Monday, May 13, 2019

Republican Indianapolis Mayoral Candidate Suggestion of Firing City Employees for Criticizing Ten Point Coalition Would Expose City to Expensive Lawsuits

I know State Senator Jim Merritt is not an attorney. But the Republican candidate for Indianapolis Mayor would have been wise to consult with one before issuing a press release saying he would have fired city employees for making "vulgar and divisive comments" critical of the Ten Point Coalition, a non-profit organization by Rev. Charles Harrison that aims at deterring youth from committing crimes. 

An Indianapolis Star article details the complained of comments:

Two Indianapolis employees, whose jobs are to improve the city and police department's relationship with the community, are under fire for comments they made on Facebook about the
Senator Jim Merritt
Ten Point Coalition.
The comments came during a Facebook Live show hosted by ministers Preston T. Adams III and Denell Howard on Wednesday. Part of the show centered on public safety in Indianapolis, leading one commenter to ask whether Ten Point responded to a recent Downtown shooting. 
"Ten Point is out walking the track like good hoes do," Gregory Meriweather, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department civilian employee, wrote jokingly in response.
And when someone asked what Ten Point has been up to, Community Violence Reduction Director Shonna Majors wrote: "$$$."
Mayor Hogsett suspended Meriweather for 3 days without pay while Majors, who received a formal warning, was reassigned, at least temporarily, from a position that helps decide which organizations, such as Ten Point Coalition, receive crime prevention grants.

From the Merritt press release:
INDIANAPOLIS – Republican mayoral candidate and current state senator Jim Merritt
held a press conference today to react to “vulgar and divisive comments” made by two
city employees about the crime prevention organization known as The Indianapolis Ten
Point Coalition. 
“After these awful and mean-spirited comments were made about people who try to
protect our city, Mayor Hogsett’s reaction was to allow them to keep their jobs with a
slap on the wrist,” said Merritt. “This is simply unacceptable and shows us why Joe
Hogsett has failed as the person responsible for protecting our city.” 
... 
Regarding the current situation, Merritt had tough words for the mayor. “Joe Hogsett
should fire these employees. If he doesn’t fire them now, it’s an endorsement of their
divisive, ugly comments,” Merritt said. “A true leader brings together and unites all who
wish to better our community. Joe Hogsett has not done that.”
The comments were made from the city employees' personal social media accounts.  The comments which were crass and arguably unfair to the Ten Point Coalition, were still political in nature and thus receive the most protection under the First Amendment Free Speech Clause.  Merritt is suggesting that Mayor Hogsett fire the employees because the Senator didn't like the content of the employees' private, political speech.  That's a really bad idea.

Mayor Hogsett is an attorney and probably consulted with legal counsel about the employees' conduct.  Thus, he likely knew the legal ramifications involved in any disciplinary action. If he fired the employees, he would be opening the city up to lawsuits based on a breach of the employee's Free Speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as the Indiana Constitution.  While a Seventh Circuit case, Garcetti (a terribly decided case that will inevitably be overturned) might provide cover for the termination, that is an iffy proposition at best.

The wisest course of action was for Mayor Hogsett to do exactly what he did: publicly express extreme displeasure over the comments, give the employees modest discipline (not enough though that creates substantial damages necessary for a successful lawsuit) and warn the employees that such public commentary, even if made in a private venue, reflect negatively upon his administration and should be avoided.  Then, if despite those warnings the employees continue to engage in such objectionable speech attacking the Ten Point Coalition, it might be worth it to roll the dice and terminate the offending employees.  My guess is that won't be necessary - that Merriweather and Majors learned their lesson and will show better judgment next time.

No use making a federal case out of it...literally.  Senator Merritt's suggestion that the city employees be terminated for expressing objectionable political views in their personal social media accounts is a really, really bad idea.  Mayor Hogsett handled the matter correctly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Hamilton County Democrats Drop the Ball in Carmel Mayor's Race

Last night Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard won the Republican nomination in his effort to secure a seventh term this Fall.  Brainard was opposed by Fred Glynn, a member of the Hamilton County Council.  Glynn ran as a fiscal conservative, highlighting Carmel's substantial debt in his pitch to voters.

Although Brainard won, a major takeaway of the night is that over 45% of the Carmel GOP voted against him and for his opponent, Glynn.

