Saturday, March 30, 2013

Former Chief Justice Pens Bizarre Column In Support Of $100 Million IMS Subsidy

There are many ways a former chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court can give back to the state which gave him so much, but arguing in a public newspaper that it's "a smart move" for Indiana taxpayers to publicly subsidize up to $100 million in improvements for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn't make the list. That's precisely what retired Chief Justice Randall Shepard does in an opinion column in the latest edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Shepard has no doubt "the General Assembly is on the right track in moving legislation to bolster the track and the jobs it helps create," citing a highly-questionable economic impact study recently released by a think tank with which he is now affiliated at Indiana University. Seemingly struck by amnesia, Shepard raises Indiana's infamous Internal Improvements Act of 1836, an ambitious series of roads, railroads and canals financed by the state that ultimately resulted in the state going bankrupt, as an example of why the public's money should be invested in the IMS.
This initiative during Indiana's earliest days ultimately proved a financial disaster due to the failure o the Wabash and Erie Canal. The canal was a case old technology being overtaken by new techniques (like railroads), and the weight of its debt eventually carried under the state government itself.
The canal's failure and the state's bankruptcy were so dramatic that they overshadowed the fact that other elements of the Internal Improvements program put in place valuable assets that help advance the state's economy to this day: Michigan Road, U.S. 150 across southern Indiana , multiple rail lines in central and southern Indiana, to name a few.
Shepard cites the success of some of those public transportation endeavors as "a need to examine what we've come to call "public-private partnerships." "Is there likely to be sufficient benefit to the public to warrant the government support at stake?" he asks. He says it's a question that "regularly" gets asked these days, such as "when the City-County Council overwhelmingly voted to move forward with certain tax incremental financing districts to boost inner-city commercial districts and residential neighborhoods."  "I suggest that the discussion of this proposal is an example of public policy being well conducted," Shepard concludes.

The discussion of the Internal Improvements Act of 1836 in the context of a $100 million public subsidy for the Hulman-owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway could not be more inapposite. Those public improvements at least involved public transportation projects, even if they did involve privately-owned businesses. Shepard also cavalierly brushes over the financial debacle that the reckless public works project brought about, which drove the need to conduct a constitutional convention in 1851 to rewrite the state's constitution. Many provisions were written into that document to ensure that nothing like that occurred again, a number of which judges have gone out of their way to undermine and, once again, place the state's finances at risk.

Indiana judges permit the General Assembly to allow municipal corporations, for example, to skirt the strict debt limitations imposed by Article 13 of the 1851 constitution (i.e. 2% of taxable property) by creating unelected coterminous municipal corporations, such as airport authorities, capital improvement boards, library districts, etc. whose debts aren't counted against the municipal debt of the municipality of which they serve as an alter ego. A provision in Article 11 of the state's constitution prohibiting the state from extending its credit or loaning money to a private corporation has simply been read out of the constitution by Indiana judges who view it as an inconvenience to enforce.

Given the history of Indiana judges to undermine the tough but necessary reforms enacted by the delegates to the 1851 constitutional convention and approved by the state's voters, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that one of our state's top former jurists would argue that giving $100 million of public tax dollars to a sports-related business owned by one of the state's wealthiest families is a worthy public undertaking. One still holds out hope that such persons would put their talents to use advocating for more public-worthy changes needed in this state to ensure the enactment of fairer laws that treat its citizens for purposes of taxation more fairly and uniformly. Certainly it's not too much to expect that persons like Shepard would at least refrain from advocating for the continued enactment of special laws that benefit the few wealthy and privileged among us to the detriment of the many.

Another SEAL Team 6 Member Dead, One Injured: Don't Be Afraid To Question

Fate has not been good for members of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6, which was responsible for carrying out the May 2011 mission in Pakistan where they believed they were being sent to capture and kill Osama bin Laden, despite intelligence evidence that indicated bin Laden had been dead for more than a decade. NBC News is reporting that a member of the SEAL Team 6 was killed and another injured during a parachute training exercise in Marana, Arizona.

Months after the raid on the Pakistani compound where our government wants us to believe bin Laden was alive and living with one of his wives, 30 American soldiers were killed when a helicopter transporting them was shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan. Among the dead were 25 members of SEAL Team 6. In February, an ex-SEAL considered to be the greatest sharpshooter in the military's history, was allegedly murdered by a fellow military veteran.

The government's account of what happened during the raid from the beginning has been marked by contradictions or outright falsehoods from almost the moment President Barack Obama stepped before cameras and told the American people during a live presidential address that bin Laden had been captured and killed. The media from the beginning played along with the false narrative fed to it by government propagandists.

In February, Esquire magazine published a report titled, "The man who killed Osama bin Laden is screwed," describing how badly things were going for a member of the elite SEAL team who claimed to be the shooter who killed bin Laden. This week, CNN reporter Peter Bergin, a media stooge for the Obama administration, reported that the alleged shooter's story as reported by Esquire was false, "complete B-S." Esquire stood by its report and noted CNN's own contradictions in reporting the story.

Never forget. The government lied about the Kennedy assassination to cover up the CIA's role in our President's assassination. It lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretext for starting a war in Vietnam that President Kennedy was against waging. It lied about Sadam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for going to war against Iraq. It's now lying about Syria possessing and using chemical weapons against its people as a pretext for carrying on another illegal war to depose its current government and installing another CIA puppet regime in the Middle East, and it's probably lying about Iran's current nuclear capabilities as an excuse for launching a military attack there. Always question the official version.

UPDATE: Here's more evidence on why you must question what our government is telling us. A former CNN report claims she was ordered by her bosses to report false news about Iran and Syria to support the Obama administration's aggressive military posture towards the two countries:
Ex-CNN reporter Amber Lyon revealed that during her work for the channel she received orders to send false news and exclude some others which the US administration did not favor with the aim to create a public opinion in favor of launching an aggression on Iran and Syria.
Lyon was quoted by the Slovak main news website as saying that the mainstream US media outlets intentionally work to create a propaganda against Iran to garner public opinion's support for a military invasion against it.
She revealed that the scenario used before launching the war on Iraq is being prepared to be repeated where Iran and Syria are now being subject to constant 'demonization'.
The former reporter clarified that the CNN channel manipulates and fabricates news and follows selectiveness when broadcasting news, stressing that the Channel receives money from the U.S. government and other countries' governments in exchange for news content.

Friday, March 29, 2013

What Sequester? Feds Loan Chicago $100 Million For Urban Playground

A month into sequestration, a federal budget law mechanism which requires automatic federal spending cuts triggered by Congress and the President's inability to agree upon actual budget reductions, there continues to be ample examples of wasteful spending by the federal government. White House tours are now a thing of the past and more than a hundred air traffic control towers are being closed, but costly vacations taken by the Obama family continue unabated.

Yet another example of questionable spending is a $100 million loan the U.S. Department of Transportation is providing to Obama's hometown of Chicago for an urban playground along the Chicago River in downtown Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, the six-block plan includes a learning center where you can learn more about the river's ecology, a water fountain for children to splash in, kayak rentals and floating gardens along a wood-planked section. The Tribune has more on outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's parting gift to Chicago:
A $100 million federal loan to build an urban playground along the Chicago River downtown is a "done deal," outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday.
Appearing along the river with LaHood, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he expects groundbreaking for the extension of the Riverwalk to take place in 2014. The six-block project would run along the south bank from State Street to West Lake Street.
The Riverwalk extension is set to include a learning center focusing on the river's ecology, a "zero-depth fountain" for children to splash in, kayak rentals and a wood-planked section dotted with floating gardens, among other amenities. Details were announced last October.
The mayor said he hoped the new project would be done by the end of 2016.
 According to LaHood, the paperwork needs to be finished to finalize the loan, which the city must repay with interest over 35 years starting from when the work is complete. City officials said specific terms of the loan had not been finalized Thursday, so they did not know the projected total cost of the project.
City Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said that about 70 percent of the revenue for the loan repayment will come from higher fees that two tour companies must now pay the city to dock boats on the Chicago River. Mercury Skyline Yacht Charters and Wendella Sightseeing will pay the higher fees.
Klein said the city will rely on what he described as "very tasteful and very limited" additional advertising along the riverfront, plus leasing of space to restaurants or other businesses that want to set up on the river, to retire the balance of the loan. "There's no question there will be interest for retail," Klein said.
Emanuel has pressed to continue branding the riverfront as a recreational destination for Chicagoans along the lines of the lakefront or Millennium Park. On Thursday, he characterized developing the riverfront — begun by Mayor Richard Daley — as an important moment in Chicago moving beyond its industrial past.
Can anyone explain what importance an urban playground holds for the nation's transportation needs? The federal government should have absolutely no role in funding such questionable public projects. Chicago has never had its priorities straight. Its public schools are horrendous. Mayor Emanuel only last week announced he was closing more than 60 of them due to declining enrollment and fewer public dollars to pay for education. Yet it continues to concoct grandiose public projects in its downtown area with the help of the federal government using money the federal government doesn't have to spend.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Former Democratic St. Joseph Elections Employee Pleads Guilty In Obama Ballot Petition Fraud

