Thursday, November 28, 2013

Christmas Will Come Early For IU If Mayor Greg Ballard Gets His Way

You have to suspend disbelief to ascertain the fiscal and spending policies of the city of Indianapolis, but that's exactly what the local media in this town does when it comes to these matters. The reporter for the Indianapolis Star responsible for the covering the city beat is the same reporter who covered the tumultuous budget debate only months ago where Mayor Greg Ballard poked and prodded the City-County Council in every way he could in an attempt to coax it into raising taxes to close what was described as a major deficit in next year's budget. We were told there simply wasn't money to spare to fund basic city services unless the council enacted deep budget cuts or raised taxes. We never got a straight answer from the politicians on what they did with the windfall from the 65% increase in the local income tax they enacted in 2007, and the media wasn't about to find those answers for us. This reporter who sat through all of these deliberations feeds us a bullshit story about the need for city taxpayers to donate $9.5 million to the cash-rich Indiana University to make renovations at IUPUI's Natatorium and the possibility of permanently setting aside city revenues for future building maintenance needs:
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has thrown his support behind a plan for the city to chip in roughly half of the nearly $20 million price tag for renovations needed at IUPUI’s Natatorium.
Indiana University still is working out how it will pay for the remainder after the city contributes $9.5 million. As part of the still-developing arrangement for the future of the 31-year-old swimming facility, IU also says it’s seeking greater involvement in Natatorium management and event marketing from a partnership of local sports organizations.
And a portion of city hospitality taxes could be set aside for future maintenance, said Ryan Vaughn, Ballard’s chief of staff . . .   
“It’s part of our core sports economy here in Indianapolis,” Vaughn said. “That is a huge driver for us. (The building) needs a refresh. And it very much is a community asset.”
Okay, here are the only facts that city taxpayers need to know. Firstly, this is a building owned by a state university, which has its own budget to maintain buildings, construct new ones and identify generous donors whose vanity in having a building named after them is all it takes to fork over the money needed if funds are unavailable. The City of Indianapolis is not legally obligated in any way to build, maintain or operate university-owned property. If this building is as important as city leaders say it is, then why has it not been a priority for Indiana University to maintain it as a "world class facility." This building is not just a natatorium; it also serves as the basketball arena for IUPUI's basketball team, which gets at least as much use out of the building as its use as a natatorium. Finally, if the City has this kind of money to spare, then it should be used to fund basic city services. This same administration is in the process of trying to privatize some or all of the city's parks and recreational facilities because it says it can't afford to maintain them with existing funding, while it wastes money on a new sports facility for cricket. Why would we be giving away a chunk of money to a university that always has money for everything it deems important when we can't afford to maintain what we are responsible for maintaining? They are looking to spend as much money to renovate this building as it cost to build in 1982.

Instead of discussing any of the relevant issues, the reporter dishes out the typical meme about how much economic development spin off value this facility supposedly brings to the city because of events it draws to the city. The Natatorium only has a seating capacity of 4,700. Larger swimming events are already being hosted at Banker's Life Fieldhouse instead of the Natatorium. As I've pointed out before, there are numerous high school football and basketball facilities in the area that draw more people on an annual basis than the Natatorium. It's not unusual for participants to outnumber attendees at events hosted at the Natatorium. They can hype it all they want, but the reality is that it has very little impact on the local economy. Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse dwarfs the Natatorium when it comes to economic impact. Are city taxpayers paying to maintain it? At some point, an adult has to enter the room and tell the downtown mafia that there are limits to what they can expect city taxpayers to continue paying for sports facilities to the detriment of funding basic city services. That adult is obviously not going to come from the ranks of the local news media or the people we foolishly entrust with making these spending decisions.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Media Should Demand Explanation From Gov. Mike Pence On Sawyer's Resignation

On August 15, 2013, Gov. Mike Pence stepped before reporters at the State House to announce his personal choice to replace outgoing state auditor Tim Berry after reviewing a host of candidates, including several with better credentials than his choice of Brownsburg Town Council President Dwayne Sawyer. "We had some outstanding men and women that we interviewed from all over the state of Indiana for this position, but again and again it was Dwayne Sawyer who emerged as the best choice for all the people of Indiana and it's an honor to announce his appointment," Pence said at the time. Pence also immediately declared his support for Sawyer's election at next year's state GOP convention as the 2014 candidate to fill the office for a four-year term. "As people in our party come to know this good man and his wonderful family in the months ahead ... I have every confidence that he will be the nominee for this position," Pence said.

Pence backed up his support of Sawyer with a $10,000 campaign contribution his own campaign committee made to Sawyer's earlier this month on November 4. In subsequent interviews, Sawyer spoke very positively about his transition into his new job and the work that lied ahead of him, including one interview that took place only days earlier as pointed out by radio talk show host Amos Brown. Sawyer was a no-show at the state GOP's fall dinner on Monday night featuring Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. All other statewide Republican officials were present and no explanation was offered for his absence. Shortly after the dinner, a Sawyer friend, radio talk show host Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, posted on his blog a stunning report that Sawyer was expected to resign as state auditor the following day due to personal reasons. Without fanfare, Gov. Mike Pence released a statement the following morning saying that he had "accepted" the resignation of Sawyer effective December 15, 2013. Pence quoted from a letter from Sawyer dated November 25 that he had decided to resign "due to family and personal concerns." Pence assured the public that Sawyer's resignation had nothing to do with his fiduciary responsibilities or the execution of his duties as state auditor. Pence declined to comment further, citing privacy concerns. "I'm just simply not going to discuss private conversations with Mr. Sawyer concerning this matter," said Pence.

Reporters were unable to obtain a comment from Sawyer, who was not in his office on the day of the announcement. Employees of his small office told reporters they were surprised by the announcement, indicating they had received no advance notice their boss would be resigning from the office. Sawyer is married with three young children who he and his wife home school. There was general consensus that Sawyer had been pressured into submitting his resignation by the governor's office but little else is known about the circumstances of his abrupt and unexpected decision to give up the office to which had been appointed only three months earlier and to which he intended to seek re-election until this week. Pence has promised to pick his replacement soon. Many questioned just how good of a job Pence had performed in vetting Sawyer for the job months earlier. Did Gov. Pence's desire to have an African-American on the ticket next year cloud his judgment in picking Sawyer?

The circumstances of Sawyer's resignation reminds me of the abrupt departure of another former statewide elected official. In June 2003, Brian Bishop abruptly and unexpectedly announced his resignation as Clerk of Courts only six months after he started a new term to which he had been elected. Bishop, who had been considered a rising star in the state GOP, took a job in Washington never to be heard from again. A female whistle blower later confirmed to this blogger allegations that she had made against Bishop, which included an investigation by the Indiana State Police. According to the whistle blower, state GOP leaders met with Bishop quietly and urged him to step aside, which he agreed to do. Former Gov. Joe Kernan appointed David Lewis, a Democrat, to complete the unexpired term of Bishop after it remained vacant for a number of months. State lawmakers later passed legislation making the position an appointed position of the Supreme Court rather than a statewide elected office. Bishop's predecessor, Dwayne Brown, had his duties stripped of him by the Supreme Court and was eventually charged and convicted of ghost employment after employees of his office accused him of sexual harassment and performing campaign work on state time.

Will reporters allow Sawyer to quietly leave like Bishop? Or will they demand answers from Gov. Pence, if not Sawyer, as to the real reason he decided to resign from the statewide office to which he accepted an appointment only months earlier? The public deserves answers.

UPDATE: Sawyer's campaign chairman, Michael O'Brien tells WTHR that he did not learn of Sawyer's intention of resigning until Sunday night. When asked what would happen to the funds Sawyer has already raised for his election campaign next year, including a $10,000 contribution and nearly $41,000 raised to date after a fundraiser earlier this month, O'Brien indicated that the funds would likely be turned over to the state party to help the candidate ultimately chosen by the party to run for the office. "We didn't expect this so we're trying to figure out the details," said Michael O'Brien.  "It will be used to pay the limited expenses we had for our campaign. Whatever is left will go to the state [Republican] party to pay for electing a Republican auditor in 2014." O'Brien is a lobbyist and GOP county chairman in Sawyer's home county of Hendricks who had urged the governor to appoint him to the vacancy in August.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bisard Receives 16-Year Sentence

Allen Co. Superior Court Judge John Surbeck showed no mercy for IMPD Officer David Bisard at his sentencing hearing today after a jury recently found him guilty of driving his police cruiser while intoxicated and hitting a group of motorcycles, killing one and seriously injuring two others. Judge Surbeck sentenced Bisard to 16 years with three years suspended for three of his nine convictions; the remaining six charges merged into the three other charges. Bisard still has to be tried for a second DUI arrest that occurred after the fatal accident in 2010. Whatever sentence he receives for that charge, which could be up to one year, must be served consecutively.

