Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thomas' Career Takes Another Twist

State Rep. Andy Thomas (R) abandoned his re-election bid for his House seat earlier this year to, as he put it, spend more time with his family and pursue a teaching position at Ivy Tech. An AP story today reports that Thomas is resigning his seat immediately to take a position in the Indiana Attorney General's office, which pays $52,000 a year. He will serve as "a deputy attorney general and concentrate on social service affairs and litigation." His father, Amos, was earlier chosen by precinct committeemen to take his place on the November ballot. Presumably, those same committeemen will choose Thomas to fill his unexpired term.

A Face From The Past

Former Secretary of State Sue Anne Gilroy (R) is shown above on the right with St. Vincent's executive director of marketing communications, Anjie Britton, at the St. Vincent Foundation Legacy Fashion Show. The photo was taken by INTake's Ryan Metzger at the event. Gilroy currently serves as executive director of St. Vincent Foundation.

Gilroy lost the 1999 Indianapolis mayoral election to Bart Peterson (D), ending several decades of Republican dominance in Indianapolis city government. Gilroy led Peterson in polls by an 8-10 percentage margin until her campaign advisors convinced her that she needed to run negative attack ads against Peterson. As soon as those ads aired, Gilroy's support in the polls fell, and she never recovered.

I've sometimes wondered how different the Marion Co. Republican Party would be today if Gilroy had ignored the advice of her advisors and stuck with a positive message. The party has been in a continuous, downward spiral since that election loss. There is no doubt in my mind that she would have succeeded in changing the face of the local party considerably if she had won. It would be a party of inclusion instead of the exclusive club of good-ole boys it is today.

Perry To The Rescue For DeLay Seat

House Republicans' efforts to maintain their 15-seat margin in the House of Representatives faced a major setback when courts ruled that Republicans could not fill the vacancy on the ballot created when former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay dropped his re-election bid just weeks after winning a hotly contested primary in his Houston area district. Gov. Rick Perry (R) is attempting to ease the uphill battle of Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to hold the seat as the consensus write-in candidate. He has declared a special election to fill DeLay's seat for the remaining weeks of his term following the November election. This will allow Sekula-Gibbs' name to appear on the ballot as the Republican candidate in the special election. Voters will still have to write in her name if they want her to serve a full two-year term.

2011 Super Bowl Talk Suspicious

Just as Mayor Bart Peterson (D) started sending out a distress call saying that the Capital Improvement Board of Managers would face a $10 million a year shortfall once the Lucal Oil Stadium is opened unless the state allows it to use revenues intended to pay for construction debt only on stadium operations, the Colts' owner Jim Irsay and the city announce an effort to bring the 2011 Super Bowl to Indianapolis. The Star's Mike Chappell writes:

City officials and the Indianapolis Colts have joined forces in pursuit of a singular goal: bringing the NFL's 2011 Super Bowl to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Although the quest still is in the preliminary stages, Colts owner Jim Irsay said it is a high priority for everyone involved.

"We're centering in on 2011 and beginning to look at putting a bid package together,'' he said. "That's exciting. That's something I really want to get accomplished.''

The first opportunity for the city to submit a formal proposal would be at the NFL owners meetings March 25-28, 2007, in Phoenix.

Sites for the next four Super Bowls already have been determined, beginning with Super Bowl XLI, which is Feb. 4, 2007, in Miami. The first available Super Bowl is in 2011.

Several cites already have expressed interest in securing what will be Super Bowl XLV, including Indianapolis and Dallas, both of which are building new stadiums for their pro teams. Lucas Oil Stadium will be completed for the 2008 season. The Cowboys' new facility, in Arlington, is scheduled to open in 2009.

"We've had numerous cities express preliminary interest,'' said Brian McCarthy, the NFL's director of corporate communications. "The best way to describe it is it will be highly competitive.''

The economic impact for a city hosting a Super Bowl has been estimated at approximately $300 million. That's about the same as has been estimated for the Indianapolis 500, and dwarfs the $40 million boost Indy claimed from last spring's NCAA men's Final Four.

I suppose it makes for a nice diversion just as you begin talking about something average Hoosiers would rather not hear about right now. But I'm not fooled. Are you?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

House GOP Wants BMV Run Like Dominos

Political campaigns have a knack for generating bad ideas. Political consultants sit around the table and pull ideas straight out of their asses, getting paid handsomely in the process. The House GOP's latest idea for improving the operations of the BMV falls into that category. Their proposal apes a business gimmick successfully employed by Domino's Pizza: "hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, or it's free." WISH-TV reports:

"It is our hope that we put into place a policy that if they have to wait more than 30 minutes for that first contact with a BMV employee that the state will do what Domino's does, give it to them free," said House Speaker Brian Bosma.

In most cases that would mean a savings of a transaction fee, less than $20. Democrats rejected the idea by saying the wait should be even shorter.
The House GOP also wants to privatize BMV services. This is not a new idea. Illinois, for example, has long allowed banks and automobile dealerships to issue license plates, register automobiles and process title transfers. None of these proposals, however, address the BMV's current problem with its disastrous new computer system, which the BMV failed to properly test before it rolled it out earlier this summer. But I guess these politicians figure Hoosier voters are too stupid to figure that out. As long as the catchy sound bite makes the local news broadcasts, that's all that matters.

And Now We Know Why

Earlier this week Attorney General Steve Carter reminded Indiana's political parties of a state law prohibiting automated phone calls in a letter to party leaders. AI wondered at the time why the AG is just now enforcing a law that has been on the books for 18 years. Today, Carter announces that his office has fined 6 Indiana companies more than $5 million for violating the state's automated phone call statute. A Star report reads:

The Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter on Tuesday fined six Indiana companies a total of more than $5 million for violating the state's pre-recorded message statute.

The law requires companies to use a live person to gain consent from the receiving person prior to using pre-recorded phone calls.

Facing fines are, FSL Connect, Blue Skies Inc., Weight Loss Center of South Bay Inc, Compass Care Inc., and Senior Solutions LLC.

Today's announcement seems to answer the question as to why Carter put the political parties on notice of his intent to enforce the law. But it still begs the question as to why Carter's office has taken no action against political parties and candidates which have also recently violated the law. Are the politicians being afforded a break Carter was unwilling to afford to private businesses?

It should be noted that alone was fined $5 million. The other companies received relatively small fines. The fines are said to result from investigations dating back as far as 2004.

It's Called McCain-Kennedy

The Evansville Courier & Press reports on yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing in Evansville on immigration debate. The GOP-controlled committee scheduled the hearing in Evansville to highlight embattled Rep. John Hostettler's anti-immigrant position. One of the more absurd arguments that I've heard raised in this debate is one mentioned in this article. It seems that Republicans are trying to rename the comprehensive immigration reform bill which passed the Senate the Reid-Kennedy bill. It is actually called the McCain-Kennedy bill named after its co-authors, Sen. John McCain (R) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D). House Republicans argue otherwise according to the Courier & Press:

Republicans and Democrats have even argued about the proper name of the Senate's bill, known in that body as the McCain-Kennedy bill for co-sponsors Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

But House Republicans routinely call it the Reid-Kennedy bill, inserting the name of Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Democrats charge that Republicans omit the GOP's McCain from the bill's name to make it appear less bipartisan. But Republicans say putting McCain's name on the bill was a Democratic ploy to give it a false sheen of bipartisanship, given that just 23 of 55 Senate Republicans voted for it.

If Republicans and Democrats can't even agree on what to call the bill they are debating, how are they ever going to come together to support a bipartisan immigration reform bill? That's the point. Republicans don't want a bipartisan solution because they think the immigration debate is a winning issue for them this fall because of their hardline anti-immigrant position. Boy are they in for a big surprise.

Regardless of how anti-immigrant Rep. Hostettler tries to position himself, he's not going to be outdone by his Democratic opponent Sheriff Brad Ellsworth. He spoke to the Rotarians across town as Hostettler was feasting on the subject at the House Judiciary Committee. The Courier & Press reports that Ellsworth "call[ed] for a tough stance on illegal immigration."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Life In Indiana

The latest numbers are in reflecting life in Indiana. They show that our state's poverty rate is on the rise, and its SAT scores are in decline. Indiana's poverty rate jumped from 10.8% to 12.2% between 2004 and 2006. That's a 13% increase in just 2 years for Hoosiers who can perform math. The rate was 9.5% in 2000, or 28% lower. The Class of 2006 scored six points lower on reading and one point higher on math than the class of 2005. WISH-TV reports:

Indiana's average scores were below national averages in all three categories. In reading, Hoosier students were five points behind, in math, a nine point difference and in the new writing category Indiana students were 11 points below.

For those Hoosiers fortunate enough to make it into college, fully 25% require remedial courses to learn what they were supposed to have learned in high school but didn't. "We just have to do a better job," said State School Superintendent Dr. Suellen Reed. And that won't happen until she's out of the job she's miserably failed to do for the past decade.