If former St. Joseph Co. Democratic Chairman Butch Morgan and several of his loyal Democratic foot soldiers hadn't conspired to forge voters names on the ballot petitions of the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign of Barack Obama, then-Sen. Obama would have lacked the requisite number of signatures to get his name on the Indiana primary ballot, a blunder that likely would have cost him his razor-thin victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton for his party's nomination. Today, one of Morgan's loyal foot soldiers charged for her role in the scheme agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of forgery and testify against Morgan and two other Democratic election workers charged in the scheme. The South Bend Tribune's Madelyn Buckley has more on Beverly Shelton's guilty plea:
A former county employee has pleaded guilty to forgery and falsely making a petition, marking the first plea in the case of alleged ballot fraud in the 2008 Indiana primary election.
Beverly Shelton, a former voter registration worker, entered the plea this morning in front of St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge John Marnocha.
Shelton is accused, along with three others, of forging the signatures of hundreds of county residents on petitions that qualified Democratic presidential candidates for the primary ballot.
Also charged in the case are former St. Joseph County Democratic Party chairman Butch Morgan as well as Dustin Blythe and Pam Brunette, former employees of the county's voter registration office . . .
The range of punishment for forgery is two to eight years, and for falsely making a petition, six months to three years.
The state has also agreed to recommend Shelton receive no jail time if she testifies in the case against her co-defendants.
This is a major story that has been completely ignored by the media outside of South Bend. The Indianapolis Star has yet to report on this major event that occurred during the hardest fought Democratic primary in Indiana in decades, which Clinton barely won over Obama and wound up splitting the state's delegates with him. Although ballot signatures were forged on both Obama's and Clinton's petitions, only Obama was in danger of not having enough signatures to secure his place on the Indiana primary ballot in 2008. Efforts to forge signatures on both candidates' ballots was a classic Chicago strategy to ensure that neither candidate would raise the issue during the election. An investigative report by The Tribune and Howey Politics long after the 2008 election was over uncovered the ballot forging scheme.

In typical David Axelrod form, Democrats had attempted to keep John McCain's name off the Indiana Republican primary ballot in 2008 in an effort to embarrass him by claiming he filed an insufficient number of signatures to get on the ballot. That's nothing new for Obama. When Obama ran for office the first time seeking the seat of long-time incumbent State Sen. Alice Palmer in a heavily Democratic district, Obama hired a team of lawyers to challenge Palmer's and all of his primary opponents' ballot petitions. Their efforts paid off. Palmer and all of Obama's primary contenders were knocked off the ballot for allegedly lacking a sufficient number of registered voters residing in the senate district, leaving Obama alone on the ballot to win the seat uncontested. Obama's meteoric rise to power through backroom shenigans is remarkably similar to that of Adolph Hitler in post World War I Germany. We all know how that ended, and it now appears America is headed straight down the same path of self-destruction under his autocratic rule with a single-minded aim of collapsing the United States economically and stripping her citizens of their individual rights, wealth and freedom.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Cautionary Tale On Mass Transit Boondoggles

The Obama administration has invested $12 billion in high-speed rail over the past four years. That's almost $1,000 per federal taxpayer! CNN's Drew Griffin highlights the abysmal failure of those expenditures to generate a single high-speed rail anywhere in the U.S. despite the massive investment of federal tax dollars. What's typical is a line in Washington state that received $800 million to improve the track between Seattle and Portland that resulted in cutting the average trip time by just 10 minutes. After all the billions spent on high-speed rail, not a single high-speed rail has yet been built with those dollars. Just one line in California is under construction.

Journalism For Sale

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz
Indianapolis Star political columnist Matt Tully had his first in what are going to be a series of columns on the problem with conflicts of interest at the State House. Here's a small bit of what he wrote in last weekend's column titled, "Conflicts rampant at Indiana State House":
Walk the Statehouse corridors when the General Assembly is in session and among the most common sights is the presence of former lawmakers and legislative staffers, now working as paid lobbyists. They fill the halls outside the House and Senate chambers, looking for help from lawmakers with whom they once served. The lobbying industry spends millions to shape public policy; the state’s casino industry alone spent at least $5.8 million to lobby 150 lawmakers over the past five years at the same time it repeatedly sought legislative changes that would save the industry far more money. High-ranking operatives in both major political parties also work as Statehouse lobbyists, seeking to influence the same members they help get elected. And many lawmakers, like Holdman, don’t shy from participating in debates over bills despite having close ties to the businesses or industries affected by the legislation.
Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the culture of coziness is that it is often not a secret -- it’s tolerated and even applauded . . .
Tully won't get any arguments with me over the problem we have with too many of our elected officials becoming way too cozy with the people who lobby them on behalf of special interest groups and some lawmakers inclination towards engaging in self-dealing. The problem I suspect Tully won't write about, however, is the coziness with which too many of his fellow journalists have with lobbyists and special interest groups. Tully's editors allowed one of its regular guest columnists, ex-radio talk show host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, to reprise his column with one titled, "Why Matt Tully is wrong about the General Assembly," in which Shabazz suggests that the only reason conflicts of interest exist at the State House is because our state lawmakers are part-time, unlike the Illinois General Assembly where lawmakers are paid to work full-time and dozens have still been sent to the clink over the past several decades:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Republican Council Leader Rebukes Scales For Speaking Out Against Ballard's Power Grab Bill

So much for the Marion County Republican Party's view that they are more respectful of their members' ability to hold independent views-a false assertion made when Councilor Jose Evans recently announced his switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Republican Minority Leader Mike McQuillen couldn't wait to rebuke Councilor Christine Scales for speaking out publicly against Mayor Greg Ballard's power grab legislation pending before the Indiana House of Representatives and stating publicly the fact that other caucus members shared her discomfort with SB 621, which among other things, eliminates the four at-large council member positions. The Star's Jon Murray has McQuillen's reaction to Scales' public comments opposing SB 621:
Her email brought a rebuke today from council Minority Leader Michael McQuillen, also a Republican. He told The Indianapolis Star that Scales’ email overstated other GOP council members’ views. She wrote that some in the caucus “do not support major portions” of the bill, but were keeping quiet.
“It irks me to have councilors speaking for anyone other than themselves on the package as a whole,” McQuillen said, referring to Scales’ email.
Still, McQuillen acknowledged that not all council Republicans were in lockstep with Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, or GOP lawmakers on the bill.
McQuillen, for his part, says he prefers that a provision in another bill (which would end council review of charter school authorizations) be changed so that there still is some sort of public review when the mayor approves a charter school application.
“There are so many parts of that bill that I would say, if you took all 29 councilors ... you would find 29 different opinions in total,” McQuillen said.
He said his perception was that the bill could be amended in coming weeks to address some concerns.
“We’ve reached out to the (Ballard) administration,” he said. “We have found an administration that is willing to discuss different facets of this legislation to make sure it is the best plan for all involved. It’s not like a line has been drawn in the sand as far as, ‘Senate Bill 621, all or nothing.’ ”
The irony here is that Christine Scales, a real Republican, is held in lower regard by Councilor McQuillen than Jose Evans, a Democrat-turned-Republican of convenience who switched parties for his own personal expediency. When Evans switched parties, McQuillen said, "Jose’s decision to join our caucus shows he values performance over politics.” Yet he rebukes Scales because she practices performance and substance over politics. What is irksome is that McQuillen as an elected city-county council leader would support state legislation that would move in the direction of rendering the legislative body irrelevant vis-a-vis the mayor.