Dwayne Sawyer Expected To Resign As State Auditor For Personal Reasons

Dwayne Sawyer, the Brownsburg town council president appointed by Gov. Mike Pence to fill the job as state auditor only three months ago, is expected to resign the office due to personal reasons according to IndyPolitics' Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. "It is unclear exactly what compelled Sawyer to tender his resignation, but it is believed to be personal in nature," Shabazz writes. Shabazz has described himself as being a close friend to Sawyer so one would presume he wouldn't prematurely report his resignation from his state office.

UPDATE: Gov. Mike Pence has just released the following statement acknowledging Sawyer's resignation effective December 15 "due to family and personal concerns," assuring the public that it had nothing to do with his fiduciary duties to the state:
Governor Mike Pence announced that he accepted Dwayne Sawyer’s resignation as Auditor of State, and offered the following statement: 
“I have accepted Dwayne Sawyer’s resignation as Auditor of State effective December 15, 2013.  His reason for resigning had to do with personal and family circumstances, and I respect his decision to step aside. Hoosiers can be assured that Mr. Sawyer’s resignation had nothing to do with his fiduciary responsibilities for the state or his execution of his duties as Auditor. This office will always be grateful for Mr. Sawyer’s service and wish him well in his future endeavors.” 
Dwayne Sawyer stated in his letter of resignation, “Due to family and personal concerns, I have come to the conclusion that it will be in the best interests of my family and the people of Indiana whom I have been honored to serve that I resign from the office of Indiana auditor of state.”
I have a hunch there is much more to this story. Gov. Mike Pence's campaign committee donated $10,000 to Sawyer's campaign on November 4. I'm wondering if he will ask Sawyer to return it.

State's Public Access Counselor: It's Perfectly Legal For Boards To Take Action In Secret Through Electronic Communications

Let the word go out to every governmental board throughout the state of Indiana. It's no longer necessary to publish notice and conduct a public meeting to take official actions. You can conduct secret discussions via e-mail and telephone calls to take your official actions. That's what the state's Public Access Counselor Luke Britt is saying in response to a complaint filed against the Indiana State Board of Education after its board members used electronic communications amongst themselves to decide to ask the Legislative Services Agency to calculate grades for the state's schools under the state's A-F grading system, a requirement statutorily delegated to the state's Department of Education. Because no official meeting took place, Britt said no violation of the state's open door law occurred. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly has the story:
First, Britt said the center staff unilaterally drafted the letter. If a majority of the board had directed the staff to draft the letter, then a violation would have occurred, he found.
“For all intents and purposes, this is a meeting of the minds, which just so happened to take place in cyberspace as opposed to a brick-and-mortar building,” he said.
But he noted the state’s prohibition against so-called serial meetings does not count email as participating in a gathering.
“In this instance the email exchange could be interpreted as a ratification of a final decision by vote,” the opinion said. “I do not think it rises to that level but the perception of the public is of significant importance.”

Britt's mention of the actions of the board in this case being "hidden from public view" and "damaging to the integrity of a public agency" is of little solace given his determination that their actions did not violate the open door law. If our state's governor is going to let a law firm that is determined to corrupt every public process in this state by handpicking someone beholden to their firm to run every agency of state government, then the legislature better get busy writing an open door law that has some real teeth and provides no wiggle room. Clearly, the person in charge of protecting the public's interest is not interested in doing that.

WTHR Reportedly Fired Nicole Pence For Ethical Violations

WTHR-TV abruptly fired weekend anchor Nicole Pence last week just before she was scheduled to air an investigative story on the 35-year old unsolved murder of four young employees of a Burger Chef in Speedway, who were kidnapped from the restaurant and later found dead in a wooded area in Johnson County. Speedway Indianapolis police badly botched the original investigation by failing to treat the restaurant as a crime scene after discovering the unexplained disappearance of the four employees when a delivery man arrived at the store to find the store unlocked and nobody present and cash missing from the restaurant's register. It wasn't until one of the victim's car was found abandoned several miles away days later that police became suspicious. WTHR-TV aired the story, which offered little new information about the cold case after Pence's firing.

FTVLive is reporting that Pence was fired for ethical violations centering around the exchange of information with police handling the investigation. Pence is the niece of Gov. Mike Pence. The Indiana State Police, which has a bad track record when it comes to solving cold case files, is the focus of the story, which claims to break ground with a new police theory of the case. The story included an interview with Sgt. Bill Vann. He identified two potential suspects who may have been linked to the robbery of another Burger Chef in Plainfield who may have been seen at the Burger Chef in Speedway near the time of the store's closing. Sgt. Vann told WTHR-TV that he believed one of the store's employees may have recognized one of the robbers, which is why the four employees were kidnapped and murdered. Pence has reportedly hired an attorney to sue the TV station for her firing. Frankly, I found the story very disappointing after days of hype by the TV station. I thought another TV station in town had done a very similar story a few years ago, but I could be mistaken.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Theory In Four Minutes

The Corbett Report does a great job of summarizing the whackiest conspiracy theory of all regarding the assassination of Kennedy: the one told by the U.S. government and the state-run media. I couldn't pass this one up without moving along like we've been instructed to do by our government and media.

Former Chief Deputy Prosecutor Gets Probation, No Prison Time For Taking Bribe To Spring Convicted Murderer From Prison

If you are a corrupt prosecutor, there is no better place to ply your trade in all of America than Indiana. After U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett declined to seek charges against former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi for soliciting campaign contributions and real estate interests in exchange for lenient plea deals and sentence reductions, a federal judge has decided that Brizzi's chief deputy, David Wyser, should serve no time in prison after he pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe in the form of a campaign contribution in exchange for agreeing to a sentence modification that allowed a woman convicted of hiring a hit man to kill her husband to be freed from prison after serving only 18 years of her 70-year sentence. Brizzi accepted $30,000 in campaign contributions from the woman's father before she was released from prison but claimed that he had no idea the father was seeking a sentence modification for his jailed daughter despite agreeing to a deal rarely if ever granted to convicted murderers. Instead, Wyser receives just 6 months home detention and three years probation. Compare that to the 40-month sentence in federal prison meted out to former IMPD officer and City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman after he was convicted of soliciting a bribe from an undercover FBI agent. Wyser is credited for assisting in the investigation of his boss, which essentially consisted of rolling over and taking all of the blame for his actions. It makes a complete mockery of the criminal justice system in Indiana, but that's the way it rolls here in the Hoosier state where there are two criminal justice systems: one for the corrupt ruling elites who are above the law and can do as they please; and one for the rest of us who are expected to abide by the letter of the law or face stiff prosecution.

UPDATE: It looks like Judge Sarah Evans Barker has the same questions as me concerning the reason the U.S. Attorney's Office let other criminal wrongdoers off the hook and charged only Wyser. “There are sure a lot of people who did not act honorably,” Fox59 News' Russ McQuaid quotes Judge Barker as saying.  “Lawyers, other prosecutors who were not acting with the highest legal, moral and ethical duties." She added, “(Wyser) shouldn’t be scapegoated for all the other questionable behavior.” Wyser is also miffed that only he was single out for prosecution by Hogsett's office:
“Lukemeyer…and Epperly…all these guys skated,” said an embittered Wyser whose guilty plea will result in the only conviction of the federal investigation into prosecutor’s office corruption. “They all gave lies and made up lies about their involvement. Lukemeyer lied to cover her butt. The truth is she knew what was going on here. She asked me if I wanted the reward of redoing the modification and I accepted that.
“I appreciate the judge’s comments and clearly she was able to see through Hogsett’s tactics when he made a statement a couple weeks ago that he didn’t have enough evidence or insufficient evidence to go after Carl Brizzi. I think anybody who is in the system knows that is completely disingenuous. There was plenty of evidence supported by the documents that they filed in my case.”
The sister of the man whose life Paula Willoughby ended before her father paid a bribe to spring her from prison feels exactly how every ordinary Hoosier should feel about the corruption in the office of Joe Hogsett that allowed these scoundrels to skate for their crimes:
 Darrell Willoughby’s sister disagreed with what Wyser did…but she found agreement in what he said.
“When you’re a politician, a lawyer, someone with money, you’re not going to do time,” she said after addressing the court. “You’re not going to be held accountable. The state will do whatever it can to protect you because they don’t send these kind of boys to jail.
“When you’re playing hardball with these boys in politics, you do not stand a chance as a common person. You don’t.”
If we had a legitimate news media in this town, they would be demanding Hogsett's resignation for the gross misconduct of his office in handling the prosecution of this major public corruption case and demand answers about who he is protecting through negligent, if not deliberate, mishandling of public corruption investigations being conducted by the FBI and the Justice Department's public integrity office. Instead, they will be touting the man for yet another run for public office. This is precisely why any respectable FBI agent has no desire to work in the Indianapolis office. The U.S. Attorney's Office is always run by political hacks who do everything they can to protect the corrupt political establishment that runs this state. And what about Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry? If Wyser pleaded guilty to allowing a sentence modification to be procured through payment of a bribe to spring Willoughby from prison, why the hell has he not petitioned the court to reinstate her former sentence? The sentence modification should be null and void once it's determined that it was procured through the commission of a bribe.

