Thursday, October 24, 2019

Indianapolis GOP Face Possible Wipeout in Upcoming Municipal Election

This Spring, as my beloved Cincinnati Reds take the field for the first game of the season, I will take my place in centerfield.

Meanwhile, 90 miles up in the road, former Republican Jim Merritt will be going to work on the 25th floor, having been elected a few months earlier as the Mayor of Indianapolis.
State Senator Jim Merritt

Okay, neither of those things are likely to happen.  But I dare say I am more likely to become the first 50-something rookie in major league baseball history, than Merritt is to win the Indianapolis mayor's race against incumbent Joe Hogsett next month.

To say Merritt has run a lackluster campaign is to be charitable.  Merritt decided, in the age of populism, that his ticket to being elected was to run as a country club Republican.  To make things worse, Merritt decided to run as a liberal, to the left of Hogsett, and in the process turning his back on the conservative principles he stood for decades as a northside state senator.  Merritt thought the shrinking pool of Marion County Republicans would not be offended.  News flash...they are.  Hopefully the conservative-leaning voters in Merritt's state senate district will not forget the way he threw them under the bus in an effort to be elected Mayor.

To be fair though, even if Merritt ran the perfect campaign...he was never going to win.  Marion County/Indianapolis was already trending toward heavily Democrat when the Trump phenomenon hit.  Trump is very unpopular in urban/suburban areas, including Marion County.   Since Trump was elected in 2016, Democrats and independents have been coming out in droves to cast protest votes against Trump and his brand of Republicanism.

Jim Merritt will hardly be the only Marion County GOP casualty on November 4th. I previously warned that the council map drawn by GOP operative David Brooks in a failed attempt to win a Republican majority in 2015 cut the GOP district margins too narrowly.  I said that the map would eventually turn out to be a blessing for the Democrats, allowing the party to capture a sizable majority of the council seats as the numbers continued to drift in the Democrats direction.

Indeed my analysis earlier this year (posted below in full) of the 2018 election results in those council districts show that elected northside Republican council members are about to be rendered extinct:
In 2015, Republicans won 12 of 25 Indianapolis City-County Council Districts utilizing a map drawn by Republican political operative David Brooks.  As I noted at the time, the problem was that Brooks had drawn the GOP districts with margins too small, margins that would not overcome the increasing trend of Marion County residents, particularly those living on the northside, voting Democrat.  The GOP did fairly well defending those northside districts in 2015.  It should be noted that in District 2, Republican councilor Christine Scales switched to the Democratic Party after the election.
It is not that Brooks was negligent in drawing the council maps.  His charge was to draw the maps in such a way (by creating a significant number of narrow Republican majority districts) as to give the GOP a chance to win a majority of council seats in the 2015 election. He did exactly that.  The problem was those numbers would not hold.  It turns out that not only have the Republican  numbers continued their two decade long bleed, what appears to be a Trump effect has caused GOP numbers to hemorrhage.
I said at the time the Democrats, who unsuccessfully challenged the Brooks map in court, would grow to love the Brooks map.  The love begins this year.
Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15 and 16 are northside council districts won by the GOP in 2015.  Mid-term elections are the most similiar to municipal elections in terms of turnout.  To establish a baseline, I looked at the Marion Recorder's Office election results in those districts in 2014 versus 2018.  Here is the table I put together of districts the GOP won in 2015.

GOP Districts2014 GOP Baseline2018 GOP BaselineDifference

Those are not good numbers.  Seven northside GOP districts are deeply underwater.  Even a southside GOP district, District 18, appears to be competitive.
For the record, the only district the Republicans appear to have any shot of winning is Council District 22 held by Jared Evans who upset the Republican in that district in 2015.. But that is at best a long shot.  In District 22 the GOP base went from 54.8 in 2014 to 46.5 in 2018.
The GOP's only hope to keep some of the northside seats is for a very low turnout municipal election and that it is mostly Democrats staying home.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Trump Supporters Have No Problem With There Being A Quid Pro Quo

I have seen this movie so many times I have the ending memorized.  First, President Trump claimed that no one from his campaign ever met or communicated with the Russians officials who meddled in the 2016 election.  When evidence came out that there were more than 100 meetings and communications between Trump and 17 of his campaign officials, Trump supporters responded that they did not care.  While there may have been meetings or communication between the Russians and the Trump campaign, the campaign did not solicit help in the election!   So there!

Of course, that turned out not to be right either.  Although the President lied and said the Trump tower meeting was about adoption policy, it turns out Trump's eldest son, Don, Jr. was in fact using the meeting to solicit dirt on Hillary Clinton. 