The WISH-TV report indicates that the lower test scores nationally were anticipated because of the new writing component on the exam. WISH-TV adds, "Meanwhile, the college board, which oversee the SAT, expects scores to improve as students become better acquainted with the new college entrance exam." That just proves how worthless these exams are. Students score higher scores by learning the tricks of taking the exam; the basic knowledge of the students taking the exams is lost in the process.

Oh well, we may have more people living in poverty and less-educated kids coming out of our school systems, but we have the best damn football stadiums and basketball arenas that our taxpayer dollars can buy. What more could we ask for?

Star Wants State To Bail Out City For Bad Stadium Deal

The editorial writers at the Star want the state to bail out the Marion Co. Capital Improvement Board of Managers and the City of Indianapolis after it was learned that they failed to negotiate a lease deal with Jim Irsay that covered operating costs for the Lucas Oil Stadium. The Star writes:

State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, makes a valid point that the various Central Indiana hotel, restaurant, ticket and car rental taxes enacted to build the stadium were not represented as a discretionary funding source for day-to-day operations. The first obligation is to make sure construction is covered. But Kenley and other state leaders are wrong to toss off the looming shortfall as the city's problem when, after all, the state took control of the stadium as part of the financing process.

Kenley's position is absolutely correct, and the Star's is wrong. The state only assumed responsibility for construction of the facility because it is funded by a tax levied on the entire region, not just Marion Co.; it was up to the city and the Capital Improvement Board to ensure a lease agreement that provided adequate revenues to cover the stadium's operating costs. As the Star's Sunday story pointed out, other cities have required team owners to pay for the stadium's operating costs, or they have used concessions and other nongame events to cover those costs. That included the $121.5 million naming rights sold to Lusas Oil! The CIB chose to give away those revenue sources to Jim Irsay. That's their mistake, and they should be tasked with going back to Jim Irsay and saying, "we screwed up."

It's about time the taxpayers' interests prevailed over the interests of Jim Irsay. He can cough up the extra dollars. Remember Fred Glass, you represent the taxpayers, not Jim Irsay. Now do the job you failed to do right the first time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

AG Tells Political Parties No Robo-Calls to Voters

As long as I've lived in Indiana (since 1990), I've been getting robo-calls from political candidates and parties around election time. The Marion Co. Republicans have regularly used robo-calls to get out the vote on election day. As AI reported this spring, 7th District Democratic congressional candidate Kris Kiser used them in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Rep. Julia Carson. For the first time since the enactment of a 1988 law prohibiting such calls, Attorney General Steve Carter has informed the state's parties to take notice of the Regulation of Automatic Dialing Machines Act. The AP's Mike Smith reports:

Attorney General Steve Carter has told the Indiana Democratic and Republican parties that a 1988 state law prohibits automated phone calls for political purposes, something political organizations have done here for years.

"With Labor Day fast approaching, I wanted to give you an opportunity to review this law and encourage the various entities, and campaigns, associated with your organizations to comply with its requirements," Carter, a Republican, wrote in an Aug. 22 letter addressed to the two major party chairmen.

"The Office of the Attorney General continues to actively enforce Indiana's telemarketing laws," the letter said. "My hope is that some advance notice will help avoid violations this fall."

State Democratic Chairman Dan Parker said the timing of the notice was "mysterious," since most provisions of the law were enacted more than 18 years ago and the Nov. 7 election is drawing near.

"It's just kind of surprising that two months before a major election that this is his most important issue," Parker said. "Both parties have traditionally used this to reach out to our base and get folks to vote."

Parker said he was having an attorney research the law, but the party would not make automated calls for now.

State GOP Chairman Murray Clark also said the Indiana Republican Party had used such calls in past get-out-the-vote efforts, but had not done so this year. He said now that Carter was taking an active interest in the law, he should pursue what Clark called "shadow groups" who use automated calls to make egregious claims in attacking candidates.

Based on Carter's comments in Smith's report, the AG's office has ignored enforcement of the law in the past. But the enactment of the state's no-call list law initiated and administered by Carter's office has heightened the public's attention to telephone privacy. Smith writes:

Carter said his office has been aware of the law, but was issuing the notice now because many in the public have become more sensitive about telephone privacy since Indiana's do-not-call law took effect in January 2002. The law prohibits most telemarketers from calling Indiana residents who are registered on a no-call list administered by Carter's office.

Carter said complaints to his office about automated calls have increased, and as he has traveled the state, many people have asked whether he could do anything about them. He said he did not know whether the parties and campaigns were aware of the prohibitions "and wanted to give them fair notice of it."

The law Carter cited in his letter is the Regulation of Automatic Dialing Machines Act, which applies to devices that select and dial telephone numbers and disseminate a prerecorded or synthesized voice message. Those subject to the law include individuals, corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships and unincorporated associations.

Although the law has exemptions for governmental entities and for persons who consent to such calls, political parties and candidates are not exempted. Violations of the law constitutes a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. It is incredible that both parties have been allowed to wilfully violate this law for nearly 18 years. Why have Carter and his predecessors refused to enforce this law? Political considerations? More than likely.

So why Carter's sudden interest in enforcing the law now? There's no doubt that people who are on the no-call list are upset that these calls are being made as Carter indicates. However, what happened in New Hampshire in the 2002 election might have also been an impetus for his action.

While automated phone calls are traditionally used to promote a party or a candidate, an effort by the Republicans in New Hampshire during the 2002 election used automated phone calls to jam phone lines of the Democratic Party and certain labor unions in order to hinder the Democrat's get-out-the-vote effort there. Several Republican party workers, including at least one tied to the Republican National Committee, have been convicted of crimes under federal communications law. Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) narrowly won election to the Senate that year, and Democrats think the phone jamming operation of the Republicans made his victory possible.

By putting the parties on notice, it's a pretty safe bet that nobody is going to use robo-calls this year for GOTV efforts, to jam another party's or candidate's phone lines, or as GOP state chairman Clark complained, to make egregious attacks on opponents.

Shella Responds To IWIR Criticism

Indiana Week In Review host Jim Shella responds to criticism AI directed at the IWIR panel following this past week's show and the need to enliven the program with new panelists. Shella writes at his blog over WISH-TV's website:

A couple of political blogs invited comments on Indiana Week in Review over the weekend and the traffic has been heavy. Some people criticize the show and some applaud it. I'm heartened mostly that people watch and care enough to comment.

If you have serious suggestions, however, you can always e-mail me directly at If there are things you don't like you won't hurt my feelings. As I like to say around the newsroom, "A thin skin is better than none."

Taking Down Words also invited its readers to comment on AI's post, which similarly generated a lot of interest from readers. I would encourage readers to take Shella up on his offer and e-mail your suggestions to him. The issue has certainly piqued the interest of our readers.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tully Can't Manage A Mea Culpa

First, Matt Tully is caught red-handed covering up the role of one of his political sources, Lacy Johnson, in the illegalities and self-dealing surrounding the construction of the restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center.

Then he hypes a story about a financial dispute 7th District GOP congressional candidate Eric Dickerson had with his lender and compares his campaign to a soap opera, which was later proven to be much ado about nothing.

Now, he writes a column which its title ("No joke -- Dickerson is intriguing candidate") leads us to believe is telling us that Dickerson's campaign is not a joke, but which devotes most of its space to trying to convince us that his campaign is a joke. Don't be fooled by the title. Tully's closing comments say it all. "Still, it's hard to decide whether to take his campaign seriously," Tully concludes.

Mr. Tully, a lot of your readers are now thinking that it is hard to take you seriously as a credible political writer for the Star.

Star Figures Out ES&S Deal Wasn't What It At First Appeared

AI reacted with disappointment when Secretary of State Todd Rokita first announced his settlement with Election Systems & Software for their faulty delivery of automated voting systems to 17 counties in Indiana, which included no fines or findings of wrongdoing. Today, the Star's "Behind Closed Doors" columns is rethinking the settlement:

At first blush, Secretary of State Todd Rokita's settlement this past week with Election Systems & Software sounds sizable.

Rokita launched an investigation into the Nebraska voting equipment company after counties complained about difficulties with the firm's voting machines during the May primary. To resolve the case, the firm pledged more than $700,000 in donations, materials and technical support to the state.

A closer look, however, makes the settlement seem somewhat less impressive. In reality, direct cash donations by the company to the state total about $245,000.

The larger dollar figure includes posters, handouts and training videos for poll workers that ES&S valued at $100 to $150 a pop.

Marion County alone is slated to receive 400 training videos that the company estimated are worth $60,000. Twenty-six other counties use ES&S equipment and will get the videos, too. When asked why the training videos cost so much, John Groh, senior vice president of ES&S, said it is expensive to produce videos meant for such a specific purpose. One of the complaints during the May primary was that poll workers had few instructions on how to run the ES&S machines.

Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler said she thinks the videos could help many counties. But not her own -- the county's public access channel already produces its own poll-worker training videos. Free of charge.

As AI pointed out earlier this week, the amount going to the counties was in the form of services and not cash grants, and we thought the costs attributed to those services was dubious. The Star's figure of $60,000 for 400 training videos, which Marion Co. Clerk Doris Ann Sadler says will not be helpful to her county since the county has already produced its own training video, is simply not credible. It's also hard to believe the company had not already built the cost of producing a training video in with the contract price for the original system; if not, it should have been included in the original contract price.

Next, we'll probably learn that the company is estimating the cost of the posters it's proving the counties at $100 a pop. Rokita should be ashamed of this deal. After promising to the come down hard on the company when he first filed a complaint against it, Rokita wound up doing little more than slapping the company on the hand. Do our elected officials in Indiana not know how to negotiate on behalf of the interests of the taxpayers they serve?

It's disappointing that the Star didn't follow up with this item in a news story rather than the paper's weekly political gossip column. Its readers deserved a better analysis of the settlement agreement than it got from the Star's news pages.

Indy, We Have A Problem

The Star's Karen Eschbacher brings us more bad news today on page one about how the Capital Improvement Board of Managers has no plan for how it's going to pay for the extra costs of running the $675 million Lucas Oil Stadium, except to ask the legislature for permission to divert revenues from new taxes imposed to cover the stadium's construction costs. The CIB is projecting that annual operating expenses for the stadium will be at least $10 million more than the annual operating costs of the RCA Dome.

In light of this latest news, my question is how could the state and the CIB have negotiated such a bad deal for the taxpayers? Awhile back the Star told us about potentially large cost overruns associated with the construction of the stadium and where the money would come from to pay for those costs? We learned then that other cities had negotiated contract terms that compelled team owners to bear the costs of any such excess construction costs, but no such term was included in the deal with Colt's owner Jim Irsay.

We also learn from today's story that other cities have contracts with team owners which cover the operating expenses for the stadium. The Pittsburg Steelers are responsible for the operating costs of Heinz Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs are responsible for most of the operating costs for Arrowhead Stadium. And Soldier Field in Chicago is operated by a private firm, which operates the facility with the revenues that are generated from nonfootball events held at the stadium.

Lucal Oil Stadium will generate lots of revenues. The problem is that the CIB gets very little of those revenues; instead, they go directly into the pocket of Colts' owner Jim Irsay. He gets all the game-day revenues from concession sales. He gets half the profits from from nonprofit events, which is another $3.5 million a year. And he gets a windfall from the naming rights purchased by Lucas Oil.

It is infuriating that the only solution the CIB has to this problem is to make taxpayers pay even more for a new facility which greatly enriches Jim Irsay. The taxpayers should say, HELL NO, WE WON'T PAY. It's about time our city leaders started looking out for the interests of its hard-working taxpayers instead of multi-millionaire professional sports team owners who don't even live in our community. It says very little about the negotiating abilities of Fred Glass and other CIB officials who negotiated such poor terms for the taxpayers. If they need money to operate the facility, then they better go back and re-negotiate the deal with Mr. Irsay.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Alabama Dems Reverse Decision To Oust Lesbian Candidate

The Alabama Democratic state executive committee reversed a local party committee's decision to oust Patricia Todd as the party's candidate for state representative in a Birmingham district. Todd, an openly white, lesbian candidate, angered the district's African-American Democrats who controlled the local committee when she defeated an African-American candidate in a runoff election. Because the Republicans have fielded no candidate for the November election, today's decision ensures that Todd will become the first openly lesbian member of the Alabama legislature. If the state committee had not acted, the rule applied by the local committee to remove Todd from the ballot would have no doubt run afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jim Shella And HIs Pathetic Indiana Week In Review Clan

Indiana Week In Review has been a pathetic excuse for public affairs programming for many years and tonight's broadcast was no different. The show's host, Jim Shella, opened up tonight's panel discussion on the subject of Fifth Third Bank suing 7th District GOP candidate Eric Dickerson for money his dealership owed it and his announcement that he had sold his dealership to Ed Martin. So how will this effect Dickerson's campaign Shella asks his panelists? The responses from Shella's lame panelists was predictable.

Republican Mike McDaniel leads off with a disclaimer that the law firm for which he works as a lobbyist, Krieg DeVault, represented Fifth Third in its lawsuit against Dickerson's dealership, and so he was constrained from commenting on the lawsuit. Krieg DeVault has a long history in banking. McDaniel's lobbying colleague at the firm is Kip Tew, former Marion Co. Democratic Chairman, who I'm sure had no role in getting the lawsuit into the public realm. McDaniels offered only that the lawsuit was just a part of a process, and that it would not have a big effect on Dickerson's campaign.

Democrat Ann DeLaney, not surpisingly, urged that Dickerson's business woes hurt his credibility. "It's game, set, match," she says. If you're going to run on your business experience, then this week's development was conclusive of that as far as she was concerned.

John Ketzenberer, who has been an extremely disappointing business columnist for the Indianapolis Star, spoke dismissively of Dickerson's campaign. Ketzenberger begins by commenting that Dickerson's campaign only has $350 in the bank. Ketzenberger cut no slack for Dickerson, even though he acknowledged that GM is in fact rolling up a lot of its dealerships as part of its consolidation efforts. The public perception, which has been totally driven by the local news media which has hyped this issue, Ketzenberger says is that Dickerson has been a failure in his business. His campaign, which was already uphill, "had to hit on all cylinders" and this was a "bad miss" from which he can't recover according to Ketzengerger. Ketzenberger previously worked for the Indianapolis Business Journal, which scooped the Star on this story.

Jon Schwantes, a former member of the Indianapolis Star staff whose professional career as a journalist has been fading for years, echoes Ketzenberger. He had an opportunity to capitalize on the restaurant/bar scandal at the Julia Carson Government Center Schwantes says, but everything in his campaign had to go right. When Dickerson says the lawsuit is too complicated to understand, that's not what the public is hearing according to Schwantes. They hear that a bank sued Dickerson for $2 million and that he's selling his car dealership he urges. The public perception is bad for Dickerson according to Schwantes.

A good house cleaning is in order at Indiana Week In Review. In finding replacements, host Jim Shella needs to follow rule number one: do not put people on the panel who are constrained from expressing their opinions because of professional considerations. That means no lobbyists and no attorneys who are frequently asked to comment on matters which clearly pose a conflict of interest. That means both McDaniels and DeLaney have to go. McDaniels is a wonderful guy, but there is just so much he can't say because he's a lobbyist. DeLaney is such a partisan firebrand that she lacks any credibility. Let's also add voices from the media who aren't so distant from Indiana politics. I'm sorry, but Ketzenberger and Schwantes are completely out of touch with Indiana politics. Their opinions add so little to the discussion.

I would suggest folks like Brian Howey, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz or Nuvo's Laura McPhee. They would add some street-smartness, which the show is sorely lacking. Also, since it is a public affairs program, get the public involved. To accomplish this the show should allow viewers to recommend topics for the panel to discuss each week, at least one of which should be thrown into the mix for discussion. If the show followed my suggestions, they would be talking about issues we really care about. An informed panel would have been discussing the Julia Carson Government Center scandal and not some non-story about Eric Dickerson's personal business affairs as this pathetic panel devoted to its first topic of conversation this week.

Alabama Dems Deny Election Win To Lesbian

Patricia Todd became the first lesbian to win a state legislative race in the state of Alabama after she defeated another Democrat in a runoff election for a Birmingham district on July 18, or so she thought. A Democratic Party committee voted 5-0 last night to disqualify her and her runoff opponent because both candidates failed to provide a copy of their financial disclosure forms to the party. To be sure the party's actions had everything to do with the fact that Todd is a white lesbian, no other Democratic candidate in Alabama has complied with the rule in question since 1988 without consequence. The AP reports:

Todd said she believes the challenge has nothing to do with the fact she is gay, but is about the fact that she is white and won in a majority black district.

"Of course if I was black I don't think they would have contested the election," Todd said. She blamed the contest on Joe Reed, longtime chairman of the black Democratic caucus, who wrote a letter before the election urging black leaders to support Hendricks because of her race and stressing the need for keeping the seat in black hands.

It is particularly disturbing that all five Democratic Committee members who voted to disqualify Todd are African-American. The district which Todd won is predominantly African-American. These party officials are upset that a white lesbian took a seat in the legislature away from their African-American candidate. Her opponent's mother-in-law filed a complaint against her for filing her campaign financial statement with the secretary of state's office late, claiming that Todd deliberately did so to hide the financial support she was receiving from a national gay rights group, which contributed $25,000 to her campaign. With Todd and her opponent out of the way, the party leaders can handpick their own choice, which obviously won't be a white lesbian.