Build And They Will Not Come

A Star story about the problem with fewer flights and drastically higher fares for flights at Indianapolis' International Airport tries its best to sugar coat a serious problem facing the city's airport. The reality is that the three-pronged public investments in a new airport terminal, expanded convention center and new football stadium have proven not to be the panacea touted by their proponents. The new airport terminal has never seen the level of flights experienced at the old airport terminal. The story blames fewer flights at the new terminal on the loss of local airline ATA after it went bankrupt, failing to point out that much higher fees on the airlines to pay for the new airport terminal's $1.1 billion cost coincided with ATA's demise.

A USA Today study found that Indianapolis' airport has lost one-third of its passenger flights since 2005, while airfares have risen 23% in inflation-adjusted dollars. It's not just the loss of ATA that has contributed to fewer flights. Northwest cut back the mini hub it had been growing at Indianapolis' airport after its merger with Delta in 2009. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation had to take the drastic step of providing an annual guarantee of $1.5 million just to coax United Airlines into adding one non-stop daily flight to San Francisco. "City officials now hope that United’s competitors don’t respond by offering cut-rate fares on competing one-stop flights to San Francisco, undercutting the gamble that the IEDC has taken with public money," the Star report says. Yeah, competition that yields lower airfares is the last thing we want, eh?

A spokesman for Visit Indy says it is trying to lure more visitors to the city by convincing them that hotels, restaurants and taxi fares are cheaper in Indianapolis than other cities. “It’s a new message we have been able to deliver to key meeting planners,” Gahl said. More than a few would quarrel with Gahl's claim, particularly due to the fact that the city's taxes on hotel, restaurants and car rentals have been increased to among the highest levels in the country to help pay for all of these added amenities the folks at Visit Indy assured us would attract more visitors if we built.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ballard Is Taking Parks And Recreation's Ron Swanson A Bit Too Seriously

Apparently, Mayor Greg Ballard's speechless cameo appearance during the filming of a recent episode of the NBC comedy series "Parks And Recreation" at Lucas Oil Stadium has consumed him a bit too much. Ballard is adopting the character Ron Swanson's view that the fictional town of Pawnee's parks and recreation director that all city government functions should be privatized. Yes, Mayor Ballard's administration is soliciting proposals to privatize some or all of the city's parks and recreational facilities, the funding and support of which have been one of his lower priorities since becoming mayor in 2008. Actually, this isn't the first time this idea has surfaced. Early in Ballard's first term, we learned that the administration had awarded an exclusive real estate agreement with controversial real estate broker John Bales for the disposal or leasing of "surplus" park properties owned by the city. The administration quietly cancelled the contract with Bales after learning he was under investigation by the FBI. I used to support privatization of some government services until I figured out that it had nothing to do with delivering government services more efficiently and had everything to do with expanding white collar patronage for the political cronies of the politicians in exchange for campaign contributions and other favors.

Indiana Department of Revenue's Administrative Requirement That Same-Sex Couples File Separate Tax Returns Provides Equal Protection Claim Against State

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Windsor earlier this year that a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that required the IRS to treat the surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage differently for federal inheritance tax purposes than the surviving spouse of a traditional spouse was unconstitutional, the IRS immediately revised its regulations to permit same-sex couples to file joint tax returns. That posed a problem for states like Indiana which impose a state income tax that picks up the adjusted gross income tax calculation on a married couple's federal income tax return as the basis for calculating the tax owed by the couple on their jointly filed state tax return. Because Indiana law bars the recognition of same-sex marriages entered into in other states and countries where they are legally recognized, the Indiana Department of Revenue has determined that it will not permit same-sex couples residing in Indiana who file joint federal tax returns to file a joint state income tax return. The Star's Jon Murray describes the Department's new ruling:
The Indiana Department of Revenue will require each member of a same-sex couple to file a single-filer state tax return. But officials stopped short of creating a tax worksheet to help married same-sex couples recalculate their joint income before they file separate state tax forms, as Wisconsin and Michigan have done.
That is the approach recommended by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation to help reduce confusion.
Department of Revenue spokesman Robert Dittmer says the agency's guidance simply follows Indiana's same-sex marriage ban and does not recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.
Gay-rights advocacy group Indiana Equality Action says the new tax dynamic creates an attempted "separate but equal" system in Indiana that could spur a new legal challenge of the gay marriage ban. The group's attorneys have been researching the matter . . .  
The state's new guidance, issued on the Department of Revenue's website this afternoon, advises couples who file federal returns with a married filing status to also fill out sample federal single-filer forms. To do so, they must divide their joint income.
They then can refer to those sample federal returns when they fill out Indiana's tax return for single-filers. The website offers some advice for dividing up income and specifies which lines on the federal form affect the state return . . .
There's no question that this disparate tax treatment of same-sex couples will lead to a plethora of lawsuits being filed across the country in states like Indiana which bar recognition of same-sex marriages challenging the constitutionality of the state laws on equal protection grounds. Indiana's law creates the "second-tier marriage" tax inequality based solely on a married couple's sexual orientation, a classification made for reasons other than "government efficiency" that the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Windsor violates the 5th Amendment's equal protection clause, which the 14th Amendment makes equally applicable to the states.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Republican Lawmakers Recyle Bad Transit Plan To Screw Over Indianapolis Taxpayers

Marion County taxpayers pay nearly $30 million a year to subsidize the city's mass transit system, IndyGO. State taxpayers kick in another $11 million and federal taxpayers contribute nearly $14 million a year to subsidize the current system. Riders of the mass transit system contribute just $1 for every $6 the system costs to maintain. For reasons that are unclear to me, state Republican lawmakers want to foist a new income tax on Marion County taxpayers to extend the current mass transit system into the suburban counties. That plan failed last year, but the money-grubbing lobbyists and the government contracting interests they represent have been busy wining and dining the lawmakers who were charged with studying the issue over the past summer and convinced all but one of them to repackage an already bad plan into a newfangled plan that will add new taxes on businesses to compliment the additional income taxes they want to impose on taxpayers in Marion and Hamilton County. This new plan will supposedly require riders to pay 25% of the operating costs? Right.

There is no concrete plan for how this mass transit plan will work. Will it be new bus lines? Will it be new light rail lines? Will it be a mix of both, or something else? They haven't a clue. We do know that the experience of CIRTA's new executive director is strictly in managing rail transit. Why would CIRTA pick a rail transit professional if they don't have big plans for a costly rail system? The idea is sort of like Obamacare. Let's just pass something into law and see what becomes of it. They're talking about giving county councils the option of imposing an income tax in the range of 0.1% to .25%. So what happens if Marion County's tax-and-spend council approves a .25% income tax increase and Hamilton County's council approves a .1% increase on its taxpayers? The vast majority of the expense of the expanded regional transportation system is connecting Indianapolis' current IndyGO system with suburban residents. Hamilton County residents pay no property taxes to support a mass transit system like Marion County taxpayers. Yet our taxpayers are going to be forced to shoulder the burden for the vast majority of the expanded regional transit system with higher income taxes on top of the property taxes we already pay to support the system. Instead of an unelected governing board made up of Marion County representatives only there will be a multi-county, unelected board which will control an annual budget much larger than any of our existing municipal corporations like the CIB, airport authority, health and hospital corporation and library over which taxpayers have no voice as it is. We need another unelected, unaccountable governmental entity with enormous taxing and spending authority like we need another hole in our heads.