Were Trump supporters bothered by the campaign soliciting help from a foreign power hostile to the United States?  Nope...they just shrugged their shoulders and moved the goalposts again.  This time, the cry by Trumpers was "there is no evidence of collusion."  The Mueller Report proves that!

Of course, the the Mueller Report did nothing of the sort.  The report, in fact, explicitly said the issue of collusion was not being addressed in the report as "collusion" is not a criminal term.  The Mueller Report did, however, details scores and scores of instances in which the Trump campaign warmly welcomed help from the Russians during the 2016 campaign.  Trumpers, of course, did not care that that might constitute "collusion" (although not a criminal conspiracy).   The fact Putin helped Trump win the 2016 election just made Trumpers like Putin more.

Most Trump supporters have since dropped the "no collusion" line.  After all, President Trump has now made it clear, regardless of what happened in 2016, he is perfectly fine colluding with Ukraine and China officials to win the 2020 election.  Trump asked those countries to investigate his political opponents, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.  Trump even offered the help of his Attorney General and his private attorney Rudolph Giuliani in finding the dirt. 

It turns out Trumpers never had a problem with Trump colluding with a foreign power to win an American election.  They just needed to move the rhetorical goalpost again.  Now the mantra is, but there was no "quid pro quo!"

Of course, there does not have to be a quid pro quo.  A federal candidate soliciting a foreign country to dig up dirt on the candidate's political opponent is a crime.  Trump not only did that, he used his office in the process - a clear abuse of power.   Nonetheless, whether there was an actual quid pro quo, which would make Trump's abuse of his office and the crime (bribery, extortion, etc.) even worse, Trumpers would have us ignore the President's OBVIOUS implication in the Ukraine phone call, the text messages between the diplomats, and the direct admission by the President's Chief of Staff, Nick Mulvaney, who said during a press conference there was a quid pro quo, i.e. that the already appropriated military aid to Ukraine would not be provided unless Ukraine helped the United States investigate the origins of the investigation into the Russians interference in the 2016 election.

Does anyone really believe that if presented with evidence that the President of the United States extorted political dirt from a foreign power to try to win the 2020 election, Trumpers would say that is unacceptable?  Of course not.  Here's how the movie ends...Trumpers do not care.

Trumpers, after all, are the same people who said it is perfectly okay that the President invited terrorists to break bread with him Camp David on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary. They think it is just swell that the President celebrates brutal dictators as friends, while turning his back on our allies and, in the case of the Kurds, abandoning them to be slaughtered.  That President Trump refuses to speak out for human rights and the protesters in Hong Kong seeking freedom, is perfectly fine to Trumpers.  President Trump  has repeatedly demonstrated nothing but contempt for this nation's democratic values and the Constitution, and has indicated a willingness to put this nation's national security at risk for his own personal political reasons. Trumpers are okay with that. 

Now imagine for a second that any of the above were positions taken by President Obama or a President Hillary Clinton.  Think Trumpers would say such behavior is okay by those Democrats?  Of course not.  Trumpers would be screaming about how awful, how un-American Obama and Clinton were and demand they be impeached. (And they'd be right.) But if President Trump is doing these things, his followers have no problem.  It is the earmark of a cult that whatever the leader of the cult does is by definition right. So too it is with Trump and his Kool-Aid drinking group of followers.

A patriot is someone who consistently stands up for American values and principles, regardless of the what jersey the politician is wearing. Trump supporters should stop pretending that their blind loyalty to a man who has demonstrated he cares not one bit about American values is somehow patriotic.  Being a hypocrite does not make one a patriot.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Indianapolis "Blue Line" Set to Eliminate Washington Street Traffic Lanes, Divert Traffic to Residential Neighborhoods

As I've pointed out on this pages before, despite an ongoing election in Indianapolis, local candidates have thus far refused to listen to listen to the complaints of voters negatively impacted by the (unnecessary) elimination of traffic lanes as part of the implementation of a new rapid bus system.

Now that the Red Line is in place, next up is the Blue Line which will result in the elimination of two
travel lanes.  On West Washington Street that means travel will be limited to ONE eastbound and ONE westbound lane.  Drivers seeking to avoid the resulting congestion in that commercial corridor will divert to nearby residential streets.   Business establishments on West Washington will lose customers and residents near Washington Street will have to deal with increased traffic and see their property values lowered.