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend, who is an African-American lesbian, is angered by the Alabama's Democratic Party's action. Spaulding writes incitefully of the recent developments:

The mess and self-destruction of Alabama's Democratic party in its decision to disqualify white (and out lesbian) Patricia Todd, who legitimately won the House 54 seat, and black challenger Gaynelle Hendricks) is now complete.

The people's vote doesn't matter. It's about party kingmakers, sore losers and race, with the added spice of gay demonization. At the core of this issue is district 54, central Birmingham, is being gentrified. When Kate and I drove through the district on a recent visit, it was plainly apparent that Crestwood, in particular, is an area that is undergoing demographic change. This is no different than what many in-town neighborhoods are experiencing, as property is being bought by gay (and mostly white) urban homesteaders who remodel delapidated housing, attract new businesses and breathe life into those neighborhoods. What it also brings, with the rise in housing costs is displacement of the urban poor, change in voting patterns -- and the power and influence of kingmakers like party vice chairman Joe

It's the loss of Reed's political control that was driving this insanity. It's not as if Patricia Todd didn't have black support -- she had to have a good amount in order to win -- those who supported her have had to deal with taunts and charges of "Uncle Tom" and "sellout." Reed and company are tossing a political temper tantrum and illegitimately tossing out the race card, hoping that noise and rage will overpower actual voting results. And yes, that still works in Southern politics, particularly in this case.The anti-gay spin has been downplayed in coverage, but the fact of the matter is, as the NYT article notes, anonymous fliers were posted calling Patricia Todd a "confessed lesbian." No one needs to ignore this and let it slip below the radar. The black homophobia should not be swept under the rug.

And so, with the disqualification over an arcane rule that no Dem in a certified race has followed, this is a statement that "if we can't have the black winner we want, we'll sacrifice both of them to get the white lesbian out of the picture.

"Gentrification and its impact on a district's representation is a worthy topic to discuss; using party machinery and backroom bigotry to toss out the legitimate results of an election is a travesty and embarassment. It's as if Reed and company have a short memory -- that they are reveling in the chance to take away the vote of the people now that blacks have gained political power is a sad state of affairs. It wasn't that long ago that party machinery was used against blacks; table-turning on an ally like Todd is self-defeating and racist in turn.

Spaulding is right to emphasize the role anti-gay bigotry in the Alabama's African-American community is playing in the Democratic Party's actions, and that this issue is being downplayed in the media coverage. You can bet that if a group of white Republicans had taken similar action against an African-American candidate, the news media would have played up the race issue big time.

The question now is whether Alabama's state Democratic Party, with encouragement from the DNC, will step in and overrule the local party leader's actions. If they don't, then our U.S. Justice Department should do its job in enforcing the Voting Rights Act and overrule the local party's actions. Somebody needs to act quickly; otherewise, we're simply allowing a bunch of bigoted sore losers to make a mockery of the very laws which were created to ensure fair elections for minorities.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Police Harrassing Innocent Men In Enforcement of City's Ban On Sex Offenders In Parks

Just as its critics suspected would happen, innocent men are being harrassed while enjoying our public parks in order to enforce the enactment of a recent city ordinance barring sex offenders from city parks and other places frequented by children. My friends Scott and Jay share their upsetting experience this week in Broad Ripple Park over at Scott's blog, Sardonic Bomb. Some lady with her kids in the park doesn't think it looks right for two men to be sitting in the park minding their own business so she calls the cops. Within minutes they are forced to produce their IDs and spend 10 minutes answering questions from a park ranger and an IPD officer while they checked their criminal histories. You can thank city-county councilor Mary Moriarty Adams, the one who has a problem with gay people, and our two prosecutor candidates Melina Kennedy and Carl Brizzi for this instrusive and completely unnecessary law.

Lame-Duck Lutz Criticized For Legislative Mailer

The Republican seeking to succeed retiring Sen. Larry Lutz (D-Evansville) is complaining that Lutz sent out a district-wide legislative newsletter touting Senate Democrats universal health care plan, even though he's not up for re-election this year. Huh? You mean those newsletters are only to be used to aid an incumbent's re-election? That's what George Postletheweight thinks. He tells the Evansville Courier Press' Brian Corbin:

"I just don't understand sending it out," said Republican George Postletheweight . . .

Postletheweight said he was not opposed to legislative mailings, but he questioned the effectiveness of "mailing them at the end of a person's term."

Postletheweight said meeting constituents one-on-one is "better than mass mailings that look like junk mail to begin with."

The district-wide mailings to about 50,000 households cost state taxpayers about $10,000. All but one of Indiana's Senate Democrats mailed out newsletters according to the story. Lutz thinks his constituents are entitled to informaton as much as constituents elsewhere. "They're entitled to the same information in Southwest Indiana as are (constituents) in any other part of the state," Lutz said. Lutz also thinks his piece won't be confused for campaign literature. "When they go into the voting booth, they won't see my name in there," he said. He also said the newsletter generated a lot of phone calls to his staff from constituents.

Postletheweight's complaints are a bit ironic. Typically, candidates complain about their incumbent opponents using taxpayer-funded mailings for political purposes. Posteltheweight apparently thinks the right to use taxpayer-funded mailings should be reserved to incumbent candidates, which just goes to prove that the mailings are all about politics.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chief Justice Shepard Concerned About Bopp's Politicization Of Courts

Chief Justice Randall Shepard expressed "grave concern" at a recent meeting of the Conference of Chief Justices over the growing partisan nature of judicial elections according to a Legal Times article. While Shepard never mentioned Terre Haute lawyer Jim Bopp by name, there was no mistaking the source of his concerns. The Legal Times quotes Shepard on the subject:

"It's the money, it's the judicial questionnaires, it's a whole constellation of things happening now that don't advance the public's confidence in the courts," says Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, outgoing chairman of the conference, who hosted the chief justices' meeting in Indianapolis. "We need to get information to bar associations and judges groups about what to do when the fire alarm goes off, or before the alarm goes off, in an election."

The Legal Times cites a case Jim Bopp successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court as the source of Shepard's concerns:

Though concern has been building for years about the increase in campaign spending and partisanship in what used to be sedate judicial campaigns, the main impetus for the latest effort by the chief justices is the fallout from a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Republican Party of Minnesota v. White.

That ruling struck down, on First Amendment grounds, a Minnesota canon of judicial ethics that barred candidates from announcing their views on disputed legal or political issues.

Several lower federal courts have responded to the decision by striking down other state canons and rules aimed at keeping judicial candidates from making campaign promises and partisan statements that may compromise the substance and appearance of impartiality once they are elected . . .

The White decision's main effect has been to encourage interest groups to ply judicial candidates with questionnaires demanding that they take positions on controversial issues, says Georgetown University Law Center professor Roy Schotland, who studies judicial elections and worked with the chief justices on the issue. "The situation is bad, getting worse, with federal judges leading the way downhill."

Bopp is currently pursuing a federal court case in the Northern District of Indiana to strike down Indiana's judicial canons restricting judicial candidates from pledging or promising, or committing themselves to certain positions, which is of no doubt great concern to Shepard. Bopp is particuarly perturbed that most judicial candidates in Indiana have declined to respond to judicial questionnaires from his favorite wing-nut organization, Right to Life, based on advice they received from the Indiana Judicial Qualifications and Disciplinary Commission. Bopp, who represents various Christian right organizations, wants judicial candidates to announce in advance their positions on such hot-button issues as abortion and gay marriage.

Hat tip to Indiana Law Blog for noticing the Legal Times article.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This is a family photo of Randall Terry, a conservative Republican candidate seeking to unseat Florida State Senator Jim King (R) because King's not sufficiently conservative when it comes to "family values." His top two issues are "protecting traditional marriage" and opposing adoptions by gay parents. You probably best remember Terry from the anti-abortion group he ran known as "Operation Rescue", a group which was known for protesting out in front of abortion clinics and badgering women and abortion clinic employees as they entered the clinics. He also stuck his nose in the Terri Schiavo right to die case.

What is missing from the photo is two of Terry's children, Jamiel and Tila. Both children have been estranged from their father since Jamiel came out to his family as a gay man and Tila gave birth to a child out of wedlock. The Advocate writes:

Jamiel said the self-image that his father is crafting and the campaign message about strong families ignores part of his own family history. He said voters have a right to know about that.

"He is very big on image," Jamiel said. "In a large way Tila and I mess up that image."

Jamiel doesn't support his father's candidacy because he disapproves of his homosexuality. Jamiel also tells the Advocate that his father left Tila to fend for herself when she was pregnant even as he urged other unwed mothers to go through with their pregnancies rather than getting abortions. Terry insists he loves his son and did not abandon his daughter according to the Advocate. Then why aren't Jamiel and Tila in the campaign family photo? "The reason we don't have a photo with Jamiel and Tila is that we haven't been in the same room with them in about three years," Randall said.