House Republicans Block Effort To Provide Transparency In INDOT Land Purchases

An Indianapolis Star watchdog report recently uncovered land appraisal documents that showed the Indiana Department of Transportation had overpaid for certain land purchases made for the construction of I-69, including land purchased from the family of Troy Woodruff, a former Republican state representative and INDOT official. The appraisal documents are shielded from public disclosure under the state's access to public records law. The Star only learned of the questionable land deals after a whistle blower with access to the documents leaked them to the newspaper. A federal investigation has been launched as a result of the news report to determine if federal highway transportation rules were followed by INDOT, which could put the state's federal highway funding in jeopardy.

State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) offered an amendment yesterday to an economic development bill, SB 162, which would have made land appraisal records subject to public access. Republicans blocked Pierce's amendment on a 30-64 vote made largely along party lines. The Star reports on the specious arguments House Republican members made for keeping the records secret.
. . . Reps. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, and Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, testified that the amendment would hurt the state’s ability to negotiate and put sellers’ sensitive personal information at risk. Torr said many appraisals contain photos.
“Somebody with nefarious intent could look at whether somebody has a big screen TV or if they have an alarm system, things like that, that could violate an individual’s privacy with regard to their home,” Torr said.
The amendment failed to advance on a 30-64 vote. So, for now, taxpayers have no way of knowing the rationale behind the payments highway officials make for specific land or properties on highway projects . . .
Rep. Torr has angered conservatives with his sponsorship of a multi-billion dollar mass transit boondoggle proposal that would hike local income taxes 20% and give control of regional mass transit to an unelected, unaccountable regional authority.

Republicans also rejected an amendment offered by State Rep. Terry Austin (D-Austin) that would have required Indiana's Attorney General to conduct an investigation to determine whether any state laws were broken during the land acquisitions made by INDOT for I-69 and other projects between 2008 and this year. Austin's amendment failed on a 63-29 vote, largely along party line.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Colorado Governor Long-Time Friends With Killer's Father

In a very odd twist in the shocking and brazen shooting death of Colorado's Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements this past week allegedly committed by a white supremacist and former inmate of a state prison, a local NBC affiliate in Denver is reporting that the alleged killer's father is a long-time friend and campaign supporter of the man who hired Clements, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D). Former inmate Evan Ebel, who was shot and killed during a police chase in Texas days after the shooting, is the son of Jack Ebel, a lawyer who has been friends of Gov. Hickenlooper for more than 30 years.

In a press conference Gov. Hickenlooper held shortly after Clements' death, the governor talked about efforts he was undertaking to reduce the amount of time inmates spend in solitary confinement. Hickenlooper recalled conversations he had with his long-time friend about the lengthy period of time Ebel's son had spent in solitary confinement after going "on the wrong track" and getting arrested. Although he didn't reference Ebel by name at the time, the governor later confirmed that was who he was speaking of.

Hickenlooper grew very testy with the local NBC news reporter when he was questioned about whether he had pulled strings to help get Ebel released from prison early, inadvertently contributing to Clements' death. The governor told the reporter his question was "stupid" and threatened to cut off his future access to his office. Hickenlooper, who personally recruited Clements from Missouri to join his administration, insists that he never asked Clements to give any special favors to Ebel and had never mentioned his name to him.

When news of Clements' murder was first learned, officials expressed concern that his killing could have been in retaliation for the refusal of Colorado officials to allow a Muslim inmate from Saudi Arabia to return to his native country to complete his prison sentence. Homaidan al-Turki had ties to Anwar al-Awlaki, a controversial American imam who became the first U.S. citizen ordered killed by President Barack Obama in 2011 through the use of a drone military strike in Yemen. About a week after al-Awlaki's killing, a second drone strike authorized by President Obama mistakenly killed al-Awlaki's 16-year old American-born son from Denver, Colorado and nearly a dozen other young Yemenese men.

Legislation Will Nullify Local Human Rights Ordinances

Legislation that has passed both the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives will nullify protections enacted through the passage of local human rights ordinances from discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. SB 213 prohibits cities, counties and townships from establishing, mandating or requiring an employer to provide a benefit, term of employment, working condition, or attendance or leave policy that exceeds the requirements of a federal or state law or regulation.

Currently, neither federal nor state law expressly prohibits discrimination against a person in employment opportunities based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; however, a number of local governments in Indiana, including Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and South Bend, among others municipalities and local governmental units, have enacted human rights ordinances that prohibit employers within their jurisdiction from discriminating against a person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation exempts employees of the governmental unit, contracts entered into by local governments and a third party, economic development incentives awarded by a local government and training and other qualifications established for a provide party of public safety and health services within the local government.

A number of major Indiana employers like Eli Lilly, Wellpoint and Cummins have been at the forefront in their support of human rights ordinances to ensure protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. They argue that a cultural atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance of diversity is necessary to attract talented workers, particularly younger professionals. Gay rights advocates believed they had achieved a major victory this year when the state's Republican legislative leaders agreed not to hear a constitutional amendment that would prohibit any state law that would recognize same-sex marriages or similar benefits until the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on pending cases before it this term regarding the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and state-enacted laws barring same-sex marriages. In one fell swoop, SB 213 wipes out years of gains achieved by gay rights advocates through the passage of local laws protecting against discrimination in employment.

Sen. Phil Boots is the principal author of SB 213, and State Rep. Mike Speedy is the House sponsor. SB 213 passed the Senate by a vote of 38-12, while the House passed the legislation by a smaller margin today by a vote of 54-40. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's office confirmed tonight their assessment that the legislation will nullify the city's human rights ordinance enacted in 2005 according to the Indianapolis Star. Rep. Speedy, who voted against the 2005 ordinance as a member of the city-county council, tells the Star that was not the legislation's intent, telling the Star he was "stunned" by the city's assessment. “Why didn’t they tell me that before?” Speedy said. The mayor's spokesman told the Star he is very concerned about the impact the legislation will have on the city's reputation. "Obviously Mayor Ballard wants to do everything he can to make sure that we are a welcoming and inviting place for business and residents and employees," Marc Lotter said.

Indiana Equality's Rick Sutton expressed shock at the impact of the legislation. “If the mayor’s office is correct, it will be a sorry day for this legislature,” Sutton said. “We weighed in pretty heavily that we didn’t want that to be the intention and were told directly by the speaker’s office that ‘You’ve got nothing to worry about. That’s not the intention of this bill.’ So we’d been assured all the way around.” State Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany) tells the Star he voted against it after he was advised by the House Republican's legal counsel that it could nullify New Albany's human rights ordinance. Sen. Boots argues that his only intent behind the legislation related to payment of wages and benefits, but it's hard to read the legislation that narrowly based on its plain wording.

Republican Council Member Speaks Out Against Ballard's Power Grab

It's not just Democratic city-county council members who are speaking out against legislation making its way through the Indiana General Assembly that would expand Indianapolis' mayoral authority. At least one Republican member, Christine Scales, has voiced her opposition to SB 621 in a letter to its chief sponsor, State Sen. Mike Young. Councilor Scales' letter suggests that she is not alone among Republican caucus members who oppose major portions of SB 621.

