Kenney of WRTV reports:
Indianapolis - Rolls-Royce is continuing to receive tax breaks despite laying off hundreds of employees over the past year, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.

Effective Dec.5, Rolls-Royce eliminated positions for 200 operations employees in Marion County.

Earlier this year, on Jan. 6, the engine maker had a reduction in force of 330 positions that impacted both salary and production employees, according to Joel Reuter, vice president  of communications for Rolls-Royce of North America.


As part of its Amended Memorandum of Agreement with the City of Indianapolis signed in Feb. 2013, the company agreed to relocate thousands of jobs to the Rolls-Royce Meridian Center in downtown Indianapolis as part of its “advanced manufacturing operations retention initiative in Marion County (the Tibbs/Raymond Complex Initiative).”

Marc Lotter, spokesperson for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, explained a tax abatement is not forgiving existing taxes, but only lessening a percentage of taxes a company would pay because of a new investment.
Huh?  Anyway Lotter goes on to say that Rolls Royce's employment level of 4,300 is sufficient enough to keep the abatement, even with the layoffs of 530 employees.  Funny... when the abatement was handed out, Mayor Ballard bragged about how it would create 100 new jobs.  Froma March 6, 2012 press release issued by Develop Indy:

Indianapolis, Ind. – Mayor Greg Ballard today was joined by executives from Rolls-Royce to announce that the company will invest $42 million in a new advanced manufacturing facility in Indianapolis, creating over 100 new jobs by 2014.

“Today’s announcement reflects Rolls-Royce’s confidence in the stable business climate of Indianapolis,” said Mayor Ballard. “This environment is a large part of why Indianapolis is competitive in the global economy. The addition of over 100 new jobs provides opportunities for our skilled workforce. We are thrilled Rolls-Royce has chosen to expand in Indianapolis.”
So we taxpayers are not, as promised in 2011, subsidizing 100 new jobs but rather a company that cut 530 jobs?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Angie's List Agrees to Pay "Undetermined Amount" If It Reneges on Job Promises in Subsidy Deal

Only in Indianapolis would city officials have the chutzpah to put taxpayers on the hook for a multimillion dollar subsidy deal for a company, which has never made money in its nearly 20 year history, based on an assurance that the company will put an "undisclosed amount" in an escrow account if it fails to live up to promises.  Will Indianapolis council members at least demand to know the amount of the promise before they approve the the bond?  How is the public not entitled to know the amount?

In a lengthy story on the subject, the Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
If Angie’s List fails to live up to promises fueling a taxpayer-subsidized headquarters expansion, the company will pay an undetermined amount into an escrow account for the city’s benefit.

Angie’s List also agrees to donate up to $1 million to east-side not-for-profits if the company headquarters is relocated.

Those protections are built into a $17 million economic-development deal announced in October, two weeks after The Financial Times reported Angie’s List had hired investment bankers to explore a sale. A bond issue for the deal still requires City-County Council approval.
The company says it will employ 2,800 people in Indianapolis by the end of 2019, but the city sought extra protection of its incentives because of the sale “rumors,” said Larry Gigerich, managing director of the site-selection firm Ginovus, which represents Angie’s List in its dealings with the city.


Angie’s List would get $10 million from the city for its redevelopment effort, plus take title to the Ford building, which is currently owned by Indianapolis Public Schools.

The bond under consideration by the council would be backed by revenue to the downtown tax-increment financing district.

Angie’s List would receive $9.6 million of the bond proceeds to help pay for a new parking garage on an adjacent two-acre parcel, which the company bought early this year in anticipation of the deal, Gigerich said.

The company would also receive a $400,000 grant for infrastructure improvements. That money would come from existing Department of Public Works funds, through a deal to be worked out next year, said the city’s director of strategic initiatives, Kurt Fullbeck.

Another $6.75 million in bond proceeds would go to IPS, which uses the Ford building as a warehouse, for the district’s relocation expenses. Then the city would turn the building over to Angie’s List, which would invest an estimated $23 million in renovations, Gigerich said.
[Mayor] Ballard's office wouldn’t say how much could be recovered through escrow.

“There is no set amount that might be required,” Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said. “It should be noted an escrow payment is not a penalty. It is a sign of commitment by the company to take the necessary steps to come into compliance with an agreement.”