To reduce the size of the income tax increase on individuals, this panel of lawmakers is recommending a new tax on employers to cover 10% of the operating costs of the system. Just how this tax will be imposed is very vague. The Star reports states that it will either be an income tax or an employee tax. Small business owners or pass-through business entities pay the same state income taxes paid by individuals on the owner's individual tax return; only C corporations pay the state's corporate income taxes. Is the employee tax a head tax on every employee any business within the county employs? Would this be yet another burdensome tax collecting and reporting requirement imposed on already over-burdened and over-regulated businesses, which are already reeling from the Tsunami impact of the new Obamacare regulations?

What this boils down to is that a handful of employers in the suburban counties want to find a way of getting cheap labor from the inner city delivered to their doorstep to whom they are only willing to pay poverty-level wages. They don't want them living in their neighborhoods; they just want their day labor services with government-funded transportation that can return them to their crime-ridden neighborhoods in the city at the end of their work shifts. If an expanded mass transit system is so important to employers in Hamilton County, then why don't they levy a tax to pay IndyGo to expand their bus lines to provide bus routes between their suburban communities and the inner city? Why should Indianapolis taxpayers pay the lion's share of the cost of providing government subsidized transportation for their workforce?

I'm still not buying the $1.3 billion estimate the proponents of this mass transit system keep using regardless of which rendering of their plan is being discussed presently. Nobody even seems to question this constant number despite the ever-evolving plans being touted by the proponents. Mass transit systems almost always cost dramatically more than the original estimates. If they say it will cost $1.3 billion, you can pretty much take it to the bank that it will cost at least $2 billion. If they say it will cost $250 million a year to operate, plan on it costing $400 million a year. The initial taxes collected are never enough. Future tax increase are a guarantee. I thought we elected a Republican-controlled legislature to prevent the tax-and-spend madness.

Irsay Wife Files For Divorce

The wife of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has filed for divorce for the second time in the past twelve years during the couple's 33-year marriage. WRTV has the following joint statement from Jim and Meg Irsay:
"After 33 years, we have mutually agreed to end our marriage," read a statement from the couple. "It is the right decision for us and our family."
Meg Irsay petitioned to divorce her husband back in 2001 but later dismissed her petition. According to the statement, the couple have reached a mutual agreement whereby Jim Irsay will retain full ownership of all of his business interests, including the Indianapolis Colts, which is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.2 billion. Jim Irsay inherited the Colts franchise from his father after a protracted legal battle over his estate with his step-mother, Nancy Irsay, and it represents his sole livelihood for all practical purposes.

Interestingly, court records show that Meg Irsay is being represented by James Reed, a partner at the law firm of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, which is the same law firm that serves as general counsel for the Capital Improvement Board. The CIB, of course, leases Lucas Oil Stadium to Irsay's Colts rent-free and picks up the entire tab for the operating costs of the stadium. A conflict of interest, eh? Why do I have this bad feeling that Indianapolis taxpayers will pay for this divorce?

Jim Irsay is represented by Faegre Baker Daniels' Andrew Soshnick. When Lucas Oil Stadium opened, Soshnick's law firm announced a founding partner role with the Colts under which it acquired naming rights for the upper and lower east club levels of the stadium under a six-year deal which expired with the Colts' 2013 season.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Who Really Killed Kennedy?

If you've been watching any of the documentaries or news stories aired the past couple of weeks by FOX, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, History Channel, National Geographic Channel, etc. or any of the mainstream newspaper reports on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, you have been hearing and reading nothing but government propaganda pre-approved by the CIA and the FBI, the two agencies of the federal government most responsible for what happened in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 and the ensuing cover-up that continues to this very day.

This short documentary by Newsmax takes a more "fair and balanced" look at the assassination than you'll hear on FOX News, which has been peddling Bill O'Reilly's book, "Killing Kennedy," which isn't worth the paper on which it's written because it claims the widely discredited Warren Commission Report got every major aspect of the investigation correct. Ironically, O'Reilly was at the forefront of pushing the CIA conspiracy angle when he was reporting for "Inside Edition."
I've studied the issue exhaustively and reached the conclusion that Kennedy was killed as part of a conspiracy involving the nation's most influential and powerful leaders within the CIA, FBI and the military/industrial complex. Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson was an active participant in the assassination, along with his political henchman, Malcolm Wallace, whose fingerprints were found in the sniper's nest of the Texas School Book Depository Building where Oswald's rifle was found, with the invaluable assistance of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and the fired CIA Director Alan Dulles, both of whom hated the Kennedy brothers at least as much as Johnson, who had recently learned that Kennedy had planned to drop him from the ticket in 1964, and that Robert Kennedy's Justice Department investigation of his long-time aide, Bobby Baker, was getting very close to ensnaring him.

The Newsmax documentary relies on a recently-published book by former Nixon aide Roger Stone, "The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ." I've not hidden my disdain for Stone, who I believe is a total snake in the grass every bit as much as Karl Rove. Stone's book is intended to focus blame for the assassination on Johnson and away from one of his political allies in Texas, George H.W. Bush. Stone's book does provide the valuable connection of Jack Rubinstein (the name Ruby is only used to hide his Jewish heritage) to the assassination plot. It is a fact that Stone's former boss, Richard Nixon, hired Rubinstein as an informant for the Un-American Activities Committee. Stone claims that Nixon told him that he hired Rubinstein at the direction of his good friend, then U.S. Sen.. Lyndon Johnson. Stone says that Nixon told him that Hoover called Nixon within four hours of the shooting and told him that a Russian communist had assassinated Kennedy. Stone said Nixon initially believed Hoover, but when he watched live TV reports of Rubinstein shooting Oswald two days later, he immediately knew that Hoover's communist connection claim was untrue. Stone says that Nixon immediately recognized the shooter as the informant Johnson had asked his congressional committee to hire more than a decade earlier. According to Stone, Nixon told him he believed Johnson had played a role in Kennedy's assassination. Pat Holloway, a tax attorney at the law firm used by Johnson and George H.W. Bush, recounted a phone call Johnson made to the firm from Parkland Hospital right after he learned of Kennedy's death lamenting the fact that "I gotta get rid of my Goddamn Halliburton stock" rather than expressing any sorrow over news of Kennedy's death.

Stone also notes the CIA connection to the assassination coming from the deathbed confession of E. Howard Hunt, a former Nixon White House staffer and CIA agent who was ensnared in the Watergate scandal, as well as Johnson's mistress, who claims Johnson told her the day before the assassination that he would "no longer have to deal with those Kennedy SOBs after today." Again, Stone is careful to avoid implicating former President George H.W. Bush. An unearthed memo written by Hoover, however, a day following the assassination confirms that he spoke to George Bush of the CIA about a possible anti-Cuban reaction to the assassination. Bush's Zapata Oil, which was nothing more than a front company for the CIA, owned the oil drilling rights in Cuba and Bush is believed to have played a role in directing the CIA-trained rebels at the Bay of Pigs invasion. When the term "Cuban connection" is used in reference to the Kennedy assassination, it does not refer to Fidel Castro having a role in the assassination; rather, it refers to the Cubans hired and trained by the CIA to carry out the failed Bay of Pigs attack and later failed attempts by the CIA to assassinate Castro so they could regain control of the island nation and turn it back into another one of their banana republics. The term "Cuban connection" pops up frequently on Nixon's White House tapes and it is said to be code for the conspiracy behind Kennedy's assassination. Several of the Watergate burglars turned out to be Cubans trained by the CIA dating back to the Bay of Pigs invasion. Part of Bush's role after being appointed CIA Director by Nixon was to close up leaks that could sink the entire ship.

Bush also made an interesting call to the local FBI office in Houston the day of Kennedy's assassination. According to Russ Baker, FBI records reveal that Bush placed a call to alert the FBI that he feared that a campaign worker in his office may have played a role in the assassination. Bush, who was the GOP chairman of the Harris County Republican Party in Houston and was preparing a bid for the U.S. Senate from Texas in 1964 at the time, told the FBI that he had concerns that James Parrot, a college student at the University of Texas who volunteered in his county party's office, had talked about assassinating Kennedy when he visited Houston. Some researchers speculate that Bush was attempting to establish an alibi for himself if his name ever came up in connection with the investigation of the assassination. It turns out that Bush was a close friend of a White Russian immigrant, George de Mohrenschildt, a geologist for the oil industry in Texas who also worked for the CIA. De Mohrenschildt was asked by the CIA to act as Oswald's handler when he first returned to Dallas after leaving the Soviet Union. Oswald, who was trained to speak Russian fluently while he served in the Marines, defected to the Soviet Union as a counter agent for the CIA only days after completing his service in the Marines. Oswald had no problem returning the U.S. with his new Russian wife a few years later after the Russians found him of no value to them for obvious reasons. Perhaps even more chilling is the fact that de Mohrenschildt was a close family friend of Jackie Kennedy and the entire Bouvier family. De Mohrenschildt, interestingly, was also a business associate of Aristotle Onassis, who would become Jackie Kennedy's second husband.