That's the whole point of Jamiel's opposition to his father's candidacy. "Both Tila and I have tried to revive or rekindle our relationship with my father, and we've been shut out," Jamiel said. "So maybe if we had been invited for Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc., we would be in a family photo." If a candidate is going to talk about strong families, Jamiel thinks his father should talk about why his own family isn't.

Both Jamiel and Tila are adopted children. According to the Advocate, Randall blames the problems he has with his two children on the way the children were treated before they were adopted. That's pretty pathetic. As has been said before and should be said again, family values start at home. If you can't unconditionally love your own children, then how can you campaign on your support of family values? Isn't that what "family values" are really all about? Oh, and did I mention that the big defender of traditional marriage is in his second marriage?

No, I Didn't Win The O'Malia's Shopping Spree

Let's put to rest one rumor. I did not win the $500 free shopping spree at O'Malia's in Lockerbie. Several people have congratulated me for winning the shopping spree after seeing me in the photo with Winner #4. The real Winner #4 is Mike Litmer, my best friend and housemate. Several of his friends and I were there for moral support this past Saturday when he had 5 minutes to shop for $500 worth of groceries and assundries.

After I did a number on the store in a post a couple of months ago, I'm sure people were wondering how I possibly could have won the shopping spree. If my name had been drawn, I'm sure they would have thrown it out after all the criticism I heaped on them.

People have asked how you can possibly fill your grocery cart up with $500 worth of goods in 5 minutes. Under the rules of the shopping spree, you can pre-order your meat so that it's already packaged and ready for you to load into your cart when the whistle blows. You are not allowed to purchase any alcohol or tobacco products. In Mike's case, his meat totaled over $300. He managed to fill 2 carts with well over $700 worth of groceries. He gave back some items and wound up paying $85 out of pocket.

A couple of the winners donated their food to the Wheeler Mission. Mike kept his and didn't feel the least bit guilty. I'm glad he did. The filet mignon I cooked on the grill was great.

Feds Investigating Juvenile Detention Center

Star editorial writer RiShawn Biddle confirms that the feds are investigating the Marion Co. juvenile detention center. He writes at Expresso:

Superior Court Presiding Judge Cale Bradford, along with city Corporation Counsel Kobi Wright confirmed yesterday that the juvenile jail is now being investigated by the Justice Department over the alleged sexual misconduct that has led to charges agsinst (sic) nine former employees and superintendent Damon Ellison by Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.
It is not clear at this point whether the investigation will cover any period of time that Judge James Payne was in charge of the facility. He currently serves as Director of Child Services for Gov. Daniels. Biddle promises more later.

Special Prosecutor For Gibson

A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate allegations by a Marion Co. sheriff's deputy that a visibly drunken city-county councilor, Ron Gibson, pushed and threatened her outside the Blu Lounge during Black Expo. The Star reports:

A special prosecutor will look into an altercation last month between a Marion County sheriff's deputy and a City-County Council member.

Deputy Jean Burkert claims Ron Gibson, a Democrat, pushed and threatened her outside a crowded Downtown nightclub during Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration weekend. Gibson disputed her account, saying he was not intoxicated and did not do anything wrong. He said Burkert filed the police report days after the July 16 incident to protect herself from his complaint to Sheriff Frank Anderson about her conduct. He said he was confident that the truth would prevail.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, a Republican, requested that Barry Brown of Monroe County act as special prosecutor in the case "to avoid an appearance of impropriety." Marion Superior Court Judge Cale Bradford approved the request Aug. 15.

Brizzi's request said the allegation against Gibson "may or may not rise to the level of criminal conduct." Brown has one year to determine whether to file charges against Gibson.

Anyone heard what, if any, actions Sheriff Frank Anderson's office has taken against Deputy Burkert in response to the complaint Gibson filed with his office in an effort to get Burkert disciplined or fired?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tully Eating Crow: Fifth Third Lawsuit Dropped

After dismissing 7th District GOP congressional candidate Eric Dickerson's campaign as a "soap opera" and suggesting that his campaign had imploded because of a business-related lawsuit, Star political columnist Matt Tully is eating a little crow tonight. Dickerson's campaign has issued a press release indicating that Fifth Third Bank has received amounts owed it, and that its lawsuit has been dropped. Dickerson says, through his press spokesman Stuart Hirsch:

In the past few days, much has been made of a lawsuit filed against me by Fifth Third Bank. The bank and I both know this action was unnecessary but they had a right to do it. That is, after all, the American way. Small business owners are routinely required to sign "personal guarantees" to secure loans. This is often the only way to expand or finance business operations.

In my case, I signed a $2 million personal guarantee to buy new and used vehicle inventory for my dealership. Although the terms of the loan and conditions for payment are too complicated to explain in this statement, I am proud to say my dealership never missed a loan payment and was never late with a loan payment.

There is good news for everyone today. Fifth Third Bank received its money and the lawsuit is being dropped. Case closed. I thank the bank for all its support over the many years of our business relationship. We all prospered.

Now, it’s time to move on with the real issues that are at the heart of my run for Congress.

Dickerson is absolutely right. It is time to move on to the real issues. Tully and the rest of the mainstream media who did Julia Carson's dirty work for her by chasing this non-story should be collectively holding their heads in shame. One of the real issues Tully and other mainstream media should be discussing are the illegalities and self-dealing associated with the newly constructed restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center. You know, the one involving public funds and public property.

It is precisely this kind of crap that causes most decent and honest people to shun public service. The corrupt insiders are masters at the game of smear. Eric Dickerson is just the latest in a long list of victims on that score. If only there were real reporters who still investigated public corruption and avoided the lure of these useless sideshows the corrupt insiders feed them for easy consumption, more good people might enter politics. But as long as the mainstream media continues to reward corrupt insiders while shredding newcomers on a whim, that's not going to happen.

Rokita Lets ES&S Off With A Hand Slap

Secretary of State Todd Rokita (R) has reached a settlement with Elections System & Software (ES&S) that involves no fines or judgments against the company. Back in April, Rokita filed a complaint against ES&S with much fanfare, citing the company for 30 possible violations occurring in Marion, Johnson and St. Joseph Counties, three of the 27 counties in which ES&S furnishes electronic voting systems. Back then Rokita said, "Hoosiers deserve voting systems that comply with the high standards mandated by Indiana law," said Rokita. "The May 8th hearing is a mechanism for voters, election administrators, and vendors to know that Indiana will hold accountable, where appropriate, those who wrongly put at risk the integrity of our voting process. "

Rokita's press release noted that Indiana law allowed the Secretary of State's office to issue civil penalties of up to $300,000 for each finding of a voting machine vendor that knowingly, negligently or recklessly sold, leased or allowed to be used equipment in violation of Indiana law. But he has reached a settlement that involves no civil fines or admissions of wrongdoing on the part of ES&S despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

In lieu of any civil fine or judgments of wrongdoing by ES&S, Rokita is allowing the company to contribute $750,000 to the state and counties for election-related efforts. One-third will be diverted to a state Voting System Technical Oversight Program, which will "provide technical support with election equipment and help establish voting system standards." The balance will be divided up among the 27 counties which contracted with ES&S "to pay for training videos, onsite support and additional services such as ballot layout assistance and voter outreach through the 2007 elections, especially for disabled voters." The company has also promised Rokita that it will add staff across the nation to support its software.

An AP story quotes Rokita as saying of the deal he struck with ES&S, "I am confident that future elections will be better." Today's decision is very disappointing. When you consider how many millions of dollars Indiana counties have paid out to this company for shoddy performance which could have potentially compromised the integrity of our state's election system, today's announcement amounts to little more than a slap on the hand. ES&S will be able to tell the world when asked about its problems in Indiana that an investigation of the company was concluded with no civil fines and no findings of wrongdoing on the part of the company--this in spite of overwhelming evidence of election law violations by the company. As the AP notes, election workers in Clark, Harrison, Jackson and Washington counties had to manually enter votes for each candidate in each precinct. So much for Rokita's promise to hold the company accountable.

An investigation of a local vendor, MicroVote, is ongoing.

Brizzi Launches Web Ads

Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's re-election campaign has launched web advertising to promote his message to the voters. The first in a series of "non-traditional" web ads is being circulated via e-mail. You can view his first introductory web message by clicking here. It's definitely a much less expensive means of advertising than television or radio. I'm sure we will start seeing more of these from other candidates.

Tully Trashes Dickerson While Covering Up Carson Center Scandal

Matt Tully seems more than willing to trash the candidacy of GOP 7th District congressional candidate Eric Dickerson after learning scant details about a financial dispute his car dealership has with one of its lenders, Fifth Third Bank. Over at his blog today he compares his campaign to a "soap opera" and declares that it has imploded because he complained about lack of financial support from the party and has been sued by Fifth Third Bank. Of course, never mind that Dickerson overwhelmed the Republican-slated candidate in the May primary by more than a 2-1 margin and did so without any party backing. Or, for that matter, that Fifth Third told the IBJ that they expected the matter to be resolved soon without further litigation.