An incumbent winning a close primary does not mean much when the incumbent's party dominates the electoral district.    But when the opposing party has a substantial base in the district, dissension within the majority party, as reflected by a close primary, can be successfully exploited.

Looking at the 2018 numbers, it would appear that the Democratic baseline in Carmel is now up to 41%.   While the lower turnout in a municipal election will probably hurt that number, the Democrats still are within striking distance of scoring an upset in once heavily Republican Carmel.  This is especially true given the unpopularity of the Brainard among Republicans, a fact demonstrated by Glynn's performance against the incumbent mayor.

So who won the Democratic nomination for Carmel Mayor last night?  No one.  No Democrat filed to run.

Now, I know the law allows Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Joe Weingarten to appoint a nominee post-primary to run against Brainard.  But that is not the same thing as having the nominee win a primary, even if the candidate is unopposed.  The primary provides a candidate a substantial amount of free publicity that is foolish to pass up.  Plus a mayoral primary would have encouraged Carmel Democrats to take an active role in their party, even if it is nothing more than showing up to vote in the party's primary. 

In 1986, I took a position as Pike Township (Marion County) precinct committeemen. Despite the fact we were regularly pummeling the Democrats by margins of 2-1, every election the Pike Township Democrats would field a full slate of sacrificial lambs candidates.  I considered the gesture futile. I was so wrong.  By steadfastly recruiting candidates, the Pike Township Democratic Party was creating and maintaining a partisan infrastructure that would help win future elections.  And boy did they win those elections  By 2000,  the numbers in Pike Township had dramatically shifted in the Democrats failure.  Within about a 12 year span, Pike Township went from 2-1 Republican to 2-1 Democrat.

The transformation that happened in Pike Township appears to be going on in Hamilton County, especially in the more populated sections of that county, such as the cities of Carmel and Fishers.  Democrats dropped the ball big time in failing to field a mayoral candidate not only in Carmel, but Fishers as well. Candidate recruitment is the No. 1 task in building and maintaining a partisan organization.  A party which fails to field primary candidates becomes an irrelevancy.

Democrats would have been wise to recruit a fiscally conservative candidate to run for Carmel Mayor, a candidate who could have exploited Brainard's weakness with his own party.  And the State Democratic Party would have been wise to invest money in the race.  A funded and competitive Carmel Mayoral candidate would have energized Carmel Democrats and helped the Hamilton County Democratic Party build the infrastructure necessary to be a more competitive political organization going into the 2020 election.  If Democrats win the governorship in 2020 (which is definitely within range), the party is going to have to continue to improve its margins in populous suburban counties such as Hamilton County.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Only One Logical Choice for Carmel Mayor: Fred Glynn

I have written about Carmel on this blog many, many times, usually to criticize the big spending "Republican" Mayor for Life Jim Brainard.  Brainard has built a new Carmel during his six terms in office, but at the cost of racking up enormous debt.   A 2017 report by S&P Global indicates that Carmel's long-term debt grew by $300 million in just three years.  Brainard has put Carmel into enormous debt, much of it by having taxpayers subsidize private development.

Fred Glynn, a member of the Hamilton County Council, is challenging Brainard in Tuesday's Republican Primary.  I've met Glynn before.  He appears to be a traditional conservative, particularly
Fred Glynn
strong on fiscal matters. 

The campaign has featured allegations that the Brainard camp attempted to bribe Glynn with an offer of $140,000 to drop out.  Supposedly the bribe was made through Glynn's campaign manager Dan Hennessy when subsequently left the Glynn campaign to become an apparently very high paid consultant for the Brainard campaign.  A direct payment of cash for a candidate to drop out would be more direct than other incentives to leave a campaign than I've heard were dangled before challengers.  But knowing how the local GOP establishment works to force out competition, such a payment of money is plausible. 

Regardless of the bribery accusation, it is clear that Brainard has done wrong, repeatedly, when it comes to Carmel's finances. He's built a new city, but one constructed on enormous debt.   Brainard has never seen a private development project that he did not want to help fund with taxpayer money.  Look up the term "corporate welfare" in the dictionary and you will see Mayor Brainard's picture.