WISH-TV reports:
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IndyGo’s Blue Line Rapid Transit System will run from the east side to the airport in the future, but business owners along the West Washington Street route are pushing for changes to the proposed plans. 
The project is expected to have a designated lane for the bus, much like the Red Line. West Washington Street will go from four lanes to two, but store owners fear the Blue Line will negatively impact their businesses. 
Many told News 8 the road isn’t efficiently designed for an exclusive bus lane and will create more congestion. 
“It’s hard for us to get trucks in and out of here as we do get a lot of freight in and trying to bring obviously motorcycles in and cars in to park in front of the building which is what we really want,” said Mike Dreyer, owner of Dreyer Honda. 
“Instead of people using this main road they’ll divert off onto the residential side streets which causes traffic problems for the residents,” said Rachel Hawkins, owner of Markin Sales. 
IndyGo plans to build bus stations in the middle of Washington Street and remove some designated turning lanes. Some business owners feel that could steer potential customers away. 
“It’s gonna be easier for someone to just continue west and find the next local shop or business that they’re looking for rather than turning back around and making it an inconvenience for themselves,” Roy Reynolds, owner of Reynolds Body Shop said.
One thing I learned while writing about this subject is drivers apparently are not supposed to turn left across that raised bump in the middle of the rapid bus transit lane.  They are supposed to go to the next intersection and then do negotiate a tight U-Turn, against the traffic, to return to the business one originally wished to turn left into.  Many people, obviously, are not going to want to do that and will instead choose a business down the road where a u-turn is not needed.
It is important to emphasize that the City's elimination of traffic lanes for the rapid bus system is contrary to the study touted by the City on the web page of the Indy Connect Central Indiana's Regional Transit Initiative.  That study said that "it is not realistic to expect ridership increase under even the most favorable conditions to approach the threshold for exclusive lanes."  Yet despite this advice, city officials have decided to go ahead anyway and eliminate traffic lanes, despite the impact on commuters and residents.
West Washington Street business owners are hosting a meeting on Wednesday about the subject, the details of which are below:
When:  October 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm
Where:  Wayne Township Government Center
              5401 W. Washington St.
              Indianapolis, IN  46241

Friday, October 4, 2019

President Trump Doubles Down on Collusion, Asks China President to Investigate Bidens

President Trump and his legion of media enablers are fond of repeating the lie that there was no collusion found during the Russia investigation.  In fact, the Mueller Report explicitly said it was not making a finding about collusion, but instead concluded there was not enough evidence to establish there was a criminal conspiracy.  Nonetheless, the Mueller Report detailed scores of accounts of Trump campaign officials accepting the help of Russian officials to win the 2016 election.

In short, what saved Trump was that Mueller found that his campaign was not actively involved in Russia's efforts on his behalf...that the Trump campaign just took advantage of the Russian assistance that was given.  That reduced the issue to possibly being a campaign law violation, the acceptance of a "thing of value" from a foreign government.  Contrary to significant legal precedent, Mueller concluded that because the Russian in kind assistance couldn't be strictly quantified in terms of how much it was worth, that the fact it was a "thing of value" could not be established.

As I said during the Mueller investigation, Trumpers do not care one bit whether Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election.  They are perfectly fine with a foreign power, even an enemy of the United States, helping a candidate win an American election as long as that candidate is named Donald Trump. Events of these past couple weeks have demonstrated how true that is.

First it was an ally, Ukraine.  In a phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to dig up dirt on his chief political rival, Joe Biden, who is polling way ahead of Trump nationally and, more importantly, in virtually every battleground state.  While a "quid pro quo" certainly isn't necessary (it just makes Trump's abuse of his office worse), Trump actually provided that too when the Ukrainain President brought up the need for military assistance which Trump immediately followed saying that he needed a favor done "though." If that was not enough for the Trump crowd (it isn't) that text messages have come out that Trump administration officials believed that continued military assistance and a visit to the White House was contingent on Zelensky's willingness to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.

In the height of silliness, Trumpers tout that Zelensky, in response to the growing scandal, said he didn't feel pressure from Trump to investigate the Bidens.  Did anyone actually expect Zelensky to say anything different?  His country's entire survival is dependent on a good relationship with the United States, for which his relationship with President Trump is key. Of course, Zelensky was never going to throw Trump under the bus.

Yesterday, President Trump, standing in front of a contingent of reporters on the south lawn of the White House, asked the President of China to investigate the Bidens.  Turns out this was not a new request.  During a June phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump had already asked Jinping to investigate the Bidens.  He also apparently mentioned Elizabeth Warren as well.  Like the Ukrainian phone call, the record of the Chinese phone call was placed on a highly classified server, unlike other calls with world leaders. 