No, Tully's job is to make sure that Dickerson's campaign is finished off. One less campaign to cover this fall will mean that much less work to do. It's just too bad that Tully isn't as interested in pursuing the unfolding scandal at the Carson Government Center surrounding the illegalities and self-dealing associated with the controversial restaurant/bar being pursued by the son of one of Tully's favorite sources, Lacy Johnson. I guess Tully would rather carry water for Johnson than serve the public's well-being. Isn't that what this is all about?

Bauer Has A Good Idea

Rep. Pat Bauer (D) has had a lot of ideas this past year, mostly bad, but he's hit on a good idea with his most recent proposal. Bauer wants to move control of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles from the Governor to the Secretary of State. The Star's Theodore Kim reports today:

Consolidating driver and voter identification duties under one chief, Bauer said, would streamline government bureaucracy and give voters a clear sense of who's in charge.

"This (would make) the secretary of state's office more important to the voters," he said at a hastily arranged news conference outside a BMV license branch on Virginia Avenue in Indianapolis.

Secretaries of state in several neighboring states, including Michigan, have overseen motor vehicle services with success, Bauer said.

The governor's office had no comment on the proposal, but Secretary of State Todd Rokita (R) dismissed the plan as "election year antics." At least that's what he's saying publicly. Privately, Rokita is saying of Bauer's plan, "You go girl!" By this point, Rokita has got to be getting bored with the mundane task of managing his office. There's only so much you can make out of managing business registrations, overseeing the elections division and handling small-time securities violation cases.

The BMV's management would no doubt get a lot more attention if the under-challenged Secretary of State had more on his plate. It would also make the office worth keeping. A few years ago, some may recall that Democrat candidate Tim Jeffers ran on the promise of doing away with the office altogether if he got elected to the position. The Secretary of State's office in neighboring Illinois, where I grew up, is considered a stepping stone to the Governor's office because of the high profile the position has administering BMV-related duties. And Indiana motorists badly need the extra attention the agency will no doubt get if it's transferred to the Secretary of State's office.

Monday, August 21, 2006

London Terror Threat For Real

While many bloggers opposed to President Bush's policies for fighting the war on terror scoffed at initial reports that Islamic terrorists were planning to bring down U.S. airplanes headed from London to the U.S. this month, the ongoing investigation in Great Britain demonstrates just how real the threat really was. British authorities have now charged 11 persons in connection with the terror plot and gathered substantial evidence, including bomb-making components and martyrdom tapes. The British investigation is described as the largest in the country's history. The Washington Post reports:

British authorities today announced terrorism and murder-conspiracy charges against 11 people in the alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners, saying their searches since Aug. 10 have uncovered large caches of bomb-making components as well as "martyrdom" tapes of the type often prepared by Islamic suicide bombers before they attack.

Charges may also be brought against 11 others arrested on Aug. 10, officials said in a televised news conference, as they continue what Scotland Yard described as a globe-spanning probe, nowhere near complete, of an "immense," "deadly" and "enduring" conspiracy to kill air passengers between the United Kingdom and the United States . . .

Bomb-making equipment seized has included a variety of potentially explosive chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide, electrical components necessary for detonators and 6,000 gigabytes of removable data-storage devices from more than 400 different computers and 200 mobile phones . . .

That would make it one of the largest criminal investigations in British history, likely to exceed the probe following the London subway bombings that claimed 52 lives last July. Most of those involved in the bombing were also killed by those explosions.

British authorities release of this much information during an investigation is unusual. British law severely restricts what police may disclose to the public before and during a criminal prosecution. The bloggers who were quick to doubt the original terrorist plot claim are saying little about today's news.

Meanwhile, ABC News is reporting that tomorrow, August 22, "marks an important historic event on the Islamic calendar." August 22 is the date when terrorist intended to carry out the attack on trans-Atlantic U.S. airplanes according to some terrorism experts. ABC News reports:

This year, August 22 marks the holy day on the Islamic calendar that is the day of reckoning for Shiites. Some Shiite sects believe that August 22 could correspond to the end of the world. And just today, after much hype, Iran has announced that it will continue to develop its nuclear program.

To followers of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, this is a well-timed affront to Israel, the United States and the world. The United Nations had given Iran until the end of the month to respond, but Ahmadinejad had made it clear to all Iranians and the world that he intended to respond on the eve of August 22.

Whether or not this announcement is the end of Ahmadinejad's plans for August 22, one expert says we will have to wait and watch.

Let's hope the arrests in London shut down any plan of attack planned for tomorrow.

Star Wants Us To Know About Dickerson's Personal Finances

The Indianapolis Star thinks we need to know about Eric Dickerson's personal finances. I guess the Star thinks this is necessary to level the playing field since the newspaper had one small news story and one lame column about the unfolding scandal of how Democratic insiders and close political friends of Rep. Julia Carson illegally constructed a restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center. The Indianapolis Business Journal first reported in this week's edition that Dickerson's lender, Fifth Third Bank, was suing his car dealership for a loan it took out for its vehicle inventory.

For the record, Dickerson claims he has never failed to pay any of the payments under the terms of his loan. He has publicly announced that he is in the process of selling his Buick dealership to Ed Martin, pending approval by GM. Politics can be a dirty business. The timing of this Fifth Third matter is suspicious to say the least.

Now, will the Star please do what it should be doing and report on the important facts it is hiding from the public concerning the illegalities surrounding the construction of the restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center. That involves taxpayers dollars and taxpayer funds, which is a hell of a lot more important than whether Eric Dickerson has a dispute with his lender.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Terrorists And Fred Phelps Think Alike

World Net Daily's Aaron Klein reports that a Palestinian terrorist leader believes that Israel's military strikes against Hezbollah failed because its army is full of gay soldiers. Abu Oudai said, "If we do [what Hezbollah accomplished], this Israeli army full of gay soldiers and full of corruption and with old-fashioned war methods can be defeated also in Palestine."

Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Church in Topeka, Kansas has protested at military funerals throughout the U.S., claiming that American soldiers are being killed because America tolerates homosexuality. In fact, the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law bars openly gay soldiers from serving in the military, which is hardly representative of tolerance. Since President Clinton signed it into law back in 1993, more than 11,000 gay soldiers have been kicked out of the U.S. military. The Israeli army, by contrast, allows gays to serve alongside other soldiers. Many military observers consider Israel's army to be one of the best in the world.

Pay For Play

The Northwest Indiana Times' Patrick Guinane takes a look at how much certain firms which made large political contributions to Gov. Mitch Daniels have garnered from the state in professional fees associated with the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road. The Times reports:

Four firms that received $1.6 million in legal and consulting work connected to the private leasing of the Indiana Toll Road have made $90,585 in campaign contributions to Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels during the last three years. And one top attorney encouraged engineering firms to bankroll an ad blitz in support of the lease while he was under contract with the state. The Daniels administration says such political considerations play no role in the awarding of contracts and the state simply selected the most qualified firms.

And which Indianapolis law firm is making off well? Why of course, it's Ice Miller--the same firm involved in the shady restaurant/bar deal at the Julia Carson Government Center. The Times reports:

The remaining legal and consulting work was shared by seven firms, with the biggest chunk -- $1.3 million -- awarded to Ice Miller, the state's third largest law firm. The Indianapolis-based company employs several high-profile political players on both sides of the aisle, including state Rep. Luke Messer, a former executive director of the Indiana Republican Party, He joined the firm's lobbying team in April, one month after helping the Toll Road lease clear the House without a vote to spare. Ice Miller also is the former employer of Harry Gonso, who now serves as Daniels' chief of staff.

Near the top of the Ice Miller roster is John Hammond III, a veteran Republican powerbroker the state hired at $331 hourly to work on the Toll Road transaction. Hammond has contributed $20,699 to Daniels' campaign, and in January he gave a pep talk to engineering firms concerned about the legislative fate of Major Moves.

Such firms, along with construction trades that also stand to benefit from the road plan, helped steer more than $300,000 this year to Aiming Higher, a nonprofit advocacy group that used the contributions to fund a multimedia ad campaign in the weeks before the General Assembly OK'd the Toll Road lease . . .

Ice Miller has made $7,386 in corporate contributions to Daniels' campaign since 2003 and, beyond Hammond, six other Ice Miller staffers who worked on the Toll Road contract have given a total of $11,008.

As they say in politics, if you want to play, you've got to pay. Nowhere is that more true than right here in Indiana.

Tully Gets It Half Right On Bar In Government Center

Matt Tully mentioned while he was guest hosting Abdul in the Morning on Friday that he would be writing in his Sunday column about the restaurant/bar political insiders were being allowed to open in the Julia Carson Government Center. AI commented on Friday that Tully should bone up on his facts concerning the issue a little better than he sounded on the radio. Judging by his column in today's Star, he did not.