The part of the bill that has gained the most attention is the elimination of the four at-large council members, a feature that has existed since day one under Uni-Gov. It also erodes council oversight authority over the budget and key appointments. Scales' letter indicates that private discussions were to take place between the Republican council's leadership and Young, which she complains that "there has been no word as to whether discussions with [Sen. Young] have been attempted or have taken place, and if they have, what the results of such discussions were." The following is an excerpt of Scales' letter to Young urging him to discuss his legislation with the Republican caucus members before moving it forward towards passage in the House, where House Speaker Brian Bosma has indicated it will receive a hearing:
If SB 621 passes in its current form, the fundamental commitment to a system of governmental checks and balances will be severely eroded.  The Council’s oversight and advisement of budgets and departmental appointments and other policy decisions is already compromised by politics. There always exists a tension between what’s good for a political party and what comprises good governance. Votes for desired initiatives can be bartered for with promises of political perks or threats of punishment.  This sort of vote kowtowing already offers undue leverage and control to an executive branch of government- a tighter grip on power does not favor the public that is served. Extra care must be taken to ensure that processes providing accountability and transparency in government are not trampled on. 
If there is a determined desire to reset the equation of county governance, then let there be a commitment to more time and input as to what a new city-county government model would look like and what weight voices of elected officials would carry. It is imperative that crafting of new policies doesn't conflict with traditional tenets of a democratic republic, which I fear SB621 does.
I ask that at the very least, you would discuss your bill with the Council legislative body before advancing it forward.

Historic Natural Disasters: Then And Now

Then 30th_College_1913
Today 30th_College_Today

This is a guest post courtesy of, a blog started by a group of weekend history bluffs who help share our history through images. This week the blog takes a look at the floods and tornados that erupted during early spring storms that swept across the country's midsection 100 years ago this week, which is in sharp contrast to the late winter storm we experiened today that dumped eight inches of snow or more across parts of Central Indiana. Above are photos taken at the corner of College Avenue and 30th Street in Indianapolis, the first taken this week in March, 1913 during the flood and the second photo showing the streetscape today. The following information on the 1913 natural disasters are provided courtesy of Jeff Satterly:
For Terre Haute, Indiana, just as for much of the midwest, the events of Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913 were just the beginning of what would prove to be a disastrous week. In just 2 1/2 minutes, a tornado plowed through the city that claimed 21 lives, injured 200, and destroyed 300 homes. Along with the twister came a series of mighty storms that flooded a vast area of Indiana.
In Brookville, which sits at the junction of the East and West forks of the White Water River, the flood waters killed 16 people and destroyed 6 bridges, a railway station, and a paper mill. The river rose so high in Brookeville that the bridges over it actually acted as dams, slowing the raging waters. When the bridges eventually collapsed from the pressure they released a tidal wave that traveled over 11 miles.
One town in the water surge’s path was Cedar Grove, six and half miles downstream from Brookeville, which was completely destroyed by the flood waters. After Cedar Grove, the waters moved on another 5 miles to New Trenton where it took out a vast majority of its plants and factories.
On March 25th, the levees holding the waters of the St. Joseph River back from the streets of Fort Wayne were the next to break, filling the city with water so rapidly virtually no one was able to reach safety. The next day the levees in Indianapolis also began to fail under the pressure, filling some parts of the city with 30 feet of river water. As the storms and flood waters moved east they hit Lawrence, which had had two days to strengthen their levees after being warned of the impending disaster. Unfortunately their efforts were in vain, as the waters quickly broke both levees and hit the city so hard that it carried houses and factories right off their foundations.
In all, Indiana was among the states most affected by this week of disasters that swept the country 1913, along with Ohio and Nebraska. The walls of water that surged down the rivers took out over 180 bridges, crippling infrastructure and transportation for weeks, and in total some 90 citizens of Indiana lost their lives during the flooding, and thousands became homeless overnight.

Bosma Gives Green Light To Ballard Power Grab Bill

House Speaker Brian Bosma is giving the go-ahead to a Sen. Mike Young's bill to eliminate the Indianapolis city-county council's four at-large seats and shift more control of appointments and budget matters for the unified government to the mayor. The bill, which previously passed the Senate easily, has angered Democrats. Senate Democrats have threatened to team up with conservatives in the Senate to derail pending mass transit legislation, which is an attempt to hike local taxes 20% to fund a multi-billion dollar metropolitan mass transit authority that would be run by an unelected, unaccountable board.

Ironically, Republicans were the ones who insisted on having at-large council members elected when Uni-Gov was first established. Traditionally, the party which wins the mayor's office also carries the four at-large seats until 2011 when Ballard eked out a second term over Democrat Melina Kennedy but saw his party lose all four at-large seats. In his 2007 narrow election upset over former Mayor Bart Peterson, Republicans won three of the four at-large seats. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels explained in his college thesis at Princeton the rationale behind the at-large seats:
The basic argument presented for public consumption held that "This way at least some of the council representatives would be free of local special interest prejudices." A second rationale, used sparingly and with receptive audiences asserted that it was desirable that a mayor have a few of his own people on the council. The UniGov proponents weathered much criticism of their at-large plan, apparently believing it to be important enough to contest. 
Daniels' thesis observed that Republicans believed at the time they could safely count on winning 13 to 14 of the 29 council seats. Republicans believed that a Republican mayor would be assured of having control of the council if he won the election, carrying the four at-large council candidates with him.

In a separate bill, Ballard is pushing to eliminate any council role at all in the approval of city-sponsored charter schools. He also refuses to charge the schools any administrative fees for their oversight, which is draining general funds that can be used for basic city services as the mayor's office expands its role in running an ever-increasing number of charter schools. State law allows the city to charge an administrative fee payable from the state education dollars that flow to the charter schools.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Another Night Another Shooting In Naptown

Indianapolis recorded its 34rd homicide of the year last night when a 28-year old man was gunned down in a Hardees parking lot on the city's northwest side. WTHR reports that an employee of Hardees located in the 7200 block of Woodland Drive attempted to administer CPR on James Chatman before emergency responders arrived at the scene, but the man died before they could arrive.

Chicago Taxpayers Take Another $57.8 Million Hit From Parking Privatization As Daley Family Profits

The follies of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's privatization efforts just keep coming and at a steep cost for Chicago taxpayers. I've previously discussed ongoing feuding between Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration and the private operator of the city's parking meter assets over tens of millions of dollars the city is being billed by the private operator for parking meters that have been taken out of use for construction or public events and for metered spaces used by handicapped drivers. Under a separate privatization agreement for the city's parking garages, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the city has been hit with a $57.8 million penalty for violating the terms of that agreement by approving a permit to another parking garage company to operate a parking garage too close to one of the city-owned garages.

Mayor Daley's administration issued a permit to Standard Parking to open a 1,288-space parking garage at the Aqua tower in downtown Chicago, which is one block from another city-owned garage operated by Chicago Loop Parking, LLC, and which is controlled by Morgan Stanley, where former Mayor Daley's nephew William Daley, Jr. is employed, a job he began just months before the city entered into the privatization deal with Chicago Loop. Politics may have also played a role in the issuance of the parking permit to Standard Parking, which was represented by John Daley, former Mayor Daley's brother. By allowing another parking garage to open that close to a city-owned garage, the Daley administration violated the terms of a 99-year deal it entered into with Chicago Loop Parking for $563 million to operate the city's parking garages. That privatization deal allows the private operator to charge whatever rates it wants and keep all the revenues it generates from 9,178 spaces in four parking garages.

Executives with Chicago Loop Parking say the company would have never paid near the $563 million it paid to the city in 2006 if it allowed for competition near the four garages it agreed to operate. Naturally, it began complaining to the city that the new garage that Standard Parking opened in 2009 was cutting into its business and demanded compensation of at least $2 million from the city. The Daley administration responded by telling Standard Parking that its parking permit had been issued in error and was being revoked. In its place, the Daley administration issued Standard Parking an accessory permit, which limited use of the parking garage to people attached to the Aqua tower and a 43-acre area surrounding the tower. According to usual city practice, an accessory license would have been limited to people who lived, worked or stayed in a hotel in the Aqua tower to use the garage.

Initially, Chicago Loop Parking believed the problem had been resolved when it was told by city officials the public parking permit had been canceled. When the private operator learned that it had converted the license to  an accessory parking permit only that eliminated any claim for compensation from future losses, it cried foul and sought arbitration over the dispute with the city. A $57.8 million judgment in favor of the private operator and against the city is less than the $200 million originally sought by Chicago Loop Parking, but it's still a major hit to an already cash-strapped municipal government. According to the Sun-Times, the daily parking rates at the Standard Parking garage are about $1 a day cheaper than the nearest city-owned garage.