Here stolen from IndyRepublican is Fred Glynn's first 100 days agenda:

  • Host the first-ever small business advisory committee summit to advise the mayor’s office on the needs the city’s small business owners.
  • Implement a 180-day freeze on new downtown development to allow for a long-range traffic and population density study.
  • Send a priority-based, truly balanced budget to the Carmel City Council.
  • Sign an executive order to provide funding to hire additional police officers.
  • Send a debt-reduction plan to the city council that implements a plan to reduce the city’s long-term debt by 20 percent by the end of my first term.
  • Sign an executive order immediately halting future city government giveaways and subsidiaries to private development projects.
  • Send the city council a resolution to freeze the pay of all city-wide elected officials for the next four years.
  • Sign an executive order that strengthens sexual harassment policies for city workers and officials that includes harsher punishment for violators.
  • Have neighborhood liaisons in every neighborhood in this city and meet quarterly. We will once again put focus on our communities instead of focusing all resources and effort on a few square blocks downtown.

Fred Glynn has the right ideas and is a solid choice to right Carmel's financial ship.  My only concern is that, as Mayor, he would face the unfair task of having to clean up the enormous financial mess Brainard would be leaving.  Brainard has cultivated his popularity in Carmel by unprecedented borrowing and spending.  Are Carmel city residents ready for a Mayor who tells them the truth about the debt and the need to cut back spending?  Tuesday we will find out.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

No Real Conservative Should Celebrate Attorney General William Barr's Lying to Congress and the American People

Some "conservatives" (I hate to sully the term because most of them are simply "Trumpers") are celebrating the actions of Attorney General William Barr.  Yesterday's Wall Street Journal staff editorial declared that President Trump now has a "real" Attorney General.  Really?  Let's recap.

Mueller unquestionably lied to Congress and the American people in the initial memo he wrote summarizing the Mueller report.  Then he went to Congress and again lied against about what the Mueller report contained and whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed with his characterization
Attorney General William Barr
of the Mueller report.  Then, hours before Mueller Report was released, Barr went before the American people and again lied to them, lies that were intended to spin the report which, contrary to the Barr's month-long narrative, namely did not clear the President of "collusion" (Mueller expressly did not look at "collusion" but only considered whether the actions of Trump's campaign rose to the level of a criminal conspiracy).  Barr also claimed that the report was inconclusive on obstruction and Mueller's decision not to prosecute had nothing to do with the Justice Department memo saying a sitting President could not be prosecuted.  Not true.

So we conservatives are supposed to celebrate an Attorney General who lies, not even to mention Barr's earlier performance, impugning federal law enforcement, by repeating with approval Trump silly, unsupported claim his campaign was illegally spied upon.  

Oh, and yesterday, Barr said it was perfectly legal for a President to obstruct a criminal investigation into his conduct if the President believes that he or she did not do anything wrong.  Unfortunately extensive coverage of Barr's lies pushed this disturbing theory off the front page.  Barr also refused to talk about whether President Trump asked him to launch investigations of his political opponents and refused to recuse himself on other criminal investigations that were farmed out by Mueller to other U.S. Attorney offices. 

If Barr would have been Attorney General during President Nixon's time, the Watergate investigation would have been shut down immediately and Nixon would have served two full terms.  I can't imagine anything Nixon did that Barr would not have given him cover on.

Now Attorney General Barr is refusing to comply with legislative subpoenas or testify before the House.  Again, "conservatives" are celebrating.  Really?  So are we going to celebrate the next time when there is a Democratic President who refuses to allow a Republican Congress to exercise oversight authority? So we conservatives don't believe in separation of powers and checks and balances?  So we conservatives instead believe in an imperial Executive branch led by a President who can do whatever he or she wants?  

Barr has been more than willing to do what it takes to protect President Trump even if it means undermining our democratic institutions and throwing away his own reputation.  Not sure why a  a 68 year old man at the end of the career would want to leave a legacy as a lying sycophant with no integrity. 

But then again, maybe Barr's should not have had a positive reputation to begin with.  In 1992, the late conservative writer William Safire detailed Attorney General Barr's effort at stonewalling Congress in an effort to obstruct an investigation into Republican President George Bush's "Iraqgate scandal." Later that year, Barr urged pardons of key administration officials caught up in the Iran-Contra affair, a scandal that took place during the Reagan administration.  This includes Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who was being prosecuted for lying to Congress.  Because of his antics as Attorney General, Safire used to call Barr the "Coverup General." 

Obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and the American people, undermining the rule of law.  Yes, that is the legacy of Attorney General William Barr.  And that is not a legacy that any real conservative should celebrate.