Tully gets the fact that political insiders are behind the effort to open the restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center, and that they intended to pave over the Polin Park to make use of the land as a parking lot to serve the business. He also gets that Rep. Julia Carson holds the power in her hand to halt the deal. "Because in Democratic circles, Carson reigns, " he writes. "If she speaks up, the bar plan will crash before one drink is served."

What is disappointing is the critical information Tully omits from his column. He makes no mention of the fact that the restaurant/bar was constructed before Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, as the landlord of the building, sought any rezoning or variances which were required to permit this particular use of the property. He also omits the fact that the construction of the restaurant/bar occurred without any building permits being obtained, and that the construction itself violated numerous state and local building code requirements. Drummer only sought to rectify these problems after the Department of Metropolitan Development visited the site and issued a stop work order and cited the township for the building code violations. Never mind that DMD did not issue any fines for the gross violations and that its hearing officer, Judith Conley, rapidly approved their rezoning/variance petitions.

Tully also goes out of his way to protect one of his political sources, Lacy Johnson. Tully notes, "Its backers include Lacy Johnson III." "He's the son of attorney and general power player Lacy Johnson, who has made political contributions to Drummer, Gray and other Democrats," he adds. Tully leaves out the fact that Johnson has been Carson's long-time campaign manager/key advisor, and, more importantly, that his law firm is deeply involved in this matter. As AI has reported, two attorneys from Ice Miller petitioned for the rezoning/variances which were filed after the restaurant/bar was already constructed. Johnson and his law firm have performed legal work for Center Township in the past as well. However, AI found from an entry on DMD's online permit history for the work that Lacy Johnson was listed as the tenant contact at Ice Miller's address. The conflict of interest apparently didn't catch Tully's eye.

Tully does manage an admission of involvement in the deal from city parks director Joe Wynns. "This has mushroomed into something unbelievable," Wynns told Tully, who agreed it happened without a public hearing to let Drummer pour asphalt over the park land. Tully writes, "Wynns said the park land on East Fall Creek Parkway is underused and in a dangerous, high-traffic area." "Still, he regrets Indy Parks got involved." Tully, however, makes a dubious assertion in his column. He writes, "And bar investors last week scrapped the parking lot portion of their plan . . . So the park land is safe. But the bar is coming."

It is true that Ice Miller's attorneys withdrew their rezoning petition to allow for off-street parking on what was the former Polin Park's land. However, the petition to rezone the land from park use to commerical use remains on the table. The playground equipment for the park is long gone, and there has been no commitment from anyone to restore the land to its former use. Tully mentions that the bar's investors "wouldn't return phone calls" to him. It would have been better had he bothered to share with us who, other than Lacy Johnson's son, is an investor in the deal.

Tully reluctantly acknowledges the role of bloggers in bringing this story to public bear. "A story ran, prompting radio hosts and bloggers and residents to ridicule the plan," Tully writes. To AI's knowledge, Ruth Holladay's blog is the only other blog besides this one to focus attention on this issue. Presumably, Tully has read what was written here and on her blog prior to writing his column. It is disappointing that he couldn't have put as much effort into writing his column today as his fellow bloggers have devoted to this story. His readers would be a little better informed had he made the effort.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Democrats Reject Rule Expanding GLBT Representation

The Democratic National Committee rejected a proposed rule that would have ensured increased representation of GLBT members at the party's national convention. Instead, the party adopted a watered down rule to encourage party leaders to include under-represented groups such as persons with disabilities and members of the GLBT community. State parties are specifically prohibited from imposing quotas ensuring greater representation from members of these groups.

The DNC's rules impose quotas for other minority groups, including African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Hispanics and women. African-Americans within the party opposed adding GLBTs to the list because they believed it would dilute their own representation within the party. Donald Hitchcock, the DNC's former gay outreach director who was fired by DNC Chairman Howard Dean after his partner questioned Dean's commitment to the GLBT community, is disappointed by the outcome. “This is not even separate but equal,” said Hitchcock. “It’s separate and unequal.” He says the DNC rules change is no different than language the party has adopted in the past. The Stonewall Democrats, by contrast, are pleased with the outcome. “The language is strong enough that we can live with it,” said John Marble of the Stonewall Democrats.

Daniels Intent On Awarding Welfare Contract To Roob's Former Employer

Notwithstanding all the criticsm his administration has faced for selecting a final group of vendors with whom to negotiate a $1 billion contract to administer the state's welfare programs, one of whom is the former employer of FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob and has encountered numerous problems with similar contracts in other states, Gov. Daniels remains intent on outsourcing these services. The Evansville Courier-Press quotes Daniels as saying on Friday, "We have dedicated employees, but our welfare system is slow, cumbersome, inaccurate, inconsistent and conducive to waste and fraud." Daniels added, "It continually fails recipients and taxpayers alike and must be changed."

A report Daniels cites in support of the privatization move found the following problems:

  • 35 percent of Medicaid long-term care applications approved by the agency contained errors.
  • A backlog of people waiting to learn if they were eligible for disability because the applications were not processed within the allotted 90-day period.
  • Indiana's welfare caseload decreased by only 6 percent over the last decade, while other states had an average reduction of 58 percent.
  • At least 15 of the agency's employees have been arrested for fraud since 2003, with the average fraud case costing taxpayers $50,000.
  • Lack of consistency occurs, with 107 welfare offices statewide determining and verifying eligibility in 107 ways.

Daniels and FSSA officials believe a privately-run system would have fewer errors, process cases more quickly, improve access to benefits and move more persons from welfare to work. If the privatization plan is approved, as many as 1,700 agency employees could lose their jobs.

The problem with the report Daniels' relies upon in support of this privatization initiative is that it did not include a cost-benefit analysis which would demonstrate that private companies could operate the system more efficiently. One of their arguments against the current system is that the state's rate of moving people from welfare to work is much lower than other states. Ironically, Indiana has relied on private vendors in the past to administer welfare-to-work programs mandated by former President Clinton's welfare-to-work program. If the private vendors had successfully done the job the taxpayers paid them to do, Indiana should have realized a much greater reduction in those dependent on welfare. It's hard to understand how the administration can place the entire blame on agency employees under these circumstances.

The administation also overlooks the fact that many of the agency workers who are responsible for administering these programs are being paid by the state slightly more than poverty-level wages themselves. That no doubt contributes to a higher rate of errors and fraud than is desirable. Ironically, Mitch Roob seems to agree. In an unrelated article in today's Star about how much government employees are paid, Roob laments, "We've got folks who are running $80 million programs getting paid $40,000 a year."

Also, the computer systems these employees rely upon to perform their tasks are the very systems some of the vendors who now seek to take away their jobs were paid to develop for the state in the first instance. If those systems are inadequate to perform the tasks, don't these private vendors bear some responsibility for the problems with the current system? Wasn't it the failure of one such system that resulted in more than 10,000 Medicaid clients being denied service when it was rolled out earlier this year under Roob's management?

Unfortunately, the hell-bent determination of Daniels to privatize these services seems to be based on good old-fashioned political graft. The Associated Press' Ken Kuzmer reports that ACS, Roob's former employer and major vendor participating in the privatization deal, has lavished campaign contributions on Daniels--$12,500 in just the past 3 years. ACS' most recent contribution to Daniels was made weeks after it sat down with the agency to begin discussing the bidding process for the contract it now expects to be awarded. Daniels declined to comment on the contributions Kuzmer reports.

As first reported by Advance Indiana, Kuzmer notes that Roob went to work for ACS in 2001 after the company he co-founded with former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith, Netgov, went bankrupt and was taken over by ACS. Goldsmith is still affiliated with ACS. Roob left ACS at the end of 2004 to join the Daniels' administration as FSSA Secretary. Roob also refused to comment to Kuzmer.

Bush Signs Pension Protection Act Providing Benefits For Same-Sex Couples

President George Bush (R) signed the Pension Protection Act yesterday, which includes two new important benefits for same-sex couples. The Human Rights Campaign reports, "Working without fanfare and very closely with members of Congress for more than three years, the Human Rights Campaign secured two important protections that assist gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in the Pension Protection Act signed into law on Aug. 17, 2006.

The first key benefit change will allow a transfer of individual retirement benefits to a domestic partner or other non-spouse beneficiary. Specifically, the surviving partner (or other non-spouse beneficiary) will now be able to transfer his or her deceased partner’s retirement funds into an Individual Retirement Account and either draw down the benefits over a five-year period, or over his or her own life expectancy. This benefit has been limited to married couples in the past. Same-sex partners were forced to immediately withdraw the funds and incur substantial tax charges.