The amount to be deposited in escrow would be determined through a formula that gives a 50-percent weight to the head count, 25 percent to the capital investment, and 25 percent to wages.
Readers should be reminded that Angie's List laid off nearly 100 salespeople last August, just two months before inking a multi-million dollar subsidy deal with Indianapolis and state officials.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Can an Independent Candidate Win the Indianapolis' Mayor's Office?

Yesterday, Ten Point Coalition leader Rev. Charles Harrison has filed for an exploratory committee to run for Indianapolis Mayor.   It is still up in the air whether Harrison will run as a Democrat or an independent, but the betting is, if he runs, it will be as an independent.

Rev. Charles Harrison
Can a non-major party candidate win the Mayor's Office in Indianapolis?    Normally I think such candidates are like political Don Quixotes, tilting at windmills.  But having said that, the Indianapolis political climate is open to such a challenge.  Locally we have two parties whose leadership and elected officials are completely dominated by an elite group of political insiders, i.e. attorneys from big law firms, government contractors, and developers.  I call them "profiteers," those who have used political connections to become wealthy from taxpayer dollars.

Here is how it works.  Politicians vote to give taxpayer money to the profiteers who then reward the politicians with political contributions, perks, contracts for their friends, and cushy jobs for the politicians when they leave office.  While profiteering has increased exponentially during the administration of  Republican Mayor Greg Ballard, both local party establishments strongly support the system and will fight tooth and nail anyone who dares advocate for his or constituents against the profiteers.  No better example exists than council member Republican Christine Scales who is being targeted for opposing Ballard's never ending tax increases.  Where did the GOP establishment find the candidate, Tim Craft, to run against Scales?  Not surprisingly, Craft works for CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), a commercial real estate firm which has received millions in contracts from the Ballard administration.

The aforementioned taxpayer giveaways has led to a very surprising right-left coalition. Both conservatives and liberals agree that the city's leaders have terribly skewed priorities that have led to city services being neglected in favor of corporate welfare. When the money for city services comes up short, the answer is always for raise taxes on Indianapolis residents to pay for those services.  Then that new tax revenue gets diverted to yet more corporate welfare.

A message against misplaced priorities and corporate welfare could have enormous resonance with the voters.  But right now, that political impact of that message exists only in kinetic form, i.e. potential.  The average Indianapolis voter still doesn't fully comprehend what their local pols have been doing.  Those voters would have to be educated and that's always a difficult thing to do during an election.

An independent candidate would have to be skilled at driving the political debate, using the media, including the newer methods of social media, to make the election about misplaced priorities, corporate welfare and both parties never ending desire to raise taxes.  The candidate would have to do all this while opposed by the Indianapolis Star, which as the state's largest newspaper, is not only an enthusiastic supporter of corporate welfare but has also been been a beneficiary of it.

In short, the independent candidate would have to persuade voters that the local Democratic and Republican party organizations are in cahoots to pursue corporate welfare polices that make the rich richer at the expense of working men and women who are struggling to pay their bills.  It is that populist message that could unite the conservative and liberal voters in a tenuous coalition.  Creating that coalition and keeping it focused on the common ground that joins them, rather than their philosophical differences on policy, would be a challenge.

Could Harrison pull that off as an independent candidate?  Possibly.  It would be tough, but the potential is there.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Election Data Show GOP Indianapolis Council Electoral Advantage Has Shrank from 15-10 to 13-12

I had some time to look at analyze the 2014 Marion County election results with respect to the Indianapolis Council District Maps drawn by local GOP operative David Brooks.  The results are interesting.

First some background. When Brooks redid the districts following the most recent census, he used 2010 election results to design districts that were expected to provide a 15-10 Republican majority in the districts, a majority that was large enough to withstand the expected win by the Democrats of the four at-large seats a virtual inevitability because of that party's dominance of the county as a whole.  Of course, since Brooks drew the map, the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly eliminated the four at large seats, which following the 2015 election will reduce that body from 29 to 25 members.

Some additional notes.  The 2010 and 2014 elections most closely resemble the turnout one would expect in the municipal elections. Republicans generally do a lot better in Marion County with lower turnout.  2014 is a superior race to use than 2010 simply because it is newer.  The 2010 and 2014 elections, however, are a bit of an aberration in that they were excellent Republican years.  So one can expect the results are skewed somewhat more favorable to the GOP than they would be in a more normal election.