The mainstream media meme instructs us that continued talk of a conspiracy behind the assassination of Kennedy is unhealthy for our country. It is my sincere belief that you cannot understand why our nation finds itself in the mess it is today with little faith in our government institutions and an alarming escalation of the erosion of sacred and fundamental rights we once believed were safely protected by our constitution until the truth is revealed about what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. What happened in Dallas that day fundamentally changed who we are as a nation. The fact that those responsible for the coup were never brought to justice like the conspirators behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln were has allowed the perpetrators of that crime to commit far worse crimes in the ensuing decades against our country and our people. Thousands of records regarding the assassination remain under lock and seal after 50 years because the people who control our government want to perpetuate the lie told to us in the Warren Commission Report that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy. Oswald no more acted alone in killing Kennedy than John Wilkes Booth acted alone in killing Lincoln. Eight of Booth's co-conspirators were eventually tried and convicted after a lengthy military tribunal, although scores of suspects were arrested in the days and months following Lincoln's assassination. LBJ, Hoover and their co-conspirators ensured that only Oswald alone would be blamed for the vast conspiracy that claimed Kennedy's life and forever changed our country and its government for the worse. That one big fat lie has beget a thousand more lies and a government that lacks the confidence or faith of its people.

Blog Report: Lesbian Who Claimed Hospital Denied Hospital Visitation Rights For Partner Arrested For Beating Her

The Indianapolis Star reported last week claims made by the lesbian partner of a woman hospitalized at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis that she was being denied visitation rights by the hospital after her partner was hospitalized for an alleged drug overdose. A gay rights advocacy group, GetEqual Indiana, immediately took up the cause of Sarah Bray, arguing that the hospital was violating Bray's rights afforded to her to visit her same-sex partner under federal law. According to the Bilerico blog, Bray fabricated the story about her partner, Jennifer Clemmer, suffering from a drug overdose. Instead, the blog reports that Bray has been arrested and jailed for felony battery and criminal confinement of Clemmer.

Citing a probable cause affidavit, Bilerico says the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office has charged Bray with attacking Clemmer in front of her two children after a domestic dispute over household chores turned violent. Clemmer allegedly sought refuge in a bathroom where Bray found her on the floor hours later. Bray called 911 after finding her and pleaded ignorance of the cause of her condition when emergency responders arrived. Clemmer later explained that the last thing she remembered was dragging herself into the bathroom before awakening in the hospital days later. Clemmer told police after awakening that Bray had attacked her, a claim substantiated by Bray's children.

Bray allegedly fabricated the claims of being denied visitation rights and the overdose claim. Police and the hospital allowed Bray supervised visitation rights and played along with her story to avoid tipping her off of their ongoing investigation according to the report. The report claims Bray is facing two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge and is being held in the Marion County Jail on an $11,000 bond. Her first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday. The report claims that Bray has a history of abusing physically abusing Clemmer during their relationship.

UPDATE: The Star is now confirming the Bilerico report and provides a few more details:
. . . The revelation came when detectives interviewed Clemmer late Saturday night in the critical care unit at St. Francis Hospital.
Clemmer said Bray hit her with a fist, punched her several times in the head and upper torso, pulled her by the hair and slammed her face into the wood floor, according to court documents.
The alleged assault happened at about 10:30 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Southside home the pair shared.
During the assault, Bray said, “So you always want to be the victim, do ya?” Clemmer told investigators, according to documents.
Clemmer said she lost consciousness after she ran to the bathroom to escape from Bray.
Bray’s two sons witnessed the assault, documents said, and were told not to say anything.
Documents said Clemmer had scratches and bruises all over her body . . .

For once, I totally agree with Star columnist Erika Smith.

Indiana Insurance Regulator Will Not Require Insurers To Reinstate Policies Cancelled Due To ACA

The Indiana Department of Insurance issued a press release this morning announcing that it will not require health insurers which have already notified insureds of the cancellation of their policies due to the Affordable Care Act to reinstate those policies. "Such action would seriously destabilize Indiana’s insurance market and create logistical chaos, fueling even more uncertainty for Hoosiers," Commissioner Stephen Robertson said. "Furthermore, we do not believe that IDOI has the authority under Indiana law to fulfill the President’s untimely request."

President Obama knew when he signed into law that the ACA would result in the cancellation of millions of American's health insurance policies which did not satisfy the coverages mandated by the law, but he lied and insisted otherwise to the American people. After the recent uproar over the fact that more Americans currently insured by a health care plan were receiving cancellation notices from their insurers than were enrolling in Obamacare, the President illegally amended the law to allow insurers to reinstate policies they were required to cancel under the law due to inadequate coverage.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The News Just Keeps Getting More Weird

The meltdown of Toronto's cocaine-addicted Mayor Rob Ford has been an entertaining distraction, but the sad news is that it's not an isolated event. We learn today that a freshman Republican congressman from Florida, Trey Radel, was arrested in Washington, D.C. on Halloween night for possession of cocaine. Radel blames the arrest on an alcoholism problem and the stress of the debate in Washington over health care reform and the government shutdown. The real curiosity is how he managed to keep news of his arrest a secret for nearly three weeks.

In Virginia, the stressed out son of Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic Party's candidate for governor in 2009, nearly stabbed his father to death before turning a gun on himself and taking his own life. The 24-year old Austin Deeds had taken time off from college to work full-time for his father's campaign for governor. According to the Washington Post, a magistrate had issued an emergency detention order on Monday to have Deeds' son hospitalized after a psychiatric evaluation but they were unable to find a hospital that could spare a room to treat him. Deeds and his son were reportedly very close despite Deeds' divorce from his son's mother and subsequent remarriage to another woman.

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris had a stressful day as well. Her 68-year old husband, Anders Ebbeson, a successful businessman from Switzerland, took his life today in the couple's Sarasota home. Harris' husband reportedly had suffered unspecified health problems in recent years. Harris bowed out of politics after an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Harris stirred controversy while in Congress when she claimed during a speech in 2004 that a Middle Eastern man had been arrested for trying to blow up the Midcontinent ISO in Carmel, a claim denied by state and local officials. It was never clear who the source was for Harris' claim.

The stress of the battles in Washington seem inconsequential to President Barack Obama. He remains the pathological liar and narcissist the nation's voters foolishly entrusted with the presidency. His repeated lies and finger-pointing regarding his train wreck of a health care law reminds us of how Nancy Pelosi told us that we needed to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to find out what was in the bill. Apparently, Emperor Obama no longer needs a Congress to make laws. Anything the public learns that's in his health care law that becomes untenable to defend, Obama simply issues an edict amending the law. Nobody even seems to question the constitutionality of the chief executive's actions.

During a teleconference yesterday with the faithful discussing his health care law, Obama made an outlandish claim that over 100 million, or one-third of the entire American population, have enrolled in Obamacare. The real number is closer to 100,000, but who's going to quibble over the numbers. Like the time he claimed to have campaigned in all 57 states, the media brushed this whopper off as a flub that required no official response from the White House to clarify the President's obvious misstatement. The Organizing for Action political action committee, whose adherents were participating in the conference call, made the incredulous claim that over 200,000 followers were participating in the President's pep talk, apparently undeterred by the fact that the website was down once again.

Speaking of lies, remember when a number of observers doubted the unemployment statistics released by the Census Bureau in the months preceding the 2012 general election, which showed the unemployment rate tumbling, only to be labeled by Obots and the lamestream media as tin-foiled hat wearers? Well, it now turns out that the conspiracy nuts were right. The New York Post reports that the Census Bureau caught an employee fabricating data that goes into the unemployment rate calculation two years before the November election. According to the Post, the deception extended beyond that single employee and escalated in the months immediately prior to the election. One of the employees caught faking the numbers, Julius Buckmon, says he was instructed to fabricate data by higher-ups at the Census Bureau. If they can fabricate Obama's entire biographical narrative and get by with it, why wouldn't they fabricate government statistics to make The One's record appear better than it really is?

While we're on the subject of conspiracy theories, the strange deaths of "Clueless" actress Brittany Murphy and her husband in 2009 just got more bizarre. An LA coroner's report claimed that Murphy died of natural causes after suffering from pneumonia and anemia. Her husband, Simon Monjack, died of pneumonia a few months later. Investigators blamed black mold in the couple's homes for their illnesses and deaths, a claim denied by family members. Murphy's father now claims that toxicology test results taken using hair samples from Murphy showed the presence of heavy metals consistent with rat poisoning. Prior to their deaths, Murphy and her husband, an immigrant, had become paranoid that someone was tapping their phone and spying on them. It turns out that the couple was under investigation for marriage fraud by the Department of Homeland Security.