The City of Indianapolis paid Morgan Stanley $1.9 million for its role in providing financial services related to the city's parking meter privatization deal with a partnership headed by ACS/Xerox. The company has played the role of a switch hitter in these deals. It unsuccessfully sought a privatization deal for Pittsburgh's and New York's parking meter assets.

The headaches the Daley era privatization deals are causing Mayor Emanuel's administration seem never to end. The mess with the Chicago public school system Emanuel inherited culminated with a controversial decision by Emanuel announced late last week to close 54 schools. Emanuel insisted the schools were failing in their job of educating the city's children and that closing the schools represented an investment in quality education. Parents of children affected by the school closings have expressed concern that their children will have to cross gang lines to attend new schools.

On a side note, it is truly remarkable that Gov. Rod Blagojevich is sitting in a federal prison jail cell and not former Mayor Daley. Blagojevich only thought out loud about the financial rewards he could attain from self-dealing; Daley lived them daily, no pun intended. He's now a partner, by the way, at the law firm which handled the $1 billion parking privatization deal.

UPDATE: Perhaps the feds were trying to nab at least one of the Daleys. Chicago Tribune political columnist John Kass' recent column discusses the conviction of Cook Co. Commissioner Bill Beavers on income tax charges this past week. It seems Beavers had a gambling problem and helped himself out to a bunch of his campaign dough to feed his habit at Indiana's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. Kass mentions Beavers' refusal to cooperate with federal investigators in its investigation of one of his fellow colleagues, John Daley:
He'd decided long ago, he said, that he'd do time rather than talk to federal authorities about political corruption. Since his indictment last year, he's told the story about the FBI asking him to wear a wire on fellow Cook County Commissioner John Daley, brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
"There's no question about it," Beavers said Thursday. "Have you ever seen the IRS come looking for you for $30,000 and they come with the FBI? ... Even Ray Charles could see that. They thought I was a punk."
But Beavers isn't a Daley. He doesn't have that kind of political infrastructure, no hive of workers to protect him the way the queen bee is always protected at City Hall.
You've seen even powerful mayors crack at the smallest of things, chatty one minute, seething the next. One City Hall queen bee of years ago, suffering as his drones were picked off by the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office, was reduced to frequent emotional outbursts and public tears . . . " 
Listen, I ain't got no regrets at all, you understand? I'll take my lumps, OK? Like I told them when they came and asked me about John Daley. I'm not a stool pigeon or will be. I'll take my lumps." . . .

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Donnelly Supports Democratic-Passed Budget Plan That Includes $1 Trilllion In New Taxes And No Spending Cuts

It didn't take Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) long to prove that he will consistently side with the tax-and-spend liberals in the Senate. He cast the deciding vote in joining with Democrats in passing their budget plan on a 50-49 vote that will continue to add trillions to the national debt and even higher taxes. In the early morning hours, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed its first budget in four years. The $3.7 trillion proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes no net spending cuts but nearly $1 trillion in new taxes. By the year 2023, it projects budget deficits in excess of a half trillion dollars a year.

While the Democratic-approved budget plan outlines spending reductions of nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years, including $275 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, it would halt nearly $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts triggered under current law. It also tacks on $100 billion in new infrastructure spending in the short run to stimulate the economy. Obviously, the plan stands no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled House.

Mass Transit Whore Columnist Strikes Again

I've never seen anything like it in all my years of observing the media up close and from afar. Star columnist Erika Smith has transformed herself the past six months into the cheapest media whore the downtown mafia could find to pimp out to the public in its goal of enacting a multi-billion dollar mass transit boondoggle. She's now approaching close to ten columns this year alone pining for IndyConnect's metropolitan mass transit legislative plan. In her latest high school-level reporting, she tells us that the planning for mass transit is going to go on regardless of what happens at the legislature. In other words, the corrupt downtown mafia has issued an edict that it will happen by hook or crook and nobody is going to get in their way.

The lazy journalist tells us the public is gung-ho about the prospects of an expanded bus service based on survey data gathered at taxpayer's expense by CIRTA that will take them to Carmel's Palladium and Arts and Design District, the Fashion Mall, Greenwood Mall and Fountain Square. Hey, if it will save absentee parents from the trouble of having to drop their delinquent kids off to loiter, shoplift and otherwise create mayhem at friendly shopping destinations, why not?

She takes a swipe at Gov. Mike Pence, who has expressed doubts about a metropolitan mass transit authority with taxing power. "There’s Gov. Mike Pence who is on a Captain-Ahab-like mission to get an income tax cut and is wary of any bill that would raise income taxes," she writes. For those of you who've forgotten your literature, Captain Ahab is the the maniacal, villainous ship captain in Melville's Moby Dick who's taken to his death trying to capture and kill a powerful and elusive sperm whale. The Senate Democrats don't escape Smith's wrath either. She accuses them of engaging in "a selfish tit-for-tat battle with Mayor Greg Ballard" for threatening to help derail the mass transit legislation in response to his legislative efforts to eliminate the four at-large city-county council seats currently held by the Democrats and to strip the council of the oversight role it has mayoral appointments, among other things.

Friday, March 22, 2013

IMS Brings Back Tony George To Defuse Rumors Of Planned Sale

As I've discussed previously, it's no secret that the Hulman-George family is working on a succession plan for the family's businesses with the 78-year old Mary Hulman-George not getting any younger and the removal of her only son from any management role in the organization at the insistence of his sisters, who had grown increasingly alarmed that his mismanagement of the IMS had squandered hundreds of millions of dollars and was putting their inheritance at risk. The Mark Miles-inspired plan to convince Indiana lawmakers to go along with state financing of up to $100 million in improvements at the IMS has brought to light concerns first raised on this blog that Miles' end game is simply a way of inflating the value of the race track facilities in preparation for a sale to outside investors.

During a hearing this week before the House Ways & Means Committee, Miles insisted the family has no plans to sell the IMS, but he can't deny there is no viable family member ready to step into a serious role managing the family's business affairs with Tony George out of the picture. Miles' assurances weren't enough for the Committee's chairman, State Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), who said he wants to see language amended into the bill that would require the IMS to repay at least some of the state-funded improvements in the event of a sale. That's not what Miles wanted to hear. True to his manipulative nature, Miles showed another card he had up his sleeve. The IMS announced tonight that Tony is back in the picture as a member of Hulman & Co.'s board of directors. Fox59 News reports:
The stay away from the Board of Directors of Hulman and Company lasted just a few months for Tony George.
On Friday night the company announced that George was added to the Board of Directors of the company.
George had resigned from the board in October of 20112 citing an “appearance of a conflict of interest.” Many believe that was due to George’s attempt to acquire IndyCar from the company but nothing has yet to come of those efforts.
Along with the addition of George, Hulman and Company re-elected the ten members who were on the board last year.
George has a long history with the company having served as it’s President and CEO from 1989-2009, overseeing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway along with IndyCar.
Notwithstanding Miles' latest handiwork at creating false imagery, Brown's initial instincts are spot on. He needs to hold the IMS' feet to the fire and insist on recovery of the state investment if the family simply turns around and sells the IMS after using the money to increase the bottom-line value of their largest asset. That's the least lawmakers owe to the state's taxpayers if they're going to give their approval to this unprecedented investment of public funds in a privately-owned sports facility.

Mass Avenue Business Owners Fighting Economic Improvement District Designation

A number of prominent Mass Avenue business and properties owners have united to fight an effort by key members of the downtown mafia to force on them an Economic Improvement District ("EID") designation that would force them to pay additional properties taxes to pay for, as the name suggests, neighborhood economic development improvements. In a letter to neighborhood stakeholders, the business owners identify the Riley Area Development Corporation and Schmidt & Associates, a major pay-to-play contractor for the Ballard administration, as being the impetus behind the effort to impose the new property tax levy.