I used the Marion County Auditor's race, a low-profile, straight head-to-head contest (no pesky Libertarians messing up my numbers) between a Republican and Democrat to create a 2014 GOP baseline in the 25 districts.  The results tracked closely the 2010 results, with the Republican advantage sharply bouncing back in the council districts after a much less favorable 2012 presidential election years.  However, two council districts projected to be Republican using 2010 numbers, remained underwater in 2014.  District 2 located declined from 51.98% in 2010 to 49.78% in 2014.  Also, District 16, a south Center Township district which edges into Perry and Wayne Townships also flipped. Brooks had the district baseline of 51.55% using 2010 numbers, but the baseline dropped to 49.13% this year.

The worst part of the numbers is that the GOP will be defending scores of districts.  The Democrats have strong majorities in 10 districts, i.e. not a single one of which has less than a 59% Democratic baseline.  Republicans meanwhile only have five districts with a 59% or more Republican baseline. Of the other 10 districts drawn by Brooks to be Republican, here are the baselines.

District 2   49.78%
District 4   57.01%
District 3   53.95%
District 5   55.08%
District 6   55.15%
District 15  55.02
District 16  49.13%
District 19  52.5%
District 21  50.75%
District 22  54.78%

Translation:  If the Democrats improve turnout, they not only could have a majority on the council, the Democrats could have a supermajority.

I'm sorry I don't have information on where the councilors live and how these numbers will affect those councilors and the candidates who might oppose them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

AP Exclusive Story Reports that Investigation of Bennett Strongly Supported His Prosecution and Members of His Staff

Bombshell report coming out of the AP:
A monthslong investigation into former Indiana schools  Superintendent Tony Bennett’s
Former State Superintendent Tony Bennett
use of state staff and resources during his 2012 re-election campaign found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges, according to a copy of the 95-page report viewed by The Associated Press.
Despite a recommendation that charges be pursued, Bennett has never faced prosecution for such charges — which could have carried up to 20 years in prison.   
The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general’s office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law. That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.
Bennett’s use of state resources during his failed 2012 re-election campaign came under scrutiny after the AP reported in September 2013 that Bennett had kept multiple campaign databases on Department of Education servers and that his calendar listed more than 100 instances of “campaign calls” during regular work hours. The AP also reported that Bennett had ordered his staff to dissect a speech by his Democratic opponent for inaccuracies — in apparent violation of Indiana election and ethics laws.   
The full Bennett investigation document shows more instances of campaigning with public resources than previously reported.   
From Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2012, the investigation found more than 100 violations of wire fraud laws. They included 56 violations by 14 Bennett employees and 21 days in which Bennett misused his state-issued SUV. Then-Chief of Staff Heather Neal had the most violations, 17.
In a section labeled “Scheme to Defraud,” the inspector general laid out its case, saying Bennett “while serving as the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Indiana, devised a scheme or artifice to defraud the State of Indiana of money and property by using State of Indiana paid employees and property, for his own personal gain, as well as for his own political benefit to be re-elected to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.”    
The violations fell into five categories: political campaign fundraising, responding to political opponent’s assertions, calendar political activity meetings, political campaign call appointments and general political campaign activity.
Through reviews of emails and calendar entries and more than 50 interviews with top Republicans and former staffers, investigator Charles Coffin determined that Bennett falsified mileage logs to cover fundraising trips and the use of two state workers as campaign drivers. The report also details 20 days on which Bennett used the SUV to go to local Republican fundraisers coded as “business” in his handwritten vehicle logs, as well as instances when trips to events billed as education-related also had calendar notes about political donors being present.  
Bennett also used tax dollars to send a staffer to attend the 2012 Republican Party convention on his behalf.
I'm not sure if I'm more bothered by the alleged conduct of Bennett and his staff or David Thomas for apparently covering up the seriousness of the allegations and the prosecutors for failing to prosecute.  It is stunning the zeal with which they went after Charlie White on dubious charges, but failed to prosecute Bennett or anyone in his administration with respect to these findings.