Trump is clearly using his office to encourage foreign leaders, including those from a country hostile to the United States, to investigate his domestic political rivals.  On the Ukraine call, he even offered the assistance of the Attorney General and his private attorney in Ukraine's efforts.  The Trump Collusion Train has left the station.   Any member of Congress, including Republicans, who do not support holding Trump account for his conduct is betraying the Constitution they took an oath to defend.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

President Trump Continues to Peddle False Narratives About the Bidens While Asking Another Country to Investigate Them

Today on the south lawn of the White House, President Donald Trump requested another foreign power, this time China, to investigate his main political rival, Vice President Joe Biden, as well as his son, Hunter.  Trump also renewed his calls for Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens which would, of course, aid him in his effort to eliminate from the Democratic primary race an opponent,
Biden, that polls showed Trump had little chance of beating in a general election.

Of course, it is a crime for a candidate in a federal election to solicit campaign help from a foreign government.  No quid quo pro is necessary, though in the case of the Ukrainian phone call, it is undeniable that Trump expressly dangled military aid in exchange for help with the Bidens.

President Trump admits he brought up the Bidens during the Urkainain phone call, a fact confirmed by the summary of the call the White House provided.  Yet, a poll shows only 40% of Republicans believe Trump mentioned the Bidens during the phone call.  That is how bad the President's gas lighting of America, aided by so-called conservative media (they are "Trumpian" not "conservative") outlets, have become.   Even when Trump openly admits doing something bad, his Kool-Aid drinking cult followers refuse to believe it.

Today, Trump once again used his office to spread lies about Bidens.  Make no mistake about it....Hunter Biden used his father's position as Vice President and good name to cash in privately.  (Sort of like the Trump family does every day of the week.)  Joe Biden was reportedly unhappy with his son taking the position, but he had no power to stop it.  Nonetheless, the facts are that Hunter Biden himself was never under investigation by the Ukraine prosecutor.  The gas company was under investigation before Hunter Biden took a position on the gas company board of directors.  The investigation was no longer active when Vice President Biden, at the behest of President Obama and scores of reform advocates as well as the entire western alliance urged the prosecutor to be fired for not pursuing corruption cases.  Vice President Biden's actions not only didn't benefit his son's gas company,  they in fact opened the possibility a new prosecutor would restart the dormant investigation.

Trump's approach to the Bidens is straight out of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels's playbook.  Goebbels said that "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." While rational, thoughtful people probably will not believe Trump's big lie about the Bidens, enough people may believe it to sink Biden's bid for the Democratic nomination.  That would leak Trump facing a much weaker rival, someone like Elizabeth Warren.

The irony is that what is easily the most corrupt President in a lifetime (which includes the presidency of Richard Nixon) is using the issue of corruption to try to sink a much more ethical and honest rival.

Impeachment is no longer an option.  Impeachment is an imperative.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Acting Prosecutor Ryan Mears Signals a New Day May Be Dawning at Marion County Prosecutor's Office

WTHR reports:
The Marion County Prosecutor's Office announced Monday that it will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases.
“Too often, an arrest for marijuana possession puts individuals into the system who otherwise would not be. That is not a win for our community,” Prosecutor Ryan Mears said. “The enforcement of
Marion County Acting Prosecutor Ryan Mears
marijuana policy has disproportionately impacted people of color, and this is a first step to addressing that.” 
That means when someone is picked up for having an ounce or less of marijuana, they won't be prosecuted. 
"Our priority is violent crime." Mears said. "We are not going to mess around with these small possession of marijuana cases." 
According to Indiana state law, possession of marijuana in an amount less than 30 grams can be prosecuted as a Level B Misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. 
The prosecutor clarified what will happen if police do make an arrest. 
"It's not being sold. It's not being smoked. We are not going to be filing those cases," Mears said. 
According to the former chief deputy prosecutor, minor marijuana possession cases are clogging courts, over crowding jails, and taxing resources that could be better spent fighting violent criminals.

While I am philosophically against laws being on the book that are not going to be enforced, Indiana prosecutors certainly have the discretion to prioritize the enforcement of laws.  Prosecuting individuals for small quantity pot possession definitely uses up resources that are better spent combating more serious crime, particularly that of a violent nature.   And, as Mears notes, there is no link between using pot and more serious crime.
On balance, I side with Mears and am greatly encouraged we finally have someone who will lead the Marion County Prosecutor's Office in a newer and better direction, assuming, of course, Mears is the one ultimately selected as the replacement to the elected prosecutor, Terry Curry.  Unfortunately, Curry showed a shocking hostility to civil liberties, particularly in the area of civil forfeiture which he expanded greatly under his watch.    If Mears wants another worthwhile cause, he should investigate the use of civil forfeiture by his office and take steps to curb the abuses if not outright end the practice.