According to the letter, the business owners disagree with the EID proponents' view that Mass Avenue is in need of additional economic development efforts. "The main problem with the proposal for the proposal for the Mass Ave EID is that the economy in our neighborhood, by all accounts, seems to be doing extremely well," the letter reads. "As a result, the vast majority of property owners in our area opposed an EID."

In order to win EID designation, the proponents are required to obtain the support of the majority of property owners within the geographic area to be designated who represent at least 50% of the assessed value of property. The letter accuses RADC and Schmidt of continually redrawing the boundaries of the district "in order to reach that magical percentage." "In a recent act of desperation, they have proposed to exclude most residential properties and include non-profit organizations, which have never been required to pay property taxes." The letter complains that non-profit organizations, which don't pay property taxes, "will only pay a fraction of what other properties will pay in order to garner their support for the EID." It adds, "Their main reason for pursuing non-profits is to gain the assessed value of the Athenaeum Building and the Murat Center, both of which are owned by non-profit organizations and represent millions of dollars' worth of assessed value."

The business owners are concerned that by adding the non-profits to the mix, the proponents "may come dangerously close to achieving their goal" of creating the EID. The letter laments the fact that the proponents "have not publicly released any specific information on the use of funds generated by the EID." It warns stakeholders against allowing "a few people" to "control the proceeds of an EID." The downtown mafia wouldn't have it any other way. The Athenaeum Foundation's Board of Trustees is chaired by lobbyist Greg Hahn and vice-chaired by Schmidt & Associates' Wayne Schmidt. Schmidt's firm has designed some of the least imaginative buildings in downtown, including projects financed with your taxpayer dollars courtesy of the Ballard administration in consideration for all the campaign contributions Schmidt threw his way. Sarah Hemptead, also of Schmidt & Associates, is president of RADC.

Last year, Ballard appropriated an entire city-owned block in the 500 block of Mass Ave and gave it away to his pay-to-play buddies, along with $3 million, unnecessarily forcing a huge public expenditure to build an entirely new headquarters for the Indianapolis Fire Department, a new building for the city's busiest fire station and a new headquarters for the Firefighters Credit Union, all of which are being displaced, because nobody on the city council gives a damn. The new development in the 500 block naturally will be designed by Schmidt. Ballard also succeeded in gaining council approval to have the booming Mass Ave business district designated as a TIF area, removing millions of potential tax revenues from the reach of other taxing districts to pay for public safety services, schools, libraries and other essential services. Instead, those tax dollars will flow into a slush fund to be handed out as the mayor pleases to his campaign contributors for their private development projects.

The letter is signed by Bill Pritt, George Rubin, Elliott Levin, Tom and Sherry Battista, Margaret Young, Shawn Miller, Dan McMichael, Jim Brown, Mark Infault and Todd Maurer. The letter encourages Mass Avenue stakeholders to write their city-county councilor and urge him or her to vote against approval of the EID if the proponents succeed in gaining the support needed to put the proposal before the council for approval.

Fort Wayne Mayor Reassures Residents After String Of Slayings, Ballard Pretends Indianapolis Isn't On Path For Record Number Of Homicides

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and his police chief quickly held a press conference to reassure the city's residence that all was well after five slayings took place in the Summit City over the past week. Henry's police chief points to the fact that of the nine homicides this year, six of those have been solved, including "two very heinous murders”:
“It’s important for the community to rally together,” Henry said. “I’m confident our city will come together and be stronger as a result.”
Henry said he’s already been contacted by the NAACP and the Fort Wayne Urban League asking what they can do to help. The Urban League announced Thursday it will host a series of strategic planning meetings to find ways to stem violence. The first will be 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Urban League, 2135 S. Hanna St.
“We want everyone to be part of this urgent conversation,” Urban League CEO Jonathan Ray said. “Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, business leader, elected official, educator or student, we all need to participate in finding solutions to this violence.”
Meanwhile, Indianapolis is on a path to set a record number of homicides this year with 33 having been committed already in less than three months, six in the past week alone. Remarkably, Ballard, who first ran for mayor as the guy who was going to may public safety job one, declared in his recent state of the city address that the city was undergoing a "renaissance" and is pretending all is well--even still telling residents that crime is down. Apparently, his staff hasn't updated his 3 x 5 notecards recently.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tully Criticism Of Gov. Mike Pence Tells Us He's Doing Something Right

Well, the washed up, unoriginal Star political columnist Matt Tully thinks Gov. Mike Pence is doing a bad job after three months on the job. Tully faults Pence for being "lackluster," "arguing with everyone," including Republican legislative leaders, pushing an "arbitrary 10 percent cut in the income tax rate," and says his leadership "pales in comparison" to Gov. Daniels.

As always, Tully's memory is short and selective. I recall a Mitch Daniels coming under heavy fire from members of his own party for pushing an income tax hike on wealthy Hoosiers, which was declared dead on arrival, and a newbie governor resoundingly criticized by the media when he compared then-House Speaker Pat Bauer to a "a roadside bomber." After Daniels' first year on the job, his approval rating stood at just 44% with 50% disapproving of his performance.

Tully also takes a cheap shot at Pence's tax cut because the Americans For Prosperity PAC has taken to the airwaves to advocate for his tax cut plan. "And, so, Pence’s plan has generated little more than yawns, Tully writes. "It’s gotten so bad that Pence’s supporters have had to spend money on a TV ad challenging his fellow Statehouse Republicans." It was a brilliant stroke when Daniels relied on his Aiming Higher PAC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Daniels' political campaign, to promote his legislative agenda on the airwaves; it's an act of desperation when an independent, conservative-leaning group (not in any way shape or form created by Pence) promotes his legislative agenda. Go figure.

"So far, under Pence, vision is desperately missing from the governor’s office," Tully opines. "In its place is a heavy shadow that stretches all the way from West Lafayette and has many Hoosiers longing for the days when big ideas and big agendas were the norm at the Statehouse." Word to Matt. You spent eight years kissing Mitch's butt in hopes he would offer you a job and it didn't work out. Repeating the same meme over and over might begin to look a bit inane to be generous.

Pence should wear Tully's criticism like a badge of honor. It's a sure sign he's doing something right. The fact that Pence favors tax cuts over tax increases is all it took to earn Tully's ire.

Not As Miles Planned, House May Include "In Event Of Sale" Clause In $100 Million IMS Giveaway Legislation

It's no secret that the Hulman-George family, which owns the IMS, is in the midst of some serious estate planning these days with the only suitable family heir Tony George now ousted entirely from the family-run business and his elderly mother Mary Hulman-George not getting any younger. Although Hulman & Co. CEO Mark "Rent-A-Civic Leader" Miles says the family has absolutely no intention of selling the IMS, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the move by state lawmakers to force Indiana taxpayers to finance $100 million in improvements to the race track will increase its bottom line value to a potential buyer. Miles' assurances aside, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman State Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) tells the Star he plans to include an "in the event of sale" clause in the legislation to allow the state to recoup at least some of its investment in the IMS if that happens.
Following a hearing on the measure in the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said the bill may be amended to let the state get back its money in the event of a sale of the historic home of the Indy 500.
“I think we’re going to look at some sort of financial interest,” Brown said, describing it as “kind of like a lien on a mortgage.”
“The bottom line is that by doing this bill it increases the asset value of the Speedway,” Brown said, and the state should have some way to recoup its investment that made that possible . . .
“We are not considering selling it. We are not positioning it to sell,” IMS spokesman Doug Boles said. “The (Hulman-George) family is committed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s been in their family for 68 years, and there is no consideration whatsoever to change that.”
Fine, then call their bluff, Rep. Brown. Require the IMS to repay the entire amount of state-funded improvements if the family sells the IMS during the next 20 years. Don't allow yourself to be played by Miles, whose primary aim is the millions he personally hopes to make if this deal goes through as planned. We're still wondering the size of  Jim "Rent-A-Civic Leader" Morris' bonus for winning $43.5 million in taxpayer subsidies to date for billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers.