Here's where it gets really strange. Murphy is tied to a DHS whistle blower, Julia Davis, who claimed several years earlier that U.S. border patrol officials knowingly allowed a large number of illegal immigrants with ties to al Qaeda to cross the border with Mexico illegally. The government retaliated against Davis and launched an investigation of her and her husband for marriage fraud, claiming Murphy as a source that Davis had illegally helped Murphy's husband obtain work on a movie. Davis is a Ukranian-born immigrant to the U.S. The government's retaliation against Davis for whistle blowing included descending on her home for a raid with a Blackhawk helicopter and 27 armed agents during which they broke down the doors of her home and assaulted her parents. Davis' father was taken into the desert and held during the raid where he suffered heart complications and later died. A friend of Davis' who filmed the raid later died under suspicious circumstances. Davis eventually prevailed in a court of law on her retaliatory claims against the government but not before Davis, family members and witnesses were subject to continuous aerial surveillance by Blackhawk helicopters, vehicular surveillance, Internet activity monitoring and warrantless searches and seizures. It's all enough to make you wonder what happened to the country we once thought of as a beacon of freedom for the world.

Bosma And Long Will Let Caucuses Decide Fate Of Marriage Discrimination Amendment

A move to amend Indiana's constitution to ban legal recognition of same-sex marriages and benefits incident to marriage will be decided by the Republican caucuses of the House and Senate according to House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long. Both leaders agree that the issue is not an important issue facing Hoosiers and neither plans to dictate the decision on the proposed amendment's fate to their caucus members. The comments were made at a luncheon hosted by the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce, which is remaining neutral on the issue, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reported. The House and Senate Democratic leaders, Rep. Scott Pelath and Sen. Tim Lanane, both expressed opposition to the amendment. Meanwhile, a group representing several hundred clergy members held a press conference yesterday at the State House to voice their opposition to the amendment. Indiana law already bans legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Indiana Republicans would be fools to allow this amendment to go to a vote before voters in 2014. If this amendment question is on the ballot next year, there will be an influx of a millions of dollars into the state to advocate for the rejection of this amendment, along with hundreds of grassroots organizers who will be working to bring out voters in an off-year election who are more likely to support Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. The decision is a no-brainer if you ask me.

Economic Growth Anemic In Indiana This Year

The stock market may be at all time highs, but average Hoosiers are still experiencing the affects of the Great Recession. The Star's Maureen Groppe shares numbers from a recent IHS Global Insight report for Indiana that are less than encouraging. According to the report, the economy is slowing in almost every area of the state, including Indianapolis, where it has slowed to 1.6% compared to 3.3% a year earlier.  Bloomington, Elkhart, Fort Wayne, Kokomo, Lafayette, Michigan City, Muncie, South Bend and Terre Haute all are experiencing slower growth this year than last year. Columbus is performing the best with a growth rate of 3.2%, but that is down from 9.6% it experienced in 2012. The economy is actually shrinking in several Indiana cities, including Evansville, Michigan City, Muncie, Terre Haute and South Bend.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Keystone's Ersal Ozdemir Shells Out Another $5.5 Million For Downtown Building To Be Converted Into Luxury Hotel

The IBJ's Scott Olson is reporting that Keystone Construction, the company owned by the mysterious Turkish immigrant businessman Ersal Ozdemir, has purchased yet another downtown building for $5.5 million with plans to convert it to a luxury, 5-star hotel. The downtown mafia says that Indianapolis still needs a 5-star hotel as a Super Bowl host city in 2018 since the $25 million taxpayers spent on the Conrad Hilton just down the block fell short in those efforts. Ozdemir has apparently been designated to step up and make that happen. According to Olson, Ozdemir purchased the Illinois Building at the corner of Market and Illinois from an affiliate of HDG Mansur, whose principal has gone through a very public bankruptcy. The land under the building was under separate ownership. Ozdemir somehow managed to close a deal that normally takes months using conventional financing in a mere 30 days according to Olson.

Ozdemir's purchase of the Illinois building follows on the footsteps of his landing of a professional soccer team he plans to call Indy Eleven. Ozdemir is one of three finalists that submitted bids to the City of Indianapolis to acquire and redevelop the former GM metal-stamping site just west of White River near downtown where his plans include a new 10,000 seat stadium for his soccer team, which will temporarily play at IUPUI's stadium. The IBJ claims Ozdemir has very deep pockets, but people who know him say he was virtually broke no more than a decade ago. The source of Ozdemir's funding remains largely a mystery within the Indianapolis business community. His next door neighbor, IBJ publisher Mickey Maurer, vouches for him, and according to Ozdemir, his American mentor after arriving in the U.S. was Beurt SerVaas, successful industrialist, former City-County Council President and a former OSS officer who maintained close ties to the CIA throughout his fascinating international business endeavors that spanned many decades.

This blog has noted the striking similarity between Ozdemir's arrival and rise on the Indianapolis landscape to that of Tony Rezko in Chicago. Both were Middle Eastern immigrants with backgrounds in civil engineering. Both experienced seemingly meteoric growth and success as real estate developers. And both developed very close relationships with their respective state and city's most powerful politicians, showering huge campaign contributions on them in exchange for public subsidies for their real estate development projects. Rezko, who was very close to Rod Blagojevich, Barack Obama and Richard Daley, was convicted and sentenced to 10 1/2 years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to shake down businesses for campaign contributions in exchange for doing business with Illinois state government. Later reports revealed that a corrupt Iraqi billionaire with close ties to the CIA, Nadhmi Auchi, had been the source of funding for Rezko's American real estate ventures and lavish campaign contributions as part of an effort to gain influence over the American government and the people elected to run it. Rezko's early bankrolling of Barack Obama's political career was a key to his later success in getting elected to the U.S. Senate and the Presidency.

No Fatalities Reported From Yesterday's Storms

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Gov. Mike Pence monitoring storm reports from state command center
Yesterday's storms packed some very high winds and reports of numerous tornados but there are no reports of fatalities despite the considerable damage sustained in several areas hit hard by the storm system. Kokomo appears to have suffered the worst storm damage. Schools are closed there today while emergency workers continue their response in the worst affected areas, which appear to be on the city's south side. There was also substantial storm damage reported in Boone, Knox, Montgomery and Tippecanoe counties. Indianapolis lucked out. The only significant damage was the destruction of the historic post office building in Irvington, which was undergoing restoration when yesterday's hurricane-force winds leveled the building. A little more than 5,000 power outages were reported across Marion County, a surprisingly low number given the strength of the winds as the city sustained two separate punches as the storm system moved through, ushering in much colder air behind it.

Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence was busy working the state's emergency command center at the State House complex, contacting mayors of cities affected by the storms and calling into area TV stations to provide updates on damage reports. Those who wanted to spend the afternoon watching football games instead received seemingly endless live reports updating viewers on the latest warnings and live reports from areas affected by the storms. TV reporters were out and about desperately seeking severe weather damage anywhere. They finally found it when they came upon a lone Starbucks in Lebanon that was ravaged by the storm. It looks like the worst of the storm system hit neighboring Illinois before arriving here. Washington, Illinois sustained the worst storm damage from a major tornado. There were at least 5 fatalities caused by yesterday's storms in Illinois.
Starbuck in Lebanon destroyed by storm (Photo: Lebanon Reporter)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mass Shooting Drill At Ball State University?

Nobody seems to know much other than someone heard someone yell "Gun! Gun! Gun" in the Health and Physical Activity Building on Ball State University's campus late yesterday afternoon followed by the sound of a door slamming. That set off a panic that led to a 3 1/2 hour lockdown during which scores of police scoured the area in search of a gunman no identifiable person actually saw. No gunman was ever found, although a bit of excitement occurred when one of the police officers conducting the search accidentally discharged his gun.

Some students continued working out in the gym after the lockdown had started, thinking the whole thing was a joke according to the Muncie Star-Press. "I told my friends and we were laughing about it and kept working out, and then more and more people kept coming upstairs, and then finally one of the of the officers was like, "Yeah, you just all need to stop working out. The building's on lockdown," Dillon Evanczyk told the Star-Press. "The officer had a gun as big as me," said Ball State junior Ashley Lattanzio.