Indianapolis Posts Sixth Coldest November on Record, Coldest Since 1976

Last month, Indianapolis posted the sixth coldest November on record.  Here is the chart from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
           Year  Temp
           ----  ----
           1880  31.1
           1976  34.6
           1959  35.5
           1951  35.5
           1872  35.5
           2014  35.9
           1950  36.4
           1911  36.9 
           1873  36.9 
           1995  37.0

The Weather Channel notes many of the records set during the bone-chilling November we just experienced:
Thanks to a procession of cold fronts tapping air from Siberia and the North Pole in mid-November, 
several locations witnessed one of their coldest Novembers on record:

Record coldest November: Marquette (Negaunee Township), Michigan; Rhinelander, Wisconsin
- One of top three coldest Novembers: Alma, Georgia (2nd coldest); Jacksonville and Wauchula, Florida 
(each 3rd coldest)

Other locations chalked up a daily low temperature that set a record for the month of November, including:

- Casper, Wyoming: -27 (Nov. 12) and -26 (Nov. 13) each was colder than previous record of -21 
(Nov. 23, 1985)

- Burlington, Colorado: -10 (Nov. 13) bested previous record of -3 (Nov. 30, 2006) 

- Redmond, Oregon: -17 (Nov. 15) and -19 (Nov. 16) each was colder than previous record of -14 
(Nov. 15, 1955) 

- Joplin, Missouri: 6 (Nov. 18) bested previous record of 7 (Nov. 29, 1976)

Many other records were set for the coldest temperatures (highs or lows) so early in the season, including:

- Denver: Lows of -13 on Nov. 12 and -14 on Nov. 13

 - Lubbock, Texas: High of 27 on Nov. 12 

- Charleston, West Virginia: Low of 12 on Nov. 19 

- Charlotte, North Carolina: Low of 14 on Nov. 19 

- Jacksonville, Florida: Low of 24 on Nov. 20 

- Macon, Georgia: Earliest teens on record (17 on Nov. 19); previous earliest teens occurred on 
Nov. 20, 1914.

Finally, there were several record-long November streaks, including:

- Dallas/Ft. Worth: Six straight days of highs of 45 degrees or colder (Nov. 12-17)

- Chicago: 180 straight hours below freezing (late on Nov. 11 until late morning Nov. 19)

- Des Moines, Iowa: 10 straight days with subfreezing highs (Nov. 11-20).

Monday, December 1, 2014

TV Show Mocks Institution of Marriage With Same Sex Marriage Storyline

Last week, I happened to catch a show a new episode of which I hadn't seen in some time, Two and a Half Men.  Once at the top of the ratings for CBS, Two and Half Men has fallen on hard times.  The show's star, Charlie Sheen, left a few years back after personal issues led to his being killed off in the show.  He was replaced by Ashton Kutcher who plays Walden, a good-looking, nice guy billionaire who inexplicably has trouble finding a woman interested in marrying him.  In another odd twist, Jon Cryer's character, Alan, remains living at the Malibu beach house, formerly owned by his brother, Charlie (Sheen's character), which is now owned by Walden.

Ashton Kutcher
This is the last year of the show and it is clearly running on fumes.  But in a homage to the growing same sex marriage movement, the show's writers decided to have Walden and Alan get married. The impetus was Walden's desire for a baby to make his life more complete.  Since adoption would be made easier if he was married, and poor Walden couldn't find a woman interested in marrying him, Walden proposes to Alan, who accepts. 

The plot line of two heterosexual men getting married leads to hilarity.  Okay, not really.  The marriage of the two straight men does allows the writers to incorporate into the show an endless and tiresome stream of straight men acting like stereotypical gay men jokes. Alan, the more effeminate of the two, gets the bulk of those.

It should be noted that Two and a Half Men isn't the only show that incorporated a straight same sex couple getting married.  Several years ago in The New Adventures of Old Christine, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss' character married Wanda Sykes' character, Barb, to help her avoid deportation. Although Sykes in real life is a lesbian, Barb was straight.

The plots of the two shows are typical Hollywood in dismissing the importance of the institution of marriage and the personal and legal commitments involved in entering such a union.  But probably unbeknownst to politically tone deaf writers and actors (Cryer, Kutcher, Louis-Dreyfus and Sykes are, after all, on record as supporting same sex marriage) the shows' story lines actually denigrate the struggle hundreds of thousands of same sex couples have endured in their fight to be able to marry.

I don't think anyone can argue that advocates of same sex marriage have not been sincere in their push for same sex marriage.  Unlike Hollywood, those advocates approach the institution of marriage with a respect for the legal and moral obligations it represents.  It is exactly because of their respect for institution of marriage that they want to partake in it.  Hollywood mocking marriage does not help that cause.