Democrats May Attempt To Derail Mass Transit Over Potential Loss Of At-Large Council Members

Mayor Greg Ballard's power grab bill, which among other things will eliminate the four at-large city-county council seats now held by Democrats, may lead Senate Democrats to join with conservative Republicans to defeat the multi-billion dollar tax-and-spend mass transit plan Ballard and his fellow fake Republican mayor in Carmel support. The Gannett-owned Star, which is nothing but a mouthpiece for the mass transit proponents, explains:
Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said she would “love to have mass transit and I think it’s very important,” but would vote against the transit bill if Senate Bill 621 advances. And she would try to persuade her fellow 12 Democrats to follow suit.
She says Mayor Ballard wants both bills to pass, and he likely will need Democrat support to get the transit bill through a Republican-dominated Senate that is growing increasingly skeptical about transit.
“He has to decide which is most important, which is he the most concerned about,” she said. “And I would hope he would be most concerned about mass transit ... and that he would consider it to be more important than controlling government.” . . .
Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said Senate Bill 621 is a blatant power grab and it is possible all or some of the Democrats could follow Breaux’s lead to vote against the transit bill. He and Breaux see it as a bargaining chip.
As they say, politics does make strange bedfellows. Fake Republican Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), the House sponsor of the massive tax increase to fund mass transit, tells the Star he's taking heat from some of his own caucus members over his legislation after Gov. Pence yesterday expressed his reservations about his plan to raise taxes at a time so many Hoosiers are still reeling from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Torr, an influential Republican, said he’s already taking heat from his caucus for supporting the transit bill and its potential tax increase.
Democrats, he said, need to focus on one issue at a time.
“If they want to hold a gun to their own heads, then that is exactly what they are doing,” Torr said. “If they want to throw their constituents under a bus to try to affect another bill that is no way related, I think their constituents should be pretty disappointed.”
The governor, he said, has not spoken to him about legislation since January. At that time, he said Pence promised to keep an open mind. Torr noted that the transit legislation would allow voters to decide whether to raise their own taxes, not lawmakers.
Torr said the bill does have language that prevents the rest of the state from covering any cost overruns, although he admitted lawmakers could reconsider any law each year. Torr, though, said he’s satisfied that the financial planning behind the transit bill is solid.
Meanwhile, Star columnist Erika Smith, a paid media whore for the proponents of mass transit, turns in yet another column touting the mass transit plan. I believe this makes about her eighth such column this year. It begins: "OK, transit supporters. Go ahead. Let out a collective sigh of relief. Maybe even a cheer or two." The woman obviously has no respect for herself as a legitimate journalist and is just another example of why so many Indianapolis readers have ended their subscription to the increasingly irrelevant daily newspaper.

Another Power Outage On Indianapolis' East Side

For the second time in less than a week, IPL power customers on Indianapolis' east side are without power. The latest power outage, blamed on a transformer fire, affects about 2,000 customers. Last Saturday, problems at a substation led to power outages for more than 10,000 customers in the same area. Schools in Warren Township have been put on a 2-hour delay due to the outages.

CIA Dark Programs Send Colorado Over The Edge

'Changed man': James Holmes, pictured in a Colorado courtroom during his arraignment on March 12, has reportedly turned Muslim in a bid to justify his horrendous killing spree
James Holmes (AP Photo)
James Holmes, the exceptionally bright neuroscience student at the University of Colorado studying under a program financed in whole by the U.S. government, had a very bright future until he became yet another possible victim of the CIA's MK-Ultra, a decades-old mind control program the agency never shut down as claimed. The young man, who now stands accused of a shooting spree at an Aurora, Colorado theater during the premier of "Dark Knight Rises," has apparently converted to Islam. The Daily Mail, citing sources, say Holmes' beard is a symbol of his "new-found faith" and that he's now praying to Allah five times a day. Not a big surprise. After all, our CIA is teaming up with the Muslim Brotherhood to rid the Middle East of every nonsectarian-led government in the region and installing their puppets who are establishing radical religious states in their place.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gatorade Baths On A Basketball Court Not A Bright Idea

Pence Also Skeptical About Mass Transit, Hallelujeh!

It's good to have a Republican governor talk like a Republican. Mike Pence not only threw cold water on the plan by a cabal of state legislators who took campaign dollar pay offs from the IMS to give away $100 million of your taxpayer dollars to the mega-millionaire Hulman-George family to make improvements to their race track today. Pence is also expressing caution about a multi-billion dollar, tax-and-spend mass transit plan backed by fake Republicans Greg Ballard and James Brainard. “I have an open mind about this issue, but I have a couple of concerns,” said Pence. “It represents a significant tax increase at a time when I’m fighting to cut taxes.” Yep, that's right. Your Republican-controlled legislature opposes Pence's tax cut plan but back a plan to raise local income taxes 20% and give $100 million away to one of the state's wealthiest families.

It looks to me like there's a need to do a lot of house cleaning in the Republican-controlled legislature, and that fight will have to take place in the primary election in 2014. A lot of Republicans forget that it was the tax-and-spend ways of the Orr-Mutz administration that swept Evan Bayh and the Democrats into the governor's office for 16 straight years, a period when the House was controlled by the Democrats more often than not. Despite the abysmal record of IndyGo with its $65 million a year budget to provide mass transit in the most densely populated areas of Indianapolis, the Senate Local Government Committee gave its approval on a 7-2 vote today to the plan backed by the state's most fiscally irresponsible mayors and a panoply of pay-to-play contractors who are already divvying up the contracts they expect to be awarded for the multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

Unlike the proponents, who have been given $2 million in federal taxpayer dollars to spend on a PR and lobbying campaign to ram this ill-conceived plan through the state legislature, opponents have had no funding to fight the corrupt forces behind it. Until today. The Americans for Prosperity PAC, which is also bolstering Pence's tax cut proposal, will throw its privately-raised money to help save taxpayers from fiscal disaster.
“Our concerns are not only about the local tax increase, but about the overall cost of such a proposal,” said Chase Downham, president of the Indiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity. “We think this particular plan is costly for our city, and we are concerned about the impact on the budget going forward.” . . .
Americans for Prosperity, a national tea party group founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, is becoming increasingly involved in state politics throughout the country. The Indiana chapter recently launched a six-figure media campaign to back Gov. Mike Pence’s proposed tax cut.
Downham will meet today with Indiana lawmakers individually to discuss the group’s concerns about transit . . .
“We’ve gotten involved in similar issues around the country,” said Downham, a former Pence aide. “Any time we have an opportunity to do what’s right for taxpayers, we will do anything we can.”
Transit bill author Rep. Jerr Torr, R-Carmel, said he’s not concerned the opposition will derail transit at the Statehouse.
“All the General Assembly is being asked to do is give this option to local government and voters,” Torr said . . .
Torr better be concerned. He may rue his arrogance if he faces a decent, well-financed primary opponent for the first time in his legislative career in 2014. Real Republicans have lost their patience with him. And did you notice how the Star refers to Americans for Prosperity as a tea party group and references who its largest funders are in a thinly-veiled effort to besmirch the opponents? Fellow blogger Fred McCarthy does a better job calling out the anti-taxpayer, Gannett eggheads than I could:
This one has the above-the-fold, lead headline on the front page, as follows: "Tea party will fight transit plan." The first three words in the text are "Tea party activists...., followed by, ...and they’re willing to spend cash..." In the fifth paragraph, an organization called Americans for Prosperity is identified as "...a national tea party group founded by the billionaire Koch brothers...." The balance of the article uses nearly half of page A5.
It occurs to us that, among backers of promiscuous government spending, the label "tea party" is frequently applied as a derogatory term or even a vicious epithet. We wonder why this label is used repeatedly instead of the simple word "conservative" which never appears at all.
We also were somewhat surprised by the apparent necessity of the reference to "spending cash" while ignoring a report earlier this week that proponents have already gone through $1 million in support of the proposal. And that’s a million taxpayer dollars.
Nor do we remember ever seeing reference to "billionaire brothers" when the owners of the local basketball franchise plead poverty and drain another $10 million from the public treasury.
We do hope future discussions of the legislation, and especially of any resulting referendum on the whole concept, will be treated with objectivity and at least some attempt to present legitimate opposition along with the constant, hyped drumbeat of approval . . .
I thought I would share with you this old clip of a meeting of the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority ("CIRTA"), an unelected, unaccountable publicly-funded quasi-governmental body that's spent millions of your tax dollars over the past several years putting together their mass transit boondoggle. This meeting is from February 23, 2011. Apparently the board members figured out they were doing their cause more harm by allowing the public to view what they were up to so they decided to discontinue airing their meetings on WCTY.

At this meeting, they talked about how they put out one fire by dropping their original plan to fund a metropolitan mass transit authority with the property tax and shifting to the income tax instead. They laughed about that. They keep talking about how the feds will take care of everything but the operating costs, which we know is not the case at all. Moreover, the federal government is broke and doesn't have money to give away for these boondoggles. They talked about trips they had taken to Washington to lobby for their plan. They talked about how helpful U.S. Rep. Andre Carson had been and how he had arranged a meeting for them with Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who chairs the House Transportation Committee and is apparently a big supporter of federal funding for mass transit. One of my personal favorites was when they were lamenting a legislative effort to correct a mistake in the 2008 property tax reform legislation, which you may recall increased state income taxes 20% as a trade off for capping property taxes. A fixed percent of state sales tax revenues is earmarked for mass transit agencies. The original legislation neglected to adjust the percentage downward to reflect the higher tax. The authority members thought it was unfair not to allow mass transit agencies to keep the windfall from the legislative oversight and were hopeful the legislation would die.

The authority is chaired by a Hamilton Co. Commissioner and government lawyer, Christine Altman. She, along with Ehren Bingaman, the highly-paid executive director of this obscure agency, do most of the talking. Incredibly, CIRTA has eight full-time staffers with a $1.7 million budget this year alone. It spends $12,500 a year providing free parking to these staff members. Their travel and conference expenses this year come in at $91,200, including $25,000 for travel alone. The staff is to be reimbursed $25,000 for mileage, $5,000 for fuel expenses, $2,000 for vehicle repairs and maintenance and $1,000 for meals. Despite the large staff, they have a bunch of outside contracts, including $48,000 for public relations, $43,000 for public affairs, $25,000 for accounting fees and $13,000 for legal fees. Their total contractual budget comes in just under $700,000. If they're spending this recklessly already, just think how they'll spend your money once they get their hands on billions of tax dollars.

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Yep, That's The Presidential Limo Being Towed In Israel

obama limo israel
My guess is that the Secret Service is pretty particular when it comes to who is permitted to do anything to the presidential limousine, including filling it with fuel. Well, believe it or not, the limousine, referred to as "The Beast," conked out on President Obama during his trip to Israel after someone mistakenly filled it with gasoline rather than diesel. Ouch.

Pence Skeptical On $100 Million Tax Giveaway To IMS

Gov. Mike Pence is thinking out loud, at least, like a true fiscal conservative in questioning a legislative plan to give up to $100 million in state tax dollars to the privately-owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make improvements to the track and related facilities. State Sen. Mike Young sprung the legislation in the Senate near the end of action for bills in the first house, leaving virtually no opportunity for public debate, before the Senate rammed the legislation through on a bipartisan, 37-12 vote. The IMS doled out more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in the lead-up to the introduction of the unprecedented public subsidy as the IMS moved to add "rent-a-civic" leaders like Mark Miles to its management team. WTHR has more on Pence's comments:
The state's top political leader is voicing concerns about a plan to offer financial help to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Governor Mike Pence told reporters Wednesday that he has reservations about the way IMS bill is crafted. Pence is concerned that it provides little private investment opportunity.
The state Senate approved the $100 million plan in a 37-12 vote last month. The Speedway already spends $5 to $15 million annually on maintenance and is facing competitive pressure from newer facilities.
Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and IMS President and CEO Jeff Belskus went to the Statehouse to ask for financial help in February.
With $100 million in bonds, the Speedway will add lights to allow night racing at the historic track. It will also renovate the stands, upgrade facilities and install high-tech video boards.
Lighting the track, as well as grandstands and parking lots, could cost as much as $20 million. Building renovations and track upgrades could cost as much as $30 million. Another $10 million would be spent to make the Speedway compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The money would be essentially taken out as a lump sum loan and paid back over 20 years. A special taxing zone at IMS would provide $5 million a year. Another $2 million annually would be paid by the Speedway . . .
Let's be clear. There is nothing in the legislation that requires the IMS to contribute $2 million annually; any contribution the IMS makes to these improvements are at its discretion. The only recourse bondholders have for repayment of the bonds issued under the legislation is to capture up to $5 million a year in taxes the IMS pays to the state. If the state revenue contribution is inadequate to cover repayment of the bonds, the bondholders have no recourse against the IMS because the proposed state law bars them from protecting their interest with any lien or mortgage on the IMS.

During a House Ways & Means Committee hearing this morning on the give-away, the IMS' Mark Miles told lawmakers the Hulman-George family has no plans to sell the IMS. “There is absolutely no intention to sell it,” he said. “We're not doing things to get it ready to sell. The family fully expects to keep this business their business.” Yeah, as if he's going to admit their true intentions out loud to lawmakers. I wonder if Miles carefully parsed those words so that a new owner that included Tony George as a successor owner would make his statement true.

IMS officials are once again touting an economic development study it had prepared, which claims the IMS contributed $510 million to the local economy annually and generates 6,200 jobs. The IMS and IndyCar series actually have a relatively small number of full-time employees. As everyone familiar with IMS events knows, the IMS relies heavily on volunteers from not-for-profit groups to provide concession and parking staff on race day. Nonetheless, it claims the IMS and related sports businesses generate annual compensation to employees of over $235 million. It claims 200,000 out-of-state visitors spend $145 million combined at the IMS' three annual race events.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Still Hope For Legislative Sanity: Kenley Drops Sponsorship Of Mass Transit Boondoggle

It looks like some lawmakers, and I'm talking about lawmakers who have an "R" behind their names, are starting to think like Republicans instead of the out-of-control tax-and-spend crowd running our municipal governments who want to sucker you into agreeing to yet another local income tax to support some pie-in-the-sky mass transit undertaking. A key Senate lawmaker who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) has pulled his sponsorship of the multi-billion dollar mass transit plan pushed by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Carmel Mayor James Brainard a day before a key committee vote on the measure. From the IBJ:
Already skeptical of a mass-transit plan for the Indianapolis metro area, influential Sen. Luke Kenley has dropped his sponsorship of a related bill that’s due for its first Senate hearing Wednesday.
Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he decided it was inappropriate to be listed as a sponsor without giving the bill his unqualified support.
“I’ve never been too persuaded by the need for this,” he said Tuesday morning . . .
Earlier this month, Kenley told IBJ that he had doubts about transit promoters’ financing plan, but he was willing to give local government the opportunity to put the question to voters.
Kenley said he reconsidered giving the referendum a green light after seeing that 60 percent of his constituents oppose the plan, according to a poll he conducted on his website. Many wrote notes to express just how strongly they oppose the plan, Kenley said.
Kenley, chair of the Senate appropriations committee, also serves on the tax and fiscal policy committee, which is likely to hear the bill if it passes the first committee. He downplayed his influence over colleagues. “I don’t know of anybody in the Senate that votes the way I want ‘em to vote,” he said.
I'm happy to hear that Kenley is listening to his constituents, unlike many of his Republican colleagues who are drunk with power and who are more interested in currying favor to the pay-to-play crowd wining and dining them and their cheerleaders in the editorial room of the Indianapolis Star than the people they were elected to represent. My guess is that Kenley also grew skeptical that the proponents of mass transit really have no concrete vision of what it is they plan to do with the billions of dollars that will fall into their hands if, God forbid, this ill-conceived plan becomes law. The proponents' plan changes from day-to-day depending on what they believe they need to say to mollify skeptical lawmakers, but the breadth of the taxing authority vested in an unelected, unaccountable metropolitan transit authority remains intact. Let's hope more Senate Republicans rethink this boodoggle.