After the ordeal, Ball State police were pondering whether the person heard yelling about a gun was merely pulling a prank. They promised a range of actions from disciplinary to criminal charges if the person responsible was identified. It is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater these days. It occurred to me that something similar happened on IUPUI's campus in Indianapolis earlier this semester that ended similarly without any gunman being identified.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cincinnati's Mayor-Elect Kills Parking Meter Privatization Deal

Cincinnati's Mayor-elect John Cranley is a better man than Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Even before he takes office, he and the newly-elected council agreed that killing a privatization deal for the city's parking meter assets with Xerox, the same company which now controls Indianapolis' parking meter assets, was in the best interests of the city. “We feel that we owe it to the voters who elected us to have a clean break with this deal,” Mayor-elect John Cranley said Tuesday. The city is giving up an upfront payment of $85 million and about $3 million annually that the 30-year lease deal offered. Cranley also killed a $133 million, 3.6 mile street car project that was touted by proponents of a city's mass transit system. Cranley, incidentally, is a bond attorney by profession with the law firm of Keating, Muething & Klekamp. He previously served on the city's council for two terms.

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Tony Bennett

The state's Inspector General David Thomas has filed a formal ethics complaint charging former Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Bennett with "us[ing] state computer systems, equipment and/or software to engage in political campaign and/or personal activity, including: political campaign fundraising, responding to a political opponent's assertions, scheduling campaign meetings, scheduling campaign telephone calls, and/or other political and/or personal activity." Bennett could also face criminal charges for official misconduct, theft and ghost employment if Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry's Office chooses to enforce the law.


New CIRTA Director Sued By Former Employer For Stealing Trade Secrets

A 25-year rail transit professional, Jeffrey Jackson, has been hired by the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority ("CIRTA") as its new executive director. He replaces Ehren Bingaman, who recently left the publicly-funded agency to join HNTB, an architectural and engineering firm that would likely bid for work if Indiana lawmakers and local municipal leaders are foolish enough to authorize raising taxes to finance the creation of a new regional transportation authority that will be run by an unelected, appointed board. Jackson most recently worked as the chief operating officer for Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a private company doing business as Rail Events in Durango, Colorado that creates special events on tourist railroads operated throughout the United States based on themes from popular books, movies, stories and television shows.

According to the Durango Herald, Rail Event's owner, Al Harper, sued Jackson and another former employee who left his company earlier this year, accusing the two of stealing his company's trade secrets and using them to start up another company to compete against his company.
Jackson resigned from Rail Events on March 14 and Schlegel resigned March 15, according to the lawsuit. The men formed Train Entertainment on March 20, according to Florida Department of State documents.
The men have contacted licensors already doing business with Rail Events and have told their former co-workers their intentions to directly compete with Rail Events, Harper said in an interview. Rail Events filed the lawsuit against Jackson, Schlegel and Train Entertainment on May 14.
The lawsuit accuses the men of violating the Colorado Uniform Trade Secrets Act, breaching fiduciary duty to Rail Events and civil conspiracy. Rail Events has and will continue to suffer monetary damages because of the actions of the two former employees, the document says.
“It’s really simple,” Harper said. “The only experience they ever had in the branding business was what they got from me, and they left the company and basically said to everyone on Earth they were going into competition with me. I don’t appreciate them taking all the knowledge and skills and contacts and intellectual properties with them and using it against me. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Within Indiana, Rail Events operates the Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick and the Whitewater Valley Scenic Railroad in Connersville, which is where Jackson grew up. Florida business records show that Jackson and the other former employee, Jonathan Schlegel, formed Train Entertainment, Inc. in Lighthouse Pointe, Florida on March 20, 2013. The business registration is still active. All of Jackson's prior work experience appears to be related to rail transit. He previously worked for Tri-Rail in South Florida before spending about 15 years working for Rail Events. Proponents of mass transit supposedly shifted away from a plan to construct a multi-billion dollar rail line from downtown Indianapolis to Noblesville after many lawmakers balked at the cost of including rail as part of any regional transportation plan.

UPDATE: The IBJ's Chris O'Malley has a reaction from CIRTA to the story this blog exclusively broke this morning relating the fact that the newly-appointed executive director of the government funded agency had been sued by his former employer for stealing trade secrets. CIRTA's board chairman Christine Altman says the board was aware of the lawsuit when it agreed to hire Jackson at $115,000 a year. She says the decision announcing his selection was delayed while he negotiated a settlement with his former employer. Altman told O'Malley that the allegations made by the former employer are “pretty typical when someone terminates their employment and tries to move on.” Really? O'Malley's story provides no attribution to this blog for the original story. Big surprise.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Which Freak Has Had More Plastic Surgery?

Donald and Melania Trump
Tomisue and Steve Hilbert (Indianapolis Star photo) 
The freak show has come to the U.S. federal district court room of Judge Magnus-Stinson this week. The umpteenth wife of Donald Trump signed a contract with New Sunshine, a company purchased with billionaire John Menard's money by Steve Hilbert, who Menard made a bad business decision to entrust with the management of about a half billion dollars of his money. Hilbert managed to lose most of the money while he and Tomisue lived it up. Anyone with a brain could figure out the deal Hilbert signed with Melania Trump to promote skin care products bearing the name "Melania" made no business sense, but Hilbert is determined to help out the latest wife of his old pal Donald Trump by convincing the court otherwise as Menard seeks to void the contract. Typical of Hilbert's self-dealing was a clause in the contract that provided $50,000 worth of free skin care products for him and his family. Apparently, skin that has been cosmetically altered as much as this freak show couple requires more skin care products. Interestingly, Hilbert inked the deal with Trump in November, 2012 after Menard's attorney had sent him a letter five months earlier canning him as his investment fund manager. Despite having already lost most of Menard's money in foolish business investments, Hilbert thought he was entitled to continue as fund manager until the contract term had expired so he just ignored the "bullshit letter" as Hilbert described it. Around the same time, Hilbert sold his multi-million dollar estate in St. Martin to Trump, which had an asking price of $20 million and which had been on the market for over four years. This was the home Steve put in Tomisue's name to keep out of the reach of creditors after the colossal collapse of Conseco. And then Hilbert has the audacity to tell reporters that he thinks Menard is just carrying out a personal vendetta against him and his wife because Tomisue supposedly rejected the sexual advances of Menard. Would someone please close the curtain on these con artists opportunists once and for all?

Fishers' Food & Beverage Tax Proposed To Compete In Luring Businesses To City

This is just how bad tax policy has become in the state of Indiana. In 2005, the Town of Fishers' residents were forced to pay an additional 1% food and beverage tax to pay for Lucas Oil Stadium. Now the local chamber of commerce is pushing another 1% tax increase to pay for economic development to bump the rate to 9% so the town can compete with Carmel, Noblesville and Zionsville in offering economic development incentives to attract more businesses to the city. Huh? Here's a little of what the IBJ reported that the town council heard at a hearing last night on the proposed tax increase:
"For me, it’s a very specific taxation on my business,” said Smythe, who owns Claude and Annie’s Food & Spirits on 141st Street in Fishers. “Once you’ve taxed me, you’re effectively taxing my employees.”
Smythe told the council he would be less opposed to the levy if the proceeds were used to lower property-tax rates instead of funding economic development projects.
Local Realtor Kurt Meyer, speaking on behalf of the Fishers Chamber, said the tax is needed to fund economic development—an important part of diversifying the town’s property tax base and attracting employers to Fishers.
“It’s a competitive world,” Meyer said. “Every time that one of these companies comes to look at Fishers, Indiana, they’re looking at not only our neighboring communities but they’re also looking at neighboring states.”
The town of 76,000 is now as big as Carmel. It' population has grown ten-fold since 1990. Its population was only 628 in 1970. After its next municipal election, it will have a full-time mayor and a council as a second class city. Remarkably, Fishers' dramatic population growth over the past several decades occurred in spite of not offering economic development incentives and racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in debt like Carmel. Now that it has arrived in the big leagues with Carmel and Noblesville, the politicians need to set up slush funds to pass out to favored businesses in exchange for campaign contributions and other favors. Once upon a time, being competitive meant keeping your taxes low to attract new businesses and residents. Now it means raising taxes on current taxpayers in order to offer larger tax incentives and subsidies to prospective businesses than neighboring communities.

If the Fishers' Town Council is foolish enough to adopt this new tax increase, you can bet that it will only beget future tax increases and a dramatic increase in debt that somebody will have to repay. Frankly, I don't even know why these people who run these suburban municipal governments bother calling themselves Republicans. They are tax-and-spend liberals who are no different than the worst of the corrupt Chicago politicians. They want more government and more taxes to enrich themselves and their political crony friends.