A second key benefit change relates to hardship situations. Same-sex couples will now be allowed to draw on retirement benefits in the case of a qualifying medical or financial emergency. In the past, only same-sex couples were allowed the benefit of accessing funds during an emergency.

It's important to remember that your same-sex partner can only benefit from these new changes if he/she is named as a beneficiary of your retirement plan. These changes are a big step towards leveling the playing field for the estate planning choices of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. The long-term benefit of these changes for same-sex couples cannot be overstated.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Star Newsroom To Be Equipped With Defribillators

In the wake of the death of a Star news photographer after he fell ill in the newsroom and criticism from some colleagues that the Gannett newspaper didn't have adequate procedures and equipment in place to respond to employee health emergencies, the Star's editor Dennis Ryerson tells the National Association of Black Journalists that the newspaper is going to be equipped with defibrillators, and that employees will be trained in CPR. What is new about the report is Ryerson's claim that the Star was already in the processing of ordering defribillators prior to Mpozi Tolber's death. The organization's newsletter, The Monitor reports:

Before Tolbert’s death, the newsroom was in the process of ordering defibrillators and getting employee training for CPR, said Dennis Ryerson, editor of The Star.

"The company already knew we needed to do this and were in the process of doing it," Ryerson said in an interview Thursday. "I don’t know when they’re coming but they’ve been ordered."

Indiana authorities said Thursday that they are awaiting the results of toxicology reports to determine how the Indianapolis Star photographer died at work and whether his newspaper will be held responsible.

"Right now, we don’t have sufficient information to complete the investigation," said Tim Grogg of the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Division. "The investigation is primarily done, but we’re waiting on one additional report."

The agency began its probe on July 26, three weeks after Tolbert collapsed July 3 in The Star’s newsroom. He later died at Wishard Memorial Hospital.

Tolbert’s colleagues have since charged that inadequate training, a lack of defibrillators in the building and unclear emergency procedures all contributed to his death.

The Monitor quotes former newspaper columnist Ruth Holladay among the Star's critics. You can see her reaction to the story by clicking here. At least one other Star employee has taken strong exception to Holladay's criticsm and her reporting of the circumstances of Tolbert's death. Autopsy results from Tolbert's death are still not available but should be available soon. Autopsy reports typically take 6-8 weeks to complete in Marion Co. Tolberts died on July 3.

Is It A Private Club?

Since the issue of opening a restaurant/bar in the Julia Carson Government Center first arose, several people have suggested that the establishment was intended to be operated as a private club. GOP congressional candidate Eric Dickerson made this assertion this morning during an appearance on WXNT's Abdul In the Morning with guest host Matt Tully. I did not raise this in my post yesterday about the numerous building and zoning violations associated with the restaurant/bar's construction noted in the Department of Metropolitan's online permit search records. There is a notation in the activity report for the work of Keystone Construction Corp. dated June 8, 2006, which reads in part as follows:


The language "that only office employees and their guests are served" in the establishment's plan of operation has been interpreted to mean that the establishment would be operated as a private club. I would first note that this entry was made prior to the June 19 stop order issued by DMD. At the time of the June 8 entry, DMD inspectors would have discovered a newly-completed restaurant/bar that was otherwise ready for operation, except that no permits had been obtained for the construction work, and the proper zoning/variance petitions to permit this particular use of the property had not been obtained. I took this June 8 entry to be an interim understanding that the completed restaurant/bar was not going to be open to the public until the DMD had the opportunity to resolve its long list of compliance issues. If the DMD had handled the matter properly, it would have immediately issued a stop order on June 8 rather than waiting until June 19 to act. If someone has information to the contrary, please bring it to my attention.

The original Star report described the establishment as a restaurant bar. In Carl Drummer's words at that time, "It won't be a dance place." Drummer added, "It'll be a place where African-American professionals can go after work and relax and network and enjoy one another's company." It has been described in DMC petitions for zoning/variance matters as a "family restaurant." Drummer also told WTHR that the hours of operation for the establishment would be from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

During Dickerson's appearance on Abdul In The Morning, he once again emphasized that he doesn't believe Carson is in anyway responsible for this problem. Dickerson also shared with Tully that he is selling his Buick franchise back to GM, which should be completed by the end of the month, and that he will be devoting full time to his campaign to defeat Carson. As he explained, his trademark in his advertisement is that he's always at the dealership to talk to his customers. It appears that Dickerson's franchise has become the victim of GM's consolidation efforts to improve its profitability if I understood Dickerson correctly. Ed Martin is expected to pick up Buick sales previously offered by Dickerson's dealership according to Dickerson. At one point, Dickerson lamented his lack of support from local Republicans, who he noted had time to hold a fundraiser for someone running for Congress in Maryland but not him. He made a noted exception for David Brooks, who he says has been helpful to his campaign.

Rep. Julia Carson (D) also appeared on the show this morning following Dickerson's appearance. She had very little to say on the matter, other than she was "not disposed to it." She also said she told Drummer that she thought there should have been more public input into the idea before it was pursued. Throughout the interview Carson's voice was very faint, and she was persistently coughing and audibly gasping for breath, even as she assured him her health was fine. She told Tully she was just suffering from a cold. It sounded more like the pneumonia to me, but I'm not a doctor.

Incidentally, Tully mentioned that this restaurant/bar in the Carson government center will be the focus of his Sunday column in the Star. I hope he bones up on his facts on the issue a little bit better than he sounded this morning.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Now There's A Smuggling Probe In Sheriff Anderson's World

Sheriff Frank Anderson (D) takes the second hit today from a Star report that an investigation is being launched into a community corrections guard allegedly smuggling cell phones and tobacco into the Community Corrections facility at 143 E. Maryland, which houses 340 inmates. The Star's Vic Ryckaert, who also broke the witness tampering scandal within the sheriff's department in today's paper, writes:

A Marion County Community Corrections guard is under investigation for allegedly smuggling cell phones and tobacco into a corrections facility.

Tony Gill, 37, quit his job Tuesday after officials confronted him with a stash of cell phones and tobacco found hidden in a wall at the detention unit on the second floor of Community Corrections headquarters, 147 E. Maryland St., Director Brian Barton said.

There are beds for 340 inmates in the headquarters.“He refused to submit to a search, quit and walked out,” Barton said. “If there’s enough evidence there, we will file charges.”

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department’s internal affairs unit is investigating, Barton said.

Sheriff Anderson, who most thought was a sure bet for re-election, isn't looking so invulnerable these days. People might begin asking who his Republican opponent, Steve Davis, is.

Whatssup With Justin Timberlake?

'N Sync boybander Justin Timberlake has been trash talking this year's American Idol winner, Taylor Hicks. Timberlake thinks that the pop-soul singer, whose voice sounds very similar to the talented Michael McDonald's voice, can't carry a tune, and that he better not be gay if he knows what's good for him. Timberlake, who is now pursuing a solo career, tells Fashion Rocks magazine:

"The guy who won - people think he looks so normal, and he's so sweet, and he's so earnest, but he can't carry a tune in a bucket. Do you realize how much pressure it is to put on somebody all of a sudden?" . . .

"If he has any skeletons whatsoever; if, God forbid, he's gay, and all these people in Mississippi who voted for him are like, 'Oh, my God, I voted for a queer!' It's just too much pressure."

Timberlake's publicist is rushing to the scene to do damage control:

Ken Sunshine, Timberlake's representative, said the 25-year-old singer's comments "were taken completely out of context."

"He has tremendous affection for Taylor Hicks' success," Sunshine told The Associated Press on Thursday. "He would never say anything that personal about somebody he's never met. He only wishes him the best."

It's hard to understand how these comments could be taken out of context. The interviewer gives us no sense that he was joking around when he made the statements. Timberlake's statements are particularly disappointing given the fact that it is no secret that he has a large gay following. His former bandmate, Lance Bass, just came out of the closet last month and admitted he is gay. Bass, also a Mississippi native, said that he hid his sexual orientation for so long, in part, to protect his bandmates. It is now easy to understand his decision after hearing what Timberlake has to say about Hicks.

It frankly never even occurred to me that Hicks could be gay. He was recently named People magazine's hottest bachelor for 2006. The thought that Timberlake could be gay has crossed my mind many times, notwithstanding his well-publicized relationships with Britney Spears and Cameron Diaz. For people who like to engage in stereotyping, the high-pitched Timberlake sends off one's gaydar far more than Hicks. Perhaps he's trying to over-compensate for insecurities about his own sexuality. Dating attractive older women and staging hetero-appealing publicity stunts like tearing off part of Janet Jackson's costume at the halftime of the 2004 Super Bowl to expose one of her breaths before a live television audience seem to be part of his act to provide him cover.

It is very disappointing to see someone who has achieved so much success, in part, because of the enormous support he has received from the gay community, to publicly diss another performer because he perceives him to be gay. Timberlake's comments about Hicks will not go unnoticed by the gay community, and they will have a long-term impact on Timberlake's career.