UPDATE: It's funny how some of the town council members and the town's manager seem not to have an opinion on whether they support the tax. Who authorized the town to hire Barnes & Thornburg to get a state law passed that allows the tax to be imposed? The guy behind the tree over there?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

IURC Still The Best Commission Public Utility Companies Can Buy

Nobody gets to serve on the Indiana Regulatory Commission who is not bought and paid for by the public utility companies. The fact that the commissioner former Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed to replace David Hardy after he was fired for having an unethical relationship with Duke Energy executives is leaving her job after less than three years to accept a high-paying job as corporate counsel for the MISO in Carmel speaks volumes. Kari Bennett will begin her new job on November 22 and our Inspector General David Thomas says it's all kosher.

The Star's John Russell reports that Bennett refused to answer questions about her new job, including when she began those discussions. The Carmel-based MISO represents 40 public utility companies, including every Indiana utility subject to the IURC's jurisdiction. It manages the electrical grid system throughout the Midwest and part of Canada. The Inspector General approved Bennett taking the job based upon her assurances that she would not be lobbying the IURC or other state executives during a one-year cooling off period.

Incredibly, when Russell sought a copy of Bennett's request for an ethics opinion and the Inspector General's response to it, he was told that they were not subject to public disclosure. When the IURC announced her resignation last Friday, the agency said nothing about the new job she was taking. After the Star pressed the agency for copies of Bennett's letter and the agency's response, it finally agreed to release both documents.

Gov. Mike Pence will be filling two appointments to the IURC before the end of the year. You can take it to the bank that the people he appoints to the commission will be stooges for the public utility companies. It's the way it has always been in this state. It's a ticket to wealth to get a seat on the IURC. People appointed to the commission are always rewarded handsomely for rendering decisions favorable to the utility companies. The public utility companies handpick who the governor appoints to the commission, regardless of which party the governor belongs.  Until there is a major public corruption investigation that results in keys officials of the IURC being sent to prison, we will never have an independent regulatory agency that gives a damn about utility consumers in this state. It is the most corrupt public utility commission in all of America.

UPDATE: An interesting observation that should be noted about Kari Bennett's employment history prior to her work in the Daniels administration. She worked as an attorney for Barnes & Thornburg's Indianapolis office before joining state government. As a result of that prior work, she had to recuse herself from participating in the controversial Rockport case because Barnes & Thornburg represented Vectren in the case. The firm's website boasts, "In recent years, we have appeared in hundreds of proceedings before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission." The law firm has also represented Midcontinent ISO in employment law matters. It's a small world.

Kite Rewards Peterson For His Generosity With Your Tax Dollars

Bart Peterson was very good to Kite Realty when he was Indianapolis mayor. He gave the large contributor to his campaign committee $25 million to build the 23-story Conrad Hilton building downtown and another $6.5 million to help bail out the company's struggling Glendale Mall on the city's north side. Indianapolis taxpayers got stuck with the bill in the form of a 65% increase in the local income tax to cover all the property tax diversions to the TIF funds, also known as the mayor's slush fund, which are used to subsidize businesses like Kite that seek public subsidies for their private development projects.

Today, the IBJ informs us that Peterson, now an Eli Lilly vice president, has been appointed to the board of trustees for the realty's trust group. Peterson will be paid $42,500 annually to serve on the board, and he'll be receiving first-year stock awards worth $62,000. It really pays for our politicians to be generous when it comes to handing out our tax dollars to favored businesses. There's always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for them. For the rest of us, there's just a tab to pick up in the form of higher taxes.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Indianapolis City-County Council Approves Resolution Opposing HJR-6

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The Indianapolis City-County Council approved a resolution on a bipartisan vote tonight of 22-6 to urge the Indiana General Assembly to reject HJR-6, the proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine the denial of marriage and other rights incident to marriage to same-sex couples in the state's constitution. Ginny Cain, the Republican councilor who works on the staff of Sen. Dan Coats, stayed true to her boss' convictions on this issue in explaining her vote against it.

Plowman Blames Voyles For Federal Bribery Conviction

Former Indianapolis City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman has filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that high-profile criminal defense attorney Jim Voyles provided ineffective counsel to him during a federal trial at which he was found guilty of bribery and attempted extortion charges. Plowman is currently serving a 40-month prison sentence at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, a federal detention facility that holds both male and female inmates of all security levels. He's currently scheduled for release on December 25, 2014. The Star's Tim Evans sums up the arguments that Plowman is making in a PCR he filed pro se in an effort to clear his name.
Plowman — acting without an attorney — claims Voyles did not effectively challenge the indictment handed down by a federal grand jury; failed to argue that Plowman had no intention to commit the alleged crimes; and did not call a witness, despite Plowman’s request, who he claims could have proven his innocence.
I sat through most of Plowman's trial. The evidence against him was overwhelming. I couldn't understand why Plowman didn't accept a plea offer before trial. I understand even less why he took the stand in his own defense, which proved disastrous. Any doubts the jurors had after hearing the convincing testimony of the undercover FBI agent who successfully solicited a bribe from Plowman in exchange for his assistance in gaining zoning approval for a fictitious strip club sought by the undercover agent were removed after Plowman took the stand and struggled to explain the damning statements he made to the undercover agent, which were recorded and replayed to jurors. I gathered that it was Plowman's decision not to accept a plea offer and to testify in his own defense. He should consider himself lucky that the feds left other charges on the table. Voyles called all of the defense witnesses scheduled to testify, except for State Rep. Mike Speedy, whose testimony was barred by the judge after prosecutors objected to it. An ineffective counsel argument would appear to be a tough sell. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals previously affirmed an appeal of Plowman's conviction.

John Kerry Becomes Kennedy Assassination Conspiracist With A Purpose

The Vanderbilt trust fund baby who plays a news anchor on CNN discusses recent comments Secretary of State John Kerry made during an interview with Tom Brokaw in which he says for the first time in his public career that he doesn't think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy. Kerry thinks the Warren Commission failed to pursue Cuban and Russian links to Kennedy's assassination. Cooper has a chat about Kerry's view with presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and Philip Shenon, who coincidentally has authored a new book, "A Cruel and Shocking Act," in which he makes the case that there was a Cuban conspiracy behind the assassination of Kennedy.

Here's something these mainstream media mucks will never tell you. John Kerry, like his father, Richard Kerry, has worked as an American intelligence officer most of his adult life. Like Anderson Cooper, Kerry began his work for the CIA when he was studying at Yale. The so-called presidential historian that Cooper interviews in this piece, Douglas Brinkley, is the man who wrote, "Tour of Duty," a fictitious account of Kerry's war service in Vietnam that was thoroughly discredited by Jerome Corsi's "Unfit for Command." To Shenon's credit, he thoroughly discredits the Warren Commission report in his book, which isn't a difficult task for a person of average intelligence, by focusing on the destruction of key evidence by persons involved in the investigation almost from the moment Kennedy died in Dallas. Unfortunately, he spends a good part of the book spinning this yarn about a Cuban connection while ignoring the overwhelming evidence produced by legitimate researchers proving that Oswald worked as a double agent for the CIA.

Those of us who are capable of thinking for ourselves and don't buy the bullshit lies that the federal government has been feeding the public for the past 50 years know who was responsible for Kennedy's assassination-- rogue forces within our own government. The Oswald was a communist with ties to Russia and Cuba meme has always been a head fake from day one. Johnson and the deranged FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover contrived this conspiracy to convince Chief Justice Earl Warren of his need to chair the kangaroo court that would become known as the Warren Commission supposedly out of the necessity of  protecting the country from a nuclear war with Russia. If you listen to Johnson's phone conversation ordering Georgia Sen. Richard Russell (D) below to serve on the commission, you hear Johnson tell Russell that Hoover has already written the report only days after the assassination, and that it would simply be his job as a member of the commission to rubber stamp Hoover's conclusions.

Johnson was a thug who shot his way into the White House. He knew Robert Kennedy had his balls in a vice with his corruption investigation of his long-time aide, Bobby Baker, and that the decision had already been made by Kennedy to dump him from the ticket in 1964. He made a Faustian pact with Hoover, who hated the Kennedy brothers as much as Johnson, Alan Dulles, the former CIA Director canned by Kennedy but who still controlled most of its key operatives and the moneyed oil and defense contracting men in Texas who owned Johnson and assumed virtual control of the federal government following Kennedy's assassination, reversing his policies for their own self-enrichment and self-serving purposes.

I'm throwing in XombieKiller's latest take on Xombie Nation for your entertainment. It's as realistic as mainstream news media